Best Picture nominees: Where are they most popular?

The New York Times just published a fascinating piece on how different counties in America have responded to each of the Best Picture nominees this year. With 2016 proving that our geographic location plays a huge part in our perceptions of the world, this approach to understanding public enthusiasm (or lack-there-of) for each nominated film is very interesting.

Personal note: I couldn’t help but notice how Dane County (Madison, Wis.) sticks out  in the map of which counties liked Moonlight. This is one of those moments where I am very proud of where I live!

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2-24-2017-2-10-21-pm

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Review: Moonlight

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Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Written by: Barry Jenkins, based on the story by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Starring: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monaé, Naomie Harris, André Holland

Summary: Told in three parts, Moonlight follows Chiron as he endures the growing pains of growing up gay in the Miami inner city.

Moonlight is a film full of painful and sometimes uncomfortable honesty, but it is beautifully told. When I walked out of the theater after seeing Moonlight the first time I realized, I’ve never seen this story told on screen before. (more…)

Review: Nocturnal Animals

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Directed by: Tom Ford
Written by: Tom Ford, based on the book by Austin Wright
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Summary: A successful art dealer in Los Angeles reads her ex-husband’s manuscript which he has dedicated to her. As she reads the disturbing story she reflects on their previous relationship, its downfall and how it is represented in his latest work.

Nocturnal Animals was my favorite movie of 2016. I was super disappointed to see that it didn’t get the Oscar attention it deserved because, this movie is very well done. Most of the film is Amy Adams (Susan) reading a book. Sounds dull, right? It’s riveting. (more…)

Review: Hidden Figures

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Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons

Summary: Three black women lead a team of mathematicians in the 1960s making significant contributions to the space program and contributing to the success of groundbreaking space missions.

How has this story not been told before? and if it has, how has it not gotten more attention? Hidden Figures tells a really interesting story about a pocket of NASA history that I had no idea existed. This is the kind of fun fact that sends me on a Wikipedia spiral where I start by searching for the story of the black mathematicians at NASA and three hours later wind up reading something about Jeffrey Dahmer.

This story is really cool. But this movie is really not. (more…)

Review: Manchester by the Sea

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Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Written by: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler

Summary: After the death of his brother, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is given parental rights over his 16 year old nephew and returns to his hometown where he is confronted with a troubling past.

“Don’t you think we got screwed by that movie!?” That was what the woman a few seats over from me said when the final credits of Manchester by the Sea began to roll.

This is not going to be a movie for everyone. It’s dark and existentially sad in a way that will stick with you. (more…)

Review: Arrival

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Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Eric Heisserer, based on the story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Summary: Linguist professor Louise Banks is brought in by the U.S. military to help communicate with aliens that have made their first contact with Earth. International tensions rise and Louise is under pressure find answers about the aliens and about herself.

I don’t know what I was expecting from Arrival but it wasn’t this. From the outside it looks like a potentially interesting movie about aliens, but it turns out to be far more complex than that. (more…)

Review: La La Land

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Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Written by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

Summary: Mia and Sebastian’s lives intersect as they both pursue their dreams living in Los Angeles. They fall in love amidst their successes and failures as Sebastian strives to open a jazz club and Mia works to be an actress.

On paper La La Land was made for me. It’s directed by Damien Chazelle who made Whiplash, one of my favorite movies of the last few years. I was confident that he would assemble a super talented team, so the Film Studies student in me was excited to see what he would produce. I’m a long-time fan of musical theater, both as a performer and a spectator. One of my favorite choreographers from So You Think You Can Dance was on board (Mandy Moore). I should love this movie.

But I don’t.
I’m actually not even sure I like it.
Yet, at the same time it’s also one of the most beautiful and innovative films I’ve ever seen. La La Land is impressive.
But I don’t need to see it again. (more…)

Review: O.J. – Made In America

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Directed by: Ezra Edelman

Summary: O.J.: Made in America is a documentary chronicling the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson and how his controversial legacy is so deeply intertwined with race relations in Los Angeles and around the country.

I was four years old when Nicole Brown Simpson was found murdered in her Brentwood home. So, for most of my life O.J. Simpson has been the punchline to a joke. (more…)

Oscars Not so White?

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2016 Acting Nominees

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2015 Acting Nominees

Oscar nominations came out on Tuesday and the immediate reaction was “Wow, the Academy is really trying to make a point. I guess #OscarsSoWhite is over now.” After last year when almost every nominee was white, the diverse races and backgrounds of those nominated in 2017 shows a stark difference. But this notion that now the Oscars have solved the racial disparity problem in films is silly for a few reasons. (more…)

Review: Fences

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Directed by: Denzel Washington
Written by: August Wilson, based upon his play of the same name
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo

Summary: Through the eyes of Troy Maxson we see a black working mans’ desires, disappointments and ultimate self-destruction in 1950’s Pittsburgh. He laments for the life he felt he was cheated out of and watches as his family erodes due to the choices he made.

Fences was the first movie of 2016 I got excited about. Mid-summer I always pour through lists of the most anticipated movies of the fall and winter months and Fences was on just about every one of those lists – and with good reason – it’s a film with a very compelling story and some unforgettable performances.

(more…)