Our 10 favorite Oscar nominations: 8. Paul Schrader – Best Screenplay

8.  Paul Schrader – Best Screenplay for “First Reformed” – Writer/director Paul Schrader wrote “Taxi Driver” (1976), “American Gigolo” (1980), “Raging Bull” (1980), “The Mosquito Coast” (1986), and “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), so a screenplay Oscar nomination for the man is way overdue.  The Academy finally recognized Schrader for his written work  about a reverend (Ethan Hawke) preaching sermons to a small congregation in rows of white pews, while black outlooks fill his soul in “First Reformed”. The film asks big questions within a small Upstate New York…

Our 10 favorite Oscar nominations: 9. (tie) Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen

Hollywood’s biggest night arrives on Sunday, Feb. 24.  The Academy Awards!  AHFW is excited to see who wins the coveted statues, but rather than focus on who was not nominated, we wanted to proudly proclaim our Top 10 favorite Oscar nominations.   Now, come the 24th, and they don’t win, well, then we’ll have problems.  Haha. 9. (tie) Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali and Best Actor Viggo Mortensen – Mortensen has never been funnier, and Mahershala Ali delivers a nuanced performance and is out of this world on the piano in…

‘Never Look Away’ compels us to keep watching

“Never Look Away” – “Hardly anyone likes photos of themselves, but everyone’s supposed to like a painting.” – Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) “Everything is connected.” – Elisabeth May (Saskia Rosendahl) Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s feature film “The Lives of Others” (2006) weaves such an absorbing, layered conflict into 1980s East Germany’s acknowledged intrusive culture so well, it topped Guillermo del Toro’s best film “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) that year and won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2007.  Yes, “The Lives of Others” is that good! After Donnersmarck’s Johnny…

Mikkelsen carries the torch in ‘Arctic’

“Arctic” – Mads Mikkelsen’s character kneels on a narrow path of black rock and chips away at ice and snow with a pick and a serrated piece of sheet metal.  For anyone who has ever shoveled a driveway when the temperature hovers around zero, the opening scene of “Arctic” is a stressful reminder of Old Man Winter and his associated, compulsory chores. The difference between Overgard (Mikkelsen) and John Q. Public scrapping coagulated powder in the frozen suburbs of Minneapolis, Chicago, Buffalo, Toronto, Boston, and Spokane is the latter poor…

‘Serenity’ triggers agitation, frustration and exasperation

“Serenity” – Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) drinks from a World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug, but he might not be the best at anything.  World’s Greatest Screwup, perhaps.  He’s a fisherman on Plymouth Island, a magical blue and sandy oasis where wealthy tourists descend for a week or two of R&R, but locals need to scrape and herd random sources of cash to keep roofs over their heads.  Baker may be the most desperate, but he is his own worst enemy. As the film opens, his friend Duke (Djimon Hounsou) and…