Monday, February 29, 2016

Oscars 2017: Looking Ahead

Hello, Bloggers! We have officially put the 88th Academy Awards behind us. But it's not too early to look right ahead into the future. Here is a preview of films that might be Oscar players in the upcoming season.

I'll start off by discussing films that'll likely prevent #OscarsSoWhite from trending yet again. First off is Birth of a Nation which Fox Searchlight bought for a record $17 million and is sure to be their top player in the awards race. Next is the drama Loving directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Loving is about a real-life interracial couple who got arrested for attempting to get married. A fim about blacks fighting for equal rights with a white voice involved is sure to have Oscar written all over it. There is the film adaptation of the Broadway play Fences. Denzel Washington will direct, playwright Tony Kushner will write, and Viola Davis will star. If the film is completed by the end of this year and is released by the end of this year, here's hoping it doesn't become this year's Selma. If it does become an Oscar player, I can imagine Viola Davis becoming a threat for a win after almost winning Best Actress for The Help. 

David Oyelowo made a lot of waves after getting snubbed for Best Actor for Selma. But he'll have another chance to get in this year with A United Kingdom opposite Oscar club member Rosamund Pike and directed by Belle director Amma Asante. Thanks to Amma Asante's involvement, they'll have a shot at finally recognizing a black woman for Best Director.

Next, what do Oscar's old pals have in store? Well, Martin Scorsese's long awaited Silence starring Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson about two Jesuit priests traveling to Japan will be released. Also, Clint Eastwood has yet another biopic up his sleeve with Sully about American pilot Chesley Sullenberger where Tom Hanks plays the titular pilot. This could either be an American Sniper or a J. Edgar.

Now that Leonardo DiCaprio has finally taken home his Oscar, could he be passing the torch to a currently overdue actress? Well, Amy Adams will be everywhere this year thanks to her involvement in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Story of Your Life by Denis Villeneuve and co-starring Jeremy Renner, and Nocturnal Animals opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by A Single Man's Tom Ford. There's also Adams' fellow redhead Jessica Chastain who's got the Holocaust drama The Zookeeper's Wife up her sleeve. Of course, Meryl Streep poses a perennial threat to score another nomination for the biopic Florence Foster Jenkins unless Streep fatigue begins to set in. But what about an actress that hasn't even been nominated yet? I'm talking about Emily Blunt for the murder mystery Girl On The Train (crossing my fingers this finally happens).

Going back to biopics, Michael Keaton might be looking to score that elusive Best Actor Oscar for The Founder where he plays Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. He was in the latest two Best Picture winners so it helps that he is on a bit of a hot streak.

So that is just a sampling of what will likely be in store for the upcoming Oscar season. I look forward to seeing whether these movies and performances become legitimate contenders. Please feel free to share your thoughts on whether these films seem like contenders in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Oscars 2016: My Reactions

Hello, Bloggers! The 88th Academy Awards have announced their winners last night. Sorry for the slight delay, but here are my thoughts on the winners as well as the actual ceremony itself. I'll start off with my thoughts on the winners:

First off, Best Picture went to Spotlight which was a slight surprise given that its only other award was for Best Original Screenplay. But it is a nice surprise since I loved Spotlight and it is nice to see an underplayed, humanistic drama take home the top prize. However, it was still a lovely day for Mad Max: Fury Road which may not have won Best Picture or Director, which went to Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu for The Revenant, but still emerged the big winner, taking home 6 Oscars (Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing).


Also, after so many years of having to endure him being an Oscar bridesmaid, the great Leonardo DiCaprio FINALLY took home the gold for The Revenant. Brie Larson predictably, and deservingly, took home Best Actress for Room. I'm so thrilled she has gotten the true breakthrough she has been on the cusp of for quite some time. Alicia Vikander, another breakthrough talent, took home Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl. While I like to pretend she took it for Ex Machina, it was still the cherry on top of a great year for her and I look forward to her future prospects. But one of the night's bigger upsets came in the form of Mark Rylance winning Supporting Actor for Bridge of Spies. While he did take home the BAFTA, Sylvester Stallone was still the sentimental favorite going in. I liked Stallone's performance, but it was nice to see quality winning over politics since Rylance was able to win with a refined, nuanced performance and barely any campaigning. Also, Stallone's loss, along with Michael Keaton's last year, might prove that the Academy respects comeback narratives, but doesn't often reward them.

Aside from Rylance trumping Stallone, a few other upsets took place. One that had me going "OMG" was Ex Machina winning Best Visual Effects over titanic blockbusters Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That was a nice surprise. But "Writings On The Wall" winning Best Original Song over "'Til It Happens To You,"...eh, not so much. That was probably the one win that had me going "WTH?!" However, even though "'Til It Happens To You" lost, hopefully, it'll further the cause of stopping college rape and sexual assault.

Now onto the ceremony itself. Going in, I knew Chris Rock would tackle the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in his monologue. When his monologue took place, he really dug deep into it and really hit the nail on the head, even throwing shade at the Smiths and Spike Lee who boycotted the ceremony. But after the monologue, where the controversy continued to be acknowledged and poked at, it began to feel like overkill. Even during Stacey Dash's strange cameo appearance and Angela Bassett's Black History Month skit, it was starting to be too much. But when Kevin Hart came out as a presenter to acknowledge the controversy, he made a very good point where Spike Lee and the Smiths should've taken notes. Before Hart announced The Weeknd as one of the musical performers, he said how talents of color can understandably be upset for the lack of this kind of recognition, but the best thing they can do is focus on continuing to deliver great work.

A few more bits from the ceremony that I thought were a bit unnecessary were the inclusion of C-3P0, R2-D2, and BB-8. It was cool to see all those robots from the Star Wars films, but they didn't really do anything with them. They were just there to be there. Also, the unbearable Minions from the  Despicable Me films? Why the hell were they there?!

Lastly, I didn't think all the speeches were particularly memorable. It might be because of the ticker tape strategy they used where the nominees give their speeches in advance so they don't forget people that they need to. But at least the winners didn't read from paper. As I recall, the only one who did was Ennio Morricone when he accepted his Original Score Oscar for The Hateful Eight. But that's understandable given how English isn't his first language. A few speeches that I loved, though, were Mark Rylance's and Pete Docter when he accepted Best Animated Feature for Inside Out. Those were  two of my favorites.

Overall, I was pretty content with most of the winners and despite minor qualms with the ceremony itself, it did have its moments. I would love to hear what you guys thought of the winners and the ceremony in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Full list of winners:

http://deadline.com/2016/02/oscar-winners-2016-academy-award-winner-list-1201710643/


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oscars 2016: Independent Spirit Award Winners

So the Independent Spirit Awards took place last night and interestingly, while it was a pretty diverse set of winners, they still gave Best Feature to the whitest, malest movie on the lineup, Spotlight which also won Director for Thomas McCarthy, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, and the Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble.

Not to say that Spotlight isn't deserving. I just think that given the other options it was up against, I was hoping they'd be a bit more adventurous. Even if Anomalisa had won, that would've been nice.

As I said, it was a pretty diverse set of winners. Brie Larson assured her place as the winner tonight as she won Best Female Lead for Room. But the other acting winners: Abraham Attah for Best Male Lead, Idris Elba for Best Supporting Male, and Mya Taylor for Best Supporting Female, are all artists of color which is nice.

We also saw female stories being celebrated with The Diary of a Teenage Girl winning Best First Feature for director Marielle Heller and Emma Donoghue winning Best First Screenplay for Room. Even Carol actually won something this awards season! It took home Best Cinematography for Edward Lachman.

