Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado



Early reactions to SOLDADO were positive, but the actual reviews were not so. Taylor Sheridan's sequel screenplay is not a bad film, but it is a shadow of its predecessor, which had me at the edge of my seat throughout.

Aside from the nail-biting action and propulsive score of the original (read my reaction to that here), that film had a moral center in the "outsider" Kate Macer, played by Emily Blunt. 
Here we have Catherine Keener in a token woman role, and

the initially obnoxious teen Isabel Moner, left, in the child-in-jeopardy role as the daughter of a cartel lord.

And then there's Alejandro, played by Benicio Del Toro, who takes Isabel's character Isabel Reyes under his wing.


Benicio is always a force of nature in his films, but here, he becomes akin to a human Terminator. Let's just say that (spoiler alert!) not even a bullet to the head is gonna stop this guy.

The film's focus is the duo of Josh Brolin (who apparently packs mucho hair product in the field for his Elvis bouffant) and Del Toro. Stefano Sollimo's direction, while perfectly adequate, lacks the sensibility, sensitivity, and soul of Denis Villeneuve.

There were rumors on Twitter that Emily Blunt might return for SICARIO 3. (Yes!) If so, I'd like to see Katherine Bigelow (below) direct that one.




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Thursday, March 1, 2018

OSCAR PICKS 90th ACADEMY AWARDS 2018

BEST PICTURE
The Shape of Water



Favored, I know, but for good reason--it's wonderful and uplifting--the qualities generally wanted in this category.  Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, who also co-wrote with Vanessa Taylor.



DIRECTOR
Guillermo del Toro
The Shape of Water



It was a tough decision for me among GDT, Christopher Nolan, and Paul Thomas Anderson, but in the end, GDT's overall vision and direction in The Shape of Water swayed me.  Plus I got to hear GDT talk about it in person, his passion, what went into it, the fact that he made it for under 20 million and it looks like 75 million on the screen....



LEAD ACTOR
Gary Oldman
Darkest Hour



Chalamet and Day-Lewis were great, but Oldman as Churchill was the greatest.  A no-brainer.



LEAD ACTRESS
Frances McDormand
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri



McDormand rocked.  Hawkins and Robbie came in second for me.



SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sam Rockwell
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Rockwell knocked it out of the park.  Dafoe is my second choice in this category.


SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Allison Janney
I, Tonya



No contest.


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri




Writer (and director) Martin McDonagh is also a playwright, but reportedly prefers film.  I saw this film twice, read the screenplay, watched it again.  He's a master.  Jordan Peele's innovative, genre-busting mashup Get Out was also very, very good.


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Call Me By Your Name



James Ivory's adaptation was simply sublime.  



ANIMATED FEATURE
Coco



Animation isn't in my wheelhouse, but this one's favored to win.



DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Faces Places



I have to confess I haven't seen any of them, at least not yet, but Agnes Varda?  And this photo is cool.




FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE
On Body and Soul



A Fantastic Woman  (which is very good) is favored to win, but Ildik√≥ Enyedi's film blew me away with its meticulous minimalist style, unconventional framing, and its unsentimental meditation on connection.


CINEMATOGRAPHY
Blade Runner 2049



Just give it to Roger Deakins (at right, with director Denis Villeneuve), already!  My second choice is The Shape of Water (Dan Lautsen).



FILM EDITING
Dunkirk



Lee Smith's work weaving three different narratives and timelines that intersect at times was masterfully intricate.




PRODUCTION DESIGN
Blade Runner 2049 (Dennis Gassner) and
The Shape of Water (Paul D. Austerberry)







Can we just give it to both films?  If not, I have a slight lean to The Shape of Water.



SCORE
 Phantom Thread



Composer Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) has worked with writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson on five films. He's a musical genius.  Second choice would be Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water.



SONG
"Mystery of Love"
Call Me By Your Name



Sufjan's Stevens' song is the most lovely and memorable, IMHO.


SOUND EDITING
Dunkirk



War movies do well in this category.  My other choice would be Baby Driver.



SOUND MIXING



Same as above.



VISUAL EFFECTS
Blade Runner 2049



At least give the film this!


COSTUME DESIGN
Phantom Thread


I think Mark Bridges will win in this category.


MAKEUP
Darkest Hour


The side-by-side photos of Gary Oldman say it all.



SHORTS

I haven't seen them, but the ones below are favored.

Animated:  Dear Basketball

Documentary:  Edith + Eddie
Live Action:  Silent Child



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Sunday, January 14, 2018

WHEN FRIENDS ACT LIKE FOES





We've all been there:

The BFF who doesn't come to your holiday party, and when you call her on it, rebuffs you because she says she's sick of your "wallowing" in anxiety and depression after your husband abruptly left you two weeks before the previous Christmas. 

The friend who invites you over to dinner, but only because the date she was cooking for cancelled.

The best bud who really wants to read the screenplay that you've spent a year and a half working on, but admits to having skimmed it late at night, then tells you he was confused by a number of things and had basically skipped over the stage directions.


Hurtful and/or insulting, right?

The group of friends who choose your ex over you.  (That's a common one.)

The group of friends who ostracize you because they all went to college together and one of them has a beef with you because you made the mistake of hiring him and it didn't work out.  Juvenile, but it's happened.  Apparently blood is thicker than water applies to college cliques as well.


I'm sure there must have been episodes of Friends in which they got pissed off at each other, but what stays with one and why we watch the re-runs are for their ties that bind, at least on the telly, forever. 

Sometimes we can move beyond these slights...unless they're more than slights, unless they deeply wound, unless the friend has become truly toxic or simply isn't someone you recognize anymore, or perhaps is more of an acquaintance whom you decide isn't a very nice person.

But for the slighted or hurt party, nothing can move forward without the Apology from the other.

But then there are the BFFs who respond to being told they've hurt you by becoming defensive and attacking, listing all of your sins and grievances going back to who knows when.  And then you understand their recent instances of passive aggression.

William Blake wrote a poem about this called "A Poison Tree."  The gist of it is that unspoken wrath grows until it kills.

But we don't want our deep friendships to be killed.  What we want is connection.  What we want, what we always want, is to love and be loved.  Take it from Jack White's latest song, "Connected by Love."  Its wonderful video is below:



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