Sunday, October 23, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Viola Davis Will Be Campaigned Supporting For Fences

It appears that Paramount Studios and Viola Davis' reps are no longer "on the fence" about where her category placement will be in the Oscar race. According to The Playlist, Viola Davis will be competing for Best Supporting Actress for Fences. 

While I've expressed my doubts over this decision before it became official, I still think it makes sense. When the role was originated by Mary Alice in 1987, she won the Tony for Best Featured Actress In A Play (their version of Supporting). So even though Davis won the Tony for Best Lead Actress In A Play, the role is still a marginal lead.

Also, you have the most competitive Best Actress race in years. Emma Stone won Best Actress at Venice for Best Picture frontrunner La La Land while Natalie Portman is getting the best reviews of her career for Jackie. The similarly overdue Annette Bening is getting raves for 20th Century Women with people like Anne Thompson from Indiewire saying she's "A Frontrunner" yet legendary actress Isabelle Huppert is on the hunt for her first nomination for Elle. We also have breakout star Ruth Negga in Loving, Amy Adams' one-two punch of Arrival and Nocturnal Animals, perennially nominated Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins, Jessica Chastain whose getting early positive buzz for Miss Sloane, likely Globe nominee Sally Field for Hello, My Name Is Doris, and Taraji P. Henson for the late breaking potential crowdpleaser Hidden Figures. 

Best Supporting Actress, though, is looking very sparse. The only two likely sure things are Michelle Williams for Manchester By The Sea and Naomie Harris for Moonlight with Harris having a slight edge. Harris is in a film that is getting "best of the year" mentions, her role as the main character's addict mom is very baity, the film is already doing nicely in the specialty box office (making $414,740 in only 4 theaters in its opening weekend) and she's the only actor to appear in all three acts of the film which might be a strike against Williams who apparently only has a handful of scenes in her picture.

But if Viola Davis goes Supporting for a marginal Lead role, then she might have this in the bag. Of course, even though we know she'll deliver because she's great in everything that she's in, nobody has seen the film yet. But she does have a strong overdue narrative, having almost won Best Lead Actress for The Help and it would be a historic 3rd acting nomination because only her and Whoopi Goldberg are currently the only women of color to have more than one acting nomination. Plus, she's been on an awards roll for How To Get Away With Murder which won her a historic Emmy and 2 Screen Actors Guild wins. So there's a sense there itching to reward her for the right film role and this could very well be it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Oscars 2017: Gotham Awards Nominations Announced

Awards season is officially upon us. The major festivals (NYFF, Toronto, Telluride, and Venice) have all recently wrapped up and now the different awards ceremonies leading up to the Oscars are beginning to announce their lineup of nominees. First up is the Gotham Independent Film Awards.

This awards show is one to keep an eye on because the last two Best Picture winners at the Oscars, Birdman and Spotlight, won Best Feature here. So the films that'll be in the conversation here will likely factor in the Oscar race. Two films that received rupturous raves on the festival circuit and have solidified their status as Oscar players are Manchester By The Sea, which leads with 4 nominations and also Moonlight which picked up a Best Feature nomination and a special Best Ensemble award.

We even have some early birds in the mix like Hell Or High Water, Everybody Wants Some!!, Swiss Army Man and Love and Friendship and surprisingly Isabelle Huppert in the Best Actress category for the foreign langauge film Elle. If she even picks up citations from an awards show that normally celebrates American independent cinema, then I think Huppert is looking much stronger for Best Actress. The Witch also got some citations, which is nice, but I don't know how far in the race it'll go or if it'll even be a factor in this race.

You can check out the full list of nominees down below:

Best Feature
“Certain Women”
“Everybody Wants Some!!”
“Manchester by the Sea”


Best Documentary:
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America”

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award:
Robert Eggers for “The Witch”
Anna Rose Holmer for “The Fits”
Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert for “Swiss Army Man”
Trey Edward Shults for “Krisha”
Richard Tanne for “Southside with You”

Best Screenplay
“Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan
“Love & Friendship,” Whit Stillman
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan
“Moonlight,” Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Screenplay by Barry Jenkins
“Paterson,” Jim Jarmusch
Best Actor
Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea”
Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”
Adam Driver in “Paterson”
Joel Edgerton in “Loving”
Craig Robinson in “Morris from America”
Best Actress
Kate Beckinsale in “Love & Friendship”
Annette Bening in 20th “Century Women”
Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”
Ruth Negga in “Loving”
Natalie Portman in “Jackie”
Breakthrough Actor
Lily Gladstone in “Certain Women”
Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea”
Royalty Hightower in “The Fits”
Sasha Lane in “American Honey”
Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Witch”
Special Jury Award For Ensemble Performance
Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders.
Breakthrough Series – Long Form
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
“The Girlfriend Experience”
“Horace and Pete”
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones”
“Master of None”
Breakthrough Series – Short Form
“The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo” (YouTube)
“Her Story” (
“The Movement” (
“Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People” (Seriously.TV)
“Surviving” (YouTube)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Topic Of The Day: How We Can Prevent #OscarsSoWhite

