Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Chris Pine as Steve Trevor and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince in Wonder Woman

Swamp Thing. Supergirl. Steel. Catwoman. Jonah Hex. Green Lantern. Suicide Squad.

DC Comics has an absolutely dreadful track record of films not involving Batman or Superman. With Wonder Woman, they hope to start putting them all in the past. Not coincidentally, Wonder Woman also gives us a hero who is good without reservation. There’s no brooding Superman, no homicidal Batman, and no deconstructing of characters that pop culture fans have known and loved for decades. That’s why this works. It brings us hope amidst suffering, and that’s what elevates this film far above their other recent attempts at entertainment.

The Story

Hooray for stories that actually make sense! Wonder Woman leaves behind the sloppy writing of the previous DCEU films, stops being complex and gives us a straight-forward story of good vs. evil. The simplicity is what makes it shine. Good guy beats up bad guy to stop him from destroying the world.

In fact, one of Ares’ tricks is an attempt to cloud the black and white into grey. Diana’s allies, he claims, are just more men who will do more harm to others. Perhaps they are not the Germans of World War I, but they still have faults, they still kill and cheat and scam. But Wonder Woman sees, in time, that humans still have the capacity for good and heroism, and even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t stop her from trying to save lives, because that’s her mission and her purpose. Life is worth saving, and there’s nothing black and white about that.

Patty Jenkins and company also do a great job of resisting the temptation to depict men as clueless buffoons. This isn’t a female v. male movie. There’s heroism from men and women (though obviously a woman leads that category), and villainy from both as well.

The Characters

There’s not much in the way of stand-out roles here; there’s nothing like Ledger’s Joker or Downey’s Iron Man. Godot plays Diana very well, with just the right amount of innocence and intensity, but Wonder Woman just doesn’t have a ton of depth, and that’s fine. The most complex characters have small roles (Sameer, Charlie, and Chief) and they lend the story some intricacy that the main characters lack.

To be clear, there’s no lack of quality either. Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, and Danny Huston are all very solid in their roles. We just don’t get characters that have much of a history. And this is something that the Wonder Woman mythos just has to deal with. Her gallery of rogues just doesn’t have the depth of other heroes.

The Bells and Whistles

Since this film is essentially a mash-up of Greek mythology and WWI, its closer to Captain America: The First Avenger than it is to Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of make-up, costumes, and special effects. The period costumes are impeccable, and combat in the European theater of war comes to life in a much more realistic way than WWII does in the first Captain America film, where we see more skirmishes, but less of the reality of war.

The Lasso of Truth translates wonderfully to the big screen as both a weapon and a polygraph administrator, and Ares gets his classic look for the big final battle, which is where the special effects really get to shine. It’s fun to see a battle of demi-gods depicted in a reasonable way, especially after boss battles in Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman were so pitiful.

As for the score, its fine as a whole, but really shines in scenes of battle, especially when Wonder Woman takes center stage.

The Final Verdict

Wonder Woman is a lot of fun. It provides a great female role model who holds high ideals. The only twinge I have when think about this movie is how off Diana’s motivations are in Batman v Superman (again, thank Zach Snyder for his constant need to deconstruct the heroic) when you see where she comes from in this film. But that’s a knock on Batman v Superman, not Wonder Woman.

And while it is a good film, it leans a bit more toward standard (albeit well-made) blockbuster territory than say, something like Logan or The Dark Knight. Even so, it’s a step in the right direction for DC and a film that is a breath of fresh air for those who have been waiting for the return of heroes who act because it is the right thing to do, not because they feel compelled or conflicted. That’s the kind of hero this world needs right now, when its so divided. And that’s the kind of hero Wonder Woman gives us.

Rating: 7/10 stars.

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This year’s Oscars are a little bit more difficult than usual, so I’ve waited until the last minute…here. we. go!

Best Picture

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight   

3) Manchester by the Sea

4) Arrival

5) Hell or High Water

6) Hacksaw Ridge   

7) Hidden Figures   

8) Lion 

9) Fences

 

La La Land is the favorite, so I’m going against my Best Picture algorithm (which picks Moonlight), and picking it. The algorithm has been correct for 5 out of the last 6 Oscars.

 

Best Director

1)  Damien Chazelle – La La Land

2) Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

3) Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge 

4) Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

5) Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

 

Best Actor

1) Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

2) Denzel Washington – Fences

3) Ryan Gosling – La La Land

4) Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

5) Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

So close. I’m barely picking Affleck.

