2015 Archives - Page 3 of 24 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
1Mar/160

Trumbo (2015)

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With the Red Scare in full swing, Donald Trumbo, prominent screenwriter, and his Communist allies stage careful protests arguing for their First Amendment rights.  But as the public sways more against their favor, Trumbo has to abandon his public life to serve Hollywood from a less conspicuous perch.  Jay Roach directs Trumbo from a screenplay written by John McNamara and stars Bryan Cranston.

Unintimidated by the suitsTrumbo's director, Jay Roach, has as nondescript a style as they come in Hollywood.  Roach began his career directing Mike Myers as Austin Powers in all three of the Powers films, then transitioned to making lightweight political films like Recount and Game Change.  If his movies were bad, he'd have the same reputation as Brett Ratner.  But since they're frequently ok, or hinge entirely on the appeal of his stars, he's mostly existed on the sidelines of Hollywood.

As someone who already has to remind himself what movies Roach has done, Trumbo will do little to make his name or style a sticking point in my memory.  Trumbo is as bland and unoriginal as biopics come.  It also had the unfortunate timing to be released about the same time as Bridge of Spies which, while Bridge was just a decent flick, showed creative flair incorporating Cold War criticism into American and Soviet propaganda.

27Feb/160

Clenching the Nomination – Room

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Andrew discusses the scene in Lenny Abrahamson's Room that he thinks secured the film's Best Picture nomination. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2016 here.

Clenching RoomWith all due credit to the technical mastery of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, neither of those films is my favorite of the Best Picture nominees.  That honor goes to Room, which is not only my favorite, but the only one which I love from top to bottom.  Room convinced me director Lenny Abrahamson is some kind of whimsical genius.  He goes into a realm of fantasy Tim Burton used to specialize in, but Abrahamson's films defy easy labels like Burton's suburban gothic aesthetic.  In both Room and Frank, catharsis doesn't come easy, and there are no spirits who can be stirred to help the protagonists.

The only way out is in.  With Frank, that means letting the titular musician reclaim his spot as the leader of his crew of misfits.  For Room, that means telling the truth as another fable.  Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) has been telling stories to her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) ever since he was born.  The television, faucet, stove, window - all aspects of the room they live in have a history.  Joy creates an origin fable which explains how she and Jack came to be in Room, how the angel came through the window and put Jack in mommy's tummy, and we see that these tales she spun for Jack are how she kept her sanity in this prison.

26Feb/160

Clenching the Nomination – Spotlight

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Andrew discusses the scene in Tom McCarthy's Spotlight that he thinks secured the film's Best Picture nomination. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2016 here.

Clenching SpotlightThe emotional peak of Tom McCarthy's movies don't involve a lot of dialogue.  In The Station Agent it comes from indistinct muttering and stares, The Visitor peaked with passionate drum music and no words, and Win Win's came from silent comfort offered in a locker room.  This remains true in Spotlight, where the full ethical and emotional weight of the reporting team's investigation into the Catholic Church comes bearing down on the reporters.

The pivotal moment of Spotlight comes in the middle of its run-time.  The Spotlight team is huddled around a speakerphone, listening intently to a psychotherapist provide input on their investigation on sexual assault committed by priests.  McCarthy makes an interesting choice here, beginning with the shot on a closeup of the phone, then dollying back slowly to show one team member after another crowded around the camera.

26Feb/160

Clenching the Nomination – The Martian

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Andrew discusses the scene in Ridley Scott's The Martian that he thinks secured the film's Best Picture nomination. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2016 here.

Clenching The MartianScience as a popular subject has been making a roaring comeback over the last few years.  We have a whole slew of new television and internet personalities who love talking about science as much as they love entertaining.  The notes of condescension the horrific New Atheist movement brought to international discourse have been largely discarded in favor of friendly scientists.  There's a note of optimism around science and new discoveries I haven't felt in a long time, and it gives me hope that we are progressing in the right direction as a country.

The success of Ridley Scott's The Martian is more a byproduct of our "Yay for science!" moment than fuel for it.  It boasts a compelling and mostly solo performance from Matt Damon, a lot of science chat delivered by a slew of excellent character actors, and varied direction from Scott to keep the one performer focus fresh.  The most popular line, by far, to emerge from The Martian's success is when Mark Watney (Damon) says that, in order to survive, "I'm going to have to science the shit out of this."

It's an amusing line but reads, and is performed, more like a zinger to an internet audience than a declaration of the power of science.  The moment where The Martian really clicked in with me is a moment of humility communicated in a briefer line.  Roughly thirty minutes into The Martian, Watney has created a small farm in his cramped living quarters.  The labor which went into creating the farm goes through a number of stylistic turns from Scott.  Watney is seen as a glitch from the tracking issues of the Mars base cameras, he's filmed in a time lapsed states while he works on the farm, and - in a shot straight out of Looney Tunes - emerges smoking and scarred from his attempt to light hydrogen to produce water.

25Feb/160

Clenching the Nomination – Mad Max: Fury Road

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Ryan discusses the scene in George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road that he thinks secured the film's Best Picture nomination. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2016 here.

Clenching Fury RoadI felt like cheating with Mad Max: Fury Road and stating that the WHOLE movie as a single piece is the reason it was nominated.  I still believe that is the truth because it is amazing that the film, directed by a man in his 70’s, can move like this and still make total sense. It is a feat that should be celebrated that a 2-hour car chase movie also has character development, a clear plot and it is an adrenaline rush but it does and it is.

That would make me job too easy and this piece way too short.  I also wanted to say anytime the guitar player Doof Warrior showed up as a reason Fury Road was nominated for Best Picture, but that would have been if I was voting.  In the end, I think the scene that seals it for this movie is right after the 2nd act turn when the main characters are at their lowest point and decide to race back to the citadel.