[#2018oscardeathrace] The Florida Project (2017)

Director: Sean Baker

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Caleb Landry Jones

Screenplay: Sean Baker, Chris Bergen

111 mins. Rated R for language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role [Willem Dafoe] [Pending]

 

Many critics believe that The Florida Project was snubbed for Best Picture this year. Let me weigh in yet again.

The Florida Project follows Moonee (Brooklyn Prince, Robo-Dog: Airborne) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) who live in the Magic Castle, a cheap motel near Disney World. Moonee is not disciplined by her mother and takes part in mooching, stealing, and rudeness with friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Dicky. Magic Castle’s manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe, Shadow of a Vampire, Death Note) tries to keep the peace, but Halley’s inability to take responsibility for her child causes many guests to complain. Bobby is torn between his duties as a manager and his concern for the well-being of the children.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Florida Project. As I say a lot, a character doesn’t have to be likable as long as they are interesting. The only character I found to be compelling and interesting in the film is Dafoe’s Bobby. His performance is strong and real. You can see the strain of his decisions weighing on him.

I really didn’t like Halley as a character. I felt bad for her child as I’ve seen this kind of thing play out in real life. The film was real and believable in a lot of ways, but these weren’t compelling characters that I wanted to spend time with, and Halley especially was more annoying and one-note.

The technical aspects are strong, though, with director Sean Baker (Tangerine, Starlet) again using his strong visual sense to fill the screen with gorgeous albeit tragic images. It’s one of the saving graces of an overall disappointing and depressing film.

I might catch some flack here for my opinion on The Florida Project, but overall, I wasn’t nearly as taken by the film as others clearly were. That’s the great thing about film. I hope you enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t. Short of Dafoe’s incredible work and the lovely cinematography, The Florida Project didn’t work for me.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Baby Driver (2017)

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza Gonzales, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

Screenplay: Edgar Wright

112 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]

 

I missed out on Baby Driver last year. I made the attempt several times to get to the theater to catch it, but each time, I ended up missing out on it. It hit home video and I picked it up, and for months, it sat on my watch pile. Thankfully, I needed to check it off my Oscar Death Race. So here we are.

Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars, Allegiant) is a getaway driver who works somewhat freelance for Doc (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty, TV’s House of Cards). He suffers from tinnitus, and he plays music to drown it out. He is working his way toward paying off a debt to Doc and finally being free when he meets Debora (Lily James, Cinderella, Darkest Hour), an attractive diner waitress he falls head over heels for. Baby sees a future for him and Debora that is without crime, but when Doc pulls him back in, Baby finds himself in a situation where he is forced to betray everything he knows to escape.

This is the first film from writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) since completing his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, and it’s a hell of a way to break out of the wheelhouse. Wright’s direction is strongly tuned to the music (he reportedly wrote each scene with a specific song in mind and sent an iPod with a playlist out with each copy of the screenplay) so that the film feels like a big concert action film. His writing gives the feeling of larger-than-life characters existing within a realistic landscape.

Ansel Elgort shines as Baby with a performance mostly physical. Elgort uses his body language as dialogue here to react to the building tension, especially in the final act of the film, but everyone in this film feels so strongly placed, from Lily James’s Debora to Jon Hamm (Marjorie Prime, TV’s Mad Men) as Buddy (Buddy was written with Hamm in mind, and rightfully so). I also really liked Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, Pilgrimage) as Griff, though I would have liked to see more of him. To be fair, though, Jon Bernthal should be in every film.

I wasn’t all that taken with Jamie Foxx (Ray, Sleepless) as Bats, though. It just felt like he took his character from Horrible Bosses and reused him here. He isn’t terribly interesting and I would have liked to see someone else embody that psychotic thief.

But the real star of the movie here is the soundtrack and Wright’s expert handling of the action set pieces. This movie got my toes tapping more than once throughout the runtime. Wright’s focus on practical driving over CGI as much as possible helps to maintain a good pace for the film, one that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Baby Driver is one of the best action films of the last decade. It’s an enjoyable romp with terrific performances and a lot of heart both in front of and behind the camera. A passion project from Wright, the movie is similar to the director’s previous work in that it’s wholly rewatchable and endlessly fun. This is one to seek out if you missed it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, click here.