As a lot of us that follow the Oscars know we are likely seeing a prevention of #OscarsSoWhite where for two years in a row, not a single person of color was nominated in the acting categories. With films like Moonlight, Fences, Loving, Hidden Figures, and Lion on the horizon, the studios have definitely taken the initiative to prevent a threepeat of this controversy.

But if we audiences want to prevent #OscarsSoWhite from happening, we HAVE to go out and see these movies. It is on us to get up from our couches and to pay to see what the studios are offering to us. We need to make it known to Hollywood, and not just the Academy, that we want to see more diverse stories. If not, then it'll make us seem like children begging for a big Christmas present that we'll never open.

Already, it's starring to seem that way with films like Queen of Katwe falling out of the top 10 despite having positive word of mouth, a well-mounted budget of about $15m, and being a marketable inspirational sports drama. Again, if we want more diversity and we want to prevent #OscarsSoWhite from ever happening, we HAVE to go out and see these movies.

There are two principal languages in Hollywood: English and dollar bills. When we communicate with our dollars, we are sending a message as to what films we want to see. That's why tentpoles and superhero films are the ones that really drive Hollywood's box office dollars. Those are films that the masses will go out in droves to go see. If they were to stop making money, then Hollywood won't make them as much because they'd conclude that there isn't much demand for them.

Hollywood is a business built on supply and demand. We demand it, they make it. But it is not enough for us to vocally demand it. We have to, HAVE TO demand with our dollars. I read a study that looked into films released from 2014 that showed how diverse films make more money and it said that films with about 41-50% people of color made a median average of $122 million which is the highest of all the films that year despite their being only 8 films to make that average. If we go out and support films with more diversity, we could help make that number go higher.

So when the Oscar contenders mentioned at the beginning of this post come out, be sure to go out and pay to see them. It could not only help prevent #OscarsSoWhite from happening but it would move the cause of diversity forward. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: The Girl On The Train (2016)

  The Girl On The Train follows the story of a lonely alcoholic woman named Rachel (Emily Blunt) who constantly pines over a seemingly perfect couple that she observes when on a train commute to and from the city. But when the woman in that couple goes missing, she decides to uncover the mystery herself which even has her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) and his wife involved.

   This film has already gotten comparisons to Gone Girl which isn't too surprising given how they are both female-centered mysteries with the word "Girl" on the title and this one is being released around the same weekend as Gone Girl was. However, what really hinders this picture is the fact that it tries so hard to be Gone Girl. 

   With its usage of expositional narrating, heavy titillation, and incorporation of flashback sequences, it feels like it keeps trying to replicate Gone Girl. But I think the film could've fared better if it had its own identity.

    Next, I'll get the film's biggest positive out of the way: Emily Blunt's performance. The role of Rachel is a strong emotional showcase and Blunt really nails it. Even if Rachel isn't the most wholesome of characters with how she lies, harasses her ex-husband, and struggles to get off the sauce, Blunt not once begs for her forgiveness. The only flaw to her performance is that she has a poor film surrounding her.

   Not only does it feel like a Gone Girl rip-off, but almost all the other actors are wasted. Haley Bennett does manage to shine through as the missing girl. But the male actors, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, and Edgar Ramirez, do next to nothing. All three are not helped by the fact that their characters are either walking sex objects and/or abusive or domineering husbands. Even Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Rachel's ex-husband's wife and I loved in last year's Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, does NOTHING. Almost every actor's talent is more wasted than Rachel gets.

   Overall, The Girl On The Train falls off the rail but thankfully, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Emily Blunt's performance. No matter how hard it tries to be Gone Girl, Gone Girl this movie is not.

Grade: A (Blunt's performance)/D (Rest of the movie)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Oscar Watch: Jackie (2016)

After a slight hiatus from the big screen, Natalie Portman has returned with the biopic Jackie about First Lady Jackie Kennedy and depicts the events after her husband's assassination. Critics have been saying that this is her best performance since Black Swan which won her a Best Actress Oscar. Judging by this trailer, it looks like she could very well be in the hunt for another Oscar to keep the one she has company.

This trailer looks absolutely mesmerizing and I think it could nearly be a sure bet for a Cinematography nomination for Stephane Fontaine who was behind the lens of the underrated 2012 film Rust and Bone. I also love the harmonious score. After getting rather overlooked for Under The Skin, composer Mica Levi could find herself in the hunt for a Score nomination. So the film will likely be more than an inevitable Best Actress play for Natalie Portman and perhaps even make it in Best Picture. The film looks to rest entirely on her shoulders so to recognize the performance is to recognize the film as well. Lastly, there is director Pablo Larrain to watch out for because he's not only got this film coming out but Neruda which has just been selected to represent Chile for Best Foreign Language Film.

When I was watching the trailer, I did get vibes of the teaser for Carol which had a similar look and a similarly-styled score and coincidentally enough is a female-driven period piece. Even the scene of Jackie observing the huge crowd while she is sitting in the limousine provides shades of the scene in Carol where Therese is looking through the window while she's in the car with Carol and the camera just keeps lingering on her face. The plots on both films are very different but despite having a similar aesthetic, I'm still very ecstatic about this. I'm as excited about this as I was when I first saw the Carol teaser and when that came out, I was out of words about how beautiful it looked.

But what do you guys think? Do you think it looks like a legitimate Oscar contender and do you think it looks like a great film in general? Please be sure to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Why Movie Stars DO Matter

We now live in a day and age where some of our biggest movie stars are fictional people in capes or tentpole brands. But looking at some of our latest new releases has me realizing that having an actual movie star in your film still does matter.

For example, the film Sully starring Tom Hanks recently came out and has already made $100m stateside, proving Hanks' bankability. If it had starred any other actor in the lead role, it likely would not have done as well and the everyman role of Sully is tailor made for Hanks' best skills since Hanks has built a career out of playing an everyman.

You also have Magnificent Seven which stars Denzel Washington. The film is a Western which is said to be a difficult genre to sell but it still opened in first place with $35m. The fact that it's in a difficult genre yet still performed well on its opening weekend shows that if you're doing a commercial film with a difficult genre, a difficult or confused premise, or even a film that is an unneeded remake, you need some star power.

Before Michael Fassbender was officially cast as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs, names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Bradley Cooper were in the mix. Understandably so because with all due respect to Michael Fassbender who's a terrific amd well-regarded actor, the aforementioned names would've attracted more commercial interest in what is a rather uncommercial film. Also, they've guaranteed big box office openings while Fassbender still sadly has not.

I did an earlier blog post about what makes a movie star and discusses how the Ben-Hur remake underperformed because it didn't have any star power. If it had someone like Russell Crowe, whose been pretty reliable when it comes to period dramas, it would've done much better than it had.

So if you're doing a film that is uncommercial in terms of its plot or its genre and/or are doing a film that is a remake or based off an old television series and whatnot, it needs star power so it can guarantee a decent return. We may live in an age where people like Superman and Spider-Man have become big stars and even bigger than the actors portraying them. But when it comes to real-life movie stars, they still matter.

Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

     The Magnificent Seven follows the story of a lone gunman named Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) who teams up with six other gunmen to take down a greedy tycoon (Peter Sarsgaard) who looks to dictate a poor village.

    What manages to make the film work so well is its actors and thankfully so because if their performances weren't up to task, the whole movie would fall apart. Denzel Washington was very good (Although when is he not good?) while Chris Pratt proves why he is destined to be a movie star because his energy and charm lights up each scene he is in. But two other standouts, in my opinion, were Ethan Hawke and Byung-Hun Lee as Goodnight Robicheaux and his partner, Billy Rocks, respectively. Even if their bond isn't dialogue driven, they still had good chemistry together.

    I also want to applaud the film for having such a diverse cast. Not only that but, minus a minor rape joke, I feel that these characters were treated with plenty of dignity. Even the lone female character played by Haley Bennett, who bands the Magnificent Seven, is given more dignity than most of the female characters in Suicide Squad who are either fetishized, abused, and unable to emote or speak without a male influence nearby.

    Even though the film doesn't have much action sequences, it is able to make up for that by not only focusing on the interactions between the characters but how they use their smarts and their wits in order to save the day. Ensemble action films could learn from this one and its focus on character.

    Oddly enough, as a result of the film not having much action, it allows the film to move at a slightly glacial pace, proving itself to be a blessing but also a curse.

     The plot is also a little too simple but thankfully, the film is aware that it's simply a fun action film and a throwback to old Westerns. Lastly, while I do applaud the film for having diverse characters, I still feel like I wanted to get to know them more.

     Overall, The Magnificent Seven is a rather simplistic Western actioner. But it makes up for its simplicity with its chemistry from the main cast and its simplicity also manages to make the film all the more enjoyable.

Grade: B+