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



I love movies with big ideas. I would much rather a movie go big with a new or challenging philosophy or concept and not be able to follow through than a movie that plays it safe with a story or plot that we’ve seen a hundred times before.

But then again, there’s nothing more painful than seeing a good idea totally wasted. Or worse, a movie that so over-commits that it crashes and burns through its own misdirected vigor. Such is the case with Downsizing, Alexander Payne’s new movie, whose honest attempts at satire and social commentary end up as a disastrously off-track study in political correctness and message-y schlock.
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The Florida Project

There have, obviously, been a lot of good movies about childhood. But I would have a hard time finding one that is as genuine, organic, heartfelt and realistic as Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. Set against the soft hues and bright sunshine of Disneyworld-adjacent Florida, The Florida Project follows a group of children who live in a seedy motel, one step away from being homeless. What would ostensibly sound like a depressing and soul-crushing premise, Baker instead creates a masterpiece of innocence and joy, an ode to childhood in all its various tones and beats.
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I, Tonya

I have always been very close with my Mom, we did a lot of things together when I was a kid, but I have to admit watching TV together was always a favorite of the bonding experiences. She would watch General Hospital and Dallas and Dynasty with me, and I would watch tennis and figure skating with her. Those were really the only things she loved to watch, especially during Grand Slam tournaments for tennis and the Olympics for figure skating. Because of that, the athletes in those sports when I was younger became as familiar and beloved to me as the characters in my shows, if not more: Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Gabriela Sabatini, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Katarina Witt, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Torvill & Dean (“Bolero” will forever be a part of my DNA) and so many more.
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The Disaster Artist

What defines a good bad movie? For me, the best bad movie of all time is Showgirls, a movie I find so entertaining that I could watch it multiple times (and have) and enjoy it every time. What makes it so entertaining? Despite the pointless story, the unlikeable characters, the crass and insipid dialogue and the misogynistic undertones, Showgirls is worthwhile because everybody in it, especially the star, Elizabeth Berkley, goes all in. They may or may not know how bad the movie is that they’re making, but, in spite of it all, they commit themselves 100%. Berkeley in particular makes Showgirls so entertaining because she delivers every line with such determination and purpose that you think she’s trying for an Oscar.
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Call Me By Your Name

This probably isn’t the best time for a movie about a privileged white boy and his first-world problems to be an Oscar front-runner, but Call Me By Your Name, a new film from Italian director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) is front and center in all the golden buzz and despite its seemingly elitist stature, it’s easy to see why.

Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful, luscious and meditative movie about first love but, even more than that, it’s about first understanding of love. It stars Timothee Chalamet in a star-making (and Oscar baiting) performance as 17-year old Elio, an American-Italian who lives with his parents in a grand 17th century villa in northern Italy. Elio’s father, played by the always-wonderful Michael Stuhlbarg, is an American professor of Greco-Roman antiquities and Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, is an American doctorate candidate who comes to spend the summer as his assistant. While sparks don’t instantly fly between them when they meet, we take note of Elio’s interest and curiosity about Oliver, who is handsome, confident, outgoing and seemingly endlessly self-assured.
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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

While I am a huge fan of writer/director Martin McDonagh’s first film, In Bruges (2008), his follow-up effort, Seven Psychopaths (2012) didn’t quite live up to the promise of his debut. And now his third effort, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, lies somewhere in the middle for me. It has more than enough of the charm, eccentricity and dark humor of In Bruges but, sadly, also has the inconsistency and over-the-top-ness that dragged down Seven Psychopaths.

Set in the titular town of Ebbing, Missouri, McDonagh’s current film stars Frances McDormand as Mildred, a mother still grieving over the brutal rape/murder of her daughter from a year earlier. Frustrated by the lack of what she perceives as effort on the part of the Ebbing Police Department to find the killer, Mildred purchases space on three billboards outside of town designed to humiliate and motivate the police into working harder on the case. The billboards end up having a ripple effect throughout the town, from the police chief to Mildred’s own family. For Mildred, however, nothing is more important than finding justice, consequences be damned.
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If Get Out’s message about racism and the plight of being a black man in America was too oblique for you, maybe Mudbound is more your cup of tea. There’s nothing subtle or hidden in Dee Rees’ period drama set in wartime Mississippi about two men on either side of the color divide. Mudbound is brutal and beautiful, haunting and harrowing. It is the story of two families, one white, one black, who live on the same patch of land, and each have a son recently returned from war. While their geographic circumstances may be similar, the emotional paths each family travels reflect the times as the American black experience is shown in all its beauty and brutality.

Director/co-writer Rees is a vibrant new voice in film, having made a splash with her film debut in 2011 with the critically acclaimed Pariah. Now given a much larger budget and platform (Mudbound was released in theatres and also is available on the Netflix platform as Netflix branches into film distribution), Rees delivers on her promise with this searing examination of race relations in the Mississippi delta. Her voice, as an openly gay black woman, is one that needs to be heard and Mudbound is powerful and compelling.

Starring Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan and Jason Clarke with a noticeably impressive performance by Mary J. Blige, Mudbound is powerful all the way around, with Mitchell and Hedlund doing most of the heavy lifting. The cinematography by Rachel Morrison is stunning, but it is Rees’ powerful, no-nonsense (and very little sentimentality) direction that makes Mudbound the compelling experience that it is.

This country has a bleak and sometimes difficult history, but every story needs to be heard. Mudbound may be harsh and brutal at times, but its unflinching honesty and emotional relevance are an essential part of the fabric of who we are.

Lady Bird

I’ve been an aspiring fiction writer ever since I could put pen to paper (yes, I’m that old). I’m one of those foolish dreamers who insists there’s a novel or a screenplay or a play inside me, just aching to get out—all it needs is the right inspiration. So, naturally, every chance I got to ask a real (read: published) fiction writer for advice, 99% of the time they all had the exact same thing to say: write what you know. It certainly doesn’t explain Ray Bradbury or J.K. Rowling’s success, but, for most writers of fiction and non-fiction alike, that credo remains true, in some form or another. Every art form has a piece of its creator in it, which is, let’s be honest, what makes art so compelling.

Write what you know can mean a plethora of things, from a story based on a real experience you had or a place you know to a character study based on someone you knew or even a story you heard someone tell once. And, in the end, if you still find you have no stories to tell that are inspired by the world, people or places around you, then the final rule comes into play: write your story. I am a fervent believer that everybody has a story to tell and, sometimes, the most interesting one is the one you’ve actually lived.
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Thor: Ragnarok

Yes, I am sick of superhero movies, said it a hundred times. And yet, like Michael Corleone in Godfather 3, they keep sucking me back in.

So here’s the thing about Thor: Ragnarok. You know what it is. No need for me to waste time or energy trying to explain the plot or help you decide whether it’s for you or not. Instead, I will just mention the things that really stood out for me. Because, despite all the superhero fatigue I may be feeling, Thor: Ragnarok was still a total blast.

First and foremost, and probably the number one reason you should spend some money to go see this in the theatre: the effects. I mean…wow. We happened to go to the 3D showing because it was the most convenient show time for us (I normally do not prefer 3D) and I can tell you—my mouth sat agape for the first 10 minutes of this movie. I literally felt like I was inside a video game. Not because of the dizzying action or anything, but because it felt so immersive, so crisp and so eye-popping. The entire movie was just as exhilarating on the eyes, and I actually found myself grinning like an idiot, thinking “this is why big screens will never go away.”
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Blade Runner: 2049

Hollywood has not had a good week. The sexual abuse scandal of Harvey Weinstein has rocked the movie industry, rightfully so. The worst-kept secret in this town was that Weinstein, arguably the most powerful producer/mogul/executive in the business, had been a serial slime for decades, using his position, power and influence to abuse, molest and intimidate young, aspiring actresses. Women are finally speaking out en masse about it and, even though Weinstein seems to be finished, the taint of the scandal is only now beginning to spread throughout an industry that has been, at worst, supportive of Weinstein’s behavior and, at best, culpable for silently fostering it.

The irony of all of this is that 2017 has been one of the best years so far, artistically-speaking, for the embattled movie industry. There have already been 30 major releases in 2017 that have scored an 80% or higher rating on rottentomatoes.com, largely considered the most reliable indicator of a movie’s quality. The movies that have engendered great reviews have included both low-budget indies like The Big Sick (98%), The Florida Project (96%) and Baby Driver (93%) as well as some of the year’s biggest blockbusters, such as War for the Planet of the Apes (93%), It (85%), Wonder Woman (92%) and Spider Man: Homecoming (92%). Not a bad year so far for quality movies….and it’s not even Oscar season yet.

So what does this say? As someone who loves movies but doesn’t love the industry that makes them, it’s sometimes uncomfortable to continue to support it, but damn if the machine doesn’t still produce a quality product.
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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: