Film Brief: Thelma

Not to be confused with Thelma and Louise.  It’s just Thelma here.

Knowing filmmaking locked onto a tight character-driven story kept me enrapt.

Note: Two Norwegian films within a month of one-another: what’s going on?  Is Norway the new France for film?

SPOILER ALERT:  I suggest watching only HALF of the trailer below.  It gives away too much.

8/10

Comparison Notes: Recommended: Donnie Darko, Sleeping Beauty, The Craft; Not recommended: Ich Seh Ich SehThe Square, Raw.  A number of similarities exist between Raw and Thelma.  Thelma is the right way to do it.

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Film Brief: Last Flag Flying

I liked these very good veteran actors, especially Steve Carell.  But the story was way too thin, without enough of anything else to make up the difference.  Good intentions only go so far.

Titles MIA for no good reason drag on the first 30 minutes of a movie that needs all the help it can get.  For this I blame Amazon.  So… Another fail by Linklater, but the endearing performances keep Last Flag Flying afloat at 5/10.

Now Due: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24 keeps up its winning streak (2, now, and counting) with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, sort of a (more) psychological thriller version of Cape Fear.  Kubrick-esque smooth panning and gliding shots combine with an off-kilter sense of impending weight à la vintage P.T. Anderson, e.g. Punch-Drunk Love.

Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman’s second collaboration this year is an extraordinary film, masterfully done.  The only flaw is an over-reliance on the Theory of the Rope.  Without this flaw, we’d be talking best picture of the year.  It’s still up there, on par with Get Out.  David Sims, The Atlantic:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is humane and satirical, horrifying and hilarious, at once a work of realism and fantasy

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:

…the new film’s grim scenario of a family under dire threat will make it hard for some to watch. But the impressive rigor of its craft, the skillfully subdued intensity of the acting and the startling originality of the story will make the film unmissable for anyone who cares about bold filmmaking.

A note on Nicole Kidman vs. her friend Naomi Watts.  They are both highly accomplished actors — but Kidman sure takes a broad swath of very interesting, compelling, and daring roles.  Of late, Watts not so much.

8/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): Cape Fear, “It’s a Good Life” (The Twilight Zone), The GiftFear (Mark Whalberg)

Life in The Florida Projects

The Florida Project is a bright star among the cinematic landscape of 2017.  A sort of Beasts of the Southern Wild or American Honey set in Florida’s Disney World central tourist area, Project is refreshingly original and largely a delight.  I think there should be a “The <fill in the state> Project” featuring life on the edge in every state.  Beasts filled that role for the Louisiana bayou; Tangerine for the streets of Hollywood (practically its own state), and Certain Women sketched Montana nicely (although I’d love to see a sequel).

The Florida Project stars a precocious young girl, Moonee, and her mother Halley; an important dynamic of the picture is that they’re both on about the same maturity level.  Which is to say that Halley is far from being wise beyond her years.  She screws up a lot — but this is her survival game.  So Halley is nonetheless endearing — if not nearly so much as her daughter Moonee.

Back to the American Honey comparison: this movie was more real, with no hint of contrivance at all.  Fresh, honest, and, as I said, mostly a delight.  The only downside was a little lag/drag in the second half.  Another comparison: like Beasts, The Florida Project works on you to gain your sympathies.  I was a little on the fence between 7 and 8 until I watched the trailer again, which reminded me how much I loved these characters and the world they live in.  8/10

Comparison Notes: see above.

Get Lucky!

Besides the fact that this guy is really old, there’s not a lot going on here.  But the old guy is Harry Dean Stanton, and I like him.  Seeing some other old timers was nice too.  The script is too full of contrived pontificating, but there is sweetness as well.  6/10

PS The director apparently has no direct familial relation to David Lynch.

Comparison Notes (recommended): Nebraska, The Straight Story, Bagdad Cafe

Film Brief: Battle of the Sexes

If you’re looking for a respite from all the Friday the 13th movies this season, I’ve got just the ticket.  There’s something very vanilla about Battle of the Sexes, with direction — by two people — that adds up to a perfect cross of competent and after-school amateur hour.  But the movie does a decent job showing how prevalent and readily accepted sexism was in the early 70’s, to the point that it almost seems contrived.  And these well-played characters were fairly endearing, so 6/10.

Note for period filmmakers out there: don’t show skyscrapers in your movie that won’t be built for 10 years.  NG (not good).

Comparison Notes (recommended): Frost/Nixon, Foxcatcher, Best of Enemies