TLDNW: Phantom Thread

 

The phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) is for posts on the Internet that you want to know about but can’t be bothered to read. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2018 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

BONUS: This year, I’ve added bonus content baby! This year I will be reading each review in a podcast format if you don’t even time to READ. There will be a podcast of me reading each review and THEN a bonus podcast where I discuss the film with a fellow film friend.

TLDNW: 1 Word

3/4

Meticulous

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★/★★★★

A movie that creeps into your brain and sits there for longer than you’d like. It grows on you like a fungus.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Three out of Four Stars

When I left the theatre after seeing Phantom Thread I couldn’t quite figure out how I felt. I was struck so strongly by the crushing sense of boredom that had pervaded for the first hour and a half of the film. At the same time, however, I couldn’t shake the last thirty minutes.

I will say right here that this review HAS to be filled with spoilers to make sense so if you haven’t seen Phantom Thread yet- just abandon ship right now. The film offers so many surprises that I don’t want to give anything away. The joy that I found in those last thirty minutes came from knowing nothing ahead of time. I’ll wait- I don’t mind…

Alright – now that we’ve ditched those losers – welcome to the cool crew. Let’s talk about this movie.

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film (which has been reported to be Daniel Day Lewis’ last ever) we meet Reynolds Woodcock. Woodcock is a fashion designer who is meant, I’ve read, to represent all of the very specific and particular fashion designers who made their fame in post war Europe. He meets a young woman, Alma, while on vacation in the countryside and they fall in love. Woodcock spends most of the rest of the movie being either wildly in love with this new woman or hating her with every fibre of his being. His sister, played deliciously by Lesley Manville, does not help the situation and a rather incestuous relationship is established between her and Woodcock.

Now, if that paragraph ALONE was the synopsis of the film this would be a one star review. However, Paul Thomas Anderson, master of suspense, doesn’t let us get away that easy. The final act of the film finds his young wife deliberately POISONING HIM with mushrooms. If this wasn’t a twist enough when Woodcock discovers he is being poisoned he INVITES IT and allows it to happen.

There is some interesting commentary on relationships here. What will we put up with in a (here, literally) toxic relationship? How much do we tolerate just for the passion of love? But I think there is something a little subtler at play in this film. PTA said in an interview that he starting conceiving of this movie when his wife (the incredible and incomparable Maya Rudolph) was looking after him while he was sick and realized she hadn’t looked at him with such love in a long time and he hadn’t seen her as a nurturer in the same amount of time. So he thought it would be interesting if someone was deliberately keeping him sick. The film explores more than a toxic relationship but also looks at the idea of need and perfection. How far will both of these characters go to feel something? Woodcock finds himself a more invested and compassionate lover during these times and his work improves. Alma feels necessary in the relationship and gets the love she desires. It’s a really clever device and PTA of course pulls it off beautifully.

It’s honestly as if Anderson knew we would be bored after an hour and a half. He connects us to the character of Alma who is feeling useless in her relationship to Woodcock. He makes us question what we are watching and then, just when we feel redundant he slips in one of the most interesting and subtle plot twists I’ve seen in a long time. It’s what bumps that one star rating to a three.

The final note (pun intended) that I will make on this film is that the score is absolutely incredible. Do yourself a favour and download the song “House of Woodcock” from the soundtrack. The subtle piano music coupled with hauntingly beautiful strings is outstanding. Johnny Greenwood won’t win the Oscar for score (because have you seen how stacked this category is?) but his name shouldn’t be forgotten.

It’s interesting that a movie about fashion design couldn’t be less about fashion design but that’s just what Paul Thomas Anderson likes to do to you. He’ll convince you it’s about one thing for an hour and a half – and then poison you in the last half an hour.

 

Here are the podcast:

 

 

 

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TLDNW: Darkest Hour

The phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) is for posts on the Internet that you want to know about but can’t be bothered to read. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2018 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

BONUS: This year, I’ve added bonus content baby! This year I will be reading each review in a podcast format if you don’t even time to READ. There will be a podcast of me reading each review and THEN a bonus podcast where I discuss the film with a fellow film friend.

TLDNW: 1 Word

3/4

Pressurized

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★/★★★★

A powder keg. Like Churchill the man, this film is brash and bold and loud. A pressure cooker of a movie.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Three out of Four Stars

I have been asking myself lately why we’ve seen so many Churchills this year. John Lithgow plays him beautifully on The Crown. Brian Cox plays him less beautifully in the biopic Churchill (don’t worry, no one saw it.) Michael Gambon played him last year in the TV movie Churchill’s Secret. And here we have screen legend Gary Oldman giving his finest performance yet as the British bulldog. One might assume that it is just a case of simultaneous thought or a case of Twin Movies (a phenomenon you should look up because it’s bonkers) but I think there’s something more going on here.

