Okay, after watching as many movies as I can cram into my brain in a relatively short period of time (actually, The Florida Project is still playing), I’m ready to make some choices here. I don’t want to name any names, but I was slowed down in my viewing by a certain usual movie-going companion who informed me at the last minute that he was abandoning me for the Winter Olympics, and would not only be watching every Men’s Hockey game this year, but the Women’s Hockey as well. How could I, as a feminist, complain about that? Yay, for women’s sports equality! Boo for it interfering with Oscar movie viewing season, and viewing partners who don’t schedule their time wisely!
Anyway, I eventually gave up on waiting for him and mostly went on alone, while the US Women took Gold in Hockey. 🎉 They were able to do so because people have made equality in girl’s and women’s sports a big deal and fought hard for decades, plus the federal government has required public schools to provide girls with equal opportunities in sports since the seventies. Sports are viewed as important to male development in many ways, so it’s obvious to argue that access is an important aspect of female equality.
I, Tonya is the tragicomic, mostly, sorta true story of the rise and fall of an American woman and Olympic figure skater who has it all, then loses it, due to circumstances both within and beyond her control. It tells a timeless story of love, loss, ambition, rivalry, greed, classism, misogyny and sheer stupidity. Though the stupidity is mostly on the part of the skater’s male associates, most of the negative consequences for that stupidity fall onto her. That’s the timeless part of the story, as blaming the woman for everyone else’s mistakes is a cultural tradition that goes all the way back to the bible.
Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) was four years old when her mother, LaVona (Alison Janney) hired her first skating coach, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson), and began pressuring her to excel at the sport. Her mother verbally and physically abused her throughout her childhood and forced her to focus on figure skating as the most important aspect of her life, more important, even, than her education. Tonya spent most of her time training, despite how difficult the family’s poverty made it for them to continue to afford her skating career.
The Shape of Water * 2017 * Rated R * 2 Hours 3 Minutes
😸😸😸😸😸 Rated 5/5 Happy lap cats
The Shape of Water is a dreamy fairy tale directed by Guillermo del Toro, who also wrote the screen play, along with Vanessa Taylor. It’s more Grimms’ Brothers than Disney, but has additional layers of Cold War era tropes that are deconstructed over the course of the film, so that by the end of the story many truths are revealed
The Shape of Water takes place in Baltimore, in the year 1962, the height of Cold War paranoia and espionage. Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute maid who uses sign language to speak and works as a custodian in a government research facility. Despite her disability (she’s been mute since birth and has a series of scars on her neck), lack of family (she was found abandoned by a river as an infant), and lack of wealth, she has a rich imagination and a few good friends. Her best friends are her chatty coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her starving artist neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins).
I was a kid when the Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers were big news, and in junior high school when the Watergate scandal seemed to go on forever. As an adult, I understand the importance of these events, but, as they were happening, they bored me to tears. At a time when our entertainment options were limited, the struggles of the Nixon administration took over the airwaves for years.
So I don’t seek out movies like The Post. However, silly me, I married a political junkie, and Mr Metawitches loves a political thriller or a political history film. This review will be heavy on his insight, since this is his genre. Given all of that, it’s impressive that The Post kept me engrossed for the entire movie, with its perfectly timed pacing, snappy dialogue, and enough intrigue to turn the story into a political thriller.
The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, follows the story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 by The NY Times and The Washington Post. The Pentagon Papers, top secret documents which exposed the futile nature of the US involvement in the Vietnam War, and the lies that were told over the course of various presidential administrations to cover this up, had been leaked to both newspapers by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the study and had access to the finished product.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned this Oscars season, it’s that the current generation of filmmakers are certain that the past was sepia-toned and covered with a misty film of dust, which sometimes added a soft glow, and sometimes thickened to dirt or mud. Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten, is the dustiest and crustiest of the films which follow this trend. It’s very entertaining, but it’s steeped in its own sense of importance.
This biographical film tells the story of Winston Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) first few weeks as Prime Minister of Britain, after Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) has been forced to resign in 1940 because of his preference for appeasement of the Nazis. Churchill is invited by King George VI, known to those closest to him as Bertie (Ben Mendelsohn), to become the next Prime Minister. He accepts, and begins an awkward, strained relationship with the King and virtually everyone else in the British government.
Call Me by Your Name * 2017 * Rated R * 2 hours 11 Minutes
😸😸😸😸½ Rated 4½/5 Happy lap cats
Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino and with a screenplay by James Ivory, is a beautiful movie in many ways. The film, which is adapted from André Aciman’s novel, is a character study and coming of age story that follows a 17 year old boy as he explores his sexuality and falls in love with his father’s summer graduate assistant, a 24 year old man. It takes place in 1983 in a small town Northern Italy, which is so lovely it seems almost idyllic, except that the couple have to keep their relationship a secret and can’t even kiss in front of others.
Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his family spend summers and holidays on the estate that his mother inherited, in the town of Crema. The region embodies every gorgeous thing you’ve ever heard about Italy. The film is brimming with old stone work, old tile work, newly discovered ancient statuary, turquoise waters, orchards dripping with fruit, golden sunshine, and patios with tables overflowing with delicious fresh food and wine. Even the rainy days are perfectly enticing times to sit by the antique fireplace and listen to Elio’s mom, Annella (Amira Casar), translate medieval romance novels.
Lady Bird, the semi-autobiographical coming of age story written and directed by Greta Gerwig, is a perfectly constructed film that does exactly what it sets out to do, and does it beautifully. It’s a counterpart to the many, many thoughtful male coming of age stories that have been filmed over the years. The most recent one that comes to mind is Richard Linklater’s acclaimed 2014 film Boyhood.
Except Boyhood was so long and dragged so much that I don’t think I even finished watching it, while Lady Bird is a brief 93 minutes that’s evenly paced, charming and has no padding. Lady Bird follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson through her senior year in high school, as she navigates life in a liberalish Catholic high school; tries on various identities and friendship cliques; dreams about life in a more exciting, glamorous place than her hometown of Sacramento, California; and tests the waters of sex and romance.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri * 2017 * Rated R * 1 Hour 55 Minutes
😸😸😸🌑🌑 Rated 3/5 Happy lap cats
Let me start out by saying this won’t be a traditional review and it will contain spoilers. This film is difficult for me to write about, and I almost skipped it. But I set a goal to watch and write about as many of the 2018 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees as possible, so here we are.
This film is the epitome of what’s wrong with Hollywood, the system of film criticism, and the awards organizations in this century. It’s a prestige film by every measure, awards bait that’s worked. It was written and directed by Tony-nominated playwright Martin McDonagh. It stars three respected actors, Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell in roles that call on them to give their all. It tackles some of the hot button topics of the day in a unique, original way. It’s a dark dramedy with a script filled with witty banter and poignant moments, as you’d expect from an acclaimed playwright. That’s why I looked past my anger enough to give it a 3/5 rating. I’ll probably debate with myself over that rating forever, and think it should’ve been a 2/5.
But it left me so angry that I had nightmares overnight, and I never have nightmares. The film should really be titled Two Racist Cops in the Good Old Boy Midwest, because that’s what it’s actually about. Sure, we see a lot of Frances McDormand’s Mildred, but she doesn’t get the redemption arc or the character growth that Sam Rockwell’s racist cop does. She’s a rage monster running around town ruining everyone else’s lives with her inappropriate anger.
The film Dunkirk, written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception) is a 1 hour and 46 minute long slow motion action sequence. It’s like watching snails race, with stops for a chat about the state of the world and a cup of tea every few minutes. But the snails don’t actually have much to say, certainly nothing that hasn’t been said before, and better, by others.
Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk Beach in France in 1940, early in World War 2. 400,000 soldiers were stranded there, with Germans pressing down on them and not enough ships to get them out. A flotilla of small civilian boats crossed the English Channel to pick up 300,000 of the stranded soldiers and return them to Britain, many more than were expected to be rescued.
The film follows men in the air, sea and on land who are fighting to get the soldiers home. Each element highlights a few characters and their journeys, but doesn’t develop them as compelling individuals. The focus is exclusively on the tasks at hand and the immediate difficulties they face. The only character background we learn is what affects getting the men home. What would, in most movies, be a few small vignettes is meant to pass as the plot of Dunkirk.