Friday, March 16, 2018

Quote of the Day: A History of Violence - Loved From Birth

Richie Cusack: "You always were a problem for me, Joey. When mom brought you home from the hospital, I tried to strangle you in your crib. I guess all kids try to do that."

Go ahead, search throughout the annals in the history of crime cinema. Take a look at the villains. Some terrifying, some brilliant, some puzzling, some so wicked you are sharply reminded that Satan does exist.

And then there are the crazy ones. The wretches who have simply lost all concept of reality. Richie Cusack from David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" is one of those scoundrels who has simply just lost their minds.

Ingrid Goes West - Matt Spicer (2017)

Stalkers. Admit it, America, you're just as obsessed with them as they are about their targets. They're just fascinating. We wonder what exactly is wrong with them? But everybody is obsessed with celebrities, aren't they?  The difference is that we have the privilege of watching everything happen on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Live Journal and so many more. Whereas the Stalker has not only to know about their target, they must become friends with them in person.

From the start of "Ingrid Goes West," Ingrid's (Aubrey Plaza) insanity is established. We're shown what happens at the ending of a stalker/stalkee friendship.

She crashes a wedding, starts screaming at the bride and then throws acid onto her face. So I guess that makes Ingrid an anti-hero. 

After Ingrid is released from a mental health facility, she doesn't waste any time. She has a new crush. A celebrity on the internet, Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen).

Ingrid cashes out her late mother's life insurance and takes a trip all the way to California. She just has to be this girl's best friend, whatever obstacles come in her way.

When she gets there, she rents a room from Dan Pinto, (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), who can smell her instability right away. Nevertheless, he lets her have the room, lets her borrow his truck and sleeps with her.

Ingrid knows a lot about Taylor already through her online persona. She knows what she likes, where she lives and who she loves. She uses all this knowledge to squeeze into Taylor's life.

When Taylor's dog goes missing, Ingrid shows up on her doorstep, her beloved dog in Ingrid's arms. From there, Ingrid and Taylor's friendship takes off and then just glows.

They become very close very fast, share intimacy, party together. Taylor even introduces Ingrid to the delights cocaine has to offer.

When some secrets threaten to doom their friendship, things spiral downward very quickly and very hilariously. But we understand both of these characters throughout the film. We root for both of them and feel sorry for both in equal measure. 

Generally, there's only room for one dark comedy celebrated throughout awards season such as The Coen Brothers' "Fargo" in 1996 or Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "Birdman. in 2014." In 2017, out of all the dark comedies like George Clooney's "Suburbicon" and Armando Iannucci's "Death of Stalin," that honor went to Craig Gillespie's "I, Tonya."

"Ingrid Goes West" isn't one of the best Dark Comedies of the year - nor is "I, Tonya" for all that matters, but it's dark as hell and hilarious, while somehow managing to treat its characters with kindness. You can count on this film to entertain you amply for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Quote of the Day: The Imminently Wise "¡Three Amigos!"

"There you go, you can sew. If only we had known this earlier."

Chevy Chase as Dusty Bottoms in "¡Three Amigos!"

This film came out when I was twelve and has been in my aware consciousness. I've heard people call this film juvenile and trite. I do not give a crap.

Quotes from "¡Tree Amigos!" pop in and out of my head naturally, as if they have an answer to whatever life throws at you. It's a comfort blanket of a movie.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Ten Best Films of 2017

Now that the Oscars are behind us, we can stop focusing on what the Academy thinks and discuss a wider scope of 2017's movies. It's a relief after weeks of tunnel vision.

They've awarded who they thought were the best films, performances, etc. But what were actually the best films of 2017?

The internet is now a gluttonous strawberry-patch for anyone who posts and blogs on the subject, so without further ado:

Resident Film Snob's list of the top 10 films of 2017.

10) Rian Johnson's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

If you're familiar with this blog, you'll have noticed that for the most part, I like to talk about artsy types of movies. You generally won't find me talking much about big blockbusters or franchises. But "The Last Jedi" is one of the most impressive entries in this series I've loved all my life. I saw "Jedi" four times and am waiting until I can watch it again. And again, and again...

9) Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird"

My God, how much do I adore Greta Gerwig? She's been expanding her storytelling kills for years and now she brings us "Lady Bird," a coming-of-age film like no other. Her greatest achievement to date had been her co-writing credit with Noah Baumbach on Baumbach's 2012 film "Frances Ha." I've said before that leading lady Saoirse Ronan is this generation's Molly Ringwald, but it's not that simple. Ringwald and Ronan have different pallets. They show us their range of emotions very distinctly.

8) Sebastián Lelio's "A Fantastic Woman"

"A Fantastic Woman" bites off a lot, but not so much that it can't chew. It argues with anti-Trans sentiment with no subtlety, but it's just not that kind of film. It stands its ground and does so impressively.

7) Armando Iannucci's "The Death of Stalin"

"The Death of Stalin" is an historical movie about death camps, summary executions, and casual assassinations. And it's the single funniest film of the year. It belongs right up at the top with the greatest dark comedies of all time ( a.k.a. Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting" or the Cohen Brothers' "Fargo").

6) Dee Rees' "Mudbound"

From the vast scope of WWII to a smaller story about a simple friendship, "Mudbound" is an epic that strongly sweeps through the story of racism in America. Two families, one black and one white, live on the same stretch of land. The way they settle their disagreements is a picture of the pre-civil-rights era in Mississippi and how far we've come. But most importantly, how far we have to go.
5) Darren Aronofsky's "mother!"

Spiritually speaking, "mother!" is one of the most important films of all time. The allegory, by turns sweet and brutal, is a start of a conversation long overdue about the nature of God. People worship Him, others discard Him, but in the end, what does our devotion matter to the universe?

4) Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water"

All of the wonderful things I have to say about "The Shape of Water," you've already heard from others. It's an adult fairy tale. More than that, it's one of the most intimate love stories to come out in a while.

3) Joachim Trier's "Thelma"

"Thelma" is not just a film about true love. It's also about first attraction, first lust. It centers around a young woman from a very conservative family. Trier handles the social discussions of the film with subtlety and treats all of his characters with respect. 

2) William Olroyd's "Lady Macbeth"

"Lady Macbeth" takes on the style of storytelling Shakespeare was famous for and nails it. We follow a woman forced to live with an abusive husband and father and how she forces a change of power. She turns toward the darkness as she liberates herself from persecution.

1) Jordan Peele's "Get Out"

I've said so damn much about "Get Out" on this blog, there's nothing really left to discuss. It's the single most terrifying film in years. It's important. It's a vigorous response to the institutionalized racism from US leaders.

Honorable Mentions:

"Atomic Blonde" brings us back to the days when sex and violence ruled in the action-movie genre. We've suffered for years under the oppression of lame, PG-13 mediocre films. This film feels like home. God effing bless Charlize Theron.

Ildikó Enyedi's "On Body on Soul" is a lovely, charming film about how love manifests itself both in reality and in our minds. It reminds us that just because something is in our minds doesn't mean it's not real.

George Clooney's "Suburbicon" will have you laughing until you burst or cry or pee. It's so dark and gruesome, but there is so much physical humor, slapstick if you like, that it doesn't leave itself down in the sludge, but soars happily through the dark sky.

Todd Haynes' "Wonderstruck" bonds two characters so close to each other, you may find yourself envying them. Though they don't cross paths because they're divided by decades, still they find each other.

Miguel Arteta's "Beatriz at Dinner" is a beautiful ode to those who oppose our current leaders. It surely isn't subtle, but it's nice to see John Lithgow hamming it up as a real estate mogul, cynical and high on the food-chain. And Selma Hayek is charming as hell, representing our disgust, our dismay, and our resistance. Not nearly enough people saw this film and that's a shame.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Phantom Thread - Paul Thomas Anderson (2017)

This is going to be a very short entry because we have very little to discuss.

I'm sure you've watched movies that had characters you've hated. Not villains for sure - they're meant to be hated, but the ones we're supposed to be rooting for.

And surely you've also seen films that you just disliked (hated) every frame of.

Paul Thomas Anderson's "Phantom Thread" is just that sort of movie. And Daniel Day-Lewis, as Reynolds Woodcock, portrays just that type of detestable character. A high-end dress-maker who's a confirmed bachelor, he decides now is the time in his life for romance.

When Alma (Vicky Krieps) comes into Woodcock's, life, boy does it just get turned on its head in a boring, meaningless and vicious way.

Watching Woodcock treat Alma with such malice for over two hours is more than unpleasant, it's tedious. We're meant to feel terrible as he mistreats her, but somehow, we don't. In the end, Alma is left with a twisted kind of justice but by that point, Oh my God, who cares?

Almost as soon as the lights dimmed, I was in misery. As a general rule I try not to dump all over bad movies, but I this time I just want to warn you.

The film is essentially about the joy of cruelty. And it argues that the answer to that cruelty is more of the same. You might say: "But Resident Film Snob, I thought you loved long artsy movies like this." That's true, I do. I'm a sucker for pretention, but this film isn't art. It's a bore.

Partway through "Phantom Thread" I found myself asking, "What the hell happened to Paul Thomas Anderson?" By the end of the film, I didn't care.

Yes, Daniel Day-Lewis is a fantastic actor and normally interesting to see what he brings to any film.  I just wished I were watching "Gangsters of New York" or "There will be Blood" or even "My Left Foot."

I'm going to take a page from the late Roger Ebert's book and say "I hated, hated, hated this movie." Because he was wise enough to know that it's important to recognize and condemn bad films just as much as it is to celebrate great films.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Academy Awards 2018: Who Should Win, Who Will Win and Who Got Snubbed

Okay, Ladies and Germs, it's that time of year again. The Oscars! (Which I've always maintained are meaningless, but hell, it's entertainment.)  

Who will win, Who should win and who got snubbed altogether:

Best Picture. Who will win: Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water."

This film will come out on top, I think it's a safe bet. "The Shape of Water" has a broader cinematic scope than any other film in the running. The dark fairy tale takes us into another reality, captivating us. I don't begrudge their win because, after "Get Out," it's the second best picture out of the contenders.

Who should win: "Get Out."

If everything in the universe were perfect, all other films would bow down to Jordan Peele's "Get Out." I'm delighted that it nabbed four nominations. But we all know that the nominations are this film's reward. The Greatest film of 2017 could go home empty-handed, but there's hope. It is also in the running for Best Original Screenplay. It very well may take that home. That would be lovely.

Who has no business being on this list: "Dunkirk" and "Phantom Thread."

There's usually a token bad movie you can't stand getting a lot of attention and getting nominated for all sorts of awards. You've probably seen it. And I'm sure it'll walk away with a couple of statues. But My God wasn't Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" just one hell of a disappointment? Maybe that's just me. And everyone I know.

Paul Wes Anderson's "Phantom Thread" is much, much worse. I'd talk more about this film, but I don't want to.

But both Nolan and Anderson both have brilliant films under their belts. I'm sure they'll come back with wonderful films in the future.

Best Director. Who will win: Guillermo del Toro.

I think this is going to easily go to del Toro for the way he put together "The Shape of Water." There are so many visual and literary elements the film needed to juggle and he did so adroitly. He pulls the greatest performances out of his actors. He knows exactly what tone is most fitting throughout the movie. From start to finish, del Toro leads us through his world as the movie changes from a fantasy to a thriller, then down to a simple, intimate love story.

Who should the Oscar go to? See above.

Best Editing. Who will win: Lee Smith for "Dunkirk."

Smith will easily win this one. The film isn't going to win any of the big awards and this is its consolation prize. Funny how crap like that sways the fate of the winners and losers.

Who should win: Sydney Wolinsky for "The Shape of Water."

Wolinsky cut this film so beautifully. He finds the right rhythm for each sequence in the film, and that's a big part of why this film is such a triumph. Wolinsky cuts with grace, spirituality, and poetry. Damn, I wish he'd get the award.

Best Actor. Who will take home this award for Best Actor: Gary Oldman for his performance in Joe Wright's "Darkest Hour."

This one's easy. Oldman plays a famous historical person. He's in a fat-suit. Need I say more? But who the hell am I to raise a fuss when I think back over his body of work? Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." His performance of the truly evil Stansfield in Luc Besson's "Leon." The tragic punk icon Sid Vicious in Alex Cox' "Sid and Nancy." Most of all, out and in front of all the others: Drexel, the aggressive pimp and drug dealer and Tony Scott's "True Romance." It's long overdue for Oldman and I'm happy for him.

Who should get it: Daniel Kuluuya for  his performance in "Get Out." 

A considerable part of why "Get Out" is so dark and curt is because of Daniel Kuluuya's performance. He plays Chris, the protagonist who's every kind of terrified and he shows different types of fear for the span of the film. From suspicion and wariness all the way to naked fear. Kuluuya knows exactly how to carry the weight of a psychological horror on his shoulders.

Best Actress.  Who will win: Sally Hawkins will and should win for her performance in Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water."

This one's fantastic because, as with Best Director, Best Actress as Elisa Esposito in "The Shape of Water," will and should go to the same nominee. Her performance as Elisa, a woman who has never been treated with equality finding a kindred soul. There's not really much else to say about it. I wrote a bit about her performance when I evaluated "The Shape of Water."

Who Should Win: See Above.

Supporting Actor. Who Will Win: Willem Dafoe for "The Florida Project."

Some would consider this category to be wide open, but I disagree. I believe the Academy will give this one to Willem Dafoe for his work in Sean Baker's "The Florida Project." His performance is entertaining (Dafoe couldn't be boring if he tried), but it doesn't even come close to many of his most brilliant work, i.e. in Scorsese's "Last Temptation of Christ," Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" and "Nymphomaniac Volume II," and David Lynch's "Wild at Heart." This is more of a lifetime achievement award if you will. And I appreciate that. I even applaud that.

Who Should Win: Richard Jenkins for his bit in "The Shape of Water."

But if we're judging these two actors based solely on these specific, I'm afraid Dafoe takes a back seat to Richard Jenkins for his role as Giles in Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water." His performance as half of Elisa's support group is so powerful. He is wise and noble and would die for Elisa, but he looks like a crumpled old man. One could easily take him for a hobo. But he carries himself beautifully and with dignity.

Supporting Actress. Who Will Win: Allison Janney for her role in "I, Tonya."

Oh, my is this one easy. Allison Janney gave the performance of her career as the vile, venom-spewing mother of Tonya Harding in Craig Gillespie's "I Tonya." So many other actresses would have taken the cruelty down a notch, maybe tried to add some humanity to the film. But Janney knows where to be subtle and where to be aggressive and Tonya's mother is an aggressive character. Janney plays her with malevolent elegance. She will win the Academy Award.

Who Should Win: See above.

Foreign Language Film. Who Will Win: "Sebastian Lelio's "A Fantastic Woman."

Full disclosure, I haven't seen two of these films, so take this opinion/prediction with a grain of salt. I believe The Academy will give this award to Sebastian Lelio's "A Fantastic Woman" out of Chile. It comes fresh off several Festivals and it's timely as hell. Not just that, it's a powerful and intimate film as well. It's a love story, a critique of bigotry and the way different kinds of people grieve. "A Fantastic Woman" should win the award as well.

Best Original Screenplay. Who Will Win: Jordan Peele.

My money's on Jordan Peele for his screenplay for "Get Out." It's more than a horror film (though it is terrifying), it's socially important. When it came out, it felt like a revolution. It puts so much shame on our current leaders, it could probably get this kind of recognition on that merit alone. Add to that the fact that it's been years since we've seen a horror film like this one and I think I can safely predict "Get Out" will win Original Screenplay.

Who Should Win: See above.

The Unjustly Ignored:

Sadly, some of the greatest performances of the year received no recognition, no love. Every year, somebody gets snubbed entirely.

Best Supporting Actress: Betty Gabriel for her performance as Georgina in "Get Out."

Betty Gabriel should have been recognized for her small but vital performance as Georgina, the family maid in "Get Out." She brings more urgency to the picture than anyone else. It's not just how she pops up out of nowhere, scaring the hell out of us, although that's pretty frightening. When you look into her face and listen to her, you can see both the poor young woman whose body was stolen and the thief herself. They're each fighting for control. When she apologizes to Chris, you can feel how tense she is. Grandma is trying to keep control of them at the same time as the other girl trapped inside is trying desperately to "Get Out." Her small, single tears are juxtaposed to the infamous ones we all know from Chris. She contributes more to the film than most people realize. It's so damn subtle and that's why nobody's recognized it.

Original and Adapted Screenplays overlooked: Oh my, there were so many.

Sofia Coppola's screenplay for "The Beguiled" ought to have definitely been recognized, as should have The Coen Brothers, George Clooney and Grant Heslov's screenplay for Clooney's "Suburbicon" and "The Death of Stalin" deserved some recognition. "Stalin" was the darkest comedy of 2017 and Fabien Nury's screenplay (with help from six other writers), is brilliant. 

Best Foreign Language Film: "Thelma."

I also have to mention Joachim Trier's "Thelma," a story about a young woman and her first romance against her family's fundamentalist leanings. The film came out of Norway in November 2017, here in the US. As good as "A Fantastic Woman" is, for better or worse, I have so much more affection for "Thelma." It should have been put up for "Best Foreign Language Film."

Best Original Song: "Distraction Sickness" from "A Ghost Story."

The best original song of 2017 was "Distraction Sickness" by Dark Rooms in David Lowery's "A Ghost Story." But it was ignored completely. It's small but vital to the film's tone. On its own, it's just a brilliant song.

Original Score: Daniel Hars for "A Ghost Story."

For that matter, Daniel Hart's score for "A Ghost Story" is one like no other in any of the great movies released in 2017. It's filled with melancholy and darkness and it's gorgeous.

Best Supporting Actor: Jonathan Banks in his turn in Dee Rees' "Mudbound."

This is the single most unforgivable slight of 2017. Banks plays Pappy McDaniel, a murderous man determined to put as many black people as he can back in their place. Black people are slowly starting to get some status and that infuriates him. Since he can't keep the whole world the way it is, he takes out his white-hot hatred on anybody he can find around him who's vulnerable. He's terrifying. Banks gives the single best performance of 2017, so tell all your friends.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Quote Goes To Groucho, As It Should

"Don't look now, but there's one man too many in this room and I think it's you."

- Groucho Marx from "Duck Soup" (1933)

If you haven't seen this movie, you're just an abomination. Shame on you.

But you can watch it now and remedy that. Then you'll be an upstanding citizen again.

I think I could easily put nothing but Groucho Quotes on here and this blog would still be insightful and entertaining as hell. I love this guy.