Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Curse Of The Qualifying Release


Awards season is extremely political. The films that are often put on people's pundits are those that the studios send out screeners for so that guild and Academy voters can take note of them and put them on their ballots. If there is a film deserving of consideration that isn't campaigned by the studio, it'll get ignored all because the studio didn't send out screeners for it. It's absolutely ridiculous but it is a part of the political awards game.

Another part of the ridiculousness of the politicism is when studios release a film in select theaters within the last few days of December just so that it can qualify for awards consideration. Whenever the studio does that, they are usually setting their film, and themselves, up for failure.

Because there are so many films released at the end of December, plenty get lost in the shuffle. In the specialty market, we have films like Hidden Figures, Silence, A Monster Calls, Paterson, Patriots Day, Live By Night, Toni Erdmann, 20th Century Women trying to create buzz within the last few days of December and some of these aren't getting any because they simply came too late to the party. Strangely, as a big Scorsese fan, I keep forgetting that Silence is getting the limited release treatment. But it's because Paramount put it out too late. So I think they should've just released it at the beginning of 2017. Also, A Monster Calls was originally set to come out in October but Focus ended up moving it to the end of December which turned out to be a mistake because not only is it getting lost in the shuffle but it already premiered at the Toronto Film Festival where it had early positive buzz. So it didn't need to be moved to December.

If they're trying to create some awards buzz for a film that has a late release along with little or no early festival buzz, I say don't bother. While early release films have a hard time sustaining awards buzz, that is one thing that screeners can be used for. Plus, the Oscars aren't the Olympics. They don't happen every four years.

It costs millions of dollars to make a movie. Whether it's a studio or an indie film, it costs a plenty to make one picture. Rather than risk a qualifying release which could put a film at risk for losing millions if it gets lost in the shuffle, just give a film an early year wide release or in the case of a studio behind an independent film, give it a slow rollout at the beginning of the year.

So those are my quick thoughts on why I think the whole awards qualifying release strategy is absolutely ridiculous. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!!!!!



Friday, December 30, 2016

"Lion" Purrs More Than It Roars


Lion is based on a true story about an Indian boy named Saroo Brierley who became separated from his family when he was younger and ended up being adopted by a wealthy Australian family. As he grows older and becomes haunted by how distant he is from his home, Saroo uses Google Earth to set out to find his family. 

Some may think that this is Slumdog Millionaire 2.0 due to its Indian setting and Dev Patel starring in a portion of the picture since it focuses on Saroo's life as a child and an adult. But what sets this apart from Slumdog Millionaire is that it's based on a true story, allowing it to pack a bigger yet quieter emotional punch, and it is also a much different story. While not perfect, in my opinion, this is a slightly better film than Slumdog Millionaire.

It features solid performances from Dev Patel as the older version of Saroo and Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother. Even from her opening scene where she says so little, Kidman still sends off waves of emotion throughout each frame that she appears in. Patel does his best work to date as older Saroo who is content with his life yet is still unsure of where he belongs, resulting in him trying to follow his instincts. Rooney Mara has a role as Saroo's girlfriend Lucy, and even though her character didn't have anything to do, Mara still had a nice presence and she shows that no matter how big or small her role is, she always manages to leave an impression.

I also loved the cinematography by Greig Fraser which is absolutely beautiful. Even the earlier scenes in India that showcase its grimey, unforgiving nature, Fraser still captures the beauty that can be found in the darkness. Between this and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he had a solid year.

Speaking of the earlier scenes, I loved how in the first half which is set in India, the characters speak Indian to help maintain some authenticity. Yet the rest of the screenplay by Luke Davies has its fair share of flaws. There is a subplot involving Saroo and his other adoptive brother that goes nowhere. Plus, during a big emotional scene that Nicole Kidman's character has, she gives a speech about being inspired to adopt by seeing a brown-skinned boy that felt a little weird. Kidman did her best to sell that part of her big speech but I still felt how it was written was pretty off.

Not only was the writing flawed but there are the times where the pacing is very slow. I would say that at least 15 minutes could've been cut out but I'm unsure exactly what could've been cut out. Probably the aforementioned subplot involving Saroo's adoptive brother and the character of Lucy. Again, Rooney Mara was very good, but her character didn't really add anything to the story.

So while Lion doesn't roar, it doesn't let out a small meow either. It does feature a trio of solid performances by Patel, Kidman, and Mara and it has a more subtle emotional punch. But the story does get predictable while the writing is flawed. It is a well-meaning story but I don't know if I'll be revisiting it more often.

Grade: B-

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

Now that 2016 is slowly wrapping up, it is time to look forward to what the new year has to offer and what films are in store. Here are the top 10 films set to come out next year that I am most looking forward to. Let's take a look:


10. Ingrid Goes West: I've been a fan of Aubrey Plaza's work on Parks and Recreation. While she has stuck to her deadpan niche in films like Dirty Grandpa and Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, here she has a role that she could really sink her teeth into. In the dark comedy Ingrid Goes West, she plays a mentally unstable woman that becomes obsessed with a famous social media influencer played by Elizabeth Olsen who makes a relieving return to indie cinema where she got her breakout with Martha Marcy May Marlene. This film will premiere at Sundance next month and will potentially make its way into theaters next year.


9. Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol.2: I was a big fan of Guardians Of The Galaxy and I think it's one of the best Marvel movies to come out because of how it distincts itself from the typical Marvel mold with its depiction of anti-heroes and its retro soundtrack. Here, it looks like that same distinctive style gets to be present in the sequel and I can't wait to go on another journey with these unlikely heroes.


8. Darkest Hour: With the recent still released of Gary Oldman in makeup as Winston Churchill, it is already clear that Focus Features is already gearing it up as an Oscar contender for next year. The plot about Winston Churchill being faced with decisions when fighting Hitler in WWII is pure Oscar catnip and it is directed by Joe Wright who did the Oscar winning Atonement and Anna Karenina. The film also has a great cast that includes Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, John Hurt, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Lily James. I'm excited to see if this will revoke Ben Mendelsohn's membership from the Undervalued Talent Club and get him his first Oscar nomination. He is playing King George VI which was the role that nabbed Colin Firth his Best Actor Oscar.


7. Untitled Alexander McQueen Biopic: This one has a very exciting pairing: Jack O'Connell, the best actor of his generation, starring as Alexander McQueen in a film directed by Andrew Haigh who did both Weekend and 45 Years. All kinds of YES!!!! Also, much like Ben Mendelsohn, his on-screen father from Starred Up, O'Connell could punch in his first Oscar ticket.


6. Wonder Woman: DC has been getting a lot of crap lately for Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. But at least they have done something right that Marvel hasn't: Giving Wonder Woman her own movie before Black Widow and even Captain Marvel who is getting her own movie in 2019. I also thought Gal Gadot was one of the best things about Batman v. Superman. So I'm very excited to see this. Another added bonus: Patty Jenkins, a woman, is at the helm. So more representation behind the camera. Pure goodness!


5. Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan makes a venture into the war genre with the WWII biopic Dunkirk. One reason to get excited is to see what he does with the genre since he's known for his genre fare. Another reason to get excited is the cast that includes Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy. I'm a little skeptical about Harry Styles' involvement but maybe there's untapped acting potential within him. We shall see.


4. The Beguiled: Sofia Coppola brings in a remake of the 70's western by Clint Eastwood that features a cast that is bound to cause excitement. The cast includes Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, and The Nice Guys' Angourie Rice. Love that cast and even though it is already a remake, I love that we get to see a feminist western.


3. Mother: Darren Aronofsky returns to the director's chair with Mother which has a mysterious plot that makes it more intriguin along with its cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Domnhall Gleeson, and last and certainly not least, Michelle Pfeiffer who is bound to have a killer 2017 with this, Where Is Kyra?, The Wizard Of Lies, and Murder On The Orient Express. This'll be good.


2. Star Wars: Episode VIII: For no other reason besides the fact that it's Star Wars. This one will probably be an emotional experience due to Carrie Fisher's untimely and tragic passing. But I still am excited to return to a galaxy far, far away.


1. Blade Runner 2049: Denis Villeneuve has become one of those directors where no matter what film he does, I am immediately there. He's one reason I'm excited along with the fact it stars Ryan Gosling who has also become a big draw for me. No matter what he stars in, I'm there. The cinematography by Roger Deakins also looks gorgeous and it has an amazing cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Barkhad Abdi, Mackenzie Davis, and the list goes on. Cannot wait!!!

Now, here are some honorable mentions that didn't quite make the list:

Annihilation
Call Me By Your Name
Disobedience
Kong: Skull Island
Life
Molly's Game
Murder On The Orient Express
Rock Your Body
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Untitled Cloverfield Project

So we have a lot to look forward to in 2017 and I'm interested to hear about what films you guys are excited for next year. Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Top 10 Worst Movies of 2016

2016 was a pretty solid year for movies. But in every great film year, there are bound to be a few.....chocolate land mines in the backyard if you catch my drift. Here are what I consider to be the top 10 worst movies of the 2016.


10. Jason Bourne: Jason Bourne? More like Jason Bore! Granted, I don't follow the series entirely and maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it that much. But holy cow, this film was so boring and it felt so procedural which is something that I don't want in an action film. Matt Damon does do a good job as Jason Bourne. But that's because he's good in everything he does. Everything else falls pretty flat.


9. Chevalier: I was going to review this film after I caught it on streaming. But I feel like I had nothing to say. It does have an interesting idea about a group of men who play a special game to see who is the most masculine. But its execution was super poor. Almost nothing happens in this.


8. The Girl On The Train: Thank goodness for Emily Blunt because otherwise this film would be ranked even higher on this list. Emily Blunt tries like hell to make this movie work. But unfortunately, she's trapped in a glorified Lifetime movie. The men are portrayed as control freaks, sex objects, and/or assholes while the women aren't treated any easier. The female characters have little friends and are constantly devoted to children which to me, is a pretty tired trope. Women shouldn't always have to be portrayed as mothers on screen. One reason that this is no Gone Girl, a film it is often compared to, is because the women in that film aren't defined by their gender. There are other reasons why this is no Gone Girl. But I won't delve into each one.


7. The Boy: No other film this year had an ending that not only made me furious and actually yell at the screen when I saw it in theaters, but ruined what made everything else about the film so great. The film had intriguing scares despite its muddled premise so it was on a bit of a roll up until the ending. I don't want to ruin it because I usually never do that. But if you were to see it, and I encourage you not to, just keep in mind that the twist will not make any sense and you may end up kicking snow in anger the way I did right after I saw this.


6. Allegiant: This movie is so poor and did so poorly at the box office, that its sequel is going straight to television with not many of the cast members expected to return. I feel like I should've known from when I read the first Divergent book that this franchise was drek and is like "Diet Hunger Games." When I read the first book, it kind of made me wish I was re-reading The Hunger Games. But regardless of when or if the sequel ever gets off the ground, I won't buy a ticket or tune in.


5. Suicide Squad: What a disappointment this was. I was really looking forward to this. Not just because it looked amazing but I was glad we were going to finally get to see Harley Quinn on screen and that Margot Robbie was going to be playing her. Margot Robbie, along with Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, both manage to be the co-MVPs. But everything else was such a jumbled mess. Most of the characters are underdeveloped and reduced to tokenism, the film was way too long, and even the action is few and far in between. If you're going to make a film seem like it is nonstop action, I would hope you actually live up to that promise.


4. Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice: Now when I reviewed this film back in March, I was pretty neutral on it. But ever since I saw it, whenever I thought about it, it got much worse. Now I've read or heard that the film is getting pounced on because it's too dark and grim. That is not the problem. The problem is that the film is too much. It's too long and has too much characters along with too many storylines. It feels as if it is directed by a 12-year old comic book fan with ADHD. It does have good elements like Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot as Batman and Wonder Woman. But aside from Henry Cavill, who does the best he can with what he's given, every other actor makes the film feel like a guessing game of "Count All The Award Nominated Actors There For A Paycheck." Also, the less said about Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, the better.


3. X-Men: Apocalypse: I had a feeling this would be underwhelming when I saw it. But I went anyway because I've been a lifelong X-Men fan. Coming off of the far superior X-Men: Days Of Future Past, it's a real shame how poor this movie is. Much like Batman v. Superman, it is plagued by being overlong and having too many characters. Its few saving graces are Quicksilver's big action sequence and James McAvoy as Professor X. Also, Oscar Isaac does his best to act through all that latex as Apocalypse. But even a few good performances and one action sequence can't save such an empty, convoluted mess.


2. Passengers: Right after Chris Pratt woke Jennifer Lawrence up from her hibernation pod, I was immediately taken out of the movie. I mean, seriously, he only woke her up after he glanced at her and thought she was hot. Thinking about the fact that he woke her up after seeing how gorgeous she was and looking through her video files just makes me want to shower because it makes me feel so icky. If I were in Jennifer Lawrence's position, I would be very freaking pissed and not care how lonely Chris Pratt was. Pratt and Lawrence do have good chemistry and it's not hard to see why they would star because they got big paydays upfront. But they simply couldn't make this material work.


1. Dirty Grandpa: Does Robert De Niro know that he has something that many actors don't and that's the power to say "No"? He can avoid projects like this if he chooses and it's not like he's strapped for cash. I don't even want to talk about why I hate this movie so much. But I do want to say this: De Niro, please, make it stop!!!

Anyhow, those are what I consider to be the worst movies of 2016. Now it is time for you to share your own list of the worst movies of the year and let me know what you think of my list. Thanks for reading!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top 15 Films Of 2016

That time of year is here. The time where I reflect on what I consider to be the best films and performances I've seen all year. For this post, I will discuss what I consider to be the top 15 best films of the year. As I was compiling my list, I was trying to think of the best films that demonstrate how alive filmmaking can be. Whether it'd be how alive the writing, the directing, and/or the performances are, these films help capture the innovative spirit filmmaking should have.

First off, here are a few honorable mentions I wantee to squeeze in but couldn't find room for:

A Bigger Splash
Eye In The Sky
Fences
Hello, My Name Is Doris
Henry Gamble's Birthday Party
Kubo And The Two Strings
Nocturnal Animals
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Now onto the actual list:


15. 10 Cloverfield Lane: When I first heard about 10 Cloverfield Lane, I only saw snippets from the commercials and was surprised that they made a film within the now Cloverfield canon. So going into this film, I had little expectations. But as it turns out, it is one of the best science fiction films of the year. Its focus on character and atmosphere is rather refreshing in a day and age where science fiction is all about grand spectacle. It also features Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a smart heroine in the vein of Ellen Ripley and John Goodman as a man who may or may not exactly be her captor and Goodman keeps you guessing at every turn what he might do. This film is one of the year's best surprises.


14. The Lobster: If you have ever been on Tinder or a site like Match.com, you might understand how the characters in The Lobster feel. The story about the pressure to find a companion is not too far from what our real world is like. In fact, right after I saw the film, I was thinking about how pressured I feel when I'm on particular dating apps. Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos manages to depict our real world pressures in a dystopian setting and showcase innovative world building in the process. In my opinion, The Lobster is the most original film to come out this year.


13. Miss Sloane: While its ending may be slightly anti-climactic and while it may have drawn comparisons to political shows like The West Wing and Scandal, I say to heck with that. When you have a dynamite lead performance from Jessica Chastain along with a terrific ensemble (Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg among others) and snappy Sorkinese writing, it's hard not to be swept along for the adrenaline-fueled ride that this film is. Sadly, it's not making much waves because it's underperforming at the box office and it's caught up in a sea of other great movies this year. But I'm glad I got to catch this film to begin with.


12. The Jungle Book: I wasn't ever that big on the animated Jungle Book film from Disney. But I still had a blast watching the new live-action adaptation of it. It's entertaining while also featuring groundbreaking visual effects and terrific voice performances from the cast. A few standouts were Bill Murray as the sly bear Baloo and Idris Elba as the menacing Bengal Tiger Shere Khan. A special mention should also go to newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli. All around great cast in one of the better studio spectacles to come out in 2016.



11. The Witch: 2016 was an amazing year for the horror genre. We saw Blake Lively single-handedly carry shark thriller The Shallows, we had the successful sequel The Conjuring 2, and even Lights Out which had refreshing originality. But out of all the splendid offerings the horror genre had to offer this year, the best has to be The Witch. No other horror film this year had me cringing with fear by the time the credits rolled like The Witch did. Throughout the entire picture, it feels as if horror lurks at every corner. Whether it'd be in the mysterious woods or within the dysfunctional family that makes life hell for our main character Thomasin, played brilliantly by rising star Anya Taylor-Joy, nowhere and nobody is safe.



10. The Nice Guys: The only major flaw for The Nice Guys that I can think of is that nobody saw it. To me, that's a real shame because in a day and age where people cry for originality, they missed out on an original action comedy noir with reliable matinee stars. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are absolutely GOLDEN together! Gosling proves he has a gift for physical comedy and Crowe shows how underutilized his comedic skills are. Also, Angourie Rice is a scene stealer as the daughter of Gosling's character and more than holds her own against her veteran co-stars. This was an absolute blast to sit through and if you haven't seen it yet, make it your mission to do so.


9. The Fits: In her directing debut, Anna Rose Holmer directs the most underrated film to come out this year. The Fits has different layers to it: It's a coming of age story that depicts gender dynamics with horror elements weaved in. The story deals with a tomboy named Toni, played by newcomer Royalty Hightower, who joins an inner city dance team that slowly suffers from mysterious seizures with little explanation as to why, is shrouded in mystery. Whether it'd be in the script or through the camera that never cuts away from what's happening, you're constantly figuring out what the cause is. Is there something in the water? Is it a weird rite of passage? Is there some weird supernatural force at play? Even if we never get any concrete answers, the movie is still better because of it.


8. Zootopia: Zootopia is the best animated film to come out in 2016. In traditional Disney fashion, it has enough entertainment value for the children that includes the fun banter between main characters Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman, respectively. But aside from that, it says a lot about prejudice and bigotry and it could not have been more timely. The conflict involving prey fearing predators isn't further from the racial and homophobic tensions going on right now with the recent Pulse nightclub shooting, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the hate crimes committed in the name of Donald Trump. While animated films, and films in general, are meant to provide escapism, at the same time, they're meant to make us open our eyes about the world around us.


7. Arrival: Similar to Zootopia, Arrival has also come at a perfect time. It was released right after the results of the election which invoked a lot of fear and riots amongst citizens. But the film reminds us about the power of communication and how words are meant to be a greater tool than missiles and causing destruction. Arrival does what true science fiction is meant to do. It does provide spectacle the way science fiction should but it is also meant to make us not only use our brain but teach us something about the world. For example, Jurassic Park showed us the repercussions of toying with nature and Ex Machina has us asking ourselves what it means to be human while examining the potential dangers of artificial intellingence. In my opinion, Arrival will join the ranks of great science fiction films in the years to come.


6. Captain Fantastic: From the first few minutes of Captain Fantastic, I was immediately hooked. It is largely thanks to the luminous cinematography by Stephane Fontaine and also thanks to writer/director Matt Ross who helps create a visual demonstration of the eccentric community that the main patriarch named Ben Cash, played by Viggo Mortensen, has created for himself and his family. Mortensen gives one of the year's best performances as a survivalist father who's difficult with how he separates his children from the outside world but at the same time is still a loving father. The six actors that play his children are also outstanding and in particular, George MacKay, who plays the eldest son who knows more about learning about books than through common interaction, is a standout and a talent to look out for. The film in general is a demonstration that no matter how difficult, separated, or eccentric family may be, at the end of the day, family is family and it stays with you no matter where you go or no matter who your family may be.


5. Jackie: Natalie Portman gives both the performance of her career and the performance of the year as former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. But despite it depicting the aftermath of the assassination of JFK and how Jackie dealt with handling both his legacy and her personal trauma, it is not necessarily a biopic. It's mostly a portrait of post-traumatic stress disorder and one that feels like it delves into the mind. The misty cinematography by Stephane Fontaine helps capture the feeling of Jackie being trapped in a walking nightmare while the score by Mica Levi aids to that otherworldly feel. Director Pablo Larrain helps redefine how to make a biopic and when making a film about a person's life, one can only hope other filmmakers make a biopic as innovative as Jackie.



