The Disaster Artist (2017)

The Disaster Artist

“What’s my line?” asks Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), yet again.

What an enigma is Tommy Wiseau.

Actually, enigma is putting it lightly.

Ever since he made headlines with his masterpiece of atrocity, The Room (not to be confused with 2015’s much more superior film, Room), he is still somewhat of a mystery. Very protective of his private life, he won’t even give out his exact age (though research has shown he is now somewhere in his early sixties). He says he is from New Orleans, but now says he came to America from Poland.

One thing is for sure: It is thanks to Mr. Wiseau that we have The Room (2003).

Upon entering The Disaster Artist, I have not seen the entirety of The Room, but enough scenes to get a flavor of how awful it is. In generations to come, it’s only rival in the movie category of “so bad it is good” would be the garbage dump that is 1959’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (which I have tried at least three times to watch and fall asleep at the same time).

The Disaster Artist is based on the book by actor Greg Sestero. In the film, he is played by Dave Franco (younger brother of James). Greg is an inspiring actor, but is far too shy on stage. In his acting class, he meets the bizarre Tommy (James Franco), who has no qualm with what others think of him. After a pinkie swear at the crash site of their idol James Dean, they move to LA, in search of stardom. When offers won’t come their way (including a memorable meeting with Judd Apatow), they decide to make their own movie.

If you are not as familiar with The Room, you may wonder where Tommy is getting all this money from. The thing is, so is all of his crew (including the script supervisor, played by Seth Rogen). As stated before, Tommy is very private about his personal life, and won’t share where he gets the dough. What is important to him is that this movie is made. After writing the script himself, production goes into play.

In short, it becomes a nightmare, as Tommy has everyone (even Greg) feeling queasy. Examples include a bathroom (actually just a toilet with a curtain cover) for Tommy only, he wants to shoot using both a film camera and a digital one, and shows one of the more comic sex scenes in film history (“Why is he having sex with her belly button?”)

James Franco is simply astounding as Wiseau (both of whom directed their respected films). He has the voice down to pin point accuracy, but the performance is more than just mockery. It is moving and subtle, let alone hilarious. Franco knows about flops (he, like me and everyone else, would hate to remember how he co hosted the Oscars), but also knows how to have fun at the same time as give us a character embodiment. At the end of the film, we see a side by side comparison of the real film and the one with Franco (to make the film almost all over again is serious dedication). The comparison alone is worth the price of admission.

Parents, the movie is not for kids. There is swearing, and some (minor) sex scenes (male rear nudity, as well has frontal, though the genitalia is covered). Mature High School and above.

After the movie ended, I found out that the real Wiseau (who I now strangely would love to meet) said he would only accept one of two actors to play him: James Franco and Johnny Depp. The fact that Franco knows this material and his subject inside and out (both in front of the camera and behind it) makes me a little nervous to say that Tommy Wiseau does have a little more movie knowledge than we give him credit for.

 

Overall: Three and a half Stars ***1/2

Wonder (2017)

Wonder

Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), who has Treacher Collins syndrome, starts his first day of school.

There are many reasons why Wonder hit home for me, but the biggest has to be because I am such a supporter of anything that has to do with anti-bullying. As a small, autistic child with a larger sized head (“Big head” was a huge nickname for me as a child), it is easy to see why I was picked on as a kid. If only Wonder had come out two decades earlier (Note: I did have friends as a child so don’t feel too sad for me or anything.)

Based off of the book by R.J. Palacio (which I highly recommend), the film centers on August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay, from Room). After being home schooled by his mom  Isabel (Julia Roberts) and having 27 surgeries, the time has come for him to attend public school. It is the first year of middle school for all fifth graders, so Isabel thinks now is the best time, despite the doubts from her husband Nate (Owen Wilson). Both walk him to school on his first day, along with his older sister Olivia “Via” (Izabela Vidovic).

We have learned that Auggie has already met at least a few kids, as well as the principal Mr. Tushman (“I have heard all the jokes”), played perfectly by Mandy Patinkin. There are some who just revel in bullying poor Auggie, such as Julian (Bryce Gheisar), but others who eventually warm up to him, mainly Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and Summer (Millie Davis). Both Davis and Jupe are rather sensational.

