The Official Review Thread of 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:54 pm

The weakest thing about Toni Erdmann is the overriding theme -- it kind of amounts to "parents should teach their kids to enjoy life rather than strive for material success", with a side order of "we don't appreciate life enough as it's passing by" (articulated by Winfried in a late speech eerily close to Emily's in Act Three of Our Town).

The beauty of the film is, Maren Ade's field of vision is so vast and idiosyncratic, and offers so much nuance, that this reductive summary of the theme doesn't begin to give an idea of what the movie's about. The film's narrative trajectory is constantly surprising -- introducing more and more characters, taking us unexpected places (culminating in the hilarious brunch scene). And it gives us a compelling, complex, contradictory central character in Ines, who loves her father, and obviously, on some level, wants to be the free spirit he pushes her to be -- but who, in the final shot, appears to be unable to make the leaps of faith he'd like her to make.

This is probably a discussion for the Foreign Language Film thread when it appears, but I have some doubt this film will waltz off with the Oscar. I know the trend of late has been for the critically endorsed big bopper to win, rather than the sentimental efforts that had won in the previous decade or two. But don't think The Great Beauty or Son of Saul were quite the challenge to voters that Toni Erdmann will be -- the petits fours scene alone will alienate some significant portion of oldsters. They might prefer to honor The Salesman, as tribute to Farhadi's anti-Trump boycott...

...or they might go for A Man Called Ove. This film is based on an apparent big best-seller, and it FEELS like a best-seller, of the sort Wally Lamb turns out. It's a brisk enough watch, with a few juicy incidents and colorful characters. But none of it feels like it means very much -- the events are inventive enough, but random: I don't feel like they add up to defining the central character in an interesting way. However, the film gives much more of a warm hug to its audience, and it might just appeal to those who can't make sense of Ade's oddball universe.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:55 pm

FENCES
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby, Saniyya Sidney.
Dir: Denzel Washington.

A working class African American man who was once a rising baseball star from the 1950's tries to raise a family while butting heads with his teenage son and wife. Based on the play by August Wilson, this film has been criticized for feeling a bit too...stagey. And it is. It does indeed feel like a filmed play at times in both the way it's shot and acted which prevents this for being a completely successful stage to screen adaptation. But, daaaamn, the acting that is in it is superb. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis truly shine and worthy of all the accolades that come their way. And though stage-y the original August Wilson text doesn't lose much of its quality and power.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:11 am

dws1982 wrote:A Monster Calls

I know it's gone from theaters now, but I loved this. It deals with some thorny issues, and I love that it never really shies away from the messiness of the whole situation. It doesn't pretend that there are any easy fixes, it draws some characters--the ones played by Toby Kebbel and Sigourney Weaver--with a lot more depth than a lesser film would have. The fantasy sequences--particularly the animated stories--are truly excellent. And just think--Focus essentially dumped this in favor of Nocturnal Animals, which got a lone Supporting Actor nomination. At a minimum, Supporting Actress and Score could've been easy gets, along with a few tech nominations (I'd give it Sound Editing, easy), and maybe even Best Picture. I feel like if Hugo or Beasts of the Southern Wild could get Best Picture nominations, there's no reason why this one couldn't have.


Agreed. I think it should have been released a lot earlier to build momentum. Some films need that, particularly difficult art house or genre pictures.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby OscarGuy » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:51 pm

I think A Monster Calls was easily one of the best films of the year. I'm also disappointed that it was ignored.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby dws1982 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:10 pm

A Monster Calls

I know it's gone from theaters now, but I loved this. It deals with some thorny issues, and I love that it never really shies away from the messiness of the whole situation. It doesn't pretend that there are any easy fixes, it draws some characters--the ones played by Toby Kebbel and Sigourney Weaver--with a lot more depth than a lesser film would have. The fantasy sequences--particularly the animated stories--are truly excellent. And just think--Focus essentially dumped this in favor of Nocturnal Animals, which got a lone Supporting Actor nomination. At a minimum, Supporting Actress and Score could've been easy gets, along with a few tech nominations (I'd give it Sound Editing, easy), and maybe even Best Picture. I feel like if Hugo or Beasts of the Southern Wild could get Best Picture nominations, there's no reason why this one couldn't have.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Jan 23, 2017 1:23 pm

MOONLIGHT
Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex R. Hibbert, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Andre Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Jaden Piner.
Dir: Barry Jenkins.

Divided into three distinct sections, this film chronicles the life of Chiron, a young African-American growing up gay in a poor, rough neighborhood in Miami. It depicts events from his childhood, his adolescence and his young adulthood. Oh, my God. This is a beautiful, emotional gut-punch of a film. It's almost like three films in one since every segment takes on a somewhat different tone, each one unique yet it builds up beautifully to the conclusion thanks to the great script and superb direction. The ensemble cast is uniformly amazing. Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris both are deservedly getting attention but everyone in the cast, especially the three Chiron's shine. I'm gonna be thinking about this film for a while. Truly one of the best films of 2016.

Oscar Prospects: All of it.

Grade: A.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 12:23 pm

I wanted to post this in the 2017 sub-forum and start the Official Review Thread of 2017 but okay.

SPLIT
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula.
Dir: M. Night Shyamalan.

Three young women are kidnapped and held captive by a man who suffers from a multiple personality disorder. This is coming from M. Night Shyamalan. I thought I've completely given up on him after the shit show that was After Earth but he did rebound quite a bit with The Visit which was a solid thriller. He continues his redemption arc with this film. Though it's far from a masterpiece, it gets points for being a nifty, high-concept thriller featuring a fun scenery-chewing performance from James McAvoy who takes the role of a man with 23 personalities and just runs with it. The third act verged on being silly but the final revelation in the last scene of this film totally redeems it and makes me excited to see M. Night Shyamalan movies again. He should really do these small-scale thrillers rather than the ambitious "big" films that he did for a time.

Oscar Prospects: You know, if they released it sooner, I think James McAvoy could have made a play for Best Actor.

Grade: B

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:30 am

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC SPOILERS

I'm definitely going to revise my Oscar predictions after seeing Captain Fantastic because I can't allow myself to think that this screenplay is getting nominated. This is a powerfully confused film with a well-meaning, imminently-endorsable one inside that required a philosophical counterbalance to writer/director Matt Ross. That philosophy has nothing to do with Noam Chomsky and everything to do with this guy belonging in jail. His mission is to educate these kids for the real world and somewhere along the way this film decided that all they need is each other. How did that train of thought go off the rails? Clearly, Ross fell in love with this character and decided to lionize him.

Also from a writing perspective, there are some maddening context ambiguities that annoyed me w/r/t how little these kids know about society, how off the grid are they, for how long, etc. I can roll with some believability issues, but there are just too many kids for me to buy it. Often times, I'll rewrite a movie I'm watching in my head but why couldn't there be a community up there or something that he's a part of? Does it have to be just them? Can't there be a tribe up there or some shit?
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:47 pm

LITTLE MEN
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia, Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Talia Balsam, Alfred Molina
Dir: Ira Sachs.

Two 13 year old boys who have become close friends have their friendship tested when their respective parents enter a dispute over the lease of a dress hop. This film sounds rather slight and inconsequential and it is a rather quiet understated drama but that's where its strength lies. Though the film is deceptively small, the emotions underneath are large due to the predicament these two families and in particular, these two boys find themselves in. The cast is strong but the film would not have worked as well if it didn't have the strong performances of the two boys who are the beating hearts of this film and the reason you find yourself invested in it. In a way, it's such a beautifully human story about friendship and growing up.

Oscar Prospects: Flashier competition has overshadowed it but Original Screenplay would not be undeserved.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:54 am

dws1982 wrote:Little Men
I don't know. I like a lot of things about it, particularly the two younger actors. There's a lot of truth in the way it shows how the friendship between two kids can be affected by things that have nothing to do with anything they do. And like I said, the two young actors are both very good, totally winning, great together. But my goodness, Paulina Garcia's character is a totally nasty human being isn't she? You can sympathize with her situation, but once the conflict between her and Greg Kinnear gets started, everything she says and does is truly hateful--and not just coming from someone who's lashing out in her anger and frustration; she's being hateful just for the sake of being hateful, trying to rub salt in the wounds of a man who just lost his father. I guess I liked what it was trying to do more than I liked what it did.

I found Garcia's character more stubborn than hateful, but it was the kids that made the movie.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby dws1982 » Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:54 pm

Little Men
I don't know. I like a lot of things about it, particularly the two younger actors. There's a lot of truth in the way it shows how the friendship between two kids can be affected by things that have nothing to do with anything they do. And like I said, the two young actors are both very good, totally winning, great together. But my goodness, Paulina Garcia's character is a totally nasty human being isn't she? You can sympathize with her situation, but once the conflict between her and Greg Kinnear gets started, everything she says and does is truly hateful--and not just coming from someone who's lashing out in her anger and frustration; she's being hateful just for the sake of being hateful, trying to rub salt in the wounds of a man who just lost his father. I guess I liked what it was trying to do more than I liked what it did.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jan 14, 2017 12:05 pm

CHRISTINE
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith Cameron, Timothy Simons, Kim Shaw, John Cullum.
Dir: Antonio Campos.

This is NOT an adaptation of the Stephen King novel but rather the true story of Christine Chubbuck, a local newscaster in Sarasota, Florida who killed herself live on the air. That's not much of a spoiler since it is a true story. I've heard about her story online. This explores her final few days leading up to her suicide. It reveals a talented, ambitious but deeply troubled young woman suffering from depression and various other issues. Rebecca Hall gives a magnificent performance as the titular role. She really should be getting more juicy roles like this. Antonio Campos's direction and the smart script kept this from being a Lifetime movie. It is instead a heartbreaking character study. Definitely a gem.

Oscar Prospects: Rebecca Hall should be in the running for Best Actress.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jan 14, 2017 11:08 am

LA LA LAND
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemary DeWitt, JK Simmons, Finn Wittrock.
Dir: Damien Chazelle.

I hate to add to the hype. I really do. But what can I say? I loved it. I had a smile throughout the film and by the end this movie completely won me over. It's one of those movies that remind me why I love film so much. The story is pure, predictable fluff: A struggling jazz musician meet and fall in love with a struggling actress. You pretty much predict where the story goes from there. But it's told with such style, such verve and such passion that you really don't care. You're just swept up by it all. It really is a Jacques Demy film for the 21st century. Ryan Gosling and especially Emma Stone are great. The songs are great. It's beautifully photographed and designed. I can't wait to see it again.

Oscar Prospects: All of them.

Grade: A.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:57 pm

The most interesting thing about The 13th is its premise -- showing how that one clause in the 13th Amendment has been used to continue a shadow version of slavery, first with 100 years of Jim Crow, and now with mass incarceration. It's a very interesting and largely persuasive argument, and the film is mostly attention-holding as it tracks this history.

However...Duvernay & her collaborators don't give much credence to the to-me indisputable fact that, from the mid-60s to the late 80s, crime in fact WAS a huge concern in this country, with rates soaring beyond what anyone had imagined, and that it would have been impossible for government officials not to deal with that in some serious ways. A few people interviewed -- including Charlie Rangel -- make reference to this, but only glancingly, and the film doesn't seem to want to take it seriously as a motivator for public policy. It's certainly true that many on the right exploited this fact for nefarious purposes, but there were also many liberals and centrists (including Robert Kennedy) who understood this was a public issue of prime concern that required some sort of action. The fact that this meteoric rise in the crime suddenly stopped around 1990 -- for reasons no one has ever satisfyingly explained -- doesn't mean people were wrong to trust the evidence of their senses during the worst years. This film comes perilously close to taking the point of view of that portion of the left who viewed every crime-related issue as naked racism: that everyone was only pretending these initiatives would do anything but put African Americans in jail. (This group did as much as anyone to make Democrats unelectable throughout the Nixon/Reagan years, and I'm not very partial to their view.)

As part of that process of backing that angle, Duvernay seems determined to make Bill Clinton the chief villain. Not only does the film imply Clinton never believed in any of the crime policies he got enacted during his term -- there's some academic who sneers at the idea Clinton believed in them as crime-fighting measures -- but it comes back at him a second time, at the point where he acknowledges the unintended consequences. Just as, in Selma, LBJ somehow emerged as more villainous than George Wallace, Clinton seems to come in for more/sharper criticism than Nixon/Reagan/Bush. So, to address Sonic's months-ago thesis that The 13th would run away with this year's documentary prizes: it may be that a community in deep mourning over Hillary not becoming president doesn't care to cheer on a film that takes 20/20 hindsight potshots at her and her husband.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:18 am

Since I didn't share the high opinion many here had of Beginners, I wasn't at all disappointed in 20th Century Women. I didn't think it was outstanding, and I acknowledge the lack of strong narrative spine (it's evidently mostly memoir, and felt like it). But I thought the characters were well-drawn, and the dialogue was lively and textured throughout. I'll probably prefer it as a script to some of the eventual Oscar nominees.

And apparently Annette Bening will continue to be one of the rare things on which BJ and I have significant divergence. I thought this was a very strong performance from her, one I'd nominate over any of her earlier cited efforts except maybe The Grifters. Her line readings are as good as I've ever seen her manage, and she plays the "I don't know how to do this mother thing" believably and movingly. Best actress is a car-wreck this year -- once again, there are more worthies than there are spots -- but Bening would make my top five, definitely over Negga or Streep.


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