Can You Ever Forgive Me

I adore Melissa McCarthy. I think she is incredibly funny and has an uncanny ability to completely lose herself in a role. The problem is, I haven’t been too crazy about the roles she’s chosen. Most of them are too over the top (dare I say kinda annoying?), or she’ll go to the other end of the spectrum, and hold back too much. With Can You Ever Forgive Me, she may have finally found that perfectly balanced role.

McCarthy plays real life author Lee Israel. Though once an acclaimed author, her work and reputation have dried up, and she’s left in a state of desperation. Using her skills as a biographer, able to get into the mindset of her subjects, she begins forging letters written by the likes of Fanny Brice, Noel Coward, and Dorothy Parker.

I realized while watching this, that I think I enjoy biopics more when I don’t know the subject. There’s less expectations, and it’s all discovery. If someone who isn’t famous enough that their story is known, you can be damn sure their story is interesting if it’s made it into a film. I was enthralled by every single second of this story (which is not something I can say about First Man, the most recent super famous person biopic I’ve seen). It wasn’t just that I wanted to know how the story played out. I was captivated by Lee.

Being captivated by Lee is something that I completely attribute to McCarthy’s performance. Lee Israel is not a very good person, and not someone you should like. But McCarthy infused her with such vitality and depth, you couldn’t help but feel sympathetic. Truly truly her greatest performance to date.

And it wasn’t the only great performance in the film. Her partner in crime (sometimes literally) was played by an effervescent Richard E Grant. The two played off each other beautifully, and he elevated a great film even more with his screen time.

I’m calling it now, we’ll be talking about this movie come Oscar season. Those two performances are absolutely worthy of nominations, and the adapted screenplay could potentially be in the running as well. All would be very well deserved.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Beautiful Boy

This has been an amazing year for movies, and we’re only starting to get into Oscar season. So many of this year’s amazing movies have been incredibly emotional/heartbreaking/overwhelming and I don’t know how much more my poor empathetic little heart can take. Still, I press on, because these films have all touched on very important subjects that need to be spotlighted. That brings us to Beautiful Boy.

Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet star as father and son, who are both trying to understand and conquer son’s drug addiction. We follow them over the course of several years of recovery and relapse, showing the toll that addiction takes on the entire family.

Both gave incredible performances, and while I’m hearing more people talk about Timmy, it was Steve that had my heart through the movie. I love seeing him take on serious roles. He has an “every man” quality to him that you sympathize with, and you feel like you’re taking the emotional journey along with him. He’s particularly effective, because he plays most of it with a calm and patient restraint, which is the opposite of what you’d expect in someone in such a dramatic role. But inevitably, he breaks, and that’s when I lose it. One scene towards the end particularly caught me off guard and I was overwhelmed as the flood gates broke.

The other thing I really liked about the film was the way it was put together. I guess I should say it was the editing. As scenes would play out, they’d splice in glimpses of flashbacks. I felt like it broadened the story in a way that a straight narrative never could do. It also gave a sense of realism because it felt like memories resurfacing as you’re processing current events, which is a very human thing.

I really hope this film gets people talking about addiction, and directs people towards the help and support they need. It’s such a powerful story, and one that’s all too common today.

Beautiful Boy – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Mid90s

Two things I love. 90s nostalgia and Jonah Hill. So I was destined to love this movie. But if I’m perfectly honest, I had some concerns going into this. The trailer didn’t grab me. It felt like any other character indie movie that would be slow and plodding and trying to be profound. If it wasn’t for my boy writing and directing, I may have skipped it. Turns out, I needn’t have worried, but we’ll get to that.

In my big excitement for the weekend, Jonah was gonna be doing some Q&A’s with the cast. Having been to a few of these things before, I had a new strategy. Tough it out thru the annoying neckache of sitting in the front row to get a prime spot for after. Totally worth it. I lucked out and ended up sitting directly in front of him. We made eye contact at one point. I’m still giddy.

Okay so the movie. We follow Stevie, a tween growing up in the mid 90s (duh) with a crappy home life and no friends. He begins hanging around the local skateshop, idolizing the older kids who take him under his wing. For the first time, he’s found his tribe where he can grow and be accepted. Reading back what I wrote, it sounds kinda cheesy, but it’s moving and effective.

In the Q&A, Jonah said that he wanted to make a film where you felt like you were hanging out with those kids, and he absolutely succeeded. I did not feel like I was watching a movie, but was instead spending some time with new friends. It made me feel like the skater girl I always wanted to be. The interactions between the kids were so real and honest. In particular, the one who sold it was our leading skater boy played by Sunny Suljic. That kid has so many emotions in him and can convey them with such ease. Really, all of the kids had an authenticity to them, and that’s what made the film so special.

Mid90s – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Halloween

Well it finally happened. Lil Miss I-don’t-get-scared-at-movies was so freaked out, she had to check her apartment for a couple nights after seeing this.

Michael Myers is back and we’re forgetting everything that happened in the 40 years since the first installment. Not only is he back, Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, the ultimate Final Girl, is back as well. We see the psychological toll that Halloween night has had on her and her family. That’s right, we’ve got three generations ready to be terrified as we meet her daughter (Judy Greer, love her) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak).

That aspect is what made this really special. It’s not just another bunch of dumb school kids getting terrorized. We’re seeing what happens down the road, that the true horror isn’t contained to one night. Jamie Lee Curtis really is the best of the best, and she hasn’t lost her touch at all.

So why was Miss Rational Thinker so freaked out? Couple things. One, I love seeing horror movies in crowded theaters. Hearing everyone’s gasps and screams and uncomfortable laughter makes it that much more fun. Plus, it really heightens the suspense. You’re really waiting for each moment and feeling your heart pounding. But more than that, what scared me was Michael himself. The one surefire way to get me scared at a movie is to present seemingly inescapable situations. Michael is an inescapable situation because he’s so quiet and stealthy, you don’t know he’s there until you’re dead. It’s kinda hard to just run away from the bad guy with the knife when you weren’t aware there was a bad guy with a knife to run away from. So yes, I’ve been checking my closet every night.

Halloween – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

First Man

Damien Chazelle is back on the scene. Whiplash is one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. La La Land one of the most overrated. First Man? Well, let’s get into it.

The title refers to Neil Armstrong, who we all know as the first man to walk on the moon. This is his story. And yes, I mean his story, not the story of the moon landing, though that’s a big part of the story. This looks briefly into his life as a pilot, before joining NASA, as well as the GEMINI mission and the early parts of the lunar program. We get a look into his family life, starting with the death of his young daughter, and a look at his friends at NASA, some of whom lost their lives in service of the mission.

The story is fascinating. I can’t believe that it’s taken so long for such a legend’s life to be put on screen. I loved that it not only honored him, but the others he worked with, including those that gave everything. Ryan Gosling played him well with that stoic charm we know and love him for.

However, something was just missing for me. The pacing dragged, to the point where by the time we landed on the moon, I was dozing. The moon landing is the last thing that should make you sleepy!! I get that this was a personal story, not one about the action of the missions, but there could have been a bit more vitality to it.

My biggest gripe though was the camerawork. I fully understand that it was an artistic choice, and I can appreciate that. However, the shaky cam and extreme closeups were just very difficult to watch. True, I have been dealing with some eye strain lately (getting it under control tho!) so that further contributed to my not liking it. It just really took away from the film.

Okay, so I know I prolly shouldn’t even say this, and that it’s completely unfair, but I absolutely could not help but mentally compare this to Apollo 13. Ron Howard’s masterpiece is a damn near perfect movie, and an impossible bar to live up to. First Man was never gonna get there. And that’s okay. I just wish it’d been a little closer

First Man – \m/ \m/ \m/

The Hate U Give

Who says YA adaptations have to be only fluff? There are few movies I’ve seen as emotionally powerful as The Hate U Give. I don’t care if the original target audience for the novel was tweens, this is a movie that everyone needs to see.

The story centers around Starr, a black high school girl caught between two worlds; the poor primarily black community she lives in and the affluent white high school she attends. While she hates herself for having to live two lives with two personas, she realizes it’s the only way to get by. That is until she’s the passenger in the car of a childhood best friend, and witnesses him getting shot and killed by a police officer at a traffic stop. In the aftermath of an event that’s bigger than her, she has to learn how to use her voice to stand up for her home community, even if that means alienating the other.

I felt a weight on my chest for the entire movie that didn’t lift until after the credits rolled. The whole time, I felt like I was on a hair trigger that would send me to tears at any moment. A few times, I did nearly lose it. I don’t know that I can further put into words the emotional impact of this film.

Our Starr, Amandla Stenberg, truly is a STAR. She carried that story with grace and power that actresses with twice her experience don’t even have half of. Everything I felt watching this movie, I felt because of her.

Starr’s parents were the other pillars of this movie, played by Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall. Their relationship was everything. I truly admired the love they had for each other, and the strong example they led for their children. They instilled such strong values in them, it gave me hope for humanity. If there are fictional characters that strong of character, there must be some that exist in the real world. They truly set an example for how I would want my hypothetical future family to function.

The other thought I left this movie with was that I realized that so many of this year’s best movies are made by black filmmakers. I know there’s still a long way to go, but this is proof that representation matters. These are the stories that need to be told, and I love that they’re starting to trickle out there. I can’t wait to see what comes next. I just hope my heart can take the impact.

The Hate U Give – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Smallfoot

Usually all you can hope for with a non Disney/Pixar animated film is something in the range of “okay” and “watchable” and maybe even a “cute”. That’s about where we landed with Smallfoot.

In an adorable twist on the classic myth, the abominable snowman is real, except he’s more like the huggable snowman. The yetis live way up high on a big mountain, secluded from the rest of the world, and governed by a set of beliefs written on stone. One of those beliefs is that there is no smallfoot–human creatures that live below the mountain. In fact, there is no below the mountain. A chance encounter between bigfoot Migo (Channing Tatum) and a plane crashed human leads him to question everything he’s ever been told.

