Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9345Post Garrett Gilchrist
Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:20 pm

Hope that doesn't break the world!

I'm happy for Marvel comics though.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9348Post Garrett Gilchrist
Fri Dec 15, 2017 6:48 am

Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri -- Frances McDormand as a grieving mother with an unfocused desire for revenge, Sam Rockwell as a dimwitted racist cop, and Woody Harrelson as the police chief with cancer. Strong performances carry a strange film in which the morality at play is more grey than black and white, where anger causes everyone involved to lash out in all the wrong ways, and eventually to find some common truth. Peter Dinklage also turns up.

The director is Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), and the British-Irish filmmaker sees Ebbings, Missouri as a fever dream of redneck America which never really rings true, despite a committed cast. These are violent, bigoted, backward characters who face no social consequences for their often wildly over the top actions, such as firebombing a police station or talking loudly about "(n-word) torturing." It feels more like the Wild West than polite society in 2017, although (speaking from experience) the real Missouri can seem like that at times.

The other women of the cast are also suspiciously young and pretty - an agent's list of rising stars including Samara Weaving and Abbie Cornish.

As a film this would be an easier sell in a year which hadn't given us a Donald Trump Presidency. In 2017, these exaggerated small-town rednecks (played by rich Hollywood stars) would also certainly be Donald Trump voters, and not the first people you'd want to see a movie about.

The film is tough to watch for any number of reasons.

In one scene John Hawkes assaults his ex-wife (Mcdormand) in her home, to be held back by his son (Lucas Hedges) holding a knife at his throat. This is seen as commonplace, and the moment fades within seconds. The film is full of such bad behavior, to the point where when Clarke Peters' police chief turns up, he seems to come from a different film entirely, one where actions have consequences.

I found myself wondering - is this how the outside world now sees America? As this primitive land of savages? It's rare to see a film about a mother grieving for her murdered child where we're not expected to be entirely on the mother's side. That may be a first. McDormand is a darker character than we expect, and the film gradually finds some humanity in Sam Rockwell's monstrously bigoted idiot of a cop. Both actors relish playing the shades of grey in their characters, and are worth the price of admission. They're likely to get some attention at awards time.

But these shades of grey come from a film without a clear sense of right and wrong, which presents bigotry and violent rage as a fact of life, and so it's a strange little beast of a film, albeit one which gradually won me over quite a bit. The end result is somewhere inbetween the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino - a slow burner which still burns the hell out of you.

It's not an easy watch but it's worth seeing.

Maybe this British/Irish filmmaker thinks it's fine and accurate to portray red-state small-town Americans as racist, violent cowboys, who don't face any consequences for being that way because this is normal there.

And maybe this is how the world at large sees Americans (or at least many Americans) now. And that's a shame but maybe it's deserved -- and an American filmmaker would have put in more context to show that the people there aren't "all like that" but that's just an apology.

The film contains racism but isn't about racism, and doesn't care about racism. I don't think an American filmmaker would have made this film with this lack of sensitivity. (Except Tarantino.) But there is sensitivity to how the characters are portrayed, and they are consistently interesting.

This isn't a journey where Sam Rockwell's cop becomes "good" -- I don't think McDormand is presented as "good" either, and the film doesn't make its mind up as to whether what they're doing is "good."

That is interesting.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9349Post Garrett Gilchrist
Fri Dec 15, 2017 9:22 pm

Weird continuity in one Shape of Water scene.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9356Post Garrett Gilchrist
Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:45 am

The Shape of Water (2017) - Excellent film. Sally Hawkins plays a mute cleaning woman at a government facility in 1962 who falls into a sexual relationship with an amphibious fish-like creature not unlike The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The overall tone is that of a gritty fairy tale for adults, familiar from Guillermo Del Toro's previous work.

I've never been a big fan of Del Toro, but I can easily understand why others are. His visually impressive and imaginative films are candy for nerdy film buffs, and they nearly work for me. Pacific Rim [2013] was a tale of giant, piloted mech robots taking on Godzilla-like kaiju monsters. Very anime, very video gamey, exciting but lacking in acting, story and character. Pan's Labyrinth was a dark, often horrific fairytale set in 1944 Spain, resembling something Jim Henson might have come up with but darker and much more depressing. The two Hellboy films were a visually-impressive take on Mike Mignola's comic books, with Ron Perlman perfectly cast as a demon fighting Nazis. Throw in 2015's Crimson Peak, Blade II, Mimic, and so on.

Certainly a master visual stylist working in films with horror elements. But Del Toro didn't direct any films between Hellboy 2 in 2008 and Pacific Rim in 2013. He has many producer credits, but for a good chunk of that he was working on the Hobbit films. When Peter Jackson decided to return as director, the production was restarted largely from scratch, and it shows in a rushed trilogy that didn't live up to The Lord of the Rings.

All beside the point. While I've been underwhelmed by Del Toro's films generally, he has earned his place as a respected director who should be making more films than he has been.

Doug Jones has managed to play a fish-man for Del Toro in Hellboy, Hellboy 2, Pan's Labyrinth, and now this one. Del Toro wrote the film with these actors in mind and it shows.

The film is not vast in scale by Del Toro's standards. It knows what it wants to achieve, and it achieves it.

Michael Shannon plays the antagonist, Strickland, continuing his long line of old-fashioned tough-guy FBI types. Shannon is intense, creepy and driven without being over the top in the way that another actor might have been.

Richard Jenkins plays Giles, a charming, aging gay artist who lives with Hawkins (a role written for Ian McKellen). Giles feels lost, as if he were born too early or too late to really be himself. While Del Toro tries to make these streets in 1962 seem a little bit magical, he also reminds us just how dangerous it was to be an "outsider" back then.

The whole cast are "outsiders" who take pity on the strange amphibious creature. Octavia Spencer's Zelda, a black woman cleaning up disgusting messes and underestimated both at work and at home. Michael Stuhlbarg's Bob, a scientist and Russian spy, caught between two countries - the USA and the USSR - who both want the creature dead, against his wishes.

And Sally Hawkins' Elisa, mute since she was a child, and longing to be loved. As a cleaning lady Elisa and her life seems ordinary and drab, but then tapping into something elegantly beautiful and sensual. She has a sexual relationship with a fish-man, and it absolutely works onscreen.

And that takes a strong directorial mind, with keen control over tone.

It would have been easy to screw this up, to make it too weird. Instead it's just weird enough.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9361Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Dec 19, 2017 5:08 am

The Post arrived in the post today, so here's a full list of the Oscar screeners that have arrived here so far. More reviews coming soon.

Movies noted with an asterix I've already seen and (mostly) reviewed. I've also included films I saw on the big screen recently, noted with a plus sign.

All the Money In the World +
The Post
Phantom Thread
Molly's Game
Lady Bird
Wonder Wheel (Woody Allen, so no)
War for the Planet of the Apes
The Shape of Water *
Star Wars: The Last Jedi +
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri *
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Big Sick
Coco +
I, Tonya *
Baby Driver *+
Logan *
First They Killed My Father
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
The Lego Batman Movie *
Get Out *
City of Ghosts
Battle of the Sexes *
Captain Underpants
Despicable Me 3
Boss Baby
The Fate of the Furious
Wonder Woman *+
Cars 3
Beauty and the Beast *+
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 *+

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9362Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Dec 19, 2017 5:20 am

Attended the premiere of All the Money in the World.

In nine days, Ridley Scott and Christopher Plummer have managed to film one of the great performances of the year. Getty is a memorable miser, with charm but no soul.

Michelle Williams delivers a very smart performance.

Full review in a moment. ... miere.html

In attendance - the main cast and Ridley Scott. I also walked by Taika Waititi, Christopher Lloyd and I think Luke Wilson, among others.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9364Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:40 am

I attended the premiere of All the Money in the World.

In nine days, Ridley Scott and Christopher Plummer have managed to film one of the great performances of the year. Half the film has been reshot in a mad rush at very short notice, but you'd never know it from the finished product, which is a solid, assured piece of drama from a team of seasoned pros, and grounded by Michelle Williams' intelligent lead performance. Anyone hoping for a trainwreck is met instead with an ordinary film, and a good one at that.

As played by Christopher Plummer, J. Paul Getty, the billionaire oil tycoon, is a memorable miser, charming at first, with a twinkle in his eye and no empathy in his soul. He has all the money in the world but argues over every penny. It's appropriate that this is a Christmas release, because Dickens would have recognized Ebenezer Scrooge in him. He has so much money that it poisons everything and everyone around him. He lives in his own world and can do what he likes, but it's dangerous to get too close to him.

When we first meet Michelle Williams as Gail Harris, she's young and has a spark of life about her. They don't have a lot of money, but she has a husband, children, and love in her life. Exposure to the Getty family fortune ruins her husband, the junior Getty (Andrew Buchan) entirely. He loses himself in drugs, a life which also has no good effect on her son, Paul the third, who the elder Getty takes a liking to. The young Paul is played by young Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher. Charlie was a runner-up for the role of Spider-man, and you can see why.

Money hardens Gail too, as much as she tries to distance herself from the Getty world. Michelle Williams plays Gail with an upper-class accent. She's all business, or tries to be, reserving her emotions behind walls of steel that she hasn't quite closed all the way. Her voice is a very period-film choice that doesn't entirely work. It makes her performance seem more than a bit mannered and false (and it's unnecessary, judging from footage of the real Gail Harris). But otherwise, as our lead character, Williams strikes no false notes. She plays the role with sharp intelligence and relatable emotion. It's not hard to see why Williams has four Oscar nominations, and overall the performance works well enough to carry the film.

Mark Wahlberg is solid enough as Fletcher Chase, a former spy working on Getty's behalf, and trying to figure out what makes the old man tick. It's a typical Wahlberg performance. Not that interesting, but not out of place either. He's believable as a tough-guy security agent, and it's enjoyable to see him gradually size up the elder Getty, trying to understand him, losing all respect for him, and finally standing up to him.

Based - a bit loosely - on the true story, Getty's grandson - Gail's son - is kidnapped in Rome, and the culprits demand 17 million dollars. A standoff ensues when Getty, with assets in the billions, refuses to pay. For Gail, it's a living hell as she's left on her own, without any of the money the kidnappers believe she has. And they won't keep her son alive and intact long.

Romain Duris is also a standout cast member as Cinquanta, one of the kidnappers, who ends up in over his head with the mafia. He's curiously sympathetic - or is that just Stockholm Syndrome?

The film makes a clear comparison between the Italian mob and Getty's fortune - about how their vast wealth, earned through sheer ruthlessness and disregard for human life - is an incredible success which poisons everything and everyone around them. And how when real lives are at stake, the demands of big business (and legal tax evasion) are incompatible with any emotion we'd recognize as human.

We see, eventually, what the elder Getty struggled with his whole life. In his mind, money ruins people all around him. But he's also a terrible person, ruining lives in a very personal way. He's introduced as the kind of billionaire who will wash his own underwear to save a dime or two. And family means nothing if it's not tax deductible.

Much of the credit here must go to a very good screenplay by David Scarpa, based on the book by John Pearson. Ridley Scott is known as a master visual stylist, but this being a crime drama set in Rome in 1973, there's nothing in this film that requires his visual touch. As he explained when introducing the film, he knew when reading this script that it simply had to get made, and that he might as well do it. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski does a straightforward job with visuals so clean you could eat off them. Nothing fancy, but the film imbues Getty's opulent mansion, Rome's cobblestone streets and also its private worlds of organized crime with an equal sense of menace.

But let's get this out of the way. As originally filmed, edited and completed, the film costarred Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty.

While attending the premiere at the Academy, it occurred to me that the last film I'd seen there was Baby Driver, which also costarred Spacey. Life comes at you fast. Spacey's long career was undone quite suddenly this November, after actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Spacey made a sexual advance toward him in 1986, when Rapp was just 14 years old. Soon afterward, more than twenty men came forward with similar allegations, suggesting a long and consistent pattern of behavior by Spacey. He was one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Revealed as a sexual predator, his career vanished overnight.

This left Ridley Scott in a very bad position. Scott had hoped to win Oscars with All the Money in the World. The film was releasing on Christmas day, and suddenly no one wanted to see it.

In an unprecedented move, Scott announced that he would be reshooting all of Spacey's scenes with Christopher Plummer, who had apparently been Scott's first choice for the role. Scott didn't change the release date, and would rush to complete the film in record time.

Spacey had played the role in heavy makeup and prosthetics, and is nearly absent from the first trailer, his appearance held back as a surprise.

Spacey turned 58 this July. Plummer, at age 87, was a more natural fit for the role of 80 year old J. Paul Getty, requiring no age makeup. Plummer didn't watch Spacey's performance, and approached the role in his own way, with little time to prepare.

I'm told that there is still a shot or two of Kevin Spacey in the film. Perhaps it's two shots of Getty with the very young Paul, shot from behind as they visit the ruined world of Emperor Hadrian, which seem to appear in both the Spacey and Plummer trailers. But overall the film shows no signs of the reshoot rush.

Early in the film there are brief, CGI-filled scenes of a younger J. Paul Getty, starting in 1948 as he amasses his great fortune as an oil tycoon. Plummer's hair is darker, but otherwise he doesn't look younger than his 87 years. I would say that the younger Kevin Spacey would have been more convincing in these scenes, except that we've seen the trailers and Spacey's makeup is distracting.

Despite the unusual circumstances, Plummer approaches the role with a natural ease, as if all of this were meant to be all along. Judging from his memoirs, Plummer is hardly a saint himself but he's also a screen legend who is right for this role.

It's hard to imagine that Spacey was half as good in the part. We may or may not ever find out.

What we do know is that Ridley Scott, Christopher Plummer, and the whole cast and crew reshot half of this movie in nine days, and you would never know looking at the finished product, which is seamless. And despite the mad rush, the whole situation seems to have improved the film significantly.

That takes the skill of a team of veteran pros. And that's something you can't fake with all the money in the world.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9365Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:19 am

Some thoughts about the earlier Kevin Spacey trailer. Take these with a grain of salt as this is from memory and I'd have to actually check them against the finished film with Plummer.

The tone of the Spacey trailer - slower, with "Time of the Season" - represents the final film better than the more action-y, over the top Plummer trailer. The Plummer trailer has lots of misleading editing and borders on ridiculous to turn a drama into an actioner.

In the Spacey trailer, there is a scene of "young" Getty in the desert, 1948. A similar scene appears with Plummer (looking quite old) in the final film.

There's a scene of Spacey and his grandson as a child, walking in Rome. Two shots of them from behind look like they still appear in the final film. That is, Spacey probably appears in the final film in these two shots.

The sequence, however, continues with Plummer and has a different, brighter look from the Spacey version. (I think a shot of the Spacey "ruins" still appears in the Plummer trailer, not sure if it's in the film.)

I don't recall the scenes of Gail reading her son's diary, of young Paul looking at the Spacey bust, Gail playing in some curtains, or various shots of Spacey and Chase watching women's tennis .... or a few others, but I'd have to check the actual film as my memory wouldn't be 100%.

This plays up how exciting it can be to be part of Getty's world. So this might have been different with Spacey, and replaced by the minotaur and skeet shooting scenes.

Don't recall the shot of moneycounters either, which is similar to a scene with the mob toward the film's end, but it makes it into both trailers.

So do the reclining tennis ladies.

There is a shot of Gail, where I think she's looking at the Spacey bust, and it's still in the final film (with a Plummer bust).

There's a shot of Gail getting up from a table with Spacey and his lawyers, which to me resembles the final film.

There's a shot of Spacey and Chase unveiling a model of his California villa. There's a similar scene in the film with Plummer. The Plummer trailer shows Wahlberg still wearing his coat in this scene with Plummer only, and Spacey unveils the villa with more bravado.

Spacey's scene of being informed about the kidnapping resembles the Plummer version.

There's a scene of Spacey looking at a priceless painting. Plummer has the same scene but in the same "mansion" set as many of his other scenes.

Chase says "... need to pay the ransom" and Spacey, who had been cleaning a rifle, pounds his fist. The staging with Plummer is a bit different but Wahlberg is staged the same, sitting in a chair. He has glasses in the Spacey trailer, not in the Plummer trailer, but it's not impossible that footage was reused. Either way the scene was reshot similarly.

Spacey at the end of the trailer, says he would pay "nothing" for Paul, to a big crowd of reporters. Plummer's scene is roughly identical and I believe uses the same footage of the reporters. Plummer's performance, however, is different - he turns on the charm, smiling for the cameras.

Someone on Twitter has pointed out that a wide shot, through a window, of Spacey talking to the gathered reporters also appears in the Plummer film. The reshot scene only involved a closeup on Plummer if memory serves.

I don't think they reshot the final shot of the trailer at all, where Spacey walks away with the reporters in the background.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9366Post Garrett Gilchrist
Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:24 pm

I see a lot of complaints about "fans" when nerdy guys on the internet are being shitty, and people say that a fantasy film shouldn't be "for the fans," as if that makes it nerdy and inaccessible.

An adaptation or continuation of a property should usually be "for the fans" in some way. The difference with Star Wars is that it was the most popular film series in history, and most people are "fans" enough to have a certain passion for it. You can make a Star Wars film that is "for the masses" and also "for the fans" because that's a very close Venn diagram.

"For the fans" in this case is not something I'm defining as "making the film for a small audience of internet complainers." At its best, the idea of "for the fans" means that the filmmakers have a passion for the property they're adapting or continuing, and understand why fans like it. In the case of Deadpool, it was a passion project for all involved, who were able to capture the very specific tone they were looking for, which made the movie work.

"For the fans" is often said with contempt, as if that means focusing on details that don't really matter and missing the point of the larger picture. That can be true - a filmmaker should be ready to discard what's unimportant and get across the heart of a character and franchise. But seeing that larger picture requires a passion for the franchise generally. Sam Raimi could change a lot about Spider-Man and express his own style, because he'd gotten across what people like about the character. That requires a certain level of "fandom" to begin with, to not have contempt for the material. Getting the minor character of J. Jonah Jameson right was surprisingly crucial to making Raimi's Spider-man work. That adds up. Sometimes the details really do add up to the whole - as we've learned from Marvel's films.

Lord of the Rings was absolutely "for the fans" - done with a deep love for all the lore of Tolkien's books. Decisions were made early on to make Lord of the Rings more "Hollywood" but a lot of those were reshot or de-emphasized by the time Fellowship was finished - Jackson removed stuff like having Aragorn swordfight with Sauron, and brought in more and more of the original text. Certainly the extended trilogy is, for the most part, a love letter to the tone of Tolkien's work in all its glorious detail. The Hobbit trilogy, on the other hand, is rushed, expanded, and Hollywood-ed up. It's more Jackson repeating himself than Jackson giving a careful read of Tolkien, and it's not the same.

In the case of Doctor Who or Star Trek and the like, there's a fan audience that maybe wants to see an old monster from the 60s come back, or references to the past. But really they want to be entertained in the way that good Doctor Who and Star Trek stories have in the past, and that's the important thing. Both properties now drop references to the past but have a very different tone (which doesn't always work). The important question is whether or not a story works as entertainment.

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Re: Movie Thread: The Dissection Room

Post: # 9374Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sun Dec 24, 2017 5:26 am

Between The Post and All the Money in the World, we need to have a ban on good actors doing goofy affected upper-class accents in quality Oscarbait films until we find out what's going on here ... or maybe only rich people are supposed to be watching these things ...

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