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Simon Boccanegra

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  1. I was happy about Laura Dern's Oscar win both ways. I applauded it as a "career recognition" moment for someone I've never seen be bad, who always gets the most out of what she has to work with...and I thought her Nora was a great supporting performance, a memorable and distinctive entry in the movie-attorney annals. And I can't say one of her three nominated rivals I've seen was clearly more deserving. Florence Pugh was a good Amy March, but was given the impossible task of convincing us she was 12 for the earlier parts of the story. Margot Robbie's work was one of the best things about the so-so Bombshell, but if Dern's recognition was for a single scene (I don't really agree), Robbie's would have been just as much so -- that scene of her suffering through Lithgow/Ailes's near-GYN-exam of her in his office. And Scarlett Johansson was very charming in JoJo Rabbit, but it was the lesser of her nominated performances, and I wouldn't give it the edge over Dern's either. I didn't see Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell, because I have yet to enjoy an Eastwood-directed movie, and it was going to take more than a single surprise nomination to make me try again. Bates is always good too, but, eh, she has an Oscar. I realize that there may have been performances on the level of Dern's that were unnominated. I'd hear a case for, say, Taylor Russell in Waves, Da'Vine Joy Randolph in Dolemite Is My Name, Zhao Shu-zhen in The Farewell, past winner Penélope Cruz in Pain and Glory, or one of the women from Parasite. (Look at how diverse that category could have been!) But as good as they all were, no one was really buzzing about any of them pre-nominations. So, while there was zero suspense about it, since Dern had cleaned up in the precursors, this was one of my happier moments of the 2020 ceremony.
  2. I think Quentin's tempo has slowed down a bit as he's grown older, and essentially he now makes limited series and smushes them into very long feature films. I was surprised by how much better The Hateful Eight (which I had found numbing as a 168-minute single serving) worked in the Netflix four-episode version. My suspicion is that Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood might be a similar case, if he follows through on recutting the 4 hours and 20 minutes he shot. He had to make a lot of choices to get it ready for the Cannes premiere. Allegedly, there was one cut scene in which Julia Butters was so good that she might have received an Oscar nomination. But I did love the film as released last summer. It was one of my three favorites of 2019, along with Parasite and the Pedro Almodóvar movie Pain and Glory.
  3. He also shoots the fleeing she-replicant (the Joanna Cassidy one with the snake) in the back in Blade Runner. He's overmatched by each of the four of them in a fair fight.
  4. Anyone who had wanted to see the much-delayed final product of Woody Allen's severed partnership with Amazon -- a film readied for release two years ago -- can now do so easily, as it has hit various digital platforms. A good movie was not being withheld from us. As far back as Everyone Says I Love You (1996), it was apparent that Allen had lost the knack for writing younger characters, male or female. Although he has two college-aged daughters now and presumably listens to and talks to them, things had not improved by 2018. Chalamet broods and grouses and mimics the author's cadences like all the other bright, hyperverbal Allen stand-ins. Fanning dithers and blushes like Diane Keaton more than 40 years ago, when the words had more wit. The movie is, of course, attractive. It has good-looking people at every turn; it's nicely shot by the legendary Vittorio Storaro; the New York exteriors look great whether bathed in rain, sun, or mist; and the smooth, precise style of direction Allen worked out in the post-Annie Hall period has not left him. But as a screenwriter, time has passed him by. This is an out-of-touch octogenarian's story about privileged college seniors, and it's as tin-eared as that sounds. The young couple gets separated in Manhattan, and Chalamet's cynical young poker shark runs into and flirts combatively with the sister (Gomez) of an old girlfriend. He later persuades an escort (Rorhbach) to pose as his girlfriend at his wealthy parents' party. (I kept expecting some comedic potential to be mined in that sequence, but it's thrown away. It's just a setup for a ludicrous truth-telling scene between Chalamet and Cherry Jones, playing his high-society mom.) Fanning's bright-eyed student journalist improbably bewitches, in succession, a famous director (Schreiber), the director's screenwriter partner (Law), and a heartthrob actor (Luna). Any pop-culture reference the twentysomethings make is to the pop culture of Allen's own youth, e.g., Cole Porter and mid-20th-century musicals. The romantic near-misses and realignments have no resonance; I never cared for a moment who wound up with whom. This is especially sad for a viewer who has fond memories of pictures like Hannah and Her Sisters and Husbands and Wives. In those, the actors had characters to play, rather than just collections of tics and attitudes. The only cast member who gets much out of the material is Selena Gomez. It isn't that her lines are better than anyone else's, but she has good timing and puts them over with tart authority. Hers is the most likable character in the film. The piano jazz on the soundtrack is always pleasant (although I think Allen has used the same recording of "I've Got the World on a String" at least once before). Chalamet gets to sing "Everything Happens to Me" in a thin-toned but on-key and musically sensitive style that reminded me a bit of Chet Baker. Skip, unless you're a completist for someone involved.
  5. I can get on board with this. I have liked him in some more "down to earth" movies, such as Witness, without feeling that his acting was a big selling point of the movie. A number of other actors of the right physical type in the same era might have done as well. "Workmanlike" is a good word for him when he's not playing a Solo/Indy/Deckard pulp hero. I did admire his commitment to the fanaticism of the main character in The Mosquito Coast (and River Phoenix was very good as the son, too), but the movie was not a success with either critics or audiences. He didn't have much success with big swings out of his zone, as the brain-damaged character in Regarding Henry went even less well.
  6. I'm doing a post-S5 Netflix rewatch of the first four seasons, because even though I've been with Better Call Saul from the start and have liked it, a lot of the events, especially in the early years, have gone blurry for me. I've never seen any episode more than once. It's reminding me how great Michael McKean was in this role. The love/hate relationship of the McGill brothers was the engine of the first three seasons, and it gave us great scenes like that truth-telling confrontation at the end of "Pimento" (1-9). McKean always played Chuck's inflections, hesitations, and expressions just right. When you watch the episodes again knowing where everything's going, everything about his performance tracks. I remember that when I was following fan forums more in the first couple seasons, Chuck was polarizing; there were people who wanted him gone even before the first season finale. I consider him a great and necessary character whose run had to end eventually to get us to the next phase, and the show got the most out of him.
  7. I caught up with this last night. It was one of those "tier two" new movies I was curious about, but not enough to see in the theatrical-release window. Background: I've seen the Kubrick The Shining several times, I read King's The Shining two or three times as a young person, and I saw the forgettable 1997 miniseries once. I've never read Doctor Sleep because, while I have enduring respect for King as a writer, I disembarked somewhere around Needful Things. So this was an all-new story to me. All I knew was that it picked up with Danny Torrance as an adult. I give the writer/director, Mike Flanagan, a lot of credit on a degree-of-difficulty level. He managed to make a respectful, even reverent sequel to both the book and the film, bridging the distance between them. The reverence is not always in Doctor Sleep's best interests. The weakest scenes were the ones with new actors impersonating Shelley Duvall, Jack Nicholson, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers circa 1980. They were good impersonations, sometimes eerily good (Alex Essoe's Wendy running toward the park bench, frantic, yelling out to Danny), but it was hard to react to them as anything but impersonations. Those scenes had a waxwork or tribute-band quality. The film following or surrounding those scenes was better. Something I found special and unusual about it, for a horror thriller, is that we got to see the "villains" being terrified too. There were mutual stalking and terror tactics going on. It was a real psychic war. The sympathetic characters of Abra, Dan and Billy got to get their own licks in, not just in the climax. As satisfying as that element was, I found I didn't even hate the members of True Knot, despite the gruesome things they did onscreen. When I thought about it, I realized they were like obligate carnivores. They didn't think of what they were doing as evil. They wanted to keep living as much as their victims did, they were facing extinction with their dwindling supplies, and they were long past being emotionally affected by the necessary sacrifices. This is a credit to King, Flanagan and the True Knot actors. I'm a little surprised not to read more effusive praise for Kyliegh Curran in the reactions I've seen so far. I thought she showed the presence and strength of someone who could become an important actor in adulthood. The same goes for Jacob Tremblay, whom I knew going in from Room. His big scene here is so excruciating that the viewer has to recover from it to get back into the film. Rebecca Ferguson, whom Doctor Sleep probably helped more than it did anyone else, is as great a principal antagonist as everyone said, magnetic and complex, reminding me of a beautiful Swede of an earlier generation, Lena Olin. But Ewan McGregor was only workmanlike, Some actors deepen in middle age, as the youthful glamour falls away; others grow paler, less interesting. Unfortunately, I have McGregor in the second category. He was overshadowed here, much as he was in Beginners and The Impossible. This is not a horror classic. It's slow, dense and deliberate without completely making that pay off, and it was hard for me to buy something integral to the premise: that an intact Overlook would have been shuttered after the events of Kubrick's film. In that version of the Overlook's history, would one more crazy caretaker who only successfully committed a single murder really get the place closed down? And in nearly 40 years, it was neither reopened under new owners nor demolished with something else on the site; it just sat there in a very mild state of dilapidation? But a solid effort, well worth seeing.
  8. I didn't think this was a great season of CYE. But I don't think the highs of season 3 can ever be achieved again. When a show has been on this long, with so many of the same characters and actors, sometimes it's just a matter of the low-hanging fruit long having been picked. I think CYE successfully reinvented itself in seasons 6, 7, and 8, after showing the first signs of staleness in the mid-aughts, and not every great sitcom gets a new lease on life like that. My expectations now are modest. I just enjoy it now for what I can get -- catching up with these people and seeing what minor variations on the formulas can be wrought. There was a lot of retreading. I'm being sporting; I'm not counting as retreading things it's impossible to imagine CYE without, like Larry being asked to leave dinner parties, Larry getting into arguments with doctors and wait staff, or plots involving golf. I mean more specific retreading. Racist dog (season 5). Bizarrely ambitious ideas for the bathrooms of a new business (season 3). Larry getting "the help" fired because of high-maintenance bathroom ways, and then being prevailed upon to make it right (Cheri Oteri in season 3, Adrien Martinez here). Bad behavior at a stage play showcasing a prickly English actor (Ricky Gervais in season 8, now Clive Owen). The "insensitivity to a widow" plot with Jane Krakowski was somewhat reminiscent of one with Caroline Aaron. However, I thought the season rallied for a great final trio of episodes, and so it peaked where it should have. Jon Hamm was one of the best "celebrity playing himself/herself" guests ever, and Hill, Penn and Kunis really lifted the finale. Also, one of my least favorite recurring characters, Cheryl's sister Becky played by Kaitlin Olson, had her best episode ever, and was used in a way I never saw coming. So, I haven't moved from my previous position. If there is another season, I'll hope to be around for it.
  9. And cousin Randy, who was competing with him in the Score category this year, has won two (out of 22 nominations). Neither was for his best work, but they're quite an illustrious movie-music family. An acting addition to the topic: There are always performances that, as years go by, look like more egregious snubs for their lack of even a nomination. One that comes to mind from the past decade is Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis. I think that when it's all said and done, he'll be recognized as one of the greats of his generation, and that was a commanding hard-sell performance in which he was in every scene. I suppose in 2013-14, he just didn't have a high enough profile. Four of the five in the category were very famous people, and the fifth, Chiwetel Ejiofor, was in the ultimate Best Picture winner.
  10. Same. In my case, I've spent so much of my adult life seeing stage performances of standard-repertory works in which the "how" (the artistry with which we get from one point to another) is everything. Almost everyone will go in already knowing the "what." So I'm just wired that way. If what I'm seeing is almost entirely plot-dependent, like a mystery in which the whole point is finding out which of the people in the house committed the murder, then I'll try to avoid them. But very little of what I care to watch can be described that way anyway. I do think that's a good strategy with Parasite. It isn't entirely dependent on plot, but it does have some delicious turns. I think we've gone too far in the direction of spoiler hysteria and rage. A few years ago, I saw people ripping into Amy Adams on YouTube because she gave an interview about Arrival and said the hardest part was the death of the daughter, as she (Adams) is the real-life mother of a daughter. People were writing "NOW I DON'T NEED TO SEE THE MOVIE! THANKS A LOT!" over something that happens in the first few minutes. Even when told it happens in the first few minutes and is part of the movie's setup/premise, they weren't backing down. It used to be a different world. I've read reviews of the book Gone with the Wind, from when it was newly published, that blithely give away the terms on which Scarlett and Rhett end the story. Or you see old trailers for classic films like Chinatown and they show you most of the final scene, including the last line.
  11. What I got was not that she was afraid of him, but that she was the kind of person who goes along with whatever a more forceful personality says. She's very suggestible, which is one reason she's an easy mark and entry point for the Kims. She doesn't seem to have much of an inner life or a point of view on things. Before she was married, she was probably assuming her parents must be right about everything. Now it's her husband and her household staff. This is one reason I was impressed with the actress (Cho Yeo-jeong). That kind of character can just be a nothing, but she made something memorable of it.
  12. I'm the other way around. Loved Waves; thought Harriet was not worthy of its subject. That is not a judgment I'm happy about reaching, because Kasi Lemmons's first film (Eve's Bayou) is a minor classic. I remember seeing it when it was new in 1997 and being excited about this actress I knew from Silence of the Lambs and other films making such an assured writing/directing debut. Harriet, more than 20 years later...not so assured. I think it was a good idea in Waves to elide the legal business, taking us directly from the arrest to the family going to hear the sentencing. But damn. He entered a guilty plea and he still got life without possibility of parole until he had served 30 years? Teenagers who have actually planned and committed murders that followed torturing the victim for hours have done better than that (all four of Shanda Sharer's killers are free now). So I think the (possible) racial element was effectively unstated there. They don't dwell on it, but it was in my mind.
  13. Another factor not getting talked about as much as the reaction to the smell: Mr. Park bristles at Mr. Kim's attempts to relate to him as a person, on a topic they have in common, the love of family. Twice, once in the car and another time in the backyard, Mr. Kim has asked or mused that Mr. Park loves his wife and/or children very much. Mr. Park clearly did not like the comment/question the first time. The second time, he is firmer in response: he reminds Mr. Kim that he's working. In the couch scene for the Parks, Mr. Park remarks that Mr. Kim has come close to crossing a line but has not yet. The question about Mr. Park's love for Mrs. Park (and maybe other things like it) is what he means. He considers this presumptuous. Mr. Kim is not his friend, and not really even his fellow man. He's the help. The other.
  14. What I believe kept it from breaking into the acting categories: The actors were unfamiliar names/faces and it was an ensemble film in which everyone was good, no one was bad, and no one really stood out and had "that scene." In such cases, it's often the cast's fate to fall together. People will talk about the uniformly excellent acting rather than looking up the name of the woman who played Mrs. Park or the young man who played Ki-woo and giving her or him a moment. If Bong Joon-ho had made an English-language film on a similar theme, and the same "everyone was good; no obvious standout" reading applied, it still might have been so. Maybe some veteran actress would have got into Supporting via one of the mother roles or the housekeeper. especially if she was someone well liked who had not won already. Unfortunately, the phrase "It's who you know" does apply in these industry awards. While listening to everyone's case against, and acknowledging that there are other good movies from 2019 (I'll take the opportunity to plug Waves, which I posted about down below), I'm still of the opinion that the Academy got it resoundingly right this time. It was both the best in the category and the best I saw from this year. And I don't think it's going to fade with the passage of time. It's entertaining, it's precise, and it's substantive.
  15. He is, yes, but I think the way the scene is shot and acted, it's clear enough that he isn't going to be able to go through with it. That's also the way it reads in BJH's script.
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