So despite Spotlight predictably winning big at the ceremony, I was pretty satisfied with how the event took place. I like all the acting winners and how we got to see diversity be celebrated in the midst of all this #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Be sure to let me know what you thought of the winners in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Full list of winners:
http://deadline.com/2016/02/spirit-awards-2016-winners-list-1201710410/

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Topic Of The Day: John Oliver's Whitewashing Video

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will continue the discussion of diversity in the industry. Not necessarily to the Oscars because this is more of an industry problem and the Oscars are just used as whipping boy in this whole situation.

Here is the link to the video:
http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/john-oliver-hollywood-white-washing

Anyways, talk show host John Oliver recently created a video that demonstrates the Hollywood whitewashing problem that has been going on quite often over the years, ranging from when Laurence Olivier donned blackface in Othello to when Emma Stone recently played a part Asian woman in Aloha. So even back in the old days, artists of color weren't given much legitimate opportunities to headline projects. But now, I think it's time for a change. Especially considering we have shows with talent of color at the center like Empire, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Orange Is The New Black, Jane The Virgin, and Mozart and the Jungle finding success.

Ever since the Oscar nominations have been announced, there have been a lot of more calls for diversity with even white actors like George Clooney and Reese Witherspoon wanting to see such progress. Here is what I have to say about it: Do it already! Actors like Clooney and Witherspoon have their own production companies where they could decide what films get greenlit and who stars in them. So when they are picking who can star in their films, they could cast more talent of color and make them front and center.

While they could be taking risks on unknown talents, it would be worth it if they made said unknown talents into breakthrough stars. Will Smith has made his public outcry over the Oscar nominations and announced he'll be taking part in the controversial boycott along with his wife Jada and Spike Lee. But until he stops giving showcases for his family and friends the greenlight, he can sit down. If he used his A-list clout to help out fellow talents of color, then I might take him more seriously.

The whitewashing debate also brings me back to the Hollywood Reporter roundtables and to me, those are a reflection of how the Oscar races in each major category will turn out. Reporter Stephen Galloway made an advanced apology over the lack of actresses of color, saying that there were no actresses of color in contention. Yeah, ever heard of Mya Taylor in Tangerine? Tessa Thompson in Creed? Bueller?? If it really aches you to see more diversity represented in said roundtable, look harder! Don't go through safer names like Helen Mirren or Jennifer Lawrence. Heck, even though she wasn't in contention this year, stop asking Amy Adams to come over. I love Amy Adams. But I've grown tired of seeing her at every recent roundtable whenever she has a movie in contention.

Same with the Directors roundtable which was filled with usual suspects like David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, and Quentin Tarantino. Why not just ask F. Gary Gray to promote Straight Outta Compton or Cary Fukunaga for Beasts of No Nation. Even though the film is based more on its screenplay, it would've been nice to see Ramin Behrani there for 99 Homes. The films of O. Russell, Hooper, and Tarantino were such non-starters so that makes their inclusions more of a head scratcher and seem like pure favoritism. It makes them no better than the Academy.

So to all these people who cry to help establish more diversity and have the opportunity to make it happen, I would say try harder but actually try! It's far easier said than done. So just get on it!

So those are the my thoughts on John Oliver's whitewashing video and how it's had me thinking about the whitewashing problem going on in Hollywood. Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section on how you feel about it. Thanks for reading!




Thursday, February 25, 2016

Indie Review: Beasts of No Nation (2015)


                             
           
               'Beasts Of No Nation' Is Packed With Luminous Imagery Into The Treacherous Unknown

                   While the film is not packed with as much graphic violence as I thought there would be, it is still not the best film to watch when you're having a wonderful day.
     
       Story:
      Beasts of No Nation follows the story of an African child named Agu (Abraham Attah) who, after the death of his father, becomes forced into becoming a soldier of a civil war by an unnamed Commandant (Idris Elba) once Agu becomes captured by him.

        Ups:
      I'll start off by discussing the performances by the two main actors. First is Abraham Attah as Agu. Attah is both a simple yet subtle revelation as a child soldier who is forced into becoming a soulless killing machine yet at heart is still just a lost kid. Here is hoping this kid has a bright future in this business because he really carries this film on his shoulders.

      Next, I'll get into Idris Elba as Commandant. Somebody call the police because Elba got ROBBED of a Supporting Actor nom/win. Wow, is he a force of nature in this! Although, he is not a force of nature in the same manner as J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, who is a forceful dominant monster. Elba does capture a fiery spirit that his character has with how he rallies his battalion. But through his commanding cool, Elba is able to peel back the manipulative layers to Commandant and reveal how he is able to take Agu under his wing. Commandant is a bat out of hell, yet thanks to Elba's performance, you still can't take your eyes out of him.

     Next is the cinematography by director/writer/producer Cary Joji Fukunaga. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. While the film does depict a horrific war zone, thanks to the way Fukunaga lenses it, you can never keep your eyes off the screen because of the long takes showing some of the colorful landscapes that our main characters are in. Fukunaga's use of long takes also helps make for some masterful storytelling. There is a scene where Agu is armed up and ready for battle and as he is walking with his battalion, a couple of U.N. vehicles are driving by with the passengers in it just staring as they drive by. They don't stop or anything. They just keep driving and even though that is one small moment, you wonder whether they keep driving by out of fear or ignorance. Another one of the film's best shot sequences is when after Agu's father is killed and he runs into the jungle, once the camera zooms out to focus on Agu running into the deserted jungle, it focuses on the fire-ridden landscape further behind Agu as he keeps running.

       Downs:
     There were a few points that involved Agu's voice over narration that I felt were sort of unnecessary. There were points where it was sort of needed. But other scenes didn't really require Agu's narration.

      Consensus:
     Overall, Beasts of No Nation is a superbly acted and beautifully shot depiction of an unnamed African war zone. Thanks to how director Cary Juji Fukunaga never has the camera leave our main hero, it feels like we are taken along with him on his long treacherous journey. Even if the journey isn't pretty, it still makes us more aware of a part of the world that we never pay much attention to and gives us perspective.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Indie Review: 99 Homes (2015)

                                 
           
                            '99 Homes' Makes 'The Big Short' Look Like A Frat Boy Comedy
             This movie is the perfect companion piece to The Big Short because that film was like Foreclosure Sucks: Fun Edition and this one is like Foreclosure Sucks: Serious Edition. But boy, is this one serious!

             Story:
             99 Homes follows the story of a man named Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) who gets evicted out of his home along with his mother (Laura Dern) and son. While being forced to live into a hotel, he is given the opportunity to work with the realtor that got him evicted named Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). At first, he is asked to just take appliances out of deserted homes. But eventually, he ends up stooping to the level of the system that screwed him over before by evicting other families from their own homes.

             Ups:
            I'll start right off with the screenplay by Ramin Behrani. What Behrani does he takes the subject matter of the 2008 economy collapse and turns it into a story about the survival of the fittest. It depicts how our main hero is like a hunter's game that is on the verge of getting finished off only to be given the opportunity to bite back. He begins to practically feed off his fellow man in order to survive living in the wild jungle.

            Props should also to the cinematography by Bobby Bukowski. Because of how he shoots the film so brightly, it not only contrasts with the dreariness going on in the picture, but it is able to capture the feeling of the setting being like a jungle with shots of the Florida palm trees. The opening uninterrupted shot, which depicts a man's apparent suicide, even captures the tone for the rest of the movie.

