Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review of UNSANE: Stalker Stress Supreme

March 28, 2018




The main conceit of this latest film directed by Steven Soderbergh was that it was shot in 4K resolution (4000 pixels horizontally) entirely using an iPhone 7 Plus using an app called FiLMiC Pro. Because there were no bulky cameras used, the whole shoot only took two weeks to finish. This is a big deal because it may change the way films are made in the future. I felt the need to actually catch this in a movie house to see how a video taken by a phone will look like projected on a big screen. 

Sawyer Valentini moved to Philadelphia to live her life over after being stalked by a persistent suitor David Strine in her former Boston home. One day, she sought help for her troubled psyche from the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. However, after signing some forms, she realized that she was being admitted as a patient against her will. To compound her woes, Sawyer saw her old stalker David working in that facility as a pharmacist under the name George Shaw. Was this really happening, or was she just dreaming it all up?

I had never seen the series "The Crown" before, so this is the first time I had seen Claire Foy act. She was thoroughly convincing as Sawyer, in such a way that you do not know if she is really crazy or not. I think she was helped by the crazy, harrowing script written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, with all its exasperating questions which could really drive anyone mad if they were in Sawyer's position. You will understand why the title is purposefully "Unsane" (or "of questionable sanity") rather than "Insane" (or "totally nuts"). I thought this was a sensational performance by Foy, on the same level as Daniel Kaluuya's breakthrough in "Get Out."

Not exactly a diss, but it seemed everyone else in the cast was directed to act like awkward amateur actors in a homemade or student film project. 

As mild-mannered George Shaw, Joshua Leonard, who is still best known as one of the ill-fated filmmakers in "The Blair Witch Project" (Myrick and Sanchez, 1999), kept us guessing if he is really a bad guy or not. Similarly of nebulous nature was Joey Pharoah's portrayal of Nate Hoffman, a helpful fellow patient whom Sawyer befriended. Juno Temple was over-the-top as quarrelsome fellow patient, Violet. Amy Irving (and her unmistakable curls) was delivering her lines in a highly artificial manner as Sawyer's mom Angela. Soderbergh pal Matt Damon surprised us again with yet another cameo appearance.

The whole film had a very low budget and indie vibe to it in terms of its cinematography. There were scenes which were rather dark and seedy looking. This raw look actually helped in making the whole experience watching this film more compelling and disturbing. You will soon forget that an iPhone was used at all and get absorbed into the very effective suspense and drama of the story, as expertly cooked up by the masterful editing and direction of Steven Soderbergh, plot holes notwithstanding. 8/10. 







Review of MARY MAGDALENE: Defining the Distaff Disciple

March 27, 2018



Mary Magdalene is one of the more mysterious characters in the New Testament. Who was she really? As a child, I remembered her being called a sinner (maybe an adulterer or a prostitute) who repented and followed Jesus. In 2003, Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code" became very controversial because it propagated the story of Mary Magdalene being the "Sacred Feminine," with whom Jesus actually had a bloodline (the Merovingian dynasty of France). I was nervous when I saw that there was new film out about her, nervous about how they were going to portray her.

Mary of Magdala was a very calm and capable woman, with her own independent mind. When she refused to marry a certain neighbor, even her family thought she was possessed by evil spirits. Eventually, she was entranced by the teachings of then popular rabbi Jesus. She decided to leave her family to become one of His apostles during His travelling ministry, all the way to His Resurrection.

Rooney Mara very well-portrayed the strong will and free spirit of this new Mary Magdalene this film wanted to reintroduce and redefine to the public. Her Mary was not afraid to speak her mind and even debate with the apostles, notably Peter. Despite this, one still feels that Mara was not given too much to do or pushed to do more as the title character. 

On the other hand, Joaquin Phoenix seemed to be miscast as Jesus, since he looked very much older than 33 (Phoenix is now 43 years old, and looked more grizzled than his actual age.) That age issue aside though, he played an unsmiling, miserable Jesus, not really a charismatic portrayal that should be expected of a Christ.

Aside from her family backstory, the writers Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett also had to whip up a couple of special "feminist" circumstances (not seen anywhere in the Gospels) where Mary's presence as a woman apostle would play a key role. They also worked in a scene where Mary Magdalene spoke with Mother Mary (played by Irit Sheleg). They tweaked the story of the miraculous raising Lazarus from the dead, as well as how the Lord's Prayer was taught. 

The script never really suggested there was something more intimate between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Nothing as scandalous as "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Scorsese, 1988) for sure. However, those lingering gazes and facial touching, while not overtly romantic, were still rather uncomfortable to watch at first. It is probably the same as how Jesus would be close to Peter or the other male apostles, but Mary being a female apostle gave an unfamiliar vibe.  

Starting from the scene when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the focus of the film shifted to Him -- getting angry at the Temple, His Last Supper, His arrest in the Garden, His death of the Cross -- as Mary Magdalene was relegated only as a silent witness on the side. People wanting to learn more about Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection would be disappointed. There would only be some informative text flashed about her status in the Catholic Church before the closing credits.

Two of the apostles also take up some of Mary's screen time. Peter was portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Oscar nominee for "12 Years a Slave," 2013) to be not only clueless of Jesus' true philosophy, but also very insecure and even envious of the attention Jesus gave Mary. Judas was played with so much youthful charm and idealism by Tahar Rahim (lead actor from "A Prophet," 2009), such that we can actually sympathize with his disillusion and consequent betrayal of his Master. 

