Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kathleen Kennedy Wants More Experienced Women Directors For Star Wars

The recent Star Wars films have made plenty of progress in terms of representation in front of the camera. But representation behind the camera has proven to be very difficult. Recently, Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm which is the studio behind all the upcoming Star Wars films, has spoken about why there aren't any female directors in line to helm a Star Wars film, saying that they're waiting to hire a woman director with more experience.

Having read those comments, I found them to be rather unfortunate. Mainly because we have recently seen plenty of male directors with little studio experience or directing experience make an immediate jump to blockbusters. For example, Marc Webb landed the Amazing Spider-Man films right after 500 Days Of Summer, Colin Trevorrow got Jurassic World after the Sundance wonder Safety Not Guaranteed, David Lowery went right from Ain't Them Bodies Saints to the more commercial Pete's Dragon, Joe and Anthony Russo landed the Captain America sequels after directing episodes of the series Community, and even Cedric Nicolas-Troyan who is a visual effects supervisor helmed The Huntsman: Winter's War which was his directing debut.

So if men with little or no directing experience can make the jump to blockbusters, why can't women do the same? It shouldn't feel like that much of a challenge to find a right director because the Star Wars franchise is tevlon. Those movies will always have big openings and make boatloads of dough. So even if they got an inexperienced woman director, she'll at least be allowed more opportunities going forward because she had that guaranteed box office win on her resume.

Also, we are starting to see female directors with little blockbuster experience make that transition. Patty Jenkins, whose previous credits include Monster and a few episodes of The Killing, will be coming out with Wonder Woman next year while Ava DuVernay has just become the first African-American woman to direct a $100 million film with A Wrinkle In Time for Disney (And FYI, Lucasfilm is a part of The Walt Disney Company). So for Kennedy to say that they're waiting for a woman with more experience just makes her look bad.

While representation in front of the camera is very important and is something that Kennedy and co. have worked on as mentioned in the beginning of this post, representation behind it is just as important. For example, Shonda Rhimes, a woman of color who is a TV executive producer, is behind shows like Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder which center around women of color.

What do you guys think? Are you as saddened by these comments as I am? Please be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

'Manchester By The Sea" Wins Big At The National Board Of Review Awards


    The National Board Of Review Awards, which are a pretty key critical precursor, have announced their winners today and shown what films or performances we should keep an eye on. Last year's Best Film winner here, Mad Max: Fury Road, went on to become an Oscar juggernaut while all of the acting winners (Matt Damon, Brie Larson, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Jason Leigh) went on to become Oscar nominees. So they do have an influence on the awards race.

    Manchester By The Sea went on to win big, scoring Best Film, Best Actor for Casey Affleck, Best Original Screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan, and Male Breakthrough Performance for Lucas Hedges. However, Moonlight which dominated the Gotham Awards last night still did pretty well here, winning Best Director for Barry Jenkins and Supporting Actress for Naomie Harris.

   There were quite a bit of surprises to be found, though, like current Best Picture frontrunner La La Land only getting a Top 10 mention while other contenders like Jackie, Loving, and Lion got completely shut out. Also, despite the National Board of Review's adulation for Clint Eastwood, whose films have often done well here, Sully only got a Top 10 mention. Plus, Kubo and The Two Strings managed to win Best Animated Feature over Zootopia. That was a pretty neat surprise because while I love Zootopia, Kubo has the best animation I've seen all year.

Take a look at the full list of winners down below:

Best Film: Manchester By The Sea

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actress: Amy Adams, Arrival

Best Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water

Best Supporting Actress: Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jay Cocks, Silence

Best Animated Feature: Kubo And The Two Strings

Best Breakthrough Performance (Male): Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea

Best Breakthrough Performance (Female): Royalty Hightower, The Fits

Best Directorial Debut: Trey Edward Shults, Krisha

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

Best Documentary: OJ: Made In America

Best Ensemble: Hidden Figures

Spotlight Award: Creative Collaboration of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg

NBR Freedom Of Expression: Cameraperson

Top 10 Films:
Hacksaw Ridge
Hail, Caesar!
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Patriots Day

Top 5 Foreign Language Films:
The Handmaiden
Land Of Mine

Top 5 Documentaries:
De Palma
The Eagle Huntress
Life, Animated
Miss Sharon Jones

Top 10 Independent Films:
20th Century Women
Captain Fantastic
Creative Control
Eye In The Sky
The Fits
Green Room
Hello, My Name Is Doris
Morris From America
Sing Street

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Moonlight" Dominates The Gotham Awards

Moonlight is continuing its strong march in the Oscar race. It scored the most nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards and now, it swept the Gotham Independent Film Awards, winning Best Feature, Screenplay, the Audience Award, and the Jury Prize Award for Best Ensemble. 

Distributor A24 Films not only managed to pick up a Moonlight sweep but also a win for Anya Taylor-Joy for Best Breakthrough Actor for The Witch along with the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director for Trey Edward Shults for Krisha.

Other notable wins include Casey Affleck for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea and interestingly Isabelle Huppert for Best Actress for Elle. If you combine her win here along with her Independent Spirit Award nomination, her campaigning, and her likely critics wins, Huppert has become a force to be reckoned with in the Best Actress category and is on the verge of receiving her first ever nomination. 

Lastly, the ESPN documentary O.J.: Made In America managed to win Best Documentary and could challenge Oscar frontrunner 13th if it doesn't fall victim to "TV movie" bias. 

In closing, I think Moonlight has proven itself a force to be reckoned with this awards season. It not only is scoring in awards groups devoted to independent film but it has strong critical raves and is an arthouse hit, already having made about $8m. If it appears on the slate of nominees for the SAG Awards and the Golden Globe Awards, its box office numbers could start to grow. 

What do you guys think? How do you feel the Gotham Awards affect the awards race and what do you think of the slate of winners? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 25, 2016

"Allied" Is A Flawed Yet Ambitious Star Showcase

Robert Zemeckis is someone who's responsible for such classics as Back To The Future, Forrest Gump, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? As you watch this film, you get the sense that Zemeckis is trying to create another classic by making a film with a period setting and its movie star romance, joining the ranks of films like Casablanca and The English Patient. It does so with admirability yet also to its own detriment.

Allied follows the story of a Canadian spy named Max Vatel played by Brad Pit who is assigned to assassinate a Nazi general
with the mysterious Marianne Beausejour played by Marion Cotillard. As they pretend to be a married couple, they eventually fall in love and start a family. But thingst take a turn for the worse when Marianne is accused of being a Nazi spy.

Now Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are both perfectly casted. They both have the right old school movie star aura that fits a period film such as this. It helps that their performances are good as well. While the film centers more on Brad Pitt's character, Marion Cotillard makes the most of what she's given, always keeping up with the various tonal shifts that take place throughout the film as she gets to be sensual, enigmatic, and frail. Another great performance from a very consistent actress.

Another major highlight is the costume design, in particular on the character of Marianne, which is absolutely spectacular. I loved how luscious and otherworldly the design on Marianne's clothes was because it helps capture her mystique.

Speaking of tonal shifts, the film starts off as a sexy actioner and then it starts to have more Hitchcockian flare towards the second act once Max becomes suspicious of his wife. While it is neat to see a film weave in as many genres as it can, at the same time, the film loses its momentum once its pace becomes smoother.

Personally, I think the film would've been better if maybe the film builded up to the Nazi general's assassination at the very end. It would've made the tone more consistent and pulsating throughout. I also would've left out the mystery surrounding Marianne out because, and hopefully I'm not spoiling anything, but by the time the reveal took place at the end, it felt like such a big copout. So I think the filmmakers would've maybe benefitted from ommitting that storyline entirely.

Also, while Pitt and Cotillard are able to shine in their performances, pretty much everybody around them is underutlized. The supporting players like Matthew Goode, Lizzy Caplan, and Jared Harris all see their talents go to waste. In fact, Matthew Goode literally has like 2 minutes of screentime.

So overall, while Allied tries so hard to become another Casablanca with its depiction of glamorous star actors falling in love against the backdrop of WWII, ultimately it ends up being faulted by its aspirations. I do applaud Robert Zemeckis for trying to recapture a golden age of filmmaking. But if it had more rewrites, it could've perhaps been a classic for the history books.

Grade: B-

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Few Things I'm Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! In the spirit of this holiday, I figured I'd share a few occurrences in the world of film and even television this year that I am quite thankful for. Let's take a look:

The Rise Of Kate McKinnon: Few people saw their star shine as bright as Kate McKinnon this year. She got to co-host the Independent Spirit Awards, she was the scene-stealing MVP in Ghostbusters, her popularity has grown on Saturday Night Live thanks to her killer Hillary Clinton impressions, and to top it all off, she won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series. While she has been around on SNL before, this is the first year that I, along with perhaps other people, really got to take note of her talent. I'm thrilled to have been introduced to such a refreshing face in comedy and I can't wait to see what she brings to the big screen.

