Let’s All Go to the (Mostly Oscar-Nominated) Movies!

Happy New Year, and Happy Award Season RMT’ers!

This is the time of year where I take time for myself and take myself out to the movies! And WOW there are a lot of great movies out right now… and many or most of what I’ve seen in the past month have been nominated for an Oscar in one category or another. So let’s ALL go to the movies!

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Wondering what’s out? Wonder no more. Here’s a list of movies I managed to fit into my to-do list the past few weeks. There’s most def something for everyone here, so sit down, get a cuppa (fill in the blank), and read all about it.

Disclaimer: Most of these amazing films aren’t for the under-18 set, but if one is you’ll be tipped off in a very obvi way.

Loving
Nominated for: Actress in a Leading Role (Ruth Negga)

Ah puns. I love them. And I am loving this movie.

So… Loving. The movie. It’s about loving one another in 1950s-1960s America and what trouble that could get you into legally depending who you chose to love. It’s also specifically about the Richard and Mildred Loving (real last name), who were an interracial couple in the state of Virginia who took their case all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for interracial couples rights everywhere nationwide.

Please see this movie. It’s extremely given our socio-political climate these days, and it is very, very well done. It also rekindles this nostalgia in me that I never studied Constitutional Law in a deeper way during my schooling.

I don’t know any of the actors though – all new to me and perhaps are from movies and television shows I’ve just not seen. Either way, brilliant cast, namely the actress nominated for Best Actress, Ruth Negga.

Jackie
Nominated for 3 Oscars: Actress in a Leading Role (Natalie Portman); Costume Design; Music (Original Score)

Aronofsky. He’s cray. Portman. In this flick, she portrays Jackie-O the week after JFK is assassinated.

You like that dynamic duo AND even the slightest bit obsessed the Kennedys? If so then you’ll be entertained, the definition of entertained being what it is when comes to this particular dramatic celluloid recipe.

Florence Foster Jenkins
Nominated for 2 Oscars: Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep); Costume Design

I loved the story here, but to be completely honest, I didn’t adore this movie!

Of the dozens of characters I’ve seen her portray (and BRAVO! for all of them!), this wasn’t Streep’s best work by a long shot, although the character she portrayed was amazing and I can totes imagine Streep reading this script and exclaiming, “I’ll rock that important portrayal and this story must be told!”

Hugh Grant – meh. I think this was a comeback for him of sorts? And pretty safely played if so (how he garnered a Golden Globe nomination for this portrayal IDK).

The actor who played the pianist, whom I’ve since learned is Simon Helberg: Now that performance is something that’s stuck w me. He was great, worthy of his Golden Globe nom, and I want to see more from him! I’ve also since learned if I want to see more of him all I need to do is just start watching The Big Bang Theory.

Again, great story and history being told here. Absolutely. I just wasn’t in LOVE w this film as so many seem to be.

Captain Fantastic
Nominated for: Actor in a Leading Role, Viggo Mortensen

All the other mini-reviews I’ve read and my own viewing brought me to this basic summary sentence review: Viggo Mortensen does a phenomenal acting portrayal, but has been cast in a movie so far off the rails plot- and story-line wise I don’t even know where to begin.

I’d so been looking forward to this movie, but I truly feel that the trailers that played for MONTHS before release lied and lied bigly. There may even be pivotal scenes shown in those trailers that fell to the floor before final edit, which I’m aware happens, but not actual story-driven, plot-twist scenes, right?! That’s how off this film felt to me.

And the kid actors were just a collection of crazy “lord of the flies” kid actors, nothing special or super memorable to me there anyway; I can’t recall one breakout portrayal to call out here.

Oh and the grandpa is played by cool-cat actor Frank Langella, and there is Steve Zahn AND Kathryn Hahn, but all so under-developed and/or very little screen time, so I was super bummed.

I also don’t enjoy roughing-it style camping and tend to be a rule follower of sorts, and the entire premise of this film is that the Dad wants the family to live in the woods apart from society out of a makeshift bus camper contraption, so there’s that? Hmm….

Hidden Figures
Nominated for 3 Oscars: Best Picture; Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer); Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

This could very well be one of the most perfect PG rated films I’ve seen since the inception of PG-13.

No language (or very little). No sex. No violence (other than historically portrayed poor behavior/racism between or amongst individuals, but not graphically violent). One courtship portrayed in such a respectful and equal way between the couple (yes!).

And the science. And the women. And the fact they were women of color in Alabama doing this important work. Wow, wow, wow. Leslie Jones is right: Now why didn’t we learn about this in school and only about all the George Washington Carver peanut stuff when came to black history (look up SNL from a couple weeks ago – it’s an awesome bit)?!

Hidden Figures is complete and total scientific proof that such PG movies can be made and based on box office (because $$$) SHOULD be made more often.

Take the kids. Take your parents (who grew up while all this was happening IRL). Take Grandma (who was always for equal rights and a feminist at heart even if she didn’t always put it out there because, well, see the movie as to why). All need to and should see this important film portrayal of a pivotal part of our American scientific journey. Heck, whole school sites are going and seeing it… well, they have to work science into curriculum any way they can these days, so thank you, Hidden Figures!

Patriot’s Day

Not nominated for any awards this season and very well may not be, but IMO it is still an important film. Please read why.

I don’t normally believe in trigger warnings or safe spaces. However, if you personally knew anyone affected by or were present at the Boston Marathon 2013 bombings, 9/11 bombings, Paris bombings (Charlie Hedbo or Bataclan), the Pulse Orlando night club massacre, Belgium incidents, etc., ad nauseum at this point really… I just might say don’t go. Maybe.

I stood at Republique in Paris early January 2016, just over one month after Bataclan and related events in late November 2015… and this movie tore me the eff up.

Anyway, here I sit two weeks later, and I still have no more to add to this review because I am still affected by this film. So in the New Year, let’s toast to the first responders, the survivors, and to supreme movie making. Because in all honesty, if a movie tore me the eff up that much, then art has done its job, and a job well done.

La La Land
Nominated for 14 Oscars (ties a record set by All About Eve and Titanic ) : Best Picture; Actor in a Leading Role (Ryan Gosling); Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone); Cinematography; Costume Design; Director (Damien Chazelle); Film Editing; Music (Original Score); Music (Original Songs – two of them!); Production Design; Sound Editing; Sound Mixing; Writing (Original Screenplay)

In a somewhat more positive/upbeat vein… how about the “La-La” movie, eh? Yes, I just called it the la-la movie. Whatever you want to refer to it as, please, can we all just concur that this is an excellent piece of movie-making and a glorious nod to the way original musicals for the screen were made back in the day?!

A jazz pianist (Gosling) falls for a struggling actress (Stone) in Los Angeles. This sings old-timey musical to me anyway! Take that, “Chicago-from-the-stage-to-the-screen” and all those similar other musical-type films made during the ’00s!

La La Land… Old touches, glimpses back, but relationships conveyed with current themes and modern storytelling… what a great escape in an otherwise too realistic (yet superb) movie landscape as of late. I guess I say all that because just about all the other movies I’ve seen the last month or two have been real, raw downers – albeit all great films – so I was happy to leave the la-la movie just not feeling as if I’d been beat to a pulp.

The Founder

I know… another flick on the list that’s not actually nominated, but just hear me out anyway.

The Founder is a well-cast biopic of McDonalds mogul Ray Kroc (played by the perfectly, intensely crazed Michael Keaton), who if this movie is remotely true was one ruthless a-hole. Don’t get me wrong… I’m sure the McDonald bros. were obstructionist and complicit in some such business shenanigans themselves… but wowzers, Ray. Wow. I’d always heard McDonalds was a real estate venture first and foremost, but how that came to be?! Yikes.

Also, if anyone saw my personal type A post on Facebook a couple of weeks back, OK, OK, I cry uncle because if Ray Kroc is a type A then I’m without drive or focus and completely immeasurable.

Furthermore, in regards to the Krocs’ philanthropic efforts, my memory has always been about how generous they were, but now that I’ve dug into their story a tad more, it appears the philanthropy ideas and actions were mostly if not all Joan and mostly after the inheritance  (his third wife, by the way).

And speaking of Kroc’s marriages, he had a first wife (played by Laura Dern here, who was a’ight), who also seemed to be an interesting person though in a much different way. Not interesting enough for crazy Ray though! So he divorced her, had a short second marriage (not covered in this film), and then eventually and/or during these other marriages, enter Joan as wife number three. Again if the movie is remotely accurate, Ray Kroc apparently thought of certain people as real estate to be acquired also… or all people? Again, yikes.

Also? In case my fellow natives care, San Diego isn’t mentioned or at least isn’t given any memorable mention(s). To be fair this story wraps in the early 1970s so maybe it wasn’t relevant, but how about some SD love anyway?! San Diego on some level loved you, Ray, even if you didn’t always love us back.

I’m just gonna leave you with this: Ray Kroc is his own unique separate circus of ruthlessness. It truly is something else.

Moonlight
Nominated for 8 Oscars: Best Picture; Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali); Actress in a Supporting Role (Naomie Harris); Cinematography; Director (Barry Jenkins); Film Editing; Music (Original Score); Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

To the people who viewed this movie before me: I get the whole “no spoilers” aspect of description, but man, I had no idea this movie was going where it went (and so, so glad it didn’t go where it didn’t).

For an excellently acted and sincere, honest and balanced view of ghetto life in a big city and seeing the street drug trade from many different and personal points of view, Moonlight nails it.

I’m talking Boyz n the Hood level well done – minus the heavier, violent gang components, plus more personal one-on-one relationship and familial affects (effects? I always screw that one up, sorry!).

Fences
Nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Picture; Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington); Actress in a Leading Role (Viola Davis); Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Originally written for the stage, Fences is the tale of Troy (played by Denzel Washington) during the 1950s who is getting by with his wife (Viola Davis) and family in urban Pittsburgh. Troy’s a garbage collector who had his dreams dashed of playing professional baseball after a successful run in the Negro leagues. It was a time when men of color were just in that moment breaking through those barriers, but he had already surpassed the unspoken upper age limit of making it to the Bigs. In turn, and as he’s still coping with those shortcomings many years later, his youngest son, Cory, shows great promise as a high-performing high school athlete, and this proves to be the wedge between father and son that drives this story into being.

Denzel once again shows he is the movie King. Times 2 (or 3, I’m unsure if he acted, directed, AND produced also? He most def acted and directed though)!

Viola Davis. Ooh! Bravo! Golden Globe and SAG awards well-deserved here.

The man who played Troy’s BFF Mr. Bono was also quite good in a supporting character role.

Brother Gabe (remember Bubba from Forrest Gump – this is him!) – so great. Oldest son Lyons – awesome. Youngest son Cory – well-done. All in all, superb acting chops all around.

As much as this cast wowed me as an ensemble, and as important as it is that this story be recorded into our culture’s filmography, it’s about time I get back to finding a flick that doesn’t boast just angry and despicable people… but Denzel has the cornerstone on it and is sooooo good here (yes, that’s all I am saying here, no spoilers)! This is yet another movie that’s very real and raw and on whole quite excellent, but man I’m exhausted between the management of real life’s heaviness and now my emotionally heavy cache of films.

I will end what may be seen as a dark yet positive review with a super-positive: The way this was filmed was beautiful. Live-stage perspective cinematography I believe, though I am sure there’s some actual term for filming an adapted stage play as such. At any rate and by any term, I enjoyed that aspect as equally immensely as this cast.

20th Century Women
Nominated for: Writing (Original Screenplay)

While many are surprised by the non-nominations of this film given it did pick up some major Golden Globe attention (two nominations for Annette Bening for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy; Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy), I’m not. This is another case of an outstanding actress in her own right (Bening) just missing this year’s nomination cut because the role was phenomenal because it was in concert with a splendid ensemble cast of supporting actors, not WOW original or uniquely amazing on its own like the others who did make the list. Please don’t hate, because I LOVE Annette Bening (as in adore forever and ever)!

The story told here is one of a story of being a single mother during the late 1970s and how it actually can and does take a village. It is an absolutely incredible tale told, even if an everyday one (boy moms, single or not, you’ll especially adore it, take tissues!), and I am happy to see it got recognized for screenplay. And PS – I didn’t leave feeling like I was beat to a pulp, but I did genuinely feel, both the good and the bad feels. Yay!

On My To-View List:
Arrival (trying for this week)
Lion (trying to find a time that works, but it’s going away here)
Hacksaw Ridge (maybe – is it even in theaters anymore though?)
Manchester by the Sea (maybe? I just don’t know if I can take anymore heavy family stories!)

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