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Going to see LADY BIRD today so I guess that got me to thinking about recent Oscar nominated pictures, and how I feel the academy has gotten them wrong the last two years...
First let me start with 2016 - I only saw 3 of the nominated pictures - BROOKLYN, ROOM and the eventual winner SPOTLIGHT. I think BROOKLYN is probably the best film I've seen in the last ten years, which would by comparison have to make SPOTLIGHT into CITIZEN KANE. I found SPOTLIGHT to be a very dull procedural. Even Michael Keaton couldn't save it. Whenever they got near any sort of danger for the reporters, they backed off. Even Keaton's conflict came off as dull. It was like watching a Law and Order episode, except we already knew the ending. Obviously the academy voted for it because of subject matter, as they so often do. I loved ROOM, but BROOKLYN is in a class by itself...
Onto 2017 - I haven't seen HACKSAW RIDGE or THE MARTIAN yet. However there are some real powerhouses among the other 7...
MOONLIGHT - very disappointed in this film. I would rate it behind several of the contenders. I get that was built on the irony of the Mahershala Ali father figure character being the cause of the strife in Chron's life, by supplying his junkie mother with drugs. However I didn't feel Chiron's struggle against his identity at all, and I thought Kevin being attracted to him came out of left field. I also thought the 3rd act was boring - we didn't get any sense of why Kevin did what he did, and Chiron becoming a drug dealer was disappointing.
LA LA LAND - I thought I was going to hate it, however I actually liked it quite a bit. Not a fan of Emma Stone's and there is NO way this was an Oscar performance from her, but I bought everything she was selling. I thought Gosling was great, and I felt the tension throughout. The theme of having to choose between your dream and what amounted to be true love, as explored from the other side of the fence for once, was thrilling to watch, and the last scene was heartbreaking. Beatty and Dunaway, don't worry, I rate this ahead of MOONLIGHT...
HELL OR HIGH WATER - Great performances, great visuals. Other than that I felt the plot, despite making the bank the bad guy in the piece, was a bit ordinary, complete with an Angels with Dirty Faces plot variation and the inexplicable rogue robbery which puts the law on their tails.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA - boy was I conflicted after this film. Saw it twice. LOVED what Lonergan did in it - which is to give us a protagonist who can't change, yet somehow everyone is taken care of. Which begs the question - is it drama worthy of exploration? That's what my wife and I discussed all the way home. And I thought, yes it is. It's worth watching someone's pain and conflict, and knowing they will be forever changed by it, and will not be unchanged, but yet they somehow rise to the challenge in front of them in another manner. The scene with the fire was devastating, and the last scene between Affleck and Michelle Williams might be the best scene I've ever seen filmed... way ahead of MOONLIGHT.
HIDDEN FIGURES - I was disappointed by this one. Huge, important subject matter once again, that in the end didn't really make me feel anything. I think they were trying to serve two masters - one, the difficulty in getting into space, and two of course being the prejudice which NASA to its credit eventually overcomes, and the latter got a bit watered down, for me anyway. Can't recall too many of the details, so interested to know if others felt more affected by it. Jim Parsons as a baddie didn't work for me either - I think Sheldon is so ingrained in him that it's tough to see him as anyone else... I think I'd rate MOONLIGHT ahead of this.
LION - OMG did I love this film. Heartbreaking and tense from start to finish. Tears in my eyes the entire time. Dev Patel was a revelation. To have forgotten key aspects of your back story, enough to make it impossible to live the life you were given? I really felt the pain that he felt in knowing that his family wouldn't rest until they found him. And when I found out his brother was killed that night, I was a mess. Brilliant film. Made all the more unbelievable in that it was true...
FENCES - Masterpiece. I guess anything based on an acclaimed piece of literature would be. This was Denzel's show from start to finish. I think it finishes 2nd to LION purely on subject matter, however it's just as fascinating a character study as was MANCHESTER. Which is the real conflict for me. In any other year - or decade even - Denzel's performance would have been a knockout punch for an award. I can't reconcile Affleck's hugely complex performance, with pain bubbling under the surface, nowhere to go, an absence of and presence of the gamut of emotions simultaneously, with Washington's bombastic, scene chewing bully, who was made so because he was cheated out of a life he should have had. Coin toss on Best Actor. Either performance dwarfs anything I've seen on screen in the last few years.
So I guess I'd rank them, from bottom to top, as:
7. HIDDEN FIGURES 6. HELL OR HIGH WATER 5. MOONLIGHT 4. LA LA LAND 3. FENCES 2. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA 1. LION
Apologies once again to Hacksaw and Arrival. Will check them out soon.
I've only seen Lion out of all of those and it was an excellent story. La La Land is something I've avoided as it just isn't my type of film at all. I was going to watch Manchester by the Sea but avoided it in the end. I do want to watch Hell or High Water some time. I don't care for the rest. Just not my thing.
You shouldn't be interested in the movies that entertain, you should be interested in movies that scar..
What an odd juxtaposition. The fact is that some are entertained by movies that scar. And scarring is not a standalone criteria otherwise movies would succeed by just running the most revolting, jaw dropping or disturbing scenes.
The Exorcists, The Silence of the Lambs, Monster Ball, Dead Man Walking, etc. all are serious (scarring?) movies that I thought were top notch.
I didn't like Moonlight because it dealt with a serious or unique issue. I thought it sucked for a dozen other reasons. Stereotypical characters, agonizingly slow pace, camera movements getting in the way of story, an obvious rip off of a Boy's Life (hey - what if we took the mutli-year aspect of a boy's life and applied it too...?, etc. etc. The point being there were tons of reasons to hate this movie the least of which was whether it was entertaining.
If y'all can't see that as beautiful cinema, as much as you don't want to see it, or at least appreciate the uniqueness of the story, then you need to re-elvaluate what story telling is all about.
Do not agree. Movies that are meant to entertain can suck. Movies that are meant to scar can suck. The fact that a film contains a riveting scene does not rescue it from the trash heap.
Isn't being entertained the reason we watch movies in the first place?
I know that is the reason why I watch them. If I went into every movie hoping the movie scars me over the hope of being entertained, I would be disappointed ninety nine percent of the time.
We watch movies and sports, read screenplays and books, etc. for the hopes of being entertained. But it's also subjective like anything else. Dave doesn't like Moonlight. You love it. Neither you nor Dave is wrong. It's just a matter of opinion and taste.
Agree to disagree. But definitely change your mindset about what you want out of a movie. It'll probably make your movie experience more worthwhile.
I think all movies, whether they present themselves primarily as entertainment or primarily as art, should try to make my brain do something that it hasn't done before. Maybe I'd prefer "create new neural pathways" to the scarring metaphor (though I do think the greatest films of history are all ones that scar). I don't much care about the Academy, but I do think they at least mostly promote films that have some semblance of this type of originality.
In my mind, the only problem is when "entertainment" becomes the justification for compulsive repetition. Star Wars, Marvel, D.C., etc. etc., along with most television, are just the same product repackaged over and over again -- you know what you're getting and you know how it's going to feel. That's junk food, not entertainment, and Arby's is cheaper.
I think we let ourselves down as a movie-going culture when we settle for this kinda thing. Every type of sub-sub-sub-genre, from Mad Max to Solaris to the Room to Modern Times to Ice Station Zebra to Tokyo Gore Police to Easy A to Fat Girl to Pink Flamingos, has offered all sorts of opportunities for viewers to have new and interesting ways of seeing the world. I think that's the purpose of storytelling, and I think that sets it apart (or should, at least) from other forms of amusement like sports, carnival rides, and jerkin' it.
I liked LADY BIRD. Wouldn't gush about it, but it was solid, smart, a bit throwback, and certainly well-acted. Saiorse Ronan showed her range - a complete 180 from BROOKLYN to a bratty, rebel-without-a-cause 17 year old, who as you know from the promos and trailers is more like her mom than she wants to admit. So the movie is really about her trying to find her own direction in life.
As writers, we are always preached to about the stakes, and about jeopardy. Both were low here. So ultimately, unless you share these exact experiences, you may walk out of the theater entertained, however not, as we've been discussing here, affected in any way.
For me, certainly not in the class of MANCHESTER, FENCES, LION, etc. This is a movie that used to be made much more often in years past. The fact that we are celebrating it as perfect and ground-breaking says a lot about the industry, IMO.
- HIDDEN FIGURES - didn't like it. - HELL OR HIGH WATER - good. - MOONLIGHT - good but overrated. - LA LA LAND - not my cup of tea, thought it was overrated for no reason. - FENCES - didn't like it and didn't think it was good. - MANCHESTER BY THE SEA - good. - LION - great real story. really compelling. As a movie, it could have been structured better. Still, the real story is tremendous and won me over.