Sunday, January 31, 2016

CAROL!



The SAG awards gave Carol Burnett a Lifetime Achievement Award last night, and it was wondrous perfection.

Even Christian Bale smiles for Carol.


Jane Got a Gun (2016)






Oh, man. You know I love westerns.

With its isolated, "under siege" setting and climatic all-out battle, Jane Got a Gun delivered on some of my most personally favorite classic Western components--while also including a fair amount of revisionist storytelling. And Mandy Walker's work as cinematographer (one of the most essential parts of any western) is fantastic.

Here's the bad news. The film is not without its problems, in many ways related to its script: most particularly the aggressively mediocre dialogue. It is difficult to evaluate the film without acknowledging the extremely tumultuous route it took to finally make it to the screen. It lost its director, Lynne Ramsay as shooting was to begin. And, that was a definite loss. Gavin O'Connor is an fine director, but I would have preferred to see Ramsay's vision for the film--especially in relation to the character of Jane. Similarly, there was a huge amount of actor shuffling--literally within days of each other. First, Michael Fassbender was to play the role of Jane's ex-lover/current gun-slinging helper, and Joel Edgerton was to play the bad guy. Then, Fassbender had to drop out and Edgerton hopped over to the hero side, while Jude Law took over as bad guy. Then, Law dropped out and Bradley Cooper joined. Literally three days later, Cooper dropped out, and Ewan McGregor was offered the part the day before shooting.

And, because, Ewan literally makes like 8 films a year just for the fun of it, he was all up for that:


Note: How is one person that charming? Comes off a tad ridiculous and unnecessary to be that delightful, Ewan. SHEESH.

Anyway, the production stress does come through in the film (other key crew members also left with Ramsay), and the script was rewritten a few times. Even poor Joel Edgerton got a screen-writing credit.

All that to say, that I still quite enjoyed the movie. I was a little ambivalent on the flashbacks, and even more uncomfortable with Jane being given a backstory of rape--for the seemingly sole purpose to make her more sympathetic. It was in terms of this story that I think Ramsay could have handled much better, or perhaps had more control over the script. I don't know?


That cast though. Of all the actors who cycled through (and I really like some of them), the correct combination was in the final film. Natalie Portman (an actor I don't always care for) was perfect in tone and performance. Her character was above all resilient, and she played that well--giving nuance and depth that wasn't necessarily in the script (and certainly not in the dialogue). What follows in the film after the still below is gloriously fierce and satisfying, and not a moment that female western protagonists are often allowed:


I am so glad that Joel Edgerton switched from the bad guy role to the conflicted anti-hero (ain't no flawless white hat heroes in westerns anymore), because although he is always good at straight-up villains, I really enjoyed his performance here. It's the classic "lacks purpose and driven to alcoholism because life is unfair and he doesn't have anyone to love, but he's gonna get it together one last time" character. It shouldn't work. And I was really not having his character's pity-party pettiness/possessive attitude, until a subtle--but key--moment when he tells Jane that he will listen to her "story." Also, if I'm being honest, I wanted Noah Emmerich dead the entire movie, because Joel Edgerton's sad face GETS ME.


The man has the most effective tears--second only to Omar Sharif! 
 
Side note:
Exhibit A: Joel (and Tom Hardy) as bros who fight & cry; fight & cry in Warrior.

And, there was Ewan. Blessed Ewan. This dork got his hair dyed jet black and had the most clearly evil mustache I have seen in ever so long.

Half the time, it was impossible to tell it was Ewan. He never usually plays anything quite so evil, and it was clear that he was thoroughly enjoying the entire process. Similarly, his charisma perfectly suited the character--especially as he played off of his gang members: always so far ahead of them in thought and intention and impatiently waiting for them to catch up. It's clear from the start that he is unequivocally evil (he is introduced torturing a man for information) as a wanted murderer and trafficker of vulnerable women and girls, but there is still something about Ewan's performance that hints at greater complexities and shades to his character (which is not at all expressed in the script). 

Also, bless this movie. Because, through it, we got this gloriously horrifying paparazzi shot of Ewan:

I certainly condemn the paps for stalking poor Ewan! That's not cool! But, this photo though. 

But, I digress.

In summary:

I do recommend this film, but possibly more to genre fans who have a fluent understanding of westerns and are able to overlook some mediocre elements. Because, that climatic firefight (and I do mean FIREfight) was definitely worth it; as is Jane's grandest moment of maternal rage. Also worth it: a moment that subverted the white knight rescuer idea; the confident final scene; Joel Edgerton's sad face and/or magical tears; Ewan's evil mustache that may have been cackling on its own at one point; and the gorgeous and amazing camera work by Mandy Walker.







P.S. Won't anybody think of Poor, Sad Joel (tm)?!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Millie's 15* Faves of 2015

 *I am terrible at making lists and limiting myself, etc etc; this list will include 20 films! SURPRISE BONUS CONTENT!



I did post this list on Facebook like two weeks ago, so apologies to people who have already seen it and didn't care the first time (jokes on you! mwahaha). It just took me 8 years to get around to writing it up here (with added commentary! oooh!). I will post the same caveats that I posted there:

These are not GREATEST, they are personal favorites. Also, this is by no means exhaustive--as I have a long list of films still to see (a few key films in particular that I could easily imagine jumping this list). Also, it was recently made known to me that I talk about Ben Whishaw too much.That might be true as he is represented on this list four times. GREATEST ACTOR OF HIS GENERATION. Finally, release year is determined by American theatrical or festival release (edit: or shenanigans re: The Lobster)
I also want to comment on the lack of female directors with only Sarah Gavron's inclusion. I did see many films by women this year, but missed many more that I still need to see (Examples include Girlhood, Breathe, and Mustang). I am committed to highlighting women in film, so the relative lack on this list is embarrassing to me (again making note that this list is purely personal favorites and not films considered greatest; although there certainly is some overlap). With that in mind, I recommend checking out Marya's list of favorite films of 2015 (all female-directed). 

