Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Moonlight

I am very excited to tell you all that Nathaniel over at the Film Experience is bringing back the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series! This is a really fun series where he picks a film and then any bloggers who want to participate pick one screenshot that he or she feels best captures the film in question. I have really enjoyed participating when I can (content and time leave me out of a few of them) and I would encourage all of you to join in. It’s really neat to see what shots others pick. You can see my entire series so far here.

So, the choice to bring back the series is the recent Academy Award winner Moonlight. I did a mini-review of this film but never did a full blog post. At the time I gave it an A- and now I have seen it 3 times and I stand by that grade.

Moonlight is a tremendous film that allows you to walk around in the life of a gay black boy/man named Chiron. It is divided into 3 acts- Little (child), Chiron (teen) and Black (adult).  Chiron faces many challenges including poverty brought on by a crack-addicted mother. Of course, he also has sexuality that is not welcome in his community and an innate shyness that makes it hard for him to open up to others.

As we walk through the life of Chrion we see joyous moments where he connects with a man named Juan and his girlfriend Teresa. Juan teaches him how to swim and to avoid bitterness and anger at his mother. Then in the teen years Chiron develops a relationship with a schoolmate named Kevin. This is handled with tact, poignancy and devastation when he is eventually betrayed.

The final act has Kevin and Chiron reuniting and this was the only issue I had with the movie. Up until that point everything had been so vivid and realistic and I just didn’t buy these two men would come back together like they do. It honestly felt a little bit cloying when it should have felt empowering after all Chiron has been through. It’s not awful but just what separated an A and an A- for me.

All of the acting is amazing in Moonlight including Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and nominee Naomie Harris. The cinematography is intimate and beautiful and the music is perfect. I might even like the score better than the La La Land score.

For me the second act was the most moving. I guess because I have been bullied I related to it quite strongly and the highs and lows in that segment were very moving. I think Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron should have gotten more praise for his performance because he is asked to go more places and show a variety of emotions.

So, now to my best shot. Because I loved the second act most I picked this shot of Chiron practically looking at the camera desperate for a way out. It’s like he is calling out to the audience to save him and I wish that I could…

Overall Grade- A- and definitely smile worthy

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Lion Review

lion3Tonight I had the chance to see the Oscar nominated film Lion again and I loved it all over again. After I finished it occurred to me I never actually reviewed the film on my blog or channel. I got sick right around when I saw it and somehow it just never got done. It’s a shame because Lion is absolutely one of my favorite movies of 2016 (made my top 10 of the year) and a film you should check out while it is still in theaters.

lion-sunny-pawarYou can kind of divide Lion into 2 parts. The first part is about a little boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives with his Mother and family (particularly his brother Guddu) in a secluded village in India.

One day while waiting for Guddu to finish work he wanders onto a train and ends up days away from his family with no way to communicate who they are or where he is from. He then becomes one of the many lost children of India and these scenes are the most powerful of the movie.

One scene in particular moved me when he is treated kindly by someone but must realize just in the nick of time they have ulterior motives. When he runs away I wanted to cheer him on! All of these scenes are so well filmed by first time director Garth Davis. You feel the panic of the crowds and the confusion of little Saroo.

lion5Sunny Pawar is also phenomenal as Saroo. If he had gotten nominated over Dev Patel I wouldn’t have complained. He’s that great in the role.

Eventually he gets the opportunity to be adopted by a family in Tasmania played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. The scenes where he and his brother are assimilated into their new family are handled so beautifully. I think anyone who has experienced adoption will respond to their authenticity and raw emotional power.  Nicole Kidman is especially great as the mother who chose adoption as an opportunity to love more.

lion6Next we get to the second part of the film where Saroo is Dev Patel and he is a grown man starting hospitality training. While there he learns about Google Earth and begins a hunt to find his family in India.

Dev Patel is great as the adult Saroo (and very hunky I must say) and the screenplay does a wonderful job showing the ache a lost child might feel as a grown up. He yearns to reassure his brother and Mother that he is ok. At first his efforts are fruitless and he becomes kind of obsessed with it.

