My New Number One Movie of the Year: Honey Boy

Results may change after some thought, but after seeing Honey Boy over the weekend in NYC, it’s my number one film of the year. In fact, when you think about it, the film has a great horse name, hence my top three finishers in this year’s ‘race’ are:

1. Honey Boy
2. The Lighthouse
3. Peanut Butter Falcon

If you’re a true buff, you see a two out of three ain’t bad theme running here: Shia LeBouf. And once you see Honey Boy, you’ll have what I now refer to as “Brian Wilson” moment, empathy for those who were traumatized by well meaning, but abusive parents.

Shia wrote the film about his father and chose Israel born music video and film director Alma Har’el to execute direction. Shia happened upon a Ha’rel video a few years back and decided her artistic eye would be perfect for his tweener to mid 20’s slice of life story. This summer smitten by Peanut Butter Falcon, I watched Alma’s Love + True, after seeing it pop up on my X-finity Demand list as a Lebouf project…he merely produced it, which while disappointed not to see his ruggedly handsome face, was a poignant and moving film mixing real and dramatized versions of from memory, a surfer in Hawaii and a stripper from Alaska. I watch at least two movies a week and for me to even be able to conjure up specific scenes as I can easily with this one, speaks highly of Ha’rel’s impact.

The acting in Honey Boy is phenomenal. Every single human in the film is genuine. Shia playing his own father (talk about a mind trip!), Noah Jupe is terrific as the tweener Shia, Lucas Hedges fantastic as the 22 year old Shia. Byron Bowers has one of the funnier (ironic) lines in the film and two tv veterans Laura San Giacomo and Martin Starr are great in their therapists’ roles. Last, but certainly not least, FKA Twigs is super as the equally damaged tweener seductress.

Go see this!! I can’t go again, it’s too traumatizing emotionally, but Shia is a triumph playing a man trying to break the cycle of abuse. I truly believe his film could reach some people locked in a self-abusive cycle.

ASIDE: Angelika Theater (NYC) is definitely worth going to: excellent atmosphere, roomy leg room, excellent popcorn and a staff that treats you like Jim Carey did his constituents in The Majestic. Really.

Sweetest Peanut Butter I’ve Ever Known

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Hyperbole, schmyperbole, I’m jumping on The Peanut Butter Falcon Oscar bandwagon ready to throw non-breakables at the television should it not win several awards.

Best Original Screenplay: Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz are the new Affleck/Damon, great storytelling and not a second of filler in the entire movie. My movie companion was dying to get a popcorn refill, but didn’t dare leave. I’m even more proud I’m his friend since once he realized what we were witnessing, movie magic, there’s no popcorn worth missing a second.

Best Actor: Tie: Zack Gottsagen, the Down syndrome actor is tremendous, such a tender nuanced performance doesn’t happen very often. Shia LaBeouf, hands down the role of a lifetime and he nails it. A la Casey Affleck and Willem DaFoe in Manchester By the Sea and Florida Project respectively. Understated, and real, his guilt ridden life takes on new meaning as he finds a run away Down syndrome man and becomes his caregiver.

And breaking news (to me), Shia has a screenplay he wrote and filmed coming out in November with Lucas Hedges called Honey Boy. I’ll call it now, this is LaBeouf’s year to rake it all in.

Best Picture: Roma certainly was a work of art and deserved the best picture win, and this year it’s time to give to a work of heart. So many small gorgeous moments in this film had me crying midway, a first ever. But a cry that feels good to be human and blessed to be in this world.

The ensemble of actors couldn’t be more perfect: Bruce Dern has had an acting renaissance since Nebraska and just keeps excelling. This year with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and now even bigger and better as Josh’s accomplice in Peanut Butter Falcon.

Best Supporting Actor (almost): If Thomas Hayden Church who I LOVE (Sideways!!!) had had a bit bigger role as the washed up wrestler, he’d be in the running. Here’s where I’ll come down from the soap box and say, great performance, but not large or wide ranged enough for a nomination.

And while I think Dakota Johnson is fantastic (Black Mass especially), I don’t think her character gets enough screen moment time to win an award. Nomination(?) Sure. Win(?), probably a stretch.

I’ll be going to see this again and will be rooting for it for the next six months. This is the best picture of the year, hands down.

A Solid Second Serve, Borg vs. McEnroe

So right off the bat I have to say Mea Culpa in being THE most biased reviewer when it comes to a film about John McEnroe (Borg vs. McEnroe directed by Janus Metz). See I’ve been in love with him since I was 17, had my bedroom wall plastered with his photos as a senior in high school, met him for an autograph in 1983, even loved his short lived interview show, and am still to this day, downright giddy when I see him commentating. I LOVE THIS MAN.

On the other hand, I may be the most biased against a film that stars Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe. HOWEVER, Shia LaBeouf actually did a very good job portraying him. And I mean, very, very believable. My only nitpick is that McEnroe is a rocker (meaning in the physical self-soothing way) and in a scene where he’s on an interview Tonight Show like show, he sat perfectly still. That’s not Mac. But beyond that, excellent. And talk about kindred spirits…it’s no secret that Shia has been arrested a few times due to reckless behavior. I’d actually read Shia’s book about his obviously tortured past. I’d even help him edit (HINT, HINT).

The man who plays Borg could have easily been Borg’s son, or an identical clone that was cryogenically defrosted, Sverrir Gudnason. Not much acting involved besides pensive looks, but still, well done. And the man who’s in every Lars Von Trier film, Stellan Skarsgard, was also good as ‘the coach’.

The screenplay by Ronnie Sandahl (who won accolades for a foreign film called Under Dog) told each player’s back stories enough for us to understand their tremendous drive to be victor. And extra congrats to the man who did the musical score, Jonas Struck who not only saved, but refreshed re-watching a condensed 5 hour tennis match.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, especially if you’re a tennis fan. And thank you very much to my comedy editor and com padre, Bob, for treating me to this film, the finale of the Cineworld Film Fest sponsored by the Sarasota film Society.