Review: Moonlight

Usually, I give warning to my readers whenever there is a film of note that I am interested in seeing but if I want to write about a film that I had the opportunity to see for myself, I take the initiative and offer my thoughts.

For months now, I’ve heard many good things about a movie that has quietly garnered a lot of acclaim and attention, heralded as one of the year’s best and yesterday I managed to track this particular film down, attend a screening and see for myself what all the fuss is about. This film is simply titled Moonlight.

From writer/director Barry Jenkins is an adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s introspective and deeply personal “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” Moonlight is a three-part tale about a young man from Miami navigating his way through various aspects of his life.

Moonlight follows Chiron during the climatic moments of his childhood, adolescence and adulthood, constantly questioning his identity and his place in the world and chronicling his relationships with his crack-addict mother, his surrogate nuclear family with a drug-dealer named Juan and his girl Theresa, and his childhood friend Kevin, whose relationship would evolve to become something more.

220px-moonlight_282016_film29

Image by A24

From part i titled “Little” to part ii titled “Chiron” to part iii titled “Black,” Moonlight is equal parts, emotional, haunting, artistically nuanced, technically sophisticated and worth all of the acclaim it is receiving. I can definitely attest to the power of Moonlight because every frame gorgeously captures a gripping sense of ethos and emotional resonance.

What makes Moonlight special is that even though this film has a plethora of moments, those moments don’t exactly grab you in the way to truly excite you. Rather the moments of Moonlight, for example when young Chiron-Little as he prefers to be called- is sitting at Juan and Theresa’s dining room table after an episode with his mother the night before, and he’s asking questions like “what’s a faggot?”, that is one of many powerful moments of Moonlight but instead of jolting you, I found that this movie was more gentle and tender on its audience, at least for me. I was very drawn in and scintillated by the action but it was more soothing and caressing than what I was used to.

Barry Jenkins is at the helm of a project that will linger with audiences for a while. This is a powerful and honest story about self-discovery, identity and connection yet it is truly beautiful to behold. I felt that handling Chiron’s sexual identity was done with a great degree of taste and discretion, particularly in the scene where he and Kevin started out talking to each other on the beach, then they transitioned into kissing and then it became more physical yet vague, the audience knows that they were doing something but what is subject to interpretation; I felt that aspect of the film was handled very professionally and objectively and I credit Jenkins for utilizing such an approach.

Moonlight also features a truly well-rounded cast featuring the talents of Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Alex R. Hibbert, Jaden Piner, Ashton Sanders, Patrick Decile, Jharrel Jerome, Trevonte Rhodes, Andre Holland, Tanisha Cidel, Herveline Moncion; there is quality ensemble acting in this film.

Technically, Moonlight is as artistic as it gets and the quality of the artistic value is sublime!

First and foremost, this film has to feature the best cinematography and camerawork I’ve seen so far this year. James Laxton’s use of tracking shots and extreme close-ups are some of the best I’ve seen since Emmanuel Lubezki. Frame by frame, this movie is beautiful. Hypnotic, if you could take it one step further.

The editing courtesy Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders is first-class. I particularly enjoyed the sequence in the second act where Chiron exacts his revenge on resident bully, the camera follows him from behind from home, to the hallway of his school, to his classroom where he takes a chair and slams it onto Tarrel’s back; it felt seamless, it flowed smoothly and it was effective.

The music of Nicholas Brittel brought a sense of gravitas and elegance to Moonlight that only enhanced its spellbinding nature. I also felt that Hannah Beachler’s production design and the art direction by Mabel Barba, the costume design of Caroline Eselin, Regina McLarney’s set decoration, were all aces.

Could you call Moonlight the next Boyhood? Perhaps because it does wreak of strong familiarity to Richard Linklater’s masterwork but I like to think Moonlight is a prestige picture of its own right. I went into Moonlight ready for one of the elite films of 2016 and I was not disappointed.

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2016 Oscar Predictions Part II

Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Image by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

And we’re back. You’ve already seen part I of my Oscar predictions for this year. Now it’s time for part II. Let’s get into it then!