           Next is the acting. Andrew Garfield gives perhaps his best performance to date as a father who despises having to play devil's advocate, doing to others what has been done to him, but tries desperately to get him and his family out of that small hotel room. Laura Dern has a smaller role as Nash's mother, but she does make the most of her limited screen time, acting as the moral compass to the main moral compass.

          However, as terrific as those two are, the movie belongs to Michael Shannon as Rick Carver. Carver could've VERY easily been a one-note villain. Somebody who takes absolute glee into what he does. But come to think of it, he might not be much of a villain at all. We don't all agree with his "kill or be killed, screw everyone else" mindset, but we still understand his methods. In a way, he is kind of like Nash. He's simply a man trying to get by in this cruel, inhumane world. In fact, he gives one monologue that really struck me after the film was over:


       
          Here we kind of see why he is the way he is and gives a speech that says something about life itself. The world doesn't care about whether you stay afloat or drown. It doesn't owe you a thing, so you kind of have to find your way in the Ark or at least build your own raft. While Carver and Nash have to get their hands filthy to do so, the journey to being well off isn't always painted in gold.

          Downs:
         NIL.

         Consensus:
        Overall, 99 Homes is a masterful look at the recent economic crisis told in the form of a brutal "survival of the fittest" story under the sunny Florida sun. By the end, it will not only give you a perspective on the economy, but have you wondering: If I were a hunter's game on the brink of death, do I let myself die or do I try and bite back?

Grade: A
       
         

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Oscars 2016: My Three Wishes For Oscar Night

Hello, Bloggers! Since Oscar night is upon us on Sunday, I figured I'd share my own personal top three wishes for what I would love to see happen. Here is what I am hoping for:

1. Inside Out winning Best Original Screenplay: Even if it doesn't win Best Picture, Spotlight is a shoo-in to win Best Original Screenplay. But as well-written as it is, deep down, I badly want Inside Out to win. An animated film has never won in the Screenplay category and Inside Out is Pixar's absolute best in years and one of Pixar's most inventive. Please, Academy, don't let my Imaginationland crumble.


2. Tom Hardy winning Best Supporting Actor: While I do have him predicted to win Best Supporting Actor on my predictions because of how he is in the two most nominated films, The Revenant and Mad Max, I still have a huge hunch it'll go to Sly Stallone due to the sentiment factor. But I'm seriously holding out hope that Hardy pulls off a Binoche (young breakout over older, sentimental favorite) for quite a few reasons. One is that I thought he was the best in his field and it would show that quality can trump over politics since a Stallone win would have politics behind it with him winning because it's his turn and his performance is more sympathetic than Hardy's and whatnot. Plus, him winning could allow the Mo'Nique method to be more encouraged: not playing the campaign game but still walking away with the trophy.

3. Any film other than Spotlight, The Revenant, or The Big Short winning Best Picture: Any of the aforementioned films is likely to win Best Picture. They are all very solid movies. But I kind of would love to see another film announced from the envelope. Go crazy and give us Mad Max. Even if it is unlikely to win anything else, I'd welcome the idea of Brooklyn pulling off an earth-trembling shocker. If there is any category where I want to see them absolutely shock the world, it's this one.

So those were my own three wishes for Oscar night. I would love to hear what yours are, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!




Sunday, February 21, 2016

Oscars 2016: Why The Spirit Awards Are Awesome

Hello, Bloggers! With the big show upon us in a week, I figured I'd share my thoughts on why the show that airs the day before the Oscars, the Independent Spirit Awards, are absolutely awesome. In some ways, you may like them more than the Oscars. Let's take a look as to why they are awesome:

#SpiritAwardsNotSoWhiteAndMale: In the Best Film lineup, they do have a white male-centered drama in the form of Spotlight. But they also have an animated film (Anomalisa), an African war drama (Beasts of No Nation), a lesbian romance (Carol), and a film starring two trans women of color shot on an iPhone (Tangerine). So if you're angry about the apparent lack of diversity at the Oscars, you'll find something to appreciate here.

This year doesn’t feel like the Oscars redux: Over the past few years, the Spirits have been on the verge of being just another precursor for the Oscars. I mean, the year 12 Years A Slave won Best Film, all the acting winners at the Spirits..you guessed it, went on to win at the Oscars: Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, and Lupita Nyong'o. But with the exception of Best Female Lead, none of the other acting categories have Oscar nominees which is quite a relief.

Supporting Actress could go in a more different direction: In the Supporting Female category, it could go to Jennifer Jason Leigh's voice performance in Anomalisa or they could make history and reward a trans actress with Mya Taylor in Tangerine. Between those two, I might go with Taylor. But I would be just as ecstatic if Leigh took it.


We could watch Ben Mendelsohn accept an award: Whenever I watched Ben Mendelsohn lose at the Emmys, Critics Choice, and the Golden Globes for Bloodline, it was physically painful. But because he's nominated here for Mississippi Grind, we may have a chance to see him actually make a speech and it will be glorious.

Room could win something other than for Brie Larson: Don't get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE that Brie Larson is sweeping through the Best Actress awards. But here, we might get to see it also win Best First Screenplay for Emma Donoghue. She is almost certainly going to lose the Oscar to The Big Short, so it would be pretty sweet for her to get to make a speech.

Even Carol could win....something: Despite Carol scoring the most nominations at the Globes and the BAFTAs, it got completely shut out at both while also being snubbed at PGA and for Best Picture at the Oscars. But it might be able to win at least something like Cinematography for Edward Lachman or if they really want to veer away from predicting the Oscars, Best Film.

So those are my thoughts on why the Independent Spirit Awards are so awesome. Whetheryou agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section and I look forward to when they announce the winners on Saturday. Thanks for reading!

Indie Review: Tangerine (2015)

                         
         
                'Tangerine' Is Colorful And Inventive Movie Magic
 
      Soooo, if I went out and made at least a short film with some other people and shot it with my old iPhone, I can create masterful movie magic like director Sean Baker did with Tangerine? Huh. What a world.

     Story:
     Tangerine follows the story of a transgendered prostitute named Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who goes out in search of her pimp boyfriend who cheated on her and tags along with her close friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor).

     Ups:
    I'll start right off with the cinematography. I think the concept of director Sean Baker filming entirely on an iPhone was genius and he was able to make for some great visual storytelling. While the characters do have a lot of dialogue to say, there are moments where Baker is able to let the camera do all the talking while aiding those moments with a unique color scheme.

    One of my favorite sequences is the one where Alexandra is performing at a nightclub. The camera hardly ever leaves her as we hear her expressive and melancholic voice. She is also heavily surrounded by the color red which made the physical look of the scene more gorgeous to look at. Even some of the nighttime scenes, where the characters are surrounded by Christmas lights to create a sense of irony, were also gorgeous to look at.

    I also really liked some of the sound effects incorporated. For example, in the scene where Sin-Dee finds out her boyfriend cheated, as she walks out of the donut shop, you hear the sudden sound of gunshots. It is essentially an indication that Sin-Dee is mad as hell and out for revenge.

     Lastly, I'll go into what really anchors the film and that is the two lead performances. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor give very charismatic and alive performances as two best friends who are the yin to each other's yang. Rodriguez's Sin-Dee is more outspoken and willing to throw a punch while Taylor's Alexandra is the reserved voice of reason. I can understand Mya Taylor collecting accolades in the Supporting Actress category since the film mostly focuses on Sin-Dee's pursuit, but the film in reality is a two-hander. In the end of the day, it's about both their stories.

     Downs:
     NIL. Although, I do not like how The Danish Girl, which was like watching a dull and lifeless painting, got more awards buzz simply because it has a more starry cast and was from a bigger distributor while Tangerine which has a cast of unknowns while still showing how alive and fun movie making can be, got largely ignored.

      Consensus:
      Overall, Tangerine is an innovative indie gem that serves as a reminder of the fun and magic of making movies. Any aspiring filmmaker that watches this will believe that they can make their own piece of magic just by hitting the Record button on their phones as well. What a movie!

Grade: A+
   

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Oscars 2016: Final Predictions

So my final predictions for the winners in the major categores are here. Who should win, will win, or could potentially pull off an upset? Let's find out:

Best Picture:
The Big Short 
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn 
Mad Max: Fury Road 
The Martian 
The Revenant 
Room 
Spotlight 

Will Win: The Revenant 

Could Win: The Big Short 

Should Win: Room or Mad Max: Fury Road 

Originally, I went with The Big Short, which won PGA, but I'm going to say The Revenant takes it. It won the Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Picture and it has the most nominations with 12 which is key because voters from the different branches vote in every category. But my vote would go to Room, the best film of the year, or even Mad Max: Fury Road which would be a bold, game-changing choice. But then again, these are the same people that gave an Oscar to The King's Speech over The Social Network. So bold isn't exactly in their vocabulary, is it?

But where's...: Inside Out. I am feeling Sadness over the exclusion of the best Pixar film in years.

Best Director:
Adam McKay, The Big Short 
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road 
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, The Revenant 
Lenny Abrahamson, Room 
Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight 

Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, The Revenant 

Could Win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road 

Should Win: George Miller, Mad Max, Fury Road 

Originally, I was going to predict Miller takes it because I didn't thini they would give Innaritu his 2nd Director win in a row. But the Directors Guild win is pretty indicative in my opinion. Miller could still come through, though, for the other big spectacle in this category. Mad Max: Fury Road is the second most nominated film with 10 nominations.

But where's...: Ridley Scott, The Martian. Just when we thought Scott could actually win the prize, he gets excluded. C'est la vie, I suppose.

Best Actor:
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo 
Matt Damon, The Martian 
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant 
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs 
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl 

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant 

Could Win: Matt Damon, The Martian 

Should Win: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs 

Everyone but Leonardo DiCaprio can stay home. I would give my vote to Matt Damon's everyman turn in The Martian or Michael Fassbender's titanic leading man performance in Steve Jobs. But it's a done deal.

But where's...: Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind. Not that he had much of a chance, but Ben Mendelsohn more than deserved a spot for his work as a jinxed gambler.

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett, Carol 
Brie Larson, Room 
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy 
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years 
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 

Will Win: Brie Larson, Room 

Could Win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 

Should Win: Brie Larson, Room

Larson is a near lock to win Best Actress. I say near lock because Saoirse Ronan could easily steal her thunder. She does have more screentime than Larson and her film is also up for Best Picture. Although honestly, with the exception of Jennifer Lawrence who was just being Jennifer Lawrence, I'd be happy with any of the nominated ladies taking it.

But where's...: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road. It seems strange to give Mad Max all those nominations without recognizing the film's heart and soul which is Theron's Furiosa.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale, The Big Short 
Tom Hardy, The Revenant 
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight 
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed 

Will Win: Tom Hardy, The Revenant 

Could Win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed 

Should Win: Tom Hardy, The Revenant 

I know that Stallone has the "comeback/It's his time" narrative and all. But if you ask last year's comeback kid, Michael Keaton, that narrative doesn't always pan out. Also, while Stallone is the sole representation for Creed, Tom Hardy is in the two most nominated films this year so when voters watch his performances in both The Revenant and Mad Max, they'll be like "Wow, that's the same actor." Also, his performance is much showier than Stallone's with his thick Southern drawl and the way he uglifies himself. I think Hardy will pull a Brody-level upset.

But where's...: Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina. Hardly a brighter star was born this year than Oscar Isaac who deserved a slot for his portrayal of a frat boy-like Dr. Frankenstein in Ex Machina. Also, Emory Cohen deserves a special shoutout for his plumber with a heart of gold in Brooklyn. 

Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight 
Rooney Mara, Carol 
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight 
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl 
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs 

Will Win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl 

Could Win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs 

Should Win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight 

I think that Rooney Mara gives the best performance in this category, but I absolutely REFUSE to believe she is a supporting actress. Out of the actual supporting ladies (Leigh, McAdams, Winslet), I'd give my vote to Jennifer Jason Leigh. Even though Alicia Vikander has taken the Critics Choice and SAG for her equally fraudulent work in The Danish Girl, making her out in front, I'll likely be pretending she'll win for Ex Machina. Either way, a win would be a cherry on top of a breakthrough year for her. Although Kate Winslet is breathing down her neck thanks to her Globe and BAFTA wins. I can definitely see that happening because who can resist wanting to see Jack and Rose bumping their Oscars, right?

But where's...: Rose Byrne, Spy. The woman who should be dominating this category gets left out because they just don't love seeing their actors be funny, I guess?

Best Original Screenplay:
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina 
Inside Out 
Spotlight 
Straight Outta Compton 

Will Win: Spotlight 

Could Win: Straight Outta Compton 

Should Win: Inside Out 

This one's a done deal. Spotlight will easily take this award even if it doesn't win Best Picture. But nothing would have me feeling more Joy than if Inside Out won. I'd keep an eye out for Straight Outta Compton, though, in the midst of all this #OscarsSoWhite B.S..

But where's...: The Hateful Eight. They love Tarantino in this category, but apparently not enough to include him. Give him Bridge of Spies' slot. That movie isn't technically as original as The Hateful Eight is.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Big Short 
Brooklyn 
Carol 
The Martian
Room 

Will Win: The Big Short 

Could Win: The Martian 

Should Win: Room

The Big Short will easily take this. But I wouldn't be surprised to see The Martian, another dialogue-heavy picture, snag it. If that film could win anything, it's this category since its director got snubbed, its lead actor has little chance, and the techs will likely go in a different direction (Mad Max or The Revenant).

But where's...: The End Of The Tour. They like themselves some biopics. So how could a biopic like this one not get love anywhere? It came out in the summer, so I guess in their eyes, it wasn't released.

I don't usually cover tech categories, but I'm going to delve into the Editing category because of how key it is to winning Best Picture.

Best Film Editing:

The Big Short 
Mad Max: Fury Road 
The Revenant 
Spotlight 
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road 

Could Win: The Big Short 

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road 

I think Mad Max takes this, having won at the Critics Choice, the Editors Guild, and the BAFTA Awards. But The Big Short won Best Editing in a Feature Film- Comedy at the Editors Guild while Mad Max won in the Drama category. If The Big Short takes this, then it can win Best Picture since you usually need at least two other major wins to win Best Picture (in Acting, Directing, Writing, and/or Editing). But if Mad Max wins, then it means a win for The Revenant since Mad Max is unlikely to win Best Picture and The Revenant may already be taken care of in other categories like Director, Actor, and even Cinematographer for Emmanuel Lubezki (who could win for the third year in a row!).


The Oscars will air on Sunday, February 28th at 8 p.m. EST and Chris Rock will be hosting the big show. I look forward to continuing my Oscar coverage until then. Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Review: The Witch (2016)

                                   
               
                 'The Witch' Is 'The Shining' From The Pilgrim Days
   
      Before leaving the theater, I was pretty anxious to leave it. But I was anxious in the best possible way because this movie is packed with rather subtle scares.