OKAY.

For honorable mentions, I have two short animated films that honestly were two of the best films of the year for me--long or short.  Мы не можем жить без космоса {We Can't Live Without Cosmos} directed by Konstantin Bronzit has stuck with me ever since I saw it this fall as part of the Animation Show of Show's theatrical roadshow. Gorgeous and lovely and absolutely heartbreaking. I don't think it is currently available to watch online, but if/when it does become available, I'd certainly recommend. The second film is The World of Tomorrow by director Don Hertzfeldt. You may have heard about this one (and it is currently available for streaming on Netflix!), and has been the clear front-runner for an Oscar since before the nominations were even announced: the hype is real. Completely impossible to explain the plot, I adore it.

On to long (sometimes too long) films [note that there may be mild spoilers, but nothing detrimental to viewing]:

20. Amy dir. Asif Kapadia

I would say wonderfully empathetic documentary, but that adverb seems wrong. Perhaps, painfully empathetic is more clear. Amy Winehouse's life is portrayed largely through home video, live performances, and paparazzi footage. By simply allowing Amy's life to more fully portrayed than any late-night jokes or tabloid cover stories ever could, Asif Kapadia creates a full and complicated picture of Amy.

Favorite moment: Amy recording with Tony Bennett, her idol.

19. Victoria dir. Sebastian Schipper


This one has certainly had mixed feedback: with a lot of it falling on either LOVED IT or HATED THIS ABOMINATION FROM HELL WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE COOL FOR USING THAT TERRIBLE ONE -TAKE GAHHHHHHHHHH!

I loved it. I get the annoyance at the one-take, or the feeling that it covers for a simplistic story. But, for me, that wasn't the point. This is a two and a half hour German crime tragedy. That is not my favorite concept in the world. Does not scream FUN! It was however one of the most immersive cinema experiences that I have had all year. In two and a half hours of real-time,  the film believably ratchets from chill time goofing off in a Berlin club to unimaginable mayhem and tragedy. Laia Costa's performance is glorious: a wonderful facial expression actor. Also, the technical achievement is INSANE.

Favorite moment: Not a wholly singular moment, but Costa's subtle loneliness and willingness to join a "crew" that liked her was perfectly portrayed.

18. Slow West dir. John Maclean

I meant to use a beautiful shot that exemplifies the cinematography work on display in this film, but couldn't resist Michael Fassbender living and loving the classic '60s western drifter life.

I love westerns. I have since I was a small child. It is a genre rife with the problematic films and themes, but also capable of so much beauty and insight. If the western is the American version of fairy tales (it is), than Maclean's film perfectly realizes that vision. It's lyrical and contains just hints of possible magical realism while also brutally depicting devastation. The ending is disliked by some, but it is odd and inexplicable and perhaps the best fairy tale-esque happily ever after that the film offer.

Favorite moment: As brutal as the final shoot-out is, the setting is gorgeous. And, there is a twisted beauty at the sight of the solitude of nature being destroyed by the humans.

17. Spectre dir. Sam Mendes

I acknowledge and accept nearly every criticism of this film that people have to offer. I get it. I really do. This is the movie that makes my favorite, not greatest caveat necessary. HOWEVER, I loved it. I saw it three times in theatres and, improbably, thought it was better the third time. First of all, it was simply gorgeous. There were several particular shots that literally stunned me. For me, I go to spy films for the style. And Spectre was gloriously stylish.

I have a hugely complicated relationship with my love for Bond films, because of the character's (and films') history of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and classism. As such, it is not something I promote too much and do not unilaterally recommend. (Although, I definitely recommend Daniel Craig smashing Bond's sexism, cause that is my favorite thing ever. DC DON'T CARE.)

ANYWAY. Spectre is not perfect. Spectre is not the best. Spectre is not objectively better than Skyfall. Casino Royale is my favorite Bond film of all time (VESPER LYND), but I enjoyed Spectre far more than Skyfall. (SACRILEGE! SHUNNNN HEERRRR!) I also thought the ending was perfect. Also, RALPH+BEN+NAOMIE+RORY=DREAM TEAM!

Favorite moment: SO MANY. Although Roger Deakins did not shoot this one, Hoyte van Hoytema was a very worthy replacement as there were many particular shots that were wonderful. As for scenes, the opening was brilliant, certainly. Or Monica Belluci's walk through her home (a wonderful moment for her, before it was clear that she was going to be completely unused). Or Bond and Mr. White. I CAN'T DECIDE.

16. Youth dir. Paolo Sorrentino

I went to this one alone in an old theatre called the Guild 45th here in Seattle. The audience was sparse: probably 25 people at most; and none were visibly under the age of 60. It was the perhaps the perfect audience to see this film with. Sorrentino has a style of crafting films that is not particularly clear, but that is not meant as a negative. Instead, he keeps so many stories and images and plots running at once, never fully explaining one before moving onto the next. This could be incoherent, but instead, here, it is immersive. I cared about the characters, even though I didn't know what was going to happen to them from one moment to the next. Some of the endings were not pleasant or expected. There is a certain shock value to that, that I think the movie actually earned.

Aside from the direction, the cast is spectacular, and the main draw for me. I adore Michael Caine and adored his performance. He has called it one of his most difficult roles, and he is so beautifully understated. (Side note: I was recently heartbroken about his comments regarding the Oscars and actors of color, because I know I shouldn't expect actors to be perfect or even not horrible, BUT MAN, MICHAEL WHY?!)