Best Original Song:

  • Earned It-Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Manta Ray-Facing Extinction
  • Simple Song #3-Youth
  • Til it Happens to You-The Hunting Ground
  • Writing’s On the Wall-Spectre

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Earned It-Fifty Shades of Grey

Best Original Score:

  • Thomas Newman-Bridge of Spies
  • Carter Burwell-Carol
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson-Sicario
  • John Williams-Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Ennio Morricone-The Hateful Eight

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Ennio Morricone-The Hateful Eight

Image by Georges Biard, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Film Editing:

  • Margaret Sixel-Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Tom McArdle-Spotlight
  • Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey-Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Hank Corwin-The Big Short
  • Stephen Mirrione-The Revenant

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Hank Corwin-The Big Short

Image by Below the Line

Best Cinematography:

  • Edward Lachman-Carol
  • John Seale-Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Roger Deakins-Sicario
  • Robert Richardson-The Hateful Eight
  • Emmanuel Lubezki-The Revenant

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Emmanuel Lubezki-The Revenant

Image by Cine Latino

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Nick Hornby-Brooklyn
  • Phyllis Nagy-Carol
  • Emma Donoghue-Room
  • Charles Randolph and Adam McKay-The Big Short
  • Drew Goddard-The Martian

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay-The Big Short

Image by Astrid Schwartz/Getty

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Matt Charman, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen-Bridge of Spies
  • Alex Garland-Ex Machina
  • Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley-Inside Out
  • Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy-Spotlight
  • Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff-Straight Outta Compton

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy-Spotlight

Image by Film Trailer

Now we come to the fun part, which is part III of my predictions where I will who may be the winning actors, director and the prestigious Best Picture. Check back soon.

Behold! The Nominees for the 88th Annual Academy Awards!

oscar-guyAfter months and months of waiting, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have spoken! This morning, President of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs, along with Guillermo Del Toro, Ang Lee and John Krazinski unveiled the nominees in the 24 categories for the 88th Academy Awards! Let’s dive right into those categories shall we?

Foreign Language Film:

  • A War (Denmark)
  • Embrace of the Serpent (Columbia)
  • Mustang (France)
  • Son of Saul (Hungary)
  • Theeb (Jordan)

Documentary:

  • Amy
  • Cartel Land
  • The Look of Silence
  • What Happened, Miss Simone?
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Visual Effects:

  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Animated Feature Film:

  • Anomalisa
  • O Menino eo Mundo (Boy and the World)
  • Inside Out
  • Shaun the Sheep
  • When Marnie Was There

Costume Design:

  • Sandy Powell-Carol
  • Sandy Powell-Cinderella
  • Jenny Beavan-Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Paco Delgado-The Danish Girl
  • Jacqueline West-The Revenant

Makeup and Hairstyling:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Original Song:

  • Earned It-Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Manta Ray-Facing Extinction
  • Simple Song #3-Youth
  • Til it Happens to You-The Hunting Ground
  • Writing’s On the Wall-Spectre

Original Score:

  • Thomas Newman-Bridge of Spies
  • Carter Burwell-Carol
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson-Sicario
  • John Williams-Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Ennio Morricone-The Hateful Eight

Production Design:

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Film Editing:

  • Margaret Sixel-Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Tom McArdle-Spotlight
  • Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey-Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Hank Corwin-The Big Short
  • Stephen Mirrione-The Revenant

Cinematography:

  • Edward Lachman-Carol
  • John Seale-Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Roger Deakins-Sicario
  • Robert Richardson-The Hateful Eight
  • Emmanuel Lubezki-The Revenant

Adapted Screenplay:

  • Nick Hornby-Brooklyn
  • Phyllis Nagy-Carol
  • Emma Donoghue-Room
  • Charles Randolph and Adam McKay-The Big Short
  • Drew Goddard-The Martian

Original Screenplay:

  • Matt Charman, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen-Bridge of Spies
  • Alex Garland-Ex Machina
  • Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley-Inside Out
  • Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy-Spotlight
  • Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff-Straight Outta Compton

Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Alicia Vikander-The Danish Girl
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh-The Hateful Eight
  • Kate Winslet-Steve Jobs
  • Rachel McAdams-Spotlight
  • Rooney Mara-Carol

Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Christian Bale-The Big Short
  • Mark Ruffalo-Spotlight
  • Mark Rylance-Bridge of Spies
  • Tom Hardy-The Revenant
  • Sylvester Stallone-Creed

Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Cate Blanchett-Carol
  • Brie Larson-Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence-Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling-45 Years
  • Saiorse Ronan-Brooklyn

Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Bryan Cranston-Trumbo
  • Matt Damon-The Martian
  • Leonardo DiCaprio-The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender-Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne-The Danish Girl

Direction:

  • Lenny Abrahamson-Room
  • George Miller-Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu-The Revenant
  • Adam McKay-The Big Short
  • Tom McCarthy-Spotlight

Best Picture:

The full list of nominees can be found via the provided link. Later I will provide my analysis of the Oscars’ class of 2015 and I will post my predictions in the coming weeks. Chris Rock will host the festivities and the 88th Annual Academy Awards will be televised on ABC on February 28, 2016.

My Predictions for the 21st Critics Choice Awards

Image by BFCA

Image by BFCA

One of my favorite awards shows of the year is days away which makes it a perfect time to unveil my predictions for the 21st Annual Critics Choice Awards. Last week, I posted my predictions for the Golden Globes, and not to toot my own horn I f***ing CRUSHED IT in the film categories!!! Anyway, I will make my predictions on a different criteria than I did the Golden Globe Awards, since both guilds have different standards for determining the best of the year. Here are the nominees for the Critics Choice Awards:

Best Foreign Language Film:

  • The Assassin
  • Goodnight Mommy
  • Mustang
  • Son of Saul
  • The Second Mother

Projected Winner: Son of Saul

Image by Laokoon Film Arts

Best Score:

  • Carter Burwell, Carol
  • Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto, The Revenant
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
  • Howard Shore, Spotlight

Projected Winner: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Image by Georges Biard, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Song:

  • “Love Me Like You Do,” Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “See You Again,” Furious 7
  • “Til It Happens to You,” The Hunting Ground
  • “One Kind of Love,” Love and Mercy
  • “Writing’s on the Wall,” Spectre
  • “Simple Song #3,” Youth

Projected Winner: “Writing’s on the Wall,” Spectre

Best Documentary Feature:

  • Amy
  • Cartel Land
  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  • He Named Me Malala
  • The Look of Silence
  • Where to Invade Next

Projected Winner: Amy

Image by A24

Best Visual Effects:

  • Ex Machina
  • Jurassic World
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • The Walk

Projected Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Image by Warner Bros.

Best Animated Feature:

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • Shaun the Sheep

Projected Winner: Inside Out

Image by Disney

Best Hair and Makeup:

  • Black Mass
  • Carol
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Danish Girl

Projected Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Image by Warner Bros

Best Costume Design:

  • Odile Dicks-Mireaux, Brooklyn
  • Sandy Powell, Carol
  • Sandy Powell, Cinderella
  • Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl
  • Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road

Projected Winner: Sandy Powell, Cinderella

Image by Disney

Best Editing:

  • Hank Corwin, The Big Short
  • Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Pietro Scalia, The Martian
  • Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
  • Tom McArdle, Spotlight

Projected Winner: Pietro Scalia, The Martian

Image by 20th Century Fox

Best Production Design:

  • Adam Stockhausen and Rena DeAngelo, Bridge of Spies
  • François Séguin, Jennifer Oman and Louise Tremblay, Brooklyn
  • Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler, Carol
  • Eve Stewart and Michael Standish, The Danish Girl
  • Colin Gibson, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Arthur Max and Celia Bobak, The Martian

Projected Winner: Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler, Carol

Image by The Weinstein Company

Best Cinematography:

  • Edward Lachman, Carol
  • Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
  • John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Dariusz Wolski, The Martian
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
  • Roger Deakins, Sicario

Projected Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Image by 20th Century Fox

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short
  • Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
  • Drew Goddard, The Martian
  • Emma Donoghue, Room
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

Projected Winner: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short

Image by Plan B Entertainment

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Bridge of Spies
  • Alex Garland, Ex Machina
  • Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
  • Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, Inside Out
  • Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Projected Winner: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Image by Participant Media

Best Acting Ensemble:

  • The Big Short
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Trumbo

Projected Winner: Spotlight

Image by Participant Media

Best Young Actor/Actress:

  • Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
  • R.J. Cyler, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl
  • Shameik Moore, Dope
  • Milo Parker, Mr. Holmes
  • Jacob Tremblay, Room

Projected Winner: Jacob Tremblay, Room

Image by IsabellaSilentRose

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Helen Mirren, Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Projected Winner: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Image By https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyshek/, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Paul Dano, Love and Mercy
  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Projected Winner: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Image By Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
  • Saiorse Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

Projected Winner: Brie Larson, Room

Image by Nikki Nelson/WENN

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Projected Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Image By Christopher William Adach from London, UK (WP – random_-26), via Wikimedia Commons

Best Director:

  • Todd Haynes, Carol
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Ridley Scott, The Martian
  • Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

Projected Winner: Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Image by lionheartTV

Best Picture:

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Sicario
  • Spotlight
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Projected Winner:

Image by Participant Media

T.J. Miller will be the Master of Ceremonies when the 21st Annual Critics Choice Awards will be broadcast on Sunday January 17, 2016 on A&E. I will be on Twitter covering the event, check back on the blog then.

