Top Ten Movies About the City of Los Angeles

There’s a lot to say about the “City of Angels” known as Los Angeles, California.  The second largest city in America, after New York, it is one of the world’s most important hubs for finance, productivity, and most importantly, culture.  Often called America’s cultural capital, Los Angeles is home to many artistic ventures that branch out and define the culture at large, but none more so than the industry that was birthed right in it’s own back yard; cinema.  Hollywood is used to define the industry as a whole, but it’s name derives from the district of this city in which it was started, making it eternally linked to LA as a whole.  The whole reason for the population boom that the city has experienced over the last 100 years is because of the exposure that the film industry has brought to the community, and in some ways, it has grown the city too fast in order to be sustained.  Oftentimes, many people immigrate to LA with hopes of making their big break, and soon realize there’s just not enough room for everyone.  Even still, it’s a city rich in culture and history, and it’s connection to Hollywood is vital to it’s identity.  The city has also served as a backdrop to many classic films, some of which are among the most influential ever made.  For this list, I will be looking at the ten movies that best represent the city of Los Angeles, both as a place and as a character within the narrative of it’s story.  I will be excluding movies that take place in LA, but remain secluded to a single area; so no Die Hard (1988), since it only shows the area around a single high-rise.  I’m also excluding movies like Clueless (1995) and Beverly Hills Cop (1984), because while Beverly Hills is part of the LA area, it is it’s own independent city.  They are all fine southland tales, but this is a list about Los Angeles; how unique it is to the rest of the world and how well that is represented by these movies on the big screen.  So, with that, let’s take a look at the movies that best represent the place I currently call home, Los Angeles.


LA LA LAND (2016)

Directed by Damien Chazelle

You just knew that the moment a song and dance number began to break out on a freeway offramp in the middle of a traffic jam that this movie was going to be a love letter to the city.  And in many ways it is.  Apart from the remarkably staged freeway sequence that opens the movie, the film utilizes many LA landmarks as a backbrop for it’s story; from the backlot of Warner Brothers studio in Burbank, to the Angel’s Flight railway in Downtown, to Grittith Park and the Griffith Observatory.  And while the movie does display the majesty of the city in a glorious light, it also at the same time portrays the unfortunate downside to living in LA as well.  Namely the way that many people have to give something up of themselves in order to gain a foothold in this city.  Whether it’s a person’s free time, their dreams, their personality, or worst of all, their dignity, many artists often come out of LA far less hopeful than when they went in, just because of the unforgiving way that the city works.  In the case of the the two main characters played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, what they have to give up is a happy life together in order to pursue the careers they desire and live to their own high standards.  It may seem trite compared to some of the harsher realities about Hollywood, but it speaks a lot to the common experience that many would be artists face when they come to LA.  This city provides the strongest test possible for a person’s creative motivations, and those who persevere are the one’s who likely did so with leaving their past behind.  La La Land provides that medicine amongst the pretty visuals, helping to ground it and feel authentic as a portrait of the city and it’s inhabitants.  Also, it provides a great checklist for things to see and do while in LA, as I have also gone exploring throughout the city.



Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Here we have a different kind of movie that puts the spotlight on another industry that, for better or worse, is also tied to the city of Los Angeles; the porn industry.  Showing the rise of pornography in the San Fernando Valley during the free-loving disco era of the 1970’s, the movie Boogie Nights is a magnificent recreation of what Los Angeles was like at the time.  It was an era of sleaze and decadence, which ultimately transformed the character of the Southland in a way that you can still see traces of today.  Paul Thomas Anderson, who himself was born and raised in the Valley, was no doubt fascinated by the impact that this time period had on the city, and it was something he explored very early on in his movies.  Boogie Nights is the first in what you might call his “LA trilogy,” which also included the films Magnolia (1999) and Punch-Drunk Love (2002).  Though all three share the Los Angeles (and mostly Valley based) setting, it’s Boogie Nights that really feels like it portrays the city itself as a key part of it’s story.  All the different characters we meet, from Mark Wahlberg’s up-and-comer, to Burt Reynold’s domineering auteur, to Heather Graham’s perky Rollergirl, to Julianne Moore’s tortured starlet, all represent some of the kind of people that rose and fell during those turbulent years in the porn industry, and to this day represent some of the characters that you’ll still likely meet in parts of the city; unlucky in some cases.  Anderson’s period details are exceptional in this movie, as is the way that he immerses you into a different time in which Los Angeles was very different.  You can see this in the spectacular long shots he uses, like the opening shot of a neon theater marquee, or another one showing the different goings on at a pool party.  It may not be glamorous, but Anderson certainly makes it fascinating.



Directed by Michael Mann

This may not have been the first Los Angeles based thriller that director Michael Mann had worked on.  His 1996 film Heat is rightfully considered a masterpiece of the crime genre, and it makes effective use of parts of Los Angeles for some of it’s most harrowing, action packed moments.  But, I feel that the movie he made that is tied more closely to the City of Los Angeles is this more intimate, tension filled piece.  Set during a single night in the heart of the city, the story follows a hitman (played by Tom Cruise) who has hijacked a cab driver (played by Jamie Foxx) and is forcing him to drive to every job he needs to complete that night.  It’s a fantastic character study, but even more than that, it captures an often unseen element about the city that’s rarely been shown on film before.  I find that Collateral is the movie that best represents the feeling of Los Angeles at night.  Sure, you have the bright lights of the glitzy neighborhoods that you’ll find in most other cities, but the movie also shows you what nighttime is like outside of those districts.  There is this greenish-brown glow that seems to hang over the city at night, fed through the ever present street lamps and vehicle traffic that never stops no matter what time it is.  Combine this with a starless sky above, and you’ve got a sense of how eerie and oppressive nighttime in Los Angeles can be.  Utilizing digital photography, Mann captured this unique element in his movie and made it an essential part of his narrative.  Nothing underlines the dire situation that Foxx’s cab driver is in than the de-saturated colorscape of Los Angeles at night.  This one of the most unsung masterpieces of the 2000’s and a movie that really captures not just parts of the city, but the feeling of the city.



Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

If you were ever to look for a movie that clearly defined the identity of the quintessential Angelino, it would be The Big Lebowski.  This classic farce from the Coen Brothers gives us a hilarious tale centered around the kind of characters that while are not necessarily representations of the city itself, are nevertheless bi-products of it.  Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (played to perfection by Jeff Bridges) is a remnant of the Southland’s brief flirtation with the “flower power” generation, which didn’t take hold the same way like it did up North in San Francisco, so he is left to be a island unto himself in a culture that has left him well behind.  But the Coen Brothers use their movie to celebrate this kind of aspect of his character and tie it to the identity of Los Angeles in general.  From the iconic view the San Fernando Valley aglow at night, we follow a tumbleweed as it takes us deeper in, until we finally arrive at grocery store where a bearded, bath-robed man is browsing the dairy section for the freshest milk.  In these opening minutes, we see the Coen Brother’s intention which is to go from how Los Angeles would like to view itself (the breathtaking glowing metropolis) to showing it’s true face (an old man buying milk).  From then one, the Dude is our guide through a Los Angeles seldom seen; with the shabby rows of apartment complexes, to the hole in the wall studios where bizarre excuses for art are made, to of course, the bowling alleys untouched by time.  His encounter with the titular Big Lebowski also makes an interesting statement on the wealth gap that also defines much of LA.  As the movie states, “The Dude is a man for his time” and that time still illustrates the divide that continues to define the city itself.



Directed by Ridley Scott

This movie represents a view of Los Angeles that never has existed and probably won’t.  Considering that we are rapidly approaching the furturistic year of this movie’s setting, 2019, and the city doesn’t look all that dissimilar to how it did 35 years ago when this movie first came out, it’s pretty clear that this is far from the truest representation of Los Angeles on screen.  But it does offer another interesting insight into the city’s identity, which is how it once saw it’s trajectory into the future.  Back in the early 80’s, Los Angeles was one of the world’s most polluted cities, with smog being a near constant occurrence in the atmosphere.   In addition, the constant sprawl of the city continued to spread out, making it appear that Los Angeles was going to see urban growth that would spiral out of control in the near future.  That’s why in the movie, Blade Runner, we see this nearly-post-apocalyptic landscape of a city no longer recognizable as it once was.  The movie’s influential visuals give us a look at a city that abandoned all identity in order to build bigger and faster in order to accommodate an unforgiving world.  Thankfully things haven’t turned out as dire as it did in the movie, and we still have a Los Angeles today that still feels the same, only a little cleaner.  But one thing that the movie does portray accurately about the city is it’s melting pot culture.  You see this in the market place scenes where Harrison Ford’s Dekard frequents and finds information.  And Ridley Scott did manage to work genuine Los Angeles landmarks into his movie, like the iconic Bradbury Building in Downtown, where the film’s memorable climax takes place.  While not a representation of reality, Blade Runner still represents a fascinating view of a Los Angeles that could have been as was feared to have eventually become.



Directed by John Singleton

Here we have a movie that shows a very often overlooked community in the City of Los Angeles, which is the inner city known as South Central.  This was the birthplace of rap music and street art, which have since gone on to become touchstones of the city’s cultural footprint, but South Central and nearby Compton were also where some of the city’s most ruthless street gangs emerged.  Movies that depict this part of the city often do so with the wrong intention, or completely miss the point and just end up misrepresenting it.  Fresh out of film school John Singleton took it upon himself to tell the story of his Los Angeles from an authentic inner city point-of-view.  This isn’t a movie that exploits gang warfare for action set pieces, nor glorifies the life of a gangster.  It’s about the struggle of regular people living in this community trying to lead a normal life amongst the threat of gang violence as well as with the oppression of a racially prejudiced police force.  The movie follows three young men, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, and Ice Cube as they all struggle to take command of their lives while the harsh realities of the ghetto would keep pulling them  back and force them to do things against their best interest.  Eventually, some make it out of the cycle, while others fall victim to it, and the movie does a superb job of illuminating the kind of realities that inner city residents must deal with every day.  This movie was a revelation for many, and as we would learn, keenly observant.  The following year would see a massive riot engulf the city because of outrage over the brutality of the bigoted law enforcement system that went unchecked for far too long.  It was shocking to many, but was all too clear to someone like Singleton whose own experience in the city was reflected in the story he told.  For him, it was clear that this was the portrayal of Los Angeles that he wanted to share with the world, and it’s movie that rightfully changed a lot of viewpoints and brought another identity to the city as a whole.



Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Another filmmaker brought up in the City of Angels presenting another unseen side of the city.  Quentin Tarantino used LA as the backdrop for a number of movies, including Reservoir Dogs (1991), Jackie Brown (1997), and his upcoming film centered around the Manson Family murders.  But it’s Pulp Fiction where he really explores the many different shades of the city, and in particular, the parts that were appealing to him.  Tarantino’s style of film-making involves what I would describe as Angelino kitsch.  He takes many of the more garish parts of the city, such as the sun-worn stucco, the cramped strip malls on every block, the deteriorating art deco buildings long past their glory, and off course the sports cars that the city was built for.  You can see that Tarantino has an affection for this side of Los Angeles because it’s a call back to the type of cinema that he himself was brought up on.  During the maverick years of the 70’s, Grindhouse cinema became a lucrative business, and it often involved filmmakers working outside of the luxury of the studios, and instead scrambling out into the city, sometimes into some pretty drab and defunct areas.  Quentin wanted to embody that kind of maverick spirit in his own work, and he shows us this beautiful mosaic of a city that thrives on the edge.  He also plays around with the image that Los Angeles likes to project to the world, especially in the Jack Rabbit Slims restaurant scene, where Hollywood icons are reduced to novelty dining experience.  Tarantino’s portrait of the city may be a bit on the sensational side, but it is reflective of an identity that often hits pretty close to home for Angelinos, which is the rough edges brushing alongside the beautiful sheen of the city, and that’s something that the director is proud to show.



