Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman

“Permission to come aboard?”

For the most part, the casting choices in the DCU films have been good (even Ben Affleck as Batman was not a total loss). That is still the case for Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, which is really the only true positive thing to say about the movie. He does make a splash, but the script is down right soggy.

The film does open with an origin story (which is fair, since it is not as well-known as those of Batman or Superman). We see how Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse worker, finds a wounded woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shores. He heals her, they fall in love, and have Arthur. Eventually, Atlanna must return to Atlantis to stop the onslaught on Tom and Arthur after having run away from her marriage to King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren).

Fast forward to present day, and we see a grown up Arthur being visited by Mera (Amber Heard). Turns out that the new heir is Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who wants to rage war on humans above (you know, for all the stuff we have done to the ocean in the past). One of the kingdom’s long time subjects (and Arthur’s former teacher) Vulko (a nicely cast Willem Dafoe) works behind Orm’s back to prevent such a war from occurring. For Arthur to succeed, he must find the long-lost trident that would prove his worth. There is also the subplot of Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), out for revenge on Aquaman after an event at the start of the film.

There are some rather wonderful underground imagery here, but it would be even better if the script had not been so ridiculously predictable. The movie is basically if Thor (or even Black Panther) had lived underwater (claiming a birthright, evil family member villain, etc) . All the fights were nice to look at, but no points in knowing the outcome: you can see it the moment they announce it. By the end, we do get another CGI battle that seems almost off the shelf.

It should also come as no surprise that superhero flicks need a good villain, and the DCU has not been the best at that (though Michael Shannon was good as General Zod and Margot Robbie was really effective as Harley Quinn). Sadly, Patrick Wilson does not measure up, and his villain is nothing short of forgettable.

Parents, the movie should be fine for kids (some swearing and action/violence, but nothing they have not seen in superhero flick before). Middle School and up.

In a year that gave us Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the best was clearly not saved for last (despite some moments I liked, especially where Arthur got his idea of how to use a whale for escape). Still, rather than giving us a breath of fresh air, Aquaman leaves us gasping for it.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

The Shape of Water (2017)

The Shape of Water

Not your average tale as old as time…

To say that Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is weird take on Beauty and the Beast is a gross understatement. Thankfully, that is not a negative in the slightest. While this is only the second film of his I have seen (the other being 2006’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth), I am confident in saying that del Toro’s is an acquired taste, and I am one to gorge on it.

Set in the 1960s, The Shape of Water tells the story of Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute single woman whose life consists of janitorial duties at a research facility. True, a mute person may be looked at differently, but Elisa has such a charm about her it is impossible to not like her. Her two main friends are her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

One day, the research facility gets an aquatic creature from the amazon, brought by Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). While the main scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg) wants to keep it alive (he has his own secrets to hide), Strickland wants it cut up and studied (he and the creatures did not get along “on the way back”). The only source of love comes from Elisa.

I pause now to not give away anything else, except to say that there was a feeling of resolution I felt as the story (written by Del Toro, with help from Vanessa Taylor) unfolded. It all made sense and made me feel content. Of course, it also does not hurt when you have some of the most stunning images of the past decade. They all speak for themselves.

You won’t be surprised that Del Toro wrote the characters with (most of) these actors in mind. Michael Shannon has always been great at playing a character that makes you feel a little queasy, but he kicks it up many notches here. There is one scene where he radiates all we have been coming to despise about sexual assault recently. His character is clearly the villain of the year. Of course, Octavia Spencer is pitch perfect (she has already won an Oscar for being a part of The Help). There is no way Zelda could have been played by anyone other than Spencer.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was Richard Jenkins (who the role was not originally written for) as the neighbor. When you think of his role, you realize it could have easily been too over the top and been the problem for the film. Yet Jenkins brings more than humor, but also subtly and depth. He is remarkable.

Still, it is Sally Hawkins who is the most human, palpable, and poetic. I have been a fan of her since 2008’s Happy-Go-Lucky (which I still am mad she did not get nominated for at the Oscars), and here she truly has more of a chance to show she is one of the most underrated actresses we have. I know it is ironic to say, but her performance truly speaks volumes.

Parents, the film is not at all for kids. There is a good amount of swearing and violence, but also a handful of nudity scenes. While I am aware of nudity being a form of art (as it is shown here), there is one sex scene that I am not sure needed to be included (though it did show a characteristic of one of the characters). Either way, the R rating is totally accurate.

Still, the movie is a gem, and one of the year’s very best. It is already getting the Oscar buzz it surely deserves, and will be high way robbery if it is not nominated for Best Picture (let alone director, lead actress, screenplay….ok, you get the idea).

I left the theater, feeling the way all great movies should make you feel: Refreshed.

 

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

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.