The other great draw was Rachel Weisz, an actress I've always liked, but never really sought out--until this past year. I saw many of her films and it has turned me into quite a fanatic. She was lovely in this movie. So empathetic and understandable, even when she, in an uninterrupted close-up, delivers a harsh and angry diatribe at another character. Watching her and Caine interact was an absolute delight.

Oddly, I really liked Paul Dano in this. I've always sort of considered Dano to be a good actor, but found his persona often unbearably annoying. In the blink of an eye, I have changed directions completely (but more on that farther down this list). He is a quite fun here.

As for Keitel and Fonda. They were both good. And certainly, their scene is impossible to look away from, but Caine and Weisz were the strongest parts for me.

Favorite moment: Maybe when I walked out of the theatre and the older audience stared at me like I was an exotic bird. YOUTH. That's all I have to offer this world. And, I have never been gazed at as an exotic bird before.

But, seriously, Caine conducting to the cows and wind was lovely, and I was horribly affected by Caine finally telling the Queen's man why he will not perform. AND THAT ENDING. Literally the most unexpected thing ever.

15. Ex Machina dir. Alex Garland



As I was compiling my list, I was looking for themes, and suddenly--in my genius--I decided that the common thread was that each film dealt with a facet of what it means to be human. However, of course, that is what every film ever made is about: the hows and whys and whats of being human.

This film really does dig into the idea of being human, and acts as a condemnation of humanity's propensity for oppressing others. A full discussion would perhaps give away too much of the film, when it really is an experience to watch. But, who is oppressing who and who is allowed to speak and who is not are very interesting things to note. And, honestly, I LOVED that ending. There could be no other ending.

Also, I saw this one on DVD with a friend sitting late at night eating literally just bags of chips at my place (I rent out a basement mother-in-law unit [kitchen, bathroom, bedroom]). It was so dark and a bit rainy, but not really that stormy. YET, THE LIGHTS KEPT FLICKERING. If you have seen this movie, you know why and possibly how much that freaked us out. Even on an ancient, old TV, this movie was CAPTIVATING.

Also, the actors are all perfect. Each of the three leads are having a year of it! Alicia Vikander deserves every award for her role as Ava, and Domhnall Gleeson is wonderful. AND OSCAR ISAAC IS THE GREATEST.

Favorite moment: THE DANCE SCENE.

14. Inside Out dir. Pete Docter


I got to see this at the SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) a few weeks before it was released. AND WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE. My little brother came to visit me for the weekend, and after the film was over (it was introduced by director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera), we got to meet and chat for a bit with Docter and Rivera. I also now have a private joke with Docter, so NBD.

Anyway. The film. Gorgeous and wondrous and I really actually started to believe that I had little emotion-people inside my head. AND BING-BONG. BING-BONG.

Favorite moment: That jingle.

13. Best of Enemies dir. Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville


I hadn't even heard of this documentary until this summer when I was visiting Kate. We were watching a movie at a theatre, and suddenly the trailer for this came on. I was transfixed. It was thrilling, funny, and fascinating. I still think it was one of the best trailers of the year.

The film delivered much of the same (also, currently available on Netflix streaming). In some ways, it's difficult to imagine a thrilling, action-packed documentary about two intellectual pundits passive-aggressively sniping at each other, but this certainly was. It lays out a convincing argument that the current state of journalists yelling back and forth at each other can be traced back to the series of debates between Vidal and Buckley Jr. The mass audience is made complicit in the rise of punditry, and as I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I too was made guilty. *shakes fist* DARN YOU!

Aside from the clear entertainment, and if I'm being honest, not a small amount of wish fulfillment. A part of me loves the concept of all-out debates, but I rarely engage in them (except in an official classroom-sanctioned arena), because it promotes obnoxious behaviour that I left behind when I was 8 (or 16, idk). I'm also very good at finding small inconsistencies and knowing exactly where to twist the other person's words to my advantage. Again, I do not engage in debates, because they are almost never helpful or productive, but watching Vidal and Buckley Jr. go at it really delighted the know-it-all 6-year-old inside me who used to calmly retort to my father, "What is this? Communism?"

The other side of this, of course, is that neither of those men (even if you are more inclined to agree with the politics of one over the other) is particularly pleasant to watch. They both come off as obnoxious, slightly horrible people.

I think this is what so greatly contributes to the thread of melancholia that also runs through the film. Both of these men, so proud and confident in their intellectual or moral superiority, come off as deeply unhappy. Whether it is Vidal who alienated so many people in his personal life, or Buckley who relived the moment he "lost" on camera to Vidal for the rest of his life. Disgust for others creates a horribly lonely experience.

Favorite moment: I'm just gonna say that trailer, because it was glorious.

12. Love & Mercy dir. Bill Pohlad


GUHHHHHHHHHHHH. This movie. It broke my heart perhaps more than any other film of 2015 (and that's saying something). It's the story of Brian Wilson during the making of Pet Sounds and then again at his lowest point in the 1980s. It's a non-traditional biopic, and its style is perfectly suited to telling the complex story of Brian Wilson: particularly in reference to his musical genius and to his often interconnected struggles with mental illness.

The Heroes

As the younger Brian Wilson, Paul Dano is an actual revelation (to use the most cliched language possible). After viewing the movie, I immediately placed Dano onto my mental list of great 2015 performances, but honestly, for me, he gave my FAVORITE male performance of the year. As I said above, I have always found Dano to be a good actor, but also rather off-putting. In this, he gave one of the most empathetic, humane performances I have ever seen. He is the heart of the film. He clearly depicts the compulsion to create, even while there are so many forces that make it so difficult or painful.

