Posts Tagged ‘Best Supporting Actress’

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Manchester By The Sea (2016)

April 25, 2017

Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams
Director: Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me)

Bottom Line: This is going to be a difficult movie to review because my watching experience was abnormal to say the least. We had my parents over for dinner and when offering a lineup of potential movies to watch, my mom insisted we watch Manchester By The Sea because it was a lauded movie that she had already seen and hated. My wife asked if we had to finish the movie about 40 minutes in and it was pretty clear my dad was also not into it, so watching a critically acclaimed, snail-paced character drama in the middle of the day when 75% of the audience was distracted was a rather difficult task.

But I liked Manchester By The Sea and no amount of moaning on the sidelines was going to stop me from finishing it once I started. And to be fair to my mom, she said she liked it this time; and it’s reasonable to conclude that any movie you can watch a second time through you probably didn’t really hate the first time around either.

But I can understand why someone would be turned off by Manchester By The Sea. It’s incredibly bleak. And although there are number of surprisingly funny moments, it’s a sad movie that revolves around the tragic curveballs life can throw you and how, sometimes, those moments can be too overwhelming to move on from. The whole film focuses on Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler floating through life like a zombie for reasons that unfold as his story is revealed through flashbacks. It’s no surprise that Affleck won an Oscar for his role in this movie as he is truly wonderful, perfectly portraying a grieving man with emotions so boxed in that they are liable to unload with fury at any moment.

The supporting cast of Manchester By The Sea is also wonderful. Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges both earned Oscar nominations for their supporting roles. While Hedges plays more of a central character and his acting prowess is constantly on display alongside Affleck, Williams got award attention for a much smaller role, but there’s an incredibly powerful scene in the third act where you can see the exact moment she earned the all the accolades.

Manchester By The Sea is a very technically sound film, with solid writing, beautiful cinematography shot near a Massachusetts shoreline, and Grade A acting all around. It’s a story about tragedy and how we grieve – and don’t always heal – and it isn’t necessarily meant to be uplifting, but sometimes that is how life is. If you are able to get past the bleak subject matter and don’t mind a slow-paced film that’s entirely focused on the characters, then there’s a pretty good film here. I wasn’t blown away by Manchester By The Sea and it won’t rank in my top 10 films of 2016, but it’s worth watching, especially for Casey Affleck’s fantastic performance.

Replay Value: Not a movie you’d want to watch multiple times, but I’d revisit it some years down the road.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Six nominations: Best Picture and Best Director for Kenneth Lonergan; Best Supporting Actor for Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams; and Oscar wins for Casey Affleck for Best Actor and Kenneth Lonergan for Best Original Screenplay.

Grade: 6/10 (recommended)

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Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

August 5, 2010

I’d been avoiding Precious for a while before I finally got around to watching it. Something was telling me it was going to be slow… and boring… and I just couldn’t muster up the stomach to watch it. Even the title of the movie was holding me back. The fact that someone as obnoxious and seemingly untalented as Mo’Nique won an Oscar was extremely intriguing, however, and I just couldn’t ignore the accolades thrust upon this film any longer. I’m glad to say it was my most pleasant surprise of any 2009 film.

I was right about one thing… Precious is not an easy film. The story is dark and some of the characters are hard to watch, particularly Mo’Nique as Precious’ abusive, alcoholic mother Mary. Precious’ circumstances are grim; she’s pregnant with a second child from her own father, a fact that creates even more tension in her relationship with her mother. Rather than realizing the traumatic experience of her child, Mary blames Precious for tempting her husband and takes out her own feelings of inadequacy on her daughter, often physically. Meanwhile, Precious is struggling to fit in at school and is recommended to try alternative schooling, where she meets her new teacher Ms. Rain. Once here, Precious begins a quest to break free of her violent and demoralizing upbringing.

I never read the book this film was adapted from, so I have no idea how faithful the script is to the source material. Either way, the story here is one worth watching. Yeah, it’s not an easy watch, but most films dealing with tough themes aren’t. Sapphire has created a character that is easy to root for because at her core, she seems like a good person and is clearly a victim of circumstances. You will definitely be rooting for her.

The best thing about Precious is the acting. I would have bet a lot of money against Mo’Nique if someone ever suggested she would win an Oscar, but she KILLS her role in this movie. She’s brutal and heart-wrenching as Precious’ troubled mom. It’s one of those performances, like Heath Ledger in last year’s The Dark Knight or Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, that make you go “where did that come from?” Gabourey Sidibe plays the title character and watching the movie you think she’s doing a decent job, but only because you have no idea who this actress really is. I was watching Sidibe in her audition and in various other extras on the DVD and it’s pretty clear that she has some serious acting chops. Her real personality sounds more like a white valley girl than a troubled, black woman so her transformation makes the performance all the more spectacular. As if Mo’Nique wasn’t surprising enough, I found myself enthralled by the woman playing Mrs. Weiss, Precious’ welfare counselor, and was somewhat shocked and appalled to discover that it was Mariah Carey. I really thought she did a terrific job and even though she looked like a Plain Jane in this movie, her beauty still shown through, as I found myself attracted to her and wondering who the actress was. I was wondering after the movie what I would have thought of her performance if I had known who she was from the jump. I feel like I would have been inclined to hate on her… but alas, I will never know.

Precious is a tough movie, but it’s one worth sitting through. It’s not my favorite movie of 2009 and probably not the best, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most powerful. As it stands, Precious would probably find a spot in my top five films of 2009. Highly recommended, if only for Mo’Nique’s brilliant performance.

Grade: A-
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Not much… a great, one time film, but nothing I’d add to my DVD collection.
Oscar Watch: Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Director, with wins for Mo’Nique in Best Supporting Actress and Geoffrey Fletcher for Best Adapted Screenplay. Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Best Actress.
Nudity: A couple of rape scenes that are obviously more stomach-turning than erection-inducing.