Monthly Archives: January 2019

Retrospective: The 20 Best Films of 2018

And with that, I have officially concluded my cinematic journey through the year 2018. While much of the current affairs of the world created a toxic, venomous climate in the United States, the movies still proved a nice place to try and get away from all of it. There were a number of amazing films that so expertly managed to weave contemporary fears and issues with entertainment seamlessly. By the time I posted this list, I have watched 132 feature films released in 2018, a new personal record for me. As always, though, before getting on with the Top 20, there are a number of honorable mentions that I really liked, but couldn’t quite include them on the final list. Here they are.

Honorable Mentions:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Cargo, First Man, Private Life, First Reformed, Support the Girls, The Favourite, Crazy Rich Asians, The Endless, Upgrade, Blockers, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Set it Up, Vice, Shoplifters

And now, let’s begin with my 20 favorite films of 2018.

#20: “A Quiet Place”

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I honestly find it a little poetic that this horror movie managed to stay relatively lowkey until it absolutely blew up and arguably became the breakout hit of the year. John Krasinski uses an original idea- a post-apocalyptic environment where no one can make any sound if they want to live -to tap into his own personal fears of parenthood. Casting his real-life wife Emily Blunt alongside him was also important to make it feel as though we’re watching a true family attempting to survive a palpably horrifying scenario. The world that’s built within A Quiet Place and its 90-minute runtime feels so lived in and believable, even without a whole ton of verbal exposition that would typically guide us. With an emotional core that echoes classic Spielberg films and an (Obviously) fantastic sound design, we’re immediately drawn into this high-concept world of silence and terror.

*Read my full review here

#19: “Widows”

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There have been many commentators over the years that say true artists should steer clear of making more commercial entertainment. While this is an understandable sentiment, Steve McQueen’s Widows shows that he’s completely capable of holding onto his sensibilities while still crafting a genuine crowdpleaser. The story of four women picking up where the dead criminal husbands left off covers everything from capitalism to abuse and police brutality, but never forgets to keep it thrilling to watch. Having Gone Girl‘s Gillian Flynn co-write the script was a stroke of genius as these female characters are incredibly complex and well-written women struggling to make it by in a world dominated by the opposite sex. These multitudes of craft and care make for a film that ends up being so damn satisfying.

*Read my full review here

#18: “Incredibles 2”

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Although it never reaches the amazing heights of its 2004 predecessor, it’s still quite impressive how fun and exciting Incredibles 2 turned out to be. Brad Bird once again provides his own personal stamp on the film about everyone’s favorite family of superheroes as they contend with what it means to be one in a world so cynical towards costumed crime fighters. It’s extremely understanding of the markets current obsession with the genre and frequently jabs at various conventions with a smile. This will likely be remembered as one of Pixar’s best sequels, which is admittedly a low bar to clear, but it’s still highly entertaining nonetheless.

*Read my full review here

#17: “Game Night”

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Ever pictured what it might look like if David Fincher directed a straight-comedy script written by Quentin Tarantino? Far fetched, I know, but that’s actually a pretty close analogy to what Game Night is. It was way funnier and more thrilling than I ever thought it would be, thanks in large part to the stylized direction of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. They use a smart screenplay to expertly mix laughs with a genuinely engaging mystery that admittedly gets a little indulgent by the end, but still remains enthralling thanks to the commitment of its cast. And let’s never forget Jesse Plemons as Gary. We underestimate that man too much for our own good.

*Read my full review here

#16: “Eighth Grade”

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You wouldn’t expect the same comedian who gave us “I can’t fit my hand inside a Pringle can” to come swinging out the gate with one of the most brutally honest coming-of-age stories of the last 20 years. But that’s exactly what Bo Burnham did with Eighth Grade, which has seriously grown on me the more I’ve thought about the film since its release. Featuring an impeccable script and a sincere lead performance from Elsie Fisher, its exploration of social media and Generation Z’s mental health is so well-balanced and insightful without ever becoming judgemental. For many, it will recall memories of one of the weirdest transitions in their lives and has no qualms about drawing out scenes with great detail. It truly is an awkward movie to watch with some painfully cringy moments, (The car scene is pretty horrifying) but there are also ones of true warmth, such as Josh Hamilton’s stumbling monologue near the end.

*Read my full review here

#15: “A Star is Born”

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Who would have predicted that the 4th remake of a film from 1937 would prove to be this year’s awards season frontrunner and actually live up to most of that hype? Not to mention the fact that it pulls double duty as Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, and this could have easily been a huge misfire. But lo and behold, this new rendition of A Star is Born is so damn confident in nearly every element of its craft. Plus, the amount of investment and care it puts into the two leads- as well as a stellar supporting turn from Sam Elliot -creates such an engrossing and electric cinematic experience. Oh yeah, and it’s got some pretty catchy original songs to boot.

*Read my full review here

#14: “Suspiria”

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A bone-crunching, evil nightmare with a lot on its mind, Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining of Suspiria is easily one of the most divisive films I’ve ever watched. I was honestly kind of pumped even more because of the controversy, as horror movies can help to create real conversations among audience members. And with its coldly bleak style, Kubrickian themes, and rather epic runtime, Suspiria was indeed able to spark a genuine discussion with friends after it was all over. Even if you look past its damning commentary on fascism and indoctrination, there’s still a creepy and intriguing horror mystery at the center of the movie. It absolutely revels in the abstract, with a plot involving witches and the undead, (Possibly) all while Thom Yorke is vocalizing the entire experience in a very unsettling manner.

*Read my full review here

#13: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

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I have seen Into the Spider-Verse in theaters twice now, and I want to see it a third time before it closes its run. I adored virtually every aspect of this tribute to the iconic Marvel character, as well as his late creators Stan Lee and Steven Ditko. By tapping into the rich visuals and stories of the comic books, it feels as though it has a better understanding than most other iterations of what the idea of Spider-Man is meant to be, rather than simply who wears the mask. A truly gorgeous and inventive animation style goes hand-in-hand with the eccentric and beloved characters, especially with a protagonist like Miles Morales. Its subtle push for diversity and inclusion is very much welcomed in an era where audiences are demanding more opportunities to see themselves portrayed on the silver screen in respectful and glorious ways. And Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is certainly a major step up.

