Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What 'Moonlight's Best Picture win means for the future of the Academy

With all of the general insanity that occurred at Sunday night's Academy Awards, it's easy to overlook so many aspects of what happened. And I'm not talking about the monumental screw-up that will reverberate for months to come. I said what I needed to say about that. There's no reason to dwell on that moment. However, it's important to discuss how that fiasco overshadowed what would have been a historic moment for the Academy and for so many marginalized communities all over the country. Because in the midst of the most disgraceful moment in Oscar history, Moonlight, a $1.5 million independent film without any major stars or mainstream studio support about the struggles of an African-American LGBT youth, won Best Picture at the Oscars. That is significant on a social, artistic, and political level, and it means so much for the future of the Academy going forward. They had the obvious choice right in front of them, but they went with another film that touched their hearts and minds in a profound way. As much as I may have been rooting for my favorite film of the year, I can't help but be incredibly proud and happy for everything that this means.


Moonlight's victory doesn't solve the problems of the Academy. No one film or one person can destroy everything that has defined an institution for the last 89 years. The Oscars have a long history of ignoring achievements by minorities and recognizing safe films that don't challenge their perspectives or worldviews. Moonlight doesn't mean that #OscarsSoWhite is done forever, nor does it guarantee that they'll continue to acknowledge daring films like this. But with the Academy's effort to make changes to their membership base, maybe this group is finally changing for the better. Moonlight is the first Best Picture winner with an all African-American cast, and it's also the first to come from an African-American director. That Barry Jenkins' masterpiece arrived at precisely the right moment, the moment where we were crying out for something exactly like it, almost feels like a certain kind of fate.

Last year, there was a really great sketch from Trevor Noah that struck a chord with me. Noah lamented the fact that the Academy only recognizes films about the African-American experience when it somehow relates to slavery or civil rights. Voting for films like 12 Years a Slave makes voters feel good about themselves. Sure, Steve McQueen's film is a masterpiece in every way, shape, and form. It's a vital piece of work that deserved the Oscar. But there were members who voted for that film without even watching it. And in a way, that's representative of the same kind of racism that has plagued the Academy for years. When this year began, I remember saying in a conversation that the only way for the Academy to truly show that they had learned from their mistake in future years was to choose a film that showed the African-American experience without an explicit connection to slavery or civil rights. Moonlight stuck out to me as an opportunity for the members to recognize exactly that kind of film, but never in a million years did I think it was going to happen. It was too small, too indie, too reserved. It wasn't an obvious Best Picture winner.


If you want to diminish this achievement, you can say that Moonlight only won because of political correctness or because of the climate we're living in today. But I don't believe that. I really don't. Moonlight won Best Picture because it connected with the voters on an emotional level. It touched their hearts and touched their minds. In fact, Moonlight isn't a film that makes an expressly political statement, as its apolitical nature almost inherently makes it political. Everything that others have said already is true- Moonlight is a triumph for voices that have been too long ignored, and for an experience that has been overlooked. The fact that the Academy recognized this film represents the potential for a major paradigm shift of representation and recognition in the future.

But it goes further than that. On an artistic level, Moonlight's victory symbolizes the limitless potential of cinema and the opportunity for the Academy to recognize more artistically challenging films in the future. To start- this is not a dig against La La Land. Damien Chazelle's musical masterpiece has long been dismissed as a light, meaningless piece of work, a bit of fun that doesn't have anything going on beyond the surface. That couldn't be further from the truth. Chazelle deals with crushing themes and tough ideas under the guise of a splashy musical, and the artistic power behind La La Land is thoroughly undeniable. Few films have ever connected with me on such a powerful level, and I will defend this movie until the day I die.


But throughout the entire awards season, I have been vocal in my support for Jenkins' film. I have been championing the film since I saw it back at TIFF, and I was just as moved and stunned when I saw it for a second time. Just because one of my favorites didn't win doesn't mean I can't celebrate the accomplishment of another film that I truly love. Moonlight's win is so shocking, so thoroughly unpredictable, that one can only hope it represents a shift for the Academy going forward. In years past, a film like this would have never been able to win Best Picture. If you look at the Best Picture winners from this decade, Moonlight is the best by a country mile. Over the course of the last few years, the Academy has made several picks that could be considered "safe," no matter the artistic merit of the product. 12 Years a Slave is a masterpiece and Birdman is not, but they both count as safe, predictable choices for the Academy.

In past years, films like Boyhood, The Social Network, and Mad Max: Fury Road weren't able to get over the hump. Movies that were widely considered to be the best of their respective years lost out to movies like The King's Speech and Spotlight, exactly the kind of films you would expect the Academy to support. In this Oscar season, the obvious choice also happened to be a unique kind of masterpiece, a dizzying, beautiful burst of fresh air that reinvigorated a genre. This year, the obvious choice would have been a perfect, incredibly deserving Best Picture winner, maybe even the best choice out of the bunch. But what about a year in which the obvious choice was The King's Speech or The Artist, two movies that don't truly qualify as Best Picture material. The fact that the Academy finally bucked the trend of picking the film that appealed most to them on an instinctual level is monumental for the future of the institution. Even with the social and diversity implications of a Moonlight win, this is also a victory for the art form.


Maybe it means that the changing demographics of the membership base worked in an astonishing new way. The problems of the Academy aren't solved yet, but Moonlight's victory is a shocking reminder of change. It's a triumph for a filmmaker who worked tirelessly to get his vision on the screen, and it's a huge moment for A24, a studio that has quickly emerged as Hollywood's best. This is a studio that has supported films like Green Room and Swiss Army Man, mainstreaming offbeat voices that have long been ignored by the system. They worked hard for this moment, and I couldn't be happier for them.

So yeah, this year there were two perfect choices. I liked one better than the other, as did most, but you couldn't go wrong either way. But in a few years, when that action movie that we all loved beats the highly favored British period drama in a shocking Best Picture upset, we'll look back and realize that it all started here. Moonlight's win changes the game going forward. It's a new age for the Academy, and I'm happy to be living in the middle of it.


Images courtesy of A24

Bill Paxton has died at age 61

Before Hollywood was thrown into shambles with the most shocking, disastrous ending to the Oscars in history, the town was hit by some serious tragedy on Sunday morning. Just hours before the ceremony was set to begin, news broke that Bill Paxton died at the age of 61. The Paxton family issued the following statement on his passing (via NBC News):

"It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery. A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department an went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker."

It was later reported that Paxton suffered a stroke during heart surgery, which led to his terribly sad passing. At 61, Paxton was far too young. His death is profoundly tragic on so many levels.


Paxton began his career in the 1980s, with small parts in films like The Terminator, Commando, and Weird Science. His first breakout role was in 1986's Aliens, which confirmed his working relationship with James Cameron for the future. In the 1990s, Paxton went on to star in Tombstone, True Lies, and Apollo 13. Later in the decade, Paxton starred in Titanic and Twister, which became two of his more iconic roles. He made his directorial debut with Frailty in 2001, before starting a career resurgence in recent years with roles in Edge of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler. While Paxton surely had more roles on the horizon, his only posthumous performance will be in James Ponsoldt's The Circle, which hits theaters in April. I was very surprised by his passing, and even more surprised to realize just how many movies Paxton had starred in over time. He was truly prolific, and he was an integral part of so many classic movies. He was an actor who elevated every role, and he will be sorely missed in Hollywood. Rest in peace, Mr. Paxton.

Image Credit: IMDB/Paramount

Vera Farmiga joins the cast of 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters'

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is shaping up to have a pretty great cast, and while I didn't initially have much interest in a sequel to the 2014 monster hit, Michael Dougherty's film is quickly climbing my most anticipated list. A few weeks ago, Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown was cast as the lead, giving the breakout actress her first major role in a motion picture. Last week, Kyle Chandler was cast as Bobby Brown's father, giving an added element of prestige to the monster sequel. Yesterday, the cast got even better, as Vera Farmiga has joined King of the Monsters. The star of Bates Motel and the Conjuring franchise will play Bobby Brown's mother, completing the family at the center of the Godzilla sequel. As for other members of the cast, Variety is reporting that Ken Watanabe, who played Dr. Ishiro Serizawa in the original, will be the only actor to return for King of the Monsters. That means audiences won't be able to reunite with Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, David Strathairn, and more, who all played characters that nobody really cared about in the first place. 


Like I said to kick off this article, my excitement for King of the Monsters is quickly growing. Bobby Brown, Chandler, and Farmiga make for a formidable trio, and I can't imagine this cast getting much better. Farmiga is an especially important addition for this film. She's all kinds of underrated and brilliant in James Wan's Conjuring films, and she also did great work in Source Code and Martin Scorsese's The Departed. However, the cast is only one piece of the puzzle. This seems like a fairly obvious thing to say, but King of the Monsters will not work without a good script from Dougherty, Max Borenstein, and Zach Shields. Remember- the first film had a pretty great cast too. Who wasn't excited to see a Godzilla film with Bryan Cranston? But in the end, Borenstein's screenplay was a disappointment and Gareth Edwards' direction was a letdown. Time will tell if King of the Monsters can succeed where Godzilla failed. 


Image Credits: IMDB

Monday, February 27, 2017

Disaster at the Oscars: 'Moonlight' wins Best Picture after massive fiasco

I slept for four hours last night and I'm still attempting to process what the hell just happened. It has been mere hours since the Best Picture Oscar was handed out, and I think it's safe to say that the debacle towards the end of the show overshadowed everything else. For most of the evening, the Oscars were pretty solid. Sure, the show ran long, but things were good for the most part. The La La Land sweep was nixed early, as fellow Lionsgate film Hacksaw Ridge surprised in Film Editing and Sound Mixing. Eventually, the show caught its groove, and the predictability set in. Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight took home the screenplay awards, Damien Chazelle won Best Director, and Emma Stone and Casey Affleck won the acting trophies for the evening. With just minutes left in the broadcast, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the stars of Bonnie and Clyde, took the stage to hand out the award for Best Picture of the year. 


Beatty opened the envelope, and members of the audience prepared for a final victory for La La Land. As the suspense built, Beatty seemed confused. He looked for another slip in the envelope, and looked at Dunaway and the audience repeatedly. I chalked it up as a bizarre attempt at humor, thinking that Beatty was trying to channel Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, and other Best Picture presenters who toyed with audience expectations. Finally, he showed the paper to Dunaway, who announced La La Land as the winner of Best Picture. Applause rang through the Dolby Theatre, as the awards season came to its inevitable conclusion. The entire team behind La La Land took the stage, while producers Jordon Horowitz, Fred Berger, and Marc Platt began to give their speeches. There was unusual amount of commotion on the stage, but once again, I believed that it was just a normal bit of Oscar chaos.

But halfway through the speeches, things got weird. People with headsets rushed on the stage, before one of La La Land's producers remarked "We lost, by the way." That's when Horowitz took the mic again to inform the audience that, in fact, Moonlight had actually won the Best Picture trophy. Stunned audiences at home and in the theater had no idea what to make of it, and Horowitz had to repeatedly emphasize that this wasn't a joke, and that Barry Jenkins' landmark drama had actually won. Beatty took the stage to explain that he had been given the Best Actress card, which read "Emma Stone, La La Land." Shocked and confused by the moment, he showed the card to Dunaway, who announced the winner anyways. As host Jimmy Kimmel attempted to calm everyone down, team Moonlight took the stage to give their acceptance speeches.

"What the hell just happened?" was clearly the first thought on everyone's mind, and it was only later in the evening that we received some clarity. Emma Stone was clearly confused, as she remarked to the press that she had her winning card throughout the entire process. It turns out that Beatty had been given a backup card, kept in the second briefcase. Which brings us to PricewaterhouseCooper, the accounting firm behind the Oscars for most of the show's existence. Last night, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz were the accountants representing the firm- and yes, one of them screwed up big time. PwC deserves to lose their contract with the Oscars, and while the mix-up was a colossal misfire on a number of levels, it all flows back to the men and women with the envelopes.

However, the fiasco goes beyond that. It's one thing to make a mistake- it's another thing entirely to let that mistake go on for a lengthy amount of time. As soon as Dunaway and Beatty mistakenly announced La La Land as the winner, PwC accountants and Oscar producers should have rushed the stage to prevent any speeches. Instead, the producers behind La La Land got their way through multiple speeches before Horowitz was forced to correct the error. The confusion went on far longer than it should have, and the embarrassing circus on display created a terrible situation. Horowitz handled the trainwreck with grace and poise, and La La Land was about as cordial in defeat as humanly possible (though the frustration on the part of Chazelle and Stone was fairly obvious).

What might have been the biggest disaster in the history of live television completely ruined what would have been a great evening for both La La Land and Moonlight. Chazelle's musical won a stunning six Oscars, including two of the biggest prizes of the night, while Jenkins' small indie pulled off a miracle upset for the ages. And while there will only be one winner at the end of every awards show, if any year deserved two Best Picture winners, this was it. However, by putting both masterpieces in the middle of such a cluster of chaos, nobody really got to celebrate what should have been a great evening. Team La La was gutted live on stage, depriving any happiness from the rest of the evening, and Team Moonlight didn't get to celebrate their incredible win in proper fashion.

Both were deserving Best Picture winners, and both were done a disservice by this ridiculous screw-up. La La Land and Moonlight will both be forever linked to this Oscar embarrassment, which is truly unfair to these incredible films, some of the best in recent memory. Simply put, this is the danger of the awards season- great movies become linked to moments that are completely out of their control. Moonlight will go down as a historical victory regardless of the PwC/Beatty disaster, but actually, film fans may look at La La Land in a more favorable light in the aftermath of this horrible moment. After being stuck as the target for the entire season, Chazelle's film is now the victim, the movie that was handed the Oscar before it was snatched away at the 11th hour. Both of these movies deserve all the praise that has been given to them over the past several months, and it is truly unfortunate that they were put through this mess. I'm sure I'll have more on this later, but for now, I think I've said my piece.

To recap, here are the winners from last night's Academy Awards.

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- Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay- Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

Best Animated Feature- ZOOTOPIA

Best Documentary Feature- O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA

Best Foreign Language Film- THE SALESMAN

Best Cinematography- Linus Sandgren, La La Land

Best Production Design- LA LA LAND

Best Costume Design- Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Makeup and Hairstyling- SUICIDE SQUAD

Best Original Score- Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

Best Original Song- "City of Stars" from La La Land

Best Film Editing- HACKSAW RIDGE

Best Visual Effects- THE JUNGLE BOOK

Best Sound Editing- ARRIVAL

Best Sound Mixing- HACKSAW RIDGE

Best Documentary Short Subject- THE WHITE HELMETS

Best Live-Action Short Film- SING

Best Animated Short Film- PIPER


Images courtesy of A24

Saturday, February 25, 2017

'A Cure for Wellness' review

Sometimes, a great trailer announces the impending debut of a movie that I had no idea existed, prompting it to rise to the top of my most anticipated list. Some prime recent examples of that would include Moonlight, The Nice Guys, and 10 Cloverfield Lane. Other times, an excellent trailer can get me excited for a film that ultimately disappoints in every way. Enter A Cure for Wellness. Before the release of the first trailer, I had zero interest in this movie whatsoever, nor was I really even aware of its existence. I watched all of Gore Verbinski's Pirates movies (but I only really liked the first two), and I never had much interest in checking out Rango or The Ring. So hearing that Verbinski is making a new film isn't exactly news in my personal universe. But Fox crafted something truly special with the teaser, and I was astonished by the visual filmmaking power on display. A Cure for Wellness looked like The Shining by way of Shutter Island, and I was practically salivating at the thought of seeing a grand, epic return to bizarre, big-budget horror on the big screen.


I was so convinced by this trailer that I placed the film at #18 on my most anticipated list for 2017, ahead of new films from Paul Thomas Anderson, Luca Guadagnino, and David Robert Mitchell. People generally seemed to like the film at Austin's Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and I assumed that Fox was screening the movie early for press because of its exceptional quality. It's safe to say I was a little shocked when the embargo lifted and reviews were so brutally negative. I maintained a sense of false hope, which was destroyed as soon as I saw this mess of a movie. There will be worse movies in 2017, but few as bitterly disappointing as A Cure for Wellness. Wasting beautiful production design and loads of potential, Verbinski's overblown haunted house flick emerges as a movie of contradictions, as strange and disturbing as it is boring and flat. Despite its stunning vistas and clean filmmaking precision, this drab horror outing fails in just about every way, emerging as one of the most unfortunate big-screen disasters in a while.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is the superstar of a powerful Wall Street firm in a shady, almost dystopian New York. He's driven, charismatic, and quickly rising to the top. He's also a total scoundrel, who has cheated and lied his way to success. Lockhart is discovered easily by his superiors, and his job is threatened as they prepare for a merger and an investigation by the SEC. The only way to improve his status is to travel to a remote village in the Swiss Alps, a location that houses a mysterious spa for rich corporate types. The spa is currently the home of Pembroke (Harry Groner), the head of the firm and a power broker who has seemingly lost his mind. Lockhart's mission- retrieve Pembroke and bring him back to New York so he can sign the deal that will make everyone at the firm, including Lockhart himself, obscenely rich.


Lockhart makes the journey to the gorgeous town in Switzerland, but he's in no mood to appreciate the vistas. Despite befriending a taxi driver (Ivo Nandi), it's clear that Lockhart means business. He heads right to the resort, where he hopes to take Pembroke without the slightest of resistance. One bizarre encounter with the resort staff later, and Lockhart is on the same cab to a village hotel. However, he becomes involved in a nasty, brutal wreck, one that cleanly breaks his leg in two. He finds himself back at the resort, in the hands of Director Volmer (Jason Isaacs) and his assistant (Adrian Schiller). Considered to be in fairly bad shape, Volmer recommends that Lockhart take what's only known as "the cure." As the young businessman finds his way around the shady castle, he soon realizes that not everything is as it seems, and a series of strange encounters with a young patient (Mia Goth) lead him to discover the mystery behind the world's most dangerous spa.

A Cure for Wellness is a masterclass in aesthetics, and there's no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful horror movies in years. It's sophisticated and macabre, created with the kind precision that is so rare in today's landscape. In addition to that, Verbinski injects some serious weirdness into this film. It was what attracted me to this movie in the first place, and we do get plenty of strange sequences of disturbing, esoteric horror- strange dental procedures, lots of eels, and a random scene of a man masturbating to a naked nurse. Unfortunately, all of these visual tics are nothing but smoke and mirrors, pretty elements masking a vapid, nonsensical plot and flat storytelling. Everything in A Cure for Wellness looks very cool, but a numbing sense of boredom sets in early, and as the silly, preposterous mystery unfolds over an absurd 146 minute runtime, things only get worse for Verbinski's house of horrors.


Essentially, A Cure for Wellness in its current form feels like a messy, incomplete first cut of a somewhat entertaining horror flick. It's a strange swirl of ideas and visual cues, without any sense of storytelling cohesion beyond a strong commitment to constant strangeness. Verbinski clearly wants this movie to be about something, but amidst the scattered, bloated nature of the project, all of his ideas are lost. A Cure for Wellness could have been a really interesting story about the soul-sucking nature of corporate America, as well as the constant search for a solution to what ails us and our never-ending addiction to prescription drugs and treatments. Instead, Verbinski dabbles with these ideas before ultimately ignoring them, settling for a series of wacky scenes that deal with incest, murder, and other "taboo" topics. You can feel him throwing everything at the screen in the hopes that something sticks, but it just comes off as puzzling and excessive.

I'm hesitant to put all the blame on Verbinski, as the screenplay by Lone Ranger and Revolutionary Road scribe Justin Haythe does the film no favors. While Verbinski can't bring any of this material to life in an exciting, stimulating way, Haythe's story is just a complete fiasco. He tries to blend elements of fantasy, mystery, and horror into a fascinating confection, but he isn't successful with any of the genres. The narrative attempts to be kooky and disturbing, like an extra screwed up version of a Tim Burton movie, but the flashes of abnormal violence come off as forced. And most importantly, the characters are so flat, so one-dimensional that any sense of emotional connection never comes close to fruition. It's one thing to make your lead character an unlikable prick, but it's another thing entirely to make him a boring, unlikable prick. Dane DeHaan's Lockhart is a smarmy cipher of a main character, and while I've liked DeHaan in the past, he has nothing to do here. Same goes for every supporting character, as they're defined by their usefulness to the narrative and not their personality or story. Mia Goth's Hannah is a silly plot device without any sense of individuality or autonomy, Jason Isaacs' talents are wasted on a ridiculous villain, and the other members of the crew fall short as well.


The end result is a convoluted movie with no sense of emotion or intrigue. It isn't frightening, it isn't compelling, and you'll solve the mystery in no time. From there, the film just drags on and on, growing more asinine and more tedious as each moment passes by. Somewhere along the way, Verbinski was told that he could pull off a Stanley Kubrick movie, and it just feels like a miscalculation at every turn. A Cure for Wellness starts off with an awkward sequence and it doesn't get any better from there. When your "horror" movie has more unintentional laughs than scares, you know you're in trouble. With all of these pieces in place, Verbinski and Haythe should have at least managed to put together something that worked in one way or another. Unfortunately, A Cure for Wellness simply lies there on the screen, dragging itself along as it moves through its horrendously lengthy runtime without even the slightest sense of energy or charm.

As someone who frequently complains that we need more original movies in Hollywood, a part of me feels genuinely bad for panning a film as ambitious as A Cure for Wellness. Verbinski shoots for the stars with this beautiful horror creation, but the sad truth of the matter is that absolutely nothing in this film works. It's devotion to being aggressively strange is admirable, but when you're working with a movie as one-note as this one, nothing really matters. A Cure for Wellness proves once and for all that weird does not equal good, and that no matter how gorgeously designed a film is, it just doesn't work without a good story at its center. Verbinski's horror show wants to be provocative, intellectually stimulating, and disturbing all at the same time, but it fails on all counts. Despite some terrific craft elements, there's no fun to be had here.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D+                                           (4.8/10)


Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Friday, February 24, 2017

Final Predictions for the 89th Academy Awards

After what has felt like one of the longest awards seasons in history, we'll finally cross the finish line on Sunday with the 89th Academy Awards. It could be an interesting evening, or La La Land could win every award known to mankind. We'll see. But without further delay, here are my final predictions for the highly anticipated ceremony!

BEST PICTURE


Image courtesy of Lionsgate

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

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: La La Land
Dark Horse: Moonlight

There should be plenty of surprises on Oscar night. In a competitive year, it's bound to happen. Oddly enough, one of the categories where I'm not expecting much of a surprise just so happens to be the biggest category of all- Best Picture. After going through all of the pre-cursor awards and all of the ups and downs of the season, Damien Chazelle's La La Land will come out on top. Sure, there's a slim, less than 1% chance that Moonlight or Hidden Figures could amass enough votes to pull an upset for the ages. But I just don't see that happening. Chazelle's modern resurgence of the movie musical will win Best Picture and cement its place in history.

BEST DIRECTOR


Image courtesy of Lionsgate

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

Will Win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Should Win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Dark Horse: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

While I'm fairly certain of La La Land's chances in the Best Picture category, Barry Jenkins is a slightly better longshot to upset Chazelle for Best Director. Moonlight is a beloved film, and Jenkins emerged as one of the most likable figures of this season. But when I say longshot, I really do mean it. Chazelle has won just about every guild award known to man, and despite plenty of support for Jenkins, the 32 year old wunderkind behind La La Land is going to walk away as the youngest winner in the history of the category.

BEST ACTOR


Image courtesy of Roadside Attractions

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

Will Win: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Should Win: Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Dark Horse: Denzel Washington, Fences

For a while, it seemed like Casey Affleck was a sure thing for his deeply internalized portrayal of a man destroyed by grief in Manchester by the Sea. But then came Denzel Washington's surprise SAG win for his flashy, commanding performance in Fences, which threw a wrench in the whole thing. Nobody really knows who has the edge at the moment, and while no SAG Best Actor winner has lost the Oscar in 13 years, it's hard to deny the support for Affleck. I'm sticking with the longtime favorite, although it's hard to deny that Washington has some momentum. I would love to see Ryan Gosling pull off a massive upset for just how great of a year he had in 2016 (the double whammy of The Nice Guys and La La Land), but I know that's not gonna happen. I'm sticking with Affleck, but that could very well change.

BEST ACTRESS


Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Will Win: Emma Stone, La La Land
Should Win: Amy Adams, Arrival (the year's biggest snub, in my opinion)
Dark Horse: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

When La La Land premiered at the Venice Film Festival, Emma Stone was immediately hailed as our Best Actress front-runner. She won the Best Actress award at the festival, and though she lost a bit of steam with the arrival of Natalie Portman, Stone has rarely faltered. I know that plenty of cinephiles would love to see Isabelle Huppert take home her first Oscar for her daring performance in Paul Verhoeven's Elle, but that film is so brutal and so divisive that I can't see a large chunk of the Academy checking her name on the ballot. And of course, we always have to consider the outside chance that Meryl Streep could win, especially after that Golden Globes speech. But I'm sticking with Stone. She's got all the momentum in the world.

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

Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Should Win: Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Dark Horse: Dev Patel, Lion

This award always seemed like Mahershala Ali's to lose, but after the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, there's a good chance that the Moonlight star could be upset. Dev Patel gained a significant amount of momentum with his BAFTA win, but I'm not sure that he really has enough support to pull it off. I would love to see a wild Michael Shannon upset for his excellent performance in Nocturnal Animals, just like Aaron Taylor-Johnson managed to do at the Globes. But for now, I'm sticking with Ali. I wouldn't be surprised to see a major surprise, but I don't quite see it coming together.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS


Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Will Win: Viola Davis, Fences
Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences
Dark Horse: There is none. Viola wins this easily.

Viola Davis wins. And it won't even be close. End of story, case closed.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY


Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, The Lobster
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Mike Mills, 20th Century Women
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water

Will Win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Should Win: Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water
Dark Horse: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

This category is very close, and I have to imagine that there will only be a few votes separating Damien Chazelle and Kenneth Lonergan. I would probably cast my vote for Taylor Sheridan's timely, vibrant work on Hell or High Water, but this race is pretty much coming down to La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. Most would agree that Lonergan crafted the better script, but I'm thinking that Chazelle will pull off the trifecta, especially considering that Manchester didn't win the WGA.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY


Luke Davies, Lion
Eric Heisserer, Arrival
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
August Wilson, Fences

Will Win: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Should Win: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Dark Horse: Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Eric Heisserer was in good shape for a while, but as soon as Barry Jenkins' outstanding score for Moonlight joined the Adapted Screenplay race, those chances completely evaporated. Jenkins wins an Oscar for his outstanding work, serving as a consolation prize for the losses in the larger categories.

BEST ANIMATED FILM


Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Will Win: Zootopia
Should Win: Moana
Dark Horse: Kubo and the Two Strings

We're in the unique position of having three masterful films nominated in the Best Animated Film category this year. Kubo and the Two Strings and Moana would probably win in a less competitive year, but it's hard to beat the strength of Zootopia, especially in such a politically divided time. Voters will embrace the message of the film, giving Disney's billion dollar hit an extra Oscar to go along with its incredible success.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE


Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

Will Win: O.J.: Made in America
Dark Horse: I Am Not Your Negro

Just like the animated category, Best Documentary Feature has three remarkably strong nominees this year. I Am Not Your Negro and 13th are beloved by audiences and critics, but nothing quite compares to O.J.: Made in America. You can debate its merits as a film or TV show all day, but there's no denying that it was one of the most vital, acclaimed works of the year. It should take home the Oscar.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM


Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

Will Win: The Salesman
Dark Horse: A Man Called Ove

Toni Erdmann seemed like the favorite in this category for as long as I can remember, but with the development of Trump's travel ban and director Asghar Farhadi's refusal to attend the Oscars, The Salesman is now in prime position to take home the win. In a year where many will be desperate to make a political statement, the Iranian filmmaker's drama gives voters an excellent opportunity.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE


Nicholas Britell, Moonlight
Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Mica Levi, Jackie
Thomas Newman, Passengers
Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka, Lion

Will Win: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Should Win: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Dark Horse: Nope

Justin Hurwitz wins this one. Next.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG


Image courtesy of Lionsgate

"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

Will Win: "City of Stars" from La La Land
Should Win: "Drive It Like You Stole It" from Sing Street (the second biggest snub of the year)
Dark Horse: "How Far I'll Go" from Moana

Unless there's some kind of major split between both of the nominated La La Land songs, the film's anthem, "City of Stars," should walk home with the trophy. Provided that voters don't go gaga for the idea of giving Lin Manuel-Miranda his EGOT title, this should be another win for La La Land.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY


Grieg Fraser, Lion
James Laxton, Moonlight
Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Bradford Young, Arrival

Will Win: Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Should Win: Linus Sandgren, La La Land

Grieg Fraser took home a somewhat surprising win at the American Society of Cinematographers for his strong work on Lion, but Linus Sandgren is still clearly the favorite in this category. La La Land is one of the most beautiful films of the year, and Sandgren's cinematography is a critical part of the glue that holds it all together.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN


Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins
Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
Joanna Johnston, Allied
Mary Zophres, La La Land

Will Win: Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
Should Win: Mary Zophres, La La Land
Dark Horse: Mary Zophres, La La Land

This one is nearly impossible to predict, as it becomes difficult after a while to continue picking wins for La La Land. The costumes in Chazelle's musical have become iconic, but I have to imagine that people won't be able to resist the classical style of Jackie. La La Land could certainly win this, but Jackie has the edge.

BEST FILM EDITING


Tom Cross, La La Land
John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
Jake Roberts, Hell or High Water
Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, Moonlight
Joe Walker, Arrival

Will Win: Tom Cross, La La Land
Should Win: Tom Cross, La La Land

All five of these films are incredibly well edited. But Tom Cross' work on La La Land stands out from the pack. He should win his second Oscar with ease.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN


Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: La La Land

I've seen a few people making predictions for Fantastic Beasts and Arrival in this category, and I just don't understand at all. One of La La Land's strongest assets is its gorgeous art direction and design, and I see no reason that it won't win this award.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING


A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Will Win: Star Trek Beyond
Should Win: Star Trek Beyond

Everybody hated Suicide Squad and nobody saw A Man Called Ove. So by default, that leaves us with Star Trek Beyond.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS


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

Will Win: The Jungle Book
Should Win: The Jungle Book
Dark Horse: Kubo and the Two Strings

The Jungle Book was hailed as visionary achievement of visual filmmaking when it was released in April, and no other film managed to come close throughout the rest of the year. Unless voters decide to shake things up and vote for Kubo, the first animated film nominated in this category, Jon Favreau's film takes home the gold.

BEST SOUND EDITING


Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: Abstain

Many seem to think that La La Land will lose one sound category and win the other. But that fails to acknowledge one important aspect- most voters don't know the difference. If La La Land wins one, it wins both. That's my call at this point.

BEST SOUND MIXING


Image courtesy of Lionsgate

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

Will Win: La La Land
Should Win: Abstain

See above.

As for the shorts, I never seem to predict these categories accurately. I basically accumulated info from what I knew and from Gold Derby, and then I just went ahead and made some predictions. They could be right, they could be totally wrong. Take it all with a grain of salt.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

Will Win: Ennemis Interieurs

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Will Win: Piper

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe's Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Will Win: Extremis

And that's it! Those are my predictions for Sunday's Oscars. I'm hoping for a fun ceremony with a few surprises, and I'm firmly expecting a great showing from La La Land. Be sure to come back for my recap on Monday!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Kyle Chandler to star in 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters'

When Godzilla opened in May 2014, Gareth Edwards' modern reinvention of the classic cinematic monster arrived with huge expectations. Excellent trailers from San Diego Comic-Con had positioned the film as one of the most hotly anticipated of the summer, and there were already whispers that Warner Bros. was hoping to expand the Godzilla universe to include other giant monsters, including Pacific Rim's Kaiju and King Kong himself. If we're being completely honest, Godzilla was a bit of a letdown. Despite a great start and some smashing action sequences, the film was fairly disappointing in a number of aspects. Nonetheless, it was a box office hit, and set the groundwork for potentially better films in the near future. Kong: Skull Island will hit theaters in just a few weeks, and word is already spreading that not only is Jordan Vogt-Roberts' film a crowd-pleasing hit, but that it also features some direct hints at the upcoming showdown between Kong and Godzilla. But before that film debuts in 2020, everyone's favorite atomic monster will be getting another solo adventure. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is set for a March 23, 2019 release, and it's already shaping up to be a highly entertaining follow-up.


For starters, Michael Dougherty is directing the film, and if Krampus is any indication, he's going to deliver a greatly needed sense of fun to Godzilla. Secondly, we learned a few weeks ago that Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown will be leading the cast. Frankly, if that doesn't excite sci-fi fans, I don't know what will. This week, the news got even better, as Variety revealed that Kyle Chandler will be joining the cast. He'll be playing Bobby Brown's father, and as many have noted, it will be his third role in a major monster movie after Super 8 and Peter Jackson's King Kong. Chandler is one of the most consistent supporting actors in the game, always delivering a nuanced performance no matter what the role. As someone who wasn't all that enamored by Edwards' vision of Godzilla, I'm pretty excited for the future of this franchise. Skull Island looks great, King of the Monsters has the talent, and Godzilla vs. Kong has the potential to be one of the coolest showdowns in movie history. Cinematic universes are failing left and right, but Warner Bros. might be cooking up something special here.


Image Credits: IMDB/Roadside Attractions/Warner Bros.

SXSW adds 'Life' and David Leitch's 'Atomic Blonde'

Oh, how I wish I was going to South by Southwest (SXSW) this year. The Austin-based festival always has a terrific lineup, but this year feels like it's going to be very special. Last month, SXSW announced their first wave of titles, an eclectic mix that included films like Ben Wheatley's Free Fire, James Franco's The Disaster Artist, and Terrence Malick's Song to Song, which is set in Austin and will open the festival. In addition, rumors began to swirl that Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant would screen at the fest, sending Xenomorph fans into a frenzy. But most importantly, SXSW was also established as the location for the world premiere of Edgar Wright's Baby Driver, the latest from the acclaimed filmmaker and one of my most anticipated movies of the year. With so much incredible content, most fans didn't think that SXSW could get any better in 2017.

Guess what? It just got better.


Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

SXSW will close with Daniel Espinonsa's Life, which has been described by many as Alien meets Gravity. Originally set for a release on Memorial Day Weekend, Sony recently moved the film to March, in order to avoid competing with Ridley Scott's return to the franchise he created. Life stars Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Hiroyuki Sanada, and will be released on March 24, one week after its SXSW premiere. Stuck in a month that features a plethora of highly anticipated blockbusters, Life is going to need some serious buzz from its festival debut to stand out in the crowd.

In addition to Espinosa's sci-fi horror film, SXSW also announced that it will serve as the world premiere for David Leitch's Atomic Blonde. Leitch is one half of the team behind John Wick, and he'll be off to helm Deadpool 2 very soon. So yeah, this is a movie that should  be on everyone's radar. Atomic Blonde stars Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, and John Goodman, and follows the adventures of an MI6 femme fatale in Berlin. This sounds like an awesome action flick, and I absolutely adore the first poster that Focus Features released yesterday. Leitch (along with Chad Stahelski, of course) created an iconic action hero with John Wick- can he do it again? We'll find out when Atomic Blonde debuts on July 28.

Look for more coverage of the South by Southwest Film Festival, which kicks off on March 10 and goes through March 19.


Image Credit: IMDB

'Get Out' review

At this point, I'm convinced that Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele can do pretty much anything. They kick-started their career with their self-titled sketch show, Key & Peele, which became a smash hit and a hallmark of the Obama age. Smartly deconstructing race in America, Key & Peele was a viral sensation that announced the birth of two brilliant comedic voices. After making their big-screen debut in 2016 with the similarly themed Keanu, Key and Peele have started to pursue their own unique projects, which will hopefully bring them to new audiences around the globe. Key had a role in the indie hit Don't Think Twice, and he'll also star in the upcoming Predator reboot. I'm sure he's under consideration for plenty of other big movie roles, and it won't be long before he gets a chance to star in a massive hit. Meanwhile, Peele has taken a different path, moving into the game of writing and directing original horror. Get Out is his feature debut, a low-budget team-up with Jason Blum, the king of modern Hollywood horror. And if it's any indication, Peele is headed for a long and successful career as one of the industry's most innovative filmmakers.


I hadn't heard anything about Get Out until I saw the first trailer, which was truly a revelation. In a divided America, Peele's stinging, horror-centric satire looked like just the kind of film we needed. After the Sundance sneak preview, the floodgates opened and the critical community acclaimed Get Out as the new horror sensation. And for the most part, Peele's directorial debut delivers on the hype- this is a scary, darkly hilarious film, one that goes into some truly astonishing territory. It's sharp and clever, but also deeply crowd-pleasing in a big way (this movie has some moments that absolutely destroyed my audience). Even if Get Out showcases some obvious debut feature flaws, the ambition and hypnotic vision on display make up for the negatives. Led by the terrific Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out is both raucous and vicious, hysterical and bloody as all hell. It adds up to create a deeply satisfying experience, a thought-provoking film devoted to putting a new spin on the horror genre.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are your average couple. They've been dating for a while, and he's ready to meet her parents. Only there's a small snag in the equation- he's black and she's white. And even in a modern relationship with fairly liberal parents, that makes Chris a little nervous. Rose assures him that he has nothing to worry about, but he isn't entirely convinced. They make the trek up to the posh suburb, and Chris is introduced to Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), Rose's warm, welcoming parents. But even though they seem like they're fairly nice, there's something off about the whole Armitage family. For starters, two black servants- Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel)- work on their mansion, doing manual labor and always working with a creepy smile on their face. Second, there's the matter of Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), Rose's gregarious brother who immediately puts Chris on edge.


Oh, and Missy also hypnotizes him. That's a thing that happens. As the bizarre incidents start piling up, Chris begins to get more and more afraid. Rose assures him that everything is alright, but that's not quite the case. Georgina and Walter act increasingly strange, and when he meets another fellow African-American (Lakeith Stanfield) at the Armitage's yearly shindig (which just so happens to be occurring on the weekend that Chris and Rose are visiting), Chris goes into full-blown panic mode. Weird dreams, strange locals, subtle racism at every turn- yeah, it's time to get the hell out of this suburb. But with danger and mystery around every corner, it's hard to know who to trust. As Chris finds himself in a terrifying scenario, he'll need to use everything at his disposal to survive.

Get Out is a movie that should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible. In retrospect, I wish that I hadn't read any of the buzz or seen any of the trailers. Because once you have a general idea of where this is going, there's very little in the way of twists or surprises. Sure, Peele maintains his commitment to taking the audience on an wild thrill ride, and you'll probably be shocked by just how brutal and nasty this thing gets in the third act. But if I'm being honest, I envy the audience member who sees the film without knowing a single thing about it, who simply sits down and gets taken aback by a complex, wholly unique creation. I know that small-budget releases have to spoil some things to gain points on the hype machine, but I must say that I truly regret catching some of the marketing for Get Out.


That being said, it doesn't really diminish the excellent work that Jordan Peele has done with his debut feature, which is as ambitious as it is entertaining. Anyone familiar with Peele's comedic work won't be surprised that he's exploring themes of modern racism in America with his first film, but even the most devoted viewers of Key & Peele will likely be impressed by just how far he takes this idea. Make no mistake about it- Get Out completely goes for broke, working as one of the most essential and outrageous studio horror films of the decade. Most directors have difficulty pulling off one tone or genre, but through his unique blend of bloody horror and satirical comedy, Peele's debut demonstrates an incredible mastery of craft. Throw in the fact that he's working with complex themes that most filmmakers and studios wouldn't touch, and his achievement is even more remarkable. Making a small-budget horror film as a debut doesn't seem all that difficult, but when it's as smart and intricate as Get Out, it's nothing short of a minor miracle.

As the hype builds for Get Out in the coming weeks, most people will likely describe Peele's film as a horror classic, something that goes into truly scary and horrifying territory. In reality, this film is a comedy first and a thriller second, which shouldn't be a surprise given Peele's comedic background. However, this isn't a comedy in the traditional sense of the word- it's an incredibly smart, sophisticated piece of suburban satire. Get Out isn't about the kind of obvious racism that we still see in America today. As Peele and many of the other cast members have noted, it's the kind of "friendly" racism that lurks around every corner. It pervades through suburbs and fancy neighborhoods, and many people don't even recognize it. I can't get into all of Get Out's ideas without spoiling the fun, but Peele's comprehensive understanding of these ideas contributes to some of the most wickedly hysterical satire I've seen in recent memory. Don't get me wrong- the undercurrent of privileged liberal racism is genuinely terrifying, as evidenced by some of this film's most vicious sequences. But through both careful hyperbole and a stellar exploitation of social dynamics, Peele creates some dynamite moments of comedic bliss. Imagine Hot Fuzz with more scares and more racist white people, and you'll get something that looks like Get Out.


Peele also happens to have a cast that knows exactly what he's going for, and to see a filmmaker and his crew working in such perfect harmony is truly a sight to behold. Daniel Kaluuya was incredibly impressive in 2015's Sicario, and with his performance as Chris, he proves that he's the real deal. Kaluuya raises our guard before giving the audience the catharsis it so desperately craves, as he takes his character on a bonkers and fully satisfying ride of violence in the final moments. Allison Williams is also truly sensational as Rose, pulling off a sweet and tender character who creates a real emotional connection with our lead. Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Caleb Landry Jones all hit the perfect notes as the Armitage family, striking the right mix of friendly, creepy, and unassumingly racist. And finally, what can I say about Lil Rel Howery that hasn't been said already? He simply steals the show as Rod Williams, Chris' best friend responsible for kicking off the investigation into the Armitage suburb. He gets the biggest laughs, and if someone can provide him with the right comedic vehicle, he'll be a star.

Even with all of this praise that I'm giving to Peele's debut, I'm in the weird position of not being quite as enamored with a breakout horror film as everyone else. This is an absolutely fantastic film, but is it a full-blown masterpiece? No, not quite. If anything, the hype will be what kills this movie with some audience members- after all, 100% on Rotten Tomatoes is a lot to live up to by any reasonable standards. Get Out suffers from some pacing issues and a little bit of narrative choppiness, which sometimes threw me off. When Peele is on, this things fires on all cylinders. But for all of its raucous bloodshed and clever humor, there still manage to be a few moments that drag, taking the audience out of the movie for a brief second.

Thankfully, those scenes are few and far between, as Peele delivers a full-fledged satire that is as biting and acidic as it is frightening. You've never seen a mainstream horror comedy as bold and daring as this, and unless Peele makes another film, I'm not sure that we'll see one quite as unique for a very long time. Get Out is a movie made for the times that we live in today, and its relevance will only shine brighter as the days go on. It's a provocative film in pretty much every way, and it's a giant slap in the face for everyone who says that racism is dead in this country. It's a brilliant, bloodthirsty piece of filmmaking, and it's one hell of a debut for one of the most talented comedic geniuses of this generation.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                            (7.8/10)


Image Credits: IMDB

UPDATE #2: Matt Reeves officially set to direct 'The Batman' for Warner Bros.

UPDATE #2: After much deliberation and conflict, the saga of directorial duties for The Batman has finally ended. Matt Reeves, the director of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, will be behind the camera for the Caped Crusader's upcoming solo adventure. Here are the statements from Reeves and Warner Bros. on the upcoming film:

Reeves: "I have loved the Batman story since I was a child. He is such an iconic and compelling character, and one that resonates with me deeply. I am incredibly honored and excited to be working with Warner Bros. to bring an epic and emotional new take on the Caped Crusader to the big screen."

Toby Emmerich, President and Chief Content Officer: "We are thrilled to have Matt Reeves taking the helm of Batman, the crown jewel of our DC slate. Matt's deep roots in genre films and his evolution into an emotional world-building director make him the perfect filmmaker to guide the Dark Knight through his next journey."

While there was initially some pause for fans due to the fact that Ben Affleck was mentioned nowhere in the press release, Warner Bros. confirmed that he is still attached. I'm sure there will be more to come but this is certainly a major development in the ongoing story of the DCCU.

UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reported yesterday that negotiations between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. for the upcoming solo Batman film have broken down. Talks could resume at any time, but for now, this means that Reeves will not be at the helm for the film. Warner Bros. is still committed to the film, and could possibly turn to Don't Breathe director Fede Alvarez or Ridley Scott, two filmmakers that were in contention prior to the involvement of Reeves. More to come on the DCCU....

Here is the original article from February 11:

How much longer are we going to have to pretend that the DC Cinematic Universe is still a thing?

Okay, okay, I should probably stop pissing off the DC fans. When it was widely reported a few weeks back that Ben Affleck had dropped his directorial duties on The Batman, many, including myself, thought that it was the end of the DC Cinematic Universe as we knew it. Throughout all of the misfires, disappointments, and behind-the-scenes drama, Affleck's film stood as the light at the end of the tunnel. And in the blink of an eye, that light was gone. Suddenly, The Batman was in limbo just like every other DC film, and as rumors of script concerns persisted, it seemed like the end was nigh for the budding cinematic universe. To be quite honest, nobody really knows what will happen with The Batman. Depending on the reaction to Wonder Woman and Justice League, there's a chance that it never gets made. But regardless of the universe as a whole, it looks like Warner Bros. will be pushing forward with this highly anticipated stand-alone outing for the Caped Crusader.


Immediately after Affleck dropped out, the name at the top of the list for a replacement was Matt Reeves. And yesterday, those rumors came to fruition as many outlets reported that Reeves is in early talks for a deal to direct The Batman. Reeves broke out with 2008's Cloverfield, later directing the 2010 remake Let Me In and the highly acclaimed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Reeves is also at the helm for this year's War for the Planet of the Apes (set for release on July 14), and when post-production and promotion wraps up for that film, I have to imagine that he'll jump right into Batman. Reeves has been praised by many, but if I'm being quite honest, I can't say I'm much of a fan. I didn't particularly like Cloverfield, and I wasn't as enamored with Dawn as much as everyone else was. That being said, I'm slightly disappointed for him. Sure, he's getting a chance to direct a Batman movie, which is an incredible opportunity. But he's walking into a burning building, and he's tasked with not only putting out the fire, but rebuilding the structure entirely. Because let's be honest- Zack Snyder isn't going to give us anything new in November.

This is not a good scenario for Reeves to be in, and I can't imagine anything good coming from it. I can't imagine he'll want to partner with Affleck on the direction, and if the reaction to Justice League is poor, I don't know if Affleck will want to be involved at all, even as the star. And to be quite honest, that might be the best-case scenario. Cast a different actor as Batman, use this film as the starting point for a DCCU reboot, let Reeves do his thing, and get the hell out of the way. Who knows what will happen, but for the sake of these characters that I know and love, I'm hoping for the best.

At this point, The Batman will likely debut in 2019.


Source: Variety 
Image Credit: IMDB

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' headed to Netflix in groundbreaking deal

I feel like I'm saying this more and more these days, but Netflix is truly changing the game in Hollywood. First, the streaming giant destroyed the traditional method of home video consumption, eliminating stores like Blockbuster and effectively creating a hostile takeover of the industry. Now, the company is setting its sights on the modern theatrical distribution window, which has been slowing dying for the past several years. Starting with House of Cards, Netflix jumped into the original content game, and they're really beginning to cause a stir. While they haven't been as successful as Amazon (who set the bar with their handling of Manchester by the Sea), Netflix has created prime content for television and film, with hit shows like Stranger Things and critically acclaimed movies like Beasts of No Nation. In 2017 alone, Netflix will release I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, as well as Duncan Jones' Mute, Bong Joon-Ho's Okja, Adam Wingard's Death Note, and David Michod's War Machine. These aren't second-tier films- these are cinematic events from major filmmakers. But yesterday, Netflix made a truly groundbreaking deal, one that permanently alters the importance of the theatrical window.


On Tuesday, Indiewire exclusively reported that Martin Scorsese's The Irishman will be headed to Netflix. Yes, the new film from one of the most acclaimed directors of all time is going to be debuting on an online platform. The Irishman, which reunites Scorsese with Robert De Niro, was originally set to be distributed by Paramount in North America, a deal that made sense with the studio's current relationship with the filmmaker. However, many are guessing that the poor box office for Scorsese's Silence may have scared off the studio, especially with The Irishman's $100 million budget. Netflix is mainly attempting to improve its reputation at this point in time, so acquiring the rights to one of Scorsese's most anticipated movies in several years should do the trick. Netflix now has all worldwide rights for the film, which means that upstart distributor STX Entertainment is likely also eliminated from international distribution.

I can't really stress how big this is. Look, if Netflix is going to distribute films from young directors like Jones and Macon Blair, that's a solid fit. But when they acquire the rights to a new project from one of the greatest directors in film history, that's a huge deal. This truly has the potential to open the floodgates for acclaimed filmmakers to have total creative freedom, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more directors like Scorsese move to Netflix. We'll see where this goes from here, but this is a massive, industry-changing development.

The Irishman is rumored to star Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and Bobby Cannavale, and will likely debut on Netflix in 2019.


Image Credits: IMDB

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 WGA Awards: 'Moonlight' and 'Arrival' win as questions linger for Oscar night

Final Oscar ballots are in, and we've finally reached the home stretch of the lengthy awards season. Jimmy Kimmel will take the stage to host the Academy Awards in just over 4 days, and there's still a good degree of unpredictability. La La Land feels like a fairly safe bet to win Best Picture and Damien Chazelle is in good shape for Best Director, but from there, things get tricky. Will it be Casey Affleck or Denzel Washington for Best Actor? Can Isabelle Huppert pull off an upset over Emma Stone in the Best Actress category? Will Best Supporting Actor front-runner Mahershala Ali hold off Dev Patel? In addition to the complex nature of the technical categories, there's a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this year's affair. While Moonlight feels like a pretty safe bet for Adapted Screenplay (depending on who you ask, this may or may not be category fraud), things are much more complex in Original Screenplay. Damien Chazelle and Kenneth Lonergan are fighting to the bitter end, and many hoped that Sunday's WGA Awards would clear things up a bit. Instead, the waters only got muddier.


In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, Eric Heisserer's complex, brilliant screenplay for Arrival took home the Writers Guild Award. But remember- this was without facing competition from Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney's script for Moonlight. That film was listed in the Best Original Screenplay category at the WGA, and it took home a surprising victory over both La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. With Jenkins and McCraney certain to win the Oscar on Sunday, Heisserer's WGA trophy serves as a nice consolation prize. However, it only makes the Original category more of a toss-up. Will the Academy find a place to recognize Kenneth Lonergan's quiet, understated work on Manchester? Or will the La La Land steamroll continue? To be quite honest with you, I'm not sure where I'm putting my money at this point. I'll have some final Oscar predictions later in the week, but for now, I'm going to remain quiet on the topic. It really could go either way.


Image Credits: A24, IMDB/Paramount