Tuesday, February 28, 2017

THE 89TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS


Let's face it, the only thing the 2017 Oscars will probably really be remembered for is the shocking and inexplicable announcement by presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway that "La La Land" had won Best Picture when "Moonlight" had actually won that prize. After the mix-up had been corrected, far too long after the cast and crew of Daniel Chazelle's musical, with Oscars in hand, were up on stage giving their thanks, Mr. Beatty explained what happened which was somehow he was given the wrong envelope. Now I thought safeguards were in place to prevent that from happening but I guess nothing is perfect, even the Oscars.

Despite this unfortunate snafu, the show was a thoroughly entertaining affair (even though it came in incredibly at almost four hours long) and that was in large part due to first-time Oscar producers, Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd and host Jimmy Kimmel. It's clear the producing team has a great respect for the long history of the Academy Awards by featuring a video montage of previous Oscar-winners that was shown before the acting categories were announced and having actors speak of their fond appreciation for a star they admired in their youth, which lead to teams of presenters like Charlize Theron and Shirley MacLaine and Seth Rogan and Michael J. Fox. But they were also very aware that there is still a need to appeal to a 21st Century audience which seems to require fast-paced, attention-grabbing spectacle. They wasted no time shaking up the routine but having Justin Timberlake kick off the show with a rousing performance of his Oscar-nominated song, "Can't Stop The Feeling" that got the star-studded crowd singing and dancing along.

While lacking some of the mean-spiritness and snark that a few previous hosts have brought to the program, Kimmel dryly delivered his signature hard-edged but good-natured wit that was a good fit, especially in these tense, politically charged times. Much like what James Cordon did with his first time hosting gig for the Grammys, Kimmel brought with him the best elements from his late-night talk show. So we got an Oscars edition of "Mean Tweets", funny bits involving his long-running "feud" with Matt Damon and a hilarious prank involving passengers on a Hollywood tour bus that are dropped off in the middle of the televised show.

Even though it ultimately didn't take the top prize, "La La Land" did not do too badly as it still walked away with the most Oscars with six including Best Director and Best Actress for Emma Stone. The rest of the awards were spread around the other Best Picture nominees with only three very deserving films, "Hidden Figures", "Hell or High Water" and "Lion" leaving empty-handed.

After being left out of the running for the last two years, African-Americans had a better showing this time at the Oscars with "Moonlight" pulling a serious upset to win a very deserving Best Picture prize as well as awards for Mahershala Ali and director Barry Jenkins for his co-writing of the screenplay with playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney. Ezra Edelman shared the Best Documentary Feature award for "O.J.: Made In America" and Viola Davis finally got that Oscar for her moving performance in "Fences" which had won her a Tony in the same role. While Lin-Manuel Miranda failed to complete an EGOT this time, Ms Davis is now one step closer and considering her passionate acceptance speech, I'm sure a Grammy is certainly in her future with an audio-book.

Politics was on the mind of many at the ceremony and it was expressed in many different ways. Mr Kimmel poked fun at the President and his controversial policies and even live-tweeted him during the show. While others took a more serious view like presenter, Gael García Bernal who spoke out against the idea of a wall along the Mexican border and the winner for Best Foreign-Language Film, Asghar Farhadi, who protested the proposed travel ban by not attending the awards, had a statement read by Anousheh Ansari. an American-Iranian, supporting immigrants who have been disrespected by this administration.

Overall, this was an Oscars show for the ages. A glitzy, over-the-top celebration of cinema that still managed to deliver a strong artistic and political message on how film continues to try bringing people together from around this increasingly polarized world by telling each other their stories with the hope for unity and understanding.

 Here is the complete list of winners from the 89th Annual Academy Awards:

Best Picture: “Moonlight”
Best Director: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight”
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Actress: Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Fences”
Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, “La La Land”
Best Film Editing: John Gilbert, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Best Production Design: David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, “La La Land”
Best Foreign Language Film: “The Salesman” (Iran)
Best Animated Feature Film: “Zootopia”
Best Documentary Feature: “O.J.: Made in America”
Best Original Song: “City of Stars” from “La La Land”, Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land”
Best Sound Editing: Sylvain Bellemare, “Arrival”
Best Sound Mixing: Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Best Costume Design: Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
Best Live Action Short Film: “Sing”
Best Animated Short Film: “Piper”
Best Documentary Short Subject: “The White Helmets”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson, “Suicide Squad”
Best Visual Effects: Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon, “The Jungle Book”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

MY OSCARS WISH LIST

I have entered countless Oscars contests over the years to predict who will take home the prize. My success rate has been pretty low to say the least. With this year's Oscars a matter of hours away,  I've put my predictions in for a round of contests but I'm not feeling overly optimistic that my outcome will be any different.

Since I'm not a member of anything and I have no connections to anyone in the industry, I've decided that instead of trying to figure out the eventual winners, I will offer my wish list of who I think should take home Oscar. Here are my choices in a few select categories:

BEST ACTRESS:

Isabelle Huppert, "Elle"
Ruth Negga, "Loving"
Natalie Portman, "Jackie"
Emma Stone, "La La Land"
Meryl Streep, "Florence Foster Jenkins"

My Pick:  Isabelle Huppert, "Elle"


This is probably the toughest category out of them all to make a selection since all five nominees gave truly outstanding performances and I would be happy to see any of them take the Oscar. But it is Ms Huppert who would be my personal choice. I have been a fan of this French actress for quite some time, being mesmerized by her powerful and brave work in such films as "Story of Women" and "The Piano Teacher". And with "Elle",  Huppert manages to use her gifts to great effect, displaying a dazzling array of complex emotions that is an absolute marvel to behold.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

Joanna Johnston, "Allied"
Colleen Atwood, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"
Consolata Boyle, "Florence Foster Jenkins"
Madeline Fontaine, "Jackie"
Mary Zophres, "La La Land"

My Pick:  Joanna Johnston, "Allied"


This may be only her second Oscar nomination (her previous was for "Lincoln" in 2012) but Johnston has had a long career creating memorable work for such filmmakers as Robert Zemeckis ("Contact", "Death Becomes Her"), M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense", "Unbreakable") and Steven Spielberg ("The Color Purple", "War Horse"). The reception to Mr. Zemeckis' WW II set romantic drama may have been indifference but everyone seems to be in agreement over Ms Johnston's dazzling costumes which managed to perfectly evoke the period while impressively feeling contemporary at the same time.

BEST DIRECTOR:

Denis Villeneuve, "Arrival"
Damien Chazelle, "La La Land"
Mel Gibson, "Hacksaw Ridge"
Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight"
Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester by the Sea"

My Pick: Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight"


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Mica Levi, "Jackie"
Justin Hurwitz, "La La Land"
Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka, "Lion"
Nicholas Britell, "Moonlight"
Thomas Newman, "Passengers"

My Pick: Mica Levi, "Jackie"


I was disappointed that the English musician, Mica Levi failed to get a nomination for her perfectly eerie score for the 2014 horror film, "Under The Skin". But I am thrilled she has received a well deserved first nod for only her second film score with "Jackie". As a classically trained pop musician, Levi knows the rules in order to break them, bringing unexpected moods and textures to the unconventional bio-pic with her use of experimental sounds. Levi, only the third female nominated in this category, should win for her compelling, original vision.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Mahershala Ali, "Moonlight"
Jeff Bridges, "Hell or High Water"
Lucas Hedges, "Manchester By The Sea"
Dev Patel, "Lion"
Michael Shannon, "Nocturnal Animals"

My Pick: Lucas Hedges, "Manchester By The Sea"


This is another strong category filled with rich performances but it is the work of this relatively unknown twenty year old actor that had stayed with me the most.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:

"Kubo and the Two Strings"
"Moana"
"My Life as a Zucchini"
"The Red Turtle"
"Zootopia"

My Pick: "Zootopia"


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Damien Chazelle, "La La Land"
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, "The Lobster"
Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester by the Sea"
Mike Mills, "20th Century Women"
Taylor Sheridan, "Hell or High Water"

My Pick: Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester By The Sea"



BEST PICTURE:

"Arrival"
"Fences"
"Hacksaw Ridge"
"Hell or High Water"
"Hidden Figures"
"La La Land"
"Lion"
"Manchester By The Sea"
"Moonlight"

My Pick: "Moonlight"


To me, a "Best Picture" should represent an exceptional work of cinema with a universal story that will inspire and entertain audiences for generations to come. Out of the nine nominees, I'm still trying to figure out how "Hacksaw Ridge" ended up as one of the selections this year as it is by far the most conventional film on the list. The others are all strong contenders but I will have to go with "Moonlight". This moving drama gracefully handles the difficult and challenging story of a African-American young man at different points in his life. While it may appear to have a narrow appeal, "Moonlight" brilliantly deals with the struggles of identity and a desire to belong that many of us can identify with.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

WINNERS FROM 2017 CESAR AWARDS



Even if Isabelle Huppert doesn't take home the Oscar on Sunday for her mesmerizing turn in "Elle", she knows that she's still quite loved back in her native France as the actress took the Best Actress prize for the second time at the 42nd Annual César Awards on February 24th. The controversial drama she stars in was also named Best Film. Another Oscar nominee, the moving, "Ma Vie De Courgette (My Life As a Zucchini)"  also took two awards including Best Animated Film.

I was shocked that Xavier Dolan and his sluggish family drama,"It’s Only The End Of The World" seriously took three awards including Best Director. I usually really love his films but this is far from Mr. Dolan's best work. The exceptional British film, "I, Daniel Blake" took Best Foreign Film and George Clooney received a Honorary César with the actor giving an impassioned speech, which was translated by presenter, Oscar-winner, Jean Dujardin, that not-too-surprisingly criticizes the current U.S. President


Here is a complete list of winners from the 2017 César Awards:

BEST FILM: "Elle"
BEST DIRECTOR: Xavier Dolan, "It’s Only The End Of The World"
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Solveig Anspach and Jean-Luc Gaget, "L’Effet Aquatique"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Céline Sciamma, "Ma Vie De Courgette (My Life As a Zucchini)"
BEST ACTOR: Gaspard Ulliel, "It’s Only The End Of The World"
BEST ACTRESS: Isabelle Huppert, "Elle"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: James Thierrée, "Chocolat"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Deborah Lukumuena, "Divines"
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Pascal Marti, "Frantz"
BEST EDITING: Xavier Dolan, "It’s Only The End Of The World"
BEST SET DESIGN: Jérémie D Lignol, "Chocolat"
BEST DOCUMENTARY: "Merci Patron! (Thanks Boss)"



BEST FOREIGN FILM: "I, Daniel Blake"



BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: "Ma Vie De Courgette (My Life As a Zucchini)"



BEST ANIMATED SHORT: "Celui Qui A Deux Ames"
BEST SHORT FILM: (Tie) "Maman(s)" and Vers La Tendresse"
BEST COSTUMES: Anaïs Romand, "The Dancer"
BEST SCORE: Ibrahim Maalouf, "Dans Les Forêts De Sibérie"
BEST SOUND: Marc Engels, Fred Demolder, Sylvain Réty and Jean-Paul Hurier, "L’Odyssée"



BEST DEBUT FEATURE: "Divines"



BEST NEWCOMER (MALE): Niels Schneider, "Diamant Noir"



BEST NEWCOMER (FEMALE): Oulaya Amamra, "Divines"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

WINNERS FROM THE 2017 BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL


"Testről és lélekről (On Body and Soul)", an unusual love story set in a Hungarian slaughterhouse, took the top prize of the Golden Bear at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. This is the first feature by writer/director, Ildikó Enyedi in eighteen years who began her career in the late '80's with her first film, "My Twentieth Century" which took the Golden Camera prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Silver Bear prize went to "Félicité" by French film maker, Alain Gomis. This African set drama tells the story of a Congolese singer in a desperate search for money to help save her injured teenage son.

Acclaimed Oscar-nominated, Polish director, Agnieszka Holland ("Europa Europa", "In Darkness") won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize, an award to a film that "opens new perspectives on cinematic art", for her latest, "Pokot (Spoor)", a dramatic thriller about an elderly woman living alone in a crime infested, isolated area.

Another Oscar-nominee, Aki Kaurismäki ("The Man Without a Past") won the Silver Bear for Best Director for what the fifty-nine year old Finnish film maker recently claimed to be his final film, "Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope)".

Here is a partial list of winners of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival:

Golden Bear for Best Film:
"Testről és lélekről (On Body and Soul)" (Hungary)

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize:
 "Félicité" (France/Belgium/Senegal/Germany/Lebanon)



Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize:
"Pokot (Spoor)"

Silver Bear for Best Director:
Aki Kaurismäki, "Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope)"



Silver Bear for Best Actress:
Kim Min-hee, "밤의 해변에서 혼자 (On The Beach At Night Alone)"


Silver Bear for Best Actor:
Georg Friedrich, "Helle Nachte (Bright Nights)"

Silver Bear for Best Screenplay:
Gonzalo Maza, "Una Mujer Fantastica (A Fantastic Woman)"



Best First Feature:
"Estiu 1993 (Summer of 1993)" (Spain)



Golden Bear Best Short Film:
"Cidade Pequena"

Silver Bear Jury Prize Short Film:
"Ensueno En La Pradera"

PANORAMA AUDIENCE AWARDS:

Best Fiction Film:
"Insyriated" (Belgium/France/Lebanon)


PANORAMA DOKUMENTE:

Best Documentary:
"I Am Not Your Negro"

Monday, February 20, 2017

20 BIGGEST OSCAR UPSETS OF ALL TIME


I love a good surprise. Especially when it comes to the Oscars. After a seemingly endless series of prizes given out to the same winners during movie award season, I truly enjoy the shock when the heavily favored winner fails to hear their name called and another person is announced to come up to accept the Oscar.

Now this doesn't happen nearly as often as I would like but a few upsets have occurred over the last eighty-eight Academy Awards. Business Insider has went and ranked the twenty biggest Oscar upsets in history. Looking over the list, it reminded me of some of my favorite moments like Adrien Brody being the unlikely Best Actor winner in 2003 and planting that big, wet kiss on presenter, Halle Berry and when "Crash" beat "Brokeback Mountain" for the 2006 Best Picture which was actually not a good surprise.

Anyway, here's to an unpredictable Oscar night and let's hope for the highly elusive tie.

Click below to read the article:

20 Biggest Oscar Upsets of All-Time

Saturday, February 11, 2017

EVERY JIM JARMUSCH MOVIE, RANKED FROM WORST TO BEST


Looking more like a rock star than a filmmaker, Jim Jarmusch has been bringing a rebellious spirit and unique vision to independent cinema ever since his absurdist road comedy, "Stranger Than Paradise" first put him in the spotlight. With a budget of only $125,000 (and would go on to gross over two million dollars), the film received great critical acclaim, was honored with the Camera d'Or (a prize for "best first film") at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and would become an inspiration for modern American indie filmmakers.

With his latest, "Paterson" starring Adam Driver out in theaters now (and if you haven't seen this terrfic film, do yourself a favor and go), Vulture has decided to look back on Jarmusch's stellar career and rank the work of this idiosyncratic filmmaker ranging from his least desirable to his greatest.


Click below to view the article:

Every Jim Jarmusch Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best

Thursday, February 9, 2017

2017 BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL


"Django", a bio-pic on Django Reinhardt, considered one of the greatest guitarist of the last century and one of the early pioneers of European jazz and Gypsy Swing, will open this year's Berlin Film Festival. This is the feature directing debut of Etienne Comar, a screenwriter and producer of such films as "The Women On The 6th Floor", "Of Gods and Men" and the Oscar-nominated Best Foreign-Language Film, "Timbuktu". This is one of seventeen films selected for the main competition for the Golden Bear and Silver Bear prizes. Paul Verhoeven, the director hot off the success of his latest film, "Elle", will head this year's Jury that also has actors, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Diego Luna on board to help decide the ultimate winners.

Some films selected to be screened out of competition will be "Final Portrait", actor Stanley Tucci's sixth film as a director, "T2 Trainspotting", a sequel to Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle's breakout 1996 feature, "Trainspotting" a black comedy that has the original cast (Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle) back for the follow-up and "Logan", the latest and apparently final time that Hugh Jackson will suit up as the Wolverine in the X-Men film series.





In addition to the many new feature films, documentaries and shorts from around the globe that will be seen beginning today and running through the 19th during the 67th annual event, Milena Canonero, one of cinema's greatest costume designers, will be receiving an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement. Canonero had worked with such directors as Stanley Kubrick, Steven Soderbergh, Louis Malle, Roman Polanski and the Coppolas, Francis Ford and Sofia and won the Oscar four times for her work in "Barry Lyndon" (1975), "Chariots of Fire" (1981), "Marie Antoinette" (2006) and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (2014). Each film will be screened during the fest in her honor.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

SPLIT (2017)

Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. January 23, 2017 6:05 PM


"Split", M Night Shyamalan's latest entry in the psychological thriller genre, is about a man with a big personality, several as a matter of fact. As a young child, Kevin Wendell Crumb was so emotionally abused by his unstable mother that he now suffers from dissociative identity disorder which has given him twenty-three different personalities. Crumb is played by James McAvoy who seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself as he convincingly zig-zags from a mild-mannered man, a nine year old boy, a colorful designer and a soft-spoken woman, doing so with impressive ease.

After several big-budgeted misfires and disappointments since his 1999 breakthrough, "The Sixth Sense", a shrewd, chilling drama involving a boy who sees dead people, Shyamalan seems to be back on the right path. While not nearly as clever or inventive as that film, "Split" gets back to basics by keeping the story simple and direct. There isn't an overly complicated plot, no dazzling visual effects and the graphic bloody gore is kept to a minimum. The director succeeds by creating tension and terror the old fashioned way through character and narrative.

At the end of her birthday celebration in a restaurant, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson, recently seen in the underrated teen comedy, "The Edge of Seventeen") is stuck with Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) after all of her other guests have left. A loner and a little odd, she's a high school classmate that Claire is not really friendly with but was forced to invite. Without a ride, Claire's dad (Neal Huff) insists on driving Casey home. They all head to the car, along with Marcia (Jessica Sula), Claire's best friend, but never get very far. Everyone is drugged by an assailant and the girls are abducted.

After they've awakened in a locked small room, the girls are understandably frightened and panicked. When they meet their captor, "Dennis", a buttoned-up, nerdy-looking man, Claire and Marcia fear the worse and decide to come up with a plan to escape. Casey believes this is a bad idea, sensing something is off about him. She's proven correct when the next time they see Dennis, he is wearing a skirt and sensible heels and calling himself "Patricia". Claire and Marcia still attempt to get away but they only manage to get locked in separate rooms for their efforts. Casey tries to connect with another of the personalities, "Hedwig", a prepubescent boy, as a possible way of escape but like most kids, he's not focused or reliable.

Crumb is under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (a wonderful Betty Buckley). While she is concerned and wants to help her poor patient, Dr. Fletcher seems a little too thrilled to have her own personal case study. "Barry". another of Crumb's personalities, reveals to the doctor the fear of another, new identity called 'the Beast" trying to come in to the light. He is a super-human monster that appears to be a threat to all of the personalities but the doctor tries to convince him to suppress this being from taking over.

Let's be clear, at it's core, "Split" is your standard issue horror flick plaqued with the usual improbable plot elements. And like any good frightfest, the film takes sadistic glee in exploring the darker side of human nature; misogyny, child abuse, incest, mental illness and murder. Yet Shyamalan manages to bring wit, empathy and genuine emotion to this sordid affair, making the film feel far less exploitative than it really should.

Casey's past is examined during a family camping trip with her father (Sebastian Arcelus) and uncle (Brad William Henke) as a young girl. This traumatic event altered her life and helps explain some of her peculiar behavior. Taylor-Joy, mesmerizing in her turn as a Puritan teen in the eerie supernatural thriller, "The Witch", proves here she is certainly one to watch. The actress brings intelligence and a steely spirit to the role, never allowing herself to ever truly be a helpless victim.

There has been plenty of rumblings about the "surprise" ending of "Split". Less of a twist and more of a nod to one of the director's previous films, this unexpected development doesn't add much to this thriller. I think it's just the an attempt by Shyamalan to inspire new attention to a film that initially received a tepid response. Regardless, "Split" draws you in to an unsettling story filled with compassion for damaged souls seeking salvation and finding it through unorthodox redemption.