#1000... a look at "The Edge of Seventeen," my connection to film, "Manchester by the Sea" and the season at hand!

I have a habit of stockpiling draft pieces for this site, some of which end up completely abandoned, others published, in some form of the original intent, and finally the list pieces. I have two of those list pieces now. A "Catch Up" list of films released earlier in the year as well as what I have in my screener pile and the meek beginnings of a Top 10.  While the catch up list continues to grow I've been doing my best to watch Oscary films in the theater as they are released, as I never know how long they might stay in the local theaters.

With the few films I've managed to see, this season is shaping to be a year of performances and storytelling. For example, let's look at "Manchester By the Sea," written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.  For those of you who don't know, "Manchester" tells the story of Lee, an uncle who unwittingly begins to take care of his young nephew when Lee's brother dies. When I saw this at Indie Memphis I was left with a deep appreciation for the depth of the performances as well as the nuance of Lonergan's direction/screenplay. Not rushed, on its own terms, and told with great care, especially in terms of the relationships between Lee and Patrick (Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges) and Lee and Randi (Michelle Williams).

Talking to my friend Melanie after the "Manchester" screening, we both pontificated on the fact that we couldn't quite imagine the film winning Best Picture, but that Affleck seemed to be a lock for Best Actor. I call these declarations the Film Festival Effect. Getting caught up in the moment. "Who could be better," we said? But as we all know, the quality of the performance is only a cog in the wheel. If "The Founder" is handled properly, Michael Keaton could become the "HE IS DUE" challenge to Affleck. I found Michelle Williams to be as good as usual, but in terms of Oscar I couldn't help but think that this wasn't going to be the winning performance for her.  And clearly the people at the Independent Spirit Awards were on that page with me, as she wasn't nominated yesterday. That being said, the Academy is a separate beast.  I also remember thinking something similar with "The Reader" and Kate Winslet, and we all know how that played out.

Last night, I saw "The Edge of Seventeen." This film along with "Swiss Army Man" "Moonlight" and "Sing Street" are all currently sitting at the top of my list. At least when it comes to movies I can see myself not only buying, but viewing multiple times in years to come.   I was so drawn to Hailee Steinfeld who plays Nadine, a high schooler who struggles with the fact that her best (and only friend) Krista begins dating her brother. Steinfeld's is indeed a performance that elevates what, on the surface, might seem like a standard coming of age film. Along with Hayden Szeto as Nadine's very uncomfortable, yet stunning in a swimsuit, aspiring filmmaker/suitor Erwin. Their scenes together are so fun and awkward, real true to life stuff.

I found myself near the beginning of the film wondering if it would enter my upper echelon of coming of age films. This time of year, it's a challenge to allow myself to be swept away by a film, especially when I'm thinking about the fact that I have so many other movies to not only see but potentially write about.  But somewhere in the first half I began to relate Nadine's plight to my own life.

I had a best friend in my twenties who truly became my 2nd half. I can remember the two of us hanging out at his Aunt's house in Nebraska, watching VHS tapes of Sarah Michelle Gellar on SNL, multiple episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and of course jamming out to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears on our way to...well anywhere!  We eventually left the small town were were living in and moved to NYC, not together, but kind of...just a few months apart...and our relationship began to unravel. In "Seventeen," when Nadine and Krista stop speaking, Nadine begins to question her existence in a way that I didn't have the nerve to do. Instead I spent years trying to force this square peg into the round circle that was my friend's life. And when I couldn't, instead of finding my own existence, looking inward, I went a whole other direction. I wish that, like Nadine, I had limited my questioning/journey to 2 hours in film time instead of 15 years. That all being said, I have stopped and changed directions. I have come of age, so to speak.

That connection to "The Edge of Seventeen" is what I look for in films. I can appreciate all sorts of things, but when something taps into my soul, that's when the magic happens.

When it comes to film criticism or discussion, we love to compartmentalize aspects such as direction, acting, writing, etc. I heard someone in describing the attributes of "The Edge of Seventeen" praise Steinfeld, but minimize Kelly Fremon Craig's direction.  One thing that seems to be forgotten is that great performances are almost always shaped by directors. As an actor, I know this quite well. Recently I have worked with directors that guided me gently into the skin of a character and directors whose technique forced me into their vision, Either way, the output wasn't by any means achieved on my own. I'm not exactly sure why, when discussing "Manchester By the Sea" more credit is given to Lonergan. Perhaps it is because he is a man. Or because he is more well known that Craig. I don't think this paragraph is going to answer those questions by any means. And I'm not the one to do it either.

While working on this piece I discovered that with this publication, Awards Wiz has 1000 posts. That may not be a lot compared to Awards Daily or Thompson on Hollywood, but to me it is a milestone. A milestone worthy of the longest title in Awards Wiz history!

Awards Wiz has always been a seasonal site. Seasonal in two ways. One, is the obvious. The Oscar season. And the other...a means to flavor my life, as an artist, a film lover and a person. Awards Wiz has given me an outlet to discuss cinema and the Oscars in a way that allows me to examine where I am in any given moment.  As it says in my byline...Awards Wiz is a personal look. I have enjoyed these 1000 posts (some of which were done by guests, of course) and look forward to 1000 more. Or at least the next one.


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