Back in the Blogging Saddle: What’d I Miss?

Carol4

I’m almost as happy to get back to writing as Therese was when she met Carol *sigh*

I’m back, and boy does that make me happy.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make time for the things you love, especially in moments of intense transition. The last nine months (it really hasn’t felt that long!) have seen me working my first 9-5 job, adjusting to a new city, singing in and volunteering with the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, donning drag for the first time, and making countless friends along the way.

There have also been plenty of movies. I’ve devoted more time, in fact, to good old-fashioned cinema-going in Philadelphia than I had in previous years, thanks in part to cheaper ticket prices (I’m still milking my NYU student ID card for all its worth) and in part to Cinema Salon, a wonderful film discussion group I’ve joined here.

So, what have I seen? What’d I think of the Oscars? Did the right queen win season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race? These are the important questions in life, no? Let’s play catch-up. Continue reading

My Mid-Year Oscars: The Best of 2015 Thus Far

Compton2

The first chill of autumn is just on the horizon, and with it an onslaught of Oscar-bait, awards season cinema ripe for the binging. As such, this post could seem silly: why proclaim my favorites of the year in September, when others will almost surely overtake them by year’s end?

Honestly, I don’t have an answer, save for a desire to document for myself, and for my readers, the great films of the first three-quarters of the year. And there have been some, many of which I hope will achieve success with the Academy despite their early berth.

So, without further ado, let’s take a journey from January onward and explore my mid-year Oscar picks in a variety of categories (including my thoughts on how they will play into the year-end awards race!): Continue reading

Review: ‘Song of the Sea’

SongSea2

Had I caught Tomm Moore’s brilliant Song of the Sea when it was first released, it likely would have cracked my top ten films of the year. It stands alongside How to Train Your Dragon 2 as the most accomplished animated feature of last year, a triumph of elegant, emotional storytelling and gorgeous, CGI-enhanced hand-drawn imagery.

Sea, along with his slighter previous feature The Secret of Kells, mark Moore as a prodigious talent in this field of cinema. Both movies were deservedly nominated for the best animated feature Oscar, and though they lost out to bigger budget studio fare, they remind me in the best possible way of Ireland’s answer to the fantasy realms envisioned by Hayao Miyazaki.

There is a traditional quality to the storytelling that feels timeless: both Moore and Miyazaki emphasize cultural specificity over easily accessible humor or characterization, and their focus on environmental causes and deeply felt familial relations add another layer of sophistication. They are, perhaps, less child-friendly as a result; though there were many young kids in the theater when I finally saw Song of the Sea, I couldn’t help but feel that the more emotionally-stirring moments (and there are many) may have been lost on an audience focused more on visual splendor, something the film delivers in spades.

I suppose, then, that Song of the Sea is sort-of perfect as an animated feature which reads on multiple levels: as a brother-sister adventure tale, as a gorgeous and wondrous bedtime story, both nightmarish and dreamy, and as a story about mourning and what it takes for a child to grow into a young adult.  Continue reading

Review: ‘Wild Tales’

WildTales4

The morning of the Oscars, I decided that I needed to explore the foreign language category a little bit more, having already seen likely (and eventual) winner Ida from Poland and possible upset, Russia’s Leviathan.

Argentinian nominee Wild Tales caught my eye and came highly recommended from several friends, so I headed to the theater. The following two hours left me overjoyed, disgusted, sad, and honestly kind of hopeless…in the best way.

A series of six vignettes exploring the extremes in human behavior—jealousy, unceasing bureaucratic frustration, greed, intense vitriol, and vengeful ideation among them—Wild Tales is the darkest of black comedies, a feel-bad-feel-good extravaganza brimming over with plot twists and all-too-real absurdist characters. Continue reading

Weekly Scene: District 9

District91

In anxious anticipation of Chappie, I’d like to revisit Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 classic District 9.

This sci-fi drama is a thinly veiled cinematic representation of South African apartheid, with an insect-like alien species—referred to as “prawns”—substituted in as an undesirable “race” of citizens. After their spaceship stalls out of Johannesburg in 1982, the “prawns” are forced into a district of the city which quickly grows beyond its means, becoming a dirty, overrun shanty town.

The main action of the film involves Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley, stellar in his first film role), a goofy and nerdy employee of the Multinational United (MNU) Department of Alien Affairs who is assigned to lead a relocating endeavor for the “prawns.” While investigating a hut in District 9, Wikus is sprayed with an alien substance of some kind and, as the film progresses, he begins to transform into one of the “prawns.” Throughout this process he befriends two of the aliens, Christopher Johnson and his young child; Christopher claims that with his help they can reverse Wikus’s transformation and get the alien ship out of Johannesburg for good.

Interested? You should be. Continue reading

And The Oscar Goes To…

OSCARS!

Isn’t this all that really matters?

The day after the Oscars is always a bit of a sad one.

First of all, it is (and always will be) a Monday, a.k.a. work doldrums at an all-time high.

Second, a lot of time, energy, and expectation gets funneled into what will inevitably be a relatively slow-paced reveal…of exactly what you expected. Dealing with that realization year after year doesn’t make it any less melancholy.

And third, you realize that in all likelihood it will be several months until you see any movies likely to be nominated for Oscars next year (though I am holding out hope for Paddington and Kenneth Branagh’s new Cinderella adaptation—which is kind of perfect—to receive some craft awards).

Still, it is worth recapping the evening and unearthing the gems, of which there were many this year! Political speeches, Julianne Moore’s inevitable but oh-so-satisfying triumph, two outstanding performances, and other fun awaits… Continue reading

The 87th Annual Academy Awards: Hopes, Dreams, And Predictions

Oscars

On Sunday, the 87th Annual Academy Awards will be given to the actors, writers, designers, technicians, producers, and director of the “best films” of the year. Of course the Academy voting body gets it wrong (in this writer’s humble opinion) far too often. But film being a subjective art, those who care about the recognition received by our favorites hold out hope that this year—every year—things will be different.

The 2015 awards are shaping up to be a relatively unpredictable bunch. Birdman and Boyhood are fighting it out for the best picture and best director spots, the best actor race has Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne on the bubble, and the screenplay awards are impossible to predict with 100% certainty. Basically, it’s a fool’s errand, but I’m gonna lay my predictions out there anyway.

For each of the categories (save for the shorts and docs, about which I regrettably know next to nothing), I will list my prediction for who/what will win, who/what should win, and who/what should have been nominated.

For those who care to read on, here are my thoughts on the 87th Academy Awards: Continue reading