First Man (2018)

First Man

Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) is the First Man in line of the first day of training at NASA.

It should be noted from the get go that Neil Armstrong did make it to the moon and became the first human to walk on the surface. It is not a spoiler, since we all know that going in, but as a way of saying how wonderful the film First Man really is. There are many areas of tension throughout that we need to remember it will be okay for Armstrong in the end, even if it seems like the odds are impossible, which they probably were close to.

Director Damien Chazelle (fresh off his Oscar win for La La Land) has made a movie that truly is on par with classics like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff. With a screenplay by Josh Singer (who won an Oscar for Spotlight) that is based on the book by James R. Hansen, First Man starts off where it should: high above ground. We meet Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as he is in the mist of being an engineer and pilot. After suffering a blow to his family, we see him and his wife Janet (Claire Foy, the recent Emmy winner of The Crown) as he is chosen (along with many others) to be the pilots to help NASA reach the moon before the Russians.

Others in the cast include Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton, Jason Clarke as Ed White, Pablo Schreiber as Jim Lovell (the role Tom Hanks played in Apollo 13), Lukas Haas as Mike Collins, and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin. This is just a handful of a supporting cast who bring an unsung backbone to the film’s success.

As the main role, Ryan Gosling gives a rather subdued, yet powerful performance. This, of course, is because Armstrong was known to be a very humbled, quiet man (unlike Buzz Aldrin, which Corey Stoll plays perfectly). It is also a crucial move for Gosling since the performance by Claire Foy as his wife is much more direct and demanding. It is most clear in scenes such as her yelling at Slayton for turning off her radio, and when she is telling her husband not that he should talk to their sons before the mission, but that he will talk to their sons. Like Gosling, Foy gives Oscar caliber work.

However, the one I feel who deserves the most praise is Chazelle. After Whiplash and La La Land, it is clear as day that this guy is one of the best young talents in film today. I read a user review of the film online saying how the movie was too slow, which is ludicrous. Patience is something any movie goer must have to appreciate film as an art, and the pacing of the film here is pitch perfect (it hardly seemed to drag, even at two hours and twenty-one minutes. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren (also a La La Land Oscar winner) gives us not the light we as an audience would need, but the light the characters would have (in other words, he basically seems to use natural light). This is one of many reasons why First Man makes you feel as much as an astronaut as a film has. In Armstrong’s Gemini mission, there is one sequence that has stayed with me more than anything from the film, particularly one sound effect. This and the rest of the sound effects are as spine chilling as those I witnessed when I saw The Exorcist.

Parents, there is no sexual content at all (aside from some kissing). There is some swears (one, maybe two F bombs), and a lot of thematic material (especially with the result of the one main Apollo mission that ended tragically). Still, I would like to believe Middle Schoolers and up would be totally fine with this film.

I conclude with a plea. Recently, First Man had gotten a lot of negative press because the moon landing did not feature Armstrong planting the American Flag on the moon (I still like the fact that Gosling found it humourous that he is Canadian). There are plenty of shots of American flags in the film, and we do see the flag on the moon as well (though not the actual planting of it). It is up to you if you want to miss this film because of one minor thing that they left out. If you still insist on not seeing it, I would say undoubtably that you are missing one extraordinary film experience.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

The Best of the Best Picture Winners (2018)

0scars best

 

Seeing all the Best Picture winners in history is not all that hard. All you need is time and a love for movies.

Ok, some are bad, but they still make you realize how great movies can be.

I also plan on doing this once a year, not only to add the newest best picture winner, but because my thoughts may change (not really for the top films or bottom films, but those in the middle). No, I have yet to see every Best Picture nominee (which would be a big time consumer), but some years I did see enough to know if the choice was right or not.

And the Oscar goes to…

 

90.

 

The English Patient

It is not the longest film to ever win best picture, but The English Patient (1996) easily seems like the longest. The story of a nurse (Juliette Binoche, who won an oscar for Supporting Actress and does a fine job here) who hears the story of a love story that is beyond boring (unlike films it beat, mainly Fargo). Elaine Benes from “Seinfeld” was right about this film.

Parents: Not for kids. Sexuality and violence.

 

89.

The Broadway Melody

One of the first musicals (and talkies), The Broadway Melody (1929) suffers mainly because it was in the first years of talkies, when Hollywood was still working with the new technology. It reminds me a little too much of the film they were failing to make in the film Singin’ in the Rain.

Parents: Ok for kids, but it may bore them.

 

88.

The Greatest Show on Earth

 

Considered one of the worst Best Picture winners, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) does look nice, but the story of a circus behind the scenes is anything but great (yes, that is James Stewart next to Charlton Heston as a clown). It is certainly not better than High Noon, The Quiet Man, or (even though it was sadly not even nominated) Singin’ in the Rain.

Parents: It is ok for kids.

 

87.

gigi.jpg

A nice looking movie, with nice costumes, surrounded by a creepy story, Gigi (1958) is like a nice looking apple with worms on the inside. It is a musical, but with only one song that is ok.

Parents: It is ok, but not something they would really like.

86.

 

Cimarron

The first Western to win Best Picture, Cimarron (1931) tells an ok story, but is easily forgettable. It is nowhere near as good as another film from 1931 (even though it was not nominated), Charlie Chaplin’s uncanny masterpiece City Lights.

Parents: Ok for children, but I feel they will be bored.

85.

 

American Beauty

I don’t feel like American Beauty (1999) has aged entirely as well as some would have hoped. It has great acting, but the film about a man having a mid-life crisis has far too many creepy moments in it that makes you feel a little uncomfortable, unlike better movies like The Green Mile.

Parents: Not, I repeat, NOT for kids. A lot of sexual stuff.

84.

 

Tom Jones

Albert Finney is a great actor and does fine work here as the title character, but Tom Jones (1963) is supposed to be funny and (while I know comedy is subjective) it really isn’t. It is a tad creepy. Unlike Lillies of the Field.

Parents: Not really for kids.

83.

 

Out of Africa

 

Out of Africa (1985) does give us a decent Robert Redford performance and a wonderful performance by Meryl Streep (no surprise). What is a surprise is how bland the movie feels. It is no match nowadays for Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, which was left empty-handed at the Oscars, still a travesty.

Parents: Nothing too bad, but I doubt kids would like it.

 

82.

 

Around the world in 80 Years

David Niven is pitch perfect as the man who wants to go on a huge expedition, but Around the World in 80 Days (1956) is full of wonderful sights with too simple a story to take seriously. Also, as a fan of Frank Sinatra, it was a big downer to see him in the film for nearly seven seconds.

Parents: Ok for kids, if they can pay attention that long.

81.

 

The Great Ziegfeld

Despite being long and a little predictable, The Great Ziegfeld (1936) is worth watching for the performances, mainly Best Actress winner Luise Rainer, who is glamorous and transcendent. Still, I think I liked San Francisco better.

Parents: Again, it is ok for kids if they can stand the length.

80.

 

The Life of Emile Zola

The first half is very hard to sit through, but the second half of The Life of Emile Zola (1937) has the actual story to it. Paul Muni also does a wonderful job in the title role.

Parents: Nothing wrong here for kids.

79.

 

Shakespeare in Love

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who likes Shakespeare in Love (1998) more than Saving Private Ryan (or even Life is Beautiful), but it does not make the film any worse. Paltrow is very good here as well in the role that got her an Oscar. Still, a horrible shame it won over Saving Private Ryan.