The Pairing Of Russell Crowe And Ryan Gosling: Up until The Nice Guys, I have been pretty fond of the talents of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. But now, after seeing these two pair up on screen, I'm like "I would watch 90 more movies with these two together on screen" because their chemistry in The Nice Guys is just so golden. We may not get a sequel because the film sadly didn't do any business. But I'm just glad I got to see these two paired up on screen to begin with.

Emmy Winner Ben Mendelsohn: Ben Mendelsohn has caught my attention since his few scenes as corrupt businessman John Daggett in The Dark Knight Rises. I've been following his talent since that and The Place Beyond The Pines where he had another scene-stealing turn and showed how he makes every film he's in better. So just imagine my reaction when he shockingly won the Emmy this year for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Bloodline. We didn't get to see his speech because he wasn't at the ceremony. But audiences will still get to see more of him on the big screen. In fact, they'll see him next month when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters and hopefully, more people will seek out his work going forward. 

The Year Of The Woman: What a killer year it is for actresses! It's not just a competitive year for the Best Actress race at the Oscars but it's a great year for actresses all around. It's a great year for genre ladies (Blake Lively in The Shallows, Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch, etc.). We also got to see actresses over 60 carrying indie hits like Sally Field in Hello, My Name Is Doris and Helen Mirren in Eye In The Sky while funny ladies like the Bad Moms reached the $100m domestic mark. More. Years. Like. This. Please!!!!

Moonlight: I will be absolutely and physically stunned if I find a film that beats Moonlight for the title of "best film of the year." Thank you to Barry Jenkins for this cinematic wonder.

So those are a few cinematic occurrences this year I'm thankful for. I would love to hear what you guys are thankful for when it comes to the film or television world so please write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Moana" Sails Into Familiar Oceans But Makes An Entertaining Splash

Put in an archetypal princess, a few musical numbers, and a morality story about finding your inner voice and you have yourself a traditional Disney Princess movie. Moana does fall under such familiarity yet regardless. is still a treat for the whole family.

Moana follows the titular heroine voiced by Au'li Carvalho who sets out to save her village that is being threatened by enviromental hazards despite concerns from her parents. On her journey, she meets the shapeshifting demigod Maui voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson who is initially reluctant yet accompanies Moana on her journey anyhow.

One thing that makes Moana such a treat to watch is the actress that voices her. A star is born in newcomer Au'li Carvalho breathes such life into Moana as she portrays her character's stubbornness as well as playing her as down to earth. Here's hoping that in the future, we get to see more of this young talent and not just hear her voice.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has proven himself as an action hero, a comedian, and now he can add voice actor to his resume as well as his amazing singing chops. He is aces as the charming yet arrogant demigod Maui and both he and Carvalho make such a dynamite duo.

A Disney movie wouldn't be complete without its music and Moana manages to deliver in that regard thanks to its songs co-written by Hamilton breakout Lin Manuel-Miranda. My favorite song has to be "How Far I'll Go" where Moana finally decides to go on her journey. Although the catchy "You're Welcome" sung by Maui isn't completely far behind. Despite it being a Disney Princess film, there are points where Moana has to point out that she's not a princess. Especially because there is no actual prince there to save her. But thankfully, the movie never goes overboard with that reminder.

I also want to point out how the film's environmental message is conveyed early on yet isn't completely ham-fisted. After it becomes introduced, the screenwriters let it become subtlely weaved into the storyline. That way, the story manages to capture different layers, making it a story about trusting your inner voice as well as a demonstration about environmental hazards.

Lastly, I want to applaud the film for not only having all the characters be Polynesian but also voiced by a predominantly Polynesian cast. I think it's wonderful they went that route because it allows those within that heritage to become the literal voice of their own stories.

Overall, Moana may fall under the same tropes of a Disney Princess movie but it still sails quite smoothly thanks to its "star is born" voice performance by Au'li Carvalho along with voice work by "The Rock," its catchy tunes, its stunning visuals, and its subtle enviromental message.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2017 Independent Spirit Awards Nominees: My Reactions

The Independent Spirit Awards have just announced their nominations and I must say, this is a very exciting bunch of nominees. There are some who were expected to be here that are here like Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight while there are others that I wasn't sure would land here like American Honey and A Bigger Splash which got a Best Supporting Male bid for Ralph Fiennes. Thankfully so because I was worried his performance was going to get overlooked.

For all its surprises, though, there were some shocking snubs: Manchester By The Sea for Director and Supporting Female, Loving for Best Feature and Best Male Lead, and while Ben Foster got nominated for Hell Or High Water, nothing for Jeff Bridges or Chris Pine and it got no Best Feature nomination. 20th Century Women also got left out for Best Feature and Best Supporting Female for both Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning. Gerwig is most shocking because she had two bids for 20th Century Women and Jackie yet came up short.

Moonlight emerged the big winner, though, with 5 nominations for Best Feature, Director, Screenplay, Editing, and Cinematography along with the Robert Altman Award which goes to its acting ensemble. But American Honey really overperformed with 6 nominations for Best Feature, Director, Lead Female, Supporting Female, Supporting Male, and Cinematography. Other surprises include Isabelle Huppert for Lead Female for Elle and Chronic for Best Feature and Lead Male for Tim Roth.

You can check out the full list of nominees below:

Best Feature
“American Honey”
“Manchester by the Sea”
Best Director
Andrea Arnold (“American Honey”)
Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
Pablo Larrain (“Jackie”)
Jeff Nichols (“Loving”)
Kelly Reichardt (“Certain Women”)
Best First Feature
“The Childhood of a Leader”
“The Fits”
“Other People”
“Swiss Army Man”
“The Witch”
Best Male Lead
Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”)
David Harewood (“Free in Deed”)
Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”)
Jesse Plemons (“Other People”)
Tim Roth (“Chronic”)
Best Female Lead
Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”)
Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”)
Sasha Lane (“American Honey”)
Ruth Negga (“Loving”)
Natalie Portman (“Jackie”)
Best Supporting Male
Ralph Fiennes (“A Bigger Splash”)
Ben Foster (“Hell or High Water”)
Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”)
Shia LaBeouf (“American Honey”)
Craig Robinson (“Morris from America”)
Best Supporting Female
Edwina Findley (“Free in Deed”)
Paulina Garcia (“Little Men”)
Lily Gladstone (“Certain Women”)
Riley Keough (“American Honey”)
Molly Shannon (“Other People”)
Best Screenplay
“Hell or High Water”
“Little Men”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“20th Century Women”
Best First Screenplay
“Jean of the Joneses”
“Other People”
“The Witch”
Best International Film
“My Golden Days”
“Toni Erdmann”
“Under the Shadow”
Best Documentary Feature
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Under the Sun”
Best Cinematography
“American Honey”
“Free in Deed”
“Eyes of My Mother”
Best Editing
“Hell or High Water”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Swiss Army Man”
John Cassavetes Award
“Free in Deed”
“Hunter Gatherer”
“Spa Night”
Robert Altman Award
Piaget Producers Award
Lisa Kjerulff
Jordana Mollick
Melody C. Roscher
Craig Shilowich
Truer Than Fiction Award
Kristi Jacobson (“Solitary”)
Sara Jordeno (“Kiki”)
Nanfu Wang (“Holligan Sparrow”)
Someone to Watch Award
Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”)
Claire Carre (“Embers”)
Anna Rose Holmer (“The Fits”)
Ingrid Jungermann (“Women Who Kill”)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Emilia Clarke To Appear In The New Han Solo Movie

So it has just been announced that Emilia Clarke of Game Of Thrones will appear as a female lead in the upcoming Han Solo spinoff movie. I can sort of see why they would cast her. Because she brings plenty of name recognition because of Game Of Thrones and she helped carry Me Before You to a $207m worldwide gross. So she brings plenty of bankability as well.

But this casting is still slightly problematic in my opinion. Not because of Clarke's acting. But because of who she won the role over. According to Variety, Clarke won the role over Tessa Thompson, Zoe Kravitz, Kiersey Clemons, Naomi Scott, Jessica Henwick, and Adria Aronja. All those actresses have one thing in common and that is they're all women of color.

