Tag Archives: golden globes

Miss Sloane

miss-sloane-32016 Golden Globe nominee Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a notorious Washington anti-regulation lobbyist taking on the biggest challenge of her career when she’s asked to help take on the powerful gun lobby.

It’s timely and potentially divisive subject matter that will surely be attacked in many online comment sections as Liberal Hollywood Elites trying to take your guns away. But, honestly, can’t we use a rational discussion on gun control right now?

Well, you won’t find any of that here. Neither Sloane nor her opponents are particularly interested in facts or rhetoric. They are masters of spin, manipulation, and trickery. Never mind guns or politics, this is really a movie about sleight of hand. It has more in common with movies about magicians, con artists, or thieves  than movies about politics.

Film Review Miss SloanAnd maybe this is supposed to be the point. The only problem is that and Miss Sloane (the movie) seems to love the thrill of the chase as much as it claims to be outraged by her methods. For awhile, this behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to pass a bill in Washington (or keep one from passing) is almost fascinating and thought-provoking but the endless double crosses and Sloane’s nearly superhuman foresight make it harder and harder to take any of this seriously.

Needless to say, Chastain is pretty much the best thing about the movie. Any insight miss-sloane-2we get into her character comes more from her performance than Jonathan Perera’s script. But even she occasionally fails to convince during some scenes where she seems to be acting more for the trailer than the actual film. I can only assume director John Madden is to blame for this given that Miss Sloane also showcases inexplicable overacting from the likes of Michael Stuhlbarg, Sam Waterston, and Mark Strong that I can’t believe made the final cut. You’d think  a director of a Best Picture winner (Shakespeare in Love but still) would have done a better job of reining them in.

Madden may have had trouble keeping control of his hammy cast but he still manages to make a watchable film. It is slickly edited and never boring. And I have to admit, its most outrageous twists are the best ones. It just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. I knew almost nothing about this movie going in and expected something serious and dry. I was anticipating a chore and got a preposterous guilty pleasure that I’m still trying to forgive myself for kind of liking.

 

 

Manchester by the Sea

I knew going into Manchester by the Sea that it was one of the most critically acclaimed American movies of the century so far but I was still somehow surprised by how blown away I was.

Kenneth Lonergan has made a fantastic film about family, grief, and how easy it is to push people away when we’re hurting. It’s one of 2016’s best films not because it has any particularly new ideas or innovative style but simply because it’s refreshingly honest.

Casey Affleck (believe the hype, he kills it in this) plays Lee Chandler, a reclusive janitor who returns to his hometown after the sudden death of his brother (played by Kyle Chandler). Lee is surprised to learn that he will need to be staying home a lot longer than he had planned when he discovers that his brother’s will has named him as the guardian of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). Losing a brother and raising a grieving teenager is further complicated by the memories of unspeakable pain and tragedy that his hometown holds.

Manchester by the Sea isn’t always pleasant but, with its sense of dark humour, never feels like a chore. Lonergan is an expert at finding humour in the unlikeliest of situations without it ever feeling forced. Actually, nothing really feels forced. It’ll make you feel powerful emotions without resorting to sentimentality. Even its non-linear structure doesn’t feel like a gimmick.

And there’s not a bad performance to speak of. Affleck has never been better and his scenes with Hedges are priceless. 2016 Golden Globe nominee Michelle Williams makes great use of her limited screen time as Lee’s ex-wife in her emotionally rawest performances in years.

Go see it!

