I know I’ve done individual reviews of Best Picture nominees in the past. This year I thought I’d try something new. I thought I’d do summaries of the nominees. Three blogs analyzing three of the nominees. It’s something new this year and I hope you like it. For my first summary, I’ll be reviewing the first three Best Picture nominees I saw: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge and Moonlight.
When you learn Arrival is about aliens, I’m sure you have an idea of what you’d anticipate what a movie about aliens would be about. However, you’re in for a big surprise.
This is probably the first movie about aliens to earn a Best Picture nomination. The film appears to set up for a story that would most likely lead to big-time action sequences. Instead we get a film that’s very intellectual in dealing with aliens. Don’t forget Louise is a linguistics professor who was hired for this duty because of her language expertise. In this film, the focus is on communication. Louise has a way to communicate with the aliens and earn their trust even while those around her grow more hostile to the beings. Louise’s gift for communication goes beyond the aliens and she’s able to say to General Shang the words his late wife said to her. It’s like she has a sense for this.
Even with all this, the film is not just about aliens and preventing a human-alien war. The film is about Louise trying to heal after her daughter’s death. Her marriage is no more as well and she’s looking for her purpose. It’s even about Louise and her ability to foresee the future and the possibilities they can unfold. Louise is the central protagonist whom the whole story revolves around. She finds her true gifts at a time she least expects it and she’s able to find her life again. It’s almost like this alien invasion is like a godsend to her life. Right after her daughter dies, she learns of her purpose to the world and to others.
Denis Villeneuve did a top job of directing this film. He already has a reputation for films like Maelstrom, Incendies and Sicario. He’s also been hired to do the Blade Runner sequel. This film he directs is very tricky but he does all the right work for it. The script by Eric Heisserer is very smart and very deep. It does a very good job of getting the right moments of action and the right moments of drama pieced out.
The story also rested on the performance of Amy Adams. She knew the story was primarily about Louise and she had to make it work. Although the role didn’t have too much in terms of character development, her performance was solid and it held the story together. The supporting performers may not have had as big of roles but they still did well with their performances. Jeremy Renner definitely could have had more depth in his role. The music from Johann Johannson and Max Richter fit the movie perfectly. The visual effects were also excellent and just what the movie needed.
Arrival is a very intelligent movie. It’s an alien movie not like one you’d anticipate at first but you will leave the theatre pleased.
Mel Gibson is back. This time he has Hacksaw Ridge. It’s a war drama that’s about more than just the war.
This film makes for an interesting topic: conscientious objection. I know all about it. For years I went to a Protestant church where the people were known for their anti-war beliefs. Conscientious objection is something that’s bound to make one question their morals and even act out of hostility. I know that we have conservative pundits who insist that fighting in a war is the definition of patriotism and will even use scriptures to justify why was is the right thing. Upon release of this film, I was anticipating a conservative backlash against it. So far no ‘Diss The Doss’ movement has happened. No movement to have his Medal Of Honor posthumously revoked. Nothing. It’s a good thing because the film does make one reconsider what defines a ‘patriot.’ I’m glad this story was told.
One of the biggest complaints from conservatives in the last 40 years has been either the negative depictions of religion or lack of positive depictions of religion in movies. True, this is not the Hollywood where the Hays Code calls the shots. For those that read my review of Of Gods And Men, I have a quote from Barbara Nicolosi about why that’s the problem. That explains why it’s hard to get a pro-religion movie to compete for Best Picture nowadays. There’s a fine line of showing a film with a positive depiction of Christianity without it being schmaltzy, hokey or overly sentimental. Plus with all the ‘game changers’ in the last few decades, writing a winning script or creating a winning film is just that much of a challenge.
I feel they did a very good job in Hacksaw Ridge. It was a very good story of the persecution Desmond Doss had to face for his beliefs. It was a very gritty story of the war and all the damage it caused. Some say the graphicness was comparable to Saving Private Ryan. It was an honest portrayal about someone’s faith. However there was one point when I felt it was borderlining on hokey during the scenes of: “Please, Lord. Help me find one more.” I know that was something Doss said in real life but I’m just wondering if it could have been done better.
This film is the first film directed by Mel Gibson in a decade. I know he had to take a break as he had a very public meltdown with the things he said about others and problems with alcohol. You could rightfully call this film the redemption of Mel Gibson. He directs an excellent film that took a lot of effort to make. 14 years to be exact even while Doss himself was still alive going from one writer to the next until finally they had the right script and right story thanks to Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan. Gibson and the writers did an excellent job with the film with the story and the depiction of war.
In addition, the story was made thanks to the performance of Andrew Garfield. This was more than just a war story. This was a story of a person’s heart and soul. Garfield knew he had to personify Doss in his convictions in order to make this story work. He did it excellently. It’s hard to pick out any supporting players who stood out. None of the roles of the supporting actors were as developed. However Teresa Palmer did a very good job as Dorothy Doss and portraying the concerned fiancee, as is Hugo Weaving as the father Tom Doss and Vince Vaughn as the hard Sargent Howell. The visual effects and the sound mixing were top notch, as it should be in a film like this. The score from Rupert Gregson-Williams fit the film excellently.
Hacksaw Ridge is a surprising film. Who would’ve thought that the best war movie in years would be about a man that didn’t fire a single bullet? Definitely a story worth telling.
At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.
This year’s surprise critical success is Moonlight. It’s a very unique film like no other seen this year.
The film is unique as it sets itself around three key periods in the life of Chiron. There’s his childhood where he’s known as Little, there’s his teenagehood where he’s simply known as Chiron and there’s his adulthood where he’s known as Black. The film does tell a story of a man who you think would die young. He has all the ingredients: gay, living in inner city Miami, a verbally-abusive mother addicted to crack, arrested at a young age and a future of being a pusher himself. Somehow he finds the will to survive. He’s able to withstand the bullying he faces for being gay, he’s able to decide his life to the best of his abilities without his mother. Often it’s not the best choices he makes in his life but he finds the ability to survive. You wonder how does he do that? Was it from that brief time with Juan and his mentoring? Was it the love from Kevin he always knew was there? I remember that scene of Little in the school dancing classes dancing like he was in 7th heaven: his escape from the bullying. Was it a spark within Chiron himself? Whatever the situation, it results in beauty at the end.
The film is not just about Chiron. As one can see, it showcases the lives of many different African-American people living in the inner city. It may show some of the more negative depictions like drug dealers, poverty and drug addicts but it also shows positive images too like in the case of Juan and his girlfriend or even in music being played. It showcases some surprising things as well as how Juan the pusher can be a very smart man. It even dispels some myths we have of inner city people. Like how Juan was good at handling Chiron’s homosexuality and gave him words of comfort while Paula acted out in hostility. Usually you’d expect ‘gangstas’ to have a homophobic attitude. It showcases what it’s like to be black and gay in the inner city. It also showcases people’s insecurities. It is overall one man’s attempt to find himself in the harsh world that he lives in. Yet despite all its harshness, it becomes something beautiful in the end.
The film is a triumph for Barry Jenkins. This is actually his second feature as a director. His first film, 2008’s Medicine For Melancholy, won a lot of attention and even earned him many directorial debut awards. Moonlight is only his second feature. This film which he adapts a script from a drama school project from Tarell McCraney is a masterpiece in both the story and its direction. The script is also excellent that there is not too much dialogue but is able to say lots even in the silent parts. Another quality of the film; it says a lot while saying very little. Overall the film is a real delight to watch and leaves one wondering what Jenkins will have next.
The three actors who portrayed Chiron– Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes- all did a very good job with the role and portraying him at the right ages. Mahershala Ali was excellent as Juan: the pusher who becomes a mentor to little Chiron for that brief period of time. Ali had to bring the right charisma and character for a role like Juan to work not just in his scenes but to have an influence throughout the whole film. He did a stellar job. Also excellent was Naomie Harris. Possibly the one actor or actress to be a part of all three scenes, Harris was excellent as the drug-addicted mother Paula. She had to go through three stages with her role from a simple crack user to a crack addict to recovering in rehab. Each time she had to give her role dimension and inner depth to keep it from being cardboard. She did excellent too. There were additional supporting roles that were also good like Janelle Monae as Teresa and Andre Holland as the adult Kevin.
The technical bits were also excellent. The film was edited very well, the cinematography from James Laxton was possibly the best of the year. The score from Nicholas Britell was excellent but the inclusion of track music from classical to Latin to funk to hip-hop to Aretha Franklin to Motown really added to the feel of the movie. Almost feels like an anthology. In fact that scene when Kevin sees Chiron (as Black) after so many years and plays the classic Hello Stranger is one of the best scenes of the film.
Moonlight is a story of a young black man coming of age in the big city but it’s a lot more too. Those who’ve seen it will know why this film is a masterpiece.
And there’s the first of my Best Picture summaries for this year. Next one coming up in a few days.
DISCLAIMER: I know that summer ended and I know that Ted was released more than two months ago but I’ve been preoccupied with a lot of things in my life like my work, the excitement of summer sports events, and even my Olympic writing. This is the first of four long-overdue summer movie reviews. I hope you understand my delay and I hope you appreciate what I have to write.
I’m sure when many first see a movie poster of Ted, they’d think it’s a family movie. Mark Wahlberg watching television with an animate teddy bear, must be family fun, right? You couldn’t be wronger. It will surprise you.
John Bennett was the odd boy out in his Boston neighborhood. When he was eight, his parents gave him a talking teddy bear for Christmas. One night he wished over a shooting star that his bear would come to life. He did and promised John he’d be friends with him forever. He soon became a huge celebrity but still remained friends with John and would continue to do so in the years to come, though high school, college, and even in his present life. Even Lori, his girlfriend of four years, is fine with it.
Or is she? Fast-forwarding to the present, John is an adult but hasn’t grown up an awful lot. He has a job and a strong relationship but the job’s not the best and he’s afraid of thunderstorms. Ted has also changed. He still has a good friendship with John but he’s quite the partier who knows how to down a few brewskis and toke on a bong frequently. Lori is starting to feel the discomfort as her sleazy boss Rex keeps hitting on her and her friends even ask about her and John. Lately Ted has become more of an interference between the two. The problem is not just because John isn’t all that mature but because of Ted’s over-the-top partying. How over the top? Ted’s the type that can do a totally raunchy ‘Dirty Fozzie’ dance, get down with a checkout girl and even play truth-or-dare with hookers that involved dares that are way too kinky.
Lori finally declares ‘it’s Ted or me.’ John agrees to clean up his act and even gets Ted to move out into an apartment of his own. Ted is fortunate enough to get a job at a grocery store where he moves up places and even dates Tammi-Lynn the checkout girl. So problem solved for John, right? Guess again! John and Lori find Tammi-Lynn obnoxious. John still occasionally meets with Ted and talks with him. Then it happens. Ted calls John over to one of his parties which feature none other than their childhood hero: Flash Gordon star Sam Jones. Even though he’s with Lori at an occasion, he can’t miss this for the words. He attends but Lori finds out on the spot. It’s over.
John tries to get his life together. He tries to move on without Lori. He even tries to win her love back by singing to her at a Norah Jones concert while she’s on a date with Rex to no avail. He tells Ted off in what becomes a fistfight. Ted tries to patch things up between him and Lori. However the real turning point comes when a guy named Donny and his ‘son’ Robert take him as his own. Ted learns Donny has been obsessed with him since day 1 and that something’s wrong. It’s just as John’s returning to Lori as he alerts John of the trouble. It’s just as Ted is abducted by Donny and taken into his car that the problem happens and it’s up for John and Lori to save him. Ted tries to escape even as much as trying to climb to the top of Fenway Park but Donny tears him to shreds in an attempt to get him. After Donny’s arrested John and Lori now have to deal with the fact Ted might die. John even tries to stitch him all up and Lori does something of her own. The movie ends happy and predictable in some ways but unpredictable and equally as delightful in others.
The best quality of the movie is that it succeeds in entertaining with a premise and story that could have been the catharsis for something dreadfully awful but ends up being watchable, enjoyable, excellent and even make sense. That has to be the biggest triumph of Ted. I’m sure the premise of a talking teddy bear whose best friends with a 35 year-old man boy would be the setting up for a movie in danger of being incredibly cheesy or an insult to the crowds intelligence. Not Ted. It took the skilled writing of Family Guy cartoonist Seth MacFarlane to make a movie win in terms of writing and its ability to entertain. The first giveaway to those who don’t already know Seth is all behind this is Ted’s voice being exactly like Peter Griffin. Those familiar with Seth’s cartoon series shows, especially The Family Guy, knows that Seth is never one to shy away from subject matter that raises eyebrows and rattles cages. Many have compared his envelope-pushing humor to that of South Park cartoonists Trey Parker and Matt Stone. One thing Seth does in Ted that Trey and Matt don’t do in any of their works is come to an honest, smart, even heartfelt ending that’s able to work with Ted for all its over-the-topness.
It’s not just Seth’s efforts that make Ted succeed. Mark Wahlberg fit very well into his role as man-boy John Bennett. He made it look believable and entertaining. Mila Kunis also succeeded with her character and with making an otherwise ridiculous situation on screen come across smart. Giovanni Ribisi was also good and funny as the weirdly creepy villain. Norah Jones and Sam Jones (no relation of course) also fit in perfectly with their cameo appearances. Jessica Barth was good with her character acting as Tammi-Lyn. She did the cartoonishness of her role well. Joel McHale was the minor glitch of the movie as his role as the slimy Rex came across as too cartoonish or too stockish to fit in with the story. I think he overdid it in the sliminess.
One thing about Ted is that the humor is not for everyone. Fans of Seth MacFarlane’s humor would definitely go for all the jokes in Ted but those that aren’t comfortable with the likes of the Family Guy better be warned. There’s a lot of ethnic and racial humor, poking fun at religion, a lot of humor that may come across as poking fun at certain individuals, and even some sex humor that may make some people squirm in their chair. I myself found Ted mostly entertaining but even still there were some element s of humor in there that I wasn’t ready for. And to think years ago I had no problem sitting through the humor of Team America: World Police. Yeah, age can do that to you.
Ted is a comedy that will surprise you. Surprise you with the over-the-top humor, surprise you with the bizarre situation and surprise you with how well-done this movie is. It’s no wonder it’s this summer’s surprise hit.
The first half of 2012 has passed already. A lot of movies have been released. A lot of hits and a lot of flops have been decided. But the success of the first six months of the movie year has also been decided. There was a lot of yo-yoing but its success has been determined and has allowed for studios to set goals to make 2012 a record-breaking year for them and for the movie year as a whole.
As some of you may know, the box office of 2012 is an interest of mine ever since the box office slump of 2011. 2009 still remains the highest-grossing box office year ever. Since I’ve been writing and paying attention, January and February showed big signs of improvement while March and April had a bit of a yo-yo.
May is usually seen as a month of excitement as it’s the month when the summer movie season opens. This May opened full of excitement as The Avengers broke box office opening records left, right and center and continues to draw audiences to this day. It reigned supreme over the first three weekends of May only to be dethroned in the last weekend by Men In Black 3. Even strong debuts from movies that didn’t open at #1 like Dark Shadows, Battleship and The Dictator as well as continued success of The Hunger Games helped May 2012 in ending with a strong total of $1.141 billion. It wasn’t has high as last May but didn’t go under by that much: only $52 million. This year’s May is actually the sixth-highest grossing May ever. 2003 is the highest grossing ever with $1.4 billion.
June opened well in its first weekend with Snow White And The Huntsman debuting on top along with continued strong showings with MIB 3 and The Avengers. The following weekend was also strong with the debuts of Madagascar 3 and Prometheus both grossing over $50 million that weekend. Its successes in the Top 2 continued the following weekend with the debuts of Rock Of Ages and That’s My Boy lacking muscle. The following weekend saw Disney/Pixar’s latest picture Brave opening strong with $66 million. Nevertheless it was the final weekend of June leading into July 1st that saw strong debuts for Ted and Magic Mike. They don’t call the summer movie season a tight competition for nothing. June 2012 ended with a total gross of $1.169 billion: $27 million more than June 2011 and the third highest-grossing June ever. Only two other Junes have had higher total grosses: 2004 with $1.376 billion and 2010 with $1.41 billion.
Now that the months have all been looked at, it’s now time to look at the first half as a whole. And upon looking at the first half of the year, it appears that 2012 is on a record-setting pace. The first six months of 2012 have grossed a total of $5.184 billion. This makes it the first time the first six months have grossed a total more than $5 billon. Its total is $320 million more than the first six months of last year and $255 million more than the first six months of 2009, the year that holds the total-gross record.
So for those who are also keeping track of this year’s box office stats, remember that 2012 has $5.41 billion dollars to go in order to break 2009’s record. July opened well with continued success of Ted and an impressive debut for The Amazing Spider-Man. A strong chart-topping debut of Ice Age: Continental Drift also continued the success the following weekend.
However it was this weekend that has been hit hard. The Dark Knight Rises was expected to open phenomenally this weekend. Instead it opened with tragedy in Aurora, Colorado on Thursday as a crazed gunman named James Holmes opened fire in a theatre killing 12 people and injuring more than 50 of others. This incident has sent shockwaves in the US, around the world and in the entertainment industry. Warner Brothers was saddened by the shootings and cancelled premieres in Paris, Mexico and Japan, suspended marketing in Finland and won’t release box-office figures until Monday the 23rd. Director Christopher Nolan spoke on behalf of the film’s cast and crew and called the incident ‘devastating’. Many moviegoers remained undeterred by the incident and continued to show up. I myself plan on seeing this knowing that the shooting is a one-in-a trillion incident. The last time I ever heard of a shooting in a theatre was when Boyz ‘N Tha Hood opened back in 1991.
The second half of 2012 opened on an exciting note however currently stands on a tragic and nervous note. Will there be any changes in terms of cinema admittance in the future? Will the showings of movie trailers be changed or altered? Will this year’s box office be affected in the long run? Only time will tell.
“Monthly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2012. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/monthly/
“Quarterly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2012. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/quarterly/
WIKIPEDIA: 2012 Aurora Shooting. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Aurora_shooting>