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.

 

2016 Half Time Report

Ok, so the first half of any year is really never  better than the second half when it comes to movies. Still, these are the best (and worst) at the half way point (of the ones I have seen)…

The Best

 

5. Zootopia

Even if the funniest part of the film was in the original trailer, it is still a great family film.

4. The Jungle Book

Entertaining, thrilling, and very realistic, it stands alone from the great animated film as it’s own great film.

3. Hail, Caesar!

The Coens do it again, with another stellar cast that tells a story of fiction that seems like it really did happen. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Then again, it is the Coens. A great movie about making movies.

2. Captain America: Civil War

I had no idea I would like it as much as I did. It is one of the most fun I have had at a superhero film in some time.

1. The Witch

It is rare for me to like a current horror film, so it is near unimaginable that I would call a horror film the best film of the year so far. Then again, that is what The Witch is: Rare, and unimaginable. And Scary.

 

The Worst

 

3. Race

Another biographical sports flick, it is not the movie that should have been made about Jesse Owens. It barely gets close to the bronze.

 

2. Me before you

I was so wanting to like this movie. It looked like it had potential. Then I saw it…(sigh)…

 

1. Independence Day: Resurgence

It took me a few days after I saw it to come up with a new name for it: ReTURDgence. Trademarked.

 

The second half of 2016 is upon us…movie wise…

 

 

The Jungle Book (2016)

THE JUNGLE BOOK

Mowgli and Baloo on a relaxing river ride.

I grew up in the 1990s, so all the classic Disney movies I had were on VHS (much thanks to my wonderful parents). Therefore, I grew up on the animated version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, so I was not sure what I was really expecting. All I knew was that it had great potential with the cast, and that last year’s Cinderella was a very good remake.

Once again, Disney scores rather big with another live action version. Directed by Jon Favreau (who made Elf and the first two Iron Man films, among others), it is one of the very few remakes to not only pay tribute to the original, but stand on its own. When I heard it was all made in a studio in Los Angeles, my respect grew even more.

For those who don’t know the story (which is unlikely), The Jungle Book tells the tale of a “man-cub” named Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi, in a very fine debut). He is raised by wolves (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong’o) and is also cared after by a panther named Bagheera (the always perfect Ben Kingsley). With Bagheera, Mowgli must go back to the man villiage before he is killed by the sadistic tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba). There is also Baloo the Bear (Bill Murray), who becomes Mowgli’s best friend, the giant serpent Kaa (seductivly played by Scarlett Johanson,) and King Louie the giant ape (that fantastic actor known as Christopher Walken).

I now look back at some of the casting from the 1967 animated film. King Louie was voiced by Louis Prima, and his song “I wanna be like you” is one I am not afraid to admit is still on my phone. Still, Walken had me cracking up, and his rendition was his own (including some new lyrics). Anyone who knows the animated film knows the theme song of “The Bare Necessities” which I am still convinced no one should sing except Phil Harris. Nevertheless, few actors can conjur charm like Bill Murray, and his singing of the song almosted reminded me of his days back on SNL.

Yet of all the casting done in the live action version, my favorite would be Idris Elba as Shere Khan. The animated version had that wonderful actor George Sanders as the tiger (his voice was like that of Jeremy Irons, who of course was Scar in The Lion King), but Sanders’ Khan had very little screen time. This is not the case with the live action version. Every time Shere Khan was on-screen, I had that feeling that my hair on my arms may stand on end. That is not something that happens often with me when I see a villain, be it a Disney villian or not.

While all the actors are great, the CGI was impeccable. It reminded me  of when I was a kid, and thought all the animals were real in the classic film Babe (1995). I may get in trouble for this, but I thought the CGI in The Jungle Book was better than it was in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. There I said it!

Parents, there is some scary parts, but it is the good type of scary parts for kids. They may hold on to your arms, but if your kids have seen at least one superhero flick before, they will be fine with this film.

The movie never says it out loud, but it does say how Mowgli has one thing no other animal in the jungle has: wit. That is what makes this film great. It has wit.

And fun. Lots of it.

Overall: Four Stars ****