4. The Handmaiden: The Handmaiden had me hooked within the first few minutes up until the very end. Almost each scene is pulsating with energy and that is thanks to the direction by Park Chan-Wook who helps make the film seem so alive. Whether it's through the caffeinated editing, the multi-dimensional lead performances by the two lead actresses, the camera work that always follows the actors around, the darkly comedic writing, or the Hitchcockian score, Chan-Wook always comes up with a way to get the audiences fixated on the big screen even when the film doesn't become too easy of a watch because it does have explicit moments. The Handmaiden is sexy, darkly funny, romantic, mysterious, and a feast for the cinephilic eye.


3. Manchester By The Sea: I didn't have a whole lot of expectations going into Manchester By The Sea because when it comes to films with awards hype, I always try to keep my expectations very open. But it turned out to not only be an amazing movie but the most realistic family drama to come out in recent memory that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Watching how our two main characters, Lee and Patrick Chandler, played by Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges, respectively, deal with both grief and the need to make it through another day felt so incredibly authentic. That is a huge testament to not just the writing by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan but the performances by both Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges. They are terrific as well as Michelle Williams who makes a brief yet impactful turn as Lee's ex-wife Randi. The story about dealing with loss may be rather simple. But thanks to its complex and naturalistic acting as well as how it has moments of humor to balance out the dramatic heft and make it a bit more accessible, it thrives in its simplicity.


2. La La Land: The hype is real on this one. Normally, I'm not a die hard musical buff. But I am head over heels in love with La La Land. I love it for its nostalgia, I love it for the intoxicating chemistry by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (who had an amazing year with this and The Nice Guys), I love the musical numbers that still have me singing and dancing, and in general, I just..love this movie!! Director Damien Chazelle proves his Whiplash success wasn't a fluke and in fact, he has me eagerly anticipating what he has in store next and one can only open hope that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's third outing together doesn't have to be their last. It may not be a challenging message movie. But it shows us why we love going to the movies. We go to not only escape but to connect or feel inspired and the optimism of La La Land is there to inspire us to follow our hearts. Now, I wanted to put this as my number one but couldn't quite because......

                     

1. Moonlight: I knew after the film was over that there would be nothing that could top this one as my pick for the best of the year. While I appreciate the realism of Manchester By The Sea, admire the intellectual spectacle that is Arrival along with the innovativeness of Jackie, and absolutely adore the inspirational optimism of La La Land, nothing could touch the brilliance of Moonlight. What makes this film so special to me is how it is probably the first film I have seen that is like a portrait of what it was like for me to grow up as a gay youth. I was always called names and was confused about my sexual identity the way the main character Chiron is.

So it's not just a story about what it's like to grow up as African-American or what it's like to grow up poor, but it's a story anyone can connect with. Anyone who has been unsure of their identity or where they feel like they belong in life can connect to this movie and Chiron's struggle. The character of Chiron is amazingly brought to life by the three actors portraying him (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) while the film boasts the best acting ensemble of the year. It is also aided by its eclectic musical score by Nicholas Britell, the luminous cinematography by James Laxton, the smoothly paced editing by Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, and most importantly, director Barry Jenkins who helped put this cinematic gift together. Its innovativeness along with how close it is to my own story and its universal themes about identity along with finding your place in the world are all why Moonlight is my pick for the best movie of the year.

Now, I want to know what you guys have in your top 15. Please feel free to share your thoughts on my list and share your own list as well. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"La La Land" Is Pure And Enchanting Movie Magic


Fresh off of directing the Oscar-winning film Whiplash, director Damien Chazelle gives us La La Land which is a film that will enchant you in numerous ways. Whether it'd be its tribute to Old Hollywood, its sparkling chemistry between the two leading stars, or the musical numbers that may have your bursting into dance, La La Land is sure to work its magic on you before and after the credits roll.

Set in modern day Los Angeles, La La Land follows both an aspiring actress named Mia played by Emma Stone and a jazz musician named Sebastian played by Ryan Gosling who are looking to make it big in Tinseltown. After running into each other a few times by chance, they begin to fall in love and slowly realize how optimistic yet turbulent the road to chasing your dreams can be.

One reason the film works so amazingly well is because of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. On their third on screen pairing after Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, both actors prove that they have charisma that is made for the big screen and they have such intoxicating chemistry that I would watch these two in maybe 90 more movies just to see them be charming. As great as Gosling is, though, Emma Stone is the film's beating heart. Stone gets to a play a role that plays to her best skills: She gets to be witty, hilarious, and musical. Yet there are more dimensions underneath all that charm. She's hopeful about making it big yet Stone lets us see the anxiety that her hopes and aspirations will start to crumble. Gosling's character is also pretty three-dimensional because of how he is a traditionalist devoted to jazz which is said to be a dying musical genre yet he tries to make it big in a more modernized musical world.

Along with Gosling and Stone's chemistry, the cinematography by Linus Sundgren helped my eyes become glued to the screen. Whether he uses long tracking shots during some of the musical numbers or evokes green lighting like in a dinner scene that pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Sundgren always uses his lens to keep the audience entranced. The film was also shot using the CinemaScope lens that was prominent in the 50's and that helps maintain the film's ode to old school Hollywood.

Since this is a musical, a mention has to go to the songs that are done expertly by Justin Hurwitz. Interestingly enough, there weren't as many musical numbers as I thought there would be. But each one plays an integral part to the storyline. "City Of Stars" is sung in different melodies and lyrics but it is demonstrated as a symbol for how the relationship between Mia and Sebastian grows as the song has more and more lyrics and also how the both of them keep "reaching for the stars."

The song "Someone In The Crowd" talks about how there is someone to guide you when moments start to get tough and is sung before Mia and Sebastian cross paths. Also, "Audition" which will likely be Emma Stone's Oscar clip serves as a culmination for Mia's entire journey. The score, also by Justin Hurwitz, is beautifully done and I loved when it played over the wordless montages and sequences of Mia and Sebastian falling in love because it helped capture the mood of their romance.

While the story involving people trying to make it big may be rather simple, I definitely didn't mind. Mainly because La La Land was an experience that not only enthralled me from beginning to end but is one that I didn't want to end. It made me laugh, cry, hum along to its music, and by the time credits rolled, left me smiling. La La Land is a perfect example of why we go to the movies and is in my opinion, the best musical to come out in years.

Grade: A+

Monday, December 26, 2016

"Fences" Overcomes Separation Anxiety From Its Source Material With Powerhouse Acting


Stage to film adaptations can be very tricky. Sometimes, they can feel like you're watching a filming of the stage play. It can allow the adaptation to be faithful to the source material but it can also be to its own detriment because the adaptation doesn't feel distinctive. Fences does feel like you're watching a filming of the stage play but that is overlooked once you absorb the amazing acting from its cast.

