Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Moonlight" (2016)

*This post is part of the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" blogathon at The Film Experience*

I apologize for the short length of this post. I'm trying to get back into the groove of blogging now that I'm officially a Master of Fine Arts (supposedly) and beginning my transition into a doctoral program. I have a lot of thoughts on this film, an excellent choice for the return of my favorite TFE series, that I will hopefully post later.

Moonlight is a radical film. Not necessarily in narrative or aesthetics, though the former masterfully builds on the cumulative evolution of the characters and the latter are evocative and beautiful. The film is not even that radical in representation - there have been films about black gay men before. But Moonlight is radical in that it is a film about black gay men that captured mainstream attention, playing in more theaters than its predecessors and winning awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. It's not new - it's just new to this level of national exposure.


For the uninitiated, the film follows Chiron through three periods of his life. In the first act, "Little" (Alex R. Hibbert) meets Juan (Mahershala Ali), a drug dealer who takes Chiron in with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe). In the second act, teenage Chiron (Ashton Sanders) struggles with his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) and bullying at school, which leads to a riff between him and best friend/crush Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). Act three, "Black," follows adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes, revelatory) as he returns to Miami to meet with Kevin (André Holland) after years without contact.

The main throughline of the film is desire; namely, Chiron's desire for Kevin and his inability to put that desire into words. It's here that the film is radical in one very significant, but under-examined, facet: child sexuality.

More after the jump.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Quickie Final 2016 Oscar Predictions

For the first time in a couple of years now, I entered Film Actually's annual Oscar prediction contest. So, taking a quick break from thesis writing, here is a rundown of my final predictions for each category. I don't have any commentary or pictures, but feel free to discuss these choices in the comments. And don't forget: the nominations will be announced this Tuesday, January 24!

BEST PICTURE

First five in:

Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
La La Land
Hell or High Water
Arrival

Next five in (in order from most to least likely):

Lion
Fences
Hidden Figures
Silence
Hacksaw Ridge

BEST ACTRESS

Emma Stone, La La Land
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Amy Adams, Arrival
Ruth Negga, Loving

BEST ACTOR

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Denzel Washington, Fences
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Tom Hanks, Sully

The rest of the nominees after the jump.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The 7th Annual Jarmo Awards

Earlier, I posted my top 10 list, which you can find here. Now for the Jarmo Awards, my annual awards for the film year that, for some reason, none of the winners have yet come to claim. The offer still stands, folks!

Anyway, check out this year's winners below. There's even a new category this year, Best Use of Music, because a memorable pairing of music and image can make all the difference for a film. Enjoy, and feel free to tell me why I'm wrong about every one of these!

BEST ACTRESS


(tie) Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Lily Gladstone, Certain Women

Runner-up: Kate Beckinsale, Love & Friendship
Finalists: Sonia Braga, Aquarius; Felicity Jones, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Emma Stone, La La Land

I've handed out plenty of ties in the past, typically one a year, and most of them have been for performances in the same film. I've never, however, done a three-way tie before, but damn me if Certain Women doesn't deserve it. The film wouldn't work if not for the phenomenal performances that Dern, Williams, and Gladstone give. Dern seems revitalized by the role of Laura, a beleaguered lawyer exasperated with her client's over-the-top behavior. Williams, a regular of director Kelly Reichardt's films, is fascinating as Gina, a prickly mother with a single-minded goal: obtain the materials for the foundation of her dream home. The true revelation, however, is Gladstone. In her first onscreen role, Gladstone is astonishing as an unnamed rancher who, out of boredom, ventures to night classes and finds herself attracted to the new law teacher (Kristen Stewart). With very little dialogue, Gladstone mesmerizes purely through her subtly expressive visage, and sells the film's most emotionally-charged scene with sturdy aplomb. All three women were superior, and thus all three are winners.

BEST ACTOR


Colin Farrell, The Lobster

Runner-up: Adam Driver, Paterson
Finalists: Ryan Gosling, La La Land; (tie) Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight; Nilbio Torres, Embrace of the Serpent

Colin Farrell is vastly underrated. Anyone who's only seen his big-budget turns in Alexander (2004), Miami Vice (2006), and the misguided Total Recall remake (2012) would think that Farrell is simply a pretty face that Hollywood insisted could be a movie star. But such reasoning would disqualify the fantastic work he does when he's energized by the material: his one-two-three breakout punch of Tigerland (2001), Phone Booth (2002), and Daredevil (2003), for example, or his auteurist years with In Bruges (2008), Ondine (2009), and Seven Psychopaths (2012). Yet nothing he showed in these films truly prepared me for his performance in The Lobster. As David, Farrell doesn't just soften his voice and sport a truly awful mustache; he carries himself lack a man living without choice nonetheless bemused by his curious fate, he snuffs out the mischievous glint in his Irish eyes and replaces it with deadened combination of curiosity and defeat. David doesn't "move" the plot of the film so much as go along with it, but Farrell refuses to make him an amorphous cypher, instead imbuing him with a rich interiority that's enrapturing to witness. It's because of Farrell that the film's final scene holds such queasy power, and it's because of him that the film succeeds at such a high level. Underestimate Farrell at your own risk from now on.

More winners after the jump.

The Entertainment Junkie's Top 10 Films of 2016

The feeling, by and large, was that 2016 was awful. From the losses of too many luminary talents to the election of the least qualified, most terrifying president in the history of US democracy, I have to agree with that feeling - except at the cinema. There were many great films released last year; sure, the summer blockbuster season sagged under the critically-reviled Independence Day sequels and DC superhero flicks, but there were bright spots even there (Captain America: Civil War, for example, made a massive superhero free-for-all exactly as fun as it sounds). In fact, it proved exceedingly difficult to pare down this list only to ten films.

But it is, as always, a top ten, and so sacrifices had to be made. The following ten films have lingered in my thoughts more than any other films I've seen this year (in a positive way, at least). At least four of them are out-and-out masterpieces from auteurs who are decidedly outside of the mainstream, but, as you can see, there were pleasures to be found in studio fare as well. These certainly aren't the only great films released last year, but they are the ones that stand above the rest.

Since only films that received a US release were eligible, I have to extend my apologies to the following great as-yet-unreleased films: Strike a Pose, Sonita, Down Under, Goldstone, Barakah Meets Barakah, Zach's Ceremony, The Year We Thought about Love.

Find out who made the list after the jump.