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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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)

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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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)

 

Awards Show Round Up: Critics Choice Awards 2018

So, I have to start with a confession. I slept through most of this show last night. It wasn’t the show’s fault. I actually thought Olivia Munn did a great job hosting and despite the fact that pretty much none of the film awards went to who I would given them too, there were some great speeches. (No love at all for Lady Bird, I mean…come on.) But I had the stomach flu this week so…I was out of it.

But from what I did see, and what I’ve put together from YouTube this morning here were some highlights:

Once again I’m skipping ahead to my favorite feminist moment, the #SeeHer Award, which this year went to the totally deserving Gal Godot:

One of the awards I was wholeheartedly excited about, was Brooklynn Prince for The Florida Project. This was totally deserved and she managed to say more with her speech than most of the adult winners:

Another winner I’m never mad about…Ann Dowd:

Now for awards I would have given to others, but I can’t really be mad about:

(Actually not mad at all about James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name is being criminally under sung.)

I mean, you knew I was going to post a speech that included that final sentiment right?

Also, her friendship with Saoirse Ronan makes me very happy (I can’t wait for Mary Queen of Scots): 

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Photo Credit: RTÉ

I think Christopher Nolan is being really snubbed for Director’s honors this year. Dunkirk was really a technical and storytelling marvel, but Guillermo del Toro is pretty adorable:

And now, dresses! It was a strange night, fashion wise, I like that the women are taking risks, but that means sometimes they just look crazy. But here were my favs:

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Laura Dern in Balmain (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Betsy Brandt (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America)

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Mary J. Blige in Vivienne Westwood Couture (Photo Credit: Getty/Steve Granitz)

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Alison Brie in Roberto Cavalli (Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

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Rachel Brosnahan in Zuhair Murad (Photo Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

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Saoirse Ronan in Michael Kors (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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Constance Wu in Galia Lahav (Photo Credit: Getty 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.

 

 

And the Nominees Are 2018: Round 1!

Happy Awards Season!

The 2018 Critics Choice nominations have been announced! And I have already seen a bunch of the nominees (this year is already so good you guys, at one point I had 4 movies tied for my favorite film.)

Also, I’ve started a new project, combining two of my great loves, movies and poems. It’s a new site, called Poems from the Pictures. Basically I’m writing a new poem about each movie I see in the theater. I’ll link to poems for movies I review here, but I don’t just write about award nominees over there, so please go check it out! (And share it with your friends.) (The project also has a Twitter account, please follow it!)

OK, enough self-promotion, here’s what I’ve seen so far:

Gifted

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Chris Evans can act. That kid is cute. Jenny Slate is perfect. Watch this on a Saturday afternoon when you feel bad about humanity.

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The Big Sick

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This is the only movie on this list that I’ve seen twice, but I managed to not take any notes on for a post, which I feel really stupid about, because it combines a lot of my favorite things. Zoe Kazan. Indie romantic comedies. The city of Chicago. Comas. OK I don’t love comas, obviously, but I do love real life love stories and charming characters and this one has all that in spades. Sorry I’m giving short shrift in this review. Just watch it, it’ll make you angry and sad and then happy.

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Dunkirk

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I know I overuse the word remarkable, but this is really a remarkable film. It’s a quintessentially Christopher Nolan piece – sweeping, complicated, immersive, with an innovative narrative structure – but also a classic-feeling WWII picture. The casting is impeccable, even the potential stunt of casting a pop star is quickly forgotten, as each of these men inhabit the desperation of their characters so completely.

I’m not breaking any ground by saying I love this. So instead of waxing rhapsodic about Nolan and his collaborators’ expert artistry I will point out my three favorite choices he/they made.

  1. The minimal dialogue. When you are 95% sure you will die but are being told to wait in a line for a ship that even if you get on it will probably sink, what is there to say really? In a more traditional movie about this battle there are so many opportunities for bombastic Oscar reel speeches, but its much more heart-wrenching to see a tear in Kenneth Brannagh‘s eyes or three boys sitting on a beach passing around a can of water.
  2. Which, also, the casting of actors that are actually 19-20 was such a great choice. So often Hollywood shoots these stories with fully grown, “built,” action heroes. But these men were ordinary young people, and that makes the horror that they lived through (and we live a bit of with them) all the more harrowing.
  3. See this on a big screen (it’s being rereleased for a special awards season engagement). It is immersive and it’s meant to be. My mom and I both jumped and gasped our way through this, especially the sequences in the air.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

The Florida Project

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I realized weeks after seeing this that I had forgotten to write notes for a review, which sucks because its one of favorite movies of the year. But I’ll try to reconstruct why I loved it.

