Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Final Year

Since the 2016 election there has been a hole in this country. I liked the Obama administration. I miss the Obama administration. In the documentary The Final Year I got to spend a little time back in that world. It was very comforting. A good documentary about Obama's last year in office.

Friday, April 20, 2018

You Were Never Really Here

The film You Were Never Really Here is as intense emotionally as it is visually. A man takes on some violent thugs to protect young, abused girls. There are a lot of disturbing themes in this film, yet I liked it and thought about it a lot after I saw it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tully

The strain of motherhood and managing a family is honestly portrayed in the film Tully We meet a woman pregnant with her third child carrying all of the stress and emotion that goes with parenting and birth. This is another film where you will benefit from knowing very little. I can't wait to see it again. I was surprised by how this film seemed to strike a chord with men. At the Q & A most of the questions were from men, and a male film reviewer I liked said that the film made him cry. This is a very interesting film.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

In & Of Itself

I am not sure how to describe the show In & Of Itself. This is an off-Broadway performance at the Daryl Roth theater in NYC. Derek DelGaudio gives a one man show that is deep, thoughtful, funny and mid boggling. I am so glad I saw this show and even happier that I made a little follow-up trip to complete the experience. See the show and you'll know what I mean.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Frank Serpico

The 70s film Serpico is as iconic as the man. In the documentary Frank Serpico we hear the story of the real man from the real man. He talks about the actual events of his life, then talks about them in reference to the film. A very interesting, smart, deep man. I liked this documentary.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Quiet Place

The terror of being found by a monster is a lot. In A Quiet Place the terror of being found because of the sounds you make is even more so. In the wake of a monster invasion a young family has found ways to survive that are both resourceful and creative. The less you know, the better. There are plenty of jump-scares and a lot of suspense. Very well done.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Party Girl

There is more to Party Girl than just a young woman out for a good time. She is trying to find herself and make a difference. When she helps out at the library, she finds a world that opens her eyes to life lessons and creative ways to get things done. There is a tone of whimsy and fun with a real heart and smart ending. I liked this film a lot.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Slums of Beverly Hills

To prepare to see Tamara Jenkins at Tribeca Film Festival in a few weeks I watched her film Slums of Beverly Hills. I was treated to a story of survival in an unconventional family while coming of age. Episodes of sexual awakening and finding identity are strong as a family struggles. The performances are great and the story has a sweet side. I liked this film.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Isle of Dogs

With stop motion animation, Isle of Dogs tells the story of loyalty and perseverance.When a virus makes the entire canine population sick, the dogs are exiled to Trash Island. A boy sorely misses his dog and sets out on a quest to find his beloved companion. There are interesting characters in this film presented with dry, dry humor. Worth a look.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Love, Simon

The teen romance gets a bit of a twist, good writing and strong performances in Love, Simon. The characters in this story of sexual awakening for a young man in high school. When he admits to himself that he is gay, he finds an anonymous confidante who he develops a crush and then a relationship with. This story is about identity, growing up, family, friends bullying and self defense. I liked this film a lot.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Death of Stalin

I'm glad I brushed up on the historical details before seeing The Death of Stalin. Another film where I wouldn't believe elements of the story if they weren't true. The satire is hilarious, though the circumstances are dire. Great cast. Good black comedy.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Justice League

Oh Superheros... Justice League joins the cannon in predictable fashion. A lot of the same old battles as worlds collide and snappy dialog. I did enjoy the character of The Flash. An OK rental for me.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Pitch Perfect 3

Did the world need Pitch Perfect 3? Probably not, but I did find it more entertaining than Pitch Perfect 2. The Bellas are now young adults and dealing with the successes and disappointments in life. An opportunity to sing together arises and the adventure begins. Of course, there is a competition. This movie is entertaining enough and I always like the music. It's an OK rental.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Literally, Right Before Aaron

When a couple has dated for over 7 years the bond is strong. It is easier for some to move on than others. For the man who was Literally, Right Before Aaron, Adam has trouble reconciling his feelings when she invites him to her wedding. There are several earnest performances and the uncomfortable scenes are, well, uncomfortable. Good rental.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Una

When a girl is sexually assaulted at 13, she thinks she love her attacker. In the film Una we see her struggles with relationships and her sexuality as a result. She tries to confront her attacker years later and it does not go well. A bleak, slow film. I appreciate the performances, but would not recommend this film.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Band Aid

A couple is grieving a miscarriage in the film Band Aid. They find solace and re-connection through music. They fight through the music. The music helps their voice. An important take-away for me from this film is that Fred Armisen is an amazing drum. Good drama.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Who Killed the Electric Car?

