Youth surpasses Joy (Not an adage for real life!)

I snuck in two more films before the ball dropped and only one is squeezing into my top ten.
While “Joy” had all the ingredients of a master class film-O’Russell and his wrecking crew of actors and actresses, a few clunky scenes took the charge out of the true story of a poor housewife makes a multi-million dollar invention.

One of the problems was the maudlin narration by Dianne Ladd which I think took away from the life of the film. The other hardship was that two outstanding actors/characters were never allowed to let it loose. Specifically, Virginia Madsen as the bedridden soap opera addict mother of Joy and Isabella Rosselini as the rich second step mom. I’m sure some precious stuff wound up on the cutting room floor. And why leave untidy questions, like; she had two children, yet all we see is the daughter in her later life? This wouldn’t be so troubling, but there was a scene in which the boy had a bad cough and yet there was never any tie in. Only when we found out about a death in the family (which ended up being Grandma ‘Ladd’), did I wonder momentarily, if it was the son.

Now ‘YOUTH’ (directed by Paulo Sorrentino) was MOVIE. If I have one tiny complaint, it was the numerous philosophical ideas that were all jammed into one film: 1. emotions are important to a full life, 2. productivity is crucial to a happy life, 3. hashing out problems is healthy, 4. simple love, simple songs can be prolific, 5. age is a state of mind, 6. depending on people for your happiness leads to misery.

Sorrentino shows his Felinni influence in a gorgeously visual film set at a affluent spa. Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda and Rachel Weisz all give stand out performances.

Especially though, may I plead the case to Golden Globe and Oscar Judges for a Paul Dano a trophy, not only was he brilliant as Brian Wilson, but he was excellent in Youth. Additionally this would also be redemption for his lack of accolades for his super crazed role in 12 Years a Slave. His presence raises the bar of whatever film he’s in.Paul Dano

The Big Short Lands a Top Ten Spot

Steve Carell

The Big Short is worth seeing foremost due to Steve Carell’s evolution as a serious actor which is an absolute thrill to observe. Christian Bale’s chameleon expertise commands the entire screen with Popeye arms and a penchant for hard rock. Ryan Gosling’s solid as a smarmy dude, his only misstep ever being the ridiculously violent Only God Forgives. And Brad Pitt? He’s become the new Redford, like Wonder bread: sturdy, but maybe a bit bland.

So I’ve revealed the chink in the armor, The Big Short is not perfect. The jittery camera work’s bothersome and celebrities offering the common man’s explanation’s overly cute. The voice over narration is additionally bothersome. That being said, the sickening truth of the big banks plus the mega acting ensemble make the movie still enthralling.

So out goes The Gift from my top ten and in goes The Big Short.

I’m Sorry Todd

I’m sorry Todd, your film Carol is not making my top 10 list. I don’t know. I guess I should’ve known, I thought Far From Heaven was painstakingly slow, didn’t even it make it all the way through I’m Not There. There is some good news: I did like sections of “Carol”.

But first, the male characters were cardboard and the acting not much better. Sorry also to Kyle Chandler, nothing personal as I loved you as the cocky FBI guy in Wolf on Wall Street.

Second, this film needed a haircut (aka edit) as much as Donald Trump needs a trim. Cut the first ten minutes off and start immediately in the department store. We also don’t need to go to every podunk motel and diner on their road trip to Chicago.

Third, one of the last scenes at a party where Terez (Rooney Mara) is literally faced with multiple heterosexual couples? Ok, yes, an important scene, but the laborious pace of it all invoked my hand flipping gesture of, ‘let’s keep this rolling’. And did Carrie Browstein win a Charity Buzz auction as a walk on in that scene? Strange days indeed.

Fourth, Cate Blanchett’s too cool for the room and that’s not a compliment. It’s hard to truly feel for someone who’s playing such a detached ice princess.

In an attempt to keep the Christmas cheer going, I’ll end by highlighting the positives. Cate Blanchett’s costuming was absolutely gorgeous. Certain shots were absolutely gorgeous, specifically any with Rooney Mara in a car or crying (both of which happen with great frequency). Rooney Mara’s acting was the best part of the film, her character was believable and heart felt.Rooney Mara

Sicario: Del Toro “I Woke Up Like This”

What must it be like to wake up as Benicio Del Toro, put on a nice suit or SWAT gear and be ready on set. He’s not so much an actor as someone who is gifted to have ‘the look’, the dark, brooding, borderline sinister resting face.

Or Josh Brolin? Who only needs to add chewing gum and swagger to deliver sarcastic gold.

For that matter, in ‘Sicario’, directed by Denis Villeneuve, Emily Blunt, who merely needed one pained expression throughout the 2 hour movie.

I’m not saying ‘Sicario’ is worthless. Our Mexican drug lord concern has been over run by our fear of you know who, and yet the fat lady hasn’t hit the stage to sing the ending to the drug war. It’s just that we have a short attention span and would prefer to simultaneously inhale network fear mongering mixed with Trump extremist chastisement for wanting to allay said foreboding.

What’s redemptive about ‘Sicario’, a wonderful supporting role by Daniel Kaluulya, whose last name makes me want a White Russian. But seriously, his role as Emily’s ‘brotherly’ co-worker was the most nuanced role of the film.

The other outstanding feature was the sound. Both explosions and suspenseful music seemed to stand out, perhaps due to the banality to the plot and acting, or maybe because it truly was unique.

But the the topography and travel overload (here’s a google map, here’s a plane ride, here’s a car trip) are not appropriate substitutes for character development and emotional resonance.

A Rare Hamletesque Command: Get Thee to a ‘Tangerine’ry

Tangerine

Ok, forgive the bad analogy, but since my commandments are rare outside of my workplace (evidence based essays), I had to make that announcement. Forget the nunnery baby, the world is wide wide open with Tangerine on the screen.

With Tangerine, think “Clerks” run by the Santa Monica transgendered. Think “Dope” with an equally great soundtrack’s portrayal of debauched cab drivers and sincere donut shop owners.

All shot on an I-phone, no less. I’m not related to director Sean Baker, but I wish I was. He’s a genius. A millennials’ P.T. Anderson.

I’m writing in monosyllabic, mainly because I’m kicking myself for sending the dvd back to Netflix before watching it again. And there, I’ve revealed my true techno-backwood roots in preferring hard copies to streaming. Perhaps I belong in the Hamlet era sorely in need of Horatio surrounded by Rosencrantzes and Gildensterns.

Even the Grinch’s Heart Grew after Seeing “Brooklyn”

Brooklyn

Just like Cindy Lou helped grow the Grinch’s heart, “Brooklyn” made mine swell. Trust me, I’d seen the trailer and rolled my eyes, but am lucky the Cindy Lou kernel still inside me provoked a viewing.

First, even Truffaut would be enamored by the vibrant colors in this film. From Saoirse Ronan’s emerald one piece swimsuit to her daffodil cardigan, the movie’s 50’s fashions were stunning. And that’s not even addressing the beaches of Ireland!

Second, the acting was tremendous. Saoirse Ronan plays the female lead with a combination of understatement and poignancy. Emory Cohen, reminiscent of a younger mix of Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell, was ultra-realistic as that overly faithful guy from high school that you almost wish you had married. Domhnall Gleeson plays a Ron Howardish irresistible challenger for Saorsie’s affection.

The minor roles were also spot on. Every actor/actress from the boardinghouse owner to Tony’s wise ass little brother, to Saoirse’s maudlin mother were like beautiful frosting on an already perfect cake.

Not to mention, how often do movie’s come out where you can take your teenager and your grandmother? Besides a few Irish f-bombs which really sound more like ‘feck’ so is it really swearing ?(wink wink), the movie only hints at a sexual encounter.

Though “High Fidelity” may always be my favorite, Nick Hornby strikes again with another great screenplay.