Film Review: Moonlight (dir by Barry Jenkins)


moonlight

I’m going to start this review of Moonlight by affirming something that you’ve either heard or, if you’ve seen the film, that you already know.

Moonlight is one of the best films of 2016.  Many critics have declared it to be the best.  When the Academy Award nominations are announced next month, Moonlight will receive several of them.  Barry Jenkins will not only be the fourth black filmmaker to be nominated for best director but he may very well be the first to win.  Personally, I would rate Arrival and Kubo and the Two Strings higher than Moonlight but I certainly won’t complain if Moonlight wins every Oscar that it’s nominated for.  It’s a powerful and personal film, one that might make you cry and will definitely make you think.  It sticks with you, from the brilliant opening to the powerful closing shot.  In a weak year for films, Moonlight stands one of the few legitimately great releases of 2016.

Moonlight is a film in three parts, all dealing with the life of Chiron.  Though he rarely speaks and often keeps his feelings hidden behind a wall of pain and deception, Chiron is one of the most fascinating characters that you’ll ever get to know.  Growing up in Miami, he seems to be destined to be forever on the outside.  In a country that protects whiteness and celebrates wealth, he’s black and he’s poor.  In a social environment that values being hard and demands an almost cartoonish masculinity, Chiron is sensitive and gay.

When we first meet Chiron, he’s a child nicknamed Little and he’s played by Alex Hibbert.  When we first see him, he’s fleeing both school bullies and a homelife that’s dominated by his abusive, crack-addicted mother, Paula (Naomie Harris, giving a brave and raw performance that reminds you of just how wasted she was in the role of Moneypenny in SPECTRE).  The only positive influence in Chiron’s life is a Cuban drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali, who gives a performance of amazingly subtle power) and Juan’s girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae).  Juan is the one who teaches Chiron how to swim.  He’s the one who tells Chiron that he can be more than he realizes.  Juan is the one who encourages Chiron to be himself, regardless of what the rest of the world demands that he be.  And yet, Juan is also the one who sells the drugs that are destroying Chiron’s mom.

We also see Chiron as an awkward and withdrawn teenager and this time, he’s played by Ashton Sanders.  Chiron struggles with his attraction to his best friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) and does his best to avoid a terrifying bully named Terrel (Patrick Decile).

And finally, we meet Chiron as a muscular and sometimes menacing adult and he’s now played by Trevante Rhodes.  It’s when we meet the adult Chiron that we suddenly understand why the film was structured the way that it was.  As intimidating and noncommunicative as adult Chiron may be, we know who he really is.  We know that he’s still the same kid who we first saw hiding inside an abandoned apartment.  When Chiron received an unexpected phone call from Kevin (now played, quite poignantly, by Andre Holland), he’s forced to confront who he truly is.  It leads to … well, I don’t know how to tell you what it leads to without spoiling the film for you.  I will say that the film ends with a haunting image, one that will stick with you long after the film ends.

Moonlight is a heartfelt and incredibly moving film, one that will challenge all of your preconceived notions and one that will stick with you long after you see it.  Brilliantly directed and acted, Moonlight is a film full of beautiful, haunting, and often dream-like images.  (Cinematographer James Laxton is almost as important to the film’s success as director/screenwriter Barry Jenkins.)  And you definitely should see it if you haven’t.

It’s one of the best of 2016.

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The Nevada Film Critics Society Honors Hell or High Water!


Highway to Hell

Whoops, that’s the wrong “Hell” movie…

The Nevada Film Critics Society has spoken!

(Hopefully, the awards will be handed out on Aces High, the Ace Rothstein Show … with the Ace Rothstein Dancers!…)

Best Film – “Hell or High Water”
Best Actor – Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Actress – Annette Bening – “20th Century Women”
Best Supporting Actor – Ben Foster – “Hell or High Water”
Best Supporting Actress – Greta Gerwig – “20th Century Women”
Best Youth Performance – Alex Hibbert – “Moonlight”
Best Director – David Mackenzie – “Hell or High Water”
Best Original Screenplay – Taylor Sheridan- “Hell or High Water”
Best Adapted Screenplay – Eric Heisserer – “Arrival”
Best Ensemble – Moonlight
Best Documentary – “O.J. Made in America
”
Best Animated Movie – “Moana”
Best Production Design – David Wasco and Sandy Reynold-Wasco – “La La Land”
Best Cinematography – Linus Sandgren – “La La Land”
Best Visual Effects – “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

There! That's the right movie...

There! That’s the right movie…

Here Are the 2016 Seattle Film Award Nominees!


Here are the 2016 Seattle Film Award Nominees!  I don’t know what the cat’s yawning about; these nominations are actually an interesting mix of the usual suspects (Moonlight, Manchester, La La Land) and a few unexpected but intriguing picks (like 13th and The Witch).

THE 2016 SEATTLE FILM AWARD NOMINEES:

BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR:

BEST DIRECTOR:

  • Damien Chazelle – La La Land
  • Robert EggersThe Witch
  • Barry JenkinsMoonlight
  • Paul Verhoeven – Elle
  • Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

BEST ACTOR in a LEADING ROLE:

  • Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
  • Ryan GoslingLa La Land
  • Logan Lerman – Indignation
  • Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington – Fences

BEST ACTRESS in a LEADING ROLE:

  • Amy Adams – Arrival
  • Kate Beckinsale – Love & Friendship
  • Isabelle Huppert – Elle
  • Natalie Portman – Jackie
  • Emma StoneLa La Land

BEST ACTOR in a SUPPORTING ROLE:

BEST ACTRESS in a SUPPORTING ROLE:

  • Viola Davis – Fences
  • Lily Gladstone – Certain Women
  • Naomie HarrisMoonlight
  • Kate McKinnonGhostbusters
  • Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST:

BEST SCREENPLAY:

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

  • EllePaul Verhoeven, director
  • The HandmaidenPark Chan-wook, director
  • The InnocentsAnne Fontaine, director
  • Under The ShadowBabak Anvari, director
  • The WailingNa Hong-jin, director

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

BEST FILM EDITING:

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCE (18 years of age or younger upon start of filming):

BEST VILLAIN:

10_Cloverfield_Lane

The Phoenix Film Critics Society Goes Ga Ga for La La!


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The Phoenix Film Critics Society, one of two warring groups of Phoenix film critics, announced their winners for 2016 earlier today!  Check out their nominees here and the winners below!

Best Picture — La La Land

Best Director — Damien Chazelle — La La Land

Best Actor — Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actress — Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Supporting Actor — Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress — Viola Davis, Fences

Best Ensemble — Hell or High Water

Best Original Screenplay — Hell or High Water

Best Adapted Screenplay — Hacksaw Ridge

Overlooked Film Of The Year — Sing Street

Best Animated Film — Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film — Elle

Best Documentary — Gleason

Best Original Song — City of Stars from La La Land

Best Original Score — La La Land

Best Cinematography — La La Land

Best Editing — Hacksaw Ridge

Best Production Design — La La Land

Best Costume Design — Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Best Visual Effects — Doctor Strange

Breakthrough Performance — Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch

Best Performance By A Youth — Alex Hibbert, Moonlight

The Las Vegas Film Critics Society Take A Gamble With Their 2016 Nominees!


Let’s take a gamble with the nominees of the Las Vegas Film Critics Society!

(Ha ha — I’m so cute.)

Anyway, the winners will be announced tomorrow!

Best Picture
Moonlight
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Nocturnal Animals
Hell or High Water

Best Actor
Chris Pine – Hell or High Water
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nocturnal Animals
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actress
Emma Stone – La La Land
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Taraji P. Henson – Hidden Figures
Amy Adams – Arrival
Annette Bening – 20th Century Women

Best Supporting Actor
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Ben Foster – Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Viola Davis – Fences
Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Best Director
Garth Davis – Lion
Theodore Melfi – Hidden Figures
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
J.A. Bayona – A Monster Calls
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals

Best Original Screenplay
Manchester by the Sea
The Witch
Hell or High Water
Moonlight
La La Land

Best Adapted Screenplay
Hidden Figures
Lion
Nocturnal Animals
Arrival
A Monster Calls

Best Cinematography
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals
Arrival
La La Land
Rogue One

Best Editing
La La Land
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge

Best Score
Jackie
Nocturnal Animals
Arrival
Lion
La La Land

Best Song
“City of Stars” (La La Land)
“How Far Will I Go” (Moana)
“I See Victory” (Hidden Figures)
“The Great Beyond” (Sausage Party)
“Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song) (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping)

Best Action Film
Deadpool
Captain America: Civil War
Rogue One
Hacksaw Ridge
Doctor Strange

Best Documentary
8 Days a Week
Weiner
OJ: Made in America
13
The Eagle Huntress

Best Costume Design
Jackie
The Witch
Fantastic Beasts
Love & Friendship
La La Land

Best Visual Effects
Jungle Book
Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts
Arrival
A Monster Calls

Best Art Direction
Jackie
La La Land
Arrival
A Monster Calls
Fantastic Beasts

Best Animated Film
Kubo and the Two Strings
Sausage Party
Finding Dory
Zootopia
Moana

Best Foreign Film
Elle
Neruda
The Handmaiden
Toni Erdmann
The Salesman

Best Comedy
Deadpool
Don’t Think Twice
The Edge of Seventeen
Sausage Party
The Nice Guys

Best Horror/Sci-Fi
The Witch
The Neon Demon
Arrival
10 Cloverfield Lane
Don’t Breathe

Best Family Film
The Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Moana
Zootopia
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Ensemble
Hidden Figures
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Fences
Hell or High Water

Breakout Filmmaker
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Robert Eggers – The Witch
Kelly Fremon Craig – Edge of Seventeen
Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert – Swiss Army Man
Nate Parker – Birth of a Nation

Youth in Film
Madina Nalwanga – Queen of Katwe
Lewis MacDougall – A Monster Calls
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Hailee Steinfeld – Edge of Seventeen
Alex B. Hibbert – Moonlight

What If Awards Season Began And Lisa Totally Missed It? Here Are The Gotham Nominations!


The_Witch_poster

As proof of how busy I’ve been over the past few days, just consider this: On October 20th, awards season kicked off and I totally missed it!

That’s right.  On October 20th, the nominations for the 2016 Gotham Awards were announced.  The Gothams honor independent films and they actually have some pretty strict guidelines regarding what they consider to be independent.  So, a lot of this year’s potential Oscar nominees are not eligible for the Gotham Awards.

That said, over the past few years, the Gothams have slowly emerged as a somewhat helpful precursor.  While getting a Gotham nomination does not guarantee any film an Oscar nomination, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  That may especially be true this year as 2016 has, for the most part, not been the great cinematic year that 2015 was.  With no real favorites having yet to emerge, every precursor counts.

So, with that in mind and just a few days late, here are the Gotham nominations!

Best Feature

Certain Women
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (IFC Films)

Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater, director; Megan Ellison, Ginger Sledge, Richard Linklater, producers (Paramount Pictures)

Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan, director; Kimberly Steward, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin J. Walsh, producers (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight
Barry Jenkins, director; Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, producers (A24)

Paterson
Jim Jarmusch, director; Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan, producers (Amazon Studios)

Best Documentary

Cameraperson
Kirsten Johnson, director; Marilyn Ness, producer (Janus Films)

I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck, director; Rémi Grellety, Raoul Peck, Hébert Peck, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

O.J.: Made in America
Ezra Edelman, director; Caroline Waterlow, Ezra Edelman, Tamara Rosenberg, Nina Krstic, Deirdre Fenton, Erin Leyden, producers (ESPN Films)

Tower
Keith Maitland, director; Keith Maitland, Megan Gilbride, Susan Thomson, producers (Kino Lorber, Independent Lens)

Weiner
Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg, directors and producers (Sundance Selects and Showtime Documentary Films)

Weiner_(film)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Robert Eggers for The Witch (A24)

Anna Rose Holmer for The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert for Swiss Army Man (A24)

Trey Edward Shults for Krisha (A24)

Richard Tanne for Southside with You (Roadside Attractions and Miramax)

Best Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan (CBS Films)

Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman (Amazon Studios)

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Screenplay by Barry Jenkins (A24)

Paterson, Jim Jarmusch (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor*

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (CBS Films)

Adam Driver in Paterson (Amazon Studios)

Joel Edgerton in Loving (Focus Features)

Craig Robinson in Morris from America (A24)

Best Actress*

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship (Amazon Studios)

Annette Bening in 20th Century Women (A24)

Isabelle Huppert in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Ruth Negga in Loving (Focus Features)

Natalie Portman in Jackie (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor*

Lily Gladstone in Certain Women (IFC Films)

Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Royalty Hightower in The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Sasha Lane in American Honey (A24)

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch (A24)

* The 2016 Best Actor/Best Actress and Breakthrough Actor nominating panels also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award for ensemble performance to Moonlight, “in which actors at all levels of experience give outstanding performances that speak eloquently to one another both within and across each chapter of the story.” The awards will go to actors Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders.

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(AWARDS SEASON HAS BEGUN!!!)