Parents: Not for kids.

78.

 

Midnight Cowboy

One of the strangest on this list, Midnight Cowboy (1969) does feature career performances (mainly Dustin Hoffman), but I still admit to being a huge fan of Butch Cassidey and the Sundance Kid.

Parents: NOT FOR KIDS (At the time of this film, it was rated X).

77.

Cavalcade

A basic melodrama, Calvalcade (1933) does tend to drag at times, but the performances of the time do a nice job.

Parents: Ok for kids.

 

76.

A Man for All Seasons

Though it is very slow at times, A Man for all Seasons (1966) has fine acting. The stand out is Paul Scofield (who won the Oscar for Best Actor) as a man who puts his loyalty to God over that of his to the King (Robert Shaw).

Parents: Ok for kids.

75.

Hamlet

Despite a great feel of the period and being a great example of an actor (Laurence Olivier) directing himself, Hamlet (1948) does not live up to another movie from the same year, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is far superior.

Parents: Ok for kids

74.

The Last Emperor

Another example of beauty over substance, The Last Emperor (1987) is a grand looking flick with lots of eye-popping visuals. Too bad the story is on one level, unlike other films that year like The Untouchables or Moonstruck.

Parents: Not for kids (some nudity, plus they will be bored)

73.

Gladiator

I will probably get colorful feedback for this one. Afterall, I was in middle school when Gladiator (2000) came out, and I loved it back then. Now, a decade and a half later, it still has its moments (meaning yes, Maximus, I am still somewhat entertained),  but it wears thin after a while. Admittedly, it is not as good as the years other nominees, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Traffic.

Parents: High School and above.

 

72.

 

Mrs. Miniver

A nice portrayal of the beginning of World War Two, Mrs. Miniver (1942) is mainly known not for its performances (which include Oscar winners Greer Garson and the always lovable Teresa Wright), but for what happened on Oscar night. Garson gave the longest speech in Oscar history, nearly six minutes long. Because of this, the time limit was invented for future speeches of Oscar winners.

Parents: Ok for kids.

71.

All the King's Men

While it is not the best movie ever made about politics (that will always be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939), All the King’s Men (1949) is still one every politician should see. The acting is stellar, and it is a reminder that corruption is as easy to pick up in politics as ever.

Parents: Ok for kids

70.

Gandhi

There is no doubt in my mind that Gandhi (1982) gives a stellar Ben Kingsley performance that makes you think it is actually the real life activist has come back to life. Still, it does drag on at times, and is nowhere near as engrossing (let alone popular) as E.T. is.

Parents: Ok for kids, if they can stand the run time (should be watched in High School).

 

69.

Wings

The original best picture winner, Wings (1927) does drag on at times. Still, it does have some really nicely done fight scenes (especially considering the time it was made). Also, it is the first Best Picture winner, so that alone is still kind of cool.

Parents: One (very brief) glimpse of nudity, but that is it.

68.

The Deer Hunter

Coming out at just the right time, The Deer Hunter (1978) does go on a bit long. However, it does have great scenes including a wedding scene to inspire all wedding scenes, and, of course, Russian Roulette.

Parents: Not for kids, in any way shape or form.

67.

Gentleman's Agreement

Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) does give us great performances by Gregory Peck and (Oscar winner) Celeste Holm. It is also one of the best films made about anti-Semitism. Still, it is probably not as well-known now as Miracle on 34th Street.

Parents: Ok for kids

66.

Birdman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014) is definitely a film for the ages (the first to seem like it was done in a long take since Hitchcock’s Rope). The performances are uncanny throughout, though I still feel Boyhood is the better movie.

Parents: Not really for kids, though High Schoolers may be ok.

65.

Rebecca

While it is certainly not the director’s best film, Rebecca (1940) is the only film of Alfred Hitchcock to win Best Picture. It does build suspense, provides acting greats like Olivier and Fontaine, and has a delicious villain in Mrs. Danvers. I do not think, however, it is as good as The Grapes of Wrath.

Parents: Suspenseful (of course) but not too bad for kids.

64.

spotlight

Despite only winning two Oscars (Best Picture and Best Screenplay), what makes Spotlight (2015) so engrossing is how tightly sealed the script is (as well as every actor on their A game). Sure, it is not as good as All the President’s Men (the Citizen Kane of journalism movies), but it ranks up there.

Parents: The subject matter is far too intense for kids.  High School and above.

 

 

63.

The Lost Weekend

Still the best film made about drinking, The Lost Weekend (1945) shows one of the best examples of a character battling their desires ever shown on film (thanks, of course, to the Oscar-winning performance by Ray Milland). The imagery he sees are rather frightening.

Parents: May be a bit intense for kids.

62.

All Quiet on the Western Front

While it was not the first war film ever made, the invention of sound in movies did help All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) stand the test of time. I would argue it is still the best film ever made about World War One, and still has images that will make you quiver.

Parents: It is a war film, but because of when it was made, it is not terribly violent.

61.

Driving Miss Daisy

 

I am still a bigger fan of Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, and My Left Foot, yet there is still something endearing about Driving Miss Daisy (1989). It must be the undeniable chemistry between Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.

Parents: Ok for kids, though there is some swearing.

60.

Mutiny on the Bounty

Although Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) only won Best Picture and nothing else, it still does a nice job of being entertaining thanks to Gable and Laughton as one of cinema’s best bad guys. Still, I would rather watch Top Hat.

Parents: Ok for kids

59.

The Departed

Even if Goodfellas and Raging Bull are better movies in the long run, it was The Departed (2006) that finally brought Martin Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director. The story of mobsters has multiple layers and top-notch acting by all in the cast. I do still feel Little Miss Sunshine was better though.

Parents: The film is definitely not for kids.

58.

Going my Way

Going My Way (1944) may not be the main thing Bing Crosby is known for nowadays, but he definitely shines as Father O’Malley for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor. His co-star Barry Fitzgerald was also nominated in that category, but won for the same performance in the supporting actor catagory. I still need to find out how that worked out.

Parents: It is ok for kids.

57.

The French Connection

 

One of the more heart pounding films on this list, The French Connection (1971) is what shot Gene Hackman to film immortality. His Popeye Doyle is one character you better not have against you, especially in a car chase.

Parents: Not for kids.

56.

How Green was my Valley

I can’t help but feel sorry for How Green was my Valley (1941). Truly, it is a rather good movie. The problem is that it beat out competition at the Oscars that are far better than it. Films like The Maltese Falcon, considered the first (and best) film noir in history. Or that other movie, Citizen Kane.

55.

Oliver!

Oliver! (1968) was the last musical to win Best Picture in the 20th Century, and does not get the praise I feel it deserves. It is funny, charming, scary (Bill Sykes is creepy as heck), and delivers great numbers.

Parents: Ok for kids.

 

54.

An American in Paris

Their next film, Singin’ in the Rain (this is the third time I mentioned it so I think it is obvious I am fan), is far better. Still, An American in Paris (1951) has director Stanley Donen and star Gene Kelly giving great visuals and masterful dancing. Not bad, even though A Streetcar named Desire and The African Queen (not nominated) were better.

Parents: Ok for kids.

 

53.

Moonlight

 

It is still a shock to me how the Oscars managed to make a mess up of announcing Best Picture (which I still felt La La Land deserved). Still, it is hard to deny the poetic power of Moonlight (not to mention the solid acting of everyone involved).

52.

Terms of Endearment

Even though I would prefer The Right Stuff and Tender Mercies, there is no denying the emotional power of Terms of Endearment (1983). Shirley Maclaine and Debra Winger are perfect as mother and daughter, and no womanizing neighbor could be played better than anyone not named Jack Nicholson. It also has a tear-jerker scene for the ages.

Parents: Not really for kids

51.

The Kings Speech

While others prefered The Social Network (a very good film) , The King’s Speech (2010) was more entertaining for me. No small part goes to the acting (Colin Firth is spellbinding, and Geoffrey Rush is equally brilliant), about a simple story of someone who has a stuttering problem (mind you, he is a king). Still, my favorite movie of that year was Winter’s Bone.

Parents: There is one 30 second scene of swearing, and another of 5-10 seconds,  but that is it. Really, just fast forward through it, and you are ok.

50.

The-Bridge-Of-The-River-Kwai-1957

 

If you bring up the name Alec Guinness to anyone nowadays, they would most likely remember him at Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars. After that, it would be his Oscar-winning role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). It will be difficult seeing anyone else in the role. As for the film itself, while I do like 12 Angry Men better, there is no denying the gravity epic scape of this film.

Parents: May be a bit long for kids, but nothing too horrible.

49.

DF-02238.CR2

 

12 Years a Slave (2013) is easily one of the hardest films to watch on this list, but also one of the most important. It is one of those films you don’t watch as much as you can, but it is one that stays with you for the remainder of your life. All the actors are masterful here (mainly Oscar winner Lupita N’Yongo in her first film role).

Parents: Quite a bit of nudity, and the subject matter clearly makes it not for kids. Still, when you children get mature enough (High School or College) they should see the film.

48.

Grand Hotel

In a way, Grand Hotel (1932) was a trend setter. It was the original all-star cast film (Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, John and Lionel Barrymore) that did not just rely on star power. It relied on stellar acting and a wonderful story. Fun Fact: The film also starred Jean Hersholt, who was later given a special Oscar for which now bears his name.

47.

In the heat of the night

 

Winning over films like Guess who’s coming to Dinner and The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night (1967) was a film for its time, a film about the tensions of racism (which, of course, still resonates today. While Rod Steiger won the Best Actor Oscar, it is easily Sidney Poitier you will remember as Virgil Tibbs (though that is not what people always call him).

Parents: High School and above, as this is when nudity started showing up more and more in movies.

46.

Titanic

 

I was in my preteens when Titanic (1997) came out (though I never saw it in theaters). I knew it was a big film when I saw it (and that there was a drawing scene). It was also what truly got me into the Oscars in the first place, so I owe it that.

Parents: There is the famous nude scene to avoid, and some swearing. Only High School and above.

45.

Ordinary People

Next to Raging Bull, Ordinary People (1980) is obviously not the clear winner. Still, the film by Robert Redford does tell a very intriguing story with acting you will remember. Mainly, it is Oscar Winner Timothy Hutton who gives a performance almost as perfect as Raging Bull‘s Robert De Niro. Almost.

Parents: The film is R rated for swearing. High School and above.

44.

Chicago

I can’t say how much I liked Chicago (2002) when it came out in theaters. I loved it. It is one of a few movies I have seen four times in the theater (my personal record). True, The Pianist was a better film, but seldom has a movie come out in theaters that I had a lot of true fun at.

Parents: It is a musical, but not for kids. High School and above.

43.

The Artist

 

The Artist (2011) made my job of telling people what movies to see and not see a lot easier. It reminded us all that films are not just about what you may or may not hear, but about what you feel. That, plus the movie has one heck of an awesome dog.

Parents: This has one “obscene gesture” (someone uses the middle finger) but that is it. The film is ok for kids.

42.

Platoon

Easily one of the best war films ever made, Platoon (1986) has about more grit than almost any film every made. This is thanks to director Oliver Stone (who was in the Vietnam War), and sums up the film perfectly with the line on the poster: The first casualty of war is innocence.

Parents: definitely not for kids (some nudity is shown but not for long), but should be watched at some point when they are in High School.

41.

A Beautiful Mind

Russell Crowe may have won the Oscar for Gladiator, but I have yet to meet anyone who thinks it was a better performance than the one he gave in A Beautiful Mind (2001). The film is centered mainly on his performance (as well as Oscar Winner Jennifer Connelly’s as his wife). Now a random question: He is obviously a genius, but how on earth did he get those biceps? Just wondering.

Parents: Some sexual talk and swearing, but nothing else. Middle School and above would be ok.

40.

Argo

 

In one of the best years for film, it was Argo (2012) that took the prize. It was a story that (at least for me) was not well-known (at least compared to other movies that year like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty), it was directed by an actor (which the Oscars like to reward a lot, despite the director not getting a nomination which is still a big question mark today), and it was (most importantly) entertaining as can be.

Parents: High School and above only.

 

39.

Sunrise A Tale of Two Humans

At the first Academy Awards, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1929) won Best Picture in the category of Unique and Artistic Production, the only time that catagory existed. Still, these days critics and film goers tend to like it more because of its authentic artistry that is standing the test of time a little better than Wings. I have to agree.

Parents: Ok for kids

38.

The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

 

I never read the books till I saw the first film, but I had a feeling that Peter Jackson was saving the best for last. That is exactly what happened with The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King (2003). It is a spectacle that is hard to ignore (even if great performances by Sean Astin and Viggo Mortensen were). Some could argue it won all of its 11 nominations (a record for a perfect score) for the trilogy as a whole, but the film is still easily the best of the whole series (including The Hobbit films, which I thought were just so so).

Parents: Some scary moments, but films your kids would want to see. Still, start with the first films or they will definitely be confused.

37.

No Country for Old Men

There are few filmmakers as diverse as the Coen brothers, and it was their film No Country for Old Men (2007) that brought them each three Oscars (for directing, writing, and producing). It is terrifying (Javier Bardem gives us one of the best villains of the 21st century), enticing (Bardem is the scene stealer, but every actor is on their A game here), and thought-provoking (I still have yet to find out what I feel about the ending). Also, don’t forget some of that awkward humor (the corduroys that Josh Brolin returns to the store with has me laughing every time).

Parents: Another film not for kids. No real nudity (some talk about sex) but it is a really dark, violent film. High School and above.

36.

The Hurt Locker

It is the lowest money-maker of all Best Picture winners (its competition that year was Avatar, which is still the biggest world-wide money-maker), but The Hurt Locker (2009) is a better film. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (who was once married to James Cameron), it is as real a war film as you will ever see. I still feel like it is the type of film fans of first person shooter games would love. It is a film that should be shown to anyone even remotely interested in enlisting.

Parents: High School and above only.

35.

Unforgiven

Unforgiven (1992) is Clint Eastwood’s love letter to the Western. Like all of the films Eastwood directs, it is a simple story with multiple layers that have unforgettable characters. There are a lot of tough guy actors, but seldom have there been any as memorable as Clint Eastwood. No man on-screen has ever looked as scary holding a gun.

Parents: Not for kids, but should be ok for High Schoolers (a brief sex scene at the start, but no nudity).

 

 

 

 

34.

Slumdog Millionaire

 

Probably my favorite thing about the first time I saw Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was that I knew next to nothing about the film. It is almost Capra-like in the way it tells the fairy tale story of how fighting for the one you love,  no matter what, is really wonderful. That, and an awesome ending dance number.

Parents: There is no real sex scenes, just swearing and some violence. I would think Middle School and above.

 

33.

Rain Man

 

Rain Man (1988) is what most people think of when they think of autism. Dustin Hoffman is the one with the showier role (he won his second Oscar for the performance), but Tom Cruise does equally fine work as his brother. It is a hard call for me between this and Mississippi Burning.

Parents: There is one brief sex scene (and brief nudity), but the R rating is mainly for language. High School and above.

32.

The Sting

The Sting (1973) was the first encounter I had with its two stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Each are as charming as ever, and it is their presence alone that makes the film worth watching. That, and awesome music.

Parents: There is some swearing, and one scene of nudity (a strip show type of thing), but that is it. Skip that scene, and middle school and above.

 

31.

The Silence of the Lambs

 

JFK is one of my all time favorite movies, but the Academy went instead with another masterpiece, The Silence of the Lambs (1991). One of three films to win the top five Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), it set a new standard for horror that many these days are trying to duplicate but none really have (to be fair, it is hard to top a villain like Hannibal Lecter).

Parents: High School and above. No one else under that age group.

30.

Braveheart

Although Apollo 13 is a better movie, Braveheart (1995) still holds a nice place in my heart. It was the first hard rated R film I saw (though obviously not in the theater, as I was only eight at the time). True, it is known to have historical inaccuracies (a lot of movies do), but it is still entertaining as ever. It is also proof that, regardless of his personal life, Mel Gibson knows how to make a movie.

Parents: High School and above only. There is one scene of nudity, but nothing explicit. Lots of violence.

29.

Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur (1959) is a remake of a 1925 film that is easily more remembered. It is long, but it is carried by a performance by Charlton Heston, great sweeping images, and a chariot race that has never been matched. The scene where he first meets Jesus is the best biblical scene ever put on film.

Parents: It is long, and full of some violence, but middle school and above are fine.

 

28.

Patton

It is hard for one actor/actress to carry a film, but George C. Scott does that and more as the title character of Patton (1970). It does go on long, but every time Scott is on-screen, you can’t help but smile.

Parents: Some violence but nothing bad. Middle schoolers and above, provided they can stand a long movie.

27.

Kramer vs Kramer

I am going out on a limb here: I think Dustin Hoffman gives his best performance in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). He plays one of the most relatable fathers in movie history, and Meryl Streep is equally good as his ex-wife. Of course, there is no doubt it is not as good a movie as Apocalypse Now.

Parents: There is a scene of nudity, a little violence, and swearing. High School and above.

 

 

26.

Crash

Yes, I really did like the film Crash (2005). I know a lot of people don’t like it, but I do. It has great acting (which no one can deny), and it is about the characters more so than the story. I still like it more than Brokeback Mountain (which I still feel is a little overrated, though Heath Ledger was magnificent).

Parents: A sex scene (with nudity), a ton of swearing, and violence. High School and above.

25.

Amadeus

Movies are not the best source for accurate details (except for Documentaries), but are awesome at entertaining. That is what makes Amadeus (1984) so wonderful. If you are looking for accurate facts,  you won’t find many. If you want entertainment, you sure as heck will.

Parents: The extended version has nudity, while the normal (PG) version does not. Either way, I would say High Schoolers and above.

24.

From Here to Eternity

When I saw the preview for the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, I thought it looked like sure oscar bait (I was 14 and stupid). Later, I discovered From Here to Eternity (1953), and what a good movie about Pearl Harbor can be.

Parents: Aside from the beach scene (which is not that bad at all), middle schoolers and above would be fine.

 

23.

Chariots of Fire

I am a bigger fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark and On Golden Pond. Still, there is something very uplifting about Chariots of Fire (1981). Mainly, it is the way the story is told, and that immortal music that has been parodied to death.

Parents: Ok for kids.

 

22.

Million Dollar Baby

Regardless of whether you agree with the ending. you have to love how Clint Eastwood got there. His Million Dollar Baby (2004) is one of the best sports films ever made. Each of the three main actors are at the top of their games, and it gives us the best Morgan Freeman scene ever.

Parents: It is difficult to watch at times, so I would think High School and above (or at least really mature Middle Schoolers).

 

21.Dances with Wolves

First, the obvious. Goodfellas is far better of a movie. Even so, Dances with Wolves (1990) gets bad raps for beating it. It is still glorious to behold, and deserves more love. It is gritty, realistic, and deserving of respect.

Parents: High School and above (and they should see it).

 

20.

Forrest Gump

In one of the best years for movies, it must have been difficult to pick Forrest Gump (1994) over better flicks like Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. Still, the Tom Hanks film (which he is remembered for most) was the first real “drama” I had seen in my life. It still touches the heart every time I watch it.

Parents: Middle School and above.

19.

All about Eve

It must have been a hard choice to choose between All about Eve (1950) and Sunset Blvd. I do prefer the latter, but the former is still wonderful entertainment. With stars like Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, and Mariyln Monroe, it indeed is a bumpy night of enjoyment.

Parents: Middle School and above. Any younger would get bored.

 

18.

The Best years of our lives

It’s a Wonderful Life is loved by pretty much anyone who has seen it, but it lost to another great movie, The Best Years of our Lives (1946). No film about return soldiers has topped it, and while all the actors are great, the best is Harold Russell, an actual war veteran.

17.You can't take it with you.jpg

Bette Davis was wonderful in Jezebel, as was Spencer Tracy in the wonderful Boys Town. Also, color films were in the arena with films like The Adventures of Robin Hood. Still, You Can’t Take it with You (1938) is definitely one of Frank Capra’s best. I smiled the whole way through. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling you won’t forget.

Parents: Ok for kids.

16.The Sound of Music

Although it was dubbed “the sound of mucus” by film critic Pauline Kael, The Sound of Music (1965) is one of the most loved films ever made. Even the hardest hearted person can’t help but get the songs in their head.

Parents: Easily, this is the first Best Picture any kid should start with.

15.

My Fair Lady

extravagant is the best word to describe My Fair Lady (1964). Even if Audrey Hepburn does not do her own singing, she give a beautiful performance. Also, no one can ever be Henry Higgins like Rex Harrison. No one. It is hard to find a favorite song here, but mine would be “I  could have danced all night”. Not bad for a movie that beat Mary Poppins and Dr. Strangelove.

Parents: A little long, but ok for kids.

 

14.

One flew over the cuckoo's nest

When one looks at One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), one sees how it would have been a totally different movie. Heck, it would have been horrible without Jack Nicholson and Louise Rainer. It became the second film to win all five top Oscars, and is also what every movie should be in the first place: Enjoyable.

Parents: High School and above.

13.

West Side Story

West Side Story (1961) was the first musical film I saw after seeing the stage version. It was my chance at seeing how a movie musical could, in a way, be better than the stage version. The choreography is stellar, and the songs are left in your mind, whether you want them to be or not.

Parents: Ok for kids, despite some violence.

12. Rocky

Network won three acting Oscars (only the second one to do so), Taxi Driver gave us Travis Bickle, and All the President’s Men was the best newspaper movie ever made. Still, like the character it is showing us, Rocky (1976) was the underdog winner for Best Picture. Despite  how you may feel about the sequels, the first was inspiring to everyone, including Charles Chaplin, who said he loved this as it was one of the last films he saw before he died.

Parents: Some violence, but middle schoolers and above are ok.

11.

Annie Hall

I apologize to all my fellow fans of Star Wars, but Annie Hall (1977) was the better movie. I have not seen all of Woody Allen’s films (yet), but I can’t see them being better than this. His writing, directing, and acting are all top notch.It has truly earned its place as one of the top three or four best rom coms ever made.

Parents: There is swearing, and some sexuality. I would say (mature) Middle Schoolers and above.

10.

Marty

The title character of Marty (1955) is one of the most realistic characters you will see in any movie, as well as one of the most relatable. It is the shortest Best Picture winner (90 minutes), but it packs in as much warmth, humor, romance, and realism as any film I have ever seen. Oh, how I wish this film was longer.

Parents: Ok for kids.

9.

The Apartment

A year after his comic masterpiece Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder came up with The Apartment (1960), equally as fantastic. Jack Lemmon gives possibly his best performance as a man who is as kind-hearted as ever, even if he rents his apartment out to his co workers. It is probably the best “dramedy” ever made.

Parents: The subject matter is a little adult, but nothing is ever shown. Middle Schoolers and above would be ok.

8.

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the number one movie to show that movies should be shown on big screens, not on hand-held devices (I have yet to see it in theaters). It is spellbinding, action packed, and gorgeous beyond belief. Only this movie could have stopped To Kill a Mockingbird from winning Best Picture (though Peter O’Toole lost Best Actor to Gregory Peck, which is pretty much impossible to argue).

Parents: Middle School and above.

7.

It Happend One Night

The first real sweep of the Oscars happened with It Happend One Night (1934), one of the funniest films ever made. Everything about the film has not aged, even over eight years later. Gable and Colbert are perfectly cast, and it set the standard for road comedies that none have been able to match. Actually, they have not even gotten close.

Parents: Ok for kids.

 

6.

On the Waterfront

At the time On the Waterfront (1954) was released, it was a statement that director Elia Kazan used as showing his stance for out communists in Hollywood. Thankfully, the movie is so great that all of that controversy is not even a factor these days. This is thanks to the storytelling, the music, but mainly the acting. While Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, and Karl Malden are fantastic, it is Marlon Brando who leaves the biggest mark on the film. His performance is the best in film history.

Parents: A little violent, but ok for kids. Middle Schoolers and above.

5.

The Godfather Part 2

Chinatown is one of history’s best film noirs, but it does not compare to The Godfather, Part Two (1974), arguably the best sequel ever made. Pacino gets more time to shine, and De Niro is mesmerizing as his younger father. Those last ten minutes are as haunting as anything you will see on film.

Parents: Not for kids. High Schoolers and above (though they better see the first one before hand).

4.

Gone with the Wind.jpg

Apparently, screen legend Gary Cooper once said that Gone with the Wind (1939) would be the biggest bomb ever. I doubt he has said much more that could be more wrong. Just shy of four hours (the longest of any Best Picture winner), it never drags at all. In what many consider the best year for movies (other nominees included The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, and Stagecoach), GWTW swept (most of) the awards. It is also (when adjusted for inflation) the biggest money-maker domestically and worldwide. Add in the acting, the music (my personal favorite of all movies), and the epic scope, and, frankly, you should give…well, you know.

Parents: Despite the length (and some minor violence, plus the obvious swear word), it is ok for kids. Middle Schoolers and above.

3.

Schindler's List

Schindler’s List (1993) is easily one of the most difficult films to sit through, as well as one of the most important. Director Steven Spielberg films the movie in black and white (had it been done in color, it would not have been good) to suck the life out of one of the worst times in human history. Nazis have always made memorable villains in movies, but not like this. They are not just evil-looking like in The Sound of Music or being stopped by Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here, they are human beings, doing unspeakable crimes. Except for one, who did the unthinkable act of saving nearly 1100 Jews.

Parents: Easily not for kids, though High Schoolers most definetly should see the film at some point.

 

2.

The Godfather.jpg

It is hard to believe, but The Godfather (1972) almost did not win Best Picture. It only won three Oscars (the main culprit was Cabaret, which, although a good film, could never compare with Coppola’s masterpiece). A friend of mine says it is the best film about family ever made, and I could not agree more. When one thinks of the mafia, this film is the first to come up in every mind. Even those who never have seen it. Although there are few roles for women in the movie, it is clear why it is one of the best movies ever made in so many people’s hearts.

 

Parents: High Schoolers and above.

 

1.Casablanca.jpg

Time has always been the best judge of movies, and no film has ever aged better than Casablanca (1943). There has never been a better romance, a better cast (especially the supporting), or (most of all) a better script (seriously, I have seen the movie a number of times, and still don’t know how many quotable lines there are). It is like wine: it gets better with age, and with every viewing. It is cliché to say so, but it will always get better, as time goes by.

Parents: Ok for kids.

Sing Street (2016)

Sing Street

The band Sing Street, recording their first song…

 

Over a month after La La Land fever has subsided and the dust has settled, it has allowed me to see a gem of a movie called Sing Street, which would have easily made my top five films of 2016 if I only saw it in time. As of this writing, it is streaming on Netflix.

The film is written and directed by John Carney, who made both 2014’s highly overshadowed Begin Again (with Keira Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine) and the 2007 masterpiece Once (probably the best musical of the 21st century). Mr. Carney is becoming a name I will now have to always be on the look out for so I can see his movies earlier.

Set in Dublin during the 1980s, Sing Street tells the story of a teenager named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). His parents (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) are at constant war with each other (his mom is having an affair with another man). His music is his only true escape.

Due to money issues, Conor is to switch schools to a new school, under the strict rule of Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). Despite not being able to afford the required black shoes, Conor must go shoeless instead of wear the one pair of brown shoes he owns (and don’t get Brother Baxter started on guys who wear makeup). It also does not help that he meets the local bully, Barry (Ian Kelly). All this changes when he meets the one girl across the street from the school named Raphina (Lucy Boynton). Even though he is told by Darren (Ben Carolan) that she has no interest in any of the boys in the school, Conor goes and introduces himself. When he finds out she is trying to be a model, he immediately recruits her to be in his band. She agrees, and he must recruit members to be in a band.

What the movie is smart about is that the members of the band actually know about music and have talent, yet still have enough characteristics to tell the members apart. Darren becomes the manager. The first recruit is Eamon (Mark McKenna, who I think looks a whole lot like 1980s child star Corey Feldman), who can play almost any instrument given to him. Eventually, Eamon agrees to playing bass. Then there is Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) as the keyboardist because “he’ll be able to play something: he’s black”. The last two members are Larry (Conor Hamilton) and Garry (Karl Rice), not including Raphina, who becomes the model for the Band’s music videos.

There are two key relationships that Conor has in this film, both of which are undoubtably palpable. The first is with Raphina. If todays teenagers were to see this film (and I would hope they would), they may be envious of the chemistry that Conor and Raphina have. Conor is brave enough to be himself around Raphina, and she brings her motto of life to Conor (and the band) of being “Happy Sad” (she lives in a girls home, and is seeing an older man). She tells Conor (who she likes to call “Cosmo”) to be Happy Sad because that’s what love is.

The other relationship is between Conor and his older brother Brendan (a marvelous Jack Reynor). He is a college drop out, still living at home. He is one of the better big brother characters in recent years. He takes Conor as a pupil as far as music goes (much like the Jack Black character in The School of Rock). He is confident that Raphina’s boyfriend won’t be a problem because, “no girl can every truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins”.

As was the case in Begin Again and Once, the music of Sing Street is stellar, and had me buying the soundtrack the day after viewing. One thing that was not the case was the rating of the movie, which the MPAA actually got right this time. It is PG-13. There is no real sexual content (despite a superfluous awkward view seconds of a women about to use a vibrator), so the film is really rated for its language and some thematic material. Basically, I would say only teenagers and above.

Without giving too much away, all I will say of the ending is that it did end as I expected, but the way I wanted it to. Think how rare that is for a movie viewing experience. I know there may not be a chance of it happening, but I would be so psyched if a sequel would happen (or at least the actors kept the band going).

They need to always get this band back together.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

My response to the 89th Annual Academy Awards…

oscars

To say this moment was bizarre is a gross understatement.

Honestly, I am still needing time to process this.

I seldom have had times in my life where I am at a loss for words.

In an evening with glamour (Emma Stone had my favorite dress), humor (a job well done by Jimmy Kimmell), strong performances (sorry Justin Timberlake, John Legend, and Sting, but Auli’i Cravalho took the thunder), some well done speeches ( Mahershala Ali, as well as a win for Sound Mixer Kevin O’Connell after a previous 21 nominations without a win), an appearance from 98 year old Katherine Johnson, (the main real life character of Hidden Figures), and some very lucky tourists, the ceremony will be remembered for the greatest mistake Oscar has made in his 89 year old history.

When Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty (i.e. Bonnie and Clyde) took the stage to present the last award of the night, Beatty opened the envelope and paused. Like many others, I assumed he was just drawing out suspense for play. Turns out Warren was confused, because it was the same envelope as the previous award (which was for Emma Stone for Best Actress in La La Land). Faye took it, and proclaimed La La Land the winner of Best Picture (which many, like myself, predicted). As the producers were giving their speeches, there was some commotion on stage, and they were told that there was a mistake: the real winner was Moonlight (a huge tip of the cap should go to La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz, who may be the greatest, most gracious “loser” in Oscar history). Steve Harvey (who had a very similar situation at Miss Universe in 2015) would later tweet “What’d I miss?”

There have been similar cases before. Back in 1933, Oscar Host Will Rodgers was presenting the Best Director award to Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade. “Come and get it, Frank!” Rodgers screamed. The problem was , there was another nominee named Frank Capra (nominated for Lady for a Day) who thought it was he who won. He was halfway to the stage before he knew he lost (he would call his walk back to his seat one of the worst moments of his life.)

Sammy Davis Jr. also was slightly embarrased in 1964, when, as he was to annouce two catagories, and was given the second envelope first (thankfully, the winner he announced, which was Tom Jones, was not nominated in the catagory).

And let us not forget streakers, Sacheen Littlefeather, Elia Kazan’s honorary Oscar (where half the crowd did not cheer him), John Travolta not able to say Idina Menzel, and Michael Moore shouting “Shame on you Mr. Bush!”.

Still, those were (for the most part) the fault of the individual celebrities, not of the Academy. More importantly, none of them included the award for Best Picture. While Moonlight‘s win is historic (I mean, when you look at the subject matter), it will forever be linked to one mishap heard round the world.

Uncool, Academy. Very uncool.

 

 

My predictions for the 89th Academy Awards…

my-oscar-predictions

 

Every year at the Oscars, there is one battle that never fails to occur: the battle between my heart and my mind. After a few years of proof that my mind is often the better judge (since I missed Best Picture two years in a row), I am feeling a little more confident in my predictions this year (though my heart is still having it’s say).

As always, don’t forget you need to worry about all the catagories (even Best Documentary Short).

My predictions are…

 

Best Picture

atogt

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

I feel confident in saying my two year drought in the main catagory is over. Nothing is stopping La La Land from winning Best Picture (if you had to pick a movie for second place, it would be Moonlight).

Will win/Should win: La La Land (95% sure)

Could Win: Moonlight (not really though)

 

Best Director

director

  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

 

The Directors Guild is (for the most part) the best to predict Best Director, and they awarded it to Damien Chazelle. With La La Land and 2014’s  Whiplash, it is clear Chazelle is not going anywhere. Expect him to win on Oscar night, and become the youngest winner in the history of the catagory.

Will win/Should win: Damien Chazelle,  (95% sure)

Could win: Barry Jenkins, (very unlikely)

 

Best Actor

 

atogt

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

This is one of the main races of the night, between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington (Ryan Gosling would be trailing behind in third). Affleck has won many of the early awards, but Washington got the SAG award (which he had never won before, crazy as that sounds). Both performances (as well as the other three) are wonderful, but there are two factors left to bring up.

The first is of Affleck’s alledged accusations of sexual abuse, which has apparently caught up with him. The second is, with everyone fighting the “Oscars so white”, it looks like the edge is being given to Denzel, but barely.

Will/Should win: Denzel Washington (70% certain)

Could win: Casey Affleck (perhaps even Ryan Gosling)

 

Best Actress

 

atogt

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Natalie Portman and Emma Stone are the only performances I have seen so far. What Portman did was pretty much bring the late Mrs. Jackie Kennedy back to life. Still, no performance touched my soul more so than Emma Stone did in La La Land (capped off mainly when she sang “Audition”). She won the SAG award, which seems to have cemented her status in riding the “La La” train to her first Oscar.

Will win/Should Win: Emma Stone

Could win: Natalie Portman

 

Best Supporting Actor

 

atogt

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

I feel no one has been giving much love to Lucas Hedges for Manchester by the Sea. He shows a wonderful growing talent that reminded me of Timothy Hutton’s Oscar winning performance in Ordinary People (1980).

Still, expect the win to go to Ali for Moonlight. Despite being only in the first third of the film, it is the one that you remember the most after the film ends.

 

Will win: Mahershala Ali (90% sure)

Should win: Lucas Hedges

Could win: Dev Patel

 

Best Supporting Actress

aaa

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

 

Truly, this is the easiest catagory of the night. While I admired all the performances (especially Naomie Harris), it is clear that Viola Davis will win for her electric performance in Fences. Done deal.

Will win/Should Win: Viola Davis (100% sure)

Could win: Naomie Harris (in an alternate universe)

 

Best Animated Feature Film

atogt

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

Every year the Oscars seems to have at least one upset,and I am banking on Kubo and the Two Strings beating Zootopia (which is favored). Why? First, Zootopia has no other nominations while Kubo and the Two Strings has two. Second, both Zootopia and Moana are Disney, which may split the vote. Finally (and this is my heart taking control), Kubo was my favorite movie of last year, and I will be so happy if it wins.

 

Will win/Should win: Kubo and the Two Strings (60% sure)

Could win: Zootopia

 

Best Foreign Film

atogt

  • Land of Mind (Denmark)
  • A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
  • The Salesman (Iran)
  • Tanna (Australia)
  • Toni Erdmannn (Germany)

After the visa ban by President Trump, Asghar Farhadi is planning on boycotting the Oscars. This could help his film The Salesman win an Oscar (he won in this catagory for 2011’s masterpiece A Separation).

Will win: The Salesman (75%)

 

Best Original Screenplay

atogt

  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • The Lobster
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • 20th Century Women

While La La Land brought the old school musical and meshed it with the world of today, expect the win to go to Manchester by the Sea. It is very rare to see a movie where tragedy meets with comedy so well, but that is what Kenneth Lonergan did.

Will win/Should win: Manchester by the Sea (80% sure)

Could win: La La Land

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

atogt

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hidden Figures
  • Lion
  • Moonlight

This may be the only catagory that Hidden Figures can get a win, but expect it to go to Moonlight.

