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?

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Logan Lucky Review

Comedies are always weird to review. They are so much more subjective than any other genre. You can judge the performances and other movie-making skill but at the end of the day it has to make you laugh. What makes me laugh may be completely different than what makes you laugh. All that said, Logan Lucky really made me laugh. It reminded me of Talladega Nights- a movie I find hilarious- but this is less naughty than that film. It brought me back to my small town redneck roots with its clever script and engaging performances.

The story of Logan Lucky is pretty simple. It is basically a redneck version of Oceans 11 and that makes sense because both films have the same director- Steven Soderbergh. Both have similar stories and are about a team of people that are planning the heist of the century. Oceans 11 is the better film but Logan Lucky made me laugh a lot more.

The cast is so great in this. Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Riley Keough play siblings that are planning the heist (Tatum is the lead who looses his job at the beginning of the film). Adam Driver is so funny as a vet who lost his hand in the war. I love when Adam Driver does comedy. The man always makes me laugh.

To make their plan work they have to get Daniel Craig in and out of prison without anyone realizing it. Gone is James Bond! I have never seen Daniel Craig like this before. He was hilarious. Dwight Yoakam, as the warden, has one of the best gags of the movie involving Game of Thrones (which I don’t watch but it was still funny).

Daniel Craig’s brothers played by Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid were really funny. Sebastian Stan was great. It just w0rked for me. The cast also had really good chemistry together which goes a long way in a heist movie.

Some may complain that the plan is unrealistic especially for these idiots, but I didn’t care about that. Heist movies are always pretty unrealistic and besides many a redneck is surprisingly smart so I bought it. The actors all sell it and the script kept me laughing so it worked. If I had been bored than the unrealistic elements would have bothered me.

The film also looks nicer than it probably deserves to look. You can tell Steven Soderbergh is a strong director because it is shot really nice with great cinematography and lighting. It elevates the film above something like Talladega Nights. It might be sacrilege but I thought this was just as well made and entertaining as Baby Driver.

There are some flaws with the film. There is a point after the heist where they should have ended the movie but it goes on and Hillary Swank is introduced really late. We didn’t need to see the investigation or any of that. Just end with them winning and going off with the money.

Also Seth MacFarlane as a bratty race car owner didn’t work for me but he never makes me laugh- even on Family Guy.

Logan Lucky is also a surprisingly mild PG-13. The language isn’t that bad and it’s not very violent. It’s not a squeaky clean movie but it is pretty tame.  If you can handle Oceans 11 you should have no problem with the content in Logan Lucky. I would expect a movie like this to have a million f words and be more violent but it doesn’t. Yay!

So I really liked Logan Lucky. It did its job and made me laugh. I think you will all have a good time.

Overall Grade- A-

Glass Castle Review

If you follow my youtube channel you know I saw The Glass Castle last night and absolutely hated it. I must admit I don’t feel like I have the energy to hash out all the reasons I didn’t like it again, so please watch the video. However, I will give you a few.

The Glass Castle is based on a popular memoir by Jeannette Walls. It tells the story of her horrible childhood and what it was like to grow up with an abusive alcoholic father.

Unfortunately this movie seems to only half understand that. Instead Woody Harrelson as the father is often portrayed as a dreamer who wants to give his kids the stars and push them to a higher, better way of life.

This message is compounded by cutting back and forth to modern day Jeannette as played by Brie Larson. The film clearly judges her for being engaged to a yuppie man in finance and having the trappings of wealth. She is lectured to on numerous occasions about how she isn’t living up to her true potential.

I guess she should be more like her father who tells his young son that he needs to grow up and be a man after being sexually assaulted. Or when he gets drunk and allows his kids to go without food for 3 days. Or when he holds their mother out of a 2 story window by her neck. Isn’t it great being a dreamer?

I get that destructive toxic people are complex and loving them is possible but the way this movie showed the two sides of the father really bothered me and the way it judged her for living a stable better life angered me.

