SAG Award Winners 2017

In the past, the tradition has been that a SAG Award winner has a much higher percent chance of winning the Oscar. Given this tradition, I was very happy that Denzel Washington won for best actor and Hidden Figures won for best picture rather than “La La Land”, which is a very good movie but not as good as Fences, Manchester By the Sea or Hidden Figures, in my opinion.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Hidden Figures

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Stranger Things

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture: Emma Stone, La La Land

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture: Denzel Washington, Fences

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series: Claire Foy, The Crown

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: John Lithgow, The Crown

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series: Bryan Cranston, All the Way

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in Television Movie or Miniseries: Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Viola Davis, Fences

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series: Orange Is the New Black

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series: William H. Macy, Shameless

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep

Movie Review: A Dog’s Purpose

The movie “A Dog’s Purpose” is about much more than just the reincarnation of one dog into the lives of several different people. This movie is about the human condition, it’s about a bad marriage born out of husband who is miserable in his job and very sick of being a traveling salesman and ironically because he is so good at selling things on the road, he is doomed to never be promoted. Because of his misery, just like the recent movie “Fences”, he takes out his anger on his family and then turns to alcohol. You wonder while you watch the unraveling of this family because of the anger and misery over a job, just how often something like this happens to people in this country and around the world. Is it possible to ever be fulfilled and happy when you hate your job and you know deserve so much better? But the problem really is, it is not your family’s fault, so why take it out on them? This movie does a beautiful job in blending together complex human problems with the simple thoughts and the simple life of a dog and suggests that a dog’s purpose is all about being there, to give some happiness and joy to people and ultimately, this is the real message of this film.

There are several different stories within this movie and they all connected to the repeated reincarnation of the same dog and within each reincarnation, the dog is able to remember previous lives. The most important story is the first one about a young boy, who is an only child, and gets his first dog and ultimately his parent’s divorce because of alcoholism. Throughout this whole film, there is narration so we can hear the thoughts of the dog, although I would have selected a different sounding voice than the one they chose for this movie. Some parts of the dog’s narrations are funny but other ones can break your heart because of their simplicity and purity. This movie doesn’t try too hard to make you cry but at times it is impossible not to, most especially at the end when the last story is expertly tied together for a very emotional ending. I would not recommend this movie to any young children because of the multiple deaths and reincarnations of this dog, but I thought overall that A Dogs Purpose was a throwback to Disney movies about animals and was very well done.

The actor Dennis Quaid is in the last story within this film and he does a solid job as one of the owners of this reincarnated dog as well as Peggy Lipton who I have not seen in a movie in many years.

Unfortunately, there is some controversy over this movie because of some possible trainer abuse of a German Shepard for one scene where the dog had to jump into water and this probably accounts for the low ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. I have heard that there was no real abuse of any animals in this film including the incident with the German Shepard and it was obvious to me that everybody involved in this film loves animals and especially dogs so I believe this controversy is unwarranted. A Dog’s Purpose is a very good movie about the love of dogs and I give it a very solid recommendation.

A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans

Movie Review: Gold

One has to admire Matthew McConaughey and the fact that for two movies he has made recently, he lost and gained a great deal of weight. The first was for “Dallas Buyers Club” where he won the academy award for best actor and now for the movie “Gold” he gained a great deal of weight. For the movie “Dallas Buyers Club” he had to lose a life-threatening amount of weight to play a character who is dying of AIDS, as Tom Hanks did for “Philadelphia” in 1993. But for this movie, it didn’t seem to be necessary to gain so much weight for this role, at least 40 pounds. When you remember as an actor, that “it’s only a movie”, then you should realize that no movie or movie award is ever going to be worth your health.

As for the film, I was expecting something stronger, especially from what I have been hearing about this movie before I saw it. Overall this film was just a good story that is loosely based on the Bre-x Gold Mining scandal in Indonesia in 1993 that involved a massive fraud. What this movie shows is how extremely difficult the Gold mining business is because the risks both financially and physically are so extreme. I had to admire McConaughey’s character, Kenny Wells and his constant living on the edge of financial ruin and then the extreme risks he took investing in an area within the hot jungles of Indonesia. The risks of finding Gold anywhere in the world are obvious, but then you also run the risk of any country deciding to Nationalize your Gold Mine and that would mean a 100% total loss of all the money spent to find the Gold up to that point.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Kenny Well’s wife in this movie but she seems miscast because of McConaughey’s run down and overweight appearance in this story. The actor
Edgar Ramírez plays the friend of Kenny Wells who originally finds the Gold in Indonesia. The acting in Gold is solid throughout and there are some twists and turns at the end of this story that make the film more interesting overall, but not enough to give Gold any more than a marginal recommendation.

A Tribute to Mary Tyler Moore

When a great Television icon like Mary Tyler Moore dies, we are all immediately reminded of the work they have left behind. Without any doubt, the Mary Tyler Moore show, most especially during the last 5 years of its seven-year run from 1970-1977, will be known as the greatest situation comedy of all time. The unique and once in a lifetime collaboration of great actors like Edward Asner, Ted Knight, Betty White, Gavin McCloud, Cloris Leachman and Valerie Harper will most likely never been seen again. Then add the great writers, like David Lloyd, James L. Brooks, Ed Weinberger and Stan Daniels who wrote such great and funny episodes and you have the ingredients of the best comedy show ever produced. I will never forget the day in March 1977 when this great show went off the air, it was a very depressing and I thought it ended way too soon. I am always reminded of the value of a great comedy show like the Mary Tyler Moore show when a tragedy like Mary’s passing today on January 25, 2017 happens. A great comedy show can lift your spirits temporarily for 30 minutes, and when your life is in a depressing and dark place like mine was in the 1970’s these 30 minutes can mean everything to you. To this day I can remember almost every funny line from all the episodes of this TV show. The great timing and rhythm that this unique comedy had set it apart from all others. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a standard of comedic perfection that can never be surpassed.

Mary Tyler Moore tried again with other TV shows after this show ended, but she was never able to set herself apart from her Mary Richard’s character. Years later she did go on to win a Tony Award on Broadway for “Whose Life is it Anyway” and was nominated for an Academy Award for “Ordinary People”, that was released in 1980, won for best picture that year and is one of the best movies I have ever seen. What is most extraordinary about “Ordinary People” is that every single one of the actors that appeared in this movie was not only outstanding and at the very peak of their movie careers, but none of them ever got even close to appearing in a movie or won a part that good ever again. This is most disappointing for Mary Tyler Moore, who was so good in this role as the mother of a suicidal son, that it has never made any sense to me, and most likely Mary that she was never able to get another role this good ever again. She proved to everyone in Ordinary People that she was not only a great comedic actor but a great dramatic actor as well and this is something very rare.

Mary’s passing today will be hard for everyone who loved the Mary Tyler Moore show to rationalize, but at least Mary is finally past her many years of suffering with Type 1 Diabetes. Mary also had a good deal of tragedy in her life, that included the accidental death of her only son by gunshot in 1980.

I will never forget Mary Tyler Moore, her great show and the 30 minutes of escape it gave me so many times during some very dark days in the 1970’s.

Mary Tyler Moore Seasons 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1-7 Complete Series

Oscar Nominations 2017

I agree with most of the nominations below however, Tom Hanks should have been nominated for best actor for “Scully”, Amy Adams should have been nominated for best Actress for “Arrival” and Jessica Chastain was a major omission for best actress for “Miss Sloane”. Taraji P. Henson was essentially the lead actress and is equally as deserving for a nomination as Octavia Spenser for Hidden figures and also did not get a nomination. Perhaps the solution for these obvious omissions is to increase the number of nominations like they have done for movies.

On top of this Viola Davis in Fences is not a supporting actress, her time on screen warrants a Best Actress nomination and this is also true with Dev Patel, who is in almost every scene. I would like to learn the logic of how the Academy decides these categories which very often it makes no sense. The worst example of this was Timothy Hutton in “Ordinary People” in 1980 who was the lead actor, was in every scene, but was nominated for best-supporting actor and did win the award.

The movie La La Land received 14 nominations, now tied for the most in Oscar History. La La Land is very good, but both Manchester by the Sea and Fences are better movies overall, in my humble opinion. The movie the “Lobster” is nominated for best original screenplay, even though it was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Manchester by the Sea should win in this category, but like the Golden Globes, the odds are that La La Land will win this award as well.

Best picture:
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”

Lead actor:
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land,”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Lead actress:
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Supporting actor:
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Supporting actress:
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Best director:
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”

Animated feature:
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”

Animated short:
“Blind Vaysha”
“Borrowed Time”
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes”

Adapted screenplay:
“Hidden Figures”

Original screenplay:
“20th Century Women”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea”

“La La Land”

Best documentary feature:
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”

Best documentary short subject:
“4.1 Miles”
“Joe’s Violin”
“Watani: My Homeland”
“The White Helmets”

Best live-action short film:
“Ennemis Interieurs”
“La Femme et le TGV”
“Silent Nights”

Best foreign language film:
“A Man Called Ove”
“Land of Mine”
“The Salesman”
“Toni Erdmann”

Film editing:
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”

Sound editing:
“Deep Water Horizon”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”

Sound mixing:
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“La La Land”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Production design:
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
“Hail, Caesar!”
“La La Land”

Original score:
“La La Land”

Original song:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls”
“City of Stars,” “La La Land”
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”

Visual effects:
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
“Jungle Book”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Movie Review: XXX The Return of Xander Cage

One of the things you never expect with an action movie, where the entire point of the film is an excuse for explosions, fights and gunplay is for that movie to be extremely boring. You might expect the movie to be stupid, as are all of the XXX movies, or it to have a ridiculous convoluted story that mostly makes no sense, corny over the top dialogue maybe, but never boring. The new movie “XXX The Return of Xander Cage” achieved this one rare feat of being boring and for the entire middle of this film, nothing really happened as it seemed that everybody in the film was sleepwalking through their part. I actually lost interest in the entire story at around the mid-point of this ridiculous movie. As far as the script for this bad film, it is all over the place and mostly makes very little sense. The entire process of getting from the beginning of this very bad film to the end, where there is some action is long and drawn out waste of time. I was looking at my watch the entire two hours hoping and waiting for the whole nightmare to be over.

Vin Diesel returns to the XXX series for the first time since 2002 as does Samuel L. Jackson. In 2005 Ice Cube took over the starring role in the movie “XXX: State of the Union” that was another bad movie and Ice Cube makes an appearance at the end of this film, that all movie goers pray will be the last in this series, but it probably will not be.

Run from this very bad movie that is a total waste of two hours.

Past Movie Review: Back to the Future

Without a doubt, “Back To the Future” is the best science fiction movie about time travel ever made. The idea and the story of this movie are brilliant, using a Delorean car because of it was built with stainless steel, using plutonium and nuclear energy for power and then having to reach a speed of 88 miles before you are transported anywhere in time. On top of all of this, this movie is funny and that is rare for any quality science fiction film. It is hard to believe that it has been almost 32 years since this great movie came out in the summer of 1985. This movie is so good it spawned two sequels and the producers were confident enough in the box office for the first film that they almost guaranteed part 2 at the end of this movie. This movie is also one of the first big hits for Robert Zemeckis who did a great job directing this film.

Back to the Future is the high point for Micheal J. Fox in his movie career, he has made several other good movies, but nothing as good as this one. Christopher Lloyd is also at the top of this career in this movie as he is both funny and believable as the scientific genius who invents a time machine. Thomas F. Wilson who plays Biff is one of the best villain/bullies in movie history. Biff Tannen is as unlikeable as any fictional character I have ever seen in any movie and as hateful and miserable a human being as ever been portrayed. This movie is such a great escape because all of us like to see the bad guy get what he deserves in the end, that way too infrequently happens in real life.

Back to the Future is an American classic and if you have never seen it after all these years, you owe it to yourself to see it, at least once.

Movie Review: Split

One of the problems as a young director if you have early huge success, which is what happened to M. Night Shyamalan in 1999 with “The Sixth Sense” is that if you make a movie that good with such huge box office success in the beginning of your career, you will probably be forever chasing success like that for the rest of your career. In my opinion, Shyamalan got very close with the movie “Unbreakable” in 2000 that had a very good story, a great conceptual idea that even involved comic books and a surprise ending, but this movie had nowhere near the box office success and critical acclaim as The Sixth Sense. I thought the movie Devil, that came out in 2010 and was written but not directed by Shyamalan was good but the overall result was not nearly as impressive as the Sixth Sense or Unbreakable.

Shyamalan’s latest movie “Split”, which he both wrote and directed is his first movie since “The Visit” is an attempt by Shyamalan to create something new, which is always the first and most difficult challenge any screenwriter has to overcome. There have been many movies about kidnapping or abduction, but this is probably the first movie where the insane criminal who kidnaps 3 young women has 23 distinct personalities and also makes regular visits to his psychiatrist played very well by Betty Buckley. The insane kidnapper with 23 personalities is impressively played by James McAvoy in what had to be the most challenging role of his entire career. I also appreciated the depth of the story here, showing not only a man with 23 personalities and one of the disturbed kidnapped women, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, but explaining through flashbacks throughout the film, how they got to be the way they are, by various forms of abuse during their childhood.

I noticed no real surprise ending that Shyamalan is famous for in this movie, as the conclusion of the story seemed to be a nothing out of the ordinary. Overall the acting is very good in this movie and I thought that the young actress Anya Taylor-Joy may have gotten her breakthrough role and should have a very promising career in the movies. She has very symmetrical looks and big eyes that are very dark and unusual. Her previous movie “Morgan” was not good, so its good to see her bounce back with this solid movie. There is a unique surprise in the ending of this film, involving the actor Bruce Willis, where he mentions “Glass Man”, which is a reference to the movie Unbreakable. I thought this idea to end this movie was very original, but many people who have not seen Unbreakable will probably not understand this reference.

I give a marginal recommendation for Split, mainly because of the solid acting and because of newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy

Movie Review: The Founder

“When the competition is drowning, stick a hose in their mouths.”, Ray Kroc

The best line in this great movie is the one above. I have never seen a movie about the reality of money, business, success or failure that is better than the film “The Founder” which is the true story about Ray Kroc and how the corporation Mcdonald’s was originally founded.

Prior to getting involved with McDonald’s, Ray Kroc was a failure, trying to sell milkshake machines to restaurants around the United States before he stumbled onto two fast food founders named McDonald in San Bernadino California who amazingly to Kroc, wanted to buy eight of his milkshake machines. During his entire life, Kroc failed at many ideas he tried, but due to the success recordings he was encouraged by, he relied on his perseverance to rise above all the bad times he had in his career. While watching this movie and all that Kroc had to go through, you just had to admire him for surviving all he had to endure to finally become successful.

The Mcdonald’s brothers were the original founders of the fast food idea in the 40’s, inventing a brand new mass production technique for food, much like Henry Ford who did the same thing for the automobile. Most fascinating was their story about the large number of setbacks they had to go through and their move from a small town in California to San Bernadino. This included putting their restaurant on a truck and then sawing it in half so it would clear a bridge in the town of San Bernadino. After that amazing feat, they ran into problem after problem until they finally perfected the idea of fast food. The Mcdonald brothers were two very honest men and two very nice guys and what this movie shows so well, is that very often in both business and in life, “Nice guys finish last”.

Everyone who sees this film will have to make up their own mind of how good or bad Ray Kroc is as a person is in this true story. In my opinion, some of the things he did were justified and some were more than just because of business, they were about revenge and perhaps taking out his many years of frustration and money problems on other people. Much like the true story in the movie Joy, even after Kroc had success, he still had major money problems and many huge obstacles in his way that he had to overcome. Kroc needed a ton of perseverance to be successful, but as this story shows, he also needed quite a bit of luck too.

The Founder is a great film and one of the best acting performances in Micheal Keaton’s entire career. There is a scene in this movie that was remarkably like the movie “Pacific Heights”, that starred Keaton and came out in 1990, where Kroc walked into a hospital room holding flowers where one of the Mcdonald’s brothers was having a major heart problem because of extreme stress. I was rather amazed at how similar this scene was to a major turning point scene in Pacific Heights, which is another great movie that Keaton starred in.

I highly recommend this movie because the story is amazing and its message about success and failure in business and in life is very significant.

Past Movie Review: We Were Soldiers

I remember thinking when I saw the great war movie “We Were Soldiers” in March 2002, that it was probably one of the best and most realistic war movies ever made. Mel Gibson has now made two of these, this one and the recent Hacksaw Ridge, that is the equal to this movie with its battle realism and story. War is a horrible reality of life that never should exist but unfortunately, it probably always will. Humanity has always been extremely adept at killing people.

This movie is outstanding for showing the strategy of a battle, this one taking place in Vietnam and known as the Battle of Ia Drang which happened on November 14, 1965, one of the worst battles in the entire war. Mel Gibson played Lt. Col. Hal Moore and most amazing about a man with his high rank in the military is that he stood right in battle with all of his men and always insisted on being the first soldier to enter a battle and the last one to leave.

The other memorable parts of this movie included all the wives back home who for days during that battle in Vietnam were receiving telegrams telling them that their husbands had been killed in battle.

We Were Soldiers is not for the faint of heart, but no movie that shows what war really is all about should ever not be truthful about its extremely harsh reality. I highly recommend this film.