Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird

Christine “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan), having another chat with her loving mom (Laurie Metcalf)

The dominating force behind Lady Bird is not just the (nearly) tight script or the solid direction from actress Greta Gerwig, but the sheer presence of chemistry between all the actors.

Set right after the events of 9/11, we meet Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Living in Sacramento, he is in her final year at the local private Catholic school, switching because a boy was knifed at the public school. Her main source of anxiety is clearly her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who is demanding but still loving. Lady Bird yearns to go to the east coast, but (as reminded by her mother), it is not part of the plan.

At school, Lady Bird tries to find something to keep her going, including entering theater with her friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) where she meets Danny (Manchester by the Sea‘s Lucas Hedges). Other characters enter her life, including Jenna (Odeya Rush) and Kyle (Timothee Chalamet).

Having never gone to a private catholic school myself, I cannot say how realistic the situations are, but they sure do feel authentic. Whether it is lying on the floor eating the communion bread (“it’s not consecrated!”), school dances (“leave six inches for the Holy Spirit”), or assemblies about abortion, the purity of real life seems perfectly played out.

When it comes to coming of age stories, I always like to notice chemistry between young actors playing love interests. While that chemistry is there, the heart of the movie is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. Sure, her father (Tracy Letts) is seen as the “good guy”, and she gets in verbal fights with her brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues), but there is such palpable tension between mother and daughter that it is impossible to ignore.

This is due, of course, mainly to the talented actors. Ronan is one of the best actresses of her generation (it is such a different role than she had in Brooklyn, which she was nominated for an Oscar). As for Metcalf as Marion, well, all I can say is I can’t remember catching her in the act. We don’t see acting, only a mother who is doing all she can with what life has given her. Both should be strong contenders come this awards season.

Parents, the movie is clearly not for children. There is plenty of swearing and sexual content and graphic nudity (from a playgirl magazine). Trust the R rating on this one.

The movie is not entirely perfect (the last ten minutes seemed to be superfluous, except for the phone call part). Still, it is great to see Gerwig can have a potentially great career as a director (let alone as an actress). It is also, as always, refreshing to see great actors not playing caricatures, but real people.

Overall: Four Stars ****

 

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.

 

 

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

manchester-by-the-sea

From Left to Right, Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges are quite the acting combo in “Manchester by the Sea”

It was a very strange feeling to me.

After seeing Manchester by the Sea, I left the theater and did not know what to think. Did I like it? Was it one of the best movies of the year? I could not say. As I was leaving the parking lot, I felt like I was catching some sort of virus. The movie had begun its process of growing on me, and has ever since. To the previous two questions, I say yes without a single thought of hesitation.

The movie centers on Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a plumber/repairman in Boston. He is told that his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died of a heart disease that he was diagnosed with years earlier. He is to break the news to Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), and discovers that Joe left Lee as his guardian.

The rest of the plot is not for me to reveal, only for you to discover. We learn Lee has had a past he regrets in the town of Manchester, and we get flashback scenes including those with Lee’s ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams, wonderful as always) and Patrick’s drug addict of a mom (Gretchen Mol).

Still, it is the performances by Affleck and Hedges that carry this movie to the next level. Each deserve Oscar consideration. Affleck (younger brother of Ben) is considered to be the front-runner for Best Actor this year, and it is clear why. His performance is not filled with grand speeches or over the top moments (well a few). It is a contained performance, one that we identify with, or at least try to. He seems like a person we would meet on the street but forget if we only were talking to him for five minutes or so.

Lucas Hedges gives one of the better breakthrough performances in recent memory as Patrick. I have seen teens like this in my life who act and feel and talk and express emotions this way. It is a transcendent performance.

Parents, the R rating is justified. There is a lot of swearing that any middle schooler or High Schooler would hear, but the content of the film is too much for anyone not older than seventeen (maybe a mature 15 or 16-year-old, maybe). There is also sexual content, as Patrick is trying to have sex with one of his girlfriends (he has two that don’t know about the other), and we see a teenage girl in lingerie.

Is Manchester by the Sea an easy film to sit through? Heavens, no. Yet at the same time, you can’t take your eyes off of it. Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan (who should get Oscar consideration for both writing and directing), the film does seem to go a little long, but it will stay with you for as long as it wants to. I doubt it is leaving my mind and soul any time soon, and I hope it doesn’t.

 

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