TLDNW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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

Hard

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Frances McDormand struts her way across the screen and kicks you right in the crotch. I can’t believe the best picture winner uses the C-Word so much.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is not an easy film to watch. This is not to say that it isn’t one of my favourite movies of the year, just that it is not an entirely FUN movie. Not that best picture nominees should be fun to watch, and not that there shouldn’t be challenging films out there- just that in every sense of the word this movie is HARD. It’s hard to watch, and it’s about hard characters making hard decisions, and they’re living in a hard world.

The set up for Three Billboards is that a woman named Mildred (played perfectly by Frances McDormand, who will certainly garner her second Oscar for this role) buys the old billboards outside of her small town of Ebbing, Missouri to shame the police department for not solving her daughter’s rape and murder case fast enough. She calls out police Chief Willoughby (played thoughtfully and with incredible nuance by Woody Harrelson) who in turn is dying of cancer. She also has to deal with Willoughby’s bumbling officer Dixon (played perfectly by the, until now, criminally underrated Sam Rockwell). It is a convoluted plot to say the least but writer/director Martin McDonagh does not miss a beat.

Now there are two things that have been pressing my brain in regards to this movie. The first is something that I noticed while watching the film. This is that McDonagh has done something very few writers can do, which is give every one of his characters beautiful and deliberate arcs. Each character has depth, and internal conflict, and each one has to deal with hardship. No one character is static for the whole film and this is a feat very rarely achieved by a major motion picture. None of the characters are entirely good, or entirely evil. It is a film populated by massively complicated characters. Martin McDonagh has gone on record to say that this film is about moral ambiguity and hopes that the audience questions the actions of the characters.

This brings me to the other thing that has been pressing on my brain, something that I didn’t realize until much after watching the film– which is the racial tone deafness of the whole thing. Three Billboards has been panned recently because it gives far too much redemption to Sam Rockwell’s character. We learn early on that Dixon tortures black people that are in police custody – a certainly poignant issue in the world today. Racial tension with law enforcement officers is a major issue right now, and has been for a long time. So, to have a racist law enforcement character is no small action on McDonagh’s part. Where the film has fallen into a bit of trouble is that this choice, to have Dixon be a racist, is brushed over far too quickly. Sure, he’s called out for it a few times but overall his character is redeemed at least in the eyes of Mildred. Many have said that Dixon is a character that is too redeemed by the film. Helping this white lady with her problem has redeemed him in some way and not in the appropriate racial healing ways. He never gets his comeuppance for being a racist.

Here’s my point- and this is perhaps what McDonagh is referring to when he discusses moral ambiguity- Dixon isn’t actually redeemed by the film. You do not leave the theatre feeling like Sam Rockwell’s character is a hero. In fact, you don’t feel this way about any of the characters. This is the hardness of the film. McDonagh challenges us to ask what makes a good person? What does it mean to be redeemed? Three Billboards asks these questions of its audience, and I’m not so sure it gives us an answer. Just like the characters, the answers to these large questions of “what does it mean to be good, or bad”, are complicated. They are messy.

Now, I am not a person of colour and I can see how this film can certainly be a difficult watch for anyone facing the prejudices of the justice system – but I don’t think this film should be panned just for having difficult characters who have to deal with the hardness of the world and who are, at least in my eyes, not redeemed for their crimes.

Three Billboards is challenge, and funny, and difficult. It dares you to guess what’s going to happen next and then delivers a swift, Mildred Hayes, kick in the crotch.

And here are the podcasts:

Advertisements

TLDNW: Lady Bird

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

Charming

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Laurie Metcalf’s legacy. Greta Gerwig steps into the fray. Vowels Ronan’s best work yet. Wait, is that Lucas Hedges AND Timothee Chalamet – how many movies are they in this year?

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

The conversation surrounding Lady Bird began, I think, with the fact that it became the highest reviewed film on rotten tomatoes of all time – giving it a 100% rating. That number unfortunately has dropped now to 99% due to some reviewer who also gave Dunkirk an F- score, so can he really be trusted? The sentiment is still the same despite one dumb guy – Lady Bird is a universally loved film, and it is not hard to see why.

Here’s Lady Bird’s trick – it comes across and presents itself as a bit of a fluff film. It reads like a Romantic Comedy or even worse as a kitschy Hallmark film about a mother and daughter learning to love each other. I don’t think anyone who has seen this film would refer to it as a fluff piece but at first glance or by first synopsis one might assume that it is nothing more than Sunday afternoon Women’s network original. It is just beyond this fluff layer, which is so superficial it might as well be transparent, that a highly intricate, deeply thoughtful, beautifully crafted film comes to light. Lady Bird is secretly a tightly wound masterpiece. Every bit so perfectly laid that it has the appearance of something much lighter.

The first, and perhaps most prominent, piece of this machine is the stellar performances. Of course Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan lead the charge. Both actresses bring a grace to their performances that are as subtle as they are moving. With just a flick of an eyebrow or a cock of the head Metcalf makes moviegoers everywhere lean over to their neighbour and say “oh my gosh, that is exactly what my mom does”. It is unfortunate that Allison Janney (I, Tonya) is in the supporting actress fray this year or Metcalf would have the Oscar already. Saoirse Ronan has never been a slouch either, her Oscar-nominated performances in Atonement and Brooklyn are no small feathers in her cap and Lady Bird only confirms for me that she has a long career ahead of her. The supporting cast including PULITZER PRIZE WINNING PLAYWRIGHT Tracy Letts (?!?!), Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, and Jordan Rodrigues is outstanding.

There are plenty of other pieces to this film that work incredibly well – the cinematography, the score, the soundtrack, and the costumes aptly capture the look and feel of 2002 Sacramento – but it is the direction of Greta Gerwig that makes all these pieces fit together. I read a really great thread on Twitter the other day about how this film is secretly a masterpiece – and I’ll include it at the end of this article – but I would like to echo its sentiments. There has been some significant conversation about Gerwig being left out of directing nominations. Perhaps the most upsetting was the snub at the Golden Globes (where she was replaced by, barf, Ridley Scott). I think that the main reason she has been overshadowed by bigger presences like Guillermo Del Toro, Spielberg, and Christopher Nolan is because this film doesn’t LOOK like a technical marvel. Directing statues in the past have almost always gone to directors who seem to be dealing with large technical spectacles. The beauty and grace of Lady Bird is that it is just as intricate and technical as a larger production like The Shape of Water but in a much subtler way. Gerwig still stands among the giants in this category for capturing a mood and fostering performances that reflect this mood. That is why Lady Bird is such a quiet masterpiece- and also unfortunately why it will be criminally overlooked for Best Picture.

Lady Bird is a film that can make you laugh, and cry, and call your mom right after. It is also a film that has sat inside my brain since I saw it in December – a rare feat at this time of year. It is a quiet masterpiece that deserves our attention on every level.

Here’s the link to the podcasts:

Here’s that Twitter Thread:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>If you’re wondering why Greta Gerwig has been left off certain Best Director lists, I would say this is the kind of thinking that leads to such an outcome. <a href=”https://t.co/obE80G8O8s”>pic.twitter.com/obE80G8O8s</a></p>&mdash; Guy Lodge (@GuyLodge) <a href=”https://twitter.com/GuyLodge/status/951146729843372032?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 10, 2018</a></blockquote>
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

 

Oh My Dog: An Untitled Work of Fiction

Many months ago I started writing some fiction. It follows the horizontal line below. I didn’t know:

  • what I was doing;
  • actually, that’s it. I guess I didn’t need a list.

DISCLAIMER:

You might recognize commonalities between the text and my own life- that is intentional and very much a tribute to Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”. It’s one of my very favourite novels. The fact remains, however, that like TTTC this is a work of fiction. 

I choose to write about what I know. If the characters weren’t inspired by people I know or knew, they wouldn’t be inspiring to read. Nonetheless, the characters are fictional. Sorry for knowing me.


 featuredfield

Chapter 1:

Six feet cracked the frost beneath, Camus gasped like a tired, corroded engine as he pulled on his lead and Matt Berninger’s baritone humdrum bellowed in my ears. Camus was willing me forward, steering me from the suburban sidewalk and into the frost of the fields despite headwinds drawing his eyes shut and the taut nylon that choked at his marble marbled neck. He was bounding, shivering frantic. His eyes reddening, his ears listening, his every muscle twitching to go. Wilde Jagd.

Continue reading

TLDNW: La La Land

la-la-land-585c617a5f650

We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. 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 2017 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, because frankly most people are lazy.  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.

TLDNW: 1 Word

4/4

Alive

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Earnest. Sentimental. White. Bright. Emma Stone as alive and vibrant as she’s ever been. AND SHE’S ALWAYS BEEN VIBRANT.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

Hey. Shut the fuck up and listen. Do you not like fun? Is that it? Do you have some compulsion to hate things that other people like? Is that it? Do you just love to hate what people love? HUH?! IS IT COOL TO BE AWFUL?! Why do you hate this movie? Guess what idiot, you can like Moonlight and La La Land and no one will call you a racist or say you have a bad taste in movies. This is why I don’t like comparing movies on a ordinal scale – it deters from the idea that film can be equal in different ways. Moonlight is a gol-dang masterpiece and SO IS La La Land. You’re ALLOWED to like both of them. Do you think you’re COOL because you hate love and beauty? YOU AIN’T.

So just shut up about it already.

