How Bong Joon Ho and ‘Parasite’ are Changing Cinema

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This weekend we have the 92nd annual Academy Awards for excellence in film in the year 2019. I gave my predictions for the Oscars a few weeks ago but since then the tide has been turning towards a surprise win for a South Korean film called Parasite. The film is directed by Bong Joon Ho and whether it wins or not what he has accomplished with his film is groundbreaking and will hopefully influence cinema for the better for many years to come.

Bong has directed and written 14 movies. He first burst onto the international scene in 2006 with the monster horror movie The Host. While it only made $2 million in the US it has $89 million worldwide, which on an $10 million budget isn’t too shabby. Next he had a strange arthouse film called Mother followed by an English language dystopian classic starring Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer in Snowpiercer.

In 2017 he made a film for Netflix in English called Okja starring Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and more. So what does he do next? He goes back to the Korean language and makes without question the most celebrated film of 2019, Parasite (that’s with an Oscar for best picture or not). This was a bold choice for the director and shows a confidence in his product that I admire. He could have made Parasite in English with American actors but he used his building credibility to showcase his home country and language in a special and important way.

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After winning the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, Bong said:

“Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”

Some may call it wishful thinking but I think he has a real chance of making this dream come true with many filmgoers who saw and enjoyed Parasite. I have rarely seen a film get both the praise of the highbrow film crowd and the everyday filmgoer. Almost everyone I know loves Parasite. It’s the most unexpected crowd-pleaser in years!

This is especially significant for a film not in English but also for one that has a socio-political message. As great as his directing is on the film, his deft and subtle hand in his screenplay is perhaps his greatest achievement. He crafts characters that do lots of unlikable things and yet you are rooting for them the whole time- at least for me that’s true with both the poor and rich families.

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We are even getting a version of Parasite in black and white coming to theaters this weekend. I am beyond excited to see that! Indeed, there is so much to be excited about with the film and like Bong said it could provide ripple effects in the embrace of non-English films for years to come. Even if we could open people’s minds to films from South Korea, India and Nigeria you’re talking hundreds, maybe even thousands of films each year to enjoy and discuss!

This impact will be heightened even more so if Parasite does pull off the best picture win and there’s reasons that it might. It has already won the big prize at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards as well as awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTAS and more. Betting odds have been improving for Sam Mendes’ 1917 for the past month, but they also did in the buld-up for last year’s foreign-language favorite Roma, right up until the moment the more crowd pleasing Green Book took the top prize instead.

Fortunately Parasite doesn’t have the same problem of Roma because it’s both incredibly accessible and entertaining, so anything is possible!

I know I am certainly pulling for Parasite to win. What do you think? Does it have a chance and has it impacted your experience with foreign films? Do you think it will have a ripple effect for more acceptance of subtitled films?

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Thoughts on the Oscar Best Picture Nominees

This Monday January 13th movie fans held their breath in excitement as the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced in Hollywood. One can certainly argue that too much time and energy is put into the Oscars but it is also a nice way to look back at the year in film and hopefully honor some of the strong films released by both big and small studios. This year I have actually seen all of the nominees for Best Picture, so I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on each film and what chances each film has to win.

86th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet

Ford v Ferrari

I am thrilled to see an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser like Ford v Ferrari get nominated for Best Picture. What’s great about Ford v Ferrari is that it is not just an underdog racing movie (which is a genre I LOVE!) but it is also a wonderful movie about friendship. Christian Bale is excellent as Ken Miles and Matt Damon is great as his bewildered colleague Carroll Shelby. I loved all the supporting cast especially Noah Jupe and Caitriona Balfe as Bales’ son and wife respectfully. The film is a little too long but it’s a highly entertaining watch. I do think it is a long shot to win and comes in at 9th place in my prediction ranking.

Little Women

This new version of Little Women has become quite a part of my life lately. I have seen it twice, written my review, and then been on 2 separate podcasts where I discussed and ranked it. I really enjoyed this take on the classic story of Little Women. In particular the non-linear storytelling (which I usually hate) really worked to help make each sisters choices more valid especially Amy and Laurie. I loved all the performances and filmmaking choices like costumes, production design etc. The script got a little too cute at times and I would have preferred they used 2 Amys but it is still one of my favorites films of the year. Unfortunately with Greta Gerwig getting snubbed for Best Director the odds for it winning Best Picture are small and it is at 8th place in my prediction ranking.

