Friday, February 24, 2017

A review you can use: More best pictures?

Hello all!  

So I wasn't able to see all 9 films nominated for best picture, but I did manager to catch two more, to get my total to 7.  I'll review "Arrival" and "Hacksaw Ridge" and then make my pick for best picture.


This one is a thinker, to be sure.  But let's start with the acting.  Amy Adams takes the lead here as a linguist enlisted by the US government to talk to a pod of aliens who have landed in Montana, and in a number of other places around the world.  She tries to work together with international linguists and one skeptical mathematician (Jeremy Renner) to find out why the aliens are on Earth and what they want.  This might be the best I've seen Adams, who has become somewhat of a one note for me lately. Here she tackles a plot that is on a fine line between clever and second rate sci fi  (and it falls on the side of very clever, BTW) and she handles it with a depth I've not seen from her.  Jeremy Renner is serviceable, although the point of his character is pretty much lost until the end, and then it's a little bit of a "Well he had to be there because the script said so" moment.  This is far deeper than some run of the mill sci fi flick, and it's going to appeal to a far larger audience.  Possibly the most cerebral of all the films nominated for Best Picture, this one will spark heated debates about time and the future.  

Hacksaw Ridge:

I have no problem saying this is my favorite of the movies nominated for Best Picture, and it
shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who reads my reviews with any regularity.  The TRUE STORY (check!) of a Wold War II hero (CHECK!) told in a no holds bar manner (think "Saving Private Ryan" BIG CHECK!) and staring Andrew Garfield as a Conscientious Objector who was the only American soldier sent to the front lines without a gun...and he managed to save 75 soldiers' lives serving as a medic during the battle of Okinawa.) Desmond Doss, our hero, is the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  RING A DING DING.  So yes, I loved the movie, warts and all (this not for the faint of heart.)  War buffs, history buffs are all going to love this and if you're an Andrew Garfield fan, this is a MUST WATCH.  He's my pick for Best Actor.  The depth of emotion and strength of character it took to make this film work is on his shoulders. Watch for a surprisingly good performance by Vince Vaughn.

So...who's going to win Best Picture, Sarah?

Well, I know I'd like to see Hacksaw Ridge or Hidden Figures win, but reality is that the Oscar voters are made up of Hollywood insiders and Hollywood has all but wet its pants over "La La Land."   I guess I'm okay with any of the other 8 films winning, so long as "Manchester by the Sea" gets shut out.  

As for the other race I care about...Best Actor...again, I would LOVE to see Andrew Garfield get the nod, but again, it's going to go to someone less deserving.  Denzel Washington is the crowd favorite, but the sick, sad fact of the matter is that Casey Affleck is probably going to win for his cardboard stiff work in "Manchester."  I heard someone on the radio say it took a lot of restraint to do what he did in that film.  I disagree. I think it took a lot of lack of talent to be that blank faced for a full 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Best Director...again, we have a couple Hollywood heavy hitters. Mel Gibson should win for "Hacksaw" but he's persona non grata in the Liberal LA LA Land, so I think the real race is between Denzel  Washington for Fences and Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester although Barry Jenkins may surprise everyone for Moonlight. The voters may split and give Damien Chazelle the Oscar for La La Land and then toss Lonergan the writing award for Manchester.  

So my picks, if you're betting:  

Best Picture:  La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck  (gag)

Best Director:  Damien Chazelle

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Review You Can Use! Best Pictures?

Hello!  So it's that time of year, the time of year when movies we wouldn't normally go see become the center of the universe because Oscar says so.

Of the nine films nominated this year for Best Picture I've seen five, with plans to see the rest, although I may not because two of them (Fences and Moonlight) are currently no longer in theaters but aren't on video yet.  Meanwhile, Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge will be out on video before the awards, to I'll manage at least 7 of the 9.

That said, I've seen five and I'm here to review those that I've seen.  Ready?

Hidden Figures:

The pretty much untold story of three African American women who used their mathematical brilliance to help launch astronaut John Glenn in to orbit.

This is everything a movie goer could ask for.  Based on a true story:  Check.  Not a piece of history that's been beaten to death, but something that actually educates us on a moment in time that your high school history class didn't have time to teach you:  Check. Dramatic, entertaining, funny: Check.  Great music: Check.  Well written and true to the times: Check  Time flies by while you're watching it and you find yourself standing up and applauding:  CHECK.  In a perfect world this would be a perfect movie and honestly it's got to be a front runner for best picture.  Stellar performances (When Kevin Costner is a secondary character you know the picture's going to be great!) all around and Octavia Spencer gets the nomination for best supporting, (and I'm going to argue that Taraji P. Henson's performance FAR outshines anything Meryl Streep did in "Florence Foster Jenkins" so there's your snub.)  (Still in Theaters.)

Hell or High Water:

Fans of "The Big Short" and "99 Homes" are going to love this fictional "banks are evil" buddy picture. Ben Foster and Chris Pine are brothers who rob specific banks to save the family ranch.  Their reason behind the crimes will ring true with many Americans.  Jeff Bridges is nominated for best supporting actor for his role as a crusty almost retired Texas ranger.  Really this wasn't a stretch for Bridges, he's basically redoing his role in "True Grit."  Ben Foster is once again not nominated for his beautiful work.  (He should have gotten a best supporting nod for "3:10 to Yuma.") and Chris Pine shows us something we've not seen from him before: deeply emotional work that has nothing to do with the Starship Enterprise.  While this is every bit as worthy as any other movie on the list  (and more so than some) I don't think it has a chance in Hell  (see what I did there?) of winning best Picture. Still, it's an A+ in my book, and well worth a look.  (Currently on video.)

Manchester by the Sea: 

The death of his older brother brings a man back to his hometown to face his past.

Sounds like a good start, right?  Wrong.  THIS IS A BAD MOVIE.   I realize it's probably the front runner for best of everything, but this is a hot mess of a pointless movie.  I go back to the year "Titanic" was nominated for everything and people were losing their MINDS over the fact that Leo di Caprio wasn't nominated for best actor.    Well, said many of the geniuses  (Like my husband) the problem with Leo's part in that movie was that it was static. There was no growth, the character stayed the same from start to finish.

Casey Affleck not only doesn't grow emotionally, he doesn't change facial expression for the ENTIRE MOVIE.  The run time on this is 2 hours and 17 minutes.  You would think that in that kind of run time there would be, oh I don't know, a moment where he's frowning, or a hint of a smile. Nope.  Nothing. He is a blank face the whole time.  The first twenty minutes are painfully dull. The ending is a head scratcher that tells me they ran out of money before the story was finished.  The editing is horrible. There are moments of dialogue that lead the viewer to the idea that something deeper is going on, that there's some big mystery of a back story...and yet nothing comes of it.  You walk away feeling like whole chunks of the script were cut out to make way for endless shots of BOATS ON WATER. WE GET IT.  THEY LIVE BY THE SEA.  THERE ARE BOATS! How about explaining what that woman meant when she said, "He is never to be allowed back in here."  WHY?  What did he do?  Why don't you want him hired?  WHAT IS GOING ON?

And as if that's not enough, the story is so depressing, so monotone, it feels like it's taken too much prozac.  Like the characters would get angry, but you know, they're too busy being depressed.  Oh sure, there are flashes of emotion. There's a breath here and there of a heartbeat, but then we all get back in that SUV and drive through the woods and look at boats on the water.

People said this movie made them cry.  Honestly, it's SO DARK it becomes a farce and my friend and I wound up laughing halfway through because it's too much.  There's grief, there's loss, and then there's this endless blather of red herrings, unexplained longing glances, pointless hints, and dialogue delivered like it's from a high school kid who was forced to be in the play.

If Casey Affleck wins best Actor for this complete waste of air, I may give up on the Oscars completely.


You probably haven't seen this film, but you MUST.  The story of a young Indian boy who gets separated from his family and winds up on the streets of Calcutta. He is picked up by an adoption agency and adopted by and Australian couple.  Once he's grown up, he goes on a quest to find his birth family.

This movie is EVERYTHING "Manchester by the Sea" is not.  It's a true story, it's dark, it's depressing, and yet it's uplifting and at the end you're crying like a baby and you don't even care.

Sunny Pawar is the cutest person in the world  and draws the viewer in with his utter charm and honesty. You just want to take the kid in and make him a sandwich. This is a movie that catches you and won't let go. There isn't a moment that's not connected, there isn't a disjointed, out of place bit of dialogue.  Beautifully acted, beautifully shot, and utterly satisfying, THIS should be best picture!

LA LA Land:

I'm not as in love with La La Land and maybe the rest of the world is.  It's utterly charming, there's no denying it. Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling is a far more fun, less over exposed super movie couple than Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper.  (Not that anyone was asking me, but you know, I had to get that in there.)  Stone/Gosling are adorable, cute, emotional from start to finish. This is a joyful film, full of color, music, and light.  Where it falls short for me might be something outside the movie itself. The film was sold as a "love letter to Hollywood" so I sort of went in with a stale taste in my mouth because so much of Hollywood have become pretty self-righteous, humorless podium thumpers of late.  (For the record, I'm not political and I don't subscribe to a party.  I just think entertainers getting an award should say thank you and find someplace else to make speeches.)  Writing this nearly a week after I saw it, I realize the only real problem I have with the film is I felt betrayed by the ending.  Otherwise, this is a charmer.  Stone and Gosling may want to think about doing a few more musicals.  It's chemistry that just works. I feel like both will ride the Golden Globes wave to an Oscar. And if this is all that's standing between us and "Manchester by the Sea" being crowned best picture, then I say YES, make this best picture!

There you have the first five. I have four more to go and only a couple weeks to get there.  Let's hope I can make better Oscar pics than I have in the past!  (I would LOVE to win first place at my Oscar Party!_