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2017 Conclusion

results-2017I predicted 7 out of 19 correctly this year. As usual, a couple of my wrong guesses went in the direction of my personal choice (sound editing, visual effects).

I realize it’s been a week since the Oscars. At first, I waited to write this post because I needed time to clear my head. And then, I just didn’t want to do it. But out of appreciation for the small handful of people who follow this blog, both on WordPress and Facebook, here is my conclusion.

The Oscars aren’t fun anymore. It’s not even about the politics. It’s more about the fact that the quantitative and qualitative standards of filmmaking are being ignored in order to serve individuals or groups. A blurry film shouldn’t win Best Picture. But that wasn’t even my main issue with the night. It’s just the easiest example to point to. (And I don’t have the energy to get into the whole Best Picture debacle which I’m 87.9% sure was intentional. And also, no, I didn’t want La La Land to win either.)

There are multiple purposes for creating movies, or any form of art. It may hold a mirror up to reality and expose it. It can change reality to help you escape it. It elicits all range of emotions, including those that make you laugh. It might show us the past or give us a vision for the future. It could tell true stories from our world or awaken our imaginations with fantasy. All these things can be valid forms of art when they are done WELL.

We’ve reached a point where movies are only taken seriously if they’re depressing, upsetting, or shocking. When a person is drowning, you don’t show them why they’re drowning. You help them get out. I feel like the world is drowning. Yes, it’s important to bring exposure to things the average Joe may not see on a regular basis. But there’s a reason why most Oscar nominated films have low turnout in the theaters until they get nominated. After dealing with whatever issues are going on in your life, if you’re choosing to go out to the theater, more often than not you don’t want to see something that’s going to make you feel worse. I actually overheard almost this exact conversation one day when I went to the movies from a couple standing behind me. Although I do enjoy a good, thoughtful film and even a well-made depressing film, my issue with the current trend is that the overall quality of these films is being disregarded as long as the subject matter serves a purpose to someone. 

I started this blog to celebrate my love of cinema. I did it for me. The fact that I’ve gained some followers over the years and that I have friends on Facebook that ask me about my blog every year always surprises me. For now, though, this has become something that I do not wish to continue. (If you look at my prediction success rate over the past 7 years, there’s a steady decline in my accuracy that matches up with the slow degeneration of the Academy Awards ceremony. It’s an interesting correlation.) It’s hard to give up something that I’ve put so much love and investment into. I have a year to consider my options, but for now, this will have to be goodbye.

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The Lobster

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Movie: The Lobster
What it’s up for: Original Screenplay

In the future, being single is illegal. Singles are gathered and sent to a hotel where they live for 45 days and try to find a suitable partner to spend their life with. If they don’t, they get turned into an animal of their choice.

Guys, guys, guys this movie is so GOOD. It so good just because of how interesting the plot is. It does that thing where you don’t get all the background information at once. It slowly reveals what’s going on over time. I love that. It’s a quirky, indie European film.

The screenplay is just amazing. It’s clever and unique. It tells the story well. There’s great use of things happening in the background that help you understand what’s going on in the film. For example, at one point, our characters are in the woods and random animals will just walk behind them. Those are the people who got turned into animals. We see a camel and a flamingo and many other animals that don’t belong in the woods.

The movie takes a satirical look at relationships that’s refreshing yet convicting. The couples are matched based on a common interest or similar physical trait. They call it being “well suited”. The whole thing is one well-written farce and it’s fantastic. 

 

Passengers

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Movie: Passengers
What it’s up for: Original Score, Production Design

Space movie! But it’s a different kind of space movie. A passenger vessel, on its way to a colony planet encounters an asteroid field causing one of its passengers (Chris Pratt) to come out of hypersleep (or whatever type of sleep they call it, I can’t remember) decades too early. Alone and lonely on the ship, he decides to wake up one of the other passengers (Jennifer Lawrence) even though it means she will also be condemned to spending the rest of her life on the ship.

I actually really enjoyed this one. It’s one of the few happy films in the roster. It might seem cheesy to some, but I thought it was fun and exciting.