In today’s political climate a Churchill biopic seems oddly fitting. Audiences are shown a brash, know-it-all, political black sheep who says whatever he feels. Does this not feel a little of the times? It honestly makes me wonder how the carrot that reigns beneath us will be portrayed in a hundred years. Churchill certainly was no saint and straight up LIED to the press about Britain’s standings in the war effort. Many still see Churchill as a less-than-perfect political figure. So the question that has been bothering me is “why?” Why now? Why Churchill?

I think the answer rests in Joe Wright’s film Darkest Hour. The film chronicles Churchill’s rise to power after being appointed prime minister in the wake of Neville Chamberlin’s resignation to Churchill’s infamous speech after the fall of Dunkirk. It’s a short period of time and is filmed in a compressed way. In fact, the whole film feels pressurized. The film, like Churchill himself, is a powder keg of intensity. Whole sequences are shot in the war bunker at parliament and cast with a red hue. Churchill is portrayed by, the certain to win the Oscar, Gary Oldman as a tightly wound, crass, pressurized man. Here, however, is where we find out answer to “why now? Why Churchill?” The answer rests entirely on the way Joe Wright shoots Oldman. Occasionally he shows Churchill from very close. He points the camera directly into the jowls of the infamous prime minister and has Oldman scream as loudly as he can. This is the classic portrayal of Churchill and certainly the closest to our current day leader south of the border. However, Wright carefully inserts beautifully tender shots of Churchill looking small. There are shots where Churchill is alone in a room, or far in the background, surrounded by objects larger than him and he looks positively tiny. He sits with a signature-stooped stature and appears to have the whole weight of Britain on his shoulders. This portrayal, this Churchill is the answer to why we’ve become obsessed with him in recent years. He is complex. He’s not perfect and he’s certainly not well liked – but he is at least complex. He understands the gravity of his work, of his actions. He, at least as depicted by Wright, is conflicted. This is what we are missing from the current administration. We’ve got loud and verbose covered, what we need is complexity.

And this is the brilliance of Darkest Hour. Despite its flaws as a film (standard editing, score, and script) it shines a light on one of histories most conflicted leaders in a way that makes him human. This is why we’re obsessed. This is why there have been four Churchills in the past two years- because despite his flaws, you cannot argue that he wasn’t complex. I just think it wasn’t until Joe Wright took the helm for us to truly see this side of the man.

TLDNW: Dunkirk

The phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) is for posts on the Internet that you want to know about but can’t be bothered to read. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2018 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

BONUS: This year, I’ve added bonus content baby! This year I will be reading each review in a podcast format if you don’t even time to READ. There will be a podcast of me reading each review and THEN a bonus podcast where I discuss the film with a fellow film friend.

TLDNW: 1 Word

4/4

Taught

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Christopher Nolan’s best work since The Prestige. Mark Rylance yelling “Don’t you think I can’t hear you Peter?! Why can’t we, just once, see Tom Hardy’s face?

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

In every way that Lady Bird is a tightly wound machine of subtlety Dunkirk is a tightly wound machine of spectacle. In Christopher Nolan’s finest work yet, Dunkirk proves that Nolan is not just a blockbuster director with a gift for twists.

Now I have voiced my discontent with the Nolan Cult in the past but I’d like to reiterate my feelings here. Christopher Nolan has been praised for being the decade’s best director because of his work on the Dark Knight Trilogy and films like Interstellar and Inception. I have always felt that Nolan sacrifices story for spectacle and twists. He forgets to write real, human characters because he doesn’t have time to explore emotion. He spends 90% of his movie OVER explaining his premise so that by the end he’s forgotten to add any human elements. There is an unfortunate following of people who lose their ever-loving shit for his movies because they are very showy, but I’ve never really bought into the hype – all of this changes with Dunkirk.

Watching Dunkirk is like seeing a watch get made. It’s incredibly intricate and you can see all the pieces – in fact Nolan works pretty hard to show you all the pieces. There are plenty of times where you think, “this can’t be working, there’s no way this will come together at the end” but then, in true Nolan fashion, it all clicks into place.

Each piece of Nolan’s machine is so tightly edited and timed that I have no doubt it will sweep the technical categories at this year’s awards. Hans Zimmer’s score is outstanding and ties the emotional elements of the film into the war spectacle effortlessly. And LEST WE FORGET the literal ticking clock present throughout the entire film. This movie is Nolan screaming to his audiences “you want technical- I’ll give you fucking technical!”

