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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Review: Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

* * *

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill

Mission: Impossible - Fallout is the most movie you'll see all summer. It has everything. Allies who turn out to be enemies, enemies who turn out to be allies, double crossing, globe hopping, love triangles (of a sort), car chases, helicopter chases, gun fights, room destroying fist fights, assassination attempts, nuclear bombs, and at least four occasions when it's entirely conceivable that Tom Cruise could have been killed during the filming of the scene. I can't wait to see what insane thing the next Mission: Impossible's director manages to talk him into doing. Maybe he'll go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Maybe he'll wrestle a tiger. Maybe he'll surf a wave of lava. Anything's possible!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Review: Sorry to Bother You (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Boots Riley
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield

Sorry to Bother You is a work of surrealism that, like all great works of satire, manages to strike brutally close to home the more wildly it goes over the top. While the film's big, grotesque twist is pretty far outside the realm of possibility (at least, one desperately hopes so), the film's depiction of income inequality and the effects of unchecked capitalism feels familiar even in its most exaggerated elements. If things continue on their current trajectory, where the top 1% have 40% of the wealth and governments have been steadily dismantling all of the mechanisms that once kept income disparity more in check and maintained a path for upward financial mobility, certain elements of Sorry to Bother You's narrative don't seem at all far fetched. An assured, inventive, and thought provoking film from Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You more than lives up to all the hype it's inspired since its debut at Sundance earlier this year.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review: Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

* * *

Director: Ol Parker
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters

The Mama Mia movies are the sort of works that force you to examine your own taste in art. In a purely objective sense, you're aware that they're not "good" and that, in fact, they don't even really come close to the normal standard of what makes a movie good. They are, if you are being brutally honest with yourself, barely movies at all in any traditional sense. Their narratives are thin as air, existing merely to connect a series of songs to each other, not always accomplishing that in the most elegant of ways. And yet. Isn't the aim of art to stir something in the audience, to touch some emotion and heighten it through the experience of consuming it? If the goal of the work is to bring the audience joy and it succeeds in doing so then isn't it, by definition, a "success" even if it does so in a fashion that might generously be described as "clumsy." This is all a round about way of saying that Mama Mia! Here We Go Again is as terrible and wonderful as the first film and I loved every minute of it.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

* * *

Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly

And so, after the impossibly high stakes of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel dials things back ever so slightly with the sillier, lower stakes of Ant-Man and the Wasp. In a summer that has been pretty underwhelming so far (with the exception of Ocean's 8, Deadpool 2, and poor, unloved Solo: A Star Wars Story), Ant-Man and the Wasp is perfectly crafted for summer entertainment. It's fun, it's quick on its feet, and it's incredibly engaging. There are a number of things that you have to give Marvel credit for with respect to the success of its shared universe, and while the patience to build it one film at a time may be chief among them, the casting is surely a close second. Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang - none of these choices would have seemed obvious from the jump (well... maybe Downey as Stark), but all of them now seem inspired. Thank God Rudd never ended up being snapped up to play any of the million other super heroes running around out there.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review: Blockers (2018)

* * *

Directors: Kay Cannon
Starring: Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz

It's hard to believe that a comedy centering on a teenage sex pact and featuring a scene involving "butt chugging" - which I sincerely hope is not a real thing that people do, but I'm certainly not going to google it to find out - could be as sweet and insightful as Blockers. That's not to say that the film doesn't have its problems - there is an entire sequence which, in the wake of the "Me Too" movement, I'm surprised could make it into the final cut of a movie (and apparently having elicited no controversy, as far as I can tell) - but it's leagues better than most movies of its kind and it's terrifically funny, too.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

* *

Director: Roar Uthaug
Starring: Alicia Vikander

File this one under "Movies You've Already Forgotten About, Even Though They Only Came Out A Few Months Ago," and with good reason. Tomb Raider is a forgettable adventure movie that forgets the key thing that tends to make adventure movies successful - it's not very much fun. This is a movie with a plot that centers on a giant tomb that is full of elaborate puzzles that need to be solved in order for the players to survive and it somehow manages to be mostly boring. It never had to be great, it never had to be groundbreaking, it didn't even need to stray too far from its video game origins, but it needed to be entertaining and, save for a moment or two scattered throughout, it fails. It is, at least, better than last year's tomb raiding movie The Mummy, but if you've seen The Mummy then you know that that's pretty faint praise.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

25 Thoughts About Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard

I'm not even going to bother rating this. It's a bad, dumb movie. But I expected it to be bad and dumb so I was able to have fun with it while I watching it, thus I have no regrets and was mostly entertained (though some scenes so completely beggar suspension of disbelief that it took me out of the movie entirely). I wouldn't "recommend" it, per se, because it's not even remotely well-crafted on narrative and character levels, being full of plot holes, characters acting stupid solely to advance the plot, and things that just plain make no sense; but if all you want to see is dinosaurs wrecking havoc, then you might be satisfied by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom because there's lots of that in here. My thoughts on the latest in the Jurassic series (be warned: lots of spoilers):

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Ocean's 8 (2018)

* * *

Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina

"Why do you need to do this?" "Because it's what I'm good at." Sometimes that's all the justification you need. Did the world need another Ocean's movie? Probably not. I mean, one could reasonably argue that there didn't really need to be three in the first place. But movies like Ocean's 8 don't exist to address a need any more than the candy available at the concession does. These things exist because sometimes you just want a treat, something that has no nutritional value but gives you a bit of a sugar rush. Ocean's 8 is a lot of fun. It might not be striving for greatness, but it delivers pretty much exactly what it promises and its mix of charismatic stars, glamour, comedy and adventure makes for a perfect summer entertainment.

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.