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Lady Bird Is A Masterful Coming-Of-Age Film

For some time now Greta Gerwig has been slowly taking the title of “queen of independent films” away from its longtime holder, Parker Posey. Well, now she has once again gone behind the camera and released her second film, Lady Bird, which she also has written. Lady Bird also stars one of the industries best young actresses, two-time Academy Award nominee, Saoirse Ronan. Ronan blew everyone away when she stole the show in 2007’s Atonement as well as her beautiful performance in one of 2015’s best films, Brooklyn.

Lady Bird is the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a seventeen-year-old girl who is doing her best to exist in a city, school, and home that feels out of place in. These feelings are compounded by a contentious relationship with her overly critical mother, Marion played by Laurie Metcalf in the role of her career. As Lady Bird navigates her way through her senior year of high school she discovers heartbreak, superficial friendships and how these experiences can mold you into everything that makes you who you are. Hell-bent on attending an east coast college she consistently butts heads with her mother on her future while discovering the depths of her parents struggle with their own lives. Lady Bird at times goes to great lengths to hide her family’s meager means while attending a private school with much more well-to-do children.

The relationship and dynamic Lady Bird and her mother have is one that can easily be related to by most. Sympathy can easily be felt for both of them as it is well portrayed what each one’s deeper feelings and motivations truly are. Marion wants the best for her daughter but her blunt honesty and critical views of her daughter’s life and choices feel overbearing to Lady Bird. While on the other hand, Lady Bird also wants what she feels is best for herself while still not knowing what that is. She desperately wants the encouragement and support from her mother in her choices and wants but can’t seem to get that from her. It is in this aspect that the movie really settles your heart because we come to want what they BOTH want. We see Lady Bird grow significantly throughout her final year of school and she gets all the support and understanding from her loving father played by Tracy Letts. Her father is struggling in his life both outwardly and within himself all while doing all he can to give his daughter everything she needs to be a successful woman.

This is Saoirse Ronan’s first major role since her Oscar-nominated performance in Brooklyn and she seamlessly transitions from a 1950’s Irish immigrant trying to make it in a new world, to an eccentric teenager battling her way through some of the most tumultuous times in her life. Her performance is so genuine and real that we feel every emotion and difficulty she has and her struggle to navigate her way through it. This is a character that could not have been played by any other actress out there because of how we feel about her. As much as this is due to Ronan’s unbelievable abilities it is equally attributed to the magnificent script that Gerwig has masterfully crafted.

Lady Bird is one of the most heartwarming yet raw coming of age stories that have been put out in years. Without question, Gerwig has established herself as a preeminent filmmaker working right now. In a time and industry that is in recent times been plagued with mistreatment of women and abuses of power that make everyone sick, Lady Bird is the glittering jewel that makes people want to make films and makes the viewer continue to enjoy them. All is not lost in the industry that seems to have had its legs knocked out from underneath it. Films can be built back into what it once was and it will be done with the strength of filmmakers like Gerwig. She will soon become a signal of hope for all the women fighting for equality in the industry.

Christopher Nolan Starts The Oscar Race With A Bang In Dunkirk

War movies are as old in the history of film as westerns and comedies. Like all genres the better technology has gotten the more realistic they have become, from Howard Hughes Hells Angels to Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, the aim has always been to due justice to what the men and women of war have gone through. The goal of putting the audience right in the middle of battle has always been the first priority. When Saving Private Ryan was released almost twenty years ago, it was rumored then WWII veterans experienced shell shock from viewing and its realistic portrayal. I keep mentioning Private Ryan because it has been the benchmark that has been set when telling the story of WWII and war films in general.

In the last 15 years Christopher Nolan has risen to be one of if not the best filmmaker over that period of time. From his breakout indie film Memento to his colossal Dark Knight trilogy, he has continued to wow audiences and those same audiences have anticipated his films with great fervor. Nolan’s fans have been eagerly awaiting his latest film Dunkirk and his entrance into the war film category.

I confess I wasn’t familiar, other than by name, of the Dunkirk battle of WWII if you can call it a battle. I attribute my ignorance of Dunkirk to the fact that it took place before the U.S. was pulled into the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is most likely than in school and among American filmmakers this isn’t the most known or discussed battles. Dunkirk occurred when German forces had the allied troops made up of the British and French and forced to the shore of the English Channel where they were trapped and all but awaiting to be slaughtered.

The British navy deployed a minimal amount of destroyers that proved unsuccessful due to the German planes using the large target of the massive ships to drop aerial bombs and sink them. Soldiers and commanders were at a loss as how to escape the dire situation. Ultimately the British government requisitioned any citizen with a personal boat to sail across the channel to rescue as many soldiers as possible providing a smaller target for the German planes and the ability to go right up to the shore to pick them up.

