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

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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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The Nice Guys (****) Don’t say and stuff

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The Nice Guys – 2016

Director Shane Black
Screenplay by Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Starring  Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Kim Basinger, Beau Knapp

Thus goes the career of Shane Black. He directs one of the top grossing films of the past decade (Iron Man 3) and immediately sets to making the movie he’s been wanting to make for years before that. Of course it’s funny as hell, while filled with strangely realistic action scenes. Not one scene will leave action-comedy fans without a genuine smile. The story, the acting, the direction are all spot on. And it fails at the box office. Why?

For one thing, it lacks glamour. Oh, there are pretty women all over the place, but they don’t look as great when they’re knocked over during a chase scene or hit with an errant bullet. We even have the familiar Black intro with a pretty girl dying spectacularly.

Speaking of dowdy, I am not sure I have seen Crowe look as disheveled as Jackson Healy, a tough guy who’s not going to bother getting a license as a Private Investigator. He’s kind of looking like post-Godfather Brando by now, but I get the feeling he’s doing it on purpose. His skill is easy to miss at this point as I am sure most people would if he hadn’t already won an Oscar. He is so relaxed within the frame of his character, he’s almost a part of the background. Albeit, he’s a part of the background that can tell you to have your doctor check for the spiral fracture he’s about to apply to your left arm. It’s fun watching him play a man who is a bruiser, but not a mindless one. If the odds are against his taking action, he will duck out until the odds change. It takes courage to look smart enough to modify your brutal nature. Most actors can’t do this.

Ryan Gosling is as much a chameleon, but at an earlier age. His Holland March is a licensed PI, but you wouldn’t know it based on his ethics. He is an alcoholic widower raising a 13 year old girl after his wife died a few years earlier in an explosion. My guess is we find out it was not an accident if they ever do make another film. His condition is pliable enough that he is able to piece together who can help him and who cannot. Since this is a buddy film, one can guess who that will be.

His daughter, Holly (Rice) is somewhere between Holland’s conscience and his enabler. Seeing her driving him up to meet Healy after March had a few drinks is a gem of a scene. He is jamming away, singing The Band’s cover of Ain’t Got No Home as if he’d been born to sing along. It’s not a tremendously well known song, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at father and daughter. They look so familiar with it. She has a habit of asking men who are important to her if they are “a nice guy.” This could be answered quickly and honestly with “I do what it takes to stay living.” Both March and Healy answer her differently.

The interplay between Crowe and Gosling is deftly handled. There is no one writing about interpersonal dealings between partners as well as Black, even after all these years. The connections are rarely obvious or telegraphed. One has to know for what they are looking. It’s a credit to both actors that they pull off Black and partner Bagarozzi’s subtlety so effectively. I don’t think I have seen Gosling this charismatic. Both are full-fledged persons capable of good and bad moments without unnecessary flare. For this reason alone The Nice Guys is worth watching.

Almost as good is Holly. She’s in a lot of places that kids ought not be, and the excuse for that is thinly played. We get that Holland is not a good father, but does he have no one that could have helped to watch her? It plays well for a few scenes, but by the time we get to the last act, it’s become anathema to the desired effect on the viewer.

The challenge with The Nice Guys is definitely the ending. The MacGuffin everyone is chasing ends up a disappointment. It’s a shame, too, because they waste not only a great pair of well played minor henchmen (Knapp and a very welcome Keith David) but also a supremely scary Matt Bomer. The bad haircut, the delayed reveal and the name (John Boy) make for a performance I had no idea Bomer was capable of based on earlier work.

There are also several production gaffes with the film. They go out of their way to point out the film takes place in 1977, but I would guess over half of the musical references take place after that year.

These points alone should not dissuade you from seeing this good film. It doesn’t keep me from wanting to see a sequel.

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

CPE & Em: Iron Man 3 grows into Downey, Jr.

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Iron Man 3 – 2013

Director Shane Black
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak
Screenplay by Black and Drew Pearce

“Don’t shoot! Seriously, I don’t even like working here. They are so weird!”

Shane Black is the most original screenwriting voices to emerge, submerge and re-emerge from Hollywood.  After bringing the first 2 Lethal Weapon films into the world, he sold a few more well-received scripts (Last Boy Scout and Long Kiss Goodnight) and one complete dud (Last Action Hero) before taking a sabbatical.  What he did during that time, I have no idea.  Looks like he stayed healthy, though.  His return to the world of movies in 2005 in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang featured Robert Downey, Jr., who worked a delicate comedic balance with Val Kilmer.  Even if the film was overlooked, Downey, Jr. remembered Black when it came time to make this, the third film in the series that catapulted Marvel to the top of the comic book movie heap.

The series being forced into a new direction after the insane success of The Avengers sent Iron Man out of the range of a mere comic book hero.  As bad guy Aldrich Killian (Pearce) says: “…ever since that big dude with a hammer fell out of the sky, subtlety’s kinda had its day.”  Black’s decision resulted in a deft move to life outside the suit.

As the story begins, we see Tony as a man who is unable to get a full night’s sleep, but at least he is putting the time to good use.  His efforts have brought the suits up to a Mark 42.  This suit is unique in its ability to work remotely.  This gives the concept of Iron Man a unique new twist that is put to use effectively more than once.  For any one who thought that the cat left the bag for good after he revealed his identity, this new twist should spice things up a bit.

The story is a familiar one for those who have read more than a few of the comics.  There’s always someone who wants to work with Tony Stark.  There’s even more people that he just rubs the wrong way.  Then there is the Mandarin (Kingsley).  How one responds to his character is dependent upon whether or not one read the comics or not.    Personally, I thought it was quite inventive, if predictable.  In the time of publicist/terrorists it does make sense.  What will the decision mean for the future of the franchise?  Will it matter?  It will if one wants to avoid a recurring story line of the mad inventor/scientist/business man.  This series could use a little mysticism.

Even so, the set pieces for Iron Man 3 are spectacular.  The destruction of the home in Malibu, the barrel of monkeys and the dockyard are all excellently drawn and inventive.  The first time through, it was a little frustrating waiting for Black to obey the convention of the suit and just make Tony fly around and shoot things, safe and stoic.  A second viewing allowed the realization that Black and Downey, Jr. were making brave choices, and introducing real peril to the cash cow.

Harley Keener: So now you’re just going to leave me here, like my dad?
Tony Stark: Yeah. Wait, you’re guilt tripping me, aren’t you?
Harley Keener: I’m cold.
Tony Stark: I can tell. You know how I can tell? ‘Cause we’re connected.
[Drives off]
Harley Keener: [sighs] It was worth a try.

The best thing about Iron Man 3 is the dialogue.  For once it seems like the writing has caught up with the character of Tony Stark.  There are so many excellent lines that flow through the film, it feels like you are right there, beside them in real-time.  The effect is better than any special effect could ever be.  One great sequence involves Tony with a little kid.  The meeting has sappy disaster written all over it.  Tony’s reaction to the kid’s sob story makes it apparent that the combination is a win.  The lines are fast and smart, without being smarmy.  The punchline to the Killian statement “…The early bird gets the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese….” comes so smoothly, you could almost miss it.  But pay attention.  It’s worth it.

The ending to Iron Man 3 is filled with all sorts of ambiguity.  One is left with a genuine anticipation for what lies ahead.  It is completely the opposite feeling one expects to have in the conclusion of a blockbuster.  It’s likely that if you have read this review, you’ve already seen the film, but still there is no need to discuss it further.  Black has left the character balanced on a pendulum.  It’s unsettling, but it keeps you looking forward.  That is what a good film should always do.

(****1/2)Mark42test

Em’s Review: 

I give Iron Man III ****1/2 (4 in a half) stars out of five.

My favorite parts were when

1. When Tony (aka) Robert Downey Jr. put magnets in his skin and pulled his suit on him and one part that goes to his private part hit him hard there.

2. When Pepper (aka) Gwyneth Paltrow (spoiler) killed Killian (aka) Guy Pierce (who would name their little boy Guy?) and she said “That was so violent!

That was so violent!
That was so violent!

3. When the little kid said to Tony “You’re gonna leave me like my father?”  Tony said, “Yes.” 

“I’m cold.”

“Too bad,” and he drove off.

Parts I did not like where 1. (Spoiler) When Killian came back after he was blown up.