Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Can You Have Your Cake And Eat It Too In Tinseltown?

A year ago, I fell deeply in love with a sweet musical dramedy called Begin Again. I love the chemistry between Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley as well as the songs made for the film. It's a near perfect neat little movie.

But it's a shame that the film's director, John Carney, had to almost ruin how I feel about it. When Carney was reflecting on Begin Again when promoting his latest film Sing Street, he had some unfortunate things to say about Keira Knightley, comparing her to a supermodel, saying how she lacks a "certain level of honesty and self-analysis" that actors have and he doesn't think she's ready for yet. I guess Carney has forgotten that Keira Knightley is a TWO-time Oscar nominee (and deservingly so).

Interestingly, Kate Beckinsale has confessed a similar story about the making of Pearl Harbor and how director Michael Bay would constantly point out, you guessed it, her looks. Apparently, Bay was baffled that Beckinsale's breasts weren't bigger than her head yet still said he casted her because she wasn't so attractive, she'd alienate female audiences.

The reason I wanted to discuss both stories is because both make it seem like women in Hollywood can't have it both ways. They can't be beautiful and an amazing actress or, according to Michael Eisner, be hilariously funny. Sometimes whenever actresses are being taken seriously, it is when they are downplaying their good looks. Despite this mentality of women not being able to have it both ways, it's been disproven before.

Look at Charlize Theron. She's one of the most beautiful women on the planet and she's also an Oscar-winning actress. You also have an actress who is picking up where she left off early on in her career, Scarlett Johansson. She's reinvented herself as an action hero and she hasn't had to sacrifice her beauty while doing so. Marion Cotillard has been on the cover of different magazines yet all ever people talk about is how she is a hell of an actress.

However, what these three actresses have in common is that they've managed to avoid roles that focus on their looks. Johansson has been hit with those kind for a while but she's avoided them recently. I think that one way for Hollywood to avoid this type of mentality from running rampant is for them to write less roles where the focus is on the woman's looks or less sexpot and hot girlfriend roles. Now, that wouldn't fix the problem tomorrow. But it would be a step in the right direction. That way, women don't have to keep their sacrificing their good looks to be taken seriously.

What do you guys think? Do you agree with me that this mentality of women not having it both ways is egregious? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Campaigning Really Isn't Everything

As someone who follows the Oscars and observes reportings from other Oscarologists, I've initially picked up the idea that campaigning is the sure fire way to pick up at least an Oscar nomination which is hard to get even if you're a frontrunner. But then I began to realize that campaigning isn't everything and I'll give some examples as to why that is.

When Michael Fassbender said back in 2013 that he wasn't going to campaign for an Oscar for 12 Years A Slave, it didn't hurt his chances at a nomination because not only did he deliver, but the movie itself delivered, eventually winning Best Picture.

This year, we saw Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Rylance get nominated without really doing anything because their films as a whole delivered. Tom Hardy was in the two most nominated films, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, so he was able to get pulled along and make the final cut. While not campaigning hurt critical favorite Kristen Stewart's chances for her work in Clouds of Sils Maria, that's mainly because IFC didn't send out screeners until the critics spoke.

We also saw names like Will Smith, Carey Mulligan, and Jane Fonda work tirelessly on the campaign trail, appearing at roundtables, the Governors Awards, Q&A's, etc.. Yet they still fell short mainly because their films didn't really deliver, critically or financially. So if you're the MVP of a crappy team, you're not exactly going to make your way to the Super Bowl.

If you do campaign tirelessly, aiming to claim one of those coveted golden boys, your film has to deliver. It has to have critical praise since critics are as political as voters are and at least do solid b.o. business. It also helps if your film comes out ahead of December since that month tends to be the kiss of death for Oscar contenders these days.

But if you don't want to do any back-slapping or baby-kissing, then as long as your film is a strong contender in other areas, including Best Picture, you can easily let the film do the work for you.

Although what happens if your film delivers and you have a strong campaign yet you still miss out? Well, that could mean you're up against a stacked category or maybe voters don't respond to your film as well as you hoped. Look at Nightcrawler. It had a strong guild showing, including Producers and Writers Guild noms, and had solid critical praise, yet it only managed an Original Screenplay nomination. Stuff happens.

So those are my thoughts on why campaigning isn't everything. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The U.T.C.: Ziyi Zhang

Back in 2000, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made a splash here in the States. It was a box office smash, won several Oscars, and introduced audiences to a discovery named Ziyi Zhang who played the ferocious yet young and naive warrior Jen.

Since then, she's found a balance between American films and Chinese films, starring in Rush Hour 2 along with Hero and House of Flying Daggers where she was BAFTA nominated. Yet she would never really pop here in the States because as a lot of us know, Hollywood is a place that thinks Asians exist in stories pertaining to Asian culture.

When it seemed like Zhang would get Oscar nominated for a story pertaining to Asian culture with Memoirs Of A Geisha, collecting a Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nod, she still unfortunately missed out despite the film picking up a handful of Oscar wins and nominations. Even if Zhang wouldn't have derailed the Reese Witherspoon train, her being nominated would've at least added some diversity to the Best Actress category.

For quite some time, she's stuck to Chinese films. But thankfully J.J. Abrams recently came a calling, casting her in the sci-fi film God Particle opposite David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Chris O'Dowd. Sci-Fi might not be the Academy’s number one genre. But the film at least thankfully has Zhang back in the American spotlight.

The U.T.C.: Kirsten Dunst

Even though Kirsten Dunst has become famous for her work as Mary Jane in the Spider-Man trilogy and for her starring role in Bring It On, sometimes I feel that people forget that she is an incredible actress capable of so much more.

She made quite a breakthrough in 1994 with both Little Women and Interview With The Vampire. Haven't seen the former, but in the latter, she delivers Oscar-worthy work. As the sinister vampire Claudia, Dunst had the difficult task of playing an adult stuck in a child's body and she really pulled it off. Dianne Wiest swept the awards circuit in the Supporting Actress category for Bullets Over Broadway. But Dunst likely would've given her some competition.

She has also become a muse for Sofia Coppola  with The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, and the upcoming The Beguiled while continuing to stick her foot in the indieverse with films like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and All Good Things. 

But the biggest snub in her career has to be her performance in Melancholia. Even if it is a very un-AMPAS movie, I'm sure Lars Von Trier's Nazi joke at Cannes added insult to injury despite the critics coming to Dunst's aide: The National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics Association (runner-up), and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. Also, she won Best Actress at Cannes. 

She has enjoyed a minor resurgence, though, with the second season of Fargo, having garnered a Golden Globe nod, a Critics Choice win, and possibly an Emmy nod. She also recently starred in Midnight Special which didn't give her a whole lot work with but she still left a good impression when she was on screen. On the horizon is Hidden Figures alongside Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer and the film Woodshock which got picked up by A24 Films. This year's Room, perhaps? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Topic Of The Day: #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend and #JaneBond

So when I was on Facebook just now, I noticed that a hashtag started trending called #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend which is not too far from when #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, a fan campaign to make Elsa from Frozen a lesbian, started trending. Those two along with #JaneBond, which is a fan campaign to make James Bond into a woman, speak a lot of volumes and I want to touch upon it.

Now as a gay man, I'm all for more LGBT representation on the silver screen. But if they want to include more gay superheroes, they don't necessarily have to make Captain America gay. There are plenty of LGBT superheroes in the comics. Ones that are already famous including both Iceman and Mystique from X-Men. They can re-introduce those characters on the silver screen and have them come out as gay or introduce LGBT superheroes that haven't been brought to the silver screen. But if they were to decide to give Captain America a boyfriend, then that's still okay.

While it may not be a superhero franchise, there has been speculation as to whether Poe and Finn from Star Wars will be made into a couple in future installments. This is something I'd be very on board for. Casting a black and Latino man as leads in such a powerful tentpole property is quite progressive and having them represent another group would be even more progressive.

Next I want to touch upon #JaneBond. That is something I'd also be on board for. Yet I worry that it would suffer the same fate that the female Ghostbusters is having even though that film hasn't even been released yet. I do want to see the character of Bond get some kind of reinvention yet who knows how other fans will feel about it getting this kind of reinvention.

But I think all the aforementioned hashtags demonstrate how much opportunity that audiences want to see and that they don't always want to see heterosexual cisgendered white dudes saving the day. I don't know if Hollywood is picking up on the message quite yet considering how it is 2016 and we still have Caucasians playing roles intended for ethnic actors. But we'll see.

What do you guys think? Are you on board with #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, and #JaneBond? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Indie Review: A Bigger Splash (2016)

                'A Bigger Splash' Is A Truly Soaking Experience

         Well somebody turn on the A/C because this movie was HOT...in more ways than one.

         A Bigger Splash follows the story of a glam rock singer named Marianne (Tilda Swinton) who is recovering from vocal surgery while on vacation with her filmmaker boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schonaerts). However, their peaceful getaway is disrupted by the sudden arrival of her ex-flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson).

         I'll jump right into the actors. Tilda Swinton is reliably good as Marianne and even though she doesn't speak for much of the movie, she is still able to act with her eyes to demonstrate how Marianne is constantly evaluating her options in terms of the men in her life. After having very little to do in The Danish Girl, it was nice to see Matthias Schonaerts doing a film like this. While his character may not be as fully fleshed out as the others, he is still able to slowly flesh out subtle layers of neurosis and darkness. Dakota Johnson was a real surprise as the Lolita-esque Penelope, using her youthful appearance and soft voice as a seduction tool. She also has subtle comedic timing and I think she should make a home there when she's not involved in Fifty Shades. 

       But the real show stopper is without a doubt Ralph Fiennes. While his co-stars are just as great, Fiennes is always just..ON! He's a constant ball of energy that lights up every scene he's in. In fact, because his character is so lovelorn, he channels that into a demonic fury.

       Next, I'll get into the direction by Luca Guadagnino. The way he constructs the film makes it seem like it is set in an Eden-esque paradise with how the characters engage in a game of seduction in a sunny, nature-filled background. We even get scenes of a symbolic snake entering the scenery.