       Story:
     The Witch follows the story of a family living in 16th century New England. But as the family lives in isolation in their own village, they slowly succumb to forces of the supernatural that lie in the woods as well as their own fear and paranoia.

      Ups:
    What is so interesting about this film is that even though a witch is present, it isn't constantly physically present. Instead, the filmmakers focus on how the titular witch casts a large shadow over this family trying to live in harmony and we see just how driven to the edge this family is over the course of the movie. That's why the movie Sinister worked so well. We rarely ever see the main villain that is hiding behind the home movies. But because of that, its presence is felt throughout.

    Since the filmmakers put so much emphasis on atmosphere and paranoia, it makes this film feel like The Shining in the 1600's but without ripping from it wholesale. There are plot elements of The Shining. In particular, the isolated family driven to the point of insanity and the elements of the supernatural. But it's far from a carbon copy.

     The film also maintains a dreary tone throughout thanks to its use of cinematography. Every shot of this film, both in cloudy daylight and in nighttime, just reeks of doom and dread. Also, the score is absolutely bone chilling. I can still hear the screeching violins ringing in my head.

     I also thought the acting was terrific. A few standouts include Anya Taylor-Joy as the eldest daughter who becomes caught in the center of the boiling tension and Kate Dickie who plays the simple-minded yet high maintenance mother.

     Downs:
     NIL.

     Consensus:
     Overall, The Witch is a dreary yet atmospheric thrill ride that may not be packed with jump scares, but still have you shaking to your core by the time the credits roll.

Grade: A

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Dirty Grandpa (2016)

                     
       
                 'Dirty Grandpa' Made Me Feel Dirty Watching It

      The first few months of the year are also known as the dump months where the studios pile up films that they don't really believe in. Usually, they are films that get delayed or are just plain bad. After having seen The Boy, Hail, Caesar!, and now Dirty Grandpa, I fully understand why.
     
         Story:
 Dirty Grandpa follows the story of a lawyer named Jason (Zac Efron) who takes his grandfather (Robert De Niro) on a road trip after the funeral of his grandmother. But as they end up in Daytona Beach, Florida, hjinks begin to ensue.

      Ups:
   I will get the few positives out of the way. First off is the main reason that I went to go see this movie: Aubrey Plaza. Plaza brings her usual hilarity to the role of a sexual college student that keeps trying to seduce De Niro’s character. Next, I’ll talk about Robert De Niro. When watching his performance, I couldn’t tell whether he was actually having fun with this film or was flamboyantly phoning it in. But either way, he still attempted to bring an energy to his role.

     Downs:
   First off, I thought Zac Efron was miscast as the “straight man.” Usually, when you have a comedic pairing, there is one who is zany and causes the hijinks that ensue while the other is the serious, straight man that reacts to the hijinks. But Efron is much better when he’s playing the zany one. I do give him props for attempting to show off his comedic range and trying to prove he can play both sides of the coin but he’s better when he’s playing the zany one in a duo.

 Also, there were a good amount of jokes pertaining to homosexuality that weren't necessarily offensive. But to me, they were quite tasteless. Because it is De Niro’s character that makes those types of jokes along with other uses of vulgarity, by the time they tried to show off his softer side where he acts more like a grandfather, I sort of checked out because I didn't care that they tried to redeem him.

 Lastly, the plot is not only predictable, but it reminded me of a male version of Tammy: Protagonist goes on a road trip with his or her grandparent, hijinks ensues, and they eventually learn more about one another. This movie is Tammy with a Y chromosome. If you read my review of Tammy, you’ll know that I didn’t like that one very much and I didn’t necessarily like this one.

     Consensus:
  Overall, Dirty Grandpa is a tasteless, unoriginal road trip hijinks movie where the biggest enjoyment I got out of it was a coupon for free concessions that I received on my Cinemark app after the movie was over. Despite the usual hilarity of Aubrey Plaza, everything else is complete drek.

Grade: D

Monday, February 15, 2016

Star Wars: Episode VIII Starts Production

Hello, Bloggers. It has just been announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII is officially filming.

Also, they have released the list of returning cast members. John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Daisy Ridley will of course be returning as Finn, Poe, and Rey, respectively. We will also see the return of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher but not Harrison Ford (for obvious reasons). Thankfully, we will get to see Gwendoline Christie return as Captain Phasma which means we will hopefully get to know more about her since she was a little underutilized in The Force Awakens. Also, Lupita Nyong'o will return as Maz Kanata. I liked the motion capture work she did so I'm pretty enthused she'll be back. Lastly, Adam Driver and Domnhall Gleeson return as Kylo Ren and General Hux, respectively. I'm sure we will see BB-8 return as well.

Now onto the new additions. The good news is that Benicio Del Toro has been confirmed to join the cast and Laura Dern has been announced which is surprising but an amazing addition. But the bad news is that Gugu Mbatha-Raw hasn't been announced. So, it looks like she won't be joining the cast (trying not to cry.). But we still get to see more diversity represented in the Star Wars universe with the addition of an Asian actress named Kelly Marie Tran. It looks like Disney is attempting to make more stars out of minority talent which is very exciting.

So overall, I like how all of the remaining cast members are returning and find the new additions very exciting. Please be sure to leave your own thoughts in the comments section on what you think of the announced cast list. Thanks for reading!

Acting Black Blogathon: Revisiting Set It Off (1996)


Hello, Bloggers! As part of Black History Month, I've decided to take part in a blogathon called the Acting Black Blogathon by Wendell of Dell On Movies where bloggers celebrate the talent of black performers. For this post, I will revisit a rather underrated film from 1996, Set It Off starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah.

One thing that I really appreciate about Set It Off is how it is a rare film that features a predominantly black female cast and has them play characters that...survey says, feel like actual characters. 

The four main characters in the film decide to rob a bank, eventually getting in way over their heads. But they have different personalities and motivations for doing so.

At the center, you have Stoney played by Jada Pinkett Smith. At first, Stoney is skeptical about taking part in the bank robbery. But after the death of her brother, she goes through with it because she feels she has nothing to lose.

Next is Cleo played by Queen Latifah. Cleo serves as the comic relief who comes up with the bank robbery plan, mainly looking for a way out of her rough neighborhood. But even as she slowly lets the money they steal go to their head, she still cares about sticking by her friends.

Then, you have Frankie played by Vivica A. Fox. After getting fired from her job due to her familiarity with a robber at her bank, she immediately decides to take part in the robbery to get back at "the system" that's been messing with them. 

Lastly is T.T. played by Kimberly Elise. Like Stoney, she is immediately skeptical about taking part in the robbery. But after her child is taken away from the government, she takes action and tries to afford to get her child back, sacrificing her morality to do so. 

All four are fully fleshed out three-dimensional characters that had me glued to the screen thajnks to the actresses portraying them. One that I would love to acknowledge is Queen Latifah as Cleo. Just out of curiosity,....where the heck was her Oscar campaign for Best Supporting Actress?!

Queen Latifah just owns every scene she is in. She not only provides the humor of the film, but also the heart. While her Cleo is someone who is a little rough around the edges and takes no prisoners, she is mainly protective of her fellow friends and not only doesn't want them to get caught, but to stay loyal to one another. While Queen Latifah did manage an Oscar nomination for Chicago and does fine work there, it is her Cleo Simms that will stay with me for years down the line.

As Viola Davis said in her now iconic Emmys speech, "You cannot win awards for roles that simply aren't there." Well, to me, the roles are there. People just not only have to look hard enough, but make more roles like them. Less films that resort to having talent of color playing stereotypes and more films that have them playing more legitimate, three-dimensional characters. If screenwriters want some inspiration when writing great roles for not just women, but women of color, look no further than Set It Off. 





Sunday, February 14, 2016

Oscars 2016: "The Revenant" Emerges The Big BAFTA Winner

Here are my thoughts on the BAFTA winners. I'll be entering them as they are being announced and in the order in which they will be announced. Let's see what shall await us.

Outstanding British Film: Brooklyn

Excellent choice! It's my second favorite film of the year and I'm glad to see it collect some hardware this awards season.

Best Hair and Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road 

Of course. With all the makeup put into it, how could it not be the winner?

Best Cinematography: The Revenant 

Richly deserved. I would've loved to see John Seale win for Mad Max: Fury Road. But Emmanuel Lubezki's not a bad person to lose to.

Best Documentary: Amy 

Done deal. Moving on...

Best Original Music: The Hateful Eight 

This one is starting to look pretty sewn up. But I love the score, so this one would be very deserved.

Best British Short Film: Operator

Best British Short Animation: Edmond

Best Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road 

YES!!!! I was really hoping it would win here. I figured it would go to this or The Big Short, but it's looking closer for Mad Max: Fury Road which won the Critics Choice, the Eddie Award, and now this.

Best Sound: The Revenant 

It's looking like we might see a Mad Max-Revenant showdown in the techs.

Best Special Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

Then again...maybe not.

EE Rising Star Award: John Boyega

He is a star on the rise for sure. I figured he was since I saw Attack The Block.

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies 

I suppose if there is anyone for Sly Stallone to watch out for, it's Rylance since he is up against Stallone at the Oscars. Either one of those two would be a worthy winner, though.

Best Animated Film: Inside Out 

Well-deserved. Moving on....

Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs 

Looks like it is a Vikander-Winslet matchup at the Oscars. Between those two, I'd go with Winslet.

Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road 

Well so far, Mad Max is 3-3, I believe. Nice, though. 3 is better than none.

Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Producer, or Director: Naji Abu Nowar, Theeb

Didn’t see that, but wow! I just realized Alex Garland lost for Ex Machina. 

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short 

Done deal. Very well-deserved and it's great for Adam McKay. But sorry Emma Donoghue. It'll take a miracle for you to win for Room.

Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight 

Moving on...

Best Film Not In The English Language: Wild Tales

Whoa, nelly! I mean, I think Son of Saul has this all sewn up. Especially considering Wild Tales was already nominated last year. But dang.

Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road 

So now, Mad Max: Fury Road is 4-3. Even if it didn't get in for Best Film or Director, it is still a lovely day for Mad Max!

Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, The Revenant 

He mmmiigghht have this sewn up. I don’t know. I don't know if they'll give him his second in a row. It is looking quite possible.

Best Leading Actress: Brie Larson, Room 

Officially sewn up. Moving right along..

Best Leading Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant 

At this point, if anyone upsets DiCaprio, they'll become public enemy #1.

Best Film: The Revenant 

After winning Cinematography, Sound, Director, Leading Actor, I had a feeling this was going to happen. If it does win on the 28th, I actually won't be too upset because it's at least a better Western than Dances With Wolves. 

Soo, those are my quick thoughts on the BAFTA Awards winners please be sure to leave your own thoughts in the comments section. I look forward to continuing my Oscar coverage before the big show on the 28th. Thanks for reading!




Top 10 Best Date Movies

Hello, Bloggers! Happy Valentine's Day! In honor of this holiday, I figured I'd share my own personal top 10 list of what I consider to be the best date movies. I already showed you the worst. Now, it's time for the best.


10. Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Despite how uncomfortable it may be to watch due to its dramatic portrait of mental illness, what makes this such a good date movie is the rich chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. They dance, they heal one another, and of course, they kiss. Their chemistry is probably the reason I keep revisiting the film.


9. Edward Scissorhands (1990): If you want a movie that'll have your significant other crying on your shoulder, this is a good one. It makes you laugh at times, but there are moments where you will reach for the tissues. I know I do every time I watch this.


8. Brooklyn (2015): This one is an absolute delight for Valentine's Day! The women will be swept away by Emory Cohen's Italian plumber with a heart of gold Tony Fiorello and even the guys will like the chemistry between him and Saoirse Ronan. You'll also laugh and maybe cry at times. It's a good movie to watch anytime but a perfect one for a day devoted to love.


7. Her (2013): One of the more unconventional love stories on this list, Her is a good date movie because the women will love the love story aspect of it while the men will love the sci-fi aspect of it as well as the sound of Scarlett Johansson's voice.


6. Begin Again (2014): Even if this isn't exactly a love story, per se, it is still one that'll leave you with a smile on your face. Although it does deal with a woman who has her heart broken, played by Keira Knightley, and both her and co-star Mark Ruffalo have non-romantic yet solid chemistry. You might also enjoy the songs created for the film.


5. Neighbors (2014): To explain why this is such a good date movie, I'll first delve into the film's secret weapon: Rose Byrne. The women will find her hilarious while men will get a kick out of the girl-on-girl kiss scene she has. Also, the guys will like Seth Rogen while women get to stare at shirtless Zac Efron. A little something for both sexes. Also, the film is hilarious from start to finish.


4. Empire Strikes Back (1980): This one is a little more outside the box. But I think that while guys will enjoy the film as a whole, the women will love the romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia. For those of you guys whose wifes or girlfriends aren't that into Star Wars, this film is one way to convert them.


3. Bridesmaids (2011): Even though this seems to mostly be geared towards females, the guys will still love the heavy use of cussing and its gross out humor while the women will appreciate the comedic chemistry between the main cast as well as its themes on taking a new step in life and friendships. Something that guys might appreciate as well.


2. Jerry Maguire (1996): This one is perhaps a perfect romantic comedy made for males. The women will love the romance aspect of it, of course. But the fact that it is also about sports might have the guys forgetting that they're even watching a romance to begin with.


1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): While Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind does deal with a couple wanting to forget each other, it does have an optimistic tone to it. As Jim Carrey goes deep inside his own head, he slowly realizes how important his love is to him and as you are watching the film, you get inspired and want him and his love to find happiness. Also, the film has what every romance should have and that is rich chemistry between the two leads.

So that was my list of what I consider to be the top 10 best date movies. Please be sure to share your own top 10 in the comments section. Thanks for reading and Happy Valentine's Day!


Oscars 2016: Spotlight and The Big Short win at WGA

So last night the Writers Guild of America Awards took place and the two film winners, The Big Short and Spotlight have solidified their position as frontrunners for Best Adapted and Original Screenplay, respectively. Both won the same awards at the Critics Choice Awards and if they win today at the BAFTA Awards, then they are definite done deals.

But as of right now, I think because it won PGA, WGA, and the Eddie Award for Best Editing in a Comedy, The Big Short will likely win Best Picture. It not only feels important because of its subject matter, but compared to Spotlight, it is done so in a much more lively manner with its constant breaking of the fourth wall, cutaways to celebrity cameos, etc.. So, it's got more bells and whistles to it. Even if it won't sweep the ceremony since it only has five nominations, it'll still likely win awards that a Best Picture needs including Writing and Editing to help legitimize its win.

The BAFTAs will be taking place at 7:00 p.m. out in London which means it'll be noon here. I'll be live tweeting throughout the ceremony. So be sure to tweet me @filmguy619. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Top 10 Worst Date Movies

Hello, Bloggers. Valentine's Day is on its way tomorrow. So, I figured I'd share my list of what I feel are the top 10 worst date movies. Let's take a look:


10. A Woman Under The Influence (1974): As great of a movie as A Woman Under The Influence, its gritty portrait of a marriage in crisis might prevent couples on a date from..looking into the future, so to speak.


9. Misery (1990): If you want to watch a movie on Valentine's Day, the last thing you and your significant other would want to watch is a movie where a woman's definition of "I Love You" is a dose of sledgehammer to the ankles.


8. The Babadook (2014): Horror movies are a good way to get your date curled up besides you. But then there's The Babadook which is a portrait of grief and mental illness that almost makes The Exorcist seem like a bedtime story.


7. Weekend (2011): While the chemistry between the two leads, Tom Cullen and Chris New, is rich and hard to deny, what makes this one not necessarily a good date movie is how it is essentially a countdown to goodbye.


6. Blue Velvet (1986): Unless your idea of a good time is watching Dennis Hopper sucking on ether and sexually tormenting his female victim played by Isabella Rossellini, this is not the movie to watch on Valentine's Day.


5. Shame (2011): While your significant other might want to check it out because it stars Michael Fassbender, when you actually watch this, you guys may rethink your relationship. Not just because its raw portrait of sex addiction, but you might feel threatened by the sight of Michael's Fassbender.


4. Antichrist (2009): Almost anything on director Lars Von Trier's filmography is a bad date movie. But Antichrist really takes the cake. This one will make you guys feel bad about eating a big dinner and will, let's just say, clobber any ideas about having relations.


3. Rosemary's Baby (1968): One of the best horror movies of all time? Absolutely. A good date movie? Not exactly if the main character's husband's definition of love is having her carry the Devil's spawn in exchange for wealth and success. Because of the wealth and success thing, your wife may look at you suspiciously after it's over. Who knows.


2. Gone Girl (2014): While it is an amazing film, what makes this SUCH a bad date movie is that, without spoiling anything, it might give women....ideas. If you're watching this with your wife or girlfriend, hope that she doesn't give a sly grin.


1. Fatal Attraction (1987): The bad date movie to end all bad date movies. While it at least encourage you to be faithful to your spouse, who knows if it'll encourage you to go on the dating scene more often.

So that was my list of the top 10 worst date movies for Valentine's Day. I'd love to hear what your own top 10 is. So please share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Deadpool (2016)

               
         
          'Deadpool' Is The Best Non-Marvel Cinematic Universal Movie In Quite Some Time 
 
      Welp, my fellow comic book fans, I think it looks like Ryan Reynolds has finally found a superhero franchise that he can call home.

        Story:
       Deadpool follows the story of a mercenary named Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who becomes diagnosed with cancer. Once he receives an offer to cure his cancer that results in him receiving superhuman abilities and a physically altered appearance, he decides to go after the man that experimented on him.

       Ups:
      I'll start off with Ryan Reynolds. As I mentioned before, Reynolds has finally found the right superhero film after attempting to star in Green Lantern and even as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While he was the best thing about Wolverine before they butchered his character in the final climax, at first, it still showed us why he is so perfect for the role of Deadpool. Deadpool is also known as the Merc With A Mouth, constantly making colorful remarks while being a badass aftion hero. So this role allows Reynolds to play to his funny and action-based strengths.

      I also liked the cast that surrounds Reynolds. Morena Baccarin has the typical supportive girlfriend role as Wilson's love interest, Vanessa. But she and Reynolds have amazing and enriching chemistry. I also really loved T.J. Miller as Wilson's associate Weasel. Even as the film was on the verge of losing its humorous momentum, Miller just kept filling it when he was on screen.

     Another thing that was so awesome was the film is the editing. With how they constantly have Deadpool breaking the fourth wall and incorporate slow motion into the action sequences while going into dramatic pauses, it really felt like a comic book movie come to life.

     Deadpool's snappy dialogue is not only thanks to Reynolds' delivery, but also thanks to the writing by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. The writing even creates a self-awareness that is consistent throughout like how in the beginning, Deadpool explains how he was able to get his own movie and blamed Wolverine for the struggle to do so. I thought that was very funny and essentially pointed out how the X-Men universe has become the Wolverine show. But who knows how long after this movie comes out, though.

     Downs:
     NIL.

     Consensus:
     Overall, Deadpool is like a comic book movie brought to life with amazing, comical effect. By the time I left the theater, I kept singing "Shoop" by Salt-N-Pepa which played at the end credits, because I had an absolute ball watching this. Since they already gave the sequel the greenlit, I can't wait to hear the next things to come out of Deadpool's mouth.

Grade: A
   

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Why I Hate Category Fraud

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I figured I'd discuss a topic pertaining to the Oscars. That is the egregious case of category fraud. For those of you who don't know, category fraud is when a lead actor or co-lead drops down into the Supporting categories in order to better their chances at getting nominated as well as winning. It is a practice I have not become fond of and I'll go into why.

For this post, I will use a case study, if you will, from this year. Even though her distributor didn’t have the strongest campaign for her, Kristen Stewart had the perfect narrative to get in Best Supporting Actress for Clouds of Sils Maria. She was getting career-best reviews, it was sort of a redemption for her after her days of Twilight and that horrific cheating scandal with the Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, and she made history as the first American actress to win a Cesar Award, which is the French version of the Oscars.

She also collected her fair share of critical hardware for Best Supporting Actress, including the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, the Boston Society of Film Critics, Florida Film Critics Circle, and runner-up at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. She collected more hardware than nominees Rachel McAdams and Kate Winslet. She only wouldn't have been able to overcome those two names because McAdams was able to coattail off a Best Picture nominee and Kate Winslet had plenty of boxes to check off (previous winner, makeup transformation, big emotional scene, etc.).

But a bigger roadblock, to me, was Rooney Mara for Carol. I think Rooney Mara is absolutely fantastic in the film and I'm not pinning Stewart's exclusion entirely on her since I hear it's usually the actor's handlers that decide where their clients go. But her inclusion in Supporting wouldn't bother me so much if the film didn't focus so much on her POV and emotional arc or if she didn't have more screentime than Cate Blanchett. Even the Golden Globes and Spirit Awards have corrected this, putting both names in Lead.

Besides Kristen Stewart, another actress that collected the most critical hardware was Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina. But Vikander ended up getting derailed by her own lead performance in The Danish Girl which is flustering because a.) It prevented a legitimate genre performance from getting this kind of recognition and b.) She's the Danish Girl of the freaking title! At one point in the film, Matthias Schonaerts refers to her as a "Danish Girl" and the film's opening shot is even on Vikander's face. It's practically her movie more than it is Eddie Redmayne's.

So to me, what's so frustrating about the committance of such category fraud is that because the studios want to land as many nominations as possible, it prevents a legitimately supporting dark horse from having a shot along with some unique, out of the box performances like Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina or perhaps Julie Walters in Brooklyn from getting in the conversation. I've read complaints on different message boards about Rachel McAdams' inclusion in this year's Supporting Actress category and that she had little to do in Spotlight. But at least she's actually a supporting player.

Another thing that's so frustrating about category fraud is that it is so difficult to believe that a lead or co-lead is supporting their own narrative. Carol could've easily been titled Carol & Therese and it would still feel like the same movie.

So those are my thoughts on why I hate category fraud so much. I get that the Oscars are a part of a political game. But the studios and the agents should have some dignity about where their actors go.

What do you guys think? Are you as frustrated by category fraud as I am? Please be sure to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 8, 2016

The U.T.C.: Matthias Schoenaerts


Penelope Cruz. Sophia Loren. Javier Bardem. Marion Cotillard. Antonio Banderas.

