Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Entering the New Year: The Greatest Showman, Darkest Hour and The Disaster Artist


Happy New Year, readers.

We are almost 2 months away from the Oscars. Hard to believe. On Friday we will have PGA nominations and on Sunday night, the Golden Globe Awards. One thing is for certain. There is no consensus for what might win Best Picture. I've heard "Get Out," "Dunkirk," "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," and "Lady Bird." Almost no one is saying "Call Me By Your Name," "The Post" or "Shape of Water."

It seems that "Lady Bird" is the closest thing we have to a consensus, but I cannot see that happening at this point. It doesn't feel right. "Get Out" feels right to me. "Dunkirk" which I couldn't imagine a few weeks ago feels more right than "Lady Bird." I generally do well with my feelings when predicting the Oscars. It's when I get on a noise train (aka: "The Revenant" and "La La Land") that I get into the most trouble. It could be a surprise going into Oscar night, which would make for a very exciting season, indeed.

In terms of my own movie viewing, things are really coming along. I'm hoping to get a screener of "Call Me By Your Name" any day now. I plan to go see "Coco" and "Molly's Game" on Saturday and next week hit "All the Money in the World," "Downsizing" and "Wonder." Then I'll have "The Post" "Phantom Thread" and "I, Tonya," to finish out my must sees. Then it will be time to watch the Film Independent Spirit Awards screeners as well as catch up on some last minute misses as well as the slew of films that get nominated for the Oscars that I've missed. Good times!! It's going to be an adventure this year.

My top 10 is somewhat taking shape, although there is no way to really know what it will look like until I see "Call Me By Your Name" and "Phantom Thread." Those will be game changers for me.

In the meantime, let's discuss three films I've seen in the past few days.  I've now seen two films that have strong Best Actor contenders, "The Disaster Artist" and "Darkest Hour" as well as "The Greatest Showman," which will more than likely be a Best Song contender, perhaps Best Costume Design and Production Design as well.

The strongest of these film is absolutely "The Disaster Artist." James Franco is really great as Tommy Wiseau, the mystery man behind the cult film, "The Room." Dave Franco is great as Greg. Everyone else if fine. Particularly Jackie Weaver, Zac Efron and Josh Hutcherson, but even they come across as themselves in Halloween costumes. That being said, I think that might be what Franco (James, that is, who also directed the film) was going for.  The film is highly entertaining and very funny. The audience I saw it with was completely into it, even applauding at the end, which is pretty good for a Tuesday night screening. Everything really pays off at the end (spoiler, I guess) when we see "The Room" and "The Disaster Artists" recreation of "The Room" side by side. Even the lighting is a match.

In terms of Best Actor, there is so much I need to see in order to know if Franco is worthy of a nomination. Although the characterization is fantastic, and he is funny, there wasn't enough depth of character to suit my taste.

Next we have "Darkest Hour" and "The Greatest Showman." Although I was entertained by both, for their genre both films are incredibly weak. I've been a fan of Joe Wright, the director of "Darkest Hour" for years, but this film is a miss for him. The early scenes are written and staged so presentationally and false that the film almost didn't recover for me. Kristin Scott Thomas in particular was quite guarded in her first scene alone with Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill. It was almost as if they were playing to reality show cameras even though they were supposedly alone in a room, even cheating out for the camera. Eventually Oldman becomes better than the material and really shines as Churchill. He is very funny. And he delivers some of the most powerful speeches in history. But again, like Franco, he doesn't quite get to the root of the emotions. Not sure it is Oldman's fault. The screenplay relies too heavily on situation and history.

I have a feeling we are going to have another situation like 2005 when Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote") was up against Heath Ledger "Brokeback Mountain." Showy character v/s method naturalism. I can't compare Oldman to Chalamet yet, but I can compare him to Hoffman.  Hoffman's win, though disappointing for me, was justifiable because he gave a multi dimensional performance as Truman Capote in a brilliant film. Oldman does the best he can with what he is given. Will he win? Again, I can't see it. But people in the know seem to think so. I would love to be able to champion both "Call Me By Your Name" and Chalamet. SPC, if you're listening. I'm here.

Anyway, we'll know soon enough, I think.

Finally we have "The Greatest Showman." Look, this film can't come close to the likes of "La La Land" or "Les Miserables," but it is really entertaining. There are a two fantastic numbers in particular, "Never Enough" sung by Loren Allred and "This is Me" lead by Keala Settle which gave me much needed chills--if you're going to have a manipulative musical, it better give me chills! But the rest of the time I was pretty underwhelmed. And the strange steroid like editing of some numbers, particularly the first duet with Michelle Williams and Hugh Jackman made no sense to me. A dose of realism and heart could've made this a better film.

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