One aspect of the film I quickly noticed of the film is that it has no lead character to move the story along. Instead there is the following of three small groups involved. One of these groups is the small amount of British Air Force planes dog fighting the German planes trying to provide enough relief to make escape possible. The next group is two extremely young soldiers willing to do anything to get out of the situation. Third is a father and son along with the sons friend using their small family boat to do their part to help in the rescue.

There is no better way to express the greatness of Dunkirk other than to say it’s a perfect film. With no lag in the story and pace of the movie it flows in a flawless way. The intensity is nonstop from the opening scene through to the end. I couldn’t look away from the screen for a moment having been so transfixed to every beautiful shot and angles Nolan used. The story of Dunkirk is the star of the film without question it is truly a telling of the horrors of war that anyone who has been involved in can most likely be proud to have told.

At the conclusion of the movie you will almost feel as you have been holding your breath for the entire two hours. Dunkirk has captured the fear and uncertainty that soldiers no doubt feel and go through with such authenticity that you are nearly brought to tears. No film I have ever scene has had such a gut shot of the aspects that war rains down on all those involved since the aforementioned Saving Private Ryan. Dunkirk has now done what Private Ryan did almost twenty years ago and it has set the benchmark for all war films to come. A bold statement was in my head immediately after and I was driving home, Dunkirk is a superior movie to Saving Private Ryan. That isn’t to take anything away from Private Ryan but there is not one bad or off moment in the film. The Oscar buzz has quickly started and in my opinion the discussion of best picture is over. I can’t fathom another movie this year coming close to doing what Dunkirk has done. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but I find it very unlikely. For all the wonderful movies Christoper Nolan has made, Dunkirk is his masterpiece and its unmistakable to anyone who experiences it.

 

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.

Wonder Woman Shows Women Can Dominate The Superhero World Just As Well As Any Man

With another summer comes another barrage of superhero movies to fill the summer blockbuster lineups. I have often been openly critical of superhero movies and the saturation to the market. For example, we are on the cusp of the second reboot of Spiderman in the last 15 years. Marvel comics have been largely the comic book company pouring out movie after movie with a small smattering of DC movies trying to get their foothold in the market. 2013’s Man Of Steel was the beginning of DC’s charge at Marvel and the beginning of the eventual Justice League movie. Last year we got a bit of a deeper taste with Bateman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Both movies seemed to just miss with fans and critics, unlike their Marvel counterparts which are adored by fans and have been reviewed in a relatively positive light by critics. Putting all that aside, DC has not been swayed and has continued ahead with their lavish plans and massive schedule of films.

This leads us to their latest effort throwing us into the Amazon world of Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot made her debut of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in the aforementioned, Batman Vs. Superman. There has been quite a bit of buzz since then considering everyone knew this was to be the next DC film leading up to Justice League. For many of us, just the mention of Wonder Woman conjures up images of Lynda Carter spinning into her suit and bouncing bullets off her wrist cuffs. These images may soon be replaced with the new ultimate imaging of the character.

Director Patty Jenkins who is best known for directing Charlize Theron in her Oscar-winning performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster, was given the task to helm the story of the most powerful woman in the galaxy. In the world where feminism is at as big of fever pitch as it has been in many many years, this was a challenging and delicate task that needed a woman’s touch. Jenkins stood up and embraced the challenge with every bit of energy she has, and it shows.

The film she set out to make is the origin story of Wonder Woman and through her first foray into the civilized world. Diana Prince is learning to hone her skills when a World War I pilot, played by Chris Pine, crashes near her tribe and the Great War is soon brought to their village. After a battle ensues and the pilot is saved from the Germans with the aid of her people, soon Diana goes with the pilot into the modern world of 1918 and discovers a much larger sinister force at play behind the war and one who knows of Diana and all her skills. Diana is now set to save the world for the first of many times.

Wonder Woman has been praised by fans, critics and women everywhere as the blockbuster movie that finally shows how much ass women can kick. Not only quickly becoming the film for the feminist this year, but also the movie that may have DC finally one up Marvel depending on the success of Spiderman: Homecoming. Regardless of the final numbers ad outcome, Wonder Woman has shown that DC is still very capable of competing in the superhero movie market. The correct formula seems to have driven Wonder Woman in the right direction and has left fans dying for more from the queen of the amazon.

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.

The Whirlwind Life And Career Of Robert Downey Jr.

The life and career of Robert Downey Jr. is more of a roller coaster than any movie he’s ever made. His well-documented legal and addiction troubles nearly derailed an acting career that was skyrocketing complete with an Oscar nomination, a season on SNL and being the lead alongside superstars like Mel Gibson all by the time he was 27. His decent into a life of addiction and prison time almost became more well known than any movie he had ever made. There are four movies that are the most pivotal movies in his life and career all for very different reasons. I’m going to break them down in chronological order and why they are so important in the life and career of Robert Downey Jr.