This is only Australian director Garth Davis' second feature film after his directorial debut "Lion" got nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture in 2016. The serene musical score was the last opus of the late Swedish composer Johann Johannson. I was actually grateful to see another film tackle the story of Jesus Christ's passion and death in a more restrained manner, after that extremely violent version Mel Gibson had in "The Passion of the Christ" (2004). However, these do not entirely soften the disappointment that the focus on Mary Magdalene was not as intensive as I was hoping for. 7/10. 


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review of I KILL GIANTS: Self-Absorbed Substitution

March 27, 2018




The poster showed central image of a young girl bravely facing off with a huge giant in front of her. There's a blurb about this film being "from the producers of Harry Potter" (turned out this only referred to one person - Chris Columbus) and that this was based on an acclaimed graphic novel. For those unfamiliar with the original source material like me, everything about this poster would seem to tell us that this was one thrilling adventure film. Don't get too excited though, it isn't one.

Barbara Thorson is one troubled teenage misfit. She had withdrawn from her own family and her classmates from middle school, making her easy target for bullies. Nevertheless, she would rather spend her time doing serious research on how to best capture and kill the giant she believes will attack her town. Those who care for her try their best to reach out to her; but can they figure out how they can best rescue Barbara from her weird obsessions?

Madison Wolfe is a 15-year old actress whom I last saw as the demon-possessed daughter in "The Conjuring 2" (James Wan, 2016). Here she is again, this time in a challenging lead role, battling more inner demons in her head. This was an unenviably difficult role which Wolfe bravely took on, even if this was a deeply damaged girl she had to play. This character will get on your nerves and try your patience even if you were just watching her. 

Quirky young actress Imogen Poots played Barbara's elder sister Karen, who had to stand in as head of the family. Zoe Saldana played the new school psychologist Mrs. Molle, who noticed Barbara's peculiarities early on and persisted in her desire to help despite numerous rude rejections. Sydney Wade played the new neighbor from England Sophia, who was able to gain Barbara's trust but still had not the maturity to handle it. Of course, there had to be that ugly bully girl to make life even more difficult for Barbara. This was Taylor, played with supreme contempt by Rory Jackson. 

This film reminded me a lot about "A Monster Calls" (J.A.Bayona, 2016) (MY REVIEW). They basically had the same plot about a disturbed child who retreated to a world of fighting monsters to protect himself from a painful reality. In fact, the monster in both films even looked sort of alike, the way this giant also seemed to be made from scrap pieces of wood. It has to be noted though that the graphic series "I Kill Giants" by Joe Kelly (and his artist Ken Niimura) first came out in 2008, while the novel "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness (and his illustrator Jim Kay) only came out in 2011. 

As you can surmise by now, this is a serious dramatic film, not an adventure film. This was not an easy watch for me, especially the first two acts, though its cinematography is consistently breathtaking. Barbara was a sassy, unpleasant girl who answered back, and even hit back, to those whom she thought were against her. Barbara was one really messed up character and it was not easy to like her or to root for her, even if you felt sorry for her. By the final third though, this film by Anders Walter (Academy Award winner for his short film "Helium" i 2013) finally gets engaging, with its heart and message crystal clear. 6/10.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Review of WONDERSTRUCK: Marvel at the Museum

March 25, 2108




There was practically no advertising for this film, so I was surprised to see it so quietly released in cinemas this week at all. It turns out that this film had some big names attached to it, like actress Julianne Moore (Oscar Best Actress for "Still Alice" 2014) and director Todd Haynes ("Carol" 2015, "Far From Heaven" 2002). It made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last year and reportedly earned a three minute standing ovation during its premiere there. This promised to be a good film to catch.

Once upon a time, two young deaf kids ran away from home to look for an absent parent in New York City. One was in 1927, when Rose ran away from her father's home in New Jersey to find the famous actress Lillian Mayhew, the mother she idolized from afar and missed. The other was in 1977, when Ben ran away from his recently departed mother's home in Minnesota to find the father he never knew.

Director Todd Haynes told his story (script by Brian Selznick adapting his own 2011 book) with alternating scenes from both eras. The 1927 scenes were in black and white and silent. The 1977 scenes were in color and with sound. It was like watching two different movies, with their respective rich production designs and musical score distinctive for each decade. In both stories, the kids eventually find their way into the American Museum of Natural History, where the connection between the two threads will be finally revealed.

It was the performances of the two kids that carried the film. Rose was played by Millicent Simmond, a 14-year old deaf actress. Simmonds impressed me in this her film debut with her strong screen presence and confidence. Ben was played by Oakes Fegley, a 13-year old actor whom we last saw in the lead role of Pete in "Pete's Dragon" (2016). Fegley was feisty and spirited, convincing as a country boy who dared to face the unknown. Veteran actress and four-time Todd Haynes muse Julianne Moore played a key role in each of the two kids' stories. 

Of course, the fact that the kids were deaf made it necessary that some lines needed to be written to be read by the person they were talking to and vice versa, so that device did take some toll on the flow of the film. Sometimes it was not easy to read the penmanship being flashed on the screen, but we can just surmise the messages based on context. 

This film may not be for everybody. The pace of the first two acts can feel dragging at certain points especially with the silence. Sometimes the events seem to fall unbelievably into place so neatly by pure luck and serendipity.  However, eventually the magical whimsy of the final act, unexpectedly executed with stop-motion animation, made the patience of those who stay up to that point all worth their while. That was such a poignant ending which will stick with you as you leave the theater. 7/10. 




Sunday, March 25, 2018

Review of PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST: Mystical Martyr

March 24, 2018



St. Paul is one of the most important saints in the Catholic Church. Aside from his conversion on the road to Damascus and his numerous epistles, I realized that I do not really know any much more details about his life at all. When it was announced that there will be a film about St. Paul out this week (the week before Holy Week), it was one of my first priorities to go and see to learn more about him. 

The setting was the year 67 AD in Rome. The Christians in Rome led by Aquilla (John Lynch) and Priscilla (Joanne Whalley) were in hiding because of intense Roman persecution. Emperor Nero had Paul of Tarsus arrested and thrown into Mamertine Prison, under the wardenship of Mauritius Galla. The Greek evangelist and physician Luke sought to keep the ailing Paul company in his cell, with a secondary purpose to record his memoirs (which was eventually published as the New Testament book "Acts of the Apostles).  

James Caviezel, whom I do not think I saw in another film after he played Jesus Christ in "The Passion of the Christ" (2004), effectively played the beloved St. Luke in this film. I thought the name of Luke should have been in this film's title, as it was about their time together in Paul's final days. The bald, half-blind and frail St. Paul was played by a senior British character actor James Faulkner, who gave a very dignified performance. (The younger pre-conversion Saul was portrayed by Yorgos Paramihos in brief flashbacks.)

With such an encompassing title, I did not expect that the film would only be dealing with the final days in St. Paul's life. While there were some flashbacks employed to show past events, they only chose to show overview scenes recounting his previous cruelty against Christians as Saul, as well as his well-known conversion miracle. I am a bit disappointed at the limited scope of St. Paul's biography here. I did not know Paul died in that manner, so that is something I learned by watching this film.

The film was quite frank about the suffering of the Christians under Roman persecution, but nothing too graphic, thankfully, maybe because of budgetary constraints. They were being burned alive on the roadsides. They were being gathered into Nero's bloody circuses featuring "games" where the Christians were eaten alive by wild animals. The musical score during these oppressive scenes was relentlessly tense and heart-stopping.

Most of the film are philosophical conversations between Paul and Luke. These were very eloquent exchanges between these two learned men which were very well-written by writer/ director Andrew Hyatt that I wished I could rewind the scene and hear them again, in order to be able to commit the beautiful sentences to memory. To their credit, there was attempt at some humor so as everything will not to be too serious and overbearing.

The third major character was that of the Roman official Mauritius, played by French actor Olivier Martinez with a distracting Latino (not Latin) accent. I thought too much time was given to his side story about his over-emotional wife and his very sick daughter. His story arc can be considered rather predictable in that it followed the usual way Roman characters who were affected by Christians. However, the film was not too clear about his final decision of faith by the end of the film.

Overall, the film may feel tedious because of the somber nature of the story and the slow pace of the storytelling.  Of course, all the quiet dialogue also meant that the film may feel inert for some viewers. This problem can be compounded by the very poor lighting (not sure if this is due to the dim projector of the theater I watched in). This made these scenes too dark and difficult to watch, and various bearded characters not easy to recognize at once. The saintly lives being portrayed may have been glorious, but the way their story was told cinematically here not so much. 6/10.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Review of READY PLAYER ONE: Virtual Virtuosity!

March 22, 2018




"Ready Player One" was first a sci-fi novel written by Ernest Cline, published in 2011. Warner Bros. saw so much potential in this novel, they bought the rights for its film version a full year before it was even published. Cline adapted his own book into a script, with the assistance of veteran screenwriter Zak Penn. With Steven Spielberg signing on to direct in 2015, this film had all the ingredients for a blockbuster film.

It is 2045. Wade Watt was an orphaned young man who lived in the "Stacks," a dystopian slum neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. Like everyone else at that time, Wade spent his days going inside the OASIS, a virtual world where people can do anything they desire. As his avatar Parzival, Wade wanted to win the game challenge left by the late OASIS inventor James Halliday -- where anyone who can win three keys leading to an Easter Egg hidden somewhere in the OASIS will inherit full ownership of the Halliday's invention. 

I first saw lead actor Tye Sheridan in 2015 in two thematically diverse films like "Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" (MY REVIEW) and "Dark Places" (MY REVIEW). He then made a strong impression as the young Cyclops in "X-Men: Apocalypse" (2016). His role here as Wade Watts is bound to launch this young 21-year old actor into super-stardom. Although half of the time, we see him as his avatar Parzival, Sheridan ably carried the whole film on his shoulders in both the action and drama components of his role. 

His group of friends in the OASIS were a diverse bunch of very skilled video game geeks. Lena Waithe played Helen Harris, whose OASIS identity Aech was a musclebound male techie and Wade's best friend. Win Morisaki and Philip Zhao play Japanese gamers Toshiro and Akihide whose avatars were samurai Daito and ninja Shoto respectively. Olivia Cooke played Samantha Cook, a rebel activist in real life and Wade's cyber crush Art3mis virtually. Although the book does not have a follow-up, it does not seem impossible if we see this group again in a future sequel for further adventures of The High Five.

Mark Rylance was not easily recognized in his unkempt long-haired geek make-up as the eccentric James Halliday, the timid genius who developed a virtual world to escape the loneliness of the real world. Simon Pegg played Halliday's only friend and business partner Ogden Morrow, who later became estranged due to their divergent philosophies.  