Other people seem to be able to get something out of it and I respect that but it really offended me and I hated it. My friend who went with me felt the same way. Free thinking is a great thing but not at the expense of childhood and innocence lost. I will not applaud this type of horrible behavior.

At one point the mother says she should stay with the father because ‘he’s the only one who believed in my painting’. Free thinking and creative endeavors have thus become a cage which is as terrifying as anything shown in Room but this movie wants you to be inspired by it. Even the music seemed to say ‘celebrate the free thinker’ at the most horrific times. Heck no!

I can only speak for myself in my reviews and I hated this movie. I thought it was morally repugnant and disgusting and these parents belonged in jail not celebrated in any way.

It really made me mad and it is my worst movie of 2017

Overall Grade- F

Current Mini Movie Reviews

Hi guys! I don’t always do full posts on every movie I’ve seen- especially when I am playing catch up. So, here are some mini- reviews of 2017 releases I’ve seen but not reviewed on the blog.

The Case for Christ- 

One of the better faith-based films I’ve seen. It just tells one man’s struggle with faith- Lee Strobel. The acting is good and the preaching is pretty subdued. It still is more for its target demo but it doesn’t pander to them or attack those who don’t believe. Even the moment of conversion is pretty subtle and moving. My religious friends will be inspired by it and enjoy it.

Overall Grade- B

Going in Style-

A group of senior citizens robbing a bank seems like an odd premise for a charming film but that’s what it turns out to be. It doesn’t dive into the deeper problems of this story and it can get sitcomy but the cast elevates it. It kind of reminded me of Fun with Dick and Jane- a movie I find very underrated.

Overall Grade- B

The Nut Job 2-

I’m as shocked as you guys are to say I enjoyed The Nut Job 2! While it isn’t going to win any academy awards it was a solid, charming animated film. It improves upon the original in pretty much every way which I admire. They took feedback and made something better. More than you can say for other franchises like Despicable Me…Anyway, the story is very played out and predictable and the villains are lame but I liked the characters much more. Plus, the animation was better and the characters much more likable. I think if people gave it a shot with an open mind they’d enjoy it as well.

For my youtube review click here

Overall Grade- B-

Landline-

This film is set in the 90s about a family in Brooklyn and each member’s issues. Naturally I enjoyed the 90s throwbacks but what made it work was the great casting. This really felt like a believable family. The way they talked and behaved towards each other felt very authentic. The two sisters (Abby Quinn and Jenny Slate) even look like they could be sisters and they had great chemistry together.  The script is fairly pedestrian but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Overall Grade- B+ (R Rated)

Dark Tower-

I haven’t been this frustrated in a fantasy film since Warcraft. At least with this film I had read the book so I had some idea what was going on but the film is so badly put together. The Gunslinger and Man in Black are supposed to be rivals and here it felt like random scenes that made no sense together.  It reminded me of Fan4stic to be honest. The ties to the Dark Tower and why The Man in Black wants to destroy it are nebulous at best. The kid is annoying and the violence means nothing because we don’t know any of the people being impacted.  The special effects look cheap and the whole thing really annoyed me. Maybe an F was harsh on my youtube review but I found it completely limp and boring. It felt like it would never end at just over 90 minutes! I liked it less than Transformers: the Last Knight, which at least has some visual spectacle. Matthew McConaughey gives a razzie worthy performance.

Overall Grade- F

Maudie-

A terrific performance from Sally Hawkins carries this biopic about an artist that has physical limitations and her unique marriage. The main problem is Ethan Hawke who plays her husband and his character seemed to swing radically from scene to scene . I never knew if I would get the kind man or the beast. Perhaps that was true to life but it felt random here. I still enjoyed it though. A solid biopic with a great lead performance.

