Saturday, December 30, 2017

COMING SOON


I have to say that the poster alone for "Proud Mary", with it giving off a blaxploitation vibe, has me ready to get in to a theater to see this movie. After making a splash in television with her sassy role as "Cookie" Lyon in "Empire' and co-starring in one of the biggest, critically acclaimed movie hits of 2016 with "Hidden Figures", Taraji P. Henson is about to start 2018 off with a major bang with a starring role in this action-thriller. Although this teaser-clip doesn't reveal too much of the plot, as it focuses on Taraj looking sexy and tough in black leather while firing off some serious weaponry, "Proud Mary" has Hanson playing a deadly assassin working for a Boston mob organization. When a job goes wrong, leaving a young boy an orphan, Mary's maternal instincts kick in and causing her some work-related problems. Billy Brown (from TV's "How To Get Away With Murder"), Margaret Avery and Danny Glover (who were last together on screen with "The Color Purple") co-star.

"Proud Mary" is due out in U.S. theaters on January 12, 2018




While I very disappointed with the all-female reboot of "Ghostbusters", I'm a little more optimistic about "Ocean's Eight". This spin-off from Steven Soderbergh's version of "Ocean's Eleven" and the sequels (who produces this film along with George Clooney) stars Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, Danny Ocean's estranged sister and she wants to pull off a spectacular heist at the annual Met Ball gala. But she needs a team and assembles an impressive all-female one that includes Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham-Carter, Mindy Kaling and musicians, Rihanna and Awkwafina. There are plenty of other glittering stars on-board and this looks like it could be a really fun ride.

"Ocean's Eight" is due out in U.S. theaters on June 8, 2018

Thursday, December 28, 2017

THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017)

Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber


Directed by James Franco


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. December 5, 2017 5:30 PM


I remember seeing posters scattered around town in L.A. years ago of an extreme closeup of a scary looking man's face advertising a movie called "The Room". This disturbing image never motivated me to find out more about the film, let alone ever going to see it. Months passed, which turned to years and that poster (and soon a billboard) was still around all over the city.

The word was "The Room" was bad. Really bad. Yet despite it's awfulness, many embraced the film for it's guilty pleasures and soon word-of-mouth turned it into a popular cult film. And now we have a Hollywood movie about the making of this trainwreck of a film called "The Disaster Artist" which reveals the background story on how this fiasco turned in to an improbable hit. Based on the memoir by Tom Bissell and the film's co-star, Greg Sestero, the ever-busy James Franco directs and stars as Tommy Wiseau, that scary-looking man who produced, wrote, directed and stars in "The Room". This black comedy details all the chaos and insanity involved behind this absurd creation while occasionally managing to bring a wilder comic spin with their recreation of these events.

Back in 1998, a nineteen year old, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), living in San Francisco, dreams of being an actor. He takes an acting class and there meets Tommy Wiseau (Franco). With his long, jet black hair, indistinguishable accent and outlandish behavior, Greg finds him utterly fascinating. They become fast friends and both share in the desire of becoming famous actors. Wiseau reveals he has an apartment in L.A. and suggests they move to the city together to make their dreams a reality. While Greg's mother (Megan Mullally) is understandably suspect of this very odd man (who claims to be nineteen as well), Greg jumps at this opportunity and they drive off to Hollywood.

Not long after their arrival, Greg gets an agent (with a brief cameo by Sharon Stone), a few bit parts and a girlfriend (Alison Brie). As for Wiseau, not much happens which leaves him jealous and discouraged. But soon, auditions dry up for Greg and he begins feeling frustrated, wishing some one would write a great starring role just for him. That inspires Wiseau to begin writing a screenplay and the outcome is "The Room". With a major role and an associate producer credit, Greg overlooks the fact that the script is very far from perfect.

After finding a production house, Wiseau, who has no real idea how movies are made, insists on buying all the equipment and hires Sandy Schklair (Seth Rogen) as a script supervisor who ultimately directs much of the film and Raphael Smadja (Paul Scheer) as the director of photography. We begin to see that money is not an issue for our novice filmmaker and spends wildly on his little drama with 35mm film stock, HD digital and green screen visual effects. A cast is assembled (which includes Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson and Jacki Weaver playing the actors) and filming begins. But the production is hardly a smooth ride with Wiseau not knowing his lines, arriving late everyday and even reluctant to provide basic needs for the crew like water.

It's understandable why Franco was attracted to this story of how an oddball underdog, with determination, a seemingly endless supply of funds and an incredible amount of luck, was able to complete his creative vision. As a director, Franco seems to have an admiration and fascination for Wiseau's unrelenting drive, clueless determination and blind faith in his talent. There was not much need here for flashy camerawork or production design so Franco tells the story fairly straightforward, relying on the brilliant comic absurdity of the screenplay by the team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ("(500) Days of Summer", "The Fault in Our Stars") to keep things lively. Franco also surrounds himself with friends, family and colleagues in the cast (with some of the additional famous faces that pop up include Melanie Griffith, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, Bryan Cranston and Judd Apatow) and they all seem to have fun recreating the scenes from "The Room" right down to the smallest, craziest detail. And as an actor, Franco completely embodies the eccentric Wiseau, expertly displaying all of his outrageous behavior and childish quirks, to deliver one of his best performances.

When we get to the world premiere of "The Room" and the apparent drama is greeted with groans and laughter, Wiseau is horrified and disappointed. Yet, Greg (who have come back together after an estrangement following the shoot) reminds him that the most important thing is that the audience had a good time with the movie.  And with the audience applauding at the end of his opus and cheering as he takes the stage, Wiseau is more than willing to accept this compromise.

Without a doubt "The Room", which has gone on to be dubbed "the "Citizen Kane" of bad movies" and this movie will help make the obnoxious Wiseau richer and more famous than he really ought to be and that's my problem with "The Disaster Artist". The film is expertly made, well performed and actually very funny but with his off-putting, gloomy vibe and loopy, accented speech, I really wanted to spend as little time with Wiseau as possible. I couldn't imagine actually working with him and watching all the suffering the crew went through for a paycheck and screen credit became just too much me.

Tommy Wiseau's story may be oddly compelling and a source of inspiration to some but "The Disaster Artist" doesn't really reveal much about this very strange enigma behind the film. In fact, we don't learn anything more about Wiseau than you could gather by actually watching "The Room". And I still have no plans nor interest on doing that. What we do establish is that Wiseau has managed to find incredible success and fame despite lacking any discernible talent at acting, writing or directing. And that is clearly the perfect Hollywood happy ending.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

AWARD NEWS UPDATE


More honors for the best in cinema for 2017 are out with films critics from Boston and San Francisco announcing their picks with "Phantom Thread" getting top honor from Beantown while the Bay City went with "The Florida Project".  The American Film Institute also delivered their annual selection of the ten best movies of the year and the Screen Actors Guild have announced their nominations for the 24th annual awards. What is notable about this year's SAG Award ceremony is that for the first time, there will be a host, Kristen Bell and all of the presenters will be female.

Willem Dafoe continues to collect awards as he won Best Supporting Actor prizes from both Boston and San Francisco and received a nomination from SAG for his work in "The Florida Project" while Laurie Metcalf  repeated the same feat for her excellent Best Supporting performance in "Lady Bird".

Some interesting picks include Daniel Kaluuya selected as Best Actor from Boston critics for his fine work in "Get Out" and he received a nomination from SAG. Andy Serkis was an unexpected winner for Best Actor by SF for his computer-generated performance in "War For The Planet of The Apes" and Margot Robbie received Best Actress recognition from them as well as a SAG nomination for her role as skater, Tonya Harding in "I, Tonya"

Meanwhile, The European Film Awards have handed out their prizes and "The Square", the Swedish satirical drama written and directed by Ruben Östlund, swept by winning all five awards it was nominated for including Best Film and a Best Actor win for a star on the rise, Claes Bang. The film was just recently shortlisted by the Academy as one of nine films eligible for this year's Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar.

AFI 2017 Movies Of The Year:

"The Big Sick"
"Call Me By Your Name"
"Dunkirk"
"The Florida Project"
"Get Out"
"Lady Bird"
"The Post"
"The Shape of Water"
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
"Wonder Woman"

Winners of the 2017 Boston Society of Film Critics:

Best Picture: "Phantom Thread"
Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, "Get Out"
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, "The Shape of Water"
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project"
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, "Phantom Thread"
Best Screenplay: Greta Gerwig, "Lady Bird"
Best Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema, "Dunkirk"
Best Documentary: "Dawson City: Frozen in Time"
Best Foreign Language Film: "The Square"
Best Animated Film: "Coco"
Best Film Editing: David Lowery, "A Ghost Story"
Best New Filmmaker: Jordan Peele, "Get Out"
Best Ensemble Cast: "The Meyerowitz Stories"
Best Original Score: Jonny Greenwood, "Phantom Thread"

Winners of the 2017 San Francisco Film Critics Circle

Best Picture: "The Florida Project"
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, "The Shape of Water"
Best Actor: Andy Serkis, "War For The Planet of The Apes"
Best Actress: Margot Robbie, "I, Tonya"
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project"
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"
Best Foreign Language Film: "BPM (Beats Per Minute)"
Best Animated Feature: "Coco"
Best Documentary: "Faces Places"
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, "Blade Runner 2049"
Best Production Design: Paul D. Austerberry, "The Shape of Water"
Best Editing: Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos, "Baby Driver"
Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, "Get Out"
Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory, "Call Me By Your Name"
Best Original Score: Jonny Greenwood, "Phantom Thread"

Winners of the 2017 European Film Awards:

Best European Film: "The Square"
Best European Discovery: "Lady Macbeth"
Best European Comedy: "The Square"
Best European Actress: Alexandra Borbely, "On Body And Soul"
Best European Actor: Claes Bang, "The Square"
Best European Documentary: "Communion"
Best European Director: Ruben Ostlund, "The Square"
Best European Screenwriter: Ruben Ostlund, "The Square"
Best European Animated Feature: "Loving Vincent"
Best European Short Film: "Timecode"
Best European Cinematographer: Michail Krichman, "Loveless"
Best European Composer: Evgueni & Sacha Galperine, "Loveless"
Best European Editor: Robin Campillo, "BPM (Beats Per Minute)"
Best European Production Designer: Josefin Åsberg, "The Square"
Best European Costume Designer: Katarzyna Lewińska, "Spoor"
Best European Hair & Make-Up Artist: Leendert van Nimwegen, "Brimstone"
Best European Sound Designer: Oriol Tarragó, "A Monster Calls"

The 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominations:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:

"The Big Sick"
"Get Out"
"Lady Bird"
"Mudbound"
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role:

Timothée Chalamet, "Call Me by Your Name"
James Franco, "The Disaster Artist"
Daniel Kaluuya, "Get Out"
Gary Oldman, "Darkest Hour"
Denzel Washington, "Roman J. Israel, Esq."

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role:

Judi Dench, "Victoria & Abdul"
Sally Hawkins, "The Shape of Water"
Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Margot Robbie, "I, Tonya"
Saoirse Ronan, "Lady Bird"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role:

Steve Carell, "Battle of the Sexes"
Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project"
Woody Harrelson, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water"
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role:

Mary J. Blige, "Mudbound"
Hong Chau, "Downsizing"
Holly Hunter, "The Big Sick"
Allison Janney, "I, Tonya"
Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture:

"Baby Driver"
"Dunkirk"
"Logan"
"War for the Planet of the Apes"
"Wonder Woman"

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017 NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY

With the goal to showcase the extraordinary diversity and creativity of America’s film heritage and to preserve these films, the National Film Registry have selected twenty-five more films to be added to the list of diverse and important works of cinema that will be stored in the Library of Congress. These include the Kevin Costner baseball fantasy, "Field of Dreams"; "Dumbo", Disney's animated classic of a flying elephant with giant ears; the groundbreaking interracial romantic drama, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"; the action-thriller, "Die Hard" that made Bruce Willis a movie star; Spike Lee's moving documentary on the tragic 1963 church bombing in Alabama, "4 Little Girls"; the 1978 live-action feature film on the Man of Steel, "Superman"; Elia Kazan’s study of anti-Semitism, "Gentleman’s Agreement" and the ill-fated romance that involves a ship and an iceberg which became one of the biggest box-office hits of all-time, "Titanic" are just a few of the titles selected.

Spanning the period between 1905-2000, these films have been named because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance and with these selections brings the number of films in the registry to 725. Here is the complete list of the films selected to the 2017 National Film Registry:

"Ace in the Hole (aka Big Carnival)" (1951)



"Boulevard Nights" (1979)



"Die Hard"(1988)
"Dumbo" (1941)
"Field of Dreams" (1989)



"4 Little Girls" (1997)
"Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection" (1920's and 1930's)
"Gentleman’s Agreement" (1947)



"The Goonies" (1985)
"Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" (1967)
"He Who Gets Slapped" (1924)
"Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street" (1905)
"La Bamba" (1987)



"Lives of Performers" (1972)
"Memento" (2000)



"Only Angels Have Wings" (1939)
"The Sinking of the Lusitania" (1918)
"Spartacus" (1960)
"Superman" (1978)



"Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser" (1988)
"Time and Dreams" (1976)
"Titanic"(1997)
"To Sleep with Anger" (1990)



"Wanda" (1971)
"With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain" (1937-1938)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

GREAT PERFORMANCES: THE YEAR OF HORROR


Inspired not only by the great success of horror films this year but also by many of the frightening and horrific political activities that have been happening not only here in the U.S. but in much of the rest of the world, The New York Times magazine has used this popular genre for their annual Great Performances issue.


Times film critics, A.O. Scott and Wesley Morris have selected the ten actors who made an incredible impact with some of the year's best performances. And filmmaker, Floria Sigismondi has photographed each actor, Daniel Kaluuya ("Get Out"), Nicole Kidman ("The Beguiled", "The Killing of a Sacred Deer"), Tiffany Haddish ("Girls Trip"), Jake Gyllenhaal ("Stronger"), Daniela Vega ("A Fantastic Woman"), Brooklynn Prince ("The Florida Project"),  Timothée Chalamet ("Call Me By Your Name"), Andy Serkis ("War For The Planet of The Apes"), Cynthia Nixon ("A Quiet Passion") and Saoirse Ronan ("Lady Bird") in interesting short films with a horror setting. To read why they were selected and to see the photos and videos, click below:

Great Performances: The Year of Horror

Thursday, December 7, 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)

Written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon


Directed by Zack Synder


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. November 21, 2017 5:45 PM



"Justice League", Zack Synder's chaotic and uninspired gathering of DC Comics superheroes, was supposed to be the icing on the cake. After reintroducing Superman to a new generation with "Man of Steel", followed by a new Batman in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" which also brought Wonder Woman (and very briefly, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) to our attention, this film was destined to be the thrilling adventure fans had been highly anticipating. However, that has not come to pass. While those previous films were hardly great, "Justice League" ends up being the worst of them all. Sluggish pacing and a colorless script that features a very generic villain has made finally seeing all these classic heroes together in one film a decidedly disappointing experience.

Our story continues where "Dawn of Justice" left off with the world still reeling from the death of Superman when a new evil threat arrives to try and take over the planet. Steppenwolf (a CGI creation voiced by Ciarán Hinds), a powerful alien, seeks to collect and unify the energies of three Mother Boxes hidden in locations around the world with the aid of his army of Parademons, a kind of extraterrestrial flying monkeys, which will ultimately make him unstoppable.

One location is on the island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. Lead by Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), these female warriors fight valiantly against Steppenwolf but he's far too formidable and he takes the first box. The Queen manages to get a message to her daughter, Diana, better known to the world as Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), warning her of the danger. She goes to Bruce Wayne, who secretly is Batman (Ben Affleck), "the Dark Knight" and both decide they will need to recruit a few others with some significant muscle to help stop Steppenwolf.

Wayne travels to Iceland to persuade the legendary "Aquaman", a super-human who can live on land or in the sea. Usually seen as a blond wholesome figure, this Arthur Curry, as played by Jason Momoa, is a long-haired and tatted-up type who's gruff and doesn't play well with others. Meanwhile, Diana locates Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), a former college football star who was severely injured in a car accident and saved by his scientist father (Joe Morton) by merging his damaged body with robotic parts, making him a brooding, super-powered Cyborg. With both declining the offer to join the team, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) or otherwise known as "The Flash", an enthusiastic teenage nerd with the ability to move at lightning speed, is more than willing to help with the fight.

They both eventually come around after Steppenwolf gets the second Mother Box that was secured in the underwater world of Atlantis despite Aquaman's attempt to stop him. And Cyborg knows where the final box is; he had hidden it after his father had used it to help save him following his accident. Batman decides they should use the box to revive the Man of Steel as they desperately need his help to defeat Steppenwolf although some are concerned about his mental state once he's resurrected.

Zack Snyder was in the middle of post-production on "Justice League" when a horrific family tragedy caused the director to withdraw from completing the film. Joss Whedon, who's had plenty of experience with sci-fi and super-heroes having worked on Marvel's "The Avengers" and the sequel, was brought on board to finish the project. Whedon wrote some additional scenes and assembled the cast back together for some re-shoots. However, Henry Cavill, who reprises his role as Superman in this film, was in the middle of shooting another sequel to "Mission: Impossible" and had grown an elaborate beard for his part and couldn't shave. CGI was used to remove the out-of-place facial hair but there are moments in a few scenes that has left Mr. Cavill's handsome jawline noticeably misshapen. It's these little things that add up to making the film feel oddly disjointed and erratic.

It's written in the DNA of comic book stories that the malevolent villain will ultimately be defeated and our heroes will once again rise to a new challenge. So what makes each story in these films interesting is the witty banter and emotionally charged moments between the characters and the rip-roaring, visually-enhanced battles these heroes engage in. While "Justice League" delivers plenty of bold visual stimulation, the camaraderie between the members of this team is lacking, with little more than indifference and petty sniping going on between them. There are some occasional funny bits scattered throughout (most likely thanks to Mr. Whedon) including a particularly hilarious scene involving Aquaman and Wonder Woman's magic lasso but not nearly enough to lighten the heavy mood.

Also like the previous films, there is still a serious problem with female characters. With the exception of our favorite Amazon, the significant roles for women featured, which includes Amy Adams and Diane Lane returning as Superman's girlfriend and adoptive mother, are not given anything substancial to do but look sad and weepy.

While "Justice League" may captivate and entertain with high-flying yet routine battles between good versus evil, it's just doesn't offer much more than that. The major flaw is that the film doesn't invest enough time in helping us engage with our heroes or making them characters we actually want to get to know better. The true inspiration seems to be simply manufacturing another cog in the money-making machine of super-hero features, creating a satisfactory yet far from superior product.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

MORE AWARD NEWS


With award season starting to move in to high gear, the critic groups on both coasts have weighted in and have announced their picks for the best of the year. On November 30th, The New York Film Critics Circle selected Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age comedy, "Lady Bird" as Best Film while The Los Angeles Film Critics Association today have picked the romance, "Call Me By Your Name". This is hardly the only place they had differing opinions as each group had their own selections in most categories but did manage to agree on a few. They both picked Timothée Chalamet as Best Actor for his sensitive portrayal of a young teenager discovering himself in "Call Me By Your Name" and Willem Dafoe as Best Supporting Actor for his outstanding performance in "The Florida Project". They also agreed on Best Foreign-Language Film with "BPM (Beats Per Minute)", which looked at the ACT-UP AIDS activists in France although it tied with the Russian film, "Loveless" as LA's pick along with Best Documentary for Agnès Varda and JR with their joint venture, "Faces Places".

The most noteworthy selection was from New York with them picking Tiffany Haddish as Best Supporting Actress for her hilarious turn in the road-trip comedy, "Girls Trip". I'm hoping this will lead to her building some momentum to get that Oscar nod much like Melissa McCarthy who received a helpful boost from critics to ultimately getting a nomination for her very funny performance in "Bridesmaids".

The NYFCC Awards will be given out at a gala dinner on January 3 at Tao Downtown. The LAFCA will hand out the prizes at their annual gala on January 13 at the InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles.

Here is the complete list of the 2017 New York Film Critics Circle winners:

Best Film: "Lady Bird"
Best Director: Sean Baker, "The Florida Project"
Best First Film: "Get Out"
Best Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, "Phantom Thread"
Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet, "Call Me by Your Name"
Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan, "Lady Bird"
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project"
Best Supporting Actress: Tiffany Haddish, "Girls Trip"
Best Cinematography: Rachel Morrison, "Mudbound"
Best Foreign Language Film: "BPM (Beats Per Minute)" (France)
Best Documentary: "Faces Places"
Best Animated Film: "Coco"

Here is the complete list of the 2017 The Los Angeles Film Critics Association winners:

Best Picture: "Call Me By Your Name"
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, "The Shape of Water" and Luca Guadagnino, "Call Me By Your Name" (tie)
Best Screenplay: Jordan Peele, "Get Out"
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, "The Shape of Water"
Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet, "Call Me By Your Name"
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project"
Best Cinematography: Dan Laustsen, "The Shape of Water"
Best Editing: Lee Smith, "Dunkirk"
Best Production Design: Dennis Gassner, "Blade Runner 2049"
Best Foreign-Language Film: "BPM (Beats Per Minute)" (France) and "Loveless" (Russia) (tie)
Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film: "Faces Places"
Best Animated Film: "The Breadwinner"
Best Music/Score: Jonny Greenwood, "Phantom Thread"

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

AWARD SEASON BEGINS


While it has not been theatrically released yet, "The Post", Steven Spielberg’s look at the Washington Post taking the lead in exposing the Pentagon Papers, impressed the National Board of Review enough for them to select it as the Best Film of 2017. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, who play Post publisher, Katherine Graham and the paper's editor, Ben Bradlee, took the Best Actress and Best Actor prizes for their roles in the film. "The Post" is due on December 22nd in limited release before rolling out nationwide in January.

In a pleasant and well-deserved surprise, actress, Greta Gerwig was selected as Best Director for her amazing coming-of-age dramedy, "Lady Bird", her directorial debut while Jordan Peele took the Directorial Debut prize for "Get Out", his reflective horror flick that examines race relations.

Both films are also well represented with nominations for the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards with "Get Out" receiving five and "Lady Bird" received four with both nominated for Best Feature. Laurie Metcalf won the Best Supporting Actress prize from NBR and a nomination from the Spirit Awards for her performance in "Lady Bird" as the harried mother. Another film not yet seen publicly, "Phantom Thread" was given the Best Original Screenplay by NBR with this drama (due out on Christmas day) by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson being noteworthy and highly anticipated because it will feature the apparent last screen performance by three-time Oscar winner, Daniel Day-Lewis.

Meanwhile on the other side of the globe, The European Film Awards have previously announced their nominations of the best films of 2017 that originated from their continent. Four of the Best European Film nominees have been selected to represent their countries for Oscar as Best Foreign-Language Film (with "The Other Side of Hope" from Finland not getting that opportunity).

The National Board of Review Awards gala, hosted by Willie Geist, will be on January 9, 2018 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. The Spirit Awards will air live on IFC from the Santa Monica beach on March 3rd and will be hosted by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney for a second year in a row. The 30th annual European Awards will be held on December 9th in Berlin.

Winners of the 2017 National Board of Review:

Best Film: "The Post"
Best Director: Greta Gerwig, "Lady Bird"
Best Directorial Debut: Jordan Peele, "Get Out"
Best Original Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, "Phantom Thread"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, "The Disaster Artist"
Best Actor: Tom Hanks, "The Post"
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, "The Post"
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project"
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"
Best Cast Ensemble: "Get Out"
Best Animated Feature: "Coco"
Best Foreign Language Film: "Foxtrot" (Israel)
Best Documentary: "Jane"
Best Breakthrough Performance: Timothée Chalamet, "Call Me By Your Name"
Freedom of Expression: "Let it Fall: Los Angeles, 1982-1992" and "First They Killed My Father" (tie)
Spotlight Award: "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot

2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations:

Best Feature

"Call Me By Your Name"
"Get Out"
"Lady Bird"
"The Florida Project"
"The Rider"

Best First Feature

"Columbus"
"Ingrid Goes West"
"Menashe"
"Oh Lucy!"
"Patti Cake$"

Best Director

Sean Baker, "The Florida Project"
Jonas Carpignano, "A Ciambra"
Luca Guadagnino, "Call Me by Your Name"
Jordan Peele, "Get Out"
Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, "Good Time"
Chloé Zhao, "The Rider

Best Screenplay

Greta Gerwig, "Lady Bird"
Azazel Jacobs, "The Lovers"
Martin McDonagh, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Jordan Peele, "Get Out"
Mike White, "Beatriz at Dinner"

Best First Screenplay

Kris Avedisian, (Story by Kyle Espeleta and Jesse Wakeman), "Donald Cried"
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, "The Big Sick"
Ingrid Jungermann, "Women Who Kill"
Kogonada, "Columbus"
David Branson Smith, Matt Spicer, "Ingrid Goes West"

Best Female Lead

Salma Hayek, "Beatriz at Dinner"
Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Margot Robbie, "I, Tonya"
Saoirse Ronan, "Lady Bird"
Shinobu Terajima, "Oh Lucy!"
Regina Williams, "Life and nothing more"

Best Male Lead

Timothée Chalamet, "Call Me by Your Name"
Harris Dickinson, "Beach Rats"
James Franco, "The Disaster Artist"
Daniel Kaluuya, "Get Out"
Robert Pattinson, "Good Time"

Best Supporting Female

Holly Hunter, "The Big Sick"
Allison Janney, "I, Tonya"
Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"
Lois Smith, "Marjorie Prime"
Taliah Lennice Webster, "Good Time"

Best Supporting Male

Nnamdi Asomugha, "Crown Heights"
Armie Hammer, "Call Me By Your Name"
Barry Keoghan, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer"
Sam Rockwell, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Bennie Safdie, "Good Time"

Best Cinematography

Thimios Bakatakis, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer"
Elisha Christian, "Columbus"
Hélène Louvart, "Beach Rats"
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, "Call Me by Your Name"
Joshua James Richards, "The Rider"

Best Editing

Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie, "Good Time"
Walter Fasano, "Call Me by Your Name"
Alex O’Flinn, "The Rider"
Gregory Plotkin, "Get Out"
Tatiana S. Riegel, "I, Tonya"

Best Documentary

"The Departure"
"Faces Places"
"Last Men in Aleppo"
"Motherland"
"Quest"

Best International Film

"BPM (Beats Per Minute)" (France)
"A Fantastic Woman" (Chile)
"I Am Not a Witch" (Zambia)
"Lady Macbeth" (U.K.)
"Loveless" (Russia)

John Cassavetes Award (for best feature made under $500,000)

"Dayveon"
"A Ghost Story"
"Life and nothing more"
"Most Beautiful Island"
"The Transfiguration"

Robert Altman Award (for Best Cast Ensemble)

"Mudbound"

Kiehl’s Someone To Watch Award

Amman Abbasi, "Dayveon"
Justin Chon, "Gook"
Kevin Phillips, "Super Dark Times"

2017 European Film Awards Nominations:

Best European Film

"BPM" (France)
"Loveless" (Russia)
"On Body And Soul" (Hungary)
"The Other Side Of Hope" (Finland)
"The Square" (Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark)

Best European Director

Ildikó Enyedi, "On Body And Soul"
Aki Kaurismäki, "The Other Side Of Hope"
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer"
Ruben Östlund, "The Square"
Andrey Zvyagintsev, "Loveless"

Best European Actress

Paula Beer, "Frantz"
Juliette Binoche, "Bright Sunshine In"
Alexandra Borbély, "On Body And Soul"
Isabelle Huppert, "Happy End"
Florence Pugh, "Lady Macbeth"

Best European Actor

Claes Bang, The Square"
Colin Farrell, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer"
Josef Hader, Stefan Zweig, "Farewell To Europe"
Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, "BPM"
Jean-Louis Trintignant, "Happy End"

Best European Screenwriter

Ildikó Enyedi, "On Body And Soul"
Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer"
Oleg Negin & Andrey Zvyagintsev, "Loveless"
Ruben Östlund, "The Square"
François Ozon, "Frantz"

Best European Documentary

"Austerlitz"
"Communion"
"La Chana"
"Stranger In Paradise"
"The Good Postman"

Monday, November 20, 2017

EVERY CATE BLANCHETT PERFORMANCE RANKED


"Thor: Ragnarok", the critically-acclaimed third film involving Marvel's Norse God, not only held the number one spot in the U.S. for two weeks but has collected an astounding seven hundred and fifty million dollars at the world-wide box-office to date. Many are pointing to the contribution by director Taika Waititi with adding inspired casting and clever, funny wit to the typical super-hero action for all the success. But let's keep it real. It's all about Cate Blanchett and her vampy and campy supporting turn as Hela, the Goddess of death that truly made this movie unforgettable.

The Australian actress has been dazzling us with many celebrated performances for over twenty years. She first gained attention with her co-starring role opposite Ralph Fiennes in "Oscar and Lucinda" back in 1997 which lead to memorable turns in "Elizabeth", "Notes From a Scandal", "I'm Not There", "Carol" and all those "Lord of The Rings" and "The Hobbit" movies to name a few. Blanchett won her first Oscar for playing Katherine Hepburn in "The Aviator" in 2004 before winning the 2013 Best Actress award for her role in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine".

On stage or screen, Ms Blanchett consistently has left an impressive mark with every performance. I have greatly admired her outstanding talent and even if the film she's in isn't necessarily great, she manages to always make it better simply by her commanding presence. Vulture has examined her work in cinema and has ranked her numerous roles from movies that let her down to the perfect merging of film and performance.

Click below to read:

Every Cate Blanchett Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE) (2017)

Written by Robin Campillo and Philippe Mangeot


Directed by Robin Campillo


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. October 30, 2017 7:30 PM


"BPM (120 battements par minute)", a moving and compelling drama from Robin Campillo, looks back not so long ago on the fervent battle of French AIDS activists against the slow-moving pharmaceutical companies and the ineffective response of the government. It would appear to be an uneven fight yet desperate times call for extreme measures and ACT-UP was ready to do whatever it takes to be heard. Marching loudly in the streets, unannounced visits to high schools to hand out condoms and teach safer sex and splattering fake blood on property are just a few of the activities this group did to get people to pay attention to them. This drama, which won four awards at this year's Cannes Film Festival including Grand Prix (runner-up prize of Best Film) and was selected as France's entry for the Best Foreign-Language Award at this year's Academy Awards, serves as a powerful reminder of those people we tragically lost to this disease and those individuals who fought so that they would not be forgotten.

ACT-UP (which stands for AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was a militant advocacy group formed in the late 1980's in New York. Fed up with the delayed process of medical treatment and the almost complete inaction from the U.S. government on dealing with this health crisis, gay men and lesbians came together, using civil disobedience to protest and demand a national policy to fight the disease. With the French government's reaction to this crisis no better than the States, a Paris-based chapter of ACT-UP was formed.

"BPM" is set in the early 1990's when it was much clearer on how people contracted HIV but there were still very few meds available to help those infected with the most popular being AZT which could be highly toxic and create other health complications. There are rumors of new drugs being developed called protease inhibitors which would prevent viral replication. Yet at the time, many were skeptical of their long-term effectiveness.

ACT-UP was organized as leaderless with actions and proposals brought to the committee to be debated before coming to a vote. And because of this, there is plenty of intense discussions and bickering over tactics and an effective direction of the group with some better expressing their ideas than others. While the group is made up mostly of angry and frustrated gay men, there are also a few concerned lesbians and a mother and her young hemophiliac son there to voice their opinions and lend their support.

We meet several members of this divergent group but the focus is on Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), an understandably prickly, HIV positive young man who realizes his time is limited and doesn't want to waste a moment. He wants to get out and take radical action against all those standing in the way of saving lives. A new member, Nathan (Arnaud Valois) is attracted to Sean and they slowly develop a romance but Nathan is negative which creates some complications to their relationship. And soon, Sean becomes sick. With Nathan and Sean's mother (Saadia Ben Taieb) there to help care for him, we watch in harrowing detail as his body begins to whither and fail him as the lively spark in his eyes is slowly dimmed.

Mr. Campillo began his career as an editor before moving on to screenwriting, doing acclaimed work with director Laurent Cantet on "Time Out" (2001), "Heading South" (2005) and the 2008 Palme d'Or winner and Best Foreign-Language Film nominee, "The Class". Recently he has impressed with his writing and direction on the 2013 drama, "Eastern Boys".

The filmmaker along with his co-writer Philippe Mangeot were both involved with ACT-UP and used their experiences during that time to help fill their story with detailed and accurate depictions from within the group. With so many characters involved, most do not have the opportunity to be fully fleshed out yet there still manages to be a lot of dialogue, particularly during lengthy, passionate discussions at the meetings. While some of this can be informative, it tends to drag the pacing of the film down, losing momentum and feeling unnecessarily drawn-out.

"BPM" succeeds best when we see ACT-UP in action, enthusiastically and creatively causing disruption to make their point. And in between all of the rage, fear and distress, we are also treated to some tender intimacy as we witness the blossoming courtship between Sean and Nathan including their first sexual encounter which surprisingly manages to be quite graphic yet still discreet.

But it is music that is used to transcend and exhilarate. Mr. Campillo shows the ACT-UP members moving and grooving on the dance floor as interludes between the more daunting moments. With their sweaty bodies swaying sensually through colored lights and eyes blissfully closed, we see that this throbbing house music will help keep their spirits up and to offer escape, at least briefly, to all of their cares and worries. One particularly poignant scene involves the use of "Smalltown Boy", the haunting 1984 dance hit from the openly-gay group, Bronski Beat, with Jimmy Somerville's gloriously piercing falsetto still able to shake you to your core.

Friday, November 3, 2017

2017 AFI FILM FEST PRESENTED BY AUDI


This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since the creation of the American Film Institute which was designed to save America’s precious motion picture heritage. After it was discovered in 1967 that less than 10% of American films were being properly preserved for future generations, AFI teamed with the Library of Congress to archive and store these important films. To date, 37,000 motion pictures are now safely preserved in the AFI Collection at the Library of Congress.

The American Film Institute later created a film festival to showcase exciting new films and this year's AFI Film Fest presented by Audi is set to begin on November 9th and concluding on November 16th. The event will be held once again at the TCL Chinese Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

"Mudbound", a historical period drama co-written and directed by Dee Rees, will open this year's AFI Fest at the TCL Chinese Theatre. The film tells the story of two families following the end of World War II living in the rural South who struggle against financial hardships and racial tensions of the day. Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan star.



There are three Centerpiece Screenings: "Call Me By Your Name" from Italian filmmaker, Luca Guadagnino, "The Disaster Artist" by star and director, James Franco and "Hostiles", the latest from director, Scott Cooper.




A tribute to the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris ("The Thin Blue Line", "The Fog of War", "A Brief History of Time") will be held on November 11th along with a screening of his latest, "Wormwood", a Netflix six-part drama series.



The Closing Night Gala will be the world premiere of "All The Money in The World", the latest from Ridley Scott who will also be honored with a tribute and discussion following the screening. Based on the novel from John Pearson, the film recalls the true-life incident involving the kidnapping of the sixteen year-old grandson of billionaire J. Paul Getty (played by Kevin Spacey) and his shocking refusal to pay his ransom. Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer and Timothy Hutton also star.

UPDATE: Due to the disturbing allegations against actor Kevin Spacey, "All The Money In The World" has been cancelled as the Closing Night film. As for the film, in a most unusual move Christopher Plummer has been hired to re-film Spacey's role as J. Paul Getty with the plan to still release the film theatrically on December 22nd.

"Molly's Game", the feature directing debut by writer, Aaron Sorkin has been selected for the Closing Night Gala on November 16th. Based on a true story, Jessica Chastain stars as Molly Bloom who ran exclusive poker games for power players for years before getting busted by the FBI due to her unknowingly having the Russian mob playing at her club. Idris Elba plays her defense lawyer and the cast also includes Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd and Bill Camp.



Two Special Presentations include a conversation with British director Christopher Nolan who is hot right now following his surprise summer hit, the WWII drama, "Dunkirk" and the eighty-nine year old French filmmaker, Agnes Varda will discuss her impressive career following a screening of her latest film, "Faces Places". Ms Varda will also be receiving an honorary Oscar on November 11th.

And for the first time, AFI Fest will be holding an annual retrospective to spotlight an important filmmaker of global significance and this year will be Robert Altman. The late writer/director will have twelve of his most essential films screened: "M*A*S*H" (1970), "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (1971), "The Long Goodbye" (1972), "California Split" (1973), "Nashville" (1975), "3 Women" (1977), "Vincent & Theo" (1990), "The Player" (1992), "Short Cuts" (1993), "Kansas City" (1996), "Godford Park" (2001) and "A Prairie Home Companion" (2006). There will be a discussion following each screening and talent in attendance will be later announced.









There is much more with the best of new features, documentaries, shorts and world cinema to be screened throughout the eight day fest. Tickets for most screenings are free and Express passes are available for purchase. For the complete list of films, to get tickets and additional information, please click below:

AFI Film Fest 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

EVERY COLIN FARRELL PERFORMANCE RANKED


I remember becoming aware of Colin Farrell in a little-seen indie film, "Tigerland" back in 2000. This Vietnam war-set drama, directed by Joel Schumacher, was about a group of young men at a U.S. army training camp in Louisiana struggling to accept their unavoidable fate of going in to battle. The film didn't do much at the box-office but it was well received by critics, with them singling out Farrell, a little known Irish actor at the time, for his role as Bozz, a draftee opposed to the war who doesn't respect authority.

And Hollywood took notice of the smoldering, good-looking actor, offering him parts with the goal of creating a new star. While Farrell has had a few opportunities to shine ("Minority Report", "Phone Booth", "In Bruges","The Lobster"), many of his films were unfortunate and forgettable ("Alexander", "Daredevil", "Fright Night", "S.W.A.T", "Total Recall"). But there is no denying his exceptional talent, which is why he is still very much in demand and working steadily.

With the recent release of "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" which re-teams him with Yorgos Lanthimos, the writer/director of "The Lobster" and Nicole Kidman, his co-star in the Civil War-era remake of "The Beguiled" that came out earlier this summer, it seems like the perfect time to review the career of the now forty-one year old actor. Vulture has ranked the forty feature film roles that Colin Farrell has performed in to date and reveal what they think is his least successful to his finest hour in cinema.

Click below to read:

Every Colin Farrell Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

Saturday, October 28, 2017

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN (2017)

Written & Directed by Angela Robinson


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. October 15, 2017 7:05 PM



Wonder Woman was one of the first female super-heroes to appear in comic-books back in 1941, a time when women were not seen as much more than wives and mothers.  She was the rare feminist character that was highly intelligent, powerful and strong who didn't require a man to fight her battles but still maintained traditional ideas of femininity. William Moulton Marston, an American psychologist and educator, is the man behind Wonder Woman's creation (under the alias "Charles Moulton") and with "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women", from writer/director Angela Robinson, reveals the incredibly unconventional life of the author that inspired this unique hero. Enticing and melodramatic, the film examines the eye-raising, intimate relationship between Martson, his wife and his female student yet lacks a convincing passion and spirit to fully engage this decidedly kinky material.

The film opens with Marston (Luke Evans) startled by a frenzied mob burning comic-books including his "Wonder Woman". This is followed by the professor being questioned by the director of the Child Study Association of America (played by Connie Britton) during an investigation over the effects on children to his questionable comic-book character and the depictions of subversive behavior in them.

We flashback to 1928 when Professor Marston is teaching a course on human behavior involving the dynamics between men and women at Harvard. His wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), also a noted psychologist, works along side her husband at the school as they are struggling to develop a device that can detect if you are lying. In search of a research assistant, Olive (Bella Heathcote), a lovely, sweet-faced student, applies for the job and Marston, attracted to more than just her brain, quickly hires her. Outspoken, opinionated yet insecure, Elizabeth crudely warns the shy young girl not to sleep with her husband. Horrified that she felt a need to even mention the idea, Olive wants to quit even before she starts the job. But after Marston has his wife offer a hasty apology and both are thrilled to discover Olive is the daughter of radical feminist, Ethel Byrne who is the sister of the groundbreaking activist, Margaret Sanger, they begin to work closely together.

Thanks to a suggestion by Olive, they are finally able to get the lie detector to function. And this soon leads to this highly educated couple being unable to deny that they have both become completely smitten and fallen in love with their young protégée.

This is only the third feature by Ms Robinson following her 2004 indie debut, "D.E.B.S." and the Lindsay Lohan disaster, "Herbie: Fully Loaded" the following year. Although she has spent most of her time directing for television, it's hard not to wonder if her gender has played a part in her not having more opportunities in film. This may be why "Professor Marston" has a solid screenplay and impressive performances yet features a fairly generic cinematic vision. One glaring example is when our trio make love together for the first time. With Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" blaring in the background, they come together backstage at the school's empty theater, playfully dressing in stage costumes and shot in glossy, Hollywood-styled soft focus. It's hardly a genuine erotically-charged moment or even a believable sex scene.

Once William, Elizabeth and Olive commit to their progressive relationship, they move to upstate New York where they raise together their children (with each woman having two with the professor) while telling their neighbors that Olive is a widow that they are helping out. A trip in to the city has Marston stumbling upon a tiny shop which discretely sells fetish wear and detailed instructions on the pleasures of bondage which further spurs the professor's imagination. But noisy neighbors, resentment and illness disrupts the idyllic paradise the trio have created in their home.

While no one will confuse these beautiful actors for their real-life counterparts, they are able to bring these people to life with committed performances. Mr. Evans, the Welsh actor and Ms Heathcote from Australia are quite exceptional but it's Ms Hall who is the true standout here. The British actress delivers a fierce intelligence, sharp wit and fiery passion to her role as she struggles with her mind telling her that their romantic liaison is completely impractical while her body is filled with an undeniable desire.

"Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" introduces us to a forward thinking man that greatly admired and respected women, believing that with their superior minds should be in charge of ruling the world. Although this was far from a commonly held belief in Marston's time (and not much has charged in our modern era) but with the two important women in his life that he loved to help fuel his imagination, he was able to creatively bring his extraordinary ideas to realization. The film is not entirely successful in breaking out of the usual bio-pic routine yet succeeds in opening our eyes to other uncustomary ways to love and be profoundly committed in a relationship.

Friday, October 13, 2017

FRANCES MCDORMAND'S DIFFICULT WOMEN


Frances McDormand, the Oscar, Emmy and Tony award winning actress, no longer signs autographs. And if you see her on the street, she will not take a selfie with you. And rarely does she give interviews nor will appear on talk shows.

Yet the New York Times magazine has miraculously managed to not only get the notoriously reclusive actress involved in a fairly detailed profile of her life and career for their Culture Issue but somehow managed to get her to be photographed for the cover despite her continuous claim of hating to have her picture taken.

Now this is exactly what I, and I'm sure all of her legion of fans, love about Frances McDormand. Much like many of the non-conforming characters she has played over her thirty-six year acting career, McDormand can also be a prickly and complicated character full of contradictions. While it's been noted McDormand will not give you a selfie, she will ask your name and engage you in conversation.

I'm sure part of the reason for McDormand's willingness to be interviewed is to promote her latest film, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" from writer/director Martin McDonagh which has been getting plenty of buzz and just recently won Audience Awards at this year's Toronto and San Sebastian Film Festivals. Not only was this role written with her in mind but her appearance in the film is one of her rare starring roles for most of her work has been impressive and memorable supporting parts in such films as "Mississippi Burning", "Almost Famous", "Wonder Boys" and "North Country".

Click below to read:

Frances McDormand's Difficult Women

Sunday, October 8, 2017

MOTHER! (2017)

Written & Directed by Darren Aronofsky


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. September 17, 2017  7:30 PM



Even before I saw the film, I was impressed by the restraint of the trailer for "mother!", the latest from eye-opening auteur, Darren Aronofsky, which disclosed very little of what exactly this would be about. I am one of those people who hate with a passion trailers that heavily details the entire film including revealing key plot points or all the best jokes in the two minute time frame. With star, Jennifer Lawrence featured prominently, it appears that "mother!" could be some kind of fervent horror thriller with a woman in some type of supernatural peril.

After seeing the film, I now understand completely why the trailer was so vague. In fact, it is actually downright misleading. "mother!" is far from the traditional horror film as it was presented and considering some of the previous idiosyncratic work by Mr. Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream", "The Fountain", "Black Swan" or even his biblical epic "Noah") that thought never should have been considered. This is clearly the reason for the divisive audience reaction to the film with it receiving the rare CinemaScore rating of "F".

And so the obvious question becomes what exactly is "mother!" about? That is not easy to pin down. Beginning like an intense marital drama involving mysterious visitors and spooky elements, the film shifts with unrestrained abandon in to a surreal nightmare involving religious symbolism, moral decay, the rapid decline of civilization and the inevitable destruction of our planet. And there is also a surprisingly wicked sense of humor to be found here as well.

Mr. Aronofsky doesn't present any of these substantial ideas in a clearly defined way, preferring to leave the viewer to draw their own conclusions of what this all may mean. While this may leave some of the audience thoroughly intrigued and enthralled, others will most certainly be frustrated and annoyed. And this appears to be exactly the director's intention with his polemic film. I was quite intrigued by "mother!' but I must admit I didn't fully understand everything that was happening. Yet I still loved the wild, trippy and puzzling journey the film took me on.

After images involving fire and destruction (which may make slightly more sense to some at the conclusion of the movie) begin the film, we are introduced to a young woman rising in the morning from bed, played by Ms Lawrence. None of the characters are given actual names but she is referred to mother, although she currently has no children of her own. With a mane of long, voluminous dirty blonde hair, her focus is on supporting Him, her older husband (Javier Bardem) who is a successful author now suffering from writer's block and renovating their large, dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere. She appears hopeful that all this devoted attention will bring her a closer connection with them both.

In the middle of one evening, a man (Ed Harris) appears at their door, thinking there was a room to rent. Instead of sending him away, Him invites the man to stay the night, despite mother being uncomfortable with the idea. With the arrival of man's wife, woman (an excellent Michelle Pfeiffer) the next day, the temperamental couple manages to completely disrupt the household. Him enjoys the company and the attention they provide yet mother is left feeling even more alienated and resentful.

Not long after the couple's two sons (played by real-life brothers, Domhnall and Brian Gleeson) burst in to the house, arguing over their parent's love and future inheritance, does a physical altercation erupt between them, ending with a tragic act of violence. And from here, the film begins to shift deeper in to an expressionist style, filling the screen with an explosion of intellectual reflection and artfully designed visuals.

You can pick up plenty of the cinematic influences that seemed to inspire "mother!" (Stanley Kubrick, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", Luis Buñuel, "Rosemary's Baby") yet the director has brought his own distinctively extravagant sense of technique and communication to his film. With the help of a minimalistic musical score from Jóhann Jóhannsson, sound designer, Craig Henighan and frequent collaborator, cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, they perfectly create an eerie and murky dream-like atmosphere that continuously transforms and unsettles throughout.

Fortunately, Mr. Aronofsky also has a very game Ms Lawrence who is willing to endure quite a lot thrown at her throughout the film. The young actress, shot in tight close-ups and appears in almost every scene, is exceptional as our guide through this unyielding maze of bizarre twists and turns. While for the most part, all she does is react to the madness surrounding her yet she brings a much needed grounded emotional power.

Without a doubt, "mother!" is one of the most imaginative yet polarizing films of the year. This brilliant but confounding drama gleefully challenges, incites and disturbs in ways that is rarely done anymore, particularly by an American filmmaker. I think it may be required to view the film for a second time for the opportunity to reevaluate and discover what may have been missed the first time. Or for some, seeing "mother!" one time was one time too many.

Monday, October 2, 2017

THE 100 BEST SCREENWRITERS OF ALL TIME


I have always believed that if you don't have a complete, well-written script, you will never have a watchable film. This has been proven more times than not yet you would be amazed how many times a movie begins production (mostly due to a pre-set release date), investing millions of dollars, with a script that is not in any condition to actually begin shooting a film.

I think part of the problem is the screenwriter gets no respect. There is this odd, long-held thought process that writing for the cinema is not that hard, pretty much anyone can do it and screenwriters are incredibly overpaid for what they contribute to the film. This is obviously far from the truth and all you have to do is re-watch one of your favorite films or recall a classic line from a movie to realize that not just anyone can create these special moments in cinema. It requires a certain talent and writers are just as important as the actors and directors to make a film memorable and entertaining.

Vulture has put together a list of the 100 best screenwriters throughout the history of cinema and have been ranked by forty of today's top working screenwriters. Some of the usual suspects are included (Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Preston Sturges, Nora Ephron, Charlie Kaufman) but there are names that may not be as well-known (Guillermo Arriaga, Leigh Brackett, Burt Kennedy, Charles Lederer, Jay Presson Allen) but have contributed greatly to the art of screenwriting.

Click below to read:

The 100 Best Screenwriters of All-Time Ranked

Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL


The 55th Annual New York Film Festival is almost ready to begin and will once again present a celebration of cinema with world premieres, documentaries, restorations, classic films and free talks. Beginning September 28th and running through October 15th, the Opening Night Film will be the world premiere of the latest from Richard Linklater, "Last Flag Flying". This sequel of the 1973 film, "The Last Detail", which was based on the book by Darryl Ponicsan (who co-wrote this script with Linklater), follows the same three men who served together in the marines and are reunited years later due to a tragic event. Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne take over the roles that were first played by Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, and Otis Young.



The Centerpiece Selection is "Wonderstruck", an adaption of the young-adult novel by "Hugo" author Brian Selznick from director Todd Haynes, tells parallel stories of two deaf children, one set in 1927 and the other 1977, largely told with minimum dialogue and which ultimately converge in an unexpected way.



The Closing Night Film is another world premiere and it's the latest feature from Woody Allen. "Wonder Wheel" stars Kate Winslet as a frustrated Coney Island housewife whose life is brightened when she meets a handsome lifeguard (Justin Timberlake). But when her husband's estranged daughter (Juno Temple) pays them a visit and has eyes for the lifeguard, complications are inevitable. A conversation with Ms Winslet which will have the Oscar-winning actress discussing her over twenty-year film career will be on October 13th.



There will be twenty-two other features from around the world that are a part of the Main Slate and include new works from Luca Guadagnino ("Call Me By Your Name"), Agnès Varda ("Faces Places"), Sean Baker ("The Florida Project"), Claire Denis ("Let The Sun Shine In"), Noah Baumbach ("The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)") and the feature directing debut by actress, Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird").









Other Special Events include the world premiere of "Spielberg", a documentary that traces the career and artistic growth of one of the world's most famous directors, "Trouble No More", which features newly restored concert footage from Bob Dylan's '79-'80 tour and a new restoration of the classic 1929 German silent film "Pandora's Box" which starred the iconic Louise Brooks.





