Tag Archives: General

Oscars 2018 (the first round)

This year has been an embarrassment of riches film-wise, especially during the final quarter of the year. From a movie-goer point of view, it is fantastic.

With The Shape of Water leading the noms this year, with 13, you’d think there are some locks, but there aren’t. There are no clear Oscar front-runners and a lot of potential upsets in the making. Who wins is going to be a strange alchemy of talent combined with the political winds of race, equality, and #metoo that may shift or split votes. It’s just reality and it already has had some affects, deserved or not.

From a predictor’s point of view, it is all a glorious kind of hell, but I’m going to continue my rather public shaming (or celebration) as I have in years past and make my predictions. Keep in mind, they are somewhat wild hare at this point, but you gotta start somewhere when analyzing what’s on offer. Expect at least one final update prior to the 4 March awards ceremony.

THE MAJORS
(or what we all care about)

Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Meryl Streep (The Post)

My Choice:  There just isn’t a bad choice here. Sally Hawkins, however leads the pack for range and challenge in her role. 
Likely Winner: Sally Hawkins

Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

My Choice: Gary Oldman just disappeared into Churchill. That is the ultimate accomplishment for any actor. He is the closest thing to a lock this year. And, despite it being Lewis’s last role, he already has several statues to play with. Kaluuya did a great job, but it was a job done within the boundaries of genre, which just doesn’t carry the same weight or allow for the same range. And Franco was frozen out, despite his amazing turn in The Disaster Artist
Likely Winner:  Gary Oldman

Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J Blige (Mudbound)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

My Choice: Up until I saw Phantom Thread, my money would have been on Metalf out of this collection of great performances. Manville, however, really does an astounding job supporting Lewis and the story. Still, in terms of range and subtlety, and if pushed to the wall (cause Janney was amazing too), I’m sticking with Laurie Metcalf.
Likely Winner: Laurie Metcalf

Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

My Choice: I know Rockwell has been snagging a number of the awards, but I was glad to see Harrelson sneak into this group. He’d been getting overlooked so far this season. Richard Jenkins, however, was my favorite performance in this batch. Again, it comes down to range, layers, and quiet control, which is harder to do well than losing it on screen. 
Likely Winner: Sam Rockwell

Directing
Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread)
Guillermo del Toro (Shape of Water)

My Choice: I don’t even know where to break what I see as a three-way tie. Gerwig, Peele, and del Toro each have solid cred to walk with this award. And two are here with their, essentially, first film (Gerwig has one other co-director credit). Guillermo del Toro is my favorite, however, and he had a long history behind his talent, which helps me break the tie in his favor. Given all the other nominations for his movie, I’m expecting that will also go with him. 
Likely Winner: Guillermo del Toro

Best Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Choice: There are so many ways to argue this one. Honestly, though, I think it is a death match between Shape of Water, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards. Shape of Water has one major advantage, beyond its 13 nominations. Shape is about all the things that the other films are about, all rolled into one, rather than as a single, primary theme. So I’m going with The Shape of Water, but I won’t be surprised by something else taking this home. By the time the DGAs are announced we may have a better sense of where the momentum is.
Likely Winner: The Shape of Water

Animated Feature Film
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

My Choice: I’m still catching up here, but Coco is likely the winner, despite some good word of mouth around Vincent and the political cachét of Breadwinner.
Likely Winner: Coco 

Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body And Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

My Choice: Not a clue yet. I have somehow missed all of these so far, though Square has the most recognition so far.
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.

THE MINORS
(or what the rest of us care about)

Documentary Feature
Abacus
Faces, Places
Icarus
Last Man In Aleppo
Strong Island

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Documentary Short Subject
Edith and Eddie
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Heron
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Animated Short Film
Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Live Action Short Film
Dekalb Elementary
The Eleven O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
Silent Child
Watu Wote (All Of Us)

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Adapted Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name” James Ivory
The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

My Choice: This is a challenging category this year.  I recently rewatched Logan and was, again, impressed with its tale and emotional power. Disaster Artist also surprised, but can’t say it was a great script, more just surprising. Mudbound, honestly, just isn’t that good a script, nor is Call Me By Your Name, for all its attention. Sorkin is the best of the writers and the most intense of the scripts in terms of sheer compacted information and energy, not to mention shape. This is also probably Molly’s Game only chance for an award and while Sorkin surely showed his directing chops here too, this is the bailiwick that folks like to reward him in.
Likely Winner: Molly’s Game

Original Screenplay
The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out,” Jordan Peele
Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

My Choice: This is really a battle between Shape of Water and Get Out, to my mind. Each has things recommending it, but, again, Shape actually includes a lot of the same themes in different, and more complex, ways. Given it’s other 12 nods, and how much I enjoyed it, I’m going with Shape of Water.
Likely Winner: Shape of Water

Original Song
“Mighty River” (Mudbound), Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” (Call Me By Your Name), Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” (Coco), Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something” (Marshall), Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman), Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

My Choice:  In years past, I’d have said Remember Me had a lock on the award. It was seen by so many people, figures heavily in the plot, and is a catchy tune. But this is a different kind of year. While This is Me certainly states out the themes of Greatest Showman, it is only heard the once in the story. Neither is particularly ground breaking or, at least for me, memorable. This is Me probably has more impact for me.
Likely Winner: Given the climate, I’m going with This is Me

Original Score
Dunkrik
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Choice: Hands down, Dunkirk has the most effective score this year, but it may have been too subtle to win.
Likely Winner: Shape of Water

THE CRAFT & TECHNICAL
(or what we should all care about)

Cinematography
Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)
Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour)
Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk)
Rachel Morrison (Mudbound)
Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)

My Choice: Dunkirk has a great shot here; Nolan is nothing if not a brilliant framer and Hoytema’s work and challenges were huge given the various environments he had to navigate. However, for beauty and support of the story, Shape of Water and Blade Runner beat him out. Deakins, in particular, had to both create his own language as well as match the original enough to evoke the connection, which has me picking Blade Runner 2049 as my choice, though I don’t know think it will win.
Likely Winner: Dunkirk

Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast
The Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

My Choice: Typically, this would go to a period piece (like old period). That thinking would put Victoria & Abdul in the front. But this year’s cadre are all over the place on era’s. Phantom Thread boasts some incredible 40s/50s creations. Beauty fantastical imagination. Shape of Water a range of clothing, much like Darkest Hour. For me, the invisibility of the costumes in Shape of Water is the most impressive of the lot.
Likely Winner: The Darkest Hour

Makeup and Hairstyling
The Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul
Wonder

My Choice: Though Wonder has some impressive make-up, Oldman’s transformation is jaw-dropping and seamless. Going with The Darkest Hour.
Likely Winner: The Darkest Hour

Production Design
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
The Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water

My Choice: Wow, you could just hit your head against a wall for ages trying to pick one here. Each film created solid, believable worlds. For complexity, Shape of Water and Darkest Hour had the most difficult challenges. While Darkest Hour brought the 40s back to life, Shape of Water did similar for the 50s but also added a hint of magic to it. And Blade Runner 2049 had to recreate a world and, as mentioned before, still do something unique on its own. My pick on this is Shape of Water for riding both the real and fantastical lines down to the tiniest detail.
Likely Winner: Shape of Water

Film Editing
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Choice: Much like The Big Short, I, Tonya is a movie made by its editing. I’ve gone this route before and lost, but out of this field, it is the movie that stands out for me in this aspect of the craft. It isn’t subtle, but it builds the story out of snippets and pulls you along. Baby Driver has a good amount of effort in there as well, but it doesn’t stand out for me here. Similarly, Dunkirk. Shape of Water has an ethereal sense to its editing that may win voters as it added to the feel of the tale nicely.
Likely Winner: Dunkirk

Sound Editing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My Choice: Editing and mixing are often the most troublesome picks to make. Each movie here had its challenges, but Baby Driver delivered one of the most interesting results in both categories. So Baby Driver for me on this one.
Likely Winner: Baby Driver (low confidence here…suspect Dunkirk takes it)

Sound Mixing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My Choice: Baby Driver again here for me, Even more so than editing, the movie had to navigate a lot of layers and not lose us at the transitions. More confident the Academy will see that in this case than the previous.
Likely Winner: Baby Driver

Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

My Choice: Lots of choices here, but War of the Planet of the Apes, for all its accolades, has few opportunities and this is likely going to be the one folks would give it. The seamless world it created out of our own probably beats out the broader worlds that are more obviously CGI.
Likely Winner: War of the Planet of the Apes

What’s happening in awards season, (crafted) naturally

Awards season this year is highlighting an interesting trend. It wasn’t clear to me until recently when I saw Wind River. We appear to be seeing a new version of cinéma vérité, demarked more by the sense of the story than with the more readily identifiable “shaky cam.”

