The Disaster Artist

Actual conversation with my therapist (social anxiety), well paraphrased actual convversation
“You have to choose a conversation topic”
“All I really wanna talk about is seeing The Disaster Artist the other day and how amazing it was”
“Why did you like it so much?”
“It’s very much my style of movie. It’s got a different vibe to it, really funny and fascinating. [Some general talk about the film] And James Franco is amazing. [Some light gushing over James] I love how because he’s also a misunderstood artist he could really connect to Tommy Wiseau.”
“Do you think that maybe you like this movie because it’s a little different, like you? And that maybe you like James because you both identify as outsiders?”
“First off, have you seen the boy? That’s a big part of why he’s a favorite. Second, whoooooooaaaa. I had not made that connection before. Damn”
See, sometimes therapists have some fun insight.

We’re already coming up at a week since I’ve seen this movie, and it still makes me giddy and it’s still all I wanna talk about. There’s a non-zero chance I’m watching it again in a few days, and I’m actually really excited about it. I think we’ve got a new front runner for fave movie of the year.

Directed by and starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau, The Disaster Artist is the story behind The Room, affectionately known as the best worst movie ever made. I really do need to do a write up on The Room sometime soon, but I do have a Stardust reaction. It starts with Tommy meeting Greg Sestero, the dude who would become his best friend and costar in film. James’ brother Dave plays Greg, giving them an amazing opportunity to share the screen together.

Acatually, a lot of James’ crew is in this movie. Dave’s got the biggest supporting part, but you’ve also got Seth Rogen, Randall Park, Judd Apatow, Allison Brie, and a whole bunch of other familiar faces in various roles. The whole thing is rather serendipitous. James has certainly faced a lot of criticism for his more artistic choices over the years, which is why he just gets Tommy Wiseau so well. They’ve both misunderstood artists, and James brings this depth and emotion to the role that I don’t know anyone else could have captured.

The Disaster Artist is just as bonkers as the Room, but with a different perspective. I laughed so hard, but I was also captivated by the story, and a few poignant moments even got some whimpers out of me. I can’t explain enough how much of a blast I had watching this. Oh and PSA, be sure and stay thru the end credits. There’s a nice surprise waiting for you! (And a great midcredits surprise too).

One last thing, I don’t think you need to have seen The Room to enjoy The Disaster Artist, but I still recommend that you do. Partly because then you really will get every reference (including some callback dialog that occurs outside of the film within the film) but also for the sheer enjoyment of seeing The Room. I have yet to make it to a midnight screening, but it is absolutely on my radar for the near future.

The Disaster Artist – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Coco

Is there any movie studio that is more consistent and reliable than Pixar? Sure, a couple of the sequels may have been off the mark, but those aside, Pixar movies are emotional experiences unparalleled in Hollywood. I had so much faith in Pixar and Coco that I didn’t even give my coworkers a voting option for the fortnightly movie excursion I organize. I made an executive decision and took us to Coco.

Before I talk about Coco, let’s talk about what happened before Coco: the controversial “short”, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. I love Olaf. I finally caught him at D-land a few days prior and geeked out so hard as we talked about sunshine and warm hugs. I actually did enjoy the short. I thought it was cute, and Josh Gad is all heart as always. HOWEVER, I do not believe that this was the appropriate venue for it. Not only was it way too long for a pre-movie appetizer, it had neither the spirit nor the quality of the shorts we’ve come to expect in this spot. Let’s be real, I wouldn’t have actually tried to catch this on TV as was its initially intended medium, but I woulda been happy to watch it as a DVD extra or YouTube clip.

Now Coco. A young boy in Mexico (Miguel, not Coco, but I’m not explaining that here) loves music more than anything. However, the art form has been banned in his family for generations, after his great great grandfather abandoned his family in order to pursue a career as a musician. He comes to believe that this mysterious patriarch may in fact be the greatest singer in his country’s history. I’ll skip some details, but he finds himself in the Land of the Dead on Dia de Los Muertos trying to find this man and gain his blessing in order to return to the land of the living.

