Film Noir is more than a genre, it’s a feeling. After World War Two, you started seeing films, generally considered as ‘B’ films, about darker subjects, losers and femme fatales and doomed lives. They centered as much around greed and lust as love and dreams. The characters could be detectives and criminals but also cowboys and private eyes and as time moved on they could even be astronauts or aliens. Film Noir is a modern day Commedia del’arte with a set of characters and stories to choose from. You could mix and match and make something new but what stays the same is that feeling. That sense of dread even when you think, this time, it will work out. It doesn’t. It can’t. Not for everyone.
Uncut Gems is a modern noir that takes place in present day New York (Circa 2012). It’s relentless and tension filled and never lets you breathe just like it’s lead character, Howard Ratner, played to perfection by Adam Sandler. Co-Written and directed by The Safdie Brothers, along with Ronald Bornstein, they’ve created a manic and brilliant film worthy to be included amongst the best film noirs.
The story is familiar. Howard is a man who is in debt to his brother in law, Arno (Eric Bogosian). He’s having an affair with one of his workers, Julia (Julia Fox) a young sexy party girl. He comes up with a scheme to get an uncut opal from Eithiopa sent to him which he will auction off for a million dollars. Sounds easy. It should have been but Howard makes one mistake after another and he can’t get a break. Howard is the classic film noir anti hero. He is a morally questionable and flawed person, he is on a losing streak, he has a dream, a once in a lifetime shot and the odds are against him. It all plays out wonderfully though your heart may not be able to take it. The end is perfect and the only way it could have or should have ended.
Adam Sandler carries the film on his shoulders and he is more than up to the challenge. The entire cast is great including Idina Menzel, Lakieth Stanfield and The Weekend.
Kevin Garnett gives a solid performance and Julia Fox is dynamic in her first film while Judd Hirsch as Howard’s father in law also gives a fine turn. The film reminded me of the 1950 film noir classic Night and The City directed by Jules Dassin (Brute Force) and starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney (Laura).
This film is not for everyone. It’s too intense for some, I understand. I’m a film noir aficionado so, of course, I’m into the dark tale. But I really loved it! It makes you feel something even if you don’t like how it makes you feel.
First off, I’ve never read the book and I’ve only seen the 1994 film version of Little Women directed by Gillian Armstrong so that’s where I’m coming from. I love Greta Gerwig and I have to admit, I was surprised when she had decided to do a remake of Little Women as her follow up to Lady Bird but I was sure she would make a an interesting film. If you are going to do another version of something that has been done so often you had better bring something new to it. Gerwig does. Her script decides to play with time and create two timelines. It is clever and effective but it also brings consequences.
The story is well known. Louisa May Alcott’s 1968 novel is an autobiographical novel about her family. The father has gone off to fight in the Civil War leaving his wife, affectionately called Marmee, and their four daughters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. They’re poor but have a rich life. Jo (Saorsie Ronan) is the oldest and the most independent. She wants to be a write and she writes plays for her and her sisters to act out. Meg is the sister that longs to be married and have nice things. Beth is the sister with the heart of gold with a talent for piano playing and Amy is the youngest and wants to be an artist. They live next door to the Laurences and the sisters adapt young Theodeore Laurence, who they call Laurie, as a defacto brother. Laurie and Jo become very close though young Amy loves Laurie, Jo’s feelings are more mercurial. Their story spans seven years and the sisters find the realities of life drag the into adulthood and they must leave their idylic childhood behind.
Gerwig has made some interesting choices in the storytelling. She begins the film in the present and then flashes back to their childhood. It makes for some interesting story telling and clever scenes but it also frames the film in a more sad and wistful way. Gerwig’s direction is impressive. She definitely had a vision of how she wanted to tell this story and she creates some powerful sequences. The casting is perfect and the performances are strong especially Saorsie Ronan as the ever independent Jo and Florence Pugh as the young Amy who has always loved Laurie and is jealous of Jo’s relationship with him. Unfortunately, Timothee Chalamet does not deliver as Laurie. He comes across as a little boy and never strong enough to challenge either Jo or Amy’s affections.
Gerwig punches up the role of women at that time and connects it to the present beautifully. The scenes where Jo negotiates selling her work with the editor (Tracy Letts) are smart and clever. Gerwig also plays with the ending by making it ambiguous as to whether Jo marries Freidrich, the young German teacher. Louisa May Alcott never married in real life and so it seems that Jo March would not either.
