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 *****

And the Oscar goes to…

And-the-Oscar-Goes-to

 

Honestly, I am tired of the whole Oscarssowhite talk going around (I too wish it was more diverse, but it is not all the Academy’s fault: I mean, there were not many performances to begin with, sadly). Why can’t we just acknowledge the nominees as they are?

I have been doing Oscar Contests since I was about 13, and have learned as I went along (I used to think it was ok to have ties in catagories). I am not saying I know all the answers, but if you want to win an pool you may be in, here are my picks in all catagories (and reasons why)…

For a list of all nominees, visit

http://www.imdb.com/awards-central/oscars?pf_rd_m=A2FGELUUNOQJNL&pf_rd_p=2348233542&pf_rd_r=0KC5ZWBP7PAY2XWABKNB&pf_rd_s=right-1&pf_rd_t=15091&pf_rd_i=main&ref_=ac_ac_ac_lk10

Best Picture

Picture

 

Truly, the biggest award of the night is also the biggest toss up of the night. The PGA awarded The Big Short while SAG awarded Spotlight and DGA The Revenant. Those three are the top three closest to the finish line.

Being that The Revenant also should be winning Best Director and Best Actor, I have it down as winning Best Picture. Still, it is going to be a photo finish, so don’t be surprised if it goes to the other two (or even Mad Max: Fury Road).

Will win: The Revenant (65 % sure)

Could win: Spotlight, The Big Short

Should win: Room (my favorite of the year)

 

Best Director

 

 

Director

Only twice in history has a director won Best Director two years in a row. Being that he just won his second consecutive DGA award (the first time that has ever happend), it seems best to say that Alejandro G. Innaritu will win again this year for The Revenant (the DGA award has predicted Best Director at the Oscars all but 5 times in over 50 years). If there was a spoiler, it would be my personal pick, George Miller, for his incredible work on Mad Max: Fury Road.

Will win: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant (95 % sure)

Could/Should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

 

 

Best Actor

 

 

Actor.jpg

 

 

The wait is over. All who have been waiting for Leonard DiCaprio to win an Oscar will finally get to see the chance. Even one of his competitors, Eddie Redmayne, has stated he wants Leo to win. I would not be surprised if the other nominees felt the same way. It also helps that it is the best performance of the group. I personally can’t wait to see the standing ovation, and hear his speech.

Will win/Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (100 % sure)

Could win: No one really, but if I had to pick, it would be Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

 

 

Best Actress

Actress

 

 

 

One of the reason’s I picked Room as my favorite movie of 2015 was the performance by Brie Larson. It is one that will go down in history, and an Oscar will only help it more. The only real threat is Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, proving she is still one of the best young actresses around.

Will win/Should win: Brie Larson, Room (95% sure)

Could win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Supporting Actor

“CREED”: (L-r) SYLVESTER STALLONE as Rocky Balboa in “CREED.” Photo: Barry Wetcher / Warner Bros. Pictures

 

 

 

 

I am still a bit upset that Room’s Jacob Tremblay was overlooked, but all the five nominees give stellar performances. Still, none was more surprising or as heartfelt as Sylvester Stallone in Creed. Tom Hardy is probably the next closest, proving he is one of the best actors working today. Still, expect a win for Rocky.

Will win/Should win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Could win: Tom Hardy, The Revenant

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Supporting actress

 

 

I must admit I was not a huge fan of The Danish Girl, but I was impressed by the great turn by Alicia Vikander. Despite other great performances in the catagory, I feel she will win. However, it would be kind of cool to see Kate Winslet win, mainly to see her and Leo holding Oscars next to each other.

Will win/Should win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl (90% sure)

Could Win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

 

Best Original Screenplay

 

Original Screenplay

While Inside Out was the most original film of the last few years, expect the win to go to Spotlight.

Will win: Spotlight (90%)

Could win: Straight Outta Compton

Should Win: Inside Out

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Adapted Screenplay

 

Even if the film was very confusing at times, expect this award to go to The Big Short.

 

Will win: The Big Short (90%)

Could win/Should win: Room

 

Best Animated Feature

Animated

While I have heard great things about Anomalisa, I doubt anything is beating Inside Out.

Will win/Should win: Inside Out (95% sure)

Could win: Anomalisa

Best Forgein Language FilmForgein Language film

 

 

I have not seen any of the films, but I have heard nothing but good things about Son of Saul, a film I am hoping to see.

 

Will win: Son of Saul (85% sure)

 

Best Cinematography

Cinematography

 

It is rare for someone to win consecutive Oscars, so it is even rarer for someone to do so three times in a row. Still, that seems to be the case for Emmauel Lubezki, after winning two years ago for Gravity and last year for Birdman. Expect him to win again for The Revenant, unless they finally give one to Roger Deakins (for Sicario).

Will win/Should win: The Revenant (85% sure)

Could Win: Sicario

 

Best Film Editing

Film Editing

The fast paced, yet somehow smooth editing of Mad Max:Fury Road should win.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (80% sure)

Could Win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Production Design

Production Design

Despite the awesome looking images of The Revenant and the realistic looks of Mars of The Martian, the futuristic deserts of Mad Max: Fury Road should drive away with it.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (70% sure)

Could win: The Martian

 

Best Costume Design

Costume Design

Sandy Powell is up against herself for Carol, but her work in Cinderella is what is the best of the bunch.

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

Could win: Carol or The Danish Girl

 

Best Make-up/Hairstyling

Make-up

Another award for the outstanding Mad Max: Fury Road.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (70% sure)

Could win: The Revenant

 

Best Original Score

Original Score

I am as big a fan of John Williams as anyone, and his work in Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens is more proof he is the best film composer ever. However, he has already won five Oscars while another legendary composer, Ennio Morricone, has yet to win a competitive Oscar (he won an Honorary one a few years ago). Like Dicaprio and Stallone, expect a standing ovation.

Will win: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight (90% sure)

Could win/Should win: John Williams, Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Original Song

Original Song

I won’t lie: I am not a huge fan of any of the songs, but the best one, “Til it happens to you” from The Hunting Ground, should bring an Oscar to Lady Gaga and (finally) Diane Warren.

Will win/Should win: “Til it happens to you”, The Hunting Ground (75% sure)

Could win: “Writings on the Wall”, Spectre

Best Sound Editing

Sound Editing

I am still trying to find out the difference between Sound Editing and Mixing, but expect both to go to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (80% sure)

Could win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Sound Mixing

Sound Mixing

See above. Don’t bet against a rock band on trucks.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (80% sure)

Could win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Documentary Feature

Documentary

Will win: Amy (80% sure)

 

Best Documentary Short Subject

Documentary Short

Will win: Body Team 12 (50% sure, and not just because they look like Minions)

 

Best Animated Short Film

Animated Short

Will win: World of Tomorrow (45% sure)

 

Best Live Action Short Film

Short film

Will win: Ave Maria (30% sure)

Best Visual Effects

Special Effects

The Revenant had one amazing bear attack and Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens gave us more Star Wars brilliace. Still, the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road had very little CGI effects, which is why it should win.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (75% sure)

Could win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

Top 10 Films of 2015

Top 10 films of 2015

 

It is true that some years have better movies than others (1939 and 1994 are prime examples). This does not mean some years are always bad, it just means you have to look harder for them. 2015 had movies you may have had to look harder for to see.

Of course, I did not see every movie that came out last year (I still need to see Beasts of No Nation and Straigh Outta Compton), but I do feel rather confident still with my top ten list ( in which good movies like CarolThe Big ShortWar Room, and Bridge of Spies did not crack the list).

 

Wild Card

Sicario

Benecio Del Toro and Emily Blunt in Sicario.

It may not have gotten all the love it deserved, but great acting and tension fueled Sicario, especially the great performance by Benecio Del Toro.

 

10.

Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender reveals the iMac in “Steve Jobs”

Written by the always wonderful Aaron Sorkin, Michael Fassbender will most definetly get an Oscar nomination as Steve Jobs, also with equally great performaces by Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels.

 

9.

The Hateful Eight

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell, just two of “The Hateful Eight”.

Basically, anything by Tarantino is worth seeing, and The Hateful Eight is no exception. It is fun to watch as much as it is for those who made it.

 

8.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

The most surprising thing about The Martian is not the performance by Matt Damon, nor the supporting cast, but that Ridley Scott directed a movie with humor. That is rare.

 

7.

Spotlight

Possibly the front runner for Best Picture, Spotlight is the story of the true revelation of the dark secret in the Catholic Church in Boston, and beyond. Every actor brings their A game to this film.

 

6.

Creed

Stallone shows Jordan the ropes in “Creed”.

Nostalgic as well as new, Creed is all the things we love of the original Rocky flicks. Stallone is truly remarkable here in the role no one could duplicate.

5.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

Rey, Finn, and BB-8: the three new heroes of the galaxy.

Sure, the story was a lot like the original film, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings new characters (as well as old) to new life in a film that is not doing to shabby box office wise right now.

4.

The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”.

Filled with more realism and grit than any other film this year, The Revenant is a wonder to behold. It is also the ticket to that long awaited moment of calling DiCaprio an Oscar winner (and it would be well deserved too).

3.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron team up in Max Max: Fury Road

I like to think of director Michael Bay watching Mad Max: Fury Road and taking notes. There is just enough story here to back up one of the best action flicks ever. Like Star Wars and The Revenant, this film shows why films should be watched on big screens, not small ones. It is like Lawrence of Arabia on caffiene.

2.

Inside Out

Fear, Joy, and Disgust are just three of Riley’s voices in “Inside Out”

Easily the most original film of the year, I feel that Inside Out will be like a fine wine: aging better through your years on earth. It ranks among the best animated films ever made.

1.

Room

Jacob Tremblay discovers what lies outside the room.

You know a movie is good when you can’t get it off you mind, even months after you have seen it. Such is the case for my number one pick of 2015, Room. I drove about an hour to the theater and an hour back, and it was worth every second.

Brie Larson is the front runner for Best Actress, and I have not seen a better performance by anyone (of any age) this year than that of 8 year old Jacob Tremblay. The film is likely to never be forgotten once seen.

Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight

 

While I am an amatuer movie reviewer, I am definetly not a newspaper writer. Even so, I still can enjoy movies about the buissness (the main one that always comes to mind is All the President’s Men with Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Jason Robards. Spotlight may not be better than it, but it is still pretty great.

Going into the film, I knew what it was about. It covers the story of how, in 2001, the Boston Globe’s new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) gets the Spotlight team to investigate some known sexual accusations in the Catholic Church of the city. I went to Boston at least twice in my life, but never knew that the city was big on the Catholic Church. Still, the Spotlight team goes and investigates.

The actors are so pitch perfect that I don’t think I saw any reseblance of the known faces on the screen. The two most notable performances are by Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo. Keaton is Walter Robinson (called Robby), the head of Spotlight. Ruffalo is one of his co workers, Mike Rezendes. The other two on Spotlight are Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) and Sascha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams, who is so good I did not once think I was seeing the same actress from Mean Girls and The Notebook). They report to Ben Bradlee Jr., (John Slattery), whose father was portrayed by Jason Robards in All the President’s Men.

This is a movie that will require more than one viewing (there are a lot of characters, including Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian played wonderfully by Stanley Tucci). Still, the more each character investigates, the more truth comes out (the testimonies of the victims are blunt, horrifying, and down right tragic).

Parents, there is some swearing, but the subject matter is what gives the movie an R rating (the testimonies of the grown ups who were sexually assaulted as children is very graphic in what they say, although nothing is seen). Still, I would not show this to anyone under High School age.

The first bit of the movie had me a little uneasy as to where it was going, but I eventually caught on to what is surely one of the best films of the year (much credit also should go to the screenplay and the director Tom McCarthy). The film will definetly have many Oscar nominations.

One story I read about the real Walter Robinson talking about Michael Keaton’s portrayel had me smiling.

“My persona has been hijacked. If Michael Keaton robbed a bank, the police would quickly have me in handcuffs.”

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