Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oscar Time!

Grab this related post Widget!
Tomorrow night is the Academy Awards show, so Cynthia and I have been watching the nominated films like crazy recently. Each year it's a tradition for us to see every movie in the major nominated categories before the "big night." (Disclaimer--this time we skipped Florence Foster Jenkins because it looked horrible and we couldn't do a whole movie with bumbling Hugh Grant, and Nocturnal Animals because everything I read said it was horrible) We've got the time and we love movies (and Cynthia loves the dresses)!!

For 2017 there are nine films nominated for Best Picture and I'm not sure why. In the previous two years there were eight (which still seems like too many) and from my perspective it's certainly not because there were so many awesome flicks and performances to choose from. Too many nights we finished a movie, looked at each other and said, "Well, that was disappointing."

I think last year's "outrage" about the lack of minority nominees is partly to blame. It felt like to make amends studios green-lighted the commercial release of more movies with black actors (films are in production for a long time, and many go straight to DVD), and critics felt compelled to praise them. Before you rush to judgment labeling me a racist for daring to say such a thing, read on.

So in too many cases we endured rather than enjoyed the process this time around. And aren't movies supposed to be on some level enjoyable even if the subject matter is disturbing? With that being said, here's my take on this year's nominations in the order they are listed on Oscar's official website:

Best Picture

Arrival--thought-provoking, and the only movie we actually discussed at length afterwards.

Fences--couldn't decide whether to be a play or a movie. There's something incongruous about an uneducated black garbage man in the 50's riffing street talk with his buddies and then breaking into an introspective Shakespearean monologue. Boring visually and didn't work for me.

Hacksaw Ridge--very moving story and the battle sequences were riveting. A few "Hollywood moments" I could have done without but overall a solid movie.

Hell or High Water--underappreciated film that maybe wasn't marketed properly. Chris Pine is way too handsome to play a poor white trash character, but I liked the story very much.

Hidden Figures--hands down the best of the bunch. A "who knew?" story about the huge contribution of black women to the U.S. space program. If you haven't seen it--see it.

La La Land--the opening production number was SO over the top that I thought, "Wow, this is going to be incredible!" And it wasn't. It was fine--I enjoyed it. But Best Picture? Sorry, no.

Lion--again, an OK movie that went on much too long. I could have figured out on my computer in a day (and I'm no expert, believe me) what it took the main character two years to discover.

Manchester by the Sea--am I not through with this category yet?? Geez. Tough story, very well done. Deserves all the praise. My second favorite.

Moonlight--critics loved it. I hated it. A Hollywood double header--urban street life with a gay main character. I'm not the only one with this sentiment. I just checked and even with all the hype it's done a whopping $22 million at the box office. Zootopia (more on this one later), on the other hand, has grossed over $1 billion!

Best Actor

To keep us all from being bored I'm going to summarize the rest of these categories. Casey Affleck should win for Manchester by the Sea. Andrew Garfield is my second choice for Hacksaw Ridge. Is it possible for an actor to be on the screen too much? That's the way I felt about Denzel Washington (the apparent favorite) in Fences--I wanted him to go away and shut the hell up.

Best Actress

Confession time--like Johnny Depp in his prime, I can't take my eyes off Ryan Gosling in a movie. Emma Stone--uh, not so much. La La Land is a musical (or at least tries to be), so when the actress is fine acting but only average as a singer and dancer, I'm out. Natalie Portman is mesmerizing in Jackie. Dishonorable Mention: Elle, starring Isabelle Huppert, is even worse than Moonlight. My four word review--wretched, disturbed people interacting.

Best Supporting Actor

This category baffles me. Mahershala Ali (Remy on House of Cards) is getting all this buzz for his role in Moonlight. Friends, he's in the movie for like 15 minutes in the beginning and his performance is NOT riveting. I kept waiting for him to reappear and justify the accolades. Didn't happen. Jeff Bridges owns his role in Hell or High Water and is a shoo-in to me.

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis is said to have inserted herself into this category instead of Best Actress. She would have won in either. All the other contenders did good work, especially Nicole Kidman in Lion.

Best Animated Feature Film

Zootopia deserves every penny it has earned. Amazing animation--great story--lots of laughs along with a positive message. I didn't expect to say it was my overall favorite movie of the year. Which speaks volumes about the nine listed above.

So there you have my critique of last year's movies. I don't get enough comments on this blog. Chime in, y'all.


Connie Pombo said...

Thanks, Edd! I think you should definitely redefine your role as a movie critique. We didn't start far enough in advance to watch all the films, but I look for an actor not playing himself, but someone entirely different. Meryl Streep can transform or morph into practically anyone (or anything), but didn't see "Florence" for the same reasons as you described. Jeff Bridges in "Hell or High Water" is a shoe-in as far as I'm concerned. And, I just like the guy (period). We saw him play with his band in SLO (four years ago) -- just 50 of us allowed in and it felt like he was sitting in our living room. He confessed, "I act to pay the bills, but I play with my band to fill my soul." Jackie -- haven't seen it -- but love Natalie Portman and the clips I've seen are riveting. La La Land (overall) disappointing for all the hype; the acting performances just didn't move me to laughter or tears. Hidden Figures we are watching tomorrow before the Oscars and we've ditched Fences entirely. Moonlight -- no thanks. Zootopia, Lion, and the rest I'll watch YouTube trailers (it works in a pinch). Again, great synopsis and look forward to watching to see who will win.

Carlos said...

I long ago gave up on Hollywood as a lost cause and for many years refused to watch any movies as my silent protest against the raw sewage that it constantly pumped out. In my old age I've gradually softened my hard line and will selectively watch a small percentage of what now oozes out of the place. So I can't say that I've forced myself to watch all the garbage that has been nominated for the Oscars, but I have seen a few of them.

Out of those that I've seen, I completely agree with you about Hidden Figures. What an amazing story with excellent acting.

But Manchester by the Sea as second best? Barf! I kept waiting for the plot line to turn but it just kept plodding boringly and darkly along. Would have had a much more appropriate (and mercifully much quicker) ending if Affleck had succeeded in blowing his brains out in the police station and put us all out of our misery much sooner.

And who writes the scripts for these movies now? Every other line in Manchester was "f***ing a**hole" (intoned, of course, with a "pahk the cah" Bostonian accent). Almost as creative as the script writer for The Revenant ("unh, ahh, unh").

As for your decision to skip Florence Foster Jenkins? To each his own, but my wife and I both absolutely loved it. Interesting true story, very well produced, cast, scripted and acted. Meryl Streep is an amazing actress and Hugh Grant is--at least IMHO--far more pleasant to watch than Johnny Depp. Probably because the roles they are typically cast in are so different and I much prefer those given to Grant than Depp, but that's just me.

As for the awards show farce itself, I'll definitely take a pass and do something far more interesting--like sorting my socks--and wait to read a quick synopsis in the news the following day. Guess I still haven't quite given up on my old (and admittedly futile) silent protest against the Fruit Loops that populate the place and the detritus that emanates from there, but we all do what we can, right?

David Hammond said...

Thanks Ed. I am adding Hidden Figures and Hell or High Water to my watch list.