The Film Fix – January
The Film Fix – January 2018
By: Jonathan W. Hickman
What to Binge: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (January 5) – Jerry Seinfeld’s award-winning talk show takes a unique approach by placing Jerry in an assortment of odd cars while he chats with fellow comedians and his celebrity friends about their craft and life. This is a pick-it-up-and-put-it-down type show that you can join in at any point in any season.
What Movie to Watch: The Force (January 29) – This festival favorite documentary makes its debut on Netflix this month. Shot in Oakland, California, documentarian Peter Nicks follows police officers as they patrol the violent streets.
What Movie to Avoid: Wild Hogs (January 14) – This film is just awful. The impressive cast includes Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, John Travolta, William H. Macy, and Ray Liotta. The result is a weak comedy road picture about some wannabe bikers who do battle with a gang. Wince-inducing…
What to Binge: The Path (Season 3 Premiere January 17) – Hulu’s original series starring “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul is worth checking out. This well-made and acted show sucked me in for season one. The story has a man experiencing a crisis of faith and converting to a controversial following. Michelle Monaghan and Hugh Dancy, also, star.
What Movie to Watch: Cube (January 1) All three “Cube” films will be streaming on Hulu this month, but the first one is the best. Years before “Saw,” filmmaker Vincenzo Natali’s scary and fascinating “Cube” was a break-out low budget hit. The film concerns six strangers that wake up imprisoned in a futuristic room (perfectly square, hence, the name “Cube”). If they do not make their way from one room to another, they will be killed by horrifying traps. But as much as the traps threaten, the real danger may be from within themselves.
Others worth watching: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Frank, and Secretary.
What Movie to Avoid: 10 to Midnight – Several Charles Bronson pictures are available this month on Hulu and other platforms, and 1983’s “10 to Midnight” in indicative of the downward slide of the tough guy actor’s career in the 1980s. This one is particularly grizzly, and back then, Roger Ebert started his review by calling it “a scummy little sewer of a movie.”
What to Binge: Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams: Season 1 – Given the success of Netlfix’ anthology series “Black Mirror” (season 4 of which is on Netflix now), Amazon gets into this game with this series of stand-alone stories inspired by the writings of the late Philip K. Dick (who wrote the source material for “Blade Runner”). Count me in.
What Movie to Watch: Capote – Filmmaker Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”) made his narrative feature debut with this wonderful take on famous writer Truman Capote. Of course, it helped that the lead was played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won the best actor Oscar. The story tightly focuses on Capote’s process when researching and writing the novel “In Cold Blood.” Catherine Keener (“Get Out”) plays Capote’s assistant Harper Lee.
What Movie to Avoid: Cool World – Director Ralph Bakshi is an animation pioneer. “Fritz the Cat” in 1972 was followed by several other relative successes like “The Lord of the Rings” in 1978. But “Cool World” was one of his attempts to bridge the gap between straight animation and live action. After the relative failures of “American Pop” in 1981 and “Hey Good Lookin’” in 1982, you can blame “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for a studio green lighting “Cool World.” This messy film, the director’s last theatrical feature, is possibly only of interest for the pairing of a young Brad Pitt with Kim Basinger, who voices the shapely animated creation Holli Would.
“Phantom Thread” is a film for a very narrow audience. While this character study of a renowned 1950s London dressmaker has many comedic moments, I’d hardly consider it a comedy. The drama that is “Thread” focuses on major fashion player Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), who with his no-nonsense sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) attempts to stay relevant in a constantly evolving competitive marketplace. The siblings’ delicate balance is upset when the eccentric Reynolds takes on a mistress (later his partner and muse), a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). Essentially targeted at fans of the director Paul Thomas Anderson (see “Magnolia” and “There Will Be Blood”), the film is gorgeous, but, at times, a laborious struggle.
Steven Spielberg teams again with Tom Hanks (they last worked together on 2015’s “Bridge of Spies”) to tell the story how the Washington Post’s Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), the nation’s first female major newspaper publisher, fought President Nixon and the government over the leaked Pentagon Papers. Streep is very special here, so, look for her to be in the discussion for best actress. “The Post” should compete in many Academy Award categories, but sadly given the current push for new voices and edgier story-telling, Spielberg’s old-fashioned way of doing things won’t likely result in any wins.
Exhausting but well-written and acted, “Molly’s Game” is Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directing debut. Based on the book by the real Molly Bloom, the story has former Olympic skier, Molly (Jessica Chastain), moving from the competitive world of skiing to the illegal and elicit game of high stakes poker. When she’s busted by the FBI, Molly turns to attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) for representation.
As a introduction to Sorkin’s directing abilities, “Molly’s Game” is more than adequate. But it stands as a typical example of his often wonderful, yet, overwrought screenplays. Here, presumably because Sorkin is at the helm, there was no one to tell him to throttle back. What worked for him with the excellent and Oscar-winning “The Social Network” becomes overwhelming here. Still, there’s a lot of like in the film, especially Chastain and her chemistry with Elba.
Jonathan’s list of the year’s ten best films
Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan’s WWII historic epic is a triumph of form and substance.
The Florida Project – A film that literally oozes with authenticity that is often painful to watch, which makes for a firm but fair depiction. And it’s pretty magical too.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – In a year in which Christopher Nolan played marvelously with structure and Aaron Sorkin tried his hand at both writing and directing, it could be argued that the writing in Three Billboards is the best of the best.
The Post – One of the year’s most important films.
The Square – A foreign film that bites hard on social mores exposing the inherent hypocrisy associated with some of the loudest voices sounding the political correctness alarm.
Call Me By Your Name – One of the year’s most controversial films might also be one of the most romantic.
The Shape of Water – No film looked better than Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” in 2017. A wonderfully dark, adult fairy tale, director del Toro (Hellboy) ventures back to his best work namely 2006’s perfect “Pan’s Labyrinth” delivering a true awards contender.
I, Tonya – What is truth? Director Craig Gillespie’s arguably revisionist but immensely entertaining “I, Tonya” takes a look at one of darkest scandals in sport leading up to the 1994 Olympics.
Get Out – Topping the Southeastern Film Critics Association and Atlanta Film Critics Circle lists, “Get Out” could quite realistically be named best picture at the 2018 Academy Awards. This hugely entertaining horror social satire from comedian turned director Jordan Peele is a blistering comment on race in America.
Blade Runner 2049 – While “The Shape of Water” is clearly one of the best looking films of 2017, “Blade Runner 2049” should be considered for best cinematography for thirteen-time Oscar nominee, Roger Deakins. Director Denis Villeneuve delivers a narratively interesting and provocative science fiction epic.
(Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor and novelist. Find out more at https://filmproductionlaw.com)