9 Reviews of 9 Movies in 9 Theaters: Intro and Oscar Rundown

So I had this idea, right? Houston has a lot of movie theaters, and there are a lot of movies. In fact, there are a lot of movies nominated for best picture at this year’s academy awards (possibly too many, since the academy expanded the number from 5 to 10 in 2010). This year there are 9, and I figured “what if I went and saw each one in a different unique Houston movie theater, reviewing not only the movie, but the experience the the theater provides?”

I hit some theaters I consider awesome and you’ve no doubt heard about & been to, I hit theaters I’d never heard of before that were really cool and different, and I hit regular old theaters like the trusty AMC Gulf Pointe 30, the seminal theater at which I saw Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace some 20 years ago, 100% decked out in a Darth Vader costume I’d worn at halloween the previous year. I even watched the first 10 minutes of the movie with the helmet on before realizing it was a) way too hot, b) I couldn’t see anything, and c) I was probably slowly choking to death. I abandoned the helmet and watched the rest of the movie in an uncomfortable, cheap leotard and cape set. I haven’t dressed up for a movie since then and I have no plans to ever again, but somehow that story says a lot about me. I’m still that same movie fanboy deep down.

not-me

This isn’t me but it is a pretty accurate approximation

Those reviews I’ll be publishing these next couple of weeks, two-pronged reviews reviewing (in my own way), both the best picture nominated film and the Houston-area theater experience of the viewing. The first one will be Denzel Washington’s “Fences,” which I saw at that iconic (to me growing up south of the city at least) AMC Gulf Pointe 30. It was an incredible theater-going experience, and I can’t wait to talk about why.

That brings us to tonight’s oscar ceremony. There are too many movies nominated for best picture. I’ve seen them all. Are there some good movies on the list that could voice deserved gripes if they didn’t make the cut? Absolutely. But isn’t that what award shows are about? Separating the great from the good? Dwindling the field down to the smallest possible number and choosing that one crown jewel from a small, potent range of masterpieces? Or am I an idealist and it’s really just a self-congratulatory hollywood wankfest that requires a lot of politicking to even get nominated? Is it really just an excuse for celebrities to get together to be seen looking good, jockeying for career-position, seeking that all important asterisk next to their name on the back of a blu-ray cover (*best actor)?

Probably, yeah. But that doesn’t mean it’s without integrity. Art is inherently subjective, so it’s important to remember that opinion is not fact, regardless of whether that opinion comes from the majority of the voting body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences or your snooty art-teacher uncle who uses Italian words when he talks about film. But the awards are interesting, and it’s worth lies in honoring great movies, the movies people haven’t seen usually. The big blockbusters get their award in dollar amounts, and the oscars are to honor the movies you might not have seen that have cultural worth. The problem with the oscars is that they aren’t just a subjective awards show. The awards show is just that, a show, also a television program mean to make you say “wow look at John Travolta” or “boy oh boy Natalie Portman looks elegant as ever.”

The oscars in particular are engaged in a tug-of-war between what it is and what it wants to be. It’s in an eternal battle with its soul to both be television spectacle, one that year after year is a dependable ratings juggernaut, and an impartial awards show meant to be about the art. The in-memoriam section and the description of the films duke it out with the jokey-musical moments, the Ellen Degeneres selfies, the schtick-laden James Franco/Anne Hathaway banter moments, the proverbial show within the ceremony.

ellen

The Grammys has big musical acts and moments, the MTV music video awards have shocking, line-crossing spectacle. What does the oscars have? Good speeches? Sometimes someone bombs like Letterman ? The occasional “that was funny” moment? Honestly the best you can hope for is Sally Field making a scene or Adrian Brody kissing Halle Berry after winning for the Pianist. Maybe some old dude like Scorsese will finally win and that will be tight (minus the intro, feat Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas ,and Steven Spielberg doing a hammily written comedy bit where George Lucas, the man who found Jar Jar Binks hilarious, has to carry the comedic weight. It is truly incredibly horrible, I recommend it just for that). But this tug of war between wanting to pay tribute to the establishment and wanting to appeal to viewers, especially the coveted approval of young people, makes the oscars too long and insufferable to enjoy.

I hope a few things tonight. I hope “Moonlight” gets recognized as much as possible. It deserves it. Same goes for Hidden Figures, it was excellent. I hope (and believe) Jimmy Kimmel will do a good job, I hope it’s not too political to make people freak out and I hope it’s political enough to not make people freak out about the lack of political stances and rhetoric (I find the prospects of achieving both of these quite improbable), I hope it’s not “La-La Land” after “La La Land” after “La La Land,” even though it probably will be, I hope somebody streaks again even though that will never ever happen again.

oscar-streaker

But mostly I hope it gives good movies a boost, which it generally does. Below are my picks for Hollywood’s biggest night(copyright/trademark/patent).

BEST PICTURE:

Nominees: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight”

Winner: “La La Land”

BEST DIRECTOR:

Winner: Damien Chazelle

And Barry Jenkins, director of “Moonlight,” will have every reason to be upset.

Director Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone on the set of LA LA LAND.

Damien Chapelle and Emma Stone on the set of “La La Land”

BEST ACTOR:

Winner: Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Calling an upset here. Denzel wins because he directed and produced “Fences” as well, a great film. I think those added credits pile up and equal an acting win for Denzel here, upsetting favorite Casey Affleck.

 

BEST ACTRESS:

Winner: Natalie Portman, “Jackie”

jackie

Natalie Portman in “Jackie”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Winner: Viola Davis, “Fences”

fences

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in “Fences”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nominees: “Arrival,” La La Land,” “Lion,” “Moonlight,” “Silence”

Winner: “Lion”

“La La” is again the favorite here but I’m predicting an upset and a chance to honor “Lion” which, save a Patel upset in best supporting actor, won’t be winning much.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees: “Hell or High Water,” “La La Land,” “The Lobster,” “Manchester By The Sea,” “20th Century Women”

Winner: “Manchester by the Sea”

Great screenplay, somber and all that dramatic stuff, and the academy sometimes gives screenplay to a film that isn’t going to get a lot of love elsewhere but is well-written. I think Affleck loses best actor, so this is Manchester’s moment in the sun amidst the “La” domination.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lions,” “Moonlight”

Winner: “Moonlight”

moonlight

Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in “Moonlight”

VISUAL EFFECTS

Winner: “The Jungle Book”

SOUND MIXING

Winner: “La La Land”

SOUND EDITING

Winner: “La La Land”

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Winner: “Ennemis Intérieurs”

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Winner: “Piper”

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Winner: “Arrival”

arrival

“Arrival”

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

Winner: City of Stars (“La La Land”)

la-la-land

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Winner: “La La Land”

MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

Winner: Star Trek Beyond

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: “The Salesman”

Salesman

“The Salesman”

FILM EDITING

Winner: “La La Land”

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

Winner: The White Helmets

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Winner: “OJ: Made in America”

COSTUME DESIGN

Winner: “Jackie”

ANIMTED FEATURE

Winner: “Zootopia

zootopia

 

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