Fences is based on a play by August Wilson about a former Negro baseball player named Troy Maxson, played by Denzel Washington, who works as a garbage man after he was deemed too old to play baseball professionally. After Troy's son Cory gets recruited to play college football which'll allow him to succeed where Troy couldn't, tensions start to emerge between him, Cory, and his loyal wife Rose, played by Viola Davis.

The film hinges entirely on not just the words of August Wilson, who wrote the play and gets a posthumous credit on the screenplay, but Denzel Washington's brilliant performance as Troy Maxson. Through his never ending dialogue and body language, Washington is able to channel the different dual layers to his character. He'll be imposing and brutish one minute and then reveal a piece of his tragic backstory in a more somber manner. I would say this is Washington's best and most complex work in years and he helps the film that has about a 2 hours and 10 minutes, move at a fast pace. Only a true movie star is capable of pulling that off.

But while Denzel Washington may be the bigger star of the show with more screentime, it is Viola Davis' movie as much as it is his and she steals every scene she is in. Davis is flawless as Troy's wife who always puts up with his mouth and erratic behavior. Sometimes in a joking and wistful manner, allowing her and Washington to have initial playful chemistry. But it eventually starts to haunt her after a big reveal that takes place. I won't reveal what it is but during the reveal, Davis has a raw and volcanic buildup that gives you chills up until she finally bursts. During that buildup, she exudes such power with just her eyes and even her tears.

The other actors also do an amazing job. Stephen Henderson, who plays Troy's closest friend Bono, provides moments of light banter between him and Washington while acting with his eyes to contradict to Washington's verbal histrionics. Jovan Adepo holds his own against his veteran co-stars as Cory, the son trying to carve out his own path to escape his family, breaking free of both the literal and metaphorical "fences" holding him back. Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson, who play Troy's eldest son Lyons and disabled brother Gabe, respectively, are also terrific.

So Fences is mostly an acting showcase that may be limited by its familiarity with the stage but still overcomes that with its strong acting across the board as well as by the words of August Wilson who is the mastermind behind the play itself.

Grade: A-

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Jackie" Is An Effective Psychodrama Anchored By Natalie Portman's Performance


With Jackie, Chilean director Pablo Larrain handles a genre that can easily veer towards tired formula: the biopic. For every Selma, there's an Iron Lady. While the film does focus on a portion of Jackie Kennedy's life and the infamous event the film depicts, at its core, it is a demonstration of personal trauma balanced with historical context.

Jackie is about former First Lady Jackie Kennedy, played by Natalie Portman, and depicts the aftermath of the assassination of JFK. The film follows Jackie juggling her personal grief, her husband's legacy, her public image, her struggling faith, and her motherhood.

The film relies heavily on Natalie Portman's performance and she absolutely nails it. Through Portman's facial and body expressions, we get a glimpse of Jackie's reluctant celebrity, her steely anguish mixed with her teary vulnerability, and her neuroticism even as she is in control with her stillness. She'll even weave in those different layers together in one frame.While she nails the impersonation with the wig and the airy voice, the performance and the film itself are all her and she manages to top her Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan.

Some of the other supporting performances are pretty solid. In particular, Greta Gerwig is a standout as Jackie's assistant Nancy who provides steady warmth when Jackie is on the verge of grand turmoil. Peter Sarsgaard is also pretty good as the rather stern Robert Kennedy as is the other supporting players like John Hurt as a priest Jackie makes confessions to and Billy Crudup who plays a journalist that interviews Jackie about her PTSD experience. But this is Portman's show through and through.

Another reason Portman's performance works is the cinematography by Stephane Fontaine. Anybody who has seen Rust and Bone knows that he knows how to let the camera focus on and relate to its performers. So Fontaine lets the camera linger on Portman so we can absorb the rampant emotions she is going through as well as how she relates to the other actors in the movie. It is also shot as if Jackie is walking through, and slowly awaking from, a nightmare. For example, the scenes we get of her dealing with the aftermath of the assassination are filmed rather hazily, demonstrating how Jackie is in her nightmare. But when she's talking with the journalist interviewing her, it looks as if she has slowly woken up.

Composer Mica Levi, who created the eerie score for Under The Skin, composes a similarly atmospheric score that aides the film's psychotic feel. One of my favorite sequences has to be the scene where Jackie and JFK are walking off the plane to the motorcade where he was assassinated. In that scene, the moody score looms over the sequence that takes place in daylight, making it seem as if the scene was done by the likes of Roman Polanski who is an absolute master of psycho-horror.

Jackie may not be a typical biopic yet it is all the better for it. How it breaks the mold is a demonstration of how innovative filmmaking can be. But with all its technical precision, at its core is a virtuoso performance by leading actress Natalie Portman.

Grade: A

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Passengers" Gets Seriously Lost Into Orbit


     Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood today, starring together in what is perhaps one of the biggest box office risks this year: An original non-tentpole project with about a $100 million price tag relying on star power in a day and age where superhero and brand franchises are bigger movie stars than actual movie stars. But when you leave two stars hanging in space, trapping them in a film with a misguided script and poor execution, why else would you think this is such a huge risk?

    Passengers is set in a spaceship carrying 5,000 passengers to a distant, utopian planet so they can move away from Earth. After an asteroid shower, one of the passengers, Jim Preston played by Chris Pratt, accidentally wakes up from his hibernation pod, leaving him stranded on the spaceship, unable to go back to sleep. An android bartender, played by Michael Sheen, ends up being his only companion. That is until he wakes up another passenger named Aurora played by Jennifer Lawrence, leading to them falling in love along with further complications.

    Now the plot point of Jim waking up Aurora is one aspect of the film that has been subjected to major criticism and is what ultimately drags the film down. It did not gel with me that I would sympathize with a man that wakes up a strange woman that he fell in love with while she was asleep, dooming her to die with him. While Jim was alone on the spaceship and the filmmakers make an effort to justify his decision, I feel that no matter how you slice it, it is bound to cause uncomfortability. Right after Jim wakes Aurora up, I immediately found him irredeemable.

  However, the script is plagued with flaws. For one, how is it that despite the spaceship being incredibly high tech, if someone were to wake up from their pod, there is absolutely ZERO way for them to go back to sleep? The people behind the ship can create fancy cappuccino machines yet they can't come up with some kind of emergency method in case one of the passengers wakes up early so that they don't die? Also, why would all those passengers leave their loved ones on Earth behind? They're tired of how overpopulated and overpriced Earth is? What bullcrap. Why not just rewrite the script so that they're leaving Earth because it is slowly dying?

