I Don’t Have A Vote: The 89th Annual Oscars – You are ruining Everything

oscars

89th Annual Oscars – You’re Ruining Everything

Save us, Jimmy Kimmel. Save us.

This year, with all that’s going on in the rest of the world, we need movies more than ever as a distraction. Awards shows in the modern era normally have a certain amount of politics thrown in, but Meryl Streep’s  flatulent performance at the Globes really ruined it for a lot of people, including our entire house. One can hope they don’t hand her a microphone this year, but this is unlikely.

My heart was set even further asunder when I saw how good a speech can be. George Kennedy is not everyone’s first thought as an Oscar winner. And that also included George Kennedy.

Could you imagine anyone winning the award Post Halle Berry handling it with such grace? It beats talking about saving the planet from climate change and then flying off in a lear jet to go spend time on one’s yacht any day.

My wife wants to skip it. My youngest daughter wants to watch Jimmy. So do I. Looks like we’re going to have to rely on our DVR so we can cut the crap and enjoy the crappy spectacle.

As a result of that one complete overindulgence, I nearly lost the will to tell you what I liked best this year. This is as close to forcing it as writing comes for me. There was some good things in the movies this year though, and I think we need to talk about it.

My pick for the best in film this year is a lot closer to what the Academy picked this year. I can almost see it from here when there are no clouds at night. It’s somewhere behind Pluto.

So I will give everyone my take on who I would have won the awards. Often it’s someone who isn’t on the board, and that is okay. This follows with who I think should win of the nominees. I hope you find some way to enjoy some movies that may not be mentioned at all tonight.

Best Film:

I gave my highest rating to Hacksaw Ridge, Fences,  The Girl With All The Gifts, Loving and Captain America: Civil WarArrival and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story almost got there, too. That’s a pretty good year. Of these films, the one that I think accomplished the most is McCarthy’s take on an apocalyptic vision. In under two hours we see one of the most brilliant philosophical musings about moving forward as a species ever placed in such a humble package. If you haven’t seen it and you can stomach a zombie film that discusses and understands Schrödinger’s Cat, you should.

Of the nominees:

I need to go with Fences. It’s the best of those films. La La Land will likely win. Most winners for best picture ended up being just above average (at ***1/2 stars) for me.

Best Director: 

Arrival accomplished the most amazing thing this year in its approach to sci-fi. We have as many heady subjects going on as are occurring in The Girl With All The Gifts, and most importantly, Villeneuve works carefully with his team to avoid any of the tropes that we see in even the best sci-fi. It’s lone weakness of circular logic is insignificant when one considers we are going back to the most basic form of communication to ponder some of the deepest philosophical and heart-wrenching truths of human existence. His work here, along with an incredibly dense (if short) career’s worth of work places him just above McCarthy.

Of the nominees: 

Villeneuve. Gibson has created a powerful film that seems at once of its time and timeless, but I have to defer to the power of Villeneuve’s simple choices.

Best Actor:

Andrew Garfield has a great performance as a man driven by impulses that many can’t understand. Denzel Washington has the kind of vulnerable performance that he’s never done before. My favorite performance of the year is Ryan Gosling in…The Nice Guys. I spent much of La La Land realizing how good he had been and subsequently went home and watched it again. His range therein moves from incomparable weenie, to overwrought widower, horrible father to great father. If there were ever a performer that completely absorbed Shane Black’s vision, this is it.

Of the nominees:

Garfield may never be nominated again, and it would be nice to see him win. But there is no way he was better than Washington.

Best Actress:

Sennia Nanua has what I consider the most memorable and poignant performance of the year. Her journey from complete innocence to an understanding of her role in the advancement of humanity is one that I will not forget.

Of the nominees:

I am so hopeful that Ruth Negga wins this category for Loving. Her performance is the best of those that I saw. What I have seen of Huppert’s performance in Elle intrigues me. WeMissE has me thinking I need to watch this film today. But dear God, whatever you do, don’t give this to Streep.

Best Supporting Actor: 

Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson keep coming to my mind for their divergent takes on the sons of Troy Maxson in Fences. Both present incredibly resonant reactions to a father who is different to both of them and continues to change. I didn’t expect to be so enamored with their bit roles, but they really help to bring the story into focus with their performances. No one can take this award from Mahershala Ali, though.

Of the nominees: 

Ali.I love Shannon. He really made chicken salad here. Bridges is great here, too. But he’s done this guy before, even if the ending of this film pushes him to another level.

Best Supporting Actress:

There really can be no other discussion beyond who is second best. Davis has this award locked and she deserves it. This is a performance of the ages.

Of the nominees:

Davis. Just don’t thank Meryl Streep.

Best Original Screenplay:

Hell or High Water has about the best ending of any film this year. The only one that was better is Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy’s Rogue One A Star Wars Story. It’s remarkable achievements include creating a cast of original characters, making A New Hope‘s weaknesses disappear, and adding to the mythology while detracting the dorkiness factor. It’s truly a remarkable achievement in a series I had given up on seeing a good script from.

Of the nominees:

La La Land has a good script, but of this group, the best one I have seen is Hell or High Water. Sheridan is on a roll.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

This truly is a race between Fences, The Girl with All the Gifts and Arrival. The difference here is that the former is almost entirely word for word from the original. There is no real adapting, because it is perfect the way it is. Arrival is has had some work done, but then there is that circular logic thing. I enjoy both of them so much, it’s literally a tossup. Either of them will not be forgotten. My pick is The Girl with All the Gifts. It’s an extraordinary story that could be understood by kids as well as adults, even if the subject matter can be gruesome.

Of the nominees: 

Same here, though I give Arrival a slight edge since Wilson has already taken home some pretty impressive accolades (including 2 Pulitzer Prizes, one for this) and he would not be around to pick up the trophy, since he passed 12 years ago.

Best Cinematography:

Arrival and La La Land are both fantastic in this category. Simon Duggan’s work in Hacksaw Ridge is extraordinary. The work that stands out for me is Ben Davis’ seamless blend of effects and imagery in Doctor Strange. It’s one thing to push forward the incredible work done in dimensional photography in Inception. It’s quite another to completely replicate the remarkable comic book look shot for shot.

Of the nominees: 

This is one category I think La La Land should win.

Best Animated Film:

Moana is another in the long line of Disney Princess films that will resonate for generations. Sure it misunderstands the purpose of promoting a woman is to make her look good without denigrating men, but damn the visuals are exquisite and the songs are catchy. Zootopia is a really good movie too, but it’s preaching so much, the good stuff is harder to detect while trying to weave out the bad. For this reason, I have to go with the art of Kubo and the 2 Strings.

Of the nominees:

Kubo

I don’t know if I will ever stop watching this celebration of movies. As bad as it usually is each year, it’s still the best thing we have to mark the passage of a year in the age of film. It really helps if Jimmy Kimmel is on his game, though. We need him more than ever this year.

 

 

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Loving (*****) brick by brick

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Loving – 2016

Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, Martin Csokas, Bill Camp

The thing about Jeff Nichols movies is that one can feel them as well as viewing them. Richard and Mildred Loving are not brilliant people. They are just ironically named lovers who become married on the verge of a good and necessary change. Yes, they are interracial and that makes them part of that change. Thing is, they still have to work, pay bills and carry on. There are not a series of grandstand moments and brilliantly phrased quotes. The line that sticks with me is the last one quoted before the end credits.

He took care of me.

This hit me because the actions that the Loving’s take with each other are always the small things, right down to handing a glass of water and a gentle massage when the other comes out of the heat. This is stuff people do for one another when they are in love. At least this its my experience. It’s defiance of gravity. It’s working around it.

Richard (Edgerton) is a laborer who becomes a brick layer by trade. Throughout the years with everything that happens, we always see him out there, laying bricks down. Just as importantly, we get to see the bonding agent applied to every layer. They don’t forget the little things. This movie is all about the stuff that fills in the cracks.

Mildred (Negga) is smiling, uncomplaining and always at work herself. Making sure that the house is kept in order and the children are grateful and ever learning. The children are described as bastards in the eyes of the law.  We get to see the obvious pain this causes the parents. Not by words, but by enduring.

Edgerton and Negga present nomination worthy performances in an divisive age. No matter what side of the political coin, we’ve seen race used as a political gimmick that puts steps forward like those endured by the Lovings in jeopardy. No one today suffers like they did back then. On the other hand, those times were not augmented by “protesters” paid to wreak havoc and spread fear of “others.”

Daniels, Edgerton and Negga show love happens regardless of politics and differences. We see their experiences and are allowed to judge for ourselves. The people presented are not all bad and good. Rather, they are working within an oppressive system and leading people in the way they best know how, while still maintaining their homes and jobs.

If you haven’t figured it out, Jeff Nichols is one of the best filmmakers today. After so many years of enjoying his style and his incredible depth, I had an intake of breath when I found he would be covering the story of the Lovings vs. The State of Virginia. If he had make any false step, I would have been in a well of misery. Thankfully, he stays true to the subject, not making any false political comparisons to events and politics of today. There are no false equivalents. There is just Richard and Mildred. And I am loving the way they took care of one another.

(***** out of *****)

Samuel L. Jackson is The Samaritan: Need I say more?

The Samaritan – 2012

Director David Weaver
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Wilkinson, Luke Kirby, Ruth Negga, Gil Bellows, Aaron Poole, Debra Kara Unger
Screenplay Weaver and Elan Mastai

Iris: “I can’t remember the last time I did something I was proud of.”

Foley: “I know what you mean.”

Foley (Jackson) is a grifter, who did 25 years after killing his partner and best friend.  The week he gets out, he has his past waiting for him.  And it hits him with both barrels.  The path he is set up for is about as brutal as one could imagine.  And that’s only the first half of the film.

The Samaritan is Canadian film noir, with a twist.  It’s not often we see a character that Sam plays who is put in the position that Foley is, but when it happens, it’s nice to know that Sam would still handle it the same way.  That means someone is gonna pay, over and over again.  This time, though…so is he.

The trick behind the “one last con” movie is how it is the con man is brought into the act.  The Samaritan does a credible job making this horribly intriguing.  People who live a life of crime are rarely enjoying anything that they are doing.  Foley and the partners he is forced to take are all convincing examples of this.  One of these people is Helen, played by Debra Kara Unger.  If she has ever smiled on celluloid, I have not seen it.

As his main partner Ethan, Kirby does a good job playing up the sleaze.  He talks too much, but can keep secrets.  He is dangerous, but all too vulnerable.  Everything he does has to be “fixed,” and his energy never wanes.

Jackson is allowed to exercise his remarkable range in this film  His films have made more money than most actors in Hollywood, but the ones that make money usually need nothing more than his scowl, foul mouth and a gun.  This one has that and much more.  He plays a man who could be smarter, but 25 years in the clink have given him a knowledge of only what it takes to be a prisoner.  He is used to the grift, and he understands human nature, but sometimes that isn’t enough.

As Iris, Ruth Negga shows some talent, and then again, her role is a thankless one.  She has to be a victim, and her defiance is muted by the plot.  We don’t get to hear her expound too much on her life as a victim, and that is a plus.

The ending is clever, but really, the only way it can turn out.  Anyone looking for the cure for cancer will be disappointed.  Someone looking for Sam approaching the upper reach of his talent might be more pleasantly surprised.

(*** out of *****)