Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

18 February 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 11 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival
Part 2 - Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion
Part 3 - Fences, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Jackie
Part 4 - Florence Foster Jenkins, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Passengers, Rogue One
Part 5 - Deepwater Horizon, Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, A Man Called Ove
Part 6 - Captain Fantastic, Elle, Loving, Nocturnal Animals
Part 7 - The Lobster, 20th Century Women, Silence, Hail, Caesar!
Part 8 - Live-action Short Films
Part 9 - Animated Short Films
Part 10 - Toni Erdmann, The Salesman, Land of Mine, Tanna

Part 11:

1 Nomination
  • Costume Design: Joanna Johnston (Lincoln)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Matthew Goode, Lizzy Caplan, Simon McBurney, Anton Lesser, August Diehl, Camille Cottin, Charlotte Hope, Marion Bailey, Thierry Frémont

I pregamed this film, thinking that it might, on an off chance, snag a costume nomination... and it did. This nomination for such a bad movie actually quite surprised me. You can read my original thoughts if you follow the link, but let's just leave it at me telling you that this movie makes no actual sense. A shame, too, because the parts in act one when Cotillard and Pitt are doing spy shit like randomly killing SS officers and upending tables in order to more easily see the enemy before grabbing a machine gun and cutting Nazis in half. That part is all quite cool. The second half is very boring.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #76 out of 95

The Jungle Book
1 Nomination
  • Visual Effects
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito

This was pleasant enough, but I guess I'm not really sure what the point of making it was. The visual effects look cool, although to my mind the animals don't look like animals so much as they look like very good CGI version of animals. In other words, visual effects are the purpose of this movie, so it is fitting that The Jungle Book got nominated for precisely that. But the new Jungle Book is no more realistic than the 1967 cartoon – it's still filled with talking animals, silly jokes, and the same songs as the original. Or at least a couple of them. And it is here where the film really can't find its footing. The new movie has not figured out a way to make The Jungle Book the live-action extravaganza it wants while also keeping "The Bare Necessities" and "I Want to Be like You". Favreau has the animals sing "Bare Necessities" half-heartedly, as a way of splitting the difference between a musical and a regular film, but then when Christopher Walken appears as King Louie, he sings his own song in full voice like it's a musical number. The whole thing felt uneven, and I was left thinking why they bothered at all. It wasn't a bad movie, but its not different enough from the original to matter at all.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #68 out of 95

Doctor Strange
1 Nomination
  • Visual Effects
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg

This was another of my pregames that paid off. I complained in my original post that all of these Marvel movies are about the potential destruction of the known universe and that every single time the entire universe manages to be saved by the Marvel hero. As one reader pointed out, this isn't precisely true. There are plenty of Marvel movies where total apocalypse is not threatening the human race, but that doesn't stop Doctor Strange from being perhaps the most formulaic of the Marvel films yet. There have been so many of them, and this one comes so late, so I get that the well is running a bit dry, but they really need to ask more of these films. Doctor Strange has a great number of cool visual effects, but it hasn't a thing to say about anything. I was fairly bored.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #69 out of 95

13 Hours
1 Nomination
  • Sound Mixing
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, David Costabile, Alexia Barlier, Peyman Moaadi, Matt Letscher, Toby Stephens, Demetrius Grosse, David Giuntoli

And then there's this steaming pile of garbage. First off, this bloated action movie (like all of Bay's overstuffed action movies) refuses to trim itself down to a normal action-movie length. Instead, we are treated to what felt like 13 hours of footage. It just kept going! But it wasn't the length that made 13 Hours so distasteful. I don't know enough about what actually happened in Benghazi to speak to this film's interpretation of events vis-à-vis history, but I can easily say that if this is what happened, I don't understand why everyone has been talking about Benghazi for the last year and a half. The film follows four or five mostly interchangeable macho, fratboy assholes, played mostly by Schreiber, Krasinski, Dale, and Denman, as they swagger around Libya and act like they own the place. As far as I can tell they do not work for the military, but are hired guns who work for the CIA's secret base in Benghazi. So far so bro. But these guys have no desire to work for their actual bosses. They know how things are supposed to be done here in Libya, and they're interested in telling everyone else what to do. I thought all of them were assholes from the absolute get-go. From the very beginning of the film they follow no orders at all and, from what I gathered, they break the secret base's cover by deciding (the film thinks heroically) to go save the U.S. ambassador's life after he is attacked at a mansion where he and his security detail are staying. The ambassador is dead already, and our fratboys disobey orders to go to the compound to try to save him and his guys. Fine. But then the saved guys and the swaggerers with guns lead their attackers directly to the no longer secret CIA base where they endanger the lives of some 75 operatives who had been working in secret in Libya but who are now exposed as U.S. spies. Then the bros defend the base for the last hour or so of the movie. This anti-intellectual film (a Harvard degree is an indication of total cluelessness in this movie) is photographed more than anything else like a single-person shooter video game, and the effects look comparable to one of them. It's designed to celebrate blowing things up, to take pleasure in shooting nameless and mostly faceless Africans, and to justify U.S. presence in North Africa. Perhaps what is most interesting about 13 Hours is its own blindness to the fact that it caused its own problems. The characters wouldn't have needed to be saved if they hadn't have been swaggering idiots in the first place. And Americans wouldn't be dead if they weren't holed up in a secret CIA base in North Africa to begin with. What is so extraordinarily distasteful about a movie like this is that it believes that no one in the military knows anything about what to do in a situation like the one the film describes. Apparently the only people who know anything at all are the men with the guns. And they know what to do simply by virtue of having guns. Because the right thing to do is always to shoot. When the right thing to do is always to kill people, it is the men with the guns who always seem to be able to do the right thing. I hated every second of this.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A

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