Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Moonlight

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Moonlight (A24)

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Written & Directed by Barry Jenkins

Starring Trevante RhodesAndré HollandJanelle MonáeAshton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris & Mahershala Ali

Wow. I did not see that coming. That was not even close to what I expected it to be. I was thinking this movie, Moonlight. This academy award-winning motion picture was about some hood type shit. Thug life update. Boyz n tha Hood meets Dope. But Moonlight is a straight up love story. Surprised the hell out of me. It’s very good though. The direction is amazing. The cinematography is unbelievably gorgeous. And the performances are fantastic. But the story. The story is this surprising epic love story. That just took me by surprise. Amazing. Fucking amazing.

Verdict: SPARED

moonlight

Moonlight wins best picture over the marginally over-rated La La Land because it is a better love story than La La Land. Much more believable and real. With pain and pathos and grit and gravitas. It is truly an amazing film. But it’s one of those dramas that you know is going to win all the awards because it’s painful to watch. And that’s because of all the emotional power and this movie packs some emotional power. Moonlight is a powerful film.

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Moonlight is about a fragile little boy from the hood who doesn’t want to go home because his mother is spiraling out of control with drugs. Doesn’t want to go to school because his peers already know what he hasn’t admitted to himself. A boy who, frankly, doesn’t feel comfortable in his own skin.

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The movie is in three parts (that’s why the poster has that three-part face on it). 1.Little. when he is little. Called Little by his friends (faggot and gay boy by his enemies) 2.Chiron. When he’s in High School. Called Chiron (his real name) by his friends now “Little” by his tormentors and lastly 3.Black. When he has grown into a black man. This division allows us to see the kid’s growth as a human being and his mother’s descent into addiction. Again, it’s powerful and painful to watch while at the same time an absolute joy to watch. It’s fucking gorgeous.

moonlight

His friendship with a local drug kingpin and his relationship with his drug addicted mother are pivotal plot point (with some beautiful and poetic irony and two insanely good performances), but they take a back seat to his sexual identity. Which the movie doesn’t hit us over the head with. Instead it bubbles underneath. Becoming a subtle but powerful (there’s that word again) underlying theme through all three parts.

moonlight-3

Moonlight hits very close to home for me as the boy tries to come to grips with his confusing sexuality and his (even more confusing) relationship with his mother. And at times it was almost too uncomfortable to watch (I had to cover my eyes more than once). A little too familiar, too triggering, too disturbing, for reasons that are too personal to get into on the blog (that’s right there’s shit I don’t talk about).

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Moonlight is refreshingly original, well-written and expertly directed with some of the best performances of last year. This is one of those movies that you carry with you for a while. Genuine and lovely and powerful. I know I keep saying how powerful it is but that’s probably the best word to describe it. Moonlight is a powerful film. Perfect in every way. Not average in any way. Unexpected. Genuine. Gorgeous. Powerful.

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When I pressed play on the DVD, Moonlight had already won best picture but I had no idea what I was getting into. What seemed like it was going to be a gangster’s coming of age tale of addiction and family and Black American neighborhood drama, turns out to be an epic LGBT love story.

And I did not see that one coming.

– Mel

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Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Nocturnal Animals (or the ANTI-La La Land)

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

And Amy…

amy-adams-got-robbed

“I’ll be okay. I’m used to it by now. At least Mel still loves me.”

And Amy Adams gets robbed of a nomination by an Academy of numbskulls!!

Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features)

nocturnal-animals-poster

Written & Directed by Tom Ford

Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael ShannonAaron Taylor-JohnsonIsla FisherArmie HammerLaura LinneyAndrea Riseborough & Michael Sheen

Nocturnal Animals feels like a 70’s thriller or some early 80’s Brian DePalma suspense shit, except without the suspense. The only thrills in the movie happen in the book. Not the book of the movie but the book inside the movie, which is way better than the real-life story. Amy Adams (winner for best actress on this blog) plays Susan Morrow, a gallery owner whose life is boring as hell. Her life is awful and so is this part of the movie. But she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband of his new novel. It’s good. It’s very good. It’s better than her life. The book is dramatized in the movie and those parts are better than the rest of the movie. They’re supposed to be. That’s the point.

jake-gyllenhaal-in-nocturnal-animals

“I don’t know what the big deal is. I NEVER get nominated.”