Besides being cute, what impressed me about this movie was the amount of positive lessons for the kiddies. Usually there’s one big moral that we’re working towards. This had so many small but important ideas: ask questions, don’t make assumptions about people, be open to new ideas, learn about each other’s cultures, don’t take everything you’re told at face value.

The voice cast was great too. We learned a couple weeks prior that Zendaya is Meechee, but I really loved Channing Tatum. The film is technically a musical, and I’m not sure I heard him sing before. His voice was so sweet with a delicate quality to it that I didn’t expect.

I wish there had been more in jokes for the big kids (um, adults) in the audience. The pacing felt a little slow, and I didn’t laugh as much as I’d had hoped. But it was sweet and cute, and it will be a win for the little ones

Smallfoot – \m/ \m/ \m/

The Sisters Brothers

It’s rare that I find a Western I like. This was not it. And I had such high hopes for it too.

John C Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix are the Sisters Brothers, an infamous duo of assassins. And they’re after Riz Ahmed, a prospector who may have discovered a better way to acquire gold. Somehow Jake Gyllenhaal is involved too. I don’t know, I wasn’t really following; I was so bored.

The main draw for me was the cast. The next draw was the humor that the promos seemed to promise. The cast was superb, but the funny was too thin and scattered. It was more a Western with more comic relief than usual, as opposed to a comedic Western.

Reilly was particularly great in this movie, so I suppose it’s worth watching for him if you’re a fan. But really, he’s got so many better movies. I wouldn’t waste your time unless you’re a true western aficionado. Lord knows I’m not.

The Sisters Brothers – \m/ \n

Venom

You have the chance to make a movie with Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed, and this is what you come up with?!

Riz Ahmed somehow acquires some alien creatures and one of them somehow merges with Tom Hardy. And now he’s got crazy abilities and an even crazier appetite. It plays out like a supehero origin story, but Venom is no hero. You’d think this would be a great opportunity to subvert the genre, yeah? Yeah, you’d think. Instead of doing that, it just pulled all of the worst bits of superhero films.

I did really like the Venom character, and his relationship with Tom Hardy (whose character I also liked). Any moment that was just about them navigating their new relationship, I dug. The rest of the movie was lazy and boring and even stupid at times.

Lord knows I love my scifis and supers and various other extraordinary stories. I am used to suspending disbelief and just going with their made up science and accepting it as a necessary part of the story. Welp, I seem to have hit my limit for that. I just could not buy a single thing they were saying, and I was ready to throw things if they said “symbiote” (or some variation) one more time (potential drinking game maybe?)

The action sequences were dull, the baddie cliche, the love interest overdone. Again, so much potential with such a cool character and a great cast, but it was totally wasted. Yet again, Hollywood realizes that we’ll pay money to see crap, and yet again we fell for it. We deserve better. So does Venom.

Venom – \m/ \m/

Bad Times at the El Royale

My movie premiere tally is up to 4! Yup, got to see Bad Times at the El Royale at the Chinese Theatre. It’s funny because a week before I’d just been saying to myself that I wanted to see a premiere there. And the week before that, I’d said that this was one of the upcoming movies I was most looking forward to. Dreams do come true.

Written and directed by Drew Goddard (the guy that did Cabin in the Woods and The Martian, two very highly ranked movies in my top 100), the El Royale is a hotel straddling the state line between California and Nevada. Time was when it was one of the hottest hangouts in either state, but now it’s a run down hide out for shady types. And the cast invovles Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth. All but Hemsworth were present at the premiere.

I was actually sitting along the aisle they entered for the intro. I wanted to attempt to fist bump them (at least Bridges and Hamm) as they walked down, but they were each escorting their costars down the stairs. Totally cool, maybe on their way back up, when they’d be more likely to look directly up at me. Except the lights dimmed the second they finished the intro, and they had a costar’s hand in one hand, and a lit up cell phone in the other. Ah well. As a bonus tho, I did spot Joss Whedon in the crowd behind me. I kinda freaked out a bit.

Back to the movie. Think Tarantino by way of Joss Whedon. So now you know I loved it. The story was dark and gritty (I think I use those adjectives too much in my write ups, may need to consider retirement) and the mystery was in tense. It played out in pieces, following each character, discovering their motivations for staying at this seedy sanctuary. But like an episode of Lost, right as you’d start to uncover the mystery, we’d jump to the next story, which would suddenly have you equally enthralled. Woeven throughout tho was this biting (and often macabre) humor. Drew, didja write this movie just for me?

The cast was incredible. It’s my fave Bridges performance in a while, and I loved seeing Hemsworth break bad. However, the true MVP, hands down no question was Cynthia Erivo. Her story was the most compelling, and her desperation was felt in every frame. That alone would be enough to win the movie, but on top of that, she got to show off her singing. This is where I point out that she’s a Tony Award winning actress for The Color Purple musical on broadway a few years back. Hard not to see why.

This was the type of dark movie that I love, and I especially love that they’re getting better and better. Goddard’s quickly climbing up the ranks of my favorites list.

Bad Times at the El Royale – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/