Monday, April 30, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of one helluva ride over the past decade or so. There’s not much of an intro I need to make for this film cause if you’re anything like me, over the past 10 years you’ve been devoting yourself the cult of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You’ve shunned all non-MCU Marvel films aside from Logan, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Deadpool. DC and their DC Extended Universe is nothing more than a hollow imitation with Zack Snyder’s bleak mind turning everything black and white. Not to mention the Dark Universe was put to death, thankfully, before they made “Dracula vs Wolfman: Supernatural Brawl.”

Marvel has meticulously crafted a world with fully fleshed out characters and interconnecting storylines that, while lighthearted and mostly safe and superficial, were all intended to lead where we are now. There have been ups; Iron Man, Captain America: Winter Solider, Guardians of the Galaxy and there have been downs: Iron Man 2, Thor 1&2 and The Incredible Hulk. But for the most part, despite if you think the MCU is “dangerous for filmmaking” or think “it’s just a superhero franchise,” it’s been working and successful for a decade.

This is a much different format than how I usually do reviews, but this is very different than any other film in the MCU. Avengers: Infinity War is set directly after the events of Thor: Ragnarok, and Thanos (Josh Brolin) is beginning to acquire the rest of the Infinity Stones that he doesn’t have. It is up to nearly every superhero we’ve seen thus far to band together to save the earth and the rest of the Universe from Thanos’ evil plan.

When I say “nearly every superhero,” I mean that in the most literal sense of the words. With the exception of Ant-Man and Hawkeye, I think I noticed just about every living member of the MCU/Avengers getting their time to shine throughout the run-time of the film. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Hulk, The Guardians of the Galaxy team, Loki, Dr. Strange, Scarlett Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon and Bucky Barnes and that’s not even counting side and supporting characters. To go into this think that it wouldn’t be a giant mess, you’d be nuts. It was one of my concerns going into the film, how are they going to juggle about 40 million characters and it not be a confusing mess? But to my, and seems like most of the worlds, surprise, it was competent and quite easy to keep track of.

It was one of my concerns going into the film, how are they going to juggle about 40 million characters and it not be a confusing mess?

This film doesn’t really have a plot. It also doesn’t have character building, since they’ve been doing it for the past decade. This is the mysterious Thanos’ film and boy did they deliver. The one constant MCU complaint is a villain that is one-note and lame. Side note: If you’re not familiar with the MCU, from probably at least Avengers: Age of Ultron onward, it’s going to be a confusing mess. Even without seeing Black Panther (the film) yet, I feel as if I know the character since he’s been in a lot of other films to this point. Which is why I think a lot of critics are being overly harsh towards the film. They’re not getting people who have been soaking in the series for the better part of a decade, and they may likely be people who just go see films to review them. But, for someone like myself, who has seen nearly every film in the MCU, and know and have grown up with these characters, this is easily the MCU’s most grandiose film to date.

This is why Thanos’ was so important to this film, he’s been the mysterious bad-guy that they’ve been talking up forever. The biggest bad guy in the universe and they need to keep an eye on him cause what he’s plotting is massive. Well, that finally arrived in Infinity War. You want to know the story and motives behind the MCU Thanos’, well you get it. He’s easily the most interesting a fleshed-out character in the film (not hard to do), you know exactly why he’s trying to do the insane thing he’s trying to do and learn that he’s not doing this on a whim and he has reasons why he’s doing this. They may be malicious and insane, but they are valid reasons that are in-line with his character. Not only that, he’s not hesitant to take what he wants. We don’t just learn about him and why he’s doing what he’s doing. He does it. Thanos goes out and takes what he wants and does what he wants to further his cause. Josh Brolin voices the all CGI mastermind perfectly. Thanos isn’t just a bad guy, he’s a father, has emotions (and shows them) and is trying to achieve a life-long goal. This is the Thanos origin story with The Avengers fighting throughout space on the side. Even his lackeys are very strong threats and are presented as such. They are actually pretty cool in their own rights. Everything Thanos-related was done so well.

Thanos goes out and takes what he wants and does what he wants to further his cause. 

Speaking of The Avengers, the movie is titled that right? So, what exactly are they doing? They’re broken up and rearranged into fun little teams that are trying to prepare to stop Thanos. Thor, Rocket Raccoon and Groot go off on a deep space mission to get Thor’s hammer back. Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Star Lord, Drax, Mantis and Nebula are on Thanos’ home world (with Strange in possession of the Time Stone) waiting on his arrival. While, Captain America, Widow, Black Panther, Wanda, Vision, War Machine and the rest of the people above I didn’t name, are in Wakanda trying to figure out a safe way to get the Mind Stone out of Vision’s forehead. These three teams are what keeps this movie from being a cluster of a mess. Combined with the Thanos’ story, these three distinct story-archs intertwine effortlessly through each other. This is a long movie, but for the most part there’s not a lot of down time and nothing feels overly long. If it was just a mindless mash of heroes fighting Thanos and his army, for two hours, with quips everywhere this film would not have worked. But having the people we’ve come to know have small stories throughout the runtime, while we get to learn about the biggest villain we’ve yet to fully see, it just works.

I saw this in 3D and it’s fine. I don’t think seeing this in 3D vs 2D impacts the film at all. Some greenscreen stuff stood out a little more, but I’m so used to noticing bad greenscreen, I’d have noticed either way. The 3D enhances the stellar CGI of Thanos, who is all CGI, all the time, but still prefer my films in 2D. There’s some iffy spots with him, but overall, he looks superb. This goes with most all of the CGI in this film too. Everyone looks great and even with some shaky cam during action scenes and the abundance of CGI, it’s never really noticeable. Marvel put their A-team on this film. This is a CGI-fest, you shouldn’t be surprised about that if you’re watching it. But it is the best CGI we’ve seen thus far in the MCU.

Thanos rained a moon down on the battlefield, while elsewhere Thor and Wanda flex for the sake of flexing.

The action is some of the best in all of the MCU as well. It’s not just “RAWR I CAN PUNCHER HARDER THAN YOU” or “RAWR I CAN SHOOT THIS BEAM HARDER THAN YOU.” Well it kind-of is for the Wakandan fight, but any fight involving Thanos quickly devolves to having to try and use some sort of strategy because Thanos lifts and doesn’t skip leg day. Hell in almost the entire movies, he doesn't even have all of the Infinity Stones and is still terrorizing all the heroes. The best part of action comes with all of the unlikely pairings of characters, some we’ve yet to even see meet each other in the MCU. The fight with Thanos on his home planet is amazing. Dr. Strange is epic, the CGI for the magic being flung between him and Thanos is gorgeous. The whole fight between the heroes and Thanos is expertly executed and feels like it’s right out of a battle-oriented anime. Thanos rained a moon down on the battlefield, while elsewhere Thor and Wanda flex for the sake of flexing. I mean, Thanos took this page out of the ol' anime playbook and it was awesome. The rest of the action is your standard MCU affair, but the new pairings of characters and situations give you a reason to pay a little more attention than you might normally during an Avengers flick.

Thanos took this page out of the ol' anime playbook and it was awesome.
I’m kind-of at an impasse with this review because I think I’ve touched on everything I want to touch on. While on the other hand I want to just keep going and think I'm forgetting so much stuff since I want to give the film a rewatch. (I’m assuming if you’re reading this) You know all the actors for everyone I’ve mentioned, which is why I didn’t bother to list out every actor. The film is well over two hours, and for someone like myself, who has been invested in this series for a decade, the time flew by. There’s not much in the way of music aside from the score, which is fine. This is also a film that, while lighthearted and has the vintage “MCU quips,” is very much a darker film that what most are used to in the MCU. There are a couple of wonky moments, that I initially thought were really ham-fisted in there, but when you consider a few things Dr. Strange says, it all makes supreme sense. I loved the whole presentation and progression of the film. The shock value moments don’t hit as hard (because most of us know the line-up of films to come) I applaud Marvel for taking risks with the plot and characters.

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe you’re going to love this film as it’s the culmination of a decade’s worth of build-up. If you go into this to just watch the latest summer blockbuster, you’ll likely be confused and disappointed. If you don’t like superhero films or are a hardcore DC fan, you’ll find ways to hate this. But to hardcore nerds, like myself, that have been watching and growing with these characters over the past 18 films, this is a more than adequate film that has given us everything we’ve been hoping this build up would lead to.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The 90th Annual Academy Awards [Fat Jesus' Thoughts]

There's never ever any reason to get gung-ho about the Academy Awards. Every year they get things right. Every year they get things wrong. This year though, is unforgivable because "The Emoji Movie" is nowhere to be found. A true travesty, go "Suicide Squad"! The 90th edition is actually one of the best line ups of nominees of the past few years in my opinion. But, everything I want to win will lose because of old white men, diversity or whatever the excuse will be. There's a ton of variety in the films chosen, unless you were animated in Japan or about emojis, and I think they mostly got everything right about the best things that came out of 2017. I wrote a metric ton about this years better categories. I didn't proofread a sentence of it either, and if you make it all the way through without pulling your hair out you deserve to win the lottery. Thanks for always reading these if you do every year. I hope my thoughts push you to hate a film you may have liked or go out and watch a film you may not have considered before.

I'll be Tweeting during the event tomorrow night from my main Twitter, so if that tickles your fancy be sure to throw me a follow. (Don't highlight this with your cursor: also be sure to check out my Twitch channel where I wrote a lot of this blog on stream. Link is at the bottom of the blog!)

So without further ado, enjoy my ramblings about rich people getting richer by pretending to be other people on a screen and my thoughts about if they did well or not!

-Best Picture-

Call Me by Your Name
This film follows the daily life of a kid in northern Italy who learns the he may not be as sexually exclusive as he thinks, when a graduate student is invited by his father--an archaeology professor--is invited to live with the family over the summer of 1983. "Call Me by Your Name" is film has no plot, but following the lives of Elio and Oliver as their relationship blossoms keeps your attention. This is a very emotional film--as a lot of Oscar bait is--but you connect with Elio and Oliver because they are genuinely intriguing and complex characters. Elio is more than just a kid struggling with his sexual identity, he's a bright kid who, while awkward, seems to grow from his struggles living up to what he thinks Oliver's standards are. On the flip-side, Oliver is your typical cocky American hunk who weasels his way into Elio's senses with effervescence and charm. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer nail their roles expertly as Elio and Oliver respectively, while the supporting cast--especially Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio's father--were on point. I wasn't a fan of the length of the film, this is a hefty watch at over two hours, there's some dragging scenes, and I feel like outside of Elio, Oliver and Mr. Perlman, there's not a lot of  memorable characters. I can give that a pass--sort-of though--because this is a nice character study between Elio and Oliver. This isn't the film for you if you're into really anything to do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if you want to expand your tastes, or even just want to try a new genre of film, you could do much worse than "Call Me by Your Name."

Darkest Hour
I don't want to watch this so I didn't, suck it Academy. I heard Gary Oldman was very good in this but I'm just not huge on war films overall and don't really want to watch this one. Sorry, Winston.

I feel like if I had seen this in theaters, IMAX, full surround sound with the literal bombs and bullets literally whizzing by my head, I would've gotten into this way more. I'm not a huge fan of war films, but "Dunkirk" is a war film I appreciate because Nolan takes out the tired and overused "war movie" cliches and lets the viewer follow the plot without all the nonsense. There's no scenes with "the boyz'" sitting in a circle talking about their family and how they need to survive to make it back to their pregnant wife, etc. You're thrown into a war and you keep up with the action. Whether it's a family using their boat to try and help soldiers who can't make it off the island, or following a Spitfire pilot who takes command mid-mission and patrols the seas to help fellow countrymen. The acting is great because it's people surviving. There's no speeches about rallying together to get through the situation, just selfless people helping a victim of a bomb get help or getting in a family boat to help ferry people. There's tension, there's gore, there are extravagant explosions and everything you could possibly want in your war film, without the abundance of cliches riddled into every scene. I wasn't huge into the film because of my lack of connection with any of the characters. I don't need the cliches, but more than just subtle hints at background and backstory would be nice. There's not a lot of dialogue throughout the film and it's very east to immerse yourself in the world of the war. But for me personally, I just didn't have that connection with anyone on the screen. "Dunkirk" is a great war film, but it doesn't have the connection with characters that I look for in my highly thought of films. It has all the recipes for a great war film and hits on everything perfectly. The style, score, brutality of war is all there, but I prefer other Nolan films to this.

Get Out
Jordan Peele went from sketch comedy to writing one of the most talked about horror films of 2017. I see "Get Out" as more of a thriller than horror, since it has a lot of social commentary--and I didn't really think anything in the film was outright "horror"--but I don't think it's what defines this film either. Are there racial undertones and things that parallel things that are going on in the world? Yeah, but maybe not to the literal extent of "underground mind-transfers of white peoples consciousness into a superior black person's body." There's whitewashing, body envy between races and any of the other plethora of tension that is happening in the world today. But if we get down to it, this is a film that takes the concept of mind-transfer and makes it seem somewhat plausible, instead of just mad scientist fantasy. With sharp wit, a well rounded--if not a little plot armored--main character and a supporting cast that does their job supremely. The story isn't a completely original idea, it boils down to a man has to fight out of the horror-filled dungeon of his crazed captors. But, the mind control, mind erasing and transfer part of the plot was a pretty nice subplot that I wish I hadn't known about from the trailers before hand. It still ranks up as one of my favorite films of the year and it was partially because it was such a surprise. It didn't look like anything special and I was wary of seeing after all the copious praise for it. It shattered my expectations, because I didn't think it would actually live up to the hype, but Peele went out and made something that defied expectations. I would personally rather have "Baby Driver" has the rouge Best Picture nod this year, but "Get Out" is worthy as well.

Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan has been in a ton of films over the years that I have highly enjoyed. Between "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Brooklyn" over the past few years she's emerged as one of the best young actresses in Hollywood. "Lady Bird" is a quirky indie coming of age film that in most ways is the polar opposite of "Call Me by Your Name." Maybe they're more a like the more I think about it, what with the whole "homosexual boyfriend" thing that ends up happening in both. It's a comedy filled film that follows a girl who insists that people call her Lady Bird and wants to attended an Ivy League college, but doesn't really have the grades and her parents don't have the money to get her there. When this film gets emotional, it hits hard, but in-between it's a good mesh of character development, plot progression and laugh out loud humor. Lady Bird is a hyperactive speeding train that gets us from scene to scene and has the presence to carry all the scenes as well. The plot isn't anything to write home about, there's a lot of humor cliches, but this film is also a quick paced, good-natured romp. One that leaves the viewer with a sense of joy at the end--even though the ending is kind-of abrupt and ambiguous.

Phantom Thread
 I wanted to like this film more than I did. I went into it with huge expectations, as most people do with Paul Thomas Anderson films. I adore "There Will Be Blood," I liked "The Master" and I even enjoyed myself watching the mess that was "Inherent Vice." "Phantom Thread" failed to click with me beyond the great performances from Daniel Day-Lewis--shocker--and Lesley Manville. This is a love story about an older man, who is a famous fashion designer, who meets a waitress in the countryside and becomes infatuated with her. Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) has an extremely controlling personality, but is loaded with charisma and genius as well. On the other side Alma (Manville) is a determined, skillful and almost innocent woman who becomes Wookcock's muse and eventually assistant. The two have a tumultuous relationship, with all the highs of a couple falling in love and the bitter lows of of a relationship that is on the rocks. Daniel Day-Lewis is superb in his role and is extremely committed, but this is not a surprise to anyone who has ever seen him in a film. Lesley Manville was superb as well. It was like watching a heavyweight boxing match with Manvillie and Day-Lewis went blow for blow with each other. My problems aren't with the acting, I just couldn't get into the story in the slightest. It was a very slow film, a very long film, that never had anything for me to latch onto personally. I couldn't identify with with the tortured love story between the two leads, the backdrop--while extremely authentic and gorgeous--couldn't hold my interest either. Nothing quite clicked for me other than the extremely committed performances from Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville, which was the thing keeping me hanging on by a thread throughout my viewing.

The Post
Oh man, I wanted to be all over this film. We had annual Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep and Sheriff Woody himself, Tom Hanks. We also had Steven Speilberg, the man who was the helm of Indiana Jones and Back to the Future. "The Post" on paper is stacked, along with a very competent supporting cast including Bob Odenkirk and Sarah Paulson. The story the film tells is a meticulous tale of the journalists at The Washington Post to publish the Pentagon Papers, documents detailing then US's involvement in the Vietnam War. The acting is what shines in this film. Hanks has really rounded out to an actor that I can enjoy in almost any role. Meryl Streep is the perfect counter to that because as the saying goes "you can never go wrong with the Streep." The story itself is interesting and engaging, while the acting is top tier, but where "The Post" falters for me is the overall presentation. Spielberg is a great director and has made a ton of critically and commercially successful film that pushes the boundaries of directing. You could say Spielberg has a way with getting his films to stand out and have that extra pzazz that other films don't. but I don't get that impression with this film. While the acting is great and the attention to detail is fine, it doesn't really stand out all that much from other drama's or political thrillers you can go out and see. "Spotlight" from 2015. is a film that I really liked with almost the same premise as this. But it has the flair and tension intertwined throughout the film that "The Post" is lacking. Where as "The Post" seems very formulaic and safe in comparison, albeit it the acting in this is much better than in "Spotlight." This is still a very worthwhile film, but I think it could've been better than it ended up being.