But watching Nocturnal Animals so soon after seeing La La Land forced me to compare them because both films are about young artists in a romance. The one in this movie is told in flashbacks, adding a third running narrative to the film. And again it’s better than the main story. So even though I like Nocturnal Animals, this is one of those movies that I have to spoil to talk about it. But as an added bonus, I’m also going to spoil La La Land in the process. So this is a combination Spared/Spoiled/Film Comparison in one.

Verdict: SPOILED (for being too interesting): Nocturnal Animals

AND

Verdict: SPOILED (by association): La La Land

I’m spoiling everything tonight.

Nocturnal Animals Amy Adams

“Spoil them… Spoil them all… Spoil everything… Spoil them all to hell.”

SPOILER ALERT (for both Nocturnal Animals and La La Land)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

First of all, she absolutely becomes her mother. Just like everyone says she would (including her mother). And I also liked the ending. It was poetic. I think I was waiting for the suspense to bleed over from the novel into the real world. And it never did. But Amy Adams is excellent as always. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his regular efficient automatic perfection. Seriously that guy pisses me off with how precise he is. I bet you every take is exactly the same with him. He’s a freaking robot.

michael-shannon-in-nocturnal-animals

“You shut your filthy mouth. The Academy is full of geniuses and saints. Saints, I tell ya!”

Armie Hammer plays the same character in every movie. So he plays that same character again here. The man just looks like a douche. Surprise!! He’s a douche. And Michael Shannon gives a fine performance. I would talk about his nomination but frankly those fools don’t know shit. So it’s not much of an honor. But I liked it. Nocturnal Animals grew on me as the back story got interesting and the fictional story got interesting and I waited for the present story to get interesting and it never did. And that was the point. And I got it. And I liked it. So as Amy Adams is waiting there in the restaurant hoping to rekindle something with the guy who is now successful and he doesn’t show up. And that brilliant awkward last scene drags on, I was digging it. It reminded me of some Neil LaBute revenge porn (that guy’s got serious problems).

amy-adams-in-nocturnal-animals

“Oh Academy. You’re breaking my heart. But then again you break everyone’s heart.”

And every review I (actually) read seems to think that the characters of the wife and daughter in the novel represent her. But I don’t think so. I think she reads that into the story to make her boring existence seem worth a few pages. If anything she’s the three criminals. But yeah he makes himself the lead, weak and powerless to defend his wife and child in the story and she sees him as weak in the back story, but by standing her up in the end, he proves that he isn’t the weak romantic writer that she can manipulate. And his book is better than her life even though everybody dies in it (seriously it’s like some Shakespearean shit. Everyone dies at the end). So I guess he wins… at life.

jake-gyllenhaal-nocturnal-animals

“I win at life!!! I win at… oops.”

Then of course, I imagined the ending of La La Land with only one of them being successful and not the other. (much less of a fairy tale). Because at the end of La La Land both the lovers are wildly successful and exactly where they want to be in life (like the most rags-to-riches depression era musical bull-shit) and it’s mostly due to the push each gives the other. You can say they sacrifice their love and life together for the other’s career and it works well for both.

nocturnal-animals-with-amy-adams

“Mel Rook & the 7 Deadly… nope. Life’s too short. What’s on YouTube? PUPPIES!!!”

Nocturnal Animals isn’t as sweet as all that. While in La La Land they inspire each other with tough love and support, in Nocturnal Animals, she inspires him with betrayal and he inspires her with revenge. It is… a lot more realistic (and nobody sings).  Emma Stone ends up married with a successful career and no guilt about leaving her first real love (and an Oscar nomination). While Amy Adams ends up married to a cheater with a failing gallery and guilt over how she betrayed her first love (and no nomination for her work in Arrival). It’s not fair (but then again Trump is in power and fair is a fairy tale).

Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal both get what they want so fuck ’em.

nocturnal-animals

“Trump is the what now? You shitting me? Woo hoo. We got ourselves a white male president.”

Nocturnal Animals is almost too atmospheric at times in the main story. There are a couple of good laughs from her silly artsy friends and co-workers. Especially when she blatantly insults the woman who had too much work done on her face. That was hysterical. Her artwork is awful. Her life is awful. Her husband is cheating. They are hemorrhaging money and her ex-husband writes this kick-ass book. That’s some potent revenge porn. Seriously, Neil LaBute must love this film.

nocturnal-animals-amy-adams

“Operator. I’d like the number for a Neil LaBute please. Misogynist? Yes I’ll hold.”

But if she hadn’t broken his heart would he have been able to write his great American novel? Nocturnal Animals is a good story. But at times I thought it left a little too much on the table. Too atmospheric. Too strange. Too stylish. With wooden performances. Even though that was the point to make the novel more vibrant and more real than life. But because of it, it’s easy to separate the two and think that Nocturnal Animals is a movie about a boring woman reading a book, in the bed, in the tub, looking sexy… but still just reading. And then think the book in the movie is a better movie than the movie. But Nocturnal Animals is good. And it’s definitely worth a look if you’re like me and dated an artist who broke your heart. Or dated someone who didn’t believe in you. Because Nocturnal Animals is usually what you get. La La Land is the fantasy.

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“I just read Mel’s blog… I must go to him.” Now THAT’S the fantasy.

In conclusion, Nocturnal Animals is the ANTI-La La Land and I’m glad, because after the Oscar nominations I needed a sober dose of anti-romanticism. And Amy Adams, my love, I’m so sorry, but you got stood up again.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Arrival

It’s okay if you don’t remember, but the rules are simple.

The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Arrival (Paramount Pictures)

arrival-poster

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Written by Eric Heisserer  Based on “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang

Starring Amy AdamsJeremy RennerForest WhitakerMichael Stuhlbarg & Tzi Ma

Arrival is adult sci-fi. A smart story with a beautiful performance and directed and written extremely well. One of the best movies of the year. Maybe even the best. And I don’t have to tell you guys that I love Amy Adams. And I hope they give her some love come Oscar time. She carries this movie and her character is an emotional roller coaster ride and a true bad ass. I loved it profusely.

Verdict: SPARED

arrival-is-smart-science-fiction

“What you making, Amy?” “I’m just sending a message. This is the amount of times I have read or will read Mel’s blog.”

This is the new Close Encounters but without the famous five tones. Anybody remember the five tones? “If everything is ready on the dark side of the moon…” That was the extent of Close Encounters’ attempt at alien communication. Arrival makes Close Encounters look like kid’s stuff. (Steven Spielberg was actually just a kid back then) Arrival is such an intelligent film. With an amazing message about language and love and loss. I’m gonna have to say it again; I don’t have the words.

arrival-is-epic

“Okay people we’re entering the Amy Adams fixation zone. Everybody keep your hazmat suits on. And don’t touch nothing. This could get messy.”

But can we talk more about the goddess that is Amy Adams? And yes I know that my devotion for her does venture toward the creepy. But I love her like a sea mollusk loves the sun. I can only experience her brilliance as her light shines on the screen like the surface of the ocean but from underneath. I’m going to do an entire Amy Adams post with my top ten favorite performances and films. No. I’m gonna do that right now.

amy-adams-in-arrival

“He knows I’m human right? I’m HUMAN.” “I think we have some spray paint in the truck.”