To me, Clarke's casting over all these actresses is another example of the ongoing belief or fear Hollywood has that women of color aren't as desirable as a lead star. Again, I don't blame Clarke. I blame those who did the casting. This is just like the #OscarsSoWhite situation where we all pointed fingers at the Academy even though there's a whole bigger picture at play.

Even though we do have Lupita Nyong'o involved in the latest main trilogy, she's still playing a motion capture role. It even goes beyond Star Wars because when we see actors of color in these blockbuster films, we don't really get to see them. Zoe Saldana is involved in three major franchises and in two of them, Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy, she's cast as an alien. Paula Patton recently appeared as a lead in Warcraft where she played a green-skinned orc. Idris Elba appeared in about four films this year but in three of them, he only hear his voice but in Star Trek Beyond he played a prosthetic-laced alien. This situation makes you wonder how young colored children are going to see themselves on screen if they're not going to SEE themselves on screen. If we see actors of color constantly hiding behind prosthetics, motion capture, or voice work, then it just reinforces the negative notion that the lighter the skin, the more marketable you are.

So from an acting standpoint, I don't Clarke is a terrible choice. But I really wish they went with another one of the actresses that they considered because I want more people of color to be able to actually SEE themselves reflected on screen. I apologize if I may sound PC. But as somebody who has always loved movies, I think movies should do a better job at reflecting the different types of audiences that see their products.

To be fair, though, Star Wars has taken drastic measures for more diversity in films within its canon. I mean, in Rogue One, we have a female lead, a Hispanic co-lead, a Muslim and two Asians in supporting roles as well as an African American in a supporting role as well. Also, the Han Solo film will feature Donald Glover in a main role as a young Lando Calrissian and there are likely more roles still to be cast.

But I'd love to hear your thoughts on this casting choice. Please sound off in the comments section on what you think of Clarke's casting and the situation over who she won the role over. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Arrival" Is Thoughtful And Cerebral Sci-Fi With A Timely Landing

Arrival could not have come at a better time. In the wake of this recent Presidential election that has invoked fear and hate amongst American citizens, it is nice to see a film where humanity comes together, trying to solve problems through rational thought rather than radical violence. Whether its timeliness was intended or not, though, remains as mysterious as the film's marketing.

Arrival is based on a short story called Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang and follows the story of a linguistics professor named Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who is called upon to investigate the arrival of several UFOs across the globe along with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly played by Jeremy Renner and U.S. Army Colonel Weber played by Forest Whitaker. In order to figure out why the aliens have arrived, Banks, along with Weber and Donnelly, tries to decode their language.

One thing that is so genius about this film is how, even though it is a larger scale blockbuster, it has the intimate feel of an arthouse science fiction film. Mainly because director Denis Villeneuve chooses to focus more on the film's storytelling and has the visual effects used as an aid to it. That is the kind of science fiction movie I love to see. The kind where effects are visible but aren't a complete focal point. Not only that, but a good science fiction film has to have some kind of moral or message. Here it is about the power of words. Louise Banks, who's the heroine of the story, plans to work with the aliens by figuring out their language so that they can literally and figuratively understand each other. The film shows how if we act irrationally after receiving confused messages or put actions before words, it can lead to dire consequences.

While the film has an amazing cast, it is really Amy Adams' show. Throughout each scene, Adams is always giving us a glimpse into Louise's thought process through the use of her expressive eyes. She allows us to see when she timid, optimistic, vulnerable, and feelings that are too complex to describe. As an actress who reinvents herself with each performance, this is perhaps her best performance to date.

Along with Adams' performance, one thing that helps bring a lot of emotional heft is the score by Johann Johannsson which feels as if it is its own character with how it sets the mood for each scene. For example, when the main characters first enter the UFO, the music captures the mood of them entering an unceratin unknown territory. Also, while cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has become a Denis Villeneuve regular, is absent this time around, Bradford Young more than steps up to the plate. Some of my favorite sequences are the ones in the UFO where the aliens or encased in a bright white light yet are hidden in a grayish fog, capturing their uncertainty. Plus, the Malick-esque flashback sequences were all beautifully shot as well. Lastly, the sound work done with the alien language is some of the best I've heard all year.

Overall, Arrival is a masterful film anchored by Amy Adams' luminous performance that shows not only how innovative science fiction films can be, but reminds us about the power of words. The carefulness of what we say and our ability to provide reason and solve problems is a far greater tool than violent weapons and irrational action.

Grade: A+

"Moonlight" Shines

Based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is a very distinctive coming of age story about one's struggle with identity that is absolutely spellbinding from the first frame all the way down to its last.

Moonlight follows a young boy named Chiron over three chapters of his life as he deals with life in poverty stricken Miami in the "War On Drugs" era, his troubled relationship with his crack addicted mother played brilliantly by Naomie Harris, and his homosexuality.

The character of Chiron is beautifully brought to life by the three main actors portraying him that all manage to capture his consistent quietness and reserved nature. Yet each actor brings out distinctive qualities: Chiron from the first chapter called "Little" is a boy of literally few words, trying to make sense of the world around him. Chiron in the second chapter called "Chiron" is somebody who lives in constant fear and questions his masculinity once he becomes pushed around by bullies at school. Lastly, the Chiron in the final chapter called "Black" is a grown man with a brutish figure and wears grills on his teeth yet behind that is still the same shy boy of few words as he was when he was little. All three distinctive yet connected performances to the same complex characterization.

While it may be Chiron's story, the film has an outstanding supporting cast. Naomie Harris has a sparse amount of screen time as Chiron's addict mother, Paula, but she knocks it out of the park. What could've been a caricatural performance is a performance with different layers. Paula is not only self-destructive with her addiction but also, through small facial glimpse, we see her bitterness and self-loathing. Another person who stands out is Mahershala Ali as Juan, a drug dealing surrogate father to Chiron. He only appears in the first third of the picture but he leaves you wanting more because he lights up the screen with subtle compassion. Also, Janelle Monae in her acting debut makes up the most of her screen time as Juan's girlfriend Teresa who acts as a kindly, rather sisterly figure to Chiron. After seeing her in this, I can't wait to see what she brings in Hidden Figures and in more movie roles in the future. Lastly, Andre Holland appears in the last third as Kevin, Chiron's love interest who he's known all his life and he owns every minute of his screentime with his gleaming charisma and constant life reflection. This is perhaps the best acting ensemble I've seen all year.

Every other technique is brought to life amazingly. The cinematography by James Laxton always keeps your eyes glued to the screen whether he uses a long tracking shot or uses a subtle color scheme. The eclectic music that mixes Nicholas Britell's classical yet modernized score along with a hip-hop soundtrack. The editing by Nat Sanders and Joi McMillan allows the film to move at a breezy pace. All techniques help make the film feel alive and are successfully orchestrated by director Barry Jenkins.

Lastly, what I found to be amazing is that precisely captures what it's like to grow up as a gay individual. I could understand Chiron's pain because when I was younger, kids used to call me a faggot while sort of baiting me into coming out and I would walk around in fear of getting picked on. Also, these days, whenever I start to break down in tears, I suddenly question how masculine I really am. It is so rare that I get to see a film that relates to me so closely and I think anyone who has struggled with their identity can identify with this movie whether they're gay or straight, black or white, etc..

Overall, Moonlight is a breathtaking poetic experience that mesmerizes at every single turn. Every frame, every performance, every chapter, just...everything. Just a beautiful, beautiful movie.

Grade: A+

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Few Words....

My blog Film Guy Reviews is meant to cover all things film. But now, I want to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the recent election because my thoughts are too big to put into 140 characters or a Facebook status.

When I woke up to find that Donald Trump had officially won the Presidential Election, I suddenly began to, and still do have a stone cold feeling running through my body. I could not help but feel heart broken over the fact that our country chose a man who has divided us as the man who will run the Oval Office and has someone just as hateful as his Vice President.

If there is anything that Trump winning this election has taught me, it's about the power of privilege. You can get away with anything or get yourself into anything that you choose as long as you have enough wealth and privilege and I find that incredibly frustrating. It took me four years to get a two-year Associate's Degree and right now, I am about to graduate with a Bachelor's that I have worked for since I officially started college back in 2010. I plan to become a professional film critic which will be difficult for me at first yet is something that I have been passionate about for all my life. Yet Donald Trump who has absolutely no political experience whatsoever gets to run for and become President of the United States. So think about it. It might take me years to finally fulfill my goals yet one day, Trump suddenly decides to run for President despite not being associated with that field.

Another thing this election taught me is the nature of hypocrisy. We, as Americans, like to think of ourselves as progressive and moving forward. But by electing a man whose campaign has been built on misogyny, homophobia, racism, and bullying, it moves us a few huge steps backwards and it makes it seem like the rights of women, POC, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community don't matter as much. But guess what, all the groups I just mentioned, we are all human beings just like those of you who voted for Trump who have rights just like you do. But I fear that the rights of women, POC, and gay people will start to be taken away because we not only have a Republican President but a very Republican Senate and House of Representatives. That frightens me because their views will likely be in sync with the President's.

I am trying my best to stay positive and hold out hope for a better day. But it's hard. It's hard to do that knowing how backward our country has gotten and how we were on the verge of making history with having the first female President, showing that we really have gotten more progressive. But I do hope that those of us who didn't vote for Trump and do want to see change happen in our country will not only continue to show kindness towards other human beings but encourage our future generations to do the same and remind them never to let hate bring them down. We may have felt defeated after this election but at the end of the day, we're still here and we're still going to show that love does trump hate. As a gay man, I may still get a feeling that people don't care about my rights. But I'm not going to stop loving who I am and I'm going to remember that love is love. Whether it's between two men, two women, or a woman of color and a white man, it doesn't matter. Love. Is. Love.

To my fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and to anyone that is reading this, whether you're gay, a woman, a person of color, a veteran, disabled, an immigrant, or somebody who supports all these groups of people that has a lot of compassion in your heart and wants our nation to move forward, keep spreading goodwill and always embrace what makes you YOU. Like Hillary Clinton says, we are #StrongerTogether.

Warm regards,
Matt St.Clair

Friday, November 4, 2016

"The Handmaiden" Is A Feast For The Cinematic Eye

    After delivering his English language debut, the Hitchcockian thriller Stoker, Park Chan Wook returns to his native South Korean tongue to deliver one of the most thrilling experiences one will ever see this year.

      The Handmaiden is based on a British novel named Fingersmith by Sarah Waters about a maid named Sookee played (Kim Tae-Ri) who along with a conman named Fujiwara (Ha Jung-Woo) is secretly plotting to scheme a wealthy heiress named Hideko (Kim Min-Hee). However, things begin to get complicated once Sookee falls in love with Hideko, leading to a web of doomed love and intrigue.

      Everything about this movie is done to near PERFECTION!! The luscious costume design, the distincative production design that practically takes you from one world to the next, I'll start with the two main actresses. Kim Tae-Ri gives one of the best performances of the year as the devious maid Sookee. Sookee expresses a rather childlike naivete which she uses as a tool for deception yet when she falls in love with the beautiful Hideko, her innocent crush slowly burns into a fiery passion. Kim Min-Hee is equally as impressive as Hideko, the "ice" to Sookee's "fire." Hideko expresses a shielding fragility that only makes us as drawn to her as Sookee is. Especially as her guarded nature continuously slips through the cracks like a porcelain doll. I also want to give a shoutout to Ha Jung-Woo as the sleazy businessman Count Fujiwara. Despite playing a scum of a human being, Ha always has a magnetic presence throughout. Whether he's acting as dark comic relief or displaying his deceptively sensual charm, he finds a way to command each scene he's in.

      The cinematography by Chung Chung-Hoon is also something to behold. Throughout practically each scene, the camera is constantly zooming in and out while keeping still at times in order to keep your eyes glued to the screen and it really works. It adds to the compulsive energy that helps keep the film alive along with its frenetic and rather deceptive editing by Kim Jae-Bum and Kim Sang-Bum. Because of how the film will sometimes cut to a flashback or cause a shift in tone when transitioning to a new scene, you never know what direction the film is going to go in as it progresses and to me, that's fascinating. How you never know what's going to happen next. I didn't even know how it was going to end.

      Speaking of direction, Park Chan-Wook is the conductor that helps give the picture its pulsating notes. He even manages to pay a slight homage to filmmakers like Scorsese with the film's fast-paced editing and use of exposition and Hitchcock with its mysterious plot and mischievous score.

        Now I must give a heads up that there is some graphic sex that might throw some viewers off and might even rival Blue Is The Warmest Color. But while the film may be sexual in tone, there are only a handful of scenes with sex content. So even if watching sex on screen does make you uncomfortable, I would still recommend seeing it.

         Overall, The Handmaiden is one of the best film watching experiences I've seen all year that shows just how alive moviemaking can be. It's got intrigue, romance, sex, drama, and even comedy. It's both an energetic and pulsating yet cinephilic experience.

Grade: A+