In the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? we watch greed and the almighty dollar do its thing. The electric car was beloved, but did not fit the automotive world's economic model, so they destroyed it. A sad chapter of automotive history. Good documentary.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Faces Places

Two photographers jump in a photo van and ride the countryside looking for subjects for larger-than-life murals in the documentary Faces Places. From lone subjects to groups, the murals tell stories of lives lived and their relationships. The dynamic between the two artists is very interesting as well, and becomes very endearing. This is a very sweet documentary that I liked very much.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Oscars 2018

Here are my Oscar picks for this year. Saw 50 of the 59 nominated films. It was a good year!

Best Picture - Get Out
Best Director - Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
Best Actress - Frances McDormand
Best actor - Gary Oldman
Best Actress in a supporting role - Allison Janney
Best Actor in a supporting role - Sam Rockwell
Original screenplay - Get Out
Adapted screenplay - Call Me by Your Name
Animated Feature - Coco
Documentary Feature - Faces Places
Foreign language film- A Fantastic woman
Original score - Phantom Thread
Original song - Mystery of Love
Sound editing - Baby Driver
Sound mixing - Baby Driver
Makeup  and Hair-styling - Darkest Hour
Costume design - Victoria & Abdul
Cinematography - Mudbound
Production Design - The Shape of Water
Film editing - Baby Driver
Visual effects - The Last Jedi
Documentary short - Traffic Stop
Live Action short - Watu Wote: All of Us
Animated short - Lou

Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Poker House

Survival of a young family in a house with a drug and drink addled Mother is a true story of survival in The Poker House. The older sister tries to protect her little sisters while holding down several jobs and playing on her high school basketball team.Her Mother and a variety of boyfriends, one who is her pimp gives the girl the attention she craves which takes an ugly turn. This film is based on a memoir. Early work from Jennifer Lawrence makes this worth watching.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wild at Heart

Opening with a very violent scene, Wild at Heart sets the tone for the crazy road trip of a young girl in love with an excon. There are pronouncements of love and hate amid scenes of violence and graphic sex. A bizarre ride from David Lynch with many outstanding performances.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Brother from Another Planet

A young Joe Morton brings a lot of heart to The Brother from Another Planet from 1984. This film was recommended on social media and because I respect the film taste of the person recommending it, and I love Joe Morton, this was an easy sell. Morton's character arrives in Harlem from outer-space with no language skills. Which makes his navigation of Manhattan interesting and sometimes humorous. On anther amusing note, he is being pursued by two bounty hunters from the cosmos who are great comic relief. The "brother" has a lot of heart and explores our world like a visitor to the zoo. He is calm and kind and grows as the story progresses.I really liked this film. Worth watching.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards

I love shoes. To be able to watch a documentary about the man who makes some of the most beautiful shoes in the world, Manolo Blahnik, was a real treat. In the documentary Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards he is called "the Godfather of Soles." It traces his love of designing footwear and the history of his collections. A documentary for lovers of pretty things and interesting creators. Well done.

Mute

I heard Mute called "the neon sci-fi movie" which is very accurate. Aside from the fact that this film has a look that just won't quit, neither does the story. A thriller with some futuristic themes mixed with present-day issues, to say too much would be spoiling. I will say I liked this film. I wish it had been available in theaters because it is so pretty. I'm just glad that Netflix gave Duncan Jones the opportunity to get this film made. Worth the wait.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night is a classic boy meets girl, girl is not available, boy and girl are forced to spend time together, boy and girl fall in love, girl runs away, boy follows, happy ending. The details in between and the performances are whet make this film an Oscar winner. Well written, creatively filmed and very well acted. A classic worth watching.

