Sunday, March 4, 2018

On the 2018 Oscars

The Pics

3 Idiotas
Fist Fight

Baby Driver
This movie has an memorable soundtrack, and some of the best set pieces in recent memory. The car chases are exhilarating enough on their own,  but the fact that they are actually choreographed to music pushes them to another level - the car is always an extension of Baby's (Ansel Elgort) eyes and ears. I obviously enjoyed Wright's signature comedic quick cuts and splashy color palate. The ending ultimately dampened the film for me. Doc's (Kevin Spacey) heel turn from being completely ruthless to having a soft spot for young love was way to sudden. The idea that he would be totally ok with his entire operation crumbling and not bear any ill will to Baby, the one that brought it all down, contradicts everything the film has told us about him up to that point. Also, if Doc's past love really gave him so much empathy for what Baby and Debora (Lily James) had, then why did he threaten to hurt Debora in order to coerce Baby into continuing to drive? As much as the other elements of the movie worked, this was a glaring flaw.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

On the 2017-18 College Football Postseason

A few predictions:

  • On the final playoff field:
    • To me, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia were a cut above everyone else (in that order). After that, it's hard to get too worked up about the debate over the 4th spot. I'm fine with Alabama - they don't have any truly bad losses, like Ohio State did against Iowa. I also would've been fine with Ohio State; their because of their big wins over Penn State and Wisconsin were more impressive than any of Alabama's wins. You can spin it either way, and both teams would have only had themselves to blame for being left out. Personally, I think Alabama has the higher ceiling of the two teams if they can get their linebackers healthy,  and so that's who I probably would've picked.
    • For what it's worth, I would have preferred seeing Auburn get a second crack at Clemson than watch either Alabama or Ohio state get smoked. But I understand why the committee felt they couldn't justify selecting a 3-loss team that got smoked in the SEC championship.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On the 2017 College Football Season

A few predictions:


  • On the SEC:
    • Last year, Alabama had the best front seven - and as a result, the best defense - of the Saban era. Alabama is a recruiting factory, but it's pretty naive to think there won't be a meaningful drop off on that side of the ball. But I'm a big believer in Jalen Hurts. His youth was obvious last year when he struggled against Washington's and Clemson's (elite) defenses in the playoffs. But I liked what I saw during the regular season and expect him to keep growing as a passer with another year in Saban's offense. I think Hurts will be the first time Saban has had a quarterback who's dynamic enough to win games when the defense doesn't play well, and as a result he'll be able to mask the talent losses they're suffering from last year. The Crimson Tide will have the conference's best roster, the best coach, and maybe the best quarterback, and they get LSU at home - I think you can pencil in Alabama for another playoff berth.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

On 3 Idiotas

(Spoiler alert - spoilers ahead).

The original version of 3 Idiots is probably my favorite Bollywood film of all time, because of how closely its themes resonated with me and my fellow engineering friends. For a whole generation of Indian-American students, Rancho was almost a superhero - a genius engineer, but always on his and only his terms. Because of this, I was thrilled to hear about the Spanish remake, 3 Idiotas. I was hoping for a movie equally powerful and magical. Unfortunately, 3 Idiots falls well short of its potential. The basic plot is the same - 3 students (the 'idiots') meet each other at an intense engineering college run by a ruthless director. All three have their own motivations and pressures for being there. The film chronicles the ups and downs of their academic and social lives. Later, in the present day, two of the friends, (Beto and Felipe in 3 Idiotas, Raju and Farhan in 3 Idiots) search for a lead on their friend (Pancho in 3 Idiotas, Rancho in 3 Idiots), whom they haven't seen since graduation. There are some key differences between the original and the remake which illuminate the ways in which director Carlos Bolado didn't fully understand what made the original movie work so well.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On the 2017 Oscars

The Pics

Previous Reviews
Hail, Caesar/Deadpool
Zootopia
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Mr. Right
The Nice Guys
Finding Dory
Cafe Society/Ghostbusters
Collateral Beauty
Jackie
Moonlight

Hell or High Water:  Wittier, more tightly written version of No Country for Old Men.

Everybody Wants Some!!:  At one point a character states "It's all about finding tangents within the framework" while taking a bong hit.  I doubt any scene could more perfectly describe Richard Linklater's aesthetic.

Everybody Wants Some!! is a fantastic exploration of masculinity and fraternity, and how it can be both wonderful and toxic.  I think what elevates this movie from good to great is the end, when the jocks crash the theater party.  On the surface the two groups couldn't seem more different; but we get to see that for both groups, the excitement and fear of a once-big fish moving to a bigger pond is universal.  Zooey Deutch is a revelation in this act - she steals all her scenes and manages to create a character every bit as compelling as any of the baseball players.  I would really love to see a sequel to this movie about her quest to find her place within the collegiate theater world.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Moonlight

Moonlight begins with the camera following Juan (Mahershala Ali) out of his car.  It constantly pans around to survey the neighborhood, while rotating around Juan and his friend before eventually settling into a static frame.  The scene efficiently gives us a sense of place and makes its world feel lived-in; moreover, the camera movement evokes the feelings of one both anxiously surveying for danger and frantically trying to find his/her place in the world.  Even though the main character isn't in the scene, the camera moves as if it were from his point of view.  We don't know it yet, but the camera has already put us into his frame of mind and hinted at how his story is going to unfold.

On Fist Fight

Fist Fight takes place on the chaotic last day of the year at Roosevelt High School.  Tensions are high as the teachers must navigate senior pranks and job/budget cuts.  For Andy Campbell (Charlie Day), whose wife is pregnant and whose young daughter is fretting over her upcoming talent show and general popularity, the day is extra stressful.  When Campbell witnesses Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) lash out at a miscreant student by using an axe to chop the student's desk in half, Campbell is eventually forced by the school principal (Dean Norris) to either rat out Strickland or lose his job.  When Campbell opts for the former, Strickland challenges him to the titular fist fight after school.  Word of the fight spreads all around town, resulting in several gags and jokes as movie builds up to the fight before settling into its limp ending.

Monday, December 19, 2016

On Jackie

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

Who is the real Jackie Kennedy?  This is the question reporter Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) and the film presumably want to answer.  As the reporter finds out, and the film argues, the answer is...complicated.

Like many of the best biopics, Jackie focuses on a representative chapter of its subject's life rather than skimming through the entire story.  This movie depics White's interview with Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the time following the assassination of JFK.  But as we soon learn, this interview, like every aspect of Jackie's life, will be carefully filtered, trimmed, and polished.  Jackie puffing a cigarette while declaring that she doesn't smoke, combined with Portman and Crudup's acting, firmly establish the Jackie as White's one and only editor.