Directed by Nicholas Ray

This widescreen classic from the 1950’s provides a beautiful time capsule of an evolving city that was hitting a turning point.  The movie is about several teenagers who are struggling to define themselves in a post-war America that was somewhat still clinging to the past.  This is personified most dramatically in James Dean’s career defining role as the titular rebel.  He wants to fight against something, but he can’t describe exactly why.  For the most part, it’s a struggle against himself that defines his character and what pushes him into a dangerous world of gang fights and street races.  The movie perfectly captures that angst of a generation that grew up under the prosperity of their parents but were resentful of the structures and expectations that this prosperity laid upon them.  A story like this is perfectly supported by it’s Los Angeles setting, because LA itself was a city going through it’s own growing pains, as sprawl seemed to be engulfing the entire vicinity.  Director Nicholas Ray utilized the widescreen process to exceptional effect, capturing Los Angeles landscapes and landmarks in beautiful compositions.  The Griffith Observatory in particular is eternally tied to the movie as it provided the setting for some of the movie’s most memorable moments, including the emotional finale.  It’s place in Los Angeles history is so profound, that it even received an affectionate homage in La La Land.  The city itself also recognized the esteemed place that the movie has and a monument stands today at the Griffith Observatory on the same spot where James Dean filmed the famous knife fight, honoring the tragically short lived actor.  To see a fine example of what Los Angeles was like back in a relatively simpler time, this is absolutely the kind of movie you should check out.



Directed by Billy Wilder

This movie is not just one of the most searing portraits of Los Angeles in general, but also perhaps the quintessential movie about Hollywood itself.  Billy Wilder’s scathing satire about the dark side of showbiz presents an unnerving narrative about how fleeting fame can be and the many different ways that the industry ends up exploiting those who come into it.  Taking it’s title from the famous road that passes through Hollywood on it’s way towards the mansion filled hills, the movie focuses on Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson in a comeback performance), the most delusional of has-beens.  In her own words, “I am big.  It’s the pictures that got small,” and her belief is that it’s the studios that has kept her away from the world, rather than her own uncompromising, self-interested behavior.  In the film, she ensnares a troubled screenwriter (William Holden) looking for a break of his own, and he only becomes wise to the pit that he has dug into when it becomes too late.  What Billy Wilder does brilliantly with his movie is to dismantle the glamorous side of Hollywood and show the ugly side underneath.  Norma Desmond lives in one of the city’s most extravagant homes (the now demolished Getty Mansion, which was also used in Rebel Without a Cause), but it’s antiquated furnishings and deteriorating state makes it feel almost like a haunted house, and then ultimately a prison.  Essentially, we see what fame costs an individual in the end, which is often their dignity, their sanity, and in the screenwriter’s case, his life.  That’s the lasting impact of Sunset Boulevard because it makes us aware of the truth that underlies the glitzy falsehoods that the city likes to project.



Directed by Roman Polanski

If there was ever a movie that illustrated the character of a city, this would be it.  Chinatown is both a glorious celebration of the visual splendor of the great city of Los Angeles, while also a scathing indictment of the widespread corruption that made it’s expansion possible.  The story is a fictionalized account of how the San Fernando Valley was suddenly incorporated into the Los Angeles City Limits, allowing for corporate interests to exploit the precious water supply that fed most of the farmland out there, and do so at a cost to the farmers who were scrapping by, all uncovered by a fearless private eye played by Jack Nicholson.  This is the backdrop for the story told by director Roman Polanski and writer Robert Towne.  To give their story a unique feel, they drew inspiration from classic film noir of the 40’s and 50’s.  It’s actually quite an easy connection to make considering Los Angeles’ surprisingly robust history in film noir.  When you look at most classic noirs like Double Indemnity (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and yes also Sunset Boulevard, they all use LA as their setting, which is unusual because noir is meant to epitomize dark, shadowy subject matter and photography, and LA is quite famous for it’s abundance of sun.  But, that rich history lends itself perfectly over to Chinatown, which uses it’s LA setting to beautiful effect.  The colors in particular are perfectly saturated to give this movie a by gone era look, despite the the fact that it’s subject matter is decidedly modern.  It’s that beauty found in the collision between the glamour and the savagery of Los Angeles that makes Chinatown the quintessential Southland tale.  You’ll never find a better movie that presents the duality of a complex city quite as well as this one does.

So, as you can see from this list, the thing that defines Los Angeles is it’s many contradictions.  It’s a city full of glamour and rich culture, but also one with a dark edge to it too.  Certainly it’s defining feature is the film industry, which continues to fuel the massive wealth that the city enjoys, but the city is also one struggling to deal with the costs of it’s own rapid growth.  That’s what makes the movies on this list so distinguished, because they all capture the essence of this multi-faceted city that has many different sides to it.  You see the colorful but less glamorous side of the city portrayed in The Big LebowskiPulp Fiction, and Boogie Nights, while La La Land and Sunset Boulevard show off the glamour but illustrate the toll that it takes on the people.  And then there’s a valuable movie like Boyz N The Hood, which brought a much needed voice to a segment of the city that had long been marginalized.  I myself see the many different shades of Los Angeles in my own life.  I live outside the heart of Hollywood, making my home in the Valley where it can be comfortable, but far from glamorous.  I don’t go to extravagant parties in opulent mansions or eat in the swankiest of restaurants.  But, I am only a stone’s throw away from some of the world’s most famous and extravagant movie palaces as well as near many of the landmarks seen in these movies.  I have strolled through Griffith Park, walked through the front doors of the Griffith Observatory, and have bowled on the lanes as the Dude.  While Los Angeles can be a tough place, I am still happy to call it home, and these 10 movies all illustrate the many reasons why I love it so much.  It’s only fitting that the industry it helped foster would reflect back and show the character of this one-of-a-kind city to the rest of the world.

