Friday, January 20, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Director

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

This year’s locks: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Very likely: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Possible: Martin Scorsese (Silence), Garth Davis (Lion), David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Unlikely: Paul Verhoeven (Elle), Pablo Larrain (Jackie), Jeff Nichols (Loving), Clint Eastwood (Sully), Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures)

The rundown: It’s sad that the main defining aspect of this category the past few years has been what giant snub will take place. After both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were omitted in the shocking 2012 race, sure things Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and Ridley Scott (The Martian) were left off for no apparent reason in 2013 or 2015, respectively. This year, there are three that are invincible, and I really believe that - Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea). Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) rallied with a DGA nomination and should be able to make it to Oscar. The question is who the fifth nominee will be. Garth Davis (Lion) scored a DGA nod but seems like more of an eventual Oscar pick, which might mean he won’t get it. It could be David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), whose film seems to be rightly beloved by many, or Golden Globe nominee Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals), whose film was divisive and downright terrible, in my mind, and isn’t expected to contend for Best Picture, no matter how many nominees. Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) has a rough road ahead of him given his reputation, but he might still manage a nomination. Denzel Washington (Fences) would be a respectable choice, but I don’t think his film has enough momentum. There are a handful of others who might garner votes, but I don’t think any of them will be popular enough to upset. Instead, the last slot is likely to go to Martin Scorsese (Silence), a veteran of this category whose film peaked very late but should still manage to earn the respect of voters.

One possible crazy scenario: A well-deserved cycle of enthusiasm benefits Andrea Arnold (American Honey), whose mesmerizing film has been all but forgotten despite early praise.

Forecasted winner: It could be Jenkins, but I think it will be Chazelle.

Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Film

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), A War (Denmark), Mustang (France), Son of Saul (Hungary), Theeb (Jordan)

This year’s contenders: Tanna (Australia), It’s Only the End of the World (Canada), Land of Mine (Denmark), Toni Erdmann (Germany), The Salesman (Iran), The King’s Choice (Norway), Paradise (Russia), A Man Called Ove (Sweden), My Life as a Zucchini (Switzerland)

The rundown: This list was winnowed down from eighty-five submissions to nine finalists, five of which will ultimately be nominated. Golden Globe winner “Elle” didn’t make this list, and neither did nominee “Neruda.” At the head of the pack are The Salesman and Toni Erdmann, and beyond that, nothing is guaranteed. I think Land of Mine is the next likeliest, and A Man Called Ove, which is already out on DVD and which I plan to see soon, could join them. For the fifth slot, I’m predicting It’s Only The End of the World over Paradise, The King’s Choice, and Tanna, but honestly I don’t know since I haven’t seen any of them. I don’t think that My Life as a Zucchini because only once in recent history has an animated contender made the cut here – “Waltz with Bashir” – and most of the time they’re reserved for selection in Best Animated Feature instead. I don’t expect to do very well in this category, but I do hope to see most of the films before the Oscars no matter what gets nominated.

One possible crazy scenario: Statistics be damned - My Life as a Zucchini earns double nominations as an animated and foreign film.

Forecasted winner: “Toni Erdmann”

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

This year’s contenders:13th, Cameraperson, Command and Control, The Eagle Huntress, Fire at Sea, Gleason, Hooligan Sparrow, I Am Not Your Negro, The Ivory Game, Life, Animated, O.J.: Made in America, Tower, Weiner, The Witness, Zero Days

The rundown: I’ve done so well in all the other categories, but I must admit that I haven’t seen a single one of these contenders. Based on what I’ve heard, I’m counting on 13th and OJ: Made in America to lead the pack, though I can’t understand how a nearly eight-hour miniseries is eligible for this award (and I’ll have to debate how much to watch if it does get nominated). Next up is Weiner, and I’m expecting the less sensational docs Life, Animated and The Eagle Huntress to round out the list. There are a number of other solid possibilities, like Italian entry Fire at Sea, Alex GIbney’s Zero Days, Gleason, I Am Not Your Negro, Tower, or any of the other five finalists. I don’t expect to do all that well in this category, but I look forward to seeing the films that end up getting nominated.

One possible crazy scenario: The craziness here is always if a sure thing doesn’t make the cut, and this year I’d say that would be 13th, which would be a huge omission and cause plenty of controversy.

Forecasted winner: I’ll go with OJ: Made in America.

Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There

This year’s locks: Zootopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings

Very likely: My Life as a Zucchini

Possible: The Red Turtle, Finding Dory, April and the Extraordinary World, Sing, The Little Prince

Unlikely: Sausage Party, the other 12 contenders

The rundown: It’s hard to hold on to anything in this category after sure thing “The Lego Movie” was snubbed two years ago and then “The Good Dinosaur” was snubbed last year. What’s different about this year is that, from the humongous twenty-two-wide field, there aren’t that many frontrunners. In fact, there are only three films that I’d consider sue things: Zootopia, Moana, and Kubo and the Two Strings. I don’t think any of those will be snubbed because they’re so highly regarded, though I guess you never know. Foreign contender My Life as a Zucchini will likely be nominated, and I’ll bet on Studio Ghibli’s The Red Turtle to score over fifth Golden Globe nominee Sing. It’s possible that, despite early snubs, Finding Dory will defy sequel tendencies and score a nomination. Other possibilities include April and the Extraordinary World and The Little Prince. If voters are feeling like something adult, Sausage Party might just be their choice.

One possible crazy scenario: No one would ever have expected Angry Birds to be made into an Oscar-nominated film – can it happen?

Forecasted winner: I think it goes to frontrunner Zootopia.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Song

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: “Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey), “’Til it Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground), “Racing Extinction” (Manta Ray), “Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre), “Simple Song #3” (Youth)

This year’s Golden Globe nominees: “Gold” (Gold), “City of Stars” (La La Land), “How Far I’ll Go” (Moana), “Faith” (Sing), “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (Trolls)

Other contenders: “I See Victory” (Hidden Figures), “Audition” (La La Land), “I’m Still Here” (Miss Sharon Jones), “Rules Don’t Apply” (Rules Don’t Apply), “Drive It Like You Stole It” (Sing Street), “Letter to the Free” (13th), “Try Everything” (Zootopia)

The rundown: There are 91 eligible songs this year, considerably more than last year. All five Golden Globe nominees are eligible, though it’s worth noting that you have to go back to 2004 to find a time when more than two Globe choices ended up Oscar nominees and to 1996 for an example of a five-for-five matchup. I think that trend will be bucked this year with three nominees preserved: City of Stars, a hit because of the film, How Far I’ll Go, a hit because of the people behind it, and Can’t Stop the Feeling! because it’s just so catchy and feels like it’s been around forever. I’d wager that Audition will make the cut because it makes for one pretty terrific and stirring scene, and it’s likely that, thanks to John Carney’s reputation, Drive It Like You Stole It will round out the list. Watch out for I’m Still Here or I See Victory as potential spoilers.

One possible crazy scenario: Melissa Rauch’s absurd rap that ends “The Bronze,” titled F That, wins over the voters who selected “Blame Canada” in the past.

Forecasted winner: Unless “Moana” surges, it will be City of Stars.

