Friday, January 31, 2020


On Wednesday I saw 1917, starring George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman.

Two Lance Corporals (MacKay and Chapman) in the British army during World War I are sent by their general (Colin Firth, who disappointingly only appears only for a few minutes of the film) across the French countryside to stop an attack that will likely not end well for their people, if executed.

That's it. That's the whole film.

So, yes, despite the gorgeous cinematography and the haunting silences that befall our protagonists, the story drags on and on ... and on.

Only one "unexpected" thing happens along the way, a sure consequence of any war, but before and after that event, we see our share of corpses, explosions and worst of all, rats.

There's nothing enjoyable about this film for someone who's not a die-hard war buff. And there's really nothing that bonded me to either main character (in fact, I got most excited when seeing Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who has a cameo later in the story). I have a feeling I'd have been more entertained by the story told to Director Sam Mendes by his grandfather, which inspired the film.

Of the Best Picture nominees, this doesn't come close to the top for me.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Jojo Rabbit

Today I saw Jojo Rabbit, starring Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie.

Jojo (Davis) is a 10-year-old boy in Nazi Germany. He is a youth training to fight for Hitler and his mother (Scarlett Johansson) isn't happy about it, but plays along for the sake of survival.

One day, Jojo discovers a young Jewish friend of his dead sister's hiding out in his house—apparently his mother has kept her there for quite a while, but she's never been discovered. He is torn whether or not to report her presence to the Gestapo.

But then he falls in love with her.

Sounds like a sweet story, right? Well, moments of it are, but that's all buried by the bold satire via Jojo's imaginary friend in the form of Adolf himself (Taika Waititi). And the precocious kid that's on-screen for virtually the entire film. Seriously, he's exhausting.

Perhaps it's healthy to explore WWII from a different angle and try to bring an absurd light to the infinite darkness of the Holocaust, but I just couldn't find myself getting on board.

The film was all over the place and because of that I couldn't completely 'feel' for any of the characters, though several were indisputably tragic.

I understand why Johansson got an Oscar nod for her performance in the film, but I'm baffled by it's Best Picture nomination.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Pain and Glory

Today I saw Pain and Glory, starring Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.

Salvador (Banderas) is an aging film director who is suffering a rapid decline in health. Through a series of events, he looks back on his life—both with fondness and regret—over many of the choices he's made.

I seldom look at the time during Pedro Almodovar films, but I'm sad to say that I did during this one.

Though Banderas is wonderful in the role, it feels like we're watching a dreary loop of his past, which is both easy to anticipate and anticlimactic to experience.

It's easy to see that Almodovar wanted to cover big themes (as he usually tends to do), addressing desire, betrayal, death, etc. but he approaches it with a frustratingly slow pace, which does no favors for the audience's attention span.

The pockets of humor were well-executed, but too far and few between to keep the overall vibe light enough.

A disappointing result from such a talented team of filmmakers.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Just Mercy

On Friday, I saw Just Mercy, starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan.

Walter McMillian (Foxx) is a black man, living in Alabama, running his own business clearing out trees and brush around town. He has a family, a clean record and is well-liked in his community. One day in 1986, a white girl is murdered at a local dry cleaning store. There are no obvious suspects, but after six months, they bring McMillian in and accuse him of the crime, mostly because he once had an affair with a white woman. They have no evidence to support their theory, yet he is convicted and lands on death row.

His saving grace is Bryan Stevenson (Jordan), a recent east coast transplant who is dedicated to helping those wrongly convicted with their legal cases.

In the film, Foxx portrays McMillian as calm, rational, patient and (justifiably) angry. He doesn't have a lot of faith when Stevenson materializes because he's been let down so many times in the past, but you can feel him wanting to trust; wanting to have hope in someone. Alternately, Stevenson can't believe just how unfairly McMillian and several others in the system have been treated and vows to vindicate them. Jordan conveys a determined, if at times naive, man driven to succeed.

Though the reality of what I was watching was hard to take (because the story is true and the film is accurate in its retelling), I enjoyed it thoroughly. The performances drew me right in as if I was a member of that community, watching for the sidelines, praying for justice.

The wins have you wanting to cheer and the losses will make you weep, but you won't look at your watch once, and if you stay through the credits you get to see photos and updates about all of the featured characters.


Sunday, January 05, 2020


Yesterday I saw Labyrinth, starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie.

Sarah (Connelly) is a teenager annoyed with the responsibility of babysitting for her infant brother. In a fit of anger, she wishes that the goblins would take him and they do. Soon the baby is being bounced around by the Goblin King (Bowie) and Sarah must navigate a complicated labyrinth to retrieve him.

Seeing this film on the big screen for the first time since the '80s was a real treat—the world created within the maze Sarah is sent through pulses with personality (and music) as she encounters each character. They're all the more effective when larger than life.

Jim Henson's puppetry work was underrated at the time, but thankfully the film's cult status has erased the initial negativity and made the film beloved as it so rightly deserves.

The print was shown in honor of Bowie's birthday this week and though we lost him four years ago next week, I doubt the world will ever be over his passing (I know I'm not). Still, it's a joy to watch him in his vibrant years, prancing about in a Tina Turner-like wig and capturing just the right amount of weird to be intriguing.

A welcome story to revisit on many levels.


Saturday, January 04, 2020

My Top 10s of 2019


  1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  2. Joker
  3. Mystify: Michael Hutchence
  4. Toy Story 4
  5. Women of the Wild Buffalo
  6. Knives Out
  7. Harriet
  8. The Biggest Little Farm
  9. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  10. Little Women
Honorable Mention: Bombshell, Richard Jewell, Pavarotti

  1. Killing Eve
  2. Catastrophe
  3. 9-1-1
  4. The Handmaid's Tale
  5. This is Us
  6. Grace and Frankie
  7. 90-Day Fiancé
  8. Doc Martin
  9. Queen Sugar
  10. Dead to Me
Honorable Mention: Stranger Things, Outlander, You, Harlots, Famously Afraid


Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Little Women

Yesterday I saw Little Women, starring Saiorse Ronan and Florence Pugh.

It's a beloved book, but one I'll confess I always found a tad boring. That said, this film isn't boring and provides a more faithful adaptation than most that have come before it.

Greta Gerwig's casting of Ronan as the star sister, Jo, couldn't have been more spot on—the Irish actress has just enough spunk to inspire and not enough glamour to be unbelievable. Pugh as her rival sister Amy is also strong, capturing just the right amount of allure and arrogance.

I also enjoyed the performance by Laura Dern, who plays the Little Women's mother. She's warm and lively and everything she'd need to be to navigate parenting four such unique girls.

As we watch the ladies fall in and out of love, follow their passions and explore each of their unique gifts, we're reminded of author Louisa May Alcott's era when it wasn't a given women would get to 'be' what they desired. Not that it's even necessarily true now, but less so then, which is what makes their paths as writers, painters, actresses and musicians all the more miraculous.

If you loved the book, chances are you'll love this retelling. If you didn't love the book, like me you may still enjoy their charming journey.

There are worse ways to spend two hours and fifteen minutes.