On a movie binge this week

Last year I missed my usual binge of movies at TIFF or while vacationing over the New Year but I have made up for it in the past couple of weeks. For what it is worth, here is what I thought if four Oscar nominated films (and one more as a bonus.)

Ladybird

img_2159-1Although I did like the film, I think it resonates more with a younger audience. I felt more connected to the parents than Ladybird, particularly Tracy Letts who plays her father. Letts is the playwright for some pretty edgy stuff including August Osage County, Bug and Superior Donuts (currently being staged in Kingston at the Yacht Club by the way). I had never seen him act and liked him a lot for his gentle understanding fatherly role – nothing like the material he writes in his plays. There were lots of great moments between Ladybird and her mother as well and Ladybird’s friendship with Julie would resonate with lots of young women. Altogether a satisfying film. One you will enjoy on Netflix soon.

Call Me by Your Name.

This is another movie about a teenager and his family and exploring his relationship as and sexuality. I was ready to like this film but it was way to slow-moving to me. img_2156Or maybe, once again, I am just two generations away so it is hard to relate. An arty film with some great Italian scenery background, good music, including a couple of songs by Sufjan Stevens that I ended up finding on iTunes when I got home. Competent acting by the main character, young Timothée Chalomet (who also appears in Ladybird). I liked the last 20 minutes of the show very much, including the credits. But I found myself checking my watch a couple of times mid-way through and that is never a good sign. I really liked the little fatherly talk given by Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) to his son Elio near the end of the film.  Wish it didn’t take so long to get there.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

img_2157This one was more edgy and had lots more action, story and plot twists.  Frances McDormand plays this perfectly as do all the other supporting cast. I liked Sam Rockwell a lot – his performance, not his character who was really objectionable in so many ways. A friend asked me yesterday if any of these films were funny. Although the humour in this one is certainly of the darkest variety, I did laugh out loud several times –one of those “Did he really say that?” kind of laughs.  I would classify this film as a (very) dark comedy.  I tend to like that genre so I enjoyed it more than the previous two. Can you pick out someone in this film that was also in Ladybird?

The Shape of Water.

Well, this one turned out to be a cross between King Kong, Phantom of the Opera and E.T. It had all the elements that make cinema appealing – sentimentality, violence, fantasy, love, an alien creature, political commentary and even some suspense. Throw in a lot of old standard musical background to round it out. And it was shot in Toronto and Hamilton! ShapeOfWater_FBThis film premiered at TIFF in the theatre that is featured in the movie. How cool is that? It is safe to say that, of the four mentioned, this was my favorite. Great entertainment. I will be surprised if it does not get either the Best Director (Guillermo del Toro – whose movie Crimson Peak had scenes shot in Kingston with many of us playing background roles for a day) or Best Picture – or both – at the upcoming Academy Awards. By the way, Michael Stuhlbarg, whose work I mentioned in Call Me by Your Name also has a significant role in this film.

The bonus film is Murder on the Orient Express. If you like Agatha Christie and don’t want to be too bombarded with the angst that comes with watching the four films above, this one is entertaining and fun. I really liked the cinematography in this films. I liked the long shots that ran from window to window along the train or through the train cars. There are lots of great well-known actors with roles in this film and it is lighter than the others but sometimes that is just what hits the mark.

So, based on these films, I would chose The Shape of Water and Guillmero Del Toro as the Best Film and Best Director, Frances McDormand as Best Actress, Timothée Challmet as Best Actor, Sam Rockwell as Best Supporting Actor and Laurie Metcalf (Ladybird’s mom) as Best Supporting Actress. There are still other nominated films and performances that I have not seen but these movies seem to be leading the pack.  I will have to say that in the previews for I,Tonya I love what I see of Allison Janney and want to see that film soon as well.

Next up – the Kingston Canadian Film Festival on the first weekend of March.  I always enjoy seeing a whack of Canadian Films at this Festival only a few minutes from home.  I bought my pass today!

