As someone who loves the English language and watching it get stood on its head and played with, I am also a huge fan of 2007’s Juno. Not only do I think it’s a great and, at times, hilarious movie about the fairly serious subject of teen pregnancy, I think Ellen Page should have won an Oscar for her portrayal of the exasperated, increasingly inflating teen who finds her baby new parents by picking them out of a Penny Saver. I love the rhythms of language Diablo Cody (who did win an Oscar for the script) picks for Juno. When I was a teen, and really still, I think phrasing things the way everyone else does is boring, and am constantly making up new words to fit my needs.
My favorite scene in the film, though, is one that is one of the best father/daughter talks I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s wise and funny, showcasing not only Page’s talent but that of JK Simmons, who is one of the best additions any movie can make to its cast. Juno’s dad has a pretty realistically bad reaction to the news that she’s pregnant and that’s one of the movie’s most painfully real reminders of how serious this all is, but by the time this scene takes place, he’s calmed down and gives her some of the best advice any father could ever give his daughter. The question is, “Can two people fall in love and stay in love together forever?” Simmons answer is better than any summary I could write.
The REAL best picture from last year still has me kind of puzzled as to how a classical Hollywood musical managed to completely blow me away to the point where I ended up seeing it more in the the theater than I did Rogue One. Damien Chazelle is come kind of mad wunderkind. Whiplash was a work of genius, and La La Land is also about music and extols the virtue of jazz, but this couldn’t be more different. An unabashed musical of this sort hadn’t been made since the late 1950s. It’s charming, visually stunning, has amazing music and songs, and finishes in a surprisingly bittersweet, though charming look at what might have been for the film’s stars: Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling).
La La Land is about chasing your dreams, and-ultimately-if you take away a message from the film it’s that you can have your dreams and the person you love the most, but be wary, because the smallest decision, one alteration from what you know in your heart to be the right course, and you’ll end up losing one or the other (or likely both outside of the world of movies). The film’s end flashes forward five years. Mia’s achieved her dream of acting success and Sebastian has his jazz club, which Mia and her husband stumble into one night one the way home. Sebastian, playing the piano, sees Mia, and begins to play their theme, and then Chazelle takes the audience on a trip through an alternate timeline, where things didn’t go wrong between them, and they still got what they wanted. We revisit the music and locales of the film and the entire thing shouldn’t work because we’re too jaded in 2017 for something as hokey as this amazingly shot dance number…but apparently we’re not if it’s done right. This is a perfect film, period.
Boasting an impressive cast, and adapted from the best-selling novel by Jo Nesbo, The Snowman…doesn’t seem immediately to have anything to distinguish it from the run-of-the-mill horror film. However, when you have Fassbender, JK Simmons, Val Kilmer, Rebecca Ferguson, and others involved, there’s always the possibility….oh hey, remember the Michael Keaton movie where he’s a crap dad, dies, and comes back as a reincarnated snowman? This, I say with confidence, is already a leg up on that. The Snowman hits theaters in October.
The Boston Marathon bombings are still a fresh wound for the country, even more so in Boston, so a movie about them so quickly at first glance seems too soon. However, enter Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg who are on a roll turning horrific tragedies and current events issues which normally spiral off into larger debates (The War in Afghanistan, environmental impact, terrorism) into focused stories on the heroism of the day. Some people go their whole lives without having a day. But if you’ve had one, you know that the rest of your life is viewed in light of what happened before that day and what came after. It’s for the people who had these days that Berg is making these films. Deepwater Horizon (which only came out months ago) reminded us that it wasn’t just a horrid environmental disaster; it cost 11 people their lives. Patriots Day‘s scope is larger than Deepwater’s by a factor of ten. It’s Berg’s best film yet, Mark Wahlberg’s best performance of his career, features an outstanding cast of some of the best character actors working, and the end result is a memorial to a city that stood strong during a day that will forever be etched into its psyche. Continue reading Movie Review: Patriots Day (2016) *Boston Strong*
2016 was a fantastic year for film and there’s so many movies that deserve recognition, but they’re out of luck because La La Land is steamrolling its way through awards season. It broke the record for number of Golden Globe wins, it won the BAFTA, its going to be nominated for double-digit Oscars, and if you go on IMDB and start scrolling through the honorifics, it literally takes five minutes. I’ve resisted going because…..I really don’t like musicals and I have lived in and haaaaate Los Angeles, and it doesn’t matter because Damien Chazelle has followed up his amazingly good debut film Whiplash with a minor movie miracle. It’s worthy of the Best Picture Oscar it already has a lock on, and coming in this year, that says quite a lot. Continue reading Movie Review: La La Land (2016) “Old School Movie Magic”