Blade Runner 2049

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*Note, when I am referring to “the original” Blade Runner I am referring to the directors cut, as that is the only version of Blade Runner I have seen*

Blade Runner 2049 was a surprising entity for me. Like the original, it was more story-centric than the marketing department would leave you to believe, which is a good decision from director Dennis Villeneuve and combined with fantastic sets and visuals, it did keep me invested for the 161-minute running time and that is worth a lot of praise.

However, even describing a brief synopsis for Blade Runner 2049 is both complex and constitutes spoiler territory so I will only say two things about it 1. Ryan Gosling is a Blade Runner and 2. Harrison Ford is in it. I would say that watching the original Blade Runner will help the viewer to understand the world it occupies and why you need to be emotionally invested in Harrison Ford’s character because Blade Runner 2049 draw so many parallels to the original that it is not funny.

Literally, from the first shot, Blade Runner 2049 pays homage to the original Blade Runner. There were so many moments and scenes that aim to replicate the original that I can make direct comparisons. I have concluded that the even though the original was a stronger film, it was only stronger by a whisker. That is because Blade Runner 2049 has many twists and turn to not only the story, but to the themes that the original evokes such as what humans perceive as love, identity, and existence.

My favorite scene involves Harrison Ford’s and Jared Leto’s characters meeting the first time and what the scene develops into. That scene does expand the notion of the perception of love itself from the original movie.

There were also many other scenes that differed from the original that worked in their own right but the movie always lost me slightly when they did all the callbacks as I was thinking “The original movie did it slightly better” I don’t want to be reminded of that in any movie I see, I want a movie to earn it’s own stripes or and stand on its own accord. This is especially frustrating when a movie like Blade Runner 2049 was hitting a home run anyway.

The visuals and set pieces were the best things in the movie. In terms of cinematography, a lot of it looks like a digitized version of sepia tone, which gave off a warm absorbing effect, yet gave off the scene of dread. It was unique, simple and effective. It may rival Dunkirk so far for the best cinematography of 2017. For the set designs, it is like going into a candy shop if you have seen the original Blade Runner. That is because you know where the characters are heading and it’s intriguing. The set designs give off the right mindset of understanding of the world geographically.

I cannot deny that Blade Runner 2049 is an absorbing movie that kept my attention for a long period of time. I did not reach the level of emotional brevity that this film tries hard to do (admittedly, that is not even a negative critique as that is a massive undertaking) but I was in it with the story and characters the whole way with plenty of visual delight and ideas that make it a worthy candidate next to the original ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/4

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La La Land: I smell an Oscar or Four

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Written my Nelson Cumming

La La Land is absolutely fantastic. It is worth all the hype it is getting. At the Venice Film Festival last year where La La Land premiered the audience gave it a standing ovation. That did not sell the film to me as standing ovations at film festivals are not uncommon. Now that I have seen it I see why it would get a standing ovation anywhere.

I think the only reason it did not happen at my screening (It was packed) was because no one was brave enough to start it. Myself included. La La Land is a movie with high ambition that cleared every bar it sets out to achieve in spades.

The film is a story about Mia (Emma Stone) who is an aspiring actress and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who is a jazz enthusiast. They develop a relationship which is tested by their own carriers as they life in the glamor of the Hollywood.

Because of how La La Land is shot, it is easy to be swept away. Director Damien Chazelle went for unrestrained romanticism with a ton of upbeat energy. This style can become easily tiresome but it works because I have not seen anything quite like La La Land. He must have spent ages perfecting the movie’s tone.

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The overall tone of La La La. There is a ton more colour to the film than this. Hopefully this will give you a rough idea.

The only movie from 2016 that La La Land reminds me of is Woody Allen’s Cafe Society. I liked Cafe Society, but La La Land is on a whole new level.

Not only can I find anything bad about it. I don’t want to find anything bad about it because it looks so picture perfect. From the opening shot which is an entire music number set on the motorway during traffic to the final montage is so colorful and vibrant that it blew my mind.

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That is what my eye looked like after seeing La La Land

La La Land is the kind of gem that it’s impossible to pinpoint the best scene as you are watching it. The movie always seems to trump itself. I thought the second scene “Somewhere in the Crowd” was going to be the best scene. There were about six scenes that were better (especially the finale). It is rare for any movie to have one great scene. La La Land was one great scene after another and it feels like one long stupendous sequence.

The chemistry between Stone and Gosling is so charming it is nuts. The amount of talent that radiates between them separately is enough, let alone the two together. They have so much class and talent. Gosling knows how to play the piano and stone knows how to sing and tap dance. The both, with their talents, created a story that gave a new meaning to an old ending.

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Gosling trying to convince Stone that jazz is not dead. If I had a significant other, I would try to convince my future significant other that pro wrestling is not dead. Gosling manages to persuade Stone on his passion. But I am no Gosling. I am much better than Gosling.

There are dozens of other things to praise La La Land for such as the colorful costumes, the seamless camerawork, the songs and the camaraderie which helped make an old story feel brand new.

Chezelle has achieved something magnificent here. He has shown the glitz and glamor of old school Hollywood and makes it look like the focal point of La La Land when it reality it is about the struggles of success and realizing that life is not as perfect as the exterior he masterfully presents.

Damien Chezelle’s face. See it, remember it. Given this and Whiplash, he will be in many acclaimed movies to come.

Chezelle is like the antihero of his generation of filmmakers that has gained mainstream acceptance. He is against the grain but has cleverly made his way into the minds the major film studio executives. He won’t change their minds, but he was in the picture after Whiplash. Now they would have wholly accepted him after La La Land.

Judging from his movies, Chezelle has a huge artistic vision that can now be easily funded and executed. He is guaranteed to make whatever he wants for his next effort, have a lot of artistic freedom and easily get millions of dollars to support it. Something most directors only dream about. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Ten Best Films of 2016

What makes a film great? Quite simply, it resonates with you. What makes a film one of the best of the year? It resonates with you in ways you have never seen before. The film is original in storytelling and film making and it grabs your more than any other film.

Also, I haven’t been able to see fantastic films this year such as La La Land or Moonlight. This is either because they have not been released until very late 2016 to early 2017. But if I end up thinking that these films are absolutely fantastic. I will certainly put them up next year.

Now without further ado, let’s begin with number 10.

10. Zootopia.

Zootopia had everything you want in a kids film. It had fun, heart and characters you believed in and felt for. In a year of political divide, this movie showed, in its own way, the pitfalls of discrimination and separation. I just loved how despite being vibrant and fun, it desired to make a statement and be meaningful.

9. Nocturnal Animals/ The Revenant
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These two films have so much in common I decided to put them together. Both were well acted, had lush cinematography and focused on the theme of revenge. The Revenant explored the brooding nature of revenge and survival. Nocturnal Animals did it in a one-punch knockout moment.

I like to note that Michal Shannon gave my favorite supporting role this year as the police detective in Nocturnal Animals. That is because I think he may go unnoticed by various award ceremonies.

8. Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky that gives you a bit of everything in a war film. It is a blend of political prowess and on-the-ground tension. This was a cast of great actors that blur the lines on whether of not to stage a missile strike on a terrorist safe house with an innocent life residing in the blast. This was also a great live action swan song for the great Alan Rickman

7. The Big Short

I love this movie even more than when I watched it the first time. It is alongside with Zootopia as the most relevant films of the year. That is because both are making sociopolitical statements of our world today. The Big Short is a story that communicates to the average moviegoer the corruption of the banks that were exploiting their system hidden under a cacophony of jargon.

From a filmmaking perspective, The Big Short is also so fun. There are four different stories in this film. All four were interesting. The movie was such a smooth, well-written ride and tried to educate us at the same time. That is rare for any movie, rarer still, to succeed on that level.

6. Son of Saul

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The most harrowing of all the entries on my list, more so than The Revenant. Son of Saul is a holocaust movie that I can assure you is unique. It is not going for sentimentality nor graphic exploitation. You create the picture for yourself.

How so? Well, Son of Saul is shot in extreme close-ups of Saul the protagonist. Only his face is clearly visible. Graphic events are represented almost exclusively in sound and Saul’s reactions to the events that occur. The thing that kept me watching was the glimmer of hope that resided in Saul and that was enough.

5. The Lobster

Now we are into the top 5 with the most unusual entry. A film that would frustrate a lot of people without a sense of humor. The Lobster is the driest and most odd film about of a man who enters an apartment for 45 days and has to find a significant other in that time. Otherwise, he gets turned into a lobster.

The Lobster is not as fun as it initially sounds. It is a deadpan comedy that is so subtle that you can easily miss all the jokes. Also if you are not into weird, unconventional comedy it may come off as too absurd. If you are like deadpan, left-of-centre comedies, The Lobster is a fantastic treat. It is my favorite comedy of the year.

4. Mustang

Mustang was the first film this year that I loved in the deepest sense of the word. It was a life-affirming film about these five girls who are isolated in their home by their ultra-conservative father to be married off. It was a deepening moving film that made be feel calm but elated by the end.

Mustang was the first foreign film that I reviewed and it made such a positive impression on me. Mustang does not hold back on the harsh reality it sets, not is it restricted on the bright and wonderful moments that were interwoven so seamlessly. This makes Mustang one of the most beautiful films of 2016

 

3. Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is one of the exceptionally rare films where nothing was wasted. It was the only movie I saw where the audience was applauding. If there is a film in the Australian film industry should be holding as a benchmark, this is it. Hacksaw Ridge had the greatest use of dialogue that I have heard this year. It is funny, touching and dramatic. It has also given new life to the actor’s careers.

2. Room

Room is just heartbreaking. It’s about a mother and her 5 year old son adjusting to the real world. There is a mountain of despair alongside a mountain of hope accentuated by the perfect chemistry between Bree Larson and Jacob Tremblay. They were the best screen duo of the year bar none.

1. Embrace of the Serpent

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f things all over the wall and it all stuck. The story about an Amazonian native in the middle of European settlers exploiting resources in the land.

This film had more thematic ideas than any other film I saw this year.

Ciro Guerra brings a daring piece of work in Embrace of the Serpent. He threw a ton of ideas in this film in which the visual imagery of the Amazonian rivers and rainforest help draw you into the journey that is undertaken. It is one of those stories like Apocalypse Now or Django Unchained where the protagonists experience deeper levels of hell the further they travel and each layer of hell has a statement to make.

Embrace of the Serpent also showed ideas like the thorns of survivor’s guilt and handing over you final spark to faith to someone you need to trust to keep it alive. It isn’t a poignant film but it draws you in with its themes, it’s black and white visuals and it’s addiction for ambition and execution.

So that’s my list of the ten best films of 2016. Honorable mentions (alphabetically) include:

Captain America: Civil War for creating a blockbuster film that exceeded it’s high expectations. One of the rare movies where I cannot wait for the sequel.

Deadpool: Crngrats on making the funnest superhero movie Marvel and one of the funnest movies of the year. The meta humor with a authentic romantic angle give the movie a great edge. It more than makes up for it’s lack of multi million dollar set pieces.

Dr. Strange: The best visual effects from any film this year. Cumberbatch delivers a great performance as Steven Strange.

Green Room: For producing the best thriller film of the year that went for a less-is-more approach. Patrick Stewart makes the situation of 4 young adults trapped in a room of killer neo-nazis even more morbid and engaging.

Ouija: Origin of Evil: A movie that scared the crap out of me and gave me an adrenaline rush hours after seeing the movie.

Pete’s Dragon: It created a kids film which walking though the fine line between entertaining little kids without feeling condescending to adults. Illumination Entertainment has not been able to do that for years. 2016 was a (mostly) great year for Disney

Sing Street: For being the only feel-good movie that I saw. Great original songs and a better soundtrack than Suicide Squad. The prom sequence was absolutely spectacular

Sunset Song: An incredible story about a troubling family in Scotland during the First World War. It is about a woman who gains and loses many things on her roller coaster ride. The cameraman makes it feel like you are watching the story unfold your very eyes.

The Jungle Book: The best remake this year. Neel Sethi was the second best child actor this year (After Jacob Trembly in Room). That kid had to do so much. I was surprised that the director is the same man who fought in the Mixed Martial  Arts in Friends before it was cool.

So that is the list the best films of 2016. Coming up is the rotting end that comprises of the worst of 2016.