OSCAR COUNTDOWN

Only 7 days until the next Oscars are awarded on March 4, 2018.

MISCELLANEOUS

Black Panther

It does feel like there is a reckoning happening in Hollywood. Yes, there are the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that are making an emotional impact, but beyond those, there seems to finally be a move towards more inclusivity. Diversity in Hollywood has always been a challenge, but the tone-deafness reached a nadir in 2016, when every single one of the Academy Award acting nominees were white, prompting the #OscarsSoWhite fury. Since then, the Academy extended invitations to thousands of new members, most of them women and people of color. Beyond that, the widespread cultural demand for more diversity has been reflected in the movies that are being made, and how they are being made. There was no way Hollywood could continue down the path of being for and about white men any longer. Don’t get me wrong, white men still rule in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera (and where it really counts—in the executive offices), but the time’s, they ARE a’changin’.

Consider these facts:

• The top three domestic box office money makers in 2017 all featured women in the lead roles (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman)

• The third highest-grossing movie of 2017 (domestically), Wonder Woman, was directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins)
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Oscar Nominations

Some quick thoughts on this morning’s Oscar nominations (see the full list here: Oscar.com ):

As expected, The Shape of Water leads the way, with a total of 13 nominations. Only 11 other films in Oscar history have received 13 or more nominations. 8 of those 11 went on to win Best Picture.

While it is looking good for The Shape of Water, Phantom Thread came on strong this morning, pulling in a surprising 6 nominations, including Best Picture.

The rest of the Best Picture lineup was pretty much as expected, except for the exclusion of The Big Sick and Mudbound and the inclusion of Darkest Hour. I, personally, felt that Darkest Hour was a weak film and there were much better films that could have been recognized instead, including The Big Sick (my favorite movie of the year) and The Florida Project. Some were hoping Wonder Woman would have had a shot here, but, instead, it was shut out completely.
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My Top 10 of 2017

1. The Big Sick
2. Lady Bird
3. Get Out
4. Blade Runner 2049
5. 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
6. The Florida Project
7. The Disaster Artist
8. Personal Shopper
9. T2: Trainspotting
10. Wonder Woman

Phantom Thread

If you would have told me that the last movie of Daniel Day-Lewis’s career would be a pointless curiosity of a film, I would not have believed you. If you had added the fact that the cinematic confection had been written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, I would have been confused as well. I just saw Phantom Thread and I’m still not sure what I saw. But for this to be the final collaboration between one of the finest actors of all time and one of his generation’s most revered directors feels not only odd, but strangely unsettling.

The last time Anderson and Day-Lewis worked together, the resulting film was There Will Be Blood, a fiery, complex and fascinating movie about greed, industry and America. Phantom Thread is quite the opposite. It is quiet, introspective and not about much at all. I suppose it could be considered a rumination on genius or creativity, but I just found it to be a semi-compelling movie about horrible people feeling sorry for themselves. I mean, really, who has time for that.
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Molly's Game

Anyone who knows me knows what a fan I am of Jessica Chastain. She can literally do no wrong for me, as a performer. That’s not to say I haven’t been disappointed in some of her choices, especially lately. Her last movie, Miss Sloane, gave us yet another incredible Chastain performance in an underwhelming movie. Her current movie, Molly’s Game, is, sadly, very similar. It’s yet another movie that can’t rise up to what she brings to it and ends up being a waste of her talents and our time.

What makes Molly’s Game such a big disappointment is not just that Chastain feels wasted, but that it seemingly had such potential. It is the directing debut for one of Hollywood’s most famous writers, Aaron Sorkin, of whom I am usually a big fan. A Few Good Men, The American President, Sports Night, Moneyball, Social Network, not to mention The West Wing, Sorkin’s writing has been something I have sought out and rarely disappointed. His rapid-fire, witty and politically suave dialogue never relented, never compromised and never dumbed it down. As a writer, nobody does what he does.
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Darkest Hour

For those of you who weren’t crazy about Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (and I know there are a lot of you) earlier this year, maybe Darkest Hour will be more to your liking. They both cover the same time period, deal with the same central event, and are completely different.

For both films, the central plot point of the movie is the stranding of British troops at Dunkirk, France, during World War II. At the time, the British had to figure out how to rescue/evacuate their trapped army by water before the German troops could attack them by land. This pivotal decision (one that could have changed the course of the war) was left to the newly-installed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In Nolan’s Dunkirk, Churchill and all his decision-making is offscreen. But, in Darkest Hour, Churchill is front and center. Dunkirk was the brawn, Darkest Hour is the brains.
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The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro has often been thought of as the least talented of the trio of respected Mexican movie directors that have almost literally taken over Hollywood in the last decade. I mean, when you look at the other two, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Inarritu, it would be easy to think that del Toro takes a back seat. Inarritu already has 4 Oscars (two for directing, one for writing and one for producing) and Cuaron two (for directing and editing), while del Toro has only been nominated once. Inarritu and Cuaron’s impressive list of movies include The Revenant, Gravity, Children of Men, Birdman, and Babel. They are both considered among the best in the business, serious dramatic auteurs whom actors and craftsmen long to work with.

That’s not to say that del Toro isn’t sought after, it’s just that he seems to be forging a different path. Instead of staying on the more traditional dramatic route (the path that leads to Oscar), he’s chosen to explore more offbeat genres, like fantasy, action and horror. He’s directed some of the 21st century’s most imaginative and unique films so far, like Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, Hellboy and Crimson Peak. He wrote all three films in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, created a television series, The Strain, and produced the animated hit The Book of Life. Del Toro most certainly lives in a different artistic land than most other directors. His movies are distinctive, in look and feel, and he is truly coming into his own as an auteur in his own right.
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

When my beloved Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years in 2004 and then won it again three years later, Red Sox fans tearfully proclaimed the 2004 victory was for their grandparents, and the 2007 win was for them.

Bear with me, I do have a point here…

For true Star Wars fans, the last satisfying and respectable Star Wars movie had been Return of the Jedi in 1983. Yes, there were three more official Star Wars movies, now known as the prequels, but those are so widely loathed by fans that they are often ignored in the true Star Wars canon. So, when the sequel to Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, came out in 2015, it was spiritually considered the first real Star Wars movie in 32 years. And now, two years later, the next Star Wars movie is here: Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The Force Awakens was for our grandparents, The Last Jedi is for us.
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The Post

Tried and true, solid and professional, The Post is exactly what you expect it to be. Steven Spielberg is nothing if not reliable. The Post is an old-fashioned, traditional movie in the spirit of All the President’s Men and Bridge of Spies. It’s about sincere white people trying to expose the powerful few for the benefit of the many.

The Post is incredibly earnest, hard-working and purposeful. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have much life. It’s not just that there’s not much action that goes on—it’s mostly made up of people talking in rooms—it’s also hard to make something exciting when the most crucial moment in the entire movie is someone making a decision.
click here to keep reading The Post »

MY CURRENT SMART PICKS

Top 5 List:

My Five Favorite Daniel Day-Lewis movies:

1. In the Name of the Father, 1993
2. Age of Innocence, 1993
3. The Last of the Mohicans, 1992
4. Nine, 2009
5. Lincoln, 2012

Rental Pick:

My Left Foot (1989)

Favorite Trailer of the Moment:

Awesome Movie Montages and Lists: