Saturday, December 30, 2017

That's All, Folks!

The final films I saw in 2017...

dir: David Ayer
scr: Max Landis

Straight-faced take on fantasy creatures in a modern setting is pretty neat, but the lack of coherent follow-through on characters and plotlines - you know, the story - feels like a bad call! Hardly the worst of the year, if only because, come on, how can you feel strongly one way or the other about this movie?

Nuns, assassins, and Golden Globe nominees after the jump...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Merry Movie Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve! This is just what I've seen since Tuesday.

Youth (芳华)
dir: Feng Xiaogang
scr: Yan Geling, based on her novel

A sweeping yet personal portrait of a cultural arts troupe in late-70s China. Spellbinding recreations of red ballets and operas break up the intimate romances among youth and full-scale carnage of the battlefield. A dazzling tribute to the talents who make propaganda, fully aware of the injustices and new hierarchy kick-started by the Cultural Revolution while acknowledging how people found a purpose and a family within that milieu.

Docs, arthouse catch-ups, plus Molly's Game and The Post, after the jump.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Dream That Came Through a Million Years

The Greatest Showman
dir: Michael Gracey
scr: Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon, story by Bicks

P.T. Barnum happily bore the title Prince of Humbugs, insisting there was nothing wrong with hyperbole to sell tickets, as long as you delivered on a satisfying show and brought joy to the people. The Greatest Showman is a valentine to that spirit, if not the actual facts (if we are to go by Barnum's ageless children, his entire showbiz career spanned about six to eight months): it razzles, it dazzles, it feels a lot about The Stage as a place where, to paraphrase one character, the full tapestry of humanity is on display. The choreography is executed by actual dancers, with a constantly roving camera capturing their every move from head to toe! Michelle Williams, allowed to smile on screen for the first time since Oz the Great and Powerful, impresses with a winsome singing voice and a warm openness - would that she could get more roles like this!

In truth, it reminded me a lot of my favorite movie, Xanadu: for every "Guys like me shouldn't dream, anyway" moment of on-the-nose clunkiness (and oh boy, there's a-plenty!), there are three musical appeals for beauty and spectacle that remind you just why we go to the movies in the first place. Also like Xanadu, it ends with all the money thrown up on the screen in a busy yet shockingly moving finale. It wears its heart on its sleeve and naively expects everyone else to, too. I loved loved loved it.

"Never Enough", my favorite song from the film

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Tales of the Weird and True

It's Awards Season and Star Wars weekend, which means a lot to talk about. Beginning with...

The Shape of Water
dir: Guillermo del Toro
scr: Del Toro & Vanessa Taylor

Del Toro's adult fairy tale is a dreamy ballet of misfits and monsters, a valentine to the bizarre that's directed right at my heart. Yes, they made that aquatic creature sexy - you could bounce a coin off it - but they also made every character, hero and villain alike, a fully-realized, complicated person that still exists within this fantasy world. Magical.

The Last Jedi , The Disaster Artist, I, Tonya, and more, after the jump....

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SAG Award Nominations

The film nominees for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, as announced this morning by the very giddy duo of Olivia Munn and Niecy Nash.

Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

My predictions: 3/5 - Octavia Spencer missed out, which surprises me; so did Julia Roberts, but I knew that was a risky prediction. Four of these ladies also showed up on the Golden Globes' lineup; the real winner, in spirit, is Holly Hunter.

More surprises, after the jump.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Predictably SAGgy

The nominations for the Screen Actirs Guild Awards will be announced tomorrow. How about some predictions?
Best Ensemble
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Not having seen The Post, I can only say that it's a hell of a cast they've assembled. My other four picks are all films where you really feel the community of characters on-screen - not just the headliners who will get their names on the official nominee roster, but the bit characters, too. The brother's girlfriend in Lady Bird, the neighbor losing her mind in Mudbound, the meek security man in The Shape of Water, the black chief in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri: they are all indelible to their films and stories, all brought to vivid life by their actors. That's what makes for an Outstanding Cast.

The remainder, after the jump

Monday, December 11, 2017

Further Thoughts On The Golden Globes

Scattered, more detailed thoughts on those Golden Globe nominations, and what they mean for Awards Season overall...

1) A lot of people are stunned and angry about Jordan Peele's absence from the Best Director lineup at the Golden Globes. I will be shocked if he actually winds up nominated at the DGAs or the Oscars. That's nothing to do with the quality of his work; there's a reason why it's sustained its level of hype from February, and not just because it captures The Moment in terms of our current conversations regarding race and whiteness - it's because of the craftsmanship, the originality. Still, while Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay nominations are all but guaranteed, Peele's working in a genre seldom given due at the Oscars. Besides, it's a crowded field in general: Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, Luca Guadagnino, Sean Baker, Martin McDonagh, Paul Thomas Anderson, Greta Gerwig, Ridley Scott, Dee Rees. Peele's a more likely nominee than a good chunk of this group, but with no consensus yet on even the top three frontrunners, he's got hurdles.

Talking 'bout Wonder Woman, Three Billboards, and more, after the jump....

Golden Globe Nominees

It doesn't really feel like Awards Season until the Golden Globes make their announcement, you know? Sure, sure: National Board of Review and critics' groups are important and great time capsules for the year, but they just have winners; the Globes have nominees, suspense, anticipation! And oh, always a surprise...

I concern myself only with the film categories, beginning after the jump....

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mostly Moms and Families

Brief notes on new releases, old releases finally screened, and streaming titles.

dir: Lee Unkrich, co-directed by Adrian Molina
scr: Adrian Molina & Matthew Aldrich, story by Unkrich & Jason Katz & Molina & Aldrich

Exquisitely designed, emotionally resonant portrait of family and legacy. An enlightening experience, too: pardon my ignorance, but I never knew before the meaning of Day of the Dead, nor was I familiar with ofrendas or alebrijes. One especially dark narrative twist feels a little too much and left me with questions about the established rules of the universe, but if that's your takeaway and not the emotional ending or the music, that's on you, buddy.

Mudbound, Call Me By Your Name, and a lot of apes, after the jump....

Friday, December 1, 2017

The 1947 Retro Hollmann Awards, Part Two

We've shared the Top Ten. We've named the nominees. We've given out the first batch of prizes. Now, the final day of the 1947 Retro Hollmann Awards...which means the end of our look back at 1947. Each category is presented in the same order as at the 20th Academy Awards. Yup: we're closing out with Best Actress!

But first....

Best Actor

Nikolay Cherkasov as Tsar Ivan IV
Ivan the Terrible, Part One

2. Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street, 3. Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife, 3. Ronald Colman in A Double Life, 5. David Niven in The Bishop's Wife

Cherkasov is exhausting and all-in as the first Tsar of All Russia. He is sweating every single moment. The most surprising moments involve his scenes with wife Anastasia - that's real love, baby, real tenderness, real sorrow. His performance is a spectacle without equal. My understanding is that this definition of "terrible" isn't so much "Ivan the Bad" as it is "Ivan the Formidable" and, fuck me, Cherkasov is formidable.

Gwenn is Santa Claus. Grant exudes a gentle, holy warmth. Colman goes nuts, with subtlety. Niven does befuddled frustration without compromising the chemistry with Loretta Young.

Original Song, Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and more, after the jump....