Playing Catch-Up: Arrival (dir by Denis Villeneuve)


arrival_movie_poster

I cannot begin to express how happy I was when I learned that the Directors Guild of America had nominated Denis Villeneuve for his work on Arrival.

Arrival was one of the best films of 2016.  In fact, I would argue that it’s one of the best science fiction films that I’ve ever seen.  There were a lot of reasons for that, of course.  There was the brilliant script by Eric Heisserer.  There was the starring performance of Amy Adams, who is one of the best actresses working today.  There was a surprise and thought-provoking twist, one that forced you to reconsider everything that you previously believed.  There were so many reasons why Arrival was a great film but, ultimately, it call came down to Denis Villeneuve.

Working with material that would have led most directors down the road to bombast, Villeneuve instead took a deliberately low-key approach.  Whereas most directors would have encouraged their cast to play up the drama, Villeneuve encourages his actors to take a more inward and cerebral approach to the material.  Arrival is a rarity — a film about smart people in which the people actually seem to be smart.  For once, we don’t need expositionary characters to pop up and tell us that Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are brilliant.  Instead, we simply believe they are from what we see on the screen.  Much like last year’s Sicario, Arrival proves that Villeneuve is a visionary director.

Arrival is a hard film to describe, not because it’s overly complicated but because there’s a huge twist that I really can’t reveal.  Before the twist, Arrival is simply a well-directed sci-fi film.  After the twist, it is something all together different, an intense meditation on faith, love, language, and destiny.  Since I’m reviewing the film late, chances are that you already know about the twist but I’m still not going to spoil it.

What I can tell you is that Arrival opens with the arrival of twelve spaceships, all of which land at different places across the world.  The Chinese have a spaceship.  The British have a spaceship.  I imagine that the Canadians have a spaceship, because who wouldn’t want to hang out with the Canadians?  And, of course, the Americans have a spaceship.  The aliens are inside the spaceships.  They’re octopus-like creatures, ones that almost look as if they could have come from one of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories.  The aliens may appear to be fearsome but they actually seem to be rather benevolent.  No one’s quite sure because the aliens communicate through a complex series of symbols and nobody can understand what those symbols mean.

Louise Banks is a linguist.  Ian Donnelly is a physicist.  The Americans bring both in to help translate the symbols.  Of course, the rest of the world has their own linguists and physicists working to translate the symbols and, humans being humans, it often seems that the Americans and the Chinese are less concerned with translating what the aliens are saying and more concerned with being the first to understand.  While Louise works, she continues to be haunted by dreams and visions of her daughter’s death from cancer.

And that’s really all I can tell you without spoiling the film and potentially making myself cry.  But I will say that if you haven’t seen Arrival, you must go out and see it now.  It’s one of the most thought-provoking and emotionally wrenching films of the past year.

Add to that, it’s probably going to be nominated for best picture.  It’s been overshadowed a bit by all the attention paid to La La Land, Moonlight, and Manchester By The Sea.  But Arrival is just as good a film as any of them.  In fact, in the future, we’ll probably look at Arrival and say that it was better than all of them.

 

 

The North Carolina Film Critics Honor La La Land!


la-la-land

Okay, here’s one more precursor before I call it a night.  The North Carolina Film Critics have announced their picks for the best of 2016.  You can check out the nominees here and the winners below!

Best Narrative Film — La La Land

Best Documentary — OJ: Made in America

Best Animated Film — Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film — The Handmaiden

Best Director — Damen Chazelle — La La Land

Best Special Effects — Doctor Strange

Best Actor — Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Best Supporting Actor — Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Best Actress — Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Supporting Actress — Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay — Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water

Best Adapted Screenplay — Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Ken Hanke Memorial Tarheel Award — Jeff Nichols

 

The Online Film Critics Society Declares Moonlight To Be The Best


moonlight

The Online Film Critics Society announced their picks for the best of 2016 yesterday!  You can check out the nominees here and the winners below!

Best Picture — Moonlight

Best Animated Feature — Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Director — Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actor — Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actress — Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Supporting Actor — Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress — Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Best Original Screenplay — Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan

Best Adapted Screenplay — Arrival, Eric Heisserer

Best Editing — La La Land, Tom Cross

Best Cinematography — La La Land, Linus Sandgren

Best Film Not In The English Language — The Handmaiden

Best Documentary — OJ: Made in America

 

The Precursors Continue! Here are the WGA Nominations!


Deadpool

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get back to Oscar season!

The guilds have started to announce their nominees for the best of 2016 and since the guilds, unlike the various critic groups, include people who actually vote for the Oscars, they are usually pretty useful as far as predictive tool.

So, with that in mind, here are the nominations of the Writers Guild of America!

(The big surprise?  Deadpool — which has actually gotten a lot of unexpected attention during Oscar season — landed a nomination.)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Hell or High Water, Written by Taylor Sheridan; CBS Films

La La Land, Written by Damien Chazelle; Lionsgate

Loving, Written by Jeff Nichols; Focus Features

Manchester by the Sea, Written by Kenneth Lonergan; Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions

Moonlight, Written by Barry Jenkins, Story by Tarell McCraney; A24

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Arrival, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer; Based on the Story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang; Paramount Pictures

Deadpool, Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick; Based on the X-Men Comic Books; Twentieth Century Fox Film

Fences, Screenplay by August Wilson; Based on his Play; Paramount Pictures

Hidden Figures, Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi; Based on the Book by Margot Lee Shetterly; Twentieth Century Fox Film

Nocturnal Animals, Screenplay by Tom Ford; Based on the Novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright; Focus Features

DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY

Author: The JT LeRoy Story, Written by Jeff Feuerzeig; Amazon Studios

Command and Control, Telescript by Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser, Story by Brian Pearle and Kim Roberts; Based on the book Command and Control by Eric Schlosser; American Experience Films

Zero Days, Written by Alex Gibney; Magnolia Pictures

The Austin Film Critics Association Honors Moonlight!


moonlight-620x360

The Austin Film Critics Association have announced their picks for the best of 2016!

Best Film: Moonlight (dir: Barry Jenkins)

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Adapted Screenplay: Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren, La La Land

Best Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

Best Foreign-Language Film: The Handmaiden (dir: Park Chan-wook)

Best Documentary: Tower (dir: Keith Maitland)

Best Animated Film: Kubo and the Two Strings (dir: Travis Knight)

Best First Film: The Witch (dir: Robert Eggers)

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award: Keith Maitland, Tower

Austin Film Award: Tower (dir: Keith Maitland)

Special Honorary Award: To the ensemble cast of Moonlight and casting director Yesi Ramirez for excellence as an ensemble.

Special Honorary Award: To honor Anton Yelchin for his contribution to the cinema of 2016, including performances in Green Room and Star Trek Beyond. His was a brilliant career cut profoundly short.

Special Honorary Award: To A24 Films for excellence in production in distribution. Their work gave us Moonlight, Green Room, Swiss Army Man, The Lobster, The Witch, and 20th Century Women, among others.

Special Honorary Award: To filmmaker Keith Maitland and his film Tower for revisiting a tragic event in Austin, Texas history in a sensitive and unique manner.

AFCA 2016 Top Ten Films:

  1. Moonlight
  2. La La Land
  3. Arrival
  4. The Handmaiden
  5. Manchester by the Sea
  6. Elle
  7. Hell or High Water
  8. The Lobster
  9. Jackie
  10. Sing Street

Here Are The Nominations Of The Online Film Critics Society!


oj

The Online Film Critics Society announced their nominations today.  Along with the usual suspects, the 7 and a half hour documentary OJ: Made in America also picked up a nomination for best picture.

Best Picture

Arrival
The Handmaiden
Hell or High Water
Jackie
La La Land
Manchester By the Sea
Moonlight
O.J.: Made in America
Paterson
The Witch

Best Animated Feature

Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Pablo Larraín – Jackie
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Actor

Casey Affleck – Manchester By the Sea
Adam Driver – Paterson
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actress

Amy Adams – Arrival
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Tom Bennett – Love & Friendship
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By the Sea
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis – Fences
Lily Gladstone – Certain Women
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By the Sea

Best Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
Jackie – Noah Oppenheim
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Manchester By the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan

Best Adapted Screenplay

Arrival – Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang
Elle – David Birke, Philippe Djian
Love & Friendship – Whit Stillman
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney
Nocturnal Animals – Tom Ford

Best Editing

Arrival – Joe Walker
Cameraperson – Nels Bangerter
Jackie – Sebastian Sepulveda
La La Land – Tom Cross
Moonlight – Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders

Best Cinematography

Arrival – Bradford Young
Jackie – Stéphane Fontaine
La La Land – Linus Sandgren
Moonlight – James Laxton
The Neon Demon – Natasha Braier

Best Film Not in the English Language

Elle – France
The Handmaiden – South Korea
Neruda – Chile
The Salesman – Iran
Toni Erdmann – Germany

Best Documentary

13th
Cameraperson
I Am Not Your Negro
O.J.: Made in America
Weiner

Best Non-U.S. Release

After the Storm
The Death of Louis XIV
The Girl With All the Gifts
Graduation
Nocturma
Personal Shopper
A Quiet Passion
Staying Vertical
The Unknown Girl
Yourself and Yours

Here Are The North Carolina Film Critics Association Nominations!


For Christmas, there was a temporary pause in the flood of precursor awards.  Now that Christmas has passed, Oscar season is back in full swing.

Today, the North Carolina Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the best of 2016!

And here they are:

BEST NARRATIVE FILM
Arrival
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
13th
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
Weiner

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
Sausage Party
Zootopia

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Elle
The Handmaiden
A Man Called Ove
Toni Erdmann
Things to Come

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle — La La Land
Barry Jenkins — Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan — Manchester by the Sea
David Mackenzie — Hell or High Water
Chan-woo Park — The Handmaiden

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Chung-hoo Chung — The Handmaiden
James Laxton — Moonlight
Giles Nuttgens — Hell or High Water
Linus Sandgren — La La Land
Bradford Young — Arrival

BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS
Arrival
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck — Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton — Loving
Ryan Gosling — La La Land
Viggo Mortensen — Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington — Fences

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali — Moonlight
Jeff Bridges — Hell or High Water
Ben Foster — Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges — Manchester by the Sea
Sam Neill — Hunt for the Wilderpeople

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening — 20th Century Women
Kate Beckinsale — Love & Friendship
Ruth Negga — Loving
Natalie Portman — Jackie
Emma Stone — La La Land

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis — Fences
Greta Gerwig — 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris — Moonlight
Nicole Kidman — Lion
Michelle Williams — Manchester by the Sea

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Damien Chazelle — La La Land
Barry Jenkins — Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan — Manchester by the Sea
Mike Mills — 20th Century Women
Taylor Sheridan — Hell or High Water

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Tom Ford — Nocturnal Animals
Eric Heisserer — Arrival
Seo-kyeong Jeong and Chan-wook Park — The Handmaiden
Whit Stillman — Love & Friendship
Taika Waititi — Hunt for the Wilderpeople

KEN HANKE MEMORIAL TAR HEEL AWARD
(To an artist or film with a special connection to North Carolina.)
Anthony Mackie
Jeff Nichols
Starving the Beast