Isn’t It Romantic

Oh God I hate romantic comedies oh so very much. I think we’ve long since established that about me. This movie promised to be the Scream of the genre, the one that points out all the tropes and makes insightful statements about it, but still being a part of the genre. Okay, I’m intrigued. Maybe I can handle this one?

Rebel Wilson (yay!) stars as a woman who hates rom-coms (good so far) who suddenly finds herself stuck in one. As she calls out all those details that often make me want to claw my eyes out she realizes that she has to give in to them in order to get herself out of this altered reality. Enter love interest Liam Hemsworth, the gorgeous billionaire who is more than eager to play that role.

I could get behind the concept, but I wish this went further. For one, though it was infinitely more watchable for me than those atrocious films it parodies, I still didn’t find myself laughing enough. And I think that they could have taken the concept even further. It did a good job of pointing out all the pitfalls of those films, but instead of truly subverting them, it fell victim to all the same plot points. Kind of a missed opportunity.

But I did absolutely adore Rebel Wilson as a leading lady, and I want to see more from her. I also appreciated the positive message of the film, although it looks like that’s starting to become the new cliche of the genre. A much needed positive message, but still cliche territory.

I think I’m gonna still keep avoiding rom-coms, but hopefully this is a sign they’re gonna be more tolerable in the future

Isn’t It Romantic – \m/ \m/ \m/

Alita: Battle Angel

Robert Rodriguez where have you been? It’s been too long since I’ve seen that Troublemaker logo on a new movie in theaters. Word on the street is that he was a big fan of the Alita manga, and he’d asked James Cameron (who had the rights) for a status update. Cameron of course is busy with Avatar, so he told Rodriguez that if he could write it, he could shoot it. Thus, Robert got his first $100+ million budget studio film.

Set in the far distant distopian future, a doctor (Christoph Waltz) who specializes in cybernetic prosthetics finds the remains of a female cyborg. He revives her and they soon find out that despite her missing memory, there’s something powerful about her and her mysterious origins.

I kind of loved this. The film looks incredible. With Cameron and his incredible technology as a mentor, the special effects here are stunning. Despite being all mo-cap, Alita looks very real. The world around her looks real. The fight choreography is breath taking. I was absorbed in this world immediately.

The other thing that pulled me in immediately were the characters. I fell in love with Alita and her pseudo father and her love interest, basically all within their first few minutes on screen. The doctor is just so compassionate and smart, plus any movie is always better when it has Christoph Waltz. And Alita’s big eyes were full of such wonder and joy and goodness, I couldn’t help but feel it all with her.

I did have a few issues with the writing. The dialog was a little cheesy and parts of the story were predictable or a little too rushed. I didn’t care though. The previous things I mentioned were strong enough that I was in.

Oh and as a bonus, while this may be a little different from Rodriguez’ usual scrappy and gritty style, there were a few of his signatures. The one I was happiest to see: minority representation. He had a beautifully colorful cast. Pay close attention, and you might also notice some of his previous collaborators in unexpected roles.

This film was predicted to be the first mega million bomb of the year, but I sincerely hope that isn’t the case. The word of mouth has been good, and I truly do think this is one that’s worth your time. Something fun to tide you over until summer blockbuster season

Alita: Battle Angel – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The first Lego Movie was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. So unexpected and so funny, and just a perfect movie in many ways. The spinoffs have been diminishing returns, so I was psyched to return to the original formula. Except too much of an original formula isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Where we last left our plastic pals, there was a Duplo invasion. We pick up in the wasteland aftermath of that battle. All the inhabitants have invoked their inner Mad Max, except for Emmett of course, jolly as ever. Now a new threat has emerged and kidnapped a group of our friends, including Lucy. Emmett teams up with a mysteriously rugged fellow to bring them back.

This sequel had everything that I loved from the first one: the catchy music, the witty dialog, the fun cameos, the blurred realitys. But it didn’t have anything new. It was all the exact same. So I didn’t dislike anything I saw, but there wasn’t anything new and exciting. It was just very status quo. Granted, the Lego status quo is high, but I wanted to see this push some new boundaries. Instead, everything was medicore

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – \m/ \m/ \m/

What Men Want

This is the type of remake I can get behind. I have zero interest in seeing the original What Women Want for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that as a woman I can definitively say that Mel Gibson is NOT what we want. But this remake didn’t just rehash the same story with a contemporary facelift. We switched genders and in doing so change the perspective and purpose of this film. It’s not about some dude trying to get the ladies. It’s now about a woman (a woman of color, no less) trying to get ahead in the workplace. Shut up and take my money.

