1. Miss Sloane - Everyone bow down to Jessica Chastain for this powerhouse performance. It's shocking that she wasn't nominated for an Oscar. I would argue that it's because the movie under-performed and was underwhelming, yet, Meryl Streep was nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins and, really, how many people watched that? Emma Stone was my favorite female performance of last year (I have yet to see Jackie, though), but Chastain is so stunning in this role that even Stone is like 10 notches below her level. Like I said though, the movie is just okay. It reminded me a lot of Thank You for Smoking simply because it's about a lobbyist of a controversial issue, but it's not nearly as fun. In fact, it's a little tedious to sit through. From the commercials that I saw, it gave no indication that this story was about fighting for stricter gun laws (although, I didn't see the trailer). I think we are meant to be surprised by the twists and turns, but I found most of them either obvious or inconsequential (meaning I didn't really care). I did appreciate the Newsroom reunion between Alison Pill and Sam Waterston.
2. Knight of Cups - Oh my God, this is just downright painful. Terrence Malick has a unique (albeit very beautiful) knack for telling a story in the slowest way possible. This didn't even feel like a Malick film, though. It felt like a parody of one. The narration is insufferable. The acting is wooden - which says a lot considering the talent. Bale is probably my favorite working actor of his generation (based purely on skill and dedication to his roles), but he is so bland and boring in this. The only part of this movie that brought me joy was that they got Kelly Cutrone for the photo shoot scene. That woman is hilariously straight-forward. I was waiting for her to turn to the camera and say "this movie is bullshit".
3. Florence Foster Jenkins- While I think Meryl Streep did a fantastic job with this role, I don't think it's an Oscar nomination worthy performance. Also, it's a cute movie, but the fact that it's based on a real-life person kind of makes me want to throw up. It's feeding into this disgusting epidemic that rich people can do whatever they fucking want - literally. This rich woman wants to sing Opera at one of the most prestigious concert halls - Carnegie Hall - so she does. Does she have talent? NOPE. But she's rich and she wants to. Everyone just tip-toes around her, feeding her narcissism *just* because she has money. It kind of reminds of that time when that wealthy real-estate mogul turned reality star wanted to be President of the United States just *because*. I mean, imagine if everyone just went along with it and allowed that to happen?!? All joking aside, I feel like this movie is just a gigantic metaphor for the current political climate - it even addresses how some of the "press" was in on the secret, but went along with it because it gave them access to high society. Then, the reporter from the NY Post was supposed to be seen as a villain because he insists on reporting the truth. It's all eerily familiar, and lately I have depended deeply on movies/TV to keep me distracted from the shitty catastrophe that is the presidency and this movie just reminded me of why I need this distraction.
4. Moonlight - So, I don't necessarily agree that this is the best movie from last year. I'm not sure it's even among my top 10 (pretty sure it will be like 12 or 13 when all is said and done), however, it is a beautiful, moving, and powerful story. And Mahershala Ali is wonderful. Back in January, I watched The 4400 (it's a sci-fi show from 2004) and Ali is one of the many cast members, but one of the few that stood out. I didn't even make the connection that he was the same actor that is now getting all this attention and praise (for this, and also Luke Cage). I like that the story is told in 3 parts in a "slice of life" type of way so a lot of it felt unfinished, which can be frustrating for some, but I think the point is focused on these life-changing/defining moments that occur. I do think that the first part is the strongest, while the second part is the weakest - causing the third part to feel a bit disconnected. I didn't really see a strong connection between Chiron and Kevin in the second part, and I realize that's part of the point (toxic masculinity and all that), but it just felt more like a sexual curiosity than a romantic longing. Although, I do feel like I might pick up more on the "longing" part if I watched it a second time (perhaps). Also, I've seen this poster a million times, especially towards awards season, and I never realized it was 3 different faces! LOL. Genius.
5. Denial - It blows my mind that there are actually people in this world who believe that the Holocaust didn't happen (they are even worse than the people who believe that the Earth is flat). I didn't hear much about this movie, but I saw the trailer and it looked powerful. Based on a true story, one that I'm not familiar with, but extremely relevant in today's world. There seem to be a lot of people in this world who want to believe in conspiracy theories and willingly submit themselves to falsehoods all for the sake of....actually, I'm not sure. Entertainment? Attention? It doesn't really matter. To me, most of these people are hateful, ignorant, and dangerous. Weisz portrays a Holocaust historian who is taken to court for refusing to debate a Holocaust denier - causing him to accuse her of libel and slander because she declares "I don't debate fact". It seems that often people claim "freedom of speech" when one wants to spew hatred and lies, but she never denies him his right to speech. It's clear he has no case, but the fascinating thing is that she has to prove that the Holocaust happened (apparently in Europe, the burden of proof lies with the accused...interesting.). Aside from Rachel Weisz's performance, the movie is disappointing. I think it could have gone a lot deeper than it did; instead just focusing on the court case. They could have explained better why they didn't want to have Holocaust survivors as witnesses. They briefly explain it as not wanting to subject them to such hatred, but if the survivors are asking to tell their stories - it seems wrong to me to deny them of this experience. I recently watched the harrowing documentary The Last Days, which is about survivors from Hungary telling their stories, and the thing that struck me the most is the need that they have to tell their stories as a way of healing and closure. Of course, not everyone wants to tell their story, my grandfather was held in a concentration camp (as a Jewish-American POW - even though he was born in Germany. It's complicated), and he NEVER wanted to talk about it. Anyway, back to my point, if they just let them speak, the case would have been easily closed.