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] The Greatest Showman (2017)

Director: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

Screenplay: Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon

105 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “This is Me” [Pending]

 

Musicals are getting a comeback recently thanks to La La Land. In 2017, the same lyricists contributed to The Greatest Showman, a musical biopic based on the life of P.T. Barnum. So can the film stand up to meet the music?

Phineas T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, Logan) came from nothing. When his father died, he was forced into a life of stealing bread and selling old newspapers just to survive, but his hard work and determination to give his beloved Charity (Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea, All the Money in the World) the life she deserves brings him to the creation of P.T. Barnum’s Museum, a building of curiosities and unique people. When Barnum’s successes lead him further away from his family, he is forced to confront what is most important in his life.

Okay, so the music is incredible here. I could not stop tapping my foot all throughout the film, and I did actually enjoy myself. The best songs in the film are the opening number and, of course, “This is Me.”

The biggest problem with the movie is that the story hits familiar beats all too often. There is a lot in P.T. Barnum’s life to cover, but the screenplay focuses on some paint-by-numbers plot points like the way Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Snowman) influences the plot and the love story between Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, The Disaster Artist) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Zapped).

Hugh Jackman is, thankfully, a tremendous force in the film. In prepping for his role as Barnum, he read over 30 books on the famous showman. His role is joyful, emotional, and full of life. The Greatest Showman has been a passion project for Jackman since 2009, and his passion shows through here.

I left the theater with a big damn grin after The Greatest Showman ended. Much like The Disaster Artist, the film is about the need to perform and create, and in that way, Jackman’s performance shines through. He and the rest of the cast give their all in their acting and singing, but the screenplay hits a few too many beats. That being said, this is still a lovely time, especially in the theater.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Victoria & Abdul (2017)

Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar, Michael Gambon, Tim Pigot-Smith, Paul Higgins

Screenplay: Lee Hall

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design [Pending]

 

Director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Florence Foster Jenkins) seems to surprise me with his films. He has regularly directed films that, on the surface, seem very boring, but when I see them, I’m often shocked at how much I’ve enjoyed them. Victoria & Abdul is another such film that seemed rather boring from what I’ve seen. But did the finished film actually work?

Victoria & Abdul is the story of a friendship between an aging Queen Victoria (Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal, Murder on the Orient Express) and her Indian Muslim servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal, Furious 7, Fukrey Returns). This friendship is resented by son Bertie (Eddie Izzard, Ocean’s Thirteen, The LEGO Batman Movie) and others in England, who devise several plots to get rid of Abdul and send him back to India.

Frears’s new film suffers from the same issue that some of his previous films have: their pacing. Victoria & Abdul should’ve been tightened down by cutting around 20 minutes from the film. There is a sizable chunk in the middle that doesn’t develop either character and also doesn’t advance the narrative.

What saves the film is the central relationship between Queen Victoria & Abdul Karim. It is the scenes with these two that are so spectacularly well-acted that it makes the entire viewing experience all the more enjoyable. Dench and Fazal put in some of the best performances of 2017, hands down, and their chemistry is terrific.

On the other side of that coin, I didn’t find the supporting “antagonists” of the film to be very well-written. I didn’t really understand their motives outside of them just being mad or jealous. It just didn’t work for me and I didn’t find them interesting or compelling enough to support the narrative’s driving force.

Victoria & Abdul showcases its two leads and their central relationship, and while the “villains” were less than stellar and Frears still hasn’t solved his pacing issues, Dench and Fazal have so much infectious chemistry that it still makes the film worth it. The technical merits of the film are finely-tuned here and the story is a very enjoyable character piece. Check this one out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Stephen Frears’s Philomena, click here.

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro

Screenplay: Rian Johnson

152 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]

 

I guess it’s true. No one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. This movie was divided as hell, but does The Last Jedi deserve the hate or is it missing the praise?