A Wrinkle in Time – Review

Every now and then, a movie arrives at a time where it is seen to be a statement for it’s time.  And I don’t mean just in the content of the film itself, but also for what it represents as a milestone of a production.  Sometimes a movie breaks new ground in technology or addresses a taboo social issue that has long been overlooked.  But one thing that especially stands out over time in Hollywood is the advancements made in representation.  Over the years, Hollywood has recognized it’s shortcomings when it comes to representing all groups within society, whether it be based around race, ethnicity, creed, or sexuality, and in several instances you will see the industry try to reach out with movies that address those communities directly.  But, the difference between who makes the movies and who those movies are directed towards have been a sticking point for many, as Hollywood has remained a predominantly white, male-centered industry for the longest time, at least when it comes to the work behind the camera.  That has led to some people making that lack of diversity an issue and worth holding Hollywood accountable for that.  In recent years, we have seen some studios address that issue by not only seeking out talent in all fields that represent a more diverse society, but also in taking a chance by giving them big budget, tent-pole films to work on.  And, the results have proven that diversity is indeed a positive for the industry.  Last year, Wonder Woman became a landmark by becoming the highest grossing movie ever directed by a woman, and about a female superhero no less.  This year, the Afro-centric Black Panther from Ryan Coogler is shattering box office records, left and right, again obliterating the preconceived notions that films by white males are all that make money.  The trend continues now with Disney’s adaptation of the young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, with rising African-American director Ava DuVernay getting her first shot at making a statement with a  big Hollywood film.

DuVernay made a name for herself with the critically acclaimed biopic of Martin Luther King Jr., Selma (2014) and then she received an Oscar nomination for her documentary, 13th, a year later.  Some believed that her lack of a directing nomination for Selma was one of the more egregious snubs by the Academy in recent years, which was part of the fuel for the “Oscars So White” campaign that changed both the way the Academy votes and increased the diversity within it’s membership.  She herself became the first black woman ever accepted into the Academy’s director’s branch, which quite the honor in it’s own way.  But, all this helped to keep her a hot new name in the industry, leading some to believe that she was indeed ready to undertake bigger and more prestigious projects.  Eventually, Ava took an offer from Disney to direct an ambitious adaptation of a literary classic that they have long held the rights to.  Written in 1962 by author Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time is the first of a series of science fantasy novels that have ever since become a essential reading for young adult fans for several generations.  Though many have tried, few have ever gotten a film adaptation off the ground, leading many to believe that the trippy, existential tome is un-filmmable.  Disney has held onto the rights for the longest time, and even assembled a small scale TV-movie based on the book, which fell way short of capturing the essence of the novel.  But with a hungry and interested filmmaker like Ava Duvernay ready to give it her own shot, Disney felt confident in not just giving her the reigns, but also attaching a sizable budget to it, which itself is groundbreaking, because that’s never been done before for a woman of color in the director’s chair.  The only question now is, did Ava Duvernay deliver on that potential and make A Wrinkle in Time both work as a milestone and a work of art, or was it perhaps too much wishful thinking?

A Wrinkle in Time follows the story of a young mixed race girl named Meg Murray (Storm Reid) who struggles in school despite her demonstrated intelligence.  The disappearance of her astro-physicist father, Mr. Murray (Chris Pine) has hit her hard, and she has withdrawn from the world as a result, losing friends and alienating herself amongst others.  She receives support from her intelligent but strange little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), as well as her molecular scientist mother Mrs. Murray (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), but nothing seems to pull her out of her gloom.  Then, one night, she is visited by a strange, unusually dressed individual named Ms. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) who tells Meg that she has information as to the whereabouts of her missing father.  It turns out that his experiments with molecular manipulation opened up a Tesseract, which is a fold within the space-time continuum.  Now he is lost somewhere in another dimension and it’s up to Meg to use her intelligence to find him.  Assisted by a curious young man from her school named Calvin (Levi Miller),  Meg meets Mrs. Whatsit again along with her two equally powerful fellow mystical beings; the wise words obsessed Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and the all-knowing Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey).  Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace all pass through the time “wrinkle” and end up on another planet where it is believed that Meg’s father has ventured through.  While they take in the glorious and fascinating sights of this new world, the trio become aware of a dark presence that loom on the horizon.  The mystical “witches” tell them that this dark cloud is evil in it’s purest form, known simply as the IT,  and it’s spreading  darkness across the galaxy, infesting minds and turning people against each other.  Though they are advised to stay away, Meg is compelled to face the darkness, believing that her father lies trapped within it’s grasp.  But, does she have enough within herself to face the darkness of the IT and find her father before it’s too late.

It’s very clear that adapting A Wrinkle in Time to the big screen was not going to be an easy undertaking.  It is a very cerebral, high concept story that requires a lot to be drawn from the interpretations of the reader as they image the worlds that author L’Engle describes in her writing.  To bring that to life on the big screen requires an imaginative mind bold enough to do justice to L’Engle’s vision.  Ava DuVernay is nothing but fearless as a director, and she deserves a lot of credit for being bold enough to want to see these visions brought to life.  But, the story has often been called un-filmmable for a good reason, and this movie is evidence of that.  I’m sorry to say but this adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time is a colossal mess as a movie.  To clarify, I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how the movie actually stacks up, but what I saw just based off the film’s plot, I saw it as meandering, uncoordinated, and quite frankly underwhelming given talent involved.  Believe me, I want to see Ava DuVernay succeed as a big, studio filmmaker, but this isn’t the movie that is going to establish her as that type of director just yet.  It’s clear almost from the very beginning of the movie that her grasp on the reigns of this film is not strong enough, and the movie struggles to find an identity as a result.  In particular, the pacing of the movie never gives the movie a chance to define it’s own logic.  It’s clear that they were trying to force through a lot of the content from the book into the movie’s relatively short 105 minute run-time, and it makes the whole thing very exposition heavy.  There’s a rule to film-making where it’s said that it’s better to show, not tell in order to deliver key information to the audience, as film is a visual medium that allows images to carry more power.  This movie seems to break that rule constantly, as characters (particularly the witches) seem to exist solely to explain what is going on and what things are, making it seem like the movie doesn’t trust it’s audience to figure things out on their own.  It goes on like this throughout the movie, and I found myself becoming very frustrated with it as a result.