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JoJo Rabbit-

Writing satire is probably the most difficult type of screenwriting. The line between clever skewering of society and an unfunny piece in poor taste is incredibly difficult. Director and writer Taika Waititi managed to do just that with his film JoJo Rabbit where we learn that even the worst of ideologies can be driven out of someone (especially a child) by the power of human connection. I laughed. I cried. I was delighted and I recommend anyone watch it and experience something unique at the theater. However, because the subject matter and approach is not for everyone it is unlikely to win and gets 7th place in my prediction rating.

The Irishman-

Upon its release I was one of the few detractors on Martin Scorsese’s epic mob film The Irishman. There is much to admire in the film especially the terrific period detail and performances. My issue is the story and characters. The lead character Frank Sheeran is an admitted soldier for the mafia, meaning he doesn’t have a lot of moral questioning of what he is asked to do. He dutifully follows orders. It isn’t until the last 30 minutes of a very long movie that introspection happens and things become interesting. It was too little too late and the ponderous pacing made it a tough watch. As far as predictions, The Irishman was a clear favorite back in November, but with the length being a factor, DeNiro not getting nominated, and a general overall lack of awards season buzz all make it an unlikely winner and ultimately 6th place in my prediction ranking.

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Marriage Story-

I must admit I put off watching the new drama Marriage Story from writer/director Noah Baumbach. The idea of seeing a couple go through something as horrible as divorce for 2 hours sounded very unpleasant especially during the holidays. However, I finally watched it and it’s very well done. The writing feels authentic to the characters and I appreciate the script doesn’t pick sides for the male or the female. The acting is tremendous; although, I’m a bit baffled at the awards love being shown to Laura Dern who is fine but nothing extraordinary if you ask me. I think the movie is just too small in scope to win the big prize without a surprise win like Moonlight had a few years ago so it is 5th place in my prediction ranking.

Joker-

Another movie I put off watching is Todd Phillips origin story of Joker. I was pretty sure with the tone and violence it wouldn’t be my taste and after what happened with Shazam I wasn’t interested in facing the angry mob unless I had to for having an opinion. Once it got nominated I watched it and it’s not for me. Basically the Arthur of the film lives in a dystopian where everyone is underhanded, unkind, cruel and bitter. His story wasn’t interesting to me because there never was a valid option for him to chose a different path. Of course he is going to become a supervillain if everyone treats him like complete garbage. This is not a world I connect with or agree with but I’m not a cynical person. Nevertheless, many do seem to enjoy the film and it got the most nominations, so it could win. However, there’s enough backlash and enough comicbook/blockbuster stigma to prevent it. I have it at 4th place in my prediction ranking.

parasite

Parasite-

If I was going to predict a surprise win it would be Parasite. The South Korean thriller by director Bong Joon Ho is the consensus favorite for almost everyone I know. Whether film snob on twitter or everyday moviegoer, we all seem to love Parasite and that’s because it’s a great film. It is entertaining, enlightening, surprising and has something to say without beating you over the head with it. I also think the preferential voting system of the Oscars could help Parasite out the most because even if some don’t have it first almost everyone will have in their top 3. It could be the Green Book of 2020. The downside is some may feel a win in International Film is enough for it and a subtitled film has never won Best Picture before and that is a barrier for some voters. This is why I have it at 3rd place in my prediction ranking.

1917-

These last 2 are very tough to decide between when it comes to predictions. 1917 is an incredible, immersive experience telling the story of 2 soldiers in World War 1 as they attempt to deliver a message across the trenches. It is set up like one take and you really feel like you are there with the soldiers which I found emotionally exhausting and moving. I highly recommend seeing it in the theater if at all possible. It just won the Golden Globe so if it wins Best Picture I won’t be surprised at all but I think the Academy voters are just narcissistic enough to pick the movie which is all about them instead. That makes 1917 in 2nd place in my prediction ranking.

once upon a time

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood-

In director Quentin Tarantino’s latest film he does a lot of things right to peak Oscar interest. First of all, he gets a top notch cast with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie. Then he has the film set in Hollywood and it be an alternate history of the life of a tragic figure Sharon Tate. You portray the struggle of being famous and a washed up star, which Hollywood loves (hello Birdman...). You have enough gratuitous violence and humor while showing off Los Angeles in 1969, you’ve got yourself a Best Picture winner. I enjoyed the film well enough but thought it was quite self indulgent especially in the long, excessive driving scenes that went nowhere. This isn’t the best film of the year in my opinion but I think it strokes all of the voters ego enough to win Best Picture and it is my top prediction!

So there you have it!  What do you think of the 9 nominees? Have you seen them? Do you think they are worthy choices or do you feel something better was left out? Let me know and what would you prediction ranking be for the winner? Let me know in the comments!

 

BLIND SPOT 43: ‘THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES’

When I was planning my Blind Spot series for 2019 I knew I needed to tackle one of the most heralded films that I had yet to see: William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives. The film not only won 7 Oscars but it is widely considered the best film to ever win Best Picture. In addition, it’s also a favorite of many of my movie friends including the great MovieRob who has seen more than enough movies to have his opinion be taken very seriously. The only reason I hadn’t seen it is because the length and subject matter intimidated me but that’s what makes the Blind Spot project great! I finally watched this classic film, and I’m sure glad I did.

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The Best Years of Our Lives tells the story of 3 veterans (Harold Russell, Dana Andrews, Frederic March) of World War 2 who meet on their way home to their small hometown of Boone City. While all soldiers, they are each quite different and they go on to each have different struggles in adjusting to home life.

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Naturally we also get to know the women who are in the lives of our soldiers. I especially liked Myrna Loy who is number one on the call sheet but gives an understated supporting performance as the housewife who comes to realize her  returning husband may be an alcoholic and that his recovery from fighting will be no easy task.

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Probably the most memorable role in The Best Years of Our Lives is from Russell who had never acted before but plays the soldier with no arms with such humanity (probably because it is who he literally is!). I kept thinking now they would just cgi away an actor’s arms (see Dumbo from this year) and what a loss that is for cinema. What I appreciated most about his performance is most of the time he’s pretty reasonable, not looking for sympathy. He even seems proud of what he can accomplish with his hook hands, as he should be. However, he also keeps people at a distance because he doesn’t want to burden them with his struggles. This is most of all true with his fiance Wilma played with great heart by Cathy O’Donnell. Their love story together is very touching.

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There isn’t a ton of plot in The Best Years of Our Lives. Even the grand moments are only grand because we know what they mean to the characters. They are simple moments like a man sitting in a used plane, another giving a speech at banquet for the bank he works at or a former soldier showing his girl how he puts on his pajamas. Simple stuff but it means a ton within the story. I particularly teared up at said banquet speech when a drunk Al promises his fellow soldiers will be supported by his bank and get the loans they need. This is probably a more of a pipe dream than anything else, which is what makes it both touching and tragic.

All of the acting is superb in The Beast Years of Our Lives and everyone has tremendous chemistry. Some will probably find it tedious, but despite my misgivings, I was fully engrossed with the characters and their journeys. It actually felt quite relevant to the struggles many veterans experience today. Often for soldiers it is very difficult to find employment, manage PTSD and relate to civilian life. However, even beyond that this film is full of human stories, and as long as they are well told, human stories will always be relevant.

If you haven’t seen The Best Years of Our Lives don’t wait as long as I did to give it a watch. You  will be rewarded by a moving story of love, family, and the ability of the human spirit to turn the worst years into the best.

For a modern film with these themes I recommend Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace which was one of the best films of 2018.

10 out of 10

smile worthy

 

A Look at the Animated Oscars 2019

This year the lead up to the Oscars has been more than a little bit of a mess. Whether it is an announcement for ‘best popular film’ category or the choice to not air categories like editing and cinematography. However, what has been relatively drama free is who will win the Best Animated Feature Film award. This is perhaps surprising as the 5 nominees are all very strong films yet a clear winner has emerged in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

mirai

Let’s start with the least likely to win, Mirai, from famed director Mamoru Hosoda. It’s actually a huge accomplishment for Mirai to be nominated, as it is the first non-Studio Ghibli film to receive such an honor (a designation very frustrating to those of us who loved snubbed films like Your Name and A Silent Voice). And fortunately it is not just a token nomination as the film is a sweet journey into childhood. Recently my friend David said it was ‘the most creative animated film he had seen this year’ and he hates anime!

