Oscar Recap and My Top Twelve Films of 2016

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Now that I’ve reviewed all the Best Picture nominees, with the exception of Moonlight, I thought I’d rank them to give a clearer picture of my regard for each of them. As I said in my La La Land post, 2016 has produced one of the best crops of awards contenders in a while, most of which have earned a spot on my Top 365 list. While I haven’t seen the actual Best Picture winner, I’m still convinced that La La Land should have won, even though most of the others would have been worthy of winning in a weaker year. So here they are again in order:

Moonlight – not seen

8.  Manchester By the Sea

7.  Hell or High Water

6.  Fences

5.  Lion

4.  Arrival

3.  Hidden Figures

2.  Hacksaw Ridge

1.  La La Land

 

And although my third blogiversary post listed my favorite newly watched films last year, here’s also a Top Twelve list of my favorite films of 2016 overall, just to put the previous ranking in perspective. I still haven’t seen nearly as many as a lot of bloggers, including ones of interest like Passengers, Moana, The Red Turtle, Queen of Katwe, and A Monster Calls, but this is the first year that I feel I’ve seen enough to warrant a list like this. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else with this particular ranking, so at least I know this list is all my own. Thus, here’s my countdown of all the films I enjoyed or would recommend from 2016, from least to best. I hope 2017 will be just as good or better!

First, the Runners-Up:

Midnight Special

Miracles from Heaven

X-Men: Apocalypse

Race

The Young Messiah

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Hell or High Water

The Jungle Book

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

10 Cloverfield Lane

Kung Fu Panda 3

Sing Street

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Fences

Life, Animated

Kubo and the Two Strings

Finding Dory

 

12.  Doctor Strange

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11.  Star Trek Beyond

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10.  Lion

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9.  Eddie the Eagle

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8.  Arrival

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7.  Your Name

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6.  Hidden Figures

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5.  Hacksaw Ridge

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4.  Zootopia

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3.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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2.  Captain America: Civil War

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1.  La La Land

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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Though shots ring out both far and near,
And men engage in hate and fear,
I will not.
I’ll do my duty, honorbound,
But for my faith, I’ll stand my ground,
As I ought.

Though every man insist that I
Should join their wish that others die,
I cannot.
And when war’s done, my heart’s belief
Will hold more worth and bear less grief
Than they thought.
___________________

MPAA rating: R (solely for violence)

Perhaps appropriately considering its subject matter, Hacksaw Ridge caused me a bit of a crisis of conscience. I don’t typically watch extremely violent movies, which is why I’ve avoided films like Braveheart and anything Tarantino, and I was very hesitant to see Hacksaw Ridge after hearing of the intensity of its battle sequences. My VC, who is of the same mind, urged me not to, but there were enough positive elements inherent in the story of conscientious objector and war hero Desmond Doss that I decided to risk it. That actually made Hacksaw Ridge the first R-rated film I’d seen in the theater, and by the end, I was glad I did.

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Mel Gibson may have shot his reputation in the foot years ago, but his talent as a filmmaker is undeniable, and it’s surprising and inspiring that he’s been somewhat forgiven by Hollywood, based on the number of Oscar nominations and wins Hacksaw Ridge received. His latest film has a lot in common with The Passion of the Christ; both carry deep religious meaning for Christians especially and also indulge in some gut-wrenching bloodshed that mark them as clearly not for everyone. It took me a while to work up the nerve for Passion of the Christ, but now I watch it every Good Friday; Hacksaw Ridge, likewise, requires a strong stomach in parts, but the overall story makes it worth it.

Andrew Garfield hardly seemed like an obvious choice for the potential Oscar-magnet role of Doss, but he was a massive surprise; he’s no longer that second-rate Spider-Man. As Desmond, he’s folksy but determined, earnest but firm, kind but tenacious, a man who wants to help others at any cost to himself, in short a true hero. Other casting examples were also less-than-obvious choices, such as Vince Vaughn as Desmond’s drill sergeant with a deadpan sense of humor or Hugo Weaving as his war-haunted father. Everyone involved does a phenomenal job, particularly Weaving, and even if the collection of fellow soldiers Desmond meets in boot camp don’t all register at first viewing, the quality of the acting never lapses.

