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.

Friday, December 16, 2016

On Collateral Beauty

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

There's a point in Collateral Beauty when Will Smith tells Ed Norton, "I'm disappointed in you."  That's exactly how I feel about everyone who signed on to this disaster.

Collateral Beauty is the kind of movie you want to like!  The cast is spectacular.  The trailer gives the appearance of a sappy, Oscar-bait movie that nonetheless uplifts you with warm and fuzzy feelings.  Unfortunately, the Collateral Beauty trailer is one of the most deceptive trailers I've ever seen.  After seeing the movie, I tried to describe the plot to my girlfriend; she initially assumed I was making it up, because there was no way actors of this caliber would possibly agree to make a movie so catastrophically nonsensical.  This movie's plot is, quite literally, unbelievable; unfortunately it is all too real, and the kind of movie that's only worth your time if you're a fan of the "so-bad-it's-good" genre.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Cafe Society and Ghostbusters

(Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead)

Cafe Society
In retrospect, it seems pretty crazy that Jesse Eisenberg didn't star in a Woody Allen Movie earlier.  Eisenberg's condescending neuroticism is exactly what Woody Allen oozes, and what Allen spent years trying to wring out of other actors.  Even if i'm not the biggest fan of Eisenberg's mannerisms, and even if I was only lukewarm about his character in the movie, it was fun to see Eisenberg make it feel like a young Allen himself was on screen.

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Finding Dory

(Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead)

Sequels of all-time classics are really hard to pull off.  What made the original a classic is usually some combination of finding unexplored territory within a genre and executing flawlessly; those hard enough to pull off a first time, and even harder to pull off a second time.  For every Toy Story 2, there are 100 sequels that are made to greatly diminishing returns.  While Finding Dory is probably better than your average movie in the latter group, it definitely is not part of the former group.

Friday, June 3, 2016

On The Nice Guys

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

Usually the thrill of a Noir film is in its protagonist(s) constantly succeeding in escaping sticky situations.  The Nice Guys manages to create an appeal out of seeing the protagonists constantly fail their way in and out of said situations.  It's a nice play on formula that works because of how good the acting is.