The whole time he is searching he worries his Mother and Father might see this as a betrayal, or that he is ungrateful for all they have done. I thought this was handled with such subtlety- capturing the feelings of many adopted children without sensationalizing or making adoption the enemy (I really believe in adoption advocacy if you didn’t know).

lion2The one part that doesn’t work that well in this section is Saroo’s relationship with Lucy played by Rooney Mara. They just didn’t have great chemistry and she felt extraneous to the core plot. But it is really my only big flaw with the film.

When I first saw Lion I loved it and have been surprised to hear some call it “Oscar bait”. I hate this term as I feel it is a way of criticizing films with ambition.  It’s similar to those who criticize the smart girl in class for studying too hard. Even if you use the term, I don’t think Lion qualifies. It’s just a movie with a great story, performances, cinematography, music and script. It’s the total package. Both times I’ve seen it I was completely absorbed and emotionally moved.

The fact it is a true story makes it even better. Rarely in Hollywood do we get a movie about genuinely good people who aren’t addicts or abusers. This is none of that. Both the family in India and Tasmania are good people that face challenges I could relate and empathize with. I thought it was all handled so beautifully that I can’t wait to own Lion on blu-ray.

Once again, I can’t believe this is Garth Davis’ first movie. What a tremendous accomplishment! I can’t wait to see what else he makes in his career.

If you want to see a movie about the triumph of a family, a beautiful soul and an incredible story watch Lion. It’s so good. I LOVED it!

Overall Grade- A (not A+ just because of the girlfriend part  but I loved this movie).

Oscar Predictions and New Blog Series Poll

86th Annual Academy Awards - Red CarpetHey guys! So the Oscars are coming up next week and so I thought I would share my predictions and what I would pick if it was left up to just me. I don’t plan on watching this year because I think all of the political speeches will be completely insufferable and I don’t think Jimmy Kimmel is funny. I’ll just find out winners online.

Also, I realized I haven’t done a series on this blog for a long time. I was so overwhelmed with my Disney Canon Project over on my youtube channel last year that aside from the monthly blindspot picks I let that slide. I want to make sure to always provide content for both my channel and blog, so I am interested in doing another series. I have a poll so please vote on what you would like me to write about:

Anyway, here are my predictions/picks. Also I warn you I am notoriously awful at this. I have seen almost everything except for no documentary shorts, Elle and a couple docs/foreign films.

Best Picture- Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

Winner- La La Land. My Pick- Hacksaw Ridge

Best Director- Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Winner- Damien Chazelle (La La Land). My Pick- Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Actor- Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Winner- Denzel Washington (Fences), My Pick- Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best Actress- Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Winner- Isabelle Huppert (Elle), My Pick- Ruth Negga (Loving)  (I have not seen Elle but my gut tells me they will go with the veteran who had 2 critically lauded films this year)

Best Supporting Actor- Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges in (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges ((Manchester by the Sea)), Dev Patel (Lion), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Winner- Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), My Pick- Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Best Supporting Actress- Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Winner- Viola Davis (Fences), My Pick- Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Original Screenplay- Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women

I have not seen 20th Century Women.

Winner- Manchester by the Sea (please, please, please. La La Land does not deserve best screenplay!) My Pick- Hell or High Water

Best Adapted Screenplay- Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight,

Winner- Moonlight, My Pick- Moonlight 

Best Animated Film- Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia

Winner- Zootopia, My Pick- Moana

Best Foreign Language Film- Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, The Salesman, Tanna, Toni Erdmann

Winner- Toni Erdmann, My Pick- (Only one I’ve seen) A Man Called Ove

Best Documentary- Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life Animated, OJ Made in America, 13th

I haven’t seen Fire at Sea but seen the rest.

Winner- OJ Made in America, My Pick- Life Animated

Documentary Shorts- Extremis, 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland, The White Helmets

I haven’t seen any of these shorts but the one I hear the most buzz about is Joe’s Violin

Live Action Short- Ennemis interieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing, Timecode

Winner- Silent Nights, My Pick- Sing

Animated Short- Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, Piper

Winner- Pearl, My Pick- Piper

Best Score- Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers

Winner- La La Land, My Pick- Moonlight

Best Original Song- Audition (La La Land), Can’t Stop the Feeling (Trolls), City of Stars (La La Land), Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story), How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

Winner- City of Stars (La La Land), My Pick- How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

Best Sound Editing- Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully

Winner- Hacksaw Ridge, My Pick- Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Mixing- Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One, 13 Hours

Winner- Hacksaw Ridge, My Pick- 13 Hours

Production Design- Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail Caesar, La La Land, Passengers

