Beautiful Boy (2018)

Beautiful Boy

The only thing nearly as strong as the father/son relationship is the chemistry of the actors.

 

I left Beautiful Boy with a decent amount of disappointment, mainly due to director Felix Van Groeningen, also a contributor to the screenplay. A lot of the story (especially the first half) is rather jumbled in the way of timelines. Yet that does not stop me from recommending the film.

The film tells the true story of Dave Scheff (Steve Carell), whose son Nic (Timothee Chalamet) has recently graduated High School yet dived into the world of drugs (mainly crystal Meth). He spends time between his dad’s house and his mom (Amy Ryan). His dad has remarried Karen (Maura Tierney), with whom he has two kids.

I mentioned before how the time lines are jumbled, since we see Nic at different stages in his life. It would be okay to show different times in Nic’s life, if it made sense to the viewer, which it sadly did not for me.

It is clear as day that the film’s saving grace is the acting. Regardless of screen time, every actor puts their best foot forward (even those in small roles like Oscar winner Timothy Hutton). Carrell first started out as a comedy actor (and still does so very well), yet he managed to cross the line into drama with such ease it is hard to sometimes remember we are looking at Michael Scott or Brick Tamland . His performance is (for the most part) very subtle and nuanced, playing a dad who clearly loves his son, even to the point that he would share a joint with him.

Chalemet is the stand out. He had a breakout year last year with his Oscar nominated work in Call me by your name as well as Lady Bird (both Best Picture nominees). When watching him in Beautiful Boy, it is hard to find any of those characters here. It is the true definition of sublime acting, proving he could very well be at the Oscars again soon.

Parents, the R rating is deserved. There is a good amount of swearing, plenty of thematic drug use, and one sex scene that seemed rather tacked on. High School and above.

There should be no doubt how troubling drug addiction (or any for that matter) is to a soul. Everyone in their life suffers as a result. This is one of the main things that make Beautiful Boy worth watching. That and the powerful performances. I only wish the approach was different.

Overall: Three Stars ***

My predictions of the 90th Academy Awards (2018)

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#Metoo has been what Hollywood was known for in 2017 more than any film title. People went so far as to making sure that all the presenters at the SAG awards were all female (which I thought was too much).

I mention this because that is what is still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and what may be the key indicator of certain categories at this year’s Academy Awards.

That, and talent, of course.

 

And the Oscar will (probably) go to…

 

Best Picture

 

Best Picture

 

It has become a two-way race between The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The former is my favorite (as well as my second favorite of 2017), but I am going with the latter. The Shape of Water does have more nominations (it was a technical marvel), but I think the Academy will go with the top-notch acting, smartly written, and daring power of Three Billboards.

 

Will win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could win/Should Win: The Shape of Water

 

Best Actor

Best Actor

There is no way, in any shape or form, I can see anyone beating Gary Oldman. His turn in Darkest Hour is the easiest win of the night. Not even legend Daniel Day-Lewis in his last role (which I still hope is not true) has a chance. Also, kudos to young Timothee Chalamet from Call me by your name.

 

Will win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Could win: Timothee Chalamet, Call me by your name (again, won’t happen)

Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

 

Best Actress

Actress

It says something when Meryl Streep (The Post) is the least likely to win. In any other year, these woman would have won easily, but it is far too competitive. The one who has emerged is Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The only possible upsets would be Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird, or Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water. Still, like the character she plays, I would not mess with McDormand.

 

Will win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could win: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Should win: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

 

Best Supporting Actor

Best

 

All talented men, but Sam Rockwell of Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri has become the frontrunner. This is one of the few categories where I agree with the Academy. Rockwell had one of the best character growth arcs I saw last year. However, if he splits the votes with his co-star Woody Harrelson, it could possibly go to Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project (who was the backbone of that film).

Will win/Should win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

 

Best Supporting Actress

BSA

An upset could still possibly occur in the form of Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird, but it is still a safe bet to call Allison Janney will be winning her first Oscar as I, Tonya ‘s mom from hell.

 

Will win/Should win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Could Win: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

 

Best Director

Director

If you win the DGA award, it is very hard to not win the Oscar. So expect the winner to be Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water.

 

Will win/Should win: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Could win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Best

Easily one of the toughest categories, nearly any one of these films can win. However, since Martin McDonagh did not get a best director nomination, I am pulling for him to win for writing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Will win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could Win: Get Out

Should win: Lady Bird

 

Best Adapted ScreenplayBest

Despite three past nominations for Best Director, expect the 89-year-old James Ivory to finally win for his work on Call me by your name.

Will win: Call me by your name

Could win: Mudbound

Should win: Logan

 

Best Cinematography

Cinematography

Kudos to Rachel Morrison for becoming the first woman nominated in this catagory. Still, with his 14th nomination, can we please just give an Oscar to legendary Roger Deakins for his work on Blade Runner 2049? It has been far too long.

Will win/Should win: Blade Runner 2049

Could win: Mudbound

 

Best Costume Design

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Will win: Phantom Thread

Could win: The Shape the Water

 

Best Film Editing

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Another close one, but I am having a gut feeling the action packed (and underrated) Baby Driver will win.

Will win/Should win: Baby Driver

Could win: Dunkirk

 

Best Sound Editing

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Will win: Dunkirk

Could win: The Shape of Water

 

Best Sound Mixing

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Will win: Dunkirk

Could win: The Shape of Water

 

Best Original Score

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One of the central parts of The Shape of Water was the score, which is why it will win.

Will win: The Shape of Water

Could win/Should win: Phantom Thread

 

Best Original Song

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Another close call, but I am going with “Remember Me” from Coco. While the songs were the only universal praise for The Greatest Showman, it was near impossible to not cry during the scene between Miguel and his great grandma.

Will win/Should win: Coco “Remember Me”

Could win: The Great Showman “This is Me”

 

Best Make-Up/Hairstyling

Make up

Despite great make up on a fantastic young actor (Jacob Tremblay) in Wonder, expect the winner to go to make up on another fantastic actor (Gary Oldman) for Darkest Hour.

Will win/Should win: Darkest Hour

Could win: Wonder

 

Best Production Design

 

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Will win/Should win: The Shape of Water

Could win: Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Animated Feature

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It is not wise to mess with Disney/Pixar.

Will win/Should win: Coco

Could win: The Breadwinner

 

Best Foreign Language Film

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Will win: A Fantastic Woman

Could win: The Square

 

Best Documentary Feature

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Will win/Should win: Faces Places

Could win: Icarus

 

Best Documentary Short Subject

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Will win: Edith + Eddie

Could win: Heroin(e)

 

Best Animated Short

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Kobe as an Oscar winner? It could happen, and should.

Will win: Dear Basketball

Could win: Lou

Best Live Action Short

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Due to the terrible recent school shooting in Florida, expect the Academy to award Dekalb Elementary, which revolves around a similar situation.

Will win: Dekalb Elementary

 

Best Visual Effects

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Will win: Blade Runner 2049

Could win: War for the Planet of the Apes

 

The Top 20 Movies of 2017

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Even with 20, these films did not make the cut.

Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.

 

I went back and forth as to whether make the traditional top ten, or go with twenty. I decided on the latter for a few reasons. First, in a great year for movies, there were too many to ignore (and even at twenty, films such as Wonder Woman, Detroit, Mudbound, and Darkest Hour did not make it). Second, so what if I added more than ten? If you really want see just the top ten, here is a trick: skip down to number ten, and go from there (though you will be missing a lot of great films along the way).

 

20.

The Disaster Artist.JPG

“YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!!!”

 

A passion project for director/actor James Franco, The Disaster Artist tells the tale of another passion project (and cult favorite), The Room. Franco is so wonderful in the role of the aloof Tommy Wiseau that it goes beyond comedy and becomes very human. It truly tears you apart!

 

19.

Molly's Game

Jessica Chastain, fantastic as Molly.

 

Renowned screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game, is full of electricity. As always, his dialogue snaps like fire crackers, no doubt due to the wonderful casting of greats such as Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.

 

18.

Faces Places

JR and Agnes Varda, on a quest you have not seen before.

The most recent film I have seen as of this writing, Faces Places is the unique documentary about legendary french film maker Agnes Varda and her friend JR (whose eyes she has never seen). They go around meeting people as they post big pictures of their subjects on vast walls. As in all great films, it goes far beyond that. It reminded me a lot about Errol Morris’s masterpiece, Gates of Heaven.

 

17.

Logan Lucky

No peaking!

Even with an all-star cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Hillary Swank, Seth Macfarlane, and (especially) Daniel Craig, a film like Logan Lucky could have gone wrong on so many levels. Thankfully, the script is so tight that every moment is real, authentic, and down right ludicrously hilarious.

 

16.

The Last Jedi

Sometimes, questions don’t need concrete answers.

A prime example of a movie you either love or hate, I am on the former when it comes to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. No, we did not get any “answers” to questions we may have had, but so what? It was a Star Wars film that gave us new twists and turns we had not seen before, plus was much better than the overrated Rogue One.

 

15.

Blade Runner 2049

Deckard returns.

From one sci-fi sequel to another, Blade Runner 2049 is full of a lot of questions that are also unanswered. What no one will question is the gorgeous scope of the film, thanks in part to cinematographer Roger Deakins (who may finally get his Oscar now).

 

14.

Logan

Logan and his daughter.

In one of the best years for superhero films, my pick still goes to Logan. A swan song of epic proportions, Hugh Jackman truly goes out swinging. Or clawing.

 

13.

 

The Post

Meryl Streep as Kay Graham, owner of The Post.

 

Even if the film was rushed, Steven Spielberg’s The Post has a fire burning in the soul, which shows in the cast led by Hollywood giants Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It is a movie that, had it not been made, I would not be reminded of the right I have to be typing these words in the first place.

 

12.

I Tonya

Just before the show, Robbie’s Harding is set to go…

How wickedly devilish is the film I, Tonya! So fun, and self-aware of itself, it gives a stellar Margot Robbie performance, and heaven knows how wonderful Allison Janney is as one of the worst mom’s in recent cinema history.

 

11.

Coco

Miguel’s passion for music knows no bounds…

As Miguel tugs at the guitar strings, so does Coco tug at our heart-strings. Which, by now, is totally the standard Disney/Pixar films have set for all animated films (and others in general).

 

10.

Lady Bird

Ronan as the title character.

One of the most original scripts in recent memory, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is full of outstanding wit and charm. It is also more proof why Saoirse Ronan is truly one of the best actors of her generation.

 

9.

Wonder

The Wonder that is Jacob Tremblay.

Of all the movies I saw this year, I fought the hardest (okay, fought myself) for Wonder to be in the top ten. Based of the book of the same name (which I highly recommend), this wonderful fable of why it is important to #choosekind is something I cannot imagine parents not taking their kids to.

 

8.

Dunkirk

Many of the soldiers at Dunkirk

 

Very few, if any, director has a current positive track record than Christopher Nolan, and Dunkirk is no exception. Packed with more than enough tension and grit, it is as fitting a war film as they come.

 

7.

A Ghost Story.JPG

Time moves by in an instant for the ghost

At only around an hour and a half, few films of this (or any) year have given me more questions than that of A Ghost Story. Like a pool, you soak in it, look at the reflection, and see all the questions you want answered. Multiple viewings are needed, and are something I plan to do in the time I have left on earth.

 

6.

TBOEM

Mildred is a role only Frances McDormand could play

Another one of the most original scripts in years, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a tough sit through at many times. Yet it has so much dark peppered humor and spot on performances (mainly McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and especially Sam Rockwell) it is hard to turn away.

 

5.

The Big Sick

A love story unlike any seen before

The true story of how one man met his wife, The Big Sick is still the best rom com I have seen in nearly a decade. All the actors are hilarious and convincing, and the writing is top-notch. I still can’t get over that 9/11 joke.

 

4.

The Florida Project

Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the hotel manager who is tough but kind-hearted.

I had never thought of what could be outside the walls of Disney World before I saw The Florida Project. I doubt I am alone. With some of the best acting from children you will see, and a sublime Willem Dafoe, the movie takes us to a place that has been under the shadows of Disney for far too long.

 

3.

Phantom Thread

DDL, the master at work

Like most, I had to wait nearly a month before I could see Phantom Thread, but it was far worth the wait. Daniel Day-Lewis gives (no surprise) a perfectly majestic performance as a dress-maker in 1950s London, whose new muse (Vicky Krieps) must put up with him. Director Paul Thomas Anderson treats the film as gentle as the fabric that Woodcock works with in his shop.

 

2.

The Shape of Water

Though mute, Eliza (Sally Hawkins) lets herself be heard.

Of all the love stories of this year, my favorite still goes to that of a mute help worker and a sea creature in The Shape of Water. Guillermo Del Toro gives us a world of endless possibilities, filled with memorable characters (don’t get me started on how much we love to hate Michael Shannon here), astounding visuals, and a love that is not easy to forget.

 

1.

IT

“Hello Georgie”

I can imagine a lot of people being surprised at my number one pick, but after more than one viewing, I just could not deny IT. Undoubtably one of the top four or five adaptations of Stephen King, the film is far more than a horror masterpiece. It is also about coming of age (I have yet to meet anyone who though negatively of the kid performances, all of whom are perfect in their roles), young love, bullying, and, of course, clowns.

Floating has never been so terrifying. Or enjoyable.

 

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Call me by your name

A “truce” is made between Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer)

It is truly risky to make a movie like Call Me by Your Name, especially in a year of talks of sexual misconduct coming out of Hollywood (as well as politics). Yet for the most part, the movie still seems to work.

If you have not heard of the movie, it tells the story of a seventeen year old boy named Elio (Timothee Chalamet) as he spends one summer in 1983 in his family’s villa in northern Italy. An only child, he spends most of his summer writing his own music, hanging with his girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel), swimming, and going out at night. He also will help his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor of ancient roman history (I believe), on occasion. All this changes when a college graduate comes in to assist his father. He is Oliver (Armie Hammer), a kind-hearted young man who eventually forms a relationship with young Elio.

It is clear the film will not be for everyone, as Elio and Oliver do have more than one times where they are intimate. It should be noted that the story (based off of a book by Andre Aciman, who also has a cameo) does take place in Italy, where the age of consent is lower than in America.

One thing no one will find controversial is the acting. After a memorable role in this year’s Lady Bird, it is safe to say that Chalamet is clearly making a name for himself, and shows range, poise, and vunerability unseen by most young actors. Hammer of course is affective as Oliver, but the one perhaps most perfectly cast is Stuhlbarg as Elio’s father. His is the type of Professor you would want to have in college, and even some attributes you would want in a father (he was also in this year’s The Shape of Water).]

My issue with the film is how it was presented. Though the director, Luca Guadagnino, does a fine job overall, the audience seems to be thrown into this situation, without exactly having a character we can see a point of view from. I would argue if we had seen this more from Elio’s perspective, the movie would have been a whole lot better.

Parents, you should not be surprised: this is not a movie for kids at all. There is strong sexual material, nudity (including female), and some swearing. The R rating is more than appropriate.

Another thing the movie gets right is the landscape of Italy, a country I have always wanted to visit at least once. If you add in the stellar acting and emotion to the immaculate imagery of the scenes, it is clear why Call Me by Your Name is getting all the praise it deserves.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Mildred (Frances McDormand), the maker of the Three Billboards

Just when you think you have seen enough movies to know what the film makers are going to give you, you get a film like Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri, a film full of drama, wit, comedy, surprises, heart, and clarity.

The story takes place just seven months after the rape/murder of a teenage girl in the town of Ebbing, Missouri. Despite work from the local police, the culprit has not been found, and the case is at a stand still. This does not sit well with the girl’s mother, Mildred (Frances McDormand), who rents out three billboards on the road to the town (one that hardly anyone uses). They read,

“Raped while dying”

“And still no arrests?”

“How come, Chief Willoughby?”

Willoughby (played perfectly by Woody Harrelson) is no slouch at his job. Even as he is fighting cancer (which Mildred knows before she sets up the billboards), he is still a good, decent family man. The real slouch at the job is Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who seems just a step or two up the ladder from Chief Wiggum of The Simpsons.

The movie is not about necessarily finding the murderer. No, the film is far too smart for that. It is about much more. It is about the life in a small town in the south. Mildred still takes her son Robbie (Lucas Hedges, who, along with this year’s Lady Bird, is having a great year after his Oscar nominated role in 2016’s Manchester by the Sea) to school, has a visit or two from her ex Charlie (John Hawkes) and his 19-year-old girlfriend, and still pester the law enforcement community about letting her dead daughter get justice.

Martin McDonagh directs and writes the film in a precise way that he did for 2008’s In Bruges. There is drama, but it is so well seasoned with huge comic moments it is impossible to ignore. Apparently, McDonagh wrote the role of Mildred with McDormand in mind. It is not hard to see why. If anyone else played the role, you would find yourself saying “Too bad Frances McDormand is not playing this role”. In a nutshell, it is pretty much her best performance since Fargo‘s Marge Gunderson.

All the other actors are superior as well, but the other who may finally get his share at awards season is Sam Rockwell. He has been a great actor in many supporting roles of the past, but here he gets a chance to show transformation like I have never seen in him before. It is stellar work, and deserving of Best Supporting Actor consideration.

Parents, in no way shape or form is this film for kids. The movie deserves the R rating, which is mainly for swearing (as well as some violence). Mature High Schoolers and above.

When you think of it, even the title is genius. As I entered the theater, I thought the title was going to be too long, and off-putting. The fact that it is so simplistic a title is the uncanny mastery behind it. I haven’t even mentioned how I found myself saying “good” when the movie ended, hoping it would not outstay its welcome, or the mere fact that the film even stars the highly talanted Peter Dinklage.

Clearly, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of the best of 2017.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird

Christine “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan), having another chat with her loving mom (Laurie Metcalf)

The dominating force behind Lady Bird is not just the (nearly) tight script or the solid direction from actress Greta Gerwig, but the sheer presence of chemistry between all the actors.

Set right after the events of 9/11, we meet Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Living in Sacramento, he is in her final year at the local private Catholic school, switching because a boy was knifed at the public school. Her main source of anxiety is clearly her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who is demanding but still loving. Lady Bird yearns to go to the east coast, but (as reminded by her mother), it is not part of the plan.

At school, Lady Bird tries to find something to keep her going, including entering theater with her friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) where she meets Danny (Manchester by the Sea‘s Lucas Hedges). Other characters enter her life, including Jenna (Odeya Rush) and Kyle (Timothee Chalamet).

Having never gone to a private catholic school myself, I cannot say how realistic the situations are, but they sure do feel authentic. Whether it is lying on the floor eating the communion bread (“it’s not consecrated!”), school dances (“leave six inches for the Holy Spirit”), or assemblies about abortion, the purity of real life seems perfectly played out.

When it comes to coming of age stories, I always like to notice chemistry between young actors playing love interests. While that chemistry is there, the heart of the movie is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. Sure, her father (Tracy Letts) is seen as the “good guy”, and she gets in verbal fights with her brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues), but there is such palpable tension between mother and daughter that it is impossible to ignore.

This is due, of course, mainly to the talented actors. Ronan is one of the best actresses of her generation (it is such a different role than she had in Brooklyn, which she was nominated for an Oscar). As for Metcalf as Marion, well, all I can say is I can’t remember catching her in the act. We don’t see acting, only a mother who is doing all she can with what life has given her. Both should be strong contenders come this awards season.

Parents, the movie is clearly not for children. There is plenty of swearing and sexual content and graphic nudity (from a playgirl magazine). Trust the R rating on this one.

The movie is not entirely perfect (the last ten minutes seemed to be superfluous, except for the phone call part). Still, it is great to see Gerwig can have a potentially great career as a director (let alone as an actress). It is also, as always, refreshing to see great actors not playing caricatures, but real people.

Overall: Four Stars ****