Monday, February 29, 2016

My Tops of 2016 - February

THE WITCH wowed the hell out of me with its dismal and frightening look at frontier living, religious hypocrisy, and dangerous outside forces.

It feels really, really good to have the first new film I see this year to be a masterpiece. It may even make it to the finish line and be crowned the best film of 2016!

Best Films of 2016

1. The Witch

Reaction to the 2016 Oscars

This year's Oscars was a magnificent triumph over the last year's debacle but really overall, it was a fine and entertaining show. Too bad the rest of America wouldn't really care due to the lack of interesting or popular fare.

15-9. One point less than my usual average of 16-8. I just had to change my mind on the Film Editing, avoided the signs when it came for the Supporting awards, and dismissed the obvious with Best Picture.

The show opens with a "Hey, remember 2015?" montage, filled with such classic films as Fifty Shades of Grey and Ted 2. Young people still like Seth MacFarlane, right? And how interesting of it to be overflowing with images from Straight Outta Compton and Beasts of No Nation.

Chris Rock did really have one whooper of an opening monologue, damning the Hollywood industry and establishment for their backtracking on racial diversity and the #OscarsSoWhite movement for their short-sighted anger at a popularity contest and not focusing on more damning issues. He did a great job throwing live dynamite throughout the night, including plugging "Black Lives Matter" at the very end, but it did get a bit stale when every video gag he later pulled kept repeating the same joke.

The apparent theme of the night was to chronicle the way a movie gets made, awarding first the screenwriters, the production team, and then a supporting actress?

Pop Up Video! I abhorred the little on-screen boxes describing who these celebrities and actors were. Of course I know who Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are!

This Is CNN! The attempted new change for the ceremony was for the nominees to pre-write all of their thanks, which would then scroll on the bottom of the screen. This was to limit the thank you speeches, which the Academy keeps thinking is the worst part of the evening. Oh yeah, it's certainly not when you have the extended comedy gags or people stretching out their presenting time, or the fact that ABC repeats the same five commercials for cars, Kohls, and a Samsung phone. And guess what: The winners just said their thank you anyway! I pray this doesn't happen again; I want to watch a celebration of film, not a live-action Playbill.

The Danish Girl would have been better with Tracy Morgan. That montage of black comedians being injected into acclaimed films completely outshone the old green-screen videos Billy Crystal used to do.

Sam Smith didn't win me over with his Jude Law haircut and creepy beard. His less-than-stellar performance further didn't help.

Cool sequined Mad Max leather jacket you got there, Jenny Beavan.

As expected, Mad Max: Fury Road got all of the tech awards. The producers knew this advance, hence why they were all put in the same slot.

The Minions are coming. Cue the Ghostbusters theme?!

Angela Bassett needs to be in more Oscar stuff.

The hell was with that cue for the sound editing and mixing awards? Everybody was utterly perplexed.

Really, Stacey Dash?

Bear Story?!!! Well, at least it's nice for Chile to have their first ever Oscar, and to defeat two favorites in the Animated Short category.

Mark Rylance?!!! I guess the Academy still didn't see Rocky 2 and think that Rocky Balboa keeps losing in all of his sequels.

Louis CK with a nice bit about the limitations and low popularity of short subject Documentarians.

Dev Patel is scaring me with his Alejandro G. Iñárritu cosplay.

Lou Gossett Jr. starting the standing ovation love with surprise presenter Vice President Joe Biden.

So are we going to have another "Glory" on our hands, where the rousing political song is played last by a famous pop singer, causes the crowd to weep and stand up, and ultimately win? Nope! Diane Warren can't catch a break.

Seriously, Ali G in 2016? Did Grimsby already fail around the world that you had to recycle an outdated character, Sacha Baron Cohen?

Just great, now Iñárritu is in the record books.

Brie Larson was the night's MVP. Her constant interactions with co-star Jacob Tremblay, her kind demeanor, her hugging the rape survivors, and her win for Best Actress made her even more lovable.

Wow, now I really, really don't want to see Trumbo. The lone Oscar clip they could muster up was of Bryan Cranston avoiding his daughter's birthday party?

And hooray, that newspaper movie no one saw but has a message dammit won in the end. Enjoy being relevant in two months!

Mad Max: Fury Road getting six awards made my night. Chris Rock made it better, though I am sick of Girls Scout cookies.

An entertaining show but besides Rock's antics, it will fade quickly, just the overall cinematic year of 2015.

Oh, and we now have our annual "In Memoriam" snub: Abe Vigoda.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

2016 Oscar Predictions

As always, these are my predictions to win, not who or what movie I wish would win.

Best Picture: The Revenant

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant

Best Actress: Brie Larson - Room

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone - Creed

Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs

Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu - The Revenant

Best Original Screenplay: Alex Garland - Ex Machina

Best Adapted Screenplay: Drew Goddard - The Martian

Best Animated Film: Inside Out

Best Foreign Film: Son of Saul

Best Documentary Film: Amy

Best Documentary (Short Subject): Body Team 12

Best Animated Short Film: World of Tomorrow

Best Live Action Short Film: Stutterer

Best Original Score: Ennio Morricone - The Hateful Eight

Best Original Song: "Earned It" - Fifty Shades of Grey

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki - The Revenant

Best Film Editing: Stephen Mirrione - The Revenant

Best Production Design: Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson - Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Costume Design: Jenny Beavan - Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin - Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Editing: Mark A. Mangini and David White - Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Mixing: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, and Ben Osmo - Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Visual Effects: Ex Machina

Already, my expectations are very low coming into this show. I was pissed off at last year's results, the #OscarsSoWhite movement didn't help any favors, and the fact that The Revenant, yet another Iñárritu movie I viciously don't like (but more so then Birdman), is extremely expected to be the big winner. I can understand with the pity Oscar for DiCaprio but seriously, back-to-back wins in Best Director and Best Picture? Excuse me while I throw up...

Oh wait, Spotlight also has a chance. Hooray, one overhyped movie over another!

The acting categories are nearly all locks except for Best Supporting Actress. I can actually see Mara or McAdams getting the surprise win, unless the Academy wants to give Winslet the same golden treatment as Cate Blanchett with a win in the two actress categories.

I expect Mad Max: Fury Road to be a tech sweeper and nothing else. A beautiful dream will be if it wins Best Picture or, more likely, Best Director for George Miller but the Academy hates action as much as they hate comedy.

I love you Inside Out but Pixar hasn't been successful in the Best Screenplay categories.

Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary are both coin flips. The Academy love their Holocaust movies but will likely again skip over other genocide-themed pics.

Morricone has to win.

Remember When Actual Pop Songs Were Nominated & Would Win Best Original Song? Part 6: "Earned It" was one of the top songs of last years and one of the very few hit songs to be attached with a popular (for one week) movie. "Writing's On The Wall" technically was one as well but was poorly received by listeners and James Bond fans. It may have won the Golden Globe but I don't see it winning unless Sam Smith really is still popular with voters, because he sure as hell isn't as big as he was with the public two years ago. The other three nominees are only there to fill the card and have zero chance.

Poor Roger Deakins. Poor, poor Roger Deakins.

See you on Monday with my reactions to the awards and the ceremony itself.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Witch - Review

Purposely exiling themselves from the rest of the flock, a family of Christian pilgrims try to establish peace for themselves with a cabin and farm by the woods. Unfortunately, their plight begins to deepen when strange and tragic events happen, possibly caused by an unseen forest denizen. THE WITCH was widely hailed at last year's Sundance Film Festival to the point of it winning Best Directing, a very high accomplishment for a genre film at the annual indie event. Finally able to see the pic, my resounding cry can join the sea of praises. THE WITCH is a near-perfect work of historical accuracy and horrific dread, drawing in fresh eyes with its unique take of a setting and blending its expertly brief ghastly imagery with the tribulations of early American life and religious furor. It's beautifully carried along by a top notch cast, mostly of whom are children, who all are able to handle the archaic wordplay and deliver great performances. It's no surprise that the attention is focused heavily on Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the lead role of Thomasin, the oldest child of the bunch and whose rebellious nature and sheer bad luck causes her to be the pariah of the pack. She is sure to be destined for better things in Hollywood. Director Robert Eggers blocks out nearly every scene to be a series of iconic images, able to succeed for the most part thanks to the acting, the cinematography, and the delectable product design. The haunting musical score practically wants to rip the skin off your arm, as the amount of goosebumps it generates is hard to fathom. The editing is incredibly spot-on, knowing when to deliver a terrifying glimpse at something and somehow capable of making a cut to black to be absolutely petrifying. Though it does lose a few points thanks to some muddled plot turns and predictable outcomes, not to mention the fact that many casual viewers will be disappointed at the lack of cliché scares, THE WITCH is really that damn good as a horror art piece. It's really hard for myself to be a wee bit stingy against it right now, especially since the finale is so tantalizingly nightmarish that it took my breath away. However, I can say that we have a masterpiece this early in the year and sure to weigh on my thoughts come time for the best of lists.