If you have read the book, you know that it is divided into sections that are not just narrated by Auggie, but by other friends and family members. I was not sure how the film would have approached this, but it does so wonderfully (though some parts do seem a little jumbled). Some may think subplots like that of Via (who goes to her own school across town) and her time in the drama club would seem off base, but it is still essential to the film as a whole. Her potential romance with Justin (Nadji Jeter) is as sweet a budding relationship as they come.

All the cast is spot on. To start with, there were times I was watching Owen Wilson as the dad and forgetting we are looking at the same guy from movies with Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller. It is truly one of Wilson’s best performances. Of course, Julia Roberts is pitch perfect as the mom, as are all the rest of the adult cast (including Daveed Diggs as Mr. Browne).

Still, it is the young cast that shines the most. The kids don’t act over the top like you would expect in a Disney Channel show, but like real kids (though there is no swearing, so as to keep the movie at PG). Even small roles like that of Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), Via’s best friend, are played with depth and insight.

In the end though, it all goes down to Tremblay as Auggie. Ever since his huge breakout performance in 2015’s Room (which I still feel he was snubbed for at the Oscars), I knew he had a big career ahead of him. Now, more people will be able to see him in Wonder and jump on board. The kid is a born natural actor.

Parents, it has been quiet some time since I have seen a great, non-animated family film. It put a smile on my face that the majority of audience members were kids. There is no sex or nudity (some kissing), and next to no swearing (I think I heard “crap” only once). Basically, I would say ages 7 and up are not only okay with seeing this film, but should see the film.

In a nutshell, Wonder is a pure heart warmer, one that will inspire a lot of discussion in families long after the credits role (Note: I am not a parent, but I would assume a lot of parents will say there are some things the kids do that are not right, such as helping a friend cheat on a test, or fighting.) While Wonder is not my favorite movie of the year, I have a feeling that, when the time comes to make my top ten films of 2017, I will be fighting hard for Wonder to have a spot on the list.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

And the Oscar goes to…

And-the-Oscar-Goes-to

 

Honestly, I am tired of the whole Oscarssowhite talk going around (I too wish it was more diverse, but it is not all the Academy’s fault: I mean, there were not many performances to begin with, sadly). Why can’t we just acknowledge the nominees as they are?

I have been doing Oscar Contests since I was about 13, and have learned as I went along (I used to think it was ok to have ties in catagories). I am not saying I know all the answers, but if you want to win an pool you may be in, here are my picks in all catagories (and reasons why)…

For a list of all nominees, visit

http://www.imdb.com/awards-central/oscars?pf_rd_m=A2FGELUUNOQJNL&pf_rd_p=2348233542&pf_rd_r=0KC5ZWBP7PAY2XWABKNB&pf_rd_s=right-1&pf_rd_t=15091&pf_rd_i=main&ref_=ac_ac_ac_lk10

Best Picture

Picture

 

Truly, the biggest award of the night is also the biggest toss up of the night. The PGA awarded The Big Short while SAG awarded Spotlight and DGA The Revenant. Those three are the top three closest to the finish line.

Being that The Revenant also should be winning Best Director and Best Actor, I have it down as winning Best Picture. Still, it is going to be a photo finish, so don’t be surprised if it goes to the other two (or even Mad Max: Fury Road).

Will win: The Revenant (65 % sure)

Could win: Spotlight, The Big Short

Should win: Room (my favorite of the year)

 

Best Director

 

 

Director

Only twice in history has a director won Best Director two years in a row. Being that he just won his second consecutive DGA award (the first time that has ever happend), it seems best to say that Alejandro G. Innaritu will win again this year for The Revenant (the DGA award has predicted Best Director at the Oscars all but 5 times in over 50 years). If there was a spoiler, it would be my personal pick, George Miller, for his incredible work on Mad Max: Fury Road.

Will win: Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant (95 % sure)

Could/Should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

 

 

Best Actor

 

 

Actor.jpg

 

 

The wait is over. All who have been waiting for Leonard DiCaprio to win an Oscar will finally get to see the chance. Even one of his competitors, Eddie Redmayne, has stated he wants Leo to win. I would not be surprised if the other nominees felt the same way. It also helps that it is the best performance of the group. I personally can’t wait to see the standing ovation, and hear his speech.

Will win/Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (100 % sure)

Could win: No one really, but if I had to pick, it would be Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

 

 

Best Actress

Actress

 

 

 

One of the reason’s I picked Room as my favorite movie of 2015 was the performance by Brie Larson. It is one that will go down in history, and an Oscar will only help it more. The only real threat is Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, proving she is still one of the best young actresses around.

Will win/Should win: Brie Larson, Room (95% sure)

Could win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Supporting Actor

“CREED”: (L-r) SYLVESTER STALLONE as Rocky Balboa in “CREED.” Photo: Barry Wetcher / Warner Bros. Pictures

 

 

 

 

I am still a bit upset that Room’s Jacob Tremblay was overlooked, but all the five nominees give stellar performances. Still, none was more surprising or as heartfelt as Sylvester Stallone in Creed. Tom Hardy is probably the next closest, proving he is one of the best actors working today. Still, expect a win for Rocky.

Will win/Should win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Could win: Tom Hardy, The Revenant

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Supporting actress

 

 

I must admit I was not a huge fan of The Danish Girl, but I was impressed by the great turn by Alicia Vikander. Despite other great performances in the catagory, I feel she will win. However, it would be kind of cool to see Kate Winslet win, mainly to see her and Leo holding Oscars next to each other.

Will win/Should win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl (90% sure)

Could Win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

 

Best Original Screenplay

 

Original Screenplay

While Inside Out was the most original film of the last few years, expect the win to go to Spotlight.

Will win: Spotlight (90%)

Could win: Straight Outta Compton

Should Win: Inside Out

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Adapted Screenplay

 

Even if the film was very confusing at times, expect this award to go to The Big Short.

 

Will win: The Big Short (90%)

Could win/Should win: Room

 

Best Animated Feature

Animated

While I have heard great things about Anomalisa, I doubt anything is beating Inside Out.

Will win/Should win: Inside Out (95% sure)

Could win: Anomalisa

Best Forgein Language FilmForgein Language film

 

 

I have not seen any of the films, but I have heard nothing but good things about Son of Saul, a film I am hoping to see.

 

Will win: Son of Saul (85% sure)

 

Best Cinematography

Cinematography

 

It is rare for someone to win consecutive Oscars, so it is even rarer for someone to do so three times in a row. Still, that seems to be the case for Emmauel Lubezki, after winning two years ago for Gravity and last year for Birdman. Expect him to win again for The Revenant, unless they finally give one to Roger Deakins (for Sicario).

Will win/Should win: The Revenant (85% sure)

Could Win: Sicario

 

Best Film Editing

Film Editing

The fast paced, yet somehow smooth editing of Mad Max:Fury Road should win.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (80% sure)

Could Win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Production Design

Production Design

Despite the awesome looking images of The Revenant and the realistic looks of Mars of The Martian, the futuristic deserts of Mad Max: Fury Road should drive away with it.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (70% sure)

Could win: The Martian

 

Best Costume Design

Costume Design

Sandy Powell is up against herself for Carol, but her work in Cinderella is what is the best of the bunch.

Will win/Should win: Cinderella (75% sure)

Could win: Carol or The Danish Girl

 

Best Make-up/Hairstyling

Make-up

Another award for the outstanding Mad Max: Fury Road.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (70% sure)

Could win: The Revenant

 

Best Original Score

Original Score

I am as big a fan of John Williams as anyone, and his work in Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens is more proof he is the best film composer ever. However, he has already won five Oscars while another legendary composer, Ennio Morricone, has yet to win a competitive Oscar (he won an Honorary one a few years ago). Like Dicaprio and Stallone, expect a standing ovation.

Will win: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight (90% sure)

Could win/Should win: John Williams, Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Original Song

Original Song

I won’t lie: I am not a huge fan of any of the songs, but the best one, “Til it happens to you” from The Hunting Ground, should bring an Oscar to Lady Gaga and (finally) Diane Warren.

Will win/Should win: “Til it happens to you”, The Hunting Ground (75% sure)

Could win: “Writings on the Wall”, Spectre

Best Sound Editing

Sound Editing

I am still trying to find out the difference between Sound Editing and Mixing, but expect both to go to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (80% sure)

Could win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Sound Mixing

Sound Mixing

See above. Don’t bet against a rock band on trucks.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (80% sure)

Could win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

Best Documentary Feature

Documentary

Will win: Amy (80% sure)

 

Best Documentary Short Subject

Documentary Short

Will win: Body Team 12 (50% sure, and not just because they look like Minions)

 

Best Animated Short Film

Animated Short

Will win: World of Tomorrow (45% sure)

 

Best Live Action Short Film

Short film

Will win: Ave Maria (30% sure)

Best Visual Effects

Special Effects

The Revenant had one amazing bear attack and Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens gave us more Star Wars brilliace. Still, the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road had very little CGI effects, which is why it should win.

Will win/Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road (75% sure)

Could win: Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

Top 10 Films of 2015

Top 10 films of 2015

 

It is true that some years have better movies than others (1939 and 1994 are prime examples). This does not mean some years are always bad, it just means you have to look harder for them. 2015 had movies you may have had to look harder for to see.

Of course, I did not see every movie that came out last year (I still need to see Beasts of No Nation and Straigh Outta Compton), but I do feel rather confident still with my top ten list ( in which good movies like CarolThe Big ShortWar Room, and Bridge of Spies did not crack the list).

 

Wild Card

Sicario

Benecio Del Toro and Emily Blunt in Sicario.

It may not have gotten all the love it deserved, but great acting and tension fueled Sicario, especially the great performance by Benecio Del Toro.

 

10.

Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender reveals the iMac in “Steve Jobs”

Written by the always wonderful Aaron Sorkin, Michael Fassbender will most definetly get an Oscar nomination as Steve Jobs, also with equally great performaces by Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels.

 

9.

The Hateful Eight

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell, just two of “The Hateful Eight”.

Basically, anything by Tarantino is worth seeing, and The Hateful Eight is no exception. It is fun to watch as much as it is for those who made it.

 

8.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

The most surprising thing about The Martian is not the performance by Matt Damon, nor the supporting cast, but that Ridley Scott directed a movie with humor. That is rare.

 

7.

Spotlight

Possibly the front runner for Best Picture, Spotlight is the story of the true revelation of the dark secret in the Catholic Church in Boston, and beyond. Every actor brings their A game to this film.

 

6.

Creed

Stallone shows Jordan the ropes in “Creed”.

Nostalgic as well as new, Creed is all the things we love of the original Rocky flicks. Stallone is truly remarkable here in the role no one could duplicate.

5.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

Rey, Finn, and BB-8: the three new heroes of the galaxy.

Sure, the story was a lot like the original film, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings new characters (as well as old) to new life in a film that is not doing to shabby box office wise right now.

4.

The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”.

Filled with more realism and grit than any other film this year, The Revenant is a wonder to behold. It is also the ticket to that long awaited moment of calling DiCaprio an Oscar winner (and it would be well deserved too).

3.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron team up in Max Max: Fury Road

I like to think of director Michael Bay watching Mad Max: Fury Road and taking notes. There is just enough story here to back up one of the best action flicks ever. Like Star Wars and The Revenant, this film shows why films should be watched on big screens, not small ones. It is like Lawrence of Arabia on caffiene.

2.

Inside Out

Fear, Joy, and Disgust are just three of Riley’s voices in “Inside Out”

Easily the most original film of the year, I feel that Inside Out will be like a fine wine: aging better through your years on earth. It ranks among the best animated films ever made.

1.

Room

Jacob Tremblay discovers what lies outside the room.

You know a movie is good when you can’t get it off you mind, even months after you have seen it. Such is the case for my number one pick of 2015, Room. I drove about an hour to the theater and an hour back, and it was worth every second.

Brie Larson is the front runner for Best Actress, and I have not seen a better performance by anyone (of any age) this year than that of 8 year old Jacob Tremblay. The film is likely to never be forgotten once seen.