*Read my full review here

#12: “Bad Times at the El Royale”

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This was one of the most criminally underseen movies of the year, and we should feel ashamed of ourselves for letting it be so. Rather than just cashing in on the nostalgia of pulpy crime flicks by Quentin Tarantino, Drew Goddard used the story to make us reckon with the genre as a whole as well as the concept of redemption. An excellent cast playing a set of fascinating characters coupled with some amazing dialogue and assured direction put it over the top as a compelling and genuinely involving mystery. Bad Times at the El Royale is destined to become a cult classic in the next few years, and we had a year chock full of them.

*Read my full review here

#11: “If Beale Street Could Talk”

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While it may be a period romance set during the 1970s and feature old-fashioned costumes or wigs, If Beale Street Could Talk is still able to speak volumes about the regularity of injustice and prejudice in the modern era. Writer-director Barry Jenkins has crafted yet another beautiful portrait where love and suffering intertwine so seamlessly in the everyday lives of a young black couple in Harlem. The classic titular James Baldwin novel gets the adaptation it deserves as we glide through a deeply felt and empathetic story of a fight against institutional injustice. And yet, it never wallows in misery or painful sadness, utilizing flesh-out characters and vibrant colors to draw audiences into the narrative. When it comes down to it, love conquers all.

*Read my full review here

#10: “BlacKkKlansman”

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While it may be didactic and unsubtle, BlacKkKlansman is also my favorite “Spike Lee Joint” that I have seen thus far. The director is VERY angry about events in modern times, and using a buddy cop story from the 1970’s is a pretty ingenious way of filtering it towards a broad audience. The story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American detective from Colorado Springs infiltrating the KKK, is rife with extremely funny and insightful moments. Witnessing the Klan’s idiocy on full display is both hilarious and terrifying at the same time, especially with the jaw-dropping mic drop of an ending. In addition to the sharp writing or even sharper filmmaking techniques, we’re also treated to some very fun performances from the likes of John David Washington, Adam Driver, and surprisingly Topher Grace. Never before have I have been so simultaneously unsettled by and howling with laughter at the stupidity of white racism.

*Read my full review here

#9: “Hereditary”

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In recent years, the horror genre has been experiencing something of a new Renaissance in movies. And while I’ve really enjoyed many productions from companies like A24 and Blumhouse, Hereditary was absolutely the scariest and most disturbing one I had seen in a long time. Visceral, uncompromising, and upsetting to a fault, Ari Aster’s feature directorial debut doesn’t waste any time fooling around with the audience. Mark my words, there are scenes in this movie that are going to haunt me for the rest of my life, and images that have been permanently burned into my brain. Anchored by Toni Collette’s amazing performance, watching the complete psychological breakdown of this small family feels unnervingly real and plausible, despite its supernatural elements.

*Read my full review here

#8: “Black Panther”

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Most of us already knew that Black Panther was going to be a pretty great movie, but few people could have possibly predicted the massive cultural impact it would have across the world. Marvel’s first film featuring a cast made up almost entirely of black actors, the way it infuses action thrills with contemporary politics is ingeniously done by Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole. And after seeing celebrities buying out theaters and at-risk youth being taken to see the movie, Disney realized that they had something truly special on their hands and have been pushing it all the way to a guaranteed Best Picture nomination at this year’s Academy Awards. Yes, Avengers: Infinity War may have been the bigger movie in almost every aspect, but this is simply the better one.

*Read my full review here

#7: “Sorry to Bother You”

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No other way to properly describe it: Sorry to Bother You is the ultimate FUCK YOU to capitalism. It still boggles my mind how much originality and scarily relevant subtext is found in this movie, especially with such a relatively lean runtime. Writer-director Boots Riley is able to tell a pretty sprawling story with a very specific vision, all the while making it feel both logical and hilarious. Lakeith Stanfield is really the force that’s holding everything together, using his unique charisma and wavelength to make the audience feel like they’re stuck in a very absurd world. By the end of it all, what should be extremely weird and off-putting is instead quite believable in the context of the alternate present-day vision of Oakland that Riley has crafted.

*Read my full review here

#6: “The Death of Stalin”

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A group of Communists duke it out for control of the Soviet Union after Joseph Stalin suddenly dies; grim hilarity ensues. In all seriousness, though, Armando Iannucci’s scathing political satire has all of the comedic bite of his HBO series Veep, combined with an unexpectedly dark tone. All of the actors- especially Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, and Michael Palin -are hysterical in their roles, particularly because they all speak using their natural accents. This is just one of many disconnects from reality that created big laughs from me, but The Death of Stalin also frightened me at times when it showed the brutality of the U.S.S.R.’s regime. There were just as many gasps as there were fits of laughter in my audience and it’s perfectly easy to see why this was banned in Russia. And even if you’re not as tuned into current politics as I am, you’ll still be left in both stitches and awe of what is shown on-screen.

*Read my full review here

#5: “You Were Never Really Here”

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Imagine if Travis Bickle was caught up in the plot of Taken, and you’ll have some vague notion of what writer-director Lynne Ramsay is going for here. But that still only scratches the surface of what’s really going on in You Were Never Really Here, a paradoxical and thoughtful crime thriller that sometimes borders on the intensely surreal. With Joaquin Phoenix giving one of- if not THE -best performance of his career, we’re given a window into the mind of a man who has been completely broken by the violent world that surrounds him but still tries to do some good for one teenage girl. The unique editing and score by Jonny Greenwood do such a brilliant and emotional job at making the audience feel like they’re seeing the world while ants are crawling through our brains. It’s visceral, moving, hyper-violent, and unpredictable.

*Read my full review here

#4: “Mission: Impossible- Fallout”

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There are any number of big set pieces that easily qualify Mission: Impossible- Fallout as one of the best action movies of all time. The show-stopping H.A.L.O. jump, the motorcycle/car chase through the streets of Paris, the bathroom showdown, the final helicopter pursuit. But what truly makes it special isn’t that nearly all of it was captured in-camera, or even that Tom Cruise was yet again willing to quite literally kill himself for our entertainment. What truly put Fallout over the top was writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s understanding of how to properly juggle spectacle and character. The stakes are global, but still feel immediate with the people shown in front of us. There’s always some stupidly impressive stunt piece on-screen, but we feel a great fear for the ones committing it. Films like this baffle me as to why The Academy hasn’t yet added a category for Best Stunts.

*Read my full review here

#3: “Paddington 2”

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Paddington 2 is probably one of the purest, most innocent films ever made. There was quite literally no better time that it could have come out to the world, and between this and the wonderful documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,  it seems numerous people in Hollywood want to believe in the power of being nice. The story of a marmalade-loving anthropomorphic bear from Darkest Peru is exactly the kind of family-friendly escapism that we need right now. Every single moment of legitimately Paddington 2 feels like a kind-hearted miracle.

*Read my full review here

#2: “Roma”

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Easily the best Netflix Original film released thus far, and one of the most powerfully personal stories cinema has offered the last few years, Roma is truly a beautiful accomplishment. Despite being in the Spanish language, (As well as brief segments in Mixtec) there are so many shots and scenes that transcend the barrier of translation and creates a universality with any audience willing to bask in its . Its black-and-white visuals create an immersive sense of nostalgia while the amazing one-takes for so many moments left me floored. Alfonso Cuarón really knows what he’s doing here and digs deep into the social stratum of 1970s Mexico for a middle-class family and their loving housekeeper. I have no idea how he found Yalitza Aparicio, but I’m so glad that he did because she is so naturally empathetic in her performance as Cleo, an indigenous housekeeper doing the best she can. Roma has deservedly shattered the glass ceiling for a “streaming” movie and been showered with dozens of accolades to show for it. It’s a testament to how far the director has come and how much farther he is still willing to go.

*Read my full review here

#1: “Annihilation”

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I first saw Annihilation in theaters near the beginning of the year and spent most of the rest of it waiting to see if any film could beat it for me. While Roma came very close, it’s ultimately this psychedelic and ambitious (And very loose) Jeff VanDerMeer adaptation that encapsulated exactly why I love going to the movies every year. Alex Garland has been on a hot streak with trippy, head-spinning science-fiction films like Ex Machina, and now this proves him as an artist in complete control of visual storytelling. Glorious visuals, thought-provoking themes, dark imagery, challenging lead characters, an otherworldly score. Name it, and it’s most likely somewhere in this masterful cinematic work. Moreover, Annihilation is one of the rare studio films of the modern era that actually encourages discourse after watching it. So whether or not you actually liked it, it’ll be hard to take the story and ideas out of your head for a while. And for me, that’s more than enough to qualify as the best film of 2018.

*Read my full review here

And that’s my list! I’m terribly sorry it’s a lot later than many other critics’ from the year, but I took some time assembling the right words for each one. Do you agree at all? What was your favorite movie of 2018? Be sure to leave a comment below for it and why, and if you enjoy what you see here, be sure to Like this post and Follow my Blog for similar, movie-heavy content.

Retrospective: 2018 Superlatives

It’s come that time year once again, my fellow cinephiles. My Top 20 list is well underway, but first, as with the two previous years, I wanted to give a few special shoutouts to certain films that deserve attention. There’s no specific ranking here, I just believed that these 9 movies were either forgotten or noticed enough to where I still wanted to talk about them. Some of them were in contention for my Top 20 list, others were not. But in any case, here they are.

Most Original: “American Animals”

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Probably one of the most underappreciated films of the decade so far, Bart Layton’s narrative debut rarely misses a beat. He uses his documentarian background to the fullest extent as American Animals has one of the most unique storytelling structures I’ve seen in years. While there are regular actors taking parts, such as Evan Peters and Ann Dowd, it also showcases the real-life subjects in talking-head interviews reflecting on the utter stupidity of their true-story crime- and not all of them remember it exactly the same way. It’s both hilarious and tragic as we watch these disillusioned men try to pull off something they think is really cool but in fact gets them inside pretty deep holes.

*Read my full review here

Most Surprising: “Crazy Rich Asians”

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Romantic comedies have nearly died out in recent years for a variety of different reasons. You can thank Netflix for warming audiences back up to the genre earlier this year with sweet films like Set it Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Then, a film like Crazy Rich Asians busted onto the scene, boasting a historic ensemble cast, the highest rom-com box office intake in a decade, and several doses of great humor. It’s extremely insightful into matriarchies and deep cultural divides between different generations, all while being nicely wrapped up in a classic rom-com formula. I had little to negative expectations for this movie, and it completely upended everything I thought could be stuffed into a film like this.

*Read my full review here

Most Overrated: “Isle of Dogs”

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Now, to be fair, I did really enjoy Isle of Dogs when it came out. But when it comes down to it, this just doesn’t really measure up to the rest of Wes Anderson’s filmography. I don’t know if it’s because his extremely distinct style is starting to wear off on me or that it’s political observations just seemed too far out of reach. The animation is undoubtedly great to look at and dissect, but it doesn’t feel as impressive as it was in Fantastic Mr. Fox. The stellar (And STACKED) ensemble voice cast and Alexandre Desplat’s score are ultimately the biggest saving graces here. It’s a great movie, but nothing more.

*Read my full review here

Most Underrated: “The Meg”

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Look, The Meg is not a great movie by any means, but it sure is one hell of a fun one. With so many blockbusters today attempting to build franchises or force some sort of “important” message into the plot, it’s honestly refreshing to see how Warner Bros. just decided to make a popcorn film that was completely unpretentious and undemanding. I went in hoping to watch Jason Statham and CO. fighting a gigantic shark, and that’s exactly what I got. It had a perfectly good balance between the very silly and slightly serious, always aware of what it is.

*Read my full review here

Most Overlooked: “The Other Side of the Wind”

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You wouldn’t normally expect a streaming service like Netflix to finish and release the late great Orson Welles’ final motion picture, but they continue to be full of surprises. I’m kind of saddened that this film has essentially disappeared from the public talk, especially when you consider the utter hell it went through for several decades. The Other Side of the Wind may not be a particularly amazing movie, but it is a really interesting inside look at how Hollywood works. The mockumentary style is perfect for the rapid-fire speed the characters and story flow around. While certain aspects of the film feel incomplete, I feel like it was still sorely missed by audiences and critics’ year-end lists.

*Read my full review here

Most Disappointing: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

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As a massive fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, they did not deserve a film treatment so rote and safe as this. If not for Rami Malek’s excellent lead performance and a show-stopping sequence recreating the band’s extraordinary Live Aid concert, Bohemian Rhapsody might have fared much worse. It stretches its creative license right up to the line of insulting and exploiting its subject, whose personal life is heavily fictionalized. The life of his bandmates, meanwhile, is given such a formulaic and predictable story arc that the makers of Walk Hard are probably laughing their asses off as we speak.

*Read my full review here

Best Scene: Moon Landing from “First Man”

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There were so many memorable scenes from this year that it was difficult to just narrow it down to one. Thanos’ universe-shaking Snap in Infinity War, the car Truth-or-Dare game from Eighth Grade, the beach rescue near the end of Roma, or Outlaw King’s epic final battle could have easily made the list. But it’s in the climax of First Man, Damien Chazelle’s sorely missed Neil Armstrong biopic, that takes the cake. With Justin Hurwitz’s powerful score set against Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin attempting to land Apollo 11 on the Moon, we feel the intensity with them as they struggle to make it. The fact that it was all captured in-camera is even more impressive. We all may know the ultimate outcome, but this scene alone manages to deepen my appreciation and respect for the astronauts involved. It’s cinematic tension on another level.

*Read my full review here

Funniest: “The Favourite”

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Yorgos Lanthimos has slowly been establishing himself as a truly unique auteur in the English-speaking world over the last few years with his pitch black tragicomedies The Lobster and The Killing of the Sacred Deer. I can’t decide whether or not this is his best work yet, but it’s certainly his most accessible and possibly his funniest. Don’t let all the stuffy costumes and makeup fool you; The Favourite is vulgar, deadpan, savage, and unexpectedly hilarious in many parts. On top of that, it also manages to have a genuine conversation about the cost that comes with having power. Plus, the moment when Horatio becomes the fastest duck in the city might have produced one of the hardest laughs I’ve had all year.

*Read my full review here

Worst: “Fifty Shades Freed”

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I know, I know. At this point, picking this movie for worst of the year is like picking at the low-hanging fruit. But the truth is that Fifty Shades Freed really is THAT bad. Actually, it’s worse than that; it’s extremely toxic and dangerous, especially considering the current social climate regarding the MeToo movement. But it doesn’t seem to care about that, as it’s just totally insufferable and indulgent in its faux-kinky hijinks. Nothing about this franchise has been believable or interesting from the beginning, and the final(!) installment so pathetically tried to add stakes that were not earned at all. Please just let these Twilight wannabes die already so that the people dumb or brave enough to watch them can have a respite from all of it.

*Read my full review here

Now what about you? What do you think was the worst or most underrated film from last year? How about the one you think was most overrated? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments. And as always, if you like what you see here, be sure to Like this post and Follow my Blog. Happy New Year!

“If Beale Street Could Talk” Movie Review

When in doubt, the love we share with one another will be more than enough to carry us through our trials. Hopefully. This romantic drama initially had its premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won first runner-up for the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. Originally scheduled for release on November 30th, Annapurna Pictures instead pushed it back to a limited engagement starting on December 14th, with a fully expanded roll-out on Christmas Day. It has thus far grossed over $8.3 million at the box office against a budget of $12 million, pushing ahead as one of the holiday’s biggest specialty successes. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, the film is adapted from the novel of the same name by James Baldwin. He apparently wrote the screenplay during a summer trip in Europe before his Oscar-winning drama Moonlight, but only moved ahead once he secured the rights. The author’s famously protective estate granted him permission on account of his personal outreach to them. Set in 1970s Harlem, the story follows two young African-American adults named Clementine “Tish” Rivers and Alonso “Fonny” Hunt, played respectively by Kiki Layne and Stephan James. As the two begin falling in love, Fonny is falsely accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman and thrown into jail. Also during this time, Tish learns that she has become pregnant with their baby, and she and her family scramble to prove Fonny’s innocence before the child is born. I loved, loved, loved Barry Jenkins’ previous film Moonlight when it came out in 2016. I more or less consider it to be a flawless film in virtually every department of filmmaking you can think of. It so brilliantly and emphatically explored the lives of characters whom we don’t get to see often portrayed on-screen in an unflinching manner. And ever since the mother of all Oscar ceremony screw-ups, I’ve been eagerly awaiting whatever he would cook up next. Although I haven’t read the eponymous book, I’ve read excerpts from some of James Baldwin’s essays and watched his famous 1968 argument on The Dick Cavett Show. It’s clear that he has a very clear-eyed, informed, yet empathetic view of race relations in America that match up perfectly to the director’s sensibilities. And it absolutely works because, while it may not quite be as good as his previous film, If Beale Street Could Talk is still a masterful examination of genuine relationships. I have no doubt that Jenkins has a deep and abiding respect for the author and his work, as this feels like a labor of love from the very first frame. What’s particularly impressive is that he’s able to use this 1970s-set story as a way to examine the relevant issues that many African-Americans face today. From racist cops to workplace discrimination, sexism, and prison reform, If Beale Street Could Talk feels like has a lot to say, and is more verbal about it than Moonlight was about masculinity and homophobia. But between the cracks in the fundamental unfairness of life, he’s still able to find true romance and happiness in the smaller moments. Whether it’s a rainy night inside Fonny’s old apartment or when the couple finally finds a new place to move in together, we’re given several moments to breathe. It’s also funnier than Moonlight, as a number of characters find unique humor in certain situations. And quite frankly, without these elements, I think I’d feel overwhelmed. Kiki Layne is as much of a discovery as Yalitza Aparicio in Roma, and I mean that in the best way possible. She is incredible at internalizing a lot of pent-up anger and fear and sadness by the discrimination she and her loved ones face on a regular basis, and the way she finally releases it is devastating. Opposite her is Stephan James, who’s equally impressive and tender as Fonny. With a level of vulnerability and emotional sincerity not often given to male leads in romance dramas, we feel his struggle behind bars and in other moments where the two spend time in one another’s arms. They are a perfect on-screen match, creating a believable and tragic romance where we’re rooting for them the whole way. There are numerous supporting players who do great work such as Michael Beach, Coleman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Aunjanue Ellis, Finn Wittrock, Pedro Pascal, Diego Luna, and an unexpected dramatic turn from Dave Franco. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the performances of Regina King or Brian Tyree Henry. I haven’t seen King in much, but her role as Tish’s loving and determined mother is so affecting, especially in a scene where she tries on a wig. Henry, meanwhile, has been having one hell of a year and his single-scene appearance was so refreshing and energetic. While laughing with Fonny over beer and cigarettes, he has a powerful monologue about the psychological toll that prison took on him, as it does for many other young men. He may have only one scene in the entire movie, but that moment still resonated throughout the rest of the film. And as you might expect, If Beale Street Could Talk finds Barry Jenkins continuing to hone his technical craft like a master. Cinematographer James Laxton moves away from the more elliptical, cinéma vérité approach of Moonlight in favor of something much more formal and precise. The movements in shots is very controlled and confident, and the amazing color palette helps the world of Harlem seem even more alive. There are numerous close-up shots that evoke the work of Jonathan Demme as we get a view inside the characters’ headspace. It matches up perfectly with the editing by Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon. The story bounces between different points in the story, often using certain side-stories to better contextualize what’s going on. It also features historical black-and-white photos in between segments, allowing the film to feel like a real event that might have happened over 40 years ago. The director’s collaborator Nicholas Britell once again provides the musical score, and it’s just as beautiful as the rest of the film. Like their effort together, the score is visceral and brilliant, while not always remaining conventional. It uses instrumentation such as smooth piano and trumpets to evoke music that gives the setting character and life. Strings swell in and out of different songs just as love and hope comes and goes for the protagonists. None of the tracks are really manipulative or aggressively sad or happy. Instead, it’s all seamlessly woven together to create a jazzy, oddly soothing sound that is definitely worth picking up. Much like Moonlight, it’s easy enough for me to see why a lot of people won’t want to watch it. A number of people I know have told me that it looked “too painful to watch” for them. But those who do give it a chance might be surprise by how gentle and empathetic the film actually is with its sensitive subject matter. While it may have issues of general pacing and cohesion, If Beale Street Could Talk is a moving and dynamic love story that never forgets the real world. Barry Jenkins is a true auteur of American cinema and we’re lucky to have him tell us these stories of unconditional love. I absolutely cannot wait to see what else he has in store in the years to come, and the newfound perspective he give audiences.

“Vice” Movie Review

I’ve read some people recently talking about how they want things to go back to when things in politics and government were simpler. But here’s a film to offer a rebuttal to anyone who thinks that they’d rather live in those times than these ones. This politically-charged biographical comedy-drama was released in theaters worldwide on Christmas Day of 2018. Although it faced some stiff competition in the holiday market, it has managed to respectably well in the specialty box office with a total intake of $41.2 million thus far. With a production budget of around $60 million, it is the emerging studio’s largest production to date, and its success (Or lack thereof) could predict their future. Written and directed by Adam McKay, the Academy Award-winning man behind The Big Short, the film was originally set up at Paramount Pictures under the original title Backseat, announced right after the 2016 presidential election. Eventually, something happened where the distribution rights were given over to Annapurna Pictures, with Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Will Ferrell (Yes, THE Will Ferrell) co-producing. At one point during production, the director suffered a heart attack, much like his central protagonist. Based on the true story, Christian Bale stars as Richard “Dick” Cheney, a Wyoming native. Over the course of over 40 years, he goes from an alcoholic lineman to the CEO of the company Halliburton and to a big political player in Washington D.C. Then, in the early 2000s, Cheney was chosen to be the running mate of Texas Governor George W. Bush, played by Sam Rockwell. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and other convenient circumstances, Cheney uses his private persona to become arguably the most powerful and influential Vice President in the history of the United States. I’ve enjoyed Adam McKay’s work on comedies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and The Other Guys. He’s definitely not afraid to turn some heads with some material that’s truly “out there,” whether it be very wacky or very political. And I did like his dramatic debut in The Big Short, but some part of it just didn’t quite make it that great for me. Color me mighty intrigued to hear him tackle another relevant topic, especially with an all-star cast like this one. Particularly with someone like Dick Cheney, one of the most notoriously reclusive and secretive figures in politics, as the primary subject of focus. I can definitely say that I like Vice more than The Big Short, even if it’s not always entirely successful. It’s a bit hard for me to review this film objectively because, politically, I agree with several points McKay makes in this movie. Much like his previous film, he’s got a lot to say a pivotal part of America from the early 21st Century, and he says it with a lot of fury. Vice speaks a lot on the corruption, greed, and total amorality that people like Cheney and Rumsfeld used to gain more power and run the government to their liking. At times, it becomes in danger of letting all of that anger make it become more like incoherent babble. And like The Big Short, it most definitely holds the audience’s hand throughout the movie, using a narrator named Kurt, played wonderfully by Jesse Plemons, to explain concepts like the Unitary executive theory and “enhanced interrogation techniques.” For many viewers, this will probably be an issue, especially for those who have already lived through it once. But it does manage to balance both entertainment and education fairly well, as we start to understand the plot more as we learn more little details. Particularly because the two aforementioned ideas are very much used today by the Trump administration. Christian Bale has made a career out of being a chameleon, and he once again completely disappears as Dick Cheney. Considering how little is actually known of him in the public sector, it’s impressive how much he commits to the politician. With an unrecognizable look and around 40 pounds put on, his subtle movements and sly way of talking evoke the controversial man so much. Opposite him is Amy Adams as essentially his Lady Macbeth-esque wife Lynne, who proves herself a force to be reckoned with. You can tell that she desires a certain amount of power that women would’ve never been given when she grew up. Steve Carrell also shines as Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney’s political mentor and virtual partner-in-crime. He’s so slimy and unrepentant for all of his actions, that I hated watching his scenes, which is a testament to the actor. There’s also Allision Pill as Cheney’s gay daughter Mary, Sam Rockwell as the goofball of a president Dubya, Lily Rabe as Cheney’s ambitious older daughter Liz, Justin Kirk as the VP’s eyes and ears inside the bureaucracy, and a surprisingly serious Tyler Perry as General Colin Powell. As far as technical aspects go, Vice finds Adam McKay having more formal control behind the camera than his previous effort. Greig Fraser’s cinematography can be very dynamic, often switching between handheld scenes and Steadicam motions. This seemingly tries to reflect the state of the protagonist’s place in power or life, whether he’s totally in control of the situation or completely off-balance. The editing is done by Hank Corwin, who was previously nominated for an Oscar for his work on The Big Short. There are a number of freeze frames used throughout the film, some of which create hilarious results. It also rapidly moves between numerous events or atrocities, showing off a dichotomy of images that can be either disturbing or relaxing. Nicholas Britell, who’s seemingly becoming a red-hot star in Hollywood the last few years, composed and conducted the musical score. The main orchestral suite is a suitably dramatic and suspenseful one, utilizing melded strings and piano melodies to suggest that something (Or someone) is about to shake the world as we know it. There are also a handful of tracks that use more mysterious instruments such as oboes and trumpets. Interestingly, the sound as a whole feels distinctly American, most likely an intentional decision to incapsulate such a controversial figure and what he stood for. Lastly, there’s an unexpected mid-credits scene, which has arguably garnered the most controversy. Without spoiling anything, I can definitely say that it’s a very bold and scathing coda to everything the director had put forth prior to. We could debate about whether he’s right or wrong, but it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t smug while making it. And in all seriousness, depending on your views, it could hinder the message or thesis for the entire film. In any case, Vice is a messy but undeniably ambitious portrait of American politics and its biggest players. I’m not really convinced that Adam McKay is the generational spokesperson he’s making himself out to be, but he definitely wants to educate people while also entertaining them. Plus, we also get treated to some truly excellent performances from unrecognizable turns in Christian Bale and Amy Adams. Regardless of how well the film ultimately sticks the landing, I really appreciate the effort. Nothing more, nothing less.

