Category Archives: Commentary

Amazon Prime Can Get You In The Mood For The Oscars

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
A few days ago I wrote a post about how Netflix can get you prepared for award season and more specifically the Oscars. Well now I’m going to do the same for those with a subscription to Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime has its differentces than Netflix, while it still offers free content, it also allows you to rent and purchase digital movies so there is an extensive library far beyond what Netflix offers you if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars. For the purposes of this post I will focus on what is free for Prime members.

The Big Sick

First and foremost is a movie that is ACTUALLY nominated this year and not one that just gets you in the mood for the awards like all the rest on this list are meant to do. The Big Sick is nominated for best original screenplay and is based on the true story of star Kumail Nanjiani and his now wife Emily Gordon and the unusual way that they fell in love and how he fell in love with her family and them with him before their true romance ever blossomed. Kumail comes from a traditional Pakistani family who is regularly trying to set him up to get married when he meets Emily a girl who is anything but what his family wants for him. After a break-up over this very subject, Emily mysteriously falls ill and into a coma. Kumail is called and finds himself caring for her and having to contact her family. When her family releases him of any responsibility he still continues to be around and show support. It’s an extremely well told and heartwarming story of such an unlikely romance and is definitely worth a view.

Moonstruck

Now on to the past winners that are available and worth a watch or re-watch if you have already seen them. Moonstruck was a career defining moment for Cher who had been acting here and there, but was still considered just a singer who wanted to act. Moonstruck proved that she in fact CAN act and rode Moonstruck all the way to a best actress win at the Academy Awards. While remembered for her outfit at the Oscars and the fact that she got the win, what is forgotten is that it won two other major awards that night for Olympia Dukakis and write John Patrick Shanley. It is a masterful romantic comedy that also features a young Nicolas Cage in one of his best movies. Funny and heartfelt it is a movie that has really stood the test of time.

Lawrence Of Arabia

Back when Hollywood was still making big sweeping epics, Lawrence of Arabia was no exception and is amongst the best of those large stories and wonderful scenery. With a widescreen that showcased the beauty of the film and its landscape. Winner of seven Academy Awards including best picture, it is also known for the fact that its star Peter O’Toole was once again not a winner for best actor, something that would follow him his whole career until he received and honorary Oscar that he reluctantly accepted. It is the true story of T.E. Lawrence who united warring Arab tribes in World War I. It is a great film and great watch…if you have three and a half hours to spare.

Room

Brie Larson gave a powerhouse performance as a young girl kidnapped and held captive for over 5 years where she has a child in captivity and is forced to raise him in a single room shack until they manage to escape. She and her son are then forced to learn to enter society, he for the first time outside the room and her trying to find some semblance of her life again. Brie Larson swept every award category she was nominated in that year and deservedly so and the film introduced the world to Jacob Tremblay who gives a marvelous performance of his own. Heart-wrenching and even different to watch at times, if you enjoy first rate acting then you will no doubt appreciate Room.

Monster

Charlize Theron proved that her acting ability goes beyond being just a pretty face when she went behind a lot of makeup to make sure her beauty wasn’t a distraction when she played the infamous female serial killer Aileen Wuornos. As a lesbian prostitute living on the streets when she is raped by a “John” she turns to killing him and robbing him and it soon becomes a habit and a way to keep money coming in. She is soon turned in by her young lover Selby played by Christina Ricci. This is once again a difficult movie to watch at times and is very gut-wrenching but leaves you conflicted on Wuornos’ guilt and even a bit sympathetic considering the life she led up until the point of capture.

Fences

Denzel Washington gives a commanding performance as Troy Maxson a blue-collar father who works hard provides for his family and gives himself the reward of liquor when he sees fit. A tough father who has a contentious relationship with his son to say the least. Unable to have any sympathy or compassion for how his son feels because of the life he had as a young man and the life he still has while working hard and taking care of his mentally disabled brother and never getting over the fact that his dream of being a professional baseball player never came to fruition. Without a doubt one Denzel’s best performances he took a controversial loss on Oscar night to Casey Affleck who many did not find worthy because of past allegations of sexual harassment. The movie did however give Viola Davis her first Oscar win in the best supporting actress category, an honor that had been long over due. Directed by Denzel based on the play it features a boat load of dialogue that is expertly delivered at every turn.

There are some more recommendations of many past award winning movies to get you in the mood for Oscar night.

Netflix’s The Crown Makes For A Good Binge Session

As part of my new content, I will once again stick with Netflix and what is available. Netflix is most likely to biggest of the streaming services with amazon prime and Hulu close behind. I have chosen my television series to recommend is the crown. With two rich and engaging seasons so far and much news about a coming third season, it is more than worth the time to binge at whatever pace you tend to binge your shows. While I give such high praise to the show, one thing is for certain, it is not for everyone. I have been one who is very selective when it comes to British television shows so the crown comes as a surprise to me more than anyone that I found such a great love for.

We in America are fascinated with the Royals in part because we have no royals of our own. The closest we have come to having royalty was the Kennedy family as is shown by the love we still show for them and their lives. The British are enthralled with their royals because they are one of the last countries with such a large and regal royal family. The Netflix show The Crown has managed to not only give an inside look at the current royals but gives humanity to them like never before. We find ourselves relating to them as well as being sympathetic in many areas of their lives. While there is no doubt many liberties taken in the telling of details, we get a sense that much of what is told has much truth lies within it.

A stellar cast in both seasons that are available is just part of what makes The Crown a first-rate show. Claire Foy takes center stage as Elizabeth II from a princess into her time as queen of England in the role that won her a Golden Globe last year as well as two Screen Actors Guild awards. The first season also features John Lithgow in his Golden Globe nominated and SAG award-winning turn as Winston Churchill. With supporting roles from up and coming actress Vanessa Kirby as the rebellious and somewhat troubled Princess Margaret and Jared Harris as King George VI. Nearly every performance is pitch perfect lending to the overall quality of the show. With all that said it is the content and ability of creator Peter Morgan and with the help of a talented list of directors and writers which include three-time Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry which really drives the show. The ability to have the audience entranced by the daily life of Queen Elizabeth’s she navigates a life she never truly wanted or felt qualified for is remarkable.

As I mentioned before there are no doubt many liberties taken with the accuracy of many events as well as private moments of the royal family but we begin to see them as more than the rich royals from Buckingham Palace and more as a family struggling to learn life in the spotlight at such a young age with such a young family to care for. This is what gives The Crown its mass appeal. Most anyone can find parts of life to relate to whether it is the hardships of keeping a family together or the feelings of inadequacies in our personal and professional lives.

So if the forecast in your area is for one of snowfall or dreary rain this weekend I highly recommend losing yourself in the world of the Windsor family at Buckingham Palace.

Netflix Can Get You Ready For Awards Season

Award season is in full swing so I thought I would take this opportunity to make my first post of the new content I plan on bringing to showcase some of the movies available on Netflix that were either Best Picture winners or nominees. There are several movies available to choose from but I have chosen just a few of my personal favorites that you might enjoy.

The Godfather Parts 1 and 2

Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpieces are the first two that really stand out. Long considered two of the best films ever made as well as the only movies where both parts one and two BOTH won the best picture at the academy awards. While nominated for several awards each it might be surprising that they did not win as much as you would think of for such highly regarded masterpieces. With two outstanding performances by Al Pacino yet he received no hardware for either performance while his counterpart in the second installment, Robert De Niro received his first Oscar for playing a young Vito Corleone in Godfather Part II. if you are going to take a look at awards movies this is the perfect place to start.

Spotlight

The best picture winner at the 2016 awards ceremony is a hard-hitting look at the effects journalism can have on communities as well as the world. An in-depth look at how the Boston Globe single-handedly brought Boston’s powerful Catholic church to its knees and the domino effect it had on the country as well as the world. With an all-star cast it conveys the hard work and courage of those needed to tell this remarkable and harrowing story. You can read my full review from 2 years ago here.

The Shawshank Redemption

For years now Shawshank has been number 1 on IMDb’s viewers top 250 rated movies of all time with a 9.3 rating out of 10. With career-defining roles from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, it is captivating from being to end the emotion that goes through the story goes equally through the viewer. Most shocking of all was that although nominated for 7 Academy Awards it walked away with exactly zero wins. It would be one of the movies that would go on to show the academy and viewers that time proves greatness, not ticket sales because the movie was ultimately considered not box office success. I wrote a commentary about this very thing a few years back and you can read it right here.

The Reader

Speaking of career-defining roles, The Reader was the movie that finally gave Kate Winslet her night on the podium to take home Oscar in 2009. She was a double nominee at the Golden Globes that year but it was The Reader that brought her gold that night. She plays Hannah Schmitz a former Nazi guard at a concentration camp who forms an unusual attachment to a young boy who she has a brief love affair with who she also enjoys having him read to her. The two are brought together again years later when he is a law student and she is put on trial for her war crimes in which her illiteracy leads to her being the only one convicted. As an adult, he strikes up a correspondence with her that ultimately leads to her putting an end to her illiteracy. You can also find other films of hers that are fantastic in a top 5 list I put together here.

Michael Clayton

Finally is one of George Clooney’s greats films and performance as the attorney/fixer, Michael Clayton. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards in 2008 which included the best picture and best actor for Clooney yet only brought home one for best-supporting actress for Tilda Swinton. Michael Clayton is an attorney with a special skillset who is used by a law firm to get the things done that no one else is willing to do. He is thrust into the firms biggest case when its lead attorney has a manic episode and threatens to wreck a case worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With an intense story that has you captured from start to finish Michael Clayton is without question a defining moment in the career of George Clooney. It also features an underrated supporting role for Sydney Pollack as this was his next to last acting role before he died in early 2008 just a few months after the Oscar ceremony. For other George Clooney selections, you may be interested in finding check out a top 5 list I put together here.

Well, there you have it, just a few movies worth checking out to get you in the mood for the always fun award season.

Expanded Content To Come

I have recently decided to change things up on my blog. Since its beginning, it has generally been three different categories, reviews, commentary and lists. With the powerhouses that are streaming services and devices and as someone who has recently joined the club of people who have cut the cable, I have decided to expand into commentary on streaming services and programming and adding reviews of movies AND TV shows available on streaming services. This should allow for more frequent posting and more options for others to watch and enjoy. I hope everyone enjoys the new content which will start very soon.

Saying Goodbye To The Career Of Daniel Day-Lewis

It was announced this week that Daniel Day-Lewis will be retiring from acting following the release of his next film. With a film career that has had him working steadily for more than 35 years, DDL has become one of the most respected and acclaimed actors over that period. DDL has amassed five best leading actor Oscar nominations and three wins (the most leading actor wins for a male ever) seven Golden Globe nominations with two wins and six BAFTA nominations with four wins. His dedication to his craft and roles have become things of legend. His depth of knowledge of each character and preparation is most likely second to none. What makes almost all his performances so wonderful is that he has never taken a role for any selfish reason such as money or to receive top billing or to even keep himself relevant. He has no fear as an actor. No fear of failure or in his abilities. He is willing to go several years in between films so that he can work on something he actually believes in. He has been coveted by every top-tier director on the planet and has never disappointed any of them.

I’ve decided to create a list of his top performances in honor of the closing of one of the greatest acting careers ever amassed. With nothing to be ashamed of in his resume (unlike some other heralded actors such as Pacino, Nicholson and Di Nero), it is not a list to be taken lightly but here is my best effort at it.

The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)

Based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel about the French and Indian War, DDL teamed up with Michael Mann to play Nathaniel Poe the adopted half white Mohican. The dying tribe is soon thrust into the middle of the war of which they want no part to rescue the daughters of a British colonel. It is with Mohicans that DDL’s stories of commitment and never breaking character would begin. He learned to live on the land and woodwork with primitively with the tools of the time to aid him. This was his first taste of big budget Hollywood, and to the cinematic world, he did not disappoint.

In The Name Of The Father (1993)

Lewis garnered his second Oscar nomination playing Gerry Conlon, an Irishman living in London who was falsely convicted of an IRA bombing along with his father along with others. Conlon spent fifteen years in prison trying to prove his innocence with the aid of a British attorney. DDL being of half Irish stock himself felt a closeness and need to tell this story and did so spectacularly. He turned down the lead role in Philadelphia to make this deeply personal film. Tom Hanks took the role in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia and won his first of two consecutive Academy Awards. Had DDL taken the role instead of Hanks we could very well be talking about four leading actor Oscars (or if Hanks had not taken the role).

My Left Foot (1989)

The career of Lewis hit its highest level for the first time in 1989 when he won his first nomination and Oscar playing Christy Brown, an artist born with cerebral palsy who learned to paint and write with his only functioning limb. The physical abilities and what would become a theme in his performances, his commitment to the role would make the cinematic world stand up and take notice and be in awe of him which would not go away.

Lincoln (2012)

Teaming up for the first time with Steven Spielberg, DDL won his third Oscar playing possibly the most revered figure in American history, Abraham Lincoln. We were treated to such a performance that brought to life this figure in a way no one ever had. The former Ed president had been portrayed by a myriad of fine actors in the past but never had the authenticity felt as genuine than when he played him. It felt like the closest thing to watching film of the actual Lincoln, of which there is none. Aside from the physical aspects of Lincoln we were given a peek into Lincoln’s mind and thoughts and struggles. Once again his commitment would shine through in such a way that left the audience transfixed to the screen.

Gangs Of New York (2002)

Teaming up with a fellow Hollywood icon in Martin Scorsese to tell the story of the birth of the world’s melting pot, New York City. Lewis once again played a historical figure when he played William Cutting better known as Bill The Butcher who was known as the leader of a highly corrupted city who controlled all crime and criminals in the famed five points area. Fighting the politicians of the city’s corrupt Tammany Hall, a young Irishman gains Bill’s trust to exact revenge for killing his father years earlier. DDL was so committed to the role of Cutting that when he became ill on set, he refused certain blankets because they weren’t available in the period of his character. He would speak with a New York accent on and off set and never stopped being the butcher.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece about an unscrupulous oil tycoon at the turn of the century is, in my opinion, DDL’s finest hour. His creation of the character Daniel Plainview and all aspects of his personality is marvelous. The depth of the character leaves the audience in awe and makes you completely forget that it’s even acting that is being watched. The film itself is a work of brilliance, but it is nothing without Lewis in front of the camera it is HIS brilliance that makes it brilliant. It is performances like this that have left so many cinephiles extremely sad at the fact that there will be no more from him at all.

10 Years Since We Said Goodbye To TV’s Ultimate “Family”

June 10th marks the ten year anniversary of the final episode of The Sopranos. The hit show from HBO broke every kind of mold and barrier ever laid out by television shows before it. The pilot was taped exactly 20 years ago despite the fact that the series didn’t air until two years later. The Sopranos changed things for everyone on the show and changed the way everyone watched television shows afterward.

The world that everyone was sucked into on that day in 1999 left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Mafia and gangster stories have been a hot topic since the invention of moving pictures. In one episode of the show, there is a discussion about the representation of Italian Americans and their relation to organized crime. One of the characters mentions that mafia and gangster pictures are considered American classics with the likes of films like The Godfather leading the way. This is a very true statement and what The Sopranos did was drive home the reality of that world with full force.

The Sopranos could easily make an argument for the most perfectly set up television drama in history. There are a small group of shows as perfectly cast as The Sopranos; I would include shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men where every actor was paired perfectly with their character. With those shows mentioned, it was The Sopranos that blazed a trail for shows to approach the line of what had been considered acceptable for audiences and take a giant leap over that line.

Leading the way was the shows “Boss” Tony Soprano and the engine behind that character was the brilliant James Gandolfini. Gandolfini IS and always will be Tony Soprano and this in no way should take away from his acting abilities or be looked down upon as a typecast. The fact is there is no one else who could portray that character and show his layers better than he did. It is a testament to his acting abilities and is the kind of legacy every actor wishes they could leave.

Every leading man needs his leading lady, and no one represents NY/NJ women from that life better than Edie Falco. The teaming of these two brought dynamic to the show that gave it yet another level to its depth. Their troubles and quarrels were so real that they could leave you chilled, but their deep love through all of it was unmistakable.

One other aspect of the show that leaked its way into everyday society was the aspect of therapy and dealing with depression. Even though the show debuted in 1999, the act of taking anti-depressants was still seen as taboo in many circles then. The show created a type of open dialogue about this topic and showed how someone who is seen as mentally and physically untouchable could even need help. Prozac went from the drug everyone knew but didn’t take to the drug Tony Soprano was on and not that big of a deal. That’s not to say that dealing with depression and its medication wouldn’t have become as acceptable as it is now WITHOUT the show, but it did begin a discussion in a way people were more comfortable with.

So it’s been ten years since the world said goodbye to Tony Soprano and his family and in a few days, it will have been four years since we said goodbye to James Gandolfini and all the moments and memories he gave us in his magnificent and all too short career. In this age of binge watching shows and new shows being dropped in full seasons, maybe next time you aren’t sure what to binge on next you go back and spend time with the family that changed it all.

Roger Moore Leaves The Most Extensive James Bond Legacy

James Bond is without a doubt one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. The film series is the longest running and consistently successful film franchises of all time and while Sean Connery will always represent the quintessential Bond, for many generations of fans Roger Moore will be the most recognizable as the famed 007. Moore played Bond 7 times over a span of 12 years which is the most for both in the history of the franchise. Despite his popularity as Bond his films have often been criticized for being too campy and never having the allure of the Connery films, but for many he IS James Bond.

Moore had big shoes to fill when he took over the franchise from Connery who had returned for one final film after George Lazenby only managed to last for one film. Moore had a great ability not to let criticism and the comparisons affect him even when Mr. Connery himself was critical of his performances. To Connery, he was just a TV star and not a true Bond, but as time would go on, we would discover that Connery has never really approved of anyone that has come after him.

Roger Moore would go on to make some of the Bond fans favorite Bond films like, Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, Moonraker and the Spy Who Loved Me. Along with being the world’s most famous spy, the theme songs for many of his films would also be huge mainstream hits with the likes of Paul McCartney and Carly Simon.

Throughout his entire tenure as Bond and for years beyond up until his death today, May 23, 2017, he would be as classy and debonair as the man he will always be remembered for portraying. He was always available to the next actor for any advice they needed to make the role their own. He was the ideal British actor of the highest order. While he will always be remembered by most as Bond (and that’s a pretty good legacy to leave), he was much more than that, including his television career as The Saint which would also be turned into a movie starring Val Kilmer.

The James Bond family lost one of its giants today, and he is the first actor in the Eon Productions series who played Bond to pass away. His passing is without a doubt the third biggest loss the franchise has had after the iconic Ian Fleming and producer Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli who brought Ian Fleming’s imagination to life. Fans without a doubt are mourning the loss along with remembering the thrills he gave everyone. Thank you 007.