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Score

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This year’s locks: La La Land, Lion

Very likely: Moonlight

Possible: Hidden Figures, Nocturnal Animals, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, Hell or High Water, Zootopia, The BFG, Moana, Florence Foster Jenkins

Unlikely: The other 79 contenders

The rundown: There are 146 contenders in this category this year, up from last year’s already high total. The Golden Globe nominee you won’t find here is “Arrival,” which was deemed not eligible largely due to its use of a preexisting track in key moments in the film. The other four nominees are my top contenders and I’d expect them to go on to Oscar nominations, starting with La La Land and Lion, two films that seem unstoppable right now. Moonlight and Hidden Figures are also on the rise, and their music is highly acclaimed and likely to show up here. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. The BFG seems like a strong possibility because it was composed by John Williams, and big names could also help Florence Foster Jenkins, Moana, and Zootopia earn nominations. Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, and Nocturnal Animals aren’t necessarily frontrunners here, but they could easily show up.
One possible crazy scenario: Even though the score goes out of its way not to sound like “Star Wars,” two-time nominee Michael Giacchino might still earn a nomination for crowdpleaser Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Forecasted winner: As part of its sweep, La La Land gets this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound Editing

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This year’s locks: Arrival

Very likely: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sully

Possible: The Jungle Book, Hacksaw Ridge, Silence, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, Passengers

Unlikely: La La Land

The rundown: This category usually matches up four for five with the Best Sound race, swapping out a nominee from a movie that actually deals with music for a more outwardly technical contender. Therefore, I’ll bet that Arrival, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Jungle Book, and Hacksaw Ridge will show up here, and La La Land will fall short in favor of Sully in the one race where it actually has a decent shot. Beyond that, it could be Silence, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, Passengers, or any one of a number of other contenders.

One possible crazy scenario: It isn’t expected to show up anymore after poor reviews, but Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk might surprise here with a nomination for one of its technical elements.

Forecasted winner: I think this goes to Arrival.

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This year’s locks: La La Land

Very likely: Arrival, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Possible: The Jungle Book, Hacksaw Ridge, Sully, Hell or High Water, Deadpool, Silence, Patriots Day, Moana, Deepwater Horizon, Passengers, Zootopia

Unlikely: So many others

The rundown: This category seems somewhat straightforward this year, but I know that’s rarely the case. La La Land is a sure thing, and I’d bet that both Arrival and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will contend here. The Jungle Book seems strong but could be forgotten in the Oscar conversation since it came out so long ago. Even if it doesn’t score in the top races, Hacksaw Ridge should do well technically, and I think it will edge out others likeSully, Hell or High Water, Silence, and Patriots Day, and tech-centric contenders like Deadpool, Deepwater Horizon, and Passengers. It could also be an animated film like Moana or Zootopia.

One possible crazy scenario: One of this year’s top two dramas - Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight - shows up here even though it’s highly unlikely.

Forecasted winner: It’s going to be La La Land.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This year’s locks: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Arrival

Very likely: The Jungle Book

Possible: Kubo and the Two Strings, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Unlikely: Passengers, The BFG, Deepwater Horizon

The rundown: We have a better idea here that in most races because the list has already been winnowed down to ten finalists. Last year, with franchise films as half the finalist list, only two made the cut. We also got a great surprise in the least technical film as the winner. This is one place where Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is sure to show up, and it will definitely be joined by Arrival. Beyond that, I’d give the edge to The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings (it would be the first animated film here since 1993), and Captain America: Civil War. It might also be Doctor Strange or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I can’t imagine that The BFG or Deepwater Horizon will muster enough support against these other contenders, and I think that Passengers will also find itself left out.

Forecasted winner: After last year, who knows? I’ll go with The Jungle Book but it depends on what else is nominated.

Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

This year’s locks: Deadpool, Florence Foster Jenkins

Very likely: None

Possible: Hail Caesar, A Man Called Ove, The Dressmaker, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

The rundown: There’s less mystery to this category since the field has already been narrowed down to seven contenders, three of which will be nominated. This category has often surprised with nominees like “Norbit” and “Il Divo,” and last year’s “The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, while sure things like “Hugo,” “Lincoln,” and “American Hustle” have been snubbed in the past. Interestingly, unlike all the other technical categories this year, this race contains only one Best Picture contender – a very distant one - Deadpool, which is all but certain to place here. Florence Foster Jenkins and Hail Caesar seem like the easy choices for slots two and three, but things are rarely that simple. Foreign contender A Man Called Ove might surprise, as could The Dressmaker. I wouldn’t count on Star Trek Beyond since “Star Trek Into Darkness” didn’t make the cut, though of course that doesn’t mean much, and I don’t feel like Suicide Squad is regarded highly enough to earn votes, even in this race.

Forecasted winner: It’s crazy to say it, but I think it might be Deadpool.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This year’s locks: La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea

Very likely: Hell or High Water

Possible: Arrival, Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, Sully, Fences

Unlikely: Silence, Deadpool

The rundown: Two years ago, eventual Best Picture winner “Birdman” was snubbed here, and even though I predicted it wouldn’t be, last year’s winner “Spotlight” was. All five of ACE Eddie nominees for drama - Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water, Arrival, and Hacksaw Ridge - could easily be nominated. You just need room for comedy frontrunner La La Land. I can’t imagine it would actually happen, but comedy nominee Deadpool could make the cut here since the editing is one of its strongest and most defining parts. Not nominated for Eddies are the likes of Sully, Fences and Silence, and one film that may well end up here given the recent love for the film: Lion.

One possible crazy scenario: It’s an Eddie nominee for comedy, but what a cool choice The Lobster, a truly unlikely inclusion here, would be.

Forecasted winner: This will probably be part of the La La Land sweep.

Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

This year’s locks: Jackie, La La Land

Very likely: Hidden Figures, Florence Foster Jenkins

Possible: Hail Caesar, The Handmaiden, Silence, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Doctor Strange

Unlikely: Plenty of others, I’m sure!

The rundown: Like the Art Directors Guild, the Costume Designers Guild separates its nominees into three categories: contemporary, period, and fantasy. The last two are more important to take seriously. The important exception, of course, is La La Land, which earned a contemporary nomination and is sure to place here. From the period section, Jackie, Hidden Figures, and Florence Foster Jenkins are all very likely, with Hail Caesar and The Dressmaker also possible. Three fantasy films could show up - Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and I’m less confident about Kubo and the Two Strings, which made history as the first animated film to earn a CDG nod, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is unlikely since only the first “Star Wars” film was nominated in this category, though it did win. Watch out for two CDG snubs, Silence and The Handmaiden, both of which are sure to earn votes.

One possible crazy scenario: I’m picturing the red suit that Viggo Mortensen wears in Captain Fantastic and wondering how many people are going to vote for it just based on that. It would be a fun choice!

Forecasted winner: This one probably goes to Jackie.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Art Direction

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

This year’s locks: La La Land

Very likely: Jackie, Arrival

Possible: Fences, Lion, Hail Caesar, Silence, Nocturnal Animals, Hell or High Water, Hacksaw Ridge, Florence Foster Jenkins, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Doctor Strange

Unlikely: Others, I’m sure!

The rundown: Translating what these nominees will be from the Art Directors Guild list is tough since there are three separate categories there – contemporary, period, and fantasy – and just one here. There are also a few contenders that didn’t make the cut with ADG, namely “Silence” and “Florence Foster Jenkins,” that might garner votes. La La Land is the surest thing, and both Jackie and Arrival should have no trouble getting in as well. Beyond that, it’s a question of whether Fences and Lion can trump the likes of Hail Caesar, Doctor Strange, orFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or if more standard non-genre fare like Nocturnal Animals, Hell or High Water, or Hacksaw Ridge get in ahead of them. I’m not sure what to expect here and I imagine there are other contenders I haven’t listed here.

One possible crazy scenario: It could well get in even though this probably the second unlikeliest place for the very popular Moonlight to show up.

Forecasted winner: This should go to La La Land.

Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario

This year’s locks: Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land

Very likely: Lion

Possible: Hell or High Water, Silence, Jackie, Nocturnal Animals

Unlikely: Live By Night, Sully

The rundown: This category usually matches up 4/5 with the American Society of Cinematographers list, though in some years, like 2002 and 2007, the list corresponds exactly. I’m predicting 4/5 again this year, with Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, and Lion feeling like good bets for a number of reasons. IT also happens that they’re all DGA-nominated and surefire Best Picture nominees, with “Manchester by the Sea” the only one that isn’t really a contender here, though it is well done. I’m thinking that Silence will just miss in favor of the incredible Hell or High Water, though I’m not entirely confident about that production. Jackie and Nocturnal Animals are certainly threats too, while Live By Night isn’t likely to show up. The same is sadly true of Sully, which deserves plenty of recognition but doesn’t seem to be showing up anywhere.