I am also very excited to learn this week that Netflix will be making a movie of my coffee-shop-friend Iain Reid’s book,  I’m Thinking of Ending Things.  Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) will be working with Iain to adapt the book to the screen and will also direct the film. Iain will co-produce with Kaufman. When I read this book, I could see it as a movie.  Now I can not wait to see it on the screen.  Congratulations, Iain.

Movies – no spoilers.

One of the indulgences that I enjoy when I come to Forida for the Christmas holidays is taking in a few of the movies that are released year-end.  Since I am here for three weeks this year, I can easily enjoy a few afternoons to take the Longboat Key trolley into Sarasota, see a movie and be back on the beach for an hour long walk to soak up the golden sunset.

Here are a couple that have seen so far.

Rogue One

Why can’t these Star Wars movies be released in some sort of chronological order? They are all starting to look the same to me, maybe because they are all the same, the only additions being the jump in technology in the 40 years since the franchise began. I have to wonder about a movie that I thought the character with the most depth was a droid.

Put on the 3D glasses… A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….Speeding airships. Crashes. Explosions. Sparks flying. Big music. More sparks. Lasers.  Ping ping,  More explosions. Where are we now?   Who are these people?  Swells of French horns. Eye glances between the protagonists. I thought they didn’t like each other. Father-child reunion.  Violins. Swoopy hats, or are they helmets. Explosions. A city destroyed. Big CGI boulders coming at us.  Dead storm troopers. French horns and violins together. How much more? I have to pee really badly. Dizzying heights. Will she fall? Trite dialogue. Explosions. Big air ships colliding.  Saved? Eye glances. That looks like…Too late it’s over. Full orchestra. Credits. Rush to the toilet. The force be with me.   Ho hum.  3 stars out of five.

Nocturnal Animals

Where Rogue One was in my face, this one got into my head.  I knew from the opening ten seconds that this is going to be an edgy film. I saw the name Amy Adams but have to admit that the visuals in this opening sequence were so distracting that I saw not one other title or credit as the opening sequence ran.  The film is a two hour nightmare.  And that is meant as a complement.  Amy Adams plays a bored, unhappy art dealer named Susan with a cheating husband and a superficial unfulfilling career.  She receives a manuscript from her ex ( Jake Gyllenhaal) and as she reads it she is absorbed into that story and reflects both on her past and present situations.  The movie jumps between these three settings, sometimes abruptly but always adeptly.  We are bounced in and out of an increasingly disturbing and violent story and Susan’s life.

 All of the performances in this movie were creditable and compelling but I particularly liked Michael Shannon as the crusty, enigmatic Texas lawman.  Tom Burns’ ( A Single Man) direction was what made the movie so disturbingly engrossing.  Tight close ups felt intense. Susan’s world was stark and monochromaticaly elegant but barren.  I cringed as Tony and his family drove down dark roads in the middle of nowhere in Texas, knowing the fear of the dark and and not knowing where you are going or what lurks around the corner or in the next moment. In contrast with the “blow you out of the theatre” orchestrations in Rogue One, there was one suspenseful scene where the music was a barely audible tremulo on violins. You could almost not hear it but it was there, eerily adding to the suspense.  In another segment a dull drum beat softly, mimicking a heartbeat. At other moments, dead silence added to the apprehension. 

I came away thinking of how this reminded me of the way I felt reading my friend Iain Reid’s latest book “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.”  When I got into the last half of this book I had to keep going and in my mind I could hear the violin tremulo and visually imagine, like Susan does in the movie, the story tensely unfolding. I think Iain’s book could make this kind of movie.
I liked this movie a lot but know it would not be for everyone. I will give it 4.5 stars out of 5. I am guessing that if you loved Rogue One you would not like this one and vice versa. 

Part of the fun of my movie afternoon is waiting for the return trolly at the downtown bus station. What a collection of characters there. One man yelling  angrily at another woman across the benches, a security guard who looks like he is right out of Fargo, and  someone wanting to sell me scalped bus passes. My fifteen minutes there was like turning the afternoon into a double feature.