The Discovery

“Faith” Oh, God. I have such contempt for that word. Show me someone who relies on faith and I’ll show you someone who’s given up control over whatever it is they believe.

The Film Itself

This movie was not what I expected. I thought there would have been a little more science involved and a lot more Robert Redford. I definitely was not expecting as much of a love story. However, it does pose an interesting theory as to what’s beyond this life.

Let’s start with the actors. Like I said, I would have liked a lot more Robert Redford than I got. Honestly, I think I would have preferred a movie centering on his character rather than Jason Segel’s. Not that Jason Segel wasn’t good, just I think I would have preferred more science and less love. For instance, I thought the concept of Robert Redford’s cult was really interesting but there was almost no point in including it in this movie. I think my main problem with this movie is that it’s not Arrival. I have such a love for Arrival that it’s clouding my judgement but I’ll try to stay objective. (Go see Arrival RIGHT NOW) I just think that Arrival had such a perfect balance of scientific discovery and sentimentality, whereas The Discovery was a little heavy-handed on the sentimentality. But then again, that’s how I felt about Interstellar the first time I saw it because the science went over my head.

Back to the acting. Jesse Plemons is always such a delightful surprise. I loved him in Fargo and I loved him in this. The way he kind of hides behind his hair, just the way he hides behind his faith in his father is so perfect to me. Rooney Mara was good too but I find it hard to really dig down into a purely quirky character. I will say she had great chemistry with Jason Segel.

This was such a softly-paced and dreamlike movie. I don’t want to say it’s slow-paced because that’s not quite right, it just takes its time. Let me tell you though, such good cinematography. I loved the dreary coloring of the whole movie. And the score was AMAZING. Easily the best part of the movie. However it always concerns me when aspects like cinematography and score overshadow the rest of the movie.

It’s a little hard to analyze the plot because the ending colors it so much but again, I’ll do my best, for you my devoted supporters. I think the ending is really interesting but it frustrates me that it wasn’t slightly more obvious. Not that I wanted to be able to figure out the answer but I couldn’t go back and point to specific clues without the movie’s help. Also it took me and my dad a few minutes to piece it together. We came up with: the brother and father did not bring Will back, instead he died and went to “a different place” like Isla said, the different place being where her son died. Not sure if that’s accurate but that’s all we were able to figure out. Also I find it kind of hard to believe that the death of a woman he did not know followed him his entire life? And if the answer to that is that they were “mean to to be together”, that’s lame and gross.

I know it might sound like I hated this movie but I didn’t. I liked it but didn’t love it. Three Stars. And I think that’s probably mostly just personal preference. Give it a try.

Best Part

When Will went under the machine and died (?). It was so interestingly and beautifully shot.

That and Jesse Plemons’ one-man band. Probably my favorite character.

Worst Part

Hmm. Nothing terrible sticks out. I guess I didn’t love the scene when Jason Segel and Rooney Mara met? Just didn’t love Jason Segel in this scene I guess.

Fun Fact

Nicholas Hoult was originally cast in the lead role. Man would I have loved to see that. Would have been a totally different movie.

Florence Foster Jenkins

“People may say I couldn’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

The Film Itself

Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the flesh is how I would describe Florence Foster Jenkins. Such a delightful little movie about people being drawn to passion. And so hilarious in a very surprising way. I was expecting a much bigger movie but I’m glad that’s not what I got. This was a small, heartfelt movie, but not overly sentimental. Props to the director. He knew just how to get those small comedic moments and it was wonderful. The only thing was that the whole plot of this movie seemed ridiculous and implausible. But I mean it’s a true story so…

I am pretty upset that Simon Helberg isn’t nominated for an Oscar. He consistently got a laugh from me and the rest of my family every scene he was in. It was such a quirky character I had never seen before too. Did he occasionally strike a false note? Sure. But still an absolutely delightful performance.

Hugh Grant was pretty good. I’d heard that this was possibly the best performance of his career. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but as my mom said, the bar was set pretty low. I absolutely loved his little recitations and wanted more of them. And he definitely had the aristocratic air they talked about. Aesthetically he was definitely the right person for the part. I will say that this felt like less of an affectation than most of his characters.

Meryl Streep. I did not know the extent of her comedic skills. Her first singing scene was. too. good. And of course she brings a sincerity to every role that is seldom seen elsewhere.

Fun Fact

David Bowie had her original recording in his record collection.

Bonus Fun Fact:

The real Florence was in a taxi accident. She wasn’t injured, but she gave the driver a box of cigars because she could hit a higher note afterwards.

Best Part

I loved Meryl’s first singing scene. I also really loved the scene when Florence and Cosme play the piano together. It’s very touching and tender and a little heartbreaking. Representative of the movie as a whole.

Worst Part

Eh. I don’t know if there were any moments that I really didn’t like. I guess I had a problem with the Carnegie Hall performance. That woman yelling at the audience didn’t seem like enough motivation for them to start cheering. She was great too.

La La Land

The Film Itself

Boy oh boy. La La Land is the movie I didn’t know I needed in my life. I am so happy to have experienced this movie in theaters (even though I had to drive half an hour to see it. stupid limited release). I feel like someday my grandkids will discover this movie the way I discovered Singin’ in the Rain and say, “Grandma have you seen this?” and I’ll say “Seen it?! I saw it in theaters twice!” (Totally making my boyfriend see it now). And that’s the thing. You can’t talk about this movie and not talk about Singin’ in the Rain and I think that’s the way Damen Chazelle intended it. Not only does La La Land pay tribute to Singin’ in the Rain, it’s in league with it, which is saying a whole lot.

“Here’s to the ones who dream.”

That’s the best part about this movie. It’s a love note to passionate people. The movie itself plays to people who are passionate about movies and cherish Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story, An American in Paris, Casablanca. It plays to people who are passionate about music, mainly jazz. But really I think anyone who has a passion for anything gets a stirring in their heart when they see this movie. I’ve said before that I’m a hopeless romantic and let me tell you, as the girlfriend of an artist like the leads of this movie, the ending hit way too close to home. However, my poor broken heart was salved, by the fact that all dreams were realized and that’s the only way they could have been realized. I’ve figured out two interpretations of the ending of this movie thus far: 1)You can’t have it all. Sacrifices must be made. You don’t get multiple dreams, you have to decide. Love or “career satisfaction”. 2) It’s okay to choose your passion over love.

And that is just another regard in which this movie is so perfect. It seamlessly blends all elements of old and new. ‘Passion over love’ is a rather modern moral to end such a romantic and nostalgic movie on but it is so representative of this movie. The best example of this duality is at the end of this surreal, beautiful tap number, an iPhone rings, bringing both the characters and us back into the real world. Just another way this movie plays to the dreamers. It lets us live in the characters’ dreams again and again. God do I love this movie.

Another way the duality plays in is the fact that the leads are not overly skilled at singing or dancing. The friend I saw La La Land was held back by this fact. She’s a sucker for the oldie musicals, as am I, and she pointed out to me how Singin’ in the Rain has the great, superhuman feats of singing and dancing. For me, I enjoyed the fact that they learned to sing and dance for this movie. That in and of itself seems a superhuman feat to me. And it did bring in an element of the new that the focus was more on the acting.

Final thoughts:

Why don’t Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling do every movie together? They are so much each other’s equals and banter together so well.

I personally am not a fan of Emma Stone’s voice but it had to be her. It couldn’t have been anyone else. Which is so weird considering Emma Watson was originally cast in this part. It had to be Stone. No way around it.

Shoutout to Ryan Gosling’s piano skills.

Shoutout to Damien Chazelle. So many beautiful and interesting shots. *Cough cough* unbroken shot of Emma Stone talking to Ryan Gosling by the car. Another reason it had to be her. And Chazelle totally knew how to use her, just give her room to make her magic. Ugh so good. This was totally her movie.

Fun Fact

HO-lee crap. Not only did John Legend learn to play guitar for this movie, but RYAN GOSLING HAD NO PREVIOUS PIANO TRAINING. wut.

Best Part

I was on the verge of sobbing when Emma Stone took out saddle shoes and I realized a tap number was coming.

Runner-up: Emma Stone being Emma Stone after requesting “I Ran”. Every quirky girl’s aspiration.

Worst Part

Hard to pin down. I really wasn’t a fan of Emma’s voice, but like I said it had to be her.

I mean I was absolutely heartbroken watching Emma Stone walk into Seb’s and realize she wasn’t part of him realizing his dream but that wasn’t because the scene was bad.

 

Nocturnal Animals

The Film Itself

“It was exhilirating and kept your attention the whole time you were watching.”-My Roommate

I don’t know if it’s just because I don’t usually go for a movie like this (but put Aaron Taylor-Johnson in a movie and I am there), but this movie seemed surprisingly different and new, which is a rare thing to see nowadays. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie like this. It feels like Tom Ford is still learning. I think his next couple of movies could be absolute masterpieces, and this one was a gigantic step in the right direction. I mean I have no idea because I’ve never seen A Single Man, but this one just doesn’t feel like quite his full potential.

Upon first glance, it seems as though this movie is all about the fashion and style. That is so far from the truth. The fashion and style is important thematically, but the thing that really stands out about this movie is hands-down the acting. Tom Ford is my kind of director because he gets acting. This movie is all about the eyes and I LOVE IT. Alright. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is HOT. No doubt about it. He also created my single favorite moment in all of cinema*. But one wonders if that could be a fluke, created by the illusion of his dazzling crystalline eyes. No. It most assuredly is not. This movie officially shot him straight past Ewan McGregor to the spot of my number one favorite actor. He is so good at playing just an annoying, disgusting jerk of a hick, one that we have all encountered, but it’s more than that. I don’t think anyone could miss THE scene. When Jake Gyllenhaal is screaming his head off at Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but the camera isn’t on Jakey boy. It’s on Aaron. He doesn’t speak a word but he taunts us all with those beautiful eyes. Goodness gracious. He’s not the only one. Jake and Amy Adams do it consistently too and it’s amazing. But Aaron Taylor-Johnson definitely stole the show. No that’s not true. Jake Gylenhaal and Amy Adams more than held their own, but I think THE scene probably stands out in everyone’s mind.

Now you may be asking yourself, well why isn’t this Tom Ford’s piece de resistance then? Well, I’m not a huge fan of all his camera shots. They can be kind of choppy, but maybe that was his intention. Also, I feel as though it’s a little all over the place. The way I see it, this movie is a romantic drama disguised as a psychological thriller. And it is wonderful at being that. Maybe it was the marketing of this movie, but during the whole movie, my roommate and I were just waiting with baited breath for a plot twist that didn’t come. Well I suppose it did come. The plot twist was more simple than anyone could have imagined. It was all a metaphor for the relationship. Which honestly I loved. I don’t know if I fully understood all of it but hey it was pretty cool.

Oh right the fashion! I loved the metaphor with the makeup. Like when she moved further away from herself ( and Edward) she wore way more makeup and she took it off again to go get Edward back. Also Amy Adams was great and all but who could ever believe that she is a super cynical person. No you know what, I did feel like she was coming from a real place with that which is great because it makes her seem like more of a real person. I really did feel like she had sad eyes.

Bechdel Test

The website I usually use for this said this movie was an easy pass. I’m not so sure about that. Susan definitely has plenty of conversations with other women, but most of them are about either Jake Gyllenhaal or Armie Hammer. Although the board meeting at the museum probably counted.

 Fun Fact

No Tom Ford-designed items were used in this movie because he didn’t want it to be a commercial. I respect that.

Best Part

Easily the Aaron Taylor-Johnson eye part but I already discussed that so… probably the opening seen. I’ve never seen anything like that and it was super shocking and interesting and went on way longer than felt appropriate/comfortable in the most wonderful way.

Worst Part

I mean I have a compassionate heart so the whole abduction scene was really hard to watch. I guess I didn’t like the fact that the real Susan had a daughter but I think a lot of that is just things I didn’t pick up on. Is it Edward’s? Did the abortion not take? I don’t feel like it was necessary except to show us that the book is based in real life. Well I guess it was supposed to feel like Amy Adams felt threatened by the story but I just thought it was good writing and any mother would feel worried about her daughter after reading that. Huh. I don’t know.

*my favorite cinematic moment: In Anna Karenina, there’s this scene where Aaron Taylor-Johnson was like tell me not to leave and Keira Knightley didn’t say anything so he starts to leave and then she passionately screams out “NO!” and there’s just this beautiful perfect look of hope in his eyes. It’s brief but it’s everything a hopeless romantic could ever want.

Trumbo

The Film Itself

Gonna be honest, didn’t care for this film.

I was excited to see it because it’s such an interesting topic and who doesn’t love Bryan Cranston. I love a movie that has great writing, and as this movie is about a great writer, I thought it would have great writing. Not so much the case.

Going into this movie, I knew it was about a screenwriter in the Hollywood Ten and that’s about all I knew so I figured this would probably focus on the trial and that part of Trumbo’s life. Not so much the case. The trial happened and Trumbo went to jail in maybe the first third of the movie. So at this point I was confused as to what the point of this movie was. I think maybe the writers were too.

The biggest problem with this movie is that it is sprawling and directionless. I recently listened to the “Biopics” episode of the Maltin at the Movies podcast where they discussed J. Edgar, saying that it lacked a thesis. In many ways, including this one, Trumbo had very similar problems to those they pointed out in J. Edgar. Was this movie about Trumbo’s quirky personality? Was it about freedom of speech? Was it about the unjust persecution of harmless communists? Was it about Trumbo’s relationship with his family? Was it about the secret writing he did while blacklisted? Yes. The movie was about all of these but I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint which one was the pinnacle. This really held the movie back.

It’s really upsetting because this movie held so much potential. It could have been a really interesting period piece. However the lighting was terrible and made the movie feel like it was definitely not the 1940’s. It could have been a very powerful statement about freedom of speech. The movie came closest to achieving this, but only really in the first half. It could have been an interesting portrait of a quirky, strong character. While Bryan Cranston pulled this off to an extent, the writing really held him back from nabbing that Oscar. All of the writing in this movie should have been so much sharper and wittier and less… didactic? The movie could have been about persisting in the face of oppression, but no. Trumbo just entirely lacked focus and that was really upsetting.

Also, the aging makeup was terrible. Bryan Cranston looked the same age throughout the film, spanning at least three decades, except towards the end they threw some baby powder in his hair. Also, Louis C.K.’s character had to have been older or at the very least the same age as Bryan Cranston’s, seeing as his grandkids were the age of Trumbo’s kids. That idea is downright laughable.

There were still parts of this movie that were enjoyable, for instance, the middle third of the movie or Elle Fanning. But overall I just grieve for what this movie should have been.

The Bechdel Test

This movie almost passes, but I’m gonna say it doesn’t. There is one scene in which Nikola and Cleo talk about using a punching bag or whatever, but it’s really a conversation about Nikola’s anger toward her father. I mean I guess it’s not surprising since this movie centers on the life of a man in the 1940’s but still. You could give your female characters a little more credit.

Fun Fact

Louis C.K.’s character, Arlen Hird, was not a real person, but was instead a mashup of a bunch of blacklisted writers apparently.

Best Part

All scenes containing John Goodman. Hilarious and wonderful.

Worst Part

Actual* conversation from Trumbo:

Louis C.K.: *coughs*

Trumbo: What’s wrong?

Louie: It’s cancer.

*paraphrased

Frank

The Film Itself

So this movie was quite a ride in a way that I was definitely not expecting. I’m a big Michael Fassbender fan and I’m a really big Domhnall Gleeson fan. (Everyone needs to go watch About Time.) I was expecting Dom to play the same character he has played in Ex Machina and About Time and Anna Karenina. Quiet and charmingly awkward and bumbling. The first two minutes of the movie made it seem that was exactly what was going to happen. I absolutely loved those first few minutes. (WATCH THIS MOVIE IN STEREO/SURROUND SOUND PEOPLE.) I loved the playfulness of just starting with Dom’s beautiful voice and there were some great shots in the opening of this movie.