Veteran character actor Ben Mendehlson played the main antagonist character Nolan Sorrento, CEO of the Innovative Online Industries or IOI, manufacturers of virtual reality hardware. He hired an entire army of virtual warriors in order to win Halliday's Easter Egg in order for IOI to gain control of the whole OASIS. There was so much subtle tongue-in-cheek humor in his portrayal of a ruthless character. T.J. Miller stole scenes as virtual mercenary i-R0k whom Sorrento hired to do his virtual mayhem. 

This film was so much fun to watch with all the pop culture references that abound in it. You'd need repeated watching of this film to catch all those little juicy details hidden in the scenes and the dialogue. You will see King Kong, Mecha-Godzilla, Gundam, the Iron Giant in all their glory, and catch glimpses of the Batmobile, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tony Manero's disco moves and many more. 

The musical soundtrack was steeped in 1980s pop songs, beginning with Van Halen's "Jump" from the opening scene, and citations of a-ha and Duran Duran. There were rich references to 1980s movies with mentions of names like John Hughes, Ferris Bueller and Buckaroo Banzai. Parzival's car is a DeLorean from "Back to the Future." There was entire elaborate segment dedicated to a tribute to the horror classic "The Shining" (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), in what is probably the most fun part of the whole film. 

Watching a film like this in 3D IMAX is very much worth the additional ticket expense. The computer-generated world of OASIS really came alive three-dimensionally for the audience as they are drawn in and immersed into what is practically what the characters were virtually seeing and experiencing in their heads. 

From the 1970s all the way to the 1990s, Steven Spielberg had given us some of the most engaging adventure films of all time both by young film fans and old -- "Jaws" (1974), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977), "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), "Jurassic Park" (1993). It is only now that Spielberg had again handled material that showed that he still had that magic touch when it comes to directing these types of films, making them connect with audiences of all generations. 10/10. 


Monday, March 19, 2018

Review of TOMB RAIDER: Uneven and Unconvincing

March 19, 2018



I never played the Tomb Raider video game before. So for all intents and purposes, the only Lara Croft I know is the one played by Angelina Jolie in the 2001 film "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider". While the film itself was shaky, I thought it was a very strong portrayal by Jolie, I dare say it was iconic. Jolie felt so right for the role. She's got the look, the moves all down -- it felt as the character was created with her in mind.

That was why when they announced that they were going to reboot the Tomb Raider franchise, I guess they felt had to choose an actress so distinctly different from Jolie to play the lead character. So they chose Alicia Vikander. While I admire, Vikander's chops as an actress in her previous films like "A Royal Affair" and "The Danish Girl", I had my doubts she was right to be the new Lara Croft.

Lara Croft was living a bum's life following the disappearance of her father, adventurer Richard Croft (Dominic West). When she finally was forced to look through her father's things, she discovered his research about Himiko, a legendary Japanese queen who was also a shaman with vital powers. Disobeying his orders to destroy his research, Lara set off to Japan to continue his investigation. Unfortunately, she crossed paths with a sinister expedition looking to use Himiko's power as weaponry, led by the ruthless Matthew Vogel (Walton Goggins). 

From the start of the film, Vikander gives us a very different Lara Croft than how we remember Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft. She was younger, more carefree, her fighting skills still in training. This was why it was really so incredible in the second half of the film when when she suddenly and inexplicably turned into a super-heroic Lara, who can escape from a whole troop of bad guys by running through the wilderness, with both hands were tied together, while seriously injured with a fresh deep wound on her side. 

She is supposed to have been inexperienced and raw, so all her super skills came from seemingly out of nowhere. How did she become an archer with such deadly accuracy? How did she develop her rock climbing skills which allowed her to hang on to holds which were barely there? How was she able to possess the ability to long jump with hardly any room to gain momentum to jump over and clear a gaping chasm where the other side was collapsing dirt? Of course, we are expected to just suspend our disbelief, but this was asking for a bit too much suspending.

Anyhow, everything was so black and white in this film such that there were no real surprises anymore. There is never any sense of danger for Lara Croft at all. She was bound to survive all the challenges thrown at her, while the relentlessly evil Vogel and his henchmen were all doomed for the most gruesome deaths. 

The inspiration from the "Indiana Jones" films were too obvious to ignore, especially with the booby traps and the cursed coffin. This film by Roar Uthaug may be entertaining for younger viewers, but it will feel overly familiar and even cliched for older viewers. Anyhow, this is just the requisite origin film, there will be sequels to follow as hinted. 5/10. 




Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review of THE HURRICANE HEIST: Windswept and Wacky

March 17, 2018




It seems that there should at least be one disaster movie every year, and this year it is this one. These newer ones try to inject elements of other film genres to somehow make them more distinctive, which may or may not succeed.  Last year, they tried to make "Geostorm" also a political thriller, but in vain. This year, the descriptive title itself already tells us that there would be a crime caper somewhere in there. 

The small town of Gulfport, Alabama was going to be hit by Category 5 Hurricane Tammy. Criminals take advantage of this severe weather disturbance to steal trucks full of dollar bills about to be shredded in the Treasury facility nearby. With the wild winds working in their favor, spunky government agent Casey teamed up with a pair of estranged brothers, gung-ho meteorologist Will and drunkard ex-Marine Breeze, to thwart their sneaky heist.

After only seeing his name credited as the antagonistic ape Koba in the rebooted "Planet of the Apes" series, now we actually see the face of British actor Toby Kebbell who played the lead character of Will. This character became a meteorologist as a result of witnessing (as a child) his father die in a destructive hurricane. Reminiscent of a previous disaster film "Twister," Will is also a storm-chaser, as he charges into the eyes of storms with his trusty armored weather-monitoring vehicle to gather data.  

