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

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

Blind Spot 31: The Last Emperor

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This month for my blind spot pick I decided to take a look at a film that took home 9 Oscars including Best Picture and Director: 1987’s The Last Emperor. I didn’t know much about it going into the film except that it was a long and sumptuously mounted production. After viewing it, I agree it is long and sumptuously mounted but aside from those qualities, I wasn’t very impressed by it.

The Last Emperor was helmed by Italian director Bernardo Berlotucci and it feels European in its grand scope and leisurely pacing. It was the first Western film authorized by the PROC to be filmed in the Forbidden City in Beijing, so naturally all of the sets and locations are authentic and grand. It is completely understandable why it won Oscars for art direction, cinematography and especially costume design. The music by Ryuichi Sakamoto is also very strong.

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However, in many ways it felt like a foreigner telling a Chinese story. The Last Emperor is about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China. Evidently they based the screenplay off of Puyi’s autobiography, which is odd because so much of it rang flat and false.

To begin with, having all the characters speak English feels like an almost mocking choice. It takes you out of the scenes because this is supposed to be a serious movie and they are so obviously not speaking the right language. It’s one thing for an Indiana Jones movie to have accents but an epic masterpiece like The Last Emperor? Not so much. I guess you could make the argument it is in the traditions of old school epics like The Ten Commandments but those movies had stronger narratives to make up for the cultural awkwardness.

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Speaking of story, it boggles my mind that The Last Emperor won Best Adapted Screenplay because the narrative is very weak. We see many events happen to Puyi but I never felt sorry for him or invested in his character. For most of the movie he came across as a spoiled brat without much nuance or introspection. Towards the end he grows as a person as he is incarcerated by the communists, but I still felt distant and like I never truly understood him. We are told Puyi is the “loneliest boy on earth” but he just felt like the blandest.

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Some of the side characters are more interesting like his main wife Wanrong. She kind of has a lesbian relationship yet does seem to love Puyi and want him to succeed, which could have been interesting but it isn’t really explored in a satisfactory way. She’s a lonely character and I wish we got to know her better and have more time with her. Peter O’Toole is good as Puyi’s British tutor Reginald Johnston. He both kowtows and challenges the Chinese royal establishment, but even he could have been used more effectively and challenged more as a character.

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The frustrating thing is I can tell Puyi’s story is fascinating having gone from opulence to a puppet emperor to a prisoner and a common man all in one life. But the screenplay in The Last Emperor delivers that compelling story without any tension or emotional heft. It all landed like a thud and was really quite boring. I didn’t care about his character and the interesting parts were more like reading a textbook than watching a compelling narrative. It needed a Steven Spielberg type voice to come in with sweeping moments of drama and tension to sell the soapy dialogue and characters. That might have worked better.

I kind of wish they would remake The Last Emperor. I don’t think many are too attached to this version and there is a good story in there to tell. A modern filmmaker could have all the good qualities of this film but make it in Mandarin with a better, more compelling script and it could be an amazing film.

I can see why other people like The Last Emperor, and I do commend it for its production design, costumes, cinematography and music but it didn’t work for me as a movie. It was bland, culturally awkward and plodding. I’m glad I checked it off my blind spot list but it is definitely one I will never watch again.

frown

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!

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?

Dreamworks 11: Shark Tale

Honestly there is a side of me that just wants to say ‘this movie sucks and I hate it’ and be done with this review. I really have nothing nice to say about Shark Tale but for the sake of the series I will share with you my thoughts.

So here we go: Shark Tale is not really about a shark at all. It’s about a fish named Oscar who is a complete jerk and loser. You might not realize he is a fish because he stands upright and there are no bubbles or other fish-like attributes. All the fishes look more like lizards than fish and I hate that.

Oscar lives in an underwater city called Reef City where the main population is fish puns. We get such great humor as stars named Katie Current and Jessica Shrimpton. They also have a fast food restaurant called Fish King instead of Burger King- which is really kind of confusing when you think about it.

All this would be fine if the story was decent but it totally sucks. Oscar is a selfish creature who is constantly in debt and lying to all around him. Reef City is over-run with organized crime including Oscar’s boss Sykes and a group of sharks that are run like an Italian mob family.

One of these sharks is named Lenny (Jack Black) and his big shame is he is a vegetarian- a fact that is too feminine and weak for his crime boss father (Robert Deniro). They make a lot of mafia movie jokes and references. This can be funny like in Zootopia but they fall flat here. I didn’t laugh one time.

There is a groan worthy plot where Oscar gets mistaken as a mighty Sharkslayer and there is a media storm. The movie seems like it is trying to say something about media but it ends up feeling very cynical and strange.

There are also 2 female characters that are uncomfortable. Angie (Renee Zellweger) is the girl fish Oscar literally steals from and Lola (Angelina Jolie) is there to be a sexy temptation although why either would be wasting their time on Oscar I have no idea. Oscar is also a compulsive gambler and puts up Angie’s grandmother’s pearl at the track, which is a trashy thing to do (nice protagonist Dreamworks).

The only characters I remotely like are 2 jellyfish (Ziggy Marley and Doug E Doug) that are total Jamaican stereotypes but at least they are a little bit fun and they are supposed to be standing upright like that, so the animation is more pleasing.

The sentimentality between Lenny and his Dad at the end is completely unearned and tacked on and Oscar is never punished for lying and being a terrible fish.

I hate the animation in Shark Tale. I hate the humor. I hate the character designs. I hate the lack of bubbles and the fact it looks like it could be above the water. I hate the bloated celebrity voice cast. I hate the way the female characters are treated. I hate the lead protagonist Oscar. I hate the co -lead protagonist Lenny. I hate the mafia jokes and storyline. I hate all the puns and the patronizing humor for the adults.

There are a few good hip-hop songs which are fun but that’s about it.

I HATE THIS MOVIE!!!

It’s awful and is without a doubt one of the worst mainstream animated films of the last 20 years and definitely one of the worst to receive a Best Animated Movie Oscar nomination (For Shame!!).

This movie sucks

Overall Grade- F

frown

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

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).