Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscar 2017 - Best Picture

I was considering skipping the final Oscar entry for this year. Besides the fact that I rushed the previous, I'm also disappointed of what we have on the list... I kept hoping this week when I watched the last couple movies that I'll finally get to "the one". Well, I didn't ... although maybe there's still a small exception...

I did write about "Arrival" already. It's an interesting idea in the "time travel" context, but hardly believable given the way it's explained in the end. Ultimately it's the fault of the book, not of the movie, but even the movie, it's not Villeneuve's best ... Enough said.

"Fences" adapts a play, whose author is also posthumously nominated for the script. We have some excerpts from the not so happy life of a black family. The movie gets across the racial aspects issues, and delves into a more general area of family problems. I would actually say that the second half of the movie could be used as definition for the idea that "families are very complicated", and it also might touch some sensitive aspects depending on the viewer. However, to get there, you have to get through the first half of the movie, which has too many unnecessary lengths...

I did write also about "Hacksaw Ridge". That's the small exception in this list I was referring to. Still, even though the movie is undeniably good, and Gibson's comeback as director is a really nice surprise, something still seems missing... Something that we had in "Apocalypto", in "Passion", and mostly in "Braveheart". There's some feeling there which here is faded, not completely but it is :) ...

"Hell or High Water" is a revenge story. And as any revenge story has a sort of catchy romantic side. Two brothers, from yet another family with problems (that's a recurring theme this year), decide to solve the issue of a mortgage with the "help" of the bank that set it. Up to some point I would say that the movie is ok, but in the end it got a bit too rough due to some unnecessary kills... or maybe I'm getting too disgusted about the reality of life and I prefer watching fairy tales :)...

"Hidden Figures" is a sort of biopic of three black women who worked at NASA in computing during the first space missions. The movie is not bad, but from somebody who's active in a technical area I can't get over some obvious exaggerations. Besides that, somehow brought back to me memories on a "A Beautiful Mind", and we can't compare that with this...

And we're getting to the "La La Land" about which I also wrote already. Given the massive appreciation this seems to get, I think that people are fed up with life issues, may these be family related, poverty, social/racial/whatever inequity and others, and expect from a movie exactly what I'm saying since ages that I think a movie should offer = a time to clear your head of reality's daily issues with a story. And I have to admit that "La La Land" is probably the closest in this list, although... even even here, the ending brings you back from the fairy tale.

"Lion" presents another incredible life story, of a child from India who gets lost more 1500 km away from his mother, ends up adopted by an Australian couple, and finally after around 25 years finds his way back to his still living relatives... The story is touching, but even though the irony is that his life probably turned more positive like this, it has some really really sad parts in it...

"Manchester by the Sea" brings us another family with issues. The main character has to move back to his town he left after an arson he unwillingly provoked years ago, when his brother dies, and his nephew needs a legal guardian. The interesting part here is a calm that the movie expresses from start to finish. It somehow tells you that things will eventually settle, no matter how complicated the situation is... Is it like that, it's not like that... In any case, it's more comforting :)

"Moonlight" moves through three periods of the life of a young black gay living in a rough community somewhere in Florida. We don't get rid of the "family issues" factor. Even harsher and bitter than the previous, and without an actual "solution" in the end. It's not what I expect from a movie, I'm sorry. However, this sorts of get as second favorite in various polls for getting the award. I hope it stays like that...

Verdict: Well... "La La Land" doesn't seem to have much competition, so I doubt we'll see a surprise again :). I'll stick to my personal option of "Hacksaw Ridge" being the best movie in this list. At least due to the unreal of the reality that gets it closer to a fairy tale ;) ...

Oscar 2017 - Supporting Actors

Yet another quick entry. I never liked commenting too much the acting, but on the other hand, the "supporting" area seems to me this year that deserves more attention than the "leading", so I'll just quickly roll out a couple clips and the wrapping prediction...

Viola Davis in "Fences":

Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali in "Moonlight":

Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel in "Lion":

Octavia Spencer in "Hidden Figures":

Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges in "Manchester by the Sea":

Jeff Bridges in "Hell or High Water":

Michael Shannon in "Nocturnal Animals":

Verdict: For actress is pretty clear that the monologue in "Fences" sets Viola Davis with the highest chances on winning this. For actor to be in trend with what the critics say, the winner will most probably be Mahershala Ali. My opinion though, is that his role in "Moonlight" is a short one that doesn't show much - the act of Jeff Bridges in "Hell or High Water" was much more consistent.. I would even say the best part in that movie. But I'm not voting ;)...

Oscar 2017 - Adapted Screenplay

It's late, I'm tired, I obviously didn't read the scripts, so let's just "compress" this to catchy all-in-one essential movie quotes in a record-short Oscar blog entry ;) ...

If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things? ("Arrival")

Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in. ("Fences")

Three Negro women chasing a white police officer down a highway in Hampton, Virginia in 1961. ("Hidden Figures")

It would take a lifetime to search all the stations in India. ("Lion")

At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you're going to be. ("Moonlight")

Verdict: "Moonlight" will nail this, but I'm subjectively rooting for "Fences".

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oscar 2017 - Cinematography

I don't agree since quite some years with the results for the Oscar cinematography. Because the Oscar for cinematography is not really given lately for cinematography, but for collateral stuff that falsely makes camera work to look deserving. It's either VFX, editing, or as most probably this year, production design. Still, it's not so wrong as in the previous... But, let's cut this short.

Bradford Young for "Arrival". I don't know how hard is to stay limited to an area with grey shades and filters that keep the gloomy feeling of the movie from the beginning to the end, but probably that's the main merit here. Nothing more.

Linus Sandgren for "La La Land". Full contrast with the above. But besides that we also have a contrast between the first and second half of the movie, which is supported well by the cinematography, even though it always keeps a very lively chromatic. Another difference comes from the framing and movement part, which is obviously at a different level here, at least through the need of dancing shots. All in all... how much of what we see comes from production design, and how much from camera work... I wonder.

Greig Fraser for "Lion". Well... maybe I'm too conservative, but finally what we have here is indeed pure camera work. It spans on almost everything, from panoramas to close shots, from good use of kinetic to fixed tracking shots, filters a bit less but we have these too. And maybe one of the most impressive is the composition of some fixed frames. The clip below doesn't do justice for all we have here, but unfortunately I don't have time to look for more now... Just watch the movie ;)

James Laxton for "Moonlight". The movie is shot ok-ish, but I don't find it much better overall than "Arrival". Probably the most impressive part is the sequence below... There are few frames "to remember" in the rest.

Rodrigo Prieto for "Silence". Scorsese's movie, adaptation of a book on the torment of several missionaries in the Middle Age Japan has an implicit factor of "cinematography boost" = the historical/epic character coupled with the open air action. In brief, it gains a bit from the open shots, the rest is ok overall, but not impressive.

Verdict: "La La Land" will probably get it, but I will keep my fingers crossed for "Lion".

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oscar 2017 - Directing

I was thinking to leave this entry for later, but at this time I still didn't see enough to write about smth else, so let's get this one done. Especially considering that the "Anatomy of a Scene" series saves me of commenting too much besides the actual nominees :).

Denis Villeneuve gets a first nod for "Arrival". I only can say that the guy deserves recognition as one of the best active directors, but ... for other movies like "Prisoners" or especially "Incendies". "Arrival".. not that much ...

Mel Gibson is back :) ... as I was saying in an entry not long ago. And I'll continue repeating myself since "Hacksaw Ridge" confirmed my opinion of setting him #1 in my own "top directors". Therefore, I would be subjective to comment more, so...

Damien Chazelle is I guess one of the youngest ever to be nominated here, and he gets it for "La La Land". Despite the obvious appreciation enjoyed by this movie, I'll stick to the opinion that the direction is not that good. Indeed, you can appreciate the way the contrast between the first and second part is built, probably the most obvious quality at a wider look. Which somehow results in the worse part - the first half being so positive that it gets horribly annoying...

Kenneth Lonergan comes here with a nice surprise in "Manchester by the Sea", a story of a guy who, against his will, is given parenthood for a nephew after his brother dies. What you can say about a movie that's supported by life issues and still manages to offer you what you expect froma a movie = getting your mind away from your life issues, it's just that is really well written and directed. Enough said.

Barry Jenkins is another new name getting a nod here for "Moonlight". I would say it's somewhere between the rest. The directing is good, the three parts of the movie having each some slightly different personality. Still it's not the best around.

Verdict: Damien Chazelle will probably get it for "La La Land", but my option would be Mel for "Hacksaw Ridge".