Tuesday, January 31, 2017

3 Thoughts on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

1. The story - So big news, you guys.....this is the first Star Wars movie that I've seen in a theater!! I KNOW RIGHT?! And you know what? It was AWESOME. The sheer scope of the universe is so much more striking. Now I wish I had watched all of them on a big screen, but alas, I'm sure there will be opportunities. I absolutely loved Rogue One. Probably more than The Force Awakens. It's amazing that they can create a whole movie out of one line about the rebels risking their lives to destroy the Death Star, but they did an amazing job of keeping me investing even if it wasn't all that complicated (and overly contrived). I think it's kind of funny that some really ignorant people are *just* now realizing that the Star Wars movies are an allegory for defeating Nazis. Maybe the story is just more in your face because of the current state of the world, but they all seem pretty obvious to me.

2. The cast - The reason that I enjoyed this so much is definitely because of the cast. I know diversity is a big issue within the entertainment industry right now, and sometimes I understand the frustration from both sides of the spectrum. Recently, I saw that the BAFTAs are not going to consider a film unless it is diverse and I had to take a deep breath. So if a white male has an incredible story to tell and tells it brilliantly within the film medium, it shouldn't be considered? This is why the issue gets so muddled. Excluding something because it isn't inclusive is mind-boggling (and IRONIC). The problem is that the entertainment industry is inherently racist, sexist and ageist - and the only thing that is going to change that is the head-honchos who make decisions really analyzing what people want to see (they only care about $), so if you want to see diversity then start going to movies that are diverse. It will take a while, but we can get there if we are conscious of including EVERYONE. Rogue One is the exact kind of movie in which diversity is not only important, but essential. I applaud the casting of this movie, because it is a movie in which a group of rebels (of all backgrounds) fight for one cause - so it makes sense to have people of ALL BACKGROUNDS. I also applaud the casting because it is filled with talented individuals, therefore the group feels natural instead of individuals added for the "token" minority roles. Diego Luna is proven talent; he was due a role like this a long fucking time ago. Riz Ahmed has received a lot of attention lately for The Night Of (I haven't seen it yet), and I can see why. Add in, Martial Arts master, Donnie Yen, and the always spectacular Mads Mikkelson and Ben Mendelsohn, and you have yourself one hell of a cast. Would it have benefited from another female in the group? Hard to say for sure (but it would be nice to see), but Felicity Jones definitely held her own and made a very strong impression as a heroic figure.

3. The other stuff - I know that I can't really judge this movie as intricately as people who have been fans of Star Wars for the past 30+ years. There are things that I just won't get because I haven't invested as much time into the stories. However, I like that I can watch this movie without really knowing that much, and still enjoy it. I do still agree with critics that it felt a little recycled - and ultimately, we already know how it will end, so it's not all that exciting. I also think that the CGI character(s) were super creepy. It's very good CGI, but it's still distracting and....yeah...I can't think of any other way to describe it other than super creepy. If you haven't seen the movie The Congress, I highly suggest you watch it, if the idea of CGI actors interests you. The other criticism that I've seen is that it's too serious, which I don't agree with at all. I think I laughed more in this one than in any of them - K-2SO provides plenty of comic relief. And Chirrut had the best line of the whole movie ("Are you kidding me? I'm blind!"). I laughed for like 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Oscar Nominations: The Good, The Bad, and The Snubbed

The Good: 

- While 14 nominations for La La Land seem excessive, the film is deserving of the acclaim. It is my favorite film of 2016. I just wouldn't put it in the same category, as say, Titanic, but whatever. Emma Stone deserves the win on this (although I am biased, and I haven't seen the other films from the nominated actresses).

- So The Lobster is a 2016 release? Even though it played at three different film festivals in the U.S in 2015? I don't get it!!! However, I am super glad for the Original Screenplay nomination - it's definitely one of the most original films I've seen in a while.

-"Can't Stop the Feeling" was from Trolls? Really? I had no idea. But I will always be happy for a Justin Timberlake nomination.

- Zootopia was in my Top 10 list from 2016, which it's rare for an animated movie to make it to the list.

The Bad: 

-Every year there are major what the fuck nominations - and this year comes a random nomination for Suicide Squad (granted it's for makeup, BUT STILL).

-Aside from a few minor surprises (Ruth Negga, Viggo Mortensen) everything seemed to fall into place, which is a bit disappointing. It kind of takes the fun out of the whole thing when literally every single blogger predicted the exact lineup for Best Picture. Booooooorrrrrring.