   Also, I wish the script had delved into the ramifications of Jim's decision to wake up Aurora more. Though maybe it is described in its original draft in more detail. I don't know. Maybe there was more focus and it was left out of the editing room. Personally, I would've preferred that they went with a director that has experience with science fiction films that focus on character drama. Someone like Denis Villeneuve or Alfonso Cuaron because director Morten Tyldum, to me, was the wrong choice to helm this project. He focuses too much on the film's spectacle aspects rather than giving it much substance.

    Now that I've gotten my major griped with the picture out of the way, how are the two actors? Well, they do give it their all. Chris Pratt proves that he is capable of carrying films on his shoulders and as for Jennifer Lawrence, what can I say? She's great in everything she does. She was perhaps the most sympathetic character in the entire film. Even when her character becomes reduced to a stock worrying girlfriend role towards the end, she still delivered.

  The fact that Aurora becomes a stock girlfriend actually irked me. Granted, the script doesn't do the character a whole lot of justice minus some backstory thrown in. But when you look at how we've seen such rich, complex sci-fi heroines like Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Imperator Furiosa, and even Michelle from this year's 10 Cloverfield Lane, it's unfortunate that Aurora isn't allowed to really be a hero. Heck, Jennifer Lawrence has experience playing complex sci-fi heroines with Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Why waste her talents in such a way?

    Anyhow, despite its star power doing what they can with what they're given, Passengers fails to deliver in execution. It had a lot of potential to be better and more thought provoking than it actually is. But it's not. Not much more I want to say here.

Grade: D+


 
 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

BAFTA To Shut Out Non-Diverse Films Starting In 2019


Recently, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts which are the British equivalent of the Oscars, have announced a new diversity initiative starting in 2019. The initiative that they are enacting is that any film that doesn't have any inclusivity in front of or behind the camera and doesn't represent different undervalued groups (people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, etc.) will be automatically shut out or disqualified.

This initiative is something that I am actually in favor of. One reason is that they aren't waving fingers at BAFTA voters like what happened with the Oscars this year after #OscarsSoWhite happened the second year in a row. After that whole fiasco, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the initiative to include more diverse voters and are changing membership rules to weed out voters that have been inactive in the filmmaking business for a long time and make the voting bodies more diverse because of how the AMPAS is largely made up of old white males.

But the Academy's response was so misguided because they are not the problem. I'm sure there are those within the Academy that are conservative-minded. But that doesn't mean all of them are. The Academy may be trying to make their voting bodies more diverse and I applaud them for it. But if the new diverse voices that they invite aren't seeing themselves on screen, whether they're a person of color or gay or female, what else are they going to vote for? That's the issue people should be looking at. People pointing fingers at the Academy and the Academy fighting within themselves are like people arguing in a bunker while the apocalypse is taking place outside.

The initiative started by the BAFTAs is a way of stepping outside the bunker to fight the apocalypse. By punishing films submitted by the studios making the movies for not being inclusive, it'll hopefully encourage the studios that decide what movies get made and who stars in them to be more inclusive.

I think films should always represent everyone. But this kind of problem isn't fixed overnight. We still have plenty of ways to go. Even though it's 2016, there are still Caucasian actors playing ethnic roles but audiences are sending Hollywood a message by boycotting whitewashed films, hence the box office receipts of films like Aloha, Pan, Gods of Egypt, and Exodus: Gods and Kings. So we're getting there.

Even the BAFTA initiative won't solve the problem overnight but it's a step in the right direction. It's like taking candy from a baby but this is a way to condition the behavior of those that decide what movies get greenlit. I'm a gay man and somebody who enjoys going to the movies. But I am still always flustered at how I'm never seeing myself reflected in mainstream cinema. Whenever gay people are, they are either reduced to stereotypical tokenism, their sexuality is only hinted at, and gay kisses are often used as a comedic punchline and I am absolutely tired of it. The world isn't made up of heterosexual white males and the film industry needs to stop consistently sending that message.

What do you guys think? Do you think this initivative is irrational or understandable? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 19, 2016

When We Can Separate The Art From The Artist: Examining The Cases Of Nate Parker And Casey Affleck


  As Casey Affleck starts picking up accolades for his critically acclaimed performance in Manchester By The Sea, having won the Critics Choice and been nominated for a Golden Globe, that has also led to controversy. Recently, Nate Parker who did Birth Of A Nation was scrutinized for a 1999 gang rape trial he was acquitted of while Casey Affleck had settled two sexual harassment lawsuits back in 2010. So this has people on the Internet wondering why Affleck is being celebrated while Parker is getting crucified.

  While race and privilege are likely factors in play, there are other factors in play as well. Now before I go any further, I'll just say that I'm not defending either of these men. I'm only attempting to give an analysis of the situation at hand. Now admittedly, I did pay to see Manchester By The Sea while I skipped Birth Of A Nation. But that was mainly because I didn't have much of a desire to see Birth Of A Nation. The case involving Parker was also a factor to me not seeing it but it was mainly a factor due to Parker being unsympathetic on his press tour. While I did say I would boycott the film back in August, I then realized that I didn't have a burning desire to see the film in the first place.

   When Parker gave an interview with Deadline back in August where he discussed the rape trial, that is when the backlash started. It was also later revealed that the woman he raped had committed suicide. Yet in that aforementioned Deadline interview, he talked about how it was one of the most painful moments of his life, painting himself as the victim. But when it came closer to the film's release and Parker started doing interviews with Anderson Cooper and  Robin Roberts, he was very unapologetic about his wrongdoings. Apparently, distributor Fox Searchlight tried putting Parker through PR training, even attempting to give him consulting from Oprah of all people. Yet he kept going off script. So because of how unwilling Parker was to own up to his mistakes and play ball, he ended up shooting himself in the foot, his movie in the foot, and I think his management team in the foot.

   Another reason Parker is getting demonized has to do with the business side of Hollywood. When Birth Of A Nation was released, it had an immediate wide release yet it floundered at the box office, quickly falling out of the top 10 after its second weekend, and it had middling reviews. In contrast, Manchester By The Sea has far better reviews (currently sitting at a 97% rating at Rotten Tomatoes) and is performing better financially. It's had a slower theater rollout and is already at $14.5 million, recently almost cracking the top 5 at the box office. Typically, it is both box office and critical praise that determine an awards player and if Nate Parker isn't bringing either of those to the table, then his work will get ignored. Last year's Steve Jobs may have been a box office failure but it still delivered with the critics and went on to score two Oscar nominations.

    The last factor has to do with what's on screen. Even though Casey Affleck has been accused of sexual harassment, his character in Manchester By The Sea isn't a sexual harasser and in fact, his character often rejects advances by women. But Birth Of A Nation not only apparently uses gang rape as a catalyst for Nat Turner's slave rebellion even though it's historically inaccurate but Parker co-wrote the film with Jean Celestin, the man found guilty of the 1999 gang rape trial. So it becomes more difficult to separate the art from the artist when his art reflects his personal life.

