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Review: HIDDEN FIGURES, LION, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA.

Sorry.

Been a bit lazy as I’ve only managed to see three of the nine Oscar nominated films. So here’s my review of the three I’ve seen so far. Also below are my Oscar predictions. So let’s start with:

HIDDEN FIGURES

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The amazing (and also sad) aspect about this movie is how this true life account was not mentioned at all in the annals of history. It’s the true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.

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The three main actresses Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae play the real life characters of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan.  They’re all great in their roles –  and should win the Oscar for best ensemble cast if there was such a catergory. Even Kevin Costner who plays NASA director Al Harrison is superbly understated in his role.

The film is set against rockets, astronauts, numbers, calculations, blackboards and white chalk  – admist the civil rights movement of the early 60s. Watching the segregation scenes – when Mary has to run a half mile everytime she has to to use the toilet (the coloureds only toilet was in another building) and finally getting her say in front of Kevin Costner and the whole science team is delivered with great impact –  and one of the best scenes of the film.

After watching the 1983 film ‘The Right Stuff’ it was good to see another side of the NASA Mercury Space Program that made Astronauts John Glenn and Alan Sheppard famous. Nice touch with the main movie poster tipping its hat to one of the scenes of the 1983 film:

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It’s a solid and charming film – some scenes do border on the cliche but it’s engaging and smart enough, and at times takes you back to the astonishment and awe of space exploration at that time in history. An enjoyable watch.

 

LION

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Also based on a true story – it’s a simple tale of one mans search for his home – but it’s done with such grit and grace that it uplifts the film especially at the end.

Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire plays Saroo – who accidentally gets separated from his family when he was five years old. He is adopted by an Australian couple (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), and 25 years later has an obsessive desire to track down his real mother, brother and sister back in India.

The 5 year old Saroo is played by Sonny Pawar and he’s astonishing. His scenes of a lonely child surviving by himself on the slum squalor of Calcutta is beautifully filmed with great camera work from cinematographer Greig Fraser. Pawar’s eyes give a sense of hope, wonder and optimism… that despite all the odds, he’s gonna make it out of here.

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Dev Patel as the older Saroo is versatile and convincing in his role – especially when he changes character with an obsessive desire to find his home, but Nicole Kidman is superb. In one scene she delivers her vision to Saroo, that is both raw and touching. Her conviction and love for Saroo and his other adopted brother is such that she is torn by the stresses that come with it. She totally exposes herself in that one scene, and is totally deserving of her Oscar nomination.

You could mistake this film as an advertisement for Google Earth -and even when the second act drags a bit –  the final act is so moving and heartfelt, you’ll be looking for the hankerchiefs by the end. I could hear a lot of sniffles from the crowd watching it at Empire Cinema in Island Bay.

Even I was a bit teary eyed – if only for a couple of seconds.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

On paper it looks like a simple film – but it’s subject matter is anything but.

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Manchester by the Sea is a story about loss and grief  – and my favourite film I’ve seen so far this year.

But be warned  – this film gets dark and deeply depressing at times, but there’s also true moments of warmth, laughter and humour – that’s honest and doesn’t feel at all staged. The film centers on Lee – a loner, incredibly withdrawn and living an isolated existence as a janitor in a suburb of Boston. When he hears news of his older brother’s death he heads back to his hometown of Manchester where he finds out he has to take care of his nephew as well as confront his dark past.

Casey Affleck is simply stunning in this film. You truly believe he’s a lost soul without redemption, who doesn’t want to be saved. It’s one of the best portrayals of being withdrawn and isolated I’ve seen on the big screen. With his dull delivery, mumbling voice and silent rage that seems to be broiling at every turn – his mannerisms reminded me of a young Marlon Brando in ‘On the Waterfront’.  He deserves to win the best actor Oscar for this role. The great supporting cast – Lucas Hedge, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams all play off each other brilliantly – with scenes and emotions that are beared upon the characters that feel just as raw and open as the sea itself.

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It’s a telling film and one I felt deeply connected in some way as I was watching it. The subject of grief and loss –  and how to cope, was something I could totally relate to – especially the scenes where Lee ends up organising the arrangements of his older brother’s death at the hospital, which felt like Deja Vu for me –  when we organised my own brother’s funeral arrangements.

But despite the hard subject matter – it’s also a movie of hope and resilience. Much like all the three films reviewed here.

So on that note, I end this with my favourite moment in the film. It’s so quick and fleeting you’d probably miss it if you watch it.

It’s near the end  – we get a shot of Lee at the back of his deceased brother’s boat listening to the banter of his nephew and another relative. Throughout the whole film Lee is a lost soul, isolated and withdrawn. But as he looks out to the open sea, listening to the funny banter of his younger nephew…you catch a tiny squint in his eye and a smile on his face. After all the hell he’s been through, you feel in that one moment, he may be able to reclaim his soul again…to reclaim some sort of happiness back in his life.

 

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OSCAR PREDICTIONS FOR 2017:

Best Picture: La La Land    

Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) 

 

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This entry was posted on February 25, 2017 by .
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