5.25.2018

What to watch this holiday weekend

I've been in a theater seat quite a bit since the beginning of the year. 

Here are my recommendations for what to watch this holiday weekend and a few reviews to nudge you in that direction (don't worry, most of them are bite-size!)


In Theaters


1. Isle of Dogs




2. A Quiet Place




3. Solo: A Star Wars Story






Enjoy a cheap date night and stop by the dollar theater or catch these on Video On Demand:


4. Game Night: My review for Reel World Theo



5. Black Panther




That's right. Black Panther is still in theaters. That's over 14 weeks running. If you haven't seen it yet. It's worth it.

Streaming


6. Patti Cake$ (Netflix)




7. Faces Places (Netflix)

3.31.2018

14 classic films and the problem with a short attention span...

Last year year I set out to watch 16 iconic films so that I could learn more about the art and science of storytelling through film. It was ambitious considering my life was already busy, but then I got laid off from my job and my schedule freed up. The losing the job part sucked, but the extra free time really helped me get through that list! 

Alas, I was still only able to watch 14 on my list, (remind me to never try to blow through 16 movies and keep up with awards season at the same time ever again) but I did learn a lot and had a ton of fun doing it. The award show season just wrapped up a few weeks ago, so in honor of Oscar nominated films of the past, here are some recent classics I've watched along with my impressions and a few observations about old films in general:

Jaws - What ever happened to the art of suspense?

Awards: Best Film Editing, Best Music (Dramatic Score), Best Sound

If there's any genre that "shows its age" horror is definitely at the top of the list. The outdated special effects combined with over the top acting and clich├ęs like half-naked women wandering into barns at night with machetes hanging on the wall while a deranged man is on the lose, all point towards old horror fare. The genre has mostly evolved.

All that to say, Jaws is one of the expertly executed horror films from yesteryear about a great white shark on the prowl in a small beach town. The film is a master class in suspense. Spielberg is able to build tension without showing much of anything. Budget constraints forced Spielberg to show victims being attacked with most of the action happening underwater with pulleys and wires yanking the actors around to simulate attacks. Necessity is the mother of invention as they say.



All About Eve - Melodrama can be a good thing.

Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Writing (Screenplay), Best Costume Design (Black and White), Best Sound, Best Picture

In of her most iconic roles, Bette Davis plays an aging actress who is trying to stay relevant in this classic story about jealousy and revenge. When Jones is upstaged by an unassuming girl (played by Anne Baxter) who is an aspiring and cunning actress herself, things get shall we say, melodramatic. Clearly the melodrama worked in this film's favor with 6 Oscars under it's belt including best picture.


2001: A Space Odyssey - Why are classic films so long?


Awards: Best Effects, Special Visual Effects

Maybe it had to do with the sparse dialogue or confusing plot, but I had a hard time sitting through this film. I know that it was unprecedented for its time and I did appreciate the beautiful cinematography, but I can't help but think that in an age where people's attention spans are alarmingly short, we won't be seeing many of these types of films anymore. 




Alien Trilogy - Outdated special effects can be redeemed by great storytelling.


Awards: Best Effects, Visual Effects (Alien), Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Aliens), Best Effects, Visual Effects (Aliens) 

When you watch the first Alien film it's hard not to chuckle at the outdated special effects and awkward actions sequences, but when you put it in context of the time it was released, it was in fact a groundbreaking film for the technology that was available. When compared to the souped up action-packed movies of today, this film falls fall short, but somehow it still holds up. 

These films aren't only classics because of the innovation for their time, the writing has made it a story that can resonate with any generation. Not to mention the fact that Ridley Scott and James Cameron created a badass female protagonist (which wasn't common in that era).


Seven Samurai - Painters turned directors are a really good thing


Awards: None (which is a tragedy, really)

Legendary Akira Kurosawa was a professional artist turned filmmaker. His artistic touch is all over this beautiful film. Each shot is carefully crafted to compliment the story in a way that I've very rarely experienced. It's a shame this film didn't win any awards when it debuted in 1954.


Casablanca - Where's the political romance we've been waiting for?

Casablanca is a beautiful love story to be sure, but the fact that it is framed by such important political themes makes it all the more poignant. I love this movie and it's not hard to see why generations before me and after me will continue to love it. I wrote about the film last year and learned some fun facts about what was going on at the time historically. Revisit this film over and over again, you won't be disappointed.

Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Screenplay)






Lawrence of Arabia - Sweeping epics seem like a thing of the past


Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography (color), Best Art Direction - Set Decoration (color), Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Music (score)

People's time wasn't nearly as divided when this movie was released. Now a days it's a struggle to sit through 3 hour movie with our busy lives calling to us. Going to the movies used to be a communal experience, but now you can stream most anything at home. It feels as if something has been lost, but if I'm honest I could've done without SO much wandering in the dessert in this film.


The Godfather - No one does it like Marlon Brando 



That's pretty much the most important thing you need to know about this movie. Marlon Brando is a legend. That's all.

Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium)



Citizen Kane - Is it possible years of hype can inflate a film to earn the title "best of all time"?



Don't get me wrong. This film is impressive. I really enjoyed following the well-crafted narrative of the life and eventual demise of a publishing tycoon. Orson Wells has contributed a lot to the world of film. But the best film of all time? I'm just not convinced. 

Awards: Best Writing (Original Screenplay)





Psycho - Old movies can definitely give you nightmares.



Awards: None

I was expecting to watch Psycho and walk away unaffected by the outdated effects and the fact that it's black in white. "How scary can it be?" I thought. Well, I was sorely mistaken and 3 sleepless nights of me trying to get the image of Anthony Perkins' disturbing, smug face out of my head is proof. 

I can't not recommend this film. It's twisted and brilliant and Hitchcock really is a master of psychological horror.


12 Angry Men - Turns out society hasn't changed all that much 



Awards: None

I was simultaneously inspired and discouraged when I watched this film. It's amazing that during the entire hour and thirty six minutes of 12 men sitting in a room talking was so enrapturing, but as the 12 jurors debated the innocence of a young Puerto Rican man, I was reminded that over sixty years later, we're still faced with so many of the same societal problems that we did back then.

This film is excellent and I'm sad that it didn't win any awards.


Did I miss any "must see" classic films? Add to my list in the comments below!

3.03.2018

Who will win, who should win? My Oscar Predictions...

2017 was a great year for film. It gave us a story about a black man whose nightmare becomes reality when he meets his girlfriend's family for the first time, the beautiful journey of a young boy following his dream of becoming a musician in the afterlife, a girl trying to survive Catholic high school and discover who she is in a west coast town, and much more. 

Predicting the Oscars isn't an easy task for anyone. Even if you watch every film on the nomination list, track trends from previous years, and read every article you can find making a case for why one pick should win over another, the voting process is complex and the voting body continues to evolve each year as more people join the Academy.

Regardless, it's always an exciting moment when something you really love and want recognized takes the most prestigious prize in Hollywood. And let's be honest, the anticipation and drama is part of the fun. So, even though I never feel 100% confident about anything when I make my predictions, I'm throwing my hat in the ring.

Here's who I think will win and wish would win at the Academy Awards this year...

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Will win
Get Out

Should win
Get Out

Why? 
Get Out is a genre-bending deeply personal story that took years to develop. It's relevant, fresh, and clever with excellent character arcs and a well-paced, intriguing plot. 

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Will win 
James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name

Should win
Virgil Williams and Dee Rees, Mudbound

Why?
Mudbound tells a poignant story about racism. It's set in post-WWII and narrated from 6 different perspectives. You'd think the multiple voiceovers would make it feel too busy, but instead Virgil Williams and director Dee Rees were able to deliver an excellent adaptation from a book with every character fairly represented - weaving together a beautiful narrative that inspires empathy.

Visual Effects

Will win 
War for the Planet of the Apes

Should win 
War for the Planet of the Apes

Why?
Andy Serkis and his collaborators have been pioneering motion capture that has revolutionized the world of visual effects for more than a decade. The film is stunning and the technology continues to improve. It doesn't make sense for anything else to take the award.

Music (Original Song)

Will win 
Remember Me from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Should win 
Mystery of Love from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens

Why?
While the song Remember Me is in some ways the heartbeat of Coco that propels forward plot and themes, Mystery of Love is a unique piece from an artist who sings from his soul. It's a striped down, simple song, but it would be a welcome change of pace from what normally wins.

Music (Original Score)

Will win 
Alexandre Desplat, The Shape of Water

Should Win
Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk

Why?
There was some beautiful music that elevated the stories at the movies last year, but none helped to build suspense like Hans Zimmer's work on Dunkirk. The score genuinely enhanced my experience of the film.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Will win 
Darkest Hour

Should win 
Darkest Hour

Why?
Gary Oldman is utterly transformed by the expert prosthetics that took several hours to apply on each day of shooting. I can't see anyone else taking the award, nor should they.

Best Film Editing

Will win 
Dunkirk

Should win 
Dunkirk

Why?
The non-traditional storytelling and multiple timelines in Dunkirk makes it a master class in film editing. I don't think there's much debate around how groundbreaking the editing is in this film.

Best Documentary

Will win 
Icarus

Should win 
Icarus

Why?
Especially in an olympic year, this film is as important as ever. It's revelatory and takes some twist and turns that proves that truth really is stranger than fiction.

Best Directing

Will win 
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Should win 
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Why?
Guillermo Del Toro was able to package some incredibly poignant themes in beautiful imagery and still stayed true to his quirky ways. All of his previous work points to this great achievement from a filmmaker who is deeply invested in his fairytales.

Costume Design

Will win 
Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread

Should win 
Mark Bridges, Phantom Thread

Why?
It seems appropriate that the award for best costume design should go to a film that centers around high fashion. But besides the subject matter, the handmade dresses are stunning and an excellent nod to the era. 

Cinematography

Will win
Blade Runner 2049

Should win 
Blade Runner 2049

Why?
It's a known fact that Roger Deakins is overdue for this award. From Fargo to Skyfall, this film really is his crowning achievement. 

Animated Feature Film

Will win 
Coco

Should win 
Coco

Why?
Coco was a visual achievement with its incredible animation, but it's also a landmark film in representing the Mexican culture in a way that is accurate and honors the traditions of a rich history that doesn't typically get much screen time. 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Will win 
Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Should win 
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Why?
Lesley Manville's subdued performance in Phantom Thread embodies exactly what a supporting role should add to a film. I don't see her winning the award, but it would be a nice surprise.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Will win 
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri

Should win 
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Why?
As with Lesley Manville's performance in Phantom Thread, Dafoe's understated and compassionate performance in Sean Baker's film graces the story. His character doesn't covet the screen time or attention, but the film wouldn't be the same without him. 

Actress in a Leading Role

Will win 
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri

Should win 
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Why?
Frances McDormand is an amazing actress, there's no question, but Sally Hawkins is able to deliver an amazing performance with no speaking lines. The emotion in her expressions, her body language, and her demeanor make more of an impact that any performance I've seen in a long time.

Actor in a Leading Role

Will win 
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Should win 
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Why?
Gary Oldman embodies the best and the worst that Winston Churchill was. Oldman carries the film and portrays the power and vulnerability of a man who is the stuff of legend.

Best Picture

Will win 
The Shape of Water

Should win 
Get Out

Why?
2017 was a year when the entertainment industry was able to make great strides in empowering underrepresented voices to have a voice, and unconventional stories to be told. What better way to celebrate that than by recognizing Jordan Peele's groundbreaking film?

I'm excited to see how things shake out tomorrow. Happy watching!