      That's why it's easy for people to watch films by Roman Polanski. His films don't depict child rape and because he's only a director on his projects, the audience doesn't have to look at his face. Even though there are those that still hate Mel Gibson, people still went to see Hacksaw Ridge because he is only behind the camera and the film isn't a reflection of his personal struggles. Yet the recent reveal involving the 1972 film Last Tango In Paris which depicts a brutal rape scene between Marlon Brando and his young female co-star Maria Schneider, makes it harder to separate the man from his art because Schneider was actually raped by Brando without her consent while director Bernardo Bertolucci filmed it. After the scene was finished, Brando didn't apologize to Schneider.

   Now even though there isn't much coverage on Casey Affleck, should Affleck do some sort of a mea culpa and own up to his mistakes? I think he should. He should do what Nate Parker and Marlon Brando failed to do and apologize for his mistakes. Like Tanner Bolt from Gone Girl says, America loves it when a man publicly admits he's an asshole. But the media shouldn't paint Affleck as a victim the way Nate Parker, Johnny Depp, and Stanford swimmer Brock Turner who recently got released from prison, were as they were put to trial for rape and abuse.

   As I said before, I am not siding with Casey Affleck, the man. I don't know the man and I'm not his friend. While I will be rooting for his performance in Manchester By The Sea during this awards season, I will only be rooting for his performance because I think his performance is one of the best of the year. Typically, when I go see a film, I go see it because of an actor's or a director's work and not for their personal lives.

  I know that it makes the situation more complicated because by supporting the films of Affleck, Polanski, etc., we are still overlooking their horrific personal lives and allowing them to still have a career in Hollywood. But when we go and see their work, we tend to judge solely their work and not what they do off screen. We at least judge only their work until the movie ends where we can then judge their character. So there is a certain degree to when we can separate the art from the artist. We can still judge the person behind the art. I've judged Mel Gibson plenty of times. But when their work doesn't reflect their wrongdoings, we are able to observe their artistry.

    So that was my long analysis on why Parker's work is getting punished while Affleck's is being celebrated. If anything that I said was ever taken out of context, please forgive me. Also, feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" Is Refreshing Yet Still Had Me Wanting More


This is the first of the Star Wars movie that isn't an episode. It also doesn't open with the famous theme or the typical opening crawl. Does the film itself still feel refreshing and new. Thankfully, it does yet interestingly, despite being one of the better blockbusters to come out this year, the film didn't have me completely mesmerized by the time it was over.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the prequel to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope that follows the story of Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, who joins a group of rebels (played by Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, and Jiang Wen) to steal the plans of a weapon base known as the Death Star that will threaten to destroy planets.

Since the film is a part of the Star "Wars" universe, I thought it was very interesting how this film felt like an actual war movie with characters entering unforgiving terrains and engaging in constant battle. So it was neat to see a film that lives up to the name of its saga.

I also want to give this film major points for not just its incredibly diverse cast but how it has people of different genders and races together without ever making a political statement or having any forced tokenism. However, in spite of its representative slate of actors, some of their characters weren't as fleshed out as I would've hoped they would be. They are given parts to play in the main conflict that takes places yet I never felt like I got to know any of their characters.

Felicity Jones and Diego Luna do fine jobs in their respective lead roles as Jyn Erso and Rebellion leader Cassian Andor, yet they didn't have much chemistry. One of the reasons Star Wars: The Force Awakens was so entertaining was because of the energy and charisma from stars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.

However, Donnie Yen was a scene stealer as Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior who isn't a Jedi yet still tries to learn the ways of the Force. He had some of the best fight scenes and he even brought some much needed comic relief. Also, Ben Mendelsohn was reliably good as the main villain, Director Orson Krennic. He's slightly hammier than his usual performances but he was still in sync with the fantastical world the film is set in and you can tell he was having a blast with the role he was playing.

Another problem this film has is that in spite of its high octane action, it takes a while for things to pick up steam. It could because there were three editors on the picture and how there were re-writes and reshoots. So there were a bit too many cooks in the kitchen which could also explain the focus on some of the main characters.

Despite its flaws, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does bring a refreshing uniqueness to its universe. It may not be as entertaining as The Force Awakens or have an instant iconic feel like its technical successor A New Hope. But I hope that the upcoming spinoffs they have in store have the same uniqueness as this one does.

Grade: B



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Miss Sloane" Fires Thanks To Its Dynamite Performance By Jessica Chastain


   Jessica Chastain has proven herself as one of the absolute best actresses of her generation. Ever since her breakthrough year back in 2011, she's been churning out amazing performance after amazing performance whether it'd be a lead or a supporting role. But Miss Sloane shows that no matter how flawed or muddled a project that she carries on her shoulders may be, Chastain will certainly be the best part of it.

   Miss Sloane is about a lobbyist named Elizabeth Sloane played by Jessica Chastain. Once Sloane decides to lead the fight on gun control in Washington D.C., she leaves behind her old firm and is joined by a few of her assistants. As she plays a game of cat and mouse with perhaps the most powerful group of people in Capitol Hill, she reveals how she will do whatever it takes to win and no matter what the cost.
 
   The film works so amazingly because of Jessica Chastain's performance. Chastain is an absolute firecracker as the ruthless Miss Sloane, a woman who rubs her makeup off like it's war paint, treats every conversation like a battle, pops pills so she never sleeps, and betrays her own colleagues without thinking twice. She's a woman of all grit and no grace yet Chastain makes her fascinating to watch as she dominates every single frame she has on screen.

    As dynamite as Chastain is though, she still has an amazing cast surrounding her. Mark Strong plays a rare non-villain role as a head in Sloane's new law firm and he is reliably good. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is also terrific as Esme, a fellow lobbyist and provides a sensitivity that makes her a perfect foil to Sloane. Michael Stuhlbarg is so good you want to punch his character in the face as he expertly plays a slithery former employee of Sloane's at her old law firm. The other actors, Allison Pill, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston, and John Lithgow, all do outstanding work as well.

     While the snappy and rapid fire dialogue from the screenplay from Jonathan Perera may feel like it's in Aaron Sorkin territory, at the same time, its dialogue helps make the film that depicts a serious topic enjoyable to watch and it helps sustain a lot of pulsating energy present throughout the picture. I also appreciated how Perera reveals both sides of the equation. It mostly focuses on Sloane's point of view yet it also reveals the point of view of those trying to strike her down. I will say, though, that the ending was a bit of a weird copout. Nothing terrible but it almost felt kind of predictable. It didn't bring down what I appreciated about the rest of the film, though, which is the extraordinary performances by the cast.

      In spite of its slight flaws, Miss Sloane is a high octane political thriller elevated by a knockout lead performance by Jessica Chastain along with its rapid fire screenplay and outstanding ensemble. Its ending may have had the film lose a bit of steam but watching the rest of the film is quite a ride.

