Spirit Awards Review Nominee Screenings – week one

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So I am a member of Film Independent and every year they do a two-week long jaunt of screenings of all the Spirit Award Nominees. As a lover of Indie films, these two weeks are quite heavenly as not only are the screenings just a short distance from me, but let me see and open my eyes to many films that you don’t always get a media screening invite for. It gave me personally an extra benefit this year as I was quite ill, especially these past few months and missed quite a few of screenings I did have. So onward with brief thoughts and grades on everything I’ve seen so far. Mind you, I did miss some of these even, as not only do they do a whole block of them on weekends as in four in a row – I had a medical time-out for most of the week. Luckily, many of the films are luckily on Netflix, Prime or Hulu – and as voters are also provided with links to watch all of nominated films. But truthfully, watching films on a laptop just seriously isn’t how they are meant to be viewed now is it. So with that in mind – here we go. (following in the format of the Film Independent Screening Awards schedule)

Day One:
“SORRY TO BOTHER YOU” Dir: Boots Riley

I was really loving the first part of this film as it was satire sharp, imaginative and funny. But not only does it run too long, but that bizarro left turn it takes in the last third of the movie will surely leave most as bewildered as I was.
Grade: C-

Day Two:
“SHIRKERS” Dir: Sandi Tan

This was a great little women-driven documentary that takes on a journey of a lost film, a strange relationship that made that happen, and all the friends along the way. But maybe it’s the oddness of all of it put together that works so well.
Grade: B

“LEAVE NO TRACE” by Debra Granik

If you asked me if I thought I would enjoy a film about a man (Ben Foster) and his 13-yr. old daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) who have been living off the grid in an urban park of all places, and what happens when they make a single mistake and get caught, well I would’ve have probably laughed a bit and given you a ‘NO’ in response. As it was, I loved this film. It was taunt with drama, and the age old question of what is right or perceived as so, and what is wrong, again, perceived as so.
Grade: A

“HEREDITARY” by Ari Astor

While the film wasn’t scary per se for me, nor a particularly good horror film by any stretch, it did stitch itself together enough to follow along and be entertaining mostly because Toni Collette took it there. I had forgotten about Gabriel Byrne somewhat over the years, but his supporting role along with Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff topping off with good performances of their own, helped bring this film up a notch to be sure.
Grade: C

“ROMA” Dir: Alfonso Cuarón

A completely different take on the trials and tribulations in the life of a maid in to a rather dis-functional wealthy family in 1970’s Mexico City. While Yalitza Aparicio is a breath of fresh air to be sure, along with Marina de Tavira and well, truly the whole cast, I do think it’s a bit over-hyped in the ‘how good it is’ department. Mind you it IS good and I will leave it at that.
Grade: B

Day Three:

“PRIVATE LIFE” Dir: Tamara Jenkins

Both Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti give a completely believable ordeal of what one couple goes through to have a child – including numerous fertility ordeals, tests, fake surrogates, family surrogates, money and most of all their own lives and relationships, in a series of choices that can only make one cringe at times as to what some will choose to endure.
Grade: C-

“THE FAVOURITE” Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

Let me just shout about how much and how long I’ve loved Olivia Colman. I always felt she was under-utilized so much or not given enough credit for her work. Here, she finally gets her lead role that will no doubt finally change all that and bring her an award. Alongside Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as her supporting, they do a commendable job of making this odd story come to life. While I didn’t love the film overall, the performances were so strong. Even Nicholas Hoult dons the old British wig and make-up to do a fun spin here as the strangest of cads. All said and done, just give Olivia her due already and be done with it.
Grade: C+

Day Four

“MADELINE’S MADELINE” Dir: Josephine Decker

I tried very hard to find a redeeming quality of this film and I just really didn’t find one. It was all over the place with nonsensical scenes cutting back and forth to add up nothing of what makes a film flow from scene to scene. It completely lacked any sense as you didn’t know if Molly Parker’s character was wanting Madeline (Helena Howard) to be crazy or making her crazy. All in all, it just lacked any and all of the Drama/Mystery/Thriller it is categorized as.
Grade: D-

“MINDING THE GAP” Dir: Bing Liu

As we know not all documentaries are going to be a pleasant, happy experience. This one however, made me feel as though I was watching a long drawn out episode of Teen Mom. And while I’ve never actually watched that show, I’m going to guess if you add in their boyfriends and skateboards, you’ve got it down pat. Enough said.
Grade: D-

“FIRST REFORMED” Dir: Paul Schrader

Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried both give good performances here and once again, without that this would be a truly hard film to sit through in it’s entirety. I just wish the movie didn’t drag so much for so long in many different parts. It’s seems as it’s trying to be a social commentary on despair, climate change, torment and tragedy all wrapped up in a bow that you see the ending coming right at you by the 30th minute leaving nothing to chance.
Grade: C

Day Five:

“If Beale Street Could Talk” Dir: Barry Jenkins

While I wasn’t Moonlight’s biggest fan, I did find Beale Street to be a far better film to be sure. I still didn’t love it as it left a lot of questions unanswered for me that I wanted to know and made it feel incomplete to me. While Kiki Lane and Stephan James are the leads, for me it was all about Regina King and Michael Beach (who is all of a sudden in so many projects and I love this fact) who really brought home the acting. And while so much of this hit hard, there was just still too much I wanted to know more about.
Grade: C+

And that’s all I’ve seen at this point – but I’ve still this weeks schedule and to make up some of last week’s also. So please come back as I will hopefully be posting more often again.

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Film Review: “The Old Man & The Gun” (2018) Fox Searchlight

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I am a member of a club. A club that has enjoyed watching Robert Redford at every stage of his career. I’ve seen all his movies, many more than once. I’ve always adored him while enjoyed watching him onscreen and truly have always thought he didn’t get enough critical acclaim as an actor, but was tossed off as the ‘pretty boy’ for many years. For me, he has always been completely underrated and although he’s no longer the stunning young man he once was, he retains every bit of the star quality that blossomed sixty years ago earning every single wrinkle in his face which remains untouched by any markings of things done by many similar in age.

The Old Man & the Gun is a vehicle for Redford in the best sense of that term, a good story that showcases its leading man to best advantage, though not perfect in doing so for its supporting characters development along the way. Redford acquired the screen rights to this surprisingly true story and then brought it to director David Lowery, with whom he teamed with before.

Redford plays an unlikely character in Forrest Tucker, a gentleman bank robber, and a fairly good one at that. Though he’s been arrested sixteen times, he’s also managed to escape every single time. He is so unassuming that no one suspects him when he saunters into a bank about to ply his trade. But the film is really just about a man who doesn’t have many years left in his life and simply wishes to do what makes him happy. Robbing banks in the most polite way that he possibly can, without ever harming anyone, and pretty much always getting away with it, and finding time in-between to charm Jewel (Sissy Spacek). Redford is well supported by Casey Affleck as John Hunt, a police officer who is on the robbery detail and whom is completely determined to nab this guy and put him away for good. Waller (Tom Waits) and Teddy (Danny Glover) are Tucker’s partners in crime, though again, I wish their characters were just a bit more on the developed side. And while Spacek’s role as the widow who doesn’t approve of what he does, but also can’t help falling under his spell, is truly quite wonderful most especially in one specific scene when they are sitting opposite each other in a coffee-shop booth. His eyes are so alive it’s positively dazzling and she responds to this so perfectly. This goes far beyond an two actors reading lines. There is a magic here and the combination of her and Redford is just that, quite magical. If the rumours are true and this really ISN’T his last film, I would love to see them work together again.

For as slow as this film sometimes is, as it’s not perfect, especially if it was a ‘retirement film’, it still never me once had me checking my watch. This 90-minute film flies by, even with its slow pace. And again, it’s Redford – I’ll leave it at that.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening: Monday, September 24, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
“THE OLD MAN & THE GUN” IS OUT NATIONWIDE // WORLDWIDE RELEASE TO FOLLOW IN OCTOBER