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.)


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.

More on movies…

imageThis weekend I saw the last Oscar-nominated film that I had not seen yet – American Hustle. And that’s where it ended up in my list.

Although it was entertaining and I loved Jennifer Lawrence -what’s not to love there? -the movie was a typical “sting-going-bad” movie in the same category as movies like Oceans Eleven ( or twelve, or thirteen or…) I did enjoy the 80’s music and resolved to get out my turntable and some old LP’s this week. I thought I should look up the soundtrack when I got home in iTunes but also realized that somewhere in my collection of LP’s and 45’s and CD’s I likely have all the tracks that were on the movie.  It would work just as well as a Saturday night rental as on the big screen.

imageMy favorite movie last year was Dallas Buyers Club. It didn’t have the epic and guilt-ridden theme of 12 Years A Slave or the glitzy technology of Gravity but I liked the performances, the story and the presentation. It is the only film in the Best Picture category that I have seen twice and would happily see again.  I also really enjoyed Philomena and Nebraska but both of these were too understated to win votes.  But good entertainment, nonetheless.

imageAs I looked at the films on the Best Picture list, I wondered where The Railway Man disappeared to. I saw this film at TIFF in September last year and it had many of the elements of 12 Years without the Americana. It turns out that the film has not been released yet but will appear in theatres in North America in April. If you liked 12 Years, you will like this one too. It has many of the same elements.  Part of the movie  is set in a prisoner of war camp forced into hard labour (and torture) to construct the Thai-Burma railway in during the Second World War. The story, like so many in movies this year, is based on a true one and at TIFF the real Patti Lomax, who was played in the movie by Nicole Kidman, attended the Q&A along with Colin Firth who plays her husband, Eric.

The story is well told, with some spectacular scenery shot on location at the site if the real railway in Burma.  In the movie, as in real life I surmise, Lomax suffers from PTSD after his war endurances and eventually has to decide how to deal with his past by returning.  No spoilers.  See the movie.