And, yes, that is of course a great thing.
Much has been said about last night’s 89th Annual Academy Awards, especially where the final few minutes are concerned. Yes, it was a legendary flub that will forever occupy the annals of film history, but it wasn’t the only notable event that occurred within the auditorium of the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night. Hell, in between the memes and the think pieces and the sleuthing that occupied so much of last night’s Oscar conversation, there was one bit of craziness that got lost in the shuffle.
Moonlight, a $1.5 million budgeted indie about the life of a gay, black gangster from Miami, won Best Picture. And yes, that is all kinds of nuts.
Last week, I published a piece entitled “Does La La Land Deserve To Win Best Picture?,” a three-way conversation between myself, Jared Russo, and Justin Powell. In the piece, I was the designated “La La Lover,” and wrote enthusiastically about how much I wanted the film to win the big prize. Coming from that position, you might think last night’s last minute switch-a-roo would come off as a bit of a bummer to me. But, instead, I was kind of overjoyed that Moonlight won Best Picture, and the key to my happiness was unlocked through the magic world plastered in this article’s headline.
Now, the diversity I am speaking of doesn’t just refer to the skin color of the the man holding the statue above although, obviously, that is a HUGE deal, and the importance of such a win should absolutely not be ignored. Even diving back further into the night, Viola Davis’ win for Best Supporting Actress was an empowering one, especially paired with Mahershala Ali’s earlier Best Supporting Actor win (the first Oscar given to a Muslim actor, by the way) for Moonlight. All of these things are super important, and helped make up what seems to be the most minority-friendly Academy Awards in a VERY long time.
But, in my mind, the diversity of this year’s Oscars wasn’t just tied to the ethnic make-up of the show’s big winners — it was also tied to the awards themselves. Going into the night, everyone sort of expected a La La Land sweep, in which the Oscar favorite would win almost all of the awards that it was nominated for. Hell, that’s what I ended up going with on my Oscar predictions ballot, and was pretty confidant about doing so. I just had a feeling that La La Land, nominated for so much, would prove to be a wrecking ball in the direction of every other nominee in its way. But that didn’t happen, and even as someone who had La La Land as their number one film of last year, I was DELIGHTED by that fact.
Because, as it became clear part way through the night, there was going to be a wide swath of films given awards during this year’s ceremony. Hell, for the longest time, no film had won more than one gold statue and, even when the multiple-awards started to pile up, I would argue there were no real “sweeps” to speak of. Sure, La La Land was no slouch (and still ended up winning the most amount of trophies for the night with a total Oscar count of 6), but did it end up winning Best Picture? Nope. Moonlight did.
And though Moonlight won trophies for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor, did it win for Best Supporting Actress too? Nope — that honor instead went to the aforementioned Viola Davis , who won for her exemplary performance in Fences. Fences was also nominated for Best Actor, but that trophy ended up being given not to Denzel Washington, but to Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea. Lucas Hedges could have ended up winning for Manchester too in the Best Supporting Actor field, but instead Mahershala took the price…and by this point, I hope you are getting the picture. What could have been another night of a single champion hogging the crown became what I believe the Oscars should always strive to be: a celebration of the previous year in film, with awards given out to a bunch of different, but all well deserving, nominees.
Which, I mean, is really the key: I don’t think there was an award given last night that I could possibly disagree with. Sure it would have been nice to see Kubo and the Two String win Best Animated Picture, but it’s not like Zootopia isn’t a great film either. Hacksaw Ridge might not be the Best Picture of the year or anything, but it’s sound design WAS second-to-none. And though the film was a bit of a disappointment, no one can claim that the costumes in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them didn’t look wonderful. Oscar voters might sometimes vote “straight ticket” for the film they liked the most, but that didn’t seem to be the case this year, and I would argue the awards are better off for it. No one was horribly shut out, and an undeserving film didn’t swoop in and dominate just because it was “Oscar bait.” In a weird way, all the best films of the year were represented in some way (minus a Hell or High Water or two.)