The 1980s side of the film provides more concrete plot and drama, and it is also well-done. John Cusack does not at all look like Wilson (unlike Dano) or even act at all like Dano's portrayal, but this is hugely effective. Cusack is playing Wilson during a stage of his life where he is really not himself at all; and certainly does not have any personal autonomy or power.

Elizabeth Banks is a delight. A strong, wonderful performance. Characters like this make you feel a bit better about humanity than Ex Machina might allow. 

...And Villains

IF WE HAVE LEARNED ANYTHING IN 2015 IT IS NEVER LET PAUL GIAMATTI NEAR YOU IF YOU PLAY MUSIC. NO CONTROL. NOTHING.

Also, Mike Love is the stupid jerk as always. whoooo!

Favorite moment: Understanding Wilson's process as he assembled "God Only Knows" was unbelievably exhilarating.

But, it was seeing the real Brian Wilson perform "Love & Mercy" live at the very end of the film that nearly destroyed me with joy. "All the loneliness in the world; well, it's just not fair!"

Really, I just want everyone to go watch this movie. Watching a vulnerable person be repeatedly exploited and abused by those who should be protecting and caring is painful, but is the hope at the end that offers a way out. 

11. Mad Max: Fury Road dir. George Miller


I'm not really sure what I could write about this that has not been written before, but I quite enjoyed it. It brought the kind of images and feelings that only movies are capable of, so in that sense, it was a MOVIE movie.

Also, it is this, which is the delight of my life.

AND STINKIN' FURIOSA. I loved her more than I could say. And, I almost shaved off the rest of my hair that very night.

Favorite moment: The moment depicted in the above photo. I nearly cried.

Also, the unexpected biker gang of heroes was utterly wonderful.

10. Good Ol' Boy dir. Frank Lotito


Sadly, this film has not received a wide-release yet, but I hope it will this year, because it is delightful.

I got to attend the world premiere of the movie, and you can read my half-jointed review here (which embarrassingly is on the first page of results for this movie. Great. haha). And, it really was an effective movie. A gentle, but genuinely funny movie about a little Indian boy, Smith, growing up in America in the 1970s (having moved there with his family when he was very young), and trying desperately to fit in. For audiences not accustomed to the immigrant experience, it goes to some unexpected places in its "happy ending."

Nothing but love for this movie, and especially its lead actors: they have a wonderful familial chemistry.

Favorite moment: Any film that uses "Can't Help Myself" by The Four Tops in a climatic sequence is my favorite thing in the world (see also: The Sapphires). And, its ending use was the emotionally manipulative kind of music cue that I endorse!
 
9. Suffragette dir. Sarah Gavron



I have two strong emotional reactions to this film. On one hand, I literally sobbed and after the movie was over I almost went up to the two old ladies sitting in front of me and thanked them for enduring for us.

Like, what?! I'm serious.

It was so obviously a women-led and created film, because of how its female characters were depicted with nuance and variety.* I cried, because I saw myself. Or perhaps a clear version of who I could be. That's pretty magical and a gift not often given.

*However, about that variety thing. I have a huge caveat with this film that concerned me ever since I first heard about it and its cast: the absolute exclusion of women of color. The suffragette movement was unfortunately often imbued with racism (especially with many prominent leaders), and often excluded women of color. This does not mean that there were not women of color fighting for gender equality (as well as racial equality). This film not only excludes these women, it also does not--even in small moments--note the racism in the suffragette movement. I understand that that is perhaps a broader story, and one that does not easily fit the arc present in this film. However, it could have been added. It would left uncomfortable connotations and complexity, but it could have been done.

Furthermore, when I cry because I see myself, that ensures that are other who do not see themselves represented. I just don't want film retelling the stories of the struggle for women's right in the same way that the actual struggle for women's rights has often gone: white women first (or only).

So, aside from that huge caveat (and I'm tough on the movie, because it is good and it does succeed in telling a powerful story), I do strongly recommend this movie. The actors are all so wonderful: so many of my long-time favorites together. (Including Carey Mulligan, my favorite modern actress.)

Favorite moment: Anne-Marie Duffy getting kicked out of her job, but still yelling "Votes for Women!" as she leaves with a smirk on her face. #goals

8. Paddington dir. Paul King


OKAY. THIS MOVIE IS SO GREAT. AND IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT, YOU LIKELY THINK I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, BECAUSE IT'S A CHILDREN'S MOVIE ABOUT A CGI BEAR, BUT SERIOUSLY, EVERYONE.

It's perfect.

I was always going to get around to seeing it, because of the aforementioned stealth Ben Whishaw obsession, but one of the librarians I worked with saw it and he loved it so much he immediately bought it for the library. I processed new acquisitions, so I just took it and watched it before putting it into circulation (mwaahahahaha! true power!).

It was a delight/magical/wonderful/magical.

First, the cast is perfectly extraordinary (special shout-out to Peter Capaldi as the weird neighbor guy). Ben Whishaw is such a perfect voice for Paddington that it nearly hurts. {If you want to know the moment I died, this was it. }

Ben on Paddington: "The bear is a refugee type character. I think that's what give [the story] its heart...Paddington desperately wants to fit in and do things correctly. But, at the same time, he is a bear. So he's always causing chaos and being perplexed. But, he's incredibly well-meaning and sweet-natured. It's been an interesting journey to get the balance of all those things right and not make him annoying or self-pitying or too knowing and funny. It's been a tricky tightrope walk."

*cries for three years*

Favorite moment: When the Brown family first meet Paddington at the train station. This is when I knew that this was greatest movie ever. Mr. Brown tries to herd his family away from Paddington. But, not because he's a bear sitting in a train station wearing a hat. No. He says, "Ooh. Stranger danger. Keep your eyes down; there's some sort of bear over there. Probably selling something."

I cackled out loud.

Then, Mrs. Brown goes over to say hello and hears Paddington's story and Mr. Brown continues to grunt about Paddington's supposed fake sob story, but Mrs. Brown is so lovely and wonderful. AND, I'M CRYING AGAIN.

It's a film about finding a home when you're all alone in the world; and as Ben Whishaw explains above, it clearly works as a allegory for refugees and other immigrants. What a wonderful thing to have a film for children (and also adults) that teaches empathy and kindness. And, is also incredibly witty.

7. Brooklyn dir. John Crowley


I know that I've used the words "lovely" and "delightful" in this post (currently nearing 4,000 words?!) more times than any one person should, but they are perfect descriptors for Brooklyn. I want every emotion I experience to be shown to me through Saoirse Ronan's eyes (too creepy?). Although, I'm also tad mad at Saoirse (ten days younger than me) for being so brilliant at life.

Anyway, I loved Saoirse in this, and I hope she wins the Oscar (she won't), because then that would be a win for all of us born in April of 1994!

I digress. I'm not really sure how to explain this film's greatness. It's strong and fascinating and painful, but never enough to lose hope.

Favorite moment: The ending? *smiles for eight years straight* I'm not joking in that I literally sat in the theatre and SMILED AT THIS MOVIE THE ENTIRE TIME.

Although, perhaps my favorite moment is the Christmas dinner.
 
6. Vincent n'a pas d'écailles {Vincent} dir. Thomas Salvador



I WANT TO SEE THIS AGAIN. It played every festival and then just disappeared. Not cool. I think this movie probably works BEST without knowing any detail at all, so if you want to keep the dream alive, don't read my description, but I'm not giving any spoilers; just the premise, which I think is wondrous.

So, it's a low-key French film starring its director as a quiet drifter who picks up odd jobs along his travels--while also having superhuman strength and speed whenever he is submerged in water (or has water dumped on him). That's right. It's legit the French Dr. Richard Kimble as a superhero. The effects are small and effective and perfectly integrated into the film. Instead, this really functions as a story about a quiet, unassuming man who seems to have had these powers thrust upon him at some point and he responds by living life as usual and occasionally taking powerful secluded swims. Until...dun dun dun.

Even with added drama, the film is still very low-key. It was wonderful and mesmerizing. I'm glad I caught it at the SIFF last year.

Favorite moment: The ending. Just for sheer confidence. I LOVED IT. A man sitting behind me yelled, "WHAT." when the screen cut to black, because he was unable to grasp the greatness. JOKES ON HIM.

5. The Lobster dir. Yorgos Lanth


I'm not really sure my year requirements work for this film, but for the purposes of this list, we're just gonna pretend they do (maybe it will show up on my 2016 list too hahaha).

What an unsettling film. That was the dominant emotion I walked away with. It is also imaginative and uncompromising. I had to look away at more than one moment, because I was genuinely "unsettled." But, not in a flashy or horrible fashion. It was merely that it felt uncomfortably grounded even in its ridiculousness. Not perhaps straight sci-fi or dystopian or even allegory, but a mixture (or something else entirely). Regardless, it was an original film with each component perfectly crafted.

I've never been a big fan of Colin Farrell, aside from In Bruges (although, I have dear friend who LOVES HIM), but he was genuinely understated and effective here. And, my new queen, Rachel Weisz was beyond excellent. And, um, I think Ben Whishaw might have been in it at some point? IDK?! *phew, that wasn't obvious*

Actually, I've decided that the Weisz-Craig (Daniel) family (power couple to the max) only likes to share the screen with a small group of actors in their films. Hence The Lobster's Whisaw and Lea Seydoux crossover with Spectre.

Favorite moment: When Farrell and Whishaw and John C. Reilly first sort of "team up" discussing life at the hotel. So great.

4. 刺客聶隱娘 {The Assassin} dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien


The American trailer attempts to sort of pitch this film as some sort of martial arts extravaganza. And that is a piece of it, as it is a wuxia film, but that advertising limits the finished product (as much as it probably also drives audiences to watch it). I mean, I thought I was going to be seeing a cool lady assassin killing everyone; instead, I got so much more. I got a cool lady assassin who doesn't necessarily kill anyone the entire film.

I will admit that the story is likely very hard to follow in some ways as it is set in 9th century China. And, if you, like me, know embarrassingly little about 9th century China--then we're probably missing certain nuances of the story.

That did not keep me from finding the film to be utterly breathtaking. The camera is literally invisible, as it's completely integrated to its environment. Extensive outdoor shots bring nature in as singularly fluid character. Yet, the set-bound scenes are just as glorious. I'm thinking of a particular moment when the camera doesn't move as visibility comes and goes according to the whims of curtains blowing gently in the breeze.

As the titular character, Qi Shu is excellent. I found her to be fascinating and complex character: strong and humane. She was, in many ways, playing a classic "Man with No Name." (I relate everything back to westerns, because that was the entirety of my formative years.) Glorious.


3. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. dir. Guy Ritchie



I already gave this film a full review when I first saw it, so this description will be short.

Let's just say that I somehow managed to see it 7 times in theatres (showing it to 7 different people), and it was glorious every time. And, all 7 of those people loved it.

I'm sorry that the general public wasn't cool enough to pay lots of money to make this movie a success and ensure other perfectly-crafted '60s spy films, but at least we'll always have this one shining moment of big-budget '60s ITV spy glory.

Favorite moment: That sandwich eating boat chase.
 
