Saturday, June 09, 2018

REASONS WHY THERE SHOULD BE MORE OF ‘13 REASONS WHY’


It was recently announced that the Netflix teen drama, 13 REASONS WHY would return for a third season next year. Some think of it as completely unnecessary or don’t care at all, while others believe that its hard-hitting reflection of the evils of America’s high school culture needs to go on. I’m somewhere between those two, just as this show is always just somewhere in between being about thought-provoking storytelling and simply being a guilty pleasure.

The reason for this started with the tapes.


The basic problem with 13 REASONS WHY for me has always been the gimmick that its title is, and by unfortunate extension, the ultimate attention-seeking stunt that Hannah Baker’s suicide is portrayed as. Now I never read the book, but through the first season, it became clear to me that this was just a high school drama, albeit a little more hard-hitting and complex than something seen on The CW or FreeForm. None of the reasons seemed like they were strong enough for Hannah to kill herself. Yes, the rape could have been reason alone, but the problem was generally in the depiction of the reasons. As the gimmicky title and premise became the narrative’s worst enemy, the season failed to convince me of the depth of the impact that the 13 reasons had. Some of the reasons unfortunately came across as completely shallow and trivial even. If the reasons brought out some angst or unresolved depression from the past or anything of significance that was relevant, it needed to be shown. For instance, I don’t recall the bullying that Hannah did in her previous school being a part of season one. It came out of the blue in season two, when Olivia tries to convince some girl not to testify about Hannah being a bully.


Anyway, she killed herself, we got to know the people in the school, we liked some characters, we hated some, and we were invested in their lives, to some degree. The story could go on, even after the gimmicky reasons were revealed and done with. The second season unfortunately decided to continue to dwell in the past. Even if we could live with that, what could have been told in ten 40-minute episodes was dragged on for thirteen 50-to-70-minute episodes. The most annoying was Clay’s interaction with Hannah, and the only thing good to come out of it was him telling her that she did an evil thing. Yes, she was a selfish bitch to kill herself leaving behind such pain and devastation, and someone needed to say it. To make it worse was that she had in fact made a list of reasons why not to. Considering how good her parents were to her (a complete opposite of Justin’s mother) ‘mom and dad’ should have been reason enough. The fact that she did think about them and decided to kill herself anyway convinces me that no one should forgive her what she did. And no, none of the reasons convinced me that they were strong enough to make her too blind to see what her death would do to those who cared.

Anyway, moving on, it’s a relief that Hannah Baker’s story is finally over. Katherine Langford’s exit from the show, and Olivia Baker’s decision to move to New York more than indicate that. Maybe now we can finally just have this show for what it is—a high school drama—not about why someone killed herself and who was responsible. That being said, certain people were responsible for certain things.

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only after finishing season two of 13 REASONS WHY]


Bryce Walker, painted as a complete asshole—almost unrealistic in this day and age when there are at least some grey areas shown—is allowed to go scot-free. I’ll admit I didn’t think that the Bakers would win the case, because if I was in that jury, I would vote in favor of the defendants too. In all fairness, the school could not be held entirely responsible for what Hannah went through, and she could have become a target and a victim even with stronger intervention on the school’s part. However, I was convinced that the justice the Bakers would get—as well as Jessica, and Bryce’s other victims—would be to see him pay for what he did in a bigger way than being watched more closely by the cops for just three months. He seemed to be done with his ways, when he tells Monty he doesn’t want to do anything to make Tyler and the others pay for the baseball season getting canceled, but I really don’t think there’s any redemption for that character. While season two disappointed in that area, maybe they’ll find a way to take him down in season three. Another extreme evil, Monty should, of course, be destroyed completely for the brutal and worse-than-beastly rape of Tyler. That was the most gruesome scene of the show yet, and one of the most difficult things to watch, from among any content I’ve ever seen.


Then there’s Tyler, who’s probably broken beyond repair. There’s Clay, who we last saw holding Tyler’s gun. There’s Jessica, torn between Alex and Justin, who’s still using heroin. There’s Tony, Zach, and there are others. There’s a lot to go on with. If we could all just move past Hannah, and let them tell us these characters’ stories without the Hannah factor, I could still find reasons to watch. And we’ll get to see if the annoying Clay has anything at all to offer as a character, without the Hannah factor in his life.

However, I really would like to see more restraint in the narrative. The over-indulgent subplots, extended scenes and conversations, and other downright dumb plot choices—such as having a crutch-using Alex as the only one to go with the villainous Monty to retrieve the lost Polaroids—could easily be done away with.

Monday, March 05, 2018

OSCARS 2018: FRANCES McDORMAND, ‘THE SHAPE OF WATER’, AND A JET-SKI


As the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences celebrated 90 years of excellence in cinema, what I was thought we’d see was a bigger birthday bash for Oscar, but it was quite an entertaining show anyway


Photos, courtesy: AMPAS

Now the thing with Jimmy Kimmel is that we weren’t expecting a mega musical number with tons of back-up dancers, or a pre-recorded comedy sketch spoofing the nominated films, or anything like that. After last year’s Oscars, I did expect Kimmel to just be his funny self, with his matter-of-factly delivery making his punchlines even more hilarious. So when the show began and we saw an old-tape version of the live telecast, I thought it would get bigger and lead to something more, but it didn’t and I soon realized it didn’t have to. Kimmel came on and he was funny. And then I just sat back to enjoy Hollywood’s biggest night.


But before I get on to the high points of the show, I have to say this: I think Kimmel should’ve left surprising unsuspecting people to last year’s Dolby Theatre visitors. Taking the surprise out of the Dolby this time was a bit much. Yes, it was cool to see Gal Gadot and Emily Blunt and the rest giving away snacks and hot dogs from a hot dog cannon, but just for a second.



And now, the biggest highlights of the Oscars this year.

1. THE JET-SKI
It was hilarious. No one’s ever thought of something like this to remind winners to not get carried away with their acceptance speeches. It wasn’t going to be very effective; but then the playing-off music and the brutal mic-switch-off anyway takes care of never-ending acceptance speeches. But the jet-ski became a constant joke after Helen Mirren modeled with it like it was on a tele-shopping sale. From the first acceptance by supporting actor winner Sam Rockwell, to one of the last speeches, by lead actor winner Gary Oldman, the jet-ski was the gift that kept on giving. And the icing on the cake was to see costume design winner Mark Bridges (Phantom Thread) actually ‘winning’ the jet-ski at the end for having given the shortest acceptance speech.

2. THE A/V PRESENTATION ABOUT INCLUSION
It’s what Hollywood needs. It’s what the audience needs to see. I don’t always blame studios for going straight, white, macho male with most projects. Those are the ones that work because those are the ones that people mostly want to see. But there are exceptions to that, and movies like Wonder Woman prove it. And it works both ways. Audiences also need to be exposed to inclusion for movies that are inclusive, which steer away from stereotypes, to help the evolution of art and storytelling. And then we won’t always have movies about straight, white dues made by straight, white dudes. Instead straight, white dudes can also get used to seeing movies about people like Kumail Nanjiani made by people like Kumail Nanjiani—which was expressed so well by Nanjiani. And speaking of inclusion, I love how Sandra Bullock and Emma Stone drew attention to the only women nominated in the categories they presented—cinematography and direction, respectively. 

3. FRANCES McDORMAND WINNING THE NIGHT
A simple yet extremely effective move, McDormand asking all women nominees to stand up just elevated her acceptance speech to another level. She found an interactive and spot-on way to bring attention to the women and drive a point home. “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight,” McDormand said. “Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours—whichever suits you best—and we’ll tell you all about them.”

