Category Archives: Retrospective

Top 10 Movies Of 2017

10.  Wonder Woman

One of the biggest movies of the year finally showed that it’s possible for DC to match Marvel in the movie industry. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins make a foremost female team and it could not have come at a better time. Women are primed to take control of many things in 2018 and the Amazon warrior is their ultimate symbol, especially in the industry that women have really blown the doors off of. Full review here

9.  The Glass Castle

This is the movie based on Jeanette Walls autobiography in which she is played beautifully by Oscar winner Brie Larson, chronicles her childhood with parents who lived a rather gypsy like existence always on the run from debts and the government leaving them in poverty. As she gets older, Jeanette begins to resent her parents for the life they have given her and her siblings. Woody Harrelson plays her alcoholic father who struggles with his addiction and life. Her always optimistic mother is played by Naomi Watts.

8.  Wind River

One of my favorite movies last year was Hell Or High Water which was written by Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan is a writer AND director for the first time with Wind River. With two great leads by Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen it tells the story of a murder on an Indian reservation and the FBI agent (Olsen) and the local official from Fish and Game (Renner) who discovered the body. The wild search lands them in an unlikely situation that may get them killed as well.

7.  Blade Runner 2049

Set 30 years after the original sci-fi classic, Ryan Gosling plays K a blade runner tracking down replicants who need to be put out of commission. After one such event he begins discovering things that lead him on a stranger path and meet him up with Rick Deckard once again played by Harrison Ford. What made this sequel so great was that the tone and vision of Ridley Scott’s original are kept perfectly intact by the visionary Denis Villeneuve. It is without question one of the best sequels in years.

6.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frances McDormand gives yet another powerful performance alongside Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. The story of a woman tired of there being no progress in her daughters murder case she takes an unusual course of action by renting 3 billboards on the edge of town calling out the local police department and its chief played by Harrelson. With great performances all around it has been a big player on the awards scene. Full review here

5.  The Disaster Artist

If there is one movie I was very surprised by it was The Disaster Artist. There are many reasons for this surprise one being that I’m not at all a big James Franco fan, I feel he tends to over act a lot of the time. Another reason is all the praise it was getting considering its subject. I just had a hard time believing that a movie about the making of possibly the worst movie of all time would have a hard time being good. I’m happy to say I was dead wrong on all fronts. I laughed and laughed hard and thought it was an all around very good movie.

4.  All The Money In The World

One of the most talked about movies of the year not only because of how fine of a film it is but because of the re-casting and reshoot all within a month of its release. After sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey emerged, director Ridley Scott decided to save his movie instead of scraping it and he cast Christopher Plummer in Spacey’s place. Everything worked out and for what seems like for the better. Plummer has earned himself a Golden Globe nomination and along with Michelle Williams, steals the movie. Full review here

3.  I, Tonya

Prepare for a trip back to the mid 90’s when big hair and figure skating were all the craze. Even before “the incident” figure skating was at one of its all time highs in popularity. Throw in America’s sweetheart and her rival America’s redneck and you have the ultimate drama. Lucky for us the rednecks story is fascinating from beginning to end. With stand out performances by Margot Robbie who plays the infamous Tonya Harding and Allison Janney as her mother it truly is one of the, can’t miss movies of the year. Full review here

2.  Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan proved that a modern day war picture doesn’t have to be violently graphic to be a great film or to convey the terror and impact of war for those involved. It is truly one of, if not, best picture of the year and perhaps of Nolan’s career (the dark knight is tough to top though). This has most definitely been one of the best war pictures in the last 20 years or so. Look for many accolades to come there way this awards season. Full review here

  1.  Lady Bird

I can’t say enough great things about Greta Gerwig’s movie about a teen girl and her struggle to navigate a difficult time in her life along with an overbearing mother who doesn’t know how to connect with or give her daughter what she needs. Saorsie Ronan is emerging as one of the great actresses out there right now and is charging headfirst into her third Oscar nomination and quite possibly her first win. Full review here

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.

50 Years Of Woody Allen 1980-1989

woody-allenContinuing my look at 50 years of Woody Allen making films puts us in the decade of the 1980’s. The decade of money and power and a desperate need to distance itself from the 70’s. Woody looked to build off the success he achieved in the decade previously. The 80’s did not start off so kind to him though with his release of Stardust Memories which many fans and critics took as a slight towards them. It turned out to be the first time one his films would receive heavy scrutiny on that scale. It would take several years to pass before Stardust Memories would get appreciated for what it was. Despite starting the decade rather harshly, he would soon find his stride once again.