However, immediately after the first three minutes, I was repulsed by Dom’s character. I think his name was Jon but I’m going to call him Dom. It just felt like both Dom and the movie were trying too hard to be something. More specifically a quirky and creative something. Quirky and creative are both things that come off as tacky if you have to try at them.

I just quickly want to bring up that Scoot McNairy is in this film. I first saw him in Halt and Catch Fire and I’ve had my eye on him since. There’s just something about his face and presence that pleases me. It’s simultaneously dopey yet somehow has this scary edge beneath it. That’s about all I have to say about his character though. Anyway…

I wasn’t sure how Michael Fassbender would be in this. I love all of his performances but he’s a bona fide movie star so I just was unsure how he would fit in this quirky little indie-type movie. I was sold about 10 seconds into the first song when he hit this amazing high note. It was perfect and his American accent was respectably good.

For the first third of this movie, I was not enjoying it. Like I said before, it was trying too hard to be quirky. There were so many strange characters floating around that you just didn’t really connect to them or find them interesting. Or at least I didn’t. It took me over twenty minutes to realize that Maggie Gyllenhaal was in this movie. But holy crap she was amazing. Such a bad ass.

Guys. I’m kicking myself. I wrote in my notes how much I loved the direction of this movie and I just looked it up and he also directed Room. Alright, need to see that and keep my eye on this guy.

The music was surprisingly good in this movie. Apparently all the actors were playing all the music live. So basically I don’t understand how Michael Fassbender is a human being with that much talent.

I NEED to talk about the hanging scene. Holy crap am I in love with this scene. So this is the point when the movie starts to subtly shift. I was still focused on trying to figure out what the movie was doing with Dom. Why would the movie focus on such a condescending character? Is he really supposed to be a hero? Dom walks out of the cabin on a silent gray morning and begins smoking. The camera slowly pans away and without bringing any focus to it, we see Frank hanging by a noose. So shocking a way to depict suicide but also fitting to the character. The band panics and carries his body to a table. Then Frank walks up to them confused. Now at this point I thought the dead body was an eccentricity of Frank’s world and was just a stuffed mannequin or something. They pull the head off to reveal dear old Scoot. It was just so many layers of surprise, none of which I genuinely saw coming. Delightful. And dark.

Now the genius of this movie is that its true motive is hidden. The first half of the movie focuses on Dom and almost makes you think he should be the hero. It seems like the movie is about inspiration and creating music and all that rot. Thank God it wasn’t. I’m not a fan of those movies. As this movie unfolds, you begin to realize that it’s a bait and switch. The movie centers around Dom but the true heroes are Frank and Maggie. They are authentic and have true talent. At first they come off as holier-than-thou characters but by the end of the movie you realize it’s the opposite. Dom is condescending towards real life and tries to make Maggie and Frank into something they’re not. Not only that, but a big part of this movie is a statement on how we look at mental illness. At least that’s the way it felt to me. When Dom meets Frank, he thinks he’s just eccentric, as we, the audience, do. The papier mache head is just a bit. But we eventually come to understand that Frank does in fact have a serious mental illness. Dom begins treating him as sort of a savant. He talks down to him and isn’t sure how to treat him. I honestly would probably act the same which makes me sad. I’d rather be like Maggie and the rest of the band and be able to treat him like a normal person. And it’s not sentimental about it which is awesome.

I also really love the way they used the face reveal against the audience. Everyone knows it’s Michael Fassbender under there so they trick you and Dom with a lookalike. Even after presenting the real Frank we don’t get a full view of his face until the peak of the emotional apologetic song. It’s beautiful and wonderful.

The Bechdel Test

Frank does not pass but it’s mainly because there’s only three characters that talk much at all, maybe four, and only one is female. Not upset about it. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a bad ass.

Fun Fact

One of my favorite scenes of the movie is when Frank is chasing Jon around a field and apparently that was totally improvised by Michael Fassbender.

Also, at Sundance, the entire audience received papier mache Frank heads.

Favorite Scene

It’s tied with the chase scene I mentioned just now and the hanging scene, but I’m going to have to go with the sex scene. I’ve noticed recently that I don’t usually laugh out loud at movies, especially when I’m watching alone. I suspect it’s because I don’t want to miss anything but holy crap I couldn’t help myself. The sexual tension was so palpable and Maggie Gylenhaal just absolutely went for it. Amazing.

Least Favorite Scene

The whole social media thing. I think my hatred of it is an extension of my hatred for Jon but ugh. I guess it was used really well to show the contradiction between what was actually happening and what Jon wanted to be happening. I just really didn’t like it.

 

Captain America: Civil War

The Film Itself

So ultimately this was the same exact premise of Batman Vs. Superman. I feel like the film studios were trying to appease fans (something I hate) with these movies. For years fans have been sarcastically commenting on the fact that super heroes get away with destroying entire cities with no consequences and finally Marvel and DC have responded. Except Marvel did it so much better!!! This movie was SO GOOD!

I’m going to be honest, I’ve come into this phase where I always want to hate Marvel movies. I don’t know why. And I always like them anyways. As formulaic and cheesy as they seem they are always enjoyable. And clearly this movie had its formulaic and cheesy moments but it was still surprisingly good.

The writing was actually really amazing. The movie brought up a really interesting philosophical debate. On the one hand, the secretary of state with the great mustache brings up a great point: When the Avengers operate on their own they are imposing their own will on others. And the will of the few can often be skewed. Is it more correct than the will of the many? But at the same time can the UN privatize people? Take away their free will? My heart tells me no but my brain tells me yes. Which is why I don’t like the fact that Tony Stark was made out to be the bad guy the whole time. Like sure the Accords didn’t work out this time but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea overall. I think a happy medium needs to be found. I also really respect the fact that this movie could have easily been pushing a political agenda through this plot but they didn’t.

Now let’s talk about Tony Stark because holy crap his character was so juicy in this movie. Don’t get me freaking started on that scene  when Captain America leaves with Bucky and leaves his shield behind. And Tony Stark is left alone with his pride and his baggage and no friends and it’s amazing and I LOVE IT. He’s such a tortured character with his guilt over everything and this movie is like his final breaking point. Hopefully he’s finally been pushed far enough to tame his ego. Also I love that they introduced the whole parents’ death thing earlier in the movie then brought it back as one of the main plot reveals.

I really like the Black Panther character and his fighting style. So cool. I thought the scene with his father was really touching until I realized it was just emotional manipulation cause his dad was about to die. Emotional Manipulation is not authentic and needs to stop (I’m looking at you N. Sparks). I get that the after-credits scene was setting up the Black Panther movie but it was uneventful and totally not worth it. I was also very upset at how long it took me to figure out who Black Panther was. It was before he took his mask off but not much sooner.

The Stan Lee cameo was cheesy and stupid.

The dialogue during the big Avengers fight scene was amazing and the new Spiderman is perfect. By the way, he was in The Impossible which is a really beautiful movie that you should all watch.

Elizabeth Olsen seems like she’s probably a really good actress beneath that oft-faltering Russian accent. Paul Bettany was also amazing and perfect as Vision. I guess Vision is ageless so it’s not creepy but I know that underneath it all Paul Bettany is waaay older than Elizabeth Olsen so it is creepy. Also, feel free to fight me on this, but I’d be hard pressed to say that Wanda isn’t the strongest Avenger. Also is she already completely over the fact that her twin brother is dead…?

I didn’t like the chemistry between the girl from Everwood and Cap and I also don’t like it when blonde people date because they look like siblings. But the chemistry between literally everyone else was amazing.

There is no way you could convince me that Chris Evans is not on steroids.

Martin Freeman’s non-Wisconsin American accent makes me upset but it’s okay because it’s Martin Freeman.

Bechdel Test

There’s some debate over whether this movie passes. Scarlet Witch and Black Widow share about two lines with each other at the beginning of the movie over surveillance and that’s it. However, I’m not too bothered by it because there are multiple badass female characters in this movie who fight and kick ass and they really don’t talk about guys. It’s awesome. Of course only two out of ten Avengers are women but progress I guess.

Fun Fact

Anthony Mackie (Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes) raced each other in costume at some point.