Which, yes, brings me back to the most talked about moment of last night’s ceremony. When producer Jordan Horowitz discovered that La La Land did not win Best Picture, he stepped up to the plate and awarded Moonlight the prize it deserved. There was no malice in his voice, or even bitterness for that matter. The exchange of the award was a gracious passing off, and though it sucks that such a horrible and awkward thing ended up happening, no one treated it as an injustice, or as an outrage. In fact, Horowitz tweet after the fact was congratulatory and sweet:
Humbled. And once again: congrats to Moonlight. A truly beautiful picture made by some even more beautiful people. https://t.co/sOP1K0EiwW
— Jordan Horowitz (@jehorowitz) February 27, 2017
As was Jenkin’s response to Horowitz after the big snapfu:
Jordan Horowitz. Wow. I'm slipping slowly into reflection, perspective. Much respect to that dude
— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) February 27, 2017
It’s easy to get caught up in the Oscar race, and to treat all these films as competitors in some sport. But, at the end of the day, art demands to be inclusive of everyone. The awards given to so many people of color last night certainly speaks to that but, in a smaller way, awards being spread out to so many of the nominees speaks to that as well. You don’t have to chose between Moonlight or La La Land, or Manchester by the Sea and Fences, or any of the other dozen films nominated for Academy Awards. All these films have “Best” things about them — so why not award them all? Personally, I’m glad last night’s Oscars did.
Hopefully next year, though, it won’t be so literal.
The Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse Teaser Trailer Creates One Hell of An Eye-Popping Debut
Sony’s Animated Spider-Man movie looks better than expected, thankfully.
Well, if you can say anything about Sony Pictures, it’s that they tried. Sure, that phrase is likely going to be engraved on their headstone a decade from now, but it doesn’t make it any less true — Sony is going through every single one of their brands, digging through them endlessly for any ounce of blockbuster potential they may have. It would be almost impressive, if it also didn’t seem so creatively empty.
But, hey, it doesn’t have to be. Sure, no one in the goddamn world is itching for a Mobius the Vampire Movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great. Even something born out of needless franchising can be a work of artistic value. And there’s no two men you don’t have to tell that too than Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
The pair have been able to turn creative bankruptcy into brilliance for years now, and Sony recently set them loose on the crown jewel of milked-dry brands: Spider-Man. Together the pair wrote the script for a Spider-Man movie that would be created by Sony Animation (who the duo worked with on the Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs films) All we knew about the project for a while now was that it would involve the character of Miles Morales (played by Dope’s Shameik Moore.) But with the film coming out next Christmas, Sony decided that now would be the best time to give the film its first grand showing.
And what a showing it is. Though the trailer is brief, and honestly doesn’t tell us a lot about the finished product, it being simply a “teaser” probably helps. We don’t get a lot of strictly “teaser trailers” anymore — those have unfortunately morphed into the far less gratifying “trailer teasers,” whose distinction is actually super important so, shut up, YOU’RE the crazy one. But brevity is the sole of marketing (that’s the quote, right?), and it’s pretty impressive how the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse teaser trailer comes in, establishes exactly what it is, and exits in style.
“Style” being the key here. While I was worried an animated Spider-Man film would end up looking like a boring computer generated, flat mess, Into the Spider-Verse actually looks pretty great. It has a very unique look, one that is clearly trying to emulate the look of a comic (like most animated comic book movies), but also throwing in static backgrounds and 3D character models. Hell, it even seems to cut inand out of stylized 3D to flat comic art when it wants to, which could be pretty cool (if not overused.) The movements even have a little bit of stop-motion jitterness going on (ala The Lego Movie.) This might seem like too much for one animated Spider-Man movie to handle but, at least in this initial tease, it seems to work for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Story wise, we only get a brief introduction into what is going on, with the “Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask” providing most of the grunt work. It’s a bit of an out there pitch for a Spider-Man movie, and I do have to wonder if the finished product might end up suffering from indeed having too many spidermen. But if the main complaint of your movies existence is that it makes too many competing Spider-Man uses all at once, why not lean into the complaint, right? Once again, Lord and Miller got great results out of doing similar with 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, and The Lego Movie. Why not Spider-Man?
And really, like all the movies they make, my trust in Lord and Miller is what has me on board. The pair have yet to let me down with anything they have gotten their hands on, and though they aren’t directing the movie (that honor goes to animation vets Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti), they are producing and writing the script. And with their time recently getting cleared up, I’m hoping their influence is all over this thing. After all, in Lord and Miller I trust.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse might end up being a desperate bid to squeeze ever dollar out of Sony’s cash cow…AND it might actually be a pretty good movie, at the end of the day. After all…in Lord and Miller I trust.
Also published on Medium.
Alita: Battle Angel Trailer – James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez Made A Sci-Fi Blockbuster Together, And It Looks Weird As Fuuuuuck
The first trailer for this manga adaptation is…something, all right.
For as long as I’ve been reading about movies on the internet, I’ve been reading about Alita: Battle Angel. The live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga is the definition of “long-gestating” — in fact, James Cameron first announced his intentions to make the film as a follow-up to Titanic in freaking 2000! Yes, the year 2000, with no numbers or anything! That puts its rough time in development at 17 years, which is insane really. Cameron always said it was a project he would get to at some point, but then a pesky little thing called Avatar got in the way, and the project got put on the backburner. Again, and again, and again. Seriously, just take a look at the film’s Wikipedia page — the “Development” tab is one hell of a roller coaster.
But now, nearly two decades after Cameron first expressed interest in making it, Alita: Battle Angel is a real thing…although its form is not quite what we were promised initially. Since Cameron made the decision to devote the rest of his life to making 6000 Avatar sequels, the writer/director finally made the executive decision to give the project to someone else. That someone else ended up being Robert Rodriguez, who finally got the film into production last year. And now the first fruits of that labor have arisen in the form of the Alita: Battle Angel trailer…and it creates one hell of a first impression, I’ll give it that.
Is it a good first impression though? Honestly…no. While I love the concept behind this, and appreciate the ambition of what Cameron and Rodriguez are trying to do — oh boy, there’s something spectacularly off about everything in this film.
Most of that weirdness can be directly attributed to the Alita character, who is one distinct looking main character. Appearing like an anime character come to life, Alita has the classic huge anime eyes, and overall looks absolutely bizarre. And, sure, that’s reasonably part of her character — she isn’t human, so should look a little bit off. But the problem isn’t that she doesn’t look like a normal human: it’s that she looks like a cheap CGI construct of a creature, moving around freely in a cartoon world with reckless abandon.
I tend to not like to using this comparison as it feels awfully insulting to video game, but there are complete shots of this trailer that do indeed look like a CGI cutscene — or even worse, Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. From the beginning, Cameron pitched this film as being very CGI heavy. Hell, he even conceptualized the Alita character as a completely CGI created character back in the mid-2000’s which, at the time, was a pretty nuts thing to even imagine. But now we live in a time where fully CGI characters are commonplace, and quite a lot of them end up looking pretty great when in action.
But Alita does NOT look great, at least in these trailers, and it’s not just the huge ass eyes either. Just the way she moves is off-putting, and the way Alita’s entire face looks grafted on to her body makes her a distracting presence every moment she pops up. And, honestly, I’m going to put most of the blame on this lack of graphic fidelity directly on the hands of Robert Rodriguez. The dude is at his worst when using an abundance of computer-generated imagery, mostly because he doesn’t seem to care whether or not any of it looks “realistic” — I honestly think he likes things to look ridiculously cartoony. I mean, have you SEEN images from The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl?