Winner- La La Land, My Pick- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Cinematography- Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

Winner- La La Land, My Pick- Lion

Make Up- A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

Winner- Star Trek Beyond, My Pick- Star Trek Beyond

Costume Design- Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land

Winner- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, My Pick- Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Film Editing- Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight

Winner- La La Land, My Pick- Hacksaw Ridge

Visual Effects- Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Rogue One, Jungle Book, Kubo and the 2 Strings

Winner- Jungle Book, My Pick- Jungle Book

So there you have it! Hope you enjoy my predictions. What do you think of them? And thanks for voting in the poll

2016 Rachies Awards

Well, my friends, the Oscars are coming up and most likely they will get a few things right but most things wrong. I don’t know if I’m even going to watch this year because the political speeches are going to be so obnoxious. Instead, I would like to point you to a much better annual awards offering- the Rachies. Yes, for the last 3 years I have given my nominations and winners for the best of the year. I include all the categories from the Oscars but then offer a few of my own into the mix. So, sit back and enjoy the 2016 Rachies Awards!

Best Animated Film-

your-name-2Moana

Your Name

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Live Action Film-

sing-streetHacksaw Ridge

Sing Street

Love and Friendship

Lion

Things to Come

Best Directing-

lion-sunny-pawar

Mel Gibson- Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins- Moonlight

Ron Clements and John Musker- Moana

David Mackenzie- Hell or High Water

Garth Davis- Lion

Makoto Shinkai- Your Name

Most Underrated/Underseen

april2

Presenting Princess Shaw

Tower

April and the Extraordinary World

Ethel and Ernest

London Road

Best Animated Short

piper disney pixar finalFoxed

Piper

Inner Workings

Borrowed Time

Pearl

Best Actress in Leading Role

fences-movie35

Isabelle Huppert- Things to Come

Kate Beckinsale- Love and Friendship

Viola Davis- Fences

Ruth Negga- Loving

Rebecca Hall- Christine

Best Actor in Leading Role

sullyCasey Affleck- Manchester By the Sea

Tom Hanks- Sully

Denzel Washington- Fences

Taron Egerton- Eddie the Eagle

Rolf Lassgard- A Man Called Ove

Best Supporting Actress-queen-of-katwe-scene

Chloe Sevigny- Love and Friendship

Nicole Kidman- Lion

Taraji P Henson- Hidden Figures

Lupita Nyong’o- Queen of Katwe

Michelle Williams- Manchester by the Sea

Best Supporting Actorjack-reynor

Ashton Sanders- Moonlight

Jack Reynor- Sing Street

Tom Bennett- Love and Friendship

John Goodman- 10 Cloverfield Lane

Chris Pine- Hell or High Water

Best Ensemble Filmhacksaw-ridge-ensemble

Hidden Figures

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Captain America: Civil War

Everybody Wants Some

Best Voice Actingzootopia100

Auli’i Cravalho and The Rock- Moana

Jim Broadbent and Blenda Blethyn- Ethel and Ernest

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman- Zootopia

Ellen Degeneres- Finding Dory

Art Parkinson- Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Production Designallied2

Rogue One

Allied

Passengers

La La Land

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Visual EffectsTHE JUNGLE BOOK

A Monster Calls

Pete’s Dragon

Jungle Book

Doctor Strange

The BFG

Best Documentary

tower2

Presenting Princess Shaw

Tower

Life, Animated

OJ Made in America

The Eagle Huntress

Best Costumesdressmaker6

Florence Foster Jenkins

Love and Friendship

The Dressmaker

Cafe Society

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Best Makeup and Hairjackie2

Star Trek Beyond

The Dressmaker

Jackie

Nocturnal Animals

Allied

Best Editinghacksaw-ridge-poster-part

13 Hours

The Shallows

Hacksaw Ridge

Nocturnal Animals

Hell or High Water

Best Cinematographyhunt-for-wilderpeople

Lion

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Knight of Cups

La La Land

Pete’s Dragon

Best Original Score

La La Land

Moana

The Red Turtle

Your Name

Moonlight

Best Original Song

How Far I’ll Go- Moana

You’re Welcome- Moana

Drive it Like You Stole It- Sing Street

Up- Sing Street

Sparkle- Your Name

Best Original Screenplayhell-or-highwater

Things to Come

Sing Street

Hell or High Water

Everybody Wants Some

Manchester By the Sea

Your Name

Best Adapted Screenplaylove and friendship2

Lion

Fences

Moonlight

Love and Friendship

Queen of Katwe

Best Sound Design and Mixing

13-hoursRogue One

Hacksaw Ridge

13 Hours

Patriot’s Day

Allied

Biggest Surprise

10_cloverfield_lane_paramount_winstead-0-0Hell or High Water

10 Cloverfield Lane

Pete’s Dragon

Hidden Figures

Bridget Jones Baby

So that is my Rachies Awards!  I hope you enjoyed them. Please let me know what you think in the comments section and check out some of these movies if you haven’t had a chance!

My Top 15 Films of 2016

It’s finally here my friends! The moment you have all been waiting for. My top 15 best movies of 2016 list!

Here is the youtube version:

You guys have no idea how much thought I have put into this list. I have moved films around and thought weighed the pros and cons countless times. It’s so hard because I like all of these movies for different reasons and how do I decide which reason is better than another? Well, I did the best I could. I must admit I am kind of proud of my list. I think it is thoroughly unique and represents me very well.

So let’s get started!

hidden-figures215. Hidden Figures- I love movies that make me want to cheer and this movie did that in droves. I loved how it chose to forgo the evil redneck violent racist and instead took on institutional racism which I think can be just as virulent and much harder to strike down. I loved all the performances and that it is PG so kids all over the world will know about these amazing women.

hell-or-high-water14. Hell or High Water- Basically a perfectly executed film about two brothers pushed to the edge and the officers who are following them. It has such a sense of place and feels very relevant to many issues we face today. I felt for the characters and was engrossed the entire time. Not my typical genre but it won me over any way.

10_cloverfield_lane13. 10 Cloverfield Lane- I don’t see that many thrillers/horror movies but this one blew me away. I loved how it kept surprising me. I really didn’t know where it was going or what was going to happen. I loved Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman in the leads and even the ending that others didn’t like I kind of dug. It’s one of the only times in recent years I had genuine fun at a horror movie.

presenting-princess-shaw-poster12. Presenting Princess Shaw- 2016 was an amazing year for documentaries and this was one of my favorites. As a youtuber, this story of Samantha from Atlanta who ends up as part of a video for an Israeli man named Kutiman meant a lot to me. It reminded me that this sometimes toxic medium can be a powerful tool to serve others and bond with strangers.

pete's dragon 811. Pete’s Dragon- Yes, I’m kind of ashamed of myself that this didn’t make my top 10 because I loved it so much. This is the kind of movie I want Disney to make. It was small, intimate with humongous heart. I can’t believe they pulled off the dragon on such a small budget. I loved the cast especially Oaks Begley as Pete. Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford were completely lovely. It reminded me of live action movies we used to get from Disney that weren’t afraid to be real and deep with kids. Now we get the next warmed over bland remake…

tower410. Tower- This documentary was new and fresh and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It profiles a sniper standout at the University of Texas in 1966 but it uses animation to make the experience more rich and textured. The different characters were compelling with a variety of reactions and getting to see them in the real and animated forms was very absorbing. It amazed me how some had never really dealt with the incident after all these years making the documentary very raw.

zootopia poster29. Zootopia- I admit some of the criticisms of Zootopia had started to get to me and then I rewatched it and remembered how much I love it. Sure the metaphor has holes if you overthink it but it’s still powerful for children and the movie isn’t only the metaphor. There are lessons about never giving up, facing bullies, forgiveness and friendship. Mostly it is about not letting our fears dictate our behaviors. I love Judy as a character and the friendship between her and Nick is very heartfelt. The world building is amazing and it is so funny.

things-to-come8. Things to Come- This film has 100% on rotten tomatoes and there is a reason why- it’s amazing! Isabelle Huppert is incredible in this role of a woman who’s life goes completely upside down in every way possible. She’s devastated of course but it actually becomes this empowering experience for her. It’s a very fly on the wall kind of film without a strong plot but I loved it. Huppert is so great in the lead role and the writing is honest and powerful. It’s the only time I have felt moved to tears by the speech of an agnostic explaining her views on life.

red-turtle107. The Red Turtle- A combined project between director Michael Dudok De Wit and Studio Ghibli is one of the most stunning films I saw all year. With no dialogue, The Red Turtle manages to tell a stirring story about fate, love and how nature sometimes knows best. The animation is awe inspiring and the music is the best of 2016.

lion6. Lion- This is how you do a true story right. I loved everything about this movie. The child actor is incredible and I felt his chaos, joy and fears as he carries the first hour of the movie. Then Dev Patel comes in and does a great job showing the highs and challenges of adoption. Nicole Kidman was fantastic as his mother and the cinematography and music were so well done.

love and friendship35. Love and Friendship- This movie gave me a new Jane Austen book. How can I not love it for that reason alone but it’s not just that. It’s super funny and has an energy and pizazz to it the other Austen adaptations (as much as I love them) don’t. Lady Susan is kind of an anti-hero who’s self-interest ends up being to everyone’s benefit in the end. The dialogue is hilarious as well as the costume, product design and everything else. I love it more each time I watch it.

moana144. Moana- I can hear the shocks now. I am sure most thought this would be my top pick. I really do love it so much. I love Moana as a character. I love how unselfish her quest is. I love the animation, music, humor, and characters. I love that it focuses on Polynesia, which has my heart. I really don’t have any big flaws with it. I just felt my top 3 were a little more unique than this but I LOVE Moana!

hacksaw_ridge_poster3. Hacksaw Ridge- Moana entertained me. Hacksaw Ridge made me want to be a better person. Yes it is super violent but it’s a rare case where the violence actually made it a better movie. I love that Desmond’s abstaining from war is not dictated by his faith but is a personal covenant between him and God. It reminded me of Daniel and the Lions Den. Sure he could pretend and play along, just hold the gun, but that wouldn’t be true to his promise to God. So, when he cashes in that faith with his pleas for ‘One more Lord’ it blew my mind. It made me want to go out and be more faithful and serve others more.

sing-street2. Sing Street- This movie is like joy in movie form. I watch it over and over again. I love everything about it. I love the relationship between the brothers and their dialogue. I love the romance and how they make each other better. I love the music and the payoff concert. It’s a movie I could watch 100 times and never tire of.

your-name31. Your Name- I thought long and hard about it and I believe Your Name is the best movie I saw in 2016. It’s so original, stunning and emotional. It starts off as a fun body swap movie and then a friendship grows which is challenged when a complication is introduced. Then it takes on a sci-fi element that was surprising and I had no idea what was going to happen without being too twist dependent. I loved the characters and what they learn from each other. The animation is stunning and the music (both score and songs) are perfect. It’s a movie that each time I watch I see layers I had missed the first time. It’s stunning and my favorite movie of 2016!

So there you have it! What did you think of my list? How does it match up with your list and what are your favorites of 2016?

And if you were wondering my 16-20 are

16. Kubo and the Two Strings

17. Queen of Katwe

18. Midnight Special

19. Kung fu Panda 3

20. Manchester by the Sea

If you are wondering I will see My Life as a Zucchini next week at Sundance and then I will do my 2016 animation ranking.

Now on to 2017!

Best Movie Moments of 2016

Hey guys! I’m still working on seeing a few more movies before I unveil my top 15 movies of 2016. In the meantime I made this video of my top 15 movie moments of 2016. Some of my top 15 won’t make this list because they are more great all around but not for a particular moment. Other movies that I liked but didn’t love or were even disappointed in still had a memorable moment that made the list.

Here is the countdown!

 

15. Family Montage- Storks-

This ending montage of families of all types getting babies ended the film on just the right note. On my blog review some readers mentioned how much being included, even for just a moment in an animated film meant to them. I also love the Lumineers song to accompany it.

14  Ending- Jungle Book-

I enjoyed this more realistic take on Jungle Book and probably my favorite part is the ending. I like it because I hate the ending of the original animated classic. I don’t like the girl singing about being an indentured servant her whole life and then hypnotizing Mowgli with her beauty to leave his friends.  In this new version we have an empowered Mowgli who figures out a way to defeat Shere Khan by himself.  That was awesome!

13. La La Land Opening-

la-la-land5The hyperbole on this film has started to grate on me but it is an entertaining movie. The beginning steals the show for me with its energy and innovative ideas. If only traffic was always this fun.