Before I lay out the list, there are a few films I should mention first that were also important films for Downey but not as game changing. The film Air America was one of the first where he was truly a marquee star. It was a buddy comedy with Mel Gibson who was hitting his peak of fame. The second film was Wonder Boys with Michael Douglas. This movie was one of the first where everyone thought he was really starting to turn the corner. His performance was highly praised, but he was still a few years away from sobriety and the fact that he wasn’t sober overshadowed his performance. Third and fourth came back to back with Tropic Thunder which earned him his second Academy Award nomination and he was the all the talk of the awards that night despite the fact that he didn’t come home with a statue. He was now famously 5 years sober and clearly at the top of his acting talents and showing how truly great he really was. The fourth was Sherlock Holmes which earned him the golden globe and provided the opportunity for his peers to celebrate him and his new life and serious commitment to his career. It was an emotional yet very deserved moment.

1. Less Than Zero (1987)

Less Than Zero was the first time he was billed with Jr. attached to his name and the beginning of some of the legendary party stories for RDJ. He has been quoted as saying this was the first time his drug and alcohol use spilled over into the production and not just during his downtime. Director Marek Kanievska told him and his costar Andrew McCarthy (who battled his own addiction problems) to go out and party to get into character. This direction probably wasn’t the reason his abuses took such a foothold but more than likely they sped things up. The film was panned by critics and even the author of the source material book of the same name. It has since gained more appreciation in the 30 years since its release, but its foreshadowing can’t be ignored.

2. Chaplin (1992)

RDJ blew the doors off his portrayal of the legendary screen icon and gave Downey his first Oscar nomination, and it was well earned. Despite all his faults, he was able to completely transform himself. It would also turn out to be one of the last films for a long time that wouldn’t be plagued by his own demons. Most critics and fans looked at Chaplin as the movie that showed what RDJ could have been.

3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

2003 is the year Downey got sober and finally stayed sober for which he credits his current wife and her support for him. Downey came to realize he couldn’t go anywhere other than prison or the grave and he has famously said that he is allergic to drugs and alcohol, he always breaks out into handcuffs. It would still be 2 years before he would make an impact and headline a major motion picture and prove to people he was more committed to his career than to ruining it. The buddy picture that was written and directed by the writer of the massive hit Lethal Weapon had RDJ star alongside Val Kilmer and proved to be a highly underrated movie and showed Downey’s comedic brilliance.

4. Iron Man (2008)

The superhero resurgence and current domination can be traced to one film, Iron Man. The juggernaut of Marvel Comics becoming kings of the box office is where it is because RDJ WAS Tony Stark. Every embodiment of that character is deep inside him, and he OWNED it. He had been sober for 5 years and was still busting his butt to prove to be people his commitment to acting. He became the biggest star in the world with this movie and solidified himself as 100 percent back in the game. It is wonderful to know that there is a whole generation of movie fans that will only know him at this point in his career. It is forever in his film contracts that he has to provide insurance for the films in the case he was ever to relapse, and his salary is held until the film is complete. He will always have to fight his demons and in a sense will always be paying for his past but thankfully all movie fans he convinced us all that he is back.

2017 Golden Globe Predictions

golden-globes-2017-nominations-full-list-of-nominees-here-500x282The start of award season truly kicks off tonight with the biggest party in Hollywood at The Golden Globes. With Jimmy Fallon hosting in front of a room full of some of his closest friends, he has a lot to live up to since the past hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as well as Ricky Gervais were some of the best in awards show history. So here is my list of predictions.
Best Motion Picture Drama

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell Or High Water

Lion

Manchester By The Sea

Moonlight
Best Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy

20th Century Women

Deadpool

Florence Foster Jenkins

La La Land

Sing Street
Best Actor Motion Picture Drama

Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea

Joel Edgerton – Loving

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington – Fences
Best Actress Motion Picture Drama

Amy Adams – Arrival

Jessica Chastain – Miss Sloane

Ruth Negga – Loving

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Best Actor Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

Colin Farrell – The Lobster

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins

Jonah Hill – War Dogs

Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool
Best Actress Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

Annette Bening – 20th Century Women

Lily Collins – Rules Don’t Apply

Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge Of Seventeen

Emma Stone – La La Land

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Best Supporting Actor Motion Picture

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Jeff Bridges – Hell Or High Water

Simon Helberg – Florence Foster Jenkins

Dev Patel – Lion

Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Best Supporting Actress Motion Picture

Viola Davis – Fences

Naomi Harris – Moonlight

Nicole Kidman – Lion

Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea
Best Director Motion Picture

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By The Sea
Best Screenplay Motion Picture

Hell Or High Water

La La Land

Manchester By The Sea

Moonlight

Nocturnal Animals
Best Motion Picture Animated

Kubo And The Two Strings

Moana

My Life As A Zucchini

Sing

Zootopia