The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro is a very up and down director for me. I loved "Pacific Rim" but I wasn't huge fan of "Hellboy" and "Crimson Peak." So going into "The Shape of Water" I wasn't really sure what to expect out of it, aside from hearing about the fish love. Sally Hawkins plays a mute woman in the Cold War era, Elisa, who works at a government secret government facility as a cleaning woman. One day the facility receives a creature, an amphibious fish man, in a tank that Elisa identifies with and becomes close to. We see the emotional ups and downs of a mute woman who is trying cope with her disability, falling in love with, and identifying with something for the first time in her life. Hawkins has an outstanding performance without utter and word and the rest of the supporting cast is spot on. Michael Shannon is a perfect villain, Richard Jenkins as Elisa's neighbor was a great stability source, while Octavia Spencer shined as Elisa's bestie work gal pal. The middle of the film was a bit of a slog, but the beginning of the film, the lore introduction and characterization was great. The last act of the film was really good as well and gave almost everything in the film closure. If you're into romance and drama films this is for you. With a stellar performance from Hawkins, solid writing and amazing visuals--as with most of del Toro's work--"The Shape of Water" is a film that's worth your time.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This film was my favorite from 2017. Granted I still have a few more to catch up on, but I think they'll be hard pressed to top "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" for me. This is the perfect drama film for a person like me. Heavy on the drama, amazingly acted, plot heavy, while the humor is dark, quick witted and topical--in a way that doesn't make you groan. The ensemble cast are all stellar and I don't think there's a bad performance of the main three, Francis McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. This should be abundantly clear since all three of them earned nominations for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actor. I'll touch on all three of them below, but the film itself does the powerful performances well. Set in a small town, it really encapsulates the feeling of living in a small town where everyone knows everyone. You have an array of types of people as well, the good natured woman trying to do right by her family--that's really torn apart--and will do absolutely anything to protect them. One cops struggling with the rise of not being able to do whatever they want carte blanche. While the other one is overcome emotionally with the cancer eating away at him and struggling between his love for his family (and city) and not wanting to suffer anymore. This film isn't afraid to pull any punches either. Because as quickly as you'll be chuckling at the absurdity of something Mildred has done or said, you'll get hit in the emotions with something happening to Sheriff Bill Willoughby and his health. The story is highly original and that takes this to another level for me as well because if you asked me if I thought it was original or adapted, I'd honestly say adapted, which is a testament to Martin McDonagh's continued excellence in writing films. If I recommended one film from 2017 or even just the Oscar nominations overall it'd likely be "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

-Best Actor-

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name
I touched on Timothée Chalamet's role as Elio going through the best picture nod, and I want to expound on my overall thoughts on the actors, so that's mostly what I'll be doing for these next few categories. Like I mentioned above, Elio is a kid that never really had his lifestyle or morals really challenged it seems. Elio is a teenager that is obviously very intelligent and thinks he has his path through life figured out. That is until this Jewish American male heartthrob comes in and makes him rethink his sexual identity. It seemed like throughout the film, Elio was struggling between his girlfriend and his secret lover. Like there were two halves of his mind fighting over what he thought he knew, as well as this new--almost forbidden fruit--that was placed in front of him. Chalamet was seamless in character. Not only showing that he could play the piano (at least I hope it was him actually playing it), but getting fully committed into any scene with either Armie Hammer (Oliver) or Esther Garrel (Marzia). The awkwardness, the longing, the smitten-ness, the discovery of himself were all on full blast as Chalamet had a powerful performance as Elio Perlman.

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread
What more is there to say about Daniel Day-Lewis that hasn't been said over the past at least three decades? I'm going to keep this short because if you've watched any Academy Award caliber films in the past 20 years--whether you agree with their choices or not--there a high likelihood that you've seen a masterful, committed performance out of this man. My feelings about "Phantom Thread" overall aside, Day-Lewis is in peak form as Reynolds Woodcock, an eccentric fashion icon with seemingly no regard for anyone, that meets a young waitress and falls for her. Even if the film in't your cup of tea, it's easy to see why he's one of the most committed actors of all time.

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out
This is a bit of a surprise still that "Get Out" has gotten this much love from the usually stuffy Academy. While I don't think it's best film of the year in a lot of regards, it stuck in my top couple of films throughout a lot of the year. I usually don't like to mention ratings, but I only gave one film this year above a 4/5, that's Three Billboards. Back to the topic, Daniel Kaluuya's role in "Get Out" is the centerpiece of the film and he essentially holds up almost every plot point in some form or fashion. Chris Washington is the black guy with the smoking hot white girlfriend. She finally gets to take him to meet her parents for the first time. Amidst all this, he's calm, charming, cracking jokes and even dealing with some racism and general "meeting the parents" cliches. This extends through a lot of the film too. At this point he's involved with the meet the parents plot and the leaving his best friend to care for some of his stuff plot (minor, I know) all while dominating screen time. As the film gets more weird and absurd, Chris is at the center of it all still. The hypnosis of the mother, the exchange with the blind guy at the garden party, meeting another black person that seems way to out of place for this century, not to mention the creepy interactions with the maid and handyman as well. Every single person that has any consequence on the plot is touched at some-point by Chris Washington. From humor, to fear, to paranoia, to just human interactions, Kaluuya plays his character with aplomb and this is honestly a well deserved nomination.

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour
Like I said above, I had really no desire to see this film. I've heard nothing but good about this performance, so naturally Gary Oldman is going to win here and my ignorance about the film will come back to bit me.

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.
I had zero idea what I was getting into when I started watching "Roman J. Israel, Esq." Going back a doing some research on the film I had no idea it was from the same man, Dan Gilroy, that directed and wrote "Nightcrawler" my second favorite film from 2014. This film has a lot of problems though and isn't quite the same level of awe that "Nightcrawler" and Jake Gyllenhaal's performance gave me. Denzel is on another level in "Roman J. Israel, Esq." though, and is easily the best part of the film. He gives a polarizing performance and could easily win the award for Best Actor as a dark horse.  Roman Israel is a lawyer, activist and savant who is working at a law firm when it's owner has a heart attack and slips into a coma. This forces Israel to find work elsewhere. A bigger firm hires him and while he wants to keep his humble do-gooder roots, we watch as he slips into the out for himself layer cliche. Denzel plays all sides of his role expertly. The humble person willing to help anyone, the conflicted lawyer only wanting to improve the system, the activist who doesn't take anything from these so called "activists" of current year and finally, the conceited, greedy, self-centered part of Israel are on conveyed to perfection. I felt bad for his character as the film wore on cause we saw just how much of a good person Roman Israel is, that seeing him slip into what he hates hurt. Denzel made "Roman J. Israel, Esq.", that was admittedly all over the place at times and the film is worth the watch for Denzel alone and he wholly deserves this nomination.

-Best Actress-

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water
Sally Hawkins doesn't say a single word in this film and it's one of the best performances of the year. Regardless of what you think of "fish love," Hawkins performance as a mute cleaning lady working at a secret government facility, who falls in love with a humanoid fish creature is awesome. from the start we're shown a kind-of meek, yet determined, Elisa who is stuck in a monotonous rut it. We watch her grow with her cleaning lady friend, neighbor, the Amphibian Man and even the man antagonist. She is shown to be stronger than her disability, yet down to earth enough to be relatable at times to anyone who may be watching the film. Hawkins has laugh out loud moments as well as gut wrenching moments, showing off a great range for someone who doesn't speak a line of dialogue. Were there better performances this year, I think so, yes. But, don't take anything away from Sally Hawkins, because carrying a story with this much humor and emotion is tough to do with dialogue and she manages to do it without any.

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Oh man, from the moment we meet Mildred Hayes, you know she's the type of no-nonsense mother that we've all had interactions with at some point in our lives. One of the first times we see her is when she's driving past the three billboards--the catalyst for the film--and the words "Raped While Dying", "And Still No Arrests", "How Come, Chief Willoughby?" flash across your eyes for the first time. Her son who is with her is shocked and Mildred herself looks is ready for the backlash that is to follow. This is further evidenced by the tongue lashing she gives a priest who comes over to let her know that people don't like her. Did I mention that Chief Willoughby has pancreatic cancer? Well, I did above, but that's not the point. She's in the very small minority in town that doesn't want the billboards down, which leads to beef with everyone that she doesn't back down to. Friends, family, businesses, the cops, no one is safe from the mother who just wants justice for her daughter. McDormand plays the role perfectly, adding the right amount of dry humor, emotion or vigor to the scenes as needed. Her performance in enhanced by the other two leads, who I'll get two later, as the scenes involving McDormand, Harrelson, Rockwell or any combo of the three are the best parts of the film. I'm not sure how the film will actually fare in the show itself, but if even just one award went to this film it should honestly be for Frances McDormand's role as Mildred Hayes.

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya
I don't know why I avoided "I, Tonya" film for so long, but I really wish I had watched it sooner. I enjoyed myself and Margot Robbie was a treat as Tonya Harding. Now I don't know figure skating in the slightest and had no idea about the whole controversy surrounding Harding going into those Olympic games. Regardless of if this film portrays these events in an accurate way, they do it in a realistic and entertaining way. Robbie embodies the Tonya Harding we're given to a tee. The hopes, dreams and aspirations. The bitter lows, emotional turmoil and abuse (both parental and spousal). We see all facets of Harding in this film. Harding's triumphs, her flattering and funny moments, as well as the downright brutal low points are present. This film has a lot of dark comedy, but it also has a lot of emotionally charged moments that could hit someone close to home. Margot Robbie handles both sides of the character--and story as a whole really well--but the shortcomings in "I, Tonya" aren't because of this fantastic performance. 