12. Dory finds her Parents Again- Finding Dory-

We’ve been following Dory through 2 films and to see her reunite with her parents was truly touching. The film’s message on disabilities is wonderful highlighted by Dory’s parents reassuring her how proud they were of her.

11. Finding Internet Success- Presenting Princes Shaw

I loved this documentary about a small time youtuber who gets found by a musician who uses one of her songs for his compilations. The two meet and it was heartwarming and lovely. This scene is when she first hears her song on youtube. It’s powerful stuff!

10. The Flood- Queen of Katwe

I don’t really have a great picture or video for this one but Queen of Katwe moved me emotionally and I wish more people had been to see it. One moment I was particularly struck by was when a flood comes and destroys everything. It is devastating and intense.

9. Captain America: Civil War

I love the way Marvel combines action with witty banter, and the airport scene in Civil War is one of the best examples of this. It was so freakin entertaining!

8. Agnostic Eulogy- Things to Come

This wonderful movie starring Isabelle Huppert features the only speech on agnosticism to ever make me tear up. The film is about the world of Huppert’s character falling apart and so this eulogy was so heartfelt for the character.

7. Darth Vader Throw-down- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I was disappointed in Rogue One for the most part but I did enjoy this awesome thrown down with Vader showing his strength more than we have seen before. It was awesome

6. Standing on the Ground- Fences

Viola Davis could give acting class based on this movie. It is such a compelling performance and  made me feel angry right along with her.

5. Brown Shoes- Sing Street

After being picked on by the principal for wearing brown shoes the concert at the end of Sing Street is so engaging. I was cheering and had a smile on my face for days.  It also doesn’t hurt that the songs are super good.

4. Acid Scene- 10 Cloverfield Lane

I’ve seen this movie a number of times and my jaw still is on the floor when this scene happens. It is intense and scary and a particular moment completely shocked me.

3. Frozen Chicken Scene- Manchester By the Sea-

There are a number of moments I could have picked from this film but the breakdown the teenager character had I could highly relate too.  He is troubled by his father not being able to be buried  and seeing the chicken reminds him of that.  It was very powerful.

2. How Far I’ll Go- Moana

Everything about this scene is Disney magic. I love the voice actor and the songs and builds momentum very well. I was cheering for Moana!

1 One More- Hacksaw Ridge

Seeing our lead character go back into horrific battle time and again to rescue his fellow soldiers was incredible to watch. The violence makes his action all the more inspiring and significant to our posterity.

Just thinking of these moments makes me happy! Have you seen any of these films and if so what did you think of my picks?

Meh and Overrated Films of 2016

overrated-2016

When you see as many movies as I do you don’t always agree with the critical consensus around a film. I’m a unique person and I have my own unique thoughts. Especially with some very artistic films I may not respond to the risks taken the way others do.

So here is my list of movies others loved that I either thought were meh or didn’t like at all.

Denial- 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. I wonder if people are applauding the real life story and not the movie itself. I thought the screenplay was very poor at building the case, creating tension and making Deborah a likable character I could root for.

My ranking 111/143

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot- 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again- I don’t get Tina Fey. I don’t think she’s funny and her movies outside of Mean Girls have been terrible. Here is another. I didn’t believe any of the characters, some are in brown face and it’s a bunch of entitled white guys partying in Afghanistan without any insight beyond you can be a jerk anywhere.

My ranking 123/143

Swiss Army Man- 68% on Rotten Tomatoes but I’ve seen it on a lot of top 10 lists. I appreciate artistic risk but the screenplay was very poor. Instead of insight I got lots of bodily humor and the same supposedly enlightened ideas repeated over and over again. Not for me.

My ranking 113/143

Lights Out- 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d heard great things about this horror movie but I was very underwhelmed by it. It wasn’t scary and was so predictable. The actors try but only for schlocky horror fans

My ranking 109/143

Little Prince- 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is a watchable movie but is by nowhere near a 93% in quality. It was boring and preachy and didn’t do anything interesting until the end when it became weird and dystopian. It looks pretty but for most of it I thought it was lame

My ranking 105/143

The Lobster- 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The problem with this movie is it takes a Twilight Zone episode and stretches it to 2 hours. It’s clever premise became extremely frustrating for me as the message is repeated over and over again. I get it. Human beings are lonely and yet society is built on relationships; thereby ostracizing single people. You’d think I’d love that message being single but I became exhausted with the film after a while. I also felt when it ran out of ways to say the same thing it shocked you with sensuality. I really didn’t like it

My ranking 106/143

Jackie- 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. I guess I am a traditionalist when it comes to biopics. I didn’t like the way they turned Jackie into a robot. I felt disconnected from her which made the film feel extremely heavy handed. I know they are Camelot. Do we really need to hear the song played twice over montages of her drinking and trying on clothes? I guess others found this insightful. Not me, which is frustrating because I think she’s probably a very insightful person.

My ranking  91/143

Hail Cesear- 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m sorry but I think we have director bias here. I love the Coen Brothers but this film was a mess. The plot was all over the place and a lot of the comedic sequences weren’t funny like a long scene where Channing Tatum delivers a speech on a submarine? That wasn’t funny. Pretty much only part I liked was the Alden Ehrenreich segments.

My ranking 101/143

Other movies that I liked, sometimes quite a bit, but not as much as most people-  La La Land (23/143), Arrival (45/143), Edge of 17 (49/143), Nice Guys (73/143), Nocturnal Animals (64/143), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (84/143), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (85/143), Eye in the Sky (89/143).

Movies I thought were ok to great that others hated – Assassin’s Creed (94/143), Ghostbusters (77/143), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (69/143), Magnificent 7 (67/143), Allied (74/143), Miracles from Heaven (80/143), The Mermaid (81/143), Ratchet and Clank (98/143), Snowtime (92/143), Hologram for the King (95/143), RACE (99/143) and Star Trek Beyond (24/143)

I also didn’t think The Wild Life (122/143), Ben Hur (108/143), The Boss (107/143) or The Angry Birds Movie (102/143) were that bad; although they certainly had big problems.

So there you have it. What are your contrarian opinions on 2016 movies? What do you think is overpraised? What did you feel differently than most of your friends?

Hidden Figures Review

hidden-figures2Today I had the chance to see Hidden Figures, and I could just as easily title this blog- ‘doing what others so often fail to do in a bio-pic’. Rarely have I been to this type of film and the audience cheer loudly throughout. Of all the movies I’ve seen in 2016, Hidden Figures, is one of the most rewatchable and it is one I am eager for friends and family to go and see.

Hidden Figures tells the real life story of 3 African-American women at NASA as they prepared to send John Glenn around the earth. Some may dismiss it as a formula film but that is underselling some of the standout choices it makes. Most importantly it avoids theatrics and instead shows the smaller more systematic racism women like these 3 faced on a daily basis.

Most of these kinds of movies have the evil redneck racist who is gathering the KKK. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for that. There absolutely is but sometimes such violence can make the racism harder to relate to and in a way more easy to shake off. It’s more little things that can impact me more. For example, in one scene Katherine comes into a room and a man expects her to take out the trash. Might we still sometimes expect people of certain races to do such work? We shouldn’t and movies like Hidden Figures help remind us of that.

hidden-figuresThe 3 women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, are played by Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae respectively. They are all completely lovely as brilliant mathematicians and engineers who find a way to push through the systematic racism that existed everywhere at that time. Most of the people they work with would never consider themselves racists and yet they lazily engage in stereotyping and discrimination all the time.

It can be a very simple thing like using the bathroom, drinking communal coffee or more serious things like being made a supervisor or getting the information needed to do your job. I love movies about work and the way particularly the Octavia Spencer character Dorothy maneuvered her way through the office politics was very impressive and brilliant.

hidden-figures4Kirsten Dunst is great as a supervisor over the white computers. She thinks she is being respectful of Dorothy when she really isn’t. There is a scene between the two of them in a bathroom that is so well done.

I also liked Mahershala Ali as Katherine’s beau, Glen Powell as John Glenn and Jim Parsons as Katherine’s stick in the mud colleague Paul Stafford.

hidden-figures5I remember when I used to dread seeing Kevin Costner’s name in a film and now after McFarland USA and films like that I look forward to him. He’s great here as Katherine’s boss. He just wants the job done and this makes him a bit blind to what Katherine is going through, which leads to another scene the audience cheered at.

I guess if I was going to nitpick the movie, the only real flaw I had was the music. I felt they kept playing the same snappy Pharrell Williams song as a cheap way of saying ‘look how sassy these women are’. I grew a little tired of it.

But that is a very small complaint. This is a movie you can take your kids too. It’s PG after all and afterwards have a conversation about the small and big ways we discriminate against others. Talk about how these women were heroes and made a real difference to our country despite the challenges they faced.

hidden-figures3In some ways Hidden Figures reminded me of last year’s Brooklyn (except this is true story). Both are simple, old-fashioned storytelling, about important parts of our history. They both have great messages and wonderful performances you can’t help but like. This is more family friendly than Brooklyn but please do not dismiss it because it takes the crowd-pleasing approach. It’s honestly one of my favorite movies of 2016 and I hope it gets remembered come Oscars. Regardless, take your family and be inspired by Hidden Figures.

Overall Grade- A

Overlooked Films of 2016

Today I posted a video on films I think were underrated or overlooked in 2016. Some of these got good reviews but nobody saw. Some of them I think critics were a little tough on and others have a little of both. I’d love if you check out the video and let me know what you think.

Overlooked Films of 2016 (in no particular order)

The Dressmaker– Very weird messy revenge movie that I liked. Kate Winslet is great and Liam Hemsworth is very hunky in it. I can see why others wouldn’t like it but it was just strange enough to work for me.

Florence Foster Jenkins– A seemingly cloying underdog story that is so much more. There are a lot of subversive elements particularly in Florence and her husband’s unusual relationship. It’s heartwarming but also very sad.

13 Hours- I think if this wasn’t directed by Michael Bay it would have gotten a lot more credit. It was kind of lost in January but I think it is an absorbing visceral depiction of the events at Benghazi and not as political as you might think.

Bridget Jones’s Baby- Sure this film has a million cliches but it made me laugh harder than any film in 2016. Particularly any scene in the newsroom I thought was funny. It is an R rated comedy, like all the Bridget Jones movies, but I liked it.

Eddie the Eagle- Charming underdog sports movie with great performances from all involved. I was having the worst week when I saw this film and it really cheered me up. It’s a must see if you love inspirational true stories or are an Olympics fan.

London Road- It’s been the year of musicals and this is an underseen one. They take the unique approach of using police transcripts as the lyrics for the musical. It is a mystery and as the crimes are investigated we get to know all the citizens of London Road. Plus, Tom Hardy sings in it.

Kung fu Panda 3- This made a good amount at box office but I think it has largely been forgotten by most and I think that is a real shame. The animation was so beautiful and I loved the messages of adoption and Po learning to be a teacher. My favorite of the series.

Knight of Cups- My kind of art film by director Terrence Malick about the bad sides of entertainment and Los Angeles. The cinematography is gorgeous and the acting is top notch. It won’t be for everyone but I thought it was a lovely companion to Tree of Life.

Passengers- Recently this film received a lot of attention because of a plot element determined as ‘sexist’ by some. I disagree. The lead character makes a poor choice but I thought they established why he did this and gave him punishment for it. The movie looks gorgeous and the leads have great chemistry, which is important since it’s a romance.

Midnight Special- Where everyone else is flipping out over Arrival, I prefer Midnight Special. I love the way this film dives you right into the action and doesn’t waste time on exposition and backstory. I loved the acting and what it says about the way different people believe.

Queen of Katwe– A criminally underseen movie. It turns the Disney sports movie on its head by telling a story in Africa about an impoverished girl who learns to play chess. The acting is tremendous and I was impressed how dark and gritty Disney was willing to go. I was really moved by it and I think families should watch it.

Lion- Beautiful film about a boy who is lost in India and then years later works to find his family via Google Earth. I loved everything about this movie from the story, to the performances (especially the child actors), to the adoption message. It was perfect.

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life- I wish people could appreciate when a film is done well for a particular demographic. Why must every movie please every person? Anyway, this movie is made for the pre-teen crowd and it is made well. I really liked the way they integrated animation into the story and I thought the performances were heartfelt with a surprisingly emotional message about grief and loss.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople– More of a drama than a comedy for me but a very sweet film about a boy and his foster Dad who must explore the wilderness of New Zealand. I didn’t laugh as much as some but I liked these characters and performances. It has such a big heart and looks gorgeous.

Loving- A very different film than advertised. The court case is a small part of it. Most of the movie is about the couple and how they get through life’s struggles together. I really liked it. My only flaw is that it is a little hard to understand Edgerton sometime.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comment section and take care!