Award Show Round Up: Oscars 2018

Well another awards season has come to a close, and while there were some great moments (and some important statements made) none of my personal favorites managed wins. (Except, of course, my role model Ms. McDormand – but more on that later).

Jimmy Kimmel did a good job last night of being charming, relatively inoffensive, and didn’t dwell on hatred of Matt Damon or the envelope snafu from last year.

I liked the jet ski for shortest speech gimmick (though honestly they could have played people off, that was a looooooong show.)

Mark Bridges, is living his best life up there. (Also, his costumes for Phantom Thread were so gorgeous.

Other than best picture, which I was sure was going to go to Three Billboards there weren’t many surprises with the winners. (Including unfortunately, Timothée Chalamet’s award going to a man in old age makeup yelling.)

I like Sam Rockwell a lot (though Willem DaFoe was robbed):

(Side note: Did we all know that Martin McDonagh and Phoebe Waller-Bridge were a thing? Because that’s awesome.)

I also really like Allison Janney (though Laurie and Lesley were also so amazing this year):

Kobe Bryant has an Oscar now. That’s not one I would have predicted!

Best presenters of the evening:

Though these two were pretty great too:

Jordan Peele deserved this:

I’m not sure if Guillermo deserved this or not, but I he gives good speech:

I love a good Meryl bit:

And most importantly: Frances. McDormand.

Fashion wise there was a lot of sparkle and bright bold colors, which I loved. Here were my favs:

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Sally Hawkins in Armani Privé (Photo Credit: WireImage)

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Jennifer Lawrence in Dior (Photo Credit: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)

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Kumail Nanjiani in Ermenegildo Zenga Couture and Emily V. Gordon in J. Mendel (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty)

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Allison Williams in Armani Privé Couture (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) 

She looks beautiful, and I love that fairy-gossamer dress, but I am still not convinced she’s not going to murder someone.

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Allison Janney in Reem Acra (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Vionnet (Photo Credit: Getty/Mike Stobe)

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Jane Fonda in Balmain (Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

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Ashley Judd in Zameer Kassam and Mira Sorvino in Romona Keveža (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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Greta Gerwig in my favorite Oscars dress of all time which was designed by Rodarte (Photo Credit: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)

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And the Nominees Are: Round “I Finally Saw Get Out”

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Happy Oscars Weekend! Usually by this point in the year I have a few straggler foreign or documentary nominees I’ve managed to fit in the last weeks of awards season. But this year, as anyone reading this blog even passingly could tell you, I had a major nominee blind spot that I kept pushing off seeing.

I hate horror movies. I have a very visual memory and I can’t stand gore, and I don’t understand the appeal of making myself anxious for two hours. (Thinking about this this week I’ve decided that it’s because I feel anxious a lot all on my own and I don’t experience this as a cathartic experience, instead I had to go through all of my anxiety remedies after finishing it to be able to fall asleep. But I only had one nightmare!! Healthy coping mechanisms for the win!)

OK, personal feelings on genre aside, I was told in no uncertain terms by many people, including my mother, that I had to watch this. So, I did. And, it’s really good. Like, worth watching a horror movie good.

It’ll probably win Best Original Screenplay, and it should. The premise is clever but grounded enough in reality that it never feels too far fetched (and it should, because the actual procedure is bonkers). The acting is astoundingly good. Daniel Kaluuya is a revelation, those eyes will be burned into my brain for a long time. And I don’t think I will ever be able to look at Allison Williams ever again without a shiver.

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Award Show Round Up: BAFTAs 2018

Sorry this post is a day late. I was out of traveling yesterday and I kind of completely forgot that I hadn’t done this. As far as BAFTAs go this one was a little strange. This may have been because it was first time since I started watching that Stephen Fry wasn’t the host, though Joanna Lumley was lovely. And it may have been because it was the British Time’s Up moment, but it didn’t feel quite as galvanized and united as the Golden Globes to me (is it possible that it’s just because the room was bigger?)

The other strange thing was that the show started with Best British Film going to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which is of course an incredibly American story. (It was also presented by Jennifer Lawrence, an American actress.) That movie went on to win basically everything, which didn’t bother me as much as it does some other people, but it’s not super exciting to me either. (Except it means lots of love for Frances McDormand, which I am never going to be mad about.)

EE Rising Star did go to a Brit, and yes, I promise I will see Get Out very soon. (Or before the Oscars at least.)

Legend!

(Side note: shout out to Timmy for walking him up the stairs. And though I knew it was going to happen last night, please stop giving Mr. Chalamet’s awards to Gary Oldman. Especially on nights when you are supposed to be lifting up the voices of women who have spoken out against their abusers. Thanks!)

We’re at that point in awards season where I begin to sound like a broken record, but I would’ve given this to Laurie, but I love Ms. Janney (and her strange space age shrug):

Speaking of women I love and their strange fashion choices:

And that speech is a good one to end on!

The all black dress code led to some unusual embellishment choices fashion wise, but there were a few looks I liked:

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Jennifer Lawrence in Christian Dior Haute Couture (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw in vintage Cardinali (Photo Credit: Lipstick Alley)

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Lily James in Burberry (Photo Credit: Getty/Mike Marsland)

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Lupita Nyong’o in Elie Saab (Photo Credit: David M. Benett/Getty Images)

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Natalie Dormer in custom Alberta Ferretti (Photo Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage)

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Jamie Bell and Kate Mara in Dior (Photo Credit: Getty/Dav J. Hogan)

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Helena Bonham Carter (Photo Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage)

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Florence Pugh in Miu Miu (Photo Credit: Getty)

And the Nominees Are 2018: Round 5

So, I was going to wait until I had finally watched Get Out before I posted this latest update, but it’s getting long so I guess I’ll share this now and continue to promise I’ll see it soon.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected)

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So, I didn’t finish watching this movie. I got about 5 minutes into Ben Stiller‘s story and then I had to give up. I’ll admit that I have a mental block against Noah Baumbach (especially when not writing with Greta Gerwig) but this felt stilted and awkward. Obvously I can’t write a full review, but this wasn’t for me.

The Post

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My boss described this movies as solid. And that is exactly what it is. Steven Spielberg is an expert craftsman. The script is well structured, clever, timely, and moving. The supporting cast is filled with wonderful character actors who all play their parts well. Mr. Hanks is charming and charismatic. Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep.

I left the theater satisfied and unsurprised. (Except the opening scenes in Vietnam, which were unexpected but thematically helpful in reminding viewers what was at stake in the Pentagon Papers.)

I had learned about this historical momen in school, but I always absorb things better as a story, and Mr. Spielberg and his cast and crew sure know how to tell as story well.

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YOU CAN READ MY POEM ABOUT THIS FILM HERE.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

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I read the memoir this was based on over Christmas, and while Peter Turner‘s love for Gloria Grahame was clear, his writing style was hard for me to connect to. But this film accomplishes that rarest of feats – it’s better than the book.

And more than that, it’s a beautiful work of art in its own right. The central couple, the icon Annette Bening as faded movie star Grahame, and Jamie Bell as Turner, have a compelling chemistry, that makes you believe the central love story, which could possibly have been played as a curiosity. Bening and Bell instead play every moment with a heart-wrenching vulnerability that made me ache for their situation.

I knew walking his that that film had great stars, but I was pleasantly surprised by the stylistic choices director Paul McGuigan made. The movie shifts timelines and perspectives with a beautiful fluidity and the different ways he presents each locale (Hollywood, New York, London, and Liverpool) echoes Peter’s journey through the fairy tale dreamland of first love to the dark realities of illness and scandal. Overall I was blown away by this one and I think it got lost in the end of the year shuffle. Seek if out if you can.

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YOU CAN READ MY POEM ABOUT THIS FILM HERE.

In the Fade

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Oomph… I literally cried so hard at the second act of this film that I injured my eye. That sounds like a joke but it isn’t. This is the only movie I’ve seen this season that made me say “Jesus Christ” our loud in the theater at multiple points.

The film follows a woman (Diane Kruger) in the aftermath of her family dying in a Neo-Nazi attack. It was terrifying and heart shattering and I owe Kruger an apology. I have always thought of her a beautiful woman who was often miscast, but here she proves that she is capable of a strong, layered performance. This isn’t an easy watch, at all, but if you do see it, please tell me. I’m dying to discuss the ending of this movie so much!

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YOU CAN READ MY POEM ABOUT THIS FILM HERE.

Paddington 2

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What a delightful (and frankly necessary) breath of fresh air. (Not coincidentally that’s what I said three years ago about the first one.) I’m all for a delightfully charming movie about a polite bear who teaches us how to be better humans with genuinely clever physical comedy and genuinely moving emotional stakes. Do yourself a favor and go.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

 

And the Nominees Are 2018: Round 4

All the nominations are out! You can see my reactions to today’s Oscar noms on Twitter. (They are generally positive!) But I haven’t done an update of what I’ve seen in awhile. I still have a couple of big nominees to see, and a lot of documentary and foreign films to catch up with, but I’m excited that the BAFTAs give me an opportunity to share a few other favorites!

Lady Macbeth

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I really thought I had written notes about this after I saw it. (This will be an unfortunate theme.) But other than my poem (link below) I don’t seem to have recorded my response to this anywhere. Which may have been a problem, except for certain images of this are burned into my memory.

It’s not a Shakespeare adaptation, but Florence Pugh‘s protagonist has the bard’s twisted lady’s cold power (and misguided passion) and she conveys more with a lifted corner of a lip than many actresses do with a monologue. This is a thriller not for the faint of heart. (I honestly don’t know if I would have gone if someone had told me the whole plot.) But it, like Mudbound actually now that I think about it, does a great job of exploring the ways that various forms of oppression and power intersect, magnify, and counteract each other, often with violent, heartbreaking consequences.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

God’s Own Country

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I somehow forgot to write notes about this beautiful film after seeing it this fall. Which is a shame, because I remember being overcome with its beauty and humanity. It’s a quiet, lovely story about an isolated, fuck up of a farmer (Josh O’ Connor), meets and falls for the soft spoken migrant worker he hires to help with the lambing (Alec Secareanu).

The plot synopsis could make it sound like a romance novel, but in the hands of writer director Francis Lee, its a nuanced portrait of a young man coming to terms with the fact that he may not be as stuck as thinks (and therefore he has to take some responsibility for his actions.) It’s also a beautifully shot portrait of a life connected to the land of northern England, something that is disappearing in our modern age. (The farm it was filmed on had been converted to a housing development before the movie was released in the states.) But more than any of those philosophical things it’s a love story and it’s a good one and you should watch it.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

Phantom Thread

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I went into this knowing that the folks at the Next Picture Show were planning to pair it with Hichcock’s Rebecca and so I spent a lot of the movie making connections between these two stories, and they aren’t hard to find. This is a moody, tense story of a relationship between a quiet young woman (the new-to-me but luminous Vicky Krieps) and a persnickety, yet glamorous older man (the always fantastically compelling Daniel Day-Lewis). There’s even a steely, Mrs. Danvers character in the form of his sister, Cecil (the creepily stoic Lesley Manville).

But, this movie also has its own, unique strange beauty. Although the relationship machinations are often excruciatingly awkward, the world they take place in, a post World War II London fashion house, is sumptuous and captured beautifully by Paul Thomas Anderson. (Of course, because he is a genius.)

My boyfriend called this an “emotional horror movie,” complete with jump scares and almost unbearable tension. He found it much harder to watch than I did, but the description is apt. But I mean that as a compliment, not a moment of screen time is wasted and while their actions get increasingly crazy as time progresses they never fall into cliché.

Also, the score, by Johnny Greenwood, is a fantastic indicator of mood and motion. It may be my favorite soundtrack of the year. (And I’ve already added two other film scores to my phone this year, which I never do.)

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You can read my poem about this film, here,

yI, Tonya

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Well, this one is wild. Its jarring tone could definitely be off-putting, but I loved it’s freewheeling, winking style. Tonya Harding’s story is so strange that is a screenwriter invented it, we wouldn’t buy it. But Steven Rogers gets around that by acknowledging the purely subjective and “wildly contradictory” accounts of those involved in the infamous case.

The performances are all fantastic. Allison Janney and Margot Robbie of course, but my favorite may have been Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly. He best embodies the film’s quick careening from campy fun to chilling violence. He was a revelation for me.

Also, the skating scenes are great, and the soundtrack is outstanding.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

All the Money In the World

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Michelle Williams is a marvel. She kept me interested in this mess of a movie, even as it went past the 2 hour a mark. To be fair, Christopher Plummer‘s last minute step-in is also a great turn, but this is really Williams’s movie and I’m here for that. (As for Mr. Wahlberg, I’ve liked him other things, but here he could be replaced by a cardboard-cut-out here and be equally compelling.)

I didn’t know much about the Gettys before this and their particular brand of conspicuous consumption and dysfunction is depressingly interesting, but I feel like Ridley Scott never decided exactly what he wanted the tone of this to be, so it felt a bit muddled.

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

The Greatest Showman

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I was baffled by the gulf between the ridiculing critical response to this and the incredibly enthusiastic audience reaction. Well, after seeing it last night, I think I understand, but am now slightly baffled by the film itself. This is a good old-fashioned movie musical. It’s bright and shiny and filed with large production numbers.

Hugh Jackman is as charming and magnetic as always. Michelle Williams, though underutilized as an actress here, is luminously beautiful and can sing! The assembled “human oddities” Jackman’s P.T. Barnum collects are all talented. The duet between Zendaya and Zac Efron is genuinely moving.

But…um…I have about a million questions.

  • Why didn’t they use the score of the already written, Tony- winning musical about P.T. Barnum?
  • If this was set in the 1800s why are they dancing like they are in a Michael Jackson video? Or an old-timey installment of High School Musical? 
  • What are Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson doing here? Give them something to do or don’t waste their time.
  • Is it wishful, revisionist history to look at Barnum’s “freak shows” as spaces of empowerment for the marginalized? I’d like to read actual scholarship on this if anyone knows of any.
  • But like, again, they could have had this song:

 

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You can read my poem about this film, here.

Awards Show Round Up: SAG Awards 2018

So, none of my favorites seem to be winning this season. But, it was still a pretty great night. And I have always loved the “I’m an actor” opening:

I’ve seen I, Tonya finally (a new nominees post is coming tomorrow I promise!) and Allison Janey is great! I still would give the award to Laurie Metcalf I think. But this category is really stacked this year.

Apparently, Sam Rockwell is going to win an Oscar this year. I like him a lot, so I’m not mad in principle, except I feel like shouting into some sort of abyss, “WILLEM DAFOE WAS ROBBED!!!!!”

Unsurprisingly, this was one of my favorite moments of the night:

I know there’s a lot of jokes to be made about how long Nicole Kidman’s speeches are, but she gave this speech with the flu. As you may recall, when I had the flu, I couldn’t keep my eyes open to watch a speech. She’s amazing.

Speaking of good speeches, Sterling…always the best:

Also, I’m happy for the whole This Is Us crew. I know everyone thought it would go to Handmaid’s but I love how SAG always throws a curveball in this category. Remember how many times they gave it to Downton? And Sterling’s face at the announcement was pretty priceless:

(Go to 0:40 for his reaction.)

For the record: STOP GIVING GARY OLDMAN TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET’S PRIZES.

I would give this award to Saoirse as you know. (Let’s be real I’d give every prize ever to Saoirse.) But Frances is pretty wonderful:

So with this cast win it looks like our Best Picture race is between Three Billboards and Shape of Water which I’m…sort of unenthused about…but I guess I’m team Billboards:

Fashion wise, it was a night of strangely aggressive sequins and bows, but here were my standouts:

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Mandy Moore in Ralph Lauren (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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Trcee Ellis Ross in Ralph & Russo (Photo Credit: Rex Shutterstock)

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Sarah Silverman in Romona Keveza

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Sam Rockwell and Leslie Bibb (Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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Saoirse Ronan in Louis Vuitton (Photo Credit: Stewart Cook.WWD/Rex/Shutterstock)

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Odeya Rush in Dior Haute Couture (Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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Dakota Fanning in Prada (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Zoe Kazan in Miu Miu (Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Gett Images)

 

Award Show Round Up: Golden Globes 2018

Well, that was quite a night huh? I saw a lot of handwringing on the internet last week, about how the Time’s Up call for women to wear black would make the night seem funereal and dour. But it didn’t at all, the sisterhood and solidarity on display felt like a celebration. And while there were still of shady men winning awards, I think it’s pretty clear that the women in that room (and watching along with me on Twitter) don’t have any patience for it anymore.

I know I usually go chronologically with these recaps, but lets be real this moment matters more than anything Seth said at the top (though I did like his “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” segment):

This moment had me crying and texting my mom, and it was everything. And then it was followed with this and my world was made:

(Sorry about the weird lightning bolt, I coulnd’t find a clean clip of this.)

I wasn’t actually jazzed about a lot the winners. (Willem Dafoe was robbed! As was Timothée Chalamet (screw you Gary Oldman, you talented abuser)! Three Billboards was over-awarded!) But there were some truly spectacular speeches:

I wanted Laurie Metcalf to win this category, but I’m never going to be mad to listen to an Allison Janey speech:

(And I haven’t actually seen I, Tonya yet, but it’s on the calendar for this week!)

Speaking of things I haven’t seen, I still have to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel but I am so here for Amy Sherman-Palladino winning awards and wearing hats:

My favorite won Best Actress in a Comedy, and she’s the cutest thing!

Amy Poehler joked a few years back at this very show, that Frances McDormand is the only awards guest she would save in a fire, and well, there are a lot of women in that room I would save, but I’m pretty happy she got to give this speech even if she was clearly censored even when not swearing. (You can’t say “shift” now apparently):

And then THIS HAPPENED!!:

All in all a great kickoff to the season!

And the all-black look was fantastic as a cultural choice, but also some of the gowns were really cool:

 

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Connie Britton in Lingua Franca sweater (Photo Credit: Getty)

 

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Viola Davis in Brandon Maxwell (Photo Credit: Getty/Steve Granitz)

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Samia Wiley (Photo Credit: Elle Sweden)

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Kelly Clarkson in Christian Siriano (Photo Credit: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock)

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Octavia Spencer in Tadashi Shoji and Jessica Chastain in Armani Privé (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Laura Dern in Armani Privé (Photo Credit: Neilson Barnard/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

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Sally Hawkins in Dior Haute Couture (Photo Credit: Getty)

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And the Nominees Are 2018: Round 3

I didn’t get as much awards viewing done over the holidays as I usually do, but I made some progress. No new favorites in this bunch, but nothing too terrible either.

Girl’s Trip

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I have a couple of confessions:

  1. I watched this in bed while dealing with a cold
  2. I think its time to admit that broad comedies aren’t really my thing. (Because I hate fun I guess, but generally because I am a Victorian grandmother.)

That being said, Tiffany Haddish, whose supporting performance has earned the nominations that led me to watch this, is really hilarious and charming.

The movie overall is fun fluff, and she’s by far the best part.

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Darkest Hour

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This movie suffered for me because it came out the same year as DunkirkIt’s probably not fair, but it was really hard to watch a movie built around the Great Man theory of history of WWII when I still have Christopher Nolan’s images of those poor boys on the beaches all lines up waiting to die. I know Churchill’s historical importance is hard to overstate (and that I probably shouldn’t be basing all of my historical analysis on films) but it was just hard for me to find a rich, white man leaving his servants behind to deign to talk to some citizens in the subway that endearing.

That being said, Gary Oldman is, as always, a magnificent chameleon and he plays Churchill with an endearing childishness that belies his strength of character. Lily James is charming, and it was lovely to see Kristin Scott Thomas. More importantly to me this was a great reminder that Joe Wright is an excellent director, his movies have a beautiful, unique rhythm (most evident in his underrated Anna Karenina adaptation from a few years back) and this ticks long like a clock.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

In the latest rush of accusations Gary Oldman hasn’t been discussed much, but his ex wife accused him of domestic violence, and so I’ve practiced Filmanthropy with a donation to Safe Horizon.

The Shape of Water

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Let me start with the positive, this is visually stunning and wholly unique. Guillermo del Toro and his design team clearly thought through every detail of this world. And the performances are all well realized. Though I’ve liked all of these actors better in different roles. Except maybe Richard Jenkins, he’s particularly great here, but I think I just haven’t seen him in a lot of other substantial roles.

Anyway, I don’t know if this just suffered from inflated expectations, because so many film critics were waxing rhapsodic about this, but I just didn’t fall for it as hard as I wanted to.

At its heart its a fable, with easy to spot heroes and villains and not a lot of ambiguity. Which is fine of course, sometimes I love a fairy tale, but I feel like I couldn’t buy the central love story. Not because it’s between a human woman (Sally Hawkins) and a fish monster (Doug Jones), but because the movie just jumped from then meeting to them being in love, before it had even made it clear to me that they could communicate with each other.

Fantasy can be a tough sell for me, not because I can’t suspend disbelief, but because world building often tales the place of character development, and I think that sort of happened here.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Molly’s Game

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Jessica Chastain is a goddess and I would watch her read a menu.

Aaron Sorkin is a genius of a dialogue and I like the way he frames pretty much anything with gravitas.

Both of these statements are proven by the fact that his combination made me care about a woman who ran a high stakes poke game. This is a good movie, paced well and, for Sorkin script, surprisingly light on speechifying. I could have done with less voice over and armchair psychoanalysis. But, I liked the digs at the patriarchy and Idris Elba (despite the fact that his English accent bled through at moments of heightened emotion), is always fun to watch. Sorkin should direct again. Chastain should be in at least one awards movie a year. Oh, and the government should give Molly Bloom back her money.

P.S. If the Michael Cera character is based on who the internet tells me he is, then Tobey Maguire is a sociopath. Just FYI.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Stronger

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I’ve liked a lot of Writer/Director David Gordon Green‘s work. And I think Jake Gyllenhaal is always an interesting actor to watch, even when I don’t like the movie he’s in, but I was hesitant to see this movie when it came out in theaters to see this movie when it came out in theaters (and seemingly quickly left). I think I had conflated it in my head with the Mark Wahlberg-heroism-porn-looking movie called something like Boston Strong (note: It was actually called Patriots Day). But this is much more nuances and interesting than that.

A biopic of Jeff Bauman, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, who was famously photographed being rescued, this is almost an indictment of the idea of a movie like I assume that Wahlberg vehicle is. Bauman didn’t want to be a hero and wasn’t prepared to be a symbol and this movie is an honest portrayal of how fucked up it is that we demand that of the victims of tragedies.

Gyllenhaal gives a deeply lived in performance of a person in pain and he deserves the accolades he’s quietly getting. Tatiana Maslany is also great as his on-again-off-again love who finds herself unexpectedly playing caregiver. The ending takes kind of an abrupt turn into more straightforward biopic land, but it still made me cry, so…I guess I didn’t hate that.

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Five Star Book: The Girls by Emma Cline

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I’ve written before about my fascination with cults. (I’ve probably even shared that one of my favorite texts I’ve ever received was just a link to an article with the note “CULT!” Like my friend just instantly thought of me when they saw the word.) In fact, as I was about a third of my way through Emma Cline’s bestselling novel about a Manson-family-like cult gone sour, another friend sent me a text saying she was reading it and it made her think of me. Partly this obsession is an outlet for my more judgmental energies, but mostly it’s an interest in how people build themselves, their belief systems, and their communities. Cults from the outside seem strange, often mostly in retrospect after they fall apart or do something terrible, but to the people in the moment they seemed like the right choice. How does that happen? We like to think it all must be coercion and “brain washing” on the part of “evil” leaders, but there isn’t a lot of evidence of that being a real thing. *

What’s great about this book is that it addresses this question in a really fresh way. Cline’s protagonist, a girl named Evie, is drawn into the dangerous circle she is not because of Russel (the Charles Manson stand in) but because of the titular girls, one in particular, who she loves but also idolizes. The spiritual beliefs don’t matter to her so much as the alternative life with the group offers to her boring suburban existence. She sees in these “girls” a way to be a woman other than the one scripted for her in magazines. Of course, the idea of the Manson ranch (so thinly disguised I’m not sure why the author bothered to at all, except there are probably legal issues she was trying to avoid) as an escapist paradise is unthinkable to us now, but we know what’s coming. By showing us Evie as both a child caught up in it’s newness and a middle aged woman dealing with the choices her younger self made, Cline creates the sense of creeping dread found in other explorations of murderous cults (the best one about the Mansons I’ve ever come across is Karina Longwirth’s “You Must Remember This” series on the murders) while also making the appeal of the group emotionally clear in a way I had never seen before.

This book is dark and angry as you might expect, but I was surprised by that anger’s feminist bent. Cline compellingly illustrates the way these women were primed by the patriarchy that raised them to be good little soldiers for a creep like Russell. A culture that teaches girls to think first about how they are seen and to always be amenable to the whims of men (and always fearful of them) leaves young women vulnerable to the bullshit of charismatic men who claim they know what’s best. It’s so easy to look at a cult and think “how could that happen?” This book gives one frighteningly plausible explanation.

 

*Manson is actually one of the only examples I would call really brain washing and it was mostly aided by the fact that he routinely drugged his followers with truly astounding amounts of hallucinogenic drugs while starving them.

And The Nominees Are 2018: Round 2

So Golden Globes and SAG nominations came out this week! And I’m actually really mad at the HFPA for their inexplicable snub of Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, and the SAG nominations are as strange as always. No Post at all? Steve Carrell for Best Supporting Actor but no love for either of the supporting men from Call Me By Your Name? I did appreciate The Big Sick ensemble nod though. Anyway, here’s what I saw this week, and my Baby Driver thoughts since the Globes did rightfully acknowledge that Ansel Elgort is perfectly cast there.

Baby Driver

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This movie is slick, cold and dabbled with ultra violence and toxic masculinity and centers around cars. In other words, it is literally everything I hate. But, I loved this. I saw a review that said it was a musical masquerading as a car chase and that sums it up perfectly.

Yes, too many people get carelessly shot, but Baby (Ansel Elgort – perfectly cast) has enough remorse and humanity that I don’t think the movie can be read as an endorsement of that violence. Instead it’s a stylized love story, a highly choreographed dance (both of feet and tires), well cast, directed, and orchestrated. And it will make you feel like you are in your very own movie if you put your earbuds in and crank up the volume on the way home.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Although the allegations against Kevin Spacey hadn’t come to light this summer when I saw this, I have made a filmanthropy contribution to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Relief Fund for Sexual Assault Victims

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

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I have a long history with Martin McDonagh, the Irish playwright turned filmmaker, who wrote and directed this. And that history is mostly filled with dread. I was assigned his plays in college and there are sections of The Pillowman and The Beauty Queen of Leenane that still haunt my dreams. So, I’m wary of watching his movies, my violence tolerance has grown a bit over the years, but I still don’t seek it out, but then Frances McDormand got nominated, so…I went.

And it was violent, but certainly not likely to give me nightmares. But it will certainly stick in my head. Not just because McDormand continues to be the most badass actor, who manages to convey strength and vulnerability in the same moment. But also, because the story revises really interesting questions about what grief and anger and trauma and revenge and redemption mean, and maybe more interestingly, what they require from us.

Every person in this movie is perfectly cast, but I particularly loved Woody Harrelson as the sheriff called out by Frances’s character’s billboards. But I guess at this point I just love anything Woody does (similarly Lucas Hedges and Peter Dinklage are fantastic here.)

I think it loses its bite a bit by the end, but the ensemble is amazing and the plot tight and thrilling and heartbreaking.

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Battle of the Sexes

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Firstly,  this isn’t really a comedy. But if I was going to get upset about genre classification each year then I wouldn’t have enough energy to be mad at nominating bodies for snubbing female directors and creators of color.

Anyway, what it is a well made dramatization of an episode in American cultural history that deserves to be better understood. I feel like we throw around the tag line “Battle of the Sexes” without talking much about what it actually was. This movie does a great job of telling the complex story behind the famous match. Bobby Riggs (the always great Steve Carrell – though I think his best performance this year was in Last Flag Flying), was certainly a “chauvinist pig” but his aims were more monetary than political. The filmmakers capture his situation with empathy, but without shying away from the depressing reality that for him, and men like him, women’s fight for equality can be a game or an opportunity for self-promotion, while for Billie Jean King (the really subtle and great Emma Stone) it was make or break, not just for her own career, but for women’s tennis and working women in general.

It was a stacked desk and King navigated expertly, which the movie makes clear, while not omitting how complicated her personal life, as a closed lesbian, married to a man she really cared about was at the time. In fact, the parts of this that will stay with me are about her relationships. They’re also two of the most emotional dialogue free moments for the year so far. One where she watches the woman she’s attracted to (Andrea Riseborough) dance to “Crimson and Clover” and is clearly overcome. And the other is a long shot, much later, of her husband (Austin Stowell) standing mutely in a hotel hallway holding his bags after discovering what’s going on. It crushed me. But yeah, great comedy.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

BPM (Beats Per Minute) 

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I almost wrote, “my first foreign language film nominee!” But then I remembered I endured The Square, but that’s best forgotten.

This is a beautiful film about ACT UP Paris in the 1990s. It manages the tricky balance of being about AIDS activists without preaching. It captures the way the personal is political in a really lovely and vital way. It’s told with a lose grip on time, allowing the protest to blend into the meeting room onto the dance floor into the bedroom, with a captivating fluidity.

There’s something visceral about the way director Robin Campillo shoots these lives – both public and private – that makes it feel somehow both artful and natural. His camera doesn’t flinch from pleasure or (sometimes extreme) pain. But it never veers into suffering-porn. This type of story is a tightrope, but this movie walks it almost perfectly.

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You can read my poem about this film here.