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Moonlight: All That a Best Picture Should Be

Movie Review By Moira Cue

The minimalist beauty of the 89th Annual Academy Award for Best Picture, the film ‘Moonlight,’ is both elegiac and hopeful. In a world of poverty and violence, a richness of character, however flawed, shines transcendent.   This film is artful.  This film is all that a Best Picture should be.

Before ‘Moonlight’ received its Oscar nomination, the first person I know who saw it came back from the theater with her face aglow. “You have to go see it,” they stated.  “What’s it about?” I asked.  “You just have to go see it,” they replied.

Moonlight is a hero’s odyssey. The main character, Chiron, is the African-American son of a crack-addicted mother and target of bullying at his Miami school. The film is divided into the Greek three act structure, wherein Chiron is portrayed in glimpses as a young boy, teenager, and man. The name Chiron traces its origin to classic Greek mythology; Chiron was a civilized, intelligent centaur, who, in varying accounts, gave up his immortality.  (The character has been explored for millennia, in Greek and Roman mythology, in Dante’s Inferno, and Pulitzer Prize winning author John Updike’s novel The Centaur, which was set in the context of 20th-century small-town America.)

The cinematographer’s palette is exquisitely utilized. Pale sheets of color—Miami pastels—appear as washes that transform walls in Chiron’s mother’s low income housing into a vibratory entity similar to Rothko’s paintings.

The sound track includes contemporary classical music, rap, and an even an R&B song that echoes the sweet layered harmonies of the innocent 1950’s. The score’s disparate melodies all work together despite referencing different cultures and time periods.  There is so much beauty and so much pain.

This film is brutal, and timeless. While it is set in a world that most audience members would not voluntarily visit, it is universal in its depiction of a first, true love.

Everyone will remember the 89th Academy Awards because of the accidental announcement of ‘La La Land’ as Best Picture.  But ‘La La Land,’ with all the advantage of being a film by Hollywood about Hollywood, piled on the trappings of the Golden Era while having forgotten the old adage, all that glitters isn’t gold. While ‘La La Land’ tells us of love aborted for the cult of ambition; ‘Moonlight’ shows us a world where love is the only ambition.

Moira Cue is art and literature editor of Hollywood Sentinel, and an award winning multi-media artist working in art, music, film, and fiction among more. For more information on Moira visit the official website at www.MoiraCue.com

This content is copyright 2017, Moira Cue / Hollywood Sentinel, all world rights reserved.

 

Oscar’s Triumph Despite Curse

The 89th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday, February 26, 2017. Photo credit, image group LA.

A roughly four hour long Oscar Ceremony was greatly entertaining this evening, with host Jimmy Kimmel who did a great job.  With nearly every presenter and acceptance speech monologue laced with political comments against the current political administration, Kimmel led the assault with at least 4 jabs at the President in the first four minutes of his opening monologue, including jokes about Trump’s tweeting, immigrants not getting in the country, and a divided nation.  He further joked about Trump  stating how Meryl Streep was an over-rated actress.

The stellar show wound up cursed however, when Warren Beatty let Faye Dunaway read the Best Picture winner from the envelope, and she read ‘LaLa Land.’  ‘La La Land’ producers were in the middle of reading their acceptance speech, when they stopped and stated how there had been a mistake, that ‘Moonlight’ actually won.

Like the political insanity of the past several months itself; from hacking, to leaks, to false hopes,  so called fake news, surprise victories, and surprise losses among more, The Oscars–heavily tackling politics, wound up itself a victim of at least part of the political type of insanity it aimed to criticize.

Having changed the rules last year from what many considered false accusations of racism, more blacks were nominated and won this year, yet nearly didn’t. The mostly white film ‘La La Land’ won first–only to be dethroned in a matter of seconds, with the Oscar being snatched away from the ‘fake’ winners and given to the real winners–the more ‘real’ liberal Hollywood film of ‘greater’ diversity about not only ‘black’ characters, but ‘gay’ too.

At a moment, it seemed like all a part of the show, great scripted drama for the highly entertaining awards show itself.   And who knows? Maybe it was? Then again, that may be highly doubtful, considering the manner in which it has already reflected on the Academy, Warren Beatty, and Faye Dunaway.  In reality, only the person handing the envelope to Warren and Faye should be to blamed, with Warren reportedly stating that the envelope he was given had a card stating Emma Rose– ‘La La Land’ on it.  Which just goes to prove, we don’t just need ballot checkers at the presidential polls, but evidently we now need envelope checkers at the Oscars too.

It’s almost as if Trump himself had someone sneak in and mix up the envelopes to seek revenge.  Or, perhaps those Hollywood hating Trump supporters cast a spell and cursed the finale’ of the show,  seeking revenge for the many barbs, and–the witches cursing him just two nights before.

One ‘can’ say that two films at The Oscars and the presenters got cheated–‘La La Land’ had their hopes dashed to bits, ‘Moonlight’ lost their glory and speech time, and the Oscars and presenters of Faye and Warren got humiliated. Or, one can say what I prefer and tend to feel, that  in a way in actuality–there were two winners.  ‘La La Land,’ who would not have seen the stage for best picture,  got to pretend they won for a moment and have their speech and moment of glory as Best Picture Winners, and ‘Moonlight,’ a young film from a young filmmaker got its nod and Best Picture award in a world often against gays and blacks.

Warren and Faye, two stellar stars and legends, who have weathered the ups and downs of Hollywood for decades, will be just fine, and the brilliant and funny Jimmy Kimmel,  who was a great hit this night, deferentially assumed all of the blame.  And the Oscars, well–they will go on being the greatest awards show of all time, and the greatest night in TV history.  And–mistake or no mistake, they kept us watching, entertained, and loving every minute tonight, like only the Oscars can–drama and all.  After all, isn’t that what Hollywood’s all about? And anyway, we simply ‘can’t’ be out-drama’d by Washington now, can we?

–Bruce Edwin

Viola Davis poses backstage with the Oscar® for Performance by an actress in a supporting role, for work on “Fences” during the live ABC Telecast of The 89th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday, February 26, 2017.Photo Credit: Mike Baker / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Viola Davis shined at the Oscars tonight, winning Best Supporting Actress for her work in the film ‘Fences,’ and giving a heartwarming acceptance speech, as partially shown here below;

VIOLA DAVIS:

“Thank you to the Academy. You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place. And that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, “What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?” And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank god I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.”

Viola continued, “(…) I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. (…)  And to Bron Pictures, Paramount, MACRO, Todd Black, Molly Allen, Scott Rudin for being the cheerleaders for a movie that is about people, and words, and life, and forgiveness and grace. (…)”

  This content is copyright, 2017, The  Oscar®,” “AMPAS®.” The Hollywood Sentinel, all world rights reserved.

Phantogram On Fire

Anyone that states that music is not as good as it used to be needs to catch up with the times. Thanks to artists including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grimes, Warpaint, Autolux, Lana Del Rey, Empire of the Sun, and many more, music today is as great as ever.
One of the most brilliant bands to emerge in the past decade–Phantogram is a part of music’s greatness today, and the band soars. subnormal magazine names them one of the Top 10 New Artists of our Time. From pounding bass beats, melodic, swirling kaleidoscopic freak outs of searing guitar, trippy, hypnotic keyboards, brilliant songwriting and lyrics, and a sultry, perfect voice by the drop dead sexy Sarah Barthel, combined with a vast myriad of great, artistic videos, Phantogram is in a class by themselves, and like none you have ever heard. Stellar geniuses,and masters of their killer sound, they are a legendary new band that just make us want to dance.  –Bruce Edwin, subnormal magazine

Phantogram: Biography

Three, Phantogram’s third studio album, the duo of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel take their sound in an intriguing, darkly shaded direction, adding new textures to their signature style.

Three represents a new creative peak that Phantogram has been building towards for nearly a decade. Carter and Barthel first broke out in 2009 with the cinematic Eyelid Movies (Barsuk) – recorded in a barn in Saratoga Springs, NY (near their hometown of Greenwich) – and after a buzz-building EP (Nightlife, Barsuk) and much touring, Phantogram opted for a change of scenery by recording their expansive second LP, 2014’s Voices (Republic),in Los Angeles with co-producer John Hill (M.I.A., Santigold).

In between Voices (which spawned the hits “Fall In Love” and “Black Out Days”) and Three, Phantogram have certainly kept busy. They contributed to The Flaming Lips’ The Terror, A-Trak’s “Parallel Lines,”and Miley Cyrus’ Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, remixed Charli XCX, and were sampled by Kanye West and A$AP Rocky, as well as a collaboration project called Big Grams with OutKast’s Big Boi. Following the release of a critically-acclaimed self-titled debut album in late 2015, Big Grams has proved to be a festival mainstay in 2016 – entertaining huge audiences with compelling sets riddled with Big Grams’ psychedelic hip-hop, and rounded out with the two acts’ mashups of each other’s hit songs.

Despite the full schedule, Carter and Barthel find themselves far from creatively tapped-out. Recent collaborations pushed them musically and Three displays a surging energy and appealing experimentation, effectively showcasing a band reaching for and achieving new aesthetic heights.

The album was recorded over the past year at co-producer Ricky Reed’s Echo Park-based studio. Finding inspiration in unlikely places for a band increasingly heard on commercial alternative and pop radio, Carter found fresh perspective in AfroBeat and ‘60’s R&B when creating the steady beats that form the foundation of the album. Despite the new influences and a strong experimental motivation, Three still unmistakably sounds like Phantogram, with plenty of thick, buzzing beats and snaking melodic lines to sink your teeth into.

Three is a triumphant record, but it also bears the mark of personal tragedy. During the recording process, the band suffered a devastating loss when Barthel’s sister (and Carter’s close friend since childhood) Becky passed away of suicide. Work on music stopped immediately, but then as the duo slowly returned to the studio the aftermath of their personal loss (compounded by the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, two of Phantogram’s greatest musical heroes and inspirations) began to reverberate throughout the process, imbuing the album with varied shades of complicated, human emotion that Carter refers to as “Finding the beauty within tragedy.”

“It’s about heartbreak, and having to push forward and move on—and how challenging that is,” Barthel states. “It’s made us the people we really are, and it’s a huge part of what this record means to us.”

Along with exploring new emotional territory, Three also finds Phantogram breaking new sonic ground. The album’s eclectic, bold songs swerve from pop-inflected bangers (like lead single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” and album-closer “Calling All”) to the skipping melancholia of “Answer,” which strikes a perfect balance between loping hip-hop rhythms, understated balladry, and gauzy indie-rock. Meanwhile, more experimental, psych-influenced pieces like “Run Run Blood,” the harrowing Steve Reich-sample-driven “Barking Dog,” and “Funeral Pyre” (a re-working of longtime live staple “Intro” that, fittingly, opens the album) somehow are perfectly at ease alongside the darkly beautiful, cathartic ballad “Destroyer,” all capturing themes of heartbreak, anguish and perseverance; second single “Same Old Blues,” the smoky, menacing duet “You’re Mine,” and the icy determination of “Cruel World” bring listeners back to the sample-heavy, synth-driven Phantogram sound that has found them an extensive, dedicated fan base.

An iridescent record that glows with warmth even as it explores the desolation of personal pain, Three is the latest chapter in Phantogram’s impressive ascent to the forefront of music—as well as proof that nothing, at this point, can hold them back.

 We’re still obsessed with the amazing single “Fall in Love”, and its brilliant video, here below:

Biography and video courtesy of Phantogram / Republic / UMG, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.

About Town

 Swarming Orchids will be rocking the stage this Saturday at Bar Sinister in Hollywood.  Soriah will be joining them on stage as opener, with Askelon Sain up first.

Grimes Releases New Video

The brilliant multi-media recording artist and producer Grimes shares the official video for ‘Venus Fly,’ which she released to the world recently.  Hollywood Sentinel named Grimes as one of the Top 10 Greatest Artists of Our Time last year, and ‘Venus Fly,’ brilliantly mixing house, drum and bass, dance, techno, trance, and more, solidifies that decision. Directed and edited by Grimes, the video also features Janelle Monáe. ‘Venus Fly’ is now live online. ‘Venus Fly’ is taken from Grimes’ critically-adored album ‘Art Angels’ (4AD). Last year, Grimes toured for the album, selling out venues and headlining festivals around the world. Regarding her outstanding directing, Grimes says of the video, “We used the Phantom cameras to create a feeling of time suspended.” Check out the video here:

New Movies

Their Finest

Image, copyright, 2017, Warner Brothers, all rights reserved.
With London emptied of its men now fighting at the Front, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is hired by the British Ministry of Information as a “slop” scriptwriter charged with bringing “a woman’s touch” to morale-boosting propaganda films, in the motion picture from Warner BrothersTheir Finest. Her natural flair quickly gets her noticed by dashing movie producer Buckley (Sam Claflin) whose path would never have crossed hers in peacetime. As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin, Buckley and a colorful crew work furiously to make a film  that will warm the hearts of the nation. Although Catrin’s artist husband looks down on her job,  she quickly discovers there is as much camaraderie, laughter and passion behind the camera as  there is onscreen.
GRAMMY® AWARD-WINNING  MEGHAN TRAINOR RELEASES NEW SONG “I’M A LADY” FROM “SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE”
GRAMMY® Award-winning MEGHAN TRAINOR will release her new song “I’m a Lady” from Sony Pictures Animation’s upcoming film Smurfs: The Lost Villagetomorrow on Epic Records worldwide. The accompanying music video will premiere next Friday, March 3.
Trainor also announced that she will be voicing one of the new characters from Smurfs: The Lost Village, SmurfMelody, in the fully animated film.
“I’m so excited to be singing ‘I’m a Lady’ for this movie,” said Trainor.  “It’s a song that I love and am very proud of, and I can’t wait for the world to finally hear it! Getting to play a small part in the film with my character, SmurfMelody, makes this all the more exciting! So happy to be a part of the Smurfs family!”
 This content is copyright, 2017, and other respective parties wherein indicated, Hollywood Sentinel, all rights reserved.