See/Skip: Awards Season 2017

My friend John and I love movies (we’ve talked about them before here and here), and we’re back to parse through the busy late-year push. Let’s discuss whether or not some of these buzz-worthy films are worth the hype.

SEE

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ND: Quiet, slow-burning, complicated love stories are one of my preferred sub-genres of film, and Call Me By Your Name checks many of the same boxes as some of my all-time favorites (Linklater’s Before series, Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale). Based on a beloved novel, CMBYN is sure to make the most of its lavish Northern Italian hillside setting and employs two outstanding young actors, Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, both of whom have shown a knack for peculiar magnetism in the past. Add director Luca Guadagnino’s signature intimate style and there’s a strong recipe for my kind of movie. 

JI: Not my style of movie to go seek out but it does look very good and Armie Hammer is great. I’ll definitely end up watching this one when it hits HBO inevitably. 

Phantom Thread

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JI: Ten years after their initial union in the flawless There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson are back together again, in what’s rumored to be Day-Lewis’ final role (let’s check back on that in 10 years). Anybody who has read our previous entries will remember our shared love for DDL and to me it’s unfathomable to not want to see what could be his “final act.” On top of that, the trailer delivers on the hype, despite a seemingly mundane plot if you were to just read a description. There’s some serious tension going on and I’m curious to see exactly how the story plays out. I mean, DDL said this movie was so difficult to work through that it’s what forced him into retirement.

ND: I’m digging the mystery behind this flick. We didn’t even know the title before the first trailer dropped. But you’re right, there’s seething level of suspense to the footage we’ve seen so far. It helps that DDL is literally capable of anything, so the surprise factor is there. Don’t read any reviews before seeing this one.

The Disaster Artist

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ND: The Disaster Artist is the type of inevitable film that makes too much sense, in all the best ways. There’s no shortage of ironic commentary of Tommy Wiseau’s infamously so-bad-it’s-good movie The Room — the Ritz Bourse in Philadelphia shows a midnight screening at least once a month — but there’s amazing synergy going on here, with the enigmatic James Franco (both as an actor and director) the only real choice to tackle Wiseau’s bizarre, unexplainable story. It’s not often Franco gets the benefit of the doubt for his unpredictable, pretentious creative endeavors. Even if you only have peripheral knowledge of The Room, the exploration of extreme eccentricity/narcissism and facing such fantastic failure head-on is too intriguing to pass up.

JI: Agree 100% with this take. Definitely will be seeing this one. Finally Franco’s absurdity will be properly utilized. And I love the entire cast he’s assembled (Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, just to name a few). 

Molly’s Game

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JI: I don’t know much about this story. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba are big stars, and Molly Bloom is the sister of former Philadelphia Eagle Jeremy Bloom — all big reasons as to why I want to see this movie. The biggest, however, is my curiosity of Aaron Sorkin as a director. Now that he has full creative control over the project, I want to see how Sorkin-ey the movie will be. Critics have loved it so far and I think it looks very good and is a good change of pace from the bogus true-story period pieces that you’re going to discuss later.

ND: Considering the word of mouth, I’m giving Molly’s Game the benefit of the doubt, though my favorite Sorkin stories — The Social Network and Moneyball — had the advantage of being de-Sorkinized by David Fincher and Bennett Miller, respectively. Sorkin’s propensity to lean on the heightened, theatrical speech has turned me off to a lot of his stuff, too, and as a first-time director, I’m curious to see how he manages those ticks.

Lady Bird

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ND: I’ve already seen Lady Bird, so I’m cheating here, but I really don’t care. I need an excuse to write about the wonders of Lady Bird. It’s the type of movie I want live in — I knew I never wanted it to end from the very first scene. It’s sweet and funny and sad and messy and remarkably true to life down to the smallest details. (Speaking as a child of the early-2000s, it was especially relatable. It’s fun to start seeing period pieces from times I remember.) Saoirse Ronan, charming and vulnerable as ever, deserves all the awards. Greta Gerwig is everything Lena Dunham wishes she was. Lady Bird goes beyond existing and even beyond excelling — it’s kinetic, living and breathing all its own.  

JI: Love the shot at Dunham. Well done. The trailers alone encapsulate your description and I hope I can get out to see it in the next week or so.