Playing Casey is Maggie Grace, a staple of several B-films like this before, like the "Taken" series, where she played Liam Neeson's daughter. Casey also had a little backstory of her own about a tragic mishap she blamed herself for. She got to figure in a lot of stunts and action scenes here, most notable of which was a hair-raising one where she shot the glass ceiling of a mall wide open so the hurricane sucked out all the bad guys into the grey yonder, while she and partner Will were secured by harnesses. 

The actors playing the criminals were largely of the motley generic sort. However, the misplaced over-the-top glamor of Melissa Bolona (as the hacker girl Sasha) stood out with her one-shoulder green-tinged mini-dress. As absurd as that sounds, it was actually quite a riot to watch her steal her cheesy scenes and hear her deliver her crazy lines. 

Elsewhere among the bad guys is British actor Ben Cross, as the corrupt sheriff who made sure that his town was totally evacuated for the storm so he could execute his evil plans. It is interesting to consider how Cross, who once had a lead role in an Oscar Best Picture winner "Chariots of Fire" early in his career, could wind up playing a two-bit crooked redneck cop in a film like this is.

Director Rob Cohen had directed exhilarating action films before like "The Fast and the Furious" (2001) and "xXx" (2002), so he knew how to milk the excitement out of his material. In fact, it was his connection with these two films that served as the main selling point of this new film. Definitely this is one of those movies that have very shallow reasons for existing, just mindless action and nothing more. You know it is going to be bad, but you might actually get a kick out of watching it. 4/10. 


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review of A WRINKLE IN TIME: Disney Disappointment

March 15, 2018





While the animated films by the Disney Company are generally critically-acclaimed, its live action output could be a hit-or-miss affairs. While there are beloved classics like "Mary Poppins" (1964) and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988), there had also been those which had not been received well, latest of which were "Tomorrowland" (2015) and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" (2017). It was with this caution that we went to watch this latest live-action offering, a feature film version of Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 science-fiction novel "A Wrinkle in Time."

Meg Murry was a disturbed 13-year old girl who found it hard to recover from the unexplained disappearance of her father Dr. Alex Murry while studying a method of teleporting through space. One day, Mrs. Whatsit, a gregarious redhead neighbor with outrageous gowns introduced Meg to the platitude-quoting Mrs. Who and the wise motherly Mrs. Which. The three mysterious ladies offer to take Meg, along with her younger brother Charles Wallace and her good friend Calvin, across the universe to rescue her father from the Darkness and bring him back home.

14-year old lead actress Storm Reid was not charismatic enough to make the character of Meg interesting enough or engaging for me. There was also no chemistry between Reid and 15-year old Levi Miller in the role of Calvin. 9-year old Filipino-American child actor Deric McCabe was cute, perky and earnest as Charles Wallace, but he did not look right to be Meg's younger brother, or a child of Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, so they snuck in a line saying he was adopted. I guess this is all for an inclusive representation of races in films, which was certainly very apparent in this film.

Oprah Winfrey fit the larger-than-life role of Mrs. Which like a glove, brimming with sincerity and wisdom, even with her over-the-top makeup and costume. Reese Witherspoon, on the other hand, did not look too comfortable in Mrs. Whatsit outlandish outfits. Mindy Kaling's role as Mrs. Who felt under-used and under-exposed. Zach Galifianakis was effortlessly funny in his role as The Happy Medium. Michael Pena was as loud as his multi-colored costume as bad guy mind-controlling bodyguard, Red, so named for the color of his eyes.

Even from its trailer, the most eye-catching aspect of this film was its special visual effects. However, even these spectacular visuals could not lift the whole film out of the boring style of storytelling by director Ava DuVernay. There was no sense of wonder to be had with the very artificial quality of computer-generated effects. Even if Meg was talking to field of floating flowers, or Mrs. Whatsit transformed herself into a flying lettuce leaf carpet, or all those supposedly glorious "tessering" sequences -- sadly, there was just no wow nor magic, even for the kids. 4/10. 


Sinag Manila 2018: Review of MELODRAMA/RANDOM/MELBOURNE: Asian Angst in Australia

March 15, 2018



Director Matthew Victor Pastor could have just rearranged his title to say "Random Melodrama in Melbourne" instead of that slashed version that gave the mistaken impression that this was a series of short films. Maybe it was really that -- a collection of various short video clips haphazardly edited together to make a it a full-length feature film. However, that said, there was absolutely no cohesion among all the elements. T

There was a group of milennials calling themselves the TMD (which stood for Tru Male Dynamics) who produced amateur webcasts about various issues involving Asians in Melbourne, Australia. First, there was a 30+ year old man who was still a virgin, and his lame attempts to pick up girls. The next part was about a man who was jilted by his girlfriend who so happened to be seeing one of the TMD guys. These parts were all in English. In the third part, then a female character spoke in Filipino about how she came to Melbourne back in the 1980s and raised her two daughters. 

Threaded through this barely-there narrative were all these "Cinema-o-Ke" music video scenes with lyrics as subtitles. These videos were mostly by an artist named Fergus Cronkite, and were all preceded by a trigger warning that they may induce real emotions. To be fair, some of the songs were not bad. There were several of these videos, from opening to closing credits. It would help if the lyrics had anything to do with the story. I did not see or hear any connection. (Well, first of all I did not really see a story to begin with.)

In addition, there were scenes of conversations with prostitutes, stalkers, pick-ups, sex in public toilets, assaults, vomit -- all dizzyingly caught on very shaky camera, making the confusing mess even more difficult to watch. None of those flight-of-consciousness scenes led to anything meaningful for me. I could not figure out the purpose of this film nor who its target audience was supposed to be. Whatever, I know this is not for me. 1/10. 