As I said on Stardust, Pixar once again has outdone themselves with the animation. It was beyond gorgeous, and I don’t just say that because I love Dia de Los Muertos style imagery. And even though Dia de Los Muertos was never a part of my family’s traditions, there was plenty in the film that actually made me kinda homesick: the accents, the slang, mentions of tamales, the music. It was really beautiful seeing that culture presented on screen.

And yes, as expected, such an emotional story. A lot about family, but I also found it to be about the power of music. There was one particular scene that really got me, that started off with a touching familial moment, but it was when the music kicked in that I had to fight to hold back tears. So so beautiful, and it was the type of music I heard all around me growing up. I may have taken it for granted as not my style then, but now it brings back floods of memories. Even without that cultural connection, the film was rather moving. My coworkers and I sat in our seats thru the entire credits, hoping to compose ourselves so that we wouldn’t let each other see us crying.

Coco – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Darkest Hour

Ah yes, the lavish movie that appears to be built around winning one actor their Oscar. There’s one every year. Usually a period piece. Darkest Hour fits that bill to a T.

Directed by Joe Wright, Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill in a film that follows his first days as Prime Minister of England during WWII. I’d heard it described as a sorta unofficial companion piece to Dunkirk earlier this year, and it’s true. You see that same story told from the other side, though it’s not the sole focus of the film.

I’m not particularly fond of period pieces or war films, at least not generally speaking. They hafta have something really special, and for me this didn’t quite do that. Oldman is fantastic, and he deserves the inevitable Oscar nomination (my heart is elsewhere for the win, but we’ll discuss much later). However, his performance only took me so far in enjoying the film. My lack of history knowledge had me lost in some of the details, and as a result, the impact of specific scenes and speeches didn’t quite work for me.

It was interesting seeing Wright’s approach to this film. (Also interesting was his Q&A after my screening.) I love him for his beautifully stylish films. This was far more subtle and subdued. I don’t think I would have appreciated that with another director. He did sneak in a few nice flourishes that felt very him that I very much enjoyed.

I also really liked the supporting cast. Kristen Scott Thomas was a powerhouse as the Mrs. Churchill, and I would have liked to see more involvement from her. Then there was Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI (who we saw played by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech). The size of his role was right for this film, but I’d love to see it expanded in a further piece. Lily James was a surprise for me. I don’t typically care for her, but as our sort of audience surrogate (being introduced into the world as we are), I liked her. She had a charisma and grace about her that was quite fitting.

Anyways, the long as short is that this might not be a film for the casual movie goer. However, it is one for Oscar enthusiasts and history buffs. We see a lot of those this time of year.

Darkest Hour – \m/ \m/ \m/

Roman J Israel, Esq

I don’t think I’ve once said the title of this movie right. I can’t wrap my head around it. Things I also can’t wrap my head around? This movie as a whole. I couldn’t get a good read on it from the trailer, but I figured Denzel’s the man so I’d give it a shot anyways. The film itself was just as unfocused..

Denzel is a lawyer in a small, two man law firm. When the other man falls ill, he soon finds himself out of a job. Things happen and then he’s working at a big time law firm, and he does some stuff of questionable ethics and I really don’t know what this is meant to be about.

Really, it was all over the place. I couldn’t keep the timelines straight. I couldn’t figure out his motivations. I couldn’t tell what the point of the whole thing was supposed to be. Denzel was acting as hard as he could, but it wasn’t enough to counter a weak screenplay and direction.

At least Collin Farrell is pretty.

Roman J Israel, Esq – \m/ \n

Wonder

Heh, so there’ve been multiple times in the past two weeks that I’ve forgotten all about this movie. That isn’t to say it was bad or I didn’t enjoy it. Quite the opposite really. It’s just that in such a rich movie season, this one got kinda lost.

Wonder is about a little boy, played by Jacob Tremblay, who has had a serious of medical issues that have ultimately resulted in some rather obvious facial disfigurement. Because of that, he’s been home-schooled all his life. But now that he’s about to start fifth grade, it’s decided that it’s time for him to go to public school and try to navigate the harsh world of junior high.

It sounds overly sappy, and it kinda was. But it was also effective. For me, it definitely triggered a lot of uncomfortable bullying memories. There was a point where the kids finally stood up against the bullies, and the audience burst into applause, and I nearly burst into tears. It stirred up so much for me.

The film doesn’t just focus on our wonderful boy. Some segments are told from the perspective of other characters. I really liked the storyline about the older sister, who often found herself ignored by the rest of her family that catered to her little brother. We don’t get that angle very often. Some of the other side stories felt a little incomplete though. I think it might have worked better if she was the only B story.

My favorite character tho was Daveed Diggs’ teacher. Yeah a lot of that is because I’m a Hamil-fan with a crush, but I love the charisma he brought, and I loved what his character stood for. I just wish we had more of him.

This was nice and heartwarming. I feel like it was well done, it just didn’t stick with me too long after.

Wonder – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Molly’s Game

Right so remember the awesome friend who got me into an early SAG screening? We actually made it a double feature with a super early advance screening.

Aaron Sorkin makes his (long overdue) directorial debut with his adaptation of Molly Bloom’s autobiography. Bloom, played by Jessica Chastain, went from being a near Olympic skier to the woman behind the most exclusive poker games in LA and later NYC.

This is a case of people doing what they’re good at to the best degree possible. Sorkin’s screenplay is a sharp as ever, and I can’t believe it took him so long to step into the director’s chair as well. It just makes so much sense, and it added a sense of cohesion to the film, like we got a complete vision.

Also at the top of their game, Jessica Chastain. She has become the go to lady for powerful and strong women, and this role is no exception. And this time, it’s really all about her. I love how Chastain makes an effort to seek out these kinda roles, and I wish they weren’t such a rarity in the industry. But when they come along, she’s got them covered.

Overall, I found the movie so fascinating. It’s an interesting story and Sorkin moves it along nicely. Oh also, Idris Elba’s pretty great as Molly’s lawyer.

Molly’s Game – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Call Me By Your Name

Perk of living in LA: there’s lots of really cool advance screenings (granted, it’s not so advance by the time I post this). Perk of having awesome friends: a buddy that’s a SAG member could get me into said screenings. Bonus perk: Actor and director Q&A after the film. Yup, was mere feet away from the gorgeous and charismatic Armie Hammer *swoon*

The story of Call Me By Your Name is quite simple. A young American man is spending a few weeks in Italy, finishing up some school projects. He befriends and soon engages in a romantic relationship with the son of his host family. No big drama, no psychotic villain, just a sweet romantic film.

Wait, what? Dawn’s into a romantic film? This one yeah. For some reason, I tend to get really into LGBTQ love stories on film far more than their straight counterparts. So that was reason number one. All bets are off when it comes to whether or not I’ll like these stories. Perhaps they’re more thought out and careful. Perhaps they’re more escapist for me. Perhaps there’s some other psychological issues going on. Who knows. The other reason this one really worked was the chemistry between our two leads (Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet) was palpable.

I honestly don’t know when I last felt such intense emotion radiating from a film, but it was something to experience. Some of it was luck in how the two actors were able to relate to each other, but I credit a lot of it to Chalamet’s performance. He had these expressions that would make you feel what he felt, and it was overpowering and beautiful.

The movie does take a little while to get going. It’s moody and atmospheric from the start, but the narrative action plays out slowly. It was a bit problematic for me at first, but the payoff was so worthwhile.

The film is beautiful in that there is no repercussions for their sexuality, no great villain keeping them apart. It’s just a celebration of their love. Oh and the parents are so wonderfully supportive. A speech from the father towards the end of the film nearly brought me to tears. And before you start to question the age difference, Hammer is actually older than the character, and the age of consent for the younger character in Italy is lower than here. So it’s all good. That shouldn’t even been a thing. Again, it’s simply an exquisitely told love story. Nothing more, nothing less.

Call Me By Your Name – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Justice League

Sooooooo you prolly noticed the new look. A long way overdue migration from LJ onto my hosted space. Once I figured it out over Turkey weekend, I decided to prioritize that migration over new posts, so yet again, I’ve fallen behind. I still have a TON of old entries to migrate. For now, they’re still on LJ, but hopefully they’ll make their way here shortly. But first, Justice League.

We all know I’ve been very outspoken about my dislike of the DCEU (Wonder Woman notwithstanding), and especially when in the hands of Zack Snyder. So when I say that Justice League was fine, that’s actually a pretty big step.

Watching the film, I was kinda into it (again, more than I can say for Man of Steel or BvS). As long as I didn’t think, I was okay. When I started thinking about what I was watching, and especially when reflecting on it later, that’s when I started noticing flaws.

My biggest problem specific to this movie was the lack of character establishment. I feel like the only reason I was able to connect to WW was because of her film earlier this year. As far as the newbies, Flash had an electrified leg up because of the WB series, but with Cyborg and Aquaman, I felt like I was playing catchup. A-man was really badass, but I knew almost nothing about him. For Cyborg, I was filling in the blanks with his stuff on Smallville, which then made me miss Lee Thompson Young. Really, I think more than anything it was just frustrated at how impatient the studio was to rush this movie out rather than patiently building out a franchise over time. Doesn’t the audience deserve better?

Well, as far as better, Flash was rather awesome. I rave about Ezra Miller every time I see him, and we’ve never see him do comedic before. I think without him, this movie may have been unwatchable. However, as I hoped, he brought in some much needed levity. Also better: Superman. Thank the Lord. He finally seems to be back on track to the Clark I know and love, not this mopey emo kid. Even if his story did feel rather shoe-horned in, I was finally happy to see him in these films.

So a step in the right direction. Not quite far enough yet, but hopefull there are lessons learned that continue this upward trend.

Justice League – \m/ \m/ \m/

Murder on the Orient Express

For some reason, despite the expansive cast, I just couldn’t get myself excited about this movie. I wasn’t sure what it was that held me back. When the reviews started coming in, they were rather mixed, which didn’t make me feel much better. I started to get really anxious about it because the movie night I organized with my coworkers had voted to see this, and I didn’t wanna subject people to a subpar movie. I needn’t have worried.

Okay so there’s a train, and there’s a murder, and there’s Kenneth Branagh’s mustache. For such a seemingly simple setup, they played with their boundaries rather well, I felt. I realized that what a lot of modern murder mysteries miss is that they’re so focused on the who, that they miss the why, which is the more fascinating part of the story. It felt like the who was more of the meta puzzle, and all the pieces for the smaller ones were where the magic was.

The other bit of movie magic I liked was how a lot of the staging and camera work played with the small space. It never felt claustrophobic. Instead, we got a lot of really creative shots, showing the same train car from many different perspectives. Add in the production design and we got a rather stylish film.

The suspect list was a little bit of star overload, I think. Each of their parts ended up being rather small because there were so many of them to get thru. However, Branagh was such a standout. I love love loved his character Hercule Poirot, and I do hope he gets a sequel (seeing as how his literary counterpart is part of a series). Despite the occasional slow pace of the film, Branagh’s wit and presence were always enough to carry me through.

As far as that movie night, the film was a win. I don’t know that it will always fare that well tho.

Murder on the Orient Express – \m/ \m/ \m/

Daddy’s Home 2

I missed the original the first time around. It was released during a very crowded Christmas holiday and there just wasn’t enough time for all of them. My thought towards seeing the sequel was mostly “sure, why not?” A few days before the planned movie time, I realized I had a free evening and the original was on Amazon Prime. “Sure, why not?” It was a perfectly serviceable comedy, entertaining but not too special. My thoughts towards the sequel were fairly similar.

Co-daddies Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have learned to get along and manage their dad and step dad dynamic. Now, it’s Christmas, and their own daddies (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson) are getting involved.

I actually really like the core family dynamic. Ferrell, Wahlberg, and mom Linda Cardelini. There were some unexpected warm fuzzies in watching their family interact. And then the other dads came along. I adore John Lithgow (and have since his 3rd Rock days), and he played well with the rest of the cast. Total joy to watch. Then there’s Mel Gibson. I could not stand him at all. Partly because he’s Mel Gibson and partly because his character is so completely unlikeable. I mean, I get that tension in the film has to come from somewhere, but he was more than I could handle. Why couldn’t we have just kept John Cena as the villain, who appeared in all too few scenes building on his cameo from the first film. He was fantastic and added far more value than Gibson.

The film did give me a jump on the Christmas spirit, and there were some laughs to be had, but like the original, it’s not one that I expect to remain as a classic for years to come.

Daddy’s Home 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/