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird
Catholic people are crazy man, and I'm taking Saoirse Ronan's portrayal of Lady Bird--yes she insists people call her that--that there are poor Catholic teenage girls out there who are forced to live out zany quirky adventures, like the one we're treated to in this film. Alight, maybe there's a lot of teenage tropes in her character, but at her core she's a sincere teenage girl who is trying to find her way late in high-school. Not the most original character, but a character is only as good as the person playing them and Saoirse is impeccable. She captures the struggling, moody, almost schizophrenic nature of a teenager to a tee. Lady Bird is a rebel, she stands for something, even if she doesn't know what it is. She's not afraid to let you know any and everything that darts through her brain, almost like a cat with a laser pointer. She's awkward with people she's not close to (family and friends) and she's even more awkward with her significant others in the film as well. Lady Bird has no filter so there are plenty of times in the film where absurdity flows just as regularly as self-realizations. I'm echoing my thought from about, but Saorise Ronan is one of the best young actresses in Hollywood right now and the range she hasn't done in her roles thus far is impressive. Is this her best role? Probably not, but it's definitely the most fun one in this category.

Meryl Streep, “The Post
Hey guys! Gather around! Because Meryl Streep has garnered yet another Academy Award nomination! I'm beginning to think she could just start a vlog on YouTube or a cooking show on Meryl and get nominated for those as well. In all seriousness though, Streep was the best part of of "The Post." And if you've been watching film for any amount of time you know who Meryl Streep is. She's a certifiable legend who never seems to come off as bad in any role. Year after year she finds roles that she takes to that next level. As I mentioned above in my thoughts on "The Post" as a whole, I feel like it was missing that pzazz to make it pop for me. The story is told well, but the directing seemed very formulaic. The acting on the other hand, at least from Tom Hanks and Streep are superb. Streep plays Katherine Graham who is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper (The Washington Post), and her efforts to publish the Pentagon Papers--which are detailed records of of the United States political and military involvement in Vietnam. It was truly a man's world in the early 1970s and Katherine is a strong willed, well spoken, highly intelligent woman who took charge. She did what needed to be done to get these damning documents out for the public to see. The character is written very well and Streep's performance is a highlight of a good film that just missed it's full potential. Streep is always perfect in roles--both in immersiveness and realism--so I need to stop singing her praises cause I can't really say anything that hasn't already been said.

-Best Supporting Actor-

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project
I'm really, really glad that "The Florida Project" got a nomination in a "higher up" category. This film is an underrated "day in the life of," type film with strong performances all around, led by the always great DaFoe. He really did get into grandpa mode for his role as Bobby Hicks, as he had to corral Moonee and her young mother Halley all while dealing with all the problems of running a hotel next to Walt Disney World. There's drama between all characters, but it always seems to come around back to DaFoe in some form or another. He's charming, helpful, funny and stern when he needs to be. I think this is a film everyone should give a chance, even if the ending is pretty polarizing.

Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
How can you not adore Woody Harrelson as Chief Willoughby in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”? This is a film full of deplorable people, doing deplorable things, all trying to shake monkeys off their backs. Meanwhile, Chief Willoughby is a tortured sheriff, one with terminal cancer, a young family (wife and two daughters) trying to make the most of his final time on this earth. He's sympathetic to Mildred, tries to help Jason Dixon become a better officer and the scenes with his family are just plain heartwarming. Like most characters in the film, his arc comes to an unsavory and jarring end. But, he's the nicest person in the film, and that makes his story arc and performance all the better.

Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water
Elisa had a father in this film and it was Giles. The two had a seamless relationship and Richard Jenkins was great at bringing out things you may not have noticed because of Sally Hawkins mute character. He's charismatic, a symbol of stability and most importantly a voice of reason for Elisa at times. The true definition of a supporting character, he never outshines the lead, but still comes off well because he's a good character in his own right. I don't have much to say about Richard Jenkins performance because it was just really good.

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”*
Like with "Darkest Hour" I had no real desire to see this film at all. While I'm sure the performance is good, I haven't seen the film and I have no frame of reference to judge.

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Man, Sam Rockwell is a--pardon my informality--charismatic dick in this film. Think Tony Stark, but if he were an ignorant, poor racist. You want to hate Jason Dixon so much, because he says and does some of the most truly despicable things in the film. But, on the flip side, his blissful ignorance about everything and his general bumbling cop act gave me belly laughs at times. It's not often that a film has three actors/actress' that have three separate stories being told that isn't a jumbled mess. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” manages this very well and it shows because Martin McDonagh (who should've been nominated for Best Director) knows how to handle characters in a very unique way.

-Best Supporting Actress-

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”*
Like with "Darkest Hour" and “All the Money in the World” I had no real desire to see this film at all. While I'm sure the performance is good, I haven't seen the film and I have no frame of reference to judge.

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya
Allsion Janney as Tony Harding's mother LaVona is for lack of a better term just an abusive bitch. She's a character that makes you wince and makes you grit your teeth when she's on screen because she just drips malice. Even when Tonya was younger, LaVona is heavily abusive with both Tonya's dad and herself. I never quite understand how some actors can get into roles like these because, whether or not we're presented with the true LaVona Harding, the one we're given is such a horrible human being. Janney is superb in the role in the same way a great heel in professional wrestling is great, she makes you loathe her. The out for herself attitude, the pageant mother-like mentality and the fact that she would just be generally rude to almost everyone at the drop of a hat makes her the most vile person in these nominations. That's crazy because there's three people nominated from "Three Billboards."

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread
So, why is Lesley Maville nominated for Best Supporting Actress here? Why isn't Vicky Krieps nominated for literally anything as Alma Elson? Krieps, like Day-Lewis, had an astounding character and performance, moreso than the actual film turned out to be for me, as a whole. Her and Day-Lewis had a chemistry that was just amazing as you felt the love, hate, lust, bitterness, etc, that the two had for each other oozing out of a given line or scene. I know I turned this into gushing about a person not nominated, but I'm utterly confused as to why Day-Lewis' handler so-to-speak (official title of sister) in the film is given such high praise with this nomination, when one half of the best part of the film isn't even nominated. Manville was fine, but maybe because I didn't really zone in on anything else other than Day-Lewis and Krieps performances, that what Manville did went unnoticed for me.

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird
Marion McPherson has a problem on her hands through the whole of Lady Bird because the title character herself is honestly a terror. Laurie Metclaf plays the mother hated by her teenage daughter because she's a teenage daughter, greatly and at times you would things she's the devil antagonist. But if you look beyond what Lady Bird sees her mother as, you see a woman who is at the end of her rope. Her husband isn't doing so hot, her daughter is about to leave for college (perhaps one she can't even get in) and the whole family seems to be in a constant state of drama. Her chemistry with Saoirse Ronan is awesome and the scenes when they're at odds, or even just driving in a car or trying on clothes are some of the best parts in this film.

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water
Man this film is nominated EVERYWHERE, and while I didn't like it as much as other films, the praise is definitely well deserved. I said it somewhere up there that I thought the whole supporting cast of this film was stellar and this includes Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller, Sally Hawkins characters best friend. Well I don't know if they're best friends, but Zelda signs for her at work. I don't really know what to say about her other than, much like Richard Jenkins, she is the epitome of a great supporting character. She is a good character that has heartfelt, concerned, humorous, and emotional moments. Also--like Jenkins--never really outshines Hawkins. 

-Best Director-

Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
If you go back and read my first few links on "Dunkirk" as a whole you can see why I liked Nolan's direction with this film so much. It's a war film, yes, but it's not one that spoon-feeds you every piece of information until you get to the next explosion. It's realistic, it's brutal, you get glimpses of the characters lives and backstories though visual queues. It's a film that rewards you for paying attention and not just turning your brain off.

Get Out,” Jordan Peele
If you had told me after I saw "Get Out" last February that it would be nominated for Best Picture, Actor, Director and Original Screenplay at the f'ing Academy Awards in 2018 I'd have told you to stop giving into the hype THAT much. I'll be the first to admit that I was skeptical going into the film as well, but Jordan Peele crafted a film that, whether you liked it or not, got everyone talking. The twists, the social commentary, the writing, just everything about the film worked. This was a highly unique film that took what everyone thought it was going to be and turned it on it's ear. I'm excited for what Peele's next endeavor is going to be.

Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
I first heard of Greta Gerwig when "Frances Ha" blew up in 2012 and I really didn't get or like the film when I watched it at the time. Looking back with five plus years of film watching under my belt, I probably still wouldn't like it, because it's not a film for me. "Lady Bird" I was much more interested in and it's mostly because of Saoirse Ronan, because she's a treat. We're using the word quirky for the final time in this post--I think--and it really describes all these types of indie films and a lot of the stuff Gerwig has done. The scenes are fine, the acting is good, the story is alright, but it has that indie vibe slathered all over it and I'm still not sure if it's a good or bad thing.

Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson is a director that you're either gonna like his films or hate his films. He has a certain style and even if he's jumping around genre's between his films, his methodical attention to detail is always apparent. This film is no different and the attention to detail--in both characters and things like sets and camera angles--is astounding. Not to mention Daniel Day-Lewis in his last acting role goes out with a bang, as the two were rocketed back into film goers eyes with the fantastic "There Will Be Blood"and continue to dominate with "Phantom Thread".

The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro
I wasn't sure I was going to like "The Shape of Water" as much as I did just because del Toro is such a hit and miss director for me. I'm not sure if it was his direction or Sally Hawkins performance that struck me the hardest with this but I did enjoy myself. The acting was great, the story was alight and I liked the overall style of the film as well. I don't think he needed to do anything too special, because the acting and writing was so on point. I'm not sure I said anything useful there, but if I did, I hope you got it.

-Animated Feature-

The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
"your name.," Makoto Shinkai
Instead of talking about "The Boss Baby" I'm going to be talking about a film you've probably not heard of unless you're a weeaboo like myself. If you don't know what a weeaboo is in current year, I'm astounded. It's a slang term that refers to non-Japanese people who enjoy the Japanese culture a little too much.
Anyway, the film I'm going to be talking about here is "your name.", an anime film that came out in Japan over the summer of 2016, but made it to the states in early 2017. "your name." follows the story of a high school Mitsuha who lives in Itomori, Japan as well as a high school boy, Taki, who lives in Tokyo. Mitsuha out of boredom wishes to be a handsome boy in her next life and then begins intermittently switching bodies with Taki. The two leave notes for each other, influence each others lives for the better and eventually the Taki becomes engrossed in a supernatural race against the past to save Mitsuha from grave danger. This film isn't as much of a real-life parallel as "A Silent Voice" but this is a helluva ride from start to finish, with some of the most beautiful animation you're likely to see. There are some plot holes, but this a romantic drama that hits hall the right notes otherwise. The characters are great, the voice acting is amazing, the story is highly unique and it's just a pleasure to immerse yourself in.

The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
I think a lot of the animated features I'm touching on have a ton of themes that are just as heavy as those of their non-animated counterparts. "The Breadwinner" is no different as it focuses on the story of Parvana, a young girl living in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Her father is taken away after a young, irrational Taliban member thinks he was insulted by him. Now Parvana must pretend to be a boy, since the family is without a male relative, to provide for the family until she can get to her father and get out of the oppressive place they're in. This is a startling film that shows how backwards the middle east can be at times. Not with just its regard to religion, but how it treats its own people, both women and men alike. While I don't know how accurate some of the scenarios are, from what I've learned over the years the events of this film probably aren't too far away from the truth. This is a rough film to watch at times so it's not for the feint of heart, but it's a film that will likely stick with you as the story, characters and voice acting are all stellar.

Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
It's the Oscars so Disney and Pixar are here! As usual with Pixar this is a gorgeous looking film. It follows the story of Miguel, who is banned from listening to or making music by his family. The ban is because their great-great-grandfather, a musician, left their great-great grandmother. Miguel is extremely talented with a guitar, but can't shine because of his family. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel gets transported to the Land of the Dead and must band together with his family to get back and bring music back into his life. The story is fine, very Disney/Pixar, so you're know what you're getting out of this. You also know that the voice acting and the animation will be top-notch. The Land of the Dead is a vibrant colorful wonderland. The music is also really good and the main song of the film is a really good tune. "Coco" works well on all levels, as expected from Pixar.

Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
"A Silent Voice," Naoko Yamada
Like "The Boss Baby" above I'm going to talk about a different film entirely here and you should likely see it over this "Ferdinand". Sorry, John Cena.
"A Silent Voice" came out in Japan in fall of 2016, but worldwide in 2017. It follows the story of Shoya Ishida, a boy who in grade school bullies a deaf girl, Shoko Nishimiya, and it makes him become an outcast from there on out. In high school Shoya is still socially rejected, and now depressed and suicidal, but still has the desire to make things up to Shoko, his mother and former friends. This is a deep film that hits you hard emotionally and makes you actually angry at some of the things young Shoya does. Kids are unforgiving at times and the film doesn't shy away from that. The mixed of emotions from Shoya throughout the rest of the film are only matched by the sadness that permeates from Shoko throughout the entire film. There are anime cliches, but the writing, voice acting, art are all superb. Not to mention the overall the story is a powerful one about bullying and how it affects everyone, not only at the time, but later on as well.

Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman
I was quite surprised by this film because I kinda just went into it on name alone. "Loving Vincent" follows the story of a man who is investigating the death of Vincent van Gogh a year after it occurred. The man talks to everyone who was in van Gogh's life around the time of his death and tries to figure out the circumstances behind what actually happened. This film is the first feature film to be animated entirely by painting. The voice acting is great and the art is absolutely unique and wonderful to look at. The story is kind-of odd and at times feels too preachy and out of place. But if you're a fan of van Gogh's art or just a unique film to look at, then "Loving Vincent" is worth a watch.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Sony's back with Spider-Man, head for the hills! Wait, Andrew Garfield is gone? Yes, no more emo Peter. Marvel is in control of the film? They haven't outright failed with an MCU film yet. Was it better than Rami's first couple of films? Yes and no. Well hell yeah then! "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is the second foray of Peter Parker into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His first appearance being in "Captain America: Civil War" was stellar. Tom Holland is someone who was an unknown going into the MCU and now he's a bonafide star. The rest of the cast was pretty alright, the story was kinda bare bones, the CGI and action are okay, while the emotion and humor are top notch. As an MCU origins film it's one of the better ones. The original Iron Man still tops the list, but I'd put this film just ahead of Ant-Man and Dr. Strange.

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" is set after the events "Captain America: Civil War" and follows the story of Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Holland) as he juggles school, life, superpowers and hunting down Adrian Toomes / Vulture (Michael Keaton). We open with Toomes and his construction crew cleaning debris from the wreckage after the Battle of New York, they get booted from the job as the government is taking over the work. They end up with a piece of alien tech and decide to start up a criminal organization. Jumping to present day, we learn that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) doesn't think Peter is quite ready to be in The Avengers, so he resumes his studies at school, where he recently departed the decathlon team, against Aunt May's (Marisa Tomei) wishes. One night after Peter stopped Toomes men from robbing a bunch of ATMs he sneaks back home only to be greeted by his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), finding out his secret identity and wanting to be his 'Guy in the Chair.' With the school abuzz about Spider-Man the two get invited to a party held by senior Liz (Laura Harrier), who Peter likes. Peter leaves the party to get some air and notices a fiery blue explosion in the distance and saves a local gangster, Aaron Davis (Donald Glover), from more of Toomes' men. Thus begins Peter's hunt for Toomes, because he realizes that he is a bigger threat than Tony and Happy (Jon Favreau) think.

The first thing you notice about this film is that it has a character driven tone, alongside humor and emotion, with action sprinkled in. Peter Parker, played superbly by Tom Holland, is introduced to the MCU with a bang. You learn about his knowledge from his decathlon prowess, his humor and wit from any encounter with anyone and his emotion from most of the final act and his interactions with Stark. Peter Parker is a great character and I think playing the younger 15 year old fits the big screen much better than the older Parker from Rami's films. Elevating the character is the performance by Tom Holland. He's gotten the comics version of Parker down better than Tobey and the overall character much better than Garfield. The Spidey quips are on point as well, better than Deadpool, fight me. We also get a great character in Adrian Toomes played by the great Michael Keaton. Toomes isn't just a bad guy being a blackmarket-like dealer because he's evil. We learn why he becomes what he does, the government taking one of his biggest jobs, he is loyal to his crew--for the most part--and puts his family before anything else. He also doesn't mix work with play. Toomes is one of the more interesting villains because he's not hellbent on taking over the world like almost everything else in the MCU. The earth isn't at stake or anything of the sort, but the menacing of Vulture and his crew, if left alone, is not lost on Peter. Michael Keaton is superb as Toomes / Vulture, he's one of the best villains/characters in the MCU. He feels real and has conviction, not to mention he's one of the best acted villains, right up there with Loki. Showing you don't have to be a big-time baddie to hold weight. Plus, Peter and his interactions throughout the film are spot on.

The rest of the cast is okay. What more is there to say about RDJ as Tony Stark? He's got charisma with everyone, although I want more out of him and Spider-Man since his and Hollands rapport is off the charts. Favreau always has a fun role in these MCU films as Happy, especially when you have Stark razzing him all the time. Marisa Tomei is far too beautiful and it's quite distracting thinking of her in that way as Aunt May. But the character works because Peter is really young, so Aunt May can be younger too. The younger guys around Peter for most of the film are okay. There's not enough of Zendaya as Michelle Jones, but she's got some good comic relief (and possibly a Taylor Swift shirt at one point). Donald Glover's small role as a gangster is fun and his couple scenes with Spider-Man is funny. The same with Hannibal Burress' bit role as their PE teacher, like I mentioned this film has legit laughs. Ned is great comic relief and a great friend to Peter from start to finish and is played well by Batalon. "Do you lay eggs?" I hope they finally finish that LEGO Death Star model. Harrier as Peter's love interest Liz is okay, and seeing Flash Gordon (Tony Revolori) as a smug rich kid bully was kind-of weird. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the hilarious Captain America PSAs throughout the film as he tries to teach kids how to be moral like himself. "So your body is changing, I know how that feels..."

