“It’s comforting to think the dead are watching over the living. I don’t find that spooky at all.” Reynolds Woodcock
I’ve been a Paul Thomas Anderson fan since I first saw Hard Eight (1996). Then, Boogie Nights (1997) came out and I thought it was simply amazing. Magnolia (1999) was his Robert Altman-esque masterpiece. Punch Drunk Love (2002) was his attempt at romantic comedy which showcased Adam Sandler in an eye-opening performance.
It was five years before his next movie, There Will be Blood (2007), came out. It marked a significant change in style and scope than his previous films. It was a dark film about men with dark souls. It was his first collaboration with Daniel Day Lewis and Johnny Greenwood. Greenwood’s score fit Anderson’s visuals beautifully and Day Lewis won another Oscar for his magnificent performance.
Anderson followed up with his meditation on Scientology, The Master (2012), featuring an Oscar nominated performance by his longtime friend and collaborator Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It would sadly, be their last film together. The Master was another character study like There Will be Blood and it was complicated and demanding but fascinating and mesmerizing. Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice (2013) came next. It was a zany detective yarn set in 1970s Los Angeles. I considered this one his only miss so far.
I had seen a special screening of There Will Be Blood before it was released. Anderson and Day Lewis were there and spoke after the film. It was obvious that they liked each other and had enjoyed making the film. They had said they would like to work with each other again. When Day Lewis announced that he was retiring from acting it made sense that his last film would be with Anderson. Phantom Thread, like There Will Be Blood and The Master, are character studies but it has a very different tone and style than those films. It is lush and graceful and delicate. It is a love story. A very different kind of love story.
“Marriage would make me deceitful and I don’t ever want that.” Reynolds
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis) is a celebrated fashion designer. He lives in a large, multi-floored house with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) and a team of women who sew together his beautiful creations. He is very fastidious and sticks to his routine religiously which lives little room for anyone to take up time and space in his life. His current ‘girlfriend’ seems to have disappeared from his life while still being around. Cyril asks if she should ask her to leave.
“She’s getting fat sitting around waiting for you to fall in love with her again.” Cyril
Reynolds just nods his head in the affirmative. He heads out that evening for the country and at a small restaurant he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), flirts with her over ordering his breakfast and takes her to dinner that night. She accompanies him back to his fashion lair and becomes his muse, his model, his assistant and perhaps his girlfriend? Sometimes lover? Alma is different from the others. She will not just disappear. She wants to be an active part of his life and soon his routine is being disturbed.
“I cannot start my day with a confrontation. I simply have no time for confrontations.”” Reynolds
She brings him tea while he is working and Reynolds flips out and demands she leave.
“I’m taking it away!” Alma
““The tea is leaving, but the interruption is staying right here with me.” Reynolds
The power struggle continues and they have terrible fights but she doesn’t relent.
“Were you sent here to ruin my evening and possibly my entire life?” Reynolds
It’s very unsettling to watch because it reminded me of relationships I have been in. It reminded me of being in love. You resist anything new in your routine, you expect the other person to make due with the corners you’ve left for them to exists in. If someone really loves you they don’t settle for that and demand more, more space, more time, more commitment. Sometimes these relationships break and sometimes they strengthen. I wasn’t sure until the very last moments which would be the case for Reynolds and Alma.
“I want you flat on your back. Helpless, tender, open with only me to help. And then I want you strong again. You’re not going to die. You might wish you’re going to die, but you’re not going to. You need to settle down a little.” Alma
Phantom Thread is a beautiful film. It’s beautiful to look at. Johnny Greenwood’s score is lush and gorgeous. The acting is spot on. Daniel Day Lewis is amazing and Kriep and Manville match him in scene after scene. Anderson again surprises with something different and new. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it will have you thinking and talking about it long after you’ve left the theater. Like love, you may resist Phantom Thread but it does not relent. Indeed, ‘the tea may leave’ but the interruption will stay with you.
“The Times has 7,000 pages detailing how the White House has been lying about the Vietnam War for 30 years.” Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks)
If you’ve always loved All The Presidents Men (1976) and secretly wished there was a sequel, your prayers have been answered! Although, this is, actually a prequel and there’s a tip of the hat to Watergate at the very end. Director Steven Spielberg had planned Ready Player One to be his next film but because of a casting setback he had time to squeeze in this little movie about freedom of the press, a pretty timely topic.
In 1971 Daniel Elsberg (Matthew Rhys) copied all the Pentagon intel pertaining to the Vietnam War and handed it over to the New York Times. They started publishing them, letting the country know that the government had known all along that this was an unwinnable war and continued to lie to the public. Nixon obtained a federal court injunction forcing the Times to cease publication after three articles. Washington Post editor-in-chief, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) got his hands on them and the decision to go to print with them rested in owner Katherine Graham’s (Meryl Streep) hands. The movie is about how this all transpires and the decision and the aftermath which was, of course, a great victory for the freedom of the press and The Washington Post which would later take the lead on the Watergate story.
