Lost at the Oscars: Lady Bird Pulls Ahead

Lost at the Oscars: Lady Bird Pulls Ahead

It’s been a little over a month since my first Lost at the Oscars post. I made a list of my nine predictions for Best Picture nominees. In that post I wrote that Darkest Hour was ‘probably the most Oscar bait movie’ on the list. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking about The Post and how it was basically created in an Oscar bait lab. My bad. In my defense, there wasn’t even a poster at the time. But yes, The Post now gets the crown for most Oscar bait-ish.

Anyway, another bigger update: The Florida Project has been pushed off my list in favor of the clever and lovely Lady Bird. I still have a lot of love for The Florida Project (and critics and audience members do too) but it and Lady Bird are both A24 films and I think Lady Bird is the one they will be focusing their energies on. Lady Bird has been doing incredibly well at the box officesand it might just break into the best pictures nominees despite being a female-led coming-of-age film. I’m sure not complaining. Fingers crossed!

Additionally, I’m making fancy charts of my predictions which I’ll being updating regularly (or as regularly as I can) until announcement day. They are other on my Tumblr blog (also lostatthecinema). So far I’ve only finished the best picture page but I plan to make pages for each acting branch and Best Director as well. Maybe more if it strikes my fancy. But, yes, check it out! Here’s a little preview:

Lost at the Oscars: My Predictions for Best Supporting Actress Nominees

Lost at the Oscars: My Predictions for Best Supporting Actress Nominees

I’m back again with a new installment of Lost at the Oscars. This time I break down my predictions for the five Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Holly Hunter as Beth (The Big Sick)

Oscar hasn’t historically gone wild for rom coms but it’s undeniable that they love Holly Hunter. This would be her fifth (!) nomination. In an article for The Daily Beat, Kevin Fallon wrote, “Hunter is a spitfire… angry at the injustice of the world and brittle at the thought of losing her daughter—baking soda emotions to her vinegar, steely personality that cause her every feeling to bubble out of her uncontrollably. It’s a mess, and a riveting one. More, it’s a believable one”.

Allison Janney as LaVona Harding (I, Tonya)

Allison Janney is a critical darling in the television world and this could easily translate to the big screen. Oscar loves a dramatic makeover and Janney certainly underwent one. In her review of I, Tonya for Vanity Fair, Katey Rich singled out Janney’s performance, writing, “Janney… leaps fearlessly into a character as direly unsympathetic as any movie villain, then makes her hilarious”. This would be her first Oscar nomination.

Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson (Lady Bird)

One of the many parental roles receiving Oscar buzz this season, Laurie Metcalf is widely considered a theater great. On her Lady Bird performance, Nicole Sperling wrote in a Vanity Fair piece: “(Metcalf imbues) the part with nuance and layers that belie its shrill surface… there is… the feeling when you watch Metcalf that she comprehends this woman at her core”. This would be Metcalf’s first Oscar nomination.

 

Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill (Darkest Hour)

It’s hard to find much about Scott Thomas’ performance when so much of the focus is on Gary Oldman but one needn’t know much Oscar trivia to understand that the Academy loves the ‘supportive wife’ trope. Add in the fact that it’s a real woman and it’s all the better. Emily Yoshida wrote that Clementine is “played with caffeinated brassiness” on Vulture and Dan Lybarger said her “performance reminds us why the rewind button was invented” on Film Threat. This would be Scott Thomas’ second nomination.

 

Octavia Spencer as Zelda (The Shape of Water)

Already a double nominee, the Academy can’t seem to get enough of Octavia Spencer. Not unlike Kristin Scott Thomas, Spencer seems to be overshadowed – this time by her movie’s plot and its special effects. Guy Lodge, of Variety, describes her performance as irresistible. This would be Spencer’s third nomination.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include Mary J. Blige in Mudbound and Melissa Leo in Novitiate somewhere in this post. I’m uncertain if Mudbound will be able to pull through given its lack of a theatrical release but never say never.

Tune in next week for my Best Supporting Actor nominee predictions.