ralph breaks

Our next most likely contender to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars comes from Disney in a rare Disney Canon sequel called Ralph Breaks the Internet. This sequel to 2012’s Wreck-it Ralph avoids the potholes of most sequels by giving us something entirely new and it worked for me even better than the original! I loved the evolution of Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship and how they had to accept each other in new ways. I loved the humor especially the princesses (which I didn’t think I’d like) and we even got a surprise Alan Menken song! Still because it is a sequel and the response to it was dampened a bit by the release of Spider-Verse, it is unlikely to win (although never count Disney out entirely!).

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Coming up in 3rd place of most likely to win the Oscar is our stop motion animated offering from Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs. Earlier in the year I speculated whether this was the most likely winners as the Oscars doesn’t tend to like sequels or animated superhero movies (and it has a long standing tradition of loving both Wes Anderson and stop motion). It’s such a sweet enchanting movie with incredible attention to detail. I love all of the dogs and the backgrounds are dazzling (the one pictured made out of pieces of glass is a particular favorite). However, the human sections aren’t as strong and some of the writing is a little clunky. Still, a delightful film from 2018 animation.

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My prediction for the runner up for the Oscar this year is Brad Bird’s follow up to his 2004 superhero film, The Incredibles 2. I love this movie and in any other year this would be a clear favorite. It’s not only funny with terrific action but it is a treatise on how hard it is to be a parent. Even Edna Mode says it best: ‘parenting when done well is a heroic act’. The reason I don’t think Incredibles 2 will win is because it hasn’t won any awards prior to the Oscars. Spider-Verse has won every major prize from the Golden Globes to the BAFTA’s. It would take a very bold ballot to pick this film to win but it wouldn’t be the first time Pixar has surprised everyone (Brave…) if it did. Still it would be a big shocker if it won.

Spider-Man-Into-The-Spider-Verse-Soundtrack-album-cover

Finally, the clear favorite and most likely to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This isn’t just my opinion, but the opinion of critics, fans, and experts alike. In fact, there are a number of other publications out there that see Into the Spider-Verse as an incredible favorite. Like I said, it would be a huge shock if it didn’t win. It is not only a game changer for animated films and superhero movies, it also speaks to the Academy’s goals to honor diversity both on and off the screen. It honestly should have been nominated for Best Picture in my and many others opinions.

So what do you think of the animated Oscar race this year? Am I too bullish on Spider-Verse? Do you agree with me it has been a strong year for the category? What other predictions are you making for this year’s Oscars? I’d love to hear in the comments section.

2018 Oscars Who Will and Should Win

The big night for movie lovers is coming up this Sunday with the Academy Awards announcing their Oscar winners. I honestly find it a pretty underwhelming group with a bunch of movies I like but don’t love and won’t likely to remember long.

I am notoriously terrible at predicting the Oscars but it’s always fun to give it a try. Last year I tried to research and see what was trending and almost every time I went against my gut it failed. So this year I thought I would try a different strategy and not over-think it too much.

That said I will still give you what I think should and will win in each category.

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

Shape of Water

3 Billboards

What will win- 3 Billboards unfortunately…

What should win- Get Out (it’s only one of these nominees that I love)

Best Director

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Greta Gerwig forLady Bird Review Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread

Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

What will win- Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

What should win- Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Best Lead Actor

Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day Lewis for Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out

Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington for Roman J Israel Esq (haven’t seen)

What will win- Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

What should win- Daniel Day Lewis for Phantom Thread

Best Lead Actress

Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand for 3 Billboards

Margot Robbie for I Tonya

Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird

Meryl Streep for The Post

What will win- Frances McDormand for 3 Billboards

What should win- Sally Hawkins for Shape of Water

Best Supporting Actor

William Defoe for The Florida Project (haven’t seen)

Woody Harrelson for 3 Billboards

Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell for 3 Billboards

I’m honestly not a huge fan of any of these performances but…

What will win- Sam Rockwell for 3 Billboards

What should win- Richard Jenkins for Shape of Water

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J Blige for Mudbound (haven’t seen)

Allison Janney for I Tonya

Lesley Manville for Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer for Shape of Water

