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Entries in Year in Review (200)

Friday
Jul082016

Halfway Mark: Best Actressing of 2016 (Thus Far)

Previously at the Halfway Mark
• 5 Favorite Pictures and imaginary Oscar scenario
• 11 Costume Design Honors from couture to the puritanical with swimwear on the side
• Cinematography & Production Design Sunset Song, etc...
• Heroes & Villains from Deadpool to Shere Khan
• 23 Male Actor Honorees in 5 categories

Cue fireworks. It's the grand finale. Our brief Halfway Mark Review honoring the best of the 50+ movies we've seen that have been released between January 1st and June 30th, is now at its end. But don't worry. The listing impulse fully never goes away and there's more excitement soon as we'll start updating the Oscar charts tomorrow. Naturally we're ending with BEST ACTRESS if five categories -- the same categories we previously did for the men.

If I had a ballot (hey, I do... albeit not an AMPAS ballot) here's what I'd honor from the year thus far -- January through June releases only though I've seen some July & August titles. [Disclaimer: The most noticeably actress-led film I haven't yet seen this year is The Meddler so please dont read anything into the absence of Susan Sarandon.]

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Sally Field as "Doris" in Hello My Name is Doris
    Doris is a CHARACTER but Sally never fails to humanize her written eccentricities making sure that she's the endearing source of the laughter rather than its target.  
  • Tilda Swinton as "Marianne Lane" in A Bigger Splash
    The "vocal rest" was her idea -- imagine an actor purposefully losing all their lines! -- and the result is you see Tilda's face and body alone capturing and reflecting the drama and auteurist impulses
  • Anya Taylor-Joy as "Thomasin" in The VVitch
    That angelic face is sensually attentive and her behavior innocent but mischievious. So many possible Masters (God, Lucifer, Herself, General Teen Hormones, and Restlessness)
  • Rachel Weisz as "Short Sighted Woman" The Lobster
    What a tricky tone to master, but she's in control. Her voiceover is beautifully at odds with her meekly submissive than overtly romantic screen self
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead as "Michelle" in 10 Cloverfield Lane
    Sells shifting (dis)belief in this strange new reality while doing right by primal horror. Nails the only real in-script details about this character -- whip-smart instincts and a "Flight or Flight" response

Choices in 4 more categories after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul062016

Comment Party: Halfway Mark - Best Pictures? 

You have a pretty good idea of the films I've loved this year thanks to reviews, frequency of posting, and other "honors" - consider it a warm up before the year end party... so that we don't forget the early films. So let's dispense with all the froufrou and just get right to the questions:

If Oscar voting happened now, would LOVE & FRIENDSHIP lead?

1. If you had a 5-wide Best Picture Ballot right now (January to June releases only) who would you vote for?
2. What would Oscar nominate if 
the Academy voted right now? 

Here's my guesswork about the Academy. If they voted right now (only January through June releases eligible) my guess is that we'd see the following films up for Best Picture... 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul052016

Halfway Mark: Achievements in Costume Design

We've celebrated the male performances, the heroes and villains, cinematography & production design. So let's hit Nathaniel's (c'est moi) favorite craft category costume design, as we wrap up our halfway mark festivities this week (actresses still to come). Who would I choose and who might Oscar choose if the year had ended June 30th? 

HALFWAY MARK BEAUTY BREAK ~ BEST COSTUME DESIGN
(January to June theatrical releases only) 

Achievements in Overall Costume Design
If I were drawing up my year end ballot right now (January to June releases) I'd pick these five films though there will inevitably be strong competition to come -- will any of them be nominated at year's end?

The Neon Demon, Erin Benach
While Benach doesn't manage anything as iconic as her scorpion jacket for Drive, few films do so you can't hold that against this film. Between the dichotomous looks of the innocent ingenue (half sexual / half innocuous flowing girlie dresses) to the rigid couture of her rivals, there's lots of texture and color and editorial looks to consider.

Sing Street, Tiziana Corvisieri
Corvisieri pulls from a surprisingly wide range of styles in this film to trace the DIY looks of "Sing Street," the band within the film, and how their music video style translates into their schoolboy uniforms. Great fun on a costume level but always believably low-budget and "thrown together" (though they were surely well planned by Corviseri)

9 more honored costume designers after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jul012016

Halfway Mark: Cinematography & Production Design

We've celebrated the male performances and the heroes and villains of the year's first half. But before we get to the actresses -- what? foreplay makes it hotter -- let's revel in the beauty of Cinematography & Production Design. These five choices in each category are what yours truly, Nathaniel, would nominate if the year ended on June 30th. Please share your list of praiseworthy achievements in the comments. Movies are communal and loving them should be, too.

HALFWAY MARK BEAUTY BREAK
CINEMATOGRAPHY & PRODUCTION DESIGN
(January to June theatrical releases only. Disclaimer: I have not yet seen The Mermaid which I hear is an eyeful) 

Best Cinematography
If I had a ballot right now (January to June releases only...) 

A Bigger Splash, Yorick Le Saux
From gold dust sunshine to postcard istas, from the ambient light of off white seaside architecture to intimate dinners by candlelight, Le Saux is always caressing the already sensual actors with light.


 

Embrace of the Serpent, David Gallego
In glorious black and white but for hallucinogenic sequences, the sharp contrast photography does wonders to make this already foreign world look ever more forgotten and alien. And there's something about that inky water that makes the whole picture more suspenseful in its rowing languours.

8 more honorees after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun302016

Best of June ICYMI

Three of our current June mini-series are not quite over and spilling into July a teensy bit (Olivia de Havilland & Screen Tarzans & Halfway Mark) but it's that time again to look back on the month that was since the calendar stops for no one! One series that is over is our FYC's for Emmy hopefuls including full tough to narrow down ballots for drama and comedy prizes. But all this off-current cinema distraction was fine because this summer movie season hasn't exactly been fire, if you know what I mean. 

5 Personal Favs
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - four-part tag team celebration
"This kind of stuff" - a key scene in Weekend (2011)
The Furniture: Hail Caesar! - Hobie Doyle keeps it simple in "Merrily We Dance"
Tarzan gets his James Bond on -...The Valley of Gold
Jessica Lange's Long Journey - Our new Triple Crowner 

7 That Sparked Most Conversation
Wicked is Finally For Real Coming -- albeit for Christmas 2019
Warcraft. What were they thinking? Video game adaptation is nuts
Noah Galvin, The Real O'Neals - the out star of a great sitcom
The 2016 Tony Awards -Hamilton, The Color Purple and more
Cast This: Oceans Ocho - Who should join Blanchett & Bullock?
Cast This: Murder on the Orient Express - Who should join Angelina Jolie? 
Welcome to the Academy -683 people invited to join 

Awards For June Screenings
Best New Thing: The Fits (2016) 
Best Old Thing: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Craziest Thing: The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant  (Sorry Neon Demon and Swiss Army Man - I know you both desperately wanted this prize.)
Dumbest Thing: Bo Derek & Tarzan... (1981)
Miniature Thing: Trevor (1994)
Saddest Thing: Anton Yelchin suddenly dying
Spookiest Thing: Penny Dreadful's unexpected ending

How was your June?

Coming in July:  Vintage 1977 and the return of the "Smackdown", the 2016 Emmy Nominations on the 14th, plus new movies: The BFG, Captain Fantastic, Ghostbusters, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Star Trek Beyond, Cafe Society and Tulip Fever. Any requests?  

Tuesday
Jun282016

Halfway Mark: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (So Far)

Mainstream cinema is having a rough summer, qualitatively... but let's honor what mainstream cinema often does best, for this episode of the Halfway Mark Review. Which is to say the broad strokes of Good vs Evil.

Not that mainstream movies always ace this low bar, mind you: Marvel remains mostly terrible at crafting villains, Batman v Superman was so inept that it didn't even understand that you need heroes in superhero movies. X-Men Apocalypse was a crowded repetitive mess on either side of the good/bad divide. But enough about stinkers - happy thoughts:  BESTS! 

Heroes of the Year

• The Avengers (Chris Evans, Cast & FX Team) in Captain America: Civil War
Can't they all just get along? While it'd be silly to say that Civil War doesn't tell you which team to be on (Hint: it's in the title) it does offer up enough sympathetic furrowed brow angst when looking at Team Iron Man that it's easy to understand both sides of this argument. That's half the battle in the selling the film. The other half is staging the battles so that everyone survives but looks deeply affected by the blows, which it also does well. Black Panther and Spider-Man are wonderful new additions, and Black Widow again demonstrates that she's the swiftest, most asskicking, and consistently double sided tape that arguably holds these movies together. If only Captain America, Marvel's most successful comic-to-film translation, weren't having to fight for so much attention in his own damn franchise; Iron Man never had to that. 

Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in Gods of Egypt
What's that you say? 'Gods of Egypt is a terrible movie!' Why yes, Yes it is. But that doesn't mean I can't honor Nikolaj's well shaped silly/serious turn as a blinded God. He's one of only two actors who knows what kind of movie he's in (the other is Geoffrey Rush, even better with the heightened camp) and he's fun to watch, helping to make this a sort of enjoyable terrible movie insteaad of just a terrible movie.  

Zootopia, Warcraft, The Conjuring 2 and more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jun272016

Halfway Mark: Best Actors of 2016 (Thus Far)

Halfway Mark Festivities begin now! It's never too early to start thinking about year-end lists. If you keep a list all year long, you make better choices at year's end. Unlike The Academy we don't believe that the film year begins in October. So let's name the best male performances and achievements from the first half of the year.

Disclaimer: Notable films I missed that might have factored in to these categories but that I'll have to catch up with on DVD include 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Nice Guys.

NOTABLE MALE PERFORMANCES 
(January through June, 2016 - U.S. Theatrical Releases)

Best Leading Actor


  • Alfredo Castro as "Armando" in From Afar
    One of world cinema's most dependably unnerving actors but his performances are never copies. (He's also great in the predatory priests drama The Club also released this year)
  • Colin Farrell as "David" in The Lobster
    This underpraised actor continues to push himself when similarly famous stars would have long ago started coasting. Just wonderful as this lovelorn but surprisingly amoral sadsack
  • Jake Gyllenhaal as "Davis" in Demolition
    Can someone please start giving him films that can keep up with him? He's been on such a tear. Get him while he's at his peak!
  • Daniel Radcliffe as "Manny" in Swiss Army Man
    Though it's not much of a high-bar to proclaim this Harry Potter's best performance, that doesn't negate the compliment. Radcliffe does wonders with the weird constrictions of the role, never over or underplaying this corpse that talks, marvels, and learns and yearns for love
  • Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as "Cosmo" in Sing Street
    He's a major find, superbly charting Cosmo's growing confidence and musical passion.

Four more categories after the jump...

Click to read more ...