Oscar Blog Part 3
*BEST DIRECTOR – Damien Chazelle, La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea (Should win)
Nominees: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival, Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge, Damien Chazelle, La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea, Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Damien Chazelle (La La Land) has an excellent chance of winning as he directed J.K. Simmons’s Oscar-winning role in Whiplash last year for Best Supporting Actor. Whiplash also won Best Editing, which is huge in terms of the over-all quality of a film. To follow-up with La La Land a blockbuster musical set in Hollywood is no small feat.
Regarding best directing, Kenneth Lonergan’s (Manchester by the Sea) characters were spot-on. He has a long, impressive history as an award- winning writer and an exceptional director. The mixing of dark themes with wry humor is not easy, and in Manchester, he’s hit a homerun with all three performances by Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Phillips. In this case, I feel strongly that he is the best director, but will probably lose to La La Land.
*BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY- Manchester by the Sea
Nominees: Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women
Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, 2000) and (Margaret 2011) is no stranger to crafting stories that are chock full of everyday dialog that succeeds in magnifying human nature while finding humor in the smallest of nuances. Those in the film business know that Margaret was held up for five years in court costs and lawyers fees due to differences between the studio and Lonergan’s final cut length. He was in serious financial debt when John Krasinski and Matt Damon, (producer of Manchester By the Sea), went to him with the original idea for Manchester by the Sea, and asked him to write the screenplay. This outstanding script took him three years to write.
*BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY—La La Land, Arrival could be the upset.
Nominees: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence
Arrival is a terrific science fiction thriller that has challenging themes in terms of overall filming. Aliens, spaceships and outer space are always difficult to ‘get-right.’ Arrival has met and surpassed those filming difficulties. Its look is hauntingly beautiful, mysterious, dreamy, terrifying and most importantly believable.
La La Land’s filming needed to create a tribute to old Hollywood musicals yet have a modern look. This was accomplished by having a camera that is repeatedly moving, almost swirling, as it attempts to also mirror the characters inner conflicted psyche. The over-all look of this film is stunningly gorgeous.
My prediction is that La La Land will win.
*BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Jackie could be the upset
Nominees: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, La La Land could win
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,
, La La Land
Best Costume Design and Best Production Design are two Oscar categories where earning a nomination for both is typically critical to a film’s chances of winning either. The degree of difficulty is very important in production design and costuming. Historical films, fantasy and or science fiction films usually have a greater chance of winning.
My favorite costume design this year was for the film Jackie. I love that Chanel look! The textures of the fabric were even a stand out.
I did love La La Land’s costuming and production design. Emma Stone’s bright yellow dress, set against a midnight blue sky is stunning. Not to mention that is my personal favorite color combination.
To me though, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the more difficult film to dress as everything depends on the creativity of the production design and the costuming in terms of visually conveying a fantasy story. The images are the key components here. I’m rooting for this film to win both.
Sarah Knight Adamson© February 22, 2017
Oscar Blog Part 2
Hi again, here’s the next installment; happy reading. Wow, it’s getting exciting the last week before Oscar. Hey, do you have your tickets to the best viewing party in Chicagoland? I’ll be emceeing again this year on behalf of Variety the Children’s Charity of IL and would love to see you all come out to Woodridge, IL to Hollywood Blvd. Theater.
* BEST ACTRESS- Emma Stone, La La Land, possible upset by Isabelle Huppert
Nominees: Isabelle Huppert, Elle, Ruth Negga, Loving, Natalie Portman, Jackie, Emma Stone, La La Land, Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
My favorite performance was Amy Adams as the mysterious linguist who leads the way through her bravery and intuition in communicating with aliens from another planet in Arrival; sadly she was not nominated.
I must say that I did love Natalie Portman’s ‘spot-on’ portrayal of Jackie Kennedy although the film itself focused on a very small segment of President Kennedy’s life—the worst part—his assassination. I believe by showing only this narrow piece of history we don’t see the scope of the true talents and strength of Jacqueline Kennedy. Not seeing Portman later in Jackie’s life will actually hurt her chances of winning.
Isabelle Huppert gives an incredible performance in the French film Elle. This is not an easy film to view. She portrays a single woman who’s the victim of repeated violent, sexual abuse by a neighbor. Again, the role is physically challenging, and Oscar loves those kinds of roles.
La La Land’s charm stems from its lead character played by Emma Stone who by the way sets the tone for the entire film. She sings and dances her way into our hearts while uplifting us at the same time. Visually the numerous ways in which she moves across the screen are mesmerizing. She holds our attention, and you can’t take your eyes off of her.
* BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS- Viola Davis, Fences, possible upset by Naomie Harris
Nominees: Viola Davis, Fences, Naomie Harris, Moonlight, Nicole Kidman, Lion, Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures, Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Naomie Harris, mainly known for her role of Eve Moneypenny the beautiful, alluring ‘Bond Girl’ in the recent James Bond films is almost unrecognizable as Chiron’s crack-addicted mother in Moonlight. Here’s the scoop on this role. Oscar loves to reward beautiful women who play down and dirty transforming roles! Case in point—Charlize Theron as a serial killer in Monster (2003) and Nicole Kidman wearing an unattractive nose prosthetic in The Hours (2002); both won Oscars.
Viola Davis’s performance in Fences seems more like a lead role than supporting; she’s onscreen throughout the entire film. Fences first appeared as a play on Broadway and Davis had the bonus of playing this same part in 2010. Her dramatic performance is deep, emotional and extremely convincing. I loved her in this role. She has the best crying skills in Hollywood! It’s just too bad this role wasn’t considered a Best Actress role as she’s already won Best Supporting Actress for Doubt in 2008, and yes she has a crying scene in Doubt as well as Fences.
* BEST ANIMATED FEATURE- Zootopia
Nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini
, The Red Turtle, Zootopia
Hands down, Zootopia has the lead in the category of Best Animated film. It took five years in the making with several script changes over the years. It’s a film for all ages, which is difficult to pull off; it deals with bullying, discrimination, following your dreams and not giving up. Disney is committed to teaching life lessons in their films and inspiring children to pursue their passions while making their own trail in life. As a former educator, I appreciate these themes in their children’s films, but more importantly their attention to such a high standard of quality.
Sarah Knight Adamson© February 18, 2017
Charlie Day and Ice Cube square off in Fist Fight
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Hey comedy directors: when your end-credits blooper reel is funnier than the rest of your movie, you’ve failed.
Fist Fight should have at least been decent; its trailers gave me hope. It stars the high-strung, squirrelly Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses) as Andy Campbell, a minds-his-own-business high school English teacher who witnesses a destructive in-class meltdown by his colleague Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube). After Campbell rats on Strickland in order to save his own job, Strickland challenges him to a fight after school on the last day before summer break.
Unfortunately, I knew I was in for a painful hour and a half within the first ten minutes of this movie. The film opens with seniors playing ridiculously extreme “pranks” that are not even remotely funny, like letting a meth-fueled horse run around the school or replacing a prized baseball bat with a laptop playing pornography. Almost all jokes fell flat—there was complete silence in the screening room for nearly the entire film. Tracy Morgan’s offbeat brand of humor was squandered as Campbell’s friend Coach Coward. He served hardly any purpose except to stand around looking clueless while his students did things like shaping a crude scene onto the grassy playing field with a lawnmower. Even worse was Jillian Bell (Office Christmas Party) as Holly, a guidance counselor who was trying to help Campbell prepare for his fight but kept getting sidetracked by her attraction to teenaged students or conversations about her drug problem. Yet another misfire came from wasting Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) in a bit role as a school security officer. Morgan, Bell and Nanjiani are naturally funny people! It actually takes effort to make them UNfunny. That pretty much sums up the overarching problem with Fist Fight.
Sarah Knight Adamson 2012 holding the first ever Oscar given to a James Bond film for Best Sound Effects for “Goldfinger’ (1964) given to Norman Wanstall. I met him during the Chagford Film Festival in the UK. Norman was presenting a James Bond Workshop and let me snap a photo with his Oscar. Photo Credit: Bill Adamson
It’s Oscar Time!
As an avid life-long Academy Award watcher, I’ve always enjoyed attempting to see all Oscar-worthy films, along with selecting my personal winners. The Oscars are my Super Bowl so to speak, an activity I look forward to every year. It’s no surprise to me that I ventured into the realm of film criticism, as my determination to view all of the films was typically a solo endeavor. Yes, I became very comfortable viewing films by myself, as I would urge you all to do as well. I’ve come to realize that some people feel uncomfortable going to a film by themselves; take it from me—it’s liberating!
For those of you that don’t know me here’s a bit about how I started in the film industry. Looking back I actually started thinking about some sort of career in film when I accepted my first ‘Film Extra’ job in Chicago working on the film, The Express, (2007) a true historical film centered on Ernie Davis the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961. It was a crazy first ‘Extra’ job as I wore a short wig and was placed in 1960s costuming along with hundreds of extras at Northwestern College Football Stadium in Evanston, IL. Little did I know that working on this film would lead to my first film writing column for a local magazine a few months later that same year.
(I’ll add more in future blog posts about my ‘Film Extra’ days, as they are very fond memories of mine.)
My official film journalism career began on June 8, 2008, of which I was invited by a Chicago publicist to interview three stars of the film, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl; Abigail Breslin, Joan Cusack and Chris O’Donnell for my monthly column Sarah’s Backstage Pass® in a local Naperville magazine I was writing for at the time. In the fall of 2009 I became a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association after submitting around 150 written reviews. As they say, the rest is history, with my main press outlets being radio as WINDam560 Hollywood 360’s weekly film critic and online free-lance writing.
I’ll update this blog until all of the main awards have been covered, here’s my take on Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor:
*ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE- Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield could be the upset
Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)
Casey Affleck has a strong chance of winning for his guilt and grief role in Manchester By the Sea. His emotions are so deep; his soul appears to have been reduced to a hollow shell. We are saddened by his situation and root for him to find some sort of happiness; whatever that may be. Truly an authentic, remarkable performance.
However, I do feel that Andrew Garfield had the more physically challenging role. Oscar tradition does tend to lean toward that attribute as in Eddie Redmayne’s performance of Stephen Hawkings in 2015 for The Theory of Everything beating out favorite Michael Keaton in Birdman.
*ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE-Mahershala Ali
Nominees: Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Dev Patel (Lion), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
My favorite performance is Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), playing a grieving teen navigating the feelings of the loss of a parent, while also attempting to find a new normal. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s crisp, sharp script is written perfectly for this part, which by the way will probably win Best Original Screenplay. We root for Lucas, and more importantly, we care about him. He’s heart-wrenchingly sorrowful, with bursts of comedy while entertaining−−a pure delight to watch.
Dev Patel’s performance in (Lion), is complex as he’s mainly angry and frustrated as he also deals with feelings of the loss of a parent, who’s additionally, facing the overwhelming odds of being reunited with that parent. Dev has a great chance of winning as he has the added bonus of Oscar history on his side of playing a poor orphaned teen in the Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire in 2008.
Mahershala Ali as Juan, the drug dealer in (Moonlight) to Chiron’s crack-addicted mom part has the least screentime, but is a powerful, stand-alone performance. He’s an unlikely friend to Chiron, yet takes him under his wing and shows him the goodness in this world. I predict he will win, due to the incredible, unforgettable and beautifully filmed scene in which he teaches Chiron to swim. Oscar traditionally likes memorable lines, performances or a scene.
Sarah Knight Adamson© February 15, 2017
Will Arnett at Batman in The Lego Batman Movie
Photo credit: Warner Bros Pictures
The Lego Batman Movie is fun (and funny), but not quite as awesome as its predecessor.
The Lego Movie surprised everyone in 2014. Nobody expected it to be good, much less one of the best films of the year—animated or not. I distinctly remember walking out of its screening and looking around at other critics like, “Did that just happen?” However, the writing-directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are only back as producers for The Lego Batman Movie, which may be the reason why this spinoff lacks the universal relatability and appeal of its predecessor. Or it could just be that a film focused on Batman—even if he’s in Lego form—is never going to be able to conjure up emotional memories from childhood (or parenthood) for everyone in the theater. We’ve all played with Legos, but not everyone knows Batman lore (especially younger children). Nor could The Lego Batman Movie ever be as peppy and uplifting as a tale featuring Chris Pratt’s optimistic Lego everyman Emmet; Batman is somber, dark and gritty by nature. And, let’s face it, there was no way any movie was ever going to have a catchier theme song than “Everything Is Awesome.”
So that’s the bad news.
The good news is that The Lego Batman Movie isn’t trying to be its predecessor, and it’s fun, funny and memorable in its own weird way. Will you (or your kids) be able to fully appreciate all of its jokes if you’re not familiar with older incarnations of Batman or his overall mythology? No. In fact, one of the highlights of the film is a series of quick flashes to previous versions of the caped crusader that prove just how ridiculous his small-and-big-screen journey has been. Another is its treatment of the villain Bane (Doug Benson), as infamously portrayed by Tom Hardy in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.
“Silence” stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.
Have Faith in Silence
For living legend Martin Scorsese, who spent nearly 30 years trying to get this film made and even contemplated joining the priesthood, it would be an understatement to call Silence a passion project. A film about religious missionaries in 1630s Japan doesn’t exactly spell huge box office hit and likely required all of Scorsese’s industry clout to even be created. Although this movie may not be for everyone, audiences will witness an utterly unique and thought-provoking look at faith, and how much one is willing to sacrifice for it.
This historic drama opens with the voice of Fr. Ferreira (Liam Neeson, A Monster Calls, 2016) narrating his own letter describing the brutal conditions for Japanese Christians. It is 1635, and Christianity has been outlawed across the country. An already difficult situation has only worsened as Christians and priests are now being tortured and executed if they do not apostatize (“deny their faith”). The story then cuts to seven years later at a Jesuit College in Macau, a Portuguese colony in Asia, where two young priests, Fr. Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge, 2016) and Fr. Garupe (Adam Driver, Paterson, 2016) meet with an older colleague, Fr. Valignano (Ciarán Hinds, Bleed For This, 2016). The group gathers to discuss the letter from Fr. Ferreira, who was a mentor to the young priests and a leading figure amongst the Catholic community in Japan. After finishing the letter, Valignano says he heard more news from Dutch traders that said Fr. Ferreira has given up the faith, leaving no more priests in Japan. Upon hearing the update, Fr. Rodrigues and Garupe are in utter disbelief, and despite death threats for priests, they decide it is their mission to uncover the truth.
Silence is a very thought-provoking film that digs deep into the issues of faith and conviction like no other film of its kind. From a visual standpoint, Scorsese brilliantly balances the beauty of Japan with the struggles that the Christians must endure. Although the few torture scenes are difficult to watch, they are not gratuitously violent or excessive, but rather convey to the audience the conviction and strength of the characters that bear it. Read more…