This week, two of the front-runners for a Best Picture Oscar open in Dublin cinemas. Manchester by the Sea should, but probably won’t, win. It’s another impeccably observed piece of human drama from Kenneth Lonergan, the most exciting American filmmaker working today. Casey Affleck gives a career best performance as an insular man forced to take care of his nephew when his brother passes away. At times heart-wrenching and hilarious, this is a very early contender for the best movie you’ll see in 2017.
The film that will win the Oscar is Damien Chazelle’s nostalgic musical La La Land, which stars the charismatic pair of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a struggling jazz pianist and an actress who engage in a bumpy whirlwind romance. It’s a movie that’s difficult not to warm to, but don’t expect anything on the level of classic Hollywood musicals – Gosling and Stone are no Astaire and Rogers.
Casey Affleck’s big brother Ben writes, directs and stars in Live by Night, an adaptation of author Dennis Lehane’s epic novel of gangsters in prohibition America. This one’s a mess that juggles too many subplots and characters for its two hour running time, and Affleck sleepwalks through the movie in the lead role of a generic mob movie archetype.
Underworld: Blood Wars is the fifth installment in a series that seems to rely on its marketing image of Kate Beckinsale in a tight leather catsuit. This one’s got little else to recommend it. You would think the premise of vampires battling werewolves would make for great entertainment, but this franchise sucks the fun out of that concept by taking itself far too seriously.
John Cassavettes’ acclaimed 1959 directorial debut Shadows plays at the Irish Film Institute on Tuesday evening. One of the first independent American dramas to feature black leads, it launched the behind the camera career of Cassavettes, and its influence can still be seen in today’s indie cinema.
By Eric Hillis of themoviewaffler.com