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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 3, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 05
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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89th Annual Academy Awards nominees: Thoughts and reactions
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

89TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
DOLBY THEATRE
HOLLYWOOD, CA
February 26


The nominees for the 89th annual Academy Awards were announced last week, and for the most part there were few surprises. Damien Chazelle's musical Hollywood love letter La La Land tied the record for most noms with 14, joining both All About Eve and Titanic in that rarified club. Right behind it were Denis Villeneuve's thought-provoking science fiction marvel Arrival and Barry Jenkins' powerful exploration of race, sexuality and masculinity Moonlight both with eight nominations, while Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Manchester by the Sea also proved to be solid contenders pulling in six nods apiece. Rounding out the Best Picture field were Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures and Fences, each film managing multiple nominations in a variety of categories as well.

As far as all of the nominees are concerned, with plenty of time to run through them all and ponder what's going on and why, I do have a few thoughts. Here are ten of them in somewhat random order:


1. La La Land, even with a little bit of drama brewing in regards to the noticeable lack of diversity inside the film's narrative construct, is going to win a ton of awards, including Best Picture. Seriously, the race is over at this point, and the only real question isn't if Chazelle's opus is going to emerge victorious, it's how many Oscars is it going to go home with? There's a real possibility it could tie Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Ben-Hur for the record with 11 wins, with the only real handicap La La Land is facing being the fact it's double nominated in one category (Best Original Song) and that Ryan Gosling has no chance whatsoever to pull an upset in Best Actor. But this could still happen, and it's possible when it's time to make predictions I might just go out on a limb and forecast the film to do just that.

2. Moonlight is likely this year's Brokeback Mountain. Ang Lee's groundbreaking gay-themed Western notably lost the top prize to Crash back in 2006, and people have been going nuts about this supposed upset ever since. It does feel a little like history might be repeating itself, Jenkins' somber, emotionally complex drama without question 2016's most critically lauded motion picture. But, other than likely wins in Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali the clear frontrunner), it's hard to imagine it emerging victorious in any of the other categories it's nominated in, especially considering the film is up against La La Land in every single one of them.

3. Amy Adams, as brilliant as she was in Arrival, isn't the shocking Best Actress snub. That honor belongs to Annette Bening in 20th Century Women. While both women being absent from the category is a surprise, the fact Bening has long been considered a frontrunner to, not just be nominated, but to win the Oscar this year, really makes her absence rather startling. Yet, make no mistake, both women were amazing in their respective films, and those angry about the fact they ended up as also-rans are allowed to be perturbed.

4. But not angry. If we're being honest, 2016 was a powerhouse year for actresses, and a number of other women could make a serious claim they should have been nominated. For that matter, Ruth Negga absolutely deserves to be amongst the five nominees for her graceful, powerfully subtle turn as Civil Rights legend Mildred Loving in Jeff Nichols' austere, masterfully eloquent Loving, and personally I find it marvelous the numerous members of the actors branch of the Academy put her name on the ballot. Heck, I can't even be upset that Meryl Streep earned her 20th nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins, and even if I felt the movie itself was a little slight, that doesn't make this not-even-remotely-overrated legend's performance any less superb.

5. #OscarSoWhite isn't a thing of the past, but this year's nominations are admittedly a good start. There are seven minority actors up for awards, Dev Petel (Best Supporting Actor), Octavia Spencer, Naomi Harris (both Best Supporting Actress) and Denzel Washington (Best Actor) all joining the aforementioned Ali and Negga as nominees. But that doesn't mean Hollywood is suddenly color blind, and even with films like Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Fences and Lion securing so many nominations in a variety of categories, unless the major studios decide to make more movies like them we could just as easily find ourselves back to square one as far as cinematic diversity is concerned just in time for the 90th Academy Awards.

6. SAG win for Best Ensemble notwithstanding, Hidden Figures isn't going to pull off the upset. While it is obvious this wonderful film has its fair share of fans amongst Academy voters, the last time a movie won Best Picture and absolutely nothing else was Mutiny on the Bounty way back in 1936. The reality here is that Hidden Figures has little to no chance to win in either of the two other categories it's been nominated in (Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay), making its chances to emerge victorious for the top prize pretty much nil. 7. Denzel Washington is likely to take home his third Oscar. A month ago, Casey Affleck seemed an absolute lock to win Best Actor for his devastating turn in Manchester by the Sea. Now, not only is he up against the beloved Washington, delivering one of the best performances of his entire career in a labor of love adaptation of August Wilson's landmark play directed by the actor himself, Affleck is also facing a public relations backlash that's as explosive as it is disgusting. More, it's also drawn parallels to what happened to Nate Parker and his film The Birth of a Nation, creating the sense of a noxious double-standard in Hollywood that has a number of voters wary of casting their ballots for him. Washington is genius in Fences, and his winning would hardly be an upset. Same time, if Affleck loses, it will have more to do with his actions off-screen than they do with anything he's done on it.

8. Yes, Pixar was unduly snubbed, Finding Dory a delightful sequel and one of 2016's best animated marvels. But looking at a Best Animated Feature lineup made up of Zooptopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, My Life as a Zucchini and The Red Turtle is still all kinds of amazing, each film deserving of taking home the Oscar.

9. The only truly egregious snub I can think of is the absence of any of the magnificent songs from John Carney's Sing Street in the Best Original Song field, especially the infectious, toe-tapping pop wonder 'Drive It Like You Stole It.' As good as the La La Land songs might be, and as solid as the other nominees are, every song in Sing Street, all of them, every single one, is better than any of the tunes singled out in the final five. It's a stunning dropping of the ball as far as the Academy is concerned, especially considering that both of Carney's previous films, Once ('Falling Slowly' winning the Oscar) and Begin Again scored nominations in the category.

10. Finally, once again the rule allowing up to ten Best Picture nominees has had the unintended effect of decreasing the overall number of films receiving nominations in any of the other categories. This year, the nine films in the category scored a whopping 59 combined nods, a staggering figure that didn't leave a lot of room for other contenders to fill in here or there. While I do think it's a good thing to have a bigger nomination pool for Best Picture, I also admit that this has somehow convinced Academy members they must only vote for those fighting for inclusion in that category and not much else. I'm not sure I like that trend. Same time, I'm also not sure how you do anything to change things if you're going to continue to have an expanded field vying for the top prize.

Those are just some of the thoughts I have about this year's Academy Award race right now. By the time I make my predictions in just a couple of weeks, I'm absolutely certain I'll end up having a handful more.


Screen Actors Guild Awards:

Surprise wins for Hidden Figures and Washington stir up Oscar races, Lily Tomlin receives Lifetime Achievement Award
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS
January 29


If your money's on La La Land and Casey Affleck to win Best Picture and Best Actor at this month's Academy Awards, you might want to reconsider your bets. At last weekend's Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, it was Hidden Figures that prevailed in the category for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, the top accolade given out during the ceremony; and for the record, La La Land wasn't even nominated. Meanwhile, Denzel Washington pickpocketed the Lead Actor trophy from the expected winner Casey Affleck to set up a possible Oscars showdown.

The story of three African-American female mathematicians hired by NASA in the early 60s, a time when segregation was very much prevalent, Hidden Figures has not only earned critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, but it has become a box office hit during its short release. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, who has particularly been a strong advocate for LGBT rights, including speaking out against Kim Burrell's anti-gay comments that presumably led to the movie's signature tune 'I See a Victory' not getting a Best Original Song nod.

Washington has been mentioned by multiple Oscars pundits as a potential spoiler to Affleck, possibly scoring an upset for his performance in Fences, a film adaptation of August Wilson's play that he also directed. The Best Actor prize could be a nailbiter, and whereas Affleck had a firm grip on the award, the momentum has now swung in Washington's favor.

Sarah Paulson claimed the acting trifecta on Sunday, earning Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG accolades for the same part, her incredibly detailed portrayal of Marcia Clark in 'The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.' Though she didn't thank her partner Holland Taylor in her acceptance speech, she did ask those in attendance and watching from home to donate money to the ACLU, in support of raising money to challenge President Trump's travel ban.

Lily Tomlin, however, did thank her partner of 46 years Jane Wagner, when she accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award for her diverse body of work, which has spanned several decades and includes performances in film, television and live theater. Longtime friend and 9 to 5 co-star Dolly Parton presented her with the award, which she comically told a roomful of peers 'came just in the nick of time.'

'Somehow, I learned to turn my flaws into spiritual lessons,' Tomlin said on a serious note.

In giving advice to younger actors, she said to not be overly ambitious about an opportunity. 'Behind every failure is an opportunity someone wishes they had missed.'

The gay-themed drama Moonlight claimed just one statue at Sunday night's gala, a Supporting Actor win for Mahershala Ali, who proudly stated, 'I'm a Muslim,' during his soft-spoken and emotional acceptance speech.

Other winners were Emma Stone (Lead Actress in a Motion Picture, La La Land), Viola Davis (Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Fences), 'Orange is the New Black' (Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series) and a well-deserved, surprise victory for the sci-fi series 'Stranger Things' for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, which sparked another politically-fueled speech by actor David Harbour, who metaphorically compared the monster in the show to President Trump.


Game Resident Evil unleashes a final chapter
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

RESIDENT EVIL:
THE FINAL CHAPTER
Now playing


After the battle in Washington, DC has ended, Alice (Milla Jovovich) once again finds herself alone, seemingly fighting the undead mutant hordes by herself one more time. So imagine her surprise when she gets a shocking message from the Umbrella Corporation's lethal artificial intelligence The Red Queen (Ever Anderson) clueing her in about a secret airborne antidote to the T-virus hidden back in Raccoon City in the heart of The Hive. Not trusting this dangerous adversary but figuring she has no other choice, Alice sets out on a journey back where it all began, the truths she'll discover within The Hive's haunted recesses changing everything she thought she knew about the apocalyptic events that rocked the Earth as well as how she herself fit into Umbrella's overarching plans.

Picking up immediate where the events of 2012's Resident Evil: Retribution came to an end, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter proclaims right there in the title that it will be the last story in this long-running franchise. As such, it's apparent that writer/director/producer Paul W.S. Anderson, who has personally helmed four of the six films in the series, put a lot more time in energy into this installment than he has since the first film 15 years prior. While the story is rather straightforward and juvenile, he's actually given Alice a bit more complexity this time around, allowing Jovovich more to do than just kick some zombie butt and shoot random monsters in the head.

He's also somehow managed to convince Ian Glen to return as the villainous Dr. Isaacs, the character's last appearance back in 2007's third film Resident Evil: Extinction. The veteran character actor brings a level of menacing gravitas to the proceedings that's been missing the last two films, the black leather-clad Wesker (Shawn Roberts) a one-note, emotionally flat non-entity who has never been threatening and seldom came across as a convincing threat. He's back, too, of course, but Anderson wisely keeps him on the sidelines for the majority of the story, his comeuppance for being such an evil bastard as forgettable as any of his actual actions have been in any of the other chapters.

As for the rest of the cast, the only other familiar face is Ali Larter, back as the heroic Claire Redfield, her character teaming up with Alice one more time and this time having her own army of survivors to lend assistance as they attempt to infiltrate The Hive. This group of fighters includes the likes of Eoin Macken, Ruby Rose, Fraser James and William Levy, all of whom are only around to be the requisite cannon fodder for the hordes of undead creatures and the various traps laid out by The Red Queen for them to hopefully stumble into and be torn apart by. The only other performer of note is South Korean superstar Lee Joon Gi portraying one of Dr. Isaacs' various goons, his reason for being in the film to engage with Jovovich in a brutal martial arts battle royale where the two of them will punch, kick, hack and slash one another into potential oblivion.

Anderson has always been one of the more up and down B-grade filmmakers in recent memory. He made his name on another video game adaptation, 1995's Mortal Kombat, before managing to move on to more concrete success with cult favorite Event Horizon in 1997. He stumbled somewhat the very next year with the sci-fi, High Noon-esque Soldier with Kurt Russell, only to rebound with the initial entry in this particular series back in 2002. Between Resident Evil sequel duty he's also directed Alien vs. Predator, the 2008 remake of Death Race, the umpteenth take on Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers and the giddily misguided sword and sandal disaster epic Pompeii. A far more competent filmmaker than he's usually given credit for being, he's also fond of lavish, melodramatic flourishes that typically play to a viewer's baser instincts, often dumbing things down to such a startling degree it's almost impossible to believe there's an audience member alive who is emotionally moved by anything he does.

Thing is, when he's on his game, I truly believe he can stage action sequences and generate suspense with the best of them. Sure, he's fond of jump scares and visual misdirection, and goodness knows this sequel is filled with both of those items, but that doesn't mean the last act still doesn't somehow sizzle with visceral intensity. It's silly, overblown tomfoolery, working at a level that's hardly worth taking seriously, but that doesn't make it any less well staged, Glen and Jovovich playing off one another with a jubilant ferocity I kind of got a kick out of.

All of which makes his handling of the film's middle section set pieces so much more disappointing. He and editor Doobie White (Momentum) overcut the fight sequence between Jovovich and Joon Gi to the point it becomes nothing short of a visual nightmare, while a big bout between the Raccoon City survivors and an endless horde of zombies is a mishmash of murky CGI effects and poorly staged fisticuffs. It should also be said that, for a series that has written itself into a never-ending puzzle box of circles and conundrums, Anderson has kept things childishly simple with this climactic chapter, throwing in a couple of revelations that honestly make little to no sense at all for those who have followed this adventure through all six motion pictures.

Still, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is easily the most entertaining of the sequels, and while not as consistently engaging as Anderson's first film, still the best video game to film adaptation to ever see the light of day, that doesn't make the portions here that do work any less fun. With a killer opening and an even better climax, I find I don't even care all that much that Anderson still leaves room for a sequel in case this installment proves to be a massive surprise hit. There's life in the supposed last act, and for those who have stuck with the series since the beginning watching it go out on a relative high is probably enough to warrant the price of a matinee ticket.


The Space Between Us an interplanetary bore
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE SPACE BETWEEN US
Now playing


The first and only child ever to be born on Mars, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) has just turned 16. All he knows of Earth is what he's learned from the small groups of scientists who reside within the complex of East Texas, and he's understandably eager to know more about the planet his tragically deceased mother and unknown father came from. But while some, like astronaut Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino) and project director Chen (BD Wong), feel it is time for Gardner to come to Earth, others like Genesis Space Technologies chairman Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) aren't so sure this is a good idea, fearing that the change in gravity between the two planets could kill the teenager.

Nonetheless, the decision is made for the boy to make the trip, and it will be up to Shepherd, Wyndham and Chen to monitor his health after he lands. But unbeknownst to all of them, Gardner has alternate designs. He's been clandestinely corresponding with Colorado high school student Tulsa (Britt Robertson), the pair striking up a close friendship even though the latter has no idea the former was chatting her up while living on Mars. Together, they will steal away on an adventure to find Gardner's long-lost father, and in the process forge a bond more powerful than the latest interstellar starship that connects his planet to hers.

I'll give director Peter Chelsom's (Serendipity, Funny Bones) teenage science fiction romance The Space Between Us this: it has its over-sized heart in the right place. Like some slipshod combination of The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Brother from Another Planet, but thrown together like it was a feature-length pilot to a new CW tween melodramatic soap opera, the movie means well and has a number of good ideas, the only pity being it doesn't have the first clue as what to do with a single one of them. Call it 'One Tree Mars,' just without the basketball and the brotherly bickering, in their place a rampaging love story that's as laughable as it is underdeveloped.

Allan Loeb's script (The Dilemma, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), derived from a story he co-wrote with Stewart Schill and Richard Barton Lewis, is a ghastly mess. Paying homage to everything from Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, to John Carpenter's Starman, to Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Sugarland Express, the story never finds solid footing, presenting its characters more as one-dimensional tropes than it does anything else. Shepherd and Wyndham, in particular, come across as gigantic idiots more often than not, and for two people who are supposed to be colossally intelligent the number of dumb moves both continually make is downright astonishing.

But that's nothing compared to the task set before Butterfield. I can't really say it is the Hugo and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children star's fault that he is unable to rise to the occasion, the challenge set before him by Chelsom and Loeb close to impossible. Gardner is an alien, even though he's human, his forced seclusion from the planet his parents came from, as well as his being raised by scientists treating him like a lab rat saw to that. But that doesn't make the character's total lack of social grace, his continual naiveté in the face of every single new sensation, any less implausible. It all forces Butterfield into a wide array of emotional corners he can't ever grab completely a hold of, the character's dynamic range a rollercoaster of absurd nonsense that's barely palatable.

Honestly, the only reason the film didn't grate on my nerves more than it did had everything to do with Robertson. While Tulsa isn't exactly a far cry from any of the characters the young actress has played of late, most notably her turns in Tomorrowland and A Dog's Purpose, she's still a blast to watch, and there are moments when her magnetism alone was enough to bring a smile to my face. She brings out the best in Butterfield, the pair sharing a handful of winning scenes that made it easy to forget just how risible the majority of this hackneyed drama was proving itself to be.

As dumb as it is, and, make no mistake, the movie is consistently stupid to an almost unfathomable degree, I can't bring myself to hate The Space Between Us. Chelsom stages a couple of nice escape sequences, and there's a beautiful use of zero gravity near the end that tugged at my heartstrings in an ever-so-slightly manner. This is not to say I believe the film is worth a viewer's time and money - not even that of the teenage audience this story is so clearly targeted at - this interplanetary romance a rocket ship of schmaltz and cliché that's impossible to take seriously.




Josh Davis plays The Pajama Game
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The Children's Film Festival Seattle welcomes all families
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Bring Down the House a refreshing and spirited set of productions
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The Victor Janusz Trio with special guest, Joey Kline, jammed songs from the '70s and beyond at Egan's in Ballard!
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Dyllan Murray on growing up with Gay fathers and the release of his new song on equality to benefit GLAAD and the Trevor Project!
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Melissa Etheridge and Todrick Hall coming to Seattle this spring, Lady GaGa set for Super Bowl performance this weekend
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Seattle's sexiest dinner theatre opens FRENCH KISS Valentine's Day Weekend
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Lambda Literary announces the 1st Annual LAMBDA LITFEST LOS ANGELES - March 6-12

Honoring LGBTQ writers in Southern California

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Letters
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JoJo is back: R&B-pop singer talks about gay fans and Grammys ahead of Seattle performance
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89th Annual Academy Awards nominees: Thoughts and reactions
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Screen Actors Guild Awards:

Surprise wins for Hidden Figures and Washington stir up Oscar races, Lily Tomlin receives Lifetime Achievement Award

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Game Resident Evil unleashes a final chapter
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The Space Between Us an interplanetary bore
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