Yes, I watched every single stinkin’ Oscar Nominated for best picture this year and well, I’m exhausted. I’m in no way excited or looking forward to this year’s Academy Awards show now that these are the movies nominated. Other than the loathsome Manchester By the Sea, the other films are decent to great but nothing too noteworthy or worth watching endless clip after clip this Sunday.
Directed by: Garth Davis (Party on Garth!)
Synopsis: Very young Indian boy gets lost at a train station and cannot find a way to get home. His only salvation is to be adopted by an Australian couple. As a young man, he uses the internet and Google Earth to figure out where his home village was and questions if he should seek out his former life.
Overall: A very emotional film, that has great performances, especially from Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. It’s a very sad story that, I think, has a happy ending. It’s also based on a true story which was highlighted years ago on 60 Minutes so if you happen to be above the age of 55 and still watch news magazines, then sorry but the story has already been spoiled for you. I really have not much to nitpick other than the usual, too long and could’ve been written with more emotional weight. I seem to say that a lot lately. Maybe I’m dead inside.
Score: 7.5 “Flashbacks From Indian Desserts” (out of 10)
Directed by: Barry Jenkins (Baaaaaarrrrrrrrry Jeeeeeennnnnnnnkinssssss!!!) (seriously, this year’s Oscars have a lot more first-time directors, that I can ever recall)
Synopsis: Film explores three key time-periods of a young Miami gay youth that lives in a rough life with a crack-addict mother. He befriends her crack dealer who cares more for him than his own mother. He’s routinely picked on and bullied and never seems to find much solace.
Overall: I really don’t know what to say about this film. It’s not bad but it isn’t really all that good either. Watching it felt like a music video, it had scenes that tied together but with very little dialogue, if it had music in the background you would still get the gist of the story. So it’s way more visual than narrative—which is fine but left me sort of cold. The story itself kinda goes nowhere with (again) very little emotional weight to it. Mahershala Ali is a fantastic actor but I’m not sure he should’ve been nominated for this. Especially over the three actors that play the main character, Chiron, through his three stages of life.
Score: 6 “Handjobs on the Beach” (out of 10)
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Directed by: Mel Gibson (Braveheart, Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto)
Synopsis: Gibson’s first directing duty in over a decade finds him in familiar territory of war, blood and guts. However, combine Braveheart with Passion of the Christ with a story about a medical soldier who, because of his staunch religious beliefs, refuses to carry or fire a weapon. As it turns out, he becomes a hero that saves dozens of lives on a near-failing mission on the island of Okinawa. BANZAIIIII!!!!!
Overall: This was a very good war movie with a very unusual and unique true story about Desmond Doss who despite volunteering for the war, refuses to carry a weapon. The first half of the film (like Full Metal Jacket) is him growing up and in basic training but instead of the usual army training torment from his sergeants, Doss gets ridiculed, bullied and eventually court-martialed for his refusal to fire a rifle. I’m still scratching my head at how this all worked out for him, but he eventually goes into battle without any weapons training or any weapons of any kind. The second half of the film is the battle of Okinawa where his platoon attempts to raid a stronghold on top of a cliff. Not since Saving Private Ryan have I seen more gory and bloody battle scenes. In true Gibson fashion, he doesn’t hold back with the blood and guts. The first attempt for the platoon is a total failure and they are forced to retreat. However, Doss stays above the cliff and slowly through the rest of the day and into the morning, he carries comrades back to the cliffside and lowers the wounded down. It’s a well done movie and if you’re into war flicks, then this should be worth your while. I would not recommend this to any casual filmgoer. I will say that Garfield did a decent job, but I can’t believe he was nominated. Hugo Weaving was the stand-out in this film as his WWI veteran father. And then we also have Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn stinking up the rest of what could otherwise be a phenomenal war drama. Seriously, they sucked in this. I will also give $20 to anyone who can explain why there was a scene of a naked soldier during basic training? Why was he naked in front of the rest of his squadron doing pull-ups? Was this scene supposed to be comic-relief when Vaughn forces him to do training exercises still in the buff? I’m seriously confused why this was part of the first scene of training.
Score: 6.5 “Whatever Happened to Desmond’s Brother?” (out of 10)
Directed by: Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher)
Synopsis: Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play of the same name which also starred Washington and Davis in the same roles about a tough Pittsburgh patriarch who just-so-happens to be a very flawed and sorry individual.
Overall: There’s not a whole lot of meat on this film’s bones. Washington is a tour-de-force (love using that phrase) though who chews the scenery through-out the entire film with his philosophies, mottos, and his strict disciplinary acumen. He’s definitely a product of a time when “Fathers Knew Best” despite being good men. He drinks, he cheats on his wife and forces his son to quit football even though the son is destined for a college scholarship. This whole film is filmed and treated like a play, with only one location—the house. Seriously, we see the kitchen, bedroom and dining room as well as the yard, where Denzel slowly builds the fence. I think we see the street outside the house twice and one scene in a nearby bar. So be prepared to like this house for the entire 2 hours and 20 minutes while Denzel acts like a very hypocritical, hot headed Mr. Know-it-all. Would I recommend this? Sure, why not?
Score: 8 “Just give Washington and Davis the acting Oscars” (out of 10)
La La Land (2016)
Directed by: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Synopsis: A love-letter homage to old Hollywood musicals, has star-crossed lovers falling in and out of love. Yeah, that’s basically it.
Overall: I cannot stand Ryan Gosling as a tough guy like Driver and Only God Forgives. He’s too much of a pretty boy to see in those types of roles to me. You know what roles he excels at though? Smug, arrogant, chip-on-the-shoulder, yet a romantic kind of guys; like The Notebook. His role in La La Land is of no exception and he shines bright as the cocky pianist/songwriter with a very bad attitude. Emma Stone also did a bang-up job in this and I think they both deserve their Oscar noms. The story is weak however, but there’s enough visual flourishes and musical numbers dangled in your face to distract you from such a cliche and tiresome romantic drama. There’s some humor but not much, so don’t get your hopes up that this is a prime movie date kind of flick. I saw it with the missus and we both left the theatre kinda blah about it. Don’t get me wrong, as a visual medium, this film should and most likely will kill at the Oscars, especially since Hollywood has such a hard-on for flicks that have to do with film and Hollywood. The music is just OK to me though and I don’t see myself buying the soundtrack anytime soon. Which is a shame since this is a musical after all. They even have John Legend in it and the music is still just mediocre. Sure it has two songs nominated but in my opinion, good luck beating Lin-Manuel Miranda. Overall, it’s just a flash-in-the pan cute movie that uses gimmicks in lieu of a good story that will win a ton of award and quickly be forgotten about in a decades time.
Score: 7 “It’s Just a Cute Little Movie OK, Don’t Make a Big Deal About It!” (out of 10)