Grade: A-

"Manchester By The Sea" Leads SAG Nominations With Four; "Fences" and "Moonlight" Follow With Three


The Screen Actors Guild announced their nominees today and I have to say, these are a surprising set and the step up from the mess that was the Golden Globe nominations that were announced on Monday. Let's take a look:

Best Ensemble In A Motion Picture:

Captain Fantastic
Fences
Hidden Figures
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

Biggest shocker is that there's No La La Land. Even if the film is a two hander, usually Best Picture frontrunners garner a Best Ensemble nomination at the Screen Actors Guild. Even films with small casts that go on to get nominated for Best Picture like The Theory of Everything and Dallas Buyers Club were nominated here. Guessing this is now Moonlight's to lose.

Best Male Actor In A Leading Role:

Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Looks like Affleck, Garfield, Gosling, and Washington are pretty safe for a nomination while Mortensen is coming on strong, having been nominated here and at the Golden Globes while Captain Fantastic was nominated in Best Ensemble. Some big omissions include no Joel Edgerton for Loving and especially no Tom Hanks for Sully. I think even if the movie star-savvy Golden Globes couldn't nominate Hanks, his chances at getting in look pretty dim.

Best Female Actor In A Leading Role:

Amy Adams, Arrival
Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

The biggest shocker of the day has to be Emily Blunt. Considering how the film was a massive critical underperformer, I didn't think she stood a chance. But at least they nominated the person that was the best part of it. Some omissions include Annette Bening for 20th Century Women, Isabelle Huppert for Elle, and Ruth Negga for Loving. Super competitive year.

Best Male Actor In A Supporting Role:

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea
Dev Patel, Lion

So glad to see Lucas Hedges nominated here after the Globes ignored him. I do think he's on shaky ground due to the slight competitiveness of the category and the fact that the Oscars are stingy with nominating young actors, having snubbed Jacob Tremblay for Room last year. I think this is Ali's to lose because he's been winning almost every critical prize out there so far and even won the Critics Choice Award.

Best Female Actor In A Supporting Role:

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea

I think Davis, Harris, Kidman, and Williams are safe for an Oscar nomination because they've showed up everywhere they needed to (BFCA, Golden Globe, SAG) with the final spot between both Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae for Hidden Figures and Greta Gerwig for 20th Century Women. Monae, who was a Critics Choice nominee, could end up edging out Spencer because she's also got Moonlight to boost her profile. But Spencer is more of an industry veteran and is a previous Oscar winner for The Help. 

What do you guys think? Are you as surprised by these nominees as I am? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!


Monday, December 12, 2016

2017 Golden Globe Nominations Revealed


The Golden Globe nominations have been announced today and all I can say is, Wow! I am so disappointed with these results. I mean, they do nominate some good stuff. I liked seeing Colin Farrell there for The Lobster and Moonlight doing well.

But plenty of the snubs today were absolutely hideous: No Lucas Hedges for Supporting Actor, The Handmaiden for Foreign Language Film, or, and this one actually had my jaw drop, Sally Field for Best Actress-Musical Or Comedy. Seriously, Lily Collins for Rules Don't Apply, one of the biggest flops of the year, over Sally Field who single handedly carried arthouse hit Hello, My Name Is Doris? Really?

Anyhow, some other shockers include Silence and Sully being a no-show despite them having significant star power behind them, Nocturnal Animals performing better than expected as well as both Hacksaw Ridge and Hell Or High Water. If there's anything we learned, it's that Hacksaw Ridge and Hell Or High Water are now legitimate Best Picture contenders. Also, La La Land has the most nominations with 7 while Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight performed well.

Here is the full list of nominees in case you want to observe this mess for yourself:

Best Motion Picture-Drama:
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Lion
Manchester By The Sea
Moonlight

Best Motion Picture-Musical Or Comedy:
20th Century Women
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actor In A Motion Picture-Drama:
Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Actress In A Motion Picture-Drama:
Amy Adams, Arrival
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Actor In A Motion Picture-Musical Or Comedy:
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Jonah Hill, War Dogs
Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best Actress In A Motion Picture-Musical Or Comedy:
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Collins, Rules Don't Apply
Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge Of Seventeen
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor In A Motion Picture:
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel, Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture:
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea

Best Screenplay:
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
Taylor Sheridan, Hell Or High Water

Best Foreign Language Film:
Divines (France)
Elle (France)
Neruda (Chile)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Best Animated Feature:
Kubo And The Two Strings
Moana
My Life As A Zucchini
Sing
Zootopia

Best Original Score:
Arrival
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight

Best Original Song:
"Can't Stop The Feeling" from Trolls
"City Of Stars" from La La Land
"Faith" from Sing
"Gold" from Gold
"How Far I'll Go" from Moana

Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Moonlight" and "La La Land" Continue Their Critical Dominance With The Boston Society Of Film Critics And New York Film Critics Online

Today has been a hectic day when it comes to critics awards. The Critics Choice Awards are tonight and FOUR critics groups have announced their winners: The San Francisco Film Critics Circle, Toronto Film Critics Association, and both the winners for the Boston Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online that you can see down below. I'll post the winners for the other two critics groups when I post a tally of all the different critics groups that have announced their winners. Anyhow, here are the winners for the BSFC and NYFCO. Take a look!

Boston Film Critics Society:
Best Picture: La La Land
(Runner-Up) Manchester By The Sea

Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
(Runner-Up) Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
(Runner-Up) Joel Edgerton, Loving

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle & Things To Come
(Runner-Up) Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Lily Gladstone, Certain Women

Best Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
(Runner-Up) Jim Jarmusch, Paterson

Best Ensemble: Moonlight
(Runner-Up) Certain Women

Best Documentary Feature: OJ: Made In America
(Runner-Up) Cameraperson

Best Foreign Film: The Handmaiden
(Runner-Up) Things To Come

Best Animated Film: Tower
(Runner-Up): Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Cinematography: The Handmaiden, Chung Hoon-Chung
(Runner-Up): James Laxton, Moonlight

Best Editing: Tom Cross, La La Land
(Runner-Up) Nels Bangerter, Cameraperson & John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge

Best Score: Mica Levi. Jackie
(Runner-Up) Dustin Hurwitz, La La Land

Best New Director: Robert Eggers, The Witch
(Runner-Up): Kristen Johnson, Cameraperson

New York Film Critics Online:

Best Picture: Moonlight

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Screenplay: Moonlight

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences

Breakthrough Performer: Ruth Negga, Loving

Best Foreign Language Film: The Handmaiden

Best Animated Feature: Kubo And The Two Strings

Best Documentary: 13th

Best Ensemble Cast: Moonlight

Best Cinematography: Moonlight

Best Use Of Music: La La Land

Best Debut Director: Robert Eggers, The Witch