5.  Radio Days (1987)img_0769

Radio Days is as close to an autobiographical film as Woody Allen has ever made. Set in the early 1940’s a tight-knit family in Brooklyn all live in one small home where each of their lives revolves around their favorite radio stars. Using all his old stories of the stars of the time, he at the same time tells the story of each member of his family. Radio Days features some of the classic Woody humor and portrays this family in a way that most everyone can see pieces of their family in them. Check out my retrospective here

4.  The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)img_0770

In the 1930′ a young woman named Cecilia who is very dissatisfied with her life and stuck in an abusive relationship, finds solace and escape in the movies. She sees one particular film over and over until the movie’s star, perfectly played by Jeff Daniels, steps off the screen into the theater right into her life. The fourth collaboration between Allen and Mia Farrow in what would prove to be one of the best teams in movie history, until it all went wrong. A beautiful, heartfelt romantic fantasy film that is so enjoyable it leaves you with a smile.

3.  Broadway Danny Rose (1984)img_0771

A comedic series of events lands a low-level talent agent to be mistaken by a gangster as the lover of a woman he is trying to help. One of the most eccentric characters Farrow played in her series of films with Allen, she pulls it off beautifully. Semi narrated by a group of nightclub entertainers who sit around reminiscing about Danny Rose and his hilarious antics that made him so memorable.

2.  Crimes And Misdemeanors (1989)img_0773

Two stories simultaneously told even though they never overlap. One is comical in nature, and the other is dramatic and even rather sinister. Martin Landau plays a doctor whose mistress is threatening to expose their affair to his wife if he doesn’t leave with her. He begins to think there is only one way to make the situation go away and that is to kill her. In the other story, a documentary filmmaker reluctantly agrees to make a film about his wife’s brother whom he doesn’t particularly like or respect. While making the film, he meets a producer whom he begins developing deep feelings for while he and his wife navigate through their loveless marriage.

  1.  Hannah And Her Sisters (1986)img_0774

Critically his most successful film of the decade, Hannah And Her Sisters won 3 Academy Awards for the screenplay, supporting actress for Diane Weist (her first of two she won with Woody) and best supporting actor for Michael Caine. Hannah And Her Sisters is the story of three very different sisters and how they navigate their lives and how they are each affected differently by the same people. Expertly acted and wonderfully written, Hannah is one of Woody’s finest films in his whole catalog. It is the perfect blend of comedy and drama yet still full of heart and depth; it was truly his highlight of the decade

50 Years Of Woody Allen Top 5 1990-1999

woody-allen-text-picContinuing the look at 50 years of Woody Allen in films brings us to the 1990’s working all the way back to the beginning. The 1990’s were quite good to Woody and his films. He was personally nominated for 5 Academy Awards and 2 of his actresses walked away with statues. He was truly in the middle of some great collaborations with his long time muse, Mia Farrow before a very public and breakup put an end to that in the middle of one their films. He then called upon his long time friend and previous muse, Diane Keaton to help him keep on track. Here is my list of his top 5 films of the 1990’s.

5. Mighty Aphrodite (1995) mighty-aphrodite-movie-poster-1995-1020204327

Mira Sorvino plays the very flighty and and otherwise, oblivious prostitute, Linda. Lenny discovers his adopted son is a genius so he decides to track down his birth mother only to discover she is nothing like her son. This film was a bold choice by Allen for its subject matter and some of the frank dialogue about Linda’s profession. Sorvino clearly steals the picture and she would go on to win the Oscar for best supporting actress. Woody would once again be nominated for his writing

4. Bullets Over Broadway (1994) bullets-over-broadway-1994-720p-large

Since he has been making films, Allen has been very good at mastering period films. Many times his nostalgia pictures as I call them, take place between the 20’s and 40’s and he captures them so well. Set in 1928 on Broadway, a young playwright has his play financed by mobsters in order to afford to put the production on. There is one catch though, the mobster wants his girlfriend to star in the play. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards and winning for Diane Wiest, her second and the second she won for her work with Woody. A well acted and very funny film that broods exactly what we have come to love about his films.

3. Sweet And Lowdown (1999) 8vyqrf8kthhvhpj6azjvfvpleww

Once again a period piece in which he displays his love of Jazz music. Set in the 1930’s, focusing on Emmet Ray, so wonderfully played by Sean Penn, a jazz guitarist who has big dreams but seems to fall in with the wrong people in his attempts to make it big. Sweet And Lowdown is one of Woody’s tributes to his love of jazz music and features a sensational soundtrack and brilliant guitar playing by Penn himself.

2. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) manhattan-murder-mystery

After the ugly scandal and very public breakup with Mia Farrow, he needed something stable and familiar for his first movie, post Farrow. Enter Diane Keaton, the original muse and the one whom Woody helped make into a major star. This was her first major role with Allen since 1979’s Manhattan (she did have a brief came in 1987’s Radio Days). A married couple meet an older couple who live in their building, they soon suspect the husband has murdered his newly deceased wife. As Keaton’s character becomes increasingly obsessed with the situation Allen reluctantly gets sucked into the drama. This was the perfect movie to follow up after the tabloid mania that he had been enduring.

