Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What I Played in 2018 [Fat Jesus Video Game Thoughts]

I’ve played a lot of new video games for the first time this year. From 2018 releases like Celeste and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, to older titles such as Mega Man for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance. I’ve streamed my adventures listed below on Twitch to boot. The only games I feel I’ve missed out on are God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 (both of which I would have played, had I still had my PS4.) Also, I don’t feel I’ve missed out on Spider-Man for the PS4 since I watched my friend play through it. I’ve played hacks, ports and even a 3DO game, and while I haven’t played a ton, I feel that these 26 games were a full year of myself jumping into digital adventures. I hope you all enjoy my thoughts on what I’ve played in 2018! (After my top six, I’m going to only being giving brief thoughts.)

Celeste (PC) - 10/10
Celeste is already up there as one of my favorite games of all time and is up there with Super Meat Boy and Donkey Kong Country 2 as my favorite 2D platformer of all time. It’s not just a jumpy jump game, it has an emotional nature of the story, beautiful art, precise gameplay, tight controls and astounding soundtrack. You can pick up this game a play through it in a couple of hours, or you can spend countless hours collecting Strawberries and doing the B and C-Sides of the worlds. All of this adds up to one of the most complete games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in my life.

Super Mario Odyssey (NSW) - 9/10
I finally got my hands on a Nintendo Switch in October, and oh boy was I stoked to get my hands-on Super Mario Odyssey. As a huge fan of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine growing up, Odyssey falls more in line with those to games than it does with the Galaxy titles. The game is packed with plenty of collectables (Power Moons, purple coins and outfits), a wide array of completely unique worlds and an awesome soundtrack to boot. Even if you’re just finishing the game and not collecting all the Power Moons and purple coins like I did, there’s an abundance to do.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW) - 9/10
I’ve already put over 30 hours in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and I haven’t even touched the online yet. I played a healthy amount of my time has, so far, been finishing World of Light and collecting spirits. I’ve also done a few of the Classic Mode runs to hit my nostalgia. Both modes are incredibly varied and highly creative (if a bit repetitive.) I put quite a few hours into Smash 4 between my Wii U and 3DS, but it never really captured my attention like Ultimate has thus far. The unbelievable number of fighters (with six more to come), what feels like every stage ever, an incredible array of original, remixed and reintroduced tracks and gameplay that feels more refined and faster than the previous entry.

Mega Man (NES) - 9/10
I need to get to the rest of the NES Mega Man games because this was a blast to go through for the first time since I was a kid. I’m still not convinced I beat this as a kid either. This game is tough, but the gameplay is still very fair. Each stage is challenging, and you feel a sense of accomplishment finishing a stage and the game. Not to mention this game has some of the best music from the NES era.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS) – 8/10
Ever since I played Danganronpa, I’ve been looking to get into more visual novels, and the first one I played since finishing Danganronpa V3 was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The game play is a bit dated, as is some of the dialogue, but this was a joy to play through. Each case had its own distinct feel and story. The overall story was great, the characters are memorable, the music is banging and the gameplay (both collecting evidence and in the courtroom) will leave anyone satisfied.

Hollow Knight (NSW, 70% Done) - 8/10
I’d been waiting to play Hollow Knight since it came out but never had the opportunity until now. I’ve never been huge into Metroidvania’s, but playing the game next on my list really spurred me to getting Hollow Knight as soon as I got my Switch. With great gameplay (both platforming and power-ups), awesome stage and background design, a huge map, challenging enemies and bosses, this game so far (I’d say I’m about 70% done at the moment) hits in all the right places.

Metroid Fusion (GBA) - 8/10
The afore mentioned Metroid Fusion clocks in just outside of my top five. Great gameplay, awesome design, engaging story and good mechanics, power ups and movements.

Pokémon Crystal Clear (GBC, Open-World Hack) - 7/10
If you’ve ever played Pokémon over the years, you’ve been clamoring for an open-world adventure, where you can start off and go anywhere. Pokémon Crystal Clear gives you an open world, scaling gym leaders, an abundance of starters to choose from, following Pokémon, customizable music and a litany of other customizable options.

Kirby Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA) - 7/10
I’m not a huge fan of Kirby games, I would say that these GBA Kirby games were the last exceptional ones. Nightmare in Dream Land is a remake of Kirby’s Adventure and it makes everything much nicer to look at, listen to and most of all, play.

Kirby Super Star (SNES) - 7/10
I only put this below Nightmare in Dreamland because of focus. I enjoyed traversing a map and going from world to world more than going to a main menu to go to the different portions of the game. Though I will concede, that Kirby Super Star still has the best gameplay of all Kirby games.