One possible crazy scenario: I remember thinking that I would love for it to be nominated while watching it, but I can’t imagine that American Honey can muster up the support it needs to make the cut here.

Forecasted winner: I feel like Arrival might actually be able to topple “La La Land” here, but who knows?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Movie with Abe: Alone in Berlin

Alone in Berlin
Directed by Vincent Perez
Released January 13, 2017

One of the most common retrospective statements about the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust is that one of the main reasons it was able to happen was that so many let it. The subject of many films related to the era have to do with instances of individual resistance, ranging from solitary representative actions to directly saving many lives. “Alone in Berlin,” one of the first official releases of the year, tells one story about the former, highlighting a couple that found it necessary to do something to show the public the evil going on around them.

Otto Quangel (Brendan Gleeson) is a factory worker married to Anna (Emma Thompson) in 1940 Berlin. He and his wife receive the devastating news that their son has been killed while away at war. Something changes in Otto as a result, and he begins to write postcards that he leaves on the steps of buildings and around Berlin decrying the Fuhrer as a liar and exposing the Nazi party for what it really is. A dogged investigator (Daniel Bruhl) is assigned to the case, and he begins to track Otto as his activities increase and he goes even further to spread his message.

The themes present in “Alone in Berlin” could not be more relevant today. There is a mesmerizing quiet intensity to just placing a letter on a stair that goes against what’s popularly known and spoken about, for one random person to happen upon and read. It’s such a simple act of rebellion long before the internet age, which would surely explode now as a tweet read all around the world. The difference is that Otto has no idea who will read his message, but he feels that it is necessary to speak up, something that those around him are too scared or otherwise unwilling to do.

Gleeson and Thompson are both highly-acclaimed actors, and their interest in this project makes complete sense. While its story is compelling, the film’s construction and pacing don’t match its quality at all. The admittedly engaging and meaningful premise doesn’t really come to life in a purposely dreary setting without much energy. As a drama, the film is dry, and as a thriller, it doesn’t excite nearly as much as it should. Still, it’s a worthwhile subject, and this is far from a bad movie even if it’s not the most enthralling.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room

This year’s locks: Moonlight, Fences, Lion, Arrival

Very likely: Hidden Figures

Possible: Loving, Nocturnal Animals, Deadpool

Unlikely: Sully, Silence

The rundown: Two of these possibilities - Moonlight and Loving - were nominated as original screenplays by the WGA. The former is a sure thing, though I’m less and less convinced about the latter, which I think will just miss. Fences and Arrival are both looking good for recognition here after PGA nominations despite missing out on the Best Picture race at the Golden Globes, and Lion wasn’t eligible for the WGA but won’t have a problem scoring here. Hidden Figures seems to be on fire right now, so I’d give this the edge over Nocturnal Animals, which was nominated for a Globe for Best Screenplay. It’s hard to imagine Deadpool being Oscar-nominated, and most of the WGA’s eccentric choices haven’t played out in years past, though “Borat” did end up with a mention in this category. The love has been totally absent for Sully so I wouldn’t count on it to break through here, and ditto Silence, though it’s possible.

One possible crazy scenario: I suppose it’s not that crazy, but Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta hasn’t been doing all that well in the awards race, missing the finalist list for Best Foreign Film, and it could feasibly show up here for a rare adaptation by the auteur.

Forecasted winner: This will go to Moonlight.

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton

This year’s locks: La La Land, Manchester by the Sea

Very likely: Hell or High Water

Possible: The Lobster, 20th Century Women, Captain Fantastic, Jackie, Zootopia

Unlikely: Hail Caesar, Moana

The rundown: This category seems pretty set, with two of the WGA nominees in this field being moved over to the adapted race for the Oscars. That leaves Best Picture contenders La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Hell or High Water as the only real frontrunners, and the rest is anyone’s guess. The most logical inclusions would be The Lobster and 20th Century Women, but despite early praise, neither film is really hot right now. It could be Captain Fantastic instead, or Jackie if enthusiasm for that film picks up. Maybe animated contenders Zootopia or Moana could score a spot, and the reliable Coen brothers could also contend for Hail Caesar. Or maybe we’ll get something totally unexpected here.

One possible crazy scenario: Despite all the negative press he’s received, Nate Parker shows up here for The Birth of a Nation.

Forecasted winner: Everyone’s going gaga for La La Land, so why shouldn’t it win here?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rooney Mara, Rachel McAdams, Alicia Vikander, Kate Winslet

This year’s locks: Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman

Very likely: Naomie Harris

Possible: Octavia Spencer, Greta Gerwig, Janelle Monae

Unlikely: Felicity Jones

The rundown: This category really isn’t all that interesting or competitive. There are four actresses who are all but guaranteed, and there’s nothing to suggest that they won’t make the cut. Viola Davis (Fences) is a lock, and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), Nicole Kidman (Lion), and Naomie Harris (Moonlight) are all likely to join her. The question is who will earn the fifth nomination. Globe and SAG nominee Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) is the obvious choice, though her costar Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures) could easily bump her out. Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women) would be a fun choice but missed out on both Globe and SAG bids, and the film isn’t being talked about enough right now for me to have confidence in her chances. That’s pretty much it, with Felicity Jones (A Monster Calls) the only real other shot mainly due to her high profile right now with the release of “Rogue One.”

One possible crazy scenario: She’s not the one who earned precursors, but Elle Fanning (20th Century Women) would be a really cool choice.

Forecasted winner: Unless someone unexpectedly joins the race, count on Viola Davis to win.

Oscar Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Mark Ruffalo, Mark Rylance, Sylvester Stallone

This year’s locks: Mahershala Ali, Dev Patel, Jeff Bridges

Very likely: None

Possible: Lucas Hedges, Hugh Grant, Ben Foster, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon

Unlikely: Simon Helberg, Liam Neeson

The rundown: I’m really not sure what to do here. I was so confident that Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals) was a fluke when he got nominated for a Golden Globe, and that his costar Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) was likelier to get nominated for an Oscar but still probably wouldn’t make the cut, and then he won the Globe Sunday night. His lack of mentions from other awards groups – Shannon got most of them – doesn’t entirely disqualify him, but it’s not terribly helpful. Consider the frontrunners - Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Dev Patel (Lion), and Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) – who seem like locks. Bridges’ costar Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) picked up some critical attention and could easily and deservedly join the Oscar race. I’m really rooting for Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), who totally deserves this. Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins) feels like a solid choice, though costar Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins) did get a Golden Globe nomination and could knock him out – or join him. And then there’s Liam Neeson (Silence), who hasn’t shown up anywhere and might get some votes but isn’t likely to break into this race.

One possible crazy scenario: He really was great, but Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash) was in way too low-profile movie to show up here. How cool would that be though?

Forecasted winner: He lost the Globe, but I think Ali is still likely to triumph.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oscar Predictions: Best Actress in a Leading Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, Saoirse Ronan

This year’s locks: Natalie Portman, Emma Stone

Very likely: Amy Adams

Possible: Isabelle Huppert, Annette Bening, Meryl Streep, Ruth Negga, Emily Blunt

Unlikely: Taraji P. Henson, Jessica Chastain

The rundown: In the past few years, there have been contenders that weren’t nominated up until Oscar time and then took the places of other actresses who were up for both Globes and SAGs. This year, it’s enormously competitive, with at least six and maybe even eight actresses vying for just five slots. Natalie Portman (Jackie) and Emma Stone (La La Land) are the only real sure things, though Amy Adams (Arrival) is looking pretty good too even if I didn’t expect her to do as well at first. Isabelle Huppert (Elle) gets a big boost from her Golden Globe win, not that it affects how people voted but it shows how beloved she is, and she could easily follow in the footsteps of Charlotte Rampling and Emmanuelle Riva to earn a nomination. Annette Bening (20th Century Women) missed out with SAG but is so revered that I think she’ll make the cut, but she’ll have to knock out probably the most beloved actress working right now, Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), which is no easy feat. A while ago, Ruth Negga (Loving) was a solid bet for a nomination, but now I’m not so sure about her chances given the stiff competition. Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train) showed up really late to the awards race with a SAG nomination, and I don’t think that’s enough to get her onto the Oscar list. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the performance yet, and I also missed Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane), though she and her film have also barely shown up this awards season. Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) might ride a wave of enthusiasm for her film to a nomination, but I don’t think there’s space for her.

One possible crazy scenario: She would totally deserve it, but no one seems to be talking about Sasha Lane (American Honey) anymore. If only.

Forecasted winner: After she lost the Golden Globe, it’s hard to know, but I suspect Natalie Portman will still prevail.

Oscar Predictions: Best Actor in a Leading Role

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 24th. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.

Last year’s nominees: Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne

This year’s locks: Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington

Very likely: Ryan Gosling

Possible: Andrew Garfield, Viggo Mortensen, Tom Hanks, Joel Edgerton

Unlikely: Andrew Garfield, Michael Keaton, Chris Pine

The rundown: This race seems much more locked up than it has in the past, and the main reason for that is that no one seems like they can permeate the top five. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Denzel Washington (Fences) are unstoppable, and it seems very unlikely that Ryan Gosling (La La Land) will get left behind by his film, especially after his Golden Globe win earlier this week. Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) has done pretty well for himself, and his other role – in “Silence” – isn’t nearly buzzy enough to get him ousted since that film has barely shown up anywhere. Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) scored Globe and SAG bids, and it looks like he’ll be able to go the distance. For some reason, Tom Hanks (Sully), who was unexpectedly snubbed for “Captain Phillips” even when it was nominated for Best Picture three years ago, hasn’t been in this awards race nearly as much as he should have been, and the fact that he hasn’t been Oscar-nominated in sixteen years doesn’t suggest that voters will be enthusiastic about embracing him now. Joel Edgerton (Loving) was an early frontrunner for a nod but the film has mostly faded from the conversation, so I doubt he’ll make the cut. Michael Keaton (The Founder) would be a shock given the fact that no one is talking about his film. I’m hoping that someone seems how good Chris Pine (Hell or High Water) was and votes for him for an underpraised performance in a terrific film that’s being recognized elsewhere, but I’m not optimistic about his chances. I’m really not sure what to make of this race since it seems so set but I really want Hanks to be a part of it.

One possible crazy scenario: Bigger than “Borat” earning a Best Adapted Screenplay mention, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) becomes an Oscar nominee for playing the foulmouthed superhero.

Forecasted winner: I think Affleck will sweep the awards circuit this year.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Movie with Abe: Silence

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Released December 23, 2016

Martin Scorsese is an acclaimed director who has been making high-quality films for almost fifty years. He has directed eight Best Picture nominees and won an Oscar for Best Director in 2006 for “The Departed.” He worked in the 1970s and 1980s with Robert De Niro on a number of occasions and in the 2000s in a similar way with Leonardo DiCaprio. After establishing a reliable style and transforming his approach over the years, Scorsese returns now with a film that he has been working on for twenty-five years that feels distinctly different from much of his previous work.

“Silence” opens in the 1600s with two Jesuit priests, Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), hearing the news that their mentor, Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), has publicly denounced his faith while doing missionary work in Japan. Refusing to believe that he has betrayed his religion, Rodrigues and Garupe set out for Japan on a treacherous journey to track him down. When they arrive, they find a grateful welcome from a repressed people and must fight to decide how important it is to stay true to their faith under a regime that insists on brutally suppressing any deviation from the state-prescribed religion.

“Silence” runs two hours and forty-two minutes and takes place almost entirely in Japan as its protagonists try to fulfill their mission and to help any person desiring a confession or searching for faith along the way. It’s a lengthy, in-depth look at a quiet, loyal people desperate to practice what they want and pressured by those in power not to think creatively. While it is engaging, its pacing is slow, and it’s a lot to take in, especially with its disturbing imagery of torture inflicted on suspected Christians. This movie shows what it means to have faith – something that has always been important to Scorsese – but even more strongly demonstrates the destructive ability of those who wield religion as a weapon to hurt those who believe in a different god.

Garfield and Driver are both hard-working, up-and-coming actors who each star in another acclaimed film out at the moment, so it’s a good year for both of them. Both deliver passionate performances along with a large Japanese cast to anchor this harrowing saga. The film’s editing and technical elements are not as consistent or excellent as is often the case in Scorsese productions, but this is still a meaningful and haunting project.


Movie with Abe: Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Released December 16, 2016

When the original “Star Wars” trilogy was released, “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi” came out three years apart. Two decades later, the prequel trilogy, “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” and “Revenge of the Sith” followed the same format, spanning nine years and taking in plenty of box office dollars. Now, anticipation for the sequel trilogy means that each subsequent film will debut only two years after the previous one, and not only that, standalone anthology films will be released in the years in between. “Rogue One” can’t match the excitement of the regular series, but it’s still an expectedly enjoyable ride.

Set before episode four (the first film chronologically released), “Rogue One” follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of a scientist (Mads Mikkelsen) who has been forced to create the Death Star, and the Rebel Alliance’s attempt to use her to authenticate the story of defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) that could change the course of the longstanding battle against the Empire’s control of the galaxy. Jyn and Bodhi join Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to lead a ragtag team intent on turning the tide in favor of the rebels and scoring a major victory for the good guys.

The plot of “Rogue One” has significant ties to the third and fourth installments of the official “Star Wars” saga but contains few true links to either. A handful of important cameos, including two characters recreated with the considerable aid of visual effects due to its portrayers being dead and much older, respectively, do happen, mostly to remind audience members that this does relate to the main narrative. In many ways, however, it feels like an unnecessary installment, and the purposeful use of slightly different music, the lack of an opening crawl, and the absence of any Jedi serve to underline the fact that, however hard it may try, it’s not one of the real “Star Wars” movies.

Even a mediocre “Star Wars” entry, however, is still a solid recipe for a good time. The setting of a tree-lined beach for one of the film’s main extended battle scenes is a superb visual choice, and the effects are top-notch as usual, even if they do fall into the trap of seeming more modern than what was shown in the original trilogy. Luna and Jones make a fun team, and the standouts in the cast are Ben Mendelsohn as the main villain of the film and Alan Tudyk as the voice of K-2S0, the reprogrammed Imperial droid with an attitude. The film ends on an exciting note connecting it back to the original trilogy, but there’s still a pervading sense that this perfectly decent film just wasn’t necessary.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Golden Globe Reactions

I'm much more excited to recap the film portion of the evening since I've seen everything and I'm pretty much thrilled about all the wins. The one exception is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who beat out three other deserving actors for Best Supporting Actor in a film I really didn't like. Yes, he's supposed to be despicable in "Nocturnal Animals," but he doesn't get my vote, and now I might have to factor him into my Oscar predictions.

If my research is correct, "La La Land" makes history as the film with the largest Golden Globes haul ever, winning seven awards out of seven nominations. It's also the first film since "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" to win the top five awards (picture, director, screenplay, actor, and actress). My wife isn't thrilled for it since she didn't love it, but I really liked it and it's stuck with me since then. The opening parody was great since it really encapsulates how fun the movie was. I think it's going to win Best Picture now, especially since "Moonlight" only won one trophy. "Manchester by the Sea" is my favorite, but its Best Actor bid is fine.

What was most exciting, however, was the fact that "Elle," a movie that didn't make the finalist list for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, took home not one but two awards. After seeing and not loving "Toni Erdmann" on Friday, I'm glad that "Elle" was able to triumph, and after hoping that Natalie Portman wouldn't win because the performance is all imitation, how great was it that a French actress in a Dutch movie won this American award? I hope that she goes on to get nominated for an Oscar and that the Best Actress Oscar race is now up for grabs, for her or for Emma Stone or someone else. The film definitely isn't for everyone, but it's one of my best of the year.

I got 10/14 but I'm okay with some of the ones I got wrong. Reviews of "Rogue One" and "Silence," two films that didn't contend at the Globes, coming tomorrow, following by a rollout of detailed Oscar predictions by category over the next two weeks. Stay tuned!

Final Golden Globe Winner Predictions

I’m always excited for the Golden Globes, the first major awards ceremony of the season, and Oscar nominations haven’t yet come out, so we still have the chance to see some big surprises that won’t actually affect the nominations since ballots are already past due.

I’ve been in massive catch-up mode the past week or so, tracking down all nominees that are out on DVD and seeing the few remaining films in theaters. I’m just missing a few best actress nominees and foreign and animated contenders, but I feel pretty well-prepared. More than in previous years, I’m actually a fan of most of the movies up for the top prizes, with “Florence Foster Jenkins” and “Hacksaw Ridge” being my least favorites and still earning a B grade. As long as “Nocturnal Animals” doesn’t win anything, I’ll be thrilled to see any film triumph. I’m most pumped about “Hell or High Water” and would love to see it pick up a few wins. I’m also rooting for “Elle” in the Best Foreign Film race. If anything other than “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight,” or “La La Land” takes home a few trophies, get ready for an unexpected Oscar race! Head over to for predictions in all of the TV races, and enjoy the show!

Best Motion Picture - Drama

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
La La Land

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Violas Davis (Fences)

Best Animated Feature Film

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Director - Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
La La Land

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
“How Far I’ll Go” (Moana)

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

The competition: Deadpool, Florence Foster Jenkins, La La Land, Sing Street, 20th Century Women

For your information: “La La Land” is the overall nominations leader with seven bids. “Florence Foster Jenkins” follows with four, “Deadpool” and “20th Century Women” have two, and this is the only nomination for “Sing Street.” Only “La La Land” is nominated for Best Director, and it also contends for Best Screenplay. Musicals win this category frequently, most recently in 2012 with “Les Miserables.” The winner of this category has gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture five times in the past fifty years, and I think it may happen again this year.

Who should win? This is a fine list. I think that “La La Land” is the best of the bunch, and I suspect voters will too.

Who will win? I don’t really see a scenario in which La La Land doesn’t take it.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Motion Picture – Drama

The competition: Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

For your information: “Hell or High Water” and “Lion” are not nominated for Best Director, and “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Lion” are not up for Best Screenplay. “Moonlight” has six nominations, “Manchester by the Sea” has five, “Lion” has four, “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Hell or High Water” have three. I can’t find an instance of this prize being won by a film not up for Best Director, at least not in the past few decades. In the past ten years, only three of the winners have gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

Who should win? I loved “Hell or High Water” and would be ecstatic if that took it, but I think it’s my number two to “Manchester by the Sea.” I liked “Lion” a lot too, and “Moonlight” is great. “Hacksaw Ridge” was the most uneven of these but it was still good.

Who will win? It might be “Manchester by the Sea,” but I think this goes to Moonlight.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Director – Motion Picture

The competition: Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)

For your information: Only two of these men have been nominated before. Lonergan contended for his screenplay for “You Can Count on Me” in 2000 and Gibson won this award in 1995 for “Braveheart.” Every director except for Gibson is also nominated for penning the screenplay for his film. “Nocturnal Animals” is the only film not nominated for best motion picture. The last musical to win this award was “Yentl” back in 1983. As far as I can tell, “Bird” was the last film to win this award with a corresponding best motion picture nomination back in 1988.

Who should win? Lonergan does a tremendous job, but I’d be okay with Chazelle and even Jenkins winning also. I wouldn’t be excited about Gibson because I don’t think he did the best job (and don’t love him personally), and though I loved Ford’s first film, I didn’t like this one at all.

Who will win? I think there are three big contenders for this award, and I feel like Chazelle will be able to prevail here as a result.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

The competition: Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)

For your information: “Hell or High Water” is the only film in this category not nominated for Best Director, and the other four writers are double-nominated as directors. Only Lonergan has been nominated before, back in 2000 for “You Can Count on Me.” The only film not nominated for best motion picture is “Nocturnal Animals.” That’s not necessarily a dealbreaker since “Steve Jobs” won last year. A musical has not won this award since the 1950s.

Who should win? I really didn’t like “Nocturnal Animals” so that doesn’t get my vote. I think I’d give this award to “Hell or High Water” though there’s a great case to be made for all four of the other nominees.

Who will win? Last year bucked history with the first film in over thirty years to win without a corresponding best motion picture bid, but I don’t think that will happen this year. I think it will probably be Moonlight though it could really be any of them.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Foreign Language Film

The competition: Divines (France), Elle (France), Neruda (Chile), The Salesman (Iran/France), Toni Erdmann (Germany)

For your information: It’s hard to tabulate statistics by country since multiple countries are sometimes credited for a given film, including one nominee this year. France has been nominated a whopping 80 times and has been credited with twelve wins and has two and a half horses in the race this year. Germany shared credit on one win out of a handful of nominations. Chile has been nominated twice, and director Pablo Larrain contended last year for “The Club.” As a bonus, he also directed “Jackie,” which is up for Best Actress. Iran has been nominated twice before and won once, for “A Separation” in 2011. All three Iranian submissions were directed by Asghar Farhadi. “Divines” was the only one of these films that wasn’t submitted for the Oscars (“Elle” was instead), but both “Elle” and “Neruda” missed the nine-wide shortlist. “Elle” is also nominated for Best Actress at this year’s Globes.

Who should win? I didn’t catch “Divines,” which is available on Netflix, and “The Salesman” won’t be released in New York City for a few weeks. I wasn’t too fond of “Toni Erdmann” and liked “Neruda,” but “Elle” is far and away the best film of the three.

Who will win? It might be “The Salesman” or “Toni Erdmann,” but I’m going to hedge my bets on the fantastic Elle.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Animated Feature Film

The competition: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, Sing, Zootopia

For your information: This category has existed since 2006. Pixar has won almost every year but isn’t nominated this year. This is the third nomination for Laika, which made “Kubo and the Two Strings,” and Illumination Entertainment, which made “Sing.” Disney, which has two films in the running this year – “Moana” and “Zootopia” – won this award for the first five years of its existence and then again three more times, all but once for Pixar productions, which neither of these are. “Frozen” was the only non-Pixar film to win out of seven nods. “My Life is a Zucchini,” which is made the shortlist for the Best Foreign Film Oscar in addition to the eligible animated list, is a first-time nominee for Rhone-Alpes Studios. When it comes to individual directors, “Moana” duo Ron Clements and John Musker were previously nominated for “The Princess and the Frog.” Byron Howard was previously cited for “Bolt” and “Tangled,” and Rich Moore was nominated for “Wreck-It Ralph.” The two directed “Zootopia” this year. Both “Moana” and “Sing” are also nominated for Best Original Song.

Who should win? I’ve only seen “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Zootopia,” which are both out on DVD. “Moana” and “Sing” are both still playing and doing well in theaters, and it looks like “My Life as a Zucchini” will be at Sundance, though it doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to catch it while I’m there. More on this category soon. Out of the two I’ve seen, I’d pick “Zootopia.”

Who will win? It might be “Moana,” but I’ll choose Zootopia.

Movie with Abe: Sing Street

Sing Street
Directed by John Carney
Released April 15, 2016

John Carney makes films about music. The Irish writer-director first hit it big with “Once” in 2007, which followed two people sweetly singing at each other and took home an Oscar for Best Original Song for the unforgettable “Falling Slowly.” In 2013, he made “Begin Again” with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, which expanded its scope to a full-on band of musicians and was also nominated for an Oscar for its original song “Lost Stars.” Now, Carney has made his first film to be nominated for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes, a very Irish story of childhood and music and the way the two go together.

Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) lives in Dublin in 1985 with his brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) and his parents Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who, struggling to make ends meet, decide to move him to a state school called Synge Street CBS. There is little about this new place that appeals to Conor, including the requirement to wear black shoes that he does not own, and he quickly becomes distracted after he meets the alluring Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and hastily scrambles to form a band so that he can spend time with her and feature her in the music video he claimed his band was making. Conor transforms into an entirely different person guided by his love for music and his efforts to impress the girl he likes.

This is a film that relies heavily on its 1980s setting and takes full advantage of all the rich music and culture it has to offer. The film also presents a number of original songs, performed by the cast, with two of them eligible for the Oscar for Best Original Song, “Drive It Like You Stole It” and “Go Now.” The music is what gets Conor through his miserable experience at school and allows him to take charge of his life, and this is a film that celebrates the enduring power of music and its ability to last long beyond early crushes and youthful obsessions.

“Sing Street” casts debut actor Walsh-Peelo and relative newcomer Boynton as its protagonists, using their energy to great effect in conveying the sentiment of the time and the angst both characters experienced. Gillen and Kennedy, supporting players on “Game of Thrones” and “Orphan Black,” respectively, serve as recognizable faces to anchor a story that is fully defined by its music, which is quite good. A somewhat slow start leads to a far more transformative and evocative second half, and the film goes out on a wonderfully melodic and memorable sweet note.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Movie with Abe: Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann
Directed by Maren Ade
Released December 25, 2016

Foreign films come in all kinds of varieties. Those that tend to make it over from the more than one hundred countries with film industries are often heavy, character-focused dramas or cinematic realizations of some major event in history, be it global, national, or local. Each year, there are handful of non-American films that become major talking points, in part because of their placement on (or omission from) the Oscar shortlist, which winnows more than eighty submissions down first to nine and then to five. One of the surest things for an Oscar nomination this year is the singularly strange “Toni Erdmann.”

It took this reviewer, who went in knowing absolutely nothing about this film or its plot, a good deal of time to figure out just who Toni Erdmann was. In the opening scene, we meet Winfried (Peter Simonischek), a practical jokester who gives his mailman a good scare by pretending to have just been released from prison for sending mail bombs. After his dog dies, Winfried travels from Germany to Bucharest to surprise his daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller), a high-powered business consultant. Winfried begins appearing incessantly in Ines’ life, wearing a wig and fake teeth, introducing himself to her colleagues and friends as life coach Toni Erdmann, threatening both her livelihood at work and her sanity.

“Toni Edrmann” should not be described as a film that’s in a rush to get anywhere. When Winfried first appears in Bucharest, he tells her that he’s taken a month’s vacation, to which she reacts in horror and he laughs at having caused such a response. Yet Winfried doesn’t appear to be motivated to do anything except to prank others for his sheer enjoyment, and his far more serious daughter doesn’t seem to appreciate his affability, especially when it mixes all too closely with her work.

Austrian actor Simonschek bears a striking resemblance to James Brolin, though it’s rare to find him without his fake teeth or some disguise throughout the course of this film. He and Hüller complement each other well, with an entertaining supporting cast playing well off both of them. The film, however, proceeds along at a painfully slow and uninvolving pace, running for a daunting 162 minutes. Though it has its moments, this is far from a vivid experience. A third act scene that takes things in a new direction is just as strange as it is interesting, but it’s not enough to make this admittedly intriguing and funny movie totally bearable.


Movie with Abe: Zootopia

Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush
Released March 4, 2016

There is a marvelous power that animated films have to tell stories with magnificently layered meanings that can be digested by children and adults alike. One of the most well-reviewed films, animated or live-action, of the year does just that. In creating a universe with talking animals where a bunny can become a cop and a fox is a sly con artist, “Zootopia” accomplishes plenty, offering up a great commentary of what it means to be different and succeed despite adversity and demonstrating just how entertaining and enjoyable a movie about talking animals can be.

The cleverly-named Judy Hopps is a small bunny with big dreams. Despite her stature, Judy knows that she does not want to follow in the footsteps of her parents and her many, many siblings to become a carrot farmer, but instead pursues her childhood ambitions of becoming a police officer. When she goes to train at the police academy, she graduates at the top of her class and heads to the city of Zootopia. Though she has overcome so much, she finds that there are still stereotypes at play for all animals, and her drive to make the world a better place kicks in when she starts seeing clues that help her, with the involuntary aid of a witty fox named Nick Wilde, to unravel the mystery of why a number of predators have gone missing.

“Zootopia” is the kind of animated adventure that, like “Ratatouille” and others before it, invests fully in its characters and follows their adventures wherever they may go. Along the way, Judy meets friends and enemies, but the whole time, she is determined to make a difference and not to judge anyone based on their species (an obvious and fitting representation of race). When she is assigned to parking enforcement, she knows that this isn’t what she was meant to do, and fortunately the film follows her and the ambition that leads her to far more exciting things.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman make a superb team to voice Judy and Nick, and their banter makes up a good portion of the film. Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, and Nate Torrance provide top support as the buffalo police chief, sheep assistant mayor, and cheetah police dispatcher, respectively, who interact most with our two protagonists. This film is full of funny moments and a generally fun-spirited mood, and its subtext helps to make it one of the more essential and worthwhile films of the year.


Movie with Abe: Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings
Directed by Travis Knight
Released August 19, 2016

Animated films come in all shapes or sizes, with the power of the imagination serving as the only limit on an animator’s creativity. Historically, fairy tales, fantasies, and musicals were the most common genres made in that format. Disney had a terrific run in the 1990s after producing earlier classics, and Pixar was at the head of the pack in the 2000s with a number of hits. Now, smaller studios and production companies are making a name for themselves, and “Kubo and the Two Strings” is one such effort from stop-motion studio Laika, which marks its fourth innovative production with this release.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” tells the story of a young boy named Kubo who lives in ancient Japan with his frail mother Sariatu. Each day, he regales the inhabitants of his village with stories about his missing father, using his magical powers to animate origami and accompanying the show with his own live music. Each night, he remains inside and hidden from the terror of his aunts and his grandfather, the Moon King, warned by his mother that they are coming for him and for his other eye after taking the first one shortly after his birth.

This film is rated PG but contains an underlying darkness that puts it into a different classification than other more fully family-friendly animated features. Its themes and content – which approach creepy and even really scary at some moments – make much more sense when looked at in the context of the other films Laika has made. In the past seven years, the studio has released “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” and “The Boxtrolls,” all successful and Oscar-nominated, and which address adult-leaning themes through the lens of animation suitable for children. Like those entries, “Kubo and the Two Strings,” which promotes lead animator Travis Knight to director, doesn’t feel like an American movie, imbuing its characters and story with a layered sense of culture and tradition.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” makes good use of its voice talent, employing Art Parkinson, who plays Rickon Stark on “Game of Thrones,” as Kubo, a great fit for the true hero of the story. Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Matthew McConaughey all do their parts to enhance the overall experience, one that is ultimately driven by the strength of its story and the high quality of its stop-motion animation. This film certainly qualifies as a fantasy, and it uses its format to the utmost effect to tell it in dazzling style.


Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Original Song

The competition: “Gold” by Stephen Gaghan, Danger Mouse, Daniel Pemberton, and Iggy Pop (Gold), “City of Stars” by Justin Hurwitz, Pasek and Paul (La La Land), “How Far I’ll Go” by Opetaia Foa'i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana), “Faith” by Ryan Tedder, Stevie Wonder, and Francis Farewell Starlite (Sing) “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Max Martin, Shellback, and Justin Timberlake (Trolls)

For your information: A few contenders have been nominated exactly once before: Martin, Timberlake, Wonder, and Mouse. The latter two won, for “I Just Called To Say I Love You” in 1984 and “Ordinary Love” in 2013, respectively. Hurwitz is also nominated for Best Original Score, and Pemberton contended in that category last year too. This is the first year since 1998 that more than half the nominees in this category are from animated films. All five of these songs are Oscar-eligible.