Sinag Manila 2018: Review of EL PESTE: Rapacious as a Rat

March 15, 2018




Abner has been a pest control home-service guy who got called in to control the rat infestation in the house of a married couple. Viola was obviously a battered wife with visible bruises on her face from Day 1. Dodi is a hot-headed PE teacher, always harried and stressed out. Abner eventually falls for the charming and friendly Viola, unmindful of her husband's violent streak. So in order to keep going back to her house, Abner releases new rats with every visit. 

To stretch the thin story out to feature length, there were plenty of repetitive scenes. There were repeated scenes of Abner trying to get an old television to work with whatever junk as antenna. There were repeated scenes of Abner receiving a job order from his kindly boss (played by director Tikoy Aguiluz). There were also repeated scenes of ominous warnings by Abner's friends (like long-haired rocker played by Leon Miguel and the beer-bellied neighbor played by Jim Libiran) about hooking up with a married woman. 

Ubiquitous character actor Mon Confiado got the eccentric, creepy loner vibe down pat for this role of Abner, but just enough charm to catch Viola's fancy. He certainly got the stomach to handle and throw around all those real live rats, something not all actors may be willing to do. His face and eyes here automatically conveyed something cooking inside, despite what may seem to be a calm outward demeanor. He can be campy, at the same time ominous.

I first noticed Alvin Anson as one of the bad guys on "Ang Probinsyano" on TV, and he had the same intense acting style here as Dodi. It was very unexpected to see stage actress and soprano Jean Judith Javier in the daring role of Viola, having seen her portray roles in plays like "Noli Me Tangere" (as Sisa) and "Manhid" (as Dilim). Anyhow, the sex scenes here were mostly loud moans and grunts only, and fully clothed. 

The award-winning production design, by Batch 1 of director Richard V. Somes Production Design Workshop, was very much a character in this film as the actors. The rotting old rat-infested house of Dodi and Viola, with that bedroom where an unstable archaic ceiling fan precariously shaking and twisting overhead, gave the audience an uncomfortable sense of squeamishness, salaciousness and the sinister. 

Press releases revealed that this film had finished shooting four years ago, but only found its proper time to premiere now. The title is not exactly correct Spanish grammar, since the noun "Peste" is feminine, and would require the article "La" not "El". This is yet another film that tackles domestic abuse and infidelity, but it takes a different route to tell the story.  Writer-director Richard Somes employed elements of dark comedy, macabre horror, and steamy 90s-style sexual titillation to give this film its own particularly twisted signature. 5/10. 


Sinag Manila 2018: Review of TALE OF THE LOST BOYS: Serendipitous Soulmate

March 13, 2018




When the Sinag Manila Film Festival awards were announced last night, the big winner was this film by a director who mainly dealt with LGBT issues, Joselito Altarejos. It won Best Picture, Best Screenplay (by May de los Santos), Best Editing by Diego Marx Dobles), as well as the Box Office award. This acclaim made it the film to catch at this festival, a big part of which I missed because it coincided with previously set travel schedules.

A carefree Filipino buy-and-sell guy named Alex went to Taipei to escape some pressing responsibilities back home in Manila. One night, he met and befriended a local bartender named Jerry, a medical student by day, and who just so happened to be gay. The film explored their individual conflicts with their respective parents. 

Jerry felt trapped by his parents expectations for him to return to their aboriginal Atayal village to get married, and serve as a doctor and a tribal chief, like his father. However, Jerry could not simply come out to tell them that he was gay. Alex, on the other hand, had been living a bitter and angry existence his whole life after being abandoned by his parents, both of whom he thought of as dead since his childhood. 

Thankfully, there was no forced romance between Alex and Jerry -- only a deep friendship. Jerry's gayness was just incidental in this case, not really essential. Many pink films would seem to imply that a close friendship between men would eventually lead to a romantic or sexual connection, something that is more of fantasy than reality. Unlike previous Altarejos films, sex was not a main focus at all. There was only one sexual interlude which was not even really necessary, but maybe something his followers expect. 

Oliver Aquino, whom I last saw in Altarejos' previous film, the Cinemalaya 2014 Best Picture "Kasal," played very well as the straight laidback dude Alex with a chronic burning chip on his shoulder that he needed to confront. However, it was Taiwanese actor Ta Su (known on IMDB as Soda Voyu) who made a stronger impression as Jerry, the young tribesman exposed to modern living -- now in a conflict between what is expected of him and what he wants his life to be. 

I had only written about one of director Joselito Altarejos past films and that was "Kasal" -- which won Best Picture at the Cinemalaya 2014. In his new film, already also a Best Picture winner, Altarejos mainly depended on his actors' natural performances and Marya de los Santos' sensitively-written script to develop his characters' personal journeys. Those exchanges of conversation, though lengthy, never became boring. The actors' sincere portrayals and warm rapport overrode the challenge of actors speaking in English instead of their mother tongue. That things between Alex and Jerry were kept platonic made the deeper message of this film remarkably universal.  7/10. 


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Sinag Manila 2018: Review of ABOMINATION: Schizoid Sublimation

March 13, 2018



When I was researching about this film after I watched it earlier today, I was surprised that IMDB had its year of release listed as 2015. It turns out that this entry in the 2018 Sinag Manila Film Festival had actually been released way back three years at the Marché du Film (the business arm of the Cannes Film Festival in France. This year will be the first time it was shown in local screens. 

