Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review: Disobedience (2018)

* * *

Director: Sebastian Lelio
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola

The promotional materials for Disobedience heavily emphasize the relationship between the characters played by Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. While that relationship is most certainly a key element of the story, it isn't really what the film is about, but I suppose it's easier to sell a tale of forbidden love than it is a story about people living in a strict religious community being faced with the choice of adhering to the limiting confines of the religions teachings or being expelled entirely. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Naomi Alderman and directed by Sebastian Lelio (whose A Fantastic Woman won this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar), Disobedience is a carefully observed film about the struggle between the desire to be and the desire to belong and features great performances by its two Rachels.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review: Deadpool 2 (2018)

* * *

Director: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin

Part of the charm of Deadpool was its inherent shabbiness. Made on a shoestring budget (at least by the standards of superhero/action movies), Deadpool turned its discount elements into a strength by making it part of the joke. Deadpool 2 has the benefit of having about twice the budget as its predecessor, which gives it a lot more flash in terms of its action pieces, but it still manages to maintain that industrial and minimalist aesthetic of the first. It adheres to the principle of movie sequels to "do the same thing, but more," but it manages to stay relatively true to its roots at the same time, which is surely no easy feat. Deadpool 2 is the equal to its original, better in certain respects but not quite as good in others, and certainly worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

* * *

Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich

There are two things that can't be denied about Solo: A Star Wars Story. The first is that it had a troubled production, with original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (directors of the Jump Street movies and The LEGO Movie) being fired more than half-way through production and replaced by Ron Howard, prompting much speculation about the salvageability of the project. The second is that with an estimated $103 million Memorial Day weekend opening, it's considered something of a flop (by the standards of Star Wars movies, at any rate). That's a lot of negativity for one movie to overcome, but you know what? Solo is a pretty decent movie. It's a goofy adventure/heist movie that, though it has some flaws, is at worst a mid-tier Star Wars movie. Seriously: give it a chance.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review: Life of the Party (2018)

* * 1/2

Director: Ben Falcone
Starring: Melissa McCarthy

Life of the Party, the latest vehicle for the go for broke talents of Melissa McCarthy, is neither as well put together as the films that McCarthy has made with director Paul Feig, nor as broad and crass as her previous collaborations with Ben Falcone. There's a sweetness to the movie which many of McCarthy's other movies tend to lack until until their third acts, and it's pretty funny even though it must be said that it has a pretty simple premise - after being left by her husband, a woman decides to make over her life, starting by going back to college - and manages to do remarkably little with it. Still, McCarthy is funny and charming and sometimes that's enough.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Review: Red Sparrow (2018)

* 1/2

Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton

Red Sparrow is a film that dares to ask: how many rape scenes is too many? If you've heard the term "male gaze" but aren't sure exactly what it means and would like to see a visual example, then this is the movie for you. Ostensibly a spy thriller, albeit of the most predictable, slow-moving, and needlessly convoluted kind, Red Sparrow is really just a perfunctory means of festishizing violence towards women, even though it seems to see itself as an empowerment narrative. It's a 140 minutes which would be reduced to about 15 if you excised all the scenes demonstrating, suggesting, or referencing sexual assault, coercion, harassment, or what the film characterizes as prostitution but which more closely resembles slavery. Hollywood: you can do better than this. You can do better with respect to films and you can do better by someone as talented as Jennifer Lawrence.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: Tully (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron

Although they've had success separately, it feels safe to say at this point that director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody function best as a team. 2007's Juno remains their big hit, both commercially and in terms of awards, while 2011's Young Adult remains one of the most criminally under-seen and under-appreciated movies of the last decade. Their latest film, Tully, is neither the heart-warming crowd pleaser that Juno was, nor does it possess the same acidic, take-no-prisoners attitude of Young Adult, but it's a sharply written and wholly compassionate film about a woman who is drowning in the responsibilities and expectations of motherhood. That woman is played by Charlize Theron, an actress who has no fear of leaning into a character's worst qualities without trying to soften them, which is exactly what the role demands. The performance is tremendous and the film itself rises to meet it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

* * *

Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Almost everyone

The success of Avengers: Infinity War - both creatively and financially - is a testament to the patience of Marvel Studios and Disney and the vision of the people behind it, particularly producer Kevin Feige, who has spent a decade bringing it together piece by piece. While seemingly every other movie studio has rushed to have (rather than build) shared universes that could double as money printers, Marvel has shown that there's no substitute for doing it one good movie at a time. Infinity War is the culmination of a decade of careful planning and 18 movies that have, save for a lesser entry here and there, mostly run the gamut from good to great. Since the film has already made over $500 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide, I'm going to assume that spoilers don't matter in the discussion below. Consider yourself warned.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: I Feel Pretty (2018)

* * *

Director: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein
Starring: Amy Schumer

Michelle Williams is a goddamn genius. If AMPAS gave her an Oscar for her performance in I Feel Pretty (it would never happen, that's beside the point) I would be like, "Yep, absolutely." Her character work and total investment in that character make her the absolute highlight of a film that I suspect will be judged and denounced by significantly more people than actually bother to see it. I Feel Pretty is already one of the most divisive films of the year, with critics either really liking it or really hating it and think pieces about it popping up all over entertainment sites. I'm not going to suggest that I Feel Pretty doesn't have problems, but I do think that it's a lot less problematic than all the words that have been devoted to analyzing it would suggest.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: You Were Never Really Here (2018)

* * * *

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix

If you have any doubt that Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest actors of his generation, it should be put to rest by You Were Never Really Here, Lynne Ramsay's lean and brutal adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jonathan Ames. He is at once savage and fragile here, his character broken and haunted and willing to perform incredible acts of violence. He finds no catharsis in these acts and neither does the film, which offers the least glamorized depiction of violence in recent memory, replacing the stylized trappings that can make violence on film seem like something celebratory and replacing them with a sense of disorientation. Running at a breathless 90 minutes and never pausing to let you find your footing, forcing you to just let yourself be pulled into its narrative riptide, You Were Never Really Here is one of the most stunning viewing experiences of the year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Isle of Dogs (2018)

* * 1/2

Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, and the Wes Anderson players

I like to think that the title of Wes Anderson's latest film, though it refers literally to the location of much of the film's action, is its first joke. Traditionally, dogs do not fare well in Anderson's films. When they die, their deaths tend to be brutally violent (see The Royal Tenenbaums, see Moonrise Kingdom). When you say this film's title aloud, it sounds like "I love dogs," as in "despite killing fictional pets every chance I get, I'm not a dog hating monster;" and when you watch the film, it starts to feel like it's playing with you a little bit, using your knowledge of the fates of dogs in previous films to tease you at various points with the possibility that some of the canine characters have met with terrible fates, only to reveal it was a fakeout. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but maybe Anderson is having a bit of fun with his audience, making his meta-humor just as offbeat as his regular humor. However, playful as it might be, Isle of Dogs is actually pretty serious stuff and makes for Anderson's most overtly political (for better or worse) film to date.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: The Death of Stalin (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Steve Buscemi

I'm sure the real story was even more absurd. All the pieces are there, after all: a brutal tyrant who is ultimately undone by his own short-sighted desire to protect his power by destabilizing everyone around him; the political cronies who are left jockeying for power, stabbing each other in the back and trying to think out their next moves, taking a few gambles on how circumstances are going to shake out; a citizenry terrorized by the whims of those in charge, making the difference between life and death as arbitrary as possible; a son who is desperately trying to hide the fact that the national hockey team has been killed on his watch and that he has replaced the players in the hope that no one will notice. Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin is comedy that's about as black as it gets and if it plays a little fast and loose with real history, well, I have to assume that that's because truth is stranger than fiction and that it would seem even less believable if it were all true.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Review: Game Night (2018)

* * *

Director: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams

The game is real is one of the lazier story premises this side of mismatched police partners or love interests who start out hating each other only to fall in love. For proof look no further than the trailers for the absolutely atrocious looking Truth or Dare, which asks "What if a bunch of 20-somethings played a slumber party game... to death?" But even an unremarkable premise can be saved by strong execution, which is something that Game Night, a comedy about sibling rivalry and a parlor game that gets a little too real, has to its credit. Anchored by the deadpan comedic chops of Jason Bateman and the effortless charms of Rachel McAdams, Game Night suffers slightly from having more plot twists than it absolutely needs, but it's ultimately a winner.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Thoroughbreds (2018)

* * *

Director: Cory Finley
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin

I wanted to like Thoroughbreds a lot more than I actually did. The first two-thirds are clever, intriguing, and go to darker places than most movies about teenagers that aren't outright horror movies or Heathers. Then the ending comes along and ties everything up so quickly and so neatly that I could only feel disappointed. Thoroughbreds is a perfectly fine film built on a trio of strong performances from Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, and the late Anton Yelchin, and a film which, despite its origins as a play, manages not to feel stagey (though it helps that the narrative is enhanced by a feeling of claustrophobia), but it just doesn't quite get there as a story despite a solid build up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: Black Panther (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o

Long live the King. To watch Black Panther is to be awed, not just by the film itself (though it is a work of incredible achievement) but by the tradition that it joins. As the opening credits unfold, highlighting the characters and films of the Marvel cinematic universe, it's hard to be unimpressed by what Marvel has accomplished, the way that it has brought together so many moving pieces, creating properties that are unique from each other but also complement and build off of each other as part of one large, unified tapestry. That this is not as easy as Marvel (barring a misstep in the form of The Incredible Hulk) has made it look is evident in the struggles of other would-be cinematic universes, from the struggling DC's superhero series to Universal's dead on arrival "Dark" universe. Eventually the series will start to be hit by the reality that you can only go so high before you start to come down, but that sure as hell doesn't happen with Black Panther, which joins Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok as movies that probably could not have been made 10 years ago (or, at least, not with the budgets and hype that they got) and continues Marvel's streak of just getting better and better.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Oscar Winners

As they're announced:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best Original Song: "Remember Me," Coco

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049 (FINALLY!)

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name

Best Live Action Short Film: The Silent Child

Best Documentary Short Subject: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Best Film Editing: Lee Smith, Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Feature: Coco

Best Animated Short Film: Dear Basketball

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water

Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk

Best Documentary Feature: Icarus

Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Oscar Predictions

Winners will be announced tomorrow, here is my list of predictions:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name

Best Film Editing: Lee Smith, Dunkirk

Best Cinematography: Dan Lausten, The Shape of Water

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water

Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Arjen Tuiten, Wonder

Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing: The Shape of Water

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water

Best Original Song: "Remember Me," Coco

Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places

Best Foreign Language Film: Loveless

Best Animated Feature: Coco

Best Animated Short Film: LOU

Best Live Action Short Film: My Nephew Emmett

Best Documentary Short Film: Traffic Stop

Friday, March 2, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Picture

The nominees are:

Call Me By Your Name

Plot: A teenage boy falls in love with the male student of his professor father, who comes to stay with his family during the summer.

Nominated Producers and Oscar History:

* Peter Spears: First nomination

* Luca Guadagnino: First nomination

* Emilie Georges: First nomination

* Marco Morabito: First nomination

Total Nominations for Film: 4 (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Director

The nominees are:

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Oscar History: 1 previous nomination for Best Director, 2 nominations for Best Original Screenplay, 2 nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay; also nominated for Best Picture

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Actress

The nominees are:

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Role: The deaf janitor who finds love with an amphibian creature being held in a government lab and plots to break him out.

Oscar History: 1 previous nomination for Best Supporting Actress

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Actor

The nominees:

Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Role: A teenage boy who falls in love with the male student of his professor father.

Oscar History: First nomination

Monday, February 26, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor

The nominees are:

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Role: The manager of a cheap motel which is home to several impoverished Orlando residents.

Oscar History: 2 previous nominations for Best Supporting Actor

Sunday, February 25, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress

The nominees are:

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Role: The matriarch of a family of tenant farmers in 1940's Mississippi.

Oscar History: Also nominated for Best Original Song

Saturday, February 24, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay

The nominees are:

Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water

Oscar History: First nomination for Taylor. 1 previous nomination for Best Original Screenplay for del Toro, who is also nominated for Best Director and Best Picture.

Friday, February 23, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay

The nominees are:

Scott Frank, Michael Green, James Mangold, Logan

Oscar History: First nomination for Green and Mangold, 1 previous nomination for Frank,

Thursday, February 22, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Film Editing

The nominees are:

Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss, Baby Driver

Oscar History: First nomination for both

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Cinematography

The nominees are:

Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

Oscar History: 13 previous nominations

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Production Design

The nominees are:

Beauty and the Beast

Nominated Team and Oscar History:

* Sarah Greenwood: 4 previous nominations; nominated twice this year

* Katie Spencer: 4 previous nominations; nominated twice this year

Monday, February 19, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Costume Design

The nominees are:

Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread

Oscar History: 1 win; 1 previous nomination

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review: Call Me By Your Name (2017)

* * * 1/2

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer

To speak or to die. That's the question at the heart of Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of the novel of the same name about the intensity of first love, in all its confusion and terror and joy. It's a well-realized film that, despite being told via a deeply restrained and interior story, manages to bring the emotions up to the surface to create something insightful and quite moving. Nominated for 4 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Song), and arguably deserving of more, Call Me By Your Name is one of the best films of 2017. It's a thoughtful and beautifully rendered piece of work, even though it opts to be shy at moments when it might have been better served by boldness.

90th Academy Awards: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The nominees are:

Darkest Hour

Nominated Team and Oscar History:

* Kazuhiro Tsuji: 2 previous nominations for Best Makeup

* David Malinowski: First nomination

* Lucy Sibbick: First nomination

Saturday, February 17, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects

The nominees are:

Blade Runner 2049

Nominated Team and Oscar History:

* John Nelson: 1 win; 2 previous nominations

* Gerd Nefzer: First nomination

* Paul Lambert: First nomination

* Richard R. Hoover: 2 previous nominations

Friday, February 16, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Sound Editing

The nominees are:

Baby Driver

Nominated Team and Oscar History:

* Julian Slater: Also nominated for Sound Mixing

Thursday, February 15, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Sound Mixing

The nominees are:

Baby Driver

Nominated Team and Oscar History

* Tim Cavagin: First nomination

* Mary H. Ellis: First nomination

* Julian Slater: Also nominated for Best Sound Editing

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Original Score

The nominees are:

Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Oscar History: 1 previous nomination

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Original Song

The nominees are:

"The Mystery of Love," Call Me By Your Name

Music and Lyrics By: Sufjan Stevens

Oscar History: First nomination

Monday, February 12, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Documentary Feature

The nominees are:

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Director: Steve James
Subject: The only company criminally indicted following the 2008 mortgage crisis.

Director's Oscar History: 1 previous nomination for Best Film Editing

Sunday, February 11, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film

The nominees are:

A Fantastic Woman

Country: Chile
Director: Sebastian Lelio
Plot: A woman's life is upended when her older lover suddenly dies.

Director's Oscar History: First nominated film

Saturday, February 10, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Animated Feature

The nominees are:

The Boss Baby

Director: Tom McGrath
Plot: ... It's about a baby who wears a suit.

Director's Oscar History: No previous nominations

Friday, February 9, 2018

90th Academy Awards: The Shorts

The nominees are:

Best Animated Short Film

Dear Basketball

Director: Glen Keane
Plot: An animated dramatization of Kobe Bryant's letter announcing his retirement from basketball.

Director's Oscar History: First nominated film

Friday, February 2, 2018

Top 10 Week: Films of 2017

#10: The Post

The Post, Steven Spielberg's take on the Pentagon Papers story, is a conventional film in many ways but that doesn't make it any less powerful. Ostensibly a story about the press exposing the lengths to which the US government has gone to mislead the public about the Vietnam War, what The Post is really doing is using that as a framework in order to tell a story about how women struggle as they try to navigate worlds dominated by men. This is a film about a woman who is treated as if her power is merely ceremonial as the men around her shut her out and shut her down and treat her like nothing more than a nuissance, and how she develops a sense of agency and learns how to wield her power. The beats may be conventional, but the result is fantastic.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Top 10 Week: Performances by Women in 2017

#10: Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West

In Ingrid Goes West Aubrey Plaza goes all in as she plays a desperately unhappy woman who is obsessed with the lives of people she finds on Instagram. Though the film itself is darkly comedic, and finds some humor in the lengths that Plaza's character goes to in order to insinuate herself into the life of an Instagram influencer, Plaza's performance is a disturbing portrait of a person deeply in the throes of a mental health crisis, her behavior becoming increasingly unmanageable as the story carries on. It's a frightening performance because it never feels like a "performance;" it feels like a window into an incredibly damaged soul with an incredibly cracked perspective on the world. In taking on the role, Plaza eschews vanity and goes the distance.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Top 10 Week: Performances by Men in 2017

#10: Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water

In a film full of marginalized characters, Michael Shannon's government official is the symbol of social power. He is the type of character that the world has been tailored to satisfy, so imagine his growing rage through the course of the film when he is repeatedly denied what he wants and everything that he values is undermined. Shannon's character is everything corrupt and wrong about social power and the way that it excludes everyone who doesn't conform to its rigid ideal, and Shannon does absolutely nothing to soften the character's sharp edges. He's a villain in all his irredeemable glory, built upon layers of privilege, which makes the film's resolution all the more satisfying. Shannon isn't known for playing warm and fuzzy characters in the first place, but when he's allowed to play an unapologetic SOB he's particularly great.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Top 10 Week: Scenes of 2017

#10: No Man's Land, Wonder Woman

And with that, a hero is born. If you're a man, it may be difficult to fully understand why this scene spoke to so many women; after all, male characters get to do things like this so often that it probably feels perfunctory to this kind of story. The opportunity for women to see female characters on the big screen get to be the hero has been fewer and far between. This isn't just a crucial moment in the movie, where Diana/Wonder Woman gets to show what she's capable of and the men around her decide it's worth following her lead, nor merely an encapsulation of everything that the character stands for - compassion, fearlessness, inspiration - or even just an instantly iconic pop culture moment. It's a moment that meant a lot for a lot people seeing it, and isn't that what going to the movies is all about?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Top 10 Week: Posters of 2017

#10: Kong: Skull Island

You could argue that it's a bit no the nose in trying to evoke Apocalypse Now, but honestly it's just so refreshing to see the poster for an action movie try something other than the omnipresent "floating heads" advertising strategy that even if this is a little bit derivative, it still feels fresh and different.

Top 10 Week: Runners Up and Extras

Before we get to the runners up, I just want to take a few moments to recognize some things that don't fit into the categories that make up my "best of" lists. I also want to note some of the movies that I wasn't able to see prior to making my lists, which might have changed the rankings: Call Me By Your Name, A Fantastic Woman, Faces Places, BPM (Beats Per Minute), Wonderstruck, Novitiate, The Square, and God's Own Country.


Most Fun I Had at the Movies All Year: Thor: Ragnarok

Perhaps the most purely, gleefully entertaining movie of the year, I still kind of can't believe that a movie this weird was made with a superhero-level production and marketing budget. All praise to Marvel for stepping back and letting Taika Waititi do his thing.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Review: Phantom Thread (2017)

* * * *

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

Generally speaking, I'm not a person who thinks that spoilers matter. What happens is much less interesting to me than how it happens, particularly since plot twists tend to be so telegraphed anyway. I knew that there was some sort of twist to Phantom Thread but I didn't know what it was (and not for lack of trying, as the giddiness with which some reviews talked around the twist piqued my interest, but Movie Spoiler didn't have a write up for the film yet and Wikipedia's entry for it was still just a couple of sentences that only gave the basic premise). I'm glad that I didn't because in a million years I don't think I would have guessed that the plot would take the turn that it does until it was already veering into that other lane, and that realization that it was taking that turn (and then the turns that flowed out of that one) was one of the great pleasures of watching the movie. I think that Phantom Thread, a meticulously put together movie in every respect, is a film that can be enjoyed even if you go into it knowing where it's headed, but it's a lot more fun if you go into it cold. So if you're planning to see it, stop reading here, because spoilers lie ahead.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Review: The Post (2017)

* * * 1/2

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks

The Post is not a movie that will surprise you, but there's pleasure to be had in a classic tale told in a classic fashion. Is it accurate to the way things actually happened? I'm sure the New York Times would have something to say about that, and in the end I'm not sure that it matters, unless you want to split hairs over whether plot or theme represent what a film is truly about. What it tells is a well crafted story, one which is engrossing and often rousing, and which has been fashioned in a way to make it as relevant to the moment that we're currently living in as possible, even as it hits all of the expected beats. It leads with its talent - which is, of course, considerable both off screen and on, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks - and lets that do most of the work. After all, how wrong could a movie with that triumvirate go? I'd say it doesn't really go wrong at all.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review: I, Tonya (2017)

* * *

Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney

Late in I, Tonya the film's eponymous protagonist wonders why it can't just be about the skating. It's a fair question in the specific context of the scene, wherein she's told that her athletic prowess is irrelevant because she's doesn't fit the image that US Figure Skating wants to put forward on the world stage, but it's a fair question in a larger sense, too. After the film was over, one of the images that stayed with me was a shot of 4 year old Tonya skating and how happy she was to be doing it. In the film's telling of her story, that was probably the last pure and unqualified moment of happiness she ever experienced and it makes you wonder, "Why couldn't it just have been about the skating?" or any sport for any kid who feels happy playing it. Why couldn't it have just been a thing that she enjoyed doing, rather than the thing that she was repeatedly told was the only thing that mattered and the only thing about her that gave her any value? I wouldn't say that I emerged from I, Tonya feeling like Tonya Harding is a hero, but I certainly came out of it with more sympathy for her than I expected because if even a quarter of this story is true then hers was a life that was always going to be marked by tragedy and ruin in some capacity or other.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The 90th Academy Awards Nominees

The nominees are:

Best Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Monday, January 22, 2018

Oscar Nomination Predictions

Best Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Get Out
I, Tonya
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Wonder Woman

Sunday, January 21, 2018

SAG and PGA Winners

The Screen Actors Guild handed out its awards tonight, while the Producers Guild announced its winners yesterday. The winners are:

Screen Actors Guild Winners

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture: Wonder Woman

Producers Guild Winners

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

Best Documentary Feature: Jane

Best Animated Feature: Coco

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Critics Choice Award Winners

The winners are:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Comedy: The Big Sick

Best Actor in a Comedy: James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Best Actress in a Comedy: Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Best Acting Ensemble: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Foreign Language Film: In The Fade

Best Action Movie: Wonder Woman

Best Animated Feature: Coco

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory, Call Me By your Name

Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water

Best Score: The Shape of Water

Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread

Best Editing: Baby Driver &  Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Hair and Makeup: Darkest Hour

Best Song: "Remember Me," Coco

Best Sci-fi/Horror Film: Get Out

Best Young Actor: Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project