That is just a sampling of European actors to make a big splash State side. But one actor that looks to slowly be doing the same is Belgian import Matthias Schonaerts.

Schonaerts had a slight breakthrough with 2011 Best Foreign Language Film nominee Bullhead and 2012's Rust and Bone where he co-starred with Marion Cotillard. While Cotillard garnered most of the film's buzz, with good reason, they couldn't quite muster up a strong campaign for her male co-star.

Since then, he has appeared in more English language films like Blood Ties and The Drop where he gave a performance worthy of Supporting Actor recognition in my opinion. He was also all over the place in 2015 with Far From The Madding Crowd, A Little Chaos, The Danish Girl, The Loft, and even Suite Francaise which was released straight to video. He also had A Bigger Splash which premiered at Venice last year and will be released in theaters in May.

According to his Wikipedia page, he is currently filming an HBO miniseries about Lewis and Clark which is executive produced by industry darlings Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, and Edward Norton. HBO films produced by Tom Hanks, like Game Change and John Adams, have had plenty of Emmy success. So maybe he'll get props for his work on the small screen.

Ever since I saw him in Rust and Bone, I've labeled him as the Belgian Brando. So if he gets the right American role that allows him to live up to that title and showcase his ability to mix sensuality and sensitivity, then he could finally join the Oscar club in the future. The fact that he keeps his slate quite full gives me hope that said role will come sooner rather than later.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

The U.T.C.: Gugu Mbatha-Raw


Back in 2014, Gugu Mbatha-Raw had quite a breakthrough. First, she gave a quiet powerhouse performance in the costume drama Belle as a mixed race woman struggling to adjust to life in Victorian England. Then right after came her work as a Rihanna-esque pop star in Beyond The Lights. 

But not only has she proven her ability to carry a film, but also her ability to hold her own amongst veterans like Will Smith and even Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne where she delivers a 180 from her Belle performance as a spunky and rather naive college student with a heart of gold. 

So she's a very dynamic performer and very charismatic yet it seems Hollywood hasn't figured out what to do with her. She had very little to do in Jupiter Ascending and Concussion and while she will be in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast adaptation, she'll still be playing (*sigh*) a motion capture role as a feather duster. 

However, a few projects she has on the horizon give a small glimmer of hope that her U.T.C. membership will be revoked soon. One is the Civil War drama The Free State of Jones opposite Matthew McConaughey where she plays McConaughey's former slave wife. There is also The Whole Truth where she'll star opposite Keanu Reeves and Renee Zellweger. It is being directed by Courtney Hunt who guided Melissa Leo to an Oscar nomination for Frozen River back in 2009. So if a big distributor picks it up, we'll see where it goes.

Her name was also thrown around for the new Star Wars sequel but as of right now, her name is anything but confirmed even though principal production should be starting soon. If her casting does come to fruition, then not only would Hollywood be taking advantage of her rising star, but larger audiences will begin to take note of her talent. Even if it doesn't land her an Oscar nomination, then more doors might still open for her.





Oscars 2016: Innaritu wins DGA: Where Do We Go From Here?

Soooo..where do we go from here?

Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu wins at the Directors Guild of America for The Revenant, Spotlight wins Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild, and The Big Short wins at the Producers Guild of America. For a while, I figured it'd be a four-way race between the first three films and Mad Max: Fury Road since that film has 10 nominations. But now, I'm not so sure.

The Directors Guild also had their inaugural First Feature award which went to Alex Garland for Ex Machina. That was an awesome win. Even if he doesn't win Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, which is looking less likely, it is still nice to see him be rewarded in other places.

But because this race has become so wide open, I think that in three weeks, we might be in for a major upset. I mean, an Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden-level upset. One that just has our jaws dropping on the floor. We shall see. Regardless of what does happen, this has been a crazy, CRAZY year.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The U.T.C.: Rose Byrne


When I first heard of Rose Byrne, I was familiar with her name, yet I could never place her face. But it wasn't until maybe 2011 where that all changed and she had three very different films. First was the horror film Insidious, then the 2011 sci-fi prequel X-Men: First Class, and lastly the comedy Bridesmaids. 

That last one certainly opened a new chapter in Byrne's career, proving how gifted she is as a comedienne, and proved how she was the unsung hero of Bridesmaids. While her flashier co-star Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar nomination, a case could've still been made for Byrne's inclusion. (Heck, she was better than the performance that won that year.)

But Neighbors is where she really showed us what she was made of as she single handedly walked away with the testosterone-filled picture. I personally would've nominated her in Supporting, but I can understand an argument that she's Lead. Supporting Actress was much more sparse, so if she was put there, she would've been an easy winner. Just like if she were nominated this year for Spy, a performance that gets better upon repeat viewings, she would be my winner.

But of course, simply due to bias against comedies, Byrne's work in Neighbors and Spy never got much traction which is a shame because having comedic timing is much more difficult than dramatic plate-smashing.

On the horizon, she has the X-Men and Neighbors sequel, which likely won't get her much traction. She does an indie drama known as The Meddler opposite Susan Sarandon, but we'll see where that goes.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

                            
          
                      'Hail, Caesar?' More Like 'Hail, Snoozer'

       Judging by the rating of about 78% on Rotten Tomatoes it has, I have a little note to critics: You guys know that your darlings, like Martin Scorsese and of course, the Coen Brothers, can have a bad day, right?

        Story:
       Hail, Caesar! follows the story of a fixer named Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) whose job it is to prevent his studio's movie stars from getting bad press. But when one of his stars, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), gets kidnapped, things begin to take a slight downturn.

       Ups:
       First off, I did like some of the actors. Josh Brolin was great as always as the fixer trying to hold everything together. But for me, the MVP of the cast was Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle, a Western movie star. Ehrenreich brought hilarity to a guy known for Westerns that gets miscast in a film based on a high-brow Broadway play. He also brings a lot of charm as well. After seeing his work in this, Beautiful Creatures, Blue Jasmine, and Stoker, I look forward to where his career goes in the future. Another person I want to give a shoutout to is Tilda Swinton who plays two twin gossip columnists that are like a fictional Hedda Hopper. After seeing her dual performance here, I'm convinced there isn't anything this woman can't do.

       Another thing I really enjoyed is the way the movie star characters are introduced. When they are, it is when they are shooting films within a film and because the film is set during the 1950s, it brought a lot of nostalgia and I'm a huge sucker for that. 

       Downs:
       Now, I'd like to point out that even though the film has a large ensemble cast, I said some of the cast is good here. One would think that a film with a star-studded lineup like Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and Scarlett Johansson would be amazing and they are amazing....in the 8 minutes of collective screentime they all have. Seriously, they do absolutely nothing and the only reason they are heavily advertised is because of their names alone. Ralph Fiennes and even George Clooney to an extent are underutilized. Frances McDormand is in this as well. But she was clearly just doing her husband a favor since she's married to one of the Coens as she only has one scene. 

      Also, another major problem is its execution. It had an opportunity to be a love letter to 50's cinema as well as something of a fun caper that the trailer made it appear to be. But it never went in those directions because it doesn't go in any direction at all. Nothing really happens in this film and as a result, I just kept slouching in my reclining theater seat. There's no big climax, no character arcs, no big turning point, no nothing. 

     Consensus:
    Overall, Hail, Caesar! Is a major misfire by the Coen Brothers that I wanted to be a fun love letter to a golden age of Hollywood cinema, but turned to be a sad diary entry.

Grade: C-