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Annette Bening and Viola Davis Officially Enter The Best Actress Race

For the last few weeks, Natalie Portman and Emma Stone have asserted themselves as the frontrunners in the Best Actress race after splashy debuts at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals. Though many people have been quick to make this a two way race, I’ve quietly maintained that the unseen contenders, Viola Davis (especially) and Annette Bening, were waiting in the wings. Today these two ladies have officially joined the conversation, and if I were Stone and Portman, I wouldn’t get too comfortable with being in the lead.

I’ve already talked at length at how both Davis’ and Bening’s status as “also rans” in previous races benefit their chances this year. That being said, both of their projects look like slam dunks and shouldn’t find difficulty finding awards consideration when its time to cast ballots.

Let’s take a look.

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Lupita Nyong'o and Madina Nalwanga star in the triumphant true story QUEEN OF KATWE, directed by Mira Nair.

Lupita Nyong’o is transcendent in the outstanding “Queen of Katwe”

Inspirational, “feel good” movies oftentimes break a sweat trying to earn the audience’s emotions. Through the use of saccharine music, stereotypical character troupes and cliché dialogue, not to mention formulaic plot points. Queen of Katwe, a film that very easily could have fallen into those trap holes manages to avoid all of them while holding onto its uplifting message, hitting you like a shot in the heart.

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“Blair Witch” Review

When The Blair Witch Project was released in theaters back in 1999 it became a phenomenon. There was nothing else quite like it; a scrappy little film made for next to nothing, featuring no big name stars or a high-profile director attached to it. And yet it went on to gross over $240 million, and inspired a long line of films trying to recreate its magic (the Paranormal Activity films).

Enter the sequel, aptly named Blair Witch. Originally disguised as a film called The Woods featuring a cryptic teaser trailer, the film comes over a decade after the first film (and a much maligned sequel that’s generally ignored here). It seems a little weird that this sequel would come so far after the first film, especially given the original being a product of its time. Much of The Blair Witch Project‘s success is attributed to its marketing campaign, which was revolutionary at the time. An online website was created specifically for the movie, with false “legends” and stories about the fictional Blair Witch being spread far across the internet.

In today’s world, online marketing campaigns are seen as a necessity for a lot of films, especially a film like The Blair Witch; a lot of that magic has disappeared due to to the rise of the internet and social media. Even  watching the original film isn’t as magical as it was back in the pre-internet age. Blair Witch doesn’t just set out to continue the legacy of the first film, but recreate some of that magic for a new generation.

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Breaking Down The Best Actress Race

It’s that time of the year; Sundance, Cannes, Telluride and Venice are behind us while the Toronto Film Festival has just begun, and so has Oscar season. The contenders are beginning to emerge and narratives are starting to take shape. There are some films that have gotten a head start thanks to some critical raves (JackieLa La Land, MoonlightLovingSully) and some that are playing catch up (The Birth of A Nation) while others are giant question marks in the race right now (Arrival,

One race that’s particularly interesting, as it stands right now, is Best Actress. With so much left of the race left to go there are a number of exciting possibilities that, if played right, could make this one of the best years for Best Actress in awhile. Continue reading

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The Beauty of Sia’s New Music Video: “The Greatest” Is Just That

In case you haven’t heard, Sia has a new song and a new music video.

“The Greatest,” written by Sia and longtime collaborator/producer Greg Kurstin doesn’t stray too far from the typical Sia formula. It’s simple in its composition; “Running out of breath, but I/Oh I, I got stamina” and “Don’t give up, I won’t give up”repeat throughout the song, featuring Sia’s crackling, but powerfully emotive vocals. The uplifting and empowering lyrics are also pretty familiar territory; the hook sees the singer/songwriter insisting “I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive.” Even the subtle, island-tinged influences alongside the massive pop beat recalls her most recent hit “Cheap Thrills. Even the music video features Maddie Ziegler (making this her fourth collaboration with Sia), with some specific shots and choreography recalling the singer’s past videos.

And yet, for all of its simplicity and familiarity, “The Greatest” is not only Sia’s best music video, but one of the best and most powerful of the year. Continue reading

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Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” Screens At Telluride, Enters the Oscar Race

I’ve been thinking about Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight from the moment its gorgeous trailer premiered over the summer. I hadn’t heard anything about it before that, but the buzz around the film became inescapable after. Film critics and various writers were all enamored like I was, while the lucky few who had seen the film in some capacity all had the same message: This was a film to watch out for, and see at any cost.

Suddenly it was announced that Moonlight would be screening at the Telluride Film Festival, with screenings at the prestigious Toronto and New York Film Festivals to follow. It’s clear that following the success of Room and Ex Machina last year, the film’s distributor A24 was not messing around with this one and if the word of mouth out of Telluride is any indicator of what’s to come, Moonlight is in it for the long haul.

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The Best Albums & Songs Of 2016 (So Far)

It’s hard to talk about the first half of the year without immediately jumping to Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Leave it to Queen B to not only set the internet ablaze with yet another surprise release, followed by an amazing Super Bowl performance but pull off the feat of a “movie album.” Interweaving her own personal narrative while also speaking to a much larger audience, Beyoncé presented us with a complex, stunning and emotional journey, while also pushing herself forward as an artist and setting the bar higher (yet again) for everyone who would come after.

So, what else happened this year so far? Frank Ocean finally dropped not one, but two albums. Yeah, you read that right; after countless memes and false release dates we have new Frank Ocean music. Chance the Rapper dropped a masterpiece of his own, Britney Spears is back (though she never really left), Drake scammed his way into having one of the most successful albums of the year, Ariana Grande made the first move into her “Dirrty” era and Rihanna and Kanye both dropped their respective (and also much delayed) projects, and that’s really not even scratching the surface.

It’s been such a front loaded year for music; all the heavy hitters have been releasing everything at the same time. There’s talk that Katy Perry could be coming back sooner than expected, Lady Gaga’s new song drops next week and several heavy hitters have projects that are being rumored to drop in the coming months. But enough about what’s coming, let’s look back at what’s already dropped. Among all of the big releases this year, what’s really stuck out so far?

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1 Year of “E•MO•TION,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s Magnum Opus

It’s been one year since Carly Rae Jepsen dropped one of 2015’s best albums. Those who thought that the “Call Me Maybe” songstress was a one-trick-pony were sorely mistaken. E•MO•TION was an eclectic throwback to 80’s pop nirvana that showcased Jepsen’s sharp songwriting skills beyond just one infectious hook. On the contrary, the songs on this record do such an expert job at conveying feelings and snapshots of time that it’s impossible not to be transported.

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Best Movies of 2016 (So Far)

It feels like at this time every year, everyone is always discussing how disappointing it’s been for film, though this year is the first time it really feels like it.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been any good movies. On the contrary, the high points this year have been exceptionally high. But I’ve seen a lot that’s ranged from just ‘ok’ to flat out awful. Despite a really interesting premise, Lights Out proved to be extremely disappointing, while I’m still not sure we needed to wait all this time for Finding Dory when we had something as special as Zootopia. I did enjoy Deadpool, though it wasn’t a film I walked out of the theater loving. Though I prefer it a thousand times over whatever Batman Vs Superman or Suicide Squad were going for, and The Neon Demon challenges those films for the title of Worst Movie of the Year.

Still, this was the same year that brought us gifts like The WitchLove & Friendship and The Meddler, so I suppose I can’t be too mad.

So, let’s get to it. My favorite films of the year (so far).

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