Yes, I admit that the film is pretty lacking in diversity of any kind and that a white guy trying to save jazz does not sound great as a sound bite – but I don’t care because this film was a passion project and it came to fruition in such a beautiful way.

So we cut to Damien Chazelle, the director of masterpiece and academy award winning film Whiplash. Whiplash was a relatively cheap film to make and proved that Chazelle knew how to direct. This film gave Chazelle the backing he needed to make a project he’s been working on for years and years. This is his baby. He is a lover of old cinema, and a director with heart and vision – something severe. ly lacking in Hollywood today – and made his dream come true.

So imagine being Damien Chazelle. Imagine working on a project for years and years and writing and directing and casting this piece you’ve been working on forever. Imagine hiring your college roommate to write the music and then having it PAY OFF. Imagine.

Okay, let’s talk about the movie. In a world filled with shitty remakes and reboots and film studios grabbing for money pandering to “sentimentality” or “nostalgia” La La Land succeeds. I’m talking Ghostbusters, Jurassic World, Trolls, Rogue One, Force Awakens, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, and any other awful blockbuster franchise that is so prevalent today. Not to say these movies aren’t FUN or ENTERTAINING, but they are JUST movies.

La La Land is not JUST a movie. It, unlike many musicals from the 30’s and 40’s (from which the film draws much of its inspiration), roots itself into reality. If you saw the clip of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) having dinner and placed it into a full drama you would believe it was a drama. The film does such a good job of pivoting from reality to fantasy – which I think is where the film succeeds. No one can say that Emma Stone was a bad ACTRESS in the film. Some argue she’s not a great singer (to which I say – listen to The Fools Who Dream a couple times and then a couple times more) but no one can argue that she absolutely crushes as an actor.

On top of the acting the film is a technical marvel. The editing is so perfect. The editors had to deal with giant musical numbers on freeways and tiny scenes set at an apartment piano. The challenge of making both scenes seem believable in this world is incredible. AND THE MUSIC. Writing a deeply realistic song set into the real world of the film and also a huge piano piece for dancing through the sky. It is perfect.

Others have criticizing for just copying old movies. To those people may I direct your attention to the tone-deaf and overly showy film Allied which copies the same formula (half of it takes place in Casablanca for f’s sake) and falls absolutely flat.

Anyway, all I’m saying is that we need to not see this film as whitewashing the Oscars (Moonlight was nominated for 8 Oscars) but as an artist’s vision. His vision was realized fully and perfectly.

Also, if you want to challenge me at the Oscar’s tonight just sign into the website with your Facebook! http://challenge.oscar.com/

TLDNW: Arrival

ARRIVAL-5.pngWe’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. 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 2017 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, because frankly most people are lazy.  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.

TLDNW: 1 Word

4/4

Human

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Inception horns. Lost in Translation… in SPACE! Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams’ best work since American Hustle! (woof)

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

People keep asking me if I liked Moonlight or La La Land better. Which film should win best picture? It’s the Batman Vs. Superman of the Oscars this year. Well my favourite is Arrival. While others are fighting over Batman verses Superman I’m amped about Wonder Woman. (Read Batman as La La Land, Moonlight as Superman and Wonder Woman as Arrival if you need a map to THAT metaphor).

And that is exactly what Arrival is – wonderful. I’m nervous about it though. I’m nervous that the point of the film has been missed. I’m nervous that it will, in history, be remembered as a flashy science fiction film and not a film about humanity. Moonlight and La La Land will be remembered for their humanity but Arrival will be remember for a great twist and a great score and a great cast but for its sci-fi-ness and not for its deeply affecting message about humanity. Not to say the film isn’t flashy. It has one of the best wide pans I’ve ever seen. Using the Jaws principal we don’t get to see the alien spacecraft until Villeneuve wants us to see it.

Well I’m here to help remedy that. This is also means there are spoilers ahead (like ending of the movie spoilers, so tread with caution if you haven’t seen this one yet).

Okay now that we’ve gotten rid of those LOSERS let’s get into it.

Arrival takes place in a not so distant future where twelve alien spaceships have landed on earth and for one hour a day they invite humans inside to speak with them. Enter Amy Adams’ Louise Banks, a linguist and loner, who must help decipher what the aliens want on earth. It is slowly revealed that understanding of the alien language also helps humans learn that time is non-linear and grants them a view at their own past and future. The whole time you’re watching the film you know there’s going to be a twist. You know there’s information that you don’t give you but Denis Villeneuve decides exactly when he wants you to know what’s going on. He is a master of the cinematic tease. But here’s the thing – the twist is a distraction. It distracted me and it’s certainly distracting others. The movie is better and bigger than the twist.

The film is about unity. The code that the aliens deliver to earth is split into twelve parts. The nations of the world have to combine their knowledge to understand the message. There is a particularly tense sequence (and might I say Villeneuve is the master of suspense even in a non-horror movie) where the Chinese government cuts contact with the rest of the world and other leaders follow suit and the realization washes over the audience that independent nations CAN’T do it alone.

In a time when the world is decisively divided this type of film is important. It asks the question, “what if our division is our downfall?” It places our uncertainty about the future of earth into such an extreme circumstance that it highlights important aspects of our nature as people. It says that we NEED each other.

As for the ending which people are upset about – a little “deus ex machina” for some – wouldn’t it make sense that the Chinese General also has an understanding of the language and can see the future and would see how it works out? This only strengthens the idea of humanity and empathy.

It is funny that a film with giant aliens is perhaps the most human of the year.

Trades Address Major Needs for the Toronto Raptors

The NBA’s trade season is officially over, and with that comes a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Toronto Raptors. After a hot start to the season, a brutal stretch beginning in January has the team closer to the middle of the pack than the front in the Eastern Conference playoff race. During this time, it had become increasingly clear from the team’s play that something had gone stale – a concerning turn of events for a group that not long ago sat within striking distance of the Cleveland Cavaliers. For a franchise that has enjoyed its greatest prolonged stretch of success in recent years, the sense of concern among fans and players alike was palpable heading into All-Star Weekend.

With these struggles in mind, Masai Ujiri and his Blackberry Passport tapped into the trade market and came away with some goodies. With last week’s trade for Serge Ibaka, and this afternoon’s buzzer-beating addition of P.J. Tucker, the Raptors front office came away with an enviable haul at a reasonable cost. Let’s take a look at the changes, and how they’ll theoretically affect the remainder of the season.

Continue reading

TLDNW: Hell or High Water

We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. 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 2017 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, because frankly most people are lazy.  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.

122709_widescreen

TLDNW: 1 Word

2½/4

Stark

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★½/★★★★

Ben Foster is underrated. Chris Pine is adequately rated. There is a scene with a waitress that might be the best scene of the year.

 

TLDNW: 500 Words

Two and a Half out of Four Stars

When I’m listing the best picture nominees Hell or High Water is always the one I forget. That is perhaps an indication of its prowess as a best picture nominee. Okay, I have some weird stuff I want to talk about with best picture nominees. From 1931-1943 there were up to ten best picture nominees and in 1944 they switched over to having only five nominees. This five-picture mentality stuck until 2009 when the academy decided to up the nominees to ten best picture nominees. Now if you’re going to switch things over 2009 is the year to do it. The nominees included: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, District 9, Inglorious Basterds, Precious, Up, Up in the Air (to name the best). Then for a few years there were ten, and then there were nine for a while, and then for the past little while they’ve only nominated eight. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING. YOU’RE SAYING SPENCER WHY THIS IS BORING. STOP.

Well this is my only platform so shuuuuut up. Here’s my main point. This year the academy switched back to nine nominees- why include this one? What was it about Hell or High Water that made the academy say “this year it’s nine guys!”? It seems a shame that films like Loving or Silence or the foreign masterpiece Elle would be excluded for a deeply forgettable film like Hell or High Water. Why break the trend to include nine, but not a tenth? It seems weird to stretch for this film but not others. I dunno, I’m cranky and they should just make up their minds. Either go down to 5 or nominate ten every year. PICK A NUMBER PEOPLE. Am I rambling? I’m rambling.

Anyway, Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) who rob banks or whatever and are followed by an aging/racist police officer (Jeff Bridges), I guess. It’s sort of feels like No Country for Old Man but isn’t nearly as slick. It feels like a weird extension of Crazy Heart but isn’t as heartfelt. It tries to be a bunch of other movies and isn’t very good on its own.

Okay, it has merit. It’s not a mess and it’s a lot more enjoyable than Fences and it’s not nearly as tone deaf as Hacksaw Ridge. It’s really well shot and Ben Foster gives a career best. The bleak Texas backdrop provides ample opportunity for symbolism and is there is a stark quietness to much of the film. There is a particular scene in a diner where a server accosts Jeff Bridges and his partner. It is one of the best scenes of the year. Margaret Bowman steals the whole movie. You can watch this scene here:

As great as this scene is- what does it say about your film when a scene stolen by a bit character outshines the whole thing?

Jeff Bridges does a great job as an old man (I guess the cowboy hat fits). It is strange to me, however, that there is Oscar buzz for him. There is one moving scene that he gives, but other than that it’s a pretty run of the mill performance. If anything Michael Shannon (who plays a very similar character) is closer to dethroning Mahershala Ali than anyone else.

Hell or High Water is not terrible, but it’s not great, and what’s worse is that it is deeply and unceremoniously forgettable. I left the theatre saying, “hey! That was pretty good!” and then immediately forgot about it. Which is one of the worst things a best picture nominee can be.