4. THE CELEBRATION THAT IS MERYL STREEP
When McDormand asked the ladies to stand up, and people seemed hesitant, she said, Meryl, if you do it, everybody else will.” And they did. Meryl Streep is always a celebration at the Oscars, because she breaks records every year or so. And there are always jokes about her, in reference to her, and including her. But this year, what took the cake was Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence ‘bitching’ about Meryl to her face, as they went up to present. Foster said Streep had ‘I Tonya’d’ her, which put her on crutches. And Lawrence said Streep had tripped her once. It was so random, and so spectacular.

5. FAYE DUNAWAY AND WARREN BEATTY
It was déjà vu and it was everything we needed. Yes of course there would be jokes about last year’s ‘wrong envelope’ debacle and how La La Land was accidentally declared the best picture before everyone realized it was actually Moonlight. Kimmel mocking accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCooper’s commitment to getting it right ‘this time’ was funny, obviously, and then showing us that ‘this envelope’ would be the one to be opened before the best picture was announced was also hilarious, but what took the cake was having Dunaway and Beatty back for a do-over. It was just what was needed for the Oscars to laugh and make us laugh at their expense. And it was the best throwback they could have had to last year's mess up.

And that was the end. The Shape Of Water won best picture, Mark Bridges won the jet-ski, Jimmy Kimmel said they ran out of time for Matt Damon, and everyone went to the after-parties. Another awards season comes to an end.

THE COMPLETE LIST OF OSCAR WINNERS 2018

Best Motion Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Achievement In Direction
Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan
Get Out – Jordan Peele
Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson
The Shape of Water – Guillermo Del Toro

Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Sally Hawkins – The Shape Of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington – Roman J Israel, Esq

Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Mary J Blige – Mudbound
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape Of Water
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adapted Screenplay
Call Me By Your Name – screenplay by James Ivory
The Disaster Artist – screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H Weber
Logan – screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; story by James Mangold
Molly's Game – written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound – screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Original Screenplay
The Big Sick – written by Emily V Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out – written by Jordan Peele
Lady Bird – written by Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water – screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; story by Guillermo del Toro
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – written by Martin McDonagh

Best Animated Feature
Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema
Mudbound – Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water – Dan Laustsen

Film Editing
Baby Driver – Paul Machliss & Jonathan Amos
Dunkirk – Lee Smith
I, Tonya – Tatiana S Riegel
The Shape of Water – Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Jon Gregory

Sound Editing
Baby Driver – Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049 – Mark Mangini and Theo Green
Dunkirk – Richard King and Alex Gibson
The Shape of Water – Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

Sound Mixing
Baby Driver – Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H Ellis
Blade Runner 2049 – Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
Dunkirk – Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A Rizzo
The Shape of Water – Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

Original Score
Dunkirk – Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread – Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water – Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Carter Burwell

Original Song
‘Mighty River’ – Mudbound (Mary J Blige, Raphael Saadiq & Taura Stinson)
‘The Mystery of Love’ – Call Me By Your Name (Sufjan Stevens)
‘Remember Me’ – Coco (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez)
‘Stand Up for Something’ – Marshall (Common & Diane Warren)
‘This Is Me’ – The Greatest Showman (Benji Pasek & Justin Paul)

Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast – Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour – Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread – Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water – Luis Sequeira
Victoria and Abdul – Consolata Boyle

Make-Up And Hairstyling
Darkest Hour – Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski & Lucy Sibbick
Victoria and Abdul – Daniel Phillips & Lou Sheppard
Wonder – Arjen Tuiten

Production Design
Beauty and the Beast – production design by Sarah Greenwood; set decoration by Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049 – production design by Dennis Gassner; set decoration by Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour – production design by Sarah Greenwood; set decoration by Katie Spencer
Dunkirk – production design by Nathan Crowley; set decoration by Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water – production design by Paul Denham Austerberry; set decoration by Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin

Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049 - John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert & Richard R Hoover
Guardian of the Galaxy Vol 2 - Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner & Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island - Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza & Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan & Chris Corbould
War for Planet of the Apes - Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon & Joel Whist

Best Documentary Feature
Abacus
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Animated Short
Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

Live Action Short
DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O'Clock
My Nephew Emmet
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us

Documentary Short
Edith + Eddie
Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Heroin(e)
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

Best Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)