It’s a great history lesson at a time when the press is under fire by the president of the united states much as it was at that time. Spielberg is a master storyteller and he infuses the film with great energy and pace. It flies by like a history lesson disguised as a heist film. Tom Hanks is appropriately gruff and stoic as Ben Bradlee. Bob Odenkirk has a nice turn as reporter Ben Bagdikian. The rest of the cast is peppered with fine actors who all get their moment including Tracy Letts, Carrie Coons, Bruce Greenwood, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie, Jesse Plemons and Sarah Paulsen.
Then there’s Meryl Streep.
“Nixon will muster the full power of the presidency and if there’s a way to destroy you, by God, he’ll find it!” Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood)
“ I’m asking your advice, Bob, not your permission.” Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep)
Meryl Streep is simply fantastic as Katherine Graham. Yes, that is only what we expect her to be in every film but she never ceases to amaze. There are moments where you just shake your head at her performance. She doesn’t hit a false note.
In these days of 24/7 news on TV, Facebook, Twitter and wherever else you can get news, it’s hard to imagine a time when people relied on newspapers to break a story, to bring you the truth, to open your eyes about something you may not have given a second thought. The Post is not the great film about journalism that All The President’s Men is but it’s pretty damn good and certainly a needed boost to morale.
The real Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee.
“If you think a princess can do what I did, you’re incorrect. I’m getting it, you don’t think much of me, but what if every single one of your ill-informed unsophisticated opinions about me were wrong?” Molly
I didn’t know anything about Molly Bloom, her book, her situation or this famous poker game she ran whose players were some of the most famous men in film, business and sports. It was written by Aaron Sorkin and that was all I needed to know to want to see it.
Gambling has long been a sexy subject for a film. Steve McQueen was the cocky card shark in The Cincinnati Kid (1965), James Caan was the college professor with a gambling problem in The Gambler (1975), more recently we have the film 21 (2008) about a group of college students who go to Vegas on the weekends to count cards for their professor/con man mastermind (Kevin Spacey). Molly’s Game adds a new twist to the genre, a film about a woman who runs a high-priced poker game. Based on the true story of Molly Bloom and adapted from her novel about her experience, Aaron Sorkin has made an exciting, suspenseful, emotional film supported by a great performance by Jessica Chasten as Molly.
Molly comes from a family of over-achievers, prodded on by her over bearing father (Kevin Costner). Molly became a world class skier and in the opening sequence she takes a serious fall trying to qualify for the Olympics. Her resentment of her father leads her to take off on her own and she lands in Los Angeles. While working in a club she garners the attention of a real estate developer who hires her and then puts her in charge of the high stakes poker game he runs. She becomes very good at managing the game and becoming well-liked by the high rollers, some of which are big name actors and sports stars. She eventually starts running her own game and becoming quite successful.
The story is told in flashback as she gets in over her head and gets caught up with the mob and Russian gangsters which brings down the FBI on her and her game. She hires an attorney (Idris Elba) who comes to respect Molly and becomes a powerful advocate and ally.
Sorkin is a great writer. He writes a screenplay like he’s writing an essay. His first scene sets up Molly’s character and through line. He then builds the story, bopping back and forth from present to past and back until the very last scene which brings you back to the beginning, literally. He received a well-earned Oscar nomination for the script. His direction is no less impressive, especially as it is his first try behind the camera. He gets a powerhouse performance from Chastain. She deserved a nomination, too. Elba and Costner lend strong support. Michael Cera is perfectly smarmy as a powerful actor that turns on Molly.
You may look at the plot and think, “I’m not a gambler. I’m not into gambling.” But the movie is not about gambling. It’s about an extremely smart and motivated woman. It’s a thriller and a family drama. It’s funny and exciting. It’s Aaron Sorkin at his best. Give it a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.
The critics awards have all been handed out and there is no clear front runner for any award so far. That could all change with the Golden Globes! This is the fun awards show where the nominees sit together and drink all night. I have a feeling Harvey Weinstein’s name will come up a few times. Oh and perhaps, a certain Mr. Trump. I have yet to see all the nominees but I will still venture a guess as to how it will all turn out. Ready? Here we go!
Best Motion Picture – Drama
“Call Me by Your Name”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Dunkirk was the most cinematic and international of this group. Keep an eye on The Post to snag victory at the last moment however.
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
“The Disaster Artist”
“The Greatest Showman”
The Disaster Artist was the funniest film of the year. Get Out was a pleasant surprise! A hybrid horror/comedy film. But Lady Bird should take the honors.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”
Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World”
Frances McDormand was fantastic in Three Billboards. Sally Hawkins is the dark horse here. She doesn’t say a word a la Holly Hunter in The Piano. She could steal the hearts of the foreign press for The Shape Of Water.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Tom Hanks, “The Post”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
Gary Oldman is the one sure Oscar nominee in this category and he is long overdue. But this is Daniel Day Lewis’ last film (so he says) and they might want to send him out in style.
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Judi Dench, “Victoria & Abdul”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”
Helen Mirren, “The Leisure Seeker”
I hear Margot Robbie is a revelation in I, Tonya but it’s Saorsie Ronan’s year.
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Ridley Scott, “All The Money in the World”
Steven Spielberg, “The Post”
Christopher Nolan is taking this. He is long overdue. But this is the Hollywood Foreign Press so watch out for Guillermo Del Toro!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Steve Carell, “Battle of the Sexes”
Ansel Elgort, “Baby Driver”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Hugh Jackman, “The Greatest Showman”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
James Franco is too funny in The Disaster Artist not to give him this award.
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Hong Chau, “Downsizing”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Laurie Metcalf gives the performance of her career in Lady Bird but Allison Janney has room on her crowded awards shelf for one more.
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
I’m picking Sam Rockwell because he is another actor long overdue for recognition and he was amazing in Three Billboards but this one is so wide open. Willem Dafoe could be the surprise here.
Best Original Score in a Motion Picture
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“The Shape of Water”
I’m taking Alexander Desplat for The Shape Of Water.
Best Screenplay in a Motion Picture
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
The Golden Globes don’t separate adapted from original like the Academy Awards do so that makes this an even harder choice. I have to go with martin McDonagh for Three Billboards but Aaron Sorkin could take it for Molly’s Game.
Best Animated Film
“The Boss Baby”
I have to go with Coco! It tells the story of my people! Mi gente!
Best TV series – Drama
“Game of Thrones”
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
“This Is Us”
The Golden Globes likes to reward new shows so I’m taking The Handmaid’s Tale.
Best performance by Actress in a TV series – Drama
Caitriona Balfe, “Outlander”
Claire Foy, “The Crown”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”
Katherine Langford, “13 Reasons Why”
Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
It’s Elizabeth Moss’ year! Though Maggie Gyllenhaal was amazing in The Deuce.
Best performance by an Actor in a TV Series – Drama
Sterling K. Brown, “This is Us”
Freddie Highmore, “The Good Doctor”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
Really tough. I’m taking Freddie Highmore because he never was recognized for Bates Motel and I hear he is great on The Good Doctor. But Sterling K. Brown took the Emmy so don’t count him out.
Best TV series – Musical or Comedy
“Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
“Master of None”
“Will & Grace”
The triumphant return of Will and Grace may be what propels it into the winner’s circle past Black-ish.
Best performance by an Actor in a TV series – Musical or Comedy
Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
Aziz Ansari “Master of None”
Kevin Bacon, “I Love Dick”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Eric McCormack, “Will and Grace”
Anthony Anderson takes it for Black-ish but if Black-ish wins Best Comedy look for Eric McCormack to represent for Will and Grace here.
Best performance by an Actress in a TV series – Musical or Comedy
Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
Alison Brie, “Glow”
Issa Rae, “Insecure”
Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Frankie Shaw, “SMILF”
Wow! All first time nominees in new shows! I love Alison Brie! But Louis CK’s protegee Pamela Adlon may be the winner here.
Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
“Big Little Lies”
“Feud: Bette and Joan”
“Top of the Lake: China Girl”
It’s Big Little Lies all the way! But I did love Feud: Bette and Joan.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies”
Jude Law, “The Young Pope”
Kyle MacLachlan, “Twin Peaks”
Ewan McGregor, “Fargo”
Geoffrey Rush, “Genius”
Look, all these fellas were amazing but Kyle MacLachlan carries all 18 hours of Twin peaks playing at least 3 versions of Agent Cooper and 2 versions of Dougie. It was a tour de force.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jessica Biel, “The Sinner”
Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Jessica Lange, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Susan Sarandon, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”
All of these women were outstanding but Nicole Kidman took the Emmy and she’ll take the Golden Globe. The only one who has a shot is Globe favorite Jessica Lange.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Alfred Molina, “Feud”
Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”
David Thewlis, “Fargo”
David Harbour, “Stranger Things”
Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot”
Alexander Skarsgard played a complicated villain in Big Little Lies and won the Emmy. He should win here, too but damn if that little dance that Hopper does in Stranger Things doesn’t give him a shot!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”
Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Chrissy Metz, “This is Us”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “The Wizard of Lies”
Shailene Woodley, “Big Little Lies”
I’m going with Big Little Lies all the way! Michelle Pfieffer is a longtime favorite, however so watch your back Miss Dern!
“I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi… to end.” Luke Skywalker
It’s been a few days since I saw The Last Jedi and I think you need a few days to process everything that comes at you in this two-and-a-half-hour film (the longest Star Wars ever!) I really like the movie and there are some great moments but there were also some slow parts and some moments that seemed to be beyond what we’ve come to know is possible in the Star Wars universe.
The best scenes in the film are, of course, the Luke (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) scenes on Ahch-To, very reminiscent of Luke and Yoda on Dagogah in The Empire Strikes Back. Rey is eager to learn the ways of The Force but Luke has become a bitter old man. I feel the exact same way sometimes when I’m talking to ‘millennials’. We also see that Rey and Kylo Ren have a serious telepathic connection and can speak and see each other. Rey feels Kylo can be redeemed. Luke does not. Chewbacca gets to play with the new version of Ewoks called Porgs. They’re cute. Your kids will want one.
“We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love!” Rose
The Resistance is in dire straits. They are being chased by General Hux (Domhnall Gleason) the First Order fleet and being picked off slowly. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and newcomer Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) try to stall while they come up with an escape plan but that’s not good enough for the impulsive hot head Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Po comes up with a plan and sends Finn (John Boyega), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and BB8 to Canto Bight, the Monaco of the galaxy to retrieve a super thief who can break into the First Order computer and disable their tracking device. This part of the film is the slowest and least interesting but it does introduce us to DJ (Benicio Del Toro) a shady thief and several little children/indentured servants who have heard about the Resistance and look at Finn and Rose as heroes.
“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be.” Kylo Ren
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is mad as hell and in Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) dog house. Snoke chides him for losing his battle with Rey, a novice! He wants the Jedi to be finished meaning he needs Luke dead and the Resistance crushed. Kylo goes about trying to accomplish this.
“This is not going to go the way you think!” Luke Skywalker
The final showdown scenes are excellent. The special effects are magnificent and you really feel a sense of danger and intensity. There are so many call backs to other films in the canon. You will need a second look to catch them all. Director Rian Johnson (Breaking Bad, Looper) truly delivers the fireworks and the emotions that were expected. He not only directed but wrote the script. Much like The Empire Strikes Back, this follow up to The Force Awakens is darker and takes more risks with the characters. The story is nicely layered and the payoffs are deserved and satisfying.
Adam Driver brings it again as Kylo Ren, the spoiled brat of the galaxy. He reminds me of a young peter O’Toole. He can underplay effectively and then take it up to eleven with indignation and rage! It’s truly operatic. Daisy Ridley is solid and earnest. Oscar Isaac gets more to do but he’s mostly an overly aggressive male who won’t listen to his female superiors. He’ll learn, I’m assuming and mature in the next film. Laura Dern is always a welcomed presence and her scenes with Isaac have a nice snap to them. Carrie Fisher looks fragile but she’s still has that twinkle in her eye. The film is dedicated to her as it should be. But it’s Mark Hamill’s show! He knocks it out of the park. He’s been waiting a long time for one more acting showcase and he does not disappoint. He is excellent as the older, more cynical Luke Skywalker. The film really does rest on his shoulders and his character propels the story forward into the next film.
I’ll be honest, the film didn’t knock my socks off, though I couldn’t help but get giddy as a school boy when the LucasFilms logo appeared and you see “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…..”. I loved the movie! It drags here and there but it finished strong. It also stays with you and gives you so much to think and talk about. It needs a second viewing to really appreciate all the small touches Rian Johnson peppers the film with. It’s a great achievement.
I will now go a little further and talk about some specifics so if you haven’t yet seen the film do not venture further!!!!!!!!
“The greatest teacher, failure is.” Yoda
The overarching theme of the film is how one must learn from failure. Every plan made by every character fails in this film. Luke finally decides to engage again and his final act is to save the ones he loves and give hope to The Resistance with his showdown with Kylo Ren. He accepts his failure with Kylo and owns it. He never felt he deserved the legendary status he had been given over the years but he earns it at the end. The children we are introduced to in the Finn-Rose plotline come back for the last scene. We see them playing with little stick figure toys and reenacting the Luke-Kylo showdown. Young resistance fighters in the making.
Did you notice when the little boy goes outside to sweep up that the broom moved into his hands? The Force is strong with that one. This also reinforces the notion that you don’t have to be from a certain lineage to be strong with The Force. Kylo tells Rey she comes from nobody special. All the theories about who her parents are were wrong. Remember Anakin Skywalker also came from poor folks.
Snoke gets smoked! No one saw that coming. In a scene that reminded me of the end of Return Of The Jedi, Snoke is torturing Rey and Kylo seems sympathetic. He then slices Snoke in half with the lightsaber. In Return of The Jedi Vader turns on his master to save his son and dies a redeemed man. Kylo may have saved Rey but his intentions were not so noble. He intends to rule the galaxy with Rey by his side. Of course, she rejects his open hand just as Luke rejected Darth Vader in Empire.
Poe Dameron does not like authority. Or is it that he doesn’t like to take orders from women? He gets spanked by both Leia and Holdo. I’m sure he’ll mature by the next film and become the leader that Leia hopes he’ll be. His storyline and the Finn-Rose storylines were not very interesting. I don’t find Poe or Finn that interesting. Maybe there are just too many characters to be able to give everyone the time they need to ripen.
I wasn’t thrilled with the Leia in space resurrection. Is she that powerful that she could survive exposure in space? That was a stretch.
Luke having the power to project himself was another new trick I’ve never seen before. It was clever! I liked how he winked at C3PO. I didn’t understand at first but then realized that C3PO knew he wasn’t there and just a projection and Luke acknowledged that with a wink. I imagine we’ll see Luke again just we saw Yoda again! That was retro Yoda, too! That was muppet Yoda not CGI Yoda. Welcome back, old friend. His scene with Luke was wonderful. Luke regressed back to his petulant child voice when he screamed “but those are the sacred texts!”. Just goes to show you that you’re never too old to learn and grow. Of course, Rey had taken the books with her. Yoda knows this which is why he so non chalantly called down that lightening and set the sacred tree on fire.
The film did offer a lot of surprises and leaves us wondering just what is going to happen in the next film. I have a feeling the film will get better with each viewing and my criticisms will feel trivial. You may feel the same way.
There have been many movies made about making movies. My favorite is The Bad and The Beautiful (1952) directed by Vincente Minneli. The film takes a serious look inside the film industry and is brutally honest for the time. Other great ones like Day For Night (1973 – Truffaut), The Stunt Man (1980 – Richard Rush) and of course, Ed Wood (1994-Tim Burton) mix comedy with pathos and drama and try to convey the madness that can engulf a filmmaker and a film set. Some have also been absurdly comic such as Living In Oblivion (1995 – Tom DeCillo) and Bowfinger (1999 – Frank Oz) which reflect the more recent indie filmmaking era.
I’ve never heard of The Room (2003). Apparently, it is a famous cult film and considered one of the worst if not THE worst film ever made (sorry Ed Wood!). The writer-director-actor Tommy Wiseau was an odd man with an indiscernible accent. He would tell people he came from New Orleans. He never divulged his age or where he got his money. He spent millions making The Room and it was poorly received and panned when it premiered. It was so bad it was funny. In fact, it was hilariously bad. It eventually became a midnight movie hit and cult classic with many celebrity fans including James and Dave Franco. They decided to make a movie about Wiseau and The Room based on the 2013 novel The Disaster Artist written by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero who was and is Tommy’s best friend and co-star in The Room. The film they have made about this very bad film is very good and hilariously funny.
It was so bad it was funny. In fact, it was hilariously bad. It eventually became a midnight movie hit and cult classic with many Celebrity fans including James and Dave Franco. They decided to make a movie about Wiseau and The Room based on the 2013 novel The Disaster Artist written by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero who was and is Tommy’s best friend and co-star in The Room. The film they have made about this very bad film is very good and hilariously funny.
The Disaster Artist follows the friendship of Tommy and Greg as they meet in acting class in San Francisco and head to Los Angeles to make it big in the movies. Tommy drives a nice car and has a great apartment in LA with a glorious rooftop view. Who is this guy? Where does he come from? It remains a mystery to this day! He is one strange character and after realizing that he will never get cast in anything he decides to make his own movie and cast his best friend Greg and himself. He buys all this equipment including both HD and 35 mm cameras and proceeds to film in both simultaneously. The shoot is a complete disaster! But they finish the film and it has its premiere. Tommy and Greg remain friends. Their movie is now immortalized in this film. Tommy Wiseau has cemented a place in film history.
I found myself howling hysterically at times during this movie. It plays as satire but it really happened. The actors are all in and share an obvious affection for these people and the film. If you’ve ever been part of a film crew or tried making a film yourself you will find it especially appealing and hilarious. It is amazing how far you will allow someone to push you for the sake of ‘art’.
James Franco is amazing as Tommy. He basks in the oversized ego that Wiseau had and still has. Franco also directs and he has a cast of familiar faces, many of whom are friends that go way back and have appeared together in other films. It is a family affair which is exactly what making a film should feel like. Judd Apatow is great in a restaurant scene as an asshole producer. Apparently, Franco asked Apatow to be appear in the film as an asshole producer then credited him as playing Himself! Gotta love it. Seth Rogen also plays a supporting role as well as being co-producer of the film. This is one of the best films of the year and certainly the funniest.
Well that was a good mid-season finale except for all the commercial breaks. It’s been a frustrating season so far. I don’t think the ‘all out war’ has been handled sufficiently to completely thrill. A lot of plot gaps and confusion about what’s going on. I don’t like all the time spent on close ups of the characters looking serious as if something profound is happening. Don’t get so full of yourself Walking Dead. Just give us some good drama mixed with some solid action.
The big twist here is that Carl got bit and he’s a goner. This breaks with the comic in a gigantic way. I hope the show will use Carl’s death to really ignite the energy in the show and give us some good character episodes, namely how Rick will change because of this.
RICK AND THE SCAVENGERS
“It’s not enough. If you give a shit, if you care, you do something.” Carl
We see a flashback of Carl and Rick walking down the road. Rick had just scared off Sadiq. Carl tells him that he needs to rethink the idea of killing all The Saviors, that they need to bring them in, that there still needs to be hope.
Rick and The Scavengers enter The Sanctuary compound and get shot at. The Scavengers apparently run away but lucky for Rick, Carol and Jerry pull up and jumps into their truck.
Eugene feels guilty and can’t sleep no matter how much wine he drinks. He finally decides to allow Father Gabriel to escape and take the doctor with him. Does he realize what the consequences of his actions will be? Seems like an unusual move to make after going all in with Negan in the last episode.
By the way, what was his big plan that apparently worked? And just how many Saviors survived? It seems like all them! Negan seems to have an endless supply of goons.
ENID AND AARON
So, Aaron’s big plan to win the war is to drive to Oceanside and ask the women to help? They already refused! And Rick already took all their weapons! What a stupid idea. Aaron mourns his boyfriend and Enid is allowed to drive. She comes up with an idea to stop at a distillery in order to take them an offering to get them to help. Unfortunately, they run into a group from Oceanside in the night and Enid kills Natania thinking Aaron was in danger. Whoops!
Gavin shows up and takes over The Kingdom and looking for King Ezekiel. Ezekiel finally comes out of his self-pity coma to find a way to distract The Saviors and allow his people to escape with the help of Carol.
Ezekiel, closes the gate and tells Carol to “Save them as you have saved me”. He sacrifices himself by being captured. We also see Morgan lurking nearby but he doesn’t act….yet.
MAGGIE AND THE HILLTOP
Maggie and Jesus lead a caravan headed to The Sanctuary. Apparently, part of Rick’s plan was to return to The Sanctuary and have The Saviors surrender. Why do this at night? Why didn’t Tara and Daryl let Maggie know what they did? There’s a tree blocking the road. Maggie knows exactly what that meant. Yup. Simon and The Saviors ambush them. They have Jerry as a prisoner and threaten to kill him if they don’t surrender all their guns. This again?
Apparently, they have more people than Maggie brought along or why wouldn’t they fight? Simon has a coffin taken off the truck and placed on Maggie’s car, meant for Jerry. Simon tells Maggie that The Hilltop is being given a reprieve because they produce a great amount of crops but they will have to kill someone as punishment. Simon shoots Neil who was sitting in the backseat. I know his name is Neil because he said a line previously and Jesus said his name. That was supposed to make me care for him? Maggie asks that she be given the coffin so they can bury Neil. Simon agrees and lets them go! Hmmm, not sure about that strategy. Wouldn’t they send some Saviors along to guard them? Don’t they know there are 40 Savior prisoners at The Hilltop?
When Maggie gets back to The Hilltop she goes straight to the prisoners holding pen. She has Dean brought out. Dean was the one that Jesus decided not to kill even after he attempted to kill him and Tara. Maggie shoots him in the head. Payback for our beloved Neil. She tells Jesus to put Dean in the coffin with a note saying they 38 more and to “Stand Down”.
CARL AND ALEXANDRIA
“You wanna die?” Negan
“No, I don’t. But I will.” Carl
Well, the backbone of the episode is Carl. We opened with the flashback where carl is trying to tell Rick things could be different. I knew immediately he was a goner. We also hear Enid say that she’s a much better driver than Carl with a big smile on her face. This is going to hit her hard. Then we see Carl in some amount of discomfort but we don’t know why. He writes a note to his father and looks at the note that Enid had left for him once saying ‘just survive somehow’. All ominous signs.
Daryl and Tara think their plan has worked. Why would they believe this? They didn’t stick around to make sure. Then all hell breaks loose! It’s night and they hear a familiar voice from over the wall. It’s Negan! They got out! (through Eugene’s genius plan!) This is when Carl takes over. He starts barking orders. Everyone has got to leave Alexandria! Michonne tries to protest but carl shuts her down. HE’s in charge and they’re going to follow his plan. While everyone plans to high tail it out through the back, Carl gets on top of the wall and confronts Negan. Negan seems impressed. He’s always liked Carl. Negan starts a full-on assault. Alexandrian gets bombed and set on fire. Carl sets off gas bombs and escapes through the sewer system.
Meanwhile Daryl and the gang escape through the back and set up to fight. Dwight and The Saviors rush to confront them but of course Dwight leads them right into the line of fire. He even gets out of the car fires on his own. He gets shot in the arm and I almost thought Tara was going to finish him but Daryl believes that Dwight has kept his word and is fully on their side now. They all go to hide underground in the sewer tunnels. Michonne, however, ventures out, perhaps to find Carl. Rick finally shows up and sees Alexandria on fire. He goes straight to his house looking for Carl and Michonne and guess who’s waiting for him? Negan and Rick battle mano a mano! Rick even gets a hold of Lucille and takes a whack at Negan before Negan shoves him out the window. He runs into Michonne who takes him into the sewer where everyone is hiding. They find Carl who doesn’t look well. Carl lifts his shirt and reveals a bite mark. Noooooooo!
Carl will die in the 2/25 episode and this should leave a huge hole in the heart of the series and Rick grimes. I’m glad they killed a major character but I’m not sure what toll this will take on the story. That’s a good thing. For too long TWD has been predictable. I’m hoping it will find its footing and become a suspenseful show again.
Maggie is the only one that seems to know what it takes to fight and win. She’s the best character this year for sure.
The best episode of the year is EP4, ‘Some Guy’; the King Ezekiel centric episode where we lost Shiva.
Carol calling Ezekiel “Your majesty” as he closes the gate on her. Sorry Daryl and carol shippers! Her heart belongs to the King.
What happened to Jerry once Maggie agreed to surrender her guns? Did he stay The Saviors’ captive?
Dwight only gets shot in the arm? Cop out!
“I hate California, I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is, like New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire.” Lady Bird/Christine
There are many coming of age stories. They come in different guises. Some are serious (Dead Poet’s Society) and some are silly (Super Bad) and some are a little of both (Juno). Lady Bird is a little of both.
Lady Bird was born from the mind of Great Gerwig. Gerwig has developed a style as an actor that is quirky and funny and vulnerable. She started writing with her partner (romantic and creative) Noah Baumbach and starring in these films while he directed (Frances Ha, Mistress America). Lady Bird is her directorial debut and it’s as assured an effort as you’ll see. She based the script on her own upbringing in Sacramento, California and her relationship with her mother and you can tell she knows the time and place and these characters inside and out. Even though I didn’t grow up in Sacramento I did grow up in California, a small town called Ontario and I empathized with Lady Bird. I felt exactly the same way. I also empathized with Gerwig. While I wanted out of the small town I grew up in I’ll always feels nostalgic about it.
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a high school senior who prefers to go by the name of ‘Lady Bird’. She’s a quirky teen with bad skin and dyed hair and she longs to get out of her small town and be where the action is. Her mother, played wonderfully by Laurie Metcalfe, is not exactly supportive. Their relationship is the crux of the film and it’s very honest and real. Lady Bird’s father, played sweetly by Tracy Letts, has lost his job and the family is struggling to make ends meet. Lady Bird longs to go to a college in New York which of course her parents could not afford and enlists her dad’s help while keeping her mom in the dark. Meanwhile, she attends an all-female Catholic school and she and her best friend Julie imagine themselves living in nice houses and dating the cutest boy. Of course, Lady Bird and Julie will drift apart as friends do when one gets in a relationship and starts hanging with a different crowd. Lady Bird has high expectations of herself and what she thinks her life should be like and she’s determined to meet them no matter what. The story never gets too big and that’s good. It’s a slice of life, a character study, a coming of age story, all those things. But ultimately, it’s just a really good movie with great characters and performances that is filled with so many small touches that ring true.
Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet are very good as Lady Bird’s respective boyfriends. Lois Smith (True Blood) and Stephen Henderson (Fences) are delightful in small roles as Sister Sara, the high school principal and Father Leviatch who is the drama director. It’s Saoirse Ronan’s show and she is terrific in the part. Laurie Metcalf equals her as her mom. Their scenes together are funny, touching and powerful. Gerwig has made a lovely film and I look forward to seeing many more from her. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll walk out of the theater feeling all the feels!
Look, Rick, I know you have this, like, big master plan to defeat The Saviors but, come on! You walk into the garbage dump to try and make another deal with back stabbing Jadis and the garbage people by yourself? Armed with only poor polaroids? And King Ezekiel, get it together! Jesus! How can you be so naïve? Daryl and Tara! Calm down! Michonne, Rosita, Aaron, Enid! Why do you all continue to venture out on your own without telling anyone. It never turns out to be a good idea. So, all of this is a means to create drama, conflict, suspense, I get it. But they should all be smarter by now. And there must be consequences for such foolish actions. I’m saying the trigger needs to be pulled, Scott Gimple. You need to kill off some of these major characters.
“Talks too much.” Jadis
Rick marches in on The Scavengers during arts and crafts class. Apparently Jadis likes to work in the nude wearing only a brown leather apron. He brings polaroids to show them that The Saviors are going to lose and that they should side with him. It doesn’t work. He is promptly locked up. They also take his clothes and shoes! This is on weird, kinky group. Are they going to now go to aid Negan at The Sanctuary? I’m thinking yes and that means they are going to run into………
DARYL, TARA, MICHONNE AND ROSITA
Michonne got bored sitting around, recovering from a serious beat down, decides she wants to go see The Sanctuary for herself. To do what? Lord knows. Rosita, also recovering from being shot decides what the hell! I’ll go with you! They hear singing and decide to check it out. They find 2 Saviors prepping a truck with speakers intended to lure the walkers away from The Sanctuary so the others can get out. Rosita executes the male Savior with a rocket! As my friends, Erin and Charlotte shouted in unison as we watched, “VAPORIZED!”
Michonne battled the female Savior but she is still weak and the Savior gets in the truck and starts driving away. But she didn’t get far because Daryl and Tara rammed the truck with their bigger truck. You See, Daryl and Tara want revenge. They don’t want to follow Rick’s plan anymore. They want to end it and every Savior in The Sanctuary. The four of them decide to join forces and finish the job. One of them must die for this terrible decision.
“I can’t be what they need” King Ezekiel
The community grieves and makes memorials for their fallen soldiers as King Ezekiel sits on the stage in the theater looking depressed and clutching Shiva’s chain. Jerry stands guard outside but carol walks right past him and tries to get Ezekiel to stop feeling sorry for himself and get back in the fight. He can’t do it.
“You can’t have wolves walking around amongst the sheep…it’s as simple as that.” Gregory
Maggie agrees to allow Jesus to bring the Savior prisoners inside the gates of The Hilltop against Gregory’s advice. In fact, she tosses Gregory in the fenced off prison with them. I actually felt sorry for him when she did that but he is a traitor who can’t be trusted. Jesus thanks her but Maggie warns him that she only did it to use them as bargaining chips. If they prove not to be worth any trade she will have them killed. It’s only a matter of time before they get loose and wreak havoc.
Another idiot goes off on his own! Carl finds Saddiq out in the woods and agrees to take him back to Alexandria with him. They come across a group of walkers and decide to take them on. I almost thought that Carl got bit! It would have served him right. It was a stupid thing to do. Let’s see what Saddiq brings to the table and how mad Rick will be when he finds out.
Carol found another kid, Henry, to toughen up. Will he end up like all the others? “Look at the flowers……..”
Gregory calling Maggie “Margaret”. He can’t stop being annoying.
This may be the year Daryl finally gets it. His thirst for vengeance will have consequences. If not for him then for Michonne, Rosita or Tara.
Aaron, who promised to take care of Gracie, has now decided to go off on his own! (Another one!) To do what? Lord knows. But that’s good enough for Enid! She goes with him!
The only one that is acting with a clear head is Maggie. But with everyone deciding to do whatever they want and leaving The Hilltop can she alone protect them? With two episode left before the Winter Break, I see disaster on the horizon.
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) DIR. GEORGE SEATON – the one movie you MUST see on Thanksgiving. Adorable little Natalie Wood, the beautiful Maureen O’Hara, the ‘Ray Milland” doppelganger John Payne and Edmund Gwenn as the best Santa ever!
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984) DIR. WOODY ALLEN – the scene where Woody and Mia are being chased by the nob guys and they hide in the hanger where they keep all the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade floats! Then of course, the wistful finale where Danny Rose has cooked up all those frozen turkey dinners for his clients in his small apartment.
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) DIR. WOODY ALLEN – the film uses Thanksgiving as a time marker for the story. I probably went to see this film 7 or 8 times in the theater when it came out. The most optimistic of all his films. Always gets me.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1995) DIR. JODIE FOSTER – This is a little known one but a good one. Great cast! Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr have great chemistry. It really nails the family dynamic at these gatherings and it isn’t all pleasant as in life.
PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) DIR. JOHN HUGHES – this has become a real holiday classic. John Candy’s best performance. Martin and Candy are comedy gold. Funny, sweet, heartbreaking and heartwarming.
THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS (1997) DIR. BART FREUNDLICH – another little-known gem. A typical indie film before they became typical. A holiday family drama with Roy Scheider, Julianne Moore, Noah Wylie, Blythe Danner, a great cast. This is the movie where director Freundlich and Moore met and fell in love.
THE GOLD RUSH (1924) DIR. CHARLIE CHAPLIN – worst Thanksgiving dinner ever! Classic comedy sound or no sound.
NOBODY’S FOOL (1994) DIR. ROBERT BENTON – not much to do with Thanksgiving. It’s the backdrop of the film but I include it because it has my favorite actor of all time, Paul Newman giving one of his very best performances. Kudos to Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith as well.
SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT (1986) DIR. SPIKE LEE – again not much to do with Thanksgiving but Nona darling does have her three suitors over for Turkey Dinner and it’s now being rebooted as a Netflix show. It should be interesting to see how Spike Lee has updated the story.
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING (1973) It’s not a holiday until you watch the Peanuts gang celebrate it! I instantly reverted to being 8 years old when I watch them.