2. Phoenix dir. Christian Petzold


Go. Stop reading this (I know you already have) and watch Phoenix (even if you've already seen it). It's on Netflix streaming. Nina Hoss gives my favorite female performance of the year in this stunning film. To explain this film would be to give too much away. Suffice to say it contains elements of both Vertigo and The Third Man, yet also is something completely more grounded. The feelings are felt and the wrongs are acknowledged. Hoss was a revelation, and I was glad to be a part of those voting to have her win the Golden Space Needle (Best Actress at the SIFF). Everything about this film is utterly wrenching and compelling at the same time. And, although, it is clearly Hoss' film from beginning to end, Ronald Zehrfeld is also magnificent.

I have legitimately nothing but praise for this film.

Favorite moment: The ending. The most satisfying ending of the year, or even the last ten years. Perhaps one of the greatest endings of all time. (Do not watch if you haven't seen the film yet. If you have seen it, then definitely click, because you know what to see that again.)


And now, for my favorite film of the year...

1. What We Do in the Shadows dir. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement










I don't even know the last time a movie made me laugh this much. Gloriously inventive and hilarious and unusual and perfect.

It is a "documentary" the follows around a small collection of Wellington, New Zealand vampire flatmates as they navigate life together. It is deliriously funny. I would recommend it to all, but those with a low tolerance for the occasional sight of gushing blood.

Taika and Jemaine are two of my favorite people (I only wish Bret could have shown up somehow), and here they create simply the best thing ever. That's it. The best thing ever.

Also, Taika just announced the title of the follow-up film dealing with the pack of werewolves they encounter in this film: We're Wolves. I'm crying. Say that out loud, and you sound like a genuine Kiwi.

Favorite moment: THE ENTIRE FILM. EVERYTHING. "Who let Peter out?" //  "Ooooh! Look! Ghost cup!" // "Leave me to do my dark bidding on the internet." (pause) "I'm bidding on a table on eBay." // "We're werewolves. Not swearwolves."

Honestly. Just watch the trailer. It will hook you.


Well, that's a wrap. If you read all this, well, I don't know why (this what happens when I don't have essays to write). But, you are wonderful. And because you are so great, I am gifting you my greatest gift: Sidney Poitier making a baby smile.



Here's to 2016!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

And the winner of THE AWESOME CAN'T MISS LIFE-CHANGING OH MAN SERIOUSLY GIVEAWAY is...

Perhaps not surprisingly, considering how many entries she acquired (through non-nefarious means), the winner of that bundle of awesome is HAMLETTE!

Congrats, my friend. Send me an email with your address and I'll get that to you.

Here is a picture of Wolvie on a good hair day just for you:


Thank you to everyone else who entered! It was great fun reading about your movie choices!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

THE AWESOME CAN'T MISS LIFE-CHANGING OH MAN SERIOUSLY GIVEAWAY.

That's right, my friends. I'm back, and like a guilty, absent grandparent--I've brought presents. This giveaway is straight from my heart to yours. It's classic Millie.

Included are brand-new copies of The Artist and Wanted: Dead or Alive Season One. The former was purchased at Goodwill (still in its plastic wrapping) and the latter at Half-Price Books (there's a story to this giveaway).

Also, included are used (in great condition) copies of Modesty Blaise and a starter collection of Maverick with some of its best episodes. Both of these were purchased at Scarecrow Video--the hugely famous Seattle movie rental place.

Finally, you will also receive a beautiful copy of Bradford Dillman's hilarious, wonderful memoirs: Are You Anybody? An Actor's Life. I've wanted to do a giveaway of this for a long time, but it is extremely hard to track down without paying an exorbitant fee on Amazon. (I, of course, have my own copy; which I believe is currently in Kate's possession. haha) However, I found a copy at Cinema Books: the wonderful little bookshop in Seattle which recently closed after many, many years being run by the same woman. She knew literally everything about movies and many filmmakers made her shop a necessary stop during their time in Seattle (Colin Firth was the most recent visitor! ha). It really saddens me that it is now closed, because I loved to stop in an look around and always left with some random movie book. It was barely organized chaos (literally stacks of books everywhere), yet she always knew where everything was. I literally said: "Weird request, I know, but do you possibly have a copy of Bradford Dillman's memoirs?" She responded: "Oh, I know just where that is!" And, then, walked a few steps (an extremely small shop) looked at an incomprehensibly tall stack of books and pulled this one out easily. She didn't think it was strange at all. With this, you will get a piece of Seattle film culture history, as well as a hilarious collection of stories from a gifted writer.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, IT'S TOO MUCH! Why are you giving away so much greatness?!

Because, I love you.

And, also, I meant to do this giveaway nearly a year ago. It was gonna be a winter blah giveaway. And then, it was gonna be a kick-off to summer giveaway. And then, it was gonna be a farewell to summer giveaway. And then, it was gonna be a fall is here giveaway. And then, it was gonna be a Christmas giveaway. AND, NOW, IT'S A YAY 2016! DON'T FAIL ME NOW GIVEAWAY!

I will actually be leaving for out of the country for a couple of months in a couple of weeks. So, there won't be tons of time for this to happen. AKA, I need you all to pay close attention and definitely share this with your friends! ;-D

How to win: 

1 entry-- Leave me a comment, and let me know your favorite new-to-you movie that you watched in 2015 and a movie that you are looking forward to watching in 2016!

1 entry-- Tell someone else about this contest somehow and have them enter. If they mention you, then I'll give you both an extra entry! (Oooooh. Intrigue.) 

Comment by Monday, January 25th at 12AM (PST) and the winner will be chosen by random shortly thereafter. U.S. Entries only, please (sorry, but I am starving student who doesn't understand international mailing).