The story itself is pretty basic, but the characters and emotion elevate it. Without Holland, Keaton and RDJ this could be forgettable. Holland, especially in the final act, carries the film and the scene before the air heist showcases emotion not usually shown in the MCU. The dialogue is fast paced and full of humor and life. The opening vlog with Peter going through the events leading to the Civil War fight and to present, is a great opening to the film and really sets the tone. Not only that, the Keaton scenes have an air of malice behind them. Finally, the RDJ and Tomei scenes are like watching a couple parents trying to help out a growing boy. If you've seen a MCU origins film this isn't too much different. What sets it apart is a couple twists and great charisma an emotion from Holland and Keaton. The action is alright and despite what people say, the trailer does not spoil the whole film, it's a little deeper than something like "Transformers." The neighborhood chase scene, the bank robbing scene as well as the final set piece are all pretty good. There's a few wide-shots during scenes in the film that I thought were awesome. The music is fun and Marvel is doing great with all their scores and OSTs this year. The CGI is okay. The Spider-Man suits are look great, the scene where he's getting to know Karen (Jennifer Connelly) is another example of the character building in the film too. The closing line of the film is pretty fitting as well. Just about everything is this film is fun and there's not much that is "bad" that's worth nit-picking over to me.

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" feels a lot like "Iron Man" from way back now. A great film that introduces a huge charismatic hero that will be with us for years to come. Peter Parker / Spider-Man is an awesome character, and while it may not be better than say "Spider-Man 2," as a whole I think it captures the essence of Spider-Man much better. As I've echoed this is funny and more emotional than most of the MCU films. Tom Holland is great, Michael Keaton is awesome and the rest of the supporting cast doesn't detract. I'm looking forward to more Spidey interactions with the rest of the MCU going forward, there are so many awesome potential combos with people. Because lets face it, Spider-Man is the best Marvel hero.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

This is the film that DC Extended Universe needed. They needed a win. "Man of Steel" was average at best. "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" was a letdown. "Suicide Squad" was an Oscar winning nightmare. So to think that a solo Wonder Woman film--an origins story as well--could be the jolt the DCEU gets, is marvelous. Gal Gadot was pretty good in her considerable on-screen role. Yes, I know she was in Dawn of Justice, but it was a supporting role at best. Chris Pine was also on point as well throughout the film. The supporting cast of Amazonians as well as the WWI infiltration team were all pretty good too. The first half of the film is a sight for sore eyes as we get some color in the DCEU, but alas it was fleeting, because it goes right back to the dark grey pallet for the second half.

"Wonder Woman" is set after the events of "BvS: Dawn of Justice." In present day Paris, Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gadot) receives the original copy of the picture of her that Bruce Wayne sends to her in the previous film. Attached to it was a note saying that Bruce would love to hear her story sometime. This is when we fade back to the WWI-era to the island of Themyscira. Wonder Woman, then known as only Diana, was born and raised here. The island is inhabited by only Amazonians. After Ares corrupted mankind and killed the other gods, women were given this island with some of Zeus' last strength, to keep them away from man's evil corruption. Diana only wants to be a warrior, but her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), forbids it. Eventually Hippolyta knows she cannot anymore. Years later, after a sparring session in which Diana exhibits a feat of strength that marvels the rest of the Amazonians, she goes off to be with her thoughts and a plane crashes into the coast in front of where she is. Diana proceeds to rescue the pilot Steve Trevor (Pine). He is running from Germans, who find the protected island and attack one of the beaches. During the skirmish, the Amazonians take casualties and take Steve into custody. Using the Lasso of Truth they find out about the Germans, that World War I is happening and Trevor has a key piece of intel that could help end it. Diana decides that it's her duty to help end this war and--against her mother's wishes--leaves with Trevor to help end the violence. Once in Europe, Diana and Steve set out to try and turn the tides of the war in Germany. Because an evil is lurking just on the outside, waiting to end the truce that is being formed and keep the war from ending.

This film works because of Gal Gadot's portrayal of the innocent, yet committed, Diana. Chris Pine is also instrumental, because he give yet another good performance. Almost any character he portrays, he does it in an extremely efficient manner. But, back to Gal Gadot. I'll be honest, I didn't have a huge amount of faith in her. I still think she doesn't quite look the part. She doesn't look like the bigger and buffer Wonder Woman we're used to seeing. Even worse I thought her part in BvS: Dawn of Justice was only okay. I wasn't sure she could carry a solo film. Gal Gadot is emotion in a popcorn flick genre with this performance. Don't get me wrong, I still think a lot of the MCU is much better--or at least on par--with Wonder Woman. But, Gadot as Diana in this film go where a lot of superhero films don't, to emotions. She's sad to leave her homeland and feel genuine pain for all that's happening in the war. Once she gets to Europe she wants to help everyone and everything. She wants to end the was an beat Ares, but she also wants to help literally everyone along the way. Her overall innocence and her ignorance to the real world, provided emotion, a bit of humor and fueled conflict as well. Diana is a decently written character in which a good performance by Gadot elevates it overall. Switching sides we get Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, the English spy that Diana saves near the start of the film. Pine has got great timing and does a great job of trying to help Diana learn the ropes in the world she's been dropped into. Most of the humorous happenings in the film, occur when the two are at odds about real world vs Themyscira. But it doesn't end at humor, the two have pretty solid chemistry and the serious, more emotional and action filled scenes between the two work well. There are a lot of small moments in the film where you get that tag team inkling. That being, knowing someone well enough that you could just look at them and know what was going to happen. Steve Trevor isn't new, he's a grizzled spy/war veteran that just wants to do one final bit of good in his life, when a woman hit him out of nowhere and helps him get there. Another example of a decently--but cliche-ridden--character, elevated by the performance of the actor.

The rest of the cast is portrayed well, though are pretty forgettable in all honestly. The Amazonians felt stiff, but it may be because they're essentially gruff and tough Greeks war goddesses, still thriving in their own society. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen were okay as the mother and aunt of Diana in the early going. On the other end, the WWI dream team were considerably more fun, but if you asked me where Eugene Brave Rock entered as Chief for the first time, I couldn't tell you. Ewen Bremner and Saïd Taghmaoui, as a drunk sharpshooter and master of disguise respectively, were both fun roles that stood out in the second half of a film that dragged badly at times. Steve Trevor's secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) was probably the most fun and memorable of the bunch. Bringing some solid comedic moments to the early going. The directing was okay as Patty Jenkins is already leagues ahead of Zack Snyder's DCEU films. So that's pretty cool. We just need to get Snyder's name of DCEU stuff completely now. The plot was typical superhero origin story, though it did have a bit of a plot twist sprinkled in, as well as a decent enough love story. I was afraid it would feel too much like "Captain America: The First Avenger," so I'm glad that the story took on a different approach. The bad guys overall were pretty weak, like in most superhero films. An angel dust snorting German commander (Danny Hudson), a face-wrecked mad scientist inventing Mustard Gas (Elena Anaya) and an old man masquerading as Ares (David Thewlis). All were underwhelming, though like the rest of the non-Gadot or Pine characters acted decently enough. Overall the plot was fairly standard, the story took on a life of it's own while the supporting cast did well, but were mostly forgettable.

With all the good, this film does have a lot of problems. The CGI near the end of the film in the final action sequences was just plain bad. While the rest of the CGI throughout the film was adequate at best. While I wasn't expecting it to be as good as "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" or "Doctor Strange," it shows that it's nowhere near that quality. The action is pretty forgettable aside from the town rescue scene which is probably has the best action in the film. The beach fight near the beginning of the film was pretty fun as well. But, if you're going to have a two plus hour superhero film you don't want only two points of action to stand out. Another problem is right there, the length. This is a long film and while the first act is pretty good, the second act and finale devolve back into typical DCEU as of late. It's just too long and the middle portion leading to the climax drags a lot. This devolving includes going from beautiful vibrant island colors to dark tones for the rest of the runtime. DC hates color. There's an overabundance of slow motion as well. I noted that about three minutes into the film slo-mo was already happening. Not only that, the shaky cam whenever the Nazi commander did his drugs was unintentionally hilarious. Also the Wonder Woman song--you know the song--that was interjected during random action points, felt forced rather than just using some sort of score piece. There was a lot of confusing moments during the climax as well, both in the story and CGI where I simply didn't know what was going on. Maybe a second watch will clear some things up for me. DC also needs to use title cards to tell us where we're jumping to as well. Though this movie isn't as confusing as "BvS: Dawn of Justice," there's a lot of places they travel to and throwing up a "Germany, 19xx" for a few seconds wouldn't hurt at all. Finally the ending monologue form Wonder Woman before the credits roll was pretty cliche-ridden as well and not hugely needed. Especially after that walk though the crowd to touch Trevor's picture and the current day holding of his watch moments before. DC has made a stride with this but there's still a lot of things that it could do much better.