It isn’t about scriptless tales either, another hallmark of some of the old vérité movement and a lot of recent films (another aspect I’ve discussed in the past). Think of it as ‘crafted naturalism,’ if you will. This new trend is about intimacy and truth in the telling. You may argue that those aspects are essential for any film, and you’d be generally right. But these new films, in general, have a smaller, more intimate feel and feel less constructed–more ‘tales told’ than ‘tales built.’

The stories that are capturing the judges and the audiences are also about imperfect people, more gray than black & white in their actions and morals. Plots are not simple and obvious or highly crafted; they follow the natural and unexpected paths of life, leading to comedy, tragedy, and triumph, but rarely only one of those and often without perfect symmetries.

In addition, the stories that are floating to the top are also, almost to a one, about love. Often that is a romantic entanglement or desire, but family love is also represented. It isn’t a surprise that smaller films are dominating; they are the darlings of the early festivals and awards. But all indications are that the wave will carry over to the majors as well.

Successful entertainment is always a reflection of society at the time. It is a mirror that is accepted as truth; to cry out, or to escape. Whatever the reason for the popularity of a movie, it is always in context of the time. Enduring films either find a deep vein of truth that carries over and morphs in resonance with various evolutions of culture, or they are part of a deeper truth that is more stable within the culture. If it is accepted over the long term internationally it likely has hit on what we’d call “a human truth.” But, typically, these wide-ranging films tend to be more action and escapist rather than character driven. The exception to that tends to be sprawling, escapist romances (for example, Doctor Zhivago), but even those tend to fade or tarnish with time.

So what does this new trend tell us about our times? Let’s just look at the films that received multiple SAG nominations, as an example.

These are not big films. They are focused on individuals in the extreme. In the case of Get Out, in very interesting ways. But, on top of that aspect, they aren’t about obvious heroes or villains. There is nothing simple about the choices the characters are making, but the choices are very real (even based on reality in a few cases). They ring true rather than created. These aren’t soaring fantasies of life, they are windows onto it.

Some years we get many dramatizations, but they are often ‘big’ stories, even when focused on individuals. Think about Spotlight, The Big Short, or the upcoming The Post. Perhaps the right word is that they’re ‘slick.’ They don’t ring true so much as ring of a truth we want to believe in. This year, they just feel different to me…or perhaps it is just me and where I am in life that is affecting my experience. In any event, there is some kind of shift going on and it is worth noticing.

 

Fall TV 2017: The New Stuff

OK, I can’t (and don’t want to) watch everything. But here are my initial impressions of the new crop of stuff after the first episode (or so). I’ll likely post what survived my schedule later this fall.

In no particular order:

The Orville
I expected to really dislike this show, but it continues to surprise me. For all its weakness (usually around its broad humor moments), it is trying to ride the line of satire and homage and doing it well. In many ways it is more Star Trek than the latest Trek offering, which makes the timing of this drama especially interesting in contrast to Star Trek: Discovery.

Star Trek: Discovery
The franchise had a middling opening on the script and acting front, but no worse than Next Generation’s launch. It’s easy to forget just how bad the first season of TNG was, but it was really pretty bad. It survived due the vacuum of similar shows and went on to become something rather good.

Discovery is burdened by a future we know, so it really will be the characters that sell this, not the plots, per se. So far, the characters aren’t particularly compelling..so much so that even the first two hours didn’t elicit from me a gasp. And the technology and creature anachronisms are frustrating.

You can see the Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods) influence on the bones of this show, but his exit and subsequent rework by Paramount is leaving it in an uncomfortable place. The energy is odd and the sensibility feels at war with itself. It may find its feet over the season, but I can’t say the pilot filled me with curiosity to come back for more the way The Orville did. And by the end of the third episode I was left wondering if they were trying to remake themselves in the image of Babylon 5 (even more so than DS9 did).

There is a big universe for Discovery to play with, though it feels like a lot more of the same. That can be good and bad. TNG and DS9 both expanded the Star Trek universe in different ways to differing success with the same underlying issue. But is it worth a separate subscription fee to see every week? Right now, I’m thinking not, though if it were on free broadcast I’d probably give it more time. We shall see how it develops.

Good Doctor
Weak start but with some stuff to build on. Unless the writing picks up, however, the story alone isn’t enough to hold it together or keep me coming back. Just too many medical gaffs and overwrought moments. It was good to see Antonia Thomas (Lovesick/Scrotal Recall) in a larger production to get her broader exposure. And, writing issues aside, while Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) has created an interesting character in the lead, Graham Verchere as his younger self just isn’t up to the task which is weakening the story.

Young Sheldon
Surprisingly engaging for a spin-off tale. Keeping the Sheldon we know as a bridge definitely helps, but the solid relationships and struggles of the family are also well done. While the young Sheldon is good, Raegan Revord as his twin sister and Zoe Perry (No Pay, Nudity), as his mother are the real stars of this sitcom so far.

Me, Myself, & I
Had to see this for the cast and the conceit. As it turns out, it was better than I anticipated, though not brilliant. The 30 minute format is very tight for 3 characters across time every week. Very frenetic to follow. The potential is there. It is up to the writers to make it work. So far, they are not impressing me.

Will & Grace
Seriously it is like there wasn’t a 10 year gap, which is bloody impressive. From the opening moments through to the end, the show still has its original, ephemeral magic. You either love or hate, but you can’t fault it for maintaining the magic.

Inhumans
An incredibly weak launch to a show that had huge potential and one of the longest set-ups (via the Marvel movies and Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D) I can ever recall. Even the solid talent, like Iwan Rheon (Residue, Game of Thrones) and Ken Leung (Lost, Star Wars: Force Awakens) couldn’t overcome an obvious, plodding, and ill conceived story. The world is incompletely thought through, the rules nebulous at best, and with a depth measured in millimeters. While I will give it another episode or so to see if it finds its feet, after the end of the double-episode launch, I was gnashing my teeth at the ‘surprise’ ending. If it is emblematic of the kind of scripts, and it appears it is, that are to come, it isn’t going to keep me in attendance. And I thought Iron Fist was going to be the nadir with the hope that it would serve as the TV division’s Iron Man 2; I wish I’d been right.

The Gifted
Another incredibly weak start for an action/adventure in a crowded and over-worked field. I’ll give anything with Amy Acker (Much Ado About Nothing) a shot, but this only gets one more before a decision is made. Just too serious and too much of the same, even if it is spawned from one of my more favorite branches of the X-Men universe.

10 Days in the Valley
While intense, this is a slow burn of a train wreck and tragedy. It is good to have Kyra Sedgwick (The Edge of Seventeen) back on screen, but not sure I’m looking for this kind of a character and story at this time. I do have some police procedural frustrations with the show, but I could get over them. Really the issue is timing.

9JKL
Great concept and some talent in the cast, including Linda Lavin, David Walton, and Liza Lapira. But the writing and directing are just awful. This one died on my list in the first episode. I didn’t even see any hope for it.

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World
I have to admit this one pulled it out at the very end for me…at least enough to give it a shot. It has that Joan of Arcadia feel to it, amusingly given Jason Ritter’s (Carrie Pilby) presence. It could quickly get tiresome, but they avoided some initial pitfalls. And I have to admit I enjoyed the heavy Amy Adams/Arrival vibe they gave the first episode. Still, it isn’t like we haven’t seen this story in the past (usually as horror) and their rules are squishy at best…either he is the only one or the other 35 meteorites anointed the rest of the gang and the rest is just for comedy. Will give it another round to see where it goes, but it will need to step up its game to keep me.

Ghosted
So this is The Orville of X-Files. It was just good enough in its launch to get another shot, but it only made it the first 15 minutes of the second. It just isn’t written well enough nor are the main characters all that engaging for me. I imagine it will find an audience out there, but it may not be enough to survive.

Wisdom of the Crowd
Probably the most attuned to the sense of the day and with a great conceit. Admittedly, it is a bit forced and it dances around the law quite a bit. But for all its weaknesses in credibility, it is terrifyingly willing to tackle some real social issues and technology. In addition to Jeremy Piven (Mr Selfridge) we also get Natalia Tena (Game of Thrones) to help drive it forward and both have some good chops to do so.

New micro-story on Story Seed Vault

A new tale of mine, a bit of cyber espionage, is up on Story Seed Vault today.

The challenge for this market is to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less; essentially no more than one Tweet’s worth. And the story has to be based on some new bit of science. They can explain it a bit more and how you can tackle entry into the Vault yourself.

You can find the current tale at: https://storyseedvault.com/2017/10/06/1451/

I have at least once more appearing in this venue soon, so stay tuned!

My previous tale is still on the site at:
https://storyseedvault.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/40/

The world didn’t end…

This last week I took off for the wilds of Oregon (Unity Lake Recreation Site, to be exact) to view the total eclipse. The days were hot, the nights were cold (around 5C/40F), and the stars magnificent. But it all paled to the 2 minutes of totality.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. It didn’t get dark like night, but more like a deep twilight. I didn’t get to hear all the animals go to sleep as none were hanging around making noise before the moment the sun winked out. But the difference between partial and full eclipse really indescribable, or as I tried to explain to a neighbor on my return, it is like being not pregnant and a little bit pregnant; it is all or nothing.

I took a slew of photos, but the best is probably this diamond ring at the end of totality:

Even at higher res, it isn’t brilliant photography, but I was there to see it, not photo it for magazines. And I took it, so I’m rather proud. Two minutes was not quite enough to satisfy, but I can completely understand why some people chase eclipses around the world. It is unlike anything you can picture if you haven’t seen one. One moment there is sunshine (even if dim and slightly red shifted) and the next there is a black hole in the sky. Staring up at that, you really understand why ancient civilizations were so terrified of them when they occurred.

 

New Tale to Tell in 140 Characters

My latest sold story is up on Story Seed Vault today. They can better explain  their mission and raison d’être.

The challenge for this market was to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less; essentially no more than one Tweet’s worth. And the story has to be based on some new bit of science. I can’t resist a challenge…

You can find it at: https://storyseedvault.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/40/

I hope to be adding more to the vault over time as well. If I’m going to read science news all the time, I should also find more ways to make it pay!

A few decades ago…

Back in 1981, a whole different century, I began working out as a matter of sanity and as a substitute for sleep. Hey, I was young, stupid, and living on adrenaline.

Five years later, June of ’86 , I had my first (and only) portfolio created for my acting career. The photographer was great and among the shots was one that has lived in infamy as: Leatherman. It got passed around my friends and beyond for a while back then. Thank god the internet was nascent or it probably would have been sent much further. Uploading at 300 baud was not fun.

As it turns out, my twice-a-day, six-days-a-week workout schedule is something I got accustom to and managed to continue even till today (if you’re doing math, I’m starting my 36th year shortly). For the heck of it I decided, if not to recreate the portfolio piece this summer, to see how well I’d held up. I realize this is the worst of ego gone rampant, but WTF, I hardly ever take pics anymore or allow people to take pics, so why not?

So, here I am again just over 31 years later. The hair is shorter (and thinner) and, yeah I was ridiculously underweight back in ’86 (and got worse till the following year, which is another story), but the pic came out not too bad for someone who’s hit their mid-50s.

So, I’ll see you again in another 30 or so years and have a good laugh over it all atrophying…

 

Wonder Woman: Female empowerment or just a brass bikini?

***SPOILERS ABOUND***SPOILERS ABOUND***

When I discussed this movie yesterday, I alluded to some frustration and disagreement about whether and how this film succeeded on a purely female empowerment level. To really discuss that meant massive spoilers, so I avoided it. However, after many more conversations IRL, it seems like I should dive into it all, best I can, but with the proviso that you should see the film first in order to make up your own mind and to not have anything revealed.

I will try to avoid all discussions of acting ability and dialogue in this conversation and concentrate solely on the plot points of the script and the scenes that made the cut. Because, truth be told, I think the root of my issues lay there not just in the unbalanced acting ability onscreen.

Let’s acknowledge that, yes, there is a strong woman pounding the tar out of bad guys. Let’s also acknowledge that a very gifted female director is behind the scenes and that she has cemented her legacy with this film alone, even if she hadn’t already with her previous efforts.

That said, there are two main issues that I think throw this film out of pure female empowerment and both grow out of a single root cause. They also both occur in the final act of the movie and are interrelated, but separate issues.

The root cause is the well-indicated, without crossing the PG line, of Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman’s night together. We should all have known at the moment that if they had sex, he needed to die. Honestly, I didn’t put it together at that point, but I did wonder at why the heck they did. Not because I’m a prude. And we know Wonder Woman knows the pleasures of the flesh from their conversation in the boat, so it wasn’t out of the question. However, crossing that line between these characters fundamentally changes many things that have implications later that weaken Wonder Woman’s decisions to my mind.  At the very least, it muddies the waters. Also, the way it is filmed, it appears to be his decision, even if he seems to acknowledge some unspoken nod off camera. Had the shot been from her POV it may have mitigated the issue, but it didn’t appear to be a POV shot to me. And, beyond that, I still think the scene shouldn’t have happened. But, if it had to happen, it should have been 100% with her in control on screen, not even in the implied control of a man. This moment ultimately colors two other major decision points.

First, Trevor sacrifices himself. The question here is why? There is an argument I’ve been involved with that claims Trevor is only at the front because of Wonder Woman and, therefore, all of his actions are in support of her. I disagree. We know Trevor never just follows orders from Etta’s comments to are Ares-in-disguise. He would have gone anyway in order to hunt down Dr. Poison/Maru, even if he hadn’t ever considered gods in his midst. But he also chooses to sacrifice himself both as a humanitarian and because he thinks he’s saving the girl he’s fallen for, not really fully believing she was a goddess and invulnerable (despite the earlier moment at the village). More importantly, Trevor taking the initiative diminishes Diana’s ownership of the resolution of the fight. Sure, there is a bigger fight going on, but that still isn’t his focus or what he really quite believes at that moment, by my and other’s estimation and even by the flashback/fill-in (cheap, BTW) of their conversation. And keep in mind that Ares, a decidedly male entity, is arranging all of this through his nudges, so who is in control?

Second, the final motivation for Diana’s ability to beat Ares is driven by…. and here is where the Fifth Element comments from my earlier post come in… love. But is that universal love, the capability to love humankind and go beyond the Amazons-first mentality, or is is the love of Steve Trevor, specifically, that drives her? And this is where their night together matters. Had they not been together, the moment of epiphany for Diana would have been chaste and unencumbered by the personal and physical love of a man. It would have been a realization about herself and, more generally, about all those around her. Instead, it comes off as a grief-stricken response about a relationship because there was a relationship. Legit? Sure, but it diminishes her into emotional woman, not a super hero defending the human race. In fact, it makes her no better than the petty Olympians to whom she is related in this tale who kill each other for personal sleights, damage and death to Earth below be damned.

Still not with me on this. OK, consider the final scene before the brief coda. Diana thanks Bruce for “bringing him back to her.” She doesn’t say, “thanks for reminding me why I do this,” nor “I miss all of these great heroes.” Nope, this is all about Trevor in the script, no one else and nothing else mattered in this reverie.

I don’t want to overburden a popcorn film with too much analysis, but Wonder Woman has been long anticipated for so many reasons and the reaction has been so strong, that I wanted to at least put on some critical goggles and consider the implications before we christen it a guide for all girls. It has some great aspects as reference, but I think the end was weakened in ways that could have been easily avoided.

1500 (and counting)

Image result for fireworks

I’ve been at this a few years now and this post marks my 1500th!

Many more movies and TV shows have been covered than the post number represents given that I double or triple-up items at times.

For those that have been finding it useful: you’re welcome. For those that aren’t following it… well, what can I say that you won’t have read anyway?

Seriously, this has been my passion for a while now. As I’ve said before, I do this as much for myself as my own memory aid and thought process as I do for all the friends and acquaintances that request recommendations. It also keeps me writing almost every day.

So what’s next? I’m still seeing about 250 films plus a ridiculous amount of TV a year, though I don’t write up everything…  For the record, yes, I still manage to have a life, see people, and do things. Really, I do. Film and TV are just how I unwind nearly every night, before trundling off to bed to read for a bit.

Thanks to all who’ve have continued to let me know you’re enjoying these posts. Most of that is off this site, but it is good to know it’s still being read.

And now on to 1501 and counting….

Oscars (2017): The results

How did I do with my predictions? My worst in years thanks to some honest competition and, well, a couple bits of stubbornness on my part. I actually hit the first four announcements out of the gate, and then things started to get interesting…

Here’s the top line:

62%, 15 out of 24

Of the major awards:
4 out of 7

Of the minor awards:
6 out of 9

Of the technical awards:
4 out of 8

So, basically, I mucked it up across all categories. If I’d not stuck to my guns on a few of the categories, I’d have done significantly better, but I really disagree with a few of the winners and I wasn’t willing to compromise my opinion to get a better hit rate. A few straggling write-ups will be coming over the next days as I squeezed in a few more films before the big night, but none changed my choices.

The detail follows.

THE MAJORS

Best supporting actress

My prediction: Viola Davis
Winner: Viola Davis

Best supporting actor

My prediction: Mahershala Ali
Winner: Mahershala Ali

Best actress

My prediction: Emma Stone
Winner: Emma Stone

Best actor

My prediction: Denzel Washington
Winner: Casey Affleck

OK, I wasn’t surprised here, but I was disappointed.

Best director

My prediction: Damien Chazelle
Winner: Damien Chazelle

Best foreign language film

My prediction: Toni Erdmann
Winner: The Salesman

Again, not an entire surprise here. Quality of Farhadi’s film aside, politics were certainly on its side.

Best picture

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Moonlight

If you missed the presentation on this, read about how it happened. Honestly, Moonlight is a great movie, but I don’t know that I’d pick it as the top, especially given the 3 awards it won, versus La La Land’s 6. Whether it was the musical thing, the politics thing, or vote splitting, it is rare to lose top honors while picking up Director and at least one of the major actor awards  (not to mention score, song, cinematography, and production design). Frankly, just glad it wasn’t Manchester.

THE MINORS

Best adapted screenplay

My prediction: Moonlight
Winner: Moonlight

Best original screenplay

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Manchester by the Sea

Feh. Just, feh.

Best animated feature

My prediction: Kubo and the Two Strings
Winner: Zootopia

As promised: AAAARRrrrrrggggg!!!!

I admitted all along that Zootopia was the likely winner. This was a stubborn hope on my part that enough of the Academy would see Kubo so it could win. It is the far superior piece of work. Hopefully Laika’s next will finally land a win.

Best documentary feature

My prediction: OJ: Made in America
Winner: OJ: Made in America

Best original song

  • La La Land – Audition (The Fools Who Dream) by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • La La Land – City of Stars by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • Moana – How Far I’ll Go by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Trolls – Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
  • Jim: The James Foley Story – The Empty Chair by J Ralph and Sting

My prediction: Fools Who Dream (or City of Stars… but La La either way unless they split the vote)
Winner: City of Stars

Yeah, La La… I’m not penalizing my self on this one. I did declare for the correct one before the show… I forgot to update. C’mon, I’ve been honest all along, just trust me on this one.

Best original score

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: La La Land

Best live action short

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

My prediction: Sing
Winner: Sing

Best documentary short

  • 4.1 Miles
  • Extremis
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

My prediction: The White Helmets
Winner: The White Helmets

Best animated short

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

My prediction: Pearl
Winner: Piper

No real surprise given the Pixar background. At some point I do hope to see it. Pearl was available to me, but haven’t seen the rest yet so guessed.

THE TECHNICAL

Best costume design

My prediction: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best make-up and hairstyling

My prediction: Suicide Squad
Winner: Suicide Squad

Best production design

My prediction: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Winner: La La Land

This surprised me, I admit. And, honestly, don’t see it, but hey, good for them. All the nominees here were deserved.

Best cinematography

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: La La Land

Best film editing

My prediction: Arrival
Winner: Hacksaw Ridge

So totally disagree here, but, again, this was one of my stubborn choices. I really didn’t think this would be the result, though.

Best sound editing

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Arrival

Of the possibilities for Arrival, this isn’t the one I would have selected, but am glad Arrival got at least one win.

Best sound mixing

My prediction: La La Land
Winner: Hacksaw Ridge

Yeah, this was a possibility and they did a heck of a lot of good work on the battle scene. I admit I selected based on an expected landslide for La La Land in this category.

Best visual effects

My prediction: Jungle Book
Winner:  Jungle Book