Sarah Knight Adamson is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and a voting member for the Critics Choice Awards for Movies.

Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica Aymond are both Members of the Chicago Film Critics Association

Film Rating Code:

★★★★ Outstanding Film- Run, don’t walk to the nearest movie theater.

★★★½ Excellent Film- Highly recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★★ Very Good Film- Recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★½ Good Film- Wait for the DVD, the film is still worth viewing.

★★ Wait for the DVD and proceed with caution.

★½ Wait for the DVD the film has major problems in most areas.

★ Can’t recommend the film.

Category :

Wonder Woman (PG-13) ★★★★ Radio Review

Gal Gadot stars as “Wonder Woman.” Patty Jenkins directs. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

My quick take🎬: So much to love about ⚔Wonder Woman!⚔

Director Patty Jenkins of Monster (2003), fame brings us another stellar film. Gal Gadot’s performance is fantastic to watch, she not only carries the entire film, but she also brings strength, intelligence, compassion and beauty to her role. Chris Pine is fun to watch as he takes a back seat, he brings humor and light-heartedness to the darkness of their wartime situation. If you ever thought you might want to see a superhero movie, then this is the one to go and see! I loved it! Radio Review coming soon! Stay Tuned!

Radio Reviews air on H360 Radio Network on Saturday nights, ✔️ out a station near you!  The podcast will post after the review airs. Stay tuned.

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story ★★★★ Radio Podcast

Directed by Daniel Raim. Photo Credit: Adama Films

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is a documentary that’s based on a true story. Storyboard artist Harold Michelson and his wife, a film researcher, Lillian Michelson are two nameless heroes of Hollywood’s greatest films.

Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

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Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

Interview with Daniel Raim Writer/Director of “Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story”

 A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY. A Zeitgeist Films release. Director Daniel Raim. Photo: Adama Films / Zeitgeist Films

Interview with Writer/Director Daniel Raim for the film Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

Daniel Raim had a goal in mind when he set out to make a documentary about two unsung Hollywood legends—Harold & Lillian Michelson— give these two talented people the credit they deserve. Movie fans are familiar with the work of Harold and Lillian Michelson, even if they don’t recognize the names. You see, they worked mostly uncredited on Hollywood films, however, storyboard artist Harold and film researcher Lillian left a time-honored mark on classics by Mel Brooks, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Mike Nichols, Steven Spielberg, and many more. Stitched together by love letters, film clips, storyboards, and open conversations with both Harold and Lillian, along with Danny DeVito, Mel Brooks, Francis Ford Coppola, and others, this love letter to the Michelsons is not only a deeply moving portrait of love, but a tribute to their work that shaped many of the classic films we all know and love.

Lillian and Harold Michelson in Los Angeles in December 1947 in Daniel Raim’s HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY. A Zeitgeist Films release. Photo: Adama Films / Zeitgeist Films.

Sarah Knight Adamson: I want to tell you out of the gate, I totally love your movie so much. I’m very happy that you made this movie, because you’ve documented these two lives. Not just one life; two of these amazing film legends. You’ve shed tremendous light on the artistic side of filmmaking that frankly enhances the viewing experience not just for film critics, but for the whole world. I applaud you for that.

Daniel Raim: Thank you very much.

SKA: Can you talk briefly about your beginnings as a filmmaker with, I believe your teacher at the time, Robert F. Boyle?

DR: This was 1997 and I was a student at the American Film Institute. My professor was Robert Boyle. He was 90 years old at the time. He was also the subject of my first documentary.

Harold Michelson (right) in the Art Department at Paramount Studios in 1978 working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture in Daniel Raim’s HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY. A Zeitgeist Films release. For hi-res downloadPhoto: Adama Films / Zeitgeist Films.

SKA: Can you talk about how, during the making of a film, it’s less about making sets that looked real, but more about the storytelling. I guess in my mind, I think of The Graduate, and that iconic leg. Is that real? Is she [Anne Bancroft] really going to just sit there and pose like that? Probably not in real life, but it tells a story. Read more…

Posted in Celebrity Interviews, Interview Archives, Interviews

Snatched (R) ★★★

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Happy Mother’s Day Weekend! Here’s my quick take on the film:

I laughed the entire 90 minutes of the film. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are both funny, but the supporting cast; Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack and Ike Barinholtz (who plays the paranoid brother) are hysterical. The Mom and Daughter are held captive for like…2 minutes, and the rest of the film is slapstick comedy. It did remind me of the shenanigans in the “The Hangover Part 2” similar to the guys running around in Thailand except no fingers were cut off…in Ecuador, Amy has a disgusting tapeworm that is hand extracted, and a bad guy gets stabbed with a harpoon. I also loved seeing Goldie Hawn back on the big screen, even with a somewhat compromised performance…she took the back seat in this film.

Sarah Knight Adamson© May 12, 2017

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13) Radio Podcast ★★½

Charlie Hunnum, King Arthur and Jude Law star as rivals for the crown.

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

The Circle (PG-13) ★½

Emma Watson stars in ‘The Circle.’ Photo Credit: STX Entertainment, EuropaCorp

Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

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Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts

The Lost City Of Z (PG-13) ★★★½

‘The Lost City of Z’ stars Charlie Hunnam as explorer Percy Fawett.

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Ebertfest 2017, Focuses on Empathy, Kindness, Compassion and Forgiveness

A Film Critic’s Personal Journey to Ebertfest and Revisiting Her Childhood Home of University of Illinois

The Virginia Theater Home of Ebertfest 2017. Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

The 19th Annual Ebertfest Film Festival, April 19-23, was held at the historic 1,525-seat Virginia Theater and the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, IL. The festival highlighted a wide array of films, panels, and Q&A’s dedicated to the theme of empathy.

Ebertfest was founded in 1999 by the late Roger Ebert, a University of Illinois Journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize award-winning Chicago film critic. The mission of the festival is to celebrate films that may have been overlooked by audiences, critics, and distributors.

Chaz Ebert, Roger’s beloved wife, business partner, and writer/publisher of RogerEbert.com, continues Roger’s legacy by serving as producer and host. She, along with Festival Director Nate Kohn, select films based on Roger’s criteria.

While driving to Ebertfest, this Chicago film critic was filled with an assortment of emotions. You see, my father and mother—Richard and Kathrine Knight—lived on the University of Illinois campus while attending college. I was born in my father’s first year of college, 2nd semester to be exact. My life began in a lower level apartment on Green Street, right down from the exact street (Green Street) where Roger Ebert grew up. Sadly, my father passed away this past August (2016), preceded by my mother in 2011. I have fond memories of the University of Illinois campus as I’ve visited there on several occasions over the years. Although I was excited about attending the festival for the second time, I was also unexpectedly saddened by my father’s loss, yet comforted by the surroundings where we all began as a family. Needless to say, the U. of IL campus will always be close to my heart.

Chaz Ebert, Ebertfest 2017, The Virginia Theater Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

Opening night festivities, Wednesday April 19, began with Chaz Ebert, the festival co-founder, executive producer, and host, welcoming guests and explaining the cornerstone of the festival. She informed the audience by stating, “Roger felt that movies could help us gain empathy for people or a situation; therefore, this year, Ebertfest 2017 will be dedicated to not only empathy, but also kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.”

She continued by saying, “Roger loved singing and dancing, and so I asked Jimmy Demers to sing ‘God Bless America.’”

Festival-goers sporting the ‘Thumbs-Up”

 

Concluding the welcome, Chaz thanked festival participants with a heartfelt message. “After nineteen years, you have welcomed me into this community, and I thank you for that.”

Hair (1979) Photo Still United Artists Photo Credit

Read more…

Posted in Celebrity Photos & Events, Film Festivals, Interview Archives, Interviews, Photos

The Fate of the Furious (PG-13) ★★★

‘The Fate of the Furious’ Photo Credit: Universal Studios

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The Zookeeper’s Wife (R) ★★★

Jessica Chastain stars in ‘The ZooKeeper’s Wife’ Photo Credit: Focus Features

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Colossal (R) ★★★ Radio Podcast

Anne Hathaway stars in ColossalImage credit: NEON

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Gifted (PG-13) ★★★½

Mckenna Grace as “Mary Adler” and Chris Evans as “Frank Adler” in the film GIFTED. Photo by Wilson Webb. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved.

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T2: Trainspotting (R) ★★★½

The Boys are Back!

Is revisiting the zaniness of Trainspotting (1996) 20 years later worth the trip? (Pun intended.) I guess if you’re wondering if Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, or Begbie made the decision to “choose life,” then yes− checking in with these wacky, cultish characters will totally be a rewarding experience. It’s especially worth the trip if all of the same players are back, including the esteemed British director, Danny Boyle, and in this case, yep–homerun−all are back in T2’s lively sequel. You can only imagine my elation when I discovered I’d be in London in February, a full eight weeks before the opening here in the USA. I viewed the film on my birthday, February 11, at the Empire Theater in Leicester Square, where the film opened on January 19. Yes, it was an excellent day.

Empire Theater, Leicester Square London, England

Empire Theater, Leicester Square London, England

Being a huge fan myself of the original film, I was extremely happy about the sequel. However, how does one follow a film that so creatively defined the essence of the Brit-Pop “20-somethings generation” or, in this case, the “Peter Pan 20-somethings”? Boyle’s unconventional sharp lens gave us a wild, frantic ride by using the music of the time, a script driven by rebellious ideology, and one with hardcore drug use as an underlying theme, no less. Seriously, if any film warrants a “stand alone” status, unquestionably, Trainspotting fits the bill.

The Empire Theater in London Leicester Square. Beautiful! Sarah Knight Adamson 2017

Edinburgh does remain the setting in T2 (as it should), and it should also be noted that in 2004, Trainspotting was voted the best Scottish film of all time in a public poll. The film is ranked 10th by the British Film Institute (BFI) in the Top 100 British Films of all time. An impressive legacy indeed; it even demoted the inspirational Chariots of Fire (1986), which is best known for its opening scene of Olympic hopefuls running on the Scottish coastline of St. Andrews; the conditions are arduous, with wet sand and bare feet as waves break. Vangelis’ famous Academy Award-winning score “Tides” plays in the background as the runners glide in slow motion. In contrast, Trainspotting’s opening scene includes frenzied running at hyper-speed down Princess Street in Edinburgh by Ewan McGregor (Renton) and Ewen Bremner (Spud) while being chased by security guards just after robbing John Menzies Bookstore while Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” blares on.

T2’s opening scene views Renton running again, but this time on a treadmill in Amsterdam. Evidently, he’s surrendered to “life,” as he’s chosen to run artificially. Within minutes, in a hysterical scene, he clumsily falls off. There’s a re-visit to the original chase scene by Renton, and just like that, we are off to the races again. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Oscar Blog-Part 4 Best Documentary, Best Original Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Original Song

Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica DeLong Oscar Night 2014

Oscar Blog Part 4-Final Oscar Blog!

Wow, Oscar weekend 2017 is here! We are very excited over here at Sarah’s Backstage Pass, as this is a huge weekend for us! We love viewing the Academy Awards Show and especially love seeing it on the ‘Big Screen’ at the annual Variety the Children’s Charity viewing party.

We are in our 9th year emceeing and the 12th year of the event at Hollywood Blvd. Cinema. Come on out and join us as in Woodridge, IL on Sunday, February 26.  We are also excited to have Carmelo Chimera from Chimera Comics hosting right along with us. He’ll be testing your movie trivia and giving away prices. As always, our Fashion Police will be out in full force, checking out the glitz and glam attire.

Wait a minute…we also have a very special guest attending the Variety Charity Viewing Party Event…our own Chicagoland film star, Hayden Rolence the voice of Nemo in “Finding Dory” will be in attendance.

Sarah-Knight-Adamson and Hayden Rolence the voice of Nemo. June 2016

* BEST DOCUMENTARY − O. J.: Made in America

Nominees: Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, O. J.: Made in America, 13th

*BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY − Manchester by the Sea

Nominees: Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women

*BEST VISUAL EFFECTS − The Jungle Book
Nominees: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

*BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING − Suicide Squad

Nominees: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

*BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – La La Land

Nominees: Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers

*BEST ORIGINAL SONG − “City of Stars,” La La Land

Nominees: “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

Complete Prediction List Hollywood Blvd. Cinema Oscar Ballot

Sarah Knight Adamson © February 24, 2017

Posted in Movies 2017, Red Carpet and Events, Reviews

Oscar Blog Part 3-Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design

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



Nominees: Arrival, 
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 
Hail, Caesar!
, La La Land
, Passengers

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

Posted in Movies 2017, Red Carpet and Events, Reviews, Uncategorized

Oscar Blog Part 2, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Animated Film

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

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Oscar’s BackStage Pass Blog 2017 Part 1-Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor

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

Posted in Chicago Film & TV News, Movies 2017, Reviews

Manchester By the Sea (R) ★★★½

“Manchester By the Sea” Amazon Studios

Heartwrenching Family Drama with Excellent Performances

Manchester by the Sea is a movie wherein the more you discuss the great aspects of the film, the more it sounds like your worst nightmare. And by discussing the film, I do mean with someone that has seen it, as significant parts of the film should be left to unfold on their own. This genuine drama just may be the most realistic portrayal of full-blown paralyzing guilt to hit the big screen. Both Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams give stellar performances as they fight their personal battles with grief. Yep, sounds like a downer, doesn’t it? Well, I’m not going to candy-coat this; it is. However, here’s the great news—Manchester by the Sea is one of the best films of 2016.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: (L-R) Actor Casey Affleck, filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, actor Lucas Hedges and actor/producer Matt Damon attend The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards )

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 the film, went to him with the original idea for Manchester by the Sea, and asked him to write the screenplay. The film has received eight nominations for our Critics Choice Awards, and Casey Affleck won Best Actor in a Film, Kenneth Lonergan won Best Screenplay, and Best Young Performer, Lucas Hedges. It received five nominations from the Golden Globes, and Casey Affleck won Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actor Casey Affleck, winner of Best Actor for ‘Manchester by the Sea’, poses in the press room during The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The main premise of the film focuses on Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a loner apartment handyman in Boston who has violent outbursts that lead to fistfights. When we first meet Lee, we know something isn’t quite right with him, as he appears to have a chip on his shoulder, although we aren’t sure if that’s even the problem. In contrast, during a flashback, we also see Lee on a fishing boat with his nephew Patrick, enjoying an afternoon on the sea with his family.

Onstage during The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California.

Very shortly, we discover that his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), has passed away and Lee is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee grudgingly returns to his boyhood hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a strong-willed 16-year-old, and is forced to deal with his past that separated him from his wife Randi, (Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn, 2011).

Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges Critics Choice Awards Santa Monica Hanger Dec. 11, 2016

Lee is obliged to step up to the plate and become somewhat of a father figure to his grieving nephew, Patrick. Neither is prepared for this awkward situation in which Patrick wants to continue his life as normally as possible. Lee, on the other hand, wants to move to Boston to resume his life away from Manchester where he’s still haunted by his personal tragic family memories. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

La La Land (PG-13) ★★★½

La La Land stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Photo Credit: Lionsgate Films

Upbeat Musical with Beautiful Stars

Opening on a warm California winter’s day, we view a typical LA freeway traffic jam and an over-the-top atypical song and dance number; La La Land thus proclaims itself as a throwback to the energetic Hollywood musicals of yesteryear. This deliberate brightly colored scene also sets up the cute or not-so-cute meet between the stars of the film Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a devoted jazz musician. Both Stone and Gosling (Crazy, Stupid, Love, 2011) give incredible performances that showcase their musical talents, offering us a film that is a pure cinematic joy.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: Actress Emma Stone (L) and actor Ryan Gosling attend The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards )

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Damien Chazelle, who’s known for writing and directing Whiplash (2014), the dark, unnerving tale of a jazz drummer (Miles Teller) under the spell of his abusive/dictatorial jazz instructor (J.K. Simmons), who also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this film. What’s mind-boggling is the fact that La La Land is only Chazelle’s second full feature film; conversely, he stays the course by offering yet another musical-themed film. And what an enormous film this is. We’re talking hundreds of extras, large detailed set designs, delightfully spot-on choreographed dance numbers, distinctive costuming, original songs, a creative humorous yet touching script, and lead actors that shine. Chazelle gives us all of this and more. He’s accomplished a feel-good triumph that also sincerely explores the downside of the quest for fame and love in the all-too-often heartbreak city of Los Angeles.

There are so many things to love about this film, but for me, the highlight is watching the chemistry and talents of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. They are mesmerizing on screen. As individuals, each can hold court in his or her unique way; together, the duo can only be described as enchanting.

Mia, a constantly auditioning actress, works at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. studio backlot as a barista and Sebastian as a jazz pianist in an upscale restaurant with a manager (J.K. Simmons, The Accountant, 2016) that prefers he provide background similar to elevator music. No room for original songs here. Both are clearly miserable in the pursuit of their dreams.

Together, they take us all over LA, including the famous Griffith Observatory where we see more incredible cinematography and magic. Sebastian teaches Mia about jazz, and its undertones, and we are privy to their jaunts to check out the talent. John Legend (Soul Men, 2008) plays one such talent; he offers Sebastian a chance to be in his band that will begin touring all over the U.S. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Moonlight (R) ★★★★

Barry Jenkins read Tarell Alvin McCraney’s piece, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” and adapted that into the screenplay of “Moonlight.”

Raw Emotion Strikes a Chord with Universal Themes

Superficially, one might sum up Moonlight by declaring that it presents three chapters of a gay black Miami man’s life. However, the film delves much deeper than that. It’s about growing up in poverty, the struggles of being raised by a crack-addict single mother, the exposures to racism, the need for love, and finally overcoming the complications of having a different sexual orientation than the majority of your peers. Yes, Moonlight is all of this and more. I must admit that it took my undivided attention along with a second viewing to truly internalize all of its beautiful qualities. I adore this film.
The screenplay is written by Barry Jenkins – who also directs – and is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. It’s always ambitious in a film to cross over into different time spans; here we see Chiron, the main character, as a child, teen, and adult.

SANTA MONICA, CA – DECEMBER 11: (L-R) Actors Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Alex R. Hibbert, Janelle Monae and Naomie Harris, winners of Best Acting Ensemble for ‘Moonlight’, pose in the press room during The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Part 1 is named “Little” and introduces us to Chiron (Alex Hibbert) as a shy, small-for-his-age, loner elementary school child along with crack dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae), with whom he finds solace. His mother, Paula (an almost unrecognizable Naomie Harris, known as Moneypenny from the recent Bond films) is usually drugged up and shows little love or affection towards Chiron.

Barry Jenkins and Alex R. Hibbert attend The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on December 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California.

In structure along with tone, Moonlight has an indie feel as we follow Chiron by use of a hand-held camera through his daily life. Thankfully, he has adult friends who take him under their wings and try to help him. In the best scene in the film, he’s taught to swim by Juan, seen here as a metaphor for a cleansing and/or baptism. It is a beautiful cinematographically filmed sequence; you may even experience goose bumps. This simple skill of learning to swim becomes the unique bond that holds both man and child together, with cementing each other’s trust at its core.

“Moonlight” film still. Photo Credit: Plan B

Read more…

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

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