Golden Globe Nominations

Best Motion Picture – Drama

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

20th Century Women

Deadpool

Florence Foster Jenkins

La La Land

Sing Street

Best Actor – Drama 

 Casey Affleck: Manchester by the Sea

Joel Edgerton: Loving

Andrew Garfield: Hacksaw Ridge

Viggo Mortensen: Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington: Fences

Best Actress – Drama

Amy Adams: Arrival

Jessica Chastain: Miss Sloane

Ruth Negga: Loving

Natalie Portman: Jackie

Isabelle Huppert: Elle

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

Colin Farrell: The Lobster

Ryan Gosling: La La Land

Hugh Grant: Florence Foster Jenkins

Jonah Hill: War Dogs

Ryan Reynolds: Deadpool

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy 

Annette Bening: 20th Century Women

Lily Collins: Rules Don’t Apply

Hailee Steinfeld: The Edge of Seventeen

Emma Stone: La La Land

Meryl Streep: Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali: Moonlight

Jeff Bridges: Hell or High Water

Simon Helberg: Florence Foster Jenkins

Dev Patel: Lion

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Nocturnal Animals

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis: Fences

Naomie Harris: Moonlight

Nicole Kidman: Lion

Octavia Spencer: Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams: Manchester by the Sea

Best Director

Damien Chazelle: La La Land

Tom Ford: Nocturnal Animals

Mel Gibson: Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins: Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan: Manchester by the Sea

Best Screenplay

Damien Chazelle: La La Land

Tom Ford: Nocturnal Animals

Barry Jenkins: Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan: Manchester by the Sea

Taylor Sheridan: Hell or High Water 

Best Original Score

Nicholas Britell: Moonlight

Justin Hurwitz: La La Land

Johann Johannsson: Arrival

Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka: Lion

Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Benjamin Wallfisch: Hidden Figures

Best Original Song

Can’t Stop the Feeling: Trolls (Music & Lyrics by: Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, Shellback)

City of Stars: La La Land (Music by: Justin Hurwitz Lyrics by: Benj Pasek, Justin Paul)

Faith: Sing (Music & Lyrics by: Ryan Tedder, Stevie Wonder, Francis Farewell Starlight)

Gold: Gold (Music & Lyrics by: Brian Burton, Stephen Gaghan, Daniel Pemberton, Iggy Pop)

How Far I’ll Go: Moana (Music & Lyrics by: Lin-Manuel Miranda)

Best Animated Feature 

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life As a Zucchini

Sing

Zootopia

Best Foreign-Language Film 

Divines

Elle

Neruda

The Salesman

Toni Erdmann

Thoughts???? We’re dying to know – meet you in the comments section!!

Son of Saul

A few days ago, I wrote about my experience with the movie Mustang, Turkey’s submission for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. I was a little disconcerted by the hearty laughter from the audience at our local Bytowne cinema at the battle of wits  between a little girl and her mean (and probably violent) uncle. Even though the film’s director takes a hopeful and sometimes humorous approach to some tough material, I was way too nervous for this girl to laugh. I was reminded that night how differently two people can experience the same film.

Competing with Mustang for the Oscar is a film that even the Bytowne crowd can’t (and didn’t) find funny. Son of Saul is set in a Concentration Camp but is unlike any Holocaust movie I’ve ever seen.

There’s so much going on around Saul as he navigates his way through the camp in search of a rabbi who can help him give his son a proper Jewish burial. But we rarely see any of it. First-time feature director Laszlo Nemes used the Academy aspect ratio of 1.375:1, which I’d be lying if I claimed to understand exactly what it means but I gather that it produces an unusually narrow field of vision. The camera is usually either right in his face or right over his shoulder so we can see the camp only from his point of view. We have only the off-camera cries of anguish to remind us of the atrocities in the background. Through the eyes of Saul, there are no Oskar Schindlers, no Roberto Benignis to pretend for us that this is all a game.

This is some bleak material that is expertly shot by Nemes. With a technical prowess that occasionally reminded me of Alfonso Cuarón, I would have expected Son of Saul to move me more than it did. Mustang, for example, may not have the same flawless attention to detail but still managed to elicit an emotional response from me that I just couldn’t seem to manage with son of Saul. I was more impressed with the filmmaking than I was captivated by the story.

Over the Top

Strange things are happening lately.  Sylvester Stallone won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Oscar.  I’ve made Jay return to George Lucas’ glory days and watch the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time, which is something she swore would never happen.  And since these sorts of things come in threes, I like my chances of convincing Jay to watch Over the Top, whiover the topch I just found out is on Netflix.  Especially because Jay is still on oxycontin recovering from her back surgery.

