Follow-up: Oscar Predictions

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment


Earlier today I posted the rankings of the 43 movies I saw that were released in 2016. Included in those 43 were all nine of the films nominated for Best Picture at this weekend’s Academy Awards. I don’t think any of my favorite movies have a shot at winning (as most aren’t even nominated-COME ON! No nomination for “Drive It Like You Stole It” in the Best Song category for Sing Street ?). It seems the Oscar Gods are shining their light on La La Land this year, which I suppose is fine. It was my least favorite of those nominated, but less-deserving works have won in the past.

Below are my predictions for what will win the Oscars this weekend. I’ll add my picks for what should win in parentheses. Also not including Documentary or Short Film categories, as I have no idea on any of those.

Best Picture

La La Land (Moonlight)

Best Director

Damien Chazelle (Barry Jenkins)

Best Actor

Casey Affleck (same)

Best Actress

Emma Stone (same)

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali (Dev Patel)

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis (same)

Best Original Screenplay

Manchester By The Sea (same)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Moonlight (same)

Best Cinematography

La La Land (Moonlight)

Best Editing

La La Land (Moonlight)

Best Score

La La Land (same)

Best Song

City Of Stars (How Far I’ll Go)

Best Animated Film

Zootopia (same)

Best Production Design

La La Land (Arrival)

Best Sound Mixing

La La Land (Rogue One)

Best Sound Editing

La La Land (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Costume Design

La La Land (Fantastic Beasts)

Best Visual Effects

Doctor Strange (Same)

Best Foreign Language Film

The Salesman (Toni Erdmann)

Best Makeup & Hair

Suicide Squad (Same)

Finally! Top Films Of 2016

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment


Seems like I’m later than usual getting to this, but we’re still a few days out from the Oscars so I think I’m ok. Finished watching all the best picture nominees this week and have prepared my rankings of all the films I’ve seen this year. There were a lot of great movies this year, many of them went underseen. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Instant you can see a lot of these at home as soon as immediately after you read this.
I’ll offer a little blurb with each film, and include the trailer so you can decide for yourself if you want to see it.
43. Love & Friendship: Whit Stilman does Jane Austen in a boring tale of class and relationship dynamics.

42. Sully: Completely pointless. Do you remember the Miracle On The Hudson? Then you can skip this one and not miss anything. Total waste of Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood’s talents.

41. Batman V Superman: Oy. What did we do to DC Comics to deserve such horrible claptrap? Two and a half hours of underwhelming action and boring exposition.

40. Ghostbusters: I’m not gonna cry “you destroyed my childhood!” on this one. It’s just not funny or scary or interesting enough to warrant watching.

39. The BFG: Didn’t think I would care for it, but Spielberg’s animated take on Roalde Dahl is pretty charming.

38. The VVitch: A horror movie with no scares, a period drama with no drama. Hardly anything makes sense in this bore.

37. Jackie: Natalie Portman is ok, if a little over-the-top at times. Voice sounds more like she’s doing Marilyn Monroe than Jackie Kennedy, but whatever.

36. Born To Be Blue: Ethan Hawks gives a good performance as jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. 

35. Hail, Caesar!: Coen Brothers can still make some of the most interesting films in modern cinema. Sadly, this ode to old Hollywood wasn’t one of them.

34. Why Him?: Basically Meet The Parents with Bryan Cranston and James Franco. Some of the cameos are pretty good and Andy Devine is hilarious in a small role.

33. Office Christmas Party: If you’re a TJ Miller fan, this is a must-see. I personally love Jason Bateman and he’s solid here.

32. La La Land: Certain to win Best Picture at the awards show, despite not being particularly good. Personally, I think it would’ve worked better as a straightforward narrative instead of a musical.

31. Keanu: Key & Peele take on a buddy action film and it turns out uneven, but pretty funny. Will Forte as a drug-dealing neighbor made me laugh a lot.

30. Captain America Civil War: Spider-Man was cool, but I’m pretty much over the MCU at this point. Only Guardians Of The Galaxy is keeping me holding on.

29. Joshy: Dark comedy with Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Nick Kroll, and Adam Pally. Uncomfortable laughter at its best.

28. Finding Dory: Good but can’t stand up to Finding Nemo.

27. Hacksaw Ridge: Took a bit too long o get to the war part, but once there it is insanely visceral. Would’ve been higher but the religious aspect was a bit too heavy handed for my taste.

26. Eye In The Sky: Aaron Paul as a drone pilot answering to orders from Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman. Interesting take on the hard decisions of war.

25. Nocturnal Animals: Jake Gylenhaal and Amy Adams in a good movie about the consequences of our actions.

24. The Green Room: Anton Yelchin leads a hardcore band in the Fight of their lives as they try to escape from a neo-Nazi concert venue.

23. Edge Of 17: Hailee Steinfeld holds her own against Woody Harrelson in this coming-of-age tale.

22. Popstar:Never Stop Never Stopping: Hilarious mockumentary from Lonely Island about rapper Conner4Real’s rise and fall in the music industry.

21. Hell Or High Water: Great story about brother bank robbers and Jeff Bridges as the law trying to bring them to justice. Film includes one of the great lines of all-time…”I asked for Dr Pepper! Only assholes drink Mr Pibb.”

20. Arrival: A little overrated in my book because I don’t think the story works as well as some others do. Still an interesting sci-fi idea and good performances from Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.

19. Rogue One: Way better than I’d anticipated. Would be higher if not for the horrible dialogue they gave to Darth Vader.

18. Swiss Army Man: A bizarre movie, but incredibly captivating. It looks amazing and the combo of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe is one I could watch in anything.

17. Zootopia: Great story for kids and adults alike. Plus the sloth!

16. Silence: Scorsese’s films that deal most directly with religion can be hard to sit through, and this one is no different. Andrew Garfield is good in the lead, but Adam Driver give a great supporting performance.

15. Don’t Think Twice: I’m a big fan of Mike Birbiglia, and the cast he assembled for this one is really great. Special shout out to Chris Gethard.

14. The Handmaiden: Chan-Wook Park delivers some of the best camerawork I’ve seen in a long time with this intriguing tale of betrayal and love.

13. The Birth Of A Nation: Controversy surrounding the filmmaker disrupted the release of this film, which I consider a must-see. The Nat Turner uprising is an important moment in civil rights history.

12. Hidden Figures: Another important milestone in the battle for civil rights. NASA had a segregated workforce during the most exciting times in the space program’s history. Three women of color played important roles in the success of the American victory in the space race with the Soviets.

11. The Lobster: Colin Farrel is terrific in this odd, dark comedy from the director of Dogtooth. Set in a world where you must be matched with someone or suffer the consequence of being turned into an animal of your choosing.

10. Hunt For The Wilderpeople: A sweet New Zealand film about bonding and the importance of family. Sam Neill is great in this one.

9. In A Valley Of Violence: Ethan Hawks takes on some troublemakers in a small western town in this bloody picture from Ty Sheridan. John Travolta delivers a funny performance.

8. Fences: Denzel directs the film version of August Wilson’s beautiful play. Washington and Viola Davis are both superb-Davis should win the Oscar this year.

7. Lion: Uplifting tale of a young Indian boy who gets lost and ends up getting adopted by an Australian couple. His beginnings start to haunt him when he’s away at school and he searches for his birth mother.

6. Manchester By The Sea: Ken Lonergan has a knack for finding humor in the saddest parts of life. Manchester paints an accurate picture of New England life and the people that inhabit the area are well-represented. Great performances all around, especially from the teenager Lucas Hedges.

5. The Nice Guys: Ryan Gosling has strung together some really great roles over the past few years. Russell Crowe needed a comeback movie after a couple stinkers. Shane Black brought both up to the top of their potential in this noir comedy.

4. Sing Street: I will see any movie John Carney makes. Once and Begin Again are both brilliant musicals grounded in reality. This moves his formula to the 80’s in the U.K., and the whole thing comes together beautifully.

3. Everybody Wants Some!!: Richard Linklater’s comedy about a group of kids playing baseball at UT-Austin. Hilarious movie with a surprising turn from Glee’s Blake Jenner.

2. Moonlight: Everything good you’ve heard about this movie is true. It’s gorgeous to look at, the acting is great across the board, and the story is very relevant to our time.

1. Hello, My Name Is Doris: From beginning to end, HMNID is note-perfect. Sally Field is the best she’s been in years and Michael Showalter deserves more credit for his brilliant script.

Molehill-“Hearts On Fire”

February 22, 2017 3 comments

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Chicago rockers Molehill have released the first of three singles coming out over the next few months that will make up their Hearts On Fire EP. The title track premiered on 50Thirdand3rd‘s website yesterday. The protest anthem feels very in-step with the times, and I’m all for any songs that stand behind the #Resist movement.

Molehill has always been a band who knows what they want to sound like, and it sounds like they wanted to take some chances here and change it up a bit. I especially enjoy Pete Manhart’s vocals, specifically in the last bit of the song-I don’t remember another track of theirs where his voice is so out in front of everything else, and certainly not the kind of guttural growl he displays here.

If you dig the song you can pre-order the physical version of the EP here. You will receive each song digitally as they’re released ahead of the physical disc. If you’re in the Chicago area, the band is playing a release show with Bassell & The Supernaturals at Logan Square Auditorium (moved from Double Door) on Friday February 24th-tickets will be available at the door. It’s a 21+ show, so leave the kids at home.

 

The Right Now-Starlight

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment


A few years ago someone sent me a copy of The Right Now Gets Over You to review. It wasn’t like anything I was listening to at the time-a throwback breakup record filled with funk and R&B and some of the best vocals I’d heard in ages. While Stefanie Berecz’s vocals carried the record for me, it was apparent that there was a lot of talent involved. Now they’re back with their first full-length in 4 years, and it finds all the potential of the 2012 release realized over 10 songs.

There was one major release that happened between Gets Over You and the new album, Starlight. They got a song placed in the huge-selling video game Watch Dogs. That brought a lot of new fans into the fold, and I think Starlight does a good job of capitalizing on their opportunity.

The sounds are very similar to the old stuff, but Starlight is a much cleaner record. The production is slick and pristine, with layers of horns, guitars, and vocals all stacked perfectly. The single “Postcard” gives a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

As a whole, the album is more fun than Gets Over You. Most of the tracks will put a smile on your face and make you want to dance, so plan accordingly if you’re      thinking about seeing them play live (The Hideout, April 14th album release show!).

I was most impressed with the guitar work on “Everything Is Broken.” It’s a triply blues riff that bends and melts around Berecz’s sultry lounge singer delivery. The guitar screams through the last portion of the song in a way you won’t hear anywhere else on the album.

Starlight comes out later this week, but you can pre-order it here on vinyl or CD.

NE-HI: Stay Young (Video)

February 15, 2017 Leave a comment

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NE-HI is great. There isn’t much else I need to say about them than that. I saw them play a couple years ago and they were so fun I never wanted their set to end. They have a new album coming out in about a week called Offers that has already been getting good reviews and if the whole thing is like “Stay Young” than I have to assume they’re correct.

NE-HI plays at Empty Bottle for the record release show on February 24th. Tickets are $10 and you can grab them right here. You can also pre-order the new album here.

Dunn Dunn Fest Returns Next Week!

February 9, 2017 Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the last installment of Chicago’s finest multi-venue music festival, Dunn Dunn Fest. The yearly smorgasbord of great music is provided by Harmonica Dunn founder Donnie Biggins. Every year he finds amazing known talent and acts flying under the radar and puts them all together for a crazy three days of discovery and enjoyment.

Last year I spent my three days Of Dunn Dunn Fest at three different venues, listening to very different styles of music. Thursday I was at Beat Kitchen for Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes (with opening sets from Jared Rabin and Kansas Bible Company), Friday I got funky with Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Nasty Snacks, and Alanna Royale at Lincoln Hall, and on Saturday I caught Frontier Ruckus along with the great Chicago bands Mooner and Martin Van Ruin at Schubas. This year’s lineup provides opportunities just as entertaining.

Below is what I would choose to see if I were going. Sadly, I’ll be out of town for the duration of the festival. Please take some videos and post them on the internet. For a full list of artists playing, check out the Harmonica Dunn website.

Thursday: The Kickback at Beat Kitchen

The band just added some more dates opening for Bush, but here you get to see their craziness headlining a small venue instead of opening in a 2,000 seat theater.

Friday: Low Cut Connie at Lincoln Hall

Three great bands, including Biggins’ own The Shams Band and St Louis glam-pop act Sleepy Kitty!

Saturday: Mike Doughty at Lincoln Hall

Dunn Dunn Fest and WXRT join forces to bring former Soul Coighing frontman/currently successful solo artist Mike Doughty to Lincoln Hall! Opening act is Wheatus.

Vowws at Lincoln Hall 2/6/2017

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Last night Vowws hit the stage at Lincoln Hall to play for a crowd for which most openers could only wish. Almost everyone in the audience was not only aware of Vowws, but knew the words to the songs and were as much their for them as they were for headliner White Lies.

I was not that familiar, but found the set to be very entertaining. The duo hits a lot of Joy Division/The Cure sounds, but their bass hits are more tribal and hypnotic. I don’t know if anyone has coined the term “Industribal,” but that’s what I would call this.

My only issue with their set was that the lighting was too dark to get really good pictures (where I was standing anyway, maybe it was a little more balanced in the middle). I did the best I could.

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