 

Best Actress

1) Emma Stone La La Land

2) Natalie Portman – Jackie

3) Isabelle Huppert – Elle 

4) Ruth Negga – Loving   (#6)  

5) Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

 

Best Supporting Actor

1) Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

2) Dev Patel – Lion

3) Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

4) Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

5) Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals   (#6)

Dev Patel has a bigger role and may win, but Ali was so good!

 

Best Supporting Actress

1) Viola Davis – Fences

2) Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

3) Naomie Harris – Moonlight

4) Nicole Kidman – Lion

5) Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures   (#6)

 

Best Foreign Language Film

1) Toni Erdmann

2) The Salesman 

3) A Man Called Ove

4) Land of Mine

5) Tanna

Toni is the better film. I’m not buying the whole The Salesman will win so Hollywood and stick it to Trump.

 

Best Animated Film

1) Zootopia

2) Kubo and the Two Strings 

3) My Life as a Zucchini

4) The Red Turtle

5) Moana

 

Best Documentary Film

1) O.J.: Made in America

2) 13th

3) Life, Animated  

4) I Am Not Your Negro

5) Fire at Sea  

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Moonlight  

2) Fences 

3) Arrival

4) Lion

5) Hidden Figures 

 

Best Original Screenplay

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) La La Land

3) Hell or High Water

4) The Lobster   

5) 20th Century Women  

Another close one. Manchester could lose if too many voters just ride the La La Land wave.

 

Best Film Editing

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight  

3) Hacksaw Ridge

4) Hell or High Water 

5) Arrival

 

Best Cinematography

1) La La Land

2) Arrival

3) Moonlight

4) Lion  

5) Silence

 

Best Production Design

1) La La Land

2) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

3)  Hail, Caesar!   

4) Arrival

5) Passengers  

 

Best Costume Design

1) Jackie

2) La La Land

3) Florence Foster Jenkins

4) Allied   

5) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Another close one. Jackie, just because it is a period piece.

 

Best Make-up and Hairstyling

1) Star Trek Beyond   

2) Suicide Squad

3) A Man Called Ove

 

Best Original Score

1) La La Land

2) Jackie

3) Moonlight 

4) Lion 

5) Passengers  

 

Best Original Song

1) “City of Stars” La La Land

2) “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

3) “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” – Trolls

4) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – La La Land

5) “The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story  

 

Best Sound Mixing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Arrival

4) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

5) 13 Hours 

 

Best Sound Editing

1) Hacksaw Ridge

2) La La Land

3) Arrival

4) Deepwater Horizon   

5) Sully 

Close. Hacksaw deserves it. Will voters understand the difference between mixing and editing?

 

Best Visual Effects

1) The Jungle Book

2) Doctor Strange

3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4) Deepwater Horizon   

5) Kubo and the Two Strings 

 

Best Short Film

1) Mindenki (Sing)

2) Ennemis Intérieurs

3) Timecode

4) La Femme et le TGV   

5) Silent Nights

 

Best Animated Short Film

1) Piper

2) Pearl

3) Pear Cider and Cigarettes 

4) Borrowed Time

5) Blind Vaysha

 

Best Documentary Short Film

1) The White Helmets

2) Extremis

3) Joe’s Violin

4) Watani: My Homeland   (#8)

5) 4.1 Miles

Reviewing Silence resulted in bumping this segment back a few days, but today we’re dealing with that constantly nagging voice that whines that there’s nothing original left in Hollywood.

Its not the movie studios’ fault if folks choose to ignore good films they are not familiar with. Known commodities will nearly always win box office battles, because its easier to get people in the seats, but profit and box office receipts don’t equate to quality, and in this age there’s honestly no excuse for not seeing the amazing new films and ideas out there.

You’ll note that a star * = still in theaters, and +/- signs indicate how much more or less money the film made to its counterpart on this list last year.

Where Did They Come From?

There are four categories: Originals, Adaptations, Sequels (which include prequels and spin-offs), and Remakes.

To be fair, I’m only listing films that made it to wide release. If I counted limited release films as well, the original films would trounce the other categories in a landslide.

Originals

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Using the same qualifiers that the Academy Awards use, Original Films are films that are new screenplays, and not based on previously existing material such as novels, plays, television shows, etc. Basically, “Original” means not connected to any pre-existing work in print, screen, or stage.

Films based on events, but not creative works, are still original films. In 2015 there were 61 original films released. This past year (2016), there were 68.