Yaya! Let the excitement begin (realistically, I know that only three of you are going to enter, but good luck! Because this is all genuine greatness! ;-D)!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Fifteen Years in Review: My Favorites

Hello, gang!

I have a couple of things planned for the near future (including an legitimately epic giveaway that was supposed to happen 8 months ago *laughing crying face*), but for my immediate return, I thought I'd make a list. I LOVE LISTS.

I'm not quite prepared to deliver my fifteen faves of 2015 list yet, 'cause there are just a couple of titles I still need to see before I finalize. However, instead, I am going to talk about my fifteen faves of the first fifteen years of the 21st century. (I almost just wrote 22nd century, because I legit don't ever know what year it is. True story: on NYE, I turned to a friend and said, "How can it be 2006?!" I was 100% sober.)

I know. I know. It's getting a little modern around here.


But, what can I say. We're fifteen years into 2000. In five years, things from 2000 can be officially classified as vintage. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN. I started the year 2000 as a bright, happy, unusually smart five-year-old. I start 2016 as a broke[en], persevering, only slightly above average in a couple areas (but hopelessly average in most/completely useless in some areas) twenty-one-year-old. Man.

Anyway. On that cheery note, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

For this list, I will be detailing my favorite film of every year (+ runner-up if applicable). Do note that this is not a greatest list, except perhaps by the criteria Roger Ebert used where great = unable to bear the thought of never seeing again.

Ready? Steady? Goooooooo!

2000: In The Mood For Love dir. Wong Kar-wai


Breathlessly lovely. The noodle-buying song [as I manglishly refer to it] is utterly thrilling, and I listen to it often.

EDIT FROM THE FUTURE AFTER I HAVE FINISHED WRITING THIS POST: Remember that I chose a Wong Kar-wai first, cause it's about to get pretty critically dire for like ten years. Okay, bye! ENJOY THE PRESENT! THE FUTURE IS A NIGHTMARE.

Runner-up: The Emperor's New Groove dir. Mark Dindal
HE'S HUMMING HIS OWN THEME SONG!

2001: The Princess Diaries dir. Garry Marshall


I was seven, guys. It was also the first film I saw in theatres. ALSO, THIS MOVIE IS THE GREATEST. CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT FOR A LITTLE BIT. Because it's a cross between a waltz and a tango. It's a wango. Also, hair. Voltaire. I would like to talk about the French revolution.

Runner-up: Moulin Rouge! dir. Baz Luhrmann
I don't know. Ewan McGregor started wailing/cry-singing COME WHAT MAAAAY and I didn't stop to think about it.

P.S. Just so you can fully hate all of my opinions, I want you to know that my second runner-up is Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Objectively a bad movie, yes.

2002: Ice Age dir. Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha


One of the greatest animated films ever made. This thing gets me. I'm also partial, because I recently won a game of Heads-Up by quoting "The lassssssst melon" to successfully get someone to guess dodo bird. Great times.  

Runner-up: Main in Manhattan dir. Wayne Wang
I should be embarrassed, but I'm not, because I love Ralph Fiennes and this is just past peak Fiennes and if loving Ralph Fiennes is wrong THEN I DON'T WANT TO LIVE ANYMORE. 

Also, completely random aside. I just noticed that Tuck Everlasting was released this year, which is insane. I remember watching almost all of it at my neighbor's house when it first came out on DVD, but I had to go home before it was finished and I never saw the end, but it deeply unsettled me and I still have distinct memories of distinct images. But, I've never, ever watched it again or seen the ending. 

2003: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl dir. Gore Verbinski


I will defend this movie to anyone. Although it may have birthed an unholy monster (the fourth film is not as bad as the two first sequels), this first film is an utter delight. I didn't see this in theaters, but I did get to see it on my tenth birthday (2004). I remember the entire thing vividly because my best friend came over for a sleepover, but the the power went out. We ate spaghetti by candlelight and then my dad hooked up the generator so that I could watch this movie. Aside from personal memories, this movie is just gosh darned delightful.

Runner-up: X-Men 2 dir. Bryan Singer 
As a rule, I'm not a big fan of superhero films--but I put mutants as an exception to that rule. This isn't my absolute favorite X-Men film (that would be 2014's Days of Future Past), but it is brilliant. Alan Cumming should just be in every movie ever. He is inwincible!

2nd Runner-up: Shattered Glass dir. Billy Ray
This movie is just awesome. I love the cast. I love the shifting protagonist POV. I love everything.

Important side-note: another Lara Croft movie was released this year and it is almost as excellent as the first. Its only downfall is costarring Gerard Butler instead of Daniel Craig. That's it. 

2004: National Treasure dir. Jon Turteltaub


When I thought of the idea to make this list, I was thinking that I was gonna have some great, unusual choices on here. Nope. It's all little Millie loving life. I can't lie to myself. I WAS TEN.

Runner-up: Ella Enchanted dir. Tommy O'Haver
Still hilarious. Also, my first DVD ever (well, technically, I got it for Christmas the same day that I also received a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road to" collection). Also, I was a Hugh Dancy fan a million years before it was cool.

2005: Batman Begins dir. Christopher Nolan 


Okay. I also make a superhero exception for this movie. I've loved this movie since it first came out, but I've never gotten around to watching/really cared to watch the rest of the trilogy. I'm the worst. Also, this movie has Liam Neeson AND Ken Watanabe. 

Runner-up: The Constant Gardener dir. Fernando Meirelles
ARGGHHH. My feelings about this film are quite complicated. As a movie, I love it. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are both stunningly perfect in it. However, this film is also horrifically guilty of using Africa and African people as simply a backdrop for its white, Western protagonists. I love this movie and hate it at the same time.


