Snack Break: Congratulations

Once again, I thought I had this Best Picture Oscar pegged and get surprised with a film that traditionally would not have won. I hope this means we’ll see more representation from other genres than “drama” in the years to come.

The Shape of Water

Of the nine contenders for Best Picture this year, there were plenty that I thought were truly great. It’s tough to choose one over the others, especially with some really thought-provoking and well-made films. Personally, my favorite was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, followed by Darkest Hour, Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird. The Shape of Water was in that list of favorites as well, but that’s because it was directed by one of my favorite directors: Guillermo del Toro. In fact, a number of my favorite directors had showings this year, including Christopher Nolan and Martin McDonagh.

It’s tough when there’s not necessarily a front-runner for the Oscars, as each category presented proves to be a real mystery. Many of them could have gone a number of different ways, but at least the ones that won were certainly well-deserved.

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Snack Break: Congratulations

What a twist! While I try my best to see all the Best Picture nominees before the ceremony, this year I failed to see the film that (eventually) won Best Picture. I will see it as soon as I can, so I don’t know if I can give an honest review of it yet. Clearly, it had a number of elements that propelled it to win the 89th Acadamy Awards’ highest honor.

I must be honest to say that I had my hopes set on two films this year: La La Land and Arrival. Both spoke to me in different ways, but they both left an impact with their message. When La La Land was initially named the winner of Best Picture, I was excited. When it was taken away due to the presenter’s mistake, it made me wonder how good Moonlight is to win Best Picture.

I know the Academy is often faulted for giving awards to movies that should have won in years past, so I only hope that Moonlight can stand on its own merits, instead of perhaps being a result of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite fiasco. Still, I have not seen this film yet, but that won’t stop me from buying it and adding it to my (nearly) perfect Best Picture Oscar collection. I only hope I can keep an open mind when I do see it.

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Even with this dramatic turn of events, I was glad to see La La Land end up with plenty of its musical awards and Arrival with the awards it deserved as well. Kind of a mixed bag this year, but the winners certainly earned their respective awards.

Snack Break: Congratulations

For five years now, I have seen all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscar ceremony, thus giving me a chance to gauge the chance that one of them would win the coveted gold statue. This year, after watching all the nominees, I decided that Spotlight was the clear winner, and I want to send out my congratulations.

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The power of the story told in this film was one that hit right in the depth of the soul. While some of the films this year were flashy and fun (The Martian, The Big Short, and Mad Max: Fury Road), others were intense and almost difficult to watch (Room and The Revenant). What really set Spotlight apart for me was the dedication of the reporter team to not stop at exposing the top level of the issue, but to dig deep enough that they could blow open the whole, systemic problem at its source.

Also, a congrats to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for another year of great directing, and Leonardo DiCaprio for finally nabbing that Best Actor Oscar so that we can stop wondering when you will win it.

Snack Break: Congratulations

I apologize for this later post, but with an internet connectivity issue that I had during the Oscars, I only just now had the ability to send out my congratulations to the winner of Best Picture for the 87th Academy Awards: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Birdman

Unlike some previous years, I had seen all of the nominees before the ceremony this year. With half of the eight nominees being biopics, it was clear which one was the most original of them all. Here was my review of this well-deserved Oscar winner: “If this isn’t the most unique and meta film made in the last decade, then I don’t know what is. Practically shot in one entire cut/take, Birdman is impressive on that front alone. However, its raw and unabashed look at modern Hollywood, theatre, popularity, vitality, and criticism makes me want it to win Best Picture all the more.”

In fact, upon repeat viewings, the depth of the characters and the messages that are hidden right beneath the surface are quite profound. If you haven’t seen this film yet, please do!

Snack Break: Congratulations

Another year, another Best Picture! I’d just like to send out my congratulations to the winners of the 86th Academy Awards. While it’s getting tougher to watch all the Nominees before the big event, I do my best to watch as many as I can so I can make my own decision on what I think is the best of the year.

Even though this is the first year in a while that I haven’t seen the winner before the Oscars, I’ve definitely heard much praise for this film. If you ask me, a lot of the nominees “split the vote” because they were too similar to each other. American Hustle was about excess like The Wolf of Wall Street. Nebraska was about parent-child relationships like Philomena. Her was about unlikely relationships like Dallas Buyers Club. Captain Phillips was about survival in harsh conditions like Gravity. Therefore, the only film that didn’t cross over into any others was 12 Years a Slave.

12 Years a Slave

Since I own all the Best Picture winners, it looks like I’ll be stopping by Best Buy sometime soon to pick up this year’s victor. Then I’ll finally get to see it!

#102. Best Picture Musicals

While not impossible, it is somewhat rare for a musical to win the Oscar for Best Picture. In fact, in the 85 years that the statuette has been given out, only ten films have won the distinction of being the best of the year. That’s a mere 11%. Of course, if we look back to the “golden age” of the Hollywood musical, we’ll find that half of these ten musical Best Pictures were made in a single decade spanning from 1958 (and Gigi) to 1968 (with Oliver!), which includes a back-to-back win with My Fair Lady (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965). Needless to say, since the end of this decade of musicals, we have rarely seen them take the top award, despite the fact that musicals are occasionally nominated. This week’s two films look at the most recent winner and one of the winners in the “decade of musicals”.

ChicagoChicago
Year: 2002
Rating: PG-13
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours

Even though there seem to be more and more categories each year, the fact that a single film can garner 13 nominations is still somewhat of an impressive feat. Now, whether or not the film can win all of these nominations and sweep the Oscars is the more impressive bit, but six wins, including Best Picture, is still very good. And yet, what’s more impressive about Chicago is that it had been 34 years since a musical had won Best Picture, a distinction that marked the end of the Hollywood musical era in 1968. Of course, as was the case with many of its musical predecessors, Chicago was based off of a theatrical musical that did well on Broadway before heading to the big screen. Perhaps the fact that the musical has been tried on the stage first is what allows it to do well as a movie.

What’s nice about film over the stage is that there are certain limitations to live theatre. While I have seen many impressive set changes, it is still much easier to film two separate scenes and splice them together in post production. In Chicago, the musical numbers are often offset from the reality of the actors in order to show a sharp distinction between the two. After all, life in prison isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially if you’re a woman. While Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are trying to get out of prison for murder, they’re also trying to get in and stay in the limelight, respectively. Media attention is high for these two until Kitty Baxter (Lucy Liu) enters the prison system with a triple homicide on her record. What will they do to direct the attention back to themselves?

West Side StoryWest Side Story
Year: 1961
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours

Even though Chicago holds the most nominations for a musical at the Academy Awards, West Side Story holds the record for most wins with ten (it was nominated for 11 awards). Only three other films have earned more Oscars than West Side Story, albeit they were not musicals. This is perhaps why this film has been placed as high as #41 on the American Film Institute’s top 100 lists. Of course, as is the case with many musicals, the settings of the film version feel much more realistic than their Broadway counterparts. Now, whether or not gangs would sing and dance in the streets of New York City is up to interpretation; but needless to say, there’s a level of realism attained through the scale of such a production that cannot be reproduced on the stage. After all, in the era of Hollywood musicals, they really knew what they were doing.

Racial gang warfare in Manhattan is the backdrop for this adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While Tony (Richard Beymer) helped found the gang known as the Jets, he has since removed himself from the gang and now works in a local store. The main rival of the Jets is the Sharks; a group of Puerto Rican immigrants headed by Bernardo (George Chakiris), whose sister Maria (Natalie Wood) runs into Tony at a dance. When the two meet, it’s love at first sight and soon they’re going against the social norms and the resistance of their respective gangs in order to keep their love alive. Even though they get married in secret, the animosity between the two gangs grows until a full-on brawl is called in order to settle the score. Tony gets entangled in the fight and in an attempt to stop the violence just makes things worse. Can Tony and Maria ever be together happily ever after?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 musical masterpieces

#079. The Holocaust

If there has been one event in the last century that has been the most sobering visibility into the evil of mankind, it would be the Holocaust. Now, I’m not trying to downplay any other genocides that may have happened in the last 100 years, but by and far the most documented and tragic of these was the purposeful eradication of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi party. The inhumanity that was suffered at the hands of this ethnic cleansing should never be forgotten, lest history repeat itself. And yet, the stories of those who survived and those who live on to tell their terrible tale gives us a small amount of hope. After all, in the midst of this tragedy, some true angels and saints were revealed in some unlikely places. My only hope is that while movies about the Holocaust are powerful, current events never head into this realm again. This week’s two films look at part of what it was like to either be in the Holocaust, or help prevent it.

Life is BeautifulLive is Beautiful
Year: 1997
Rating: PG-13
Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours

What is perhaps the most frightening thing about the Holocaust is that no one really saw it coming. In fact, few understood the scope of the whole thing until it was over and the perpetrators were questioned about what really went on in those concentration camps. Truly, the saddest part about the suddenness of this genocide was that some of those affected had their lives together and everything was looking like it would end up great. And yet, sometimes the experiences during peacetime came in handy for being able to survive the deplorable conditions of these camps and the frightening treatment that the Jews had to endure. The hardest part would be trying to find a silver lining in the whole process in order to keep your hope up. What would have been harder is doing so to keep your child alive.

In 1930’s Italy, things couldn’t be better. World War I is in the past and everyone is enjoying life. Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) is just one of these people. As a bookstore owner, he pursues a beautiful woman by the name of Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) who lives in the next town over. Their romance flourishes and they eventually get married and have a son, Giosué (Giorgio Cantarini). Unfortunately, life throws the family a bit of a curveball when the Nazis come and occupy thier little world. Dora and Guido are separated and sent to different concentration camps, but Guido is fortunate enough to have Giosué with him in his camp. Using his natural talent for humor, Guido keeps his son alive by making him believe that the whole concentration camp experience is a game, for which the prize is a tank. Can Guido keep this ruse up long enough for the allies to defeat the Nazis and bring freedom to him and his son?

Schindler’s ListSchindler's List
Year: 1993
Rating: R
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours

Part of the problem with generalizations is that they often overlook some key exceptions. For instance, not all Germans were dedicated to wiping out the Jews. In fact, the reason that so many survived the Holocaust was due to the ingenuity and cunning of not only themselves (as seen in Life is Beautiful), but in those Germans who saw what was happening and took a stand against it. And yet, a few being saved in an attic or basement is good, but when a whole factory full of Jews is saved in plain sight, people tend to stand up and take notice. Still, when facing such a movement like the Holocaust, every person saved is precious, but more could always have been saved. Placed within the top 10 of AFI’s top 100 movies, Schindler’s List also won Steven Spielberg an Oscar for Best Director and Best Picture.

Shot in black and white (with a brief splash of color for impact), this film has a power and a presence to it that brings forth all of the emotions from this dark hour in the history of the world. Schindler’s List exposes the work of an Austrian industrialist, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved over 1,000 Jews from being killed. By making the Polish Jews workers in his factory, he could simultaneously save lives and hinder the Nazi’s conquest of Europe by providing defective merchandise to the war machine. Occasionally, his operations would come under Nazi scrutiny, but he always managed to keep the large amount of Jews a secret. Of course, in order to save people, money was required. Schindler was fortunate to be wealthy, but even at the end, he was heartbroken that he couldn’t have saved more.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Holocaust memories