What will win- Allison Janney for I Tonya

What should win- Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird

Animated Feature

The Boss Baby

The Breadwinner

Coco

Ferdinand

Loving Vincent

What will win- Coco

What should win- Coco or The Breadwinner

Animated Short

Dear Basketball

Garden Party

Lou

Negative Space

Revolting Rhymes

What will win- Dear Basketball

What should win- Lou

Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name

The Disaster Artist

Logan (haven’t seen)

Molly’s Game (haven’t seen)

Mudbound (haven’t seen)

What will win- Call Me By You Name

What should win- Disaster Artist

Original Screenplay

The Big Sick

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

3 Billboards

What will win- Get Out

What should win- The Big Sick

Best Documentary

I’ve only seen one of these films Faces Places

Abacus

Faces Places

Icarus

Last Man in Aleppo

Strong Island

What will win- Faces Places

What should win- Faces Places

Sound Editing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

What will win- Dunkirk

What should win- Baby Driver

Sound Mixing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: the Last Jedi

What will win- Dunkirk

What should win- Dunkirk

Production Design

Beauty and the Beast

Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

What will win- Blade Runner 2049

What should win- Blade Runner 2049

Best Score

Dunkirk by Hans Zimmer

Phantom Thread by Jonny Greenwood

The Shape of Water by Alexandre Desplat

Star Wars: the Last Jedi by John Williams

3 Billboards by Carter Burwell

What will win- The Shape of Water by Alexandre Desplat

What should win- Phantom Thread by Jonny Greenwood

Original Song

Mighty River from Mudbound

Mystery of Love from Call Me By Your Name

Remember Me from Coco

Stand Up for Something from Marshall

This is Me from The Greatest Showman

What will win- This is Me from the Greatest Showman

What should win- Remember Me from Coco

Make Up and Hair

Darkest Hour

Victoria and Abdul

Wonder

What will win- Darkest Hour

What should win- Darkest Hour

Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast

Darkest Hour

Mark Bridges

The Shape of Water

Victoria and Abdul

What will win- Phantom Thread

What should win- Phantom Thread

Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

Kong: Skull Island

Star Wars: the Last Jedi

War for the Planet of the Apes

Who will win- War for the Planet of the Apes

Who should win- War for the Planet of the Apes

Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 for Roger Deakins

Darkest Hours for Bruno Delbonnel

Dunkirk for Hoyt van Hoytema

Mudbound for Rachel Morrison

The Shape of Water for Dan Laustsen

Who will win- Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049

Who should win- Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Documentary Short

I haven’t seen the nominees but I will go with Heroin(e) for my guess for winner.

Best Live Action Short

I haven’t seen the nominees but I will go with The Silent Child for my guess for winner

 

Best Foreign Language Film

I haven’t seen the nominees but I will go with A Fantastic Woman for my guess for winner

 

So there you have it! That is my Oscar ballot. We will see how things shake out but I really don’t care that much because very few of the films I liked in 2017 are being celebrated. It’s a pretty boring, bland group of nominees if you ask me.

My friend Conrado and I did a podcast on the nominees you might find interesting

26 Eligible Oscar Animated Feature Films Announced

Today the Oscars released their list of the eligible films for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. There are 26 films up for the 5 nominations and I’ve seen 19 of them. I thought I would share with you my quick thoughts on the list. Overall it covers the feature and indie films with the exception of My Little Pony: the Movie and Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature- both films I liked especially MLP. Both films are certainly better than The Emoji Movie which is under consideration. Oh well. At least every indie film I loved that was eligible is on the list (Louise by the Shore and Your Name were technically 2016 releases).

So here are my thoughts:

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales… (French: Le grand méchant renard et autres contes…)- Haven’t seen this one but very much looking forward to it. The buzz out of festivals is that it is very hilarious and GKIDS has picked it up and they rarely pick up bad films.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Spanish: Psiconautas, los niños olvidados)- I must admit hadn’t heard of this one but the trailer looks pretty great and GKIDS has picked it up so that is a good sign.

The Boss Baby- This movie was very popular amongst Americans seeking to laugh at Donald Trump as a baby (I’m convinced that was the reason it made so much money). It does have some nice animation so I’m fine with it being on this list but I will be very annoyed if it is nominated. It will be a sign that the new nomination rules are looking at ticket sales more than quality.

