Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Blogwork Awards

With Oscar nominations just out, here's a look at my own personal selections in what I call the Blogwork Awards for the films of 2015. We will exclude a Best Picture award because I already gave out my Top 10.

Best Actor
Gold: Tom Hardy, Legend
Silver: Geza Röhrig, Son of Saul
Bronze: Tom Courtenay, 45 Years

Best Actress
Gold: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Silver: TIE Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara, Carol
Bronze: Blythe Danner, I'll See You In My Dreams

Best Supporting Actor
Gold: Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
Silver: Michael Stuhlbarg, Steve Jobs
Bronze: James Ransone, Tangerine

Best Supporting Actress

Gold: Sarah Paulson, Carol
Silver: Rose Byrne, Spy
Bronze: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Ensemble

Gold: Spotlight
Silver: Steve Jobs
Bronze: Chi-Raq

Best Director

Gold: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Silver: Todd Haynes, Carol
Bronze: Sean Baker, Tangerine

Monday, January 18, 2016

Podcast: Is 'The Revenant' Better Than Jurassic Park?

Hey guys,
Our latest episode (click the link) of Is It Better Than Jurassic Park? has arrived. Scott and I discuss The Revenant with guest Jenny Park. Frequenters of the blog will know my feelings of Iñárritu's latest, Golden Globe-winning film, but watch as others try to convince me that it isn't terrible (spoiler: they don't succeed). Enjoy!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Joy (**)

Directed by David O. Russell


Jennifer Lawrence is doing incredible work in Joy but to what end? The film is an unconscionable mess, and works best if you try to think about it as a solid acting reel for the young Oscar-winner. You've got Robert DeNiro doing pedantic self-parody, Virginia Madsen playing a woman who hardly gets out of bed (and who watches soap operas that Russell's movie is entirely too interested in), and then Bradley Cooper arrives halfway through as a QVC executive who compares himself to Jack Warner and Darryl Zanuck. Director David O. Russell used to be as exciting as his peers Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher and Spike Jonze, but with Joy he's finally detached from reality and spun off into the sun. This is his third film with Jennifer Lawrence, and the relationship has gone from mutually beneficial to one-sided. He's helping the young movie star mature into a truly brilliant actor, and that Lawrence is able to capably deliver this performance as a single mother of two at the age of 25 shows that she's got some very, very exciting stuff in her future (hell, she has some pretty great stuff in her present already). But this is a lot of work and a lot of goodwill lost in the nurturing of a young talent. Most actors have to take those Dustin Hoffman masterclass acting courses on Facebook. Lawrence gets to hone her craft on a $60 million movie. The film is based on a script by Annie Mumolo (who wrote Bridesmaids with Kristen Wiig) about Joy Mangano, a housewife turned home shopping mega star. Russell, as per usual, took that script and hacked it up until it was his own, and he directs this movie like its about the rise of a crime family. He's always made his films messy, caring more about performance than about narrative, but now he's allowed a derivative cinematic style distract from what used to be much more confident directing choices. His filmmaking has become ugly and haphazard, and in Joy not even the acting comes off as exceptional outside of Lawrence. Russell has got to find a new muse before it's too late.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Big Short (***)

Directed by Adam McKay


Previous to The Big Short, Michael Lewis books had been the basis of only half of a good movie: the terrible The Blind Side and the Sorkin baseball movie that wasn't really about baseball, Moneyball. I'll admit that trailers for The Big Short did little to enthuse me, nor did the placement of Adam McKay, Will Ferrell's favorite director, at the helm of the story. But it's produced by Brad Pitt, and the movie star has far surpassed his pal George Clooney as a surveyor of juicy projects who uses his star power to get made. It also just seems like Pitt has better taste. McKay combines with Charles Randolph to craft Lewis' book into one of the best screenplays of 2015, a sharp, funny, informative piece of enraging cinema blistering through hifalutin economic jargon to get you to the point that really matters most: you should be very, very pissed off. A multi-pronged narrative tells the tale of a handful of educated white males who saw the world economy trending down when everyone else saw it in a perpetual upward trajectory, too blinded by money to foresee any trouble. Lewis' book is in part about the nature of a person who zigs when the rest of the world zags (his book also has the audacity to include a female), but the script from Randolph and McKay is a manic ensemble piece, as we see the various reactions one can have when collecting a piece of information only a few people know. The Big Short is striving for the mania of Paddy Chafefsky's Network while trying to pull off the whooshing filmmaking of Scorsese. The film falls short in those regards, but it is a fierce dark comedy, filled with strong performances from a terrific stable of actors.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Revanant (*)

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu


There's an aspect of The Revenant that is really beautiful. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu collaborated here with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who's already one of the greatest DP's in history. This is their second time working together after last year's Birdman. That movie was shocking to anyone familiar with Iñárritu; that he could make anything as irreverent and funny as Birdman after a decade of maudlin melodramas. That film overachieved and won the Oscar for Best Picture (as well as Best Director for Iñárritu and Best Cinematography for Lubezki), and it showed the chemistry between the two Mexican-native film veterans. Their visual work together in The Revenant is probably better, more refined (I never cared much for Birdman's gimmicky, make-it-look-like-one-take aesthetic, and found it to be the movie's most annoying tick), but that's about all The Revenant has going for it. It's a beautifully wrapped package with nothing meaningful inside. It's also Iñárritu's glorious return to the world of the miserable, to a universe in which the phrase "It can't get any worse" should never be used. Only he would take the stunningly heroic tale of Hugh Glass and morph it into a brutal parade of carnage, a macabre affair with enough blood to fill Yellowstone river and enough dead horses to fill a circus tent. Add to all this, he gets Leonardo DiCaprio, the thirstiest actor in Hollywood, to play Glass. Between Iñárritu and DiCaprio, it's almost impossible that The Revenant could have been any less vain, any less desperate in its clawing attempts to court prestige. It's like they forgot that all they had to do was make a movie.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Is 'Back To The Future Part II' Better Than Jurassic Park?

New year's day news! The podcast 'Is It Better Than Jurassic Park?' is now available on both iTunes (though it is also available straight from our RSS feed, if you don't have iTunes). In our latest episode, we discuss the film Back To The Future Part II and ask the ultimate question. Our guest this time is Gary Dale Burns. Enjoy!

P.S. You can also follow the podcast's official Twitter page right here.