Wednesday, May 17, 2017

La Femme on....2016 Best Picture Nominees (Part 1)

I have seen five of the nine best picture nominees and so I figured it was time for a round up!  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Hidden Figures, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, and Lion. I still definitely want to catch Hidden Figures and possibly Fences but I can leave Hacksaw Ridge and probably Lion (that hair on Dev Patel though, omg).

Moonlight:  (Barry Jenkins, 2016) Barry Jenkins Moonlight is a stunning film to win Best Picture. And I don’t mean the mix up, I mean the fact that a 1.5 million dollar film with a 100% African American cast about a young boy growing up in Florida, struggling with his sexuality.   Chiron grows up with a mother descending into addiction and his only parental figure is Juan, the friendly neighborhood drug dealer, the very one who sells to his mother.  His only friend is Kevin, who has more in common with Chrion than he knows.  Taking place in three parts, Chiron seems not like the three actors that portray him, but as one, seamless character which is a very hard thing to pull off.  Mahershala Ali may have won best supporting actor for his subtle take on Juan but I think that the ensemble as a whole is extremely strong and I honestly can’t pick out a favorite performance.  I love when movies show you a world that you don’t know.  Chiron’s life is tough but unlike many films showing poverty and hardship, Moonlight doesn’t wallow in misery, in fact it is hopeful.  I thought the final scenes with a grown up Chiron were stunning, particularly his reunion with Kevin.   

Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie 2016):  Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are two brothers whose mother has recently died.  Her farm is on oil but is in foreclosure to the bank because of a reverse mortgage she had taken out with a local bank.  With no way of saving the farm, the brothers decide to rob the very bank that they owe money to.  Toby does it because he wants to give his sons a better life and sees no other choice.  Tanner, an ex-con,  does it for thrills.  Jeff Bridges is the affably offensive/racist Texas Ranger trying to track them down. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has wonderful character development and a real flair for plainspoken dialogue but there are a few too many on the nose lines directly related to the financial housing crisis that made me groan  What makes Hell or High Water more than your average heist film is its sense of place, you really feel like you are in West Texas, the relationship seem genuine, even the tiny supporting rolls are pitch perfect.  Jeff Bridges is his typical gruff self and Chris Pine is more than passable as the conflicted Toby.  Ben Foster is menacing and charismatic as the off psychopathic Tanner.  The film may be predictable but the solid elements make it one enjoyable ride.

Arrival: (Denis Villenueuve, 2016)  I hate to say it but I kind of hated this movie.  I found it compelling for nearly the whole film but the last twenty minutes completely lost me.  Alien pods appear at twelve sites around the globe.  Amy Adams is Louise, a linguist, who is called in to help decipher the Heptapods (that's the aliens) language.  She meets scientist, Ian (Jeremy 
Renner, who I actually find repulsive so maybe that was part of my problem with the film, I take responsibility for that) and together they work to try and communicate with the slightly creepy aliens.  The scenes that show Louise doing her job, meeting the aliens, trying to figure out if she should she be afraid or emboldened are wonderful and eerie. The connection she makes with them is magical for most of the film. The film is beautifully shot, eerie and otherworldly by Bradford Young.  Amy Adams is affecting and determined, her competence and passion for language is wonderfully expressed.    The problem for me with arrival is a reveal in the last twenty minutes about the timeline of the film.  It was supposed to be incredibly moving and heartbreaking.  I found it manipulative and a little cheap, frankly.  I can’t reveal too much without spoiling the film, but let me just say, I find the dead child cliche to be an easy way to manipulate the audience into extreme emotions and I didn’t care for it in this film.  I am definitely in the minority here, but I just the film too sterile and honestly, a little silly.  

Next up, part two with my two favorite of the nominees, La La Land and Manchester by the Sea


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