That’s a wrap for the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony!

What a night! The ceremony opened with a lively performance of “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake along with some backup dancers. It set the tone for an upbeat and fun show. Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue was surprisingly funny; I was pleased with his jokes and surprises. The bus full of tourists was definitely one of my favorite parts of the night because (as far as we know) it was honest. Kimmel’s famous “Mean Tweets” segment, which is celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves, added his personal touch to the night. My other favorite bit was when Kimmel was talking to Sunny Pawar, the 8 year-old star of the first half of Lion. He didn’t win anything but it was apparent that he was psyched to just be there.

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I did end up seeing all but one of the movies nominated for Best Picture (I didn’t see Hell or High Water). I am upset that Hidden Figures and Lion didn’t win anything because they both told such incredible and true stories.

However, I can honestly say that all the awards that won were well deserved. I am especially thrilled that La La Land won for cinematography and the soundtrack/song. I still listen to that soundtrack everyday and it is breathtaking. Emma Stone’s performance was so raw and heartfelt (as I describe in another post about the film) and I am so happy she won Best Actress in a Leading Role! John Legend performed a medley consisting of “Audition and “City of Stars,” which were both nominated for Original Song (“City of Stars” won in that category). Damien Chazelle is now the youngest to take home the award for Directing. This honor opens a whole new world for him as a director because he has now earned the trust of producers and executives. I am excited to see what he creates in the future!

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ESPN’s 8-hour special entitled OJ: Made in America won for Documentary Feature. Yes, I did watch all 8 hours of it (and it was worth it). It didn’t just go through the trial; it went all the way back to the LA riots and gave background information on all those events, which is important to know in the context of OJ’s trial. Netflix’s The White Helmets won for Documentary Short. The 40-minute documentary is about a group in Syria called The White Helmets who are the first on site right after a bombing to save innocent lives and help those who are stuck under rubble. It’s fast-paced and informative that’s worth the watch.

Viola Davis received the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences. Her speech was elegant and sincere (not to mention that she looked absolutely stunning in her red gown). Mahershala Ali won in the male category for the same award. He is the first Muslim to win an Oscar, which is groundbreaking especially because of the current political climate and the discrimination against Muslims. Though he doesn’t have a lot of screen time in Moonlight, his character is very important and plays a huge role in shaping the main character, Chiron.

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Another actress who looked beautiful in a red gown was 16-year-old Auli’i Cravalho (above), who is the voice of Moana. She sang “How Far I’ll Go,” which was nominated for Original Song, with an original prologue by Lin-Manuel Miranda. During her performance, she unfortunately got hit in the head with a flag that one of the backup dancers were holding, but she kept going like a professional and she made it look like it didn’t even happen! Zootopia won for Best Animated Feature, which I was so excited about because it was such an amazing movie that everyone should watch, not just kids! There are messages in the film about discrimination and friendship that are so important for children to see and understand. It’s currently streaming on Netflix so if you don’t know what to watch, definitely give it a shot (I promise you’ll be crying at the end).

Of course, one of the most talked about moments of the night was when La La Land was mistakenly announced for winner of Best Picture. It was just a bad situation because they were halfway through their acceptance speeches when they realized they didn’t win! It took away from the excitement for Moonlight. Nevertheless, I am glad that Moonlight ended up winning Best Picture because the film tells a story that might be uncomfortable for some but it’s a conversation that needs to happen and shouldn’t be ignored.

I can’t end this blog post without mentioning that Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae looked AMAZING. They were without a doubt my two favorites on the Red Carpet last night. Just see for yourselves.

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’13th’ Review

Netflix’s documentary, 13th, about social injustice and the broken U.S. prison system is one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. This genre can so easily be boring but there was not one instance that I checked to see how long was left in the film. Besides the interviews, pictures, and videos, there were breaks in the film for music and visual statistics, which keeps the viewer constantly engaged.

It opened up with President Obama presenting a statistic about the prison population in the United States. His voice set the tone for a thoughtful, emotional, but factual, documentary. The main topic is how the 13th amendment basically made African-Americans go from being slaves to being criminals. The movie explains how this was partly because of economic reasons (the Civil War left the south in financial trouble because they had about 4 million former slaves who weren’t working for free anymore). When the Union won the Civil War and the 13th amendment was put into place, slavery went away but segregation was just beginning.

This documentary also offered a different perspective on Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The 40th president of the US is often mythologized because of his great accomplishments. It exploited the “war on drugs” and what declaring that statement did to the African-American communities. Michelle Alexander states, “So many aspects of the old Jim Crow are suddenly legal again once you’ve been branded a felon. And so it seems that in America, we haven’t so much ended racial caste but simply redesigned it.”

Music also played a part in this film. There were some breaks in the story to play bits of songs (accompanied by the lyrics shown on screen) that describes and encapsulates the slaves’ and the criminals’ pain. One lyric that stood out to me was: “You treated like a criminal, crime is all you know.” It basically states that there are certain areas that have high crime rates where kids are treated like criminals. Most of those kids assume that they will end up in jail someday, and that is partly because of the way not only authorities treat them, but also the general public.

The film talks about the effect of The Birth of A Nation, the rebirth of the KKK, drug problems, and how the presidents negatively affected the criminalization of Black people.

Rengel says, “We have too many laws locking too many people up for too many things, giving them sentences that are too harsh, putting them in prison, and while they’re in prison, doing very little, if anything, to rehabilitate them so that they can reenter civil society when they get out. And then when they get out, we shun them.”

I highly encourage everyone to watch this movie (it’s on Netflix, it can’t get easier!) It’s educational and very interesting. Plus, the director is a woman, Ava DuVernay, which makes it even better!!!

“When black lives matter, everybody’s lives matter.”

‘Jackie’ Review!

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ elegance lives on through Natalie Portman in the new biography film, Jackie. Portman never fails to amaze her audience. She is always so dedicated to her roles and she fully immerses herself into whatever she does.

The film itself was beautifully shot and really captures the era’s style and the emotion surrounding the JFK assassination. Natalie Portman did an amazing job understanding and portraying Jackie’s raw emotions, whether it was anger, confusion, or devastation. Before this film, I didn’t know too much about what happened and it inspired me to do some more research about the horrible event.

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The movie has a sort of non-linear format where it starts with Jackie giving an interview months after her husband’s assassination, to a flashback of the days immediately after the tragedy, to even further back when she was filming a tour of the White House. The entire film is like this but it was easy to follow. There were some scenes that were so real and intense with emotion that they were almost hard to watch and I found myself wanting to fast forward (but I didn’t). That’s how you know it’s good acting!

After watching Jackie, I found a link to watch the real Jackie Kennedy giving the famous tour of the White House because I was intrigued. At some points, Jackie was giving a voice over and I kept forgetting that it was really her and not Natalie Portman’s voice (that’s how spot on her accent was!!!). I admire Natalie’s dedication and keenness to get it right.

 

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‘La La Land’ Review!

[SPOILER ALERT!]

Let me start by saying I have been listening to the La La Land soundtrack non-stop ever since I saw it two weeks ago and I am obsessed. I absolutely LOVED the movie. With that being said, I cannot believe it got 14 Academy Award nominations! I do think they deserve it, but I just can’t imagine it up against the more serious films.

Set in the present day, the musical is about two people who are trying to make it in Hollywood, one pursuing an acting career, one pursuing a music career. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling each delivered heartfelt performances. They immersed themselves into their roles and really became Mia and Sebastian. I particularly enjoyed J.K. Simmons’ cameo because I think he is amazing in everything he does. I also loved the cinematography and the montages (I personally think there aren’t enough montages in modern day films). There is honestly nothing bad I can say about La La Land (yes, I was okay with the ending because I knew they were happy and got what they wanted. I mean, let’s be real, we knew they weren’t going to end up together because they each wanted very different things and they had to let go of each other in order to throw themselves into their work).

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Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone)

I appreciated that there weren’t many characters to worry about. They didn’t inform us about some of the cast from the beginning but I didn’t find myself asking questions like, “did Mia move out of her apartment?” or “did the roommates get what they wanted?” because it was irrelevant. The writers and director did a great job of sticking to the two main storylines.

I think that they even got away with the planetarium scene because it is a musical and anything can happen in musical! The dance, music, and pure joy of the film was truly contagious and it made me wish it was real life.