Last week I was sick, and took the opportunity to watch many of the remaining films I had not seen that have been nominated for Best Picture, plus a few others. I have already commented at length on two impactful films: La La Land and Moonlight. Now, a few blurbs on the rest.
Before sick week, I had already seen:
Hell or High Water- This was a fun film set in West Texas. Chris Pine is beautiful, and both Pine and Ben Foster were convincing as brothers and misfits (or, rather, criminals). I liked that it was a thrilling, but not overly dramatic, rendition of crime, violence and great heist. The characters were dynamic and even the most unlikable--Foster--was just human enough to champion until his final shoot out. Pine was the less spontaneous, meticulous in his strategy and in the final objective, unashamed of the course of action required. So often in films it comes down to a flawed man striving toward being, still, somehow, a forgiven father. This ultimate pursuit blurred the lines between good and evil, hero and villain. We choose which acts define us. Each character chooses and sticks to his choice, and I love them for it.
Manchester by the Sea- I saw this film with my family over Christmas and could have sat in that theater watching their lives unfold forever. However, it did not grip my heart and make me cry like dramas typically do. I sympathized, but I could not empathize with Casey Affleck's way of mourning. Having said that, all the characters were SO strong in their roles, and Massachusetts was captured beautifully.
Then, during sick week, I watched:
Fences- The acting was superb. However, it played out, well, erm, like a play. Lots of dialogue requiring lots of attention with very little change in setting and with a small cast. I was not surprised, then, when I learned the film was, in fact, a play revival. It did a spectacular job at bringing the play to screen, but I personally suck as staying awake in and engaged by plays. This is my fault, not the film's fault.
Hidden Figures- Such a feel good film. I love that there are more and more films that do not take you on this journey of almost hyperbolic rises and falls. It is just real (brilliant) people, and, timely in this instance, real women (though, hi again, Mahershala Ali, I love you still), doing real things, facing real struggles with grace and poise and beauty. There were quite a few films from the list that are set in this same time period, the 50s and 60s. I loved that this film gave a light air of hope for welcome change. It is change that, all in all, is still gunna' come.
Arrival- I heard a lot about this film before watching it and, yes, I agree, it is not like other sci-fi films. It strives to grasp, rather than galaxies far beyond, universal truth. It articulates the importance of coming together in the pursuit of sharing and discovering knowledge (and, thus, learning about ourselves) as the truer path than isolation to protect one thought, one resource, one nation. Coming from the world of development and globalization, I appreciated that. I hope it does not take the visit of an alien species for us to accomplish this though.
Lion- Such a sucker for Dev Patel. That HAIR! This film told a heartbreaking, enchanting, compelling story. I enjoyed every minute because of Dev, because of his hair, because of scenes from India and Australia, because of love and because of family. But, although it is based on a true story, the drama of the narrative and the quickness with which they covered Saroo's adulthood and reunion with his family felt both overdone and undone. But a perfect narrative was not the point, in the end, it was to encourage sympathy for the thousands of homeless and abandoned children in India. Important to note- If this film did inspire you to adopt a child from India, this is no longer allowed unless you are already living in India, a colleague told me today.
Hacksaw Ridge- I did not think I was going to enjoy watching this film. I was wrong. I was so wrong. I stayed up late, ensnared in every minute of this film. I did not think I was going to enjoy this film because I thought 'war movie'. But this was much more a story of peace than it was war. And, also in line with some observations from Moonlight, it challenged society's assumption of what makes a Man. Andrew Garfield was incredible in showcasing for the audience just how Manly one can be without ever bearing arms. And Desmond Doss, you humble, darling, strong Man, I wish I could have met you.
I also watched:
Elle- This film is fantastic. This film is really, really messed up. When I mentioned that this film was pretty darn effed up, everyone else was like, "Dude, it is Isabelle Hupper, duh." I wish I had known this before I watched it alone, in the dark, sick. Though a film that torments me just for the sake of tormenting me does not necessarily last its entire length. I let this film torment me the entire time because it is riveting.
Jackie- Natalie Portman is beautiful in all roles. There was lots of talk about how she managed Jackie Kennedy's accent in this film. I found it a bit frustrating, but done well. The film somehow passed both quickly and slowly. Once again, I did not empathize deeply with Kennedy's character. Perhaps I simply could not engage in this film about another time and another presidency and another first lady because I am so consumed with current times, and our current presidential family. Natalie: Bravo. Anything about the White House right now: Blech.
Nocturnal Animals- Weird film. Good, weird film. Well acted. I think I watched this directly after Arrival, so it was difficult to turn the page from one Amy Adams to the next. This was another one of those films I went into blindly, and shouldn't have, given my situation (in the dark, alone, sick). It kept me up, both because it was traumatizing and it traumatized me in a profound, artful way. There is some debate about what the ending meant, and I would love to hear from others. My hope: Mighty good revenge. Karma is a bitch.
Loving- I really wanted to enjoy watching this film. It put to screen an important, true story about a absolute right to love who we want to love and for that to be recognized by state and society. I think it lacked the character development I require to really dig my heels in to the journey. There was not much attention on the children, and the suffering was all subtle and silent. It dawdled and dragged on in parts for me. I also kept getting frustrated that this actually happened, that it happened so recently, that there used to be and continue to be people who have the evil, mushy brain to act on ruining the harmless lives of others based on discriminatory, racist thinking. Perhaps it was simply too tame a film to keep up with my continued outrage over this dilemma, so current and yet, so, so, so, beyond-old-never-should-have-been-thought thinking.
Moana- I did not watch this during sick week, but saw it beforehand. Not a major player in the Oscars, ha ha, but does have a song nominated. Cute film. Liked that the cartoon girl had a semi-more-normal figure. And, of course, any cartoon based in my birthplace will win my heart and my family's hearts.
What are y'alls thoughts on this year's line up? Any films you recommend for me next?