The film is basically broken into two parts: the first half sees Desmond enlist as a medic and deal with the consequences and persecution from his refusal to carry a gun, while the second focuses on the decisive battle at Hacksaw Ridge and proves this supposed coward as anything but. I’ve seen some reviews criticize the beginning as preachy and heavy-handed, but I feel that one’s opinion of Desmond and his father waxing eloquent about freedom of religion and the Constitution depends on how dearly one holds such conservative values. I found it refreshing for a mainstream film to extol the First Amendment and the right of someone to serve his country as his faith allows. Desmond may be a Seventh Day Adventist with views that not every Christian holds, but his right to uphold his own principles is the same.

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Even those rolling their eyes at the first half have praised the second for its realistic war scenes, and they are indeed intense and visceral. The explosions are constant, the body count is high, the headshots are many, and I may have spent most of those scenes with my eyes off to the side, watching in my peripheral vision. With superb editing, Gibson certainly nails the visualization of war as hell, but I don’t quite agree with those who say that it’s not gratuitous if it’s realistic; the gruesome double headshot that kicks off the carnage is a prime example. I still insist that films like Gettysburg and most of Glory are proof that war scenes don’t have to be gory to be effective, but the hell Desmond endures does make his courage in the face of it even more incredible. The violence may be an extreme, but at least here it serves as a counterpoint and contrast to the main character’s grace and perseverance, not unlike Passion of the Christ. I will say that, now that I’ve seen this, I do feel a bit less anxious about seeing Saving Private Ryan as a Blindspot pick later this year.

Though the worst moments of battle were extreme, it luckily wasn’t constant. It’s when the shooting stops that Desmond’s role as a medic and hero kicks in. As he recovers the wounded of Hacksaw Ridge and prays to save just “one more,” the tension never lets up, and Desmond demonstrates the valor and backbone his fellow soldiers assumed he lacked. I loved how the one time he does touch a gun, it’s for a wholly practical purpose in one of the most exciting scenes.

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There’s little doubt in my mind that Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best war films I’ve seen, made even better by concluding with interviews with the real Desmond Doss. Some may consider it cheesy but appreciate the war scenes, while I tolerated the bloody battles and embraced everything else. Gibson seems to excel at making religious themes accessible, and what some call preachy, I call laudable. Even if some scenes are hard to watch, few films can match the selfless courage on display in Hacksaw Ridge.

Best line: (Desmond) “It isn’t right that other men should fight and die, that I would just be sitting at home safe. I need to serve. I got the energy and the passion to serve as a medic, right in the middle with the other guys. No less danger, just… while everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it. With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to wanna put a little bit of it back together.”
 

Rank: List-Worthy

2017 S.G. Liput
454 Followers and Counting

 

Opinion Battles Year 3 Round 4 Least Favourite Oscar Winning Performance from an Actor in Leading or Supporting Role

Don’t forget to vote for your least favorite Oscar-winning actor in Round 4 of Opinion Battles! Of the many overrated possibilities, I had to go with Kevin Kline’s despicable role in A Fish Called Wanda. Sure, he was good in it, but I hated him! Pick your least favorite performance too.

Movie Reviews 101

Opinion Battles Year 3 Round 4new-logo

Least Favourite Oscar Winning Performance from an Actor in Leading or Supporting Role

The Oscars are around the corner and we all know that people either love or hate the Oscars committee decisions. We have had the best or the best winning Oscars and after looking at our Favourite we need to look at our Least Favourite this time around.

If you want to join in Opinion Battles our next round will be Favourite Video Game Adaption. Send you choices to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.ukby 5th March 2017.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

Michael Caine– The Cider House Rulescider-house

Dr Wilbur Larch is a performance I do enjoy but when you see the performance it beat you have to question the decision for his choice as a win, Michael Clarke Duncan (Green Mile), Tom Cruise (Magnolia) and Jude Law (Talent Mr Ripley) who could all…

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Lion (2016)

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I saw a young boy among beggars,
A large metal spoon in his fist.
He’d found it somewhere
In a state of despair,
Too terribly lost to be missed.

I sipped at my soup in the window,
Entranced by his curious stare.
With a ravenous look,
Every mouthful I took
He mimicked and sipped at the air.

I could have just smiled and left then,
Averted my eyes toward the door,
But I gazed at this boy
With a spoon for a toy
As if he’d never used one before.

While others passed by the poor beggars,
I crossed the street, frenzied and thronged.
Soon at the boy’s side
At the turn of his tide,
I helped him find where he belonged.
__________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

So this is why one of the first things my parents taught me to memorize was our home address! Lion may have been overshadowed by the more prestigious Best Picture nominees, but it’s an outstanding film and one likely to leave viewers reaching for the tissues by the end. Directed by debuting director Garth Davis, it is based on the true-life story of Saroo Brierley, following him from a lost boy in India to his adoptive home in Australia and back.

Young Sunny Pawar portrays Saroo as a five-year-old, who resides in a small town in India, where his mother, sister, and elder brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) eke out a poor but happy life. When Guddu unwisely brings Saroo along for a job near a train station, Saroo accidentally ends up trapped on a train, hurtling away from home for miles before arriving at a foreign place where he can’t even speak the local dialect. It’s utterly upsetting for the boy and similarly disorienting for the audience as Saroo calls pitifully for help that never comes. From then on, his life becomes a series of rude awakenings; every time he falls asleep, he awakes to some new danger or peculiarity, and only the kindness of strangers leads him to a chance at happiness with the Brierleys (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) in Australia.

Once Saroo grows up into Oscar nominee Dev Patel, the film loses some steam, focusing on his self-destructive relationship with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and his online pursuit of his original family. It’s hard to make a Google Earth search compelling, but the film does its best, and the end result of Saroo’s quest is undoubtedly worth it. As good as Patel is, the brightest point of the second half, aside from the ending, is Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother Sue, the kind of patient and loving parent every lost child deserves. It’s understandable that Saroo initially feels guilty about searching for his first home, afraid to seem ungrateful for Sue’s affections, but their scenes together capture the sensitive and unconstrained bond between mother and son.

There’s more than just the acting to praise, though. For example, the score by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka is gorgeous and perfectly enhances the emotion of the film. The artistry also extends to the cinematography, which is lush and vivid, especially the overhead landscape shots that show off the natural beauty of both India and Australia.

While I did get a bit misty-eyed, the end didn’t quite bring me to tears, though that’s more on me than the film since I heard a few sniffles in the theater. My VC hasn’t seen it yet, but I suspect she’ll have a stronger reaction than I, especially since she always bawls at the end of tearjerkers like The Color Purple. Perhaps one reason I particularly enjoyed Lion is that it fits into my beloved, self-titled genre of the “Meet-‘Em-and-Move-On movie,” which follows a character through various acquaintances and ends with a reunion. (For further clarification, I compiled a list of my favorites.) It’s this kind of film that packs the strongest emotional punch for me, and it’s been a while since such a film was made to Oscar caliber. The source of its title may not be apparent at first, but Lion is a tribute to the transformative power of adoption and a poignant journey of a film not to be overlooked.

Best line: (Sue Brierley, to Saroo) “Because we both felt as if… the world has enough people in it. Have a child, couldn’t guarantee it will make anything better. But to take a child that’s suffering like you boys were. Give you a chance in the world. That’s something.”

Rank: List-Worthy

© 2017 S.G. Liput
453 Followers and Counting

Fences (2016)

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The role of a father’s not easy to fill;
The best of intentions can leave a bad taste,
And efforts that some might consider a waste
Can trouble their progeny still.

A father can favor or ruin a child,
Although they may try to resist.
A fine line exists between slaps on the wrist
And a rift to stay unreconciled.

Though not every father will coddle or kiss,
They impact the lives they create.
A father may foster affection or hate
But later is easy to miss.
_________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

Movies have so many different elements to catch one’s attention—the score, the direction, the locations—that the acting can sometimes be an afterthought, important but not the be-all-end-all for a success. When it comes to a play, with its limited sets and reliance on dialogue, the acting is everything, and the same applies for films based on a play, at least those that remain faithful to the source material. Fences is a Triple A movie if ever I saw one (that’s All About the Acting for those who don’t know) and features some of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen, especially the slam-dunk pairing of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, reprising their roles from the Broadway revival.

Washington is both the director and star, playing Troy Maxson, a garbage collector who is easygoing while chewing the fat with his friend Bono (Stephen Henderson, who also appeared in Manchester By the Sea, by the way) but has a stubborn, controlling streak when it comes to his sons, whether it be the dissatisfaction with older son Lyons and his unrealistic musical aspirations or the hard-hearted opinion that young Cory has no chance at professional football. Viola Davis is his long-suffering wife Rose who balances Troy’s harder edges with sympathy and straightens him out when necessary. Both Washington and Davis give intense and incredibly nuanced performances, as does Jovan Adepo as Cory, and their interactions carry affection at first but also a high capacity for tension and verbal fireworks. While I was disappointed that Washington lost Best Actor, it’s about time Viola Davis won a well-deserved Oscar, considering she’s stood out even in small roles for years. It’s also the same role for which she won a Tony in 2010, and she’s now the only black actor to have an Emmy, Tony, and Oscar for acting categories.

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While I’m not very familiar with playwright August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of ten plays about African-American families throughout the 20th century, Fences isn’t my first exposure to his work. The Hallmark movie The Piano Lesson had a similar dialogue-driven narrative and style, but while that focused on matters of heritage and had a strangely supernatural ending, Fences is wholly realistic and tackles themes of fatherhood and responsibility with some truly complex characters. Troy, in particular, is both imperfect and admirable in his staunch adherence to personal responsibility; one of his first exchanges with Cory (the main one seen in all the trailers) sums him up perfectly, extolling his devotion to duty but putting that tough love ahead of anything like a caring familial relationship. When he admits to a reputation-shattering mistake on his part, he owns up to it but tries to defend his actions all the same, submitting to his responsibility with cold impartiality but not quite recognizing his own selfishness. He’s a proud man and a bitter one, thanks to racial prejudice and his own half-admitted past foibles that put his treatment of his sons in context.

Fences is a character study of flawed fatherhood, the kind that can mess up one’s childhood while shaping the person one becomes, for better or worse. Like its characters, it’s not perfect: the introduction of Troy’s mentally damaged brother (Mykelti Williamson) doesn’t flow as well as the rest, and I’m not sure it has the rewatch value of other play adaptations I love, such as Driving Miss Daisy. For the first half-hour, as Troy delivers folksy soliloquies that establish who he is, I wasn’t sold, but the emotional turns that follow confirm Fences as one of the great films of the year.

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I never thought the whole #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the last two years was that egregious, but it might have seemed that the Academy overcompensated with the number of black nominees in 2016. Yet, with films like Fences, Hidden Figures, and Moonlight, it’s encouraging that these movies with and about African Americans are genuinely deserving rather than some token nominations to fill a societal quota. With its confined setting and focus on dialogue, Fences honors its roots as a play, and the exceptional acting distinguishes it as a first-class adaptation.

Best line: (Rose, to Cory about his father) “You can’t be nobody but who you are, Cory. That shadow wasn’t nothing but you growing into yourself. You either got to grow into it or cut it down to fit you. But that’s all you got to make life with. That’s all you got to measure yourself against that world out there. Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn’t…and at the same time he tried to make you into everything he was. I don’t know if he was right or wrong, but I do know he meant to do more good than he meant to do harm.”

Rank: List-Worthy

2017 S.G. Liput
453 Followers and Counting

Hell or High Water (2016)

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Now, justice out West could be spotty at best,
From the stories of outlaws I’ve heard,
Where the reach of the law often wound to a draw
With the lines of what’s ethical blurred.

The days of the lone desperados have gone
Into textbook and legend and grave,
But their daring unrest still lives on in the West
In the folks who just barely behave.
___________________

MPAA rating: R

If not for its Oscar nominations, it’s doubtful I’d ever have watched Hell or High Water, since a modern heist western with an R rating isn’t the kind of film that would normally catch my interest. Yet this film turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and even if it had zero chance of winning Best Picture, I see why it was counted among the best films of 2016.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster play two brothers, Toby and Tanner Howard, who embark on a robbery spree of Texas Midlands Bank branches, taking only small scores early in the morning. While Foster’s Tanner is the wild card who enjoys the criminal undertaking a bit too much, Pine’s Toby is the level head behind it all, revealing much more clever planning than Tanner’s improvised antics might indicate. Opposite these masked outlaws are Jeff Bridges as Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and Gil Birmingham as his half-Indian deputy Alberto, trying to track down the robbers and figure out their motives. While the Howard brothers are ostensibly the bad guys, the conflict isn’t good versus evil; it’s the law against the desperate. Toby and Tanner sticking it to the banks is part revenge but also done with selfless intentions, and Pine’s natural Captain Kirk likability ensures that the robbers never lose our sympathy, despite his criminal brother’s recklessness.

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While the whole cast are in top form, with Bridges especially fitting his grizzled lawman role like a glove, the true star to me is the screenplay. There’s an evident bitterness toward the financial crash and predatory banks, as seen in building after building being foreclosed, and a perceptive commentary of the state of the classic West: cowboys coexist with neon green sports cars, and Alberto comments on the karmic irony of the land once again being taken away from its former owners. As for characterization, the relationships and conversations between characters seem to share a kind of grudging respect. The brothers bicker and cuss at each other but are still loving brothers at the end of the day, while Bridges’ Ranger enjoys teasing Alberto with all manner of Indian insults, but they know each other well enough to recognize the fondness behind the traded barbs. Even in the final scene, after things hardly turn out as any of them hoped, there’s a hint of respect behind the antagonism.

In addition, the film captures the down-to-earth attitude of Texas in general. As Ranger Hamilton says, “I love West Texas,” where the waitresses tell you what to order and the populace isn’t afraid to fight back. I loved when the patrons of one of the robbed banks actually peppered Toby’s car with gunfire and gave chase to the bandits; I doubt you’d see that kind of reaction anywhere else.

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Hell or High Water still had too much language for my taste and a few violent moments, but overall it’s proof positive that Westerns are far from dead, even the familiar cops-and-robbers story. With a script that should have won the Oscar and an ending at once sad and fitting, it’s got all the grit and heart of a potential modern classic.

Best line: (Alberto) “I’m starving.”
(Hamilton) “I doubt they serve pemmican.”
(Alberto) “You know I’m part Mexican, too.”
(Hamilton) “Yeah, well, I’m gonna get to that when I’m through with the Indian insults, but it’s gonna be a while.”
(Bank manager) “You rangers are an odd bunch.”
(Alberto) “No, just him.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2017 S.G. Liput
453 Followers and Counting

 

VC Pick: Excalibur (1981)

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The land was grand when Arthur reigned,
The fields no longer scarlet-stained,
The crown no longer coveted
By lesser men who ruled the dead,
And all who saw their shining king
Would prize the sight till their deathbed.

The sword he wore pronounced him king,
Announcing it with every swing,
And even though it left his keep,
It waited till he woke from sleep.
Though Arthur’s glory now has waned,
His reputation yet runs deep.
___________________

MPAA rating: PG or R, depending on the version

For the last of my VC’s birthday picks, she chose a film very different from the others (all romances: The Lake House, The Goodbye Girl, and A Star Is Born), instead delving into the Arthurian legend brought to life in Excalibur. As is often the case, I didn’t care for this film at first but appreciated it far more upon a second viewing.

The story of King Arthur has been presented in countless different ways, from Disney’s kid-friendly The Sword in the Stone to Guy Ritchie’s action-packed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, to be released later this year. Yet with all the partial retellings of this classic British myth, shouldn’t there always be one definitive version that others copy or draw from? Excalibur tries to be just that, and while it takes license with historical details (plate armor wasn’t used in the Dark Ages), it still comes off as the most faithful to the traditional source material, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and various other accounts. There’s obviously far too much for any two-hour movie to cover comprehensively, but all the most familiar elements are here: young Arthur (Nigel Terry) pulling the sword from the stone, his gathering of the Knights of the Round Table (which looks suspiciously like a giant DVD), his betrayal by Lancelot and Guenevere, and his family issues with his half-sister and their son Mordred (Robert Addie). Terry is an especially convincing Arthur, playing him both as a scrawny squire and an aging monarch, and Nicol Williamson’s Merlin brings some much-needed wit to the proceedings.

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It may seem strange, but the film that Excalibur kept reminding me of was David Lynch’s Dune (another VC pick), mainly due to the serious quality of the acting and palpable adherence to source material. Plus, both served as prime outlets for many actors before they were famous: Patrick Stewart is in both films, but Excalibur also features a young Helen Mirren as Morgana Le Fay, Liam Neeson as Sir Gawain, Gabriel Byrne as Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon, and Ciarán Hinds as King Lot. In addition to the cavalcade of stars to be, Excalibur also boasts some exceptional cinematic moments, particularly when it employs the classical opera of Wagner and Orff; anytime I hear Orff’s “O Fortuna,” it brings me back to the gloried sight of Arthur and his knights riding out to battle.

For all its strengths, however, there’s a reason Excalibur didn’t appeal to me on my first watch. For one, the characters have all the depth of a children’s book of myths, and the actors play them with such Shakespearean solemnity that no one but Merlin actually has a personality. Another comparison to Dune might be warranted too, when the search for the Holy Grail verges into a Lynchian dream sequence, which manages to both be meaningful to the plot and make no sense. Not to mention, the latter half of the Arthur story is quite the downer, as Arthur degrades into a ruler not unlike King Théoden when we first meet him in The Two Towers. In addition, the R-rated cut doesn’t shy away from certain scenes of nudity and battlefield violence; the worst love/rape scene toward the beginning is made worse by the fact that the woman involved was the director’s own daughter.

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Excalibur may be an inconsistent iteration of the tales of Merlin, King Arthur, and his knights, but for the most part, the lavish production design, shiny costumes, noble music, and mostly solid acting come together in grand fashion. It brings to life the glory of medieval myth and the destructive danger of men following lust and greed, and though it has its flaws, it’s the most definitive version of King Arthur I’ve seen so far.

Best line: (Merlin, upon Arthur’s final conquest as king) “Remember it well, then… this night, this great victory. So that in the years ahead, you can say, ‘I was there that night, with Arthur, the King!’ For it is the doom of men that they forget.”

VC’s best line: (Arthur) “Which is the greatest quality of knighthood? Courage? Compassion? Loyalty? Humility? What do you say, Merlin?”
(Merlin) “Hmm? Ah. Ah. Ah, the greatest. Uh, well, they blend, like the metals we mix to make a good sword.”
(Arthur) “No poetry. Just a straight answer. Which is it?”
(Merlin) “All right, then. Truth. That’s it. Yes. It must be truth above all. When a man lies, he murders some part of the world. You should know that.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
453 Followers and Counting

 

Manchester By the Sea (2016)

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Ordeals that do not kill you make you stronger, so they say,
But in the meantime, on the way,
Your life can fall to disarray,
And till you’re looking back one day,
Its grueling getting through.

The grief that haunts your footsteps won’t allow you to forget.
Harassed by sorrow and regret,
You know you haven’t moved on yet,
If you but give the grief you get.
Is that not up to you?
___________________

MPAA rating: R (for frequent language)

Of all the Best Picture nominees of 2016, Manchester By the Sea was the least for me—the least engaging, the least enjoyable, the least satisfying—which isn’t to say it’s out-and-out bad, but its style and pervasive melancholy did not appeal to me. Perhaps the film it most reminded me of was 1980’s Ordinary People, another film about fraternal tragedy with understatedly emotional performances and a montage of artsy stills backed by classical music. I much prefer Ordinary People, but Manchester had its good points all the same.

The film’s strongest point is its acting, which treads water as good most of the time and bubbles into great at emotional high spots. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a divorcee living alone who receives word that his brother has died of a heart condition, leaving his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) in need of a guardian. Due to a past trauma that ruined his marriage and embittered him to the Manchester area, Lee refuses to move back for Patrick but remains and bonds with him while figuring out how to handle the situation. While I would have preferred Denzel Washington to win Best Actor for Fences, Affleck does give a powerful performance, just an inconsistent one, sometimes revealing profound grief, other times merely stoic and bored-looking. He’s not always the likable sort, moping and initiating bar fights, but thanks to sudden flashbacks that get more powerful with time, he’s certainly sympathetic. Lucas Hedges is just as good, though, especially in certain scenes, like the frozen chicken breakdown, as is Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife. Kenneth Lonergan’s direction is also masterful, whether it be in the placid seaside scenery resembling a Thomas Kinkade painting or the delicate practice of letting us see rather than hear a difficult conversation from a distance.

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One aspect that I keep seeing praise for is how realistic the film is, a fly-on-the-wall portrayal of what can and does happen to broken people. Yet, there were many times that the realism seemed forced or stilted, and mundane imperfections felt thrown in solely for the sake of “realism.” For instance, when someone on a gurney is being placed into an ambulance, ten seconds are spent struggling to lift the gurney’s wheels into the vehicle. Why? Was that a mistake they just kept in or some attempt at weak black humor? There are many moments like that, scenes that other movies would skip over for good reason. I suppose I can see others viewing it as compellingly realistic, but I found it unnecessary and odd.

Part and parcel with such observations is the dialogue between characters. Due to Lee’s aversion to small talk, many of the conversations end with awkward silences, as if the editor waited too long to cut to another scene. I was a bit baffled that Manchester won Best Original Screenplay since there are only a few bits of dialogue that were even memorable, and in my opinion, a great screenplay shouldn’t need stretches where the F-bomb is every other word. (Well, I guess Good Will Hunting proves it happens, but this isn’t in the same league.) Hell or High Water had much more insight and characterization in its screenplay, so that would have been my choice.

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I can understand why Manchester By the Sea has earned its praise and awards, but it wasn’t for me. (It didn’t help that the theater I was in made the sound tinny for some reason.) By the time Lee comes to his decision, I was expecting something more to happen, and when the credits rolled, I said, “Oh, I guess that’s it.” Manchester By the Sea works as the basis for some fine performances, but overall, it left me wanting, even if it is an emotional testament to one family’s grief.

Best line, or the one that got a laugh anyway: (Patrick, when Lee is overreacting) “Uncle Lee, are you fundamentally unsound?”

 

Rank: Honorable Mention

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
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Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Liar Liar (1997) by Rhyme and Reason

Here’s my review of Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar, which I contributed to the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon, hosted by Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews and Kim of Tranquil Dreams. It’s still funny even twenty years later! Be sure to check out all the other remembrances of 1990s classics this blogathon has to offer!

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Next entry for the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon is by S.G. Liput from Rhyme and Reason with his review of Liar Liar. Jim Carrey finally makes his entrance into our blogathon. If you haven’t visited Rhyme and Reason before, it is where “poetry meets film reviews”. Their tagline says it all.  Remember to head over there after you’ve read the review and show them some love!

Without further ado, let’s hear their thoughts!

Liar Liar (1997)

I cannot tell a lie, you see;
I tell the truth compulsively.
It’s gotten to the point that I
Clammed up till home to make reply,
So now that I am home at last,
I’ll answer every question asked.

First off, you’re not my type at all;
Your mouth’s too big, your ears too small.
Why won’t I answer what you said?
So you won’t hear what’s in my head.
I don’t much care to…

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Opinion Battles Year 3 Round 3 – Favourite Film From 2015

2015 had no lack of great features, so be sure to vote for your favorite in Round 3 of Opinion Battles! I had to go with The Martian, the genre-spanning castaway story with intelligent characters and a good sense of humor to boot.

Movie Reviews 101

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Favourite Film From 2015

Hitting the year 2017 we can now start looking back at films from 2015 and think what was our favourite without solely looking at the most recent watch. We had a brilliant list of Oscar contenders, the return of classic franchises with nearly all being great or better in their own way but just what do we call our favourite from this year?

If you want to join Opinion Battles our next question is returning to the Oscar winners as we pick our LEAST Favourite Oscar Winning Performance from an Actor in Leading or Supporting Role. To enter send your choices to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.ukby 19th February 2017.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

Mad Max Fury Roadmad-max

Mad Max Fury Road came from nowhere because nobody thought we were going to get too much from this sequel with such a…

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