Here it is:

My Top Ten Favorite Amy Adams Films & Performances:

10 Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice EXTENDED VERSION (2016) She’s my Lois Lane. Amy is my Lois Lane. (and I got a pocket full of Kryptonite)

9  The Master (2012) Nominated Best Supporting Actress

8 Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

7  The Fighter (2010) This is when the world started to recognize her brilliance but I knew way before this. Nominated Best Supporting Actress

6 On The Road (2012)

5 Julie & Julia (2009) Amy more than holds her own with one of the best.

4  American Hustle (2013) Great performance and she is so sexy in this movie. Another powerhouse female co-star that she gives a run for her money. Nominated Best Actress

3 Enchanted (2007) This is when I fell in love with her. She is simply magic in this film. So funny. So beautiful. So talented.

2 Her (2013) Love Her.

1  Arrival (2016)

I still haven’t watched Nocturnal Animals but I expect it to bump BvS EXTENDED (very important distinction the extended part) right off this list. With the ones I listed above, she was also nominated for Junebug and Doubt for Best Supporting Actress. Neither film made this list but that just means I ran out of space.

arrival-amy-adams

“But… but… but I was amazing in Junebug. I… I thought he loved me.”

Dear Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,

I know we don’t always see eye to eye. And I want you to know your recent attempts at diversity have not gone unnoticed. But I want you to give the best actress to another white woman this year. A red-head. And yes I know. You can’t get much whiter than that. But over-look race here just this once… please. Amy Adams has been nominated enough times. Enough teasing. It’s time that she won. She deserves it AND (I know this is important to you guys) It would make me very happy. Thanks for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Mel Rook

arrival-stars-a-couple-of-nerds

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” “Yeah. I think we’re gonna have to get in there.”

I don’t want to get the reputation of someone who cries at the drop of a hat moving in slow-motion, but this movie had me in tears. Even during the thrilling climax. I think I blubbered something like, “It’s beautiful.” when everything started coming into shape. But I won’t say any more. This is a powerful, action-packed, adventure film where nearly all of the action takes place from the neck up. Smart people flexing their brain muscles. I loved every minute of it. And I’m talking about the original author, the screenwriter and the director as well as the main characters. I complain a lot about dumb movies and dumb writing. I just want to take a moment to say that Arrival is some of the best & smartest film-making and story-telling I have seen in a long time. And the rest of the cast, Forest Whittaker and Jeremy Renner are pretty good too. But to be incredibly corny: Amy Adams has Arrived.

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“Okay. You grab the laptop and I’ll get his pants. And for god’s sake don’t touch anything.”

Dear Amy,

I hope you thank me in your acceptance speech. But if you forget to, just say, “You know who you are.” just like that. You know who you are. I’ll get it.

– Your Biggest Fan

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“IT’S TOO LATE. He’s gone off the deep end. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! He’s writing fake letters that no one will see. THAT NO ONE WILL EVER SEE!!!”

So in conclusion, Arrival is smart sci-fi done extremely well and you should see it in theaters because it has great special effects. It’s an experience movie that needs to be shared with a room full of strangers and if it makes a ton of money maybe Hollywood will realize that the nerds don’t always have to be the side-kick.

We can be the hero.

– Mel

Oscar Picks and Anti-Picks 2015

These are My Oscar Picks and My Anti-Picks. Who I want to win in each category and who I do not want to win. Who I’m rooting for and who I’m rooting against. Who I love and who can suck it. You get the point.

To the list…

Best Picture

I saw 7 of the 8 nominees (all but Selma – please don’t take my race card) and I get the feeling that Boyhood will win this year. Which is good because…

My Pick: Boyhood

My Anti-Picks: American Sniper (Please no) and Selma (That’s right I said it) Both of these movies would be political picks and I hate it when the Academy does that.

Best Actor

I saw 4 of the 5 nominees (all but Foxcatcher [I think Carrell’s nose scared me off]) and if Eddie Redmayne doesn’t win then there is something seriously wrong with the process.

My Pick: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne

My Anti-Pick: Anyone but Eddie Redmayne would be disgraceful. Especially if it’s Bradley (mumbles a lot) Cooper (not to pick on American Sniper [thank you for your service]).

Best Actress

I saw only 2 of the 5 nominees (The Theory of Everything and Gone Girl) but I’ve been a big fan of Julianne Moore for years and it looks like a slam dunk.

My Pick: Julianne Moore in Still Alice (but I haven’t seen it)

My Anti-Pick: I love all five of these women and even though I hated Gone Girl (with a passion) I thought Rosamund Pike did an amazing job.

The Happy Couple

Resse and Marion already have Oscars (with more to come for both women) and a Julianne Moore win would make me happy.

Best Supporting Actor

I saw 3 out of 5 of these. And I love all these guys as well, but if J.K. Simmons doesn’t leave with an Oscar there’s gonna be hell to pay.

My Pick: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Are You Out of Tune

My Anti-Pick: Ethan Hawke. Some say it is the concept of Boyhood that got it nominated for best picture and I agree. It’s the concept that makes it the best picture of the year. But I feel like the actors got nominations because of the concept as well and that I do not agree with because the Oscars like to reward people who age on film when it’s acting. But this was just aging. Everyone can do that. I just did it while writing this paragraph.

Best Supporting Actress

I saw 4 out of 5 (I haven’t seen Wild yet). Looks like Patricia Arquette will win this one but I strongly disagree (see above). Kiera Knightley is great in Imitation Game (especially at the end) but the eyes have it for me. Emma Stone’s eyes in Birdman are heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time and those two make the movie for me… also we love her.

My Pick: Emma Stone in Birdman

Emma Stone

My Anti-Pick: Meryl Streep (why is she even nominated. Is this some kind of a joke?)

Best Animated Feature

I only caught 4 out of 5 of these (and no, I’m not going to mention The Lego Movie again… oops) But of the four I did see the best by far was…

My Pick: The Boxtrolls

Eggs and his adopted family

My Anti-Picks: How to Train Your Dragon 2  and Big Hero 6 (yeah… no. Don’t reward mediocrity) But I get the feeling there is more politics in the Animated Feature category than there is in the Best Picture category.

The Boxtrolls!  The Boxtrolls!  The Boxtrolls!

Best Director

4 out of 5 again (Still haven’t seen Foxcatcher since you started reading this) Here again is a case where Richard Linklater (and I love him) could win this category based on the Boyhood concept. I wouldn’t award him for that here but in Best Picture.

My Pick: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman

Michael Keaton as Birdman

My Anti-Pick: Richard Linklater.

Birdman is superb directing. It’s an acrobatic logistic and majestic ballet of insane proportions and please please please please please see it the way I do, because it would be a crying shame if it didn’t take the prize here. And the way I see it, only Boyhood could spoil that. Unless these two split the vote and Wes Anderson sneaks in to steal it.

Cinematography

This one is tough because I only saw 2 of the 5 films and although the cinematography in Wes Anderson’s masterpiece is masterfully masterful, everything about the camera work in Birdman is phenomenal.

My Pick: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman

My Anti-Pick: I don’t have one. I haven’t seen most of these, so I can’t judge. I wouldn’t mind it if The Grand Budapest Hotel won here. It is gorgeous.

Costume Design

4 out of 5 (I haven’t seen Mr. Turner) This is a tough one because you have your period costumes and you have your fantasy costumes. Maleficent has beautiful costumes but so does Inherent Vice with that wonderful 70’s look. However the standout for me…

My Pick: Milena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL film

My Anti-Pick: I don’t have one here either. Of the 4 I did see, they are all well-dressed movies with beautiful costumes. I think Budapest takes this one because that bellboy costume is probably going into the Smithsonian… seriously.

Documentary Feature and Short Feature

I haven’t seen any of these. (I’m not bragging) but I’m going to make picks here based on subject alone. (don’t pretend that’s not how people do it)

Documentary Feature: Last Days in Vietnam Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester (From what I’ve seen this is heartbreaking and depressingly topical. About the fate of the people left behind when America pulls their troops and admits defeat)

Documentary Short Feature: The Reaper (La Parka) Gabriel Serra Arguello (About slaughterhouses and the desensitization that comes from being constantly surrounded by the death and suffering of the animals we consume)

Film Editing

Woohoo! I’ve seen ’em all. But I’ll take that woohoo back because… Where the hell is Birdman in this category? Did they honestly think there were no edits in Birdman. And the fact that they could think that, is exactly why it should be in this category. Seriously my pick is Birdman but it wasn’t even nominated. So…

My Pick: Tom Cross for Whiplash

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons

My Anti-Pick: I could bully American Sniper here again except that if Whiplash doesn’t take it, I wouldn’t mind American Sniper winning. I give it to Whiplash because of the tight frenetic percussive edits (that are NOT MY TEMPO) building the tension beautifully.

Foreign Language Film

I usually seek these out. All of them. Every year they are all fantastic. But I didn’t see any of them. However, this category more than any other is fraught with global politics. I might as well just pick a country. (don’t pretend that’s not the way people do it)

My Pick: Argentina 

My Anti-Pick: Russia

Make-up and Hairstyling

I haven’t seen Foxcatcher but I’ve seen the other two however I feel Foxcatcher wins by a nose… (see what I did there) Only 3 of these this year. More movies are using effects instead of make-up. (I’m looking at you Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

My Pick: Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard for Foxcatcher (still haven’t seen it)

My Anti-Pick: It’s possible this will be another of The Grand Budapest Hotel wins and I wouldn’t be mad at that at all.

Music – Original Score

4 out of 5. Great music all around. Alexandre Desplat does great work in both The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel and of course the great Hans Zimmer does some powerful composing for Interstellar however…

My Pick: Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones

My Anti-Pick: Anything else but that. The Theory of Everything… all day long.

Music – Original Song

Does anyone not think the song from Selma isn’t not gonna not win. Cause I don’t even know what I’m talking about. This one is a done deal. Come on.

My Pick: “Glory” from Selma

My Anti-Pick: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME (I think this was another joke nomination)

Production Design

4 out of 5 (haven’t seen Mr Turner) but this one is also a no-brainer. Production design is a Wes Anderson film’s major selling point and The Grand Budapest Hotel is gorgeous.

My Pick: Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ralph Fiennes

My Anti-Pick: Into The Woods because, you know, cheesy looking.

Here I’m gonna skip the two Short Film categories because I just don’t have the time to watch a short film… on the internet… for free… (I suck)

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing

4 out of 5 watched for both (just not Unbroken) and also for both of these categories I’m giving the prize to Interstellar.

Sound Editing: Richard King for Interstellar

Sound Mixing: Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten for Interstellar

Visual Effects

I’ve seen all of these. Every year these are always movies that I see on opening day. And this is another no-brainer. Obviously Interstellar has the best visual effects of the year.

My Pick: Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher for Interstellar

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

My Anti-Pick: I love all of these movies. I wouldn’t be mad if Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stole this one for its amazing motion-capture apes.

Andy Serkis

And finally… My two favorite categories every year… writing.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

5 out of 5 (don’t be jealous). This one isn’t difficult for me. I give it to Whiplash. One of the best scripts of the year. The Theory of Everything is good but Whiplash is sensational.

My Pick: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash

The Conductor

My Anti-Pick: Hey Academy! Don’t annoy me by giving this to anyone else. And if you give this to American Sniper or Inherent Vice, you’re gonna owe me a new TV because I’m gonna put my foot through it.

Writing – Original Screenplay

4 out of 5 (Okay I’m kind of embarrassed that I haven’t seen Foxcatcher yet. This has been a long post. What the hell have I been doing this whole time?)

This is the most difficult category of the year. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and Boyhood are neck and neck. Birdman because it is insanely well-written and Boyhood because it is such a great idea (and all that good stuff)

So the winner of the most important award of the year is…

Drum roll…

My Pick: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman Poster

My Anti-Pick: Boyhood and I’ll tell you why. Because while I think it’s the best picture of the year, I don’t think it’s the best written or best directed. I know that sounds weird but I’d say it’s the best movie based on the concept alone. And people need to stop bad-mouthing it. Birdman, however, is better in every single way except in total. Boyhood is better in total. (You have to imagine me making a large globe with my hands when I say “In total”) Say it with me. Birdman is better than Boyhood in every way except in total.

And that’s my picks.

Enjoy the Oscars everybody. (take a drink every time someone comments about how there are no black nominees in any of the major categories… I know I will)

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The rules are simple: The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Birdman Poster

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Starring Michael KeatonZach GalifianakisEdward NortonAndrea RiseboroughAmy RyanEmma Stone & Naomi Watts

Birdman is stylized film-making. The technical aspects of this movie are center stage. The performances are some of the best of last year but the camera work and direction are the true stars of the film. Needless to say Birdman is a fantastic movie. A movie that screws with the viewer’s perception from the opening scene and doesn’t stop messing with your head until it ends (and even then that’s debatable).

Verdict: SPARED

Michael Keaton

Birdman is the story of a so-called washed-up movie star, who played Birdman for three big budget blockbusters and then called it quits. In the movie he is in previews for a Broadway play that he adapted, directed and stars in. The film opens with him meditating in his dressing room. He is floating in the air three feet off the floor… or is he? Look again. This is the first five seconds of the film and you cannot take your eyes off the screen for a second or you’ll miss something. It’s that good.

Keaton and Norton

Emma Stone is impressive and I’m going to mention her first because this is the best I have ever seen her. I guess it’s her role in Amazing Spider-Mans 1 and 2 that made me forget how well she can act. This is an award-winning performance she gives us in this film. She has one scene where she sits with her legs dangling off the side of the building over the street below. The acting in the scene is great but that’s not my point right now. She leans over the edge to spit on a passerby (long story) but she doesn’t just lean she practically defies gravity. It is so subtle. And such fucking good directing.

Keaton and Stone

The other actors do fine work. Of course Michael Keaton is brilliant not to mention the fact that he carries the whole thing on his back. He kind of carries the camera on his back. Ed Norton is outstanding but I have to say “ho hum” to that because it’s his fault for ALWAYS being outstanding in everything. (My favorite movie of his is still The Hulk). Zach Galfianakis is great in Birdman as well but he’s also one of those where I expect it from him every time out. Zach does not have a dimmer switch.  However Emma Stone’s performance is the standout for me. Give her an Oscar.

Emma Stone

I must now direct all eyes to the center ring. In the center ring is the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. He is front and center like Alfred Hitchcock used to do be. The directing is the most important part of the story. His style in this is like a cross between Terry Gilliam, Alfred Hitchcock and Julie Taymor. It moves like a theater piece. Like an art installation. Like performance art. Fluid and beautiful and lyrical. I can’t wait until someone does a stage adaptation of this movie just to add another layer to the inception mind-fuck at work in this shear act of genius.

Keaton, Watts and Galifianakis

Birdman is full of practical special effects but so is the theater in general. It is an amazing example of stagecraft. The movie takes place over several days but in one continuous shot. My favorite thing is that when he changes the time or the day he does it without an edit. Not even a hidden one. There are hidden edits everywhere throughout the film flares or swish-pans but these are, as far as I can tell, always within one continuous scene. But when he changes the day, or advances time significantly, he does it in the camera with a pan or dolly round a corner or into another room. No edit, just with spectacular stagecraft and practical effects. There will be books written about this movie and this production.

Michael Keaton as Birdman

This is my pick for Best Director hands down (put your hands down Linklater). And this is my pick for Best Supporting Actress. Alejandro González Iñárritu and Emma Stone are fantastic at their jobs. And BIrdman is my new favorite film from 2014. Birdman challenges our perceptions by separating fiction from fantasy and real from reality. It doesn’t just make you believe. It makes you desperately want to believe. I believe.

Birdman Still

I believe. This is one for the collection.

– Mel