There is much to like in this Little Women and much to admire and I will see it again. My crtiques aside there is one more piece of info that should be said. I saw the film with my friend Charlotte and throughout the film I heard her sniffling. I thought she may be coming down with a cold but once the film ended I realized that she had been crying almost from the beginning and never stopped. The book has had a profound affect on many generations of women and will continue to for generations to come.
Joaquin Phoenix is a sure thing for Joker as is Adam Driver for Marriage Story and Leonardo DiCaprio (LDC) for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Antonio Banderas deserves to get his first nomination for Pain and Glory. I think Christian bale is going to pick up his 3rd Best Actor nomination for Ford vs.Ferari. But man, wouldn’t it be something if Adam Sandler got nominated for Uncut Gems????
Renee Zellwegger is the favorite for Judy. Scarlett Johannson for Marriage Story and Saoirse Ronan for Little Women will also be in the running. Charlize Theron is very good in Bombshell and will get her 3rd nomination. And I’m going out on a limb by saying I think Lupita Nyong’o is going to get her first nomination for Best Actress for US.
Best Supporting Actor
This category is as star studded as they come! Tom Hanks will pick up his first nomination since Cast Away (2001) for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Joe Pesci and Al Pacino will both get nods for The Irishman. Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the favorite and another old veteran, Anthony Hopkins seems to be getting the 5th spot in this line-up.
Best Supporting Actress
After seeing Little Women I can’t see how Florence Pugh can not receive her first nomination. Her costar Laura Dern will get a nod for Marriage Story. Dern’s costar Scarlet Johansson will get a 2nd nomination this year for Jojo Rabbitt. Margot Robbie will be nominated for Bombshell and Jennifer Lopez will get her first shot at Oscar for Hustlers.
Noah Baumbach Marriage Story
Bong Joon Ho Parasite
Same Mendes 1917
Martin Scorsese The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
This is going to be a very exciting Oscar year! I’m looking forward to seeing some surprises!!
Rian Johnson took a lot of heat for The Last Jedi but there should be nothing but praise for his latest! Written and directed by Johnson, Knives Out has an all star cast and is a cleverly written and fun whodunnit that had me guessing until the end. It’s hard to craft a whodunnit in these cynical times but Johnson has written a gem of a film and elicits wonderful performances from the entire cast.
The film revolves around the sudden death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the patriarch of a large family who has built his wealth by becoming a successful author of mystery novels. An inquiry is begun by the local cops assisted by Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a well known sleuth. The film is told from the perspective of Harlan’s caregiver, Marta Cabrera (Ana De Armas) and circumstances spiral out of v Control in a delightfully deceitful manner. The twists and turns are well thought out and delivered and the ending is a complete surprise!
What a cast! Jamie Lee Curtis is the hard eldest daughter, Michael Shannon, the inept middle son and Chris Evans, playing against type, is the snotty youngest son who everyone despises. Don Johnson is great as Curtis’ Trump loving husband and Toni Collette is hilarious as the wife of the deceased son who has found creative ways to benefit from the family fortune. There’s even a cameo by the great character actor M. Emmet Walsh! He’s still alive!
Daniel Craig is terrific as the Hercules Poirrot style sleuth snd Ana De Armas (Blade Runner 2049) is a revelation as the nurse who is in over her head!
Kudos to Rian Johnson! I’ve long admired his films such as Brick and Looper as well as the episodes of Breaking Bad he directed. He has made a classic whodunnit that would make Agatha Christie proud!
This is not a biography of Mr. Rogers. If you are looking for that you can watch the wonderful 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is inspired by a 1998 Esquire article by Tom Junod entitled “Can You Say Hero?” and directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). It’s very cleverly directed film and was surprisingly moving.
The main story is about Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) a writer for Esquire with a wife and newborn son. He has a volatile relationship with his father that has caused Lloyd to be emotionally shut down. When he is given an assignment to do a fluff piece on Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), Lloyd begins a journey of self realization and healing.
I love how Lloyd tries to resist Mr. Roger’s charms. How could anyone be this sweet and intuitive? Just like Lloyd, you can’t believe this guy is for real. Eventually, he succumbs and begins to allow himself to open up and reach out for help.
Matthew Rhys is very good and carries the film. Tom Hanks is perfect as Fred Rogers. You can’t watch this film and not want to be a better person. Chris Cooper is solid as usual as Lloyd’s alcoholic dad, Jerry. Susan Kelechi Watson is also very good as Lloyd’s wife, Andrea.
You could do worse than spend a couple of hours with Lloyd, his family and Mr. Rogers. You may even walk out of the theater with a big smile on your face.
Was there a lot of fan service happening? Absolutely! Star Wars is a family fantasy franchise in the old school fashion. There were also plenty of cameos! I’ll go into that in the Spoiler section.
Rise of Skywalker delivers. JJ Abrams brings it home with a rousing finish. It felt more like Force Awakens, meaning more like the original films. The action sequences are well done, especially the Kylo Ren- Rey light saber clash atop of the Death Star ruins floating in a scary angry ocean.
I had my issues with The Last Jedi even though I found most of it exciting and thrilling. JJ Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio really Concentrated this final adventure with a singular focus. The Resistance is in its last leg and only Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca can save it. Along the way Rey and Kylo Ren are facing off psychically and on a private journey to find themselves, light saber battles to ensue.
It’s no secret that, somehow, Palpatine is back! The Sith are threatening to take over the galaxy. Neither Kylo or Rey are big fans but both have different ideas of how to resolve the issue.
There are some big surprises to be sure but there’s little surprise with the outcome. And that’s OK. This is Star Wars, after all. We’re not expecting a dark finale or even a bittersweet one. We want the fairy tale ending.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver really deliver here. They leave it all on the battlefield. Oscar Isaac gives his most relaxed and ‘Han Solo-ish’ performance of the three films. John Boyega gives his least irritating performance and C3PO just about steals the show with his comic relief.
Some new characters are introduced but Abrams is wise to stick mostly with our main heroes. It’s a rousing adventure and a fitting finale. You can nitpick here and there but if you’re a fan you’ll be comply satisfied. Now if you haven’t seen it yet don’t go any further. I will be a little more specific and go into more details.
What didn’t I like?
Was Finn in love with Rey? What did he want to tell her when he thought they were going to die? It just seemed like three movies of Finn being overly protective of Rey didn’t amount to much.
We see Poe’s old love interest who I think was Keri Russell but she was under a mask the whole time!
How was Chewie not on that transport that Rey blew up?
All the bringing people back to life! One time too many for me!
Rose didn’t have much to do. Hardly Any R2D2.
Ok. What did I like?
I liked how they used the old footage of Carrie Fisher Snd incorporated it into the movie. Well done! I also liked how they handled her death. Chewie’s heartbreaking reaction killed me! Made me cry all over again.
The light saber duel on the ruins of the Death Star was amazing!
Making Rey Palpatine’s granddaughter! Nice touch! Not expected but definitely created a good conflict for Rey.
All the cameos! I expected Luke to show up and Lando had an extended cameo but the Han Solo scene was totally unexpected and very cool! Of course the Ewoks showed up but thankfully just for a couple of seconds. We even got a glimpse of ‘Wedge”!
The ending was perfect. Rey returns to Tattoine, to Luke’s childhood home and buries Luke and Leia’s light sabers. An old womAn happens along and asks her name and Rey tells her, “Rey Skywalker”, as the spirits of Luke and Leia look over her. Very nice touch.
But, look, Star Wars is a family franchise. It’s a wholesome fairy tale and everything is meant to turn out just fine. Don’t expect too many dark turns or consequences. The original made you feel like a kid again. All the films that follow are meant to do the same. And it does! Kudos to JJ Abrams! It wasn’t easy to do but he pulled off a successful closing trilogy that should make George Lucas proud!
It’s hard to believe that both Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly were both taken down by sexual harassment charges in 2016 and Fox News hasn’t seemed to have missed a beat. Bombshell tells the story of how Gretchen Carlson and Meghan Kelly took them out. Director Jay Roach (Game Change, Trumbo) working from an original script by Charles Randolph (The Big Short), brings the energy and lightness of those previous films that makes Bombshell easy to get into but a little problematic when it tries to get serious and it does when dealing with Margot Robbie’s character, Kayla, a conservative millennial, closet lesbian whose desire for a career on Fox News leads her to make some unfortunate decisions.
Bombshell begins with Meghan Kelly (Charlize Theron) prepping for the 2015 Republican debate. She calls out Trump for vulgar treatment of women which brings a Trump Twitter assault which we all remember. The action takes place over the Summer of 2015 as Trump gains traction with Fox viewers and the female anchors including Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) come under more scrutiny.
It’s ultimately Carlson’s firing and personal lawsuit against Ailes that starts the ball rolling and the drama comes from who, if anyone, will back up her claims. It was the #MeToo moment that preceded the Harvey Weinstein allegations the following year. The harassment under Ailes was so out in the open it’s unbelievable yet it happened. Bombshell gets to the heart of it and the story rolls out quickly and bluntly. But in the moments when there is a shift in tone from light to serious it’s abrupt and jarring and the laughter turns into nervous laughter and then ‘maybe we shouldn’t be laughing’.
This type of film style such as Vice and The Big Short is helpful when dealing with unpleasant subjects like Dick Cheney and the Wall Street crash occurs 2008. But it’s a trickier tactic when dealing with sexual harassment. For the most part, I enjoyed the film, it’s important to remember what happened and document it. It may not be the perfect film that will document the Me Too movement but it’s the first and it carries a lot of star power in its presentation.
Charlize Theron becomes Meghan Kelly. She looks like her and sounds like her and she is amazing. Theron also produced the film. Kidman also registers as Carlson. The make up department deserves an Oscar. Imitation for sure. Robbie plays Kayla, a fictional character whose story carries the most disturbing aspects of the film. Robbie gives a fine performance, a tough one in the middle of all the action. The rest of the cast is too notch from John Lithgow as Ailes to Connie Britton as Ailes’ wife and Mark Duplass as Kelly’s husband. Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell and other familiar faces pop up as well and are fine.
This is a solid film with some great performances and an important message. Some tonal problems keep it from really being a home run but it’s definitely worth seeing.
I’ve been a fan of Noah Baumbach for a long time now, ever since I saw The Squid And The Whale (2005). His films have been solid, well written, witty. But with Marriage Story, Baumbach goes to another level. He’s created a master work, a really great film. Expectations will be higher next time out. It has some Woody Allen vibes but this is no knock off. This is an extremely well written, well directed, well structured film. The performances are amazing. The emotions are raw and it feels very genuine and real. It’s a painful, sad film but don’t be scared away by that. Embrace it. Good films don’t just make you feel good. Good films make you feel. This one stays with you.
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlet Johansson) are a young married couple with a young son that lives in Brooklyn. Charlie is a theater director who runs an experimental theater company and Nicole is his star. But after ten years of marriage they are separating and preparing to divorce. They agree to work things out themselves without using lawyers but things change when Nicole heads to Los Angeles with their son to do a TV pilot. A meeting with a lawyer, wonderfully played by Laura Dern, leads Nicole to see things differently so when Charlie comes to visit the divorce gets real. Fast.
The emotional rollercoaster is relentless. Charlie desperately does not want to lose his son and keeps flying back and forth from one coast to the other. He meets with lawyers as well, an expensive, no nonsense, slick Ray Liotta and a sweet, old family lawyer beautifully played by Alan Alda. Unfortunately, divorce never ends well.
Adam Driver and Scarlet Johannson are great. They really dig deep and you care about them and feel every heartache they feel. All the supporting roles are well cast and well performed. Julie Heggerty (Airplane!) is a hoot as Johannson’s mom who loves Charlie. Alan Alda is so good in this you wish Charlie would listen to him but he can’t see past his own pain and anger. Every scene matters, fits together to create a wonderfully constructed piece of work. It’s a true achievement. It’s playing on Netflix so you can watch and cry in the safety of your own home, sipping your wine under your favorite blanket. You’ll thank me for it.
Wow! Each episode keeps delivering the goods and the surprises! Things are heating up and picking up speed! This episode focused on Angela’s childhood and we get some delicious little details that fill in some blanks. But the finale was huge! Talk about the elephant in the room!
Let me start with the trial of Adrian Veidt. Veidt sits in the courtroom in full Ozymandias garb as it looks like his fate is sealed with the verdict being decreed by a squeeling pig. When it came time for Veidt to present his case, he stood, cleared his throat and let out a big, noisy fart. “The defense rests.”
We believe that he is imprisoned on one of Jupiter’s moons. The trial has been going on for ‘365’ days which means we’re not sure when in the time line this is taking place. A couple of theories I have heard are very interesting. One is that the bronze statue of Veidt in Lady Trieu’s garden is actually Veidt! Perhaps his cumuppence of the trial? He got Han Solo’d! Another theory is that the object that came crashing down out of the sky in front of Lady Trieu and the couple whose land she had just bought could be Veidt returning to Earth. In any event, Veidt’s fate will be known in the next two episodes and my feeling is that He will be alive and play an important role in the finale.
“People who wear masks are dangerous and you should be scared of them. They’re hiding something”
Angela is being looked after by Lady Trieu. She has a big IV attached to her arm with a big tube that is supposedly attached to grandaddy Will. Lady Trieu admits that Bian is not her daughter or a clone of herself but actually a clone of her mother and she has been downloading her mother’s memories into Bian. It’s likely that Lady Trieu’s mom was killed in Vietnam by Dr. Manhattan.
Angela follows her IV to a door she believes Will is behind. But when she gets in she sees that her IV was actually attached to a huge elephant! That creeped me out! It makes sense that Lady Trieu is housing memories in an elephant. How many people’s memories are in that one elephant?
We get to see what happened to Angela’s parents. Her father was in the military and they are both killed by a suicide bomber. Angela is placed in an orphanage from hell and for a moment you think she will be saved by her grandmother June who comes to Vietnam with the intention of bringing her back to Tulsa. Unfortunately, June has a heart attack and dies. We know Angela stays in Vietnam and will meet Cal and we see here that a female Vietnamese cop was kind to her and made an impression on her and she will grow up to be a cop.
Back in the present, Lori goes to see Jane Crawford and suprise, surprise! Jane is in cahoots with Senator Keene and the 7th Kavalry. She pushes a button and Lori falls through a trap door in the floor. She is held captive and gets a visit for Keene who gives her a clue as to what their plan is, “It’s extremely difficult to be a white man in America right now so why not try being a blue one?”
Angela stumbles into a room where she sees people in the Blue phone booths where they can leave a message for Dr. Manhattan on Mars including the one Lori made in Episode 2. Lady Trieu waks in and they have a showdown in which Lady Trieu says, “Angela, are we going to keep fucking around here or are we going to be honest with each other?” Dr. Manhattan is not on Mars. He’s in Tulsa pretending to be human. Holy moly!
Angela high tails it out of there even ramming Red Scare’s car on her way out. She gets home and tells Cal that the time they talked about has come. He seems confused. She takes ahammer and hits him in the noggin, knocking him out. She then proceeds to whack him a few more times and reaches into his skull and pulls out a circular object that looks like the symbol on Dr. Manhattan’s forehead.
“Hey, baby, we’re in trouble” she tells Cal and a piano version of Life On Mars plays the episode out.
Cal is effin Dr. Manhattan!!!!! No wonder he doesn’t believe in a heaven or hel. He’s a God!!
Cal is reading For Whom The Bells Toll by Ernest Hemingway when Angela comes home. Any significance to this? The hero of that book dies in the end, heroically.
The US won the Vietnam War and became the 51st state.
Images of Dr, Manhattan are everywhere in Vietnam. The children in the orphanage spend some of there time painting Dr. Manhattan dolls.
Sister Night was a movie that young Angela saw in the store and always wanted to watch but wasn’t allowed. Grandma June was going to watch it with her once they returned to Tulsa but they never made it. I’m sure Angela eventually saw it and of course took the name.
5 THINGS I THINK I KNOW
1 Dr. Manhattan can’t die!
2 Dr. Manhattan will save Lori
3 Keene and the 7th Kavalry will capture Dr. Manhattan.
4 We haven’t seen the last of Don Johnson. One more flashback.
5 Angela will make up with Wade and team up to take on the 7th Cavalry
I’ve been trying to think what other movie Parasite reminded me of. It reminded me of some Claude Chabrol films, perhaps some Hitchcock but it really is an original. It is a comedy, a drama, a thriller all wrapped up in a social satire about economic status and class warfare. It is an extremely smartly written film and beautifully directed by Bong Joon Ho (Snow Piercer). It is obviously this year’s Roma but will it get nominated in both Best Picture and Best Foreign Film as Roma did?
A down on their luck family find ways to scheme and scrape together a living while dreaming of a big payoff that will set them up for the rest of their life. They’re a family of con men and they zero in on a young couple and their family. They manage to get jobs with this family without them finding out that they are related. Everything goes as planned until something happens and their plan gets derailed. The film takes a huge turn from being an amusing lark into a harrowing ordeal.
The performances are perfect. You really get drawn into the story and taken places you didn’t expect. The direction is creative and the set design is terrific from the little basement hovel the family live in to the gorgeous, sprawling home of the wealthy family. I found out that the house was built just for the film! That is amazing! I expect an Oscar nod for Production Design.
I urge you to see this film. Don’t be scared off because there are subtitles. You will quickly be captivated by the well written story and find yourself absorbed by the plight of both families. Parasite is one of the best films of the year.