Picking up moments after the events of The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley, Murder on the Orient Express, Only Yesterday) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Brigsby Bear, Bunyan and Babe) on Ahch-To to discover that he has abandoned the Jedi code to live out his days in quiet solitude. Meanwhile, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, Maps to the Stars, TV’s Family Guy) leads the resistance forces away from D’Qar as a First Order fleet arrives to take them. Now, they are on the run from First Order forces. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina, Suburbicon) makes a costly mistake in the defense of the convoy and falls into a path of mistrust when Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern, Wild, TV’s Big Little Lies) assumes command of the Resistance forces. Now, as the First Order closes in, Finn and Poe attempt to save the convoy, Rey finds herself drawn ever closer to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Paterson, TV’s Girls) and the truth about her past.

Okay, so I’m not a Star Wars apologist. I find the prequels to be extremely middling in quality, and even though I love all the Star Wars films, I’m not above finding glaring issues that stick out. That being said…

I loved The Last Jedi. It completely changed the game and added so much to the mythology by driving the film forward rather than looking to the past. This is an incredible addition to the Star Wars Saga. Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom) came to the table and took what J.J. Abrams created with The Force Awakens and pushed it further. It’s definitely not like its predecessor in that it isn’t how I expected it. In fact, that’s what I love most about the film. I walked into it with all these preconceived ideas about how the movie has to go, and I would say just about all of them were wrong. I love The Last Jedi because I was shocked and surprised when I watched it, and that hasn’t happened since The Empire Strikes Back.

The film’s performances and cast are top-notch yet again, particularly leads Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, this being her final Star Wars outing. Hamill could easily have been nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars with his most subtle and tortured performance in his entire career. Skywalker is broken by his failure to save Ben Solo.

There’s also some really great work from Ridley and Driver, especially in their shared scenes. We see some darkness in Rey and some potential good in Kylo. It’s clear that these two have not fallen into their roles as enemies yet. There are some nice flaws showcased on both sides here.

I also have to say some about Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin) as Supreme Leader Snoke. He doesn’t get as much to do in this new installment, much like The Force Awakens, but the way he is utilized in this film is far superior to Episode VII. Unfortunately, Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Queen of Katwe) and Gwendoline Christie (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, TV’s Game of Thrones) feel shoehorned in as Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma, respectively.

But the film was always going to be divisive. I just wasn’t prepared for how divisive it would be. Even Mark Hamill expressed concerns to Johnson about the direction of the film, but after seeing the finished product, it sounds like he has since been won over.

And there are things I take issue with in the film, but they are merely nitpicky things like a particular Leia scene that comes across a little silly. There’s a moment early on with Luke that could have emotional impact but instead falls to cheap comedy. These are mere nitpicks and, in the scope of the film, this being the darkest film in the saga, I can understand the reliance on some levity.

The Last Jedi honors what has come before while also paving the way to what’s yet to come. It’s a unique Star Wars film, and it’s the best in the series since The Empire Strikes Back. Rian Johnson’s attention to detail and the film’s connective tissue with the rest of the sage, including Rogue One, is just another reason that this film works as well as it does. With this film, Anthony Daniels (The Lego Movie, The Lord of the Rings) becomes the only actor to appear in all the Star Wars live-action releases. I unabashedly loved the theater experience of seeing The Last Jedi, so much so that I saw it an additional two times. See this movie. Three Times.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, click here.

For my review of Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, click here.

For my review of Richard Marquand’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, click here.

For my review of J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, click here.

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Dear Basketball (2017)

Director: Glen Keane

Cast: Kobe Bryant

Screenplay: Kobe Bryant

6 mins. Not Rated.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Short Film [Pending]

 

Yes, Kobe Bryant (Daddy’s Home) is an Oscar nominee. So there you have it.

In this short film directed by Glen Keane and narrated by Bryant from a poem he wrote, we see important moments in Bryant’s past that led him to his love of the game, carried him through his career, and led him to his decision to walk away from it.

Bryant announced his retirement in 2015 with a poem entitled “Dear Basketball.” In this short, nothing is cut from the poem. It’s displayed in all its glory here. Even though the poem is great, though, had anyone else but Bryant read it, the short may not work. It is precisely because Kobe wrote it and reads it that the story works. Without him and the emotion flowing through him, the short doesn’t work nearly as well.

The animation is gorgeous, a flowing fever dream of past events led by the emotion from Bryant’s voice. It is stunning to watch. The sketching of the animation seems to work well with the memories coming out of Bryant’s poem.

I have to say something about the tremendous score from, yes, John Williams. His music here is inspirational and full of wonder.

Overall, Dear Basketball is an incredible short film, and incredibly worth your 6 minutes. Please check it out if you can find it.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] The Disaster Artist (2017)

Director: James Franco

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver

Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber

104 mins. Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Adapted Screenplay [Pending]

 

No one would have believed that a film based on a book about the making of the worst movie ever made would ever happen, nor did anyone guess that the film would be acclaimed critically. From watching the trailers, I knew I had to see this.

Greg (Dave Franco, Neighbors, The LEGO Ninjago Movie) is a struggling actor who can’t get a break when he meets Tommy (James Franco, The Institute, In Dubious Battle), a horrible over-acting hack with aspirations for stardom and a unique outlook on his lot in life. Tommy convinces Greg to move to LA with him in search of fame. When that isn’t working out for Tommy, he decides to write his own movie: The Room. The mysterious Tommy seems to have the means to finance the film by himself, hiring script supervisor Sandy (Seth Rogen, This is the End, Kung Fu Panda 3) and lead actress Juliette Daniels (Ari Graynor, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, TV’s I’m Dying Up Here) to star opposite Tommy and Greg. But when mounting tensions on set and Tommy’s ego create chaos during production, a rift starts forming between the two best friends, leaving the film’s trouble production in jeopardy.

This is such a spectacular film about films, friendship, and passion. The feeling it gave me leaving the theater was one of such excitement and pure joy that I wanted to watch it again immediately. The tone is so fun and inspiring. The recreation of scenes from The Room were done so painstakingly that it’s easy to see the care that director/star James Franco put into the work. The plot meanders a bit on its way to the finale, but it’s hard to say that any of the film should have been cut.

Franco’s performance is something of merit as well. He was so convincingly real playing a larger-than-life character, not an easy feat for anyone to accomplish, but Franco does it with graceful measure. He should have received a nomination for his acting at the Oscars. Yes, I understand the political landscape involving Franco, but he still deserves the nomination.

The Disaster Artist is a beautiful love letter to The Room. The film is a true-ish recreation of the events involving the creation of one of the worst films of all time, and it also features some of the best cameos of any film ever, as well as the best use of “Rhythm of the Night” in existence. You think I’m joking. I’m not. The Disaster Artist is one of the more inspirational films I’ve ever seen. I highly advise you to check it out, even if you haven’t seen The Room (but see The Room, c’mon).

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] I, Tonya (2017)

Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Jullianne Nicholson, Bobby Canavale

Screenplay: Steven Rogers

120 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Margot Robbie) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Allison Janney) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]

 

Passion for a project can do amazing things. Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, Goodbye Christopher Robin) cared so deeply for I, Tonya that she was able to push the film forward and, arguably, is why the film is nominated for Oscars. Originally, it was going to take the limited approach which would have made it ineligible for Academy Award consideration. But Robbie knew there was something to this film, and so she fought for it. Is it worth it?

I, Tonya tells the true-ish story of Tonya Harding (Robbie), her romantic relationship, or lack thereof, with Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan, Captain America: Civil War, Logan Lucky), and her family life with mother LaVona (Allison Janney, The Help, TV’s Mom) stretching from early life to the events surrounding the violent assault of Nancy Kerrigan.

The strongest elements of I, Tonya are its performances, specifically Robbie, Stan, and Janney. This trifecta makes the film wholly likable and erases some of its flaws. Robbie and Janney are worthy of their Oscar nominations, and Stan is rightly left off the supporting actor race because there are just better performances for 2017. Janney is going to win this one, though. Her darkly disturbed take on LaVona is one of the best of the decade.

Steven Rogers (Hope Floats, Love the Coopers) churned out a screenplay that ended up on the Black List and rightfully so. His usage of fourth-wall breaks is really cool. The only flaw is that I would’ve wanted to see more. It’s a technique that feels underused. It would have been better to use it more or not at all. I  also love that he uses faux documentary footage to tell the story, and seeing the three stars talk right to the audience is a lot of fun. His usage of the unreliable narrator here is really solid.

I, Tonya has a few glaring flaws, but it’s a lot more fun than most other character pieces in 2017. I was thrilled and astounded all throughout the film. It proves that Margot Robbie is so much more than her looks. She is driven, skilled, and entertaining and I, Tonya is just a step on her path to success in her career. See I, Tonya.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] The Post (2017)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys

Screenplay: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Meryl Streep] [Pending]

 

Only Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, The BFG) could accomplish The Post in the time that he did. The film went through Production, Post-Production, and Release just in the Post-Production of his Ready Player One, the other film he was working on. Not only that, but to have that film go on to be nominated for Best Picture is exemplary.

The Post is the story of Kay Graham (Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady, Florence Foster Jenkins), the owner and publisher of The Washington Post, and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump, Toy Story 3), the editor-in-chief as they come to a decision on how to proceed with the publishing of sensitive materials pertaining to a cover-up spanning four U.S. Presidents. As the weight of the decision falls on Kay, she is met with arguments on both sides and mounting tensions that could send multiple colleagues to prison for treason or ruin The Post’s reputation permanently.

For the most part, The Post is exactly what it needs to be, and it works very well. I really like the usage of Nixon’s actual audio in his portrayal. I loved how it leads right up to the opening of All the President’s Men, which almost makes The Post an unofficial prequel.

But the best part of The Post is its performances. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are amazing, but its supporting players are equally strong. I would have loved to see Bob Odenkirk (Girlfriend’s Day, TV’s Better Call Saul) nab an Oscar nomination for his work as Ben Bagdikian. The same should be said of Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) as Robert McNamara.

The script is mostly strong and Spielberg has restrained and calm direction to give the floor to his performers which works. One sequence that doesn’t work is the opening. The film begins in Vietnam with an action sequence that feels very out of place. Perhaps it would work better somewhere else in the film as a flashback because it feels unneeded and very disconnected from the rest of the film.

Overall, The Post is a fine film and very important to the political landscape we are currently in. Is it a Best Picture? I’m not so sure. That being said, Spielberg’s film is very worthy of a lot of its credit. This is a need-to-see film.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, click here.

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Phantom Thread (2017)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps

Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson

130 mins. Rated R for language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role [Daniel Day-Lewis] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role [Lesley Manville] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design [Pending]

 

Phantom Thread came highly anticipated. After all, it isn’t terribly often that a performer considered one of the greatest of all time unexpectedly announces his retirement. As it happens, in 2017, Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln, Nine) did just that. It was only expected that Day-Lewis would get an Oscar nomination for his currently final film role, and as usual, he earns it. But what of director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice)? This writer has a love-hate relationship with the director of Phantom Thread. Which way did the finished film sway me?

Phantom Thread is a 1950s-set film about fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and the strained relationship he has with Alma (Vicky Krieps, Colonia, The Young Karl Marx), a young waitress he meets. After all, he has a very particular way he likes things done. His working relationship with sister Cyril (Lesley Manville, Another Year, Rupture) proves that. Alma doesn’t want to live like that, but she cares for Reynolds very deeply, as he does her. Can they find a way to overcome their differences or are they doomed to drift apart?

Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible in his performance of Reynolds Woodcock, a brilliant but flawed lead. I do not think he will walk away with a statue at the Oscars for Reynolds (that lies with Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour), but he is brilliant nonetheless. He is matched quite capably by Lesley Manville as Cyril.

My issues with the Phantom Thread? I just flat out didn’t care much for the movie. I thought it was overly pretentious, the film was boring and uninteresting for long stretches and no one in the film is all that likable. Day-Lewis and Manville are interesting, yes, and that makes up for some, but I didn’t care for Alma as a character at all. She is the one we are supposed to connect with, to strive for, and I found myself not caring what she did.

That being said, from a technical standpoint, the film succeeds gloriously. The visuals are often stunningly prepared, the lighting is great, and the sound production works well. As problematic as I found the rest of the film, I cannot fight how well-crafted it is.

Phantom Thread is pretentious, at times boring and its characters didn’t work well in bringing me into the film. I found the general plotline to be confusing in its tone and display. I flat-out didn’t enjoy myself in the theater like I have with some of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous films, and that’s really too bad. One cannot argue about the incredible career of Daniel Day-Lewis, and he certainly goes out on a high note with Reynolds Woodcock.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, click here.

 

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