supporting actress



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.

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


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.

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



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.

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




Movie: Spotlight
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Original Screenplay, Film Editing

Movies often allow us the perfect escape from everyday life. Sometimes they shine light on reality.

Spotlight tells the true story of the investigative journalists from the Boston Globe who reported on and exposed the systematic abuse from Catholic priests and the cover-ups around them. Through a series of events, the Spotlight team uncovers more and more information about what had been happening in the Boston archdiocese over several decades. Their efforts culminate in a series of articles released in 2002 that rattled Boston and the world.

The film focuses almost exclusively on the reporters and their process. It’s not a smear campaign against the Catholic church. In fact, there are several times in the film where characters explicitly specify the differences between their faith as Catholics and the flawed system that led to the widespread abuse by the Catholic priests. The story is as much about the importance of investigative journalism as it is on the abuse scandal itself.

Mark Ruffalo is a friggen genius. He’s a chameleon. He probably should have won supporting actor last year. He definitely deserves the nomination again this year. He plays Mike Rezendes, one of the journalists on the Spotlight team and the writer of the initial article published in the Globe. Ruffalo does such a fantastic job turning himself into Rezendes that I needed to watch interviews with Ruffalo to make sure he didn’t have the distinctive facial and speech characteristics of Rezendes in real life. When you watch interviews with the real Rezendes, you can see how completely Ruffalo transformed. Beyond just the physical transformation, Ruffalo’s intensity and vulnerability throughout the story make his character seem real. He seems as if he’s actually discovering these things in real time and reacts as such. It probably helps that Ruffalo has a Catholic background. This subject matter may have been quite personal for him.

Meanwhile, I have no idea why Rachel McAdams got nominated for supporting actress. She did great as Sacha Pfeiffer, another one of the Spotlight journalists. However, her performance was forgettable. It felt no different than most of her other roles. I kept waiting for that moment when she would earn the nomination – since sometimes the turning point comes in a single scene rather than the performance as a whole. That moment never came.

The direction by Tom McCarthy was solid. It helped that he also co-wrote the original screenplay. I love it when filmmakers play both those roles. The pace of the film was constant and urgent the entire time without feeling draining. Conversations between characters happened naturally and authentically. There was amazing intentional symbolism, foreshadowing, and repeating themes communicated through scene locations and framing. This also plays into the film editing which was smooth and kept the symbolism flowing from one scene to the next. It plays out almost like a mystery, even though everyone knows what happens. The audience makes discoveries along with the characters as they peel back layer after layer of information.

If this movie only accomplishes one thing, I hope it drives home the need for investigative journalists. I didn’t understand the need for them until I saw this. Often what we see on TV or in film regarding journalists is an intensely fictionalized caricature of people who don’t really do much…except maybe cause problems for Spider-man. Internet journalism is ruining the integrity of journalism as a whole and promoting poor research and poor quality stories. Journalists can do things others can’t. They should be appreciated.

Best Picture – Unlikely
Director – Unlikely
Supporting Actor – Possible
Supporting Actress – Highly doubtful
Film Editing – Doubtful
Original Screenplay – Probable…it makes the most logical sense to win

The Imitation Game

Movie: The Imitation Game
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Film Editing, Score, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay

This movie is not at all what it seems to be in the trailers. It’s not a war movie. It’s not even really a character drama. It’s more like a political statement for the UK.

The Imitation Game follows the true story of mathematics prodigy Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a team of geniuses who attempt to break the unbreakable Enigma coding machine of the Nazis during World War II.

I’ve never been a Benedict Cumberbatch fangirl and I’ve never fully understood his mass appeal. However, this is the most nuanced performance I’ve seen him do and I was impressed. Turing’s social inabilities paired with what seems to be OCD create a unique personality that needed to be paired with intentional, abnormal body language. Cumberbatch pulled it off brilliantly.

In contrast, I’ve always been fond of Kiera Knightley, who plays the character of the “unlikely woman” who joins the code-breaking team. I was more fascinated by her character in this movie than any of her previous roles. She tends to be the same person in everything she does (which is still good and enjoyable to watch). In this movie, however, she brings her game to a new level. The hair/makeup folks did a great job with her in particular. Since she wasn’t just one of secretaries, they made sure her appearance was a little more haphazard than the well-put-together typists.

This movie is more about gay rights than anything else. They try to hide it but are so intentional in how they try to hide it, that it makes it seem all the more obvious. Because of that, the plot is too convoluted. You’re left not knowing what exactly you’re supposed to focus on. One moment, you’re fully engrossed in defeating Hitler, and the next you’re thrown back in time to learn more about Turing. If the movie had been solely focused as a character drama and not lauded as a war movie, it would have been less confusing.

In general, the movie is well-constructed. The director in particular did a great job working with different timelines (a trend this year it seems) and many different characters. The screenplay was good but not the best I’ve seen this year. It flowed beautifully but lacked a thorough script. (Example: Not once did they even try to explain how their code-breaking machine worked, even in the vaguest sense.) The production design was typical for a WWII film and I don’t really understand why it was nominated. The film editing was nothing out of the ordinary, but was well done.

Alexandre Desplat was nominated twice for score this year. Once here and once for Budapest. His score for Imitation is good, but it doesn’t connect the plot well enough to be a truly impactful score.


I’m just going to keep this simple and say that on a case by case basis, I think it’s unlikely that The Imitation Game will win in any of these categories. However, it also seems unlikely that the Academy would let a movie that Hollywood is championing as a gay rights film to go without an award.



Movie: Boyhood
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Film Editing, Original Screenplay

Boyhood’s plot is exactly that – a boy’s boyhood.

I have some strong feelings about this movie.

1) The production technique of this movie is groundbreaking and surreal. Filming an average of three days a year over twelve years with the same cast, Richard Linklater accomplishes something historic and unimaginably difficult as a director through this film. The film editing works well with Linklater’s style. It’s artsy but realistic. The transitions between time periods are only made known through hairstyle changes and the emergence of new technology. That could be distracting at times as you’re trying to figure out how much time has passed, but it’s an interesting and seemless journey through the 2000s/early 2010s.

2) The script is horrendous. Words can’t even describe how miserably difficult it is to follow the dialogue. The screenplay as a whole is fine. It undoubtedly got nominated because of the whole shot-over-12-years thing.

3) Patricia Arquette has an understated role that builds throughout the film as the mother of the main character, Mason. You don’t really understand why she got nominated until her very last scene which is made more impactful because of her earlier subtlety.

4) The overall theme of the movie is surprisingly hopeless. Only one character is left at the end with any tangible semblance of hope, and it’s not even the main character. As someone who works with teens, it is unbelievably disheartening to see parental disengagement, unhindered and rationalized teen alcohol/drug abuse, and a moral to the story that life is meaningless. I understand that my moral compass points in a different direction than a lot of people’s, but outside of the basic inappropriate behavior, what bothered me the most is the underlying belief that nothing matters. Is that Linklater’s view of real life? How sad is that? Do we really want to live in a world where that is the primary belief?

5) Last but not least, Ethan Hawke. I want to say that his performance might be my favorite thing about the movie. He plays Patricia Arquette’s ex-husband and the father of Mason and his sister. *slight SPOILER ALERT* When the movie starts out, he seems to be the typical loser ex-husband/estranged father character that you see so often in stories. He develops into something much deeper and greater than that and his character shines a light on the reality of everyone else’s lives. Linklater’s choice for this character is his best accomplishment.*end SPOILER*

Watching a boy grow up on film is astounding. Watching it for two and a half hours while the secondary characters struggle through their lines is…difficult. There was not a lot of good acting in the film outside of Arquette and Hawke and there was A LOT of really bad acting. If it had been a movie that was shot like a normal movie, it wouldn’t even be getting a second glance by anyone.


Best Picture: No

Supporting Actor: Unlikely but I’m not sure at this point

Supporting Actress: Possible

Director: Unlikely

Film Editing: Unlikely

Original Screenplay: Doubtful


Into the Woods

Movie: Into the Woods
What it’s up for: Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Production Design

Into the woods without delay! My first experience with this play was at a high school production and my first thought afterwards was “Awesome!” and my second thought was “Goodness, that was long”.

The film version of this Stephen Sondheim play is exactly that: a play on film. Usually, stage musicals are made more fluid and become structured more like a film and less like a play when they adapt to the screen. In this category, I would place the 2004 Phantom of the OperaSound of Music, 2012’s Les Mis, and even The King and I with Yul Brenner and Deborah Kerr. Honestly, MOST stage musicals made into films fall into this category. Into the Woods was different. In that regard, it can be tough to watch for people who are expecting a movie version of a play. However, it remains engaging and entertaining for those familiar with the play and those well prepared.

The basic premise is that there are several fairy tale characters living in the same land that find themselves thrown into different and intertwining dilemmas after venturing into the woods. The first half focuses on the characters accomplishing certain goals and the second half focuses on the consequences of their efforts.

It is long, because the play is long, but had a few things cut out. In Sondheim fashion, it is quite depressing. The production design is beyond fabulous. The sets are beautiful and react to the events happening in them in a way that accentuates the plot. It deviates from the brilliant production design of Interstellar in the way a painter deviates from a photographer – both are works of art but the intention is what makes them different. It was an almost tangible experience to be in the woods with these characters. Everything works so well with the cinematography and costuming as well that it is all one fluid piece of art. The costumes are big and intricate and frame each character’s background and personality well.

Last but not least, Meryl. Meryl Streep plays the Witch who connects all the characters together. Meryl is Meryl. I really don’t have a lot to expound on for her here. She’s had more powerful roles in the past for sure but she was great as the Witch.

I enjoyed the movie, even though I forgot about the depressing nature of the story. I’d definitely see it again, though. It has a way of getting into your head that keeps you thinking.


Supporting Actress: It’s kind of a weird category this year, so I honestly don’t know yet.

Production Design: Possible

Costume Design: Probable


Movie: Birdman (Or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Director, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay

Let’s start this year off with a bang, shall we? Warning: This one’s gonna be a little long due to the sheer number of nominations.

From the moment I saw that Birdman had a secondary title (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), I knew things were going to be interesting. The movie follows former-blockbuster-actor-turned-Broadway-play-writer Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) as he and his cast and crew are preparing for the opening of their play. Riggan struggles with his identity as an actor who is known so prominently as a cinema superhero but wants to create art at a different level. As preparations progress, one of the actors has an accident and is replaced by Mike (Edward Norton) who has already made a name for himself in the stage acting world.

I will say that when I watch movies, I tend to focus on the technical aspects more than the actors. Therefore, in my opinion, I thought that the cinematography was the most outstanding characteristic of the movie. About five or ten minutes into the movie, I realized something – almost the entire movie is one “continuous” shot. (I put continuous in quotation marks because it looks like it was all shot in one smooth stroke but is in fact accomplished through some very clever transitions.) It is THE most unique cinematography and directing choice I have ever experienced. I had thought that the burden of that kind of filming was on the editor, but my father (who is a videography professional) told me that what it really takes is an amazing director to accomplish continuous shots and seamless transitions. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu is a Mexican director who also wrote the screenplay for the film. Seeing as the screenplay and direction go hand-in-hand, you can see how Iñárritu being at the helm of both helped create a smooth and astounding end product. On top of the breath-taking effect of an almost two-hour long continuous shot, the rest of the cinematography aspects were also unique and beautiful. The use of camera angles and lighting in particular were memorable, including several ways of using mirrors that I had never seen before.

The nominations for sound editing and sound mixing I don’t particularly understand considering all the movies that came out this year that required the creation of lots of new sounds and difficult soundscapes. There were quite a few special effects that required some good editing. The rest of the movie was almost devoid of background noise except for the score which was entirely composed of just music from a drum set. The score was disqualified from consideration by the Academy, but their reasoning doesn’t make much sense. The drum score keeps the plot moving at a hurried pace that accentuates what’s happening on-screen exactly how a good score should. I was thoroughly expecting a nomination.

Ok, on to acting. Out of the three nominated for Oscars (Keaton, Stone, Norton), Keaton stood out to me the most. The fact that he basically IS Riggan (as in, former superhero turned artsy), it brings his performance to a whole new level. The specific comment I wrote in my notebook after seeing the movie regarding his acting was “Holy crap”. I’ve only seen one other of the leading actor nominees so far, so it’s hard to tell how he compares to the others at this point.. Stone and Norton were excellent but they didn’t wow me in the same way. Emma Stone (as Riggan’s recovering drug addict daughter) in particular was her typical amazing self…but emphasis on “typical”. Meanwhile, Zach Galifianakis was so unique that I didn’t even realize it was him at first! Sure, it wasn’t “best supporting actor” material, but he still deserves some recognition.

The film as a whole is thought-provoking and unique. It criticizes critics and puts the audience into the viewpoint of an actor. It opened my eyes to some new thoughts and perspectives. The greatest guilt trip given by the film is that “people” only want explosions from their on-screen stories, not art. That criticism immediately made it Oscar fodder so I’m not surprised that it got so much attention from the Academy.

One last comment….SPOILER ALERT:

Riggan kills himself at the end after reaching a very low point and it is frightening reminder of Robin Williams’ tragic death this past year. It is quite the coincidence.

*As this is my first post and one of the first movies I saw this year in many of the categories it’s been nominated for, I’m not posting my predictions yet. Stay tuned…

12 Years a Slave

Movie: 12 Years a Slave
What it’s up for: Leading Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Best Picture, Costume Design, Directing, Film editing, Production Design, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

So after a long hard battle against my work schedule, I finally got to see 12 Years a Slave late last night. Much thanks to my mother for going with me. I’m glad I went to go see it. Without actually seeing this movie, I would not have the proper context to predict winners. This was by far the most well-made movie I’ve seen this year.

12 Years a Slave follows the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in the pre-Civil War north, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south. Solomon is given a new name and a new background and told that if he ever suggests the truth about his situation to anyone, he will be killed. He is passed around to various masters, all the while trying to figure out a way to get back home.

This is an incredibly difficult movie to watch. I would describe it as almost unbearably depressing. It’s difficult to face hard truths head on. Slavery is something that has existed since humanity began and has encompassed every race. It’s easy to point at the slave trade in America and elevate it above all other forms of slavery because it is so relatively recent and, dare I say, romanticized over other sins against humanity. But there are other stories in history of terrible periods of slavery. And the worst thing is that it is still going on now and we don’t acknowledge or realize what is happening. This article from Relevant Magazine popped up last week and it brings up some important stats about modern-day slavery and also has a link to an organization that is trying to help.

Recognizing the severity of the subject matter, I’m now going to move on to the film itself. The acting was phenomenal, although there were many times where I was distracted by seeing a familiar face pop up. The surprise actor of THIS film was Taran Killam, who plays one of the men who tricked Solomon out of his freedom. I love Taran on SNL and it was very distracting to see him as this old-timey gentleman since he plays hilarious Jebidiah Atkinson on Weekend Update. I knew Paul Giamatti was in this movie but his face distracted me a bit too. And my significant last distraction was Garret Dillahunt whose voice overcame his beard and made me see his character only as Burt Chance from raising hope.

Michael Fassbender played the cruel slave-owner, Edwin Epps, who owns Solomon through most of the movie. Out of all the supporting roles, his stood out as the most distinct. He played his part with a kind of manic disconnectedness from the severity of his lifestyle. One moment he’d seem completely focused and evil and the next he’d be playing around with one of the little slave girls. It was a role that required a wide range of expressiveness and emotion and he hit it all spot on. Lupita Nyong’o played Patsey, one of the other slaves working for Epps, who, unfortunately, was “favored” by the master. Her character is so completely tragic that it’s hard not to believe that she is real. This is a role that required SO MUCH of Lupita as an actor and as a person that it almost seems unjustifiable to give the Oscar to anyone else. Finally, Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Solomon, completely dominated the screen. There were many contemplative moments where Ejiofor wasn’t even talking and you could feel what was going on just through his eyes and body language. Honestly, besides Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, no other leading actor has led me to such an emotional bond with his character this year.

The strong screenplay combined with the gorgeous production design and film editing creates a pressing emotional influence throughout the film. The filming locations are gorgeous and the cinematography is nothing to ignore. Everything is set up to draw the eye in to the story but not distract from whatever is happening. The costuming is solid but not groundbreaking. With all these things, you can feel Steve McQueen‘s strong direction. The movie flows smoothly throughout the story. He specifically focuses on the people and what is happening to them. He chose to make some shots longer than normal to focus attention on something or someone. And when I say “longer than normal”, I mean MUCH longer. There are several shots of just Solomon where they linger longer than our normal sense of instant gratification would like to see. What happens, then, is that the audience is forced to contemplate over this person or situation and really think about what is happening. It digs in deep to the heart of the matter and stays there.

This is an unbelievable film that helps shed new light on an old familiar face. It is definitely worth watching once to get a new perspective on slavery and to remind us that this was and still is a problem.

Leading Actor – I think so, actually.

Supporting Actor – No

Supporting Actress – I’d pick her, but I doubt she’ll win.

Best Picture – I’m gonna go out on a limb and say YES.

Costume Design – No

Directing – Another limb. Another yes.

Film editing – No

Production Design – No

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – No

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