Lady Bird (Film Review) – The Film That Should Have Won Best Picture

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age film written and directed by Greta Gerwig and stars Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan. The story of the film is set in Sacremento, Califorinia in the early 2000s and focuses on Christine (Saoirse Ronan), a high-school senior who goes by the name of ‘Lady Bird’. She clashes with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) about her future.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Lady Bird

On paper, everything about Lady Bird sounded terrific. For one, I love coming-of-age films. In recent years, films such as The Edge of Seventeen, Boyhood and The Perks of Being a Wallflower now rank amongst the best coming-of-age films I have ever seen. For whatever reason, it is a genre of film that I gravitate to and the fact that Lady Bird was nominated for five Oscars increased my expectations about the quality of the film.

As well as being nominated for Best Picture, both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. From this, I expected that the acting in Lady Bird would be brilliant. This went for the entire cast, not just from Ronan and Metcalf. Certainly, Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet are incredibly talented actors and impressed me with their work in Manchester by the Sea and Call Me By Your Name respectively. I hoped to see more of the same from these two in Lady Bird.

Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf as Marion in Lady Bird

Before I saw Lady Bird, the only film nominated for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars that made me feel like it completely deserved its nomination was The Post. I hoped that Lady Bird would impress me to the same degree that The Post did. I was expecting great things from this film.

My Thoughts on Lady Bird

I thought Lady Bird was absolutely terrific. Everything about this film felt authentic and genuine. Greta Gerwig partly based this film off her own experiences growing up in Sacramento and you can tell that this film came from the heart. While a coming-of-age film is going to have scenes and/or dialogue that are a bit cringe-worthy, nothing in Lady Bird ever felt forced or out of place. I had such a great time watching this film, especially when it came to the performances.

Saoirse Ronan was fantastic in the lead role and fully deserving of her nomination for Best Actress but I have to admit that, for me, Laurie Metcalf stole the entire film. She was so real and natural with her performance and, while I still have not seen Allison Janney’s performance in I, Tonya, I struggle to see how anything could eclipse what Laurie Metcalf did in Lady Bird.

Laurie Metcalf as Marion and Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird in Lady Bird

The mother-daughter relationship was amazing and what Metcalf and Ronan brought to it made their relationship one of the strongest aspects of Lady Bird. I also thought that Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet were all very good in the film as well.

Funny and Sad Moments

Another strength of Lady Bird was the humour which was spot-on for a film like this. Certain lines of dialogue in the film and situations some of the characters found themselves in made for some really funny moments. Yet, at the same time, there were some incredibly sad moments too whether it was with Stephen McKinley Henderson’s character or with Lucas Hedges character. You need these types of moments in a coming-of-age film and I thought they were all executed very well.

I also have to say that the use of ‘Crash Into Me’ by Dave Matthews Band throughout the film was something that really pulled me into Lady Bird as it is one of my favourite songs. All of the things which I have mentioned above made me full in love with the film and, as I watched the credits roll, I could not help but feel that the ending, while abrupt, felt right and the character arc that Christine went through in Lady Bird came full circle.

Beanie Feldstein as Julie and Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird in Lady Bird

My Final Thoughts on Lady Bird

Lady Bird and The Post were the two films nominated for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars that were, for me, worthy nominees. Now that I think about it, I believe that Lady Bird should have won the award. I never thought either one would win Best Picture as The Shape of Water was the clear favourite. Still, I was rooting for an upset and I hope, in the years to come, that Lady Bird will be seen as one of the best coming-of-age films that has come out in recent times.

Clearly, I would highly recommend this film to anyone who loves coming-of-age films and wants to see exceptional acting as well as a superb directorial debut from Greta Gerwig. I hope to see more of her in the years to come when it comes to directing films.

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The Shape of Water (Film Review) – Well-Made But Not Best Picture Worthy

The Shape of Water is a fantasy drama directed by Guillermo del Toro which stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins. The story of the film takes place in Baltimore in 1962 and focuses on Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute who works as a custodian at a government laboratory where experiments are being conducted on a humanoid-amphibian named The Asset (Doug Jones). Elisa befriends the creature and their relationship develops into something much more than a friendship.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Shape of Water

I would consider myself to be well above what a casual film fan is. I have seen a lot of films over the years but even I will acknowledge that I have a lot of gaps when it comes to films I need to see. This is certainly the case when it comes to films made by Guillermo del Toro. Before seeing The Shape of Water, I had never seen a Guillermo del Toro film. While this is a shocking statement for those of you who are die-hard fans of this director, this reality only increased my excitement to see this film. I treated The Shape of Water as an event because it would be the first Guillermo del Toro film I would see.

Moreover, the unanimous praise The Shape of Water had been getting from film critics and fans quickly made this film one of my most anticipated films since Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I could not wait to see what looked like a highly original story in a film which has been nominated for and won numerous awards. Indeed, it won Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. The cast for The Shape of Water looked great on paper too which cemented my belief that everything was in place for this film to be amazing.

Doug Jones as The Asset and Sally Hawkins as Elisa in The Shape of Water

My Thoughts on The Shape of Water

My expectations were high and, sadly, not fully met. I liked The Shape of Water but it is one of a vast number of good films that I have no real inclination to see again. I was not as emotionally moved as I wanted to be by the story. Still, I would be lying if I said that you cannot admire many things about this film. The truth is that you can, especially from a technical level.

Certainly, technical elements of The Shape of Water such as the production design and cinematography were absolutely fantastic. The score by Alexandre Desplat was very good too and it felt like its own character within the film. All of this made The Shape of Water feel very atmospheric which I appreciated.

The Performances in The Shape of Water

The performances were another stellar quality of The Shape of Water. Sally Hawkins gave a unique lead performance and made it look easy when it came to communicating without speech. One scene she had with Richard Jenkins’ character about The Asset and her connection to him was a real highlight in this regard.

Richard Jenkins as Giles and Doug Jones as The Asset in The Shape of Water

Still, my favourite performances in the film were given by Richard Jenkins and Michael Shannon. Jenkins provided needed moments of levity with his character’s dry sense of humour and I really liked his relationship with Sally Hawkins’ character. Michael Shannon gave a completely different type of performance to Jenkins but he was incredibly captivating nonetheless. Make no mistake, Michael Shannon is terrifying in The Shape of Water, especially as the film progresses to its conclusion.

My Final Thoughts on The Shape of Water

Thanks to the technical qualities and performances in The Shape of Water, I was never bored during my viewing experience. The film always had fluid momentum and purpose. Yet, at the same time, I was not blown away from an emotional viewpoint when it came to the story.

As such, I have to put The Shape of Water in the same group with other films such as Phantom ThreadCall Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as films not worthy of their nominations for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. I appreciate The Shape of Water more than I actually like it. In the end, it is a good film but I was not as emotionally affected as others were by it and I am not in a huge rush to watch the film again.

The Shape of Water Film Review Pin

Phantom Thread (Film Review) – Strange and Unrewarding

Phantom Thread is a drama written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis in what is, supposedly, his final performance as an actor before he retires. The cast of the film also includes Brian Gleeson, Harriet Sansom Harris, Camilla Rutherford, Richard Graham, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville.

The story of Phantom Thread is set in 1950s London and focuses on Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a dressmaker who falls in love with waitress Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps). However, the relationship they have swings from affection to detachment throughout the film due to their differences.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Phantom Thread

Any film with Daniel Day-Lewis is going to interest me. I mentioned in my review of The Post that Meryl Streep is the best actress of all-time. I can make a similar argument in regards to Daniel Day-Lewis being the best actor of all-time. He has been nominated for six Oscars in the category of Best Actor and is the only male actor to ever garner three wins in that category. This is an outstanding achievement given how difficult is to get nominated for an Oscar, let alone win one.

Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson and Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread

In every film I have seen Daniel Day-Lewis in, he gives outstanding performances and the best of these performances was in There Will Be Blood. That film was also directed by Paul Thomas Anderson so to have these two reunite for Phantom Thread was an exciting prospect me. Phantom Thread was, to some, a surprise nomination for Best Picture. Out of all the nominees for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars, only The Post has made me feel as though it was a film deserving of its nomination. I hoped that Phantom Thread would do the same.

My Thoughts on Phantom Thread

My feeling after seeing Phantom Thread was one of disappointment. I did not really like this film that much. It is not a terrible film but I do not believe it is a film which, on the whole, is that good either. Good elements, however, do exist within Phantom Thread. For one, the performances are superb.

While I do believe that this is the least captivating performance Daniel Day-Lewis has given in any film I have seen him in, he was great in Phantom Thread as were Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. They all managed to convey the subtle toxicity within this film quite well, especially in the relationships between the characters which were completely messed up.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson in Phantom Thread

The score in Phantom Thread, which was composed by Jonny Greenwood, was very good and I was surprised at how prevalent it was throughout the film. It seemed as though it was continuous, like it never ended which was something that impressed me. The production value in this film was its biggest quality in my opinion. I absolutely believed that I was living in London’s fashion scene during the 1950s. It was a technical quality of Phantom Thread I was mesmerised by.

The Negative Aspects of Phantom Thread

Nevertheless, all of the good elements in Phantom Thread did not alleviate the amount of problems I have with the film. For one, the story of the film failed to rivet me from beginning to end. I have to put the blame on the pacing and editing for this. The editing was noticeably sudden at times which affected how well the film flowed and the pacing was too slow for a film as long as Phantom Thread.

While surprising moments of humour kept me slightly engaged in what, for me, were the more ponderous scenes and sequences in Phantom Thread, I could not help becoming more bored by what was happening onscreen as the film progressed. I also felt that the ending of Phantom Thread was completely unearned. It did not sit right with me and I was sitting during the credits thinking “WTF?”.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread

I was not loving Phantom Thread before its final moments and what occurred at the end just cemented this film as being a let-down. Again, Phantom Thread is, for me, another Best Picture nominee from the 2018 Oscars which is not worthy of its nomination. Certain elements of the film are deserving of praise but, as a whole, the film failed to deliver. As such, I cannot recommend Phantom Thread as a film that needs to be seen immediately.

Phantom Thread Film Review Pin

 

The Post (Film Review) – An Important Story

The Post is a political thriller directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. The film stars David Cross, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, Alison Brie, Bradley Whitford, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. The film takes place in the early 1970s and focuses on journalists from The Washington Post.

The main protagonists are Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). The story of The Post is about the attempts by The Washington Post and the journalists who work for this newspaper to publish the Pentagon Papers. These were highly classified documents which contained information undisclosed to the public about the thirty-year involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Post

The Post is a film which had everything going for it. For one, Steven Spielberg, who is arguably the greatest director of all time, was directing the film. Since the 1970s, he has made films which are now considered to be classics. Jaws, the Indiana Jones Trilogy, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan are a handful of the brilliant films Steven Spielberg has made during his career. I hoped The Post would rank amongst his best.

Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham in The Post

He certainly had an awesome cast to make The Post as good as it could be. Indeed, Sarah Paulson was fantastic in The People v. O. J. Simpson and Bob Odenkirk was great in Breaking Bad. I was curious to see them in a film such as The Post. I believe that Bruce Greenwood is highly underrated as an actor so I could not wait to see him in this film. Still, I have to be honest and say that Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep were the standout cast members.

Tom Hanks is awesome and Meryl Streep is the best actress of all. If you can choose any titans of acting to lead your film, you cannot do better than Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. With the film receiving two nominations at the 2018 Oscars, my expectations for The Post were high. I was confident that I would see a film that would be worthy of its nomination for Best Picture. On paper, everything was in place for this to happen.

My Thoughts on The Post

I loved The Post. For me, this is the first film nominated for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars I have seen which made me believe that it thoroughly deserved its nomination. From top to bottom, the film exudes excellence, especially with its acting. Clearly, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep bring their A-game and provide tremendous lead performances. I have no problem with Meryl Streep being nominated for Best Actress. She was superb and continues to solidify her seemingly insurmountable position as the best actress of all-time.

Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham in The Post

The supporting cast in The Post were fantastic as well. For one, Bruce Greenwood was great in his small role as Robert McNamara and this is not the first time he has played someone from the Kennedy Administration. Indeed, he played President John F. Kennedy in Thirteen Days and now Robert McNamara in The Post. He has impressed me in everything I have seen him in and that continued with this film. Bob Odenkirk and Carrie Coon were also standouts in The Post.

The Story and Themes of The Post

I was captivated by the story in The Post from the beginning which I expected to happen. This is because films about journalism, cover-ups and government corruption always interest me. Certainly, you can make parallels with other great films such as State of Play, Spotlight and especially All the President’s Men when looking at the subject matter of The Post. I was enthralled with the story and I found the film to get progressively better. I loved The Post more and more as it went on. Certainly, the stakes and tension in the film build throughout its duration as well as its resonance and timeliness.

Clearly, everything that is touched upon in The Post is extremely relevant to what is going on in the world today. It would be easy for a less capable director to portray the themes and messages of this film in a forced manner. Luckily, The Post had Steven Spielberg at the helm and he crafted this film in such a way that I was emotionally impacted by it, especially towards the end.

Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Journalists from The Washington Post with the Pentagon Papers in The Post

Steven Spielberg did a great job directing this film which, on the whole, I found to be brilliant. It is another example of how Spielberg continues to deliver fantastic films. Truly, I have no major complaints with The Post. I urge you to see this film as soon as you can for all of the reasons that I listed above. Once you do see it, I hope the film will impact you in the same way it impacted me.

The Post Film Review

 

Coco (Film Review) – Pixar Does It Again

Coco is an animated film directed by Lee Unkrich and produced by Pixar Animation Studios. The voice cast of the film includes Edward James Olmos, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt and Anthony Gonzalez. The story of Coco focuses on Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy with a love for music. During the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead, he is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead. He seeks the help of his deceased family members to return him to the land of the living.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Coco

Anytime a Pixar film, which is not in the Cars franchise, is about to come out, it becomes an event. Certainly, I believe that Pixar is one of the best film studios working today. The majority of the films made by Pixar are fantastic and Coco looked like another hit for the animation studio. The film was released in the United States in 2017 and received rave reviews when it came to its story, emotional weight, themes and music. This has made the wait to see it in the United Kingdom pretty arduous.

Elena and Miguel in Coco

Moreover, it has meant that avoiding spoilers for Coco has been tough. Luckily, I did well to go into the film with no idea about what would happen. I always hope that a new Pixar film becomes one of my favourites ever created by the animation studio. I did my very best to keep my expectations grounded. Still, after hearing all the praise Coco received, I could not help myself in thinking that I was in store for another emotional, brilliant Pixar film.

My Thoughts on Coco

Overall, I really liked Coco. Was it as great as I hoped it would be? No, sadly not. I do not consider Coco to be one of the best Pixar films ever made. However, it is still a very good film worthy of your time. A lot of things in this film should be admired. For one, the animation is absolutely gorgeous. Pixar has always pushed the boundaries of animation since Toy Story and they do it once again with Coco.

Day of the Dead in Coco

The use of colour and the vivid imagery keep you engaged in a visual capacity from beginning to end. The themes in Coco are also something to admire. The theme of family is at the very heart of this film as well as themes such as life, death and following your dreams. The way they are used in Coco makes for some poignant moments in the film, especially towards the end. While I was not as emotionally moved as I wanted to be by Coco, it was nonetheless a very heartfelt film thanks to its themes.

The Music and Story of Coco

The music also added to the quality of Coco. Indeed, ‘Remember Me’ was a very sweet, tender song deserving of its Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. While I do believe that it will probably lose to The Greatest Showman’s ‘This Is Me‘, ‘Remember Me’ is still a very good song. The story in Coco was good as well. It had a nice blend of drama and comedy and it delivered well on its overall message which is the importance of family.

Miguel and Mama Coco singing Remember Me in Coco

Yet, I would have liked the film to have had a few more comedic moments. Furthermore, as I previously said, the more emotional moments did not move me to the degree where I was crying. The best Pixar films always bring me to tears and Coco does not rank amongst them. That being said, Coco is absolutely worth seeing, especially with your family.

Additionally, I consider this film to be worthy of its Best Animated Film nomination at the Oscars. It will probably win too. Although, the film would have stiffer competition if The Lego Batman Movie was nominated which it should have been. Still, even then, Coco would be the favourite to win. After seeing the film, you will hopefully see why this is the case.

Coco Film Review

 

Darkest Hour (Film Review) – Gary Oldman Shines In An Okay Film

Darkest Hour is a British war drama directed by Joe Wright. The film stars Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James and Gary Oldman. The film is set during World War Two (WW2) and focuses on Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman). We gain insight into his early days as Prime Minister and how he deals with the threat of Hitler and Nazi Germany as they close in on Britain after their ruthless conquest throughout Europe.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Darkest Hour

Since its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2017, Darkest Hour has been lauded by film critics. Indeed, the main consensus I have seen in the reviews for this film has been that Gary Oldman is terrific as Winston Churchill. In fact, even though Daniel Day-Lewis is involved in the race to win Best Actor as the Oscars, it seems as though Gary Oldman is a lock to win that award. Forget just being nominated, a win seems likely if film critics and pundits are to be believed.

I could not wait to see his performance as one of the most notable historical figures in British history. Certainly, Churchill is a man who has earned his place in history as one of the great wartime leaders. However, he is flawed and I wanted Darkest Hour to explore that. I did not want this film to be a fluff piece that is completely one-sided in favour of Churchill. I hoped Gary Oldman would portray Churchill in a way where we explore the positive and negative side of the man.

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour

Still, while Gary Oldman has been the primary focus of critical acclaim, I was looking forward to see the rest of the cast too in the story that would be told. Interestingly, the story of Darkest Hour is based on subject matter that we have seen recently; the Dunkirk evacuation. Films centred around WW2 and specifically the Dunkirk evacuation seem to the norm these days. In 2017, we had Their Finest and Dunkirk and we now have Darkest Hour. I hoped the latter would be the best of those films.

My Thoughts on Darkest Hour

Sadly, I did not like Darkest Hour that much. It is an okay film that has a tremendous central performance by Gary Oldman. Make no mistake, he is awesome as Churchill. I have mentioned before about how one great performance can steal the film from the rest of the cast. In Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman does not just overpower the cast, he overpowers the entire film. For me, his performance carried a film which, as a whole, is quite boring and drab.

Indeed, I was yawning quite a lot during the film. Unless I am tired, this is not a good sign for the ability of a film to keep one hooked from beginning to end. The only thing that kept me engaged was Gary Oldman’s performance. After seeing Darkest Hour, I can see how deserving Gary Oldman is of his Oscar nomination for Best Actor. On the other hand, it completely baffles me how Darkest Hour got nominated for Best Picture over films such as Blade Runner 2049, Molly’s Game, Wind River and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill and Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour

The Humanisation of Churchill

Still, one thing that I strongly believe Darkest Hour does well is humanising Churchill. Certainly, notable figures such as Churchill take on a legendary status in history. However, we must not forget that historical figures like Churchill are still people and, as such, flawed. Darkest Hour portrays these flaws. I was happy that the film did what I hoped it would do; expose the strengths and weaknesses of Churchill. Darkest Hour is not a propaganda piece that portrays him as a God. Throughout the film, we see his doubts and insecurities which grounded Darkest Hour.

I also liked how, at certain points, we see black bars on frames/scenes of Churchill to illustrate isolation. These little touches were very important to showcase Churchill in a very human way. The relationship that he had with his personal secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) also humanised him. I found their interactions in Darkest Hour to be very genuine. I could connect to Churchill as a person rather than a historical legend.

My Final Thoughts on Darkest Hour

The humanisation of Churchill was something I did appreciate about Darkest Hour. However, the film as whole did not reach a level where I liked it. As I said, the film is quite boring. While Gary Oldman’s performance is awesome, it is not enough to save the film. Gary Oldman is the sole reason you should watch Darkest Hour. Nothing else comes close to the quality he shows in this film. He overpowers the rest of the cast and you forget about their performances. Without Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour would completely fail as a film.

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill at Parliament in Darkest Hour

The film does enough to be better than Their Finest. However, I did not like that film at all. Darkest Hour is not as good as Dunkirk. Dunkirk is a very good film but not the masterpiece some proclaim it to be. Darkest Hour sits right in the middle of these recent films that have been based around the Dunkirk evacuation. In the end. it is an okay film. Still, I will not deny that Darkest Hour has a brilliant performance by Gary Oldman which is deserving of the praise it has received.

Darkest Hour Film Review

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Film Review) – Good, Not Great

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a black comedy crime film written and directed by Martin McDonagh. The film starts Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand. The story of Three Billboards focuses on Mildred (Frances McDormand), a mother whose daughter was brutally murdered. The police have not been able to find a suspect so Mildred takes matters into her own hands. She rents three billboards to call attention to the unsolved crime which has an impact on the local community.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is a film I was really looking forward to, particularly when you consider the amount of award recognition it is receiving. In fact, many see Three Billboards as a frontrunner to win Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. The director was a big reason why I was excited to see the film. Indeed, Martin McDonagh directed In Bruges which is a great film that not many people have seen. If Three Billboards was on the same level of quality as that film, then I would be delighted.

The casting for Three Billboards was fantastic too. We all know Peter Dinklage from his outstanding work in Game of Thrones and I was excited to see what he could do in the film. Sam Rockwell is a great character actor and has worked with McDonagh before in Seven Psychopaths which was a positive. Woody Harrelson has proven time and time again how talented he is as an actor. The same can be said for Frances McDormand. Her work in films such as Almost Famous, Mississippi Burning and Moonrise Kingdom proves how gifted she is. I was looking forward to seeing her performance in Three Billboards.

Woody Harrelson as Willoughby and Frances McDormand as Mildred in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This was particularly the case when you consider that she is a favourite to win Best Actress at the Oscars. Indeed, both McDormand and Rockwell are in contention to win in their respective acting categories. I hoped that these performances which have received such high praise would elevate what looked like a compelling story. Certainly, the subject matter provided a lot of opportunity for the film to have depth. I wanted Three Billboards to be great and consider it to be worthy of the critical acclaim and award recognition it has received.

My Thoughts on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

While Three Billboards was not the film I wanted it to be in terms of quality, I did like it. Similar to Call Me By Your Name, it is a good film with great performances that did not make me feel like it deserved a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Still, I will start with the positives.

Firstly, the performances in Three Billboards. Most of the cast are fantastic in the film. As I previously stated, the film as a whole does not feel worthy to have been nominated for Best Picture. Nonetheless, the performances given by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell deserve the award recognition they have received so far.

Sam Rockwell as Dixon and Frances McDormand as Mildred in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

They were exceptional in Three Billboards. I am more than pleased that Oscar nominations were given to them. Yet, I am not sure whether they deserve to win in their respective categories. This is simply because I still need to see more films and performances that are Oscar contenders. I have not seen enough of them yet to give you a solid opinion about who should win. However, I am confident enough to say that both McDormand and Rockwell warranted Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively.

Peter Dinklage, Woody Harrelson and Lucas Hedges were all good too but they were overshadowed by McDormand and Rockwell who are the stars of Three Billboards. The only negative with the cast was Abbie Cornish. She was completely miscast. It felt like she was in a completely different film which was a shame. Still, this is quite a minor negative in the grand scheme of things.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Is Engaging But Depressing

Three Billboards was, for the most part, engaging throughout. Despite its slow pacing, the excellent dialogue helps the film move at a good pace and keeps you entertained. Indeed, certain conversations in Three Billboards did make me chuckle, particularly when Mildred was involved. One flashback scene in a kitchen also comes to mind in regards to the comedic moments. These were the moments of levity in what was a very depressing film. I cannot deny that I was caught off guard at just how sad and dark Three Billboards was.

Frances McDormand as Mildred and Peter Dinklage as James in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Even the comedic moments are dark in nature. The depressing nature of the film does harm the chances of me re-watching Three Billboards again. For me, rewatchability is a big factor in the greatness of a film. True, certain films do exist which are very dark but have a lot of rewatchability. The masterpiece that is Schindler’s List comes to mind in that regard. However, Three Billboards is not one of these films.

The film never reached a high enough level of quality to make it qualify as a depressing film with tough subject matter that I will watch multiple times. Moreover, the ending of Three Billboards did not sit well with me. The film ended with a lack of resolution that left me unfulfilled with my viewing experience. I sat through the credits disappointed which was a real shame. I understood the meaning of the ending but I would have preferred it to be somewhat less ambiguous than it was.

My Final Thoughts on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

In the end, Three Billboards is a good film that I never have to see again. You can get a lot of enjoyment out of the great performances in the film as well as the excellent script which contains some brilliant dialogue. Still, Three Billboards is not on the same level of quality as In Bruges and it is not worthy of a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.

Frances McDormand as Mildred in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The performances are worthy, but the film as a whole is not in my opinion. Still, I think that you should go see Three Billboards. Every film impacts different people in different ways. Three Billboards is good enough for you to give it a chance. Moreover, I have seen the film be adored by enough people that you could end up loving it. However, it is not good enough for me to say with confidence that you will likely love it. I really hope that you do though.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Film Review

 

Molly’s Game (Film Review) – A Great Directorial Debut For Aaron Sorkin

Molly’s Game is a biographical crime drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. The film is based on the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker. This memoir was written by Molly Bloom who is played by Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game.

The film also stars Jeremy Strong, Joe Keery, Claire Rankin, Graham Greene, Bill Camp, Chris O’Dowd, Brian D’Arcy James, Michael Cera, Kevin Costner and Idris Elba. The story of Molly’s Game focuses on Molly Bloom. She establishes an underground poker empire for Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons, athletes and even the Russian mafia. Molly becomes the target of an FBI investigation due to her illegal acts within this business venture. She enlists the help of lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Molly’s Game

A film such as Molly’s Game is made for me. For one, I love biopics. Indeed, biopics such as Gandhi, Schindler’s List, Malcolm X and Goodfellas are some of my all-time favourite films. Additionally, any biopic related to crime provides a great opportunity for someone to delve into a gritty, complex story. If you had to choose a screenwriter for Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin is a great choice.

Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

While probably most famous for his television work with The West Wing, that was not my introduction to Aaron Sorkin. Instead, it was his work in the film industry that alerted me to his talent as a screenwriter. The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Moneyball and Charlie Wilson’s War made me realise that Sorkin is a cut above a lot of the screenwriters working today. Molly’s Game actually marks the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin. This also peaked my interest in the film.

Still, what really sealed the deal to make Molly’s Game an absolute must see for me was the cast. Clearly, casting Kevin Costner, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba is guaranteed to elevate any film. They all have presence on-screen and have consistently proved to be extremely talented actors. Literally, how could this film be bad? It did not seem possible. I was steadfast in my belief that Molly’s Game would be fantastic.

My Thoughts on Molly’s Game

I was right to think this way. Molly’s Game is absolutely phenomenal. I was mesmerised by the story and the acting from beginning to end. For me, the star of the film is Aaron Sorkin. His writing in the film is fantastic and it gives the film momentum and purpose. The pacing in Molly’s Game was superb and that was mainly down to how quick Sorkin’s dialogue in the film was. It also made a lot of the character interactions in the film very intriguing and gripping.

Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffey and Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

Still, you need great performances from your cast for these scenes to be as enthralling as they are. Thankfully, everyone is great in Molly’s Game and the standout is Jessica Chastain. As it stands right now, she would be guaranteed an Oscar nomination for Best Actress if I had a say. She always brings her best to every film I see her in and this is no different in Molly’s Game. She was masterful in this film. She also had electric chemistry with Idris Elba and their scenes were amongst the best in the film.

Yet, the best scene in Molly’s Game was the one between Jessica Chastain and Kevin Costner. Costner’s role in the film is quite minimal. However, when he is on screen, he has presence. This is no more apparent than his scene with Chastain towards the end of the film. That scene between father and daughter is just sublime and I do not want to give away what happens. All I will say is that certain things which are established in the film come full circle in this scene. When it does, it is very emotional for the characters that Costner and Chastain play in Molly’s Game.

My Final Thoughts on Molly’s Game

I found the character of Molly to be very complex. Jessica Chastain beautifully portrays the depth in this strong-willed character who evokes power and vulnerability in a believable, compelling way. In a lot of ways, the compelling elements of the story in Molly’s Game were ripe for Aaron Sorkin to explore and flesh out. He did this to such a brilliant degree that Molly’s Game is a film that I believe, even at this very early stage, will rank amongst the best films I will see in 2018.

Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom and Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

I love Molly’s Game. Because the film was first released in 2017, it is eligible for nominations at the Oscars. I pray that it is recognised, especially in the acting categories. At a minimum, it should be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Molly’s Game is the first film I have seen in this Oscar season since Blade Runner 2049 that made me think it deserves a lot of Oscar nominations. I hope the film is appreciated by Academy voters to the extent that I do. Moreover, I hope you love the film as much as I do once you see it. You must see Molly’s Game as soon as you can. I do not believe that you will regret seeing this film.

Stronger (Film Review) – A Moving Performance By Jake Gyllenhaal

Stronger is a biographical drama directed by David Gordon Green. The film stars Clancy Brown, Miranda Richardson, Tatiana Maslany and Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman who loses his legs at the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. After this horrific event, Bauman must adapt to his new life with the help of Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Simultaneously, he struggles to cope with PTSD and depression from the terrorist attack he was a victim of.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Stronger

Stronger quickly became one of my most anticipated films to see during award season because of Jake Gyllenhaal. Without a doubt, he is one of my favourite actors working today. He has brought his best to every film that I have seen him in. Moreover, I find it remarkable that he did not receive Oscar nominations for his work in Nightcrawler and Nocturnal Animals.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Because of my adoration for his work, I expected nothing less than a stellar performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Clearly, the emotional source material he was working with provided a great opportunity for him to showcase his range as an actor. Buzz around Stronger has been high since its premiere at Toronto Film Festival back in September 2017. I hoped that the film would live up to the hype.

My Thoughts on Stronger

Stronger is an emotional film which, at is core, has a powerful central performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Once again, he proves his talent as an actor and that he is one of the best working today. While likely that, once again, he will probably go unnoticed when it comes to an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, his work in Stronger should not be forgotten.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley in Stronger

Aside from an individual standpoint, Jake Gyllenhaal also works well off the performance given by Tatiana Maslany in Stronger. I liked the complexity of the relationship their characters had. It was anything but straightforward when it came to their commitment for one another. Indeed, one scene where Jeff completely loses it in a car with her and they berate each other showcased this. It also showed the ability of Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany as actors when it came to portraying raw emotion.

Stronger Is Never Brash, Crude Or A Cliché

Yet, Jake Gyllenhaal is also great in the more understated moments of his performance. This is very apparent when he showcases the depression and PTSD his character is going through that seem to be ignored by his family. In fact, I would argue that the majority of Stronger is very understated. It is never brash and the film takes its time but it is engaging throughout.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Stronger is never over the top or clichéd either. Certainly, it would be very easy for this story to be told in a less mature way. However, Stronger is very mature which makes the more graphic scenes that much more affecting. Indeed, a scene which brutally depicts the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing is very tough to watch. Moreover, having that scene intertwine with seeing Jeff Bauman at his lowest point of recovery was heart-breaking. He was reliving that traumatic experience in a horrible situation and it was not easy to watch.

Due to the tough, depressing subject matter, I will not be eager to watch Stronger multiple times. However, it is a film you need to see just for the magnificent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal alone. Moreover, the film does showcase the human spirit, especially with its ending which leaves you with a feeling of hope. While I do not feel that Stronger will get a lot of award recognition, it does rank amongst the more emotionally affecting films I have seen in 2017.

Battle of the Sexes (Film Review) – Emma Stone’s Best Performance Yet

Battle of the Sexes is a biographical sports film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The film stars Austin Stowell, Elisabeth Shue, Bill PullmanAndrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Steve Carell and Emma Stone.

Battle of the Sexes is loosely based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The film also explores the personal situations of both King and Riggs who struggle to deal with their public and private lives both before and during the buildup to the tennis match.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival back in September 2017. Since then, the film has been receiving a lot of praise, especially when it comes to Emma Stone’s performance. I was first introduced to Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man. I loved her in that film and she has continued to impress me with her acting ability ever since.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

Whether its Superbad, Birdman, The Help, Crazy Stupid Love or La La Land, Emma Stone is establishing herself through her performances as one of the best talents working in the film industry today. Some critics even described her performance in Battle of the Sexes as the best of her career. Consequently, I could not wait to see whether that was true for myself in the film.

I was also looking forward to seeing Steve Carell continue to delve into the dramatic side of acting. Certainly, everyone knows Steve Carell through his brilliant comedic work in films such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Still, Carell has really impressed me with his dramatic roles in films such as Foxcatcher and The Big Short. I wanted to see more of this side of Steve Carell’s acting prowess in Battle of the Sexes.

Based on the trailers, I expected a blend of comedy and drama with Steve Carell’s depiction of Bobby Riggs. Conversely, I believed that Emma Stone’s portrayal of Billie Jean King would be purely dramatic. My overall hope was that Battle of the Sexes would be a film that I considered to be worthy of nominations at the Oscars.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Andrea Riseborough as Marilyn Barnett in Battle of the Sexes

My Thoughts on Battle of the Sexes

While that wish was not met, Battle of the Sexes is a decent film that is elevated by great performances. The best of these performances comes from Emma Stone who steals the film. She is absolutely brilliant as Billie Jean King and, like many film critics, I strongly believe that this is the best performance she has ever given in a film. She lost herself in the role and the struggles her character went through in the film were very affecting.

I also really liked Steve Carell and Sarah Silverman in the film. Silverman provided the understated comedic moments in Battle of the Sexes through her character’s personality. I always like that type of humour in films. The comedic moments that involved Steve Carell were more over the top but that was the nature of Bobby Riggs in the film. He was a larger than life personality and Carell did a good job at portraying this. Yet, he also had a great dramatic scene with his wife that showed the vulnerable side of Bobby Riggs. It was actually one of my favourite scenes in Battle of the Sexes.

Battle of the Sexes Is Not Best Picture Worthy

However, I would argue that the overall film does not match the quality of the performances in it. Battle of the Sexes is not a great film worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. For me, the film takes a while to find its footing. Indeed, I much preferred the second half of the film to the first. More of the great moments in the film, such as Bobby Riggs’ dramatic scene with his wife, happened in the second half.

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

The lack of consistency meant that I was not captivated by the story of the film from beginning to end. Still, I will say that Battle of the Sexes is a very timely film. Some of the themes and messages of the film are very resonant for the current climate we are living in. As a result, this does make Battle of the Sexes necessary viewing. If you have the time, give this film a chance because you may like it more than I did.

Overall, Battle of the Sexes has great performances in it. However, the film itself does not match the quality of those performances. Emma Stone may get an Oscar nomination for Best Actress but that is as many Oscar nominations as I would give to Battle of the Sexes. You may feel different if you see the film though.