Thursday, March 1, 2018

OSCAR PICKS 90th ACADEMY AWARDS 2018

BEST PICTURE
The Shape of Water



Favored, I know, but for good reason--it's wonderful and uplifting--the qualities generally wanted in this category.  Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, who also co-wrote with Vanessa Taylor.



DIRECTOR
Guillermo del Toro
The Shape of Water



It was a tough decision for me among GDT, Christopher Nolan, and Paul Thomas Anderson, but in the end, GDT's overall vision and direction in The Shape of Water swayed me.  Plus I got to hear GDT talk about it in person, his passion, what went into it, the fact that he made it for under 20 million and it looks like 75 million on the screen....



LEAD ACTOR
Gary Oldman
Darkest Hour



Chalamet and Day-Lewis were great, but Oldman as Churchill was the greatest.  A no-brainer.



LEAD ACTRESS
Frances McDormand
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri



McDormand rocked.  Hawkins and Robbie came in second for me.



SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sam Rockwell
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Rockwell knocked it out of the park.  Dafoe is my second choice in this category.


SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Allison Janney
I, Tonya



No contest.


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri




Writer (and director) Martin McDonagh is also a playwright, but reportedly prefers film.  I saw this film twice, read the screenplay, watched it again.  He's a master.  Jordan Peele's innovative, genre-busting mashup Get Out was also very, very good.


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Call Me By Your Name



James Ivory's adaptation was simply sublime.  



ANIMATED FEATURE
Coco



Animation isn't in my wheelhouse, but this one's favored to win.



DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Faces Places



I have to confess I haven't seen any of them, at least not yet, but Agnes Varda?  And this photo is cool.




FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE
On Body and Soul



A Fantastic Woman  (which is very good) is favored to win, but Ildikó Enyedi's film blew me away with its meticulous minimalist style, unconventional framing, and its unsentimental meditation on connection.


CINEMATOGRAPHY
Blade Runner 2049



Just give it to Roger Deakins (at right, with director Denis Villeneuve), already!  My second choice is The Shape of Water (Dan Lautsen).



FILM EDITING
Dunkirk



Lee Smith's work weaving three different narratives and timelines that intersect at times was masterfully intricate.




PRODUCTION DESIGN
Blade Runner 2049 (Dennis Gassner) and
The Shape of Water (Paul D. Austerberry)







Can we just give it to both films?  If not, I have a slight lean to The Shape of Water.



SCORE
 Phantom Thread



Composer Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) has worked with writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson on five films. He's a musical genius.  Second choice would be Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water.



SONG
"Mystery of Love"
Call Me By Your Name



Sufjan's Stevens' song is the most lovely and memorable, IMHO.


SOUND EDITING
Dunkirk



War movies do well in this category.  My other choice would be Baby Driver.



SOUND MIXING



Same as above.



VISUAL EFFECTS
Blade Runner 2049



At least give the film this!


COSTUME DESIGN
Phantom Thread


I think Mark Bridges will win in this category.


MAKEUP
Darkest Hour


The side-by-side photos of Gary Oldman say it all.



SHORTS

I haven't seen them, but the ones below are favored.

Animated:  Dear Basketball

Documentary:  Edith + Eddie
Live Action:  Silent Child



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Sunday, January 14, 2018

WHEN FRIENDS ACT LIKE FOES





We've all been there:

The BFF who doesn't come to your holiday party, and when you call her on it, rebuffs you because she says she's sick of your "wallowing" in anxiety and depression after your husband abruptly left you two weeks before the previous Christmas. 

The friend who invites you over to dinner, but only because the date she was cooking for cancelled.

The best bud who really wants to read the screenplay that you've spent a year and a half working on, but admits to having skimmed it late at night, then tells you he was confused by a number of things and had basically skipped over the stage directions.


Hurtful and/or insulting, right?

The group of friends who choose your ex over you.  (That's a common one.)

The group of friends who ostracize you because they all went to college together and one of them has a beef with you because you made the mistake of hiring him and it didn't work out.  Juvenile, but it's happened.  Apparently blood is thicker than water applies to college cliques as well.


I'm sure there must have been episodes of Friends in which they got pissed off at each other, but what stays with one and why we watch the re-runs are for their ties that bind, at least on the telly, forever. 

Sometimes we can move beyond these slights...unless they're more than slights, unless they deeply wound, unless the friend has become truly toxic or simply isn't someone you recognize anymore, or perhaps is more of an acquaintance whom you decide isn't a very nice person.

But for the slighted or hurt party, nothing can move forward without the Apology from the other.

But then there are the BFFs who respond to being told they've hurt you by becoming defensive and attacking, listing all of your sins and grievances going back to who knows when.  And then you understand their recent instances of passive aggression.

William Blake wrote a poem about this called "A Poison Tree."  The gist of it is that unspoken wrath grows until it kills.

But we don't want our deep friendships to be killed.  What we want is connection.  What we want, what we always want, is to love and be loved.  Take it from Jack White's latest song, "Connected by Love."  Its wonderful video is below:



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Monday, January 1, 2018

MY BEST OF 2017

My favorite films of the year, in the order I saw them:



PERSONAL SHOPPER
Written & Directed by Olivier Assayas

Kristen Stewart on a scooter in Paris hitting designer boutiques and trying on sexy harnesses!  But she hates it; she's actually a medium holding out for a sign from her deceased male twin, being haunted by him or other malevolent forces--who relentlessly text her on a train, making for the most improbably tense and suspenseful scenes ever involving a smartphone.  Everyone has a different interpretation of, or puzzles over, the ending, but the ambiguity rather appropriately works in the story's favor.  It's both a psychological thriller and a ghost story.




GET OUT
Written & Directed by Jordan Peele

All I can say is, beware the GIRLfriend who pops Froot Loops dry, one by one, Dude, with a side of white milk.  Terrific mashup of horror, social satire, and comic relief.





BABY DRIVER
Written & Directed by Edgar Wright

Action scenes directed and edited to excellent pop and rock tunes?  A maximalist homage to Walter Hill's classic, minimalist THE DRIVER?  Hell, yes!  




DUNKIRK
Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan

1. Three story lines (on land, sea, and air) on different time lines that converge!  2. A Chris Nolan film shot in 65mm IMAX!  3.  Tom Hardy and Harry Styles!  In short, not just another WWII movie.




BLADE RUNNER 2049
Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

I'd see and probably "deeply love" anything directed by Denis Villeneuve from SICARIO on, never mind with Ryan Gosling.  If you revered the original BLADE RUNNER, as I do, this probably didn't surpass the original for you.  But on its own merits, it's a sci-fi stunner, IMHO. 




WONDERSTRUCK
Written by Brian Selznick
Directed by Todd Haynes

Past and present converge, and Haynes and his team get the 70s right--screw "The Deuce."   Haynes said at a Q & A, "I just wanted to make a smart, cool movie for kids."  It's also for grown ups.




LADY BIRD
Written & Directed by Greta Gerwig

Who woulda thunk an Irish actress could nail an American teenager in Sacramento?  Well, det's ecting!  Yeah, I wish why the name she chose for herself would have been revealed, and that title sucks and probably hurt the film's box office, since you initially think this movie must be about Lady Bird Johnson.  But it's a gem of a debut from Gerwig.




THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Written & Directed by Martin McDonagh

A sheriff dying of cancer, a racist cop who thinks he's Serpico or something, and a "midget" who has the hots for a mad-as-hell middle-aged mother (Frances McDormand) who's projecting her guilt and grief onto everyone.  AND it's a comedy.   McDonagh, who brought us IN BRUGES, is a  flat-out brilliant writer.  Plus, he loves Nic Roeg's DON'T LOOK NOW as much as I do, evidenced by the nods to it here and more overtly in IN BRUGES.




THE SHAPE OF WATER
Written by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

GDT is a treasure--he makes films like a kid set loose in a candy shop.  They revel in his passions, obsessions, memories...everything that converges in his conscious and unconscious, past and present.  He made the creature from the black lagoon sexy, liberating the Sally Hawkins character from her lonely three-minute morning masturbations.  Need I say more?




CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Written by James Ivory (from the novel by André Aciman)
Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Guadagnino made two films with Tilda Swinton, the Brilliant Actress with Impeccable Taste.  She's not in this one, alas, but we do have a star-making performance from Timothée Chalamet (who's in at least three films this year), the towering, perfectly handsome Armie Hammer ("Later!"--his version of Gatsby's "Old Sport"), and a monologue from Michael Stuhlbarg (also in three pics this year) that floored me.  Languid, sublime.  A sabbatical in an Italian village  with a highly cultured, empathic family who speak four languages.  Wish they'd adopt me for a summer.  Sigh.  




THE DISASTER ARTIST
Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (based on a book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell)
Directed by James Franco

Franco directs himself as Tommy Wiseau, auteur of THE ROOM, widely regarded as the CITIZEN KANE of bad movies.  See this film and the phrase "Oh hi, Mark" is all you'll need to get you out of your deepest funk.  Right?  




PHANTOM THREAD
Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

PTA said in an interview that he thought he'd be making "pretty good" movies for the rest of his life.  "Pretty good" is such an understatement for the most outstanding filmmaker we have--a true auteur.  Here, influenced by Hitchcock and Losey, the film (which must be seen in its 70mm glory) stuns with some very unique (psycho)sexual politics.  Plus a great piano score from Jonny Greenwood.  Tense and breathtaking--it left me with palpitations!



ON BODY AND SOUL
Written and directed by Ildikó Envyedi

I can't describe the experience of this Hungarian film better than Tom Birchenough of theartsdesk.com:  "It would be an illusion to expect every viewer to be receptive to this remarkable film, but for those who are it sticks in the mind like a shard of broken glass, a jag of ice.  You emerge from it, soul scoured, in silence."



RUNNERS UP:  The Beguild; Detroit; The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected); The Big Sick, A Ghost Story; Wind River; Atomic Blonde; The Florida Project; Molly's Game; I, Tonya; Hostiles; Darkest Hour, The Post, Columbus.



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