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Out of Focus contains site bulletins, news, and occasional random thoughts, all pertaining to this site's embrace of cinema, as well as some general commentary on moviegoing. Entries will be short, sweet, and to the point, and often they will include mere tidbits or editorials. This is a place where a combination of important information and pointless rants have a home.


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- Out of Focus 2015 - My 10 Most-Watched Films
- Out of Focus 2015 - Top 10 Films of 2016 (So Far)
- Oscar Nominees: Picks and Predictions - 50 Years of Star Trek
- Oscar Winners - What's Up with Deep Focus Review?

What's Up with Deep Focus Review?

Dear Readers,

Many faithful DFR visitors have probably noticed (or even brought to my attention) a decline in new reviews in the past couple months or so. Lately, there has been an average of two reviews per week, as opposed to the typical three or four. Likewise, there have been less frequent entries in The Definitives and Re(focused)views. The reasons for the decline are twofold.

The primary reason is that, starting back in August of this year, I returned to school to pursue a Master’s degree in Film Studies. This means a lot of extra reading and writing for me, which, in addition to my day job, restricts the time I have available for DFR. However, with any luck, my studies will mean I become a better critic and make your readership even more worthwhile.

The second reason has to do with DFR’s ten-year anniversary. That’s right, I have been an amateur online film critic for nearly a decade. Given the occasion, and also because the site desperately needs it, DFR will be redesigned and relaunched sometime next year. The new site will be mobile optimized, offer some slick new features, and improve your overall visitor experience. The relaunch may take several months to complete. In the meantime, this requires a lot of attention and effort on my part.

Nevertheless, I want to assure readers that I plan to continue a regular flow of reviews and hopefully a new entry in The Definitives each month, and I'll be sure to review the major Awards Season titles as well. In fact, I'll have quite a few reviews in the coming weeks, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Edge of Seventeen, Moonlight, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and Allied, among others.

All the delays and less output now just means a better DFR in time. So be patient and, as always, provide your feedback by emailing me.

Thank you for your patience and continued support!

Brian Eggert
brian@deepfocusreview.com
(November 15, 2016)
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50 Years of Star Trek

Fifty years have passed since the original Star Trek television series debuted in 1966. Over the course of those years, both the ongoing franchise and Gene Roddenberry’s message of equality has its survived many iterations. And while that may have something to do with our love for escapist science-fiction, Roddenberry’s legacy remains a source of forward thinking.

Five, going on six (CBS is bringing Star Trek back to television in 2017), individual television series followed in the footsteps of the original, which starred William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as Captain Kirk and Spock, respectively. Thirteen feature films have explored various crews of ships called Enterprise. The franchise also has seemingly limitless roots in books, games, comics, and toys. And while the films and series can be hit-or-miss, they take place in an inspiring universe propelled by imagination. (To be sure, the latest films produced by J.J. Abrams focus less on Star Trek's enduring themes than fast-paced action, hopefully they inspire fans to explore the earlier, more mindful entries.)

Between Paramount Pictures and CBS Television Studios, the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek has so far been celebrated in 2016 in many ways. Both The Original Series and The Next Generation television shows have boxed sets on Blu-ray that have been going for cheap on Amazon. Consumers can also pick up discounted versions of the films on home video. And the latest sequel in the Abrams’ alternate universe, called Star Trek Beyond, is coming to theaters on July 22.

In honor of the occasion, I have returned to my original reviews of the Star Trek films (at least, parts I - X), first published in 2009. Each review has been edited and expanded to include new information, analysis, and images. Revisiting these titles reminded me of how much thematic weight was put into these films, where Abrams’ films—entertaining and well-made though they may be—are little more than actioners rooted in elaborate revenge scenarios.

Head over to DFR’s Star Trek collection page, Star Trek: The Cinematic Space Time Continuum, for a full catalogue of the reviews. And don’t forget to support the franchise by seeing Star Trek Beyond this weekend!


Brian Eggert
brian@deepfocusreview.com
(July 18, 2016)
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Top 10 Films of 2016 (So Far)

Halfway through the year, there’s plenty of good reason to reflect on what’s come out thus far. 2016 has been an unexpectedly strong year for film. I’ve written several four-star reviews, and plenty more positive assessments of titles that movie fans shouldn’t overlook, more than in years past by this time on the calendar. Consider this list of the Top 10 Films of 2016 (So Far) a placeholder, and a guide to be sure you see the year’s best titles released to date. And so, without further explanation, here’s the list of the Top 10 Films of 2016 (So Far). Click on the poster for the review.


Brian Eggert
brian@deepfocusreview.com
(June 12, 2016)
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My 10 Most-Watched Films

During a recent episode of Battleship Pretension, one of my favorite movie podcasts, hosts Tyler and David discussed their most-watched films. Not necessarily the films they consider the best ever made, or their favorite, but just films they've watched the most. They inspired me to come up with my own list of most-watched films.

Likewise, these aren't my favorite films, nor do I consider some of them the best ever made. However, I find myself rewatching these titles again and again. There's no greater meaning to this list. And I'm not going to provide any commentary on the titles, which are listed in alphabetical order. I simply found it interesting to think about the films I've watched the most. Enjoy!


Brian Eggert
brian@deepfocusreview.com
(March 29, 2016)
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Oscar Winners

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held the 88th Academy Awards last night, and the show was filled with the usual surprises, snubs, and an overlong ceremony. Chris Rock's second turn as host was much improved by his lively commentary on the #OscarsSoWhite uproar. His best remarks question why there are Actor and Actress categories ("It's all acting"), while Louis C.K. presented the Best Documentary Short with enough humor to earn him the hosting job next year.

Spotlight took home the Best Picture award, which many believed was a major upset. Although few could argue with the much-deserved wins for Brie Larson and Leonardo DiCaprio in their respective categories. Alejandro G. Iñárritu deserves a special congratulations for winning a second year in a row, after his award for Birdman last year. And Mad Max: Fury Road dominated the evening in terms of Oscar numbers, as George Miller's post-apocalyptic chase film took home six statues.

Most of the major winners are listed below. For a full list, check out the Oscar.com winners page.

Best Picture
The Big Short 
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian 
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight - Winner!

 

Best Director
Lenny Abrahamson –Room
Alejandro G. Iñárritu –The Revenant - Winner!
Tom McCarthy –Spotlight
Adam McKay –The Big Short 
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road


Best Actor

Bryan Cranston Trumbo 
Matt Damon – The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio –The Revenant - Winner!
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs 
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl


Best Actress
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson –Room - Winner!
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy 
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years 
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn


Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale –The Big Short   
Tom Hardy –The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance –Bridge of Spies - Winner!
Sylvester Stallone – Creed 


Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight 
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl - Winner!
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs 


Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies – Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Ex Machina – Alex Garland
Inside Out – Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen, Pete Docter and Meg LeFauve
Spotlight – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer - Winner!
Straight Outta Compton – Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus


Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short  – Adam McKay and Charles Randolph - Winner!  
Brooklyn – Nick Hornby  
Carol – Phyllis Nagy  
The Martian – Drew Goddard  
Room – Emma Donoghue  


Best Animated Feature
Anomalisa 
Boy & the World 
Inside Out  - Winner!
Shaun the Sheep Movie 
When Marnie Was There 


Best Cinematography
Carol – Ed Lachman
The Hateful Eight – Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki - Winner!
Sicario – Roger Deakins


Best Costume Design
Carol
Cinderella  
The Danish Girl 
Mad Max: Fury Road - Winner!
The Revenant 


Best Film Editing
The Big Short   
Mad Max: Fury Road  - Winner!
The Revenant
Spotlight  
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 


Best Original Score
Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
Carol – Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone - Winner!
Sicario – Jóhann Jóhannsson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams


Best Original Song
"Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey 
"Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction 
"Simple Song #3" from Youth 
"Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground 
"Writing's on the Wall" from Spectre  - Winner!


Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl 
Mad Max: Fury Road - Winner!
The Martian
The Revenant


Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina  - Winner!
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 


Brian Eggert
brian@deepfocusreview.com
(February 29, 2016)
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Oscar Nominees: Picks and Predictions

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the list of nominees for the 88th Academy Awards and, as usual, many have spoken out about their favorite films or performers being snubbed (snubs of Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Aaron Sorkin come to mind). But that’s what happens when you have a great year in film: the inclusions and exclusions become more difficult, and passionate. If the Academy wanted to make everyone happy, dozens of films and talent would be listed in every category and the ceremony would last 6 hours. At any rate, The Revenant topped the nominations with 12 total, and in a pleasantly surprising turn, Mad Max: Fury Road (my own favorite film of 2015) earned 10 nominations.

Winners will be announced February 28, 2016, with the ceremony hosted by Chris Rock. Below are my predictions, my personal picks, and some brief remarks on several (but not all) of the main categories. For a full list, check out the Oscar.com nominee page.

Best Picture
The Big Short 
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian 
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Probable Winner:The Revenant
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road
Thoughts: This respectable list of nominees would look a lot better with Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, but it’s a fair list. I would be fine with any of the titles outside of The Big Short  winning, but let’s hope the Academy plays against type and goes for a post-apocalyptic chase movie.   

 

Best Director
Lenny Abrahamson –Room
Alejandro G. Iñárritu –The Revenant
Tom McCarthy –Spotlight
Adam McKay –The Big Short 
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Probable Winner: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
My Pick: George Miller
Thoughts: If either Miller or Iñárritu win, I could find no reason to complain. Nor would I be very offended if Abrahamson took home the Oscar. McKay and McCarthy seem lesser, and probably should have been replaced by Steven Spielberg, or perhaps the Golden Globe winner Ridley Scott.


Best Actor

Bryan Cranston Trumbo 
Matt Damon – The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio –The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs 
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
 
Probable Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio
My Pick: Leonardo DiCaprio
Thoughts: Some have called this “the year of Leo” after he’s been subbed so many times, suggesting he’s due and will finally get a career award—the award you get when ‘it’s your time’. However, usually those awards go to a lesser performances (think Al Pacino winning for Scent of a Woman or Kate Winslet for The Reader). But in The Revenant, DiCaprio delivers one of his very best, so a justified award would be both for his career and his performance. Fassbender could win too and I would be just as pleased with this category. Meanwhile, Redmayne is one of today’s most overrated actors.


Best Actress
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson –Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy 
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years 
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Probable Winner: Brie Larson
My Pick: Saoirse Ronan first, Brie Larson second
Thoughts: It’s not often that you can say it’s been a good year for women in film, but 2015 had some wonderful female performances. Among them was Rooney Mara, who was, for some reason, relegated to Best Supporting Actress despite being the protagonist of Carol. No matter. Proving her talent over and over, Saoirse Ronan deserves this award in 2015's best romance, but Brie Larson’s amazing turn in Room is also deserving.


Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale –The Big Short   
Tom Hardy –The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance –Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone – Creed 

Probable Winner: Sylvester Stallone
My Pick: Mark Rylance
Thoughts: Stallone recently earned a Golden Globe for his seventh effort as Rocky Balboa, and he seems to be the audience favorite for this category. I prefer Mark Rylance as the quiet, stoic spy from Spielberg’s underseen and audience-underappreciated film. 


Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight 
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs 

Probable Winner: Kate Winslet
My Pick: Jennifer Jason Leigh
Thoughts: Alicia Vikander had a breakout year, and had she been nominated for Ex Machina, I’d be rooting for her. Instead, I think the Academy will recognize Winslet (who played against type here), even if Leigh made the biggest transformation in Tarantino’s film. It’s also surprising that Charlize Theron was left out of this category—having transformed herself so drastically to play Furiosa.


Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies – Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Ex Machina – Alex Garland
Inside Out – Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen, Pete Docter and Meg LeFauve
Spotlight – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
Straight Outta Compton – Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus

Probable Winner: Spotlight
My Pick: Inside Out
Thoughts: Straight Outta Compton might get recognized if only because it was snubbed in so many other categories and audiences loved that film, but I would fault the screenplay for omitting important details (like Dr. Dre’s abuses against women). My vote goes to Pixar’s emotional ride, one of the most economically told and warmly meaningful stories of 2015. If the Academy doesn’t go for the NWA script, they’ve got good cause to vote for Spotlight. Also, shame on the Academy for not nominating Aaron Sorkin’s wonderful work on Steve Jobs, easily the best script of 2015 in my opinion.


Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short  – Adam McKay and Charles Randolph  
Brooklyn – Nick Hornby  
Carol – Phyllis Nagy  
The Martian – Drew Goddard  
Room – Emma Donoghue  

Probable Winner: Room
My Pick: Room
Thoughts: Emma Donoghue adapted her own from-a-child’sperspective book into a devastating screenplay that spends as much time with a kidnapped mother (Brie Larson) as her boy. It was a moving treatment. But really, I’d understand any of these titles winning, except perhaps Adam McKay and Charles Randolph; their script was for this awards season's most overrated title.


Best Animated Feature
Anomalisa 
Boy & the World 
Inside Out 
Shaun the Sheep Movie 
When Marnie Was There 

Probable Winner: Inside Out
My Pick: Anomalisa or Inside Out
Thoughts: In many ways, Anomalisa and Inside Out are very similar in that they're both themed around emotional introspection through metaphor, the former geared toward adults and the latter toward children and their parents. Pixar’s film seems to be the obvious favorite, justifiably, whereas the less popular stop-motion animation feature by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson may be too odd for most voters—even if it's the superior film.


Best Cinematography
Carol – Ed Lachman
The Hateful Eight – Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
Sicario – Roger Deakins

Probable Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki
My Pick: Emmanuel Lubezki
Thoughts: Although Richardson and Seal could take home this award and I’d be pleased as punch, Lubezki’s ability to capture such beauty under such punishing conditions should earn him the award.


Best Costume Design
Carol
Cinderella  
The Danish Girl 
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant 

Probable Winner: Carol
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road
Thoughts: The Academy tends to pick fantasy or period pieces in this category, but I’d rather see Immorton Joe’s transparent torso piece, breathing mask, and loin guard take home a statue.


Best Film Editing
The Big Short   
Mad Max: Fury Road 
The Revenant
Spotlight  
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

Probable Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road  
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road  
Thoughts: Miller’s actioner was meticulously edited, to the point that the performers couldn't foresee their director’s shot-for-shot logic during the shoot. But it all fit together in Miller's head and, eventually, with complete cohesiveness on the finished film thanks to the great editing. Then again, the Academy may choose the notoriously over-edited comedy The Big Short.



Best Original Score
Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
Carol – Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
Sicario – Jóhann Jóhannsson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams

Probable Winner: Ennio Morricone
My Pick: Ennio Morricone
Thoughts: While I’m pleased that longtime Coen Brothers collaborator Carter Burwell is getting his first nomination ever, it should have been for his more melancholy effort on Anomalisa. Not that it matters, because Ennio Morricone will deservingly take this statue home for his work, likely in acknowledgement of a career’s worth of great scores.


Best Original Song
"Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey 
"Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction 
"Simple Song #3" from Youth 
"Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground 
"Writing's on the Wall" from Spectre 

Probable Winner: "Writing's on the Wall"  
My Pick: "Simple Song #3"
Thoughts: "Simple Song #3" was the only non-popish song on this list, and it was a beautiful composition that should be acknowledged, but won’t be.


Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl 
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Probable Winner: The Danish Girl 
My Pick:Mad Max: Fury Road
Thoughts: Much like Costume Design, when the Academy votes for Production Design they usually pick period pieces. I prefer the elaborate, fascinatingly detailed, and imaginative of Miller and his team.


Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina 
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

Probable Winner:Star Wars: The Force Awakens  orMad Max: Fury Road
My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road
Thoughts: How many films used practical FX and pyrotechnics this year? A lot of them. How many reached for a simpler time when aliens and mutants were achieved with physical makeup artists and FX technicians? Two. One of these should win the Oscar.


Brian Eggert
brian@deepfocusreview.com
(January 14, 2016)
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