Firstly, it’s visually appealing. It makes rundown motels look like confections and made Florida wasteland look like a classical landscape painting. But all the artistry in the world wouldn’t matter much to me without the people at the center of it.

Sean Baker takes a story that could have been melodrama, teen mom living on the margins with her young daughter and gives us a humane, warm but not saccharine portrait of a childhood. A lot of the brilliance here is in the casting of both the little girl (Brooklyn Prince) and her mother (Bria Vinaite) both of whom weren’t actors before this, but radiate a kind of pressure. Baker’s work is remarkably naturalistic and it feels less like watching performers and more like peeking in on a life.

That life is precarious though, and as long time readers know, images of children in peril (even when they don’t seem to realize it) usually stress me our so much I can’t enjoy a film (I call this my Beasts of the Southern Wild/Lion phenomenon.) But Baker solves this problem by including Willem Dafoe as a kind, beleaguered motel manager who keeps a watchful eye out for the kids (and their parents). His empathy and sadness for his tenants’ situations never crosses a line into condescension and this movie completely changed my opinion of Dafoe as a performer. Oh, I could gush forever, just go see it.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Wonderstruck

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I wanted to like this movie. And there were sections in it, particularly the earliest sections with the young deaf actress (and Critics Choice nominee!) Millicent Simmonds journeying to 1920s NYC. I like modern takes on classic film technique, and I think I would have loved to watch just her story as a short film.

Which isn’t to say necessarily that I didn’t like the sections set in the 1970s, because they have their own charm, and I tend to like stories that begin disparate and eventually interweave. But, I think the quiet style of director Todd Haynes (which I’ve liked in the past but never quite understood the critical community’s rapturous ton about) doesn’t lend itself will to a story with this much plot. I but this book is charming, but the film left me confused.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Lady Bird

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I don’t even know how to write about this movie. I just…love it. It’s honest and warm, well crafted and witty, with wonderfully grounded performances from everyone. (Especially my girl Saoirse Ronan and Laurie MetcalfLaurie Metcalf. Oh and Timotheé Chalamet and Lucas Hedges…and Tracy Letts, literally everyone in the movie.)

I put this in the “Movies That I Related To So Strongly I Can’t Explain Why Without Oversharing” category. (This category now has 2 entries, this and last year’s Edge of Seventeen no coincidence that they are both written and directed by women.) And in this case its even more so, because its set in 2003, the year I started high school and this protagonist left it. The cultural references, and high school theater nerd subculture is perfectly captured. Greta Gerwig clearly lived this life, as someone who lived a similar one, she totally nails it.

I will talk your ear off in person about its perfection when it comes to religion, female friendship (both its strength and fragility), mother-daughter relationships (in all their maddening-complexity), and class tensions in a culture that does not want to acknowledge that i has a class system*. But for this post I want to end with the fact that this movie has such affection for its characters, sure there’s the hindsight is 20/20 moments about how much Lady Bird has to learn, and some cringing at how dumb high schools are in general, but it never veers into mocking. It takes the life of a teenage girl seriously without making it a tragedy. It’s fantastic.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

*Seriously seek me out if you want to have these conversations. 

The Square

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I’m not sure I can coherently articulate how much I hate this film. Which was really disappointing because I loved Force Majeure (also written and directed by Ruben Östlund). But this was, to quote my boyfriend “nihilistic trash.” To avoid spiraling into the rant I have by now subjected my friends, family, coworkers, and roommate to I will just say 4 things:

  1. It’s too long. (It have Grand Beauty never ending problems.)
  2. I can’t decide if its making fun of pretentious arty people or is for pretentious arty people, but it’s condescending either way.
  3. It’s borderline exploitative of poor and homeless people.
  4. It portrays casual violence in a way that it doesn’t earn. I understand it’s supposed to be a critique of how bystanders don’t help each other, but then it also ridicules those who try for trying. If I’m going to be subjected to images of women being pulled by their hair onto the ground or children being pushed down staircases you better be making a coherent fucking point.

Or, as I emailed Tim the day after we it: “That piece of trash won the P’alme Dor?!?!? I definitely have an awards season nemesis now.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Wonder

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I had heard people rave about R.J. Palcio’s novel for young people, Wonder, seemingly endlessly since it came out in 2012. But I only got around to reading it when the trailer for this movie was released. I (as so often happens) shouldn’t have held out on the book, but I’m glad this movie exists to introduce the Pullman family to a wider audience.

If you have an issue with earnestness (no judgement a few of my favorite people do) then this tale of children learning to overcome their fear and prejudice of a little boy with a genetically malformed (differently formed? I don’t know what the preferred language is on that. I’m sorry!) face, probably isn’t for you. But if you, like me, sometimes need a well acted tear-jerker on a Friday night, you could do a lot worse than this lovely reminder that we’re all carrying burdens, some of them are just easier to hid. (Plus Broadway nerd bonus points for Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs, shoring up as inspirational educators!)

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You can read my poem about this film here.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

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Not going to lie. I did not think I would have to be writing this for awards time. But it’s fun. And Taika Waititi is a really talented director who brought a unique vision to this silly world.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Mudbound

mudbound-posters-00I’m having trouble putting my feelings about this one down on paper. Director and co-writer Dee Rees has created a layered and visually stunning epic of the mid-century American South that brought to mind early Terrance Malick (in the best way.) And not only because she loves a voice over. The acting is a universally stunning. Mary J. Blige is a particular surprise.

The story itself makes for a rough sit. It’s about the mid-century American South after all, but despite its realism about the violence that hung in the air around these characters, Rees never allows her main characters to be anything less than human. That, of course, doesn’t mean that those who aren’t poisoned to a greater and lesser extents by hatred. I’m not going to write a treatise about the original sin of American racism, others have done that better than I ever could, but I think this film does a remarkable job of showing the brutal ways that power, particularly white supremacist, patriarchal power, reasserts itself. (Often by punishing those white people (or men) who refuse to participate in the status quo. It’s a brutal watch, but a vital and important one. And it’s one Netflix, so you don’t even have to ugly cry in public like I did.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

Call Me By Your Name

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Based on the trailer for this I went out and the book to fill the time before I could see the beauty that is Timothée Chalamet pining after Armie Hammer. It’s a great book, but – and I almost never say this, like I think I can think of maybe 3 other times – this movie matches and maybe even surpasses it.

A lot of its brilliance is stylistic, it’s beautifully shot and edited to make everything on screen seem sumptuous, like if you could just reach out and touch the screen then you would be able to feel everything. This sensuality was present in director, Luca Guadagnino‘s previous work, but I always felt a certain distance from his sharacters. Which is where the richness of author André Aciman and screenwriter James Ivory‘s script come in. Every person here, even those we meet only for a scene, is a fully drawn human being. Even Hammer, how I’ve always liked but often found a bit icy, melts into this world.

I won’t get started on how Chalamet’s raw desire is palpable and gorgeous because I don’t want to cry at my desk. But, speaking of crying, Michael Stuhlbarg (as Chalamet’s father) delivers a monologue at the end of this film that should go down in history as one of the great tear jerker moments in acting history. So glad he’s getting recognition for it.

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You can read my poem about this film here.

The Disaster Artist

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I should start with 2 facts:

  1. I’ve seen The Room once, 10ish years ago and I wasn’t sober. I saw that appeal, but re-watching something just because its awful isn’t that interesting to me.
  2. I love James Franco. I hear your reasons that you find him insufferable, and I hear you and love him more because of them. Dude goes for things. I admire that, (Hell, he’s sort of the reason I have a blog.)

OK, not that all of that has been disclosed, I…liked this fine. I appreciated that it didn’t feel like one long joke at Tommy Wiseau, when the first trailed made it seem it might be. But, despite good performances from both Franco brothersbrothers and surrounding cast I couldn’t quite get on the level of love for him (and Greg Sestero) the movie clearly has. Instead of being appreciative of the commitment these two had to their dreams (and the Francoian drive to do the thing you want to do, no matter how unlikely or strange) I came away mostly sad. Not for Wiseau, I’m not convinced that he’s not an alien, at the very least he doesn’t seem to take in others’ criticism of his work. But for Sestero who, as far as I can tell has basically been trapped by Wiseau into a very strange life. I’m overthink this I know, but while parts are very  funny, the movie just left me a bit deflated.

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You can read my poem about this film here.