But first, a few words on truth. Several winners championed films as a platform for truth. And so it is with this blog, this blog represents my truth, whatever that's worth.
Way back when, during the holiday season, I did a triple feature via movie hopping. I saw La La Land, Nocturnal Animals, and Manchester By the Sea.
La La Land
I saw this out of a compulsory need to see as many acclaimed titles as possible in preparation for my 2016 films list, actually true of all three, but this one especially. I enjoyed the superficial bedazzlement of technicolor-inspired imagery and the praise of jazz pretty much lifted from the words of Wynton Marsalis as uttered in Ken Burn's Jazz.
Here's the problem, we get over two hours of a doomed relationship because people choose to pursue their childhood dreams instead. There just wasn't enough here to make this story, which is somehow both pedestrian and heightened, worthwhile.
I wanted to like this more. I was excited for this beautifully shot film made by the director of A Single Man and starring the lovely Amy Adams. If this film had a satisfying ending I may have forgiven other factors, but it had a defiant non-ending. So I can't forgive the empty parallel tales of jealousy, rage, prejudice, cruelty, vengeance, and overall unpleasantness.
Manchester by the Sea
This one I wanted to love most of all and it almost made my list. Casey Affleck's emotionally drained character in this echoed my favorite role of his as an adult son failing at life who returns home to live with his parents in Lonesome Jim. Kyle Chandler as his older brother who dies and entrusts the care of his son to him is as powerful as any of Chandler's characters. Lukas Hedges as the orphaned son reminded me of Matt Damon and was pretty much a discovery worthy of the comparison.
On the other hand, I was not impressed by Michelle Williams.
This film was funny while reverent and was working. Unfortunately, Casey Affleck's character doesn't really grow or change to a satisfying degree by the end of the film, and the central question of the film is resolved in a manner that could've been achieved in less screen time.
Then there was the DOA film from months past: Arrival.
Like Nocturnal Animals, I really wanted to like this since it had aliens and Amy Adams. Unfortunately, this movie had me cringing with the original music that opened the film, which accompanied a terrible domestic tragedy.
But then I was relieved to see Amy Adams working at a college...I figured she moved on with her life and we'd get some intriguing alien stuff. And we did get some intriguing alien linguistics-driven relations.
But then this so damned clever movie pulls out the rug from under us and shows that the beginning of the film is really what happens after the alien stuff. Whoa! And we helplessly watch her as she makes a decision that is quite irritating, which anyone who sees the movie will know about, forcing us to relive the tragedy, complete with nauseating music.
I was left with the question: what was this film trying to achieve with its highly manipulative structure? It seemed that there was a decent tale about the "us vs. them" mentality and showing how it's wrong, but all the personal tragedy non-sense just undermines it.
In the end, her husband leaves her because of her decisions and I left this film on similar grounds.
Hell or High Water
One of my favorite films in this category, perhaps only second to Hacksaw Ridge. Ultimately, I feel about the film kind of like the Jeff Bridges character feels about the events depicted. Why? Why did these good people have to die? Why did all this have to happen in the first place. It was a tight film with a questionable final takeaway at best.
This film was solid but I still don't love it. That said, it had a better ending than any of the above although I enjoyed Manchester by the Sea more up until the ending.
This film is narratively distinct for two reasons: black people swimming and black homoeroticism. This film sort of reminded me of A Place Beyond the Pines with it's naturalistic and un-glamorous study of troubled characters at different points in their lives.
In the end, this film just wasn't the right kind of magic for me.
This was my favorite film other than Hidden Figures (which I still regard as a 2017 movie). Of course, I already reviewed Hidden Figures in a prior post and gave it glowing praise.
Like Hidden Figures, this film tells a relatively unknown and under-appreciated chapter of World War II. War is inherently ugly, but this film manages to tell the most beautiful story about war possible: the story of Desmond Doss who served in Japan as a Medic and saved 75 lives without carrying a weapon. There's nothing like an uplifting history lesson. Furthermore, I love films that can show us the real people in photos and fill us in on what happened since and other details not made clear by the characters on screen (once again, Hidden Figures...and Argo and so on).