A Wrinkle in Time

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Director: Ava DuVernay

Screenplay: Jennifer Lee, based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle

Cast: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard

Running Length: 109 minutes

Synopsis: After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg (Storm Reid), her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller) to space in order to find him.

Review: A Wrinkle in Time is a mixed bag – while it’s a high budget (over US$100 million) remake of the beloved novel and checks off many boxes in the diversity checklist (black female director, racially diverse casting choices), a very unevenly developed storyline, wooden performances and sporadically subpar visual effects detract significantly from the film. It’s undoubtedly still entertaining and should appeal somewhat to the YA and younger demographic, but it’s hard to imagine audiences being enthused enough to recommend this film to friends and family, unlike, for example, Disney’s immensely successful (and still running) Black Panther.

It would always be a challenge to adapt Madeleine L’Engle’s novel for the big screen due to the massive number of ideas and plot threads L’Engle had placed in a relatively short novel, and even with the deep pockets of this film’s production budget, the end result is hit and miss. The Christian subtext has been gutted from the screenplay, and a rather pivotal character (Aunt Beast) has been excised entirely, and even the villain’s appearance and methods have been altered somewhat. What does remain is thus even more confusing, and character motivations come across as being very muddled. While Storm Reid does a decent job as a Meg Murry, the same cannot be said of the remainder of the cast – Deric McCabe in particular is landed with a thankless role of trying to be a precocious child prodigy (but ends up being more Children of the Corn than anything), and the many famous faces that are in the film end up being celebrity cameos that bring nothing to the plate.

Some of the worlds that the ensemble “tesser” to are indeed gorgeous works of art (as are some of the crazy outfits that the Mrs Ws wear), but then there are also sequences where it just feels like the production ran out of budget to complete the CG work, none more egregious than the protracted (and ultimately unnecessary) visit to the Happy Medium (unfortunately played by a rather miscast Zach Galiafianakis), which is so terribly rendered it looked like a stage production more than a location in a film that cost many millions to make.

Most frustratingly, however, is how all the storytelling and world-building ends up for naught. The denouement of A Wrinkle in Time lacks any form of true coherence and concludes the film on a whimper, leaving many questions unanswered and most audiences who haven’t read the novel prior feeling puzzled and underwhelmed. It really is a darn shame, because there are moments where it almost seems like the film is destined for greatness, but it just falls short on so many levels that all it can do is be a somewhat entertaining diversion for a couple of hours.

Rating: * * (out of four stars)


Oscar Predictions 2018

It’s been a very tumultuous year in Hollywood, as the industry was rocked by a seemingly never-ending list of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of power, and many men of power and renown were toppled from their once very secure positions. While this is unlikely to affect the voting process (and hence the results) this year, one wonders if the issue would get much airtime during the ceremony. While The Shape of Water leads the nominations, I am skeptical of its winning chances apart from some of the key categories. Since I am not involved in any Oscar pool or viewing party (the norm these days), I will be abstaining from the documentary and short film categories. Now, on to the predictions:

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Should win: The Shape of Water

Prediction: The Shape of Water

The determination of the Best Picture winner is a very elaborate system, and without going into details here, it means that the second and third choices of voters who didn’t go for the popular vote also matter. The Shape of Water is a romantic, beautiful yet political movie, which I feel still stands a better chance because it will still be the top few choices of voters who go for the other potential frontrunners, namely Three Billboards and Get Out.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Should win: Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Prediction: Gary Oldman, The Darkest Hour

This one should be pretty locked for Oldman, especially when the alternate votes will be split between Timothee Chalamet’s excellent performance and Daniel Kaluuya’s riveting turn in Get Out.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Should win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Prediction: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This to me is the most locked category of the night. While I personally didn’t really enjoy Three Billboards, the fine acting by the cast is undeniable, especially McDormand (and Rockwell). I also hugely enjoyed Margot Robbie’s performance in I, Tonya, but this award is McDormand’s to lose.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Should win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Prediction: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell has been winning the precursor awards so there’s no reason to think otherwise here, though Willem Dafoe’s career-best performance in The Florida Project could prove to be the dark horse.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Should win: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

Prediction: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

It’s a great list of nominees, all deserving, but Alison Janney really left an indelible impression for her performance in I, Tonya. Laurie Metcalf is almost as key an actress as Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, but my preference here still goes to Janney.

Best Achievement in Directing

Should win: Guillermo del Toro

Prediction: Guillermo del Toro

Of the five directors nominated, Jordan Peele may be the dark horse for Get Out, but I believe the nod will still go to del Toro for a more mainstream effort.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Should win: Get Out

Prediction: Get Out

I believe this will be Jordan Peele’s consolation prize for missing out on the big categories, though every nominee here are great efforts, and Three Billboards is a very strong contender particularly.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Should win: Call Me by Your Name

Prediction: Call Me by Your Name

James Ivory’s adaptation is excellent and heartfelt, and then there’s the father’s monologue at the end, which should help gain even more votes.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Prediction: Blade Runner 2049

Please just let Roger Deakins win already.

Best Achievement in Editing

Should Win: Baby Driver

Prediction: Dunkirk

While I personally prefer the editing bravura in Baby Driver, Dunkirk is still the more likely winner in the category.

Best Achievement in Production Design

Prediction: The Shape of Water

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Prediction: Phantom Thread

Although The Shape of Water beat out The Phantom Thread in the Costume Designers Guild Awards, it’s still very hard to see Phantom Thread losing out here.

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Prediction: The Darkest Hour

Hard to beat out a Best Picture contender, especially when the makeup and hairstyling is largely centred on the frontrunner for Best Actor.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Prediction: The Shape of Water

The only other potential contender apart from Alexandre Desplat would be Hans Zimmer’s booming score and audio signatures for Dunkirk, but that score seemed to be a bit more divisive.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Prediction: This is Me, The Greatest Showman

I would prefer Coco to win for Remember Me, and it may still clinch the award, but The Greatest Showman is most memorable for its songs and choreography, which may just be enough to push it past Coco.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Prediction: Dunkirk

I would not be unhappy to see Baby Driver win this one, though the war films tend to win by default.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Prediction: Dunkirk

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Prediction: Blade Runner 2049

I don’t know if enough people would care enough about War of the Planet of the Apes to give it their vote here, but Blade Runner 2049 would likely have the better showing.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Prediction: Coco

It’s Pixar and Coco is a great film. Enough said.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Prediction: A Fantastic Woman

Pure guesswork as I have not seen a single one of the five films here, unfortunately.