Who should win? Astonishingly, it’s impossible to find the song from “Gold” and the film hasn’t been released yet. I’m not sure how all the Globe voters heard it, but oh well. The other four are good – both “Faith” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” are really fun, and I think I’d vote for the more serious and stirring “City of Stars.”

Who will win? I suspect that “Hamilton” fever will propel “How Far I’ll Go” and Moana to the win.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Original Score

The competition: Arrival (Jóhann Jóhannsson), Hidden Figures (Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Benjamin Wallfisch), La La Land (Justin Hurwitz), Lion (Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka), and Moonlight (Nicholas Britell).

For your information: This is Zimmer’s twelfth nomination, and he has won twice, for “The Lion King” and “Gladiator.” Jóhannsson won in 2014 for “The Theory of Everything.” Hurwitz is also nominated this year for Best Song. There’s no particular correlation of this category to any other. It’s worth noting that the “Arrival” score, which also uses Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight,” is not eligible for the Oscar.

Who should win? I still need to do some serious listening but nothing really compares to “La La Land” and the part music plays in that film. I even made one track my wake-up alarm!

Who will win? I’m tempted to go with La La Land though I suspect it might be “Arrival” instead.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

The competition: Viola Davis’ loyal wife (Fences), Naomie Harris’ troubled mother (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman’s devoted mother (Lion), Octavia Spencer’s talented supervisor (Hidden Figures), and Michelle Williams’ devastated ex-wife (Manchester by the Sea).

For your information: This is Kidman’s eleventh nomination, and she has won three times before, most recently in 2002 for “The Hours.” This is Williams’ fourth nomination, and she won in 2011 for “My Week with Marilyn.” Spencer won in 2011 for “The Help.” This is Davis’ fifth overall nomination, representing both film and TV work. This is the first nomination for Harris. “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “Moonlight” are all nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

Who should win? These are all solid performances – I think Williams is my favorite.

Who will win? It seems that Davis is ahead of the pack at this point.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

The competition: Mahershala Ali’s father figure (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges’ dogged detective (Hell or High Water), Simon Helberg’s eccentric pianist (Florence Foster Jenkins), Dev Patel’s transplanted student (Lion), and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s sociopathic criminal (Nocturnal Animals).

For your information: This is Bridges’ fifth nomination. He won in 2009 for “Crazy Heart.” Despite Emmy, SAG, and Critics Choice nominations, respectively, in the past, this is the first Globe mention for Ali, Patel, and Helberg. Taylor-Johnson is also a first-time Globe nominee. All but “Nocturnal Animals” are nominated for the corresponding best motion picture prize.

Who should win? I can’t understand why Helberg and Taylor-Johnson are here, so they definitely don’t get my vote. Bridges was good but hardly the best actor in his excellent film. Between Ali and Patel, I don’t have a huge preference – they were both great.

Who will win? For the moment, it seems like Ali is ahead in this race.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

The competition: Annette Bening’s creative mother (20th Century Women), Lily Collins’ beauty queen (Rules Don’t Apply), Hailee Steinfeld’s troubled teenager (The Edge of Seventeen), Meryl Streep’s ear-piercing socialite (Florence Foster Jenkins), and Emma Stone’s aspiring actress (La La Land).

For your information: Streep is a record holder with thirty career nominations and eight wins, including two wins in this category. She’s also receiving the Cecil B. DeMille award this year. This is Bening’s eighth nomination, and she also has two wins in this category. Stone has been nominated twice before, and this is the first nomination for both Collins and Steinfeld. “20th Century Women,” “Florence Foster Jenkins,” and “La La Land” are all nominated for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical.

Who should win? I didn’t have a chance to see Collins or Steinfeld’s films, but I’d vote for Stone out of the rest.

Who will win? This is a very competitive category where Stone, Bening, and Streep could all win. I’ll give the edge to the young star of the buzziest film.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

The competition: Colin Farrell’s single romantic (The Lobster), Ryan Gosling’s struggling pianist (La La Land), Hugh Grant’s entertainer (Florence Foster Jenkins), Jonah Hill’s arms dealer (War Dogs), and Ryan Reynolds’ crude superhero (Deadpool).

For your information: Farrell won this award in 2008 for “In Bruges.” Grant won in 1995 for “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and has been nominated twice more since then. This is Gosling’s fifth nomination and Hill’s second, with Reynolds as the lone newbie in the race. “Deadpool,” “Florence Foster Jenkins,” and “La La Land” are all nominated for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical.

Who should win? These are all great choices – I’d vote for Gosling.

Who will win? It’s hard to know. It should be Gosling but I have a feeling it could end up being any of the rest except Hill, with Reynolds as the likeliest spoiler.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

The competition: Amy Adams’ linguist (Arrival), Jessica Chastain’s lobbyist (Miss Sloane), Isabelle Huppert’s video game designer (Elle), Ruth Negga’s devoted wife (Loving), and Natalie Portman’s first lady (Jackie).

For your information: This is the seventh nomination for Adams, who won back-to-back trophies in 2014 and 2015. This is the fourth nomination for Portman, who picked up trophies for “Black Swan” and “Closer.” This is the fourth nomination for Chastain, who won in 2012 for “Zero Dark Thirty.” This is the first nomination for both Huppert and Negga. None of these movies are up for Best Motion Picture – Drama, but “Elle” is contending for Best Foreign Film.

Who should win? I haven’t seen Chastain’s performance. I’m totally behind Adams and Huppert though I doubt either will win.

Who will win? I think that Portman is a lock.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

The competition: Casey Affleck’s antisocial uncle (Manchester by the Sea), Joel Edgerton’s colorblind husband, Andrew Garfield’s conscientious objector (Hacksaw Ridge), Viggo Mortensen’s eccentric patriarch (Captain Fantastic), and Denzel Washington’s traditional father (Fences).

For your information: This is Washington’s eighth career nomination, with two previous wins and the Cecil B. DeMille Award last year. This is Mortensen’s third nomination and the second for Affleck and Garfield. This is the first nomination for Edgerton. “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Manchester by the Sea” are up for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

Who should win? Affleck is clearly the best, but Washington is great too.

Who will win? Unless Washington surprises, this category belongs to Affleck.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movie with Abe: War Dogs

War Dogs
Directed by Todd Phillips
Released August 19, 2016

Capitalism is capable of luring many people into criminal enterprises, and unsurprisingly such stories make for enticing film topics. Just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, and initially well-meaning people become corrupted by the allure of financial gain and the ease of getting away with it. “War Dogs” gets its title from its protagonists’ role as arms dealers, buying weaponry and supplying it to the United States government, making a hefty profit in return. Their business starts out from a potentially immoral but not necessarily unlawful point, and things spiral out of control from there.

David Packouz (Miles Teller) serves as the film’s narrator, explaining how he came to be involved in the gun-running business thanks to a reunion with an old school friend named Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) at a funeral. David is more than happy to stop working as a massage therapist, and an innocent lie to his girlfriend about selling bedsheets to the government allows him the cover he needs to embark on a far more dangerous endeavor, which involves multiple trips overseas and dealing with a number of dangerous characters, with David constantly losing sight of the line that divides right and wrong.

This film follows a recognizable format, starting out as things are going strong and then beginning to fall apart and then rewinding back to the beginning to tell the whole story. Anyone who watched “The Wolf of Wall Street” a few years ago won’t be surprised by much in this film, which earns some points for individuality with its focus on the gun industry. It’s easy to see how David and Efraim got ahead of themselves and in way too deep, but there’s also an important difference between David, who pauses at each juncture to question what he is doing, and Efraim, who seems perfectly content not to consider any ethical consequences to his actions.

Teller is a superb actor who has had great roles in the past few years in “Whiplash,” “The Spectacular Now,” and other films. He’s a fine narrator, but he’s really the straight man here in an adequate if unspectacular turn. Hill earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as Efraim, a character he was born to play and who he brings to life as a cocky, comic protagonist whose energy for selling is incredible. Together, the two actors anchor a moderately serious comedy from “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips that serves its purpose and doesn’t deliver much beyond what’s expected.


Movie with Abe: Deadpool

Directed by Tim Miller
Released February 12, 2016

If you had told me that a superhero movie would get nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical, I would have digested it with a fair degree of doubt. If Robert Downey Jr. couldn’t net an award for his portrayal of Tony Stark in the “Iron Man” films, I’m not sure what could. Yet I didn’t know what was coming with “Deadpool,” a seriously R-rated superhero in a seriously R-rated film that doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. Instead, it proves to be the most creative superhero movie in a long time in a sea of countless releases from Marvel and DC in theaters and on television, a refreshingly vile and very funny look at a super-powered guy who doesn’t quite qualify as a hero.

“Deadpool” opens in the middle of the action with the masked protagonist riding in a cab to an epic battle that finds him gleefully excited for the destruction he wreaks and slightly unprepared for everything that he’s facing. The opening credits immediately convey a different attitude than what Marvel fans have come to expect, with mockery of nearly every cast member and comic book convention substituted in for legitimate and normal title cards. Several minutes in, we meet Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), the mercenary who will become Deadpool thanks to a brutal experiment designed to force his body into having powers, prompting him to search endlessly for its maker, who disfigured Wilson’s body and face. Once he dons that red suit, however, Deadpool is a force to be reckoned with, whose abilities are matched only by his fast-talking foul mouth.

There is a great deal of excess at play here, but it’s all done very purposely. Deadpool repeatedly admits that he might not be your typical superhero since much of what he does could well constitute murder, and he has no qualms about taking out the trash permanently rather than simply wounding his enemies and acting in self-defense like his colleague Colossus of the X-Men does. The gore isn’t all – Deadpool also hurls insults at anyone who comes his way that are often more grotesque than the physical violence he exacts on them. In addition, Deadpool frequently addresses the audience and makes numerous comments that reference the real Reynolds and other comic book movies whose character should and do exist in his same universe.

This reviewer is far from familiar with the character of Deadpool, but some quick research indicates that this adaptation is relatively faithful to the kind of person he is in the comic books. Moreover, this is a fantastically entertaining and engaging experience, one guided by Reynolds, who is having the time of his life playing the sarcastic antihero. While it is prone to irreverent tangents, this film starts off strong and finishes just as strongly, with plenty of fun along the way. While this might be officially grouped into the X-Men film series, it’s really a movie all its own, and I’m sure that its sequel and a likely third or fourth film will be just as much of a blast.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Movie with Abe: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures
Directed by Theodore Melfi
Released December 25, 2016

A frequent feature of historical films is to reveal or expose an unknown element related to a far more publicly known event. America’s space race was full of enterprising scientific advancements and a desire to succeed and beat Russia there driven by a fear and hatred of communism. What isn’t written and celebrated nearly as much is the incredible contribution by three African-American women whose role is cleverly summed up by this film’s layered title, providing crucial intellectual support without which NASA’s accomplishments surely would not have been possible.

First introduced when their car breaks down on their way to work in 1960s Virginia, three extremely intelligent women whose skin color and gender makes others doubt their potential are this film’s protagonists. Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) is a brilliant mathematician whose talent gets her brought into the all-white, all-male group calculating trajectories for the first American manned mission into space, led by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) works on the spacecraft itself, yearning to become an engineer. Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) acts as a supervisor to the West Area Computers group, which consists of all the African-American women who work for NASA, but is unable to officially hold the position and must report to a condescending white woman (Kirsten Dunst). All three women display tremendous ability, and this lighthearted film gives them all the chance to shine.

While much of the segregation-inspired racism that occurs throughout this film is far from funny, this film treats it relatively flippantly, creating opportunities for triumphant speeches and moments for the underappreciated to humiliate their dominant colleagues by demonstrating their true value. That approach makes this PG-rated film far more enjoyable than it might have been, but also calls into question its historical veracity. If nothing else, it serves as an entertaining spotlight of unexpected – and unpublicized – ingenuity on the part of three women way ahead of their time who weren’t going to let society hold them back.

Henson won a Golden Globe last year for chewing scenery on an hourly basis on “Empire,” and here she has a less showy role that still allows her to get in a few good jabs at those who look down at her while making the math seem mostly manageable rather than totally unperceivable given the high level of science and mathematics at play. Spencer, who won an Oscar for stealing scenes in “The Help,” is once again drawing similar awards attention for a role that isn’t as meaty but does give her the opportunity to have some fun and do well. Singer-actress Monae, on the other hand, fully commands all of her scenes and should earn any best-in-show commendations for her fantastically-delivered zingers. The film’s SAG nomination for Best Ensemble should really be reserved for its main three players rather than the white actors who contribute less to the story, but that’s the whole point of this female, African-American-driven crowdpleaser which is easy to digest and fun to watch.


Movie with Abe: Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge
Directed by Mel Gibson
Released November 4, 2016

A movie’s title doesn’t always explain exactly what it’s about. The easiest thing to do is to name a film after its protagonist since either that person’s reputation speaks for itself or the point of the movie is to show what they did and why they should be remembered, if it’s a true story, or brought to the big screen, if it’s fiction. Another popular option is to select an isolated event from a protagonist’s life and use that to frame his or her entire story, as is the case with “Hacksaw Ridge,” a film whose title houses its most powerful scenes but hardly captures the grander story it is telling.

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) grows up in Virginia in the 1920s and 1930s as the son of a drunk war veteran (Hugo Weaving) who constantly visits the graves of his many fellow soldiers who were killed in the Great War. When Doss nearly kills his brother as a child during a fight, he turns to his Seventh-day Adventist faith to guide him. His principles of peace make him an unusual candidate to become a combat medic, and his status as a conscientious objector earns him much contempt from other soldiers. As the course of his life and World War II take him towards the daunting attempt by American forces to capture Hacksaw Ridge, an important area held by the Japanese, the entirely good Doss’ true heroism becomes clear.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is about a person defined by purity, who won’t even fight back when others beat him because they believe him to be a coward, and won’t touch a gun because it contradicts what he stands for. His fearless ability to save people is incredible, and that’s something that this film manages to show in the final act of its 140-minute runtime. Everything that leads up to that is not nearly as compelling, featuring a background narrative that feels familiar and somewhat trite, embellishing certain events and developments in a way that isn’t fully convincing or urgent. Once the film finally reaches its conclusion, however, it feels worth it.

Garfield is an actor on the rise who has appeared recently in many projects, including another late 2016 release, “Silence.” Here he demonstrates an affability and commitment to his cause that is commendable, and though it may not be his greatest performance, the awards attention he is receiving is not undeserved. Teresa Palmer forms a strong bond with her costar as the nurse who captures Doss’ heart, and the two of them have tremendous chemistry. Comedian Vince Vaughn proves a strange choice to play Doss’ commanding sergeant, offering up unnecessary laughs, while Sam Worthington’s Captain is an instance of far more logical casting.

Director Mel Gibson, a man whose career has been plagued with controversy in the time since he made “Braveheart,” is back with his first film in ten years, a movie that tells an inarguably interesting story but isn’t its finest adaptation. The emphasis on gore seems extreme, but perhaps that’s meant to signify that even someone who believes so strongly in peace can’t stop the violence around him. This is certainly a good film worthy of praise, but it’s not one of the best of the year.