Sunday, April 23, 2017

Too-Early Oscar Predictions

Every year at The Film Experience, Nathaniel Rogers predicts the Oscar contenders a year in advance - he calls them his April Foolish Predictions, and they are always exciting, thought-provoking, and fun. While I missed last year, I usually try to play along with Nathaniel, and the rest of the Oscar blogosphere, with some early bird predictions of my own. Mine may not be as thorough as Nathaniel's (he even predicts foreign film!), but I'd be disappointed if I didn't join in the fun!

The contenders for next year's Oscars may be....

Best Picture

Anywhere between five and ten films can be nominated in this category. If five there be:

Dunkirk
The Greatest Showman
The Post
Untouchable
Wonderstruck

Keeping in mind that Untouchable is currently slated for a 2018 release date - but since they've already been filming for some time, I wouldn't be surprised if they moved it to November/December. Remember when Crazy Heart was a Spring 2010 release, then suddenly became a late 2009 contender, and eventually, winner?

[the rest after the jump]

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The 1976 Retro Hollmann Awards

February's gone - let us end our look at the year 1976.

We're going out with a bang, Googie.
We talked to my parents about their memories, my mother sounded off on Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor, many took an interest in Best Adapted Screenplay (thanks to Nathaniel of The Film Experience for linking, truly unexpected!), and of course, we talked Best Picture.

But those were Oscar's picks. What of my own? The full list of the 61 films eligible have been named already; now it's time to talk my personal favorites of 40 years ago.

These are the Retro Hollmann Awards of 1976.

Best Adapted Screenplay
All the President's Men
William Goldman
from the book by Carl Bernstein / Bob Woodward

2. The Man Who Fell to Earth (Paul Mayersberg); 3. Carrie (Lawrence D. Cohen); 4. Buffalo Bill and the Indians (Robert Altman / Alan Rudolph); 5. The Shootist (Scott Hale / Miles Hood Swarthout)

Of All the President's Men, I said already that "there's a lot of information...But every detail is clear, the suspense is genuine, and each character vividly realized." The Man Who Fell to Earth's gradual meting-out of information, its slide from possibilities to a squander of them, is haunting. Carrie is earnest and completely its own, so you can buy into its crazy. Buffalo Bill and the Indians is a typical Altman: wincingly funny. The Shootist may be cynical about progress, but it doesn't let its hero off scot-free - a complex heart-tugger.

17 more categories, plus the full top ten, after the jump...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscar Predictions of 2017 for 2016

BEST PICTURE: La La Land Moonlight, holy shit
BEST DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
BEST ACTOR: Denzel Washington, Fences
BEST ACTRESS: Emma Stone, La La Land
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Dev Patel, Lion Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Viola Davis, Fences
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Manchester by the Sea
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Moonlight
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: La La Land
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "How Far I'll Go", Moana "City of Stars", La La Land
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: La La Land
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hail, Caesar! La La Land
BEST EDITING: La La Land Hacksaw Ridge
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Jackie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: Suicide Squad
BEST SOUND MIXING: La La Land Hacksaw Ridge
BEST SOUND EDITING: Hacksaw Ridge Arrival
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: The Jungle Book
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Zootopia
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A Man Called Ove The Salesman
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: I Am Not Your Negro O.J.: Made in America
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: "Extremis" "The White Helmets"
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: "Ennemis intérieurs" "Sing"
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: "Piper"

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The Bicentennial Best Picture

The moment you've all been waiting for. Well, the moment you would have been waiting for 40 years ago. Before we see who the Academy honors as the Best Picture of 2016 tonight, let's take a trip back to 1977, and the Best Picture of 1976:


The nominees, after the jump.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Bicentennial Actor

With two nominations here, Network becomes the rare film to get five acting nods (Mrs. Miniver, All About EveFrom Here to Eternity, On the WaterfrontTom Jones, Bonnie and Clyde are the others). Sylvester Stallone is the first since Charlie Chaplin to be up for both Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay without a co-writer! Giancarlo Giannini is only the third male actor ever nominated for a foreign language performance - funnily enough, the second was fellow nominee Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II). And all three were in Italian!

Oh, and of course, Peter Finch becomes the first posthumous acting winner:


The nominees after the jump.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Bicentennial Actress

Back when I did the 1971 Retrospective, I compared all of that year's nominees to the corresponding Oscar Year - 2014. And I haven't really done that, mostly because I don't find a lot of parallels. But in this category? Honey, this category is always dependable.

