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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 26, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 04
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Explosive 12 Strong a well-intentioned missed opportunity
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

12 STRONG
Now playing


After the events of September 11, 2001, Army Special Forces Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) leaves his desk job to rejoin his elite military unit knowing they'll be sent out to retaliate against those that attacked New York the second the Pentagon and United States intelligence services determine who was responsible. Once it is ascertained that Al Qaeda hiding in Afghanistan played the primary role in this terrorist assault, Nelson and his team are immediately on their way to the country as the tip of the proverbial spear.

But historically Afghanistan has never been anything close to a picnic for invading armies. Brutal winters. Impenetrable mountainous terrain filled with caves enemies can hide in undetected for months at a time. Centuries of tribal anger that has led to warlords battling other warlords leaving the country in the hands of the Taliban, a collection of cutthroats perfectly content to let Al Qaeda do their own thing just as long as they continue to militarily support their own fundamentalist ambitions. Into this human minefield Nelson and his men are dropped, and with less than a month to do it they have to ease tensions between the tribes, make friends with respected Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) and cut off all key support and supply routes for Al Qaeda and the Taliban before winter begins making doing so next to impossible.

Based on the declassified true story of the first 12 U.S. soldiers dropped into Afghanistan, all of whom are forced to fight on horseback like a wild west Cavalry unit circa 1890, 12 Strong is a well made, moderately overwrought military drama almost certain to play well with those who helped make efforts like Lone Survivor and American Sniper box office hits. With the likes of Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Trevante Rhodes, Austin Stowell, William Fichtner and Rob Riggle (the veteran comedian a retired Marine Corps Reserve Lieutenant Colonel who served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan) filling primary roles, the film also proves to be remarkably easy to watch even for those who aren't normally drawn to this sort of tale, director Nicolai Fuglsig utilizing his talented ensemble with captivating authority.

But the movie itself is a vexing narrative conundrum. Writers Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (Blood Father) adapt Doug Stanton's best-selling book Horse Soldiers in a way that feels oddly mannered yet also infuriatingly unfocused, almost as if they couldn't figure out the best way to approach the story. It often plays like second-rate militaristic propaganda, the jingoistic heights some of the more melodramatically onerous elements rise to coming perilously close to being loathsome. At the same time, there are also some shockingly honest and nakedly raw insights looking at the early days of the Afghan War that are refreshingly genuine, forcing the audience to look at what is going on in the country in a way maybe they'd never thought to do so before.

What Fuglsig and his creative team get right is the dynamic between Nelson and his unit. The way these men bond together, what they are willing to do in order to see their mission accomplished, all of that rings true. I loved the way in which Nelson interacts with his confidant and friend Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Shannon). The pair share a camaraderie that's explored in a way where what is unspoken says more than a single word uttered out loud does, and if Hemsworth and Shannon wanted to team up for an old school Western revolving around two longtime friends riding the range in search of their next shot of whiskey I'd be first in line to see it I kid you not.

Fuglsig also shows a magnetic ability to stage rousing action sequences, the director working with cinematographer Rasmus Videbæk (The Dark Tower) to craft images bursting in tension and suspense while editor Lisa Lassek (Avengers: Age of Ultron) fits it all together in a way that's satisfying in its crisp unfussiness. The sequence depicting Nelson and members of his team calling in their first airstrike against a Taliban stronghold is particularly noteworthy, the way it showcases the size and scope of what it is the U.S. military is up against while at the same time keeping things intimate and personal allows for a human element to develop between the Special Forces Captain and the Afghan General I hadn't anticipated yet also wholly responded to.

Yet other facets of the movie are so self-important, so belligerently didactic, my emotional investment in what was going on could sadly only last for so long. While not as outrageously xenophobic as Michael Bay's 13 Hours might have been, there are still instances where Fuglsig goes out of his way to make Taliban leaders look like Rambo: First Blood Part II or Missing in Action villains, adding a level of cartoonish exploitation that honestly wasn't necessary. It's like the director couldn't decide if he was making an honest examination of the Afghan conflict or instead some B-grade actioner where the bad guys can't hit the broadside of the mountain and good guys never miss even when they're firing automatic machine guns while riding a horse racing across the frigid tundra at a full gallop.

With the war in Afghanistan ongoing and no immediate end to the conflict in sight, the fact 12 Strong plays like nationalistic propaganda shouldn't be surprising. There are too many complex layers to this story, too many uncomfortable truths that are difficult to stand in front of a mirror and look at with any sort of clarity at this moment in history. While the story of these dozen soldiers deserves to be told, while their actions were unquestionably selfless in their heroic resolve, that doesn't mean the movie chronicling their deeds isn't without its faults. There's just as much to like here as there is to be frustrated with, the final product a mixed bag of good intentions, decent ideas and missed opportunities I honestly don't know entirely what to make of.


Oscars 2018 nominations announced:

Call Me By Your Name nets 4, Chilean trans movie A Fantastic Woman up for Best Foreign Language Film
Screen Actors Guild awards given out last weekend

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Few surprises were unveiled when nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced in the early morning hours of January 23. Many of the major nominees mirrored those who contended for Golden Globes, SAGs and Critics Choice Awards in the past weeks with a few exceptions.

The gay coming-of-age film Call Me by Your Name earned four nods, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (James Ivory) and Best Original Song ('Mystery of Love', written by Sufjan Stevens). Additionally, Timothée Chalamet will contend for Best Actor, receiving his first Oscar nomination for portraying precocious teenager Elio, who falls for an older graduate student while vacationing with his family in Italy. Stiff competition from a overflowing pool of fine performances prevented Armie Hammer from squeezing into the Best Supporting Actor category, besides the fact that co-star Michael Stulbarg may have siphoned votes from him.

The transgender-themed movie A Fantastic Woman is in the running for Best Foreign Language Film. The Chilean drama features Daniela Vega in the role of trans woman Marina Vidal, who is mistreated by the family of her lover when he passes away suddenly. It went through an extensive process to garner a nomination, first having to be selected by the South American country (only one entry is allowed per nation); a record number of 92 entries were submitted this year. Then, a special committee narrowed the list to 9 semi-finalists and finally the last five are chosen. On Body and Soul from Hungary, The Insult from Lebanon, Loveless from Russia and The Square from Sweden are also in the race.

Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele became the fifth woman and fifth black person in history to be nominated for Best Director, respectively. For Gerwig, it ended an eight year-streak by the Academy's director branch of nominating all men; the only female to ever win the award is Kathryn Bigelow, who accepted the Best Director prize in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. For Peele, he scored a rare triple by also collecting nods for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for his critically acclaimed thriller Get Out.

The nine films selected for Best Picture, besides Call Me by Your Name and Get Out, are The Shape of Water, The Post, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

For Best Actor, Chalamet will face off with Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Daniel Day Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.). For Best Director, Gerwig and Peele are going up against Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread).

Meryl Streep landed her 21st nomination for playing newspaper heiress Katherine Graham in The Post, but the Best Actress frontrunner is Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The category also includes Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya).

Lesley Manville, who hadn't been nominated in any other major awards leading up to the Oscars, was a surprise pick for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Phantom Thread. But the battle is between Allison Janney in I, Tonya and Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird, two multiple Emmy winners who each received their first Oscar nod on Tuesday morning; Metcalf also has a Tony Award to her credit.

Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, who both appear in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, are up for Best Supporting Actor together, marking the first time since 1992 that the Academy has double-dipped for this category; Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley competed for this award nearly three decades ago for the movie Bugsy. Rockwell and Harrelson are joined by Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water).

Openly gay songwriter Benj Pasek and his professional partner Justin Paul are nominated for the second consecutive year for Best Original Song. They won in 2017 for 'City of Stars' from La La Land; they're in the running this time for 'This Is Me' from The Greatest Showman. The talented duo are also Grammy nominees for scoring the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.

The Academy Awards will be presented on March 4, delayed this year because of the upcoming Winter Olympics.



Last weekend, the Screen Actors Guild Awards were given out to recipients from film and television. Oldman, McDormand, Rockwell and Janney repeated their acting wins from the Golden Globes earlier this month, while Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri captured the all-important statue for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, considered the equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar award.

On the TV side, Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard won more hardware for their roles in Big Little Lies, David Harbour emerged as Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for Stranger Things and Claire Foy (The Crown) scored a rare upset over The Handmaid's Tale's Elisabeth Moss for Best Actress in a Drama Series.


2018 Academy Award nominations
The Shape of Water swims its way to 13 nominations while Peele, Gerwig make history

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

Guillermo del Toro's romantic horror fairy tale The Shape of Water was the undeniable big winner when the nominations for the 90th annual Academy Awards were revealed early Tuesday morning, the filmmaker's haunting labor of love picking up 13 noms including nods for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins. But the bigger news involved Jordan Peele's satiric horror commentary Get Out, Greta Gerwig's touching teenage coming of age comedy-drama Lady Bird and Dee Rees's Netflix-released period drama Mudbound, each film breaking new historical ground with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as they garnered four, five and four nominations respectively.

Also making waves was Paul Thomas Anderson's Hitchcockian drama Phantom Thread. Reportedly the final film of Best Actor nominee Daniel Day-Lewis's career, Anderson's latest ended up grabbing six overall noms including somewhat surprising notices for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress Lesley Manville, making it an instant Oscar frontrunner. Not so surprisingly joining it there is Martin McDonagh's visceral drama Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, the critical and awards group favorite taking home five nominations including ones for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actors Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

Other surprises included Denzel Washington cracking the Best Actor field for his turn in the drama Roman J. Israel, Esq., joining Day-Lewis, Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) in the category. This left James Franco out in the cold, his award-winning performance in The Disaster Artist somewhat shockingly snubbed, leading some to believe the reaction to his wearing a 'Time's Up!' pin to the Golden Globes when he is dealing with his own abuse allegations didn't sit well in the minds of a number of Oscar voters. It should also be noted that Washington's nomination here is his eighth for acting, a record for an African American actor.

On the flipside of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Christopher Plummer became the oldest acting nominee in Academy history at 88, the veteran icon picking up a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his turn in Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World. As some will remember, Scott took the unprecedented step of reshooting all of the scenes involving the character Plummer portrayed less than two months before the picture's theatrical release, the actor replacing Kevin Spacey in the role after sexual abuse allegations against Spacey suddenly came to light. Plummer is joined by Harrelson, Rockwell, Jenkins and Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) in the category.

Gerwig becomes only the fifth woman in Academy history to be nominated for Best Director, joining Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), the only one to win the Oscar, on that frustratingly short list. As for Peele, he is only the third filmmaker to receive Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations for his debut motion picture, Warren Beatty (Heaven Can Wait) and James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment) the only other two to do the same. Additionally, it's worth noting his script nomination comes for an original work while both Beatty and Brooks adapted existing properties, an intriguing extra bit of information certain to become a Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy question sometime in the near future.

In regards to Mudbound, while the film didn't crack the proverbial glass ceiling and nab a Best Picture nomination, the fact this Netflix-released drama received any notices from the Academy at all has to be construed as something of a major shift as to the minds of many Oscar voters. Up to now, voters have been loath to grant the streaming behemoth recognition as far as their releases are concerned, treating them more like television movies and not as bona fide theatrical releases. This time out, however, Rees's masterful opus proved impossible to ignore, the film garnering noms for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress Mary J. Blige, Best Original Song and Best Cinematography. Additionally, Blige's double nomination for acting and for co-writing the song 'Mighty River' is an Oscar first, while Rachel Morrison becomes the first woman to be nominated for cinematography in Academy history.

Meryl Streep snagged her 21st nomination for her turn in Steven Spielberg's The Post breaking her own record. She's joined in the Best Actress field by Frances McDormand (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). Joining Blige and Manville in the Supporting Actress category are Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) and Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water), the latter tying Viola Davis with her third acting nomination, the most ever for an African American actress.

Other items of note in regards to this year's slate of Academy Award nominees:



o Christopher Nolan's nomination for Best Director is the veteran filmmaker's first. Meanwhile, his hit WWII epic Dunkirk managed eight overall nods including notices for Best Picture, Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography.

o While Call Me by Your Name managed four nominations (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Original Song), and even though he delivered notable supporting performances in three Best Picture nominated films (The Post and The Shape of Water being the other two), somewhat surprisingly Michael Stuhlbarg failed to grab a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Here's hoping at some point in the future he'll get recognized by the Academy for consistently delivering superlative performances.

o Roger Deakins picked up his 14th nomination for Best Cinematography for his exquisite work shooting Blade Runner 2049, and while he's the frontrunner to finally win (Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Mudbound and The Shape of Water round out the category), it won't shock anyone if he ends up going home empty-handed one more time.

o Chile's A Fantastic Woman is the first Oscar-nominated feature with a Transgender actress (Daniela Vega) in the lead role. Joining the drama in the Best Foreign Language Film category are The Insult (Lebanon), Loveless (Russia), Of Body and Soul (Hungary) and The Square (Sweden).

o John Williams received his 51st Academy Award nomination (he's won five times) for composing the score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, building on his own record of most nods to any single individual.

o In the same year she is taking home an Honorary Oscar, the legendary Belgian filmmaker Agnès Varda scored her first ever Academy Award nomination for directing the documentary Faces Places, an award she is widely expected to win.

o Coco becomes the eleventh Pixar production to be nominated for Best Animated Feature. It is also nominated for Best Original Song.

o As far as I can tell, Kobe Bryant becomes the first one-time professional basketball player to be up for an Academy Award, the former Los Angeles Laker nominated alongside Glen Keane for their Best Animated Short Dear Basketball.

o Logan became the first superhero comic book movie to be nominated for a writing Oscar, Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green picking up nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.

o On the flipside of the equation, Wonder Woman went home empty-handed, the box office smash failing to get a single nomination, even in any of the technical categories where singling it out for recognition would have been considered more than worthwhile.

The 90th annual Academy Awards will be awarded on Sunday, March 5 and will be telecast live on ABC at 8pm (EST)/5pm (PST).

FULL LIST OF NOMINEES

BEST PICTURE
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk

Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.


ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post


ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water


DIRECTING
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly's Game
Mudbound


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent


CINEMATOGRAPHY
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water


COSTUME DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island


DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Edith+Eddie
Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Heroin(e)
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop


FILM EDITING
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
A Fantastic Woman
The Insult
Loveless
On Body and Soul
The Square


MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul
Wonder


ORIGINAL SCORE
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


ORIGINAL SONG
'Mighty River,' Mudbound
'Mystery Of Love,' Call Me by Your Name
'Remember Me,' Coco
'Stand Up For Something,' Marshall
'This Is Me,' The Greatest Showman


PRODUCTION DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water


ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes


LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O'Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us


SOUND EDITING
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi


SOUND MIXING
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi


VISUAL EFFECTS
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes








Top-notch Frost / Nixon at Strawshop
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ArtsWest's Peerless is fiercely startling and shockingly real
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Get your ticket for Two Trains Running
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Grammys 2018:
Kesha, Lady GaGa, Elton John with Miley Cyrus, Patti LuPone with Ben Platt, Pink, Sam Smith, and more set to perform; plus predictions and picks for 'Music's Biggest Night'

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Diverse Harmony presents 'Pale Blue Dot' concert February 3
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Washington Ensemble Theatre presents Young Jean Lee's Straight White Men
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Marxiano Productions' Bohemia brings a beautiful classical work of erotic art to The Triple Door
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And the award goes to...

The winners of the 2017 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards

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Seattle Humane - Pets of the Week
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Washington Ensemble Theatre presents Young Jean Lee's Straight White Men
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Help create a social and support network for LGBT veterans
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Pearl Jam to combat homelessness with two Safeco Field shows; Erasure headed to Seattle this summer
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Explosive 12 Strong a well-intentioned missed opportunity
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Oscars 2018 nominations announced:

Call Me By Your Name nets 4, Chilean trans movie A Fantastic Woman up for Best Foreign Language Film

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2018 Academy Award nominations
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