Review: The Revenant

For the record, let me make it clear that Leonardo DiCaprio was not raped by a bear! In the discussed sequence, I found that he was more chew-toy than plaything.

Anyway, the new film from last year’s Oscar winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu is a visually gorgeous and heart-racing endeavor; a character driven feature about survival, revenge and family set in the American frontier called The Revenant.

Oscar hopeful Leonardo DiCaprio stars as 19th century trapper Hugh Glass, who after a vicious bear attack is left for dead in the wilderness at the hands of John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, who tried to cover-up his wicked transgressions by killing Glass’ son Hawk, played by Forest Goodluck. After digging himself out of Fitzgerald’s shallow grave, Glass embarks on a harrowing trek through the wilderness, dodging marauding Natives, to find Fitzgerald and savor sweet satisfaction.

I’ve been looking forward to The Revenant for a long time and it was everything I expected it would be. The Revenant is a powerful accomplishment from director Alejandro González Iñárritu carried by Leonardo DiCaprio who is at his most phenomenal, and enhanced by the graceful and stirring cinematography of the legendary Emmanuel Lubezki; virtually everything about this film gets your heart racing and you can’t look away for a second! Heavy on the wow-factor.

Alejandro González Iñárritu has undoubtedly delivered a successful follow-up to his Oscar-winner for Best Picture Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) with this gritty and intense drama about a man who will go to great lengths for family as well as his own survival. Adapted from Michael Punke’s novel, The Revenant is a masterstroke from Iñárritu and screenwriter Mark L. Smith.

Iñárritu sits at the helm of one of 2015’s most emboldened and technically well-endowed features. Obviously, the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki can speak for itself; you could take this movie frame-by-frame blow them all up as individual tableaus and museums could dedicate a wing to showcase The Revenant’s gorgeous visual artistry through the cinematic eye of Lubezki and his camera.

Stephen Mirrione was robbed of an Oscar nomination for his editing last year (Birdman) but I feel that he has a solid chance for recognition this year.

I felt that the music from Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto felt a little out of place at certain intervals of the film but I will recognize how distinct it was.

Jack Fisk’s production design, Michael Diner, Isabelle Duay and Laurel Bergman’s art decoration all exhibited the raw power of shooting in a natural location, Hamish Purdy’s set decoration was amazing, the costumes of Jacqueline West were as authentic as you could ask for, the sound, makeup, the special and visual effects, I was impressed with everything. What’s more is that I’ve heard about the stories recalling how grueling this production was but I must admit that this movie was an example of how suffering creates art and this was stunning to behold!

Image By Siebbi (Leonardo DiCaprio), via Wikimedia Commons

Leonardo DiCaprio has always been an actor who I could count on to deliver an outstanding performance but he went above and beyond with The Revenant as Hugh Glass. The lengths that he went to for this film, were it eating raw bison liver, or sleeping in a carcass or getting mauled and maimed by a possibly 300 lb bear, I could tell that he came committed to this role and he was determined to have the Best Actor Oscar on lock with a performance that touched something primal and fearless. Bravo Mr. DiCaprio!

Tom Hardy has certainly enjoyed 2015 and with The Revenant, he himself turned in a resounding performance as John Fitzgerald, the callous, greedy and deceptive opportunist who would do what needed to be done to save his own skin and make a profit.

The rest of the cast including Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Melah Nakehk’o are minor roles but all is compatible with their performances.

The word “revenant” means “one who has returned.” It applies to Hugh Glass, for he was a man who was left for dead and he returned to exact his revenge. The term “revenant” can also apply to several individuals who had a hand in crafting this gorgeous thriller that will have hearts racing in theaters.

I foresee that Alejandro González Iñárritu, Emmanuel Lubezki and Leonardo DiCaprio will return to the Oscars this February for they should be recognized for their contributions to The Revenant. The Revenant is one of 2015’s most distinguished and exhilarating achievements in film.