A girl who called herself Rachel Rivera had been admitted in a hospital. The film would go back and forth in time in which we would learn bits and pieces of her story that consisted of a freak car accident, her father Chris in a coma, her mother Vicky in financial dire straits, her younger brother Jacob with his weird artwork, her best friend Mindy and her strange behavior, her sexual assault at a party. But since Rachel was on an anti-depressant Escitalopram, we were just as lost as she as to which were real and which were imagined.

One unusual feature of this Filipino indie film was that it was set somewhere in suburban USA.  Part of the bizarre production design of the film was that, while it was supposed to have been set in the US, the buildings all looked unmistakably Filipino. One can easily recognize the brick walls of the UP Film Center or the tower of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John. You see all these Filipino actors speaking in pure English like they were Americans, with no single mention of them being Filipino at all.

Tippy Dos Santos played a totally whacked-out Rachel, so different from the last time I saw her so sweet and delightful in the musical film "I Do Bidoo Bidoo" (2012). Donning a blonde hairstyle, Dos Santos gave an intense and compelling performance of a physically and emotionally exhausting lead role. She had to keep audiences on their toes as to what her character was really up to, or not up to. She had got to be one of the top choices for Best Actress in the festival. 

Toni Moynihan (previously more well-known as Maritoni Fernandez) played Rachel's problematic mother Vicky, who was at her wit's end as to how to make ends meet as a supermarket clerk, all the while handing an emotionally-disturbed child. The other local theater actors I recognized were Pinky Amador (as a classmate's mom), Paul Holmes and Robbie Zialcita (as doctors), Justine Pena (as a confused girlfriend) and David Bianco (as a sleazy pervert). TV hostess Lexi Schulze played a sympathetic nurse, 

Director Yam Laranas, who had not been heard of lately after his previous horror hits like "Sigaw" (2004) and its Hollywood version "The Shout"(2008) and "The Road" (2011), was still in touch with his ability to keep audiences engaged in his puzzling, non-linear presentation of his story, slowly giving meaningful clues along the way. The line between reality and imagination were certainly effectively blurred to great effect. However, I felt the final exposition may have been a little too generous with the answers, instead of just allowing audiences fill in the blanks.  7/10. 


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Ranking This Year's OSCAR BEST PICTURE NOMINEES (2018) & MY OSCAR BETS

March 3, 2018

With the Oscar Awards coming on March 5, Monday morning Manila time, it is time for me now to make my fearless Oscar predictions.  (My Oscar predictions of previous years were posted on these links: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013).

Here is how I would rank this year's 9 nominees for Oscar Best Picture based on my own opinions when I first saw these films.



1. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (9/10)

7 Nominations: Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor x 2 nods, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Original Score

Desperate and angry for the lack of resolution of her daughter's rape and murder, Mildred Hayes rented three unused billboards outside their town to express her frustration, calling out police chief Bill Willoughby for his apparent inaction about Angela's case. Mildred's bold move earned the ire of her neighbors, especially the police -- officer Jason Dixon in particular. Mildred did not care and insisted on her call for justice.

How Martin McDonagh wrote and directed his story for the big screen is nothing short of outstanding. A black comedy is not always an easy movie to watch, but the way McDonagh crafted it with all those unexpected twists and turns really drew me in and kept me engaged. That is saying a lot, since ALL the major characters in this film were just so unlikable and unpleasant, no one really that you'd like to meet in real life. However they were all so compellingly portrayed by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell you could not stop watching them wreak hate on that screen. (MY FULL REVIEW)



2. DUNKIRK (9/10)

8 Nominations: Picture, Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

In the final week of May7, 1940, soldiers from Great Britain (as well as France and other Allies) were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, surrounded on all sides by land and air by the Nazi Germans. The film recounts the experiences of various soldiers caught in that desperate situation, as well as the valiant efforts taken by the British to evacuate its soldiers out of there. 

When I read that the director of this World War II movie is Christopher Nolan, I was curious at how he would make a film that dealt with a real historical event (the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation in this case) and give it its trademark Nolan style. Knowing how Nolan tells stories, I was not expecting it to be told in a straightforward manner. From the start, it was clear that it won't be. The story will be told from three vantage points and from three different time frames. (MY FULL REVIEW)


3. PHANTOM THREAD (8/10)

6 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Original Score

It was the 1950s in London. Reynolds Woodcock is the couturier of the rich and famous ladies. An avowed bachelor and perfectionist, he is deeply loyal to the memory of his departed mother and dependent on his spinster sister Cyril to manage the business side of his fashion label. One day, Reynolds met Alma, a waitress who eventually becomes Reynold's constant inspiration, until a testy kind of love developed between them. Alma decides she needs to do something drastic to make Reynolds realize her value, even if it meant hurting him.

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson foisted upon us a problematic relationship, where the toxicity of one's personality could only be countered by a toxicity of a more literal sort. It may not sound so good on paper, but on the screen it was as nail-biting as it was mesmerizing. Whether this is really Daniel Day-Lewis' last film or not, he gave yet another memorable performance here of a man with a difficult and flawed personality. (MY FULL REVIEW)



4. THE POST (8/10)

2 Nominations: Picture, Actress

The management and editors of the Washington Post decide whether to publish (or not) the very controversial Pentagon Papers (a study about the US involvement in the Vietnam War). The current owner and publisher of the Washington Post, the gentle and unconfident Katharine Graham usually deferred to the decisions of the men around her. However, for this big decision of great national, moral and financial significance, it was all up to her.

Steven Spielberg and his cast really had me engaged from beginning to end. For those like me who did not know the outcome, the whole film unfolded like a tightly-wound thriller without any action scenes. It first introduced us to the key personalities, and then proceeded to build up to that critical moment of the all-important decision. The fantastically authentic production design, the exciting editing of the scenes, the urgent musical score (by John Williams) all contributed to the effective storytelling. (MY FULL REVIEW)



5. GET OUT (7/10)

4 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay

Pretty white girl Rose Armitage brings Chris Washington, her black boyfriend of four months, to visit her parents, neurosurgeon Dean and psychotherapist Missy, in their mansion for the weekend. While he was received very well initially, the longer Chris stayed in the Armitage estate, interacted with their mysterious black servants, and met their overly friendly white guests, the more he feels there was something seriously amiss in this awkward situation.


From the moment Chris and Rose arrived at the Armitage house, writer-director Jordan Peele had us in the palm of his hands in his uniquely suspenseful yet engaging manner of discussing the sensitive subject of race. The horror in this film is not supernatural or ghostly. Instead, this is a social horror story built upon very real stereotypes of what whites in the US thought about blacks. (MY FULL REVIEW)



6. DARKEST HOUR (7/10)

6 Nominations: Picture, Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design

In May 1940,  Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlaine as the new Prime Minister of Great Britain despite his unpopularity, abrasive personality and seemingly reckless decisions. Churchill had a contentious relationship with his War Cabinet while making decisions during the Dunkirk siege.

This was a pure political drama, all talk and arguments. It was amazing that director Joe Wright was able to hold our interest for two hours. The success of this film was due in large part to the performance of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Critics and audiences alike have been unanimous with the praises for his uncanny impersonation. It was the intensity and sincerity of Oldman's performance rang truest in those passionate speeches he delivered and quiet personal moments he shared with his family and countrymen. (MY FULL REVIEW)



7. LADY BIRD (7/10)

5 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay

The year is 2002. Christine "Lady Bird" MacPherson is a high school senior in a Catholic school in Sacramento, California.  Her interests were in the arts and she believed that she has to leave her home town and go to the East Coast to find culture. In between her mother sermonizing and her father losing his job, she spent her senior year joining the theater club, getting romantically involved, and choosing the college she wishes to attend. 

Maybe it is the fact that this film was written by Greta Gerwig as her solo directorial debut that gave it added sheen. But then again, its just that -- a mundane reflection of suburban life in America, this time from a teenager's point of view. It depicts realistic family dynamics between equally headstrong daughter and mother, as astutely portrayed by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf(MY FULL REVIEW)



8. THE SHAPE OF WATER (6/10)

13 Nominations: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

It was the early 1960s in Baltimore. mute and lonely Elisa Esposito was a janitor at a government research laboratory. One day, Col. Richard Strickland brought to the lab a humanoid water creature captured from a river in South America. Elisa formed a friendship with the creature, a bond that eventually developed into love.

The nostalgic score set the tone effectively for a storybook romance, encouraging the audience only to see the beautiful in the female human - male fish creature relationship we see on the screen. The use of vintage love songs in the soundtrack likewise worked to achieve this idyllic atmosphere. But for me, director Guillermo del Toro should have kept the sexual elements in check. (MY FULL REVIEW)



9. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (6/10)

4 Nominations: Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Original Song


In 1983 in a quiet town in Northern Italy, there lived an artistically-inclined 17-year Elio Perlman. One day, his father, a professor of Greco-Roman archeology, welcomed an American graduate student, 24-year old Oliver, into their home as an intern for the summer. The tall, handsome, aloof Oliver wakens an unfamiliar yearning in young Elio. Will Elio be able to reveal his hidden desire to Oliver before the summer ends?

Even with the gorgeous rustic Italian setting and the effective acting of lead star Timothee Chalamet going for it, not to mention all those numerous award nominations, I personally thought that this film was over-hyped. The progression of the storytelling by director Luca Guadagnino was too slow, with repetitive distractions. When that moment of truth came, it came too abruptly and with little sense of romantic thrill in its execution. (MY FULL REVIEW)


************


My bets to win for each of the other categories:

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: 
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Nominees: Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”, Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”, Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”, Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”, Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”, Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”, Meryl Streep, “The Post”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Nominees: Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”, Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”, Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”, Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”, Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”, Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: “Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito, “The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo, “Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha, “Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel, “Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema, “Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison, “The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

COSTUME DESIGN: “Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges
Nominees: “Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran, “Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran, “The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira, “Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

DIRECTING: “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro
Nominees: “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan, “Get Out,” Jordan Peele, “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig, “Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

FILM EDITING: “Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Dunkirk,” Lee Smith, “I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel, “The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “The Square” (Sweden)
Nominees: “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile), “The Insult” (Lebanon), “Loveless” (Russia), “On Body and Soul (Hungary)

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: “Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Nominees: “Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard, “Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE): “The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
Nominees: “Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer, “Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: "“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige, “Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens, “Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common

PRODUCTION DESIGN: “The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau
Nominees: “Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer, “Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola, “Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer, “Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

SOUND EDITING: “Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King
Nominees: “Baby Driver,” Julian Slater, “Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green, “The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

SOUND MIXING: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin, “Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill, “Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo, “The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern

VISUAL EFFECTS: “War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist (MY FULL REVIEW)
Nominees: “Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,”  Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY):  “Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
Nominees: “The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, “Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green, “Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin, “Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh
Nominees: “The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, “Get Out,” Jordan Peele, “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig, “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor