Monday, July 1, 2019

The Movies You Should Watch (and how to watch them)






After expressing my movie passion, I get asked quite a bit to "make me a list" of movies. So I figured I'd try to compile one here so you can easily find a movie when you need to scratch that itch. My favorite movies from the 21st Century that you may have missed in no particular order except for how to stream them:


Eighth Grade - Prime
First Reformed - Prime
Leave No Trace - Prime
The Big Sick - Prime
Pride - Prime
Short Term 12 - Prime
Bernie - Prime
Moonrise Kingdom - Prime
Lovely, Still - Prime
Battle in Seattle - Prime
Why We Fight - Prime
Happy Endings - Prime/Hulu
Saved! - Prime

If Beale Street Could Talk - Hulu
Sorry to Bother You - Hulu
Me and You and Everyone We Know - Hulu
Imagine Me & You - Hulu
Touching the Void - Hulu

Roma - Netflix
Mudbound - Netflix
The Breadwinner - Netflix
Lion - Netflix
Beasts of No Nation - Netflix
Boyhood - Netflix
Undefeated - Netflix
Mother and Child - Netflix
City of God - Netflix

Won't You Be My Neighbor? - HBOGo
The Danish Girl - HBOGo
Blindspotting -  MaxGo
Call Me By Your Name - Starz
The Astronaut Farmer - Starz
Millions - Starz
Bandits - Starz

Captain Fantastic - IMBDtv
Chef - VUDU/Tubi
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - fubo
For the Bible Tells Me So - Hoopla
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill - VUDU/Tubi/Dove
Rize - VUDU/Tubi
Heaven - Hoopla

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Countdown to Oscar Night: Grand Finale!



Best Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

If you've been reading my blog (or have spoken to me about such things over the past month or so), you know that I am pretty underwhelmed with this year's crop of nominees. Only 2 were in my top 10 of 2018. The rest weren't necessarily bad films (except Bohemian Rhapsody) just overshadowed by the superior films that got left off. For reference, here is my top 10 of 2018 presented alphabetically:

BlacKkKlansman
Blindspotting
Eighth Grade
First Reformed
If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
Roma
Sorry to Bother You
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Won't You Be My Neighbor

With this in mind, I am going to write up my Countdown finale a little differently this year. Here is why all 8 nominees WILL win tonight (and an example in Best Picture history that echoes my logic):

Black Panther will win because it is most representative of 2018. It was the highest grossing film at the box office and garnered near-universal critical acclaim. It makes a statement about our world while providing an entertaining superhero romp. When people think about 2018 fifty years from now this is the film that will spring to mind. (See Titanic, Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur)

BlacKkKlansman will win as an ultimate declaration that the Academy is done with #OscarSoWhite. The left-leaning group of voters is deeply frustrated with their image and history of non-diversity so this year they will put an end to it and give the award to one of Hollywood's most prolific black directors. It doesn't hurt that this movie is also one of Spike Lee's most accessible, easy to watch, and least controversial films. (See The Hurt Locker but replace "black" with women)

Bohemian Rhapsody will win because the voters are idiots. The late-baby-boomers, early-genXers that make up the voting block got all nostalgic for the Queen music and Rami Malek's fake teeth and were blind to the fact that the movie is pretty garbage. This may sound silly, but it is exactly what happened at the Golden Globes. (See The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days)

The Favourite will win because it says so in the title. It was the confusing critical darling that has become "cool" to list as your favorite of the year. Don't forget the voters are smarter than you. "You have probably never even heard of Yorgos Lanthimos. We nominated him for best screenplay two years ago for The Lobster." (See The King's Speech, The English Patient)

Green Book will win because it helps voter feel better about their whiteness. That sounds harsh, I know, but the more I think about it this film, it just reeks of "white savior" complex. I really dug it and it tells a moving story, I'm just not sure it's the story we need at this point in our country's progress with race-relations. (See 12 Years a Slave, Driving Miss Daisy)

Roma will win because it's the actual best film of the nominees.....hahahhahahahhaha. It is actually the odds-on favorite, but I'll believe it when they say the name (and then have Jimmy Kimmel double check to see if the envelope was right). It just has too many strikes against it. Many voters despise the "Netflix" model and see it as an attack on the traditional theater experience. Only 10 foreign language films have ever been nominated for Best Picture and NONE of them have won. (See Nothing like it.... I guess you could say Slumdog Millionaire because it was the last time that my favorite of the nominees actually won)

A Star Is Born will win because the other awards don't have as much influence as most people think. Star was the favorite heading into awards season and dropped off the map after getting shut out at the Golden Globes. Still, there isn't actually much overlap between the voters and this movie is really quite good. It also hits all of the normal Oscar notes of rags-to-riches story, art solving everything, and love/loss.  (See The Artist, Chicago, Rocky)

Vice will win because the voters are fed up with the politics of the United States and want to give the biggest middle finger to those on the "right" that they can possibly muster. I'm sure they just ate it up when Christian Bale thanked Satan for his inspiration. (See Platoon, In the Heat of the Night)

So there you have it, why all 8 nominees will win tonight.

My Ballot
Roma
BlacKkKlansman
A Star Is Born
Green Book
Black Panther
The Favourite
Vice
Bohemian Rhapsody

My Pick to Win
I've changed my mind 4 times in the past 24 hours....   Let's make history here goes:  Roma

Shamefully Snubbed
Blindspotting


Until next year....  thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Countdown to Oscar Night: Acting























Best Actress
Yalitza Aparicio - Roma
Glenn Close - The Wife
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Lady Gaga - A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Maybe the Oscars should have more "lifetime achievement"-style awards so that they didn't waste entire awards seasons like this. Everybody knows that Glenn Close is getting this award. Too bad it's for the worst movie nominated for any award this year. It would be so exciting to see the other ladies vying for the awards as each of them gave performances of a lifetime. Especially Gaga...

My Ballot
Lady Gaga - A Star Is Born
Yalitza Aparicio - Roma
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Glenn Close - The Wife

My Pick to Win
Glenn Close - The Wife

Shamefully Snubbed 
Elsie Fisher - Eighth Grade


Best Actor
Christian Bale - Vice
Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe - At Eternity's Gate
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book

The more I think about Rami Malek's performance the more I am puzzled by the love for it and the entire Queen movie as a whole. Are we really giving Lifetime-channel movie awards now? Lead actors who gave better performances this year of the top of my head: Ethan Hawke, Lakeith Stanfield, Joaquin Phoenix, John David Washington, Daveed Diggs, Ben Foster, John Cho, Sunny Suljic, Ryan Gosling, and Chadwick Boseman. Let's move on to "supporting", maybe I can find something to cheer about...

My Ballot
Christian Bale - Vice
Willem Dafoe - At Eternity's Gate
Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody

My Pick to Win
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody...... uggggghhhh....

Shamefully Snubbed
Ethan Hawke - First Reformed  (2nd biggest snub of the night after Mr. Rogers)


Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - Vice
Marina de Tavira - Roma
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite

This is certainly the biggest lock of the night that I'm actually happy about. Too bad the rest of the nominees are a bit underwhelming.

My Ballot
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite
Marina de Tavira - Roma
Amy Adams - Vice

My Pick to Win
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk

Shamefully Snubbed
Margot Robbie - Mary Queen of Scots


Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott - A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell - Vice

I'm typing this while I'm watching the Spirit Awards and I think that is why I'm so frustrated. If Beale Street Could Talk just won Best Feature and it isn't even nominated tomorrow. Richard E. Grant won this award and he doesn't stand a chance against the pseudo-political posturing of the Academy.... 

My Ballot
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Elliott - A Star Is Born
Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Rockwell - Vice

My Pick to Win
Mahershala Ali - Green Book

Shamefully Snubbed
Armie Hammer - Sorry to Bother You

Countdown to Oscar Night: Bonus! Spirit Awards




























The Oscars have been doing better lately, but this year returns to the old status quo that is: If you want to actually find the best movies of 2018 you look at the Spirit Awards. Four of the Best Feature nominees are in my top 10 of the year. Though there is a bit of crossover, you won't find Bohemian Rhapsody mentioned this afternoon, and you may see many of my snubs from the main blog. Tune in this afternoon (2/23) at 5pm on IFC. I'm going to show each category with my ballot (best to worst) and then put a space if I haven't seen a movie. Here you go:

Best International Film
Roma
The Favourite

Burning
Happy as Lazzaro
Shoplifters

Best Documentary
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Minding the Gap
Hale County, This Morning This Evening
Fathers and Sons

On Her Shoulders
Shirkers

Best Supporting Male
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Raul Castillo - We the Animals
Josh Hamilton - Eighth Grade
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman

John David Washington - Monsters and Men

Best Supporting Female
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie - Leave No Trace
J. Smith Cameron - Nancy

Kayli Carter - Private Life
Tyne Daly - A Bread Factory

Best Male Lead
Ethan Hawke - First Reformed
Daveed Diggs - Blindspotting
John Cho - Searching
Joaquin Phoenix - You Were Never Really Here

Christian Malheiros - Socrates

Best Female Lead
Elsie Fisher - Eighth Grade
Toni Collette - Hereditary
Glenn Close - The Wife

Regina Hall - Support the Girls
Helena Howard - Madeline's Madeline
Carey Mulligan - Wildlife

Best Cinematography
We the Animals

Madeline's Madeline
Mandy
Suspiria
Wildlife

Best Editing
mid90s
The Tale
We the Animals
American Animals
You Were Never Really Here

Best First Screenplay
Eighth Grade
The Tale
Nancy

Blame
Thoroughbreds

Best Screenplay
Sorry to Bother You
First Reformed
Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Colette
Private Life

Best Director
Barry Jenkins - If Beale Street Could Talk
Paul Schrader - First Reformed
Debra Granik - Leave No Trace
Lynne Ramsey - You Were Never Really Here

Tamara Jenkins - Private Life

Best First Feature
Sorry to Bother You
We the Animals
The Tale
Hereditary

Wildlife

Best Feature
If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
First Reformed
Sorry to Bother You
You Were Never Really Here

Friday, February 22, 2019

Countdown to Oscar Night: Writing!






















Best Original Screenplay
Green Book
The Favourite
First Reformed
Roma
Vice

I absolutely love seeing First Reformed here (even though Ethan Hawke didn't get a nomination for the performance of a lifetime), but the snubs still overshadow the nominees. Bo Burnham won the Writers Guild award over these films for Eighth Grade and Boots Riley wrote one of the most original and unique screenplays in decades for Sorry to Bother You. Not including either of these on the list (especially considering that Green Book, Roma, and Vice hardly broke any new screenwriting ground) is simply a travesty. The Favourite is a shoo-in for this one because it'll allow the Academy voters to feel "edgy" for a half second...

My Ballot
First Reformed
Roma
The Favourite
Green Book
Vice

My Pick to Win
The Favourite

Shamefully Snubbed
Eighth Grade


Best Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
BlacKkKlansman
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born

As opposed to the previous category, I can't really say much bad about these picks. I had to really dig to find a "snub". I'll be rooting hard for Beale Street to win something outside of its all-but-guaranteed supporting actress trophy, but I think this is the category where the voters decide to think with their politics. Too bad they'll be missing out on the brilliant work done by Barry Jenkins translating the words of James Baldwin to celluloid.

My Ballot
If Beale Street Could Talk
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
BlacKkKlansman
A Star Is Born

My Pick to Win
BlacKkKlansman

Shamefully Snubbed
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

Countdown to Oscar Night: Building Films






















Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay - Vice
Pawil Pawlikowski - Cold War

One of the clearest "two horse" races for Sunday. For me, this category shows the shift between the old Academy (Cuaron, Pawlikowski) and the new (Lanthimos, Lee). Historically the award would go to either the best picture winner or an "old guard" Hollywood stalwart whose "time had come". Recently though, voters have been using this prize to award fearlessness, originality, and to exemplify diversity (since 2007 only 1 white American has won this award). I'd say this is a coin flip between Cuaron and Spike Lee.

My Ballot
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay - Vice
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite

My Pick to Win
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma

Shamefully Snubbed
Barry Jenkins - If Beale Street Could Talk


Best Editing
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Vice

I think I'm going to have real Bohemian Rhapsody fatigue before this weekend is over... It's editing is downright awful. Green Book and The Favourite were fine, but nothing in the editing room was new, different, or masterful. Much like The Big Short, Adam McKay's Vice is completely fearless in its editing. While a bit clunkier than the former, the VP-docucomedy certainly gets many of its laughs from its jump cuts and innovative storytelling. Standing a bit out from the rest, Spike Lee's joint is brilliantly edited. The real-life images intercut throughout the movie anchor the viewer and cement the film's impact and immediacy. Many critics have felt that this tactic was a cheap ploy to cheat emotion into a movie, but I think time will eliminate this critique.

My Ballot
BlacKkKlansman
Vice
The Favourite
Green Book
Bohemian Rhapsody

My Pick to Win
BlacKkKlansman

Shamefully Snubbed
Sorry to Bother You


Best Cinematography
Cold War
The Favourite
Never Look Away
Roma
A Star Is Born

Screw this category.... I am sure that the two foreign films are beautiful, they just aren't available. In a year chock full of beautiful films that deserve recognition did we really need three foreign films (really four) nominated in this category? Beale St., Sorry to Bother You, First Reformed, Isle of Dogs, First Man, You Were Never Really Here, heck, even Hale County, This Morning This Evening...  Maybe I'll feel differently after getting around to seeing the two films that haven't opened in North Carolina yet...  maybe not.

My Ballot
Roma
A Star Is Born
The Favourite

My Pick to Win
Roma

Shamefully Snubbed
If Beale Street Could Talk

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Countdown to Oscar Night: Music






















Best Original Song
"When a Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wings" - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
"All the Stars" - Black Panther
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Mary Poppins Returns
"I'll Fight" - RBG
"Shallow" - A Star Is Born

This is certainly one of the easiest picks of the night. This award has had Lady Gaga written on it since before the movie came out. Ho hum... I was pretty disappointed that they chose to ignore Dolly Parton's brilliant work in Dumplin and all of the cutting-edge hip-hop from Blindspotting and Spider-Verse. Other than "Shallow" the songs are pretty vanilla.

My Ballot
"Shallow" - A Star Is Born
"I'll Fight" - RBG
"When a Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wings" - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Mary Poppins Returns
"All the Stars" - Black Panther

My Pick to Win
"Shallow" - A Star Is Born

Shamefully Snubbed
"Girl in the Movies" - Dumplin


Best Original Score
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns

Three of these films (Black Panther, Beale St., Isle of Dogs) put the ORIGINAL in original score. Each of them not only perfectly convey the feel of their movie, but also do it in ways that sound new and exciting. BlacKkKlansman's score is just plain forgettable. Mary Poppins' is far from original and instead relies on, quite literally, hitting the right nostalgia notes. Of the three above, all would be worthy of an award, but Beale St.'s hauntingly beautiful music is a neck above the rest. It echoes the themes of beauty in all places that make it probably the best original score in a decade.

My Ballot
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Black Panther
Mary Poppins Returns
BlacKkKlansman

My Pick to Win
If Beale Street Could Talk

Shamefully Snubbed
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


Best Sound Mixing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

I don't think I've said this yet, and I'm sure I will say it again during my countdown, but Bohemian Rhapsody is simply a bad movie. It didn't deserve any nomination, let alone five... There is nothing original about any aspect of its filmmaking except that it is the first movie about Queen. First Man was technically brilliant but I don't really remember the sound standing out much. I also am not really sure why Roma or Black Panther fit in this category. The only possible option for the combination of sound and screen in a seamless, inventive way is Mr. Cooper's pet project. Either A Star Is Born wins best sound mixing or the voters don't understand the category.

My Ballot
A Star Is Born
First Man
Roma
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody

My Pick to Win
A Star Is Born

Shamefully Snubbed
Sorry to Bother You