Sunday, December 31, 2017
Another great film by Christopher Nolan, the plot is simple. Eight months into World War II, following a series of setbacks, British troops find themselves stranded on the shores of Northern France. Behind them, Nazis are closing in. Bombs fall from the sky, torpedoes from U-boats in the sea, soldiers waiting for a boat to come to their rescue.
A beautiful story set in the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17- year-old American-Italian, spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). Elio enjoys a close relationship with his father, an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture, and his mother, a translator, who favor him with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights. While Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and undeveloped about him, particularly about relationships and love. One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charming American scholar working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Elio and Oliver discover the beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
Lady Bird, a film by actress-turned-writer/director Greta Gerwig’s autobiographical coming-of-age drama, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson played by Saoirse Roman is a Catholic high school senior who longs to escape her frustrating lower-middle-class in Sacramento for East Coast college life. Set in 2002, her story is one of romantic ups-and-downs—with both Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet playing romantic suitor and familial tension, the latter felt in her strained relationship with her mother played by Laurie Metcalf. There’s nothing Earth-shattering here, but Gerwig’s script has a sharp sense of time, place and the roiling emotional turmoil of its protagonist, whose attempts to carve out a mature identity are authentically messy.
Edgar Wright is just about the perfect 21st-century genre director as he proves yet again in his thrillingly movie Baby Driver. The senselessness of human nature is his subject, genre the lens through which he studies it. Ansel Elgort plays the title character, the designated driver for a crime boss who calls himself Doc (Kevin Spacey). Members of Doc’s crime teams change, but there always seems to be one paranoid hothead who gets edgy because Baby never talks and always has headphones on. Is he a mute? Is he slow? No, but Baby has a hell of a story involving a car crash and juvenile robbery that put him in Doc’s debt. As the movie begins, he’s on the verge of paying off that debt and becoming free.
Referencing Walter Hill’s 1978 The Driver with Ryan O’Neal, the title character is one of those ultra cool existentialists who defines himself through action. Baby has a little more inner life. There’s none of the smash-cut spatial incoherence of most modern action sequences. Wright’s chase scenes are wild but classical and elegant. He also doesn’t care for the green-screen, computer-generated unreality of the Fast and Furious series. This is the first thriller we’ve seen in a long time that feels handmade.
In the grand tapestry of Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting career, Phantom Thread will be sewn in as a colorful swatch, though for a retirement role, he leaves us wanting a little more.
I was skeptical about the film simply because having been a fan of the original. I was doubtful whether the new film will stand up to the first film. Blade Runner may have shaped the future, but it’s easy to forget its past. The film is now universally accepted as a classic, Ridley Scott’s future-noir fantasy from 1982, widely dismissed in the beginning as an exercise in spectacular emptiness. It was only when Blade Runner was reconfigured via a 1992 Director’s Cut, and later Scott’s definitive Final Cut, that its masterpiece status was assured, compared to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Kubrick’s 2001. Architecturally, the production designs evoke Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, all angular lines and expressionist shadows.
This is the context for Blade Runner 2049, it was a tough act to follow, Ridley Scott’s original. Director Denis Villeneuve’s audacious sequel is really as good as the hype suggests, spectacular enough to win over new generations of viewers, yet deep enough to reassure diehard fans that their cherished memories haven’t been forgotten and betrayed. Villeneuve teases away at the enigmatic identity riddle at the centre of Scott’s movie, brilliantly sustaining the mystery of a blade runner’s true nature.
One of my all time favorite director is Paul Thomas Anderson. With Phantom Thread, Anderson has crafted one of his best-looking works to date, this new film is truly amazing and sophisticated. The fashion-centric period dram and second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis, following the exquisite 2007's There Will Be Blood. It's also apparently Day-Lewis' last film as he has announced his retirement.
Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a fussy A-list dressmaker in 1950sin London who wears his public face well outfitting princesses and debutantes but is kind of a disaster with his personal life. He has a string of girlfriends but none seem to take, as he keeps them at arm’s length in terms of actual commitment.
On a trip to the country, Woodcock locks eyes with a clumsy young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). He's smitten by the time he’s finished ordering breakfast and they had a date that’s at first affectionate but turns confusing once his newest muse moves into his townhouse and he uses her as a model. But Woodcock begins to be annoyed by her presence.
As Phantom Thread flits between complicated character piece and unusually funny romantic comedy, the movie becomes much more about Alma. It’s an acceptable though not exceptional goodbye and one hopes, even somewhat selfishly, for Day-Lewis to stitch together a more memorable final bow someday.