Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oscar 2015: What Will Win, What Should Win

The 88th Annual Academy Awards are tonight! It's basically New Year's Eve for me and many others, a sentiment expressed many times by The Film Experience, but also texted to me by friends and said out loud by co-workers.

I've told you what I'd want to win in a perfect world -- let's talk about what I think will win in the actual one.

BEST PICTURE: The Revenant
My personal rankings for the nominees:
1. Spotlight (*****)
2. Brooklyn (*****)
3. The Revenant (****)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (****)
5. Bridge of Spies (****)
6. The Martian (*** 1/2)
7. The Big Short (***)
8. Room (**)

Complete predictions, and rankings, after the jump...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Best Picture, Some Surprises: 2015 Hollmann Awards, Day Three

At last -- the final round of Hollmann Awards! Let's get to it!

5. Tangerine
Sean Baker/Chris Bergoch
Quotable, dirty, hilarious. A great odyssey spanning Hollywood, with all the characters you really do see on the streets -- the trans prostitutes, the old men with bizarre stories, the Armenian cabbies, the shady guys who hang out at donut shops. It works as a Christmas movie, a buddy film, a drama about the immigrant experience.

4. The Throne
Jo Chul-hyun/Lee Song-won/Oh Seung-hyun

Takes a much-contested bit of history -- was Prince Sado sentenced to die because he went crazy, or was he the target of a court conspiracy -- and turns it into a story of fathers and sons, of legacies that are expected to endure, of the terrible expectations of royal life and the consequences that come of disappointing those. And, yes, it also addresses the unrest in the Joseon royal court. Sympathetic to all...and honey, with this group, that's not always easy.

3. Girlhood
Céline Sciamma

Surprising developments, subtle layering, and a completely non-judgmental look at these girls and their gangs. Kudos for those few and far between, yet vital and impactful, sequences that establish the patriarchal system that these seemingly independent women have given themselves over to. Props, too, for the gradual way in which our heroine becomes a part of that system, neither "male" nor "female", but someone with her own agency. Complicated, but easy to understand.

2. Grandma
Paul Weitz

Hilarious, biting, intelligent. Avoids dialogue that's too clever -- and when it is, that's part of the joke ("solipsist!"). Not a false note. Sees every side of a conversation, and even if the film is decidedly pro-choice, the argument it makes for one character not supporting that is...well, it's understandable. And human.

1. Spotlight
Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer

Can I just say, it would be so easy for each of these characters to become similar  -- journalist, victim, advocate, co-conspirator/part of the problem -- but each person is an individual. That's what this screenplay excels at -- making us appreciate the individuals, putting a face, a name, a personality to the cipher of "abuse victim" or "corrupted clergyman". It even allows us to look at our heroes' shortcomings, as they face their own denial...and their tendency to look at human tragedies as "scoops".

Score, Actress, Best Picture, and more after the jump

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dig Them Threads -- and That Sound: 2015 Hollmann Awards, Day Two

It's Day Two of the Hollmann Awards! Yesterday, we saw Mad Max: Fury Road go home with two awards, with Best Picture nominees Tangerine and Spotlight also making their mommas proud. Today: Best Director, Best Actor, and more...starting with Best Ensemble.

(By the way -- if anyone knows the names of the casting director/sound department/makeup department of the Korean films The Beauty Inside/Northern Limit Line/The Throne, do drop me a line so that I may give the credit where it's due)

5. Straight Outta Compton
Victoria Thomas/Cindy Tolan
A great mix of knowns, unknowns, and familiar faces, anchored by the lead trio -- O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell. In choosing between acting ability or biographical resemblance, the filmmakers score a coup with an ensemble that can be both. And bless Paul Giamatti, who fits right in.

4. Tangerine

Sean Baker/Chris Bergoch
First of all, the chemistry between Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor is perfection, the kind of comic sparring that made iconic films out of It Happened One Night, or anything with Abbott and Costello. But they're joined by a game supporting cast, starting with Mickey O'Hagan as Kiki's "real fish" rival, all the way down to Clu Gulager's cameo as a taxi passenger.

3. The Beauty Inside

Give it props for casting 123 different people and pulling off the conceit that they are, indeed, all one person. Everyone has electric chemistry with Han Hyo-ju, one of the most natural actresses you've ever seen in a fantasy-romance. And a special shout-out to Shin Dong-mi, hilarious as Han's boss.

2. Brooklyn

Fiona Weir
The mark of a great ensemble: you can easily imagine each of these characters living lives outside the movie. Whether it's the girls of the boarding house, Jessica Paré's department store floor manager, or the Irish gossip back home.

1. Spotlight

Kerry Barden/Paul Schnee
A generous ensemble -- like true journalists, the A-List actor -- Ruffalo, McAdams, Keaton -- cede entire scenes over to the character actors making up the witnesses, victims, priests, cops, officials. But it is all about the newsmen (and women) at the center, working as a team...a true ensemble.