Overall Grade- B

Jeremiah Tower: the Last Magnificent-

A documentary about a famous New York and San Francisco chef, Jeremiah Tower. This is a standard celebrity biographical documentary. It didn’t give me a ton of new insight into the culinary world but was interesting. There are a lot of celebrity interviews like Wolfgang Puck and Anthony Bourdain. It won’t blow your mind but it’s interesting enough.

Overall Grade- B- (Rated R)

If you’ve seen any of these please put in the comments section what you thought! Thanks!

In This Corner of the World Review

‘Slice of life’ films are not for everyone. Some viewers demand a narrative with a traditional start, climax and conclusion, which I can certainly appreciate. However, some of us can sit back and let a film take us to a particular time and place and simply live with characters for a little while. I love those kind of films and the new anime In This Corner of the World is such a movie. Director Sunao Katabuchi (who I had the chance to interview for Rotoscopers.com) takes us to 1945 Japan in meticulous detail as we follow the life of a young woman named Suzu.

The film starts out with Suzu in Hiroshima in 1944. She has been assigned a marriage to a young man named Shūsaku who lives in the city of Kure. Following the custom of her day she agrees to marry and moves away from her family. This may be difficult for modern viewers to understand but it is portrayed with tact and subtlety that never endorses the practice but merely says ‘this is what happened’. Luckily Shūsaku is a nice man who is probably as nervous as Suzu and the two are able to form a bond.

Of course, wartime is going on and this makes things difficult for Suzu and her new family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a war movie that was exclusively told from the perspective of civilians. We get incredible attention to detail and particularly focusing on the food- its scarcity and how it had to be prepared during wartime.  There is even a long segment that goes through how rice was prepared to make it last extra long and feed more people.

As Suzu works hard for her new family and faces the struggles of war you see her grow up and become a more confident woman. The entire time she is also an artist and sketches what she sees. This becomes more liberating as the days go by. She must eventually decide who her family is and where she belongs.

Because she is an artist, sometimes the animation can have sketchy elements to it. I was reminded of Isao Takahata and Grave of the Fireflies while watching it. It’s not quite on that level but it was beautifully animated and took some creative risk. The music was also perfect for the simple story.

Some people will find In This Corner of the World to be boring. I can completely understand that.  There is stuff that happens to Suzu but a lot of the film is profiling her daily life. You’ll either like that style or you won’t. I enjoyed it and am glad I saw it. It’s not on A Silent Voice or Your Name level but it is a quality anime film that I am better for having watched.

And this year in animation how many movies can you say that about…

Overall Grade- B+

Emoji Movie Review

We live in divisive times. Folks are arguing over politics, relationships and even sports. What’s one thing everyone seems to agree on? Well, that the Emoji Movie sucks. This is a clear fact but do I agree?

There was a side of me hoping Emoji Movie would be a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately it is not a strong film. I don’t know if I can cosign the worst of the reviews but I can see where they are coming from. It’s just not a good movie.

There are some positives. I liked the animation for the most part. It was bright and colorful and some of the world building in the phone looked cool. Also the voice cast was fine. I particularly liked Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge in their roles.

Unfortunately there are major problems. The biggest is The Emoji Movie is incredibly derivative. It borrows or shares similar elements with Inside Out, Minions, Wreck-it Ralph, Zootopia, The Lego Movie, A Bug’s Life, Sausage Party, Trolls, Angry Birds Movie, Sing, Secret Life of Pets, Toy Story and more.

Sometimes having a derivative story isn’t a problem. Many criticized The Good Dinosaur for being derivative of The Lion King but it had enough creativity, heart and beautiful visuals to engross me. The Emoji Movie doesn’t have anything like that to distract you from the reused plot points so it ends up feeling kind of dull.

The lead character Gene doesn’t fit in and has to go on a journey to learn to be himself. This is tired enough but along the way he meets a cool talking girl and a snarky boy (Jailbreak and High 5). These sidekicks do nothing to build a compelling story and are mostly annoying.

