March 3, 2016

Of the 88th Academy Awards


            I have a big update this week as it’s once again been a while since my last real post.  The Academy Awards being handed out this past Sunday sounds like a good place to start.  While my eyes went back and forth between the television screen and my Twitter feed (which let’s be honest is how we all watch the Oscars nowadays) I found myself seeing a lot of complaints about the length of the ceremony.  I also found myself getting close to chiming in and agreeing.  That took me by surprise as I see the Academy Awards as one big celebration of film that should last as long as possible.  This year, however, I found my interest waning thin after the Best Supporting Actor category.  While Chris Rock had an explosive and entertaining opening monologue, most of his following appearances came off as repetitive or controversial in a bad way. 

            Additionally, I found this year’s list of winners to be the worst since I have been watching (the only year that comes to mind as being on the same level of bad was Slumdog Millionaire’s near sweep back in 2009).  I always found Mad Max: Fury Road’s awards traction this year to be strangely weird.  It’s a fine film (good actually and possibly even great), but not really one that should be sweeping the technical categories to the point that it wins Best Costume Design (supporters will brag about how subtle the film’s costume work is, but non-existent is more like it).  Meanwhile, a true technical marvel (and yes, Mad Max: Fury Road as one is deserved) and a film that is sure to be remembered decades from now (once again Mad Max: Fury Road might be remembered decades from now as well), Star Wars: The Force Awakens, came home with nothing.  I found Star Wars coming across as the clear best of the nominees during the clip package for Best Sound Editing (and kudos to the person/people who put the sound clip packages together because they were both entertaining and informative), but it was Mad Max that came out on top.  Additionally, I thought Star Wars would have emerged victorious in the Best Visual Effects category, but it was Ex Machina that came out victorious in one of the biggest Oscar surprises in recent memory (can’t complain with this much though as surprises are almost always welcome in the normally predictable Oscars ceremony and Oscar voters rarely if ever reward films like Ex Machina).

            The major categories were just as disappointing as the rest.  It was hard to remain interested in the ceremony after Sylvester Stallone’s loss to Mark Rylance in the Best Supporting Actor.  Rylance will probably go down as one of the greatest actors ever, but Stallone deserved this award for not only delivering a superior performance but just to give him a Hollywood ending.  Brie Larson won again to conclude an awards season where she steamrolled past all of the competition despite her category having a superior performance that had just as many Oscar attributes as hers did in Saorise Ronan’s role in Brooklyn (that’s not even mentioning the multiple un-nominated performances from Carey Mulligan that should have given her this award).  Also, all of the Leo doesn’t have an Oscar memes have been sent to the butcher for a performance that will hardly be remembered as DiCaprio’s best.  Then there is Best Picture, where Spotlight triumphed.  Spotlight is a solid film, but it’s one I have absolutely no passion for and one that is hard to imagine being remembered two years from now let alone decades from now.  I hope to give the film another try this week as it’s not bad and does deserve a second look, but it would have been much better had The Martian (which sadly went home with nothing) or almost any of the other nominees won.

            The only two bright spots in this long night were the victories for Alicia Vikander and Emmanuel Lubezki.  Vikander had a banner year this year, and her hard work was justly rewarded.  It came across as a Chastain in 2011-esque year except with a happy ending (Jessica Chastain lost the Oscar to Octavia Spencer despite delivering multiple awards worthy performances during the course of the year and also delivering a better performance than Spencer in the film that won her the Oscar).  Meanwhile, Lubezki is now the first cinematographer ever to win back-to-back-to-back Oscars, and that is richly deserved for someone who I think should be considered as one of the greatest cinematic artists in history.

            As for predicting, I went a disappointing 15 for 24.  Most of this was due to predicting a split of the technical categories between The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road instead of a Mad Max sweep, missing on all three of the shorts categories, and, of course, predicting The Revenant for Best Picture over Spotlight.

The Witch=7/10=I wanted to love this film so badly.  It’s a beautifully shot film.  It definitely does the natural light only method of cinematography that Emmeanuel Lubezki and company used on The Revenant.  It believes in a slow and deliberate pace.  It’s amazingly acted.  It has a memorable ending and one of the breakout characters of the cinematic year (Black Phillip).  However, the pacing isn’t completely executed (the slow pace became a bit stilted at times) and neither is the theme (the theme of witch hunting is an interesting and important theme, but it seemed like the film needed just a bit more time to fully explore it).

Theeb=5/10=Another beautifully shot film.  However, this one’s storyline isn’t as interesting.  This is a typical revenge film.  It may be a bit quieter, subtler, and slightly more unique (because the main character is a child), but it just doesn’t do enough to get away from its clichés.

Racing Extinction=8/10=This was a fascinating companion piece to The Cove as Louie Psihoyos operates this environmental documentary on a much bigger scale than his last effort.  There’s beautiful ideas and cinematography here working for a message that really matters.  The film does get a bit too ambitious at times and probably would have worked better as a miniseries, like Years of Living Dangerously.

Making a Murderer=7/10=I came to this one based off of the incredible word of mouth it has received.  Unfortunately, I think a lot of the people who praise this series have never seen The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, a similar but far superior series.  Making a Murderer has an interesting basis and the show makes a lot out of it for a while.  However, the lack of unique direction and a clearly biased perspective make this series suffer after the first few episodes.

The Muppets: Season 1=7/10=This show is more in line quality wise with Muppets Most Wanted than The Muppets meaning it’s solid but hardly memorable.  The cameos are used effectively well, and the show turns Miss Piggy into the superstar scene-stealer she deserves to be.


Marvel’s Agent Carter: Season 2=7.5/10=This show has a fantastic set of characters and Haley Atwell is delivering an incredible performance.  The only reason this show is as good as it is, is because of her.  The mystery of the season really came down to a bunch of mumbo jumbo that had some technically brilliant moments but really hindered the storyline.

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