academy awards

“Call Me By Your Name and I’ll Call You By Mine”

Several months ago while watching movie previews before a picture I was seeing, I saw the preview for a film that really piqued my interest. When that movie, Call Me By Your Name, came out on November 24th, I anticipated the time when I’d finally be able to see it in theaters. It was only released in major cities initially before making its way to this armpit of a place that I live in. I saw it about two weeks ago and it was one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in a while.

Call Me By Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio, an artfully precocious 17 year old and Armie Hammer as Oliver, a 24 year old doctoral student who joins Elio’s family at their summer home in Italy for a 6 week period. The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by André Aciman. It depicts the love affair that develops that summer between Elio and Oliver. The screenplay was adapted by James Ivory and the film was directed by Luca Guadagnino.

The film begins at Elio’s family’s Italian countryside home in the summer of 1983 where Elio, his mother (Amira Casar), and father (Michael Stuhlbarg) anticipate the arrival of their summer guest, Oliver. Since Oliver is new in town, Elio takes Oliver on a tour of the area later that day. Elio also explains how he spends his summers. It’s not long before Oliver begins to partake in the summer activities of swimming in the river, hanging out with friends, and going out at night, and their love for each other begins to blossom.

Since being released in November, the film has received an assortment of critical acclaim and accolades. It was recently nominated for 4 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ivory), and Best Original Song (“Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens). It received nominations at the British Academy Film Awards (4), the Critics’ Choice Awards (8), the Independent Spirit Awards (6), the Golden Globe Awards (3), and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (1). James Ivory received a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Chalamet received Breakout Actor Awards from the National Board of Review, the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and the Hollywood Film Awards.

Like I said, I saw the film two weeks ago after anticipating seeing it for about two months. I was captivated by its beauty. Being set and filmed in Italy definitely adds to that. The story itself is special though. It’s almost a coming of age type of love for Elio as a teenager. He has such a strong infatuated love for Oliver throughout the film. Oliver subtly shows his interest for Elio as well, when finally they take the next step. Plus I wasn’t sure how that peach scene would play out, but now I totally get it! Since seeing the film, I’ve also begun to read the novel. My friend told me that there are many parts in the novel that were cut out of the film so I’m eager to compare them.

I highly recommend checking out this film. It’s such a great and powerful love story that isn’t a cliché romantic film or romantic comedy love story. It’s been in and out of theaters all over the country for the last 2 months. I’m sure it won’t be long before the film is released on streaming and DVD/Blu-ray too. If you wanted to see if before the Academy Awards airs though, I would make plans to see it as soon as possible because it seems to only stay in theaters for a few short weeks.

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Lady Bird

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” -Joan Didion, Lady Bird

On Monday I had the pleasure of seeing a film that’s been generating a ton of hype, Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film, Lady Bird. Just the other day it broke the record for positive reviews with 100% positive on movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also been receiving some Oscar buzz since award season predictions have begun.

The comedy-drama film is set in Sacramento, California in the early 00’s and explores the relationship between a mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who renames herself, Lady Bird. The movie spans a year through the ups and downs of Lady Bird’s senior year of high school at a Catholic high school into the beginning of her freshman year of college. It was both written and directed by Gerwig. Lady Bird also stars Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s father Larry McPherson, Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird’s best friend Julianne “Julie” Steffans, Lucas Hedges as one of Lady Bird’s love interests/friends Danny O’Neill, Timothée Chalamet as another one of Lady Bird’s love interests Kyle Scheible, and Lois Smith as Lady Bird’s teacher/principal Sister Sarah Joan.

After seeing the film on Monday, I thought it was such a great depiction of the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion. Both characters are so much alike that they constantly butt heads despite caring for each other tremendously. I also thought the movie was a great ode to the city of Sacramento. The city holds a special place in my hearty because I spent 6 days there for work this past June and they were some of my favorite of the year. So seeing this movie about 6 months later filled my heart with joy. I also thought it was cool to see the capital of California get some recognition in the entertainment industry because usually if a California city is the setting for a television show or a movie, it’s Los Angeles or San Francisco. The movie was also filmed on location in Sacramento which made for accurate visuals of the city.

I’m definitely a huge fan of coming of age films and this one was no different. The story was so raw and real as well which allows viewers to have a special connection with it. As award season approaches, there will be many films being talk about and many you’ll want to see. I feel like Lady Bird is one that can resonate with almost anyone though, making it a must-see this year. The acting and cinematography are just as brilliant as the story too. I’m not saying this movie will be the best picture of 2017 but it will definitely be high on the list.

 

 

The 87th Annual Little Golden Man Figurine Awards

Two weeks ago was the biggest night in music, but last night was the biggest night in movies. Obviously I got into the whole thought of award shows in my Grammy’s post. While researching for that post I found out the Academy Awards (a.k.a. the Oscar’s) are the most prestigious, most watched, and oldest awards given out in entertainment. If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you’ll know that I saw and wrote posts about 3 movies that were nominated for several Academy Awards (Boyhood, Whiplash, and Birdman). Each of those took home Oscars last night. Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actress. Whiplash won 3 awards for Best Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons), Sound Mixing, and Film Editing (all well deserved). Birdman shared the top honor with most wins last night (with The Grand Budapest Hotel) with 4 awards including Cinematography (called it), Best Original Screenplay, Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and the coveted Best Picture.

In other big award moments of the night, Eddie Redmayne took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and Julianne Moore won Best Actress for her role as a linguistics professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. But like the Grammy’s, the Oscar’s are more than just an awards presentation. They’re a show, and there were some pretty notable moments to take from the show aspect. In my opinion, there was nothing quite as good as taking an epic selfie or delivering pizza to the audience, but still this year delivered in its own way.

John Legend and Common’s performance of “Glory” from the film Selma was incredibly moving. Lady Gaga slayed her performance which was an ode to Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music that was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Then there was host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear. He pulled off the Birdman skit for sure. However to me, I think there were two other pretty fantastic and inspiring moments that happened.

The first was when Patricia Arquette was delivering her acceptance speech after receiving her award for Best Supporting Actress. Rather than just describing it, you can watch it here. What she said was so important for all women, but what was even more awesome was the way her message touched Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez. Both responded in such a way that indicated their support of what she said. The second was when Graham Moore received his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game. His acceptance speech can be seen here. His message to “stay weird, stay different” definitely reached so many that watched. Those words were incredibly important for self-acceptance no matter who you are.

It seems more often than not, a lot of Oscar acceptance speeches touch on cultural issues in a way that speak to so many affected by these issues. The recipients seem so humbled by the tremendous honor and dedicate their achievement to those that have influenced them in some way shape or form. I mean I guess that’s typically how it goes with most awards, but I think with an Oscar it’s like the grand prize so the winners are much more grateful than with other award shows. Not that other awards don’t matter, but with the Oscar’s there’s a little something extra.

So with all the awards presented and the cast and creators of Birdman on stage accepting the award for Best Picture, the 87th Annual Little Golden Man Figurine (Academy) Awards (and awards season in general) came to a close. Another year of great films in 2015 is ahead before the next Oscar’s presentation. Until then the winners can enjoy their achievements. However I think everyone at the Oscar’s is truly a winner, because they all had some part in incredible film making. But let’s be honest, you really came out on top last night if you left with a Lego Oscar.

Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence

In the upcoming weeks the movie world will go full throttle into what is known as “awards season”. Awards season begins in the fall and culminates with Academy Awards in February. With that being the case and knowing I had seen some pretty worthy movies in the last few months, I did a quick internet search for projected Academy Award nominations. It was no surprise to find Boyhood and Whiplash, two movies I previously wrote about on here, as part of the projections (links to those blog posts on each of their respective names). Another that was near the top of the list for nominations was the film Birdman, starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts.

I saw the preview for Birdman a few months ago (I actually think it was in the coming attractions when I saw Boyhood) and it looked like a film that I’d be somewhat interested in. Because of that and the high praise it seems destined to receive, I decided to go check it out yesterday. After seeing this movie, it makes complete sense as to why it’ll be on the top of the list for awards season.

The plot centers around a washed up actor, Riggan Thomson, and his quest to get back into the limelight by writing, directing, producing, and starring in his own Broadway play. Earlier in his career Riggan starred as the superhero, Birdman, which gave him his claim to fame. The story really examines Riggan’s desire to be relevant and important to the world and in turn looks at the other characters’ need for relevance as well.

What stood out to me in this film was by far the cinematography. It seemed like it could have been filmed with one camera over an entire day(s) as the movie never really cut to different shots. Instead the camera would circle a character’s body to get a view of another character they were talking to or both characters would get so close together that they were both shown talking in the shot. When a scene ended, the camera would follow one character from the scene until another appeared. Then it would either stay with the first character or switch to following that other character depending on what the next scene required. It was like every scene in the film seemed to be merged together so that the movie looked like one long shot. It’s not something you’d commonly see.

The second thing that stood out was the acting. I haven’t seen that many Edward Norton films. I have seen Fight Club though, which was probably his most notable. Birdman was Fight Club good Edward Norton, but his acting in this even surpassed Fight Club. Actually in the first quarter of the movie it felt like Edward Norton stole the show for me. As it went on though, both Michael Keaton and Emma Stone shined in their respective roles.

So do I recommend you see this movie? I would say only if you’re really interested in seeing a film that’s sure to win a bunch of awards or you’re really interested in the plot line or one or more of the actors. I did enjoy Birdman, but it wasn’t as high up on my list of must-see projected award nominated films such as Boyhood or Whiplash. I would also say to see it if you’re interested in film as an art form because like I said the cinematography is one to be reckoned with. I’ll actually be disappointed if it doesn’t win the Oscar for it. Win or lose though no matter what the award or category, it will probably go down as being one of the best films of the year.

Whiplash

Yesterday, I was able to take advantage of $5 Tuesday’s and see the movie Whiplash starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. I saw the preview for it a month prior and was interested because of the focus on drumming in the film (I played the drums for a while and they were my first instrument). Not only that but I sort of have a connection to Miles Teller. I don’t know him personally nor have I met him, but his father was childhood friends with my uncle. I guess my mom also knew his dad from the times he used to hang around their home growing up. So because of that little connection, my interest in a film goes up when he’s in it.

Whiplash is about a young aspiring musician, Andrew Neyman (Teller), in his first year of school at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music based in Manhattan (according to the film this fictional school is one of the most prestigious music schools in the country) and his relationship with his feared, hard-nosed instructor, Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher recruits Andrew to join his elite studio jazz band shortly into the movie where he learns of Fletcher’s highly demanding teaching methods. Throughout the film Fletcher shows Andrew just what it takes to be one of the greats using his not-so-kind approach.

As a musician and especially as a drummer, I loved this film. The particular style of music played in it (jazz) isn’t one I’m familiar with as far as playing goes, but I know enough to know that jazz is one of, if not the most difficult style of music to play as a drummer. This film is more than just music. It shows a person’s drive, passion, and desire to become the best at what he loves even when faced with someone who is willing to challenge him in the most difficult ways. The mental and physical struggle to prove Andrew’s desire to be the greatest drummer of all time is exhibited beautifully in the movie. It’s hard to not be inspired by it. It’s also hard to believe that this film will not be considered as part of the Oscar buzz. Just like it’s main character, it’s worthy of high achievement. So if you get a chance to see this, I recommend you do.