Thursday, January 17, 2019

Best of '18: Roma






















We are alone. No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone.

Major movie studios should be shaking in their boots... Netflix (and other streamers) are coming for them. For the second year in a row, Netflix has produced and marketed one of the best films of the year (for 2017 it was Mudbound by the way). Sure, it would've been nice to have seen this with an audience on the big screen, but more likely I would've been alone on a Tuesday afternoon. Not to mention taking a family of four to see a movie would pay your Netflix bill for three months. Still, just because movies are more accessible doesn't mean you shouldn't be meticulous with your choices. It pains me to see folks falling all over themselves for run-of-the-mill meme generators like Bird Box when movies like this are out there on the same platform.

With Roma Alfonso Cuaron deconstructs many of the elements that have made his films so groundbreaking (Gravity, Children of Men) and gets to the essence of central human emotion. He ditches even technicolor as he literally returns to his roots to tell a story based on his childhood that is able to capture true love, heartache, loss, and family. Roma never feels like a movie so much as it is an invitation into the life of this very specific native housemaid. I see this film as a jumping off point if you are hungering for more challenging movies. There are no car chases, superheroes, or jump scares here, just true empathy and loving cinema.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Best of '18: Blindspotting


The difference between me and you is... I ain't no killer. I ain't no killer.

Daveed Diggs is living his best life. Born in Oakland to an African American father and Jewish mother, he was recruited and went to Brown University where he broke the schools record for 110m hurdles and earned a BA in Theater. He performed for a few years in experimental theater until he was discovered by Lin-Manuel Miranda and debuted the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in "Hamilton" (for which he won a Tony and a Grammy). After a handful of other credits, he returned to Oakland to write and star in "Blindspotting" with his friend Rafael Casal.

Diggs' determination and talent aren't the only thing that makes this film brilliant. He tells the story of a young man of color who is trying to come back from a stint in prison in a world of gentrification, racism, and violence. "Blindspotting" delicately, hilariously, and effectively deals with these tough and timely issues. This is the most criminally underseen movie of 2018 (and, as of this writing, my favorite). 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Best of '18: If Beale Street Could Talk


Remember, love is what brought you here. And if you’ve trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way.

I admit it.... I wasn't on board with "Moonlight". I liked it, it was beautiful, but it fell prey to that curse so many movies stumbled into during my life: winning an Oscar over my favorite film of the year. Don't get me wrong, the movie is visually stunning, but I just felt that Barry Jenkins writing did not live up to the moving storyline and artistic presentation.

 "Beale St." solves that problem by starting with source material from James Baldwin. Jenkins visual style meshes perfectly with Baldwin's poetic prose. From start to finish, this films sits ups straighter and holds its head higher than other movies. This will be the first of a handful of entries to my "best of" that tackles race-related issues, but "Beale St." is so much more than that. This isn't a beautiful black film, a moving political statement, or even a masterful period piece. "If Beale Street Could Talk" is a beautiful, moving, masterpiece. It transcends the labels that we put on films. I cannot stress how gorgeous this film is. I wanted to feel the sunshine coming into the windows of the loft, I yearned to embrace the characters during their times of struggle, and I hungered to share in the love that fueled this little family. The next best thing I can do to satiate myself is to love as much as I can, in all the ways that I can, all the people that I can.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

....It Begins.... My Oscar Ballot

Academy members have their Oscar nominations ballots in hand so maybe they'll click on a random blogspot and I can convince them of a few crazy picks. I have plenty more films to see, but if I were filling out a nomination sheet for 2018, this is how it would look:

Best Picture: Blindspotting
Best Actor: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Best Actress: Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Best Supporting Actor: Armie Hammer, Sorry to Bother You
Best Supporting Actress: Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace
Best Animated Feature: Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Cinematography: Roma
Best Costume Design: Mary Poppins Returns
Best Director: Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Best Documentary Feature: Won't You Be My Neighbor
Best Film Editing: Sorry to Bother You
Best Foreign Language Film: Roma
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Aquaman
Best Original Score: First Man
Best Original Song: "Not a Game", Blindspotting
Best Production Design: Sorry to Bother You
Best Sound Editing: Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Sound Mixing: Blindspotting
Best Visual Effects: Ready Player One
Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Best Original Screenplay: Eighth Grade
Best Animated Short: One Small Step

I'll try to get some "Best of '18" reviews up soon!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Grand Finale!!


Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There, No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James..., The Reader, True Grit, Skyfall, Prisoners, Unbroken, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049. 14, count 'em FOURTEEN nominations for Roger Deakins without a win. This has GOT to be the year for the greatest living cinematographer. C'mon Academy, you can do it!!!

My Ballot
Blade Runner 2049
Mudbound
The Shape of Water
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk

My Pick to Win
Blade Runner 2049

Shamefully Snubbed
Call Me by Your Name


Editing
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is Baby Driver's award. I present to you Exhibit A, B, C, D, E....Z...:
The best opening scene in any movie since Carl and Ellie.

My Ballot
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Pick to Win
Baby Driver

Shamefully Snubbed
T2: Trainspotting


Directing
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

I think this is a heads up battle between Jordan Peele (the Oscars signaling they are finally done with #OscarSoWhite) and Guillermo del Toro (the actual best director of 2017). I hate to put it that bluntly, but #truth.

My Ballot
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out

My Pick to Win
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Shamefully Snubbed
Dee Rees, Mudbound



Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

As you can probably guess from the picture above I think this is a three movie race. If this was the 2015 Academy, I would say this is a slam dunk for Three Billboards as the movie with the early lead usually held strong and the upsets were just lip service discussed to keep people interested for the two month lead up to the big night. Moonlight made it quite clear that times have changed. As I'm typing this, Get Out just won the Independent Spirit Award. It's a fine film, but I just feel that it is the least award-worthy of any of the nominated films. It is an above-average horror film with a VERY smart anti-racism hook, but it's just not a groundbreaking piece of cinematic art. I hope the Academy's ranking system allows The Shape of Water to sneak in between the traditionalists and the member's collective guilt. Of course, my favorite, Call Me by Your Name, doesn't stand a chance.

My Ballot
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water
Lady Bird
Darkest Hour
The Post
Phantom Thread
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Dunkirk
Get Out

My Pick to Win
The Shape of Water

Shamefully Snubbed
Mudbound


For anybody keeping score at home, here is a list of my complete 2018 Oscar predictions:
Picture: The Shape of Water
Directing: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Editing: Baby Driver
Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Actress in a Supporting Role: Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Actor in a Supporting Role: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Original Screenplay: Lady Bird
Adapted Screenplay: Call Me by Your Name
Song: "Remember Me", Coco
Score: The Shape of Water
Documentary: Faces Places
Documentary Short: Edith + Eddie
Live Action Short: DeKalb Elementary
Foreign Language: A Fantastic Woman
Animated Feature: Coco
Animated Short: Dear Basketball
Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes
Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Makeup & Hair: Darkest Hour
Production Design: The Shape of Water
Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Sound Mixing: Baby Driver

Whew.... 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Spirit Awards

I wasn't able to watch as many Film Independent nominated movies this year due to lack of availability and successfully watching every Academy nominated movie. Still, I will soldier on to give you my favorite in each nominated category. I will leave a gap if I haven't seen the movies.

Best Feature
Call Me by Your Name
Lady Bird
The Florida Project
Get Out

The Rider


Best First Feature
Patti Cake$
Ingrid Goes West

Columbus
Menashe
Oh Lucy!


Best Director
Sean Baker, The Florida Project
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Good Time

Jonas Carpignano, A Ciambra
Chloe Zhao, The Rider


Best Screenplay
Lady Bird
The Lovers
Beatriz at Dinner
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Get Out


John Cassavetes Award
The Transfiguration

Dayveon
A Ghost Story
Life and Nothing More
Most Beautiful Island


Best First Screenplay
The Big Sick
Ingrid Goes West
Donald Cried

Women Who Kill
Columbus


Best Editing
Call Me by Your Name
Good Time
I'Tonya
Get Out

The Rider


Best Cinematography
Call Me by Your Name
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Beach Rats

Columbus
The Rider


Best Male Lead
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Harris Dickinson, Beach Rats
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Robert Pattinson, Good Time
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out


Best Female Lead
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Shinobu Terajima, Oh Lucy!
Regina Williams, Life and Nothing More


Best Supporting Female
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Lois Smith, Marjorie Prime
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Taliah Lennice Webster, Good Time


Best Supporting Male
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Benny Safdie, Good Time
Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name
Nnamdi Asomugha, Crown Heights

I'll be watching tomorrow night!!!

Countdown to Oscar Night: Acting


I'm going to cover all four categories here, but it should be pretty quick. This is the easiest to pick acting field in a few years.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Leslie Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Two of these nominees don't belong: Leslie Manville was completely forgettable as Daniel Day-Lewis' older sister, and Octavia Spencer has become my generation's Meryl Streep (oh, she was in an awards-worthy film? make sure she comes to the party!). As for the other three, Alison Janney is going to win even though it feels a bit like a lifetime-achievement award. Laurie Metcalf gave the best performance of the five, but I will root for Mudbound to win anything!

My Ballot
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Leslie Manville, Phantom Thread
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

My Pick to Win
Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Shamefully Snubbed
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick


Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Christopher Plummer with the sympathy vote, Woody Harrelson for cursing a lot and then offing himself (spoiler alert-sorry), Willem Dafoe as the best part in a great film that was just too cool for the Academy, Richard Jenkins in the best role of his career as the reluctant sidekick, and the Oscar goes to ...... Sam Rockwell, one of Hollywood's nicest guys who made us believe he was one of cinema's worst humans (or best redemption story depending on your take on Three Billboards...).

My Ballot
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

My Pick to Win
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Shamefully Snubbed (maybe the biggest snub of 2017, this guy gave THREE great supporting performances!)
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water, The Post



Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Sally Hawkins and Margot Robbie both turned in beautiful performances, arguably the best of their careers. Saoirse Ronan gave probably what will be her career defining performance (at least the middle part of what will hopefully be a very long career). Any of these three women could have been on cruise control to win an Oscar in any other year, but they all had no chance the moment Frances McDormand climbed that ladder to repaint those billboards. Her performance IS this film. When they say Three Billboards.... for Best Picture at the end of the night, she should go up on stage alone throw up a backwards peace sign and roll off the stage. She was magnificent.

My Ballot
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Meryl Streep, The Post

My Pick to Win
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Shamefully Snubbed
Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner


Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Save for a couple of the above names, what an incredibly weak year for lead male performances...  I guess it was fitting though... they've had their day. I can honestly say that the female acting field this year is far heftier than the male. Other than Oldman, these performances probably wouldn't have been nominated in a normal year. Chalamet's is the best as a young man who loses his first love, but the others are completely forgettable. It doesn't really matter though, Gary Oldman is transformative. If Winston Churchill could see the movie, I'm sure he would be impressed and flattered. It is easily the best performance of a real life individual since Daniel Day-Lewis himself took the whole acting community to school in Lincoln.

My Ballot
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

My Pick to Win 
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Shamefully Snubbed
Harris Dickinson, Beach Rats