Taraji P Hensen is a sports agent at a large agency, practically the very definition of a boys club. But she’s used to hanging with the guys and stepping up to them. Maybe too used to them, because she’s always in such a stand-your-ground mode that she doesn’t know how to relate to them at all. That all changes when some convoluted stuff happens and now she can hear the inner monologues of men. She tries to harness that to her advantage, but of course it goes hilariously wrong.

Okay so I didn’t connect with the comedy and the story was uber predictable. I didn’t care though. I was living for Taraji kicking butt. Lord only knows how many times you’ve heard me say that we need more brassy and ballsy ladies in Hollywood, so for me it was enough to revel in that. I’m proud to support a movie like this and I hope the studios take note and give us more

What Men Want – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Cold Pursuit

Liam Neeson taking revenge on the people responsible for killing his son. Sounds like the plot of another Taken, yeah? What if I told you it was more like another season of Fargo

So yeah, that’s where it starts. Neeson’s son is killed. He goes after the guy who did it. And the guy who told him to. That the guy that told that guy to. But similarly to the Fargo schlubs that do something shady and get in over their heads, the story spirals into something larger and more complicated than where it started. Oh and it’s set somewhere really cold. Not quite MN, but looks similar

The screenplay really impressed me. It was so smartly written how it continued expanding the story logically, but it was the humor I really connected with. Again, like Fargo, it had this dark humor that you weren’t sure if you should be laughing. There were uncomfortable snickers in the audience more so that full on guffaws. And I loved it. There was this one running gag that started out very simple, not even as a gag that became the highlight of the film for me. Whoever wrote this knew what they were doing

Cold Pursuit – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Oscars 2019

My favorite time of year movie-wise again. Actually, that’s debatable because I do love summer blockbuster season as well. But it’s time to obsess over meaningless awards that somehow mean everything. Part of me felt like skipping this post because the uncertainty in some categories has me feeling like I don’t even wanna try. That’s how I am when it comes to competition (even if it’s competition with myself). If I think I can win, I am highly competitive. If I don’t think I can, then I don’t really care at all. Still, there’s no way I really could let myself drop the ball on this one, so here we go, looking at the nominees in each category. You may find me slightly more non-committal than usual this year.

Best Picture:
I usually rank these in my order of preference, but what’s weird is that my favorites aren’t necessarily the ones I think should win. And the race is so unpredictable this year, I honestly have no idea how it’s gonna fall. I’m just gonna leave them here in alpha order.


Black Panther – I love that this got a nomination. The common criticism I’m hearing is that it isn’t even the best superhero movie of the year and that it’s formulaic, but I am behind it getting this spot. I find that while these films do follow a formula, it’s about how you dress them up. And dressing it up with some beautiful culture and layered subtext makes it stand out.


BlacKkKlansman – If I had a vote, I’m pretty sure this is where I’d put it. Well, it’d be a cointoss between this and another we’ll get to. Every element of this is perfection: acting, screenplay, directing, etc. Plus it’s an important film with a timely and urgent message. It’s the total package.

Bohemian Rhapsody – This is the film I’m most conflicted about being here. It’s my favorite on the list, the one I enjoyed most. But I don’t feel it’s Best Picture worthy. Best Actor on the other hand…

The Favourite – There’s one every year. The film that I just didn’t care for. I can get behind it. It’s technically well done and it’s unique, I just got bored halfway thru. It is the one I’m most looking forward to rewatching at the Oscar marathon because I would like to give it a second chance.

Green Book – 20 years ago, this would have been the easy winner. Even today, it’s a potential frontrunner. It’s feelgood and checks off all the boxes. I just don’t think it has as much bite as some of its competition.

Roma – The artsy film snob choice. A foreign film has never won, plus a lot of people are against the Netflix distribution. Still, it’s the most artistically beautiful option, I just think it’s gonna take enough hardware home elsewhere.

A Star is Born – This is the other flip of the coin where my theoretical vote would go. It’s also perfection on all points, and it’s one of the most emotional films on here with a strong and relate-able message. It’s also the most approachable film, and has mass appeal. I feel it’s the people’s choice. Time was when it was the front runner, but it’s lost momentum over time.

Vice – I think this pales in the shadow of The Big Short. The buzz is completely mixed for it. While I liked it, I frankly don’t think it’s as strong as most of the rest of the list.

Lead Actor:
My bday is the day after the Oscars, and the one present I want is for Rami Malek to win this race. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a while, but watching this film, he truly became Freddie Mercury. I was blown away each time I saw it. With each precursor award he picks up, he’s increasing his chances. His biggest competition is Christian Bale. Vice got more nominations but both films aren’t universally loved. The Academy may feel bad about snubbing Bradley Cooper for director and reward him here for his best ever performance. But I think the tie breaker between Bale and Malek is going to come down to the fact that Rami has been so graciously accepting awards and putting the spotlight back on Freddie Mercury. I think people would be quicker to indirectly honor him than Dick Cheney. At least, that’s what I hope.

Lead Actress:
I enjoyed McCarthy’s performance most because she made such an unlikeable character sympathetic. Colman had the most technically difficult with such a dense and specific screenplay. Gaga impressed me most by creating this incredibly strong and emotional performance for her debut. Close had the most masterful performance that defined the film. Aparicio’s nomination is her victory. I mostly lean towards Close but would be happy with Gaga or a McCarthy upset.

Supporting Actor:
I’m torn between recognizing the long illustrious career of Sam Elliott or the scene stealing, film defining role of Richard E Grant. But Mahersala Ali’s got the momentum. I’d be more in favor if he hadn’t just won two years ago. And I adore Adam Driver, but he’ll get it one day.

Supporting Actress:
I really want Amy Adams to win. She’s been nominated so many times and always gone home empty handed, that I hoped the next time she got on the list, she’d finally take it. But it’s looking like Regina King is the favorite, which is fair. She does give a powerhouse performance. I’m also bummed that Emily Blunt didn’t make the cut, yet again. Some day, Em, some day.

Director:
I would absolutely love for Spike Lee to win this one. Not just because BlacKkKlansman is my favorite on this list, but because he is a legend and deserves to have won. It’s a travesty that his first nod took him so long. This will likely go to Roma, which I’m okay with on the merits of the film, but generally speaking, I prefer to spread out the awards love over repeat winners. I do also love that Yorgos is nominated for The Favourite. Even if it’s not my favorite of his films, I’m happy he’s gotten the honor.

Animated Feature:
Pixar owns this category with originals, but sequels don’t fare as well. Isle of Dogs has some charm, but I truly hope and believe this will go to Spider-Man into the Spider-verse. The stunning animation is reason enough for it to win. It looks unlike anything we’ve seen in theaters before, and is the first comic book film that truly feels like a comic book. Then there’s the significance of a mixed raced minority superhero in the lead. Add in the hilarious screenplay to seal the deal.

Animated Short:
I’m pretty sure Bao is the only one of these that I’ve seen, but I do like it for a win. The cultural significance plus the emotional impact is a pretty winning combination. Even if one of my coworkers once described it as “A chubby guy eats a marshmallow and cries about it” Yes, I realize there are multiple errors in that statement.

Adapted Screenplay:
BlacKkKlansman was one of my favorite screenplays of the year, based on how it’s funny and dramatic and poignant and important all at once. It’d get my vote. Although I do remember predicting this nod for Can You Ever Forgive me right after I saw it. This could also go to Beale Street since it’s very tricky material to work with, and people may be bummed it didn’t get a Best Picture nod.

Original Screenplay:
This should be Blindspotting. No question that was my fave screenplay of the year, but since it wasn’t nominated, ugh I don’t know. None of these really scream out to me. The Favourite is unique, Green Book is a wonderful story, Vice is creative. I really dont know what to expect on this one.

Cinematography:
As beautiful as Roma and Cold War are, I like The Favourite for this, primarily because of the fisheye shots. Who does that? It adds to the quirkiness of the film, and reenforces the fly-on-the-wall-of-the-palace vibe of the film.

Best Documentary Feature:
I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers midway thru 2018, and Free Solo soon before nominations were announced. I figured those three plus RBG and something else would be the nominees, and I was determined to make this the first year I saw this category. Then they were announced and it turns out that I’d have four to watch, so um nevermind that. I do think Free Solo is the likely winner (with Minding the Gap as a potential spoiler). It plays out like an action movie and the cinematography is gorgeous, plus it’s super inspiring. I think it transcends the genre in a way that few docs ever manage to do.

Best Documentary Short Subject:
I got nothing here.

Best Live Action Short Film:
I saw one! A friend who is very in the know with this category told me to watch Fauvre, which was beautifully shot and very intense.

Best Foreign Language Film:
This is one of the easiest to call. Roma. No question. I wish Cold War had come out in a different year because that one is equally deserving.

Film Editing:
I don’t know that one particularly sticks out to me here, but I saw Spike Lee on Jimmy Fallon praising his longtime collaborator Barry Alexander Brown. Lee credited Brown for finding that balance in tone between dramatic and comedic, which is probably what I love most about the film. I’m sold. I guess Vice is also pretty good in this category too, huh.

Sound Editing:
First Man is the type of film that does really well here, but I kinda like the idea of A Quiet Place since sound is such a cornerstone of the film.

Sound Mixing:
Music heavy films tend to do well here, so that’d be either Bohemian Rhapsody or A Star is Born. Then again, sciency things do well too, which would be First Man.

Production Design:
I’m gonna become a broken record by the time we’re doing with the more artistic technical categories, but Black Panther’s got the edge because it’s so unlike anything that’s been nominated before. The way they blend African culture into the superhero world and contemporary society is stunning. I also kinda like Roma here for nailing the 1970s Mexico.

Original Score:
My metric for score is, which one did I notice during the movie and think “oh that sounds good”. The week before nominations were announced I was watching BlacKkKlansman and had that thought. I do also like Blank Panther here for doing something different, but personal preference is Klansman.

Original Song:
Does anyone not expect this to go to the very deserving Shallow? Although Ashes from Deadpool 2 shoulda been nominated too.

Makeup and Hair:
I’d initially called this for Mary Queen of Scots because of the hair primarily. I was so impressed with it. But Vice really does make its cast look like their IRL counterparts. And I expect since Vice has some more weight behind it in terms of nominations, it should take it.“

Costume Design:
Time was when The Favourite would be duking it out with Mary Queen of Scots, since periods pieces tend to reign supreme, but I actually think it’ll go to Black Panther. It’s a good spot to reward the best picture nominee, and I think the blend of culture and fantasy elements make these outfits truly unique and memorable in the long run.

Visual Effects:
I really wanna say Ready Player One, since it was my fave movie of the year and The OASIS did look amazing. It’s got a pretty solid shot too, but I think that this might be the Academy’s chance to recognize Avengers Infinity War, not necessarily for the effects (although the snap effects did become instantly iconic) but more to recognize the magnitude of the film overall.

The Wife

Last bit of Oscar homework. All through awards season, I was hoping this wouldn’t get nominated, because I didn’t wanna see. But Close started to win precursor after precursor, and her nomination seemed a lock. Now her win seems likely. Now I was obligated.

Close plays Joan, the wife to a celebrated author. Her husband has just been informed that he has won the Nobel Prize in literature, and we follow their trip to the ceremony in Stockholm. As we watch this faithful partner holding her husband coat and generally keeping his life in order, we start seeing some resentment coming thru and hints of a longheld secret she’s hiding.

My expectations going in had been tempered. I was told that Close was phenomenal, but the film wasn’t anything too great otherwise. I strongly disagree with that assessment; I was completely floored by it. I walked out of the theater stunned and had to immediately text a friend I’ve been discussing Oscar movies with at length. I think a big reason for the disconnect in opinions is simply because I feel this is a film that will resonate with the ladies more than the men-folk. I picked up on subtleties in her mannerisms and actions that told me where the story was going to go and just hit me so hard. I don’t know that I can really expand on it without giving away major plot points, but simply put I was seething.

And the reason why I felt those emotions so strongly was Close. She said so much with each pointed look she gave, but what really struck me was the way she’d switch emotions on a dime. There were several scenes where she’d shift from screaming to laughing or crying or something completely different but completely believable. And I felt every last one of them.

I do get some of the criticisms about the film as a whole, but Close’s performance was enough to elevate it beyond that. And it just might get her that elusive Oscar

The Wife – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Cold War

More Oscar homework! And I was even more reluctant to see this. An artsy and romantic foreign film? Ugh, do I have to? The foreign and cinematography nods aren’t enough to get me to go, but the director bid is. As much as I complain about these required homework movies, sometimes they’re actually very worth it

Zula and Wiktor meet in post-war Poland, working in a cultural performing group. The two fall madly in love and make a plot to escape the country’s turmoil together. From there, we jump ahead every few years to check in with the couple and where they’re at.

It doesn’t sound like something I’d be into, right? Yet I was. I think it was the performing arts aspect that first drew me in. We begin with lots of rehearsal and auditions putting together the tour that brought them together. I loved watching the dance sequences. As it went on, I was loving the music that played. There’s this one song that keeps coming back throughout the film, slightly different each time, that served as an illustration of their story. It was incredibly effective at heightening the emotional impact.

The story was fast paced and quick. Didn’t linger on anything it didn’t need to, not even on exposition. My movie buddy that saw it with me said that the filmmakers didn’t assume the audience was stupid. They acted as though we’re smart enough to pick up on the small queues of the scenes to fill in the blanks with every jump. It almost became like watching a mystery, trying to piece together what happened in those gaps, but was ultimately so satisfying.

The ending (no spoilers) messed me up so bad. I had a suspicions of what general direction their story would go, but the unexpected execution of it knocked the air out of me.

For all the people who complain that the Academy Awards are total bull and not worth their time, I find it’s worth it to draw attention to films like these. I would have never seen this if it wasn’t for that director nomination. And I’m oh so very glad that I did.

Cold War – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

At Eternity’s Gate

Happens every year. The film that comes out that I really don’t wanna see, and will only go to if it gets a major Oscar nomination. Actually, there’s two of those this year, but today we’re talking about At Eternity’s Gate, which scored a Best Actor nod for Willem Dafoe.

Dafoe plays painter Vincent van Gogh. Today, van Gogh is a highly respected and beloved artist, but that wasn’t the case while he was alive. We look at some of the last days of his life and the struggles he endured to create his work.

Here’s the thing. I really do love a good art musuem (Art Institute in Chicago is my favorite). However, I tend to go thru them pretty quickly. I want to take it all in, and it doesn’t take too long to figure out if I like a painting, and then move on. With few exceptions, I can’t really stare at a painting for hours. I get that’s how some people enjoy their art, but it’s just not my thing.

I say all that, because that’s sort of how this movie felt, like I was staring at a painting for a couple of hours. I could appreciate the beauty of it and the artistic quality, but it’s not really a world I wanted to inhabit for too long. I got bored right away, in need of more narrative action.

Dafoe’s performance was fantastic, and while he wouldn’t have been my choice for that last spot on the shortlist, he’s still a deserving actor. It just wasn’t enough to get me into this film.

At Eternity’s Gate – \m/ \m

Serenity

Ah yes, the January slump. The posts may slow down a bit for the next week or two. Doesn’t mean they’re any less interesting.

By the time this post reaches you, you should have already picked up on the reputation this film has. Everything you’re hearing is true, even though presumably everything you’re hearing is wildly different. It’s kinda terrible, but I kinda really enjoyed it. Some people can’t get thru it, some find it hilarious. I found it suspenseful. I’ve heard comparisons to The Room. It’s def something to experience.

Matthew Mcconaughey is a fisherman on a small island. He takes whatever work he can with his boat that also allows him to chase his Moby Dick–a giant tuna that always eludes him. A mysterious woman from his past, Anne Hathaway in a blonde wig, arrives on his boat and offers him an exorbitant sum if he’ll kill her abusive husband. The film plays out as a sexy modern day film noir, until…

There’s a big twist halfway thru. I won’t say what it is, but it’s common knowledge by now that there is one. That twist is the source of most derision this film is receiving. It sounds dumb when you hear it. It especially sounds dumb out of context. For me, it didn’t fit the tone of the film and completely pulled me out of it. However, I get what they were trying to do. And I think it’s ultimately a cool concept, esp how it plays out, it just didn’t work. The execution was poor, and I’m not sure what they needed to do to fix it. I found that frustrating. Others have found it hilarious.

I’m big into thrillers, so personally I was held in by the suspense. That’s what eventually pulled me back into the film. I wanted to know how it was gonna end and what choices Matthew was gonna make. I was certainly more forgiving of the crazy than others were, at least in the moment. I think this film is gonna be some bizarre Rorschach test because every one I’ve talked to has a completely different reaction to it. Again, it’s just something you gotta experience

Serenity – \m/ \m/ \m/