Over the Top is a hidden gem in the same way as a lump of coal.  It was a very 80s attempt to reboot Rocky: take Stallone, put him in another salt-of-the-earth role where his muscles do the talking, give him a wholesome never-quit attitude, and add in Robert Loggia as the villain for good measure.  The ingredients are all here but this movie is absolutely awful.  So awful I can’t help but love it.

First, Robert Loggia.  This is exactly how I feel when I see him in anything.

He was the best (RIP, Mr. Loggia) and he really chews the scenery here.  Which is fortunate because in Over the Top, Stallone shows absolutely no charisma, the arm-wrestling bad guy is the most boring villain you could think of, and the kid Stallone is fighting for is so annoying, spoiled and entitled that you think all the way through that Stallone would gladly take $500,000 to never have to see him again.

over-the-top-poster

Second, trying to get us to cheer for Stallone’s down-on-his-luck arm wrestler is so misguided it hurts.  Is there even such a thing as an up-on-his-luck arm wrestler?  Are any of these guys in good financial standing?  I don’t know how legitimate the World Armwrestling League is, but the champion only gets $20,000.  So that was probably like $10,000 in 1987 dollars.  If you’re driving a semi across the country like Stallone does in Over the Top, I guess you can save money by sleeping in the cab, but how much are you left with at the end of the day even if you are good/lucky enough to win?  Just one more reason you wonder why Stallone wouldn’t take the $500,000 [SPOILER ALERT] rather than selling his truck (HIS ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME) so he can pull a Pete Rose and bet on himself to win the contest [END SPOILERS].  See how much you are going to love this movie?

Third, the music is the worst thing imaginable.  Any song that was cheesy to make the cut for Rocky IV can probably be found on Over the Top’s soundtrack.  No Easy Way Out is literally too good a song to be in this movie.  I didn’t think that was even possible but it’s true.  The featured ballad is a Kenny Loggins wuss rock gem, and the soundtrack also features songs from Sammy Hagar, Eddie Money and Asia.  It is probably the perfect music to arm wrestle to, if you have the urge.  And after watching Stallone [SPOILER ALERT] rock his way to victory [END SPOILERS], I predict that you are going to have that urge.

I give Over the Top a score of one man against the world out of the world.  But since the one man is 2016 Golden Globe winner and 2016 Academy Award nominee Sylvester Stallone, that’s actually a very good score.

 

 

The Peanuts Movie

Charles Schulz’ Peanuts is a comic strip that I grew up with. Charlie Brown and his trademark shirt, Lucy and her advice stand, Linus and his blanket, Schroeder and his piano, and Snoopy and his doghouse – these images are forever ingrained. I expect most of you had the same experience, as the Peanuts were everywhere, including lunchboxes, greeting cards, TV specials, pajamas and sheet sets, and everything else possible. Snoopy Sno-Cones, anyone?

Snoopy Snow Cone final

Charlie Brown says, “I hope you like red flavour, because otherwise you’re just eating ice cubes!”

The heart of the Peanuts empire was the comic strip, and the love that went into that makes it impossible for me to be too cynical about all the rest of the merchandise that was churned out. Charles Schulz loved these characters and as a result, I loved reading about their little adventures from the day I was old enough to locate the comics in the newspaper index, to the day I moved out of my parents’ house. The Peanuts was a landmark comic strip from start to finish, as Jay wrote about in an excellent piece a few months back.

That was way back on The Peanuts Movie’s opening weekend. It has taken until now for me to get around to watching it, mainly because despite how good it looked visually, I kept hearing that The Peanuts Movie didn’t have the comic strip’s heart. The heart that made the Peanuts so special. And now, having seen The Peanuts Movie for myself, my takeaway was that the Peanuts’ heart stopped beating when when Charles Schulz’s did (RIP).

