Industry News: Oscar Predictions in Eight Major Categories

The countdown begins until Academy Awards weekend!  2016 ended up being a pretty good year for movies, with a slate of outstanding films vying for top honors Sunday night at the Oscars. Below are the nominations for the main prizes in acting, writing and directing along with my predictions of the expected winners.

Best Picture

The nominations are:

La La Land is a celebration of Hollywood and romance among films with heavier and darker themes. It has swept most of the precursor awards and is expected to win the top prize. If there is an upset, it could be crowd-pleasing Hidden Figures, a surprising box office hit with historic gravitas and an empowering message. Moonlight, Manchester, Hell or High Water and Arrival are my favorites. And I’m a loner in my tepid response to Lion, which is the only head-scratcher on the list.

Best Director

The nominations are:

This is likely a year when Best Picture and Best Director will match, thus a win for Damien Chazelle. After he emerged on the scene with the critically lauded Whiplash, his La La Land continued to make a profound mark in a great young career. Barry Jenkins also created a masterpiece with Moonlight, but it’s less showy.

Best Actress

The nominations are:

There’s talk of an Isabelle Huppert upset, but I’ll stick with a prediction for Emma Stone, who in her one-take “audition scene” transforms from everywoman to transcendent movie goddess. It was a great year for actresses, and I wish Annette Bening were in the mix for 20th Century Women.

Best Actor

The nominations are:

I’m on Team Affleck or Team Mortensen for their magnificent portrayals of unexpected dads, but my prediction is for Denzel Washington who acted and directed himself in August Wilson’s domineering daddy of a role in Fences. The chance to honor the actor with a third statuette and induct him into a rarefied pantheon of multiple winners seems enticing to the Hollywood chattering class.

Best Supporting Actress

The nominations are:

She campaigned in the wrong category, because Viola Davis would have won for lead or supporting actress for her role in Fences. She is superb. In a different year, we’d be toasting Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams for their wonderful working class performances, but Washington and Davis have an August Wilson script and Tony awards already and have been refining these immortal roles for a while.

 

Best Supporting Actor

The nominations are:

As the drug dealer with a heart of gold, Mahershala Ali appears in only the first third of Moonlight, but he is unforgettable. This could be an upset category for Dev Patel or any of the nominees, but Ali stands tall in a noble role and sends a strong anti-bullying message.

Best Original Screenplay

The nominations are:

This category is a great chance to honor Lonergan, a journeyman playwright and screenwriter who penned a corker of a script this year with Manchester by the Sea. Or, Academy voters could just check every box for the Hollywood musical. I predict Lonergan and Manchester in this category.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The nominations are:

  • Arrival (Eric Heisserer, based on a short story by Ted Chiang)
  • Fences (August Wilson, adapted from his play)
  • Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly)
  • Lion (Luke Davies, based on the memoir A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose)
  • Moonlight (Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney)

This category is a great chance to honor Moonlight; and if there is an upset in Supporting Actor, there should be a win here for this moving coming of age film. After last year’s #oscarssowhite, this year’s ceremony should bask in a bit more of the rainbow.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Tagged with:
Posted in 2017, Industry News

Movie Review: The Lego Batman Movie

IMG_7673Director Chris McKay shows audiences exactly where a famous caped crusader gets those wonderful toys in the whimsical mini-fig laden animated feature The LEGO Batman Movie (B). A spinoff of 2014’s similarly hilarious The LEGO Movie, this new movie’s creators prove the novelty behind these films is not a one-brick pony. Will Arnett successfully voices a braggadocio Dark Knight and enriches the legend with a story about the hero’s solitude and emerging pangs for a community of his own. Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Rosario Dawson as the new police commissioner of Gotham City and especially Michael Cera as Robin help create a lively surrogate gang of foils and family. The humor is nonstop with anarchic delights as McKay and his team plunder both the DC and Warner Brothers canons for an endless parade of cameos ranging from Martian Manhunter to Stripe Gremlin. Like a Richard Scarry book come to life with Wonder Woman twirling her lasso in one corner of the frame while Zan, Jayna and Gleek do a conga line, there’s more visual feast on the screen than can be absorbed. The film’s builders demonstrate an uncanny knowledge of the superhero films preceding this one and even pull from a Superman universe plot line to propel the narrative. There’s enough action, comedy and heart to please the palettes of all who attend; and although it’s hard to top the novelty of the first film made of bricks, these pegs have legs.

Save

Save

Save

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in 2017

Industry News: Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Announces First-Ever Jury Award Winners

After 23 days and a record 202 screenings, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) celebrated its Closing Night on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 with the announcement of its first-ever Jury Prizes, which were deliberated by an esteemed panel of filmmakers, journalists and experts. In addition, the festival revealed its annual Audience Award winners, which are set for a day of encore screenings in March.

The AJFF Inaugural Jury Prizes went to best Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature and Short, as well as the categories of Emerging Filmmaker, Building Bridges and Human Rights. The Emerging Filmmaker Prize was awarded to a rising creative talent whose film shows exceptional skill and artistry. The Building Bridges Prize honors the film that most exemplifies the mission of AJFF, informed by founder and partner American Jewish Committee, to foster understanding among communities of diverse religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Rounding out the list is the Human Rights Prize, awarded to the film that most powerfully captures the perseverance and strength of those guided by a sense of justice in the face of bigotry, inequality, or persecution.

With the regular festival complete, upcoming AJFF programming includes special encore presentations of the 2017 AJFF Audience Award winning films on Sunday, March 5, at GTC Merchants Walk Cinema. Fanny’s Journey, the story of a brave, resourceful young girl who leads a small band of orphans through Nazi-occupied France, won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature, while The Freedom to Marry, a thrilling and inspiring insiders’ look at the greatest civil rights movement of today, nabbed Best Documentary Feature. Winning the Audience Award for Best Short Film is Oscar®-nominated Joe’s Violin, the story of how a musical instrument unites a Holocaust survivor and a Bronx schoolgirl.

 

The complete list of the 2017 AJFF Jury Prize Winners is below. Each panel also included a film student juror from Emory University.

  • JURY CHAIR

    • Arik Sokol (Producer, Opus Media Productions)

 

 

Narrative Feature Jury Prize Winner: FANNY’S JOURNEY

The moving, beautifully realized story of a young Jewish girl, who led a group of children to safety during the Holocaust. Compellingly acted by young leads and elegantly directed by Lola Doillon, Fanny’s Journey adeptly balances the brightness of the human spirit with the darkness of its depravity.

 

Documentary Feature Jury Prize Winner: AIDA’S SECRETS

The affecting account of two long-lost brothers, one raised in Canada and the other in Israel, who discover each other and attempt to uncover the story behind their separation after the Holocaust. Both historical and deeply personal, Aida’s Secrets is a powerful human tale about the meaning of family.

 

 

Winner: Eran Kolirin for BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Beyond the Mountains and Hills shows an Israeli family in the throes of various crises that intersect in surprising and illuminating ways, giving us new insights into the contemporary Israeli landscape. The director seamlessly interweaves realistic and poetic imagery to create a cinematic picture of life at the edge of change.

 

  • BUILDING BRIDGES JURY

 

Winner: THE 90 MINUTE WAR

When all else fails, the unthinkable becomes plausible. The 90 Minute War depicts, in small and large ways, the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through its realistic characters and complex parallel narratives, the film illustrates — with occasional humor and nuanced wit — that anything besides compromise in this conflict would be absurd.

 

 

Winner: THE FREEDOM TO MARRY

This film is an insightful examination into the history behind the struggle for marriage equality. Even though viewers may well and probably do know the outcome, it keeps them engaged and invested in learning the critical journey and the key players in the extra-legal battle. The film helps the viewer understand both the legal process in taking a human rights case to the Supreme Court and the need to galvanize public opinion.

 

 

Winner: THE LAST BLINTZ

It is no easy feat to juggle themes such as gentrification, Jewish history, community activism and personal loss within the confines of a half hour. But that’s exactly what this film does, using the setting of an old New York establishment to explore the way memories come to define iconic locations to the point where change seems unthinkable — and then arrives, no matter how much resistance there is to stop it. For its ability to present a powerful ode to nostalgia and a wistful portrait of the march of time, we award our top prize to The Last Blintz.

More than 37,500 moviegoers attended the 2017 AJFF. The festival was thrilled to have successfully delivered an improved audience experience this year: more screenings of in-demand films, and at more convenient show times, translating to greater access and an improved onsite experience for all audiences. The experience furthers our mission to foster cultural understanding through the power of cinematic storytelling.

As always, AJFF’s guest speakers and panel discussions brought out the best of the 2017 lineup, including discussions with filmmakers, scholars, and other experts throughout the festival. The 2017 AJFF featured a range of international films that included a host of dramas, family-friendly fare, charming comedies, sports-themed films, and a variety of topical subject matter, overall considered by many to be the festival’s most well-rounded lineup to date.

For more information, visit AJFF.org, or stay connected via social media on Twitter @ATLJewishFilm and on Facebook and Instagram at /atljewishfilm.

AJFF’s mission is to entertain and engage diverse audiences with film through a Jewish lens. In so doing, AJFF fulfills its vision to inspire communities to new levels of social and cultural understanding. Seeking to use the power of film both to entertain and educate, AJFF challenges conventional perspectives on Jewish culture and history, life in Israel, and the work of Jewish artists—particularly where these stories intersect with other communities.

AJFF features an international collection of more than 70 narrative and documentary films (in both feature and short form) that connect with the Jewish experience. The festival brings to Atlanta major films representing more than two dozen countries each year. No screening is without a guest speaker or panel discussion, led by filmmakers, actors, authors, academics and/or other experts.

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival was founded in 2000 by the Atlanta Regional Office of American Jewish Committee (AJC), a global advocacy organization that enhances the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel through education, outreach and diplomacy. Through the power and shared experience of cinematic storytelling, AJC and AJFF foster stronger bonds within the Jewish community, and intergroup relations with Atlanta’s diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities. Today, AJFF is an independent non-profit arts organization that continues an active partnership with its founding agency, American Jewish Committee.

Save

Save

Tagged with:
Posted in Industry News

Movie Review: The Women’s Balcony

Emil Ben-Shimon’s The Women’s Balcony (Hebrew Title: Ismach Hatani) (B+) is an often jubilant dramedy about taking a stand, especially when oppression manifests with a seductive face. After a flimsy women’s prayer balcony in an aging Jerusalem synagogue topples and the temple’s senile rabbi is too infirm to oversee the renovation, the men of the tight-knit congregation turn to a charismatic young ultra-Orthodox leader, convincingly played by Abraham Aviv Alush, to guide the rebuild. His new ideas are actually old ones and involve setting the women of the church back in terms of their ability to think, pray and express themselves with any sense of modernity. Radiant actress Evelin Hagoel is the primary protagonist, magnificent in her decency and defiance. The entire ensemble of feisty women is remarkable, and it it is in their light and often humorous approach that a powerful parable comes to compelling life. A bit more muted than the similarly themed Spike Lee movie Chi-Raq, this Israeli film handles gender and religion with a deft touch and a splendid depiction of community. Ultimately it’s a celebration of enduring traditions and the power of progress in standing up for equality.

Note: The Women’s Balcony is the closing night presentation of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and is making appearances at many film festivals around the world this season.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in 2016

Movie Review: Fifty Shades Darker

IMG_7660The relationship status of Christian and Anastasia continues to be “It’s Complicated” in James Foley’s not-as sloppy-seconds-as-you’d-think sequel Fifty Shades Darker (C+). Dakota Johnson and Jaimie Dornan actually improve a bit on their original portrayals of a couple from different sides of the track marks, as they advance their unusual romance against the demons of his dysfunctional past. It’s perplexing, but they make the far-fetched characters relatable. The struggle to tame this wounded billionaire is real, and sometimes he earns a little Red Room. Overlong and oddly paced most of the time, this erotic thriller could have used some whips, chains and clamps in the editing room. The final act begins to progress like a season of a campy eighties nighttime drama (Falcon Breast?). In a particularly saucy role as a BDSM mistress who keeps showing up to warn Ana about Christian like a Dickensian apparition, Kim Basinger seems to cast all fifty forms of shade. The movie is beautifully filmed, a kind of love letter to Seattle through the spherical lens of Ben Wa. There’s even an homage to Johnson’s real-life mom with a line right out of Working Girl as Ana advances in her publishing company. The cliffhanger in the original didn’t prompt much interest in this sequel, but Foley tarts things up enough this go-around that he may indeed have built interest in bringing on a third.

Save

Save

Tagged with: ,
Posted in 2017

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Preview: Young Professionals Night — Family Commitments

ajff17

 

 

Family Commitments

 

PREVIEW:  Young Professionals Night, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

Woodruff Arts Center, Saturday, February 11, 2017

YOUNG PROFESSIONALS NIGHT, presented by ACCESS

Party at 7:00 PM • Film at 8:40 PM

Ethnic identity, family dysfunction and an unexpected pregnancy complicate the planned nuptials of an Arab-Jewish gay couple in the romantic comedy Family Commitments.

http://ajff.org/film/family-commitments

David and boyfriend Khaled (Maximilian von Pufendorf and Omar El-Saeidi) are ready to shatter one of the last great taboos of middle-class German society: a same-sex marriage between a Jew and a Muslim. Having dated for two years and deeply in love, the time is ripe to tie the knot. Nothing could stand in their way it seems, except for their parents: David’s overbearing mother (Maren Kroymann), and Khaled’s homophobic father (Ramin Yazdani). On top of all this, an old acquaintance (Franziska Brandmeier) turns up out of the blue, claiming to be pregnant with David’s baby. As the plot thickens, relationships are stretched to the breaking point by deceit, obfuscations and the struggles of the family business. The directorial debut of Hanno Olderdissen, Family Commitments mixes classic screwball comedy with eye-catching production design, a goofy fun soundtrack, and an inclusive multi-cultural worldview.

http://ajff.org/film/family-commitments

The screening on Saturday, February 11 at Woodruff Arts Center is presented by ACCESS Atlanta, American Jewish Committee’s young leadership division, and is reserved for festival-goers 40-years-old and under. The program will include a pre-film party with a cash bar.

ajff44

The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival runs through February 15. Follow the festival and get tickets at ajff.org and @atljewishfilm on Twitter.

Save

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in 2017, Industry News

Industry News: Super Bowl Ads Feature John Malkovich, Coen Brothers Spots

It’s Super Bowl weekend, and the ads are quite cinematic! Watch ten of the top trending Super Bowl commercials, including new spots for McDonald’s and Budweiser plus a Mercedes-Benz ad directed by the Coen Brothers and an ad for SquareSpace featuring John Malkovich. #SB51

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Feature: Ten Favorite Films of 2016

IMG_7546

10 Eye in the Sky
9 20th Century Women
8 La La Land
7 Arrival
6 Manchester by the Sea
5 Hell or High Water
4 Everybody Wants Some!
3 Moonlight
2 Swiss Army Man
1 Captain Fantastic (pictured)

Save

Posted in News

Movie Review: Split

Regaining his strut as a writer/director of modern-day suspense films, M. Night Shyamalan has crafted an entertaining psychological thriller and met an acting match for his cinematic chutzpah in James McAvoy headlining Split (B). The film is above all else a showcase for the considerable acting talents of McAvoy as a man with 23 discrete personalities (Dennis, Patricia, Barry and Hedwig among the most notable). McAvoy uses some pretty sly ticks and tricks to bring brilliant life to his menagerie of characters. What starts as an abduction and escape room type movie in the vein of the recent 10 Cloverfield Lane becomes a more labyrinthine glimpse into a shattered mind. The female protagonist played by Anya Taylor-Joy helps anchor the film gracefully; she’s a perceptive outsider bent on cracking the code of the man holding her captive with two other teens. It’s also a hoot to see a late-career Betty Buckley in fine form clearly relishing a role as a therapist specializing in split personality disorders. The two other abducted teens played by Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula aren’t quite as indelible in the face of other sharp characterizations. The film is mesmerizing at times and taut throughout until the end, when it limps a bit to the finish line. Like his clear antecedent auteurs Hitchcock and De Palma, Shyamalan has created a twisty tale full of engaging mental machinations. It lacks the visual urgency to match its lead performances and can’t quite sustain the mental sharpness of its moving pieces. But for horror fans who like a PG-13 level basket of scares, it’s a gangbusters gateway drug to the genre and a corker of a story.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in 2017

Movie Review: Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

img_6290Playing at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festivalajff17

Lonny Price’s documentary Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (B+) chronicles a requiem and reunion of sorts of cast members and collaborators from the 1981 Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, a show that notoriously failed on Broadway, lasting only 16 performances but that achieved cult notoriety over time, spawning some of the songwriter’s most popular tunes including “Old Friends,” “Not a Day Goes By” and “Good Thing Going.” Price, who was one of the show’s three leads and before that a fanboy in his own right, helps keep the work – a complex show about cynicism turned to idealism, told in reverse order – alive in the imagination through the documentary, unearthed interview footage and a reunion concert. While Jason Alexander may be the most recognizable of the ensemble to casual viewers, the stories of many major participants including Jim Walton, Ann Morrison and Mr. Sondheim himself serves as a bit of a reverse Chorus Line with touching personal stories. The structure of the documentary comes full circle as well as it plumbs themes about the joy of collaborating on art and the recovery from disappointment. It would have been amazing if more original behind the scenes footage were available, but it’s fairly staggering how much is discovered three and a half decades later. For musical theatre enthusiasts, Price’s fond film is a bundle of merriment.


Save

Save

Tagged with: ,
Posted in 2016

Top Stories

Get Updated in Real-Time

Enter your email to receive notifications of new movie review and movie news when the moment they are posted.