All the Money in the World

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JI: Twenty-first century Ridley Scott doesn’t really inspire a ton of confidence, but I am very excited to see how this movie turns out with the quick reshoots adding in Christopher Plummer in place of Kevin Spacey. Spacey’s makeup looked horrible in the original trailers and Plummer makes a lot more sense. I think the Getty kidnapping is an interesting story, but I am also worried that this will turn into a typical Marky Mark action thriller. I hope it is more than that and I expect Plummer will be his typical strong self and hope that they had enough time to get him in more than just a couple scenes.

ND: If nothing else, Scott deserves tons of praise for kicking Spacey to the curb and undertaking a rigorous reshoot to make this film happen. Otherwise, I’m not too interested; the newly edited trailer makes it look like a made-for-TV-movie. I liked The Martian, though.

SKIP

Darkest Hour

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ND: You’ll notice a trend with my two skips: By and large, I don’t care about historical biopics. A majority of them pander to the awards audiences, using lavish set pieces, a slick filming style, a rousing score and a star-studded cast to mask trite sentiment and expositional dialogue, too bothered by the “true story” aspect of things to make a compelling film (re: The Imitation GameThe King’s Speech et al). Darkest Hour is the type of movie Academy voters will eat up. Is…Is that Gary Oldman under all those prosthetics? Genius! There will be an audience for this movie. Churchill is one of our most decorated heroes, after all. But color me not interested in a pitch as thin as “Oldman plays Churchill.” 

JI: It is openly anti-Nazi. That’s a positive. But this movie didn’t need to be made for the reasons you said. Show the true, multi-dimensional Churchill, not solely the patriot hero this movie will undoubtedly be portraying. 

Downsizing

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JI: Frankly, it just looks dumb. Matt Damon hasn’t been the lead in an above-average movie in seven years, so he’s got to prove it to me and this movie does not seem like the one. A co-worker of mine has seen it on screener and says it’s “fine” and the trailer does it no favors because it isn’t an upbeat, fun movie like it portends. It just reminds me of a knockoff Walter Mitty-type movie and doesn’t really seem necessary for any reason.

ND: Another slap in the face of The Martian, I see. It’s upsetting that Alexander Payne, who’s made humanistic triumphs like Nebraska, is reaching with such a silly high-concept premise. Not even Christoph Waltz will get me to this one.

Breathe

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ND: Somehow, the trailer for Breathe irritated me even more than the one for Darkest Hour. You can’t convince me this isn’t the exact same movie as The Theory of Everything. (editor’s note: I thought of this all by myself but it looks like someone else beat me to the punch.) Tired story arc aside (kind-hearted man looks to change the world in the wake of his debilitating diagnosis, while his wonderful, supporting wife exists to tell him “now is NOT the time to give up!”), Andrew Garfield is one of our most overrated leading men. The most memorable thing he’s done since The Social Network is stumble through a offensive Portuguese accent in an indulgent Scorsese snoozer. (John loves Silence. Sorry, John.)

JI: No offense taken with the Silence diss; It’s a fair criticism. Who is clamoring for this type of movie besides the studios looking for awards? They’re slow and boring and are manufactured inspirational stories. Don’t forget Garfield’s best role to date, playing “himself” on BoJack Horseman. (editor’s note: BoJack Horseman has gotten tons of guest stars to play themselves — including Jessica Biel, Daniel Radcliffe, and PAUL DAMN McCARTNEY — but Garfield was not one of them. Paul F. Thompkins voiced the Garfield character.)

The Post

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JI: Spielberg, Streep and Hanks sounds like a must-see for anyone, but I’m out on this one. As you and I have previously discussed, I am not fan of Streep, so that’s one strike, but Hanks and Spielberg have been kind of weak recently. Seems like every other Hanks movie nowadays is one of these hero/inspirational true-story types. Spielberg has been meh over the last decade plus. It just feels like the ultimate Oscar-bait movie, with the director and cast and the subject matter during our current political climate, it’s like the perfect storm of “give us awards.”

ND: Listen, my problem with Streep isn’t her ability as an actress (she’s great), it’s the roles she takes. Prior to The Post, she hadn’t worked with an esteemed director since Spike Jonze in Adaptation in 2002 (look it up!). So it’s usually The Meryl Show with the lack of a powerful leader to reel her in. In that regard, her teaming up with Spielberg is exciting. And while I agree Spielberg has been on auto-pilot for a little while now, journalism stories are, by and large, dope. Count me in for this one.

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