The movie could be saved by its laughs but they aren’t there. Some of the jokes don’t even make sense. From the marketing you would think Sir Patrick Stewart as the Poop Emoji would get big laughs but he really doesn’t. He is in 3 or 4 scenes and that’s it.

In Inside Out the world was constantly morphing and changing depending on what happens to Riley and the emotions. Here the emojis journey annoys the teen Alex but that’s about it. Plus, the idea that kids don’t talk to each other at all is a little hard to believe even for the greatest of cynics. At the very least Alex had to talk to the girl he likes to get her phone number and she sends him a text to begin with!

There is some creativity in the world of the apps but the problem is most of the time they feel completely superfluous. Like they spend a segment in youtube and another in spotify for no reason and they didn’t quite get the spirit of what those apps are all about to begin with.

The villain is pretty annoying and everything plays out just as you expect. There is also a plot with Mr and Mrs Meh that did nothing for me.

The Emoji Movie isn’t the worst animated film I’ve seen but it’s not good. There’s nothing offensive about it (except maybe the glaring product placement) so you can take your kids and they will be moderately entertained but why do that when they can watch Captain Underpants or Cars 3 instead? Those are far superior films than The Emoji Movie. I guess at least I wasn’t offended like I was after watching The Killing Joke (reaching here).

In the end, it’s not epicly bad to be memorable like Norm of the North but it’s far from good. It feels like a waste of time and resources when they could have made something that said something about communication and our phones. Even if it just had better jokes that would have been watchable but alas it was not to be.

Here is my youtube review:

Now I want to forget about The Emoji Movie and move on to the next animated film of 2017. Oh wait, that’s the Nut Job 2 🙁

Overall Grade- D

A Ghost Story Review

In a world of blockbusters it is easy to forget that film can be art. We can ignore plot and/or characters and look at a film as an art piece if in the right hands. This can be very obnoxious like Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialisme or it can be powerful like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. I have long been a bit of an apologist for these kinds of films but can readily see why some people hate them. The new film A Ghost Story falls in this vein and it is an extremely unusual movie.

The narrative is very simple. Basically a man played by Casey Affleck dies and returns as a schoolyard style ghost with a sheet and 2 eye-holes covering him. He then proceeds to follow his wife played by Rooney Mara looking throughout time for something important. We don’t know what but he watches and waits.

This movie is not for everyone. Just to give you some flavor there is a good 5 minute scene (at least) where Rooney Mara eats a pie and the ghost stares at her.

A Ghost Story was directed by David Lowery who did the enchanting Pete’s Dragon last year, and he is a filmmaker to watch. The movie looks stunning (cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo should be praised). It’s as gorgeous as anything Emmanuel Lubezki has done for Inaritu or Malick. I also loved it was shot with a unique aspect ratio to give it a vintage feel.

The film is also really short at 92 minutes so that helps you feel more tolerant of its artistic approach and lack of narrative.

My only flaw with the film is I’m not really sure what it is trying to say? It has something to do with being remembered and how life goes on without you but it feels like it was trying to say more than that and I didn’t get it. You could see the ambiguity as a good thing, but I was left a little befuddled by it.  I’ve been surprised with number of reviews claiming A Ghost Story as a powerful treatise on life and human nature  because I didn’t connect with it on that kind of emotional level.

But as a beautiful piece of art I admired it greatly and am still thinking about what it is trying to say and there’s something to that. I’m certainly glad I saw it.

A Ghost Story is not scary at all. If you come in expecting a horror movie you will be very disappointed. It is a pretty mild R rating with just a few swears and mild sensuality. So if it sounds like something might interest you give it a shot. If not then I doubt you will like it.

Overall Grade- B

If you have seen A Ghost Story let me know what you think it is trying to say? I would love your thoughts

 

Dunkirk Review

There are few directors that inspire such fanaticism and devotion as Christopher Nolan. Fortunately usually his name is worthy of such adulation. In my opinion, he hasn’t come out with a bad movie yet. His latest film, Dunkirk, is an unusual movie but in the end an amazing experience at the movies.

Watching Dunkirk reminded me of the Civil War reenactments that are popular where I grew up. People gather together to recreate a battle and while they have character names the battle is the important thing not the narrative. Likewise Dunkirk is a reenactment of a battle without a narrative to accompany it. I can see how this would annoy some viewers but it is executed so well that it worked.

Nolan splits up Dunkirk into 3 parts- mole, sea, and air. Each of these segments follow different people and are at slightly different timetables. This means you see the same boat sink 3 times, same plane get shot down 3 times etc. However, each time you are seeing it from different perspectives.

There is Harry Styles as a soldier on the ground looking out for a mole in their midst.  Then Tom Hardy is in the air trying to take down German planes. And finally Mark Rylance commanding a pleasure boat to be one of the many civilians who aided the trapped soldiers at Dunkirk.

Of all the narratives I think Mark Rylance and his sons works the best and is the only point that made me cry. You don’t learn anyone’s names or their backstories but it still moved me the most.

Truth is Dunkirk is an experience more than it is a movie. It works because it is so well made and immersive. You feel like you are on the ground with those troops or on the boat with Mark Rylance. The sound design is so great it can be shocking that it is not real. It makes you want to reach out and help the boys as if they were right beside you. It’s that real.

All the performances are top notch and in pretty much every way it is masterfully made on a technical level. It was an amazing experience to feel war on such a visceral and intimate level.

However, often these experience movies are not the most rewatchable of films. I don’t think every movie needs to be rewatchable but it is something to think about. I don’t think it would have the same impact on the small screen. It wouldn’t be as immersive or real and I might start itching for more character development.

I recommend you go and see Dunkirk in the theaters, in IMAX if possible (the 70mm option wasn’t available for me unfortunately). It’s an experience you won’t soon forget. It’s not a narrative. It’s a reenactment and in that regard it is quite special.

Overall Grade- A-

Valerian Review

Today I had the chance to see Luc Besson’s new film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It is an epic scifi fantasy film and I really enjoyed it. I’ve read other reviews with all kinds of criticisms and for whatever reason most of those critiques just didn’t bother me. I was thoroughly entertained while watching this film.

As you can probably tell from the trailer, the greatest strength of Valerian is the amazing visuals. Besson has created not only one beautiful world like they do in a movie like Avatar but he has created dozens of worlds and they are all beautiful. I was dazzled by the visuals in this movie. The pacing is also really strong as it clips along from one scene to another it doesn’t give you much time to focus on the problems.I particularly loved a sequence where there is a hologram market that is mixed in with a beach. The team is trying to hunt down an artifact and it switches between the hologram and regular world in very creative ways.

I wouldn’t say the story is the greatest thing ever but I found it unpredictable and fresh. Some have complained about the script but I thought it was fine. Some have complained about the acting but I thought it was fine. Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan have good chemistry and I thought they worked playing these investigators.

Rihanna has a brief but moving role as a exotic dancer/immigrant character. The visuals in her dance number were great and then she has to play off some emotion and I thought that worked.

I think what saves Valerian besides the visuals is it never takes itself too seriously. I am one of few who defended Jupiter Ascending but it definitely took itself too seriously at times. This film knows it is a light hearted lark through space and it owns that. I watched it with a big smile on my face from beginning to end.

It’s not a perfect film but none of the flaws stopped me from enjoying the film and having a great time. It’s not confusing like Warcraft or plodding like Independence Day Resurgence. It’s just a fun, scifi movie where we get to investigate a mystery in crazy places.

People love complaining about a lack of originality in Hollywood. Well, here is the chance to support something that is new, fresh and extremely creative. You might not enjoy it like I did but I think you will be glad you took a chance on something new. I am sure glad I did! I can picture this film becoming a bit of a cult classic but don’t wait for that. See it now!

Overall Grade- B+

As far as content there is a stripper scene and some mild violence but it is pretty tame.