The Peanuts Movie is not bad. It’s well animated and there’s a basic, tolerable story guiding us through the 80 minute-ish run time. And during those 80 minutes we see and hear lots of things we would expect to find here, like the adults’ trombone voices and the characters’ relationships, like Lucy loving Schroeder and pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. But those are the highlights and it quickly became clear that the best parts of this movie are good mainly because they remind you of the comic strip.

Seeing all these old standbys tied together by a basic plot felt strangely similar to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and my complaint here is the same.  Making me nostalgic is neither enough to make me enjoy your movie, nor enough of a reason to have made the movie in the first place. I would have been better off thumbing through a trade paperback of old strips than watching The Peanuts Movie.

So that’s what I would suggest to you: skip The Peanuts Movie and go straight to the source, Schulz’s old comic strips. Because those strips are pure magic while The Peanuts Movie only scores six zig-zag striped shirts out of ten.

The Big Short

If you were one of the many Ron Burgundy fans who felt let down by Anchorman 2, the movie to blame is finally here. Adam McKay, Head Writer at Saturday Night Live during the late 90s and the director of all the most Will Ferrelly of Will Ferrell movies, was not the obvious choice to adapt such a serious book as The Big Short and reportedly only agreed to write a second Anchorman to sweeten the deal.

The Big Short, which I have not read, was written by Michael Lewis and documents the story of the small group of people who foresaw the collapse of the housing market in 2007 and took a giant gamble by betting against the banks. Now, I’ve seen Inside Job, 2010’s Oscar-winning documentary about the financial crisis and I’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street but still manage to get my dividends and my CDIs mixed up. With Inside Job going so far over my head, I couldn’t help but wonder how a writer best known for “Go fuck yourself, San Diego” would handle such potentially confusing material.

It turns out that McKay is the right guy to make a financial crisis movie for someone as financially illiterate as I am. He consistently finds creative ways to pause to explain the trickier concepts, often by breaking the fourth wall with outrageous celebrity cameos of which I wouldn’t dare spoil the surprise. There are enough jokes, often poking fun at the conventions of movies that are “based on a true story”, to hold our attention better than Inside Out or Wolf or Wall Street could hope to without ever abandoning the appropriate level of outrage at how so much greed could cause so much suffering.

How Hollywood could make a movie- a comedy no less- from Lewis’ book wasn’t the only reason to be curious about McKay’s film. It also boasts one of 2015’s most intriguing casts. Brad Pitt, one of The Big Short’s producers, has the smallest role of the four names above the title but stands out for his uncharacteristicallyy understated performance. I didn’t even recognize him in the preview. (I thought he was Peter Dinklage).  I couldn’t help noticing though that casting himself as the one guy who gets that “this is just not right” is becoming a bit of a self-serving habit of his. (See: 12 Years a Slave). Ryan Gosling, last seen in 2013’s Only God Forgives, makes his triumphant return to the big screen. As Jared Vennett, he channels all the handsome-and-he-knows-it smugness that we saw in Crazy Stupid Love and The Ides of March. Come to think of it, he’s versatile enough to have played pretty much any of the major characters so his talents may have been better served with a better part but he plays it well and has some really funny lines.

Christian Bale and Steve Carrell- believe it or not- are competing for the Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical Golden Globe. Bale plays Michael Burry, the brilliant hedge fund manager with Asperger’s who loves to air drum. He’s good but has been better. He plays the eccentric genius a little like he did the eccentric in American Hustle but he has some strong scenes, especially when he starts to let his humility show towards the end. It’s Carrell, though, who steals the show. With the other characters so impressed with their own coolnees or brilliance and so focused on how much money they’re going to make if their gamble pays off, Carrell brings the humanity. He plays money manager Mark Baum, based on Steve Eisman. He’s had it out for the banks ever since his brother lost all his money and jumped off the roof of a highrise. (I’m not sure if that happened to Eisman or not). His shock and anger is palpable in every scene. Because he’s played by Steve Carrell, he’s still funny. But McKay counts on him to remind us that, while laughing at the stupidity and recklessness of Wall Street can be a lot of fun, a lot of real people got hurt.

I’ll be cheering for him on Sunday.