Friday, February 12, 2016

Movie with Abe: A War


A War
Directed by Tobias Lindholm
Released February 12, 2016

Foreign films often tell stories that feel distinctly different from those that might be featured in American films. It’s not just the language that is not the same, but something about the culture and the way of living that feels unfamiliar and might allow for the showcasing of a new or unusual story. One of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film, “A War,” from Denmark, is an interesting exception because its plot is very similar to that of many contemporary American war stories. While its title is interestingly ambiguous and general, its focus on the current extended conflict in Afghanistan makes this an intriguing example of international cinema that should feel relevant throughout the world.

“A War” begins in a familiar setting, with soldiers patrolling a bleak landscape, fighting an extended war defined by infrequent but violent incidents amid an otherwise quiet eternity. When one member of a Danish platoon steps on a mine and is killed, the other members of his unit are hit hard. Their commander, Claus (Pilou Asbæk), takes it upon himself to personally keep up morale, going on patrol with them and taking careful steps to ensure the safety both of his people and of the villagers who find their lives threatened by the enemy that they are fighting. When he finds his unit under fire, Claus is forced to make in-the-moment decisions that later lead to his being under scrutiny and facing legal action for resulting civilian deaths.

Like recent American films such as “The Hurt Locker,” “American Sniper,” “The Lucky Ones,” “The Messenger,” and “The Dry Land,” this war film is as much about what it’s like to come home as it is about life on the battlefield. Claus’ wife Marla (Tuva Novotny) is prominently featured trying to take care of her three children as they act out and attempt to adjust to having their father away and only able to call in occasionally at odd hours. There is nothing about this particular story that feels novel or eye-opening, save for the fact that Claus is actually called to answer for his actions. The fact that Claus and his soldiers come from Denmark only serves to unite countries all over the world that fight for democracy and freedom. Seeing this story through a foreign lens does little to enhance or distinguish it, leaving it as a solid movie but hardly one worthy of note as one of the most outstanding foreign films of the year.

B

Thursday, February 11, 2016

AFT Awards: Best Ending


This is the twenty-second category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Click here to see previous years of this category. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Beware spoilers for the films pictured above.

The winner:
Spotlight built to such an incredible level of drama that the phones ringing off the hook was the ultimate payoff, capped by the unbelievably long list of similar revelations all across the globe.

Other nominees:
Wild Tales took its characters to such a point that they had been through and put each other through so much that a moment of twisted happiness on the dance floor was perfectly fitting. Star Wars: The Force Awakens did exactly what franchise films should: built to a big reveal and ended on an epic note that sets it up for many follow-ups to come. Clouds of Sils Maria chose to close its saga with a wordless shot of that marvelous weather phenomenon, which was more than moving in itself. The Hateful Eight rebounded from some bloody second-act ridiculousness with a triumphant and resounding reading of a letter from one very well-known U.S. President.

AFT Awards: Best Opening


This is the twenty-first category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Click here to see previous years of this category. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

The winner:
Beasts of No Nation started off on a wildly playful and optimistic note, with its protagonist eagerly talking about how he and his friends made the most of their lives before unspeakable events changed everything.

Other nominees:
99 Homes wasted no time in piling on the moral intensity with one of its two leads showing up to the scene of a suicide and treating it like a business meeting. Grandma revealed its title character’s true nature at the very start with her particular harsh brand of relationship-ending criticism. People, Places, Things sent its main character reeling with a hilariously awkward reveal that his life was about to change whether he wanted it to or not. Anomalisa began with an unexpectedly intimate innocent interaction aboard a plane that was certainly monotonous but not nearly as much as would later become clear.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble Cast


This is the twentieth category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Beasts of No Nation, Black Mass, Brooklyn, Carol, Creed, Ex Machina, Freeheld, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, Grandma, Mustang, Room, Son of Saul, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Tangerines, The Big Short, The Lady in the Van, The Martian, The Overnight, The Revenant, The Second Mother, The Walk, Woman in Gold, Z for Zachariah

Runners-up:
99 Homes
Sleeping with Other People
Mississippi Grind
Steve Jobs
The Hateful Eight


The winner:
Spotlight was a true ensemble film, capturing the dynamic of its journalism team without really having a lead and casting so many background players as corporate controllers, religious leaders, and other elements of its fascinating story.

Other nominees:
Joy
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Wild Tales
People, Places, Things

AFT Awards: Best Limited Performance – Female


This is the nineteenth category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category, which is sometimes split into male and female and sometimes been combined.

Honorable mentions:
Amanda Peet (Sleeping with Other People), Chloe Grace Moretz (Clouds of Sils Maria), Connie Britton (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Dascha Polano (Joy), Juno Temple (Black Mass), Katherine C. Hughes (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Marcia Gay Harden (Grandma), Meryl Streep (Suffragette), Natasha Lyonne (Sleeping with Other People), Perla Haney-Jardine (Steve Jobs)

The winner:
Judy Greer (Grandma) was a formidable and believable opponent for Lily Tomlin’s torrential girlfriend, a young woman with aspirations and a handful of hurtful academic slurs to disparage her offender.

Other nominees:
Molly Shannon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) was one of the best consistent oddities in her film, always ready to share a glass of red wine with her daughter’s friends and live in her own version of reality. Dakota Johnson (Black Mass) felt like she fit in as a mobster’s wife but revealed in just a few scenes what she truly held valuable. Heather Lind (Mistress America) stole the show from a number of other talented players as a remnant of the title heroine’s past not too eager to let her live her mistakes down. Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs) was a consistent thorn in her film’s protagonist’s side, there to remind him that he didn’t control anything and that she wasn’t willing to be forgotten.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

AFT Awards: Best Limited Performance – Male


This is the eighteenth category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category, which is sometimes split into male and female and sometimes been combined.

Honorable mentions:
Bryan Brown (Kill Me Three Times), Corey Stoll (Black Mass), David Harbour (Black Mass), James Badge Dale (The Walk), John Slattery (Spotlight), Jon Bernthal (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Luke Hemsworth (Kill Me Three Times), Michael Chernus (Mistress America), Peter Sarsgaard (Black Mass)

The winner:
Stanley Tucci (Spotlight) accomplished a careful balance between rightful paranoia and legal incompetence, crafting a believable and magnetic character in the process.

Other nominees:
Billy Crudup (Spotlight) was one smiling face assuring everyone that nothing was wrong, a perfect friendly symbol for the monstrous coverups of misdeeds, while Jamey Sheridan (Spotlight) painted a more human picture of the difficulty of deciding what to do in impossible situations. Nick Offerman (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) was hilariously obsessive about his strange meats and odd outlook on life, perfectly cast for a peculiar part. Michael Chernus (People, Places, Things) delivered a wonderfully funny and fresh take on the “other man” and all the awkwardness that comes along with that.

AFT Awards: Best Breakthrough Performance


This is the seventeenth category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Hannah Murray (Bridgend), Giulia Salerno (Misunderstood), Yanet Mojica (Sand Dollars), Joséphine Japy (Breathe), Lou de Laâge (Breathe)

The winner:
Jacob Tremblay (Room) truly inhabited the role of a boy who had never been outside of one small room, and demonstrated maturity and promise well beyond his few years.

Other nominees:
Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) were such vital parts of their film as two of the title characters, each so marvelously suited for their particular roles and their distinct perceptions of the world. Günes Sensoy (Mustang) demonstrated such an incredible sense of longing and dreaming for something more complex and rewarding than her lot in life, guiding her film through its miserable reality. Brooke Bloom (She’s Lost Control) kept her film’s title in check with a revealing and insightful lead performance.

Monday, February 8, 2016

AFT Awards: Best Visual Effects


This is the sixteenth category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mention:
The Revenant

The winner:
The Walk marvelously and seamlessly recreated a landscape that everyone knows was tragically destroyed over a decade ago, setting it as the stage for its most impressive extended scene.

Other nominees:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ex Machina
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Martian

AFT Awards: Best Makeup and Hairstyling


This is the fifteenth category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Concussion, Mad Max: Fury Road

The winner:
Black Mass disguised its lead actor and made him unrecognizable, but also made up the rest of the mob to look their parts and the time in which they lived.

Other nominees:
The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

Sunday, February 7, 2016

AFT Awards: Best Sound Editing


This is the fourteenth category of the 9th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Creed, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian

The winner:
The Walk let some of its theatrical elements do the talking, with its circus surroundings and tightrope wires just as vocal as its illustrious protagonist.

Other nominees:
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Sicario
‘71