I can’t believe it’s already this time of year again, but the Critic’s Choice Awards nominations came out this week (and I went to the movies twice this weekend) so its officially awards season! Here’s what I’ve seen so far from their nominees:
My notes for this movie are on the same notebook page as my Oscars dress list from last year, so I guess this awards season started super early. I don’t really understand why they didn’t put this up for Golden Globes at least in 2016.
It’s interesting, I loved parts of it – anything involving Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle, the tap number with screaming gay (sub)text, Scarlett Johansson trash talking mermaid.
And, as a Best Picture person, I loved all the winks and nods at Ben Hur, but I’m having trouble with the Communist subplot. Is their point that the Hollywood 10 were a bunch of treasonous yet ineffectual criminals? Or that gay people in Hollywood in the 1940s were all closted communists ready to turn over their country, because that’s what they said here. (With hindsight, I think I may have been taking things a bit too literally…)
The Jesus stuff was interesting though (& the scene with the faith leaders was great.)
My response to Sully is sort of paradoxical. I found it to be both memorable and forgettable. First the memorable stuff: Tom Hanks gives a wonderfully quiet portrait of a man silently questioning himself in the face of adulation and defensive criticism. (Not surprising to anyone who saw in Captain Phillips a few years ago.) Aaron Eckhart and the supporting cast of everyone you saw in a supporting role in a TV show in the last few years are also good.
The very memorable bits are what you would expect: The sequences off the actual water landing, particularly of the passengers as they brace for impact are truly terrifying. I found myself involuntarily bracing in my seat. I fully expect to have nightmares that feature flight attendants chanting “Brace. Brace. Heads Down, Stay Down.” (And this is the first movie since Titanic to make me feel physically cold while watching it. I had forgotten that this landing happened in December.)
Now on to the less than memorable:
- It breaks my heart to say this, but there is no point to including Laura Linney in this film. (Another Captain Phillips parallel to Catherine Keener as a pointless wife on the phone.)
- As interesting as Sully’s psychological journey is. I was never in doubt that he was in the right. (Not just because I remember the actual events.) There just wasn’t much dramatic tension outside of the crash scenes.
This, overall, is a portrait of a group of people who were good at their jobs and saved a lot of people. Which is great and should be celebrated, but celebration isn’t really Clint Eastwood‘s thing. So, instead we get the cinematic equivalent of a terse, proud nod.
Because during the press tour for this, Clint said some truly stupid things about race, women, and Trump. I donated twice the ticket price to the Hillary for America campaign.
I’ve never seen anything like this before. Not just because it tells a story of a gay, African-American man and Hollywood’s attitude towards race is a well documented disaster. But also formally and visually Moonlight is a wholly original piece of work. The way director Barry Jenkins, uses light alone had me crying at certain moments.
The use of three actors to tell Chiron’s story at different points in his life could have been jarring, especially because the actors don’t particularly look alike, but there is an emotional continuity that runs through each segment, helped by Naomie Harris‘s remarkably raw performance as his addict mother.
The plot summary could read like a movie of the week, or a cautionary tale about drugs and violence or even bullying, but Jenkins makes it into poetry. No gesture, laugh, or ocean sound effect is misplaced here and it all adds up to a piece of art totally grounded in compassion for its characters. To bring back my refrain from a few awards seasons ago, this movie is incredibly human it hurts.
I saw this movie the Friday after Trump was elected, I was planning on going the day after the election, but that was before my worldview collapsed around me. I’m glad I waited until my tears subsided, because this movie is gorgeous and important but I don’t think it would have made for great catharsis.
Although it deals with the couple whose court case brought down miscegenation laws, this movie is very subtle and deals with the details of Mildred & Richard Loving’s domestic life rather than the courtroom drama or political rhetoric surrounding them. This is surprising for an awards season historical drama, but not a Jeff Nichols film. (Which by the way is my way of asking for more Nichols awards season films.)
In other hands this story would be sweeping, culminating in the dramatic day at the Supreme Court (see the pretty terrible Showtime version starring my eternal talent crush Timothy Hutton), but that’s not who the Lovings were. They were just two people who wanted to live together in their rural Virginia home. The closest this movie comes to speechifying if Joel Edgerton (as amazing here as he has been in everything I’ve seen him in) stumbling over telling his lawyer that he loves his wife.
Don’t take this to mean I wish it were more bombastic, I think its important to tell the stories of quiet lives and how they can also be revolutionary acts.
Mildred’s determination, portrayed gracefully by new to me Ruth Negga, is just as inspiring to me as a firebrand. She has a vision of the life her family is entitled to and she refuses to let the backwards hatred of those around her change that. And I think that’s a powerful message for our current dark day.
Incidentally, the ACLU helped the Lovings pro-bono. I have no moral objection to Jeff Nichols, but if you want to practice some extra filmanthropy you can click here to donate to their continuing crusade against institutionalized bigotry.
Manchester By the Sea
I let out an audible sigh at the end of this movie. I’m not sure I’ve done that since Blue Valentine. But other than a wonderful performance from Michelle Williams, and the copious amount of tears I shed, I wouldn’t exactly say this is similar to BV. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of a film that I would call a direct corollary to Manchester By the Sea (though I haven’t seen writer/director Kenneth Lonergan other work yet, so who knows?)
The plot, a man (my love Casey Affleck) has to return to his small New England hometown after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler in flashbacks), could be a predictable melodrama, but instead its measured and real.
Grief is hard to describe and therefore hard to dramatize, but this is a remarkable depiction. Due in large part to Affleck’s astounding, layered performance, his Lee is mostly taciturn and angry, but he’s not a cliche hyper masculine man who lashes out (though he could be in less talented hands.) Instead, he’s a human being who has been dealt cards he is simply not equipped to play.
In the review of Loving on Filmspotting, Michael Philips said he wished a plate had slipped in a few of the domestic scenes so they felt less curated and more realistically captured. Though I don’t completely agree on that film (see above), I kept thinking of that while watching this film, cars don’t start and freezers don’t close even when you really need them to. But just as importantly even when the worst (seriously the fucking worst) has happened your nephew may still be juggling two girlfriends and the wind will still come off the ocean on your boat (it’s a very New England movie OK?) and that doesn’t make everything better. Some things you can’t beat, but life goes on, and that’s enough.
I’ve since learned that Casey Affleck has a disturbing past of allegedly sexually harassing female coworkers on the crew of his mockumentary I’m Still Here (which I actually appreciated). It’s hard when artists whose work I truly love are found to be less than stellar humans, but to honor the struggle of those women to be believed I’ve practiced filmanthropy and donated twice this ticket price to the National Organization for Women, who among other things help women sue companies for harassment and discrimination.