Best Costume Design and more, after the jump....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Men of Spotlight, the Look of Mad Max: 2015 Hollmann Awards, Day One

Here we are! It's February 2016, but we're officially starting the Hollmann Awards of 2015! For the next three days, I'll give you my picks for the best of the year in eighteen different categories.

Today: Makeup, Supporting Actor, Visual Effects, Original Song, Cinematography, and Editing!

5. Carol
Jerry DeCarlo, hair department head
Patricia Regan, makeup department head

 Therese's makeup tutorial. Carol's blonde locks and sophisticated lips. Abby's whole thing.

4. The Throne

Prince Sado's progressively sallow skin, sunken eyes, and cracked lips as he slowly starves to death. The wizened white slowly taking over King Jeongjo's beard and hair. The careful hairstyles of the ladies of the court.

3. What We Do in the Shadows
Don Brooker, special makeup effects/prosthetics designer
Roger Murray, makeup effects designer
Dannelle Satherley, hair designer

The vampire ball.  The lifeless complexions, spattered with blood. The varying hairstyles and facial hair denoting the location and era of a vampire's "turn." And then there's Petyr.

2. The Revenant
Graham Johnston, makeup department head
Sian Grigg/Duncan Jarman, key makeup and prosthetics for Leonardo DiCaprio
Audrey Doyle, key makeup and prosthetics for Tom Hardy
Adrien Morot, special effects makeup department head
Robert Pandini, hair department head
Kathryn L. Blondell, hair stylist for Leonardo DiCaprio

Hugh's gaping wounds following a bear attack. Fitzgerald's surviving patch from a past scalping attempt. The matted, bloody, snotty, icy beards and untamed hair of the pioneers.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Lesley Vanderwalt, makeup/hair designer
Damian Martin, prosthetics supervisor
Elka Wardega, senior prosthetics make artist

Immortan Joe's diseased self and flowing locks. Max's parched lips and sunburnt face. Furiosa's war-like patch of black. The scarred, pale, skeleton-like War Boys. The sand blown features of the Vuvalini.

Best Supporting Actor and more after the jump!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Melody to Remember

Growing up in South Florida, what I knew of the Korean War was limited to reruns of "M*A*S*H*", a show that ran more than twice the length of the actual conflict. The few Americans I know who participated in that war do not tell the dramatic tales that are characteristic of those who experienced Vietnam or World War II. I confess, to many people I know, it's a "meh" war that is easily forgotten.

My own perception has changed greatly in the past year, mostly due to my frequenting CGV Cinemas in LA's Koreatown, which exhibits modern South Korean films in addition to hangul-subtitled American blockbusters. From The Piper, I have learned about post-war paranoia; from Ode to My Father, the toll it took on the generations that followed; from Northern Limit Line, the endurance of that conflict in modern times.

Now we have A Melody to Remember (aka Learning from Older Brother), based on the true story of a children's choir made up of war orphans. K-Pop artist Siwan leads as the lieutenant who organizes the choir, even making sure to incorporate local urchins who, until this point, have been stealing for the Fagin-like Hook (so-named because he has one, and played with surprising humanity by Lee Hee-joon). Ko Ah-sung, who played important roles in The Host and Snowpiercer, plays the caretaker of the orphanage on base -- and, of course, a possible love interest for our impossibly beautiful lieutenant.

But the heart of the film is the brother and sister played by Jung Joon-Won (of the aforementioned The Piper) and Lee Re. Through their eyes, we are taken through every trial and tragedy that could happen away from the front lines. They learn Communist songs to fit in with North Koreans...only to see their father imprisoned when their village is once again under South Korean rule. They escape mob justice, they steal, they watch their friends get killed; with the choir comes a new lease on life, new hope.

You've seen enough films to know what you're getting into. Rough-and-tumble kids who don't trust each other, suddenly coming together when they learn to literally play together? We've seen this a dozen times over, but there's no denying the goosebumps that come when you hear these angelic voices in harmony. There's one scene where a child sings a song about home...then all the children join in...and outside, you see one of the soldiers leaning against a wall, eyes closed, mouthing the words to himself. Another scene where two rivals are forced to sing different songs opposite each other makes the heart swell. It doesn't feel cheap, either -- director Lee Han and writer Lee Woo-Tak have done a great job establishing the ensemble/setting/milieu up to this point (I think the choir doesn't come in 'til nearly 45 minutes into the film), that such moments are earned. Besides, if you didn't think you were going to shed a tear from the opening notes of the film's score, by God, you just can't take a hint.

But this is a war film, after all, so there are surprising elements that I guarantee you haven't seen in any other family film. Like the threat of being sold into sex slavery. Or adolescent soldiers shot in the head. Or a man beaten to death with bamboo poles. War is Hell, and there's nothing to shield you from it. But there is something you can do to provide a little spark of comfort, to both yourself and the soldiers fighting joining a choir.

Korean films don't get a wide enough enough release stateside -- that goes for the home video market as well as theatrical -- but if you like music, if you like stories of uplift, if you like seeing Siwan in a sweaty white tee, then try to find this film. It's so

You May Also Enjoy:

Like us on Facebook