The Breadwinner- I will be posting a full review next week but this is a beautiful animated film about a girl in Afghanistan who has to pretend to be a boy to save her family. It’s a little rushed in spots but the animation is gorgeous and I found it very moving.

Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie- It’s still the best mainstream animated film of the year. I love the animation, humor and the relationship between the 2 lead boys. I can’t imagine it actually winning but would be cool to see a smaller budgeted mainstream animated film get a nomination.

Cars 3– I honestly don’t know if Cars 3 will be nominated. It has some pacing issues but I loved the animation and especially loved the heart and the story of Cruz getting her chance. I feel like voters will pick Coco over Cars 3 but wouldn’t be shocked if both get nominated.

Cinderella the Cat (Italian: Gatta Cenerentola)- This comes out of Italy and is a crime film noire musical take on Cinderella. I love Cinderella so it looks fun. Variety said “Slick, creative animation and largely enjoyable music make “Cinderella the Cat” one of the best Italian animated films of recent years” Sounds great!

Coco- Anxiously awaiting seeing this and so jealous of all those who have. My worries have been assuaged after early reviews.

Despicable Me 3Even though this was a small step up from Minions I’d be pretty annoyed if DM3 gets nominated. It will show the new nomination system is alive and well because it made a lot of money. It just didn’t work as a cohesive story despite a few funny elements.

The Emoji Movie- Even if the nomination process skews mainstream I don’t see The Emoji Movie having a ghost of a chance at a nomination. It had some decent animation but the message was muddled and story derivative.

Ethel & ErnestI loved this little sweet portrait of a couple out of England and would be thrilled to see it get nominated. I guess if the Brits weigh in heavily it has a chance but unlikely.

Ferdinand- I like Blue Sky but so far I have not been impressed with the Ferdinand trailers. They have looked so generic of plots we have seen a million times. We’ll have to see if it turns out any better than that.

The Girl without Hands (French: La Jeune Fille sans mains)- An amazing film created by one man from practically start to finish. I love the way the animation moved and flowed and the dark yet hopeful parts of the story. One of my favorites of 2017.

In This Corner of the World (Japanese: この世界の片隅に)- I admit I’m a little biased in favor of this movie because I got to interview the director but it’s a beautiful film nonetheless. It is a slice of life story about a family and woman going through WW2 in Japan. Some will find it boring but I liked it. It’s unlikely to be nominated since the only anime that gets attention seems to be Studio Ghibli.

The Lego Batman Movie- This movie hasn’t really stayed with me the way I thought it would. The middle sags a little but it’s still a pretty entertaining parody film and has a chance but I feel like voters have already forgotten it so WB will have to mount a campaign to get nominated.

The Lego Ninjago Movie- Any chance a lego movie has to get nominated lies with Lego Batman. I was pretty underwhelmed by Lego Ninjago with most of it boring me except for the cat sequence. It just didn’t do it for me. If it does get nominated that will show the new system voted for mainstream over indies.

Loving Vincent- This film is a tremendous achievement for the animation so I wouldn’t be upset if it gets nominated; however, I thought it was disappointing in the story department.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Japanese: メアリと魔女の花)- I have seen it but can’t talk about it yet but I’ll just say I’m glad to see it on this list and if it gets nominated I will be happy

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland (Finnish: Muumien joulu)- I love Moomintrolls but didn’t know they were getting their own movie! This looks like a really sweet Christmas story for kids with cool stop motion. The trailer is 7 minutes long which is unusual.

My Entire High School Sinking into the SeaThis is a very original take on the disaster movie with a very funny script and creative animation. It has GKIDS behind and I would be happy to see it get nominated.

Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me (Japanese: ひるね姫 〜知らないワタシの物語)- this is an anime for little kids with some really creative animation but it dragged a little bit for me. Still I woldn’t be upset if it got nominated. I’d honestly be happy to see any non- Studio Ghibli anime get nominated as none ever has.

A Silent Voice (Japanese: 映画 聲の形)- the best animated film of the year by a long mile. Beautiful animation, stirring story and a groundbreaking female director. I would love to see this get nominated and it would heal my bitterness at Your Name getting snubbed. It is a little long so that may turn off some voters as well as the painful subject matter. Come on voters!!