Crash Bandicoot Trilogy (PS1) - 7/10
I never had a PlayStation growing up, so I had no nostalgia for these next two series. I liked Crash Bandicoot slightly more than Spyro, but as far as platformers go, you can do way worse, even if you’re playing the originals. Side note, playing Crash 1 blind is absolutely brutal.

Spyro the Dragon Trilogy (PS1) - 7/10
Like above, you can apply everything I said about Crash Bandicoot to Spyro the Dragon as well. It’s a decent time and there’s many other games you could go to from that era that don’t have the same sense of fun behind them.

Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! (NSW)– 6/10
As someone who has played every main series Pokémon game, this is far from the worst, but I’m not giving it an A+ either. The removal of random encounters was nice, and it was cool going back to Kanto on my Switch in HD. But, the game is short, made far too easy and packed with Pokémon Go gimmicks and has a post-game that simply not worth doing after a few hours.

Detective Pikachu (3DS) - 6/10
I played Detective Pikachu after Phoenix Wright and I was hoping for Ace Attorney x Danganronpa x Pokémon. I kind of got that. This is a short game, with okay mechanics, a decent story and characters and a vibrant world that just doesn’t quite click on all cylinders.

Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon (3DS) - 6/10
Luigi’s Mansion on the GameCube benefitted from its brevity. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a game that plays well and has a good story, but I felt like I was doing too much of the same stuff over and over and over in each different mansion.

Pokémon Penumbra Moon (3DS, Difficulty Hack) - 6/10
If you want a little more challenge in your Pokémon games a difficulty hack is the way to go. I felt sense of accomplishment when I beat Hau and took my place atop the Alola League that I can’t say I felt after playing the base game.

Pokémon Sweet Version (GBA, Full Rom Hack) - 6/10
This is a full hack, with all new “Sweet” inspired Pokémon, pixel art, with an all new type chart and story. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to learn the new types, it seems like the Pokémon aren’t placed with any reason and the story is just okay.

Cave Story+ (PC) - 6/10
I wanted to like Cave Story+ a lot more than I did. The platforming and power ups were fun and there were challenging parts too. But I just wasn’t as enamored by the art and story as much as a lot of other people.

Mom Hid My Game (3DS) - 6/10
If you’ve got an hour, you too can save your game console from your mother who keeps hiding it from you in ridiculous ways. Take the time to play this gem that’s sure to get a laugh out of you.

Comix Zone (GEN) - 4/10
The idea and presentation of Comix Zone is great. Unfortunately, this is a game that is difficult and punishes you as well. On top of that the controls aren’t the greatest and it’s mired in the arcade style of “you game over, you start all the way over.”

Hatoful Boyfriend (PC) - 4/10
All visual novels aren’t created equal and this falls into the “tries too hard” portion for me. In Hatoful Boyfriend you’re turned into a bird and go to a bird high school. You do anything a Japanese kid would do, but you’re a bird. Yeah.

Plumbers Don't Wear Ties (PC) - 2/10
In this 90s misfire turned internet meme, you’re trying to help a man get together with a woman he meets in a parking lot. The writing, humor, story, acting in this 3DO title is all just awful.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Leap of faith. As you probably know, I’m moving in two weeks. I’m afraid, emotional, anxious and excited all at the same time. Even though I’m only moving in with a friend, it feels like that leap of faith I need to take in my life. I’ve slowed down on writing, I got my small degree last year, I’ve worked on growing bit by bit on Twitch all the while I’ve been unable to find work in a barren job market. I feel like I felt three years ago when I decided to go back to college, stuck and scared. I’ve been here for five years now, I’ve watched countless films and I’ve changed in my views and beliefs about life in general.

I think it’s fitting that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is likely the last film I’m seeing in theaters here. Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero since I was a kid. He has also given the superhero genre a jolt on three separate occasions now over the past three years with his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, his first MCU film in Spider-Man: Homecoming and this. Sony--who just released the most bare-boned superhero origin story since Thor, in Venom--has done a 180 with this animated feature that explores Miles Morales’ origins as the successor to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows the familiar story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a bright teenager living in Brooklyn, New York who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and starts to become Spider-Man. He meets Spider-Man (Chris Pine) as he is fighting Green Goblin while trying to stop Wilson Fisk from starting a particle accelerator to try and access different dimensions, so he can get his family back. During the fight, as the machine is running, Goblin holds Spider-Man into the beam which ultimately leads to his death at the hands of Fisk. Unbeknownst to anyone, reality was bent and a cavalcade of Spider-Men and Women have been brought to Morales’ dimension and he must work together with them to save his world and get them back to theirs.

I’m going to get my negatives out of the way first, because these are only minor gripes. One, the disenfranchised kid (regardless of ethnicity) “winning the lottery”, so to speak, to go the better place (in this case it’s a school) is a dumb trope and doesn’t really need to be done with the Miles Morales or Peter Parker characters. They have always been portrayed as smart teenagers who kick their lives into high gear with the advent spider-bite. You don’t need more of a push to these characters. Motion blur during the action scenes was used heavily in this. Except it wasn't motion blur, it was a technique known as "smearing." I don’t mind smearing (or motion blur for that matter) for effect, but it shouldn’t be relied upon as much as it was in this. I know they did it to accent the comic-book style, but at times it was kind-of distracting. Finally, the climactic scene seemed a bit rushed. In a film that was almost two hours, there shouldn’t be a finale that feels as rushed as it did. It’s not that it was short or unoriginal, but it should’ve stood out as the final fight it was, at least compared to the rest of the action in the film.

While we’re talking about the action, it was sublime. Motion smear aside, the scenes were wonderfully choreographed, and all had purpose for the progression of the film. Even before all the Spider-people bleed in and the fights really ramp up, the action was well-crafted and relevant towards the story. While not as quippy as in the PS4 Spider-Man game, each fight felt like a Spidey fight because of the signature tone and humor that is naturally injected by it just being Spider-Man. The integration of the BAMs, THWIPs and POWs to the background of a given fight were also great touches that added to the comic-book flare that permeated throughout the film.

The CGI in the film was beautiful, again motion smear aside, the world, character design and overall vibe of the film. This film is a stylized comic-book brought to life. As I mentioned above, BAMs and POWs are all over the places. Comic-book covers are used to introduce each hero before a brief introduction about their origins and that was perhaps my favorite touch of the film. Comic-book panels were frequently used to explain things as well. The unique colorized style (and in your face soundtrack to an extent) remined me a lot of the Jet Set Radio series. It was a sensory masterpiece and you never want to take your eyes of the screen. I would compare the animation heavily to the incredible “real world” CGI used in Doctor Strange had a few years back. Everyone’s suits and style looked great and stayed true to their comics designs. I also highly enjoyed the imposing size of Fisk (Liev Schreiber) and the unique style of Doc Oc and Aunt May (Kathryn Hahn and Lily Tomlin). Seeing Scorpion, Prowler and Tombstone was pretty great as well.

Miles and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) were written and voiced quite well and will satisfy fans of both main Spider-Men. Spider-Woman / Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), was fine, but I honestly enjoyed her not being the love interest of Miles--even though that’s what is planned for a sequel. It was refreshing not needing a love interest because there’s so much emotion in just the origin stories of Gwen and Miles. While the agony of both Peter Parker’s in the film also fuels any emotional connection you would want to make. The rest of the cast including Nicholas Cage as Spider-Noir, John Mulaney as Spider-Ham and Kimiko Glenn as Peni Parker all have a unique voice, even if they’re relegated to supporting role. I feel like all the people in Miles’ family, are just alright in the film and seem more generic than anything else, even though his father and uncle are central to Miles becoming who he is.

The story isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s the story of almost every Spider-Man movie, show, video game, ever made, but it works. I’m not huge fan of--like I said above--handing out an upgrade to a disenfranchised for the sake of doing it. I think it’s to make Miles more relatable, even though he’s very relatable already. You don’t have to force the “you worked your way to this school by winning a competition and then working hard.” Just let him go to the school, we know Spider-Man alter egos are usually bright teenagers, you don’t have to politicize everything. Everything else is enough of a twist or homage to this established and beloved origin story. I’m not a fan of the whole “we are Spider-Man” thing from the end, but I get the marketing power behind it. I more related to the “leap of faith” element throughout the film and think that is the aspect people should be focusing on more. I think taking that leap of faith in your life to get to where you need to be is a much more realistic message compared to “YOU TOO CAN BE SPIDER-MAN!” I enjoyed it because it’s the most faithful adaptation of Spider-Man we’ve seen to date in a film. As much as I like Tom Holland’s MCU Spider-Man, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have totally encapsulated the essence of a Spider-Man comic in this.

I don’t feel I need to say much more about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s a well-crafted, visually striking film, with a competent story, great design, genuine humor, good voice acting and engaging action sequences. If you’re a fan of Spider-Man, this is the film for you. It has minor problems and I have some minor gripes, but this is the most I’ve enjoyed a film so far this year and I can’t wait to give it a second watch.


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.