If you want a Gallic beauty who surprises even herself with her reaction to a disrupted home life, watch Isabelle Huppert in Elle...or Marie-Christine Barrault in Cousin cousine.


If you want a devoted lover, quiet yet strong, more steel-willed than she seems, who knows what she wants when she knows it, and adores the man who is her other half, watch Ruth Negga in Loving...or Talia Shire in Rocky.


If you want a lady of status that men don't know what to expect from, who is primarily obsessed with crafting a narrative with a specific audience in mind, watch Natalie Portman in Jackie...or Faye Dunaway in Network.


If you want someone whose dreams and fears have way too much influence on her life, yet finds a breakthrough with the help of a new man in her life, watch Emma Stone in La La Land...or Liv Ullmann in Face to Face.


If you want an underestimated force, mocked by people around her, striving to be adored, who absolutely slays when she hits a stage, watch Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins...or Sissy Spacek in Carrie.


But who will really be this year's Faye Dunaway?:


And who will be this year's...not Faye Dunaway? The nominees, after the jump.

The Bicentennial Director

History was made on nomination morning. Once again, a bunch of white men were up for Best Director. But for the first time ever, a woman's touch was finally felt in the category. That was the Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, up for her study of an asshole in fascist Italy, Seven Beauties, which she also wrote. Wertmüller came from the theatre, where she met her future muse Giancarlo Giannini; they not only collaborated on Seven Beauties, but also Swept Away, The Seduction of Mimi, and Love and Anarchy. Her entry into film was be as assistant director on Fellini's 8 1/2.

Wertmüller broke through the boys' club, though it would be another 33 years before a woman actually won the damn thing. But that's not to dismiss the actual winner of the 1976 Oscar:


I mean, have you seen Rocky? It's pretty freeking great.

Anyway, the nominees, after the jump.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Bicentennial Production Design

Can we just give a standing ovation to the 1976 Academy for giving the award to a contemporary movie?


They had a Western, a period drama about the theatre, a period drama about the Golden Age of Hollywood, a sci-fi flick. And instead of all that, they went for the movie about newsrooms and living rooms and government offices, all from events that took place just 2-4 years previously. It does not happen often. Even this current Oscar year, the closest we'll get is La La Land, the design of which is a fantasy idea of Hollywood.

Anyway. The 1976 nominees after the jump.

The Bicentennial Original Screenplay

Spoiler alert: I love Paddy Chayefsky. I love that he was the first screenwriter to win three Academy Awards. I love that he wrote in multiple genres, in every format possible, that he was stylized yet human, serious and hilarious. The Hospital - not a fan, regrettably. But this win was well-earned!


Paddy was up against his fellow Americans and two European films - France's Cousin cousin, and Italy's Seven Beauties. A different time indeed - from 1945-1980, a 35-year period, 38 foreign language films were nominated for Best Original Screenplay! That's at least one a year, and then some. After that, though, it starts to get more scarce - a Life is Beautiful here, a Barbarian Invasions there - until A Separation becomes the most recent foreign language nominee in this category...and that was already five years ago.

(It should be noted - 2006 was an unusual year, with the multilingual Babel, the Japanese-language Letters from Iwo Jima, and the Spanish-language Pan's Labyrinth all in competition. Another outlier, considering recent history, is 2002, where Y Tu Mamá También was nominated, and Talk to Her won.)

What will the future bring? Maybe more like this year's Oscars, where foreign writers are nominated for English-language works, such as The Lobster's Greek filmmakers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou. But I do hope that, eventually, we can get back to an international lineup.

And now, the nominees of 1976.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Bicentennial Adapted Score

Did you know that this is a category that still technically exists? Yeah. According to official Academy Rules, Best Original Musical can be activated if it is determined that there are enough quality-level films to qualify. All they have to do is have at least five original songs that propel the narrative, not just incidental or "poppy" songs.

Now, it didn't used to be that way. Back when this was Adapted Score, all you had to do was arrange previously-written work, or the songs within your original musical, into an instrumental score. Which, like, if that rule was still in place, the number of studios that would squeeze an extra nomination out of that would be nuts. Think of Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect, Les Miserables, Black Swan, True Grit - they all would have been nominated here, you know it. Though the fact that they couldn't open up this rule for La La Land, Sing Street, and Moana makes me wonder if anyone knows this rule exists anymore.