Will win: Moonlight (85% sure)

Could win: Hidden Figures

Should win: Fences (which would make it a posthumous win for August Wilson)

 

Best Costume Design

atogt

 

  • Allied
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jackie
  • La La Land

 

Will win/Should win: Jackie (75% sure)

Could win: La La Land

 

Best Original Song

atogt

  • “Audition”, La La Land
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Trolls
  • “City of Stars”, La La Land
  • “The Empty Chair”,  Jim: The James Foley Story
  • “How Far I’ll Go”, Moana

Lin’Manuel Miranda could possibly get his EGOT if both songs from La La Land split the vote. While that is possible, expect the Oscar to go to “City of Stars”, a song very difficult to get out of your head (not that you would want to anyway).

Will win/Should win: “City of Stars”, La La Land (75% sure)

Could win: “How Far I’ll Go”, Moana

 

Best Original Score

atogt

  • Jackie
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Passengers

Another easy one. Check off La La Land, which is easily a staple in my Itunes library.

Will win/Should Win: La La Land (95% sure)

 

Best Documentary Feature

 

atogt

  • Fire at Sea
  • I am Not your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • The 13th

I have only seen Life, Animated, but I have heard nothing by praise for O.J. (the movie, not the man).

Will win: O.J.: Made in America (85% sure)

Could win: The 13th

Should win: Life, Animated

Best Documentary Short

atogt

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

Will win: Joe’s Violin (70% sure)

 

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

 

ATOGT.jpg

 

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Suicide Squad

Will win: Star Trek Beyond (80% sure)

 

Best Production Design

ATOGT.jpg

  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hail Caesar!
  • La La Land
  • Passengers

Will win/Should win: La La Land (80% sure)

 

Best Film Editing

ATOGT.jpg

 

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight

Will win/Should win: La La Land (85% sure)

Could win: Hacksaw Ridge

 

Best Cinematography

atogt

  • Arrival
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Silence

Will win: La La Land (80% sure)

Could win: Moonlight

 

Best Sound Editing

atogt

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

Will win: Hacksaw Ridge (70% sure)

Could win: La La Land

 

Best Sound Mixing

atogt

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

Will win: La La Land

Could win: Hacksaw Ridge or Arrival

 

Best Visual Effects

atogt

  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Will win/Should win: The Jungle Book (85% sure)

Could win: Doctor Strange

 

Best Animated Short

ATOGT.jpg

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

Will win/Should win: Piper (75% sure)

Could win: Pear Cider and Cigarettes

 

Best Live Action Short Film

ATOGT.jpg

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

 

Will win: Timecode (60% sure)

 

Comment and share your predictions.

 

And the Oscar Nominees (and my thoughts) are…(2017)

oscars-2017

In years past, the president of the Academy would be accompanied by some known movie star and announce the list of the nominees to the movie going public. This year, it was streamed live with interviews with past Oscar winners and nominees such as Jennifer Hudson, Ken Watanabe, Gabourey Sidibe (I forgot she had comic chops), and Jason Reitman. It was a nice change of pace.

Here are the nominees (and my thoughts)…

Best Picture

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

 

Thoughts: I wish a tenth spot would open up for Silence, but overall, nothing too surprising here.

 

Best Director

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

 

Thoughts: Again, no love for Scorsese on his work for Silence, but each of the nominees were no surprise to me. Sad though there was no room for Denzel Washington for Fences.

 

Best Actor

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

 

Thoughts: No surprise, as these were the five heavy hitters (sorry Tom Hanks. Tough year.)

 

Best Actress

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

 

Thoughts: Here was the category that surprised me. As of now, I have only seen two of the nominees (Jackie and La La Land). Huppert’s surprise win at the Globes probably helped her here, as did Streep’s speech at the Globes (and the obvious fact that she is Meryl Streep). Still, the biggest surprise is Ruth Negga, who was probably the reason there is no nominations for Annette Benning (20th Century Women) or (more shockingly) Amy Adams (Arrival).

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

 

Thoughts: Despite a Golden Globe win in this category, Michael Shannon’s co-star, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, did not get a nomination. I was very happy though for Lucas Hedges, who did spellbinding work in Manchester by the Sea. This one may be a tight race.

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

 

Thoughts: No surprise, and the main category I can predict right here and now. This is a clear win for Viola Davis.

 

Best Animated Feature

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

 

Thoughts: Either Zucchini or The Red Turtle would explain why Finding Dory was not on here, which did not surprise me at all.

 

Best Cinematography

  • Arrival
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Silence

 

Thoughts: Nice to see Silence recognized for at least one category.

 

Best Costume Design

  • Allied
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jackie
  • La La Land

 

 

Best Documentary

  • Fire at Sea
  • I am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • 13th

 

Thoughts: I am very happy that Life, Animated was recognized, though I have heard nothing but praise for O.J. (the movie, not, you know, the player).

Best Documentary Short Subject

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

 

Best Film Editing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight

 

Best Make Up and Hairstyling

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Suicide Squad

 

Best Original Score

  • Jackie, Mica Levi
  • La La Land, Justin Hurwitz
  • Lion, Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran
  • Moonlight, Nicholas Britell
  • Passengers, Thomas Newman

 

Best Original Song

  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, La La Land
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Trolls
  • “City of Stars”, La La Land
  • “The Empty Chair”,  Jim: The James Foley Story
  • “How Far I’ll Go”, Moana

 

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Land of Mine, Denmark
  • A Man Called Ove, Sweden
  • The Salesman, Iran
  • Tanna, Australia
  • Toni Erdmann, Germany

 

Best Production Design

  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • La La Land
  • Passengers

 

Best Animated Short Film

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

 

Best Live Action, Short Subject

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

 

Best Sound Editing

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

 

Best Sound Mixing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 

Thoughts: Yes, a Michael Bay movie is nominated for an Oscar.

 

Best Visual Effects

  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Roge One: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Arrival, Eric Heisserer
  • Fences, August Wilson
  • Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
  • Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney
  • Lion, Luke Davies

 

Best Original Screenplay

  • Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan
  • La La Land, Damien Chazelle
  • The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
  • Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
  • 20th Century Women, Mike Mills

 

Congrats are in order to La La Land for tying All about Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997) with 14 nominations. More importantly, congratulations are needed for the Academy for no longer having to hear about “Oscars so white”.

The 89th Academy Awards will take place on February 26th, 2017. Jimmy Kimmell will be hosting.

My predictions will be announced in the weeks to come.

 

Top Ten Movies of 2016

2016

To be honest, it took me sometime to realize that there were actually some really good movies to be released in 2016. So much so that the pictures you see above of movies like Sully, Hacksaw Ridge, Captain America: Civil WarMoana, Jackie, and Zootopia were not able to crack my top ten list.

Again, I don’t see every movie that was released (how I wish I could!), so please comment if I am missing one you liked.

A friend of mine said he does not like making lists like this, as they get harder to do every year. I am starting to get the idea of that more and more as the years go by. Some of the movies on my top ten edged each other out by the narrowest of margins.

If you must blink, do it now…

 

Wild Card

10-hell-or-high-water

Playing like a modernized version of an old western, Hell or High Water is refreshing in how original the concept is. Two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), desperate to keep their farm, resort to stealing from banks. Hot on their trail is the local nearly retired police sheriff Marcus Hamilton (a wonderful Jeff Bridges), who we don’t always root for when we see what the brothers (mainly the Chris Pine character) are going through.

 

10.9-arrival

Sorry fans of Rogue One, but the title of best sci-fi movie of the year belongs to Arrival. Clearly inspired from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, the movie  depicts how being approached by beings outside of earth would not always immediately mean war fare. The movie takes time to show that we as humans need to reason before pulling a trigger. All the cast is wonderful, but the key performance is the one of Amy Adams, showing once again how versatile an actress she is. Director Denis Villeneuve gives us some stunning images as well.

 

9.

8-the-vvitch

 

It is rare for a horror film to actually scare you these days, especially if it comes out very early in the year (which is when most of the forgettable movies are sadly released.) That is not all the case for The Witch. While witches are now nearly forever associated with the world created by J.K. Rowling, this horror classic reminds us that, when witchcraft was feared in the 1600s, it was truly feared. The images and gorgeous cinematography reflect that, making us fear as the characters do. The film is directed by Robert Eggers. Remember the name.

 

8.7-moonlight

A movie sure to be up for many Oscar nominations, Moonlight tells a simple story of a man growing up in slums of Miami. To say it is more than that is a gross understatement. Told in three acts, I am still finding it hard to believe that the main character, Chiron, was played by three different actors (the same can also be said of his friend Kevin). It was almost like they filmed the same actor years apart like Boyhood. The stand outs are Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, sure to be nominees in February (alongside director Barry Jenkins).

7.

6-manchester-by-the-sea

While some movies feel like a punch in the gut, Manchester by the Sea feels like (as Rick Blaine from Casablanca would say) your “insides have been kicked out.” Casey Affleck gives a mesmerizing performance as a janitor who is sent back to his hometown after his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies to take care of his nephew (an equally stunning Lucas Hedges) while face the demons of his past, including his ex-wife (the always reliable Michelle Williams). How often does a drama of this magnitude also produce laughs equivalent to a comedy? Kudos to the writer and director, Kenneth Lonergan.

6.

5-fences

It has been a while since I have seen a great film where the lead actor also directs himself in a performance for the ages. Yet that is what Denzel Washington does in Fences, based off the play by August Wilson. Casey Affleck may be the front-runner for Best Actor, but Denzel is clearly hot on his heels. However, no one will be catching up with Viola Davis in the Best Supporting Actress category, for her performance as Washington’s wife is sure to give Davis her Oscar she deserves.

5.

4-silence

Moving from an actor/director to arguably one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, Martin Scorsese’s Silence just squeaked in at the end of 2016, meaning it was not screened in time for award consideration for the Golden Globes or SAGs. A shame, because it deserved to be. The film stars Andrew Garfield (who was also brilliant in Hacksaw Ridge) and Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren) as priests trying to find their mentor (Liam Neeson) in 1630s Japan. The movie is hard to watch, yet you still can’t take your eyes from the screen. It is rare for a movie to be so difficult to observe you may not want to watch it again, yet at the same time filled with unanswered questions that multiple viewings are needed.

4.

3-life-animated

As someone who has (mild) autism, I can safely say I have not seen many films that approached the subject as well as the documentary Life, Animated. It tells the story of Owen Suskind, an autistic man who learned to communicate through his true love, animated Disney movies. Very few movies this year have touched me more on a personal level.

3.

SingStreetRunning.0.0

This entry was actually inserted much later, which is something I don’t do long after the year is over. Still, I cannot say enough about the wonder that is Sing Street. After classic hits like Once (2007) and Begin Again (2014), director John Carney strikes musical gold again with this coming of age tale of growing up in 1980s dublin. Like his previous films, it did not take me long to buy the soundtrack.

2.

2-la-la-land

 

If you have not heard of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land by now, well, it will be surely mentioned when the Oscar nominations are announced next Tuesday, for I feel it is the clear front-runner for Best Picture (it already set the record at the Golden Globes for winning all of it’s seven nominations). It is more than a love letter to Hollywood, or even to musicals of the past. It is a modernized musical as well, with glamorous performances by Ryan Gosling and (in particular) Emma Stone (her solo song at the end about her aunt is the best acting I have seen all year). I have no shame at all in declaring I bought the soundtrack the day after I saw this film. It made me proud to be one of the ones who dream.

 

1.1-kubo

At the end of the day, movies are stories, as told by many story tellers. When I first saw Kubo and the Two Strings, I was clearly affected by it, but did not know at the time that I would be selecting it as my favorite movie of 2016. Only months later, when I got on Blu-Ray was when I realized it more and more as a masterpiece. Of course, the animation is gorgeous, but what impressed me the most was the story. Laika (whose movies I still have to see) does not have the history and resume of Disney or Pixar, but it has more nerve. I found myself hoping Kubo would not end the way the audience would have wanted, and it didn’t. It ended the way the audience needed it to. Towards the end, Kubo gives a speech to his grandfather while in the cemetery. If you think of it, that speech is one to bring hope to those who may not have had the best 2016 they would have wished for.

 

 

La La Land (2016)

LLL d 41-42_6689.NEF

As Sebastian and Mia, Gosling and Stone simply glow…

A little less than a week ago, I finally got to buying four classic films starring the legendary Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. Those two cinema icons are some of the few I can watch and have all the worries of my life wash away. That feeling came to me a lot while watching the visually glorious La La Land. It manages to balance being loyal to both the old school and the current.

After his highly entertaining movie Whiplash in 2014, director Damien Chazelle is proving he is more than a one trick pony. In a year of many downers across the globe, here is one of the years clear front-runners for best picture, and it is jubilant and energetic and toe tapping fun. The opening number (“Another Day in the Sun”)  is like one we never have seen, and may never again: it takes place in a traffic jam. How many other musicals can say they have a dance number in a traffic jam? That alone is stunning.

Emma Stone has never been better. She stars as Mia, a young wanna be movie star who has been trying and failing at auditions for years, scrapping around working at the coffee shop right next to where they filmed a scene with Bogie and Bergman in Casablanca. Eventually, she meets Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian. He is a die-hard devotee of Jazz, who plays at locals but never gets to have his music heard. Their personalities collide in another number with dancing that had shades of Astaire and Rodgers.

Learning dance numbers can never be easy, and we can see how much rehearsal was put into learning the numbers. One easy way to see this is that each number is, for the most part, shot by Chazelle in long takes. In other words, the actors had little to no room for error.

There are other minor roles, including Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons who proves there really are no small parts. There is also singer John Legend as one of Sebastian’s old friends, proving he has some actual talent beyond the singing world.

Of course, the music is stellar all around. Composer Justin Hurwitz has made a soundtrack (which I bought very shortly after seeing the film) with tunes that leeches happily on your brain and heart for the next couple months, if not the rest of your days.

Parents, it makes me happier than I thought possible to say that this movie is not that bad for young people. The rating is PG-13 rating is for swearing, and that is it (there is one F bomb, and someone gives the finger to another character, but that is it). All the language is no worse than that of a typical middle school lunchroom (minus the dancing). No violence or sexuality of any kind (minus kissing). If your kids are in middle school, they are ok with this film.

Is this really what it is like to work in Hollywood? I can only assume yes. There has to be struggle and strife to get a good start. La La Land makes that clear. It also makes clear that making a musical must be fun. You will get that sense through the whole time you are sitting in the theater…tapping your feet.

It has seldom felt so good to be a fool who dreams.

Overall: Five Stars *****