 

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Lost at the Oscars: My Predictions for BEST PICTURE NOMINEES

Lost at the Oscars: My Predictions for BEST PICTURE NOMINEES

Hello and welcome to the first ever edition of Lost at the Oscars! I’ve always loved awards season and I thought it was about time I posted about it on here. In this blog post I’ll be discussing the films that I think will be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. I first started a list on Letterboxd around September of my predictions for possible Oscar nominees.

For those of you who don’t follow the Oscars obsessively, you might think that this is still ridiculously early to talk about nominees. You’re not entirely wrong but late October is usually when we’ve settled on front runners. That’s not the case this year. There is no clear front runner in sight. 2017 has been stranger than most years in terms of Oscar (and many other things). A wide array of movies are all looking like possibilities. I think a part of what’s making this year so different is all the press about the Weinstein scandal but it also reflects the changing landscape of the Academy Awards. I mean Moonlight, a quiet indie picture about a gay African American man, won best picture last year. Anything feels possible.

Anyway, without any further ado, here are my end of October guesses for nine Best Picture nominees. The order is pretty loose and it’s worth noting that I have only seen a few of the Oscar bait pictures so far. I’ve put asterisks beside the films that I think are as close to sure bets as we can have this year.

1. Dunkirk*
It’s no secret that Oscar loves war movies.

2. The Shape of Water*
I have a confession to make: I can’t get over how weird the plot of this movie is. It seems way too strange to me to be something Oscar could consider (I mean they didn’t look twice at The Lobster) but I can’t ignore all the love this film is getting or how certain critics I admire are that it’s a lock for a nomination.

3. Darkest Hour*
This is probably the most “Oscar-bait” movie on this list. Gary Oldman has basically already won his Oscar.

4. Three Billboards Out of Ebbing, Missouri*

Three Billboards was the surprise winner of the Audience Award at TIFF and Frances McDormand has been getting nothing but rave reviews for her performance.

5. Call Me By Your Name*
I’ve heard only lovely things from those who have seen Call Me By Your Name. The only real hesitation I have about it getting a nomination for Best Picture is society at large’s gross habit of lumping all LGBT+ pictures together. I can see some old, crusty Academy members thinking that they’ve already “given the gays their due” with Moonlight last year. Ugh.

6. Get Out
I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t seen Get Out yet. I’m a total scaredy-cat and horror is probably only beat out by sports movies for the genre that I have the greatest aversion to. Yet, it feels wrong to reduce Get Out to only being a horror movie given its subject matter. Not to mention that everyone who has seen it (AKA most of the population) has loved it. I promise I’ll watch it (with the lights on and with my cat on my lap) and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it does the seemingly impossible and breaks the Academy’s unspoken genre picture rule.

7. The Florida Project (read my Quick Take review here)
The people who love The Florida Project LOVE The Florida Project. I’m crossing my fingers that all the enthusiasm for this little indie is enough to earn a best picture nom. Sean Baker is a director on the rise.

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8. Mudbound
This isn’t the most popular prediction given Netflix’s track record. Netflix might indeed be shooting itself in the foot by forgoing the traditional theatrical release route but that didn’t stop 13th from nabbing a nomination for best doc last year. Don’t count Mudbound out yet – it has a lot of promise.

9. The Post
The Post is a bit of the shot in the dark since we still don’t have a trailer or any posters but everything about this movie seems to scream “Oscar bait”. Spielberg is director, Streep, and Hanks are the stars, and it’s a bio pic. My biggest hesitation is that it seems a little too on the nose.

So there are my nine Best Picture predictions for October. I’m planning to post revised predictions the closer we get to the ceremony. Look out for my acting category predictions in the near future!

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“The Florida Project” Made Me Feel Like A Kid Again – Quick Take

“The Florida Project” Made Me Feel Like A Kid Again – Quick Take

As we left the seven o’clock showing of The Florida Project, my parents couldn’t stop talking about how disturbed they were by the film. They were horrified by the abject poverty, the painfully unfit mother, and the unapologetic vulgarity. I had a different experience watching The Florida Project. Yes, I was upset by many scenes in the movie but more than anything I felt like I was a child again. I saw the world through Moonee’s eyes, wearing my heart on my sleeve and constantly craving my next great adventure. I wanted ice cream and I wanted cheap plastic jewelry and I wanted the thrill of running after my friends in the summer heat. I was swept up in the intensity of Moonee’s friendships with Scooty and Jancey, reminded how unadulterated and pure childhood friendships can be. As I watched Moonee and her friends sharing ice cream and shrieking with laughter, I was transported back to the community swimming pool where I met my first ever friend. I smelled the chlorine drenching the air. I felt the sticky sunscreen on my skin. I heard our laughter as we clasped hands for the first time. When Moonee cried to Jancey that she might never see her again, the same hot tears burned at my eyes as I recalled the day my best friend told me she was moving away. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

I was lucky to have a childhood that barely resembled Moonee’s. I lived in a house with two stable and loving parents, I didn’t know what the “f-word” was and I never begged strangers for money so I could buy ice cream. There was never any doubt that I’d eat dinner and I had my own bedroom. I didn’t set fires or run across busy streets without looking. Yet, what we do have in common – those wonderstruck childhood days where our best friends were everything and anything felt possible – was perfectly captured by Sean Baker. Yes, Moonee’s circumstances are often horrific but she has the same starry-eyed dreams, the same endless capacity to love recklessly, the same unquenchable curiosity, as any child.

Sean Baker achieved what so many storytellers strive to do: he got in his audience’s heads and hearts. He made us feel like any of us could be Moonee. He transported us back in time. For one hour and 55 minutes, we were kids again.

Quick Take: “Okja”

Quick Take: “Okja”

A family-friendly story about a girl and her pet? A biting satire? A dark and disturbing thriller? Bong Joon-ho‘s Okja bounces between genres enough times to give viewers whiplash. I went into Okja blindly when it auto-played on my dad’s Roku. Without anything else to watch, my dad and I shrugged and let ourselves be sucked in. In some ways, Okja is reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film – full of quirky, blunt characters and unpredictable absurdities. Yet, Okja is also entirely its own beast. Okja has a message at its heart – it’s a story that exposes the cruel and violent reality of slaughter houses and the greed of the food industry. It’s a battle cry for veganism, a look at what might happen to our world. Mija, the little girl at the heart of the story, is played well by Seo-Hyeon Ahn in a performance that’s a mixture of genuine wide-eyed wonder and deadpan delivery. The CGI that crafted Okja definitely deserves a gold star.

Like the genre-hopping, the soundtrack is equally jarring. The music is jaunty during scenes that are anything but and has enough of a presence to be its own character. Whether or not this character is likable is up to each individual viewer.

All in all, Okja is an entertaining, manic romp of a movie. Viewers will find themselves glued to the screen, spinning between horrified and amused. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy Okja, its creativity and ambition can’t be denied.

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Overheard At The Cinema: Customer Reviews

Overheard At The Cinema: Customer Reviews

Fun fact: I’ve been working at the same movie theater for almost a year now.  One of the things I’ve learned is that when you work at a movie theater, you overhear a whole variety of things: from complaints about how high soda prices are to full-blown arguments between spouses about where they parked the car. And, of course, you hear your fair share of movie reviews. Here are a handful or so of bite-sized reviews I’ve overheard during the month of June.

Paris Can Wait 

  • “It was all cutting vegetables, cutting vegetables, eye contact, eye contact, bleh, bleh, bleh.”
  • “I don’t know how they can call that a rom com.”

My Cousin Rachel

  • “I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. They were speaking gibberish.”
    (customer proceeded to request a refund because of the English accents)

The Lovers

  • “That was a really funny movie!
  • “I just saw the most depressing movie.”

Beatriz At Dinner 

  • “I guess it’s uh… an allegory of some sort that I’ve got to figure out.”
  • “I didn’t know it was gonna be so sad!”
  • “The ending was unsatisfying!”
  • “It was very spiritual.”
  • “I thought the dialogue was just amazing!”

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Review: “The Edge of Seventeen” – A Coming of Age Movie that Stutters and Shines

Review: “The Edge of Seventeen” – A Coming of Age Movie that Stutters and Shines

“There are two types of people in the world: The people who naturally excel in life and the people who hope all those people die in a big explosion.”

Nadine, played exceptionally by Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit fame, is a high school junior that defies categorization. Instead of fitting a classic high school movie stereotype, Nadine is both bitingly brazen and deeply self-conscious. She’s as sharp as a knife and painfully naïve. A bundle of contradictions, Nadine is refreshingly flawed and feels achingly real. In a sea of teenagers on screen who fit into narrow boxes and wear the same designer outfits, Nadine stands out. The Edge of Seventeen wants to stand out too, but it isn’t quite sure how to do that.

When we first meet Nadine, she is still grappling with the aftershocks of the death of her loving father. She’s can’t stand being in the same room as her high-strung mother (Kyra Sedgewick) or seemingly perfect older brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Her world is defined by her best, and only, friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). The driving conflict is ignited when Krista and Darian act on their mutual attraction to each other, much to Nadine’s dismay. Torn up by jealousy and the fear that she will lose her only friend, Nadine lashes out and ensures just that. It’s an inciting incident that radiates with the promise of a story that explores its teenage characters not through the labels of mean girl or nerd, or through the classic boy-meets-girl plot, but through the complexities of friendships and familial bonds. A story that acknowledges that platonic relationships can be just as emotional and impactful as any romantic entanglement.

The movie gets close to accomplishing something like that with the connection between Nadine and her hyper-cynical history teacher (played well by Woody Harrelson despite the narrowness of the role). The two share a sardonic sense of humor and it’s clear that they see something of themselves in each other. She pokes and prods at him and he pokes and prods back. It makes for amusing bickering but it also scratches at the surface of something more. Nadine accuses of him of being unhappy and alone in the hopes that he’ll reveal a happier side of himself. If he can find comfort in his skin, then maybe a misfit like Nadine can too.

And yet, all of Nadine’s platonic relationships take a backseat to her interest in a smirking upperclassman only interested in sex and the dorky and sweet Erwin (Hayden Szeto). It’s exciting to see an Asian American love interest on screen but unfortunately, this romantic subplot sucks away some of what differentiates the movie from the classic teen flick. While Nadine’s interaction with upperclassman Nick sheds light on her naivety and reckless behavior, Erwin’s purpose in the narrative seems to fulfill only one thing: the obligation that teen movies and YA novels must tell a love story. The film edges closer to following the recipe it was at first rejecting. Teenage love stories often become consumed by the idea of true love, forgoing a character’s own development by defining him or her by the person they have fallen in love with. There are exceptions to this rule (Juno and Paulie in Juno, Hazel and Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars) but The Edge of Seventeen falls into these traps, especially where Nadine’s friendship with Krista is concerned.

One of the movie’s best scenes is when Nadine apologizes to her brother after leaving the house and her mother without a word. She tearfully admits that she’s never liked herself. It is incredibly moving to see Nadine share such a revelation with her brother who, up until this point, she has done nothing but antagonize. We see how ugly depression can be and how difficult it is to put words to. In one simple yet poignant scene, the movie accomplishes what others haven’t been able to – it skillfully and authentically depicts what living when you don’t want to be alive can look like. This scene elevates the movie beyond its recycled teen clichés and leaves the audience hungry for more. Yet, we never get to see Nadine open up to Krista in any meaningful way. Instead, we see Nadine and Krista briefly agree to call each other later, sharing smiles while Nadine’s brother hovers in the background. It would have been too easy, too clean to have the two girls forgive each other for everything and become best friends forever once more, but omitting any kind of heartfelt scene between Nadine and Krista before the credits roll leaves the movie feeling unfinished, the previously crucial plot thread trailing away in favor of the romance. As the movie approaches its end, Nadine goes to see a short film Erwin has made. It has the classic boy-saves-the-girl narrative, asserting in the audience’s mind that Erwin can save Nadine from her demons. It’s a disappointing note to end on when the rest of the film, with its multi-faceted protagonist and sincere depiction of mental health, has defied so many tropes.

All this said, The Edge of Seventeen is worth watching for the clichés it does escape. The story loses its footing and stumbles but that doesn’t take away from the moments it shines.

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