-Why not fill that 10th slot?? There were a lot of GREAT movies this year. And I haven't even seen most of the nominated films. Plenty of films are deserving of that 10th slot, though. My personal pick would have been 10 Cloverfield Lane, but Nocturnal Animals could have easily filled that slot.

The Snubbed: 

-My favorite female performance of the year (yes, even more than Stone) is from Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I've been hard on her in the past (ahem, Smashed *winces*), but she is spectacular in 10 Cloverfield Lane.

-People are clamoring about Amy Adams being snubbed. I haven't seen Arrival yet, but I'm going to guess that she is superb as per usual.

-I was one of those people who were actually rooting for Deadpool to score a nomination - just one would have sufficed (maybe Adapted Screenplay?).

-While I hate to admit it, Aaron Taylor-Johnson gave a superior performance over Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. Shannon was more understated, and he is ALWAYS phenomenal, so an Oscar is well-deserved, but I think it edged out Taylor-Johnson for the nomination, and for that, I am not happy.

-Speaking of Nocturnal Animals - it's probably the most visually stunning film, highly deserving of a Cinematography nomination and also for Tom Ford. Same could be said for The Neon Demon and Nicolas Winding Refn, but I knew that was a long-shot.

-So if The Lobster is 2016, then where are the rest of the nominations? Especially for Colin Farrell??

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

3 Thoughts on La La Land

1. The "La La" effect - It's a musical about irresistibly charming people following their dreams titled "La La Land"; it's very easy to spot whether or not that's something you will enjoy. If you don't, it's pretty easy to, you know, NOT WATCH IT. It's exactly what it's advertised as, and that's not for everyone. But for everyone else, it's a joyous experience. Anyone who has a love for film-making, will appreciate the detail and collaboration that has to occur for the first opening number alone - it is astounding film-making. It's a 6 minute long musical number featuring dozens of dancers, choreographed to perfection, singing and dancing in the middle of a Los Angeles traffic-filled freeway, and all seemingly filmed in one shot (it's actually 3 shots, which is still really impressive). As someone who doesn't always connect with the "feel good" movies, after the first scene, I was stunned into submission. It sets up the attitude of the rest of the movie, and that attitude is to just have fun. It creates a very "magical" version of Los Angeles - not realistic in ANY way, but, you know what? Who cares? I think it's one of those movies that is really hard to criticize - and that's why it feels like it's being overly praised. Nominated for a record-tying 14 Oscars, the only one I would really argue with is Ryan Gosling's nomination. And that's not because he's bad, but there were better male acting performances this past year (Jake Gyllenhaal for Demolition and Nocturnal Animals, for one). Plus, I think it's fair to admit that it's not difficult for Gosling to portray a character whose sole purpose is to charm the pants off of everyone. Emma Stone, on the other hand, is sheer perfection. Her audition scenes were spectacular - overwhelmingly heartbreaking, her fragility clear as her spirit is slowly broken throughout the film.

2. The music - I enjoyed the music. Not as much as others seem to - and it's not making me seek out the soundtrack, like past musicals such as Chicago. I think I was more focused on the camera-work, the blast of colors, and the choreography. The actual songs got a little lost for me. Then, John Legend appears and blows me away with his song - his voice is so beautiful, especially with the sound of an IMAX theater. It was actually detrimental to both Gosling and Stone, because they sound good. Maybe above average? But it's clear that they are not trained vocalists, and Legend's song just emphasizes that so much more. The songs that were nominated for the Oscar, are surprising because "Another Day in the Sun" should have been the lock, and Legend's song "Start a Fire" is the catchiest song (although, I guess we are supposed to view it as a "sell-out" song). But they picked "Audition", which is a pretty song, and, "City of Stars" which is the "theme" of the movie, and also pretty. Neither of them are stunning, award-worthy songs, in my opinion.

3. The ending - *spoilers* I knew the ending was going to be "sad" because many people described it as "heartbreaking" etc., but I LOVED it. In all of it's sappy glory, the film ended on a realistic, but still positive note - and that note is that if you keep pushing and stick to your dreams, you just might achieve them. The fact that they don't end up together isn't heartbreaking AT ALL. They still achieve success! Why is that bad? The ending montage - an imagined version of what would happen if they had the expected "romance", is just that - IMAGINED. If they stayed together, things might not have worked out for either of them. I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason - the people who you meet during the course of your life are all part of your story. Even when I reminisce about something that I regret or think of as maybe a waste - I just remember what else occurred during that time - and in every case, I can pull something positive out of that experience. Anyway, for the hopeless romantics, I understand, I guess, that this ending is "sad". And, surprisingly, there are still a lot of hopeless romantics out there. Even my mother said she liked the movie until the end, then we went into the women's bathroom and the room full of women declared to not like the ending. Maybe it was just expected that a "feel good" movie would have a happy ending (again, to me it was), maybe if it was declared beforehand like 500 Days of Summer does, people would accept it more?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