Smurfs: The Lost VillageI still think the most underrated animated film of the year. This has some issues but I enjoyed it and the animation is stunning. Definitely the best cg animation of the year so far. It’s chances are slim but glad to at least see it on the list.

The Star- I see it next week. Heaven help me!

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (Japanese: 劇場版 ソードアート・オンライン -オーディナル・スケール-)- I haven’t seen this one but want to . I’ve heard nothing but praise.

Window Horses The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming- One of my favorite animated films of the year. It tells a moving story with very inventive animation. It is very culturally relevant and it involves over a dozen different animators. With the right campaign it is possible for a nomination because of its relevance.

So there you go! That is my thoughts on the Oscar list. I’ve got 7 more movies to watch!

Frozen Musical Review

I am writing this blog from good old Denver Colorado! My friend Phaedra and I decided to make the drive to see the new Disney Frozen: The Musical. It’s the latest in a long line of Broadway adaptations from Disney that started with Beauty and the Beast and has included The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and more. Frozen will open on Broadway next year so this was just a preview screening but we decided we should check it out!

One cool thing I got to experience was to wear my Elsa cosplay to the play. There were tons of little girls dressed up as Anna and Elsa and they got a real kick out of a grown-up Elsa running around. It really made me feel pretty and special  to have all these girls smiling and waving to me (or Elsa!).

I was also able to go with my friend Phaedra and fellow youtuber Larry from LC Screentalk. We had a great time hanging out and  all 3 of us loved the musical. It was bright and colorful, had great songs and was a faithful recreation of the hit movie. I don’t think it will win over new fans but it was a very good play.

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There were a lot of things that worked in this musical. First of all, the casting was spot on. I loved the women playing Anna and Elsa. They were both tremendous singers. I also thought the man playing Olaf was an uncanny imitation of Josh Gadd from the film. They decided to make Kristoff an African-American character which I thought was cool (and he did a great job). Hans was also a terrific singer and convincing at playing both hero and villain.

The spectacle of Frozen: the Musical was also great. Let it Go is everything you could want it to be with one of the most amazing dress changes I’ve ever seen.  Also Sven and Olaf were a ton of fun using puppets. Both were expressive  and worked seamlessly within the story. I loved the way they showed the ice and Elsa’s magic working it in some cool special effects. The sets and costumes were all outstanding and immersive.

They also gave us some new songs. Elsa sings one called ‘Monster’, and Kristoff has a song called ‘What Do You Know About Love?’ that I liked. The Young Anna and Elsa were excellent and sang 4 songs. There was only one song I did not like called Hygge that went on too long and had elements of comedy I didn’t care for.

Frozen: the Musical is not the kind of broadway musical you go to in order to be provocative or challenged. It takes the film and makes small but meaningful changes that I think most people will really enjoy. It’s a musical you can take the whole family to, both boys and girls will like it, and have a great time at. It’s got spectacle, heart and some great songs.

When Frozen:the Musical comes by you I encourage you to see it. It’s a lot of fun and I think will do very well when it does come to Broadway next year!

Overall Grade- A-

Here is my review for my youtube channel with my friend Larry

If I Gave Out Oscars Now

Hey guys! We have now finished the summer movie season and are beginning the Fall schedule of Oscar and holiday films. I thought it might be fun to share with you what I would pick for Oscar nominations based solely on the films I’ve seen so far. I tried to keep these as realistic picks and not just my favorites. I would love to hear what you would pick and what you think of my selections! (I also haven’t seen every 2017 release though I have seen close to 90)

Best Picture- Personal Shopper, Get Out, Ingrid Goes West, Dunkirk, Detroit, The Big Sick, Logan Lucky, Their Finest, Wonder Woman

Winner- Personal Shopper

Best Director- Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit), Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes)

Winner- Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Best Actor- Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Kyle Mooney (Brigsby Bear), David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom), Woody Harrelson (Wilson), Sam Elliott(The Hero)

Winner- David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom)

Best Actress- Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel), Sally Hawkins (Maudie),  Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes West), Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper), Anne Hathaway (Colossal)

Winner- Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper)

Best Supporting Actor- Ray Romano (The Big Sick), Bill Nighy (Their Finest), Kevin Spacey (Baby Driver), Will Poulter (Detroit), Bradley Whitford (Get Out)

Winner- Bill Nighy (Their Finest)

Best Supporting Actress-  Kirsten Dunst (The Beguiled), Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), Edie Falco (Landline), Bridget Everett (Patti Cake$), Elizabeth Olsen (Ingrid Goes West)

Winner- Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)

Best Original Screenplay- Get Out, Ingrid Goes West, Brigsby Bear, The Big Sick, Logan Lucky

Winner- The Big Sick

Best Adapted Screenplay- Wonder Woman, Everything Everything, Lego Batman Movie, Spider-Man Homecoming, A Silent Voice (made me realize not many good adaptations this year so far)

Winner- Wonder Woman

Best Animated Film- A Silent Voice, The Girl Without Hands, My Entire High School is Sinking into the Sea, Captain Underpants, Cars 3

Winner- A Silent Voice

Best Foreign Language Film- Baahubali 2: the Conclusion, A Silent Voice, The Girl Without Hands, In This Corner of the World, Mune

Winner- Baahubali 2: the Conclusion

Best Documentary- STEP, The Good Postman, Kedi, Alive and Kicking, Becoming Cary Grant

Winner- STEP

Best Score- A Silent Voice, Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Girl Without Hands, Dunkirk

Winner- Wonder Woman

Best Original Song- Jump (STEP), To Be Human (Wonder Woman), PBNJ (Patti Cake$), Stay (Everything Everything), Days in the Sun (Beauty and the Beast)

Winner- To Be Human (Wonder Woman)

Best Sound Editing- Baby Driver, War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk, Personal Shopper, Detroit

Winner- Baby Driver

Best Sound Mixing- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Power Rangers, Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Kong Skull Island

Winner- Dunkirk

Production Design- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Ghost in the Shell, Dunkirk, Detroit, The Beguiled

Winner- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Best Cinematography- Dunkirk, War for the Planet of the Apes, A United Kingdom, A Ghost Story, My Cousin Rachel

Winner- War for the Planet of the Apes

Make Up- Pirates: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Wonder Woman

Winner- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Costume Design- Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, My Cousin Rachel, Beauty and the Beast, Their Finest

Winner- The Beguiled

Best Film Editing- Baby Driver, Personal Shopper, Detroit, Get Out, Dunkirk

Winner- Baby Driver

Visual Effects- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, War for the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man Homecoming, Ghost in the Shell, Kong Skull Island

Winner- War for the Planet of the Apes

So there you have it! What do you think of my picks? Some of them I had lots to chose from and some were slim pickings. What would you pick?

2017 Animated Oscars: Did the Right Film Win?

Today I continued on my annual web series looking at the animated Oscars and asking- Did the right film win?

In 2017 it is a tricky question because they are all good films. 4 of the films I love and made my top 16 of the year and 1 My Life as a Zucchini I admire greatly. This makes determining what is the correct winner difficult because they all have different strengths.

Kubo and the 2 Strings- This was a stunning film from Liaka about a boy who goes on a journey to find relic from his father’s mysterious past. The stop motion is incredible and I loved Kubo as a character. When he would smile it would make me smile. They should have ended it just a hair sooner and it would have been even better but I still really loved it.

My Life as a Zucchini- An import from Switzerland, this stop motion film I have mixed feelings on. It is impeccably made but I found the cruelty to children hard to stomach. It’s a bold film and I respect that but it was tough to watch and with such cute character designs I found that tough to absorb.

Moana- A quest movie if I’ve ever seen one. Moana will go down as one of the great Disney princesses. She is bold but still cares for her people, which is what inspires her to sail. I love her. I love the songs. I love the story

Zootopia- Amazing world building, great characters, and a hilarious script make this movie work so well. I loved Judy and Nick as characters and love that we have a new modern-day fable for kids

Red Turtle- Stunning animated film with no dialogue about a man on a deserted island. The story is less important than the amazing visuals and music but it still works well.  The visual and musical experience blew me away.

So did the right film win? Well, if you are judging just based on my personal preference I would say no. Moana is my favorite of the 5. Red Turtle is objectively the best but Zootopia is still a very worthy winner, so I am glad for it.  What a great year for animation 2016 turned out to be!

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