Anyway. The 1976 nominees included arrangements of Woody Guthrie songs; arrangements of Paul Williams songs; and Paul Williams. The folk hero took the prize...sort of:


Actually, it was Leonard Rosenman, his second Oscar in a row, as he points out, having won the previous year for Barry Lyndon; he would eventually be nominated for his original score for Cross Creek.

The nominees for Best Adapted Score:

The Bicentennial Song

It is incredible that the category of Best Original Song has lasted as long as it has. It is possibly the most expendable category at the Oscars. I know people who think the ceremony runs too long always suggest moving the Short Categories to the Governors Awards, but at least those serve as calling-cards for obscurer filmmakers.

But Original Song? It is not like it was in the 1930s, when musicals were as common as romantic-comedies and a song was as much a part of the studio package as a leading lady and a happy ending. When was the last time the winner even played on the radio? Outside of a dance remix? You know Justin Timberlake isn't going home with the Oscar this year!

Still, it makes for an entertaining category, a fun diversion during the ceremony, and a chance for Neil Diamond to accidentally call Ayn Rand a nominated songwriter:


(It's kind of bad form for Diamond to openly root for Barbra, but very gracious of her to cede the mic to Paul Williams)

So, consider this a musical break - the nominees, with video, after the jump.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Bicentennial Supporting Actor

Our journey through the 1976 Oscars continues. We've talked Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Dramatic Score, and Supporting Actress. Now we're back to acting...with the Best Supporting Actor nominees.

If we look at the other awards ceremonies that we now call The Precursors, we see that, then as now, this race was over from the start. Oh sure - Marathon Man's Laurence Olivier won the Golden Globe for his role as the Nazi who comes out of seclusion for the sake of diamonds, but they're always a little perverse, aren't they? BAFTA had different qualifying dates for Network and Rocky, and so neither film was nominated at that event until a year later - and even then, the former's Ned Beatty and the latter's Burgess Meredith and Burt Young were left out in the cold.

No, friends, only one nominee in this category was also nominated for the BAFTA Award and Golden Globe, and had already won the National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle awards. And that man wound up winning the Oscar:


And as if all that weren't enough, Jason Robards wound up winning the year after, too, for Julia! But we'll get to that when we cover 1977. Until then, a closer look at this year's nominees


Monday, February 13, 2017

The Bicentennial Adapted Screenplay

I've always been partial to this category, even over Original Screenplay. It's fascinating to know what works have inspired others to create, or how someone else's story or characters can plant a seed that morphs into something new and exciting. Think the Socialist novel Oil! focusing in on the father instead of the son to become There Will Be Blood; think the Jane Austen classic Emma becoming the modern comedy of manners Clueless; think the impossibility of JFK working as well it does, coming from two books and mountains of speculative reports, pamphlets, and rumors.

And so in 1976, cinema is made out of a non-fiction account of a recent crime, a singer's autobiography, an erotic memoir, fan fiction, and a non-fiction account of a past crime. The recent crime won:


The nominees, after the jump.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Bicentennial Cinematography

It's all-star lineup of Cinematographers for 1976, with three former winners and two previous nominees - and many of them faced off against each other before.

Just the year before, in fact, Haskell Wexler's co-DP'ing of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest faced off against Robert Surtees' solo work on The Hindenburg. Both had won previously, but they both settled for bridesmaid status - John Alcott's work for Barry Lyndon went home with the Oscar. Surtees already had three to his name, and Wexler already had one. Soon to be two:


In 1973, Surtees was once again up for the award, this time for Best Picture Oscar Winner The Sting. His competition? The Sting's only real rival for the Big Prize, The Exorcist, photographed by Mr. Owen Roizman. They lost to Sven Nykvist's Cries and Whispers, which made it the second time they'd both competed and lost - in 1971, Roizman was up for the first time in his career for The French Connection, while Surtees had a two-for-one special in The Last Picture and Summer of '42. The Oscar went to Oswald Morris for Fiddler on the Roof.

Ernest Laszlo met none of these men on the battlefield when he won for Ship of Fools. And indeed, he didn't meet them the year after, either: his Fantastic Voyage work was nominated in the Color category, while Wexler's winning work for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won in the Black-and-White category. By the following ceremony, there was no separation, so that the black-and-white In Cold Blood competed with Surtees' work on both Doctor Dolittle and The Graduate, as well as first-time nominee Richard H. Kline for Camelot.

What I'm saying is, some categories tend to have the same names batted around. It's probably why the Class of 2016 is such a breath of fresh air - Rodrigo Prieto is the one previous nominee of the bunch, and his only other nomination was 11 years ago.

The nominees and rankings of 1976, after the jump.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Bicentennial Score

Original Score looks wonky as hell in 1976, and that's for a very good reason: Best Picture was populated by minimalism. All the President's Men has a moody score that doesn't kick in for thirty minutes; Network does not have a score at all. Bound for Glory uses its score sparingly, and even so, it's all Woody Guthrie songs - therefore, it has no business being here. Only Taxi Driver and Rocky could boast traditional scores, noticeable scores, scores that would go down in history as two of the most iconic of all time. No wonder both found themselves nominated right here!


Haha, just kidding. Bill Conti's Rocky score was left out in the dust, just as Ludwig Goransson's for Creed would be 39 years later. And baby, I don't know why that is. It couldn't be the bombast - Obsession isn't exactly about subtlety, you know? It couldn't be that its theme is mostly within the context of original song "Gonna Fly Now" - The Omen made it in both categories, after all. It couldn't be its unabashed Americana - The Outlaw Josey Wales is filled with fifes and drums and patriotic-sounding...ah, but wait. There was an irony there, given the central conflict between the titular outlaw and his country, both North and South.

But then one remembers that Bernard Herrmann had died the year before, Christmas Eve 1975. And Herrmann was a man who'd been under-appreciated by the Academy. Oh sure - three previous nominations, with one resulting in a win, but that was it. And not one of those movies was Psycho or Vertigo or Beneath the 12-Mile Reef or Jason and the Argonauts.  Thus he gets in twice - including one for Obsession, a riff on his Vertigo theme.

As for the other three slots? Goldsmith was a frequent presence at the Academy Awards, having been nominated for A Patch of Blue, Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, and oh so many more. Hell, he'd be nominated another eight times after this, including for Under Fire, which he lost to...Bill Conti. But only one of those nominations would result in a win. This very one:


And then there were Lalo Schifrin, his third nomination for a disaster epic that was, for a time, catnip in this category; and Jerry Fielding, on his third final nod following The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs.

Let's listen...after the jump.


Monday, February 6, 2017

The Bicentennial Supporting Actress

So begins our descent into the madness of 1976...with the best category in almost every Oscar year, Best Supporting Actress.

Rare as it is now, there were times in the past when a supporting actress category was undeniably full of actual supporting actresses, no debate about it. Nowadays, people can't decide what category Viola Davis belongs in (I have my opinion, but I confess it's a borderline case) - or they give the prize to the damn lead of the movie - or have the audacity to say, "But they were only in the minutes of the movie!", as though a supporting role should take up half the runtime. Wasn't always the case. Time was, when you only had to show up for six minutes to make this happen:


Beatrice Straight's Network performance, as the wronged wife of  is the shortest win in Academy history. The bulk of it is one scene, where she reacts to husband William Holden leaving her for Faye Dunaway. But one look and there's no arguing that she earned her place on the ballot.

The other nominees this year weren't much longer. Jane Alexander, as someone who could make the connection between the Watergate break-in and All the President's Men, has two scenes and a total of 5 minutes and 40 seconds. Lee Grant gets twelve minutes for the almost three-hour Voyage of the Damned, as one of many Jews bound away from Nazi Germany towards Cuba. Jodie Foster's iconic teenage prostitute in Taxi Driver barely passes the 15-minute mark; Piper Laurie's fanatically religious matriarch is the closest to a co-lead as we get, taking up 20 minutes of Carrie.

Yes, these were true supporting performances, and in such disparate films. Voyage is an all-star disaster movie with a social conscious (and a terrible bore), All the President's MenNetwork and Taxi Driver are bleak depictions of America Now, and Carrie is a female-focused horror movie. Not too many of those getting Oscar traction, now are there?

(Personally, too, I think Talia Shire should have been campaigned as Supporting for Rocky, and part of me believes she could have won the category and given the movie its only acting triumph. We'll never know for sure)

The nominees after the jump...

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mom and Dad: Spirits of '76

As usual in my retrospectives, I will go through the nominees in 13 different Oscar categories. That's nothing new. But something has changed: my parents will be joining in the fun, ranking the movies, and sometimes adding their own commentary.

I think this was 3 or 4 years ago?
Mom and Dad are celebrating 38 years of marriage this May, and have been together since high school. The story of how they met is a legendary one in my family: he was on the wrestling team, Mom saw him during practice, and without even knowing his name, announced to her mother that she saw the boy she was going to marry. Sometimes, you know. Both are retired: Dad was a firefighter, Mom worked at a Jewish pre-school.

They had four children together, including me, the youngest and only boy. My father, too, is an only son, born in Puerto Rico to German immigrants, with two older sisters and one younger one. My mother was born in Pensacola, FL, on her older brother's birthday; she is also the third of four kids, and grew up all over the place.

From Dad, I got my sense of humor; from Mom, my practicality. From both, my love of movies and books and music, as they were always in steady supply growing up. I once watched A Clockwork Orange after they forbade it; when they found out, instead of punishment or a scolding, we discussed its merits. While other parents may hope for their children to choose a practical career path, mine not only defended my majoring in film - it was their idea in the first place. Mom occasionally sends me texts - or, more often, handwritten letters - that include her reviews of the cinema's latest offerings, while Dad and I discuss older films he caught on TV or On Demand. And their tastes run the gamut from The Man Who Shot to Liberty Valance to The Other Guys to Trail of the Screaming Forehead.

So it was only natural that I wanted to learn about their own experience with the movies, especially in regards to their youth. And what better year to ask them about than 1976?


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

The 2016 Hollmann Awards

The Oscar nominations are tomorrow...and so now is as good a time as any to present my own awards for the best in 2016 cinema. These are the Hollmann Awards.

Best Supporting Actress

Jiang Wenli as Master Zou, the Madame
The Final Master

2. Viola Davis, Fences; 3. Song Jia, The Final Master; 4. Jena Malone, The Neon Demon
5. Lupita Nyong'o, Queen of Katwe

Lupita Nyong'o, expressing disapproval with the little "hmms" she makes, giving those looks children the world over know too well - yet in her eyes, there's guarded hope. Jena Malone, deadpanning her way through an off-kilter performance that boasts three jaw-dropping moments for her. Song Jia, the mysterious wife who enters into a marriage as a transaction, suddenly finding a strength and love for her husband she didn't count on possessing. Viola Davis, breaking our hearts and reflecting every hard-working woman out there who stood to the side so her man could feel like a Man.

But my favorite supporting actress performance this year came from Jiang Wenli, as a smirking, cruel, calculating gang boss who hides behind the cloak of "continuing my husband's name" - while consolidating power for her own ends. She is strong, she is cunning, she is a force to be reckoned with. And Jiang plays her like a cat with a bowl of cream.

(the rest of the awards are after the jump)


Friday, January 13, 2017

The 2016 Hollmann Award Nominees

Finally, the nominations for the Eleventh Annual Hollmann Awards! There is one addition I've made here...and may add retroactively to the other pages, who knows? Anyway, I'm going with the Academy's tradition and awarding Best Picture to the film's producers; you will see their names listed under the title.

Eighteen categories, five nominees for each, presented here in the order in which I figured them out...with the exception of Best Picture, which I've saved for the end.

Let us begin...

BEST ENSEMBLE

20th Century Women
Mark Bennett / Laura Rosenthal
Rosenthal was previously nominated in this category for The Kids Are All Right

Everybody Wants Some!!
Justine Baddeley / Vicky Boone / Kim Davis-Wagner
Baddeley and Davis-Wagner were previously nominated in this category for Whip It! 

Fences
Victoria Thomas
Thomas was previously nominated in this category for Straight Outta Compton

Hidden Figures
Victoria Thomas
See above

Queen of Katwe
Dinaz Stafford


BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Hidden Figures - "Able"
music and lyrics by Pharrell Williams

Like for Likes - "I Can Hear You"

Moana - "How Far I'll Go"
music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Moana - "I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)"
music by Opetaia Foa'i / Mark Mancina / Lin-Manuel Miranda
lyrics by Opetaia Foa'i / Lin-Manuel Miranda

Moana - "We Know the Way"
music by Opetaia Foa'i
lyrics by Opetaia Foa'i / Lin-Manuel Miranda

The remaining categories below the jump...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Longlists

The nominations for the BAFTA Awards were announced today, but things just haven't been the same since they ended the tradition of the long lists. For those who may not remember, or just plain never knew, BAFTA used to release the 15 semi-finalists in each category, before announcing their final nominations. Many people disliked it; I loved it. Oftentimes, it was the only chance to see certain names and titles join the awards conversation. Many felt that was cruel, but for some of us, it was a nice reminder of the embarrassment of riches that are out there, if you only bother to look and carefully consider.

But since I run the Hollmann Awards any way I want, I can do what BAFTA no longer does. Here are my long lists for the 15 semi-finalists in all 18 categories, with the exception of Best Picture - after all, I've already posted my Top Ten, and the Fifteen Honorable Mentions besides.

After the jump...

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Top Ten of 2016

A little late, but still here: my top ten films of 2016. Hopefully this all comes out as much more than just word vomit under some movie titles. If it convinces any of you to get off the fence and see at least one of these, that is victory enough.

In alphabetical order...

20th Century Women
Dir/Scr: Mike Mills
Cin: Sean Porter
Is it weird to quote my Facebook status? Oh well. From December 31st: "Just saw a movie that made me so happy to be alive, grateful for the people I know and have known, excited for the experiences that are still to come, intrigued by uncertainty, and awed by Life. So yes, take this as a recommendation to see 20th Century Women."


Fences
Dir: Denzel Washington
Scr: August Wilson, based on his play
Cin: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
The part Denzel was born to play - immensely charismatic, deeply complicated, kind of an asshole, but he also makes sense. Every conversation is an opportunity for monologuing - whether it's a fanciful fight with the devil, heroic tales of standing up to the boss, or a self-pitying diatribe against the world. With such an overpowering central character, it's to the movie's credit that no one gets lost or sidelined - everyone, from Viola Davis to Stephen McKinley Henderson to Saniyya Sidney, is a fully realized human being.

The Final Master
Dir/Scr: Xu Haofeng, from his novel
Cin: Wang Tianlin
In pre-World War II China, a martial artist arrives in Tianjin in the hopes of opening a martial arts school teaching the Wing Chun fighting style; the already-established teachers don't like it one bit. And so begins almost two hours of double-crosses, street fights, ambiguous alliances, legacy, friendly enemies. Yet it is also about a changing China - dig the posh, European-style suits of the Grandmasters, looking down on the unpolished interloper and his peasant pupil, compromising the old values to consolidate power. I wish it had been three hours, truly.


The Handmaiden
Dir: Park Chan-wook
Scr: Jeong Seo-kyeong/Park Chan-wook, from the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Cin: Chung Chung-hoon
What a wacky movie! What a stunning movie! What a unique, oddball creation! Park and Jeong so seamlessly transfer the source novel's setting from Victorian London to Japanese-occupied Korea, you can't imagine it ever existed otherwise: the subtleties of language, the cultural particularities of certain literature, the significance of non-Korean influences as it pertains to status. The costumes, the sets, the locales! It's delicious.

The next five, after the jump...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Top Films of 2016...Part One

As you saw yesterday, I saw 128 movies released in 2016 last year. And while I may miss a year here and there, I do like to post my Top 25 of the year.

Mind, this is only 25 - 11; shall we begin?

25. Denial
Dir: Mick Jackson
Scr: David Hare
Cin: Haris Zambarloukos
Sixteen years ago, the very existence of the Holocaust was put on trial as part of a libel suit brought against historian Deborah Lipstadt by the controversial alt-historian David Irving, known as a Holocaust denier and Hitler apologist. A timely film, this, as I'm sure anyone who got into Facebook arguments about what's news and what's fake news can appreciate. We can take the resolution of this trial for granted, but the fact that it happened at all is proof that we should not. And besides all that, I thought it an engrossing, solid film - from the director of The Bodyguard, of all things!

24. The Neon Demon

Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
Scr: Nicolas Winding Refn/Mary Laws/Polly Stenham, story by Refn
Cin: Natasha Braier
Absolutely bonkers, this fever dream of LA, but accurately captures the city's weirdly insidious beauty. Is it weird to literalize everything that people say about showbiz - "it's cutthroat", "they'll eat you alive", "no, like, there are literal Neon Demons"? Yes, and they commit, so good on them. The off-kilter performances from Jena Malone and Abbey Lee seal the deal.

23. The Dressmaker

Dir: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Scr: P.J. Hogan/Jocelyn Moorhouse, from the novel by Rosalie Ham
Cin: Donald McAlpine
Like a strange marriage of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar and The Visit, an over-the-top, fabulously dark comedy with cross-dressing cops, slinky gowns, hunky Liam Hemsworth, and murder. I can see this becoming frequent viewing for wine nights with the girls.

22. Arrival

Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Scr: Eric Heisserer, from the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang
Cin: Bradford Young
This is a movie about the complexity of language, and therefore the complexity of our connections and relationships with others: co-workers, parents, children, spouses, aliens, situations both political and personal. That much you know because Amy Adams tells you in the trailer. But I wasn't expecting it to also be a movie about making choices that you know will lead to pain...and deciding it's worth it. Beautiful (though Jeremy Renner is saddled with one howler of a line at the end).

21. Elle

Dir: Paul Verhoeven
Scr: David Birke, translated by Harold Manning, from the novel Oh... by Philippe Djian
Cin: Stéphane Fontaine
Two hours of Isabelle Huppert side-eyeing everyone in the room. Wearily jerking off a lover. Not bothering to hide her disdain for her family members. Plotting the seduction of her younger, married neighbor. And there's also rape and mass murder. And it's all hilarious. A great argument for what Nathaniel Rogers at The Film Experience called "the actress as auteur."

Entrants 20 - 11, after the jump....

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 in Review: The Movies

This week, we begin the New Year by looking back at what was - great preparation for the Hollmann Awards, which will be give out in two weeks.

So, what's in contention? Behold: a complete list of 2016 releases screened in 2016, a total of 128 films:

10 Cloverfield Lane
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
20th Century Women
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
The Age of Shadows
Allied
Almost Christmas
The Angry Birds Movie
Arrival
Barbershop: The Next Cut
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
The BFG
Blair Witch
Boo! A Madea Halloween
The Boss
The Boy
Cafe Society
Captain Fantastic
Cemetery of Splendor
Christine
Collateral Beauty
Deadpool
Denial
Desierto
Dirty Grandpa
Doctor Strange
Don't Breathe
Dongju: Portrait of a Poet
The Dressmaker
Eddie the Eagle
The Edge of Seventeen
Elle
Everybody Wants Some!!
Eye in the Sky
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fences
The Final Master
Finding Dory
Florence Foster Jenkins
Front Cover
Ghostbusters
The Girl on the Train
Green Room
Hacksaw Ridge
Hail, Caesar!
The Handmaiden
Hell Or High Water
Hello, My Name is Doris
Hidden Figures
High-Rise
Holy Hell
How To Be Single
Incarnate
Independence Day: Resurgence
Indignation
The Infiltrator
The Innocents
The Invitation
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Jackie
The Jungle Book
Kicks
King Cobra
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kung Fu Panda 3
La La Land
The Last Princess
The Light Between Oceans
Lights Out
Like for Likes
Lion
The Little Prince
The Lobster
London Has Fallen
Love & Friendship
The Lovers and the Despot
Loving
Maggie's Plan
The Magnificent Seven
Manchester by the Sea
The Map Against the World
Me Before You
A Melody to Remember
The Mermaid
Miles Ahead
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Sloane
Moana
Money Monster
Moonlight
Mother's Day
Mountains May Depart
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
The Neon Demon
The Nice Guys
Nocturnal Animals
Office Christmas Party
Operation Chromite
Passengers
Pete's Dragon
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Queen of Katwe
Race
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rules Don't Apply
Run-Off
The Secret Life of Pets
Seoul Searching
Silence
Sing
Sing Street
Snowden
SORI: Voice from the Heart
Spa Night
Spirits' Homecoming
Suicide Squad
Sully
Train to Busan
Trolls
Tunnel
Viva
The Wailing
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
The Witch
X-Men: Apocalypse
Zootopia

So what's missing? Among the titles I wish I'd caught: Certain WomenHunt for the Wilderpeople, I Am Madame BovaryA Monster Calls, Other People. But oh well.

My top films of the year tomorrow.

***KEEP EVERYTHING BELOW THIS MESSAGE AT THE BOTTOM OF EACH POST - DELETE MESSAGE BEFORE POSTING**
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