4 Thoughts on The Golden Globes

1. The Host - One of my favorite opening sequences to any awards show was the Jimmy Fallon hosted Emmys, when he sang live to Springsteen's "Born to Run". It was energetic, fun, and featured a slew of guest celebrities singing and dancing along (including the late Cory Monteith - NOPE STILL NOT OVER IT). Anyway, my point is, I am a big fan of Fallon. I watch The Tonight Show because of him (I hated Leno), and I still watch his old SNL skits and laugh my ass off. I'm not really sure when it became "cool" to hate him (I know a lot of people have trouble with his "normalization" of Trump, but I think that is an overreaction. He's not a hard-hitting journalist. He's an entertainment host who is probably warned against any political stand. Does everyone remember how much shit The Roots got for playing the song "Lyin' Ass Bitch" for Michele Bachman's intro?). I think Fallon is a much better host than Jimmy Kimmel, who is somehow hosting The Oscars this year, even though he was a terrible Emmy host. Sure, Jimmy sticks with light material, his strengths, and plays "nice" with celebrities, but I still think he's funny (I think Gervais is funny too, even though he does the exact opposite in his hosting gigs). That being said, I think this is the weakest Fallon has been in a long time. The opening sequence was cute, I guess. I haven't seen La La Land, so it didn't really mean much to me, but I enjoyed the cameos - obvi. Justin Timberlake should have hosted the whole show with him! Wouldn't that have been spectacular.?! Jimmy didn't really handle the teleprompter thing very well, considering his experience. He is trained for live television and for improvisation, instead of coming up with a quick-witted sketch, he just joked about the prompter not working and then....joked again about it not working. That's about all I remember of his hosting duties. He kind of disappeared for the rest of the show, and I wonder if it was intentionally supposed to be like that, or if he realized he was bombing and decided to scale it back a bit.

2. The Show - Overall, I found the show to be pretty boring. Mostly because, again, I haven't seen La La Land. It's annoying to watch an awards show in which EVERY award is going to a movie that you haven't seen yet! The show had some really great moments, though. Obviously, Meryl is perfect. She will be referred to as "Dame Streep" for the rest of eternity, and I *might* have to forgive her for her ludicrous portrayal of Margaret Thatcher (again, *might*). The best presenters, always and forever, were Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell. I mean, that could have gone really badly, but their deadpan presentation was just hilariously perfect. The worst was obviously Sophia Vergara, the accent is no longer funny - even on Modern Family. The speeches were blah, except for Tom Hiddleston who told an overlong, tone-deaf tale of how much his show helps people. It was spectacularly narcissistic, and I think it made a lot of people lose respect for him. I loved the reaction shots from the audience, though. They were all trying to work out how this speech was going to end, and upon realizing it was the epitome of a humblebrag, I could almost hear their stomachs turning. I also though it was super weird to do a tribute to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but none of the other entertainers who passed away in 2016. Losing these two legends so close together is devastating, and a huge loss to the entertainment industry, but Florence Henderson, Garry Shandling, Gene Wilder, and Patty Duke are also legends, so....what gives? I thought it was tasteless.

3. The Winners - So, obviously, I need to see La La Land. But actually, out of the total 10 picture nominations, I've only seen 2 of them and they are both in the comedy/musical category - Deadpool and Sing Street. I'm one of the few who don't really get the love for Sing Street, but I LOVED Deadpool. I don't get why there is so much backlash - first, it received both critical and audience praise; second, it was really funny; third, people have been complaining for YEARS that comic book movies are ignored during awards season and now there is finally a movie that (rightfully) broke through the barrier, and people still complain! WHAT THE FUCK? Just be happy for once. I was shocked that Natalie Portman didn't win for Jackie, I thought that was actually the only real "lock" of the season. I was also shocked that Aaron Taylor-Johnson won for his supporting role in Nocturnal Animals, but I can't argue it - he was so terrifically creepy. On the television side, I don't get the love for The Night Manager. It's a good series, and I love Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman, but I don't think either of them were worthy of awards specifically for this show. Especially up against another fantastic year of television. I'm happy that Sarah Paulson won, and that American Crime Story took the big prize - I was nervous that it was actually going to go to The Night Manager, and that would have been really frustrating (but the Golden Globes are usually pretty frustrating). I'm also happy that Atlanta won, even though it wasn't my favorite comedy of the season (Better Things is), it's still original, and extremely well-written and acted. The Golden Globes are known for going with new shows, so I think everyone assumed that Westworld and Stranger Things would sweep, but they went with The Crown (also new, but not really as well-known), which reminds me of when they awarded Mozart in the Jungle last year, and everyone was like "what's that?", and guess what...it is a fantastic show. So, I will definitely give The Crown a watch soon.

4. The Fashion - Hands down, best dress was Emma Stone's starry gown. It's so ethereal, and relevant to what she is nominated for. Plus, I love how pale she is; it's hard for pale women to wear blush tones, but she pulls it off and looks stunning (and I've seen people list it as a "worst" dress, and I am STUNNED. Like, how can that possibly be worst? I don't get it). I also really liked Lily Collin's dress. It's not something I would wear (too poufy for me), but she looked like a princess. I loved the super low-cut trend that Jessica Biel and Kristen Bell sported, but I don't actually like the dresses. I don't really like to call people out for "worst" dressed, but there were some dresses that I just don't really understand - like Sophie Turner's dress - it looks like it went through a shredder before she put it on.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Other People - This movie is fantastic! I've even included in my Best Movies of 2016 list. It's a small, subtle movie about family, death, growing up, acceptance, etc. It's just wonderful. It's reminiscent of The Skeleton Twins in that it is dark and cynical, but ultimately uplifting and wondrous. Molly Shannon has never been better - I believe this is her first foray into a serious role, and even in the lighter moments, make no mistake, this is a very serious, dramatic role. Her physical, mental, and emotional deterioration due to Cancer feels so authentic and heartbreaking. The scene when she goes to the school to see her former co-workers - I almost lost it. It's one of those scenes that will live with me forever, and that is a rare accomplishment. In looking up reviews for this movie, I learned that the writer (Chris Kelly - an SNL writer) lost his mother to Cancer in 2009, so this is largely a "fictional" autobiography, and that just makes it that much more special. Jesse Plemons is also wonderful as the comedy writer, who moves back home to take care of his mother. He discovers that not much has changed in his town, but he also learns to enjoy the small joys that life has to give. He's dealing with a break-up with someone he obviously cares about (played by Zach Woods. I've just learned his name as I've always just referred to him as "Gabe from The Office). He's dealing with his dad being uncomfortable/unaccepting of his sexuality. And of course, his mom is dying. It's all handled with poise and grace in a way that is rarely seen on-screen. Nothing is done for dramatic effect or emotional manipulation - and there are so many beautiful and funny "smaller" moments that make it worth paying attention to (like how he has to repeat his milkshake order several times - no whip cream and then he puts the milkshake down on the table and their is whip cream in it). Plemons is having an excellent career - appearing in three of the best series in the last 10 years (Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, and Fargo). I really hope his film career goes the same way, this is a great start.

2. The 5th Wave - I was expecting bad. It has a 16% on RT, which is pretty bad for a big budget movie with a cast of this caliber. It's bad, but not 16% bad. It's bad because it's mediocre and derivative (the scene where they are looking up at the spaceship was legit stolen from Independence Day), but it's got a decent story and above average acting. I like that the apocalypse/alien invasion happens in stages (or "waves") - it makes it more realistic. It would take a lot to kill off an entire species and sometimes I think big movies like this gloss over that fact. So, the first wave is to cut off power and running water. The second wave is more intense (and literal) - a gigantic earthquake that causes tsunamis in every ocean (and apparently the Great Lakes - LOL). This stage is probably the most ridiculous but probably also my favorite because I LOVE in movies when people outrun gigantic waves of water rushing towards them. Such a great disaster movie cliche. The third wave is to spread an Avian Flu type virus (otherwise known as the wave when I would just kill myself). The fourth wave is invasion of the body snatchers - don't trust anyone stage. This is the point where the movie starts to drag immensely and I begin to ask a TON of questions: Where are all the animals? What happened to Maria Bello's face? (I love her, and I think she is stunning, so I am hoping this is just bad makeup under terrible lighting). If they were trying to save children, then why did they only take older children? (this one is answered in the 5th wave which I won't spoil for anyone). Why is Maika Monroe doing a terrible impression of a goth Jenna Malone? And finally WHY OH WHY do they turn it into a love story?? That's so unnecessary! Overall, I think the movie could have benefited from some strategic editing, and a little originality, but it's not terrible.

3. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House - I've heard very little about this movie, which I think is a good thing - I had no preconceived notion of it. I added it to my Netflix list a few weeks ago, but then as I was scrolling through, I noticed that it starred Ruth Wilson and I immediately watched it. I love her so much. She was excellent on Luther, but I think she is stunning on The Affair (still a good show, but nowhere near the first season's brilliance). This movie centers around a hospice nurse who moves into an old house with a woman who is dying - this would be an awfully depressing job - just waiting for someone to die, when it could be weeks (or a year!). She begins to notice a stain on the wall, and the old woman starts to refer to her as Polly ("the lady that lives in the walls"). She begins to investigate, and things get creepy, but it's never jump-scare creepy, just unsettling. It's slow, and has this odd, poetic rhythm to it that is hard to get used to, but it works. I'm not sure I liked what Wilson was doing with her voice - she was speaking at an octave higher than her natural voice - it sounded like she was doing a bad Marilyn Monroe impression. Otherwise, she was fantastic. I really liked how it ended with this circular, continuation of the story. I also adore the line "even the prettiest things will rot".

4. Blue Jay - Another Netflix movie that I watched purely because of the star - Sarah Paulson. She is having a wonderful moment in television, but is also making a solid film portfolio. This movie is just her being lovely. It's written by Mark Duplass, who has written some very interesting films (including Jeff, Who Lives at Home and Creep), but unfortunately it stars him as well. I don't know why, but I just still don't like him as an actor - he feels really fake to me. He didn't ruin this movie for me, though. I think him and Paulson have great chemistry, and they make a believable ex-couple. The movie revolves around this ex-couple as they run into each other in their hometown. They spend the evening reminiscing about the good times - laughing at old mix-tapes, telling humiliating tales, and making fun of each other's fashion choices. There is also a wonderful scene of Paulson doing a little rap that is super adorable. The audience begins to fall in love with these two, and wonders why they ever broke up - they seem perfect for each other. It's not until the very end that it gets serious, as their destructive behavior is revealed, and it's all too real. If only they just communicated their feelings...

5. The Jungle Book - I was never a big fan of this Disney classic. It's surprising given my love of animals, but I think it was always a very "masculine" story that I didn't connect with (although so is The Lion King, and that's one of my favorites...soooo....). So, I wasn't too thrilled about a live-action version (I was also not too bothered by it either - I will be the first in line for a live-action Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, etc.). I enjoyed it, to an extent. I loved some of the voice actors used - Idris Elba's sexy-ass voice was perfect for Khan, but the really excellent casting is Bill Murray as Baloo. And just when I was about to freak out that there wasn't any music, they started to sing "Bare Necessities" and all was right with the world. The CG world is very beautiful and reminiscent of The Life of Pi. Bagheera looks identical to my old cat Trouble - she was solid black with these deep yellow eyes that you could just see her little wise soul through. I miss her so much. I didn't realize that Jon Favreau directed this until after it was over - I like him (as a writer, director, and actor), but I don't really feel like he has a particular directing style (which is not necessarily a bad thing, I guess. It allows one many more opportunities). I don't really think this movie will stick with me longer than a week a two, which is ultimately a problem, but I enjoyed it while I watched it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Best and Worst Films of 2016

Here it is everybody (all 12 of you!). My annual Best and Worst Films list. And as always, check back in July when I do an official updated list (once I've actually seen everything I want to see).


1. 10 Cloverfield Lane
2. Nocturnal Animals
3. Deadpool
4. Other People
5. The Neon Demon
6. The Nice Guys
7. Hail, Caesar!
8. Midnight Special
9. Zootopia
10. Demolition 

*Movies that I haven't seen yet that could possibly effect this list: La La Land, Live by Night, American Honey, Jackie, American Pastoral, The Handmaiden, Arrival. Also, I'm still confused about The Lobster's release date - it's clearly listed as 2015 in America but I've seen it on so many lists this year. It would have been on my list for last year (#2 slot), and it would be the in the #5 slot if it's counted for this year. *shrugs shoulders* 


1. Dog Eat Dog
2. Sausage Party
3. Special Correspondents 
4. London Has Fallen
5. Independence Day: Resurgence 
6. Suicide Squad 

*I only have 6 "worst" this year! There are definitely movies towards the bottom of my list if I kept going - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dirty Grandpa, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Jane Got a Gun, Jason Bourne, but they aren't bad enough to be considered "worst" in my opinion.