Cannes 2017 came to an end today and my oh my what an interesting year it has been (despite my lack of entries since I was not there and therefore I can’t comment on that). The 70th edition finished in a very unconventional way, much like its jury President, Pedro Almodóvar, with many additional prizes being awarded, including a tie for Best Screenplay and a special prize for Nicole Kidman, who is clearly having the time of her life (and we love it).
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just announced that late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel will be back to present the Oscars for the second year in a row. I truly love Jimmy Kimmel, I really do, but I feel forced to share my very unpopular opinion with the world: I think this is a huge mistake and I simply can’t understand this decision. These are my reasons (personal AND factual).
Writing a review on a biopic is never easy, but writing a review on a biopic about a convicted real-life murderer told from the killer’s point of view might be the most difficult task ever (perhaps not “ever”, but pretty much). Phil Spector, the 2013 TV movie directed by David Mamet based on the 2003 murder of the actress Lana Clarkson in hands of one of the most renowned music producers in the world, is, in my opinion, one of the best TV movies made recently by HBO. Is it accurate? Every party will say it is not for different reasons (I myself am not expert on the trial so I’m not going to judge its accuracy), but truth (THE TRUTH) is not its main goal: “This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story.’ It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.” Phil Spector is a fiction that goes beyond the actual events and challenges our perception of objectivity, bias and celebrity culture.
I am a firm believer that movies (especially American movies) portraying teenagers and high schools and these sorts of things are usually terribly wrong on so many levels: first of all, most of the actors are not even teenagers (Rachel McAdams was 26 when she played Regina George in Mean Girls), every high school looks the same and relies on the same stereotypes (maybe it’s my European point of view, who knows. Please, don’t take me wrong, I still love Mean Girls (the screenplay is simply brilliant) and I grew up obsessed with High School Musical, but the way these types of films depict high school is simply stereotypical and in a way it makes me feel that whomever wrote or directed them is out of touch with the youth and with the real topic of social anxiety among teenagers. Even movies such as The Duff, which criticizes the way teens who do not fit the mold are simply cast aside by popular teens, ends up being a stereotype blown out of proportions. The idea may be realistic but the “mise en scène” is plain wrong. Which is why The Edge of Seventeen is such an important movie and has simply moved me: it is the most relatable movie that I have ever seen, probably in my whole life.
Films have the power to change people’s perception of life. Cinema is considered a way to see life through somebody else’s eyes and experience things that we would not be able to experience firsthand. Short films have the same power, with the added difficulty that they have to make us feel and experience life in just a few minutes, with just a few shots, and yet they can move us and make us understand characters we hadn’t even met some 10 minutes before. They can teach us invaluable lessons so that even though we may have not lived that experience, we can relate it to our own lives, our own experiences. Stutterer, the first film by Irish writer director Benjamin Cleary and winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, tells a story that goes beyond the screen to tackle a theme at the core of our society: communication.
One of the indisputable truths in life is that The Beatles never go out of fashion. This was especially proved last year when the documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years grossed over $12 million at the box office worldwide, which means that despite splitting over 40 years ago, people of all generations still love the Fab Four. It would then be no surprise that the 1964 comedy “mockumentary” A Hard Day’s Night is still wildly popular amongst Beatlemaniacs and just about anyone who likes the Beatles (myself included), but has it stood the test of time?
So it’s been a week since the Oscars and to be honest, I’m still trying to recover… In fact, I was going to write an entry on my thoughts about this awards season, but the wound is still fresh (maybe next time). So instead, here is an entry on the many records smashed this awards season because yes, it’s been a good year for movies and diversity (and when I say “smashed this awards season” what I really mean is “smashed at this year’s Academy Awards and maybe some other shows”). If you type “Oscars 2017 records” or “Golden Globes 2017 records” on Google, the headline that is invariably going to appear is “La La Land receives record-tying 14 Oscar nominations” and “La La Land wins record-breaking 7 Golden Globes”. And let’s face it, for someone like me who loves La La Land (and will continue to love it until the end of time), that is really cool. But these were not the only records broken in a year unquestionably more diverse than the previous two editions of #OscarsSoWhite. So, here are some of the records and milestones of the 2017 awards season:
In a totally unexpected turn of events, Moonlight took home the Best Picture Oscar, something no poll had predicted. In fact, it became the most confusing moment of recent award shows since presenter Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially announced La La Land as the winner of this category. After a few seconds of confusion (and midway through the acceptance speech), not really knowing whether the producer of the film, Jordan Horrowitz was joking when he said Moonlight had won the award, Barry Jenkins’ team was called to the stage and given the coveted prize. This wild ending will go down in Oscars history, and probably not in a good way. Warren and Dunaway were given the wrong envelope (whose fault is that), and Dunaway just announced the winner without properly reading the envelope. How could this even happen and how could it happen in the most important award of the night?
It’s finally Oscars Day, my favorite day of the year (just so that you get my excitement, it’s like my birthday and Christmas combined). Tonight all the questions we’ve been making during the awards season will be answered: how many Oscars will La La Land win? Will it break a record like at the Golden Globes? Will Barry Jenkins’ poetic masterpiece Moonlight spoil La La Land’s big night? In a previous entry, I predicted the winners of the main categories, based on articles by some of the main film outlets in the Internet, today I’m giving my final predictions in all 24 categories.
Short films are the most underrated art form there is: people don’t usually watch them (let it be live action, animation or documentary) and when they are interested in a particular one, it can be extremely difficult to find it on the Internet. As a matter of fact, since I’ve been a film student, the only people I’ve met who are interested in shorts are scholars, cinephiles and students, and even they are turning their backs on this format and try to make feature films in college (as undergraduates, can you believe it??!!). Why is that? I believe it is because short films never get the attention and appreciation they deserve, people don’t want to pay to watch them and it is very unlikely to recover the investment made to produce it. They are seen as a “lesser” production, as something reserved for festivals, but not for the mainstream public. It is like something that students made to learn their craft while hoping to eventually make movies, “real” movies. Well, I disagree: short films are made with extreme precision and craft to make you understand a story, empathize with the characters and, most importantly, make you feel something, in just a few minutes, with a limited number of scenes, characters and means. It’s all about getting to the point in a simple yet complex way, telling a story in the best way possible, without the fare and unnecessary decoration. I’m not saying in any way that making a feature film is easy, not at all, but a longer format gives storytellers more time and more scenes to make you feel everything a short film does in just a few minutes. Timecode, the winner of the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film and Oscar nominee, is the perfect example.