The Oscars (89th Academy Awards)

Last night, the long-awaited 89th Oscars finally took place. There was some huge competition this year, despite some obvious winners, there were some surprises that I’ll get to later. Jimmy Kimmel did a great job hosting, and every joke he threw made me crack up. He was a fantastic choice to host the show. He poked at a lot of things, including his “rivalry” with Matt Damon and the president’s comments on the “overrated” Meryl Streep. We had great performances from John Legend, Auli’i Cravalho, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Justin Timberlake, and Sting. There were also some great segments including Jimmy Kimmel’s famous Mean Tweets, featuring stars from this year’s awards. Now, before I talk about the wins and awards, here are this year’s winners:

Best Picture: Moonlight
Best Director: Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Best Actor: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Best Actress: Emma Stone – La La Land
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis – Fences
Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Best Animated Feature: Zootopia
Best Original Score: La La Land
Best Original Song: “City of Stars” (from La La Land)
Best Cinematography: La La Land
Best Film Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Best Production Design: La La Land
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Suicide Squad
Best Costume Design: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Best Animated Short: Piper
Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Best Sound Editing: Arrival
Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge
Best Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
Best Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Best Live Action Short: Sing
Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman (from Iran)

I think that this year’s winners were mostly deserved. La La Land won 6 Oscars, the most of the night and I don’t think it won anything that it didn’t deserve. After some buzz that Denzel may make a surprise win for the third time, the award ended up going to the frontrunner, Casey Affleck. Affleck’s award was very well deserved for his brilliant work in Manchester by the Sea, which also won a well-deserving Original Screenplay award. I would have preferred Lucas Hedges or Dev Patel, but Mahershala Ali was also a great pick for Best Supporting Actor. One award I think was not well-deserved was Suicide Squad for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. I don’t think Suicide Squad is a good film at all, and even though it’s just the makeup/hairstyling category, I think the award should have gone to Star Trek Beyond. Another very well deserving win is for The Jungle Book, which brought some marvelous visual effects to the screen. Asghar Fahardi, the winner for Best Foreign Language Film for The Salesman (who also won this award five years ago for A Seperation), chose not to attend the Oscars in support of those from his nation and neighboring ones who have been affected by the recent immigration ban, which I believe was a brave thing for Fahardi to do.

Now, I’d like to talk about the biggest and most talked about event of the night, and that is the presentation of the Best Picture award. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway came onstage to present the award, and after opening the envelope, and a long confused pause, Beatty gave the card to Dunaway, who announced that the winner was La La Land. After the crew came up to the stage, they started to make their speeches when people from backstage came up to tell the crew about the mistake. One of the producers of La La Land told the crowd that the wrong card was read and that Moonlight was the actual winner. According to Beatty, he had accidentally been given the Best Actress card to read from. This may be one of the biggest moments in Oscar history. I feel bad for the La La Land crew, having experienced a huge Oscar win only to lose it minutes later. However, I’m surprised by how humble everyone acted during this mix-up, even one of the La La Land producers said he’d be happy to give the award to Moonlight. Even after this, I think La La Land really deserved the award. Despite being a powerful and deep film, Moonlight was an exceptional movie but I think that La La Land had the true spirit, beauty, and perfection that deserved to win Best Picture. La La Land was my favorite film of the year and an incredible achievement that’s already a classic. It has been in the making for years, and it took Chazelle a long time to finally get the film picked up by a studio. It also took a lot of hard work, including shutting down a highway for the opening scene, tons of set buildings, and lessons for the singers, dancers, and instrument players for the film. Moonlight is an excellent movie that addresses realistic and heavy themes but I think La La Land is a much more universally acclaimed and viewed film. Honestly, I even think Manchester by the Sea deserves the award slightly more than Moonlight. I’m at least glad that Damien Chazelle won Best Director. I knew he was an exceptional filmmaker ever since I saw Whiplash over two years ago. He’s the youngest director to ever win that award, and without a doubt, he deserves such an honor. Despite this upset, it was a great night for La La Land, and I enjoyed watching the Oscars this year. At least it’s only an awards ceremony, and I guess we all learned that even the Academy can sometimes make mistakes.

What did you guys think about this year’s Oscars? Who deserved to win, and who didn’t? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The 2017 Golden Slice Awards

The Oscars are coming up in two days, so over the past month, I held my own Oscar ceremony, the Golden Slice Awards. I’d like to thank my followers on Instagram for voting for these categories and determining these results. The nominees for the categories aren’t all the same as the Oscar nominees, as I also nominated popular films and performances on Instagram, as well as a few of my personal favorites that you guys also seemed to love. Many of these were close and nearly ties, but I was able to determine your favorites from each category. So without further ado, here are the winners of this year’s Golden Slice Awards:

Best Supporting Actor: Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

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Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

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Best Editing: Arrival

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Best Scene: Vader Unleashed – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Best On-Screen Duo: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – La La Land

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Best Action: Hacksaw Ridge

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Best Animated Movie: Zootopia

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Best Superhero Movie: Deadpool

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Best Cinematography: La La Land

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Best Cast: Nocturnal Animals

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Best Character: Wade Wilson/Deadpool – Deadpool

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Best Score: La La Land

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Best Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

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Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis – Fences

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Best Director: Damien Chazelle – La La Land

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Best Actor: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

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Best Actress: Emma Stone – La La Land

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Worst Picture: The Divergent Series: Allegiant

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Best Picture: La La Land

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Well, those are the winners you guys voted for to win this year’s Golden Slice Awards! Many of these winners were also nominated for the Oscars, so let’s see how these winners will do this Sunday! I had a blast holding these awards again, so thank you to everyone who voted and participated this year!

Lion

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Lion is the powerful true story of a five-year-old Indian boy named Saroo, who gets lost from his family and adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, Saroo sets out to find his real family.

There are rarely times when I am emotionally moved by films based on true stories, but surprisingly, Lion was able to grab hold of my heart through its beautiful performances, writing, and emotion. Dev Patel delivers one of his best performances, as well as one of the greatest performances of 2016. He steals every scene that he’s in with his quiet and deep emotion that he so exquisitely displays in his character. Not to mention newcomer Sunny Pawar, who blew me away in his performance as Saroo at a much younger age. It is rare to see such strong work being delivered by such young actors, and I’ve only seen such realistic work like what Pawar beings to the screen being delivered by younger actors this year in Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea. Puwar is the anchor of a large portion of the film, and with his great dialogue and soul, he carries his part of the film extremely well. Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman are both wonderful, as they dig into their roles and bring lots of life into their characters.

What makes Lion so potent and affecting definitely comes from its writing. Screenwriter Luke Davies writes a script that keeps the film well-paced, focuses on the important aspects of Saroo and the people around him, and makes you emotionally attached to the characters of the film through thoughtful themes and humanly characters. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, focusing on wide shots of the film’s marvelous locations, which include India and Australia. The movie’s score is also dazzling and definitely deserving of its Oscar nomination. Some people may not enjoy parts of the film as much as others, but I felt immersed in this true adventure that never gives up on speaking to its audiences. Every tear you may shed will be worth it, and every emotion leading up to a stunning climax will never fail to reach out to you. Lion is a brilliant biopic that will be emotionally challenging for many, but the journey is definitely worth experiencing.

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John Wick: Chapter 2

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Keanu Reeves is back as John Wick, who, after getting his revenge in the first film, returns to his normal life outside of the hitman world, but soon must return to repay a debt, and travel to Rome to face off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.

With the release of John Wick: Chapter 2, the next film in this epic action franchise, I can already say that 2017 is a great year for action movies. Director Chad Stahelski returns from the previous film to bring us a bigger, badder, and bloodier action film with action sequences that fans only imagine of. If you loved the first film, especially for its bold and exciting action scenes, you won’t be let down by the terrific non-stop action scenes put to film. Stahelski clearly knows how to direct action, especially when it comes to the great set pieces, cinematography, and choreography he’s given. The action scenes in the first John Wick film are only a warm-up for the insanity you’ll see here. The shootouts, fist fights, knife fights, and car chases in this film are all unforgettable and are up there with the scenes from the original film. Keanu Reeves was born for this role, which I knew he was perfectly fit for since I saw John Wick. Watching him fight through henchmen is as entertaining as it gets, with as much excitement, blood, and over-the-top violence you’d expect from this franchise. There are some notable appearances from supporting cast members, including Laurence Fishburne, who just doesn’t want to part with Reeves after The Matrix, and Common, who shares a number of memorable action sequences with Reeves.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is no blockbuster, but it uses its relatively smaller budget of $40 million to create fantastic and pleasing action that audiences will definitely love. There are some ideas the first film hinted at that are explored more here, which seems like something the writer had a lot of fun with. The film doesn’t forget what made its predecessor so great, including certain plot points, characters, and ideas, and especially the uncompromising, non-stop action and gives you everything you hoped for to make this a badass and thrilling sequel. However, there are certain things in the plot that were unclear or too ambitious to me. The protagonist’s motive in the first film is clearly revenge, but here, his motive to fight never convinced me or was clear enough to satisfy what I was hoping for. I feel that the simplicity of the first film’s plot was what made it so great, and although I’m glad this sequel built on the series’ mythology more, it often stumbles with its plot where it needs it the most. That, however, did not stop me from enjoying the hell out of the action sequences in this film. I’m very glad I was able to see a great action movie in theaters again, one in which no Marvel characters have to appear in order to make the film successful.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is sure to satisfy fans of action movies and of its predecessor, including myself. I had a great time watching this film, especially due to its unforgettable and thrilling action sequences, and although it’s not one of the greatest action films this decade, it’s one of the better ones as this generation doesn’t have too many great action movies left to offer. So overall, if you’re looking for an awesome and insane action film, you’ll leave John Wick 2 more than satisfied.

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The Lego Batman Movie

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Batman is back in action in his latest feature film, The Lego Batman Movie. This time around, he must defend Gotham City from the Joker, while trying to raise his adopted son and face the demons of his past.

When all hope seems lost for Batman in any future media whatsoever, Warner Bros. Animation comes to the rescue with an entertaining and satisfactory action flick. This follow-up to The Lego Movie holds on to what made the first one so successful, but also brings in a new tone, and that’s mostly due to its protagonist, who steals the screen once again. From the moment the film begins, I could tell how self-aware and clever the humor in the film would be, with Batman spoofing everything from other Warner Bros. media to other incarnations of himself. Will Arnett is a hilarious and terrific pick for the caped crusader. I don’t remember ever seeing Arnett actually do well on the big screen besides in these films. He truly embraces the character and what makes him great, and he delivers lots of humor very well. Michael Cera joins the cast of Lego superheroes as Batman’s young sidekick, Robin. Cera is quirky but oddly lovable and fun, and I’ve seen Cera play live-action roles like this in the past, so he was definitely a great choice to play the character. Zach Galifianakis is outrageously hysterical and amusing as The Joker, with his portrayal of the iconic villain being different but amusing for the sake of a family audience. Ralph Fiennes was a great choice to voice Alfred, and Rosario Dawson, who isn’t new to playing sidekicks to superheroes, also gives it her all in her role as Gotham police commissioner Barbara Gordon.

One thing that made me so delighted by the film’s humorous approach was the way it poked fun at itself and all of media out there, from Suicide Squad to Harry Potter to even Jerry Maguire. Whenever the humor wasn’t aimed to get laughs from kids, it was always finding ways to reference and spoof films and shows we all know, and it almost felt like a family edition of last year’s Deadpool. Another noteworthy point about the film is its great message for kids, about family and teamwork. It embraces a lot of what hasn’t been explored too much about Batman and uses it for great themes that could inspire viewers, especially younger ones. However, as the film started to throw more at you and advance further into its runtime, it became easier to predict how everything would go at the end. It borrows some overused cliches from other animated films that nothing feels like a surprise by the end. Some of the action feels very empty and unengaging, just because nothing about it feels original and new. Kids will most likely be intrigued by everything that happens in this movie, but I felt like some of it was too familiar and similar to what we’ve seen in family films before. If you take your kids or a younger audience to watch this movie, you’ll probably have a great time seeing it with them. However, some of the predictable elements in this movie bothered me at one point in the runtime. Also, there were some ideas thrown out there by The Lego Movie that could have been explored more in this one, but instead it chose to stick to being a Batman film, which I was mostly fine with because it’s trying to be its own film. Don’t expect this to be the exact same experience as The Lego Movie, since there’s a reason this is a spin-off and not a sequel.

The Lego Batman Movie is guaranteed to be a great time for families, with a great cast, humor, and themes, but some of it feels too predictable and recycled to the point that it becomes slightly uninteresting. It doesn’t have as much to offer as The Lego Movie, but it’s a fun time for families and especially younger audiences.

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Manchester by the Sea

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Manchester by the Sea focuses on Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), who is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father suddenly dies, and must come to terms his past upon returning to his hometown. This plot and the marketing for the film make it seem very simple and somewhat familiar, but this movie is actually one of the most complex, heartbreaking, and exceptional films to be released in the last few years. I’ve seen performances in which actors feel like people instead of actors, but it’s hard to think of another time when a film doesn’t feel like it’s a film, because of how realistic the experience is. Every line and scene feels very authentic and almost like it wasn’t even written. The performances are also terrific, without a doubt. The hype for Casey Affleck’s performance, including a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination, is well deserved, as he delivers the most affecting performance I’ve seen this year. He doesn’t deliver a big scene that you can tell will be screened at the Oscars when his name is read, but the melancholy and soul he fills his character with is so real and moving that you go from hating Lee in the first minutes to empathizing with him by the end. Lucas Hedges delivers one of the greatest performances by a younger actor in recent years, and I felt so pulled into his role that I barely felt like he was acting, either. Michelle Williams is also exquisite and heart-wrenching as Lee’s ex-wife, who only has a few scenes but none of which aren’t memorable.

What audiences are sure to remember the most after seeing Manchester by the Sea is its gut-punching emotion, as a large portion of the film is very depressing and tough to experience. The emotional connection established between the audience and the main character is so strong that some events in the film feel much more effective and powerful than they would if the writing was any less spectacular than it was. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan makes us not only care about the characters but he goes as far as making us experience these events with them. Whenever something out-of-the-ordinary happened, something as small as the shatter of a glass, the reaction the audience in my theater had, as well as myself, was much stronger than it would be in films such as blockbusters, because we were made to feel like we were going through these events as well. One thing that surprised me is that, even in all the sadness that’s being thrown at you, Lonergan was able to sneak in a few moments of great humor, and it’s not there to distract or turn the story upside down. The themes the movie will leave you thinking about can be connected to by everyone, as the film focuses on the strength of family, brotherhood, and parenthood. Manchester by the Sea is a riveting achievement that is able to leave a huge impact on you after watching it, even without beautiful cinematography and visuals like others among the year’s best films such as La La Land and Arrival. It has an authentic sense of humanity rather than of a film, and the performances are by far the best of the year. This movie is guaranteed to break your heart and impact you unlike many films this decade, as it’s a mature, brilliant, and flawless experience that must be viewed before this year’s Oscars.

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