And for the first time, the fest will feature a retrospective on an important figure in cinema and the first honored will be Robert Mitchum. This handsome and charismatic actor had an incredible career that went on for five decades. Mitchum worked with some of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood and appeared in nearly every genre imaginable. Twenty-four of the actor's best films will be screened including a new documentary by photographer, Bruce Weber, "Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast" which features footage of Mitchum during a photo shoot in the late 1990's.









For tickets and additional information, please click below:

2017 New York Film Festival

Sunday, September 17, 2017

INGRID GOES WEST (2017)

Written by David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer


Directed by Matt Spicer


Where & When: AMC Century City, West Los Angeles, CA August 30, 2017 7:25 PM


"Ingrid Goes West", a wickedly dark satire by writer/director Matt Spicer, takes on the modern way we communicate and connect through social media, examining one woman's extreme and desperate attempts to fit in and be liked. With a deft and wacky performance by Aubrey Plaza that manages to make you squirm and laugh uncomfortably, she plays Ingrid, an unbalanced and lonely outsider who believes that stalking is simply how you make friends today.

When we first see Ingrid, she's sobbing uncontrollably as she clicks "loves" on pictures of a beautiful wedding posted on Instagram. It turns out she's parked outside where the ceremony is being held and marches inside to shriek at the bride for not inviting her before spraying her in the face with mace.

During her stay at a mental health facility, Ingrid writes to her victim, explaining that she's better now and the incident was all just a misunderstanding while hoping they can still be friends. However the reality was that they were never actually friends but Ingrid was convinced due to the bride "friending" her just to be nice.

Shortly after being released, Ingrid is flipping through a magazine when she gazes upon the person who will become her latest obsession; Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a golden-haired, social media darling whose easy Southern California lifestyle is used to influence and inspire her audience.

With the insurance money she received after her mother's death, Ingrid heads out to Los Angeles to meet the woman who she's determined to make her new best friend. She rents a room in the beach community of Venice where Taylor lives from Pinto (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.), an aspiring screenwriter and hardcore fan of the Dark Knight, who takes an interest in her. But Ingrid's only focus is to track down her unsuspecting new BFF.

We are amused, disturbed and mesmerized by Ingrid's bumbling, deceitful efforts to infiltrate Taylor's seemingly perfect life with her slacker artist husband (Wyatt Russell) and the relative ease in which they quickly become actual friends. After adapting many of Taylor's "likes"; vegan food, boho chic dresses, Joshua Tree and Joan Didion, Ingrid is blissfully happy with her new life with Taylor.

But it was inevitable for all this happiness to be interrupted. The arrival of Nicky (Billy Magnussen), Taylor's hunky party-boy brother, puts a wedge between the new best friends. Nicky and Ingrid immediately dislike each other, with him becoming very suspicious of the true nature of her relationship with his sister.

As Ingrid's fantasy life with Taylor begins to implode, she becomes more desperate and her behavior becomes increasingly outrageous. But it also reveals how vulnerable and damaged she actually is, shifting the film uneasily from black comedy to a tragic humiliation. It's no surprise that Ms Plaza, who first found success on television with "Parks & Recreation", effectively uses her quirky charm and comedic gifts to display Ingrid's crazed, relentless actions but the actress also unexpectedly reveals a deep sadness which seem to drive her to such an irrational state.

Los Angeles is certainly an easy target with the town full of self-involved people and social media has managed to make it even easier for them to fill the rest of the world continuously with themselves and their thoughts and ideas. But while "Ingrid Goes West" certainly delivers plenty of awkward laughs and well-played performances, the film never get beneath the surface to reveal any deeper meaning to our insatiable desire to be constantly connected in a virtual reality.

With an ending that is highly predictable yet absolutely perfect, "Ingrid Goes West" humorously captures this current obsession (and the unexpected dangers) with desperately wanting to be noticed by thousands (or millions, if you're lucky) of virtual strangers with the hope that with each "like" perhaps we'll feel better about ourselves.

Friday, September 15, 2017

BURIED TREASURES


While many have been bemoaning this recent lousy summer in cinema with the year-to-year profits down, the attendance the worse it's been in twenty-five years and many lackluster would-be Hollywood blockbusters failed to get audiences in the theaters, there were actually a few intriguing films released over the last three months. Did anyone see "Maudie"? Or "Beatriz At Dinner"? Or perhaps "The Hero" or even "The Beguiled"? These were some wonderful independent films out this summer that didn't open wide, never came close to the box-office top-ten and certainly weren't seen by nearly enough people.

In response to this, Los Angeles Times lead film critics, Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang have selected thirty-five overlooked films or "buried treasures" released over the last twenty years that never received as much appreciation as they deserved. They have stressed that their selections are not necessarily what they consider "the best" but rather to bring awareness to inventive and challenging films that failed to generate wide audience attention or award recognition at the time of their release. Both critics are admitted world cinema lovers (as am I) so their picks have a large number of foreign-language films which sadly tend to be ignored by the average American film-goer. But if you are feeling adventurous and want to discover something new, please check out this list.

Click below to read:

Buried Treasures of the last 20 years in film

Here are a few trailers of some of my personal favorites of these buried treasures:









Sunday, September 10, 2017

WINNERS FROM THE 2017 VENICE FILM FESTIVAL


The 2017 Venice Film Festival has come to a close and with that, prizes have been handed out. The Annette Bening-led Jury has selected "The Shape of Water", Guillermo del Toro's romantic fantasy fable, for the top prize of the Golden Lion or best film. This Fox Searchlight film, which received a warm and rapturous response during it's world premiere screening, stars Sally Hawkins as a mute woman who emotionally connects with an aquatic experiment. Samuel Maoz’s Israeli drama, "Foxtrot" won the runner-up, Grand Jury Prize while British icon, Charlotte Rampling took the Best Actress Award for her performance in Andrea Pallaoro’s French-language feature, "Hannah". Another warmly received film making it's world premiere at the fest was "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and won the director, Martin McDonagh the Best Screenplay Prize. And Xavier Legrand won both the Best Director and Best First Film for his French custody drama, "Jusqu’à La Garde"

Here is the list of the winners from the 2017 Venice Film Festival:

Grand Jury Prizes

Golden Lion: "The Shape Of Water"
Grand Jury Prize: "Foxtrot"
Silver Lion Best Director: Xavier Legrand, "Custody (Jusqu’à La Garde)"



Volpi Cup Best Actress: Charlotte Rampling, "Hannah"



Volpi Cup Best Actor: Kamel El Basha, "The Insult"



Best Screenplay: Martin McDonagh, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Special Jury Prize: "Sweet Country"



Marcello Mastroianni Award for for Best New Young Actor or Actress: Charlie Plummer, "Lean On Pete"

Venice Horizons

Best Film: "Nico, 1988"



Best Director: Vahid Jalilvand, "No Date, No Signature"
Special Jury Prize: "Caniba"
Best Actress: Lyna Khoudri, "Les Bienheureux"
Best Actor: Navid Mohammadzadeh, "No Date, No Signature"
Best Screenplay: Dominique Wellinski and Rene Ballesteros, "Los Versos Del Olvido"
Best Short Film: "Gros Chagrin"
Lion of the Future: Luigi De Laurentiis Award for a Debut Film: Xavier Legrand, "Jusqu’à La Garde"

Venice Virtual Reality

Best VR: "Arden’s Wake (Expanded)"
Best VR Experience: "La Camera Insabbiata"
Best VR Story: "Bloodless"