And, yet, he doesn’t seem to care. Ever since he started Troublemaker Studios, his go-to has been shooting everything he does in his garage, set against a green screen, style be damned. And well that’s “fine”on a Spy Kids movie (or even something like Sin City, which is so heavily stylized it can paint its rough edges in a pretty noir coat), it absolutely does not work on a $200 million dollar, would-be sci-fi epic. Say what you will about Avatar or James Cameron, but even with his love of computer-generated imagery, he remains a perfectionist to his core. Avatar NEVER looked cheap or even overtly cartoonish, at least not in the same way Alita: Battle Angel so far looks.
Then again, Cameron’s perfectionism is probably what kept us waiting nearly 20 years for this movie in the first place. Maybe what it needed was a Robert Rodriguez, who will bang out a film in a year and consider it a win if things look “good enough.” But, once again, Alita: Battle Angel is Rodriguez working on a scale he never has before. And from what I see so far, I’m not so sure it’s him playing to his strong suits.
I’m still interested in the movie simply due to Cameron’s involvement (and his script, which he co-wrote with Laeta Kalogridis), but I feel like this is a project that’s already doomed from the get-go. It’s a super niche adaptation, and a costly one at that. And though I will never claim to speak to the masses, I can’t help but feel that if I’M creeped out by what I see, the mainstream will be even more turned off. It also doesn’t help that the film has very little star power to speak of: I love Christoph Waltz as much as the next guy, but he isn’t going to put asses in seats here. Jennifer Connoly has also been off the A-list for a very long time, and Mahershala Ali, well great, is still very much an up-and-comer. It’s a decent cast for a film fan, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly bankable one.
But, ultimately, it’s all about the feel of the movie here, and this trailer does a rough job presenting anything but a feeling of “WTF did I just watch?” There might yet be a fun and exciting sci-fi adventure in Alita: Battle Angel, even when watching through that mode. But if the old saying about the eyes being the window to the soul is accurate, then this movie has one FUGLY soul at its core.
Alita: Battle Angel will hit theaters right in the middle of next year’s summer fray: July 20, 2018. Good luck to it there, I guess — my gut can’t help but feel like this one is going to be another Ghost in the Shell level disaster for Fox, but maybe some cautious optimism could do me some good here. After all, I should know better than to doubt the power of James Cameron at this point. And who knows: maybe audiences will be hypnotized into buying a ticket by the horrifying uncanny valley that is Alita’s soul-sucking bug eyes? I’m sure that’s what Fox is hoping for, at least.
Also published on Medium.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Trailer – Really? This Is The Best They Could Come Up With?
Well, at least it has Jeff Goldblum.
Like many other folks on the internet, I was not a fan of 2015’s Jurassic World. It was not the worst movie ever (and, hell, probably isn’t even the worst Jurassic Park sequel), but it was still pretty far from “good” in my mind. And it is a movie that my opinion has only lessened on the farther away I get from it — never a good thing, really. So, for that reason, I was clearly not SUPER PUMPED for its sequel, next summer’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But even then though…really, Fallen Kingdom? Is this all you got? Is this really you putting your best put forward to get people expected? Cause it’s weak.
The above trailer has been (EXTREMELY ANNOYINGLY) released in piece meal over the past week, but the full thing landed last night during Thursday Night Football. And, as a trailer, I will say it’s not terrible — it is well edited, and certain parts of it look good, at least visually. Then again, the section in which the volcano is exploding and Chris Pratt is (rather ridiculously) running down the mountain looks pretty bad, so clearly the visuals here are a bit of a mixed bag.
But what concerns me more about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t so much the look, but the plot. Honestly, it seems pretty unspectacular from what we can see of it so far, with the “rescue mission” to save the dinosaurs from an exploding volcano feeling like a rather lame set-up for more dino action. For what it’s worth, making sequels to Jurassic Park was always a difficult thing — the original very much feels like a “standalone” adventure, with pretty much every follow-up feeling like an inorganic way for Universal to milk people’s love of the first movie. Finally they landed on an interesting concept for a sequel in Jurassic World (what if the park actually opened, and then bad shit went down?), and proceeded to squander the opportunity by introducing a lot of other dumb shit (invisible dinosaurs, trained raptors, etc.) But even that undeniable “fresh start” for this accidental franchise wasn’t enough to propel this into a new set of stories.
…But that of course wasn’t going to stop Universal, who made over a billion dollars with Jurassic World, and were going to continue the series no matter what. And if this trailer is any indication, there hasn’t been a ton of thought put into making this sequel work — any reason to go back to the island, even a dumb one, is all Universal was asking writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connoly to come up with. And they shrugged, came up with the first idea that popped into their heads, and cashed their check.
Even putting the plot aside, the character motivations are already pretty irksome. One of my main issues with Jurassic World was the way it treated the dinosaurs, specifically Chris Pratt’s “pack” of trained raptors. The last thing I am looking for in these movies is some emotional bond between our leads and the dinosaurs, but that seems to be ALL these movies can come up with for why these humans keep doing dumb things. This is especially a problem because the Jurassic World series wants to have its cake and eat it too — they want to instill the idea of the dinosaurs being creatures who humans can bond with, but also want to create a Jurassic Park movie in which dinosaurs try to eat everyone. That contradiction is what gave birth to the stupid hybrid dinosaur (who was the REAL villain, you see), and I’m sure will lead to even dumber “upping of the stakes” in this one.
I’ve kind of lost myself in a pile of rants here that don’t really have much to do with the trailer itself, but that just goes to show how little this trailer convinces me that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is something worth caring about. Jurassic World just did such a poor job of rebooting this franchise in an exciting way, that I find myself apathetic to following it up. For instance: who gives a shit about those stupid-ass transportation pods again — they weren’t cool the first time, and I’m not looking forward to our heroes being bobbed around in an aimless CGI blur for half the movie, screaming their heads off as a way to present terror, but not having anything scary actually happening. Give me a colorful jeep any day.
Hell, this is the kind of trailer that can’t even make JEFF GOLDBLUM a promising sight. It’s just him spouting out standard Ian Malcolm lines (MEMBER “LIFE FINDS A WAY?”), and it’s lame that all we really see of him is in a courtroom, giving some speech. Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions, but something tells me from this trailer that he will be an outside influence on the action, likely appearing towards the beginning in a couple of exposition scenes, but disappearing once our main characters return to Isla Nublar.
You know, our main characters, one of whose name is Owen. I completely forgot that, since it meant so little in the first film. And don’t even ask me the name of who Bryce Dallas Howard is playing. They’re both lame characters only marginally bumped up by the actors playing them, and to say I have no interest in seeing them on continued adventures is an understatement. Then again, I could say that about this whole damn movie in general, with this trailer doing absolutely nothing to convince me this might be an improvement over the first. And without the intriguing premise to support him, my expectations are pretty damn low.
At the very least, that whole stupid “MILITARY DINOSAURS!” thing has been tabled…for now, at least. Giving guns to dinosaurs is Universal’s mechanical spiders, for some reason. One day they’ll get their stupid, stupid, stupid dino soldiers though, and once that happens, I’ll 100% know this series is no longer for me.
Also published on Medium.
Games8 months ago
Level Design Hall of Fame: The Witness
Movies2 weeks ago
The 5 Reasons Justice League Bombed At The Box Office
TV1 month ago
The 5 Best Moments of Stranger Things 2
Games2 weeks ago
Level Design Hall of Fame: Fort Frolic
Movies2 weeks ago
There’s Practically Nothing Of Substance To Write About With This Avengers: Infinity War Poster, But The Trailer Release Isn’t Until Tomorrow, So…
Movies2 weeks ago
The Avengers: Infinity War Trailer — Even An Unspectacular Avengers Trailer Is Still An Avengers Trailer
Movies2 weeks ago
Uh-Oh, Hollywood Is Letting David S. Goyer Direct Movies Again
Movies1 week ago
In What Might Be The Most Shocking News of 2017, Quentin Tarantino Is Working On A Star Trek Movie For J.J. Abrams