California Typewriter

The typewriter was an essential tool for any writer when I was growing up. I cherished the one that was given to me as a graduation gift when I finished high school. I typed many a paper on it in college. Erasable paper was my friend. In the documentary California Typewriter the love for the machine is profiled. The collectors are the most fascinating. Made me wish I still had my typewriter. An interesting history. An interesting film.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rebel in the Rye

I am finding post-war authors to be a dour lot. The film Rebel in the Rye chronicles J.D. Salinger's writing career. He is enthusiastic and motivated before he has to serve in the war. The war traumatizes him and he struggles to return to his writing. It is kind of amazing that Catcher in the Rye was written. An interesting story.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Icarus

Doping in athletics is the subject in the film Icarus.The science and process of drug testing athletes is explained and probed. The scientist in the film gets caught up in the Russian doping scandal and science meets thriller. Quite a ride.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Strong Island

When a young man is murdered in Long Island, the case is never prosecuted. In the documentary Strong Island his family tells the tale. The story of the family is documented carefully and lovingly in this talking head film. Powerful story.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Breadwinner

In my quest to see as many Oscar nominated films as I can, the Providence Children's Film Festival once again helped me out with a screening of a film nominated for animated feature. The Breadwinner is the story of a young girl in Afghanistan whose father is unjustly jailed by the Taliban. Left with her Mother and sister, she cuts her hair and dresses like a boy so she can go out in public alone to acquire water and food for her family. Themes of courage and oppression are heightened in this story. After the film, students from a local school read essays they had written after reading the book this film is based on. Heartening to see young people express themselves in empathy to the character's story. A nice film experience.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

The story of the shlubby lawyer is not new, but in Roman J. Israel, Esq. the story has a good twist. Denzel Washington rocks the Afro and bad suits in the beginning of the film to emphasize Roman's transformation as the story progresses. This was a quirky film I liked.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Blade Runner 2049

I did not care for the original Blade Runner movie so it was no surprise that Blade Runner 2049 underwhelmed me as well. The sequel was almost as boring as the first, though it got more interesting in the second half. I get the nominations for visual Academy Award categories, but could not get into the story at all. Glad I didn't waste 3 hours in the theater with this one. I love DVD!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

In the financial crisis of 2008 a lot of banks got away with a lot. In Abacus: Small Enough to Jail we learn of the only one that went to trial. This documentary follows the 5 year trial of a small family run bank in Chinatown in NYC. The viewer is left to its own conclusions of why. Interesting film.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Wonder

The movie Wonder is a good take on bullying, family and friendship.When a young boy with facial deformities enters public school for the first time in 5th grade, we see the typical and predictable reactions of the kids he encounters. How it's handled, and how it plays out is interesting and effective. It also addresses the effect on the whole family. This is a good film and I'm happy to hear that schools are using it and the book it is based on to teach empathy. Well done.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

The Oscar nominated short films are compiled to feature length programs. I saw the animated program today. It is an interesting assortment of films.

Love Basketball - Pencil drawings come to life in a self-narrated ode to basketball by Kobe Bryant. Lyrical and nice to watch. A love letter.

Garden Party - A bizarre scene unfolds from the perspective of frogs at an abandoned mansion...or so it seems. Funny with a jarring ending.

Lou - The items of a Lost & Found box take on a life of their own to address a bully on a playground. Pixar's magic is fun to watch here.

Negative Space - The strategies of packing a suitcase give a young boy an interesting perspective when faced with the end of life.

Revolting Rhymes - A Rahl Dahl twist on a classic fairy tale with a dark tone and great animation.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Come From Away

This winter's Broadway show for me was Come From Away. The story of planes grounded by the events of 9/11 in Gandor, Newfoundland Canada had excellent reviews and Tony nominations. I was not prepared for the heart, the talent and the creative genius of this show. 12 actors, 12 chairs and 2 tables surrounded by massive tree trunks were the only things on the stage. They represented a town, an airplane, a bus, a bar and more. The choreography and fluidity of the show kept the audience engaged for 90 minutes without a break in song or action. If you get a chance to see this show go! I'm sure glad I did.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

I, Daniel Blake

In I, Daniel Blake the social services system in the UK gives little help to Daniel Blake when he cannot work because he has had a heart attack. He wants to work, but his doctor says no, so he turns to the system for help. There are challenges in technology and processes. Thankfully, he befriends a person who is also struggling with the system.Together, they sort through their dilemmas with friendship. This is a good film with a not-so-happy ending, but I liked it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

LBJ

I enjoyed the play and movie All the Way, so I thought LBJ would be a good next film for me. This version of the time period after JFK's assassination is interesting, but not as intense. The performances are adequate impersonations, but everyone is walking through the events. OK historical film.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Disaster Artist

As part of My Oscar Project I had to find The Disaster Artist. Not an easy task because it played in RI months ago. Traveling to Boston, I discovered The Somerville Theatre. I found a quaint New England theater with a lot of history and a ton of character. Worth the ride. The film was much better than I expected. The story of Tommy Wiseau's creation of the infamous film The Room, is told from the perspective of his best friend Greg Sestero, based on Sestero's book. This is a story of determination, friendship and loyalty with a dash of delusion. Good film.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Greatest Showman

P.T. Barnum was a historic entertainer, earning the moniker The Greatest Showman, the name of the movie I saw today. The story of his early days in show business are interesting and it is appropriately presented as a musical. The music is good, the performances work. Not the best ever, but certainly entertaining.

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Square

Emotions in The Square run from hope to despair. When the characters try, they fail. If something can go wrong it will. The characters muddle through this creative, bizarre story set in the art world. At times it is amusing, at others unsettling. A very interesting film, with a cool to look.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Last Flag Flying

In Last Flag Flying three men who served together in Vietnam are faced with one of their son's death. The father wants to take the boy's body back to NH to bury him near his mother. The escort who travels with them is the boy's friend and adds details to his time in service. Those details are wrapped up nicely at the end. I liked this film, one of the Marines is over the top and the father is super subdued. This was a decent rental.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Goodbye Christopher Robin

I thought Goodbye Christopher Robin  would be a sweet story, but boy was I wrong. The misery of post-war life comes to the screen again. When A.A. Milne is looking for inspiration for a marketable writing project, he turns to his son's toys. With the success of the characters the boy creates, the exploitation of him in the marketing was a bit sad. The relationships in the family become more businesslike than a child should have to deal with. A melancholy story. A good rental.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ferdinand

The animated film Ferdinand goes for the heartstrings. With about 15 minutes of editing, this would have had me. Near the end of the film a few of the little ones were running up and down the aisles in the theater, and I wanted to join them. The peril of the bull fight was a bit unnerving for me. The animation was lovely and Ferdinand is a sweet character, but there was no need to drag it out.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

All the Money in the Wiorld

For all the controversy surrounding the film All the Money in the World I was not prepared for the disturbing story that this film is based on. My take away from this film is that J. Paul Getty was a cold hearted bastard. This film was so sad. Michelle Williams gave it her all. I understand the Oscar nomination for Christopher Plummer, but what an awful man he played. This film left me cold.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Deadpan conversations and a romantic filming style sets an ominous tone in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. When the actual premise kicks in it is disturbing and menacing. This modern horror film is disturbing but creative. Glad I saw it, but this one stayed with me for a while.Pretty creepy.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Paddington 2

I enjoyed the first film about Paddington bear, so when Paddington 2 came out to great reviews, I was in. The story is sweet and concise. There is a bit of adventure, a bit of peril and a lot of love and laughs. This story has a lot of heart and has a great visual aesthetic. Fun film.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Phantom Thread

The ending of Phantom Thread leans toward kink. When the world of a fussy fashion designer is turned upside down by a new lady love, she takes matters into her own hands. Reynolds Woodcock is overbearing and oversensitive, haunted by the only woman he's ever really loved, his Mother. When his new love and muse speaks her mind, he doesn't quite know what to do. She does. And he goes along. People do not treat each other very well in this story, but the coping mechanisms are interesting. Beautifully shot with and outstanding score and sumptuous costumes. Good film.

Mudbound

Post-war struggles and racism haunt the stories in Mudbound. Beautifully shot, Dee Rees brings the stories of poverty and PTSD to life in a powerful film. The family is held in high regard, and dealing with the mental traumas of war and alcoholism with no resources weighs heavy. Good film beautifully shot.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Bound

After watching Bound you will never complain about neighbors again. An ex-con is working renovating an apartment and the next door neighbors end up in trouble with the mob. There is intrigue, lust and lots of blood. The bumbling mobsters are no match for the ex-con and her disgruntled lover. Solid rental.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Loving Vincent

In Loving Vincent, we follow the story of the artist's friends as they cope with losing  him through the eyes of a young admirer. This film is made in a painted style of animation mirroring the style of Van Gough. A lovely film.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lady Macbeth

The film Lady Macbeth is a dismal tale of lust, anguish and betrayal. Thoughtfully shot, well acted we see a young woman trapped. Her way out is shocking and violent. This film is well done, but the subject matter is disturbing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Molly's Game

In Molly's Game the rise and fall of Molly Bloom plays out. As a fallen Olympic athlete, she applies her intelligence and drive to running high stakes poker games. She does very well until things get messy. The second half of the film is Molly pulling herself together and figuring out her future. Both stories are rich and satisfying.

