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.




Lion:

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!_

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