Nolan also managed to round up some of the finest actors in Britain to play minor roles to the larger character of war. Kenneth Branaugh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and… Harry STYLES?! are all fantastic. Here Nolan really earns his directing nomination by carefully slotting each one of these incredible actors into a seamless plot. None of the acting feels wasted and none of the, very minimal, dialogue goes unused.

The most incredible thing about Dunkirk however is something that might go unnoticed because it is, by definition, the very opposite of the spectacle that the rest of the movie is so rightfully flaunting. There is no gore in Dunkirk. When Steven Spielberg released Saving Private Ryan in 1998 he changed the look of war movies forever. No World War Two movie has been released since that does not contain at least one scene of gratuitous violence. The opening sequence on the beach defined the gore that is allowed in war movies. One need only look to the gore-porn monstrosity that is Hacksaw Ridge to understand what I’m talking about. Nolan seems to deliberately challenge this norm. 90% of Dunkirk takes place on a beach and there is not one spot of blood on the whole battleground. He builds tension not by showing the gore but by NOT showing it. The crack of one bullet in Dunkirk holds more tension and power than the whole third act of Hacksaw Ridge. In fact, the only spot of blood you see in the film isn’t even related to the action at Dunkirk. Nolan has made a choice here and it has paid off. His choice to remove gore means that the audience is absorbed by the tension built by human characters, by an incredible score, and by focusing on the story of war- not the gore. Some might argue that this is not Nolan’s best work because it doesn’t feature a big twist or a blow your mind concept – but I think that Nolan proves himself here to be a true artist, and Dunkirk is his masterpiece.

And here are the podcasts:

TLDNW: The Post

The phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) is for posts on the Internet that you want to know about but can’t be bothered to read. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2018 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

BONUS: This year, I’ve added bonus content baby! This year I will be reading each review in a podcast format if you don’t even time to READ. There will be a podcast of me reading each review and THEN a bonus podcast where I discuss the film with a fellow film friend.

TLDNW: 1 Word

2.5/4

Polished

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★½/★★★★

Spielberg proves yet again that he sure can make a movie that everyone goes to see and yet isn’t really all that good.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Two and a half out of Four Stars

What if Spotlight had been boring? That’s the question asked by Steven Spielberg’s latest phone-in The Post. The film tells the true story about The Washington Post and their decision to publish classified documents about the Vietnam War even after The New York times had been served a subpoena to cease and desists from the Nixon administration. How can this incredible story be boring you ask? Well Spielberg certainly tries.

Over the past decade Spielberg has made three types of films:

  • An interesting true story told in a very boring way PACKED with stars:
    1. Bridge of Spies
    2. Lincoln
    3. Munich
    4. Catch me if you can
    5. The Terminal
  • A children’s story reimagined in a way you never thought you needed (and probably didn’t)
    1. Tintin
    2. War Horse
    3. The BFG
    4. And coming soon! Ready Player One
  • A remake or a sequel that begs the question- why?
    1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
    2. War of the Worlds

Unfortunately The Post falls into the first category. There is technically nothing wrong with it. I can’t sit here and tell you that it has a bad script or bad acting or even bad directing, but it is so painfully cookie cutter that I lost interest right away. This is the trap I feel most of Spielberg’s films fall into and likely the reason I gave this movie 2 and half out of four stars anyway. It isn’t BAD it just isn’t GOOD.

I mean let’s dissect it a little. The main cast – Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are, of course, incredible. They haven’t been bad in anything in a long time (I’m going to overlook you for just a second A Hologram for the King). Yes, they’ve been in bad movies, but they are always undoubtedly the best part.

So good acting: Check.

The supporting cast consisting of Bradley Whitford, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemens, Zach Woods, Allison Brie, Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson (who should be in everything forever), Michael Stuhlbarg, Matthew Rhys, and … PULITZER PRIZE WINNING PLAYWRIGHT TRACY LETTS?! Are all good. I mean listen to that cast. If I had a TV show I would want that to be the cast forever and always. I mean wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity to be in a Spielberg movie?

So good supporting cast: Check.

The score is by John Williams: Check.

The one genuinely outstanding aspect of this film comes Liz Hannah and Josh Singer who manage to turn a lackluster film into something close to good with a really smart script. There are moments where characters are talking over one another. This gives a really interesting frenetic energy to otherwise boring scenes. It is perhaps the only aspect of this film that feels fresh.

And this, I think, is the fatal flaw of The Post. It’s so polished. It’s polished to death. There’s nothing fresh or gritty or interesting about it. It’s good film making, it’s just not interesting film making.

This is not to say that the message of the film isn’t incredibly timely. With the current American administration banning news sources from the White House and panning journalists left and right this film fits right into the counter narrative currently being written in the US. It’s just too bad that the film is boring – otherwise this message might actually have some impact.

And here are your podcasts: