Awards Show Round Up: Tony Awards 2018

Hey, last night were the Tonys! I haven’t been entering as many Broadway lottos recently, so I’d only seen a couple nominees, but it’s always a fun show regardless, though I have some quibbles. (No theater fan needed that Springsteen monologue, but you know what we do want – the BEST PLAYWRIGHT’s speech!!!!)

Anyway, Josh Gorban and Sara Bareilles were super charming, and started the night with a dueling piano performance, which I was pretty into:

And the speeches started out great too. I love Andrew Garfield a lot:

Give Laurie Metcalf every award, always:

Lindsay Mendez is a National Treasure:

Carousel is one of the only things I had seen, and “Blow High, Blow Low,” is a highlight of this production so I was very glad they chose it for their performances:

(Also, Justin Peck is a genius, and I would have liked the opportunity to hear his speech as well. Thanks, CBS!)

It seems like Ari’el Statchel has an interesting life and I would like to read a long form profile of him, if any papers/writers out there are taking requests:

Then this moment happened with the Parkland theater kids and I just sobbed for a long time:

I’m not a filmmaker, but if I were, and she would agree to it (I don’t think she would), I would make a movie about Glenda Jackson’s life. This woman won 2 Oscars (without ever attending the ceremony to accept either) then quit acting to be a member of the British Parliament, then came back and won a Tony. (And get her director’s name wrong):

I actually very much enjoyed Frozen’s performance, because it felt like an old school musical and the score is good and I think I would like it:

Tony Kushner is the best. That’s just a fact:

I kind of can’t believe that this is Tony Shaloub’s first Tony:

Fashion wise it was a pretty standard night, but there were a few looks I loved!

 

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Carey Mulligan in Giambattista Valli (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Laurie Metcalf in Christian Siriano (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Lindsay Mendez in Randi Rahm (Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

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Uzo Aduba in Christina Ottaviano (Photo Credit: Dimitrio Kambouris/Getty Images North America)

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Melissa Benoist in Dior (Photo Credit: Getty, WENN)

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Christine Baranski in Alexandre Vauthier (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Jessie Mueller in Lela Rose (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Hailey Kilgore in Zac Posen (Photo Credit: Getty)

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Mid Afternoon Pick Me Up Playlist

I have a really fun weekend planned (I’m going to see Lizzo and HAIM at Radio City Music Hall tomorrow!) but that combined with our mini-summer temperatures and gray clouds is making it very hard for me to focus on bibliographies right now. Here are some upbeat songs I’m listening to keep my eyes open at the very least.

Truth Hurts – Lizzo 

Crisis Fest – Sunflower Bean

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I saw them play Bowery Ballroom last week and they were really fun, and I still really suck at taking show photos

Homemade Dynamite – Lorde

Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song) – Bleachers

Finesse (Remix) – Bruno Mars feat. Cardi B

Anna – Harry Styles

(For some reason he left this song off his album, even though it’s super fun and includes a George Michael sample, which you should all know by now makes it automatically my new favorite song.)

California – Grimes

Little of Your Love – HAIM

Let Me Down Easy – Gang of Youths

I was going to apologize for the quality of this video, but it also really captures how fun this song is live.  (Here’s a link to the album version of the song.) Also – I really suck at concert shots:

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Long Live –Taylor Swift

You thought you were getting a Friday playlist with no Taylor? Have we not met?

Best Picture Baking Project: Chicago

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Hey! Remember when I used to do this! It’s been over a year since the last one (which you may recall involved a botched attempt at mixing, cake, alcohol, and fire), but I finally got my act together last night and made some “Frango” mint brownies in honor of Chicago, the first musical to win Best Picture since 1969 when it won in 2003 (none as won since, though for about 3 minutes in 2016, La La Land thought they had…) Anyway, focusing on an actual best picture winner:

Had I seen this one before? 

Yes. As a musical theater middle and high schooler I watched this countless times. But I don’t actually remember when I last saw it. I had a glowing memory of it as a near perfect movie in my head, and…it doesn’t quite live up to that but it is a really fun adaptation that makes Bob Fosse mainstream somehow, which I appreciate.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. Despite what my boyfriend referred to as, “a troubling pattern of violence against men,” this song holds up:
    And see Mya there! This movie is full of cameos! Including Dominic West! And Chita Rivera! And Lucy Liu! I’m sure that I was excited about Ms. Liu at the time, but last night I was the most excited to see Chita, since she was in the original broadway cast of Chicago and it’s pretty cool that she was included here.

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2. I remember people talked a lot about Richard Gere was miscast in a musical, because he can’t sing. But Billy Flynn isn’t a hard part to sing, the issue is that he can’t dance/give himself over to the unreality of a musical number. He sounds fine, he just looks so uncomfortable.

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Look at those shoulders! He is so tense

3. Every single character in this movie is a sociopath, except Amos (John C. Reilly). I knew it was about murders, and the beginnings of a vampiric crime press, but I mean seriously these are all the worst humans. Except Amos, bless his dumb little heart. He deserves so much better than these monsters.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Gangs of New York – I’ve never seen all of this, I’ve heard good things, and it’s Scorsese…

The Hours – I love this movie, but it is so small and quiet, this nomination feels like its win

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  – I have attempted to watch this multiple times and fallen asleep each time. (I will eventually see it when I get to Return of the King on this list…I promise).

The Pianist – Ooomph. This one is a gut punch.

So, it was a real grab bag of a year. At the time I was thrilled for Chicago and probably I’d still give it to them today. The Pianist is probably a better film, but Chicago is a more impressive production, which is technically what the Best Picture award is for.

Bechdel Test pass? 

Yes! They may all be horrendous criminals who murder men for revenge or money but they also have names! And they talk about their ambitions and fears and crimes.

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I wanted an old timey Chicago dessert, and all I could think of was Frango mints. I found a recipe for Frango mint fudge. But longtime readers know how fudge tends to go for me. So I adapted this recipe for mint chocolate brownies (mostly by simplifying it) and invented my own version of the classic treat:

Frango Mint Brownies 

Ingredients 

  • 1 box of fudgey brownie mix
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 tablespoons of butter softened to almost melted
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1.5 teaspoons mint extract
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions 

  • Mix and bake brownies in a 9 by 13 in pan (I baked mine only 28 minutes for more of a cakey texture)
  • While they’re baking/cooling (I popped mine in the freezer) combine powdered sugar, milk, butter, and mint extract in a large bowl using a mixer
  • When brownies are cool, spread mint cream mixture evenly over the top
  • Top with a layer of chocolate chips
  • Place in fridge or freezer to cool/solidify
  • Slice and serve!

 

 

 

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)

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.

 

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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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.