Split

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Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities, and must try and escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

Split reminded me why I love M. Night Shyamalan so much. He hasn’t been at the top of his game lately, with films like The Last Airbender and After Earth not bringing him much success, but Split is easily his greatest film since Signs, which was released almost fifteen years ago. Shyamalan brings back what made The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs so great and uses it to develop a fantastic psychological thriller. James McAvoy gives the leading role of this film everything he’s got, and I never imagined that he was capable of delivering such an insane and incredible performance as the kidnapper with multiple personality disorder. He portrays every personality so uniquely and I could tell he was so committed to making this character as unforgettable as he turned out to be. Anya Taylor-Joy delivers another superb leading performance, bringing so much depth, fear, and emotion into her character. The interaction between the main characters is always interesting and significant. The first act starts out a little bumpy in terms of its writing, but soon the stakes are raised and it all leads up to a thrilling final act. Every move them film makes feels so mysterious and threatening that it could be hinting at anything. Everything feels very subtle, which is why there’s so much suspense. Shyamalan’s writing and directing here makes Split more special than it looks, and I felt like I was watching something much different than most films we go see on the big screen. He should have kept making movies like this years ago.

I am glad to say that Split is M. Night Shyamalan’s return to form, with so much suspense that it’s unqiue and unpredictable. The performances are outstanding, and the ending is one of Shyamalan’s most brilliant decisions. Split is an absolute treat to watch, especially for fans of Shyamalan’s golden days, like myself.

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Nominations Announced for the 89th Academy Awards

The Oscars will finally take place next month, and today, the nominees were announced. La La Land leads with 14 nominations, tied with Titanic and Ben-Hur for the most of all time. Arrival and Moonlight fall behind with eight. I was surprised that some films were or weren’t nominated in certain categories, but I most of the nominations for larger categories didn’t surprise me at all. Here are the nominees this year (the ones in bold are those who I think will win the award):

Best Picture:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Best Original Screenplay:
20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Best Animated Feature:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Cinematography:
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Best Visual Effects:
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Film Editing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

Best Original Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Best Original Song:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls
“City of Stars” from La La Land
“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Best Costume Design:
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land
Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

 

I am mostly content with the nominees this year, although some people or films in certain categories were unpresent. Although Arrival has a grand total of 8 nominations, three categories that it deserved to be nominated in and maybe even win were Best Actress for Amy Adams’ outstanding performance in the film, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. I’m at least glad it’s nominated for Best Picture and Director, as Denis Villenueve is one of the greatest and most underappreciated filmmakers working right now. After Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s win at the Golden Globes, I’m surprised that Michael Shannon is nominated instead in the Best Supporting Actor category for Nocturnal Animals. Both of these performances were fantastic, but I’m surprised that the Golden Globe-winning performance didn’t go on to get nominated for the Oscar. Nocturnal Animals was unfortunately only nominated for one Oscar, and I think its writing, score, and cinematography definitely should have been nominated. I’m also slightly disappointed that Tom Hanks didn’t get nominated for his performance in Sully, one of the most overlooked performances of the year. And I’m also not pleased by the fact that Finding Dory didn’t get a nomination for Best Animated Feature, as it was one of the best animated movies of the year, in my opinion. I’m glad La La Land got nominated in the deserving categories, and I guarantee it will win most of the big categories. There are still three Best Picture nominees that I haven’t watched (Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, and Manchester by the Sea), so I’ll hopefully get to seeing those before the actual Oscars ceremony comes around. So those are just my thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominations. I’d love to hear yours! Let’s see how these films do on February 26!

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Moonlight

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Moonlight follows a young black man and his journey from childhood to adulthood, as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

Moonlight is one of the few coming-of-age movies I’ve watched that actually leave a lasting impression on you after you see them. Most movies made about a character growing up or entering a new phase of their lives are meant to entertain and leave a smile on your face when the credits roll, but after watching Moonlight, I was affected. This movie takes a look at those who grow up during extremely tough circumstances, like how our protagonist, Chiron, is growing up in a poor neighborhood surrounded by bad role models and unfriendly classmates. We watch how a character experiences a not-so-perfect childhood and how that affects him later on in his life as well. Most coming-of-age movies are so great because they have lots of heart, but films like Boyhood, Good Will Hunting, and this, are meant to hit you hard emotionally. This movie definitely doesn’t fail. Director Barry Jenkins crafts great characters and a setting that we get to know as Chiron experiences important parts of growing up and tries to discover who he is meant to be in this world. Chiron is portrayed wonderfully by 3 different actors, and they all deliver almost life-like performances that are often emotionally tough to watch. Mahershala Ali is incredible as one of the most compelling supporting characters in the film. His character seems cliche at first, but after his first scene, he’s given lots of emotion and heart, and Ali did a terrific job embracing his role and bringing the best out of his acting. He’s come a long way from starring in Hunger Games movies and a Marvel TV series, and this is the performance that is sure to finally shine the light on him. Naomie Harris is also powerful and heartbreaking as Chiron’s mother, whose scenes are limited but very poignant.

Moonlight tells a coming-of-age story not in the inspiring way, but in the moving way. Although it may seem too similar to Boyhood, there are difference and filmmaking techniques and plot points that make the two films vastly different. Moonlight focuses on only three different chapters of the protagonist’s life with three different actors, and focuses more on hardships and influences of group up in rough circumstances, providing different themes and messages throughout its runtime. The writing and cinematography are always on-point and never boring, and the score is well-done and very nice to listen to. I could tell how dedicated the director was on telling such a difficult story that seemed so important to him, and he made lots of great choices while making this film. Moonlight may seem a tad familiar from marketing, but experiencing it is different from watching any other film. Well-acted, directed, and written, Moonlight is a powerful and moving tale of self-discovery. Not many films today are produced and made like Moonlight, so this film’s creativity and brilliance are guaranteed to score this film lots of nods at the Oscars.

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Hidden Figures

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Hidden Figures is the true story of a trio of African-American women who provided NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch John Glenn into space in 1962.

In a year filled with biopics and true stories, Hidden Figures may just be one of the finest. This is another one of those stories that introduces a new subject or new people to a large audience that had not known about them before. Before viewing this movie, I didn’t know anything about the marvelous achievements of these three women, and I love the types of movies and inform you about little know yet important historical matters like this. Taraji P. Henson delivers a terrific leading performance as Katherine G. Johnson, who’s achievements and legacy are the center of the film. Henson delivers lots of heart but also tons of emotion in her role. She is accompanied by outstanding supporting performances from Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner. The script is written very well, and the movie definitely knows how to keep an audience entertained, even though watching people discussing the mathematics of space launch and travel isn’t always the most entertaining thing to watch on the big screen. The events the film focus on aren’t just an important part of our history, but they also have great themes about bravery and persistence that will keep many audiences engaged, even some younger audiences will enjoy watching this movie. Although some of the movie’s filmmaking style, including its style of cinematography and score, feel very familiar and recycled from other films in its genre, and nothing about the directing or filmmaking is memorable at all, the triumphant storytelling and the empowering and interesting themes make this easy to ignore.

Hidden Figures has a great historical lesson and strong messages, as well as spot-on performances and writing. It’s a movie that audiences younger than teens can enjoy as well, and one that will definitely leave you thinking. It’s not a must in theaters, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t recommend it. Go see Hidden Figures if you’re interested in the subject, or just want to have a good time at the movies.

Three women standing in the foreground. In the background a rocket is launching.

Silence

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In Martin Scorsese’s new religious epic, two priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) journey to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) only to face violence and prosecution against Christianity.

Silence is unfortunately one of the more disappointing films this awards season. Some have acclaimed it, but I felt disappointed and unsatisfied when the film ended. Scorsese does a great job with the film’s technical aspects, using natural sound beautifully instead of music in any scenes, and the cinematography and set designs are great as well. Andrew Garfield delivers a great performance, even though it’s emotionally hard to connect with his character. Liam Neeson also delivers a very good supporting performance in a key role. However, I was disappointed in the lack of strength that the film’s theme had. Most historical films know how to pull you in with the topic they focus on, but besides some gripping and powerful scenes involving torture and violence, Silence has nothing to offer throughout its runtime that’s worth the price of admission. The film’s 2 hours and 40 minutes long, and despite most films that run as long and actually feel worth it, Silence feels 20 minutes too long with an epilogue that drags on and an unsettling climax. The historical topic felt very interesting and strong but I didn’t feel like it reached out to me as much as the trailer did. The film slows down way too often and some scenes feel repetitive or don’t advance the plot at all. When the scenes do feel important, they’re often powerful and incredibly shot, but something about the film’s religious and historical themes did not impress me, although I could tell Scorsese cared about making this film with all his heart. I’m surprised, however, that this is the project he’s been most passionate about making for the last 20 years, as he’s conveyed far more interesting topics in more impressive films than his latest.

Silence is beautifully shot and directed, with great performances from Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson, but its themes and plot feel hollow and I couldn’t connect with almost anything that happened. This film may reach out to you and you may end up loving it, but I personally was not impressed by the emotional connection the movie was aiming for. There are better films out there to watch in theaters and on Scorsese’s resume.

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The 74th Golden Globe Awards

Tonight was a great night for all the winners and nominees at the 74th Golden Globe Awards. There were many cheers, tears, and surprises at the awards tonight, which Jimmy Fallon did a pretty good job hosting, although he wasn’t really involved as a host as much as I thought he would be. The opening of the ceremony was an awesome tribute to La La Land, which won all seven awards in which it was nominated in, which is truly quite revolutionary. Without further ado, here are the winners in the movie categories:

Best Picture – Drama: Moonlight

Best Picture – Musical or Comedy: La La Land

Best Director – Damien Chazelle: La La Land

Best Actor – Drama: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress – Drama: Isabelle Huppert – Elle

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy: Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy: Emma Stone – La La Land

Best Supporting Actor: Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis – Fences

Best Screenplay: Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz – La La Land

Best Original Song: “City of Stars” – La La Land

Best Animated Feature: Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film: Elle (France)

I am very glad that La La Land was able to win 7 Golden Globes out of 7 nominations, and it has just set the record for the most Golden Globes won by a single film. I am so happy that it’s already becoming the classic that it deserves to become, and I can already imagine how much love the Academy will give it at the Oscars. I can’t see any other film winning Best Picture this year. I’m also glad that Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Viola Davis won awards for their fantastic work in their supporting roles in Nocturnal Animals and Fences. The winner for Best Animated Feature was a close battle between Moana and Zootopia, but Zootopia ended up taking home the award, which I have nothing against because Zootopia is a terrific animated film with great themes and animation. I am very surprised, however, that Isabelle Huppert won the award for her performance in a foreign language film, over Amy Adams’ wonderful performance in Arrival, as well as Natalie Portman’s performance in Jackie which has been getting a lot of buzz as well. I still need to watch Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight before the Oscars come around. Also, the recipient of this year’s Cecil B. DeMille Award was Meryl Streep, an award that she has deserved since the beginning of her career. Streep delivered a great acceptance speech,saying that Hollywood is the definition of arts. Well, I think it’s safe to say that this year’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony was a great one. Let’s see how these films do at the Oscars.

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Fences

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Denzel Washington directs this adaptation of a Tony award-winning play in which he and Viola Davis once starred in, and here they return in their roles as a working-class African-American father and his wife, who try to raise their family in the 1950’s. Here they deliver two of the year’s best performances with terrific chemistry and dialogue. Washington plays a complex character with a difficult past and a lot he must deal with in the present, who at first seems like a typical nice family man who cares about those close to him, but he’s also intimidating when he wants to be. Delivering such a strong performance like this can be especially hard when you’re on both sides of the camera, but he’s able to convey this character’s personality and wide range of emotions very well. As for Viola Davis, she hasn’t been this good in anything since The Help. She gives it he absolute best here in every sense, and capturing the on-screen feeling of her character, who’s different than the typical housewife you’ll see in this type of films, is a task she’s definitely fit for handling. Despite the performances, there isn’t much about Fences that everyone is guaranteed to love. Sitting through this film requires more patience than most dialogue-heavy movies, and not because it’s 140 minutes long, but because of the extended scenes that span from 15-20 minutes, with a limited amount of characters and are heavy with dialogue and information. While many audiences may enjoy this style, others may not exactly enjoy sitting through the film. I enjoyed watching Fences on the most part due to its powerful themes and especially the performances, but its not one of the films that is guaranteed to keep everyone interested throughout the movie’s runtime. Watching Fences feels more like experiencing a play than a movie, so how much you’ll like it depends greatly on your taste. Some will definitely be captivated by nearly every moment in the film, and some may not enjoy it as much. It’s worth watching for the acting and the intense rush of feelings that you’ll experience in every scene. The emotions that are brought in and conveyed in each scene of the movie were unpredictable and there were lots of moments where mere dialogue exchanges felt heart-pumping because of this. The script deals with the characters and their relationships very well, building up the feelings and feeding us information about the characters throughout every minute in the film, until there becomes a bit too much for the screenplay to need to handle. The small setting in which the entire film takes place makes the larger picture of where and when the movie takes place feel underdeveloped, but the way the actors bring the characters and how they interact with the setting definitely makes up for this.

Fences isn’t a must-watch for everyone due to its theater style of scenery and storytelling, but it brings some superb writing and terrific performances to the screen that you can be sure the Academy won’t ignore.

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