Score – two words: Thomas Newman. If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know how I feel about Thomas Newman. He’s the most nominated living composer to never win an Oscar. He deserves one. Unfortunately, this year is probably not his year.

The production design is about the same as any space movie. However, that is a high quality standard. It was beautiful, particularly the space effects.

I love it. Go watch it.

Predictions

2017-predictionsOk, here we are. Leading Actress and Makeup and Hairstyling I had to just pull out of thin air because I haven’t seen any of them.

I’m going the opposite direction with my predictions compared to last year. Last year I did a lot of analysis into other award shows and it totally threw me off. This year, I’m going almost entirely by my gut. We’ll see. Last year I was also really stressed out about being wrong but after being SO WRONG last year, I don’t care anymore. It just goes to show that a little failure now and then can help you be more confident in the future.

Moonlight

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MovieMoonlight
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Film Editing

Moonlight tells the story of a poor boy named Chiron growing up in Miami who is discovering who he is compared to who others expect him to be. He struggles to find purpose and meaning as he grows up, hoping to find where he belongs.

First and foremost, I have to criticize the cinematography and film editing. Half of the movie is out of focus. Literally. I’m not sure what happened there. I assume it must be some sort of artistic choice that represents the difficulty of discerning who you are as you grow up…or something. However, it makes the movie almost unwatchable. I had to close my eyes a few times because the distortion was messing with my head. Outside of that, the lighting and framing are creative and effective…when you can see it. But, the score is great. It’s eclectic and also helps with some of the exposition.

Mahershala Ali gives a great performance, however, he’s in less than 1/3 of the film. He’s not the first actor/actress to get nominated for a role that has a short screentime. That practice isn’t something I fully understand. Although he did great, I felt like he didn’t have enough time to make an impact. What was more impactful was how Trevante Rhodes channeled Ali’s characteristics as he played adult Chiron.

Naomie Harris blew her performance out of the water. She played Chiron’s drug addict mother who grows and changes just like Chiron. She was incredible and impressive in her range and depth of performance.

I can’t say much about the screenplay because this one is also achingly slow. Fortunately, it’s also the shortest of the movies. There are few conflict/resolution plot points in the film. It’s basically one big conflict, which is Chiron discovering himself. I understand that that’s the point, but not enough happens in the movie to even track his growth. *Spoiler alert* It also ends with no resolution which is frustrating after such a slow film.

Barry Jenkins wrote and directed Moonlight which leads me to believe he was going in a Boyhood or Terrence Malick direction with the film. If that’s the case, kudos and well done. If that’s not the case, then it’s just a slow film without an engaging plot. Perhaps he was just trying to portray realism. I get that filmmakers like to do that and those are the movies that get nominated for awards. But it’s just so depressing.

Predictions
Best Picture – Doubtful
Director – Doubtful
Supporting Actor –  Probable
Supporting Actress – Highly possible
Adapted Screenplay – Unlikely…I think
Cinematography – I doubt it
Original Score – Nope
Film Editing – Doubtful

 

Manchester by the Sea

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MovieManchester by the Sea
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) becomes the legal guardian of his nephew (Lucas Hedges) after his brother’s death. He’s forced to face his own demons as he figures out what the future will look like for him and Patrick.

Manchester suffers slightly from the 2016 slow-plot epidemic, but much less so than the other nominees. The acting makes up for it. Casey Affleck is incredible as a troubled and haunted man whose just trying to deal with life. Lucas Hedges definitely deserved his nomination for playing Affleck’s nephew. I’ve been impressed by the “child” actors this year. Michelle Williams comes out swinging at a specific and important part of the film and I would love to see her win this year.

You can tell the difference in direction quality between this and Lion. And again, my favorite thing happens – the writer and director are the same person! Kenneth Lonergan does an almost perfect job directing his fantastic screenplay. There is that slowness but again, his direction towards his actors makes the film a good watch.

I really did enjoy this one and would recommend it if you’re looking for a good Redbox night. It’s not a happy go lucky movie (few Oscar films are), but it’s worth watching.

Predictions
Best Picture – Highly unlikely
Director – Possible, but I doubt it
Actor  – Highly probable (unless politics come into play)
Supporting Actor –  Unlikely
Supporting Actress – Possible! (But again…politics….)
Original Screenplay – Possible

Lion

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MovieLion
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score

Five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets separated from his family and finds himself in Calcutta. Through a series of events, he gets adopted by a family in Australia, taking him even farther away from the family he knows is still out there. As an adult, Saroo (Dev Patel) decides to try and find his way back to them.

Although Lion also sticks to the theme of slow progressing plot lines, it diverges from the rest by having the slow part at the end of the film. Yes, I’m talking about Dev Patel‘s entire role. There’s a reason I chose a picture of Sunny Pawar for this post. He did an amazing job and deserves some sort of award recognition for being awesome. Dev Patel’s good looks couldn’t sway me to get on board with what felt like four hours of Dev looking at maps. The fault of this lies on the screenplay. The first half of the film is brilliant in this department, but the second half falls short. The cinematography was beautiful throughout.

Nicole Kidman was great. She had a specific monologue that, I would guess, led to her nomination. Will she be given an Oscar in the one category that is predominantly non-white actresses? We’ll see.

I remember noticing the score while watching the film and wondering if it had been nominated for an Oscar. It was beautiful and perfectly aligned to the story.

Predictions
Best Picture – I think this one might take it
Supporting Actor – I think it’s highly likely but I would hope not
Supporting Actress – Unlikely…I think
Adapted Screenplay – Probable
Cinematography – Possible
Original Score – I don’t think anything can – or should – beat La La Land

 

 

Hell or High Water

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Movie: Hell or High Water
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Film Editing

A modern day, cops and robbers Western, Hell and High Water tells the tale of two brothers who go on a bank robbing spree. Why do they do this, you ask? Well, I won’t tell you because the revelation of their intentions is part of the greatness of the screenplay. (Yes, I know it tells you on IMDB, but if you don’t know it makes it better. Trust me.)

I actually really enjoyed this movie. It’s one of the few Best Picture nominees that is interesting throughout the entire story. It does keep with this year’s theme, though, and moves a bit slowly at times. However, the slow points are also the points of exposition and they help build the story from one discovery to the next. The screenplay is fascinating. Remember how I said I liked symbolism? Throughout the movie, their bank robberies are juxtaposed with images of small town poverty and malicious greed. It’s actually quite brilliant. The film editing was high quality but nothing too spectacular.

Jeff Bridges gets the nomination for supporting actor in this film. He plays the stereotypical ornery old sheriff, but with a few interesting twists of character. His character, Marcus, develops smoothly throughout the film into a performance that deserves the nomination. Ben Foster and Chris Pine also deserve recognition for their performances as the brothers.

Prediction
Best Picture – Doubtful
Supporting Actor – Doubtful
Original Screenplay – Possible
Film Editing – Probably not

 

Hacksaw Ridge

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MovieHacksaw Ridge
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing

In World War II, conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) wants to serve and honor his country by joining the Army and becoming a medic. Met with obstacles from every side, he pursues this goal and ends up a hero. (Not a spoiler because this is a true story.)

I enjoyed this film the most out of the seven Best Picture nominees I watched. As with most Mel Gibson movies, there was some religious symbolism helping to guide the story along. I love symbolism/metaphoric storytelling, religious or otherwise. There was a lot going on in this movie and I think Gibson did a great job.

Andrew Garfield was fantastic and captured the real Desmond Doss pretty accurately. You can feel his determination, desperation, and fear at all the right times. Andrew Garfield with a southern accent does throw me off a bit, though.

War films often tend to be nominated for one or both sound categories. There’s not a whole lot I can say for Hacksaw Ridge in these categories other than it must have been challenging.

The film editing was quite well done and was crucial to the story-telling. With a lot of chaos and explosions in the final battle, it was necessary to have a good editor.

Predictions
Best Picture – Nope
Director – Hollywood give an Oscar to Mel Gibson at this point in time? To that I say “ha!” and “no”.
Actor – Unlikely
Sound Editing – Unlikely
Sound Mixing – Unlikely
Film Editing – Unlikely

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