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


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker [A Why Did I Watch This "Review"]

**This review and post has naughty language, inappropriate "jokes" and thoughts about a naughty "film." Don't ever view this film..and possibly this review.**

"Fifty Shades Darker" doesn't count as a real film. So I'm not going to give it a real review. I gave "Fifty Shades of Grey" a review. But, nope, not this time. The first film was bland, boring and worst of all not nearly bad enough to properly make fun of. I honestly can't remember any of it. Nor will I likely remember any of this film by the time next February rolls around.

"Fifty Shades Darker" goes above and beyond the first "film." They make sure no conflict goes immediately unresolved. It's as if they were blasting through six episodes of a soap opera in the mid-1990s. It got dialogue from local internet fan fiction forums, probably including ones for Vin Diesel. They brought the unnecessary helicopter back and let it crash. There's just so much to digest in this, I can barely comprehend all that happened. There's no plot in this, by the way. There's no plot in the first one. How are these being legitimately watched by people?

The leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have the chemistry of two rocks on a mountain. At least they were better in this than in the first "film." In scenes, they "act" as if they're off-brand Barbie and Ken dolls that a 5-year old is playing with. While the beautiful and vibrate setting of Seattle is perfect setting for the muddled fifty shades of dark colors and misery. The tone shifts from boring, to bewilderment, unintentional comedy, to awe, to dissecting reality and finally making peace with the deity you believe in.

Oh right, the sex. Yeah, there's sex scenes. There's front boob, side boob, side butt, butt butt. There's also sensuality with awkward dialogue, almost rape (don't worry, that got resolved in five minutes like all other "conflict"), missionary position, Mormon position and finally, you guessed it, the ever kinky and totally outrageous, missionary position! For a series that prides itself on pushing the envelope, there sure is a lot of safe stuff when it comes to the "controversy" they're trying to create.

"Fifty Shades Darker" is better suited to the people's actual imaginations that are reading the "book" series (Ew), than it is being a "film" for them. Because there is no way that this watered down, badly acted, badly written, badly everything'd "adaptation", can get more out of the people that want to see it, than actually fantasizing (Ew) can.


-Commentary From The People I Watched With-

"Ah, the bright and vibrant sweeping shots of Seattle."

"Nice boat, does it come in heterosexual?"

"How did they do anal in missionary earlier?"

"He's gonna go down on her again and she hasn't even sucked his dick."

"Look at those special f**k pants."

"Did you just say "The Boob Titties.""

"Is he gonna eat those (panties) instead of dinner?"

"F**king kill her!"

"Holy shit, he has The Force."

"Wow, hey, the tension got resolved in one scene again!"

"This sounds like the music in "God's Not Dead.""

"He's Batman dude."

"Oh, he's subbing to her now. Symbolism."

"The fire burns with the passion of 1,000 suns."

"All the oxygen can see her boobs."

"She's not even bottomless."

"I like this movie cause it reminds me of shit."

"He's planking."

"Guys, if you don't know (yet), he's rich."

"Hey look, it's Graeme."

"Hey look a helicopter again."

"They inserted this [movie long] conflict in the last 15 minutes."



"Sometimes this music is ill-timed and always bad."

"[Missionary] It's kinky, Matt."

"Are they hyping up the third film like MCU would?"

"Yo, we only have to wait a year to see part three?! THIS IS LIT!"

-Actual Lines/Things in the "Film"-

Text: Dream of me
Reply: Maybe. Thanks for tonight. Laters Baby.

"I think we should take it slow." *Later in the scene we have the first sex scene*

"You know that's off-limits."
"I'm gonna need a road map"

"I'm too dressed."

"No, you're not putting those in my butt."

"I don't know whether to worship at your feet or spank you."

"I wanna marry you."

"My arrival into the world isn't something I feel like celebrating."

"It's after midnight."
"I'm not tired."

"Wait, so this whole time, I had the answer in my pocket?"

"You taught me how to f**k, Elena. Ana, taught me how to love."

*The Chronicles of Riddick poster on the wall*

*The pointless second proposal after she already said yes to the first proposal.*