      The cinematography by Yorick Le Saux is quite stunning. Some of my favorite scenes are the ones shot in daytime where the sunny backdrop compliments and eventually contradicts the events that occur. There are even slow close-ups on the actors' faces that provide shades of 60's or 70's cinema where the cinematographer would do something similar.

      Lastly, I want to acknowledge the editing by Walter Fasano. Even though the film is about 2 hours long, he makes it go by quickly and despite the film being mostly about people indulging in conversation and leisure, it has a very caffeinated feel.


      Overall, A Bigger Splash is a stunning throwback to classic cinema that manages to be both entertaining and cinephilic. It's extremely well-acted, well-directed, beautifully shot, and even though I can't pronounce the name of the island the film is set in, I want to vacation there! So much to love about this movie!

Grade: A+

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cannes 2016 Winners: My Reactions

Well..that was a weird set of Cannes winners. These winners went quite far from who I predicted and I simply just cannot wrap my head around them. Just, wow!

Palme D'Or: I, Daniel Blake

Best Director: Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper and Cristian Mingiu, Graduation 

Best Actor: Shaheb Hosseini, The Salesman

Best Actress: Jaclyn Jose, Brilliante

Grand Prix: It's Only The End Of The World 

Jury Prize: American Honey

Best Screenplay: The Salesman

Now, what makes me quite stunned about this set of winners is that some of these films like Personal Shopper and It's Only The End Of The World have had a polarizing response. Apparently, American Honey has gotten a divisive response. But Personal Shopper got booed at its screening. Even I, Daniel Blake didn't seem to have very loud buzz as the reviews came out.

Now Loving, which has emerged as an Oscar frontrunner didn't win anything. But that doesn't mean its momentum is hurt because the Cannes winners aren't always predictive of the Oscars. Cannes does help U.S. films that are screened there to get early buzz going. But it's not "do or die" for Oscar movies.

What do you guys think? If you've followed the Cannes Film Festival, are you as puzzled by the winners as I am? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review: The Nice Guys (2016)

                    'The Nice Guys' Are A Nice Time At The Movies

         Even if we don't get a sequel, just put these two actors in a movie together again because they are comedic gold.

        The Nice Guys follows the story of a private eye named Holland (Ryan Gosling) who is matched along with an enforcer named Jackson (Russell Crowe) to find a missing girl and investigate the death of a porn star. As the case continues, both detectives unravel a much larger conspiracy.

        While the mismatched detectives/missing person case seems pretty straightforward, what really makes this movie work is the chemistry between both Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. These two are absolute comedic GOLD. Crowe brings subtle hilarity mixed with hidden depths as the very straight-laced and brutish Jackson while Gosling brings more outlandish hilarity as Holland who is interestingly the "straight man" of the duo. One actress who I really want to give a shoutout to is Angourie Rice who plays Holland's daughter Molly that continuously ends up as a sidekick for the main duo. For such a young actress, she did a terrific job reacting to the hijinks caused by both Jackson and Holland.

      The screenplay by writer/director Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi is also very strong. Like I said earlier, the mismatched detectives/missing person storylines have been done before. But Black and Bagarozzi are able to give them new spins by having Holland's kid daughter as a sidekick, the case connecting to the porn industry, and why the missing girl ends up missing and such.

      Lastly, I really loved the nostalgia factor with how the film is set in the 70's. I'm a huge sucker for nostalgia, so it was nice to be taken back to such a time.


      Overall, The Nice Guys is a successful comedic vehicle that hinges on its two male leads who really deliver. Even if the plot gets familiar, the film manages to provide new and refreshing twists and turns.

Grade: A

Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)

                      'Neighbors 2' Provides Double The Trouble

          While I really enjoyed this sequel, I will already suggest stopping right here because the series as of right now is fine as it is.
     Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising continues the story of Kelly and Mac Radnor (Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen) who are about to have their second child and are looking to move out of their neighborhood. However, they just wait thirty days so that the couple planning to move in can continue to inspect it and unfortunately for them, a sorority, led by its sinister president Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), moved next door.

      First off, the returning actors (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron) are as good as they were in the first film. Although Rose Byrne, who I thought was the MVP of the first film, isn't given as much to do this time around, she was still great in the material she was given. Lisa Kudrow, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, and Carla Gallo also make a return and they were great as well. Chloe Grace Moretz proves why she is one of the most interesting young actresses working today as she showcases devilishly comedic timing as Shelby, the sorority president.

      While the first film was a coming of age story of sorts with the main characters dealing with the struggle of growing up, the sequel delves into the theme of moving away from the past. Both Kelly and Mac have grown out of wanting to be invited back in the party like they did in the first one while Shelby starts her own sorority to avoid reliving high school where she was lonely without much friends.

      The film even interestingly explores sexism within the Greek system with how sororities apparently aren't allowed to throw parties unlike fraternities. I don't know if that is 100% true because I've never been a part of a fraternity. But regardless, it was interesting to explore that.

     I also want to give the film bonus points for its diversity. It has a lot more women this time around and even women of color thanks to Selena Gomez making a cameo and the inclusion of Dope's Kiersey Clemons who plays a member of Shelby's sorority. They even have Dave Franco's character come out as gay which was out of left field but still allowed more representation amongst its set of characters.

     While there are some funny jokes poking at sexism, to me, as they went on, they began to get a little too on-the-nose. Also, the end climax became a bit of a copout and seemed pretty rushed. It wasn't as exciting as the climax in the first one.

     Overall, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a worthy successor to the first installment that recaptures the same magic thanks to its cast while incorporating fresher jokes and newer thematic material.

Grade: B+

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Who Can Be The Next James Bond?

So it has been reported that Daniel Craig has decided to retire from playing James Bond for good. Honestly, if he is going to have a bit of a 'tude about not coming back, then he can go. Fine by me. But if he is officially done, who should play the character next?

Now one actor who has become a serious fan favorite, especially thanks to his work on AMC's The Night Manager, is Tom Hiddleston. He'd be an ideal and perfect choice but the reason I wouldn't make him my first choice is because...duh. Like I said, he'd be terrific yet still a bit too obvious. Same with Henry Cavill. I would also go with Michael Fassbender but he'd be a bit too busy. He's already Magneto and involved in both Assassin's Creed and Alien while squeezing in indies in between. So he'd likely say no.

One name I'd be perfectly game for is Idris Elba. One reason is that it would diversify the character and he's already proven he can look snazzy in a tux while also being one hell of an actor. He did just happen to win two individual SAG awards the same year.

Another person I would put high on my list is Jack O'Connell. One reason is because I am a massive fan of his and while he's only 25, he's still about 6 years younger than Sean Connery was when he did the first Bond movie. Plus, his young age would allow him to stick around for a while. On the surface, he doesn't possess the suaveness of Hiddleston or Cavill and while he is a very handsome man, he is not as traditionally handsome as those two. Yet because of that, he should still be cast in the role. I would love to see the character get some kind of reinvention whether they cast a black actor like Elba or have O'Connell give us a much gruffer James Bond.

What do you guys think? Do you agree with my personal choices and what do you think of the fan favorites like Tom Hiddleston for the role? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Oscars 2017: May Predictions

Hello, Bloggers. I've decided that, when I update my predictions, I'm just going to put my predictions in the six major categories all on one page rather than go through each category individually. Also, I put an asterisk next to my predicted winner. Here's my updated predictions:

Best Picture:
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk*
Birth of a Nation
La La Land 
Manchester By The Sea 

Originally I thought that Silence could win Best Picture. But Ang Lee has never won Best Picture before and even as the Academy makes voting changes, the fact that it is mostly white and male is never going to go away. So they might still cling to the whitest, malest film they can find.

Best Director:
Garth Davis, Lion 
Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Jeff Nichols, Loving 
Nate Parker, Birth of a Nation 
Martin Scorsese, Silence*

We've seen a growing split between Picture and Director recently and Scorsese only has one directing trophy to his name. So they've got some making up to do.

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea 
Joel Edgerton, Loving 
Andrew Garfield, Silence 
Nate Parker, Birth of a Nation 
Denzel Washington, Fences*

is a passion project that Washington is both directing AND starring in. Even if he doesn't get in Best Director, this could be a way to honor his efforts for bringing the play to the silver screen.

Best Actress:
Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train
Viola Davis, Fences*
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving 
Emma Stone, La La Land 

This would be Davis' 3rd nomination and given her awards run with How To Get Away With Murder, winning 2 SAGs and a history-making Emmy, the industry seems very itching to honor her for the right film role and this definitely looks to be it. You'll also notice I have Isabelle Huppert on my top 5. I'm getting Emmanuelle Riva/Charlotte Rampling vibes from her (foreign veteran actress due for an Oscar nod). Keep a sharp eye out for her!

Best Supporting Actor:
Armie Hammer, Birth of a Nation 
Oscar Isaac, The Promise 
Steve Martin, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Ben Mendelsohn, Una 
Liam Neeson, Silence*

I still think the signs are pointing to Neeson to win it. Supporting Actor is the veteran achievement award, he's playing a kidnapped mentor which could allow some emotional "Oscar" scenes, and it's Scorsese. Although the film has to be well-received.

Best Supporting Actress:
Naomie Harris, Moonlight 
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad 
Kristen Stewart, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea*

Michelle Williams is in a critical Sundance hit, she's already got a Tony nod under her belt which means she's having a pretty banner year, and this would be her 4th nomination which would likely lead to an overdue factor. I also have Margot Robbie on my predictions because the actors have made "out there" choices in the past (Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan, etc.). So I can believe they could go crazy and honor this breakout ingenue Hollywood has become taken with.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Topic Of The Day: CBS Denies 'Nancy Drew' For Being "Too Female"

I don't usually cover the TV industry. But when I was scrolling through Twitter, I discovered a hashtag that started trending called #toofemale and curiously looked at why it was trending. Apparently, CBS was test screening an updated Nancy Drew series yet decided not to air it because it tested "too female." Seeing that really frustrated me and I will certainly delve into why that is.

First off, what do they even mean when they say "too female?" Does it mean "too feminist?" But no matter how they slice it, it still doesn't come off that well and is a terrible excuse as to why they are not putting it on the air.

I'm a male yet some of my favorite shows are Buffy The Vampire Slayer, True Blood, and Parks and Recreation which all have strong central female characters. Yet is my taste in television "too female" and does this mean that they should take it easy with the female-centered shows?! I say no.

We've seen quite an onslaught of successful female-driven shows that are too numerous to mention and we are now seeing more shows depicting women of color. Heck, Laverne Cox, a trans woman of color, has recently gotten her own show. Yet I fear that if a network says that a show tests "too female" or they should ease up on the female-centered shows, then the success of the shows we have had will end up being treated as an anomaly.

It reminds me a lot like the film world where Hollywood reinforces the idea that there are no A-list talents of color despite the fact that we have names like Denzel Washington and Will Smith. Yet it feels as if their success is treated as an exception and Hollywood is contradicting themselves.

It's bad enough that the film industry doesn't produce as much films depicting women, the LGBT community, and people of color out of fear that there isn't a global audience for such groups. So I don't want to see the television industry act out of fear as well.

Sorry to my readers I've been sounding like a broken record regarding the diversiy topic. This is just something I wanted to share my thoughts on get off my chest. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

The U.T.C.: Elizabeth Olsen

2011 was a banner year for lead actresses. In a sea of terrific and dynamic performances by leading ladies, there was one performer that emerged as a special discovery. That performer was Elizabeth Olsen as a manipulated cult member in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Olsen didn't make it very far in the precursors, managing a BFCA nod and an Independent Spirit nod. To me, that's a shame because I thought she was even better than the performance that won that year (Sorry, not sorry, Streep fans.).

But her performance at least got Hollywood to take note and she would go on to have a supporting role in Godzilla and play Scarlet Witch in the Avengers franchise. Yet she has managed to remember her indie roots, working in films like Silent House, Liberal Arts, In Secret, and Very Good Girls. 

While her turn in the failed Oscar bait biopic I Saw The Light likely won't garner any traction, she does have the upcoming Wind River opposite Jeremy Renner which sounds promising. It is about a man investigating a murdee that took place in a Native American reserve and it just got picked up by Harvey Weinstein.

So thankfully because Olsen is able to squeeze in films outside of the MCU, an Oscar nomination might not be far from her reach. Thankfully, she does make films outside of Marvel because she has luminous screen presence whenever she appears.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The U.T.C.: Lea Seydoux

Lea Seydoux is one of those actresses who has appeared in films you have seen and probably liked, but can never place her name since she tends to have a small part in such films.

Yet while she has built quite a profile stateside, working with directors like Anderson, Tarantino, Allen, and Ridley Scott, she would get her true breakthrough in her native France with Blue Is The Warmest Color as the main character's love interest Emma. Her lead co-star Adele Exarchopoulos would take most of the breakthrough plaudits but Seydoux's performance as Emma is quite vital since she makes you see why she is both too hot to handle yet also too cold to hold.

After Blue Is The Warmest Color, Lea Seydoux would have a small role in The Grand Budapest Hotel and play a Bond girl in Spectre. But she has been able to find a bit of middle ground, balancing work in both English and French language productions. This year, she has a part in the dystopian black comedy The Lobster for director Yorgos Lanthimos and It's Only The End Of The World for Xavier Dolan opposite Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, and Vincent Cassel. While those two projects may or may not land Oscar traction, if she can continue to build up her stateside profile or land the right significant role back in her native France, we could see her help the list of French actresses that have already been nominated (Cotillard, Binoche, Deneuve, etc.) continue to grow.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The U.T.C.: Jack O'Connell

It all started with Starred Up. A tiny British prison drama that I continue to try and raise awareness for since it seems to have slipped through the cracks. After I watched the raw leading performance from Jack O'Connell and especially the film's powerful finale, I was like "I'll follow whatever film he does next" because right after I watched it, I toyed with seeing Unbroken because Jack O'Connell was in it. While I still haven't seen Unbroken yet, which is the film that got people to take note of his talent, I still would see whatever project he had lined up which is why I saw Money Monster. 

But after I watched Starred Up, I looked back at his filmography and I realized that he was the main villain in the underseen horror film Eden Lake which stars a pre-fame Michael Fassbender. When I found out, I was like "Wow, he's a hell of an actor." To me, O'Connell possesses a talent that is so raw and soulful that he even surpasses fellow British breakouts like Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne that have gotten more exposure than he has. 

While his performance in Money Monster is a standout, I don't know if it'll do the trick for him in terms of landing an Oscar nomination due to the film's mixed reception and summer release date. But he does have two other films coming out this year: the costume drama Tulip Fever starring Alicia Vikander and the much baitier HHhH which is about the assassination of a Nazi leader and is distributed by the Oscar whisperer Harvey Weinstein. HHhH doesn't have a release date yet so we'll see where that one goes. But with his upcoming film projects along with the Netflix series Godless for Steven Soderbergh, he is starting to build up a profile stateside. So the more U.S. work he does, the more likely he could build momentum for a nomination. Even if it doesn't happen this year, fingers crossed it happens soon.

Review: Money Monster (2016)

                             'Monster' Is Pretty On The 'Money'
       While watching the film, I was able to realize how you know when you have found a true movie star, someone you will watch in anything they star in, because even though the film's hostage storyline seemed familiar, I still went because of Jack O'Connell and I'll continue to watch anything that he does.

         Money Monster follows the story of a TV guru named Lee Gates (George Clooney) who is held hostage on his television show by a delivery man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) who, after a bad tip on his show led him to losing all his savings, seeks answers as to why.

          I'll go right into the acting. While George Clooney boasts his usual charming self, he is able to allow the arc his character undergoes shine through seamlessly. Julia Roberts is also spectacular as the show's producer Patty who acts as the calm within the storm, comforting Lee through his earpiece while they are in a chaotic situation. But to me, the real star is Jack O'Connell as Kyle. Even if the movie itself was terrible, I would probably still be glued to the screen because of his performance. With just a small twinkle in his eye or the way he physically shakes as he is about to pull the trigger, O'Connell paints his villainous character as anything but villainous. In fact, I wanted him to pull through in the end because he made me feel strong sympathy for him.

         Another thing I liked is how as soon as the hostage begins, the film immediately kicks into high gear. Right as soon as the action began, I was on the edge of my seat. That allowed the film's tight running time of about 100 minutes to run pretty smoothly.

        I also loved the cinematography by Matthew Libatique who also did Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream. One of my favorite sequences that was well shot was when Kyle slowly moves into the TV show set and he is hiding in blue shadows as if he is creeping from the darkness.

      While the film is pulsated with energy during the hostage scenes in the newsroom, I kind of wish that most of the film took place in the newsroom because the scenes outside of it sort of dragged the vibrant energy that took place down a bit. To me, it would've made things a lot more interesting.

     Overall, Money Monster is a familiar yet incredibly vibrant effort from director Jodie Foster that features a magnetic, scene-stealing performance by Jack O'Connell.

Grade: B+


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Oscar Watch: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of my Oscar Watch where I discuss trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. For this post, I will discuss the teaser for Ang Lee's upcoming war pic Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.

Now before I watched the trailer, I was pretty interested in seeing it because it's Ang Lee and his portfolio is incredibly diverse. I think because he's directing and is a two-time Oscar winner, he can easily make it in Best Director if it is warmly received.

I also think that out of all the films she has coming out this year, this could be the one that lands Kristen Stewart the Oscar nom she is looking inevitable for. It looks like she her role as the main character's sister dealing with his return from the war could lead to some emotional 'clip' scenes because as a lot of us that follow the Oscars know, actors always look for nominees to have some kind of emotional crying or plate-smashing scene. Not always the case as Rachel McAdams will probably tell you. But usually they look for that one big scene.

The film also has a very eclectic cast that mixes veterans like Steve Martin with names like Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker. Also, the lead actor, Joe Alwyn, looks like he's doing a terrific job.

I'm not a big war movie person, but I think this looks very promising and if it is warmly received, this could be a strong contender to land Ang Lee the Best Picture Oscar he has yet to win because while he won Best Director twice, the films he won for didn't win the top prize.

What do you guys think? Do you think it looks like a legitimate contender and do you think it looks like a great film? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Topic Of The Day: Diversity In The Marvel Cinematic Universe

I worry that because I've talked so often about the state of diversity in the Hollywood and the Academy, I'm starting to sound like a broken record or a social justice warrior. But a few recent stories surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe have me wanting to continue this discussion.

Marvel CEO Kevin Feige recently said how he's open to finally giving Scarlett Johansson a Black Widow movie and the Russo Bros. who did the Captain America sequels have said they'd be open to having more LGBT superheroes introduced on the big screen in the MCU. But I can only sum up what I have to say about it in four strong yet simple words:

Just do it already!

Instead of saying how you are open to the possibility of these things, just go ahead and make them hapoen because if I keep hearing about how open Marvel is about more gay superheroes and Black Widow getting her own movie, then I won't believe it until I actually see it.

I think it is definitely time that Black Widow got her own movie. One reason is because I want Black Widow to get her own movie and another is that with Lucy, Scarlett Johansson can open a movie on her own without relying on a brand. That's something that her male co-stars, like Chris Hemsworth and even Robert Downey, Jr., have struggled to do. So Scarlett Johansson definitely brings something to the table and saying that you are open to a solo Black Widow movie is a lot different from actually making it happen.

The same goes for seeing more gay superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, I'm sure Marvel is a little skeptical about that because it might not play well in China or Russia which are countries that have strict anti-gay laws. Also, China is a proven force for worldwide box office receipts these days. But the character of Deadpool is pansexual and look how well the movie did. It made about $700 million worldwide.

Marvel gave Jessica Jones and Luke Cage the greenlight on the small screen on Netflix and they are about to put the Captain Marvel and Black Panther movies together on the big screen. So I can't see why they can't represent the gay community more whether it'd be on Netflix or the big screen. That's something I badly want to see happen but I won't believe it until I actually see it with my own eyes.

What do you guys think? Do you think that Marvel should just hush up and deliver on their promises or that they are false promises? Please write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Oscar Watch: Queen of Katwe (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of my Oscar Watch where I discuss trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. For this post, I will discuss a trailer for a film that I am hopeful becomes a contender and that is Queen of Katwe. 

Now the reason I say that I am hopeful that it does well is because of the barriers it might have to overcome to become a legitimate contender: It features an entirely black cast and is not only female driven but is directed by a woman of color, Mira Nair. Usually, when the Academy recognizes films depicting women and/or people of color, it is often when the film is directed by a white male or told from a the perspective of a white protagonist. So I'm hoping that this film can create a change of pace.

One thing about this trailer that surprised me is how underutilized Lupita Nyong'o was. She's the Oscar winner of the main cast yet there isn't much focus on her. Although she does look to have a supporting role as the main character's mother. The main actress, Madina Nalwanga, looks like she is doing an exemplary job along with David Oyelowo as her mentor. I know he's going to do well because even in movies I wasn't overly fond of, like Selma and The Butler, Oyelowo was still the best thing about those movies.

Disney is giving it an initial limited release on September 23rd. So they'll likely try to place it as an awards contender and build some buzz around it, maybe even giving it a premiere at Toronto or Venice. We'll also see how audiences response and whether it'll be an inspirational crowd pleaser.

What do you guys think? Do you think it could be something of an awards contender and do you think it looks simply like a great film? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Alden Ehrenreich Cast As Han Solo

I'm a little late on this. But it looks like Alden Ehrenreich is officially our new Han Solo in the upcoming prequel and I'm here to share my thoughts on the announcement.

I..have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think he's a great actor. He was one of the best things about Hail, Caesar!. But after doing some reflection over the Han Solo prequel, I now realize that..there is really no reason for a prequel.

I mean, I'll probably still see it because it's Star Wars. But by casting somebody who looks little like Harrison Ford in a prequel to Han Solo even though Ford had to have been pretty young when he did the first Star Wars, I wonder whether we really needed a prequel to begin with. If they want to come up with spinoffs within the realm of the Star Wars universe, that is perfectly okay. But I'm not sure revisiting Han Solo is the absolute best way to go. Even when Harrison Ford appeared on Ellen to promote the DVD release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you could probably tell he thinks this prequel is not the greatest idea. I mean, let's not kid ourselves, Harrison Ford IS Han Solo.

So I am completely on the fence on the casting and the film in general. I'd be curious to hear what you guys think. Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Oscars 2017: Consider Captain America: Civil War For All Categories

While the Oscars have had a rocky relationship with science fiction films, if there is one particular genre they have had an even rockier relationship with, it's superhero movies. Normally, they are relegated to below-the-line tech categories while films that are probably considered 'real, legitimate movies' get put in the major categories. But I'm here to say that despite being a superhero film, Captain America: Civil War is a real, legitimate movie.

It does feature the typical colorful banter amongst its characters and high-octane action sequences one would expect in a Marvel film. But it also depicts relevant real-world storytelling. The way in which the Avengers are deciding whether to be put under government surveillance provides shades of conflicts like the Snowden conflict and drone warfare with people debating whether or not we should be put under close watch.

Also, the film isn't as much about the heroes saving the day as it is about them diving into their own morality which is why they are mostly fighting amongst themselves. So Captain America: Civil War is a morality tale about war and the government that just happens to feature heroes in spandex. Even if Marvel Studios might not care about awards that much, based on its reviews (it currently has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience response thanks to its box office, I hope they consider taking Captain America: Civil War above the line in categories like Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and of course, Best Picture.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

                          The Corrected 'Batman v. Superman'
            Sooo...that didn't take long to get the bitter taste of Batman v. Superman out of my mouth.

         Captain America: Civil War continues the story of Captain America (Chris Evans) who is being forced to being out under forceful watch by the government along with his fellow Avengers. But a divide starts to develop once he, along with other Avengers, isn't on board with being put in check, resulting in a battle amongst them all.

         I'll start off with the acting. Most of the actors are on their A-game and play off each other handsomely. Chris Evans, of course, is good as Captain America and in my opinion, his character is more fleshed out this time around. When he is reminded about the chaos that the Avengers tend to cause, including deaths of innocent citizens, he is aware that the cost is tragic yet is also concerned about simply fighting off the villains at hand. A few other standouts include Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow who is also on middle ground. While she may be on Team Iron Man, her alliance is sort of blurred. After watching this, I hope that Johansson finally gets the solo movie she deserves. I also loved Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and the two newest additions: Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Can't wait to see those two in their future solo movies.

         Another thing I absolutely loved about the film is its moral ambiguity. Even when I felt like I wanted to slap Iron Man or anyone on his side, I could still understand where they were coming from and why they wanted to be put under a watchful eye to prevent further chaos even as that goes to no avail. That brings me to my next point. Much like how Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a political spy thriller, Civil War works as a take on war and terrorism with the characters ending up in chaos as they try to contain it. Also, with the Avengers causing destruction as they prevent further destruction by fighting evil, it reminded me a lot of the drone conflict with people wondering whether they feel safe with a drone floating around in the sky that can easily strike its main target but at a potential cost.

       Next, I'll go into the film's main villain: Baron Zemo played by Daniel Bruhl who is a terrorist that adds fuel to the divide amongst the Avengers. To me, Baron Zemo is the best Marvel villain since Loki. What makes him a great villain is how he is very calculating with how he fuels the conflict between the Avengers, has motivation for doing so, and his appearance. The fact that he looks like an everyday person who can go from bombing place to place, going easily undetected, makes him very menacing.

       Lastly, even though the film deals with such heavy subject matter, there are thankfully moments where things get fun and humorous. That way it isn't always so dark and dreary which is probably one reason why Batman v. Superman disappointed so many people. It didn't have much vibrancy and everything was so serious.

      Oddly enough, while he has second billing behind Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance as Iron Man felt quite off at times. There are moments where he's playing the traditional wise guy Tony Stark. Yet there are also moments where his character lashes out as if RDJ is thinking "I have...to really act!" To be fair, his character undergoes quite a bit of stress over the course of the film. But his work was pretty inconsistent in my opinion.

      Also, Alfre Woodard has a very small role as a grieving mother who visits Tony Stark and serves as a catalyst to Stark's decision to be out under the government's watch. Yet I felt her character was nothing more than a plot device because her talent was quite wasted. If they had left her character out, the events in the film would probably have the same effect.

     Overall, Captain America: Civil War is an intelligent yet action-packed and worthy entry of the latest phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even if it just a hare above The Winter Soldier, it is far better than the last two Marvel films.

Grade: A



Monday, May 2, 2016

Topic Of The Day: What Defines Overexposure?

Hello, Bloggers. Welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. Recently, I was watching an episode from the Youtube channel SchmoesKnow about actors who are overexposed. Watching that really got me thinking about what defines overexposure or what forces an actor to be labeled overexposed.

To me, somebody who is overexposed is someone who headlines about a few big movies each year while also attracting public attention off screen, appearing on almost every magazine and trending on red carpet events. Exhibit A would be someone like Jennifer Lawrence who has got her franchise work yet it still feels like you can't escape her with how she tends to trend on Twitter or Facebook whether it'd be for her tumbling on red carpets, the phone incident with the foreign reporter at this year's Golden Globes, and her wage gap essay.

There's also Benedict Cumberbatch who has been in film after film recently with Cumbermania happening off screen. A couple of years ago, during his awards run for The Imitation Game, he was practically everywhere: Appearing on the big screen, doing cover stories, pulling the "I'm engaged and I'm about to be a dad!" card, etc..

While names like Amy Adams and Jessica Chastain are like machines, making film after film each year, the reason I wouldn't call them overexposed is because they attract little attention off screen. Although Chastain is active on social media, other than that, we never hear much about her personal life. Same with Chris Pratt. He's in two popular franchises yet he uses social media to promote good causes or photograph himself visiting children at hospitals while in his Star-Lord costume.

So when it comes to actors having a fear of being overexposed, it's all about how much anonymity you have off-screen. If you make and promote your movies, then go home or are active on social media but use it for certain promotional causes, then you should be fine.

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

Oscars 2017: Best Director Predictions (May)

Hello. Bloggers. I have finally posted my predictions for Best Director for the first time for this season. So far, here is who I think will nab those five slots:

Garth Davis, Lion: While Garth Davis may only be making his feature film debut as he has only done television work prior to Lion, Harvey Weinstein may pull some strings. He did get Morten Tyldum in for The Imitation Game and David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook when people didn't expect them to get in. 

Ang Lee, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: He is a previous two-time winner in this category tackling the war genre.

Jeff Nichols, Loving: While his previous feature Midnight Special hasn't been lighting the box office on fire (much to my dismay), it has still received critical raves. Also, he would be using the Spielberg model: Coming out with a genre film early in the year while collecting accolades for a more topical film that comes out at the end of the year.

Nate Parker, Birth Of A Nation: The film is likely to get in across the board, given that it deals with racism and it is a period drama which'll allow it to get in below-the-line categories. So it would make sense to nominate the man who made the whole thing come together.

Martin Scorsese, Silence: Scorsese is Scorsese and like Parker, he also has a passion project likely to get in across the board.

Dark Horses:

Amma Asante, A United Kingdom: Could she do what Ava DuVernay couldn't?

Damien Chazelle, La La Land: He had to have been 6th or 7th for Whiplash which was also about musical artists. Only this one is about Hollywood and showbiz.

Clint Eastwood, Sully: Eastwood is hit-or-miss these days. So I'd wait for the reviews.

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight: This year's Lenny Abrahamson, perhaps?

Morten Tyldum, Passengers: Previous nominee tackling what could be more than a tech contender.

Denis Villeneuve, The Day They Arrived: Too genre-y, though?

Denzel Washington, Fences: Is there room for two men of color directing and acting in their own pictures?