2017 SAG Awards Predictions

January 28, 2017

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I’ll make this post quick. The SAG Awards take place this Sunday and while La La Land has been racking up all of the attention and buzz (both good and bad), this year’s SAG Awards are a bit unpredictable mainly because La La Land is not nominated for the main award: Best Film Ensemble. Weird. So what does this mean?

This is Moonlight’s big chance to gain some ground while behind La La Land. With a SAG Ensemble win for Moonlight, it will certainly boost its momentum to try and upset for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. But if Moonlight loses, possibly to Fences or Manchester by the Sea, you can practically kiss its chances goodbye.

That being said, there is another big story surrounding this awards, and that is the opposite of the #OscarsSoWhite discussion from last year. It seems like in the supporting acting categories, Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis should win. There is even a good amount of talk saying that Denzel Washington could very well win his FIRST SAG award trophy. You read that corrently, Denzel has never won a SAG award before. Just for that reason alone, I feel like he has a slight edge over Casey Affleck.

But if Washington, Davis, and Ali go on to win, that is 75% of the acting awards going to African Americans. Quite the turn-around from years past. Then again, if Stone, Affleck, Hedges, and Williams win then we might have some more complaints.

Anyway, here are my predictions:

Best Film Ensemble: Moonlight
Best Actor: Denzel Washington (Fences)
Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)

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Movie Review: The Help

February 28, 2012

The Help (2011)
146 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain

Grade:  B+

Based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, The Help is a powerful story about racial discrimination in the South during the 1960’s. Specifically targeting a few maids in Jackson, Mississippi, we are thrown into the lifestyle and appalling mistreatment of African American women by the upper class women. What really brings the story to life is the talented ensemble cast: Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer, and Emma Stone.

The film revolves around Skeeter (Stone), a young journalist who takes a job at the Jackson Journal writing a cleaning column even though she knows nothing about the subject. But she’s ambitious and will go to any lengths to bring her idea to reality, to write a book in the perspective of the help. Her decision certainly turns a lot of heads and causes friction among her selective circle, but she understands she’s doing something very significant and throughout her interviews, she learns more than she ever had expected.

The two maids who agree to help Skeeter at first are Aibileen (Davis) and Minny (Spencer). Though they have volumes to discuss, including their personal lives, raising other people’s children and their stance on using a separate bathroom, the publisher informs Skeeter than she needs more. Because of the risky proposition Skeeter doesn’t get any more voices for her book, that is until a tragedy strikes the African American community.

The Help, at times, feel too much like a preaching melodrama, but mostly the story is solid with rich characters and real world conflicts. Driven by the great performances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, it’s impossible not to feel for their characters. With the entire film focused mainly on women, it’s a refreshing aspect that is rare in Hollywood.

Despite a few hiccups along the way, the 2+ hours of The Help breezes by. It definitely has its tear-jerking moments towards the end so have some tissues handy. Other than that, The Help expands on the message of the novel, giving it the air to breathe and the legs to run.


Review: Doubt

January 6, 2009

Doubt (2008)
104 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by John Patrick Shanley
Starring:  Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis

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Grade:  B+

Before beginning my review of Doubt, let me just run down the list of achievements that the 2004 play received:  Tony Award for Best Play, Best Actress (Cherry Jones), Best Featured Actress (Adriane Lenox), Best Direction (Doug Hughes), Pulitzer Prize for Drama, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Best Play, Five Drama Desk Awards, and Four more Tony Awards Nominations.  I think it’s important to point out the accomplishments of the 2004 play before discussing the movie.  John Patrick Shanley, the playwright, created a tense and complex story for the stage that left audiences baffled and critics applauding.  This kind of response didn’t fully translate to the screen, but the story’s so powerful that it still made for a very good film.

Set in 1964 at a Catholic school in the Bronx, Doubt revolves around four central characters:  Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep), Father Flynn (Hoffman), Sister James (Adams), and Donald Muller’s mother (Davis).  Sister Beauvier and Father Flynn engage in a dangerous game of accusations when she believes that Father Flynn abused altar boy Donald Muller, who is the only African-American student at St. Nicholas School.  He denies it.  Innocent Sister James gets sucked into their tricks.  While she obeys Sister Beauvier’s orders, she ends up believing Father Flynn.

So who to trust?  Who to believe?  What really happened?  That serves as both the fun and the suspense in Doubt.  John Patrick Shanley has penned a very cunning screenplay that leaves the audience playing the film again and again in their mind until they reach a conclusion of what happened.  But even after that, you’re simply still not sure.

One thing is certain though… Father Flynn and Sister Beauvier are both antagonists in each other’s minds.  Beauvier is the hard-nosed, cold-hearted principal that shows no sympathy or compassion to anyone, anywhere.  She is aging and bitter to the changing world.  She forbids ball-point pens, electronics, and sugar.  She is the one person you don’t want to tick off.  There’s no surprise she doesn’t like Father Flynn from the start, who is the new order in the School; a friendly companion to the students and lenient in enforcing the rules.  His sermons stray from preaching and instead offers enlightment towards internal conflicts and doubt.

If there was anything that should attract you to watch this movie, it would simply be the excellent acting showcase.  Meryl Streep falls deeply into her role like no other woman can.  Philip Seymour Hoffman shows off his talent by keeping up with Streep in every scene.  Amy Adams plays the naive Sister James very well as she’s slowly being tortured by the wear of their ongoing battle.  But the performance that will take your breath away is Viola Davis playing Donald Muller’s mother.  Her scene alongside Meryl Streep isn’t just the most pivotal in the film, it’s the most memorable.  Viola Davis goes above and beyond, expressing her perspective on the situation involving her child that adds layers of complexity to the issue.  Let me re-phrase my earlier statement:  If there was anything that should attract you to watch this movie, it would be to witness Viola Davis’ scene.

Doubt certainly isn’t for everyone, but I believe everyone could take something from the movie.  It initiates discussion, questions beliefs and morals, and challenges ourselves to accept the things we can’t possibly know.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s a hell of a good one.


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