Holy February Movies, Lego Batman! February 2017 Movie Preview

E: Like January, February is a month I mostly reserve for seeing Oscar movies and writing about them.  There’s normally not much to see in the theaters that isn’t a Best Picture or acting nominee.  Expect more great box office for Hidden Figures and La La Land, for example – and see them if you haven’t already.  If you can only choose one?  La La Land will win the Oscar, but Hidden Figures is the experience you really want.

M: Which says all you need to know about the Oscars.

C: I really want to see it. I know I said that a month ago, so I need to get off my duff, but I really do!

E: Do it!  Do it now!

M: This month, we have mostly the usual February mumbo-jumbo: there’s a strong chance the more promising-looking films may under-deliver, otherwise they wouldn’t be opening in February. Except for Lego Batman. That might not suck.

C: I loved The Lego Movie (unexpectedly), so high hopes here.

E: It’s true. We can say that much for this February, because of Lego: it probably won’t all suck.

M: That aside, the movie news we’re really excited about this week is the announcement of the cast and crew for 2018’s Ocean’s Eight. Yes, it’s Hollywood again proving that it either has no original ideas, or that even when they have a semi-original idea they have to package it in something that sounds familiar so that it has a built in audience and (theoretically) less chance of total failure.

C: Normally I’d complain, but HEIST MOVIES. They never get old.

M: Right, plus: Sandra Bullock is the new lead, in the Sinatra/Clooney role, with Cate Blancheit, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna among the women filling out the other seven members of the heist crew. Gary Ross, who’s awesome and wrote things like Big and Dave and directed Seabiscuit and the first Hunger Games, is writing and directing. Awesomeness!

C: I totally freaked out when I heard about that. But let’s save our comments for that preview, huh?

E: Just noting that we are crazy excited about it, because the wait is soooo long!

M: And now, back to February.

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Dear Hollywood, Let’s Talk About Living Your Politics

C: Hey there, Hollywood. Did you know a lot of people think you’re “too liberal”? One’s another writer for this blog, in fact. But I gotta say: I’m not seeing it when it comes to this Casey Affleck situation.

E’s the prediction guru around here, but I have one rock-solid prediction for the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony: we’re going to hear some statements made against Trump. You know, the guy who sexually harassed women who worked with him, made them feel deeply uncomfortable and belittled, came on to them despite them being married or not interested, touched them without their permission, and used his star power to get away with it all. Just like your front-running Best Actor nominee.

From football to politics, this culture has a history of overlooking men’s treatment of women because we like what they’re doing otherwise. Despite the fact that jobs like, say, being the star of a movie or the president of a country can’t actually be accomplished without working with women — women whose hard work in supporting positions is essential to the overall success of the undertaking — we still manage to class misogyny and harassment as side-issues, not relevant to the man’s accomplishment.

No one is questioning that Affleck gave a great performance. But every year, some great performances don’t take home an Oscar. That award, by the way, is “Best Actor,” not “Best Performance.” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, what makes a good actor in your eyes? What ideal will you hold up for the American public to admire?

Hollywood, I hope you change your mind about this. Because Constance Wu is perfectly right to say that “Casey Affleck’s win will be a nod to Trump.” And your inevitable statements at this year’s award ceremony about equality, acceptance, respect, and love will ring a little false on that account.

 

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TV actress Constance Wu: on point regarding hair + this issue

Oscar 2017 Nominations and Reactions

E: Huh.  31 out of 34 predictions correct.  I feel pretty good about that!  I also feel really good about the diversity of this year’s slate – three movies starring African Americans (surely a first), a movie about Indians and India, and three movies with female leads.  (And yes, three out of nine is pathetic, and yet by nominating more than two in an industry where Hollywood refuses to make movies about women and then routinely ignores many of the good ones it does produce, Oscar is operating on high.)

Also?  For La La Land, the view from the top is pretty sweet.  And rarefied. Continue reading

Oscar Nominations, 2017: Predictions

E:  How has this day come already?  There almost seems like there’s too much going on to think about movies.  But hey, by all means.  Let’s have an abrupt focus shift from politics to entertainment as Hollywood picks out what they want us to remember them by, what they consider the best and the brightest lights of the past crazy year.  Tomorrow is nomination morning.

That’s right folks.  Ready for a little Oscar speculation?

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Hollywood. Foreign. Press.: Golden Globe Reactions

E: Usually, the Golden Globes live up to their reputation as Hollywood’s biggest party, spun out by a loose and comfortable host and filled with goofy drunken moments, establishing running gags and generally distinguishing themselves from the more formal and less star-centric Oscars.  Instead of a vast theater, the event is held in an intimate ballroom; you can hear the noise from the bar from the stage, and stars tuck in together at tables, charming and brilliant and bright.

This year felt a little different, though.  The attendees penchant for black and metallic dresses, mixed with the huge round centerpieces of orange roses, lent a dark Halloween glamor to the event, and throughout the night, speeches referencing our current political situation made sure it would be talked about today not for who wore what or tripped on the stage, but what He Who Must Not Be (and was not) Named tweets in intemperate response after the telecast.

Oh, there were great dresses (Brie Larsen, Emma Stone, Hailee Steinfeld, Annette Benning, Claire Foy, Viola Davis), great tuxes (I have yet to see Donald Glover’s sitcom Atlanta, but the man must be a genius if he can pull off brown velvet) and moving speeches (Tom Hiddleston, Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and Viola Davis again) and some truly memorable presenting (Kristin Wiig and Steve Carrell for animation!).  And I cried like a baby during the tribute to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.  All that aside, I’m just going to quickly take a look at the show from the Oscar races’ perspective, because my time is short and the impact there is big.

Some context; as you may know, La La Land took the festival circuit by storm and was considered the obvious, runaway frontrunner (Hollywood loves nothing so much as movies about Hollywood) until it was suddenly overlooked for the SAG ensemble.  In a flurry, pundits debated whether the charming, light mood  simply didn’t fit the nation’s post-election gloom, or if it was only that the SAG nominating committee didn’t consider the film an ensemble work.  After all, they did nominate the two lead actors.  At any rate, no movie goes on to win Best Picture at Oscar without also being nominated for SAG, and so the waters muddied.  I felt that the new frontrunner  had to be the searingly beautiful working class dramedy Manchester By the Sea.  It’s smart and unpretentious, filled with indelible performances, and it speaks to those parts of us which are broken and may never mend.

But with the Hollywood Foreign Press, at least, hopeful dreamers are still in fashion.  La La Land took Best Picture: Musical or Comedy, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay – the big five.  (In fact, it surprises me to learn that La La Land took home more Globes than any movie ever before — seven, when you add in score and song.)  It’s unlikely to repeat that feat at the Oscars (Casey Affleck is likely to repeat his win in Drama unless challenged by Denzel Washington, while Gosling will struggle to get a nomination) but it has the potential to take the other four.  In fact, the entire opening number was a love letter to the film, an interesting choice since the movie hasn’t even opened in most of the country.  Instead of Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight (a gay black coming of age story) took the Drama prize.  All together, it was a strong statement.

In the acting categories, we may have gotten a little clarity.  Affleck, as I said, cemented his place as the frontrunner; a win at the SAG should make that incontrovertible. The combination of Emma Stone’s win in Comedy, and Natalie Portman’s moderately surprising loss to Isabelle Huppert in Drama is very good news for Miss Stone’s chances at the big show.  The fact that both Affleck and Stone gave sweet and personal speeches will work in their favor as well. I don’t know if I’d have said there was an obvious frontrunner in Supporting Actress, but with her win and powerful speech five time nominee Viola Davis has definitely vaulted into that status.  I think there’s now no frontrunner in Supporting Actor: the critics prizes have been eaten up by Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, but Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Nocturnal Animals is an unknown whose nomination came as a surprise and wasn’t repeated at SAG or the Critics Choice.  I’m sure he’s talented, but either through shyness or shock he wasted the opportunity to introduce himself to a wider audience with his mumbling speech, even failing to make eye-contact through the camera.  I’m not saying that to be mean; the speeches matter.  The good will they generate can boost a nominee’s chances hugely.  We’ll have to see if Ali roars back at SAG, what that speech might sound like, and of course who gets nominated for Oscar.

So there we are.  Will La La Land hold on to its spot at the top of the pile?  Is the Hollywood mood more hopeful than expected, more determined than every to cling to their best self-image?

As a quick aside, the dominance (or lack there of) of La La Land means that Lin-Manuel Miranda may have to wait another year or two to complete his EGOT (or MacPEGOT, as some would have it); Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” lost out on Best Song to La La Land‘s “City of Stars.”  My favorite part of that film’s speeches, actually, came in the repeated shout outs to popular choreographer Mandy Moore (not to be confused with the actress, nominated in the television category).  As I wait fearfully for news of my beloved So You Think You Can Dance‘s fate, I take solace that at least my favorite dancers and choreographers will go on doing work that I might sometime get to see somewhere.  Maybe the over all message of this telecast is that we need to take our joy where we can; we have to hold on to the good with both hands.

What’s Opening While You’re Busy Seeing the Stuff That Officially Came Out in December: January 2017 Movie Preview

E: Ah, January. A prime movie-going month in which almost nothing worth seeing actually opens.

C: Right, because some of us haven’t even seen all the things that opened in November yet.

E: And of course, because actual mega-blockbusters (hello, Rogue One) will continue to dominate the box office at least through this month.  And also because lots of cool movies faux-opened in December.

C: Meaning that they premiered sneakily on a few screens to qualify for Oscars.

E: For example, Hidden Figures and A Monster Calls — both of which look terrific to me and get great reviews from critics — expand into wide release on January 6th. We already reviewed them in our December preview, but they may not have arrived at a theater near you till now.  There’s Patriot’s Day, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Silence, and also Gold, in which Matthew McConaughey sports a Trump-ian comb over, going into wide release at the end of the month.

C: Wow, and I already thought McConaughey was unbearable to watch.

E: Yet it can get worse.  Also?  I guarantee you that both the true and faux-December flicks (including obvious blockbusters like Rogue One) are going to be far better movies than the few ones that actually come out in January.  Prepare yourself for an anemic preview, in terms of both film quantity and quality, and comfort yourself with the knowledge that there’s great stuff already out there.

C: Way to tantalize the people, E. Now read our post about the tepid losers you won’t see! At least it’s very, very short.

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SAG Reactions: Whoa, There, Voters

E: I guess I have to figure out what Captain Fantastic is after all.  Now that it nudged La La Land – previously thought to be the frontrunner for Best Picture – out of a the Best Ensemble category, I can’t continue to ignore it.  (Of course, writing that I was ignoring it implies that I knew it existed before Monday, which isn’t exactly the case.  Rather sad, since it turns out that like Hell or High Water, another mysterious awards contender, it opened in August.)

Okay, so SAG was way off Oscar last year; it will be fascinating to see if the trend continues.  They’re certainly a good distance from the Golden Globes, with only 2 films overlapping the two lists.  2 films!  That’s crazy.  Frontrunners fall, sleepers push to the foreground. Let’s break it down.

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