2006: Casino Royale dir. Martin Cambell

My favorite Bond film of all time. It's a nearly perfect film (in Millie-terms). It was strong on its own, but somehow becomes even stronger when viewed with the next three films in mind. VESPER LYND.

Runner-up: Penelope dir. Mark Palansky
Imaginative and whimsical with offbeat humor and a dark streak running through it. Plus, an insanely talented cast.  

2nd Runner-up: The Fall dir. Tarsem
This is film. 

2007: Enchanted dir. Kevin Lima

Alright. This list is actually out of control, but Amy Adams is the queen of everything, and I don't care.

Runner-up: Eagle vs. Shark dir. Taika Waititi 
I love these crazy New Zealanders. Waititi, in particular, is a formidable talent.

2008: Wall-E dir. Andrew Stanton

WALL-E IS THE FIRST MOVIE I SAW MORE THAN ONCE IN THEATERS. It is devastating and hopeful. That poster tag-line already makes me want to cry. The best onscreen robot since since Hewey, Dewey, and Louie!

Runner-up: Taken dir. Pierre Morel
Ridiculous, yes. Espousing a system of justice that relies on vigilante justice, yes. Reactionary views, yes. Liam Neeson killing everyone, YES. 

2nd Runner-up: In Bruges dir. Martin McDonagh
Horrifying and so very funny. Ralph Fiennes is simply delightful. 

2009: Moon dir. Duncan Jones

 Utterly glorious. This movie is small, yet ambitious. Sam Rockwell is freakishly extraordinary as he carries basically the entire film (with an assist from a Kevin Spacey voiced computer).

Runner-up: Fantastic Mr. Fox dir. Wes Anderson
My absolute favorite Anderson film. I laugh every time. Of course, stop-motion animation was the perfect medium for Anderson's obsessive art detail. 

2nd Runner-up: The Young Victoria dir. Jean-Marc Vallée
At one point, this was my ultimate comfort film. I would fall asleep to it every night. I still adore it. A stacked cast with particularly lovely performances from Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.

2010: Beginners dir. Mike Mills

Can I cry about the loveliness?! *sigh* The most perfect cast in the whole world. Ewan + Melanie is perfection. Cosmo the dog kills. AND CHRISTOPHER STINKIN' PLUMMER EARNED THAT OSCAR.

Runner-up: The Trip dir. Michael Winterbottom
Hilarious, and oddly poignant. Also, nothing beats dueling Michael Caine impressions.

2011: The Artist dir Michel Hazanavicius


This movie was not too popular with the classic film community, but I adored it. Perhaps it did not fully mimic the style of the true silents, but it certainly captured the feelings that emanated from a classic Hollywood film; especially that glorious ending. Also, Jean DuJardin is simply the most classic Hollywood type star that exists today. 

Runner-up: Hugo dir. Martin Scorsese 
I got my license just days before seeing this, and I remember thinking a lot about "growing up" and such. And, then, this film perfectly captured the joy of film that perhaps is best captured by a child. LITTLE HUGO IS THE CUTEST KID EVER AND I STILL CAN'T HANDLE IT. 

A million runner-ups: This was a great year for Millie movies. So many. A couple recs: The Adventures of Tintin, Haywire, and X-Men: First Class.

2012: Beasts of the Southern Wild dir. Benh Zeitlin


You might have noticed that I love low-budget, low-effects, but high-concept slightly sci-fiish films. Blame Rod Serling having too much influence on baby Millie. This one is a delight. Quvenzhane Wallis is an extraordinary talent.

Runner-up: Man on a Ledge dir. Asger Leth
The movie responsible for making me into that impossible paradox: A Sam Worthington fan. *shakes fist*

2nd Runner-up: Barbara dir. Christian Petzold
Nina Hoss for everything.

3rd Runner-up: The Sapphires dir. Wayne Blair 
THIS IS THE ENTERTAINING EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION WITH SONGS AND AUSTRALIAN ACCENTS THAT I REQUIRE.

2013: Only Lovers Left Alive dir. Jim Jarmusch


It's pure languid style.

Runner-up: The Wolverine dir. James Mangold

Essentially low-key (aside from the unfortunate climax). A character study of one poor, broken mutant. Also, a Bechdel-test-passing comic book movie!

2nd Runner-up: Pacific Rim dir. Guillermo del Toro
IDRIS ELBA CANCELS THE APOCALYPSE.

2014: Vi är bäst! (We are the Best!) dir. Lukas Moodyson


One of the most perfect/accurate portrayals of female teenagerdom. Also, I need to join a Swedish punk band in the 1980s now.

Runner-up: Selma dir. Ava DeVernay 
THIS is how you make a biopic. It neither stale, nor on the outside looking in on an untouchable historical figure. Instead, it's living and breathing and dynamic and worthwhile. David Oyelowo's performance is nothing less than brilliant. He manages to play both the captivating public figure and the human private figure of MLK in a fluid, natural, whole fashion.  

Runners-up: 12 to be exact. I have them listed on my Facebook. I think I set out to post it here too, but got tired halfway through the list or something. (I am literally the worst blogger.)


2015: I'm actually gonna wait to post this year! Don't want to ruin the EXCITING surprises. (*tries not to laugh cry*) I'll link back here when I'm done though. (In approx. 3 years).  


I'M ALIVE. I MADE IT. It was touch and go for a while. And. I've def been slowly working on this for three days, but here I am on the other side. Although, I still need to go back and add photos for ALL THE PICS. WHY DID I DO THIS.










P.S. I legitimately have an exciting giveaway that I will post about post-haste!

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