Sunday, February 26, 2017

Movies the Oscars Missed

The Academy Awards will air tonight, concluding the Hollywood awards season. It's well documented that the titles that emerge as finalists in these awards programs owe as much to Hollywood studio PR departments as they do to their own cinematic merits, sometimes more so. As a result, some excellent films get no recognition at all. Here are a few of the 2016 titles that were missed by this year's awards season.

Eye in the Sky
My pick for the best film of 2016, Eye in the Sky is a drama about drone warfare. In addition to getting ignored by the awards circuit and the critical establishment, Eye in the Sky also deserved recognition for its screenplay and editing and for its performances, especially by Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Jeremy Northam.

Another of my top ten picks of 2016, Gleason is a heartbreaking documentary about former NFL player Steve Gleason and his struggle with ALS.

Deepwater Horizon
Peter Berg’s harrowing drama about the 2010 oilrig disaster is worthy of comparison to movies like Gravity and The Raid.

Patriot’s Day
2016’s second collaboration between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg was Patriot’s Day, an intense dramatization of the Boston Marathon bombing.

American Honey
This story of destitute youth traveling the country hustling magazine subscriptions was a gritty but lively road film that captured a side of American life rarely seen in motion pictures. 

Captain Fantastic
Admittedly, this film got some awards circuit recognition for Viggo Mortensen's performance but not nearly enough. Captain Fantastic is a funny and offbeat family drama that presents interesting and complicated questions about how we live our lives. It also includes a notable supporting performances by George McKay.

The true story of the legal battle between historian Deborah E. Lipstadt and Holocaust denier David Irving was a timely movie and it had impressive performances by Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall.

Edge of Seventeen
John Hughes' movies didn't generate award buzz back in the 1980s so it's not surprising that Edge of Seventeen didn't either. One of the criminally underseen pictures of 2016, Edge of Seventeen is a story of teenage angst with excellent performances by Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson.

Love & Friendship
Walt Stillman’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella “Lady Susan” was a smart romantic comedy with great performances by Kate Beckinsale and Tom Bennett.

A Monster Calls
J.A. Bayona’s film was a fantasy drama about grief and loss that was in some ways better and more complex than Manchester by the Sea.

A drama about a vagrant young woman who abducts a toddler from her neglectful mother. The film is a complex morality play with great performances by Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Tammy Blanchard.  

A story of an FBI agent going undercover in the white supremacist subculture. The film is a smart true crime story that creates an effective atmosphere of paranoia and fear.

You can find full documentation of my picks of the best films of 2016 here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

'13th' Screening at Winona State on Feb. 13th

The documentary film 13th will be shown at Winona State University on Monday, February 13th, 2017 at 7pm in the Science Laboratory Center room 120. A panel discussion will follow.

 According to the press release:
13th is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. Centered on race in the United States criminal justice system, the film is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery (unless as punishment for a crime). DuVernay's documentary argues that slavery is being effectively perpetuated through mass incarceration. In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom and provides an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequalities.
13th was recently named one of the ten best films of 2016 by Sounds of Cinema.

This event is sponsored by the Winona State University Inclusion and Diversity office, the K.E.A.P. Diversity Resource Center, and Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical.