Opening in Las Vegas, January 29, 2016

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More January dumps, but the first likely box office hit of the year, starring everyone’s favorite Chinese bear.

That would be Po of Kung Fu Panda 3 (65), which will be the destination of many families this weekend, especially after those on the East Coast were cooped up last weekend because of the snowstorm. I’ve seen both of the Kung Fu Panda movies on DVD–I’ve found the animation to be excellent but the story telling a tad hyper. But then again, I’m also a member of AARP. Lou Lumenick: “The stunning visuals in DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3 surpass the high standards set by its predecessors, but storywise, the latest adventures of goofy Po the panda break no new ground.”

The Wayans’ are still making parodies, and the new one is Fifty Shades of Black (31), a take-off on Fifty Shades of Grey, which wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be, but I suppose is ripe for parody. I don’t see these kind of movies (I’ve never been a Scary Movie fan) but I suppose they fit a need. Scott Tobias: “At a minimum, a parody should be funnier than the film it’s sending up, but Fifty Shades of Black, a quick-and-dirty riff on last year’s S&M romance “Fifty Shades of Grey,” falls a laugh or two short of even that low standard.”

After spending years in development hell and then on the shelf for a few more, Jane Got a Gun (46) has finally been released. It’s interesting that since her Oscar (and her baby), Natalie Portman has put out nothing but dreck. I will probably catch up with this on DVD. And I will be humming the Aerosmith song all the way through. The script was on the Blacklist. Chris Nashawaty: “Since the film’s last-minute rewrites, casting switcheroos, and musical chairs behind the camera are irrelevant to the actual quality of the movie, I’ll avoid rehashing them here, save to say that the disarray shows on screen.”

Most reviews are commenting on the old-fashionedness of The Finest Hours (58), when white guys were men and their women loved them. Republicans will probably like it, and maybe some liberals who are into rescue dramas and/or weather porn. Stephen Holden: “The Finest Hours is a moderately gripping whoosh of nostalgia that shamelessly recycles the ’50s cliché of the squeaky-clean all-American hero.”

 

Opening in Las Vegas, January 22, 2016

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I’ve just got too see Anomalisa (88), because I see everything Charlie Kaufman touches, and who wouldn’t want to see a stop-motion film where every voice (except for two) is done by Tom Noonan? This seems like a Wallace and Gromit film for manic depressives. Joe Morgenstern: “In a truly weird way Anomalisa provides an immersive experience that is no less compelling, though lots more authentic, than the one you get in a megahorror show like “The Revenant.” Once you’re in that puppet’s head it’s hard to get out.”

I never hope to see Dirty Grandpa (17). Just when you think Robert De Niro can’t sink any lower, he outdoes himself. Does he even bother reading scripts before signing on to do films? If it weren’t for David O. Russell he’d be right there with Steven Seagal in making bad films. Richard Roeper: “If Dirty Grandpa isn’t the worst movie of 2016, I have some serious cinematic torture in my near future.”

Two actors who have been in better recent films, Oscar Isaac and Walton Goggins, may hope that everyone ignores Mojave (45), about two strangers who meet in the desert. Josh Bell: “There are no twists or reveals, just two self-absorbed idiots talking each other to death.”

The 5th Wave (34), based on an award-winning young adult novel about an alien invastion (I didn’t think much of it) gets a January dump. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, who may or may not be the next big thing. Roger Moore: “It’s all so obvious and (unintentionally) laugh-out-loud funny…Seriously, if you’re not five steps ahead of The Fifth Wave, you need to have yourself tested.”

Also this week: Detective Chinatown (tbd), about bumbling detectives, Ip Man 3 (56), a martian arts flick that may have to seen because the villain is played by Mike Tyson, and The Boy (46), which appears to be a standard January horror release.

 

A Decade in Film: 1993

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A chronological list of releases can be found here.

1) Best of 1993 or top five?
2) Most disappointing of 1993 (or bottom five if you want to go that route)?
3) Most underrated or underseen? (Example: “reviews weren’t great, but it’s genius because) OR (“No one saw it, but this is why they should…”)
4) Favorite performance(s) of the year?
5) Favorite scene/sequence of the year?
6) Most memorable (good or bad) theatergoing experience of the year?
7) Most influential film/performance/style/director?

Obviously feel free to answer only the questions you’re interested in or to write/respond to something else entirely. The lists themselves are just a starting point to foster discussion.

Review: The Danish Girl

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The Danish Girl is a beautiful and touching film loosely based on the story of one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander’s performances, as well as the costume and production design, are all worthy of their Oscar nominations. But something just doesn’t sit right with me about it. Tom Hooper, who by his third film now establishes a pattern as a genteel director of a Masterpiece Theater kind, isn’t the right match for this material. It needed an edge, as the 1920s and transexualism were a dangerous match. I would have liked to see what Todd Haynes would have done with it.

Redmayne is a Danish painter of some reputation. He is married to Vikander, who is also a painter. They live a happy but childless life in Copenhagen. One day, while painting a large portrait of a woman, Vikander’s model doesn’t show up. She asks Redmayne to put on stockings and pumps and hold some diaphanous gown in his lap. He fingers the material sensually, and we can see the light bulb going off in his head. Later, Vikander will ask him if she caused what happened, and it’s a good question, as the film implies that it does, though he denies it.

Later, they will play a game in which Vikander dresses her husband up as “Lily” and passes “her” off as Redmayne’s cousin. They get a kick out of it, but Redmayne slowly becomes consumed by his alter-ego, and he starts to see doctors for a cure. Most want to lock him up or give him a lobotomy (he scoots out of the window of one doctor before he can be put in a straitjacket). He undergoes radiation treatment on his privates, which couldn’t have been pleasant. Finally a doctor in Germany (Sebastian Koch) tries a radical new procedure on him.

The film is breathtaking beautiful. Hooper and his cameraman, Danny Cohen, have used a painterly eye to match their subjects. The point of the view of the artist is a main theme running through the film, as if people could create themselves, or recreate themselves, as objets d’art.

But Hooper, and his screenwriter Lucinda Coxon (the source material is a novel, not a work of nonfiction) seem so hellbent on treating Lily respectfully that the whole this is defanged. I think Redmayne is brilliant–at the beginning he is a delicate but not effeminate man, but slowly, like a chrysalis, he turns into a woman (and wears the clothes quite well–if someone wants to do a biopic of David Bowie, here’s your actor). Vikander, in some ways, plays the more interesting role. She’s the supportive, kinky wife (when she first discovers him wearing her underwear it turns him on), but realizes that if he becomes a woman she will lose “him,” but out of love goes through it anyway.

Aside from the harrowing scenes at the doctors’ offices, there isn’t a sense of peril in the film that I think it needs. I imagine being a transvestite in the decadent ’20s in Denmark was probably the place to be a transvestite, but it was still a risky thing to be. I think of the decadence expressed in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, which is needed here. The Danish Girl is the most wholesome movie about transgender persons that could ever be made.

Review: Joy

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With Joy, David O. Russell does Frank Capra, and it just doesn’t work. In this tale of an example of the American dream working, Russell has given it a sprinkling of fairy dust, shown by two key scenes in which snow (in one case, artificial) falls on her. It recalls It’s a Wonderful Life, but while that film was in a time and place where the American dream was thriving, Joy doesn’t seem real. The American dream is dead.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Joy, who is loosely based on Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop, sold it on home shopping channels, and made millions. I have no idea what her real story was, but here we get a distinctly Hollywood notion. For one thing, Joy’s last name is never said, perhaps because Lawrence looks about as Italian as the Swedish Bikini Team. As good as an actress Lawrence is, she is miscast. She’s supposed to be a put upon single mother, driven out of her mind by nutty family members and struggling to pay her mortgage. But there’s not a line on Lawrence’s face–not a single crow’s foot. I agree with a reviewer who said Marisa Tomei would have made a good choice.