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“Aquaman” Movie Review

In this movie, there’s a giant, ancient Kracken voiced by Dame Julie Andrews hanging around in the deep sea. If that doesn’t let you know what kind of movie you’re in for, then I really don’t know what will. This superhero adventure film was released in theaters worldwide on December 21st, 2018, marking the sixth official installment of the DC Extended Universe franchise. Against numerous expectations, the film has managed to gross over $978 million worldwide at the box office, against a budget of around $170 million. Much of that intake comes from overseas in places like China, beating out other films in its genre recently and easily becoming the highest-grossing entry in its franchise. It also broke pre-sale ticket records for the service Atom Tickets and also made a lot from pre-screenings seen by Amazon Prime members. Directed by James Wan, the same man behind Saw and The Conjuring, Warner Bros. had planned for a long time to bring the titular character to life. Aside from a canceled T.V. show on the W.B., the studio hired Will Beall and Kurt Johnstad to write two separate scripts on dual track but only one would be selected. Beall’s edition was ultimately chosen, with David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick attending to some rewrites. It was ultimately pushed back from its originally planned release date for the summer of 2018, but that doesn’t seem to have harmed it too much. Taking place about a year after the events of Justice League, the story follows Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, a half-human half-Atlantean warrior keeping the Seven Seas as safe as possible. Heir to the throne of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, he is reluctantly drawn into a conflict where his half-brother Orm, played by Patrick Wilson, is attempting to mount a massive invasion of the surface world. Arthur must find the courage to claim his rightful place beneath the ocean and lead his people towards peace. I still remember when I was a young child that Aquaman was considered something of a joke. A blonde man in a green-and-orange jumpsuit communicating with underwater creatures is inherently hard to take seriously for a lot of people. It wasn’t until the last few years that he was reinvented as a total badass and turned out to be one of the most powerful characters in DC Comics. I’ve always been curious to see what a feature-length movie would look like centered on the Atlantean Prince. James Wan’s horror background on great movies like the original Saw worked well, but I wasn’t sure if his sensibilities were fit for a swashbuckling high-seas adventure, as he has described it. At the end of the day, Aquaman has many problems with it, but it’s still surprisingly entertaining and diverting. My main issue with it is how the film feels too conventional for its own good a lot of the time. This is supposed to be an absolutely weird world we discover, packed with crazy monsters and whatnot. While there are certainly some designs and concepts that are really out there, the overall story structure is one we’ve seen so much and strangely doesn’t have much problem flowing through it. I’d actually respect Aquaman more if it went all-in on its balls to the wall ridiculousness, with nothing held back. It runs at 2 hours and 23 minutes, but there’s nothing in the plot to convince me that that runtime is justified. But hey, we do get to see a whole fleet of underwater humans using laser sharks to fight an army of sentient crab people. And in some ways, that’s good enough. Jason Momoa is pretty inspired casting for the titular hero, a far cry from his brutal role as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones. He has incredible charisma and physical strength befitting of the hero, cranking out numerous cheesy one-liners like a good old action star. He uses his half-Native Hawaiian background to the fullest advantage to internalize the struggle of someone torn between two worlds. Amber Heard is mostly able to subvert the trope of being a damsel in distress as Mera, Arthur’s primary Atlantean ally. Her bright red hair and green suit reminded me heavily of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, although this time, it definitely felt like she had more control of her agency. Wan’s frequent collaborator Patrick Wilson is also noteworthy as the main villain Orm. While his motivations and craziness are pretty typical for a comic book villain like this, Wilson does a good job at containing a lot of it but can’t quite make it memorable enough. Other players include Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman as Arthur’s long-separated parents, Willem Dafoe as his conflicted mentor, Dolph Lundgren as the King of a vital underwater nation, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as a bitter and violent sea pirate with a major grudge out on the titular hero. Some are able to leave better impressions than others, but I can’t quite say that anyone was actually bad in their roles. Meanwhile, the technical aspects of Aquaman are pretty damn sweet to swim through. Robert Zemeckis’ longtime cinematographer handles the camerawork here, to some nice results. The camera almost always feels like it’s roving around or exploring the unique world with a certain fluidity. Although, it gets kind of cheesy as there are several shots where the actors make obvious poses. Kirk Morri’s editing job works well to move between the action scenes with enough cuts to keep it engaging without making it incomprehensible. The biggest thing propelling this film are the visual effects. Containing just under 2,300 VFX shots, the environments underwater, particularly the Kingdom of Atlantis, are actually quite beautiful and vibrant. The work done by Industrial Lights & Magic and a handful of other production companies isn’t too shabby, as there are convincing movements of characters underwater. Very few scenes take place on the surface world, so it can become a little obvious after a while. But in fairness, it is rather easy for me to see why the director was mad the film didn’t make the Best Visual Effects shortlist. Rupert Gregson-Williams composed and conducted the instrumental film score, and it’s one of the better ones from a superhero film this year. A surprising number of tracks involve synthesizers for its backbone, especially the main theme for our hero and when we first see Atlantis. It infuses pretty well with conventional instrumentations like trumpets, strings, and electric guitars to get an “out-of-this-world” feeling. Also, for some reason, the film ends with an orchestral pop ballad called “Everything I Need” by singer-songwriter Skylar Grey. It utilizes deeply booming percussion and repetitive piano chords as its main medley. But aside from Grey’s lovely vocals, it’s an entirely forgettable song that just doesn’t really fit with the rest of the soundtrack. Neither terribly awful nor remarkable enough to be superior to many other entries of its genre, Aquaman is a colorful and enjoyably diverting high-seas adventure that never fully takes advantage of its weirdness. James Wan is surely capable of a superhero epic behind the camera, and you can tell he and the cast had a fun time making it. It is refreshing since it doesn’t forcibly setup a big teaser for the next Justice League, as the DCEU is still on course correction. But there’s still something a little unsatisfying about the whole thing. Oh well.

“Mary Poppins Returns” Movie Review

This is definitely the second-best movie of the year where Ben Whishaw plays a marmalade-loving character from the city of London. Definitely. This musical fantasy film was theatrically released by Disney around the world on December 19th, 2018. It has thus far grossed over $213 million against an overall budget of $130 million. Although it opened slightly below expectations, its performance improved in the second weekend, holding against strong holiday competition. It has also received mostly positive reviews, as well as a rigorous awards season campaign for the studio, being one of two major live-action players for them. (The other one being Black Panther) Directed by Rob Marshall, who also made Chicago and Into the Woods, a sequel to Disney’s 1964 classic had been gestating in development hell since the mid-1960s. Both Walt Disney himself and eventual CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg attempted to get one off the ground through the 1980s but were constantly stopped by original author P.L. Travers, who famously hated the adaptation. It wasn’t until late 2015 that the studio was finally able to work something out with Travers’ estate and a sequel was finally underway. It closes one of the longest gaps between installments in history, at 54 years difference. Set in 1930s London about 25 years after the events of the original, the Banks children Michael and Jane, played respectively by Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer, are all grown up and have grown disillusioned after a family tragedy. When their childhood home is in danger of repossession, their mysterious magical nanny Mary Poppins, played this time by Emily Blunt, suddenly returns to take care of Michael’s 3 children, Georgie, Annabel, and John. While Jane and Michael scramble to save their house, Mary Poppins shows the children truly fantastical ways to help themselves and their family, all the while bonding with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lamplighter Jack. It’s been many, many years since I last watched Mary Poppins, but I remember loving it as a child. Whether it was Dick Van Dyke’s gamely silly accent or Julie Andrews’ wonderful performance, it had a wide-ranging appeal, even though I definitely wasn’t “into” many musicals at the time. I was somewhat concerned by Disney giving the go-ahead for an official sequel but also felt relieved that it wasn’t just another one of their live-action remakes. Not to mention, while Rob Marshall is a talented director, he often feels more like a journeyman than anything else. And yes, Mary Poppins Returns is very derivative of the first film, but it’s still a delightfully good time at the movies. In fairness to Marshall and screenwriter David Magee, it’s hard not to recreate many of the things that happened plotwise in Mary Poppins Returns. It has an overture and an end credit sequence set against a series of paintings, the two main adults are having familial or financial struggles, the children visit Mary’s cousin instead of her uncle, there’s an extended animation sequence, etc. However, the film mostly makes up for its lack of originality with plenty of British charm and loads of colorful spectacle. It may never be “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” but it does a fine job at introducing a new generation to this story and inviting older fans back in. Julie Andrews is perfect as Mary Poppins in the original film, no question, but Emily Blunt is able to measure up on her own with her portrayal. Adopting a proper English accent, she embodies all of the well-mannered and magical qualities that the character possesses. She also has a lovely singing voice and can certainly dance when needed to, and never falters in her job to take care of the Banks children. Opposite her is Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, a good-hearted lamplighter. I’m a huge fan of the musical Hamilton and seeing him fulfill his dream of co-leading is quite fun, especially since he shamelessly rocks a bad cockney accent. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer play Jane and Michael Banks all grown up, who do wonderful work with showing the loss of childhood. While they clearly love their family, you can tell that they’re desperate to hold onto the past. Their children are played by Pixies Davies, Joel Lawson, and Nathanael Saleh and are wonderful, while Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, David Warner, and Angela Lansbury do great work in their small roles. There’s also a single-scene cameo by original star Dick Van Dyke, whose natural warmth and magical presence are oh so welcomed. While both the star and his character are extremely old, that doesn’t stop the 93-year-old from doing what he does best. Hearing his voice and watching him do a softshoe dance routine brought a wave of nostalgia over my heart, and I mean the good kind. Even more impressive, the producers gave him a couple different options for the scene and he chose to do the hardest one without a second thought. He even says, “I may be circling the drain, but I still got a few steps left in me.” I don’t ever want him to die. And being made by Disney, you can count on Mary Poppins Returns to, at the very least, be a technical marvel. Shot by Dion Beebe, who also photographed several of Marshall’s other films, the cinematography is clean and polished. It employs several sweeping shots of the streets of London or wherever the characters are, as well as clever push-ins. Whether they’re singing, dancing, or just simply talking, we’re always able to track their movements in a very fluid manner. This matches up with the editing by Wyatt Smith, which often melds both long takes and more consistent cuts. It often feels put together like a musical from Golden Age of Hollywood. (Which is undoubtedly the point) It’s during these musical numbers that Rob Marshall’s direction shines best because his Broadway background comes through. The staging and lighting are excellent and oh so joyous to watch. Speaking of music, the instrumental film score is composed and conducted by Marc Shaiman. It truly feels like a score for classic Disney, covering many different instruments and arrangements in a lightly-touched way. Huge, boisterous stings and woodwinds are present in almost every track. Others occasionally feel a bit more jazzy with light drumsets and other dynamic percussion instruments such as slide whistles or woodblocks. The original songs are also pretty fun too, albeit maybe not quite as memorable as the ones in the original film. The most popular one appears to “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” a seven-minute song performed by Miranda, but I personally think that “Can You Imagine That?” deserves attention as well. Both feature great vocals and even better, more elaborate dance routines that were absolutely fun to watch. It’s extremely easy to be cynical about these sort of movies these days. The feel-good, family-friendly musical fantasy has more or less been sneered away from Hollywood for a good while now. It’s true that we may not necessarily need something like this, especially since it’s relying heavily on brand recognition, but it doesn’t hurt to just relax and have a nice time every now and then. Mary Poppins Returns is a charming musical that overcomes its lack of imagination with color and joy. Maybe I’m just growing softer as I get older, but this really worked me over something fierce. Thanks to Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a small but memorable part from Dick Van Dyke, P.L. Travers’ classic characters and story live for another generation of children. Even if it’s not quite as earth-shattering as Disney’s first-ever live-action film.

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“The Favourite” Movie Review

Someone ought to send for Horatio, the Fastest Duck in the City, because he deserved a place in that court as well as anyone did. This historical black comedy-drama premiered as part of the official competition at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. It won the Jury Prize as well as Best Actress for its lead, and later went on to screen as the opening night feature for the New York Film Festival as well as at Telluride and the BFI London Film Festival. It was finally released in limited U.S. theaters starting on November 23rd, 2018, and will be released in the United Kingdom in the new year. It has thus far grossed around $17.8 million against a budget of $15 million and has been getting nominated for many year-end awards. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the screenplay had been written by Deborah Davis as far back as 1998. It took nearly a decade for producers Ed Guiney and Ceci Dempsey to get a hold of it, who subsequently approached Lanthimos after his film Dogtooth received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. He then hired Tony MacNamara to rewrite it towards his extremely specific vision, and pushed production back a year to film The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Set in 1708 England, the story mostly focuses on Queen Anne, played by Olivia Coleman, whose health is slowly deteriorating as the country wages war with France. Her confidant and secret lover Sarah Churchill, played by Rachel Weisz, is essentially running things behind the scenes. Her world turns upside down when her disgraced younger cousin Abigail Hill, played by Emma Stone, arrives looking for employment with the Queen. The two of them duke it out with each other, as well as other members of Parliament, to gain favor (And control) of the Queen. Thus far, I’ve really liked Lanthimos’ English-language features, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The Greek auteur’s work is definitely not for everyone out there, but I saw them both as truly original films from a new artist with a lot on his mind. I have not yet seen his earlier work, but from what I’ve heard, Dogtooth is just as disturbing and weird as those movies. I was definitely interested to see what he could do with a historical costume drama like this one. I was, however, somewhat concerned if he would compromise or altogether sacrifice his unique voice for what seemed like typical Oscar Bait. However, my fears were lifted because while The Favourite is Lanthimos’ most accessible film to date, it’s every bit as weird and blackly hilarious as his other pictures. I would say it has more in common with The Lobster than anything else, if only for its extremely offbeat tone and edge. Beneath all of the laughs and deadpan absurdism is a rather sad examination of power and sacrifice. The screenplay plays it fair by ensuring that almost everyone in the story, not just one person or a handful of individuals, are hard to read as far as intentions go. As one character puts it, “Favor is a breeze that shifts directions all the time. Then, in an instant, you’re back sleeping with a bunch of scabrous whores, wondering whose finger’s in your ass.” It can all be well and good until you find yourself at the bottom of the proverbial ladder. Olivia Coleman was apparently the director’s only choice for the role of Queen Anne, and she’s absolutely perfect. A far cry from her deeply competent characters on The Night Manager and Broadchurch, this is an unstable woman who unwittingly lets her subjects do all of the busy work while she gradually rots away. It’s honestly a little melancholy and hard to watch as her body and sanity crumble as the film goes along. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are perfectly deadpan and malicious as Sarah and Abigail. It’s incredibly hard to know whenever they say something with any sincerity, but of course, that’s part of the point. They expertly deliver many savage lines in the darkest and most hilarious ways possible. Meanwhile, Nicholas Hoult and James Smith as the Earls Robert Harley and Sidney Godolphin, respectively. They’re both vying for the position of what’s essentially Prime Minister and relish both in their big makeup and casual insults of each other. Many of the other players play along in a similarly deadpan manner. These include Joe Alwyn as an ambitious suitor looking to marry into power, Mark Gatiss as Sarah’s loving husband who’s away at war for much of the plot, and Jenny Rainsford in a small but memorable part known as Mae. It’s kind of impressive that they’re all willing to go along with the director’s weird tone. Meanwhile, from a technical standpoint, The Favourite shows that Lanthimos is still able to tell the story in his own voice. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan uses 35 mm film stock to great effect, as the entire film is told using candles and natural lighting. The film was primarily shot at the frequently used Hatfield House, which helps with the framing and composition of placing lonely characters into huge spaces. There are also a number of slow tracking shots, pans, and zoom-ins meant to make audiences feel claustrophobic. Yorgos Mavropsaridis handles editing duties rather well, putting together neat cuts and unusual transitions. There’s one instance where a horse ride with one of the leading ladies is constantly intercut with a naked man getting pelted by tomatoes; it’s both unsettling and strangely coherent. There’s also a truly bizarre choice at the end which sees multiple frames and images overlapping with one another as it slowly fades out. The fantastic costumes are all designed by three-time Oscar-winner Sandy Powell. They all felt very appealing and gorgeous without being overly showy in their details. If for nothing else, I can easily see this film as a frontrunner in this category. As with most of the director’s oeuvre, there isn’t really an original musical score to be found. Instead, much of the music played in the film are classical pieces that exist within the public domain. These include selections from composers such as Bach, Handel, Schubert, and Vivaldi, most of which fit well to the tone and feel of what the filmmakers are going for. Also, the song “Skyline Pigeon” by Elton John plays over the end credits. The metallic organ suits the period setting quite nicely, while the somber voice and lyrics reflect the plot in unexpected ways. I’d like to emphasize again, however, that this is not for everyone. I know a handful of people who find the director’s style kind of irritating and too abstract for them to grasp. That’s a fair thing to say, and his sensibilities might be especially alienating for a historical costume drama. Regardless, for me, The Favourite is a surreal and uniquely funny examination of gender and power dynamics. Although this is less “conceptual” than his other works, Yorgos Lanthimos is still able to leave his personal stamp on the film. It makes me curious to see what he has in store for audiences next, whether for a major distributor or otherwise.