The 89th Best Picture nominees are here! Today is the day I’m going to share my thoughts on each.
Okay, on 7 of them. Because there are still 2 I need to fit in before Sunday.
I’m going to warn you that I’m going to get mildly spoilery in this post. Sharing my thoughts requires a few details. I’ll do my best not to completely spoil anything, however. And if you want more info afterwards, we can chat via email or The Facebook or something.
We’ll get to my thoughts on La La Land, of course, but another flick that has gotten me into multiple arguments is Arrival. I’m just going to put this out here right now. The film MAKES NO SENSE. It’s about a linguist (Amy Adams) who is conscripted by the government to try to learn the language of some aliens that have arrived on Earth. That part’s all well and good. Interesting, even. But intermixed with the current story are these flashbacks she has of losing her daughter to cancer. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s all I’ll say. Toward the end of the film, tensions ramp up around the world as various governments (namely China) decide the aliens who have been there for months and have never posed a single threat, must be dangerous.
And then, right in the nick of time, Amy Adams unlocks the alien language and not only is she able to communicate, she also suddenly has some of their special abilities. I won’t get into those. But let’s just say, I didn’t suddenly know how to make French pastries when I learned how to speak French.
An interesting story from 1950s segregated Pittsburgh. But the obstacle for Fences is that it is a play. And they make no attempt to set it up as a film instead of as a play on film. But it’s a good story and the acting is SUPERB. I would love to see this onstage. As far as this movie itself goes, it’s not a Best Picture winner. It’s just not. This is an acting showcase, but that’s where it ends. Oh, and can someone please explain to me why Denzel’s Oscar buzz always comes when he places super unlikable people?
So…I haven’t seen this one yet. I just haven’t gotten around to it. But it’s available at Redbox now, so I’m going to try to get to it before Sunday. I’m just trying to prepare myself for the blood. Because there’s just so much blood.
Hell or High Water
It’s weird to me that this was nominated for Best Picture. It’s a good movie, but it’s such a Red State film, that I’m actually kind of shocked how much Oscar voters seem to have liked it. Basically, it’s about two brothers who are about to lose the family farm to foreclosure. So one brother (Ben Foster) hatches a plan to go on a bank robbing spree, robbing several branches of the bank that holds their mortgage so that they can pay it off with the bank’s own money. It’s actually kind of brilliant and I liked it a lot. And Chris Pine shows he’s not JUST a pretty face. Although I’ve known that for years. And Jeff Bridges as the Texas Ranger trying to track them down? So good. But the nomination is the prize here.
If you haven’t seen this yet, just go. Right now. Drop whatever you’re doing (unless you’re changing a baby or something) and go right now to the theater. This film is inspirational and GOOD. Great story. Fantastic people. The performances are just WOW. The film centers around three women, although it’s actually about ALL of the women that worked at NASA in the early sixties. There are some moments that will make you angry. Others that will make you smile.
Oh, and can I just say that I kept getting so frustrated because all these men throughout the film just keep saying things like, “That’s just how it is.” Whenever they talk about women becoming engineers or computer scientists or whatever. They can’t change things because that’s just how they are. And NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON ever says, “We’re trying to put a man in space and you’re telling me that a black woman can’t use the white coffee pot?”
But my frustration was all in the best way possible. See this movie.
La La Land
The more I think about this movie, the more mad I get. I left the theater thinking it was “fine.” But at this point, I’m like “To hell with this damn movie it sucks.” And I’m going to tell you why with as few spoilers as possible.
Here’s the thing. Everyone’s like “Oh, this is such a romantic movie.” No. It’s not. And I’m not just talking about how it ends. I’m talking about the fact that it’s supposed to be this beautiful love story, but it’s basically just 90 minutes of him mansplaining to her about why traditional jazz is so great and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. Sure, he’s supportive of her dreams, but only when supporting her is not inconvenient to him. His character is pretty well developed, while hers isn’t at all. His dream of opening a jazz club is what drives him. She moved from a small town to be an actress, but when she finally explains why, her motivation is her aunt’s story, not hers. And it’s an aunt we never even meet.
The dancing is fine, but not incredible. They are NO Fred and Ginger. The singing is generally fine, but actually pretty bad in a few places. Ugh. “City of Stars” got nominated for Original Song and yet it’s too low for Gosling’s range, so it sounds awkward.
This movie isn’t that great, y’all.
And can I just say, I know La La Land is going to win Best Picture. I’m already ready for it. But I find it interesting that Hollywood, which LOVES to lecture the world about acceptance, etc., is choosing to reward a movie that celebrates itself rather than, say, Moonlight, which actually makes a statement.
What more can I say about this movie that I haven’t already said? If you haven’t seen this yet, I’m very disappointed.
Manchester By the Sea
You know how a lot of grief-themed movies start with someone screaming into the phone, “NOOOOOO!” and then collapsing in a sobbing heap on the floor? That is not Manchester By the Sea. When Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler gets the call that sets the story in motion, he quietly finishes the call, goes about finishing his work for the day, and then calmly goes to his boss to say, “I need to take a few days off.”
The film basically takes place over the course of a week or two following the death of Lee’s brother. There is funeral planning, estate settling, and sorting out what to do with Lee’s teenage nephew. Just as in real life, there are deeply sad moments and very funny ones. Even in grief, a lot of people find themselves laughing, if only for a moment. When Lee is faced with the reality that his nephew needs to stay in Manchester to finish high school, he has a decision to make. Because of past tragedy in his own life, there’s no way Lee can stay. It’s impossible for him. And this film explores all of those issues with realism and grace.
I know I keep pushing for a Moonlight win, but…confession…
I haven’t seen it yet.
I’m going tomorrow, I swear!
The reason I’m pushing for it to unseat La La Land is that I think it’s the only film that actually can. Obviously, my personal choice is Lion, but Moonlight could pull off the surprise. Perhaps when I see it tomorrow I’ll change my mind about hoping for it, but I kind of doubt it. We’ll see.
Doesn’t matter, though, because La La Land is going to win and I’m going to be grumpy for at least 15 minutes after the show is over. My apologies in advance to Emily and Laura, who will be watching with me.