1. Husbands And Wives (1992) il_fullxfull-400379046_7wht

Choosing Husbands And Wives as his best of the 90’s had a bittersweet feeling to it. This movie was much more drama than comedy and even more so considering the publicity surrounding it. The performances of Allen and Farrow deliver, despite their breakup in the middle of shooting, are wonderful. Farrow almost quit the picture near the end of filming, but was convinced to persevere and she did so gracefully and even memorably. The ironic subject of a couple breaking up and the effect it has on their close friends, serves as that bitter reminder of what was going on at the time. Nonetheless it once again garnered Allen an Oscar nomination for writing and Judy Davis received one for supporting actress.

50 Years Of Woody Allen, Top 5. Years 2000-2016

woody-allen-e1431651004201This month marks 50 years that Woody Allen has been writing AND directing movies. It all started with 1966’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?. I thought it only prudent to look at his best films by his eras. Since it is impossible to come up with an all time top 5 or even a top 10 list I’m going to break it down. I’m going to start with his 5 best since 2000 up until right now. So let’s get right to it.

5. Cafe Society (2016)  cafe-society

Released this year, Woody once again touches on his love of nostalgia and a much simpler time. This was his second collaboration with stars Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carell and his first with Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively. All 4 of them couldn’t have been more perfect for their roles, which has been a standard Woody trademark. The story of 1930’s Hollywood and of love triangles and their long term effects. Check out my full review here.

4. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)  vicky_cristina_barcelona_2008_5309_poster

The second of his three projects with Scarlett Johansson in a matter of just four years, this was right in the middle of Woody exploring filmmaking outside of the United States. Penelope Cruz earned an Oscar for her performance of Maria Elena, this has also become a trademark of his, that is to say so many of his actors go on to win Academy Awards for their work with him.

3. Blue Jasmine (2013)  blue-jasmine-poster

Another one of his wonderful films in the dramatic genre, Cate Blanchett turned in, quite possibly her best performance to date and, of course, won the Academy Award. With a great supporting cast which included the surprising performance from Andrew Dice Clay who showed he can actually act beyond his stage persona. Check out my full review here.

2. Match Point (2005)  matchpoint21

The first of those three movies with Scarlett Johansson, this was a turning point in her career and best film since her breakout a couple years earlier in Lost In Transition. The thriller with a wonderful twist, Woody showed that no matter his age, he is one of the all time great storytellers and can produce great films of any kind. Check out my retrospective review here.

1. Midnight In Paris (2011)  midnightinparis

Midnight would be his most financially successful film and would go on to set records for independent films. This time the man himself would bring home his first Oscar in 25 years, since he had won for writing 1987’s Hannah And Her Sisters. Midnight In Paris is his ultimate love letter to nostalgia and it will go down as one of his all time best films. Check out my full review here.

Top 5 Boxing Movies. A Muhammad Ali Remembrance List

imageThe passing of the legendary Muhammad Ali has forced me to look at more than just the movie aspect of his small influence. Ali was as great human being as he was a fighter. I grew up in an era that only knew Ali as someone who was dragged down by his Parkinson’s disease but everything I had ever heard and WOULD ever hear played no impact on his career and his humanity.

Ali changed culture and thought amongst not only one sided American people but people all over the world. Video highlights and quotes of Ali will never go away as long as the video medium exists. People will talk and give opinions on Ali and I could easily use thousands of words on the hundreds of things that Ali changed in culture, but I won’t. I love movies, and believe it or not, he had influence on that medium as well.

So, in honor of the most famous person in the current world, here are my top five favorite, and what I consider the greatest boxing films ever. Boxing didn’t embody Ali by any means but by being the greatest boxer ever, he was able to take on bigger opponents that would empower people that couldn’t fight as great as he did.

I am a lowly film blogger so here is my attempt to do justice to Ali with a top five list.

 

image5. Cinderella Man

With Russell Crowe at the height of his popularity AND his ability, he teams with Ron Howard to tell the true story of a boxer down on his luck and living in the middle of the Great Depression. How this story is not more widely known and revered is unfathomable. The story of James J. Braddock is what drives people to America despite the circumstances surrounding the truth. With a stellar cast, including Braddock’s great grand daughter Rose Marie DeWitt, you will be hard pressed to find a more inspiring film.

image4. Ali

This list would be worthless without having a film that featured or even mentioned Ali. My mother and I saw this movie together, she is as big of a movie aficionado as me, and we both were dying to see this. It is the first time I realized the impact Ali had on life and culture. It was brilliantly told, even though it showed Ali’s flaws as an individual, his bugger fights were portrayed wonderfully. Michael Mann is a filmmaker who doesn’t seem to get enough credit, but he should consider this as a feather in his cap, along with Will Smith and Jon Voight.

image3. Million Dollar Baby

This is the first movie on the list that is a completely original boxing story. I have spoken before about the boxing genre and how it is a treasured form of American cinema. This is without a doubt one the best original stories of the genre that has ever been told. It took home an incredible number of Oscars including, actress, supporting actor, director and movie of the year. It is tough to argue against those credentials, but it is flat out a great story that is perfectly told.

image2. Raging Bull

This is where my list gets tricky. The argument between my first and second will go on forever. Which is the best boxing film will always come down to these two movies despite number three sweeping all Oscar categories. Robert DeNiro took home his best leading actor Oscar and Scorsese blasted through barriers with this movie. The world was introduced to Joe Pesci and in the end we were treated with one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

  1.  Rocky

imageThis is the movie that started it all. The boxing genre may not have started with Rocky but undoubtedly set the standard. The character of Apollo Creed is unquestionably Muhammad Ali, with his brash entrance and confidence. There have always been stories and rumors about the relationship between Rocky and Apollo and their real life counterparts. To see Ali show up at the 1976 Academy Awards ceremony and give Sylvester Stallone the biggest thrill of his life is as great as any moment in the movie, except it’s classic line,”Adriannnnnnnnn”.

Nicolas Cage Wasn’t Always Taking Bad Movie Roles

Nicolas CageAs of lately Nicolas Cage has been identified by his recent and quite lengthy string of some very odd, and some would say, bad choices in movies he’s made. I find this to be a little bit sad because I don’t always remember Nicolas Cage as being the butt of so many jokes. In fact, I remember a time when he was making good films, with many great filmmakers and yes, even winning awards. I decided to look back through his catalog and see if I can spot where things went wrong and also look at the very best parts of his body of work.

First things first, a little background on Cage. His given name is Nicolas Coppola, and yes, he is related to the famed Hollywood Coppola family. His uncle is the great, Francis Ford Coppola, so you could say he came from Hollywood royalty. Despite his famous surname, he was only credited once with his given name, that was in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. He then chose to make it movies on his own merit and changed his last name to Cage, after a comic book character.

I thought I would come up with a couple top five lists since there really are different aspects of his career that could definitely be ranked. I’m going to start with the best directors he has worked with, which, when you look at it is quite a long list. This list could probably be a top ten, but I’m going to do my best to rank what I think the best five are.

 

5. Spike Jonze (Adaptation)image

Spike Jonze has really come to establish himself as one of the best current directors in Hollywood. His writing earned him an Academy Award in 2014 for the movie Her and he was nominated for best director for Being John Malkovich, his first feature film. He directed cage in the film, Adaptation which gave Cage his second Oscar nomination. Cage played the eccentric writer, Charlie Kaufman as well as his brother Donald. It was a challenging role with a challenging script, but he pulled it off almost masterfully.

 

4. David Lynch (Wild At Heart)image

David Lynch is undoubtedly one of the most original and creative directors of the last forty years. He has created a world and mindset, all his own. He is a unique and fierce story teller with an extremely loyal audience. Wild At Heart was most likely one of the first real challenges Cage faced not even ten years into his career. A solid cast lead to a solid movie and Cage really showed he had what it takes to hang with the best of them.

 

3. Ridley Scott (Matchstick Men)image

Ridley Scott is one director who is always working, not Woody Allen busy, but very busy. Ridley makes the movies the he wants to make and doesn’t cow tow to anyone. In 2003 he made a very good little picture that is easily forgotten yet very well liked. Matchstick Men is the story of a con man with several mental phobias and compulsive issues who is grooming a protege. When his daughter arrives, he struggles with whether or not he should teach her his business. Cage has the great ability to make you almost feel uncomfortable at his antics. It is one of Cage’s most underrated movies.

 

2. The Coen Brothers (Raising Arizona)image

The Coen brothers rise to fame and enormous praise began with their second film, Raising Arizona. Many Coen brothers fans still hold this film as one of their top movies in their collection. It is the story of a poor, and almost white trash couple who decides to steal one of a group of quintuplets that were recently born. It is a movie of crazy high-jinx with that signature Coen brothers style. People really started looking at Cage as an actor rather than just a “B” movie actor and his second movie that year, Moonstruck, would solidify him.

 

1. Martin Scorsese (Bringing Out The Dead)image

While it’s not considered one of Scorsese’s best films due to the fact that it was directly following his poorly received, Kundun, it was not what people hoped he would return to. Bringing Out The Dead is the story of an ambulance paramedic who begins mentally breaking down when he can’t shake the memories of all the people he failed to save. It is definitely not as bad of a movie as it has been received. Nicolas Cage is really outstanding in the movie that Scorsese used to try different aspects of film making.

 

Honorable mentions:

Francis Ford Coppola (3 different films)
Oliver Stone (World Trade Center)
Joel Schumacher (8 MM)