"Wonder Woman" is no joke, it's a competent enough DECU film (arguably the best thus far) that gives DC the cinematic jolt it hasn't really had since Nolan's Batman films. You just read about it's plethora of problems above, but the overall supporting cast and characters were solid if not forgettable. The writing and story have some emotion behind them and did their own thing, even though it's pretty cliche and confusing at times. Finally, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have fantastic chemistry and the duo give us entertaining, humorous and emotional performances."Wonder Woman" isn't the second coming of superhero films, there's just too many problems for me too look past, but it's a fairly entertaining film that worth a watch or two.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The 89th Annual Academy Awards [Fat Jesus' Thoughts]

Now I try to do one of these fancy schmancy posts about the Oscars every year. I think I'm starting to be a little more loose with my writing and just say my uninhibited thoughts on a given film. So I'm going to try and bring that into what I've been doing with these posts over the past number of years. I used to reserve this posts as my "one big serious post of the year." The Oscars! They're important and infallible! Not so much. There's gonna be off the cuff remarks and "humor." My opinion over the years has started to widen and mature (or deteriorate, I suppose). The Academy Awards are not the end all be all, the biggest and probably most influential--maybe--but you shouldn't take everything they do as gospel. They're too white. They get it wrong. They don't nominate the right things. My responses to all this is don't take them as seriously. If you like the films they nominate, great! If you don't like them, that's cool too! Only two films the nominated for Best Picture are in my top 10 for the year ("Hell or High Water" and "Manchester by the Sea"). There's no need to gung-ho and political about what Hollywood wants you to think is the best. raise the films that you like and adore. "Green Room", "The Nice Guys", "The Witch" and "Nocturnal Animals" are all great films that may be nominated to little to nothing, yet are better to me than "Lion", "Hidden Figures" and "Fences" (which are all perfectly solid films.) I think I'm rambling. Watch, enjoy, complain, do what you wish during the Academy Awards this year, but don't let something as silly as rich people giving each other awards get under your skin. Don't let it consume you and let's talk about some films! (I'm not going to go over all the nominations, but I'm hitting all the bigger categories.)

-Best Picture-
This is easily the best sci-fi film of the year. Great acting, especially by Amy "I'm Not Nominated for This, but Natalie Portman is for a Film No One's Seen" Adams. She's broken out in a big way this year doing this, "Nocturnal Animals" and (if you can count it) "Batman v Superman." This is a smartly written, supremely acted and told in a great manner. The CGI was pretty underrated and not really distraction at all, so points for the production as well. The story is pretty unique and the climax is superb.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I watched this. I didn't know it was adapted from a play. I didn't know Viloa Davis was a supreme presence on-screen (though her role as Rose Lee Maxon certainly helped.) I also didn't know how much a single person could talk on screen in a film. It felt like Denzel Washington said enough dialogue to write fill three novels. I see why people liked it and Viola Davis' performance was grand, but it was not for me.

Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson, that Jew hater! Amirite? Getting off the cuff early, eh? If he's gonna keep directing films like this (like he's really done his whole career) then I'll keep praising them, regardless. I'm not a "war film" guy, but "Hacksaw Ridge" is one that crafts that feel good tingling in your heart with hyper-realistic war violence. Yeah, those two go together all the time! The story is based off of a biography of Desmond Doss, and while Gibson may have embellished thing, this feels accurate enough to history. The war scenes that make up most of the second half of the film are grisly, dark and you get sucked into the battle unfolding before you. On the flip side, the feel good energy and never give up attitude of Andrew Garfield as our focal point hero. I loved it personally, but I can't really see it getting to much traction as a true "Best Picture."

Hell or High Water
This is my favorite film out of the best picture nominees this year. I did a few on it last month, so I'll cliff notes here. Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine lead a trio (with Ben Foster) on a gritty (not as much as "Hacksaw Ridge") wild west inspired bank heist film set in our modern times. Think "No Country For Old Men" meets "The Assassination of Jessie James." Jeff Bridges proves he still has the acting chops, if not more refined than in recent years. Chris Pine, who I always pretty much saw as Captain Kirk, shows that he can pull of serious stuff. While Ben Foster can probably play any role well. I wish this would win for best picture like "No Country For Old Men" did, but I just don't think it can get past the "assumed" winner.

Hidden Figures
The biggest pure feel good film nominated here is "Hidden Figures." This is also based on the true story of three African-American women who were instrumental in helping John Glenn get to space for the first time. Taraji P. Henson, Olivia Spencer and Janelle Monae are the leads as they play Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, respectively. All three women are mathematicians, with Jackson setting her siting on being a NASA engineer. This isn't about them single handily saving the missions, but it does show they they were an instrumental part of the machine. This is film set when racial segregation was still kicking in America as well. While this is certainly about that, it's more about breaking down barriers and letting your work shine above all, no matter you gender or race. These three women seemingly helped change NASA and also helped a man get into and return from space (for the first time) safely. They were women, they were black and they were smart. The story was fine, the acting was good and everything wrapped up nicely. This is probably gonna go down as one of the most popular films to lose Best Picture (if it loses). 

La La Land
Fun film. Solid characters. Good music. Oh man, 'La-la Land' is LA! It's gonna win. (I liked this film.)

My friends and I watched M. Night Shamalamadingdong's "The Last Airbender" to start out this 2017. Don't ask me why. But, the guy who played Zuka is the lead in this. This film about a kid who gets lost in India as a child and is eventually adopted by Australian parents, who starts an emotional journey to find the home he once knew. Dev Patel is pretty decent, Rooney Mara is okay, Nicole Kidman and David Winham are fine and the kid who played young Saroo was great. It suffers from a formulaic approach to a story that needed unique direction to set it apart from the "it'll all be alright in the end" vibe I felt throughout the film. Don't get me wrong, the acting was fine and the story was cool, but it just didn't grip me like other films in this category or this year in general.

This film is about the life of a gay black man growing up and coming to terms with himself. On the surface it's your typical "Oscar-bait" film. I didn't know anything about the plot going into "Moonlight" and despite it's kinda wonky last act, it's probably the most invested I found myself watching a film out of this list. I'm not gay. I'm not black. But, I don't need to be those get into the phenomenal writing of the characters in this film. I'm not sure if Janelle Monae is the first actor/actress to be nominated in two separate Best Picture films, but even her supporting role as Teresa in this is fantastic. Everyone feels real and not like a character in a film. Mahershala Ali as Juan, Chiron's father figure and Teresa's husband, was sublime in the first couple of acts of the film. Young Chiron, played by Alex Hibbert, helps set up the supporting cast and the story. Where teenage and adult Chiron (Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes, respectively), are both the heart of the rest of the film and keep us engaged until the credits roll. Moonlight may be "Oscar-bait" but it's some of the best bait I've gone after in awhile.

Manchester by the Sea
This film, oh man, what an emotional roller-coaster. While not as gripping for me as "Moonlight," "Manchester by the Sea" is a heavy film. From start to finish you see the struggles of a man who has been through A LOT. I don't want to spoil the actual progression of the film, but Casey Affleck is out of this world as Lee Chandler (my favorite performance by an actor), a handyman working in a small town in Massachusetts. He's gets a call that a family member dies and has to take their son in as guardian. The other half of his story up until that phone call, is told in the form of flashbacks on Lee's life until he hit rock bottom. This film is a deep, introspective look into the life of a man who has--pardon for lack of a better cliche-- been to hell and back. Affleck is the driving force behind this film and his supporting cast is perfect. This should be seen by more people than it has.

Who I Want to Win: Hell or High WaterManchester by the Sea
Who Will Win: La La Land

-Best Actor-
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
As you just read above, I think Casey Affleck had the best male performance of the nominees. He gets so deep into the character of Lee Chandler it's astounding how easily I forgot this was a character. The flashbacks, the current plot weave Lee effortlessly throughout the story. Highly emotional and exceptionally real, Casey Affleck was superb.

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Spider-Man! I mean, Desmond Doss! Andrew Garfield's best performance since "The Social Network," shows that he's pretty alright when the film is capable. Like the first half of the film, it starts off awkwardly. But, once they get to the actual (kinda embellished) ridge and battle, he takes over. Garfield is the guy who keeps the film ticking and he does a pretty good job with it.

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Ryan Gosling was alright in "La La Land." He's not a singer, so I was impressed he didn't sound awful. I do like too, that he actually played the piano (at least in the earlier scenes). He story arch was pretty cliche--like most of the film, if we're being honest--but he was perfectly good as Sebastian Wilder. I think he was better in "The Nice Guys" last year.

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Didn't see the film, so I can't really comment on his performance. This category is loaded, if he somehow wins, the one guy in Vegas who bet $1000 on him winning Best Actor is probably gonna be a rich guy.

Denzel Washington (Fences)
Washington, as Troy Maxon, said more word in this film than I've likely said since the start of 2017. Good Lord, his dialogue is overpowers everyone (but Viola Davis), but I guess that's who the Troy Maxson character is, completely controlling. Denzel, who also directed and produced this, gets in deep and probably deserves to win. I just liked Casey Affleck so much.

Who I Want to Win: Casey Affleck
Who Will Win: Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington

-Best Actress-
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Didn't see. Where's Amy Adams for Arrival or Nocturnal Animals?

Ruth Negga (Loving)
Again, didn't see. Where's Taraji P. Henson for Hidden Figures?

Emma Stone (La La Land)
I liked Emma Stone the most in "La La Land." Like Ryan Gosling, her singing was perfectly fine and her character in general was fun. She was the most relateable in the film and generally had the better humor. Also like, Gosling, her cliche story line is overcome by her ability to get into her character.

Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Didn't want to see. Jesus, it really looks like I hate women, huh? But, where's Sasha Lane for American Honey?

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Obligatory Meryl Streep nomination. Though *I heard* she was really good in the film, despite it being fairly mediocre overall.

Who I Want to Win: Emma Stone
Who Will Win: Emma Stone, Meryl Streep

-Best Supporting Actor-

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Damn, do I love older actors in closer to modern day westerns. Tommy Lee Jones in "No Country For Old Men" and now Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton in this. "Hell or High Water" becomes a mediocre flick if Bridges isn't on his A-game. Fortunately, Bridges brings a gritty--yet down to earth--style to a Texas Ranger that is nearing the end of his career. He has the best moments and dialogue in the film and his scene with Chris Pine near the end of the film was exceptional.

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Like Janelle Monae, Mahershala Ali is nominated into two separate Best Picture films. He was fine in "Hidden Figures" but "Moonlight " is another animal. He plays Juan, a drug dealer, who starts to mentor (with the help of Janelle Monae's Teresa, his wife) a kid, Chiron, whose mother is an awful drug-dealing prostitute who treats him terribly. The scenes at the kitchen table and beach with younger Chiron are sublime. While his first confrontation with Chiron's mother was intense. I'm really hoping Ali wins this category, but it really is stacked.

Dev Patel (Lion)
Don't ask me why. But, if you told me that the kid who followed up killing it in "Slumdog Millionaire" (I still think that was a fine film) with playing Zuko, in what is considered one of the worst films of all time, would now be nominated for Best Supporting Actor, I'd would have probably done nothing. And here we are after a probably run-on and confusing sentence. I thought Sunny Pawar, the kid who played the younger Saroo Brierley, was more impactful, but Patel carried the second half of the film pretty hardcore.

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
This may seem out of place, but if you've seen "Manchester by the Sea," then you'll know the reason he's nominated here. He's not only the 'Yang' to Casey Affleck's 'Yin,' but he's the thing that keeps Lee Chandler's character going in the second half of the film. As much as Chandler wanted to be the guy renting out a basement, helping people with handiwork, he needed Patrick Chandler more than he let on. Hedges is smart, composed and kept up with the emotional pace of this heavy film.

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
I'm glad "Nocturnal Animals" got this nomination because I quite enjoyed it. The plot within a plot was fun, despite the overall revenge plot being rather predictable. Michael Shannon, as Detective Bobby Andes is not a character in the main plot. He's one in the book, which has one of the subplots of the film. Confusing right? Anywho, Shannon is scary fun as the character in the book is so heightened. He's not quite cliche, but he's not overly original either. Shannon plays him straight down the line as well, he doesn't stray to far enough into the cliche and that's what make him work.

Who I Want to Win: Jeff Bridges, Mahershala Ali
Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Lucas Hedges

-Best Supporting Actress-
Viola Davis (Fences)
This is one of those performances that you know is an all-time classic, so to speak. Once she was nominated, she was probably going to take the award. Davis' role as Rose Lee Maxson was transcendent. Her powerful presence, sincerity, and pure emotion was a wonder to watch. She interacted with the rest of the cast, especially Denzel Washington, expertly. You see her range from laughter to sorrow to joy and hope. Davis' performance was my favorite thing about "Fences."

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Remember the abusive mother of Chiron from "Moonlight" that I mentioned earlier? Well Naomie Harris was the one who played Paula. Her early scenes with Ali and Hibbert, set the tone about her vices. Her later scene with Rhodes in the third act was powerfully emotional. You hate her like Chiron does early on. As the film matures and grows up with Chiron, you start to see her in the light he does. She's hurt him, but she hass recognized what she's done and is truly trying to fix the wounds she inflicted. I would've liked to see Janelle Monae nominated for her role as Teresa, but Harris' performance was just as good.

Nicole Kidman (Lion)
The weakest of the five nominees is Nicole Kidman's performance as Sue Brierley, Saroo's Austirilan adoptive mother. She may be the weakest of these five, but behind Patel, she was my favorite character in "Lion" You saw true kindness in everything she tried to do. You saw the pain she felt when her kids were at odds. You saw the love and accepting in her heart when Saroo's told her about the journey to find her family. Kidman was casted well and she delivered a great performance.

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
I don't think there's too much to say about Octavia Spencer's performance in "Hidden Figures" as Dorothy Vaughan. She was great. The chemistry between her, Henson and Monae was incredible. Not only that, her character was written well. I'm sure there was some embellishing, but she was seamless between supportive friend, amazing mother and caring supervisor. I still think Henson should've been nominated for anything, but it's great that one of the three got nominated for anything.

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Like Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, Michelle Williams as Randi, Lee's former wife, is a tale of two halves. You see a very different person in the flashbacks than what so you in present day scenes. William and Affleck tread that line very well. The different degrees of emotion is astounding. Like Chandler, Randi has gone through a metric ton of rough times and is just trying to keep going despite it. You see love and pain alike. You see the highs and lows. This is the most emotional film I watched last year and Williams did a fantastic job with her role as Randi.

Who I Want to Win: Viola Davis
Who Will Win: Viola Davis

-Best Animated Feature-
Kubo and the Two Strings
The stop motion film you've likely seen if you're looking for animation from 2016. "Kubo and the Two Strings" was a fun ride. The animation was top notch and that's the selling point for Kubo. What it may lack in great voice acting or fleshed out characters, it makes up for with a beautifully designed world and characters. The plot is pretty standard, the voice acting is okay and the characters are kind-of thin. But overall, Kubo is pretty alright, if not for seeing the animation and design alone.

I may be a little biased, but this was my favorite film of 2016. I know, I'm a 26 year old man, but "Moana" made me feel some feels, man. The second Disney animated offering released in 2016 to earn a Best Animated feature, did so in a more traditional way. with the whole singing plus "princess" route. "Moana's" score and soundtrack were my favorite of the year. While the animation, voice acting and story (even though it felt a bit rushed near the end) were all superb. The Rock was great as Maui, while Auli'i Cravalho--both singing and voicing--as Moana was outstanding. I really want "How Far I'll Go" to win Best Original song as well.

My Life As a Zucchini
The lone film I haven't been able to see off of the nominations. *I hear* it's great. And if it does indeed win over these other four, that same Vegas guy who bet on Viggo Mortensen, will have a lot more money to gamble away during the baseball season.

The Red Turtle
If Ghibli's gonna release a film, it's probably gonna get an Oscar nomination. I liked "The Red Turtle," a mostly silent film that follows the story of a man who is trapped on a desert island who suddenly finds a mysterious turtle that changes his life. Beautifully animated with a good story and great score, this is a fine nomination. Though if I'm going to have an anime film nominated this year, I'd have much rather it been "your name." by Makoto Shinkai.

This was near the top of my favorite films for most of the year. It was eventually passed by only "Moana," "Captain America: Civil War" and "Hell or High Water." I loved (almost) everything about this film, and that it was more than just a kids film. It didn't outright scream "prejudice" and "racism." It did touch on it in a way for kids to be able to get acclimated with a heavy subject at a younger age. The story was surprisingly deep, the animation was top notch and the voice acting was great as well. The only thing I really didn't like was the music, it just didn't work for me or this film.

Who I Want to Win: Moana
Who Will Win: Zootopia

-Best Director-
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
"La La Land" is projected to be big winners. They've cleaned up everywhere. I'm not convinced it was the best film, but I an convinced that Chazelle was the best director. He took what easily could've been just another musical, and turned it into a great overall experience. His musical numbers are the best parts of the film and bring out the best of the people involved. From "Whiplash" to this, he's one of the best people going right now.

Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Did I already make a "Mel Gibson hates Jews" joke? Does he even still get hate if he's allowed to appear like he did last year and get nominated like he did this year? Who knows? What I do know is Mel Gibson, even with his embellishing of things, made a damn fine war scene. His attention to detail was incredible in the second half of the film. The last half of "Hacksaw Ridge" is some of the most grisly and brutal war footage you'll ever see. Overall, "Hacksaw Ridge" was pretty good too.

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
"Moonlight" is a very intimate film. The one thing I wanted to point out while I was watching, was the use of tight shots of the face as well a only framing the person talking. Rarely in a scene would there be a wide shot or the whole room. You were always with the person talking, seeing that person as something was happening to them. At times it was pleasant, at times it was emotional. Jenkins found the perfect style that this film needed.

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Man, Kenneth Lonergan had it easy. He was given a supreme script and story. Superb acting by Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges. All he had to do was film it. (Don't worry, I know he did more.) Everything looked great and this was a well oiled film that clicked in every single aspect.

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
I still think it's a crime that Amy Adams did not get nominated for this film. Denis Villeneuve did a great job of bringing this short story to life. The best stuff was the scenes inside the alien spacecraft and the flashbacks. The darker tone of this film, a lot of black, overcast skies and grays in general, lend to the confused and scared feeling of the world. Definitely the weakest of the bunch, but a well deserved nomination nonetheless.

Who I Want to Win: Damien Chazelle
Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle