You have enough on your plate. Nominee luncheons. Press releases. Etc. I get it. You don’t have time to watch all the nominated films. No worries. I’m pleased to step up to the plate, watch the movies, and offer my (informed) opinions. I know you’ve looked forward to this memo for the last nine years, so how could I possibly disappoint you by skipping a year? So attend your lunches and write your press releases lauding improved diversity numbers among your ranks. Leave the Oscars to me. I’ll take it from here.
The tradition continues. I’ve been documenting my top films of the year since 2002, when Bowling for Columbine took the top spot. This past year had some real gems, including those that made this list, as well as some that didn’t, like low-budget indie The Florida Project and large-scale blockbuster Beauty and the Beast. Check out my 2017 list, then tell me what made your list.
Eight years later, I’m still waiting for that magical piece of mail, inviting me to join your fine organization. But that’s not keeping me from sounding off on a few Oscar categories. I’ve seen all the nominated films, and I have some thoughts that should be considered. So allow me to make your job easier. Here’s who should win. You’re welcome.
I’ve been having conversations lately with friends who aren’t quite buying into the frenzy. They may like or dislike La La Land, but either way they’re just not getting it. “Fourteen Oscar nominations? Tied for the most in history?” La La Land may be good, but it’s not a juggernaut, they might say. Its effect on our culture is hardly titanic in scale. So why all the hype?
I’ve been seeing a deluge of posts online about how great Hidden Figures is. I like the movie, but it’s by no means as terrific as people say, in my opinion. Yes, it’s a good thing that this story has come to the surface, giving due recognition to these important people. But…
Full disclosure: I’m not black.
However, I do believe the film trivializes the African-American experience in the 1960s. There are nearly no hurdles for the women in the film to overcome. How can that be? They’re black in the 1960s South! Every obstacle is cleared in the same scene in which it’s presented. Three examples (minor spoilers ahead):
Now that all eight Best Picture Oscar-nominated films have been announced, it’s time to catch up with your screenings before the February 28 ceremony. Here’s a parade of trailers for all Best Picture nominees to get you ready. Check out a complete list of nominees for the 88th Academy Awards here.
How does one of the world’s most dominant religions attempt to reconcile its longstanding troubles when a new film continues to shed light on them? It’s no secret that the Catholic Church has had more than its share of criticisms, from its controversial stances on homosexuality and divorce to its treatment of women. Arguably, the Church’s most pressing concern continues to be its response to the highly publicized sex abuse scandal, initially brought to light by The Boston Globe in January 2002. This journalistic investigation is the subject of Spotlight(2015), the new film from Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) about the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of journalists that exposed the scandal and the Church’s controversial response. So how will the film impact public perceptions of the Church? In short, it probably won’t.
If you’re anything like me, you make a point to watch as many “Oscar films” as possible before the February ceremony. To help me with this, I assemble a checklist of sorts every fall, ordering each film by release date. To that end, listed below are some of this year’s biggest prospects that are either currently in theatres or set to be released in the upcoming weeks. In the event that I’ve seen one of the films listed, I included my rating out of 10.
Life in New York City can be hard, especially for young artists on the verge of self-discovery. But with an abounding energy and “magical atmosphere,” as described by French-born filmmakers Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis, it’s, perhaps, the ideal setting for an individual to come of age. Amar’s and Bessis’s feature debut, Swim Little Fish Swim, captures the difficult reality often faced by idealistic artists—striking a balance between an uncompromised art and the economics necessary to survive in an increasingly expensive city.
In Swim Little Fish Swim, the multi-hyphenate filmmakers (Amar and Bessis both wrote, directed, and produced the film; Bessis also stars) tell the story of musician Leeward (Dustin Guy Defa) and his more practical wife, a nurse named Mary (Brooke Bloom). The couple struggles in raising a young child in an unforgiving city, let alone hosting young French artist Lilas (Bessis), who has problems of her own.
Although Amar and Bessis have collaborated on several short films in the past, Swim Little Fish Swim represents new territory for the duo. Coming off a successful festival fun (including a win for Best Film at Gen Art Film Festival and a nomination for the Grand Jury Award at SXSW), the feature opened in New York City’s Cinema Village on September 19, with a limited rollout to follow (including Los Angeles and Chicago on September 26 and Seattle on October 24). I recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview via e-mail with Amar and Bessis, who provided joint responses to questions regarding the film, their collaboration, and their impressions of New York City.
It seems appropriate to honor Nelson Mandela with this trailer for the newly released Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The fictionalized account of Mr. Mandela’s life, starring Idris Elba, opened in limited release on November 29, just six days before the world leader passed away.