The spine of Joy is don’t give up on your dreams. Lawrence plays the character as someone who normally suffers in silence, whether being casually insulted by her bombastic father (Robert De Niro), her nasty half-sister (Elisabeth Rohm), or a variety of business types she meets. The one who actually listens to her is Bradley Cooper, who runs QVC, and purrs to her like a character from Glengarry Glen Ross about the keys to selling (it’s not the face, it’s the hands). I liked this part of the film best, getting a glimpse into that whole world, where viewers are practically hypnotized into buying. I also really liked Melissa Rivers’ brief but spot-on impersonation of her mother, Joan.

But the family drama stuff is badly paced and feels like forced eccentricity. Lawrence’s mother, Virginia Madsen, spends all day watching soap operas, which we see starring real-life soap stars like Susan Lucci, and they don’t feel right. De Niro, divorced from the mother, takes up with a rich woman, Isabella Rossellini, who seems to have strolled out of a Coen Brothers’ film. Diane Ladd plays Lawrence’s patient grandmother, but I just couldn’t buy into the whole thing.

I also found some of the business dealing inauthentic. Without knowing what really happened, I find it hard to believe that Joy found her manufacturer was screwing her over by wandering through a door in a restroom, and the final showdown in a Texas hotel room is pure Hollywood and completely unbelievable.

I’d like to think the American dream is still available to everyone, but the growing income inequity is the U.S. has pretty much killed it off. Joy was lucky someone didn’t steal her design, and her story is less about following your dreams than a stroke of sheer luck.

Beyond that, Joy seems unformed and not completely though out. During Russell’s run, I’ve really only loved Silver Linings Playbook, and found The Fighter and American Hustle wanting. I’d add Joy to that list.

Opening in Las Vegas, January 15, 2016

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Some more January dumps and lingering Oscar bait this week.

The one big opening is 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (48), Michael Bay’s rah-rah film about an incident that just won’t die. Recent screenings for yahoos have led to reported death threats against Hillary Clinton. Justin Chang: “It’s a nail-biter and a head-scratcher rolled into one: The mind may initially race to keep up with logistics, but eventually one acknowledges the futility of trying to make sense of a situation that Bay himself hasn’t managed to clarify.”

Moonwalkers (39) has an interesting set-up: it takes seriously the notion that the moon landing was faked on a sound stage. But apparently it fails with it. Oktay Ege Kozak: “Moonwalkers takes a brilliant idea and runs it to the ground thanks to a confused and ill ogical screenplay, an atonal execution, and a bizarre addiction to Tarantino-level gleeful ultra-violence awkwardly crammed into what was obviously supposed to be a biting satire.”

One of the recent nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film  Oscar is Mustang (82), from France, but a family drama set in Turkey. Barbara VanDenbergh: “The cultural specificity and fiercely patriarchal setting sets Mustang apart. It’s a timely reminder that, even still, there are few safe havens in the world for a free spirit.”

Youth (64), directed by Paolo Sorrentino, had some Oscar hopes, but walked away with just a song nomination. It appears to be another film about old guys searching for the fountain of youth with young women. Michael O’Sullivan: “Youth is intoxicating, I’ll admit. Had I never tasted this wine before, I could easily see myself yearning for another glass. But this time it feels like an old vintage in a new bottle, one that’s grown slightly stale rather than better with age.”

The dump offs this month include Norm of the North (22), which looks like very bad animated kiddie fare, and yet more Kevin Hart in Ride Along 2 (32) . I hope black people aren’t upset that it doesn’t get Oscar nominations next year.

Oscar 2015: Fuck tha Academy

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Well, we can guess what Chris Rock’s first joke will be about.

When I watched the announcement of the Academy Awards yesterday morning, I was first struck by the shocking omission of Ridley Scott as Best Director for The Martian. But then again, I am a white guy. As the day progressed, the big story was the total absence of people of color in the acting nominees for the second straight year. This drew a hue and cry from many quarters.

It seemed extra cruel that two movies about black America, Creed and Straight Outta Compton, each received one nomination–which went to white people (although, why didn’t the Compton producers get black writers?) Though I certainly understand the outrage about this, I think that this is pretty trivial in the long run, especially when considering other things that affect the black community, like high incarceration rates, police brutality, and unemployment.

Before I sound like Bill O’Reilly, let me explain. The problem with so-called snubs is that people usually don’t have the guts to say who shouldn’t be nominated. The vacuous mannequins on Access Hollywood bemoaned that Will Smith should have been nominated for Concussion, but didn’t say who he should replace. It’s easy to say someone was screwed, but back it up and say who took their place improperly.

Secondly, the Academy Awards are selected by 6,000 people in the movie business, who hardly represent the pulse of America. Attempts have been made to make the membership more diverse, but what exactly does this mean? If there were more black members, Straight Outta Compton would have been nominated for Best Picture, because black people will automatically like it? Black people can’t like Brooklyn? Also, what people protesting seem to be calling for is some kind of quota. If the voters didn’t like Will Smith (I haven’t seen the film, but judging by the trailer the performance is typically overwrought Smith), so be it. Maybe I’m naive, but I doubt voters checked in with each other and said, “Don’t vote for any black people.”

The problem is that there isn’t more films written, directed, and featuring black people. If someday a larger percentage of films are about black people, made by black people, then the nominations will certainly increase. When most black films seem to be starring Kevin Hart or directed by Tyler Perry, well, don’t hold your breath on the Oscars.

Okay, so what else did we learn from the nomination reveal? The Revenant was the big winner, with 12 nominations. But it did not get a screenplay nomination, which hurts it’s Best Picture chances. Same with the next highest nominee, Mad Max: Fury Road. I love all the love it got, considering it’s a sci-fi car movie, the fourth in its series (the last of which was thirty years ago) and it ended up being my favorite movie of the year. But it won’t win Best Picture.

The rest of the Best Picture nominees were predictable, with Spotlight and The Big Short the only movies that are lined up for the win: they have the necessary director, screenplay, at least one acting nomination, editing, and a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble.

But back to Scott: when a director is shunned like that, it fucks up a prognosticator. This has happened a few times over the years, and every time the DGA, which is a great bellwethers for Oscar, has responded by giving their award to the passed over guy. This happened in 1985 (Spielberg for The Color Purple), 1995 (Ron Howard for Apollo 13), and 2012 (Ben Affleck for Argo). The shunned guy wins the DGA, leaving the Oscar race wide open. Although only in 2012 did the picture actually win the Oscar, which means if Scott wins the DGA it doesn’t mean The Martian will win Best Picture. In fact, I think The Martian’s chance are slim and none.

The other big story of the morning was Sylvester Stallone getting the call for Creed (instead of director Ryan Coogler or co-star Michael B. Jordan). He got a big hand at the announcements from the press, and a great reception when he won his Golden Globe. Will he win? I think so–but voters will have to hold their noses and overlook all the schlock he’s done over the years. Also, buzz is that he’s not a warm and cuddly guy. Should an Oscar go to the man who made Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot?

A few bits of trivia: Stallone sets the record for the longest gap between nominations for playing the same character, 39 years. He joins Paul Newman (Fast Eddie Felson), Peter O’Toole (Henry II), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth I) and Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) as performers nominated twice for the same character. In Best Original Score, we have two octogenarians: Ennio Morricone, who has never won an Oscar in competition, gets nominated for The Hateful Eight at age 87, a record in this category, and John Williams, 83, gets his fiftieth individual nomination for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Speaking of score, also in this category is Thomas Newman, for Bridge of Spies. This is his fourteenth nomination, and he has yet to win. Also in the bridesmaid category is Roger Deakins, who just picked up his 14th nomination for lensing Sicario, and he is also without a win. Below the line talent don’t generally get sentimental votes, because their names are not on the ballot, just the movie.

In the younger person arena, Jennifer Lawrence just got her fourth nomination by the age of 25, a record (previously held by Natalie Wood). Lawrence may be the new Meryl Streep, getting nominated for anything, even a movie, like Joy, that got tepid reviews, or at least the new Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett, who each picked up their seventh nominations.

Things to look for on Oscar night: two directors have won in back-to-back years, John Ford (1940-41) and Joseph Mankiewicz (1949-50). However, no director has helmed back-to-back Best Pictures, and Alejandro G. Innaritu has a chance at both. His cinematographer, Emmanuel Luzbecki, stands a very good chance at winning his third Oscar in a row, which would be a record for the category. Oh, and for the first time in god knows when, Harvey Weinstein could not get a film nominated for Best Picture.

So, start guessing at how Chris Rock will skewer the Academy for their whiteness, send Harvey your condolences, and root for upsets and controversy to make the evening tolerable.

Review: The Revenant

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After seeing The Revenant yesterday I called my dad, who is as big a fan of Westerns as I am. I mentioned that he might have a tough time hearing the dialogue, as he is hard of hearing and some of the characters have thick accents. But as I mentioned this it occurred to me that The Revenant is one of those films that pass what some call the true test of cinema–it can be understood even without dialogue.

Directed with majestic sweep by Alejandro G. Innaritu, shot with breathtaking beauty by Emmanuel Lubezki, and scored hauntingly by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto, The Revenant is a film of the senses, even if film only provides us two senses–sight and sound. But the other senses kick in. We can almost feel the cold, taste the snow, and smell the campfires.

The story is of mountain man and fur trapper Hugh Glass. His story may or may not have happened the way we see it (it provided the story of an earlier film, Man in the Wilderness with Richard Harris). After an attack by Indians that decimates a company of trappers, led by Domnhall Gleeson, Glass (Leonard DiCaprio) comes between some cubs and their mother. He is mauled by the bear, and clinging to life is left with two compatriots, who promise Gleeson they will watch over him until they can return, or he succumbs to the wounds. One of these is a young Jim Bridger (that name is known to any student of the West), played by Will Poulter, and the scurrilous Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who is always out for number one. Also staying with DiCaprio is his teenage son, whose mother was a Pawnee.

Hardy ends up killing the boy, while DiCaprio watches, helpless. Bridger is unaware of this, and Hardy tells him the Indians are nearby, and they must leave DiCaprio behind. Hardy fashions him a shallow grave and leaves him for dead. The rest of the film is DiCaprio, bent on revenge, dragging himself to civilization.

As mentioned in other articles about the film, it is brutal. DiCaprio’s injuries are vividly rendered by the makeup artists, although even the supposed truth is more brutal–Glass had exposed ribs in his back, had a broken leg and set his own splint, and realized his wounds were festering so he laid against a rotting log so that maggots could clean his wounds. Instead we see scenes of DiCaprio helplessly head down rapids, hurtle off a cliff on a horse, hit some tree limbs, and then sleep inside that very same horse (now, of course, dead). He will encounter a Pawnee who helps him, and eludes the Arikara, who are looking for the kidnapped daughter of their chief.

The Revenant is an incredible visual experience. For a while I felt like I had never seen a movie before. The Indian attack is amazing, consisting of some very long shots (Innaritu, after Birdman, seems to love them). The choreography of this must have been intense, as the camera, standing in for us, is in the middle of it all. You may find yourself ducking arrows, even though it is not shot in 3-D. At one point the moving camera attaches itself to a moving horse, and I have no idea how that was done.

The other memorable scene is the bear attack. It is sudden, vicious, and I may not have breathed during it. The bear is CGI, of course, and that shows at times, but it doesn’t alleviate the terror and violence of the scene.

Luzbecki, who is likely to win his third straight Oscar (he won previously for Gravity and Birdman) has done wonders. You may think that anyone can shoot the beautiful scenery (it was filmed mostly in the Canadian Rockies) but Luzbecki does something more–the scenery is both beautiful and menacing, the gray winter a constant threat to life. I shivered a bit when I saw men walk through freezing water–the mountain men did it, but so did the actors–and you get the definite sense that life is precarious in such a situation.

DiCaprio is outstanding. He is the likely Oscar winner, even though it is a mostly silent part (he does say many more words that Jean Dujardin did in The Artist, though). Oscar wins are often a matter of timing–I can’t say this is his best performance ever, though it is right there–but certainly the punishment he must have taken for this role will earn him votes. Hardy is also very good as a despicable person. We don’t learn much about him, except that his father thought that God was a squirrel, and killed and ate it.

My only quibble is that the ending drags on a bit too long. The film is two and a half hours long and frankly, I needed to pee. We can guess the ending, though not how it happens. I was thinking to myself, “Just kill him so I can go relieve myself.” But that’s small potatoes. The Revenant is an outstanding work of art.

Opening in Las Vegas, January 8, 2016

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Now is the time for Oscar bait and the first releases of the new year, which are usually bad horror movies and romantic comedies.

The Revenant (77) is the must-see this week, as Leonard DiCaprio gets attacked by a bear and sleeps inside a horse for his art (and a probably Oscar, even if he doesn’t say much). The film is getting good if not unanimously great reviews, but I’ll see it. Stephen Witty: “That grim realism sometimes makes The Revenant about as appetizing as a three-course meal of turkey jerky — but also serious enough to remind you of classics like “Jeremiah Johnson” and “Little Big Man.” It’s a gruesome adventure story that rarely lets up.”

Garbage time brings us The Forest (37), about a Japanese forest that, true enough, has a lot of suicides. Natalie Dormer, who has been in a lot of popular things, like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, finally gets a starring role.  David Ehrlich: “The only question worth asking about an early January horror movie is if its inevitable badness is at all interesting.”

Wow, a movie that combines religion and wrestling. The Masked Saint (tbd) does just that, as a wrestler becomes a pastor. Again my question is, as wonderful as many Christians are, why can’t they make good movies? Peter Sobczynski: “Although nowhere near as obnoxious as such recent faith-based offerings as “God’s Not Dead” and “Do You Believe?,” The Masked Saint is still kind of a chore to sit through, even for those predisposed to like anything that brings together Christian faith and sleeper holds.”

Who Is Rey?

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star-wars-7-le-reveil-de-la-force-daisy-ridleyOne of the most talked about unanswered questions of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the identity of the young woman from Jakku – Rey. In previous interviews director J.J. Abrams has stated that last names were kept secret on purpose. Perhaps they were kept secret from the characters as well because if they had just introduced themselves as such (“Hi I’m Rey Skywalker.” “Hello there. Finn Calrissian at your service.”) a lot of suspense would have been removed and plot points would necessarily change. Having seen the film 3 times I think I have an idea about at least one of these newcomers (earlier I said I had cemented a theory, but it’s still malleable, not quite solid rock yet, all speculative).

SPOILERS, of course, TO FOLLOW Read the rest of this entry

HAGEBOC 2015 – Week Six – The Grand Finale!

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HAGEBOC

SCORES AS OF 1/5/16:

Jackrabbit Slim – 25.5 (+2, +2, +1)
Joe Webb – 23
James – 20 (+4, +4, +1, +1)
Marco – 17 (+1)
Juan – 11.5
Nick – 5
Rob – 5

HAGEBOC – WEEKEND OF JANUARY 8TH, 2016.  

What will Star Wars: The Force Awakens earn from Friday to Sunday?  (Closest wins 4 points, second closest 2 points. 2 bonus points for being within 250k)

Bonus #1

What will The Revenant (which goes into wide release this weekend) earn from Friday to Sunday?  (Closest wins 4 points, second closest 2 points. 2 bonus points for being within 250k)

Bonus #2

Will The Forest gross OVER or UNDER 10m this weekend? (1 point for the correct answer)

Bonus #3

And it wouldn’t feel right to end this contest without a question about a certain sequel that has captured the world’s imagination: will Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip’s domestic gross be OVER or UNDER 80m by Monday, January 11th? (1 point for the correct answer)

Answers are due on Thursday, January 7th by 3:00 pm EST.  Good luck!

Review: Carol

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It’s instructive to have seen Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes’ film about the love that dare not speak its name, before seeing Carol. Both are set in the 1950s, when homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder (actually, that officially didn’t change until recently), and both are beautiful to behold. Far From Heaven was made to look like a Douglas Sirk film, but Carol is something altogether unique, a love story that is among the best of its kind.

Set in 1952-53, Carol concerns two women. One is a mousy shopgirl, played by Rooney Mara.We don’t know much about her. She’s dating a kind of dull but good looking guy (Jake Lacy) but they haven’t gone “all the way,” and we can assume she’s a virgin. She seems to be drifting through the life. When asked about her fuure, she shrugs and says, “I don’t even know what to order for lunch.”

The other woman is the title character, Cate Blanchett, a woman of great means. During the Christmas season she buys a train set from Mara and leaves behind her gloves. Does she do it on purpose? Is it an act of the subconscious? Perhaps. Mara returns the gloves and a friendship is born, although both seem to know where it is headed. Blanchett is a woman with a history of lesbianism, as she once was in a relationship with a childhood friend (Sarah Paulson). Her ex-husband, Kyle Chandler, seems panicked that it will happen again. He impulsively slaps on injunction on her, keeping her away from their daughter, and she just as impulsively drives west, Mara by her side.

As I said, the first thing one notices is how beautiful this film is. The cinematographer is Ed Lachman, who also shot Far From Heaven. The opening scenes in the department store are enchanting, as we see what those kind of emporiums were like back in those days, when one store had everything, but in a classy way (“baby dolls” were on the shelves, but not in plastic boxes). This beauty extends to the streets of New York, and the roadside inns of middle America (the women’s journey ends, notably, in Waterloo, Iowa).

Beyond that, Haynes knows how to shoot a movie. Every frame is perfect, in a kind of photographic sensibility. It’s interesting that Mara wants to be a photographer, and when he see her work it seems much like Haynes’ style in the film, though in black and white.

Mostly, though, Carol captures what it is like to fall in love, not from the details but from the broad brush strokes. Blanchett is taken with Mara from the start, and Haynes shrewdly chooses not to display the epiphany Mara has when she realizes what Blanchett is interested in and when she realizes she is equally attracted. It just happens. We also don’t see them engaging in chit-chat, discovering common interests, etc. This kind love is about a look, a presence, and we can feel it in our seats.

Much of this is due to Haynes’ brilliant work, but great credit also goes to Mara and Blanchett. Both are extremely photogenic, and Haynes and Lachman may great use of their faces. But the acting is sublime. It’s natural and seems effortless, subtle and without histrionics, the hardest kind of acting there is. I won’t soon forget the film’s last shot, which is one of the best in recent memory.

The poll at Film Comment just came out and Carol was named the best film of the year. I can’t say that’s a mistake.

Random Thread for January, 2016

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First of all, a happy new year to all contributors and commenters.

Second, we are coming up, on March 1, to our tenth anniversary. We don’t have as many posts as we used to (take a look at that first month in the archives) but we still are plugging away.

I don’t know what to do to mark it–maybe everyone can come up with a list of the best of the last ten years: films, performances, moments in their personal lives, whatever. I know some children have been born, marriages have occurred, and career and geographical changes have been made.

Think on it and make suggestions.