The Top Five Original Films at the worldwide box office in 2016 were:

  1. Zootopia – $1.02B+$144M {Inside Out}
  2. The Secret Life of Pets $875.5M/ +$401.7M {San Andreas}
  3. Moana$555.2M/ +$311.4M {The Good Dinosaur}
  4. Sing – $488.2M/ +$250.5M {Spy}
  5. Passengers $292.9M/ +83.9M {Tomorrowland}

 

Adaptations

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Adaptations are all films based on already existing material, which can include novels (The Legend of Tarzan), comic books (Dr. Strange), plays (Fences), TV shows, etc.

Reboots are classified as adaptations because they are not sequels to existing material, but new versions of adapted material.

The emergence of shared universes is making classifying some films tricky. My guide is that if the focus of the film is on a character or characters that have not headlined a film before (Suicide Squad and Dr. Strange for example), then it is an adaptation.

In 2015 there were 38 adaptations, this year that number is 44.

The Top Five Adaptations at the worldwide box office in 2016 were:

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them$810.6M/ +$214.3M {The Martian}
  2. Deadpool$783.1M/ +$147.2M {Mockingjay, Part 2}
  3. Suicide Squad$745.6M/ +$202.9M {Cinderella}
  4. Doctor Strange$670.2M/ +$150.9 {Ant-Man}
  5. Warcraft$433.7M/ +19.3M {Kingsmen: The Secret Service}

 

Sequels/Prequels

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In this category are films that are sequels or prequels to other films. There were 30 sequels in 2016, that’s an increase of seven from the previous year.

The Top Five Sequels/Prequels in 2016 were:

  1. Captain America: Civil War$1.15B/ -$547M {Jurassic World}
  2. Rogue One$1.04B/ -$499.9M {Furious 7}
  3. Finding Dory$1.03B/ -$470.1M {Star Wars: The Force Awakens}
  4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice$873.3M/ -$526.7M {Avengers: Age of Ultron}
  5. X-Men: Apocalypse$543.9M/ -$656.1M {Minions}

 

Remakes

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This category includes all remakes of feature films regardless of their country of origin. There were only 4 remakes in 2016, up one in number from the year before. Here are their international totals.

  1. The Jungle Book$966.6M/ +$871.1M {Poltergeist}
  2. Ghostbusters$229.1M/ +$148.9M {Point Break}
  3. The Magnificent Seven$162.4M/ +$152.4 {The Loft}
  4. Pete’s Dragon – $143.7M

 

In Conclusion

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Though the sequels brought in the most money in 2016, it was less than the previous year, with most of that shortfall moving to original films (especially the animated variety) and The Jungle Book.

Once again, the myth of Hollywood losing its creativity is debunked.

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This week, Pope Francis moved the cases of ten individuals one step forward towards canonization. Among them was Takayama “Justo” Ukon, a samurai driven out of Japan for his chosen faith. In light of this, it’s time to take a look at Martin Scorsese’s new film, Silence, which deals with the period of persecution that Ukon lived in.

“I want to go out in the countryside
Oh sit by the clear, cool, crystal water
Get my spirit, way back to the feeling
Deep in my soul, I want to feel
Oh so close to the One.”

– Van Morrison, “Hymns to the Silence”

There’s so much to say about Silence. It’s been a hot topic in Catholic circles in the three weeks since its release. The ever-awesome Bishop Barron has weighed in, along with a torrent of Catholic film-goers. While anticipated greatly by so many, it’s left a lot of people questioning what exactly it’s trying to say. A few reviewers said they are “needing time to process the film.” Let me save you that time, because there’s really not much to process. It’s not that you shouldn’t reflect on it. After all, a measurement of quality art is how much it makes you internalize what it’s saying. And that’s the problem with Silence. It doesn’t say much worth hearing.

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Thomas More is not impressed by your apostasy.

Imagine, if you will, Braveheart, and legendary William Wallace, moments from death, being offered the respite that a quick execution will provide. Imagine Wallace asking for mercy instead of his ravenous call for “Freedom!” Imagine Sir Thomas More opting to lose himself, saving his own life for the sake of politically correctness in A Man for All Seasons. What would we have? We’d have a lot of folks we call heroes going belly up, that’s what. And what wouldn’t we have? We wouldn’t have the Scottish army rallying to Wallace’s cry and winning their freedom. We wouldn’t have SAINT Thomas More.

So now we come to Silence. For those not in the know, it’s a story focusing on the persecution of Catholics in 17th century Japan. More specifically, its a historical FICTION about two priests who risk their lives to go to Japan to find their mentor, who has allegedly renounced his faith.

When you hear that synopsis, generally speaking, you’d think you’d have a good understanding about what would happen. It is a familiar, albeit tragic story. The priests would do a bunch of good, but eventually they would get caught. Maybe one would escape, but this is Hollywood. This is Martin Scorsese. There has to be a sacrifice! There has to be heroism. And there is…kinda. 

There’s a remarkable inconsistency to what the writers of this film want us to believe. The two priests, Fathers Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), while both holy men, are very different. Garupe complains more, worries more, and wants to play things safe. Rodrigues is the calm one, reminding Garupe why they came to Japan, to save souls. And they come into contact with Japanese Catholics who are absolutely in love with their faith, and eternally grateful for the unexpected appearance of the clergymen. And then, there’s Kichijiro, the reviled man who smuggled the priests into Japan and is revealed to have renounced his faith and watched as his family was killed for believing in it. And this is where the rubber hits the road…and gets a flat tire.

While Christians are imprisoned and killed by the government, the priests watch in horror from hiding at the insistence of the natives. As the net tightens around them, the priests are asked by their flock if they should renounce their faith to save their lives. Without hesitation, Rodrigues answers in the affirmative. Garupe, astonished at this response, answers in the contrary. This is the crux of the film. To be, or not to be, a martyr?

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For Garupe, the answer is yes, and despite his previous complaining, he gives his life while trying to save a Christian from execution by drowning. But this is mostly glossed over. The story, after all, follows Father Rodrigues, who is eventually captured and imprisoned. Father Rodrigues speaks to God about these trials, wanting some sort of instruction from Him, but lamenting and complaining that he hears nothing, except silence, in return. In the end, Father Rodrigues denounces his faith, gives up his priesthood, marries, and repeatedly displays anti-Christian behavior when the government requires it of him. After all that, upon Father Rodrigues’ death, he is shown clutching a crude wooden cross hidden in his palm.

Speaking from a narrative position, the problem here isn’t necessarily that Rodrigues apostatized. Its that we’re expected to treat him as a hero, as if the duality of a public and private life divorced from each other is laudable. “Look,” the film says, “he kept his faith hidden all those years in spite of everything! He’s heroic!” But a hidden faith is no faith at all. Jesus is pretty specific about this. You don’t hide your light under a basket! A Christian life is lived for others, or its not lived at all. What good is salt if it loses its flavor? (It actually ceases to be salt…shout out to Fr. Mike Schmitz for that bit of data).

The problem with Silence is the same problem we face in modern times. The modernist’s creed is to separate the personal from the public. You can believe whatever you want, as long as you do it in private. You can do whatever you want, as long as deep inside you feel like a good person. And we convince ourselves that this is fine because we call God an abstraction. He’s not there to tell us what to do or to interfere. He’s silent.

But here’s the thing. This supposed silence actually is God’s voice. It’s not vapid emptiness. God’s spoken word is a constantly-renewing creation. To believe he does not speak to us is to ignore his constant voice. To fill our ears with the wretched static of noise is to close ourselves off from the nature of God’s universe, still aborning. Silence is not an empty void of despair, but the very language of God.

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Issei Ogata’s (right) portrayal of the villainous Inoue Chikugonokami is marvelous.

If Fr. Rodrigues had been really listening, he would have understood how blatantly God was working; his flock was looking to him for example! Kichijiro breaks INTO prison not once, but twice, to go to confession, even after betraying his friends. It’s Kichijiro, the big sinner in need of mercy, who reminds Rodrigues, years after he’s abandoned his duties as a priest, that he’ll never stop being one. Rodrigues doesn’t really listen to the silence. He listens to the noise! Japanese officials tell him his quest is useless, they drive him to despair. Fr. Garupe’s sacrifice is pushed away and Fr. Rodrigues gives up in the face of roaring discouragement, cruelty, and violence. This isn’t heroism, its tragedy. It’s not William Wallace. It’s not Sir Thomas More. Ignoring the mission is not victory.

It’s significant to note that one of the apostatizing priests in Silence was based on the real-life Father Ferreira, who actually repented and died a martyr. But that’s not shown in this film, or in the book it’s based on. What’s shown is a film shot through the lens of moral ambiguity, where the viewer gets to decide who the hero is, or if there is one at all. This is exactly why this film isn’t worth reflecting on. There’s no deep meaning, just a vapid expanse of noise. Would you sit and reflect for days/weeks upon the static you hear when your favorite radio station goes out of range? If you did, it would likely only be to reflect on what you’re missing. The same thing holds true for this movie.

Silence is noise; a distraction from what true heroism and true Christianity is. There’s no need to spend weeks reflecting on it, unless you’re doing so to note what’s missing. But even then, why not fill yourself up with the silence of God instead? His still, small, voice that’s always there to listen to. Get away from the screens and walk in God’s nature, reflect on it as his gift. Go visit with people he’s brought into your life. Look for God’s Silence. Just not in this film.

Now that January 2017 is past, and I’ve had some extra time to see more of last year’s films, its time to look back at 2016 in the movie world. Later, you’ll be hearing from “Where Did They Come From?” – detailing the source material for all of 2016’s films, and Friday brings “Oscarwatch,” my first round of Oscar winner predictions.  will be the 10 films I’m most looking forward to in 2016.

Today though, its my ten favorite films from 2016, and (as a bonus) the ten films I’m most looking forward to this year.

10. Eye in the Sky

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The acting is a little thin as you go down the cast list, but Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman (R.I.P), and Barkhad Abdi do more than enough to carry this very topical film. Forced to choose between letting a suicide bomber go free and saving the life of an innocent family, a seasoned military commander (Mirren) must navigate through both political bureaucracy (Rickman), and agents on the ground (Abdi), as she decides whether or not to push the button and blow up a Middle-Eastern compound.

9. Kubo and the Two Strings

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One of the most beautifully animated films to come along in years, Kubo is another chapter in the amazingness of stop-motion film-making. The story is pretty standard, but the beauty of the film will take your breath away. Oh…and Matthew McConaughey voices a giant anthropomorphic beetle.

Of significance is also this film’s Best Visual Effects Oscar Nomination. It is only the second animated film ever to garner such a nomination, and the first since The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993.

8. Green Room

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In the “you learn something new every day” category is Green Room. I had no idea that a green room was a real thing (it’s where bands/singers/etc. hang out and wait to go onstage).

Anyway, this is a great indie film. A small-time punk rock band find themselves performing in an isolated, neo-Nazi, bar. They see something they shouldn’t, and end up in a battle for their lives. This is one of those “real-life” horror films that shakes you up a bit.

7. The Jungle Book

12891156_1173244646027634_7360654356410055621_oI’m a sucker for Kipling and the animated version of this story is one of my favorites, so of course this film makes the list.

Not only does this version end better than the classic one, but there’s Easter eggs galore, if you know Kipling’s original work, and the cast is priceless. Who wouldn’t want to hear Bill Murray sing “The Bare Necessities?” And mad props to Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli and was the only actor physically on set during filming.

6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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This film, fresh from New Zealand, hits all the right buttons. There’s humor, tragedy, a great villain, compassion, a fun car chase, and a talented youngster (Julian Dennison) that carries the film, with help from Sam Neill. The comedy might be too dry for some folks, but if you’re a fan of that sort of humor, make sure you see this one.

5. Hell or High Water

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This is a film that sneaks up on you, both in real life and on screen. I was one of the few folks who had this film on their Oscar list going into last October (I was able to snag 100/1 odds on it on GoldDerby), and it surprises plot-wise as well.

Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges are the driving forces here, but what really makes the film is the slow burn of a story. This modern-day western only gives scraps of motivation and back-story at the start, but when you get to the finish line, everything comes together and hits you between the eyeballs.

4. Doctor Strange

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Although it suffers a little bit from “origin-story-itis,” the latest addition to the big screen portion of the MCU is a resounding success. The cast of this film may give the best combined performance in an MCU film since The Avengers, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Benedict Wong all perfectly cast.

Of course, the visuals are what separates this film from every other film made this year. Anyone who missed seeing this on a theater big screen is really out of luck.

3. Captain America: Civil War

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Spider-Man was in it. ‘Nuff said.

2. Hacksaw Ridge

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You can read my review here for why exactly I liked it so much. In this space, it can just be said that you will very rarely find a film like this. A true story of sacrificial heroism that will tear at your heartstrings and bring you to applause.

1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ha ha. Just kidding. No way.

1. La La Land

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It wasn’t the suburb acting chops of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, the gorgeous cinematography, the catchy music, or even the fulfilled dreams that made this film the best of the year. Instead, it was how well the story can relate to our own lives. It’s a Hollywood story without a “Hollywood ending,” a reality wrapped up in a fiction for most of us, whether we are in La La Land or not. And even if we do reach our dreams, we never forget what we lost along the way.

BONUS!!! The 10 Films I’m most looking forward to in 2017. BONUS!!!

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  2. Thor: Ragnarok
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2
  4. Beauty and the Beast
  5. My Friend Dahmer
  6. Logan
  7. It
  8. Murder on the Orient Express
  9. The Dark Tower
  10. Marshall

 

2016-oscar-nominations

With nominations announced this morning, its time to see how my predictions fared. This year’s nominees are amazing diverse, and fantastic reminders that Hollywood is still a hotbed of creativity and art.

I’m copy/pasting my prediction lists (in condensed form). Incorrect predictions will be crossed out, and replaced by the correct ones, which have a number in parenthesis indicated where I ranked them on my original prediction list (out of 10). Correct predictions are in bold.

Best Picture

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight   

3) Manchester by the Sea

4) Arrival

5) Hell or High Water

6) Hacksaw Ridge   

7) Hidden Figures   

8) Lion 

9) Fences

A perfect nine for nine! My super-secret algorithm comes through again!

*Note: Anywhere from 5-10 films can be nominated for Best Picture. I always pick the maximum because there’s no way of determining how many films will be picked. My 10th pick, 20th Century Women, was not nominated, meaning my top 9 picks were.

 

Best Director

1)  Damien Chazelle – La La Land

2) Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

3) Martin Scorsese – Silence     Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge   (#7)

4) Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

5) Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

 

Best Actor

1) Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

2) Denzel Washington – Fences

3) Ryan Gosling La La Land

4) Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

5) Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

 

Best Actress

1) Emma Stone La La Land

2) Natalie Portman – Jackie

3) Isabelle Huppert – Elle 

4) Amy Adams – Arrival     Ruth Negga – Loving   (#6)  

5) Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

 

Best Supporting Actor

1) Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

2) Dev Patel – Lion

3) Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

4) Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

5) Liam Neeson –  Silence     Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals   (#6)

 

Best Supporting Actress

1) Viola Davis – Fences

2) Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

3) Naomie Harris – Moonlight

4) Nicole Kidman – Lion

5) Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women     Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures   (#6)

 

Best Foreign Language Film

1) Toni Erdmann

2) Land of Mine

3) A Man Called Ove

4) My Life as a Zucchini     The Salesman   (#6)

5) Tanna

 

Best Animated Film

1) Zootopia

2) Kubo and the Two Strings 

3) My Life as a Zucchini

4) The Red Turtle

5) Moana

 

Best Documentary Film

1) O.J.: Made in America

2) 13th

3) Cameraperson     Life, Animated   (#7)

4) I Am Not Your Negro

5) Weiner     Fire at Sea   (#10)

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Moonlight  

2) Fences 

3) Arrival

4) Silence     Lion   (#6)

5) Nocturnal Animals     Hidden Figures   (#9)

 

Best Original Screenplay

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) La La Land

3) Hell or High Water

4) Jackie     The Lobster   (#6)

5) The Edge of Seventeen     20th Century Women   (#8)

 

Best Film Editing

1) Moonlight  

2) La La Land

3) Hacksaw Ridge

4) Jackie     Hell or High Water   (#9)

5) Arrival

 

Best Cinematography

1) Moonlight

2) La La Land

3) Arrival

4) Jackie     Lion   (Not ranked)

5) Silence

 

Best Production Design

1) La La Land

2) Jackie     Hail, Caesar!   (Not ranked)

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4) Arrival

5) Silence     Passengers   (Not ranked)

 

Best Costume Design

1) Jackie

2) La La Land

3) Florence Foster Jenkins

4) Love & Friendship     Allied   (#6)

5) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

 

Best Make-up and Hairstyling

1) Florence Foster Jenkins     Suicide Squad   (#4)

2) Star Trek Beyond

3) A Man Called Ove

 

Best Original Score

1) La La Land

2) Jackie

3) Moonlight 

4) Lion 

5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story     Passengers   (Not ranked)

 

Best Original Song

1) “City of Stars” La La Land

2) “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

3) “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” – Trolls

4) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” La La Land

5) “Heathens” – Suicide Squad     “The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story   (Not ranked)

 

Best Sound Mixing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4) Doctor Strange     13 Hours   (Not ranked)

5) Arrival

 

Best Sound Editing

1) Hacksaw Ridge

2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story     Arrival   (#6)

3) La La Land

4) The Jungle Book     Deepwater Horizon   (#7)

5) Doctor Strange     Sully   (#8)

 

Best Visual Effects

1) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

2) The Jungle Book

3) Doctor Strange

4) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them     Deepwater Horizon   (#6)

5) Kubo and the Two Strings 

 

Best Short Film

1) Graffiti     Ennemis Intérieurs   (#7)

2) Timecode

3) Bon Voyage     La Femme et le TGV   (#8)

4) The Way of Tea     Silent Nights   (#10)

5) Mindenki (Sing)

 

Best Animated Short Film

1) Piper

2) Pearl

3) Inner Workings     Pear Cider and Cigarettes   (#6)

4) Borrowed Time

5) Blind Vaysha

 

Best Documentary Short Film

1) The White Helmets

2) Extremis

3) Joe’s Violin

4) The Mute’s House     Watani: My Homeland   (#8)

5) 4.1 Miles

Awards season officially kicks off this weekend, with the Broadcast Film Critics Association bestowing their Critics’ Choice Awards on their favorite films. This means it is a good time to remind readers that these awards usually have little bearing on Oscar prospects. These are critics giving these awards, not movie professionals so there is no overlap. Of course, it should go without saying that those most deserving of the awards will be recognized the most, regardless of who is doing the nominating, because they are the best.

That being said. Here are my first round of picks for Oscar Nominations. Obviously, these could be changed, but I want a nice “told you so” trail to start even before the Critics Choice Awards this weekend. So here we go. Each category is ranked by how likely I think a nomination is. Not all categories are present yet, and tomorrow, in the aftermath of the Critics Choice Awards, I’ll be unveiling a special Oscar section of the site, that will keep track of predictions and their changes.

Best Picture

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) Moonlight

3) Silence

4) La La Land

5) Arrival

6) Hell or High Water

7) Hacksaw Ridge

8) Jackie

9) Fences

10) 20th Century Women

 

Best Director

1) Damien Chazelle – La La Land

2) Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

3) Martin Scorcese – Silence

4) Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

5) Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

 

Best Actor

1) Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

2) Denzel Washington – Fences

3) Ryan Gosling – La La Land

4) Tom Hanks – Sully

5) Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

 

Best Actress

1) Emma Stone – La La Land

2) Natalie Portman – Jackie

3) Annette Benning – 20th Century Women

4) Ruth Negga – Loving

5) Isabelle Huppert – Elle

 

Best Supporting Actor

1) Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

2) Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

3) Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

4) Liam Neeson – Silence

5) Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

 

Best Supporting Actress

1) Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

2) Viola Davis – Fences

3) Naomie Harris – Moonlight

4) Nicole Kidman – Lion

5) Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women

 

 Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Silence

2) Arrival

3) Fences

4) Lion

5) Hacksaw Ridge

 

Best Original Screenplay

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) Moonlight

3) La La Land

4) Hell or High Water

5) Jackie

 

Best Animated Feature Film

1) Kubo and the Two Strings

2) Zootopia

3) Moana

4) The Red Turtle

5) Finding Dory

 

Best Cinematography

1) La La Land

2) Silence

3) Moonlight

4) Arrival

5) Jackie

 

Best Film Editing

1) La La Land

2) Silence

3) Moonlight

4) Arrival

5) Hacksaw Ridge

 

Best Sound Editing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Silence

4) Arrival

5) The Jungle Book

 

Best Sound Mixing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Silence

4) Rogue One

5) The Jungle Book

After receiving a 10-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge quickly became one of the most anticipated films of the year. It doesn’t disappoint. In a year where Superman and Batman both were deconstructed into morally ambiguous big screen figures, Hacksaw Ridge gives us a hero who is unafraid of plunging into the jaws of death, not because of some inner conflict, but simply because he knows what his mission is.

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“Lord, help me get one more.”

Private Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a combat medic who refused to carry a gun, became the first conscientious objector to earn a Medal of Honor after he single-handedly saved at least 50 (some accounts have up to 100) wounded soldiers in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.

Make no mistake, this is a horrific look at the reality of war. This was the most deadly battle in the Pacific theatre of war, taking place on top of an escarpment nearly 350 feet high. The Japanese Army had dug trenches and tunnels that honeycombed the ridge, and were well entrenched when the Americans reached the shore. So when the battle goes poorly for the good guys, its less like a retreat, and more like a descent from another world.

At grave risk to himself, Doss pulls soldier after soldier off the front lines, going back time after time with one prayer on his lips: “Lord, help me get one more.” It isn’t mentioned in the film, but after the war, a Japanese solder recalled having Doss in his sights multiple times, but that whenever he pulled the trigger, his gun jammed.

The Bigger Picture

So often, faith is viewed outside of action, like it is all about sitting around, waiting for something to happen, but never putting your money where your mouth is. There’s a clear line in Hacksaw Ridge where Doss’ faith gets put to action. This isn’t about being content to let God take care of everything, it’s about putting your faith into action because you know He will.

The tone of the film takes that step over the line with Doss. It feels almost like a Southern romantic drama at first, even complete with a humorous bunkhouse confrontation between a Sergeant (Vince Vaughn) and his men. But when they hit the battlefield, reality sets in that the world of war is an alien one, dehumanizing, degrading, and deadly.

Andrew Garfield is spectacular as Doss, and while his fellow actors (especially Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer and Hugo Weaving) hold their own, its Garfield’s world they are living in. Garfield plays Doss, from Virginia roots to bloodied boots, superbly, with his wide-eyed faith and hope shining through the grisly battle. He may have played Spider-Man before, but now he plays a real-life hero, in a film where Mel Gibson somehow makes the fog of war artistic, while bludgeoning the viewer (in a good way) with its finality and doom.

Speaking of Gibson, it’s been a long road for him, and folks have forgotten how talented he is. Hacksaw Ridge showcases his eye for detail and mastery of human emotion, and, as the man himself recently said, it’s time for forgiveness.

Takeaways

For a civilization supposedly so tolerant, our world is quite hostile to anyone with opinions outside the “norm,” which is interesting, because how often is “the norm” actually the best way to go? (McDonald’s and Justin Bieber, for example.)  This isn’t just true of religion and faith, but about politics, business, athletics, and almost every aspect of society.

But when you actually let someone live out their faith in a virtuous way, with conviction, amazing things are bound to happen, as it did on Hacksaw Ridge many years ago.

No matter how hard it gets, no matter how many bullets fly or how many insults are thrown, we should all hope we will have the courage of Desmond Doss to say “Please, Lord, help me get one more,” and go back out on the battlefield for our fellow man. And if you want to know what that looks like, go see this film when it hits theaters this weekend.

 

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I was shocked to learn that its been since April that I last posted a TWIC article. Then I reviewed the slate of films for this past summer. Yuck. Honestly, we haven’t had a big hit film since Captain America: Civil War, and, although there’s been some decent movies released, it really hasn’t been that exciting a summer, even on the indy film circuit.

Unfortunately, that trend won’t be changing this weekend. The big headliner is Jason Bourne, which join many of this summer’s blockbusters in the realm of the forgettable, not bad or good.  Bad Moms is the other film being released nationwide this weekend, and lets just say that one’s certainly not worth your time.

Your best bets will be the limited release films. Especially Gleason, a heartwrenching Sundance documentary about former NFL athlete Steve Gleason. Diagnosed with ALS at 34, Gleason set out to compile a film diary for his unborn son, while he still could. It ended up much more, as this documentary chronicles Gleason’s fight against the disease that ravaged his family’s life.

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Jason Bourne: Sequel in the Bourne franchise.
  • Bad Moms: Original film, written by  Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Original: 33

Adaptation: 21

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Love and Friendship ( – )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Zootopia ( – )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople (NEW)
5) Captain America: Civil War ( -1)
6) Finding Dory ( -1 )
7) The Jungle Book ( -1 )
8) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
9) Don’t Think Twice (NEW)
10) 10 Cloverfield Lane ( -2 )

superman_vol_3_47

I’m liking Superman comics more and more these days. Some of that may have to do with how butchered the character was in Batman v. Superman, making any version of Supes that doesn’t go around brooding a welcome breath of fresh air. But some of it, certainly most of it, is that the stories are good ones!

The featured story here is that a hi-tech new villain, HORDR_ROOT (don’t worry, there’s a perfectly good reason for that name) is blackmailing Superman. HORDR_ROOT collects secrets, and he’s found Superman’s. Unless Superman does as HORDR_ROOT says, the entire world will know Clark Kent is Superman, which will put  a target on all of Clark’s loved ones.

The main reason this story is so compelling is its cast of characters. Batman, Lois, Jimmy Olsen, HORDR_ROOT, they all have a strong role to play. Gene Luen Yang, a DC rookie, really gets the characters. Jimmy might be a little annoying, but he’s a competent character, and we finally get back to the interesting interactions between he and Clark that take place because Jimmy’s really the only one around (initially) that know’s Superman’s secret identity. Lois is Lois. And Batman and the Justice League are a good supporting cast, as they try to identify just what exactly Superman’s new power means for him, and the world.

If you’re looking for a modern take on Superman that doesn’t sacrifice any established parts of the mythos, this is a great place to start. For the first time since Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics, I’m actually looking forward to reading more of a Superman solo title as it is being released.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5 stars.