This is more of a problem with the uninspired screenplay more than anything else.  Written by Frozen (2013) scribe Jennifer Lee, the screenplay seems to be too married to the content of the original novel.  There is a lot of information delivered and it seems like the script wanted to make sure that everything was spelled out for us.  Because of this, scenes merely exist to reveal new information for our characters, rather than allowing us to absorb the atmosphere of the story.  Adapting a novel is tricky, because you don’t want to change too much in fear of angering die hard fans of the original book.  But, if you try to include too much of what’s on the page, then your film feels constrained because it feels like too much is being funneled through a very narrow passage.  That’s what the movie felt like to me, because it was all moving forward without rhyme or reason and nothing was connecting.  The lack of wonder is especially problematic, because the eye-catching worlds visited should leave an impression, both on the characters and on us, but no time is given to set things up, so it’s all sort of just casually presented without a sense of the magical.  There’s a colony of sentient flowers who communicate through colors; that’s an interesting idea.  Are they going to impact the story at all?  Nope, they are just a side-show on the way to the next elaborate visual effect.  Reese Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit can transform into a giant floating leaf of cabbage.  Okay, why?  What’s more, we get a trite love-conquers-all resolution to the story, and it seems like the script forgot to connect the idea of how the fantastical journey opens up a new understanding of the inner working’s of the universe itself.  The story is called A Wrinkle in Time, because it uses the manipulation of the laws of physics and time as a starting off point into the realm of fantasy.  The universe is strange and wonderful, but it is grounded by the fact that science can provide a solution to every unexplained phenomenon.  The movie treats it like an afterthought, minimizing the impact of the fascinating scientific possibilities and merely just uses each sight as a showcase for the film’s lavish production values.  It’s pretty, yes, but hollow, and a better more streamlined screenplay could have helped us appreciate all the scientific questions and imaginative what-if speculations that the original story had.

As a director, Ava DuVernay knows how to find emotion in a story, but she’s also still a filmmaker trying to refine her style.  This is only her third narrative film as a director, and that lack of experience is apparent when watching this movie.  That being said, I do give her a lot of credit for actually trying.  The best thing I can say about this movie is that it’s clear that Ava was invested in making this the best that it could be.  She wasn’t just trying to collect a paycheck, she really was pushing herself as an artist, trying to flex her muscles in areas of storytelling that were completely new to her.  In a way, she triumphs in that department, because the movie is quite visually stunning in some parts.  There are some compositions that I found very effective, and it showed me that in spite of the convoluted way that the story was being told, Ava at least was trying to give it some resonance visually.  The film does feel generic in the first half, with the movie looking more akin to a big budget TV pilot than anything else.  But, it’s at the point when the characters arrive at the home planet of the IT that Ava really begins to get creative, and the sequences in this section of the film show her experimenting more and getting better results.  I especially like the creepy sequence in a suburban setting with children bouncing balls in perfect, eerie unison.  It’s in this sequence where we see what the movie could have been had it been given more leeway to define it’s own identity.  Though Ava DuVernay has the skills to craft an emotionally resonant film, the high demands of such an expensive and elaborate production may have hindered her creative juices, and caused the movie to feel far more generic than it should have been.  I hope that Ava takes some key lessons from this experience and understands what it takes to deliver more emotion out of a larger scale film the next time she’s given this opportunity, which I hope happens.  It may not have come together as well as we all hoped, but I don’t put the blame on her shoulders.

Another mixed bag for this film is the cast itself.  There are some very good performances here, as well as some not so good ones, and some frankly insufferable ones too.  I do have to praise Storm Reid’s performance as Meg Murray.  The role of the problematic protagonist of this story had to be a tricky one for her to pull off, because if she put too much emotion into the character, she would have seemed to be inauthentic and unlikable, and too little emotion would have made her shallow and boring.  She finds the right balance, allowing us to at least find sympathy in the character of Meg and hope for her to find a happy resolution to her story.  Chris Pine is also quite good here as Mr. Murray.  He believably conveys the persona of a man who has long been disconnected from the reality that he has known, as well as the remorse he feels for leaving that normalcy behind, especially when confronted with how it has negatively affected his children.  But these are pretty much the only worthwhile performances in the movie.  The witches, sadly, leave such a minor impression, when they should have really been the movie’s highlight.  Oprah does little more than stand around and appear regal, while Reese Witherspoon tries desperately to act whimsical and fails badly.  Mindy Kailing is the more subtle and effective of the three, but she too leaves little impression.  Part of the problem is the fact that the script just doesn’t give these characters any context.  They appear magically, provide guidance, and then disappear when their job is complete.  We don’t know where they come from nor what their agenda is.  They are just fantastical for the sake of it, and in the end, it makes them less magical.  Levi Miller’s Calvin contributes absolutely nothing to the story other than to provide Meg with companionship and a potential love interest; ironically, becoming a reversal of the trope used in movies of this type where this character was typically a woman alongside a male hero, just there to look pretty and contribute nothing else.  I guess that’s progressive in a way, but it would be better to ditch the trope completely.  The most insufferable character though is Charles Wallace.  This is the worst kind of precocious child character that you’ll find in any movie; speaking lines that are way out the range of a child (intelligent or not) and with little sense of subtlety as well.  I’m sure that the little boy playing him is charming and likable in person, but that doesn’t come across at all in the film, and the movie becomes painful to watch because of this sometimes.  It’s another unfortunate result of a movie that delivers too little in return given what it had the potential for.

I want to see Hollywood take more chances with directors that come from all varieties of backgrounds.  We are already seeing this happen in a big way with Black Panther, and that success is already opening many doors that were once closed before.  Ava DuVernay has the potential to become part of that new movement too, given her passion for directing and telling bold, interesting stories.  Unfortunately, A Wrinkle in Time is just not that movie that makes the best case for her.  Believe me, I wanted to come away from this movie having loved it.  Ava seems like such a fascinating person with and the right kind of mind to take on a story as complex as this.  But, the movie meanders through a half-baked plot that never allows the story to flourish the way it’s supposed to.  I don’t know exactly how readers of the original novel are going to react to this film, but as a novice to this story, I found myself frustrated with the way it never once made me care about what was going on.  A story like A Wrinkle in Time could have been something really special and important for our time; providing a perfect criss-crossing of fantasy and science that could inspire a whole new generation of film-goers who are perhaps a bit deprived of both in movies today.  I could see this as a film that could have lived up to fantastical cinematic journeys like The Wizard of Oz (1939), Labyrinth (1986) and The Neverending Story (1987).  Instead, it became just another over-produced blunder that favors production design and visual effects over a compelling story, which is happening to too many fantasy films these days as studios play things perhaps too safe.  At least Ava DuVernay salvages a bit of the movie by putting some effort and passion into it.  But, at a time when movements like the one she represents needs a bold, statement that’s also successful, A Wrinkle in Time ends up leaving us, to use a phrase from the movie, “frankly underwhelmed.”

Rating: 6/10

The 2018 Oscars – Picks and Thoughts

This year’s Academy Awards follows up what many would consider one of the most tumultuous in the history of the industry.  Forget about the winners and losers at the box office, what really shook the walls of Hollywood was the far reaching scandals that dominated much of the headlines.  Numerous careers, including some high profile power players in Hollywood, were destroyed overnight and for a lot of them, it was for a good reason.  2017 was a year of reckoning for Hollywood after many years of trying to keep things under wraps and just moving on like it’s nothing.  No doubt it has left a deep impact on the entertainment business, and there were plenty of casualties along the way (for good and bad), but the conversation needed to be made and change had to happen.  This Oscar’s, we will hopefully be witnessed to a more aware and responsible Hollywood, and the controversy will certainly be touched upon over the course of the evening, as previous award shows this season have shown.  It remains to be seen if those same feelings manifest in the way that the Academy voters have cast their ballots this year.  There certainly are a number of movies nominated this year that hit on topical social issues, like Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, and most certainly Jordan Peele’s Get Out.  But what I find fascinating about this line up of Best Picture nominees is how it demonstrates clearly something that  discussed in last week’s article, which is the growing divide between old Hollywood and new Hollywood.  In the 9 nominees, you can see choices that represent the previous held notions of what traditionally makes up an Oscar film (Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, The Post, Phantom Thread) and choices that contradict the traditional notions (Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards).  As a result, we now have one of the least predictable Best Picture lineups in recent history, and as last year has shown, it’s anybody’s race.

As in previous years, I will be taking a look at the top categories of Adapted Screenplay, Orignal Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Actor, Actress, Director and Best Picture.  I will argue my choices for who will likely win and who I would like to see win, which sometimes lines up.  And with that, let’s take a look at this year’s nominees.


Nominees: James Ivory (Call Me by Your Name); Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green (Logan); Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game); Dee Rees and Virgil Williams (Mudbound); and Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Disaster Artist)

This is the perhaps the most interestingly diverse category at this year’s Oscars; at least in terms of the movies represented.  You have a historical, literary adaptation in Mudbound, a memoir adaptation that is loosely tied to it’s source and might have well been an original screenplay if it weren’t based on real life like Molly’s Game, a farcical retelling of the making of the worst movie ever with The Disaster Artist, a tender queer romance with Call Me by Your Name, and even a comic book adaptation with Logan.  While many of these nominees are commendable for a variety of reasons, and I’m especially happy to see a little love sent The Disaster Artist’s way after being snubbed in other categories, this category is leaning very clearly towards a particular favorite.  Call Me by Your Name has emerged as the front runner and it’s hard to argue.  It handles it’s subject matter in such a delicate way and gives it a universal resonance for today that I don’t think it would have had at any other time.  Couple this with the fact that the script was written by a living legend in Hollywood who has yet to win an Oscar.  89 year old James Ivory is best known as one half of the Merchant Ivory team that made a name for itself creating lush period dramas that were particularly popular with Oscar voters in the past, such as A Room with a View (1986), Howard’s End (1992) and The Remains of the Day (1993).  Though retired from directing, Ivory still managed to craft an exceptional screenplay with a tender love story between two men at it’s center that really feels remarkably in tune for our times.  I still find it subversively delightful that someone close to 90 years of age sat down and wrote out the now notorious “peach scene” into a script.  It’s a long overdue honor for a legendary filmmaker and deserving given how well it hits a cultural nerve for today’s audiences.

Who Will Win: James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name

Who Should Win: James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name


Nominees: Jordon Peele (Get Out); Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird); Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (The Big Sick); Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water); Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

This category more or less falls into line with the usual suspects as opposed to this year’s adapted nominees.  Though diverse in genre, all the movies here have one thing in common, which is that they are all personal creations from each of their creators.  Whether they are semi-autobiographical like The Big Sick or Lady Bird, or making a bold statement like Get Out or Three Billboards, or is a passion project from an acclaimed auteur like The Shape of Water, each one has a clear personal story attached to it.  This is also the category where the Academy is likely going to make it’s own acknowledgement of the cultural issues of the day.  With that in mind it’s likely that Three Billboards and Get Out are the movies that have the best chance of winning in this field.  But, which issue wins out in the end.  Get Out delivers a daring message about race relations in America that takes left turns that you probably would’ve never expected and is certainly on a structural aspect the most original script in this bunch.  But Three Billboards tackling of sensitive issues like sexual abuse, freedom of expression, and gender discrimination make it a far more timely film in this category.  While Martin McDonagh’s screenplay is delightfully un-PC and thoroughly original in concept, his handling of these touchy issues is somewhat less graceful, and it makes me think that Jordan Peele has the edge here with his more on-point Get Out.  And while I do admire the work that both men put into their writing, my own personal preference goes to Greta Gerwig’s more subtle work with Lady Bird.  With her screenplay, Gerwig delivers one of the most natural feeling character studies in recent memories.  All the other nominees are driven more by their well designed plots, but Gerwig paints a portrait, transporting us into her character’s lives and letting us feel at home with them.  It’s the least “movie” script of the bunch and that’s why I like it the best of the bunch, even if it’s chances are slim.

Who Will Win: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Who Should Win: Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird


Nominees: Allison Janney (I, Tonya); Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird); Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread); Mary J. Blige (Mudbound); and Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

The Supporting Actress category is an interesting line-up this year because of the pedigree involved.  Usually this award is distinguished by a collection of up-and-coming talent or by standout performances from seasoned veterans.  This year is interesting, because apart from previous winner Octavia Spencer, the category is filled with first time nominees who have been noteworthy in places other than the big screen.  Lesley Manville, a mainstay in her native England both on stage and in indie dramas, delivered a standout performance in Phantom Thread, managing to even upstage Daniel Day-Lewis at some points remarkably.  And R&B recording artist Mary J. Blige managed to earn an acting nod for her tender work in Mudbound, while also getting a Best Song nod at the same time (an Oscar first).  But, it’s a pair of two acclaimed TV veterans that are leading the pack this year; Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf.  Allison Janney, a multi-Emmy winner for her work on The West Wing series has emerged as a front runner, playing the very rough edged mother of Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.  It’s a showy performance that allows Janney to chew as much scenery as she desires and still feel genuine to the role.  There’s no doubt that Allison makes the best out of the role and she is a delight to watch in the movie; especially when she’s interacting with a pet parakeet on her shoulder.  However, it’s Laurie Metcalf’s more reserved performance as another cinematic mother that won me over more this year.  Her performance as the over-bearing, but dedicated mom to the Saoirse Ronan’s titular character in Lady Bird is a beautiful representation of every nuanced acting ability that Metcalf has honed on television ever since her early Roseanne days and forward.  While it is a close call, I think that Allison Janney’s more bombastic performance probably appealed more to Academy voters and that’s while she’ll win, although Metcalf’s long esteemed body of work might make a good case for her as well.

Who Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Who Should Win: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird


Nominees: Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World); Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water); Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project); and Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

The most striking thing about this category was the surprise inclusion of Christopher Plummer for his performance as J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World.  For those who followed industry news last year, it was widely publicized that Ridley Scott re-shot multiple sections of his movie in order to remove disgraced actor Kevin Spacey from the role of Getty and replace him with Plummer instead.  Even more amazing was the fact that it was done only a month away from the film’s premiere date.  So, it is quite shocking to see such a late addition to a movie earn recognition from the Academy.  I like to think that Plummer is just that good of an actor, but I think his nomination has more to do with the story behind his casting.  Even still, he is highly unlikely to win this year.  For right now, early predictions put Sam Rockwell at the head of the pack, with his acclaimed but also controversial role as a racist cop seeking redemption in Three Billboards.  Rockwell is a highly respected actor in Hollywood, having worked in a variety of beloved roles over the years, without ever getting recognition from the Academy.  This year seems set to rectify that, but controversy over the movie’s handling of his character has raised questions leading up to the rewards.  The character’s problematic racism is never really addressed in a meaningful way in the film, and that’s making a lot of critics unsettled with honoring it with an Oscar win.  But, I would argue that it’s a fault of the screenplay and not the actor, who still delivers a strong, nuanced performance.  But, as much as I like Rockwell, my personal favorite is Willem Dafoe in the criminally underappreciated The Florida Project.  I want this beautiful, little seen film to have some recognition, and Dafoe’s exceptional performance as a downtrodden hotel manager is the only shot it has.  Rockwell will probably still be victorious, but a surprise win for Dafoe would delight me to no end, and would be very much deserved.

Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who Should Win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project


Nominees: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Margot Robbie (I, Tonya); Meryl Streep (The Post); Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water); Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

One question has undoubtedly arisen ever since the beginning of this year’s Oscar season; can anyone beat Frances McDormand for Best Actress?  Perhaps the biggest lock of this year’s nominees, McDormand looks almost certain to win her second career Academy Award in this category; the first of course for her now iconic performance in the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece, Fargo (1996).  And it is a win that she by all means will have earned.  From the first moment we saw the trailer for Three Billboards, it was clear that this was a role tailor made for Frances to knock it out of the park, and that she did.  She perfectly balances the emotional toil that her infuriated maternal figure goes through along with the laugh out loud “give ’em hell” in-your-face personality.  It’s hard to balance comedy and tragedy in a single role, and Frances McDormand does it so effortlessly.  Among the other nominees, I can’t see any other that quite rises to that same level, despite all of them being very good.  Margot Robbie’s very physical performance as disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding is a definite standout, and any other year, she would be a runaway favorite.  Another strong contender is Sally Hawkins who delivers a passionate and completely wordless performance as the mute female lead of The Shape of Water.  Her character is probably the most nuanced of the group, because there are so many layers of performance that she has to work through, and she makes a tremendous transformation in the process.  But, it’s hard to ignore the force of Frances McDormand’s work this year and I believe that the Academy will feel that same way.  She is a beloved part of the acting community and her performance in Three Billboards is without a doubt one of the greatest of her esteemed career, almost guaranteeing her a second career award.

Who Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who Should Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Nominees: Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread); Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out); Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.); Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour); and Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

 On the surface, this would look like another category that appears locked up, but maybe not as much as Frances McDormand for Best Actress.  For right now, the favorite to win is Gary Oldman for his role as legendary British national figure Winston Churchill.  The chameleon like actor has made a name for himself playing a wide variety of roles where he completely disappears into character and can play just about everyone and everything.  His performance as Churchill is no exception, and frankly shows the actor at his very best.  Even through the heavily applied make-up to transform him closer to the famously rotund world leader, he still gives off a commanding presence helping his performance feel authentic and true to the real person.  He chews the scenery in the best way possible and has a magnetic pressence in every scene he is in.  It’s hard to believe that such an esteemed and multi-faceted actor like Oldman is coming into this Awards with only his second nomination ever (the first being for 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).  It feels like this is both an acknowledgement of his whole body of work thus far, as well a honor given to the strength of the performance itself.  The only thing that I can see spoiling Gary Oldman’s win is a possible upset by young, up-and-comer Timothee Chalamet.  The Academy does love honoring a breakthrough performance every now and then, and Chalamet’s heartfelt work in Call Me by Your Name feels like something that appeals to the Academy.  It’s not the first time that the Oscars went with a newcomer over an established veteran who was long overdue (2014’s Best Actor category for example, where Eddie Redmayne won over Michael Keaton).  But, despite how strong and deserving Chalamet may be in this category, it seems unlikely that the Academy will miss this oppurtunity to honor Oldman with a long overdue award.  Chalamet still has a long career ahead of him, and a nomination this year itself is going to lead to a lot of bigger and better things.

Who Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Who Should Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour


Nominees: Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk); Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird); Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water); Jordan Peele (Get Out); and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread)

This is a difficult category for me to make a personal choice for.  The front-runners, Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro, are two of my favorite working directors and they just so happened to direct my top two favorite movies of last year.  It’s also remarkable that it took the Academy this long to finally give them a nomination despite their exceptional bodies of work even before this year.  Nolan in particular was often seen as the poster boy for being criminally overlooked by the Academy after snubs for his acclaimed work on The Dark Knight (2008) and Inception (2010).  The category this year is especially significant for being filled with many first time nominees, with only Paul Thomas Anderson being the one who has been here before.  Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig both received deserved nominations for their first ever films as directors, but this is a year where that still favors more established creators.  Guillermo del Toro seems to have the edge with his previous wins at the Golden Globes and Driectors Guild, both clear bell-weather precursors to an Oscar win.  But, I think that Christopher Nolan’s work in Dunkirk could manage an upset victory in the end, because his film is probably the best showcase of the craft of directing in this category.  Dunkirk is a tour de force of filmmaking from beggining to end, showing off really the pinnacle of what the medium of film can do with so many in camera tricks accomplished without the aide of visual effects.  Given that the category of Directing is voted upon for the most part by other directors, it would seem hard to ignore what Nolan accomplished with Dunkirk.  But, even still, Del Toro has already built up a steady lead with his wins so far, and if he wins, it is not undeserving either.  The Shape of Water is a purely Del Toro film, carrying all the trademark elements that he has refined throughout his celebrated career and it would be very pleasing to see the Academy recognize that as well.  Regardless of who wins, it will be a deserving honor for one of the industry’s best talents working today.

Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Who Should Win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk


Nominees Call Me by Your Names; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Get Out; Lady Bird; Phantom Thread; The Post; The Shape of Water; and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is a significantly different year than what we saw at the last Oscars.  It seemed like the Best Picture of 2016 was without a doubt going to be the heavily favored La La Land, until it wasn’t.  That unpredictable result seems to have cast a shadow over this year’s nominees, because everyone now seems weary of picking an outright favorite now that it’s possible that anything can win.  There are some that are certainly rising to the top more than others, but it seems like every week since the nominations were announced there is a new front runner emerging.  To complicate things, people are also trying to make sense of this year’s race by returning to previous established notions of the Academy.  Some say The Shape of Water is the favorite because it has the most nominations, but recent years have shown that not to be a guarantee.  Three Billboards won the SAG ensemble award, and because most Academy members are actors, it must be the favorite, but that’s not always true either.  Then there’s Get Out, which some people might think has a definite chance because it’s message is timely and the Academy likes to make a have something to say about the current political climate.  But, as I wrote in last weeks article, the Academy has a strange way of changing it’s attitude towards previously conceived notions of itself and going in a wildly different direction than we expected.  That’s why there is no clear front-runner this year and this is really an Award up for grabs.  My own choice of course would be the movie that I picked as my favorite of the year, Dunkirk, which could possibly sneak in there and win too, despite the fact that it would appear the safest choice in the group.  It helps to have a lot of other wins in the lower categories too, which could help Dunkirk, but the movie that is in better position to sweep through multiple awards is The Shape of Water.  A win for that too wouldn’t upset me, because it was my second favorite film of the year, and it would be a deserved victory for genre flicks, which the Academy tends to ignore.  But, we at this point have no choice but to guess which way the Academy will go.  My guess is that Del Toro’s certain win for Directing will help carry The Shape of Water past the goal line, but anyone’s guess right now is as good as mine.

Who Will Win: The Shape of Water

Who Should Win: Dunkirk

In addition to looking over the top categories of the year, here is my quick rundown of the remaining categories at this year’s ceremony, with my picks:

Best Animated Film: CocoBest Cinematography: DunkirkBest Costume Design: Phantom ThreadBest Sound Mixing: Dunkirk; Best Film EditingDunkirkBest Sound Editing: DunkirkBest Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes; Best Make-up an Hairstyling: Darkest HourBest Production Design: The Shape of Water; Best Original Song: “Remember Me” from CocoBest Musical Score: The Shape of WaterBest Documentary: Faces PlacesBest Foreign Language Film: The SquareBest Documentary Short: Heroin(e); Best Live Action Short: DeKalb Elementary; Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball

So there are my picks for this year’s Academy Awards.  At the end of a tumultuous year that we witnessed in Hollywood, it seems only fitting that the year end Awards accolades should also reflect that same kind of level of uncertainty.   What pleases me is that the Academy is making an effort to really broaden it’s perspective and favor some not so easy choices for awards consideration now.  I don’t think that movies like Get Out or Lady Bird would’ve ever made the cut in previous years, and the embrace of more genre flicks like The Shape of Water is a good sign of the Academy waking up to broader cinematic voices.  Even with all that said, my personal favorite is unfortunately the most typical “Oscar-friendly” film in the bunch.  Dunkirk certainly falls into the historical epic category that the Oscars have always fawned over, but it’s a changing world and something like it, which would have been a clear front-runner before, now seems to be almost too safe.  Regardless, the Academy is making the right move in bringing in more diverse voices into their membership, and that is helping to make it possible for more daring and groundbreaking movies to get the recognition they deserve.  Whether or not this year is a reflection of change in the Academy, we’ll have to wait and see, but even still, there will be a lot of deserving winners at this year’s Awards. There’s not a single movie in the Best Picture category that I didn’t like, which is a good sign, and 6 of the 9 made my top 10 list for last year.  I hope that my favorite film can pull through and win, but I’m used to seeing that not be the case.  And usually it won’t matter in the end, because great movies live on forever, while Oscar wins usually tend to be forgotten.  The Oscars are more or less a grade card for the industry over the previous year in film, and with that, it acts as a fascinating documentation of where our culture stands at the moment, and provides a fascinating snapshot of Hollywood that we can look back on years from now.  That’s why I love the Oscars so much as a film history buff, and it’ll keep me coming back to it year after year.