Reel Quick: 2018 Oscars!

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Like last year, I happened to abuse myself with watching every single Oscar-nominated movie. Even if you’re just a casual reader of this site, you will know that I’m a masochist and for some stupid reason like to waste my time. There has been some decent flicks nominated this year, in my quick assessment, a better slew of movies than last year. The best two I actually saw in theaters—Get Out and Dunkirk. Those two are exceptionally great movies and worth your time seeing. Some others range from decent to great, while others I’m still scratching my head that they were made, much less nominated for a prestigious award. Fucking Oscars. 

The Post (2017)

Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Stuhlbarg

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: The dramatization of the days before the whistle-blown Pentagon Papers were published and the trials and tribulations on the moral and legal repercussions of the classified documents.

Overall: A fine film and one that resonates very well to these recent trying times. A story about free-speech, free-press and doing what’s right, not what’s expected or what’s profitable. Streep is good but not great in this, she’s basically doing nothing for two-thirds of the movie, whereas Bob Odenkirk shines brightly in this and probably should’ve been nominated for Best Supporting Actor. This movie is basically a prequel to All The President’s Men and should be shown to every high school student in history class. But all in all, a forgettable film.

Score: 8 “Tricky Dicks” (out of 10)

 

Lady Bird (2017)

Starring: Saoirsie Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Timothée Chalamet

Directed by: Greta Gerwig

Synopsis: Coming-of-age story about rebellious catholic school girl and her various teen-angst-ridden relationships, especially with her mother.

Overall: I like Greta Gerwig a lot. And this is a fine movie. But nominated for Best Picture? Seriously? I was so bored out of my mind in this. I was hoping for more Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach kind of style but it was hardly worth my time. I heard nothing but great things about this and was rooting for it but it left me so cold. Maybe it’s just because I’m pushing 40 and don’t relate much to these teen stories anymore but I’d like to think probably not. I respect the dramedy genre but not enough good things in the drama or the comedy portions of Lady Bird. Saoirse Ronan was good though trying to emulate what seemed like Gerwig’s teenage alter-ego. Some scenes were clever and funny—like her buying a lottery ticket, a pack of cigarettes and a Playgirl the day she turned 18 just for the sake of turning 18 and the football coach reluctantly taking over the theatre department with awkward results in some scenes. But stuff like that were too far and between and the rest of the movie is boring melodrama.  

Score: 5 “Still not warming up to Lucas Hedges” (out of 10)

 

Darkest Hour (2017)

Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane, Lily James

Directed by: Joe Wright

Synopsis: Set in the very first few months of Winston Churchill’s first tenure as Prime Minister, it’s an accurate account of his struggle to win over support for fighting against Nazi Germany instead of brokering a peace deal. 

Overall: Gary Oldman should (and I dare say will) win his first Best Actor Oscar for this role. He was a power-house as the inimitable Churchill—probably the best portrayal of him I’ve ever seen. However, the movie is mostly like watching a very well-made History Channel re-inactment. It’s all talk and debates. Oldman’s Churchill is so good that it’s really never boring, although I’m a history buff and an anglophile so I’m sure this will leave most American audiences somewhat cold. It’s also a great paring with Nolan’s Dunkirk as this is essentially a prequel to that mission. The only scene that bothered me was the one time they took artistic license and had Churchill chat with London Underground passengers about what course he should take England in the looming German threat to the country. Besides it actually never happened, it was a very cheesy, uber-patriotic scene and changed the tone slightly from the rest of the movie. Otherwise, I would recommend this movie to mostly history and military buffs only. 

Score: 7.5 “Churchill Schmoozing with Common Folk is Weird” (out of 10)

 

The Shape of Water (2017)

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg (again), Octavia Spencer

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Synopsis: A story about what would happen if a mute lady and the Creature From the Black Lagoon fell madly in love… 

Overall: …And gosh darn it, it’s actually charming! Seriously, this is my front runner to win best picture. It was easily the most entertaining with all the elements working great—good acting, engaging well-written story with interesting characters, good music, good balance of humor and drama—the works! Witty as well as decent romantic interludes. This movie encapsulates what an Oscar winning movie should be. Very well made and memorable. I can’t even remember anything that happened in Moonlight last year. But I sure as hell will remember Sally Hawkins and the Gill-Man sealing up her bathroom to fill with water and then making love. Yeah, it’s a weird film but like I said, it was engaging and delightful. Sally Hawkins plays a mute but she shows more emotion than the two wooden stiffs in Call Me By Your Name

Score: 9 “Michael Shannon Basically Plays Michael Shannon Again” (out of 10)

 

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg (AGAIN?!)

Directed by: Luca Guadagnino

Synopsis: A story of a first love for 17-year-old Elio to 24-year-old Oliver set in Northern Italy in 1983. Yep, that’s all.

Overall: I didn’t hate this movie but was bored to tears by it. I seriously cannot understand the appeal here other than the sappiness. It’s 2018 and gay love is way more normal, excepted and commonplace than say 1983, so telling a story about two gay lovers isn’t that compelling anymore. Especially one without conflict. I was expecting, since it is set in 1983 in a very catholic nation, that there was going to be some conflict about these two and their “forbidden love” but that never happened. I thought the age difference (Elio is underage after all) would be a factor—nope. [SPOILER] Even Elio’s folks are A-OK with the romance. This is a great big nothing burger filled with boring gay flirting and stiff (no pun intended) performances. This movie did nothing for me except waste over 2 hours of my time. I mean, why was this movie 132 minutes long? If you can’t tell your conflict-free, twee, soap-opera of a gay romance movie in 90 minutes then you’re doing something wrong. It’s been a very long time since I saw Last Tango in Paris but like Call Me I expected a very interesting or shocking love story and got nothing from it. And speaking of Last Tango which “shocked” audiences with the butter-in-the-butt scene, Call Me had a jerk-off-in-a-peach scene. It was kinda creepy—especially when Armie Hammer took the peach and started eating it. [I’m not joking!] Doesn’t matter if it was a gay guy, that would be gross if Margot Robbie ate that peach. That’s not eroticism in my book, sorry. And I’m hearing so much hype about Timothée Chalamet but I’ve seen him in this and Lady Bird and so far he played mediocre mopey teenager in both. And don’t get me started on Armie Hammer, his name alone sounds like an 80’s gay porn star. I guess if I was going to say anything positive is that the cinematography was good and great use of the Italian countryside. And I hate to say it but I’m warming up to those two Sufjan Stevens songs. Damn it.

Score: 3 “I’ll be Passing on Peaches For a While” (out of 10)

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Synopsis: Local Missouri woman takes justice into her own hands by renting out three billboards to criticize the local police for failing to solve her daughter’s rape and murder.

Overall: Another movie that is getting a lot of over-hyped praise. Again, a fine movie but not a great one either. It tries very hard to be Coen Brother-esque and part of me thinking that is two-fold: the casting of Coen regular McDormand and the fine line between comedy and drama. Woody Harrelson is the stand-out in this picture for me and hope he wins Best Supporting Actor. Rockwell was good too but his character arc was not forgiving enough for me to care. There’s a lot to like in this movie, I’ll give it that but for a movie with a bigger social message that it’s trying to make, it kinda falls flat. The last third or so is very disappointing since I thought it was going in one direction and ended up completely different from what I expected. And Dinklage is in here basically as the token dwarf to be a butt of a few jokes. He deserves better than that. So all in all I would recommend it but I wouldn’t go even close to say that it should win best picture.

Score: 5 “Nice to See Mac’s Mom Playing the Same Exact Character From It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (out of 10)

 

Phantom Thread (2017)

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener

Directed by: Jordon Peele

Synopsis: Fashion designer falls for a lady and ….

Overall: What. The. Fuck. Seriously. Everything Jennifer Lawrence said in that Marc Maron interview is spot-on. This was such a slog to sit through. Paul Thomas Anderson failed miserably. I can’t believe Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring with this movie. It’s basically 2+ hours of him being aloof and berating this woman that he falls in love with when he clearly does not want to be in love. All set in the very enthralling 1950’s London fashion scene. I was on the edge-of-my-seat when he was sewing that garment together. Look, I’m half-joking here but really, why is this an Oscar-nominated movie for Best firkin’ Picture? Besides being weird and out-of-place, it’s boring and the characters are totally dull. Dull doesn’t even begin to describe this movie. This is basic Oscar pretentiousness 101. There is nothing to take from this movie of note or remembrance. In fact, I want to forget that this movie ever happened immediately.

Score: 1 “Fuck Off” (out of 10)

 

Get Out (2017)

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Synopsis: African-American Man dating a white woman meets her family with some ill-fated results.

Overall: I saw this back a year ago when it was in theaters and I don’t know why I didn’t review it other than we both have slacked off considerably this past year. It was probably A. It’s a great movie and mostly everyone knows and agrees and B. Just laziness. But seriously if you haven’t seen Get Out, do yourself a favor and check it out. I’m still shocked that the stodgy old Academy actually remembered this film and nominated it. I could be cynical and say it was because it was a stand-out Black-orientated movie. Like Lady Bird is the the stand-out Woman-orientated movie and Call Me By Your Name is the stand-out Gay-orientated film and The Shape of Water is your stand-out Gill-Man-orientated movie. Look, I don’t want to be cynical and these movies are mostly well-made but it does somewhat smell like affirmative action sometimes with these awards shows. Instead of these movies being nominated solely on artistic merit, they seem cherry-picked by what category of race, color, orientation or creed they seem to fit with. And that’s just lame.

Score: 9 “Running Extremely Fast Towards Someone in the Middle of the Night For No Apparent Reason” (out of 10)

 

Honorable(?) Mention:

The Florida Project (2017)

Starring: Willem Dafoe

Directed by: Sean Baker

Synopsis: This loose plot follows the day-to-day life of a six-year-old girl and her white trash mother as they live in a Kissimmee Motel on the outskirts of Walt Disney World.

Overall: Because of Willem Dafoe’s nomination I wanted to check this out and boy did I pick a winner. Halfway through I was so ready to just hate the fuck out of it and turn it off then I somehow did a 180 and now I really like this piece of shit. And don’t get me wrong, it is a piece of shit. There’s hardly any plot or character development and I really think this was a prank on poor Willem. His performance was so good as the cranky manager of the motel that I feel like he was just researching a role for another movie and he really had to manage and deal with these degenerates. At first, you feel sad for this little precocious girl and her poor friends but then you realize that they are all assholes and deplorable people, then midway through I found myself really wanting something bad to happen to them. But by the end I was so numb by this wacky movie that I didn’t care if they lived or died or whatever. But what I liked about this movie was not that it was So-Bad-Its-Good because it’s not bad in that vein per se, but at how unconventional, amateurish and how brash it is. It’s basically a Maury Povich episode set at a sleazy motel.

Score: 6 “Bringing your Disney World Magic Bands With You When You Solicit a Blow Job From Some Chick Living at a Motel” (out of 10)

 

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