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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The 89th Academy Awards

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel

BEST PICTURE: Moonlight

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Emma Stone (La La Land)

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Viola Davis (Fences)

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Zootopia

CINEMATOGRAPHY: La La Land

COSTUME DESIGN: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

DIRECTING: La La Land

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): O.J.: Made in America

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT): The White Helmets

FILM EDITING: Hacksaw Ridge

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Salesman

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Suicide Squad

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) La La Land

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): City Of Stars - from La La Land (Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

PRODUCTION DESIGN: La La Land

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED): Piper

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): Sing

SOUND EDITING: Arrival

SOUND MIXING: Hacksaw Ridge

VISUAL EFFECTS: The Jungle Book

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY): Moonlight

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): Manchester by the Sea

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Singles Game (Lauren Weisberger)

When Charlotte 'Charlie' Silver makes a pact with the devil, infamously brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner, she finds herself catapulted into a world of stylists, private parties, and secret dates with Hollywood royalty.
Under Todd, it is no more good-girl attitude: he wants warrior princess Charlie all the way. After all, no one ever won by being nice.
Celebrity mags and gossip blogs go wild for Charlie, chasing scandal as she jets around the globe. But as the warrior princess' star rises, both on and off the court, it comes at a high price. Is the real Charlie Silver still inside?

Quote: "From here on out we'll be working on a mental makeover, if you will. I want aggressive. Go-getting. Intimidation. You think the men are walking around apologising for everything and hugging each other? Hell, no! And the girls shouldn't be either."

My thoughts on this book: I am not a particular fan of this story, to tell you the truth.
Let us start with the good parts: you learn a lot about the pro tennis circuit. Lauren Weisberger clearly did her research because she shows you all the particulars of travelling, uniforms, practice schedules, nutrition, and the like. You learn about the image manipulation, the press, and the dance of romance. This part is pretty interesting.
Now, about Charlie: she is not dull. She is just unoriginal. There is little to her that you have not read elsewhere. She has above average tennis skills, good enough to be on tour but not excellent enough to win a grand slam. Everyone in her life keeps telling her to just quit. And Weisberger limits the perspective of the book to Charlie's, so you really only know what Charlie thinks and what motivates her. What about her father, her brother, her (former) coach? What drives these people throughout the story?
One person who is quite happy to have Charlie compete is her new coach, who is straight out of Central Casting for 'Overbearing Brute'. Again, this is a character you have seen before in dozens and dozens of books. And so is the Hot Mediterranean Lover. In a cast of utterly unoriginal characters, Marco surely is the worst. He says and does absolutely nothing that distinguishes him from the others.
I will say this much: I did want to find out what happened. I wanted to know when, exactly, would Charlie grow up and what she would do after tennis was over.
The worst part of all had to be the ending. After dragging out the various dramas at play, the ending occurs so quickly that I was left wondering whether Weisberger had been held to a word count. What was that all about?

Hidden figures (Theodore Melfi)

As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found the talent of a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the true life stories of three of these women, known as 'human computers', we follow them as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history's greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Glen Powell, Kimberly Quinn

Why I loved this film: The characters on which the film is based were special and unique on their own, and well deserving of the sort of semi-documentary films that Hollywood likes to serve up. However, to take that story and bump it up to a major feel-good film that engages the viewer from the get-go to the very end of its running time is what makes it so great!
The acting is just amazing. This is probably one of the best Costner performances in recent years (I was beginning to think that he would not be able to pull it off again).
Taraji P. Henson finally lands a great role, the best one I have seen her in yet. Octavia Spencer also gives the performance of her life as the 'glue' for the other characters.
Jim Parsons is believable and funny at the same time, although this feels like a more human version of Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Overall, I highly recommend this film.

Monday, February 13, 2017

La La Land (Damien Chazelle)

A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.


Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Trevor Lissauer, John Legend, Tom Everett Scott


My thoughts on this film: The opening sequence - which was satirised on the Golden Globes - does not do the rest of the film justice. It is as if the cast from the FAME remake grew up, had children of their own, and then those children hijacked the Santa Monica freeway to do a ten-minute flash-mob dance sequence.
From that point on, the film gets better.
We continue towards a love story as pure as anything since the great dramas of the 1940s. It really reminded me of Singing in the Rain and the likes.
Gosling is surprising as a leading man expected to do song and dance, but he delivers the goods.
Stone, who I did not like as much in other movies, steals the film and possibly the hearts of the audience. The awards should flow like water, and she will deserve every one of them.
This is, deep down, an ode to Hollywood. The film industry has always had issues with endings - back in the day they would film several different endings per picture - and then decide at the last minute which to use. Here, Chazelle pays homage to that by giving us an alternate ending, along with the 'real' ending, and then a closing sequence designed to remind everyone that nothing in Hollywood is real, but everything can still be fun.