The Post

A journalistic adventure reenacts the events around the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in The Post. When word of the Papers gets to the Washington Post there are scrambles to get them, read them, understand them and decide whether to publish them.. The government had been lying to the public about the Vietnam war and the paper is ready to make it all public. The drama revolves around the law and the decision. Good film.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Florida Project

Watching small children left on their own, The Florida Project takes us through their days on summer break. They are poor, and the adults in their lives are constantly striving to find ways to pay the bills. The manager of the motel they live in acts as a gruff uncle, but keeps an eye out for all of them. Subtle and detailed, I liked this film.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The 9th installment of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a satisfying addition to the franchise. We follow some familiar characters across the galaxy and meet a few new ones. There is humor, adventure, peril, space chases and oh those light saber battles. Carrie Fisher's last appearance is poignant, and her daughter delivers a nice tribute performance to Leia. The music and visuals are thrilling. Well done.

Manifesto

Through a dozen characters and a series of monologues, Manifesto is art commenting on art. Cate Blanchette gives a collection of performances that are powerful and nuanced. Jim Jarmusch adds his gorgeous style throughout the film. An interesting film.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Marshall

The early career of Thurgood Marshall found him working for the NAACP fighting for civil rights. The film Marshall is based on the events of one of these cases. A man wrongfully accused of rape is defended by an assigned lawyer and Mr. Marshall acts as his advisor. The film unfolds like a crime procedural. The ending addresses the accuser's situation, but they leave you hanging on an issue of domestic abuse. I found that a bit unnerving. This is a good rental.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Patti Cake$

An aspiring rapper struggles to realize her dream in Patti Cake$. The tone is set in her entrance to the local pharmacy early in the film. The story is about dreams, survival, confidence and friendship. I liked this film a lot.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

I, Tonya

If the events depicted in I, Tonya are true, Tonya Harding is truly a survivor. The movie begins when Harding is 4 years old and all she wants to do is skate. Her mother bullies her way into a class and the rest is history. According to the film, her mother was brutal to her, yet she put everything she had (which wasn't much) into her daughter's skating career. Harding's tenacity is front and center when it comes to skating. She perseveres through beatings from both her mother and her husband. The bumbling actions around the Kerrigan assault are ridiculous and played for a laugh. I wonder how much of it is true.

Darkest Hour

I took my father to see Dunkirk and he said that he wanted to see the strategies behind the decisions. This made taking him to see Darkest Hour a no-brainer. This film focuses on the short time that Winston Churchill had to make decisions about military strategy against Germany as the new Prime Minister of England. The performances are very good, but politics and war are ugly businesses.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Coco

Pixar is good at tugging our heartstrings and Coco is no exception. Miguel has a passion for music, but his family suffered an emotional loss at the hands of a musician generations ago and refuse to let him follow his dream. On a search for that dream, through his grandfather, he ends up in the Land of the Dead and works to bring closure to his family. The story has a lot of ins and outs and a bit of a morbid tone with story lines of mortality, abandonment and deceit, but the charm of the characters, the music and the animation add levity. I liked this film, but I think a few of the story lines would be too much for little ones.

Friday, January 05, 2018

The Lure

Film critic April Wolf recommended The Lure as one of the most overlooked films of 2017. She described it as a "vampire, mermaid, disco film." I knew I had to see it. Two sisters, who transform to mermaids when they come in contact with water. are discovered by a strip club owner and he adds them to the musical act. They become a sensation and enter relationships with humans. This would be very Beauty and the Beast if they did not eat their paramours. Well filmed and very original. Cool film.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Lucky

Harry Dean Stanton shows his masterful acting in the film Lucky playing a man riding out his life in a small town, with a set routine. As we follow Lucky through his days and interactions, it is Stanton's performance that makes it interesting to watch. A fitting last act for a wonderful actor.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Favorites of 2017

I have finalized my list of favorites from the 2017 film year. This was a year with refreshing, new takes on story telling. Click the titles to see what I thought when I saw it. Here's to the 2018 film year!

Get Out
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO
The Big Sick
Lady Bird
Colossal
Baby Driver
Wonder Woman
Call Me by Your Name
It
mother!

Honorable mentions? Paris Can Wait, Wind River, Battle of the Sexes, Victoria and Abdul, Wonderstruck, The Little Hours, Loving Vincent and Molly's Game.