Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Michigan Movie Guy's 2018 Oscar Nomination Reactions

Well, after many months of heart-pounding anxiety over which films would stay in the race, falter out, or sneak in, on Tuesday, the Oscar nominations were announced. While there were a few surprises, most of them were great surprises.

1. The Best Picture field turned out to be almost what I expected, although I didn't expect Darkest Hour & Phantom Thread (which I was very happy to see it nominated) to get in. However, I'm sad to see that I, Tonya & The Florida Project were not nominated. Like I've said before, they need to have a straight 10 nominees for Best Picture. None of this wishy-washy, between 5 & 10 nominees stuff.

2. The Best Director field is the best in years. Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele & Paul Thomas Anderson? How can I choose the Best Director in this category? It's too tough!

3. The Best Actor field had some surprises. James Franco, Golden Globe winner for The Disaster Artist, was not nominated, probably due to the sexual misconduct allegations, which was the right decision by the Academy. However, taking that slot was Denzel Washington for his horribly offensive performance in the awful film Roman J. Israel, Esq. He did not deserve that nomination at all. That slot should've gone to Tom Hanks for The Post.

4. The Best Actress nominees are exactly as I predicted.

5. The Best Supporting Actor field had some big surprises. Neither Armie Hammer nor Michael Stuhlbarg were nominated for Call Me by Your Name. However, Woody Harrelson & Sam Rockwell were both nominated for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

6. I am definitely glad to see Lesley Manville was nominated for Phantom Thread. However, I wish Holly Hunter got nominated for The Big Sick.

7. The Best Original Screenplay nominees are exactly as I predicted.

8. The Best Adapted Screenplay nominees were almost exactly as I predicted, except for one great surprise: Logan, which became the first superhero film to get a screenplay nomination.

9. Baby Driver's nomination for Best Film Editing is so well-deserved.

10. I'll never understand how The Boss Baby got nominated for Best Animated Feature over The Lego Batman Movie.

So, these are my 10 big reactions to the Oscar nominations. Don't forget to watch the Oscars on Sunday, March 4 at 8pm EST on ABC!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Paddington 2

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Most live-action PG-rated kids films are awful these days. They rely on cliched plotlines & awful jokes without a lot of heart to them. Thankfully, every once in a while, we get a film that is so endearing & adorable with some great humor.

Paddington 2, much like the first film, has all of those positive qualities that live-action kids films should have. The film follows Paddington Brown (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who is now settled in with the Browns in the neighborhood of Windsor Gardens in London. He has charmed the hearts of everyone in the neighborhood, helping them out with their problems.

For his Aunt Lucy's (voiced by Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday, Paddington struggles to find a gift, until he visits the antique shop owned by his friend, Samuel Gruber (played by Jim Broadbent), where he notices a rare pop-up book of London. However, the book is expensive, so Paddington gets various jobs to purchase it. However, one night, the antique shop is broken into by a thief that steals the book. Although Paddington saw the thief, & although Gruber is adamant that Paddington was innocent, the police do not believe his story, & Paddington is sentenced to prison, much to the happiness of the Browns' neighbor, Mr. Curry (played by Peter Capaldi), the curmudgeonly self-appointed officer of the neighborhood. The thief turns out to be none other than Phoenix Buchanan (played by Hugh Grant), the Browns' new neighbor, a once-respected actor who is now stuck doing dog food commercials.

In prison, Paddington befriends Knuckles McGinty (played by Brendan Gleeson), the rough & tumble cook of the prison, when he introduces Knuckles to marmalade sandwiches, Paddington's favorite food. Meanwhile, Phoenix uses the book to discover a secret treasure left at a traveling fair. Henry (played by Hugh Bonneville) & Mary (played by Sally Hawkins) Brown, along with their housekeeper, Mrs. Bird (played by Julie Walters), search endlessly to find the thief, & try to clear Paddington's name.

The cast is amazing. Whishaw is charming in his voice role. Bonneville & Hawkins are great. Gleeson is absolutely fantastic. And Grant is one of the most delightful villains in recent memory.

Paul King's direction is great. King directs the film with subdued precision, & maintains an absolutely kind-hearted aura throughout the film.

And the screenplay by Paul King & Simon Barnaby is excellent. The plot is excellent, the characters are fantastic, & the message is both timely & heartwarming.

This is one of the better kids films in the past few years. It's adorable, charming, & even better than the original Paddington. I know one thing: I can't wait for Paddington 3!

Paddington 2 was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, January 20, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 104 minutes, & it is rated PG for some action & mild rude humor.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Phantom Thread

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

When you see a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, it isn't like seeing any other film. It is an experience of filmmaking at its finest. All of his films are masterclasses in filmmaking, & all 7 of his films are in my list of top 100 favorite films, with 5 of them in my top 50. In my opinion, Paul Thomas Anderson is the greatest director of all time.

Phantom Thread is absolute proof of that statement above. It is, all at once, an exquisite romance, a tense Hitchcokian thriller, & a scathingly funny screwball comedy. Set in 1950s London, the film follows Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis), a world-renowned fashion designer. He designs for royals, celebrities, & other members of high society. He is noted for sewing messages into the lining of his dresses. While he is a master at his art, he is also obsessive & overbearing, haunted by his mother's death. However, his sister, Cyril (played by Lesley Manville), whom he affectionately refers to as his "old so-&-so," keeps him in check as she manages the House of Woodcock. Together, they have created an elegant line of luxurious fashion.

One day, Reynolds decides to venture out to his place in the countryside, where Cyril will meet up with him later that night. On his way there, he decides to stop at a restaurant for breakfast. There, he encounters a waitress, Alma Elson (played by Vicky Krieps), a young woman whom he asks out on a date, to which she accepts.

Eventually, Reynolds & Alma's relationship grows, & Alma becomes his muse, assistant, & lover. But the honeymoon period soon ends, as they start to fight constantly, as Reynolds feels his life is bursting at the seams, possibly ruining his career, & Alma tries to convince him that his overbearing ways need to end. But when Alma tries to gain some power in the relationship, everything is irrevocably changed.

The cast is superb. Daniel Day-Lewis, the greatest actor of all time, has given one of the greatest performances of his career, & one of the best of the past decade. His presence is commanding at every moment, & if this truly is his last performance, then what a performance to go out on. If the Academy knows what they're doing, then they will give Daniel Day-Lewis his 4th Oscar.

Lesley Manville is also fantastic. Manville, known for her many appearances in films directed by Mike Leigh, is nothing short of exemplary. She is just as fierce & commanding as Day-Lewis, & is extremely deserving of her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.

And Vicky Krieps is a revelation. Krieps, a relative unknown from Luxembourg, has given the best breakout lead performance of 2017. Like Day-Lewis & Manville, she is fierce & commanding.

Paul Thomas Anderson's direction is spectacular. Anderson, who has directed masterpieces such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, & Inherent Vice, has directed one of his 3 best films yet. As with his other films, Anderson has created an absolutely phenomenal landscape for his characters & his locations.

Paul Thomas Anderson's screenplay is brilliant. Anderson is just as great of a screenwriter as he is as a director, writing such phenomenal characters & such amazing dialogue. That trend continues here, as his characters are some of the most well-written I've seen in a while, & the dialogue is also a true work of brilliance. Along with some tense dialogue, there is a lot of scathingly funny dialogue here that lightens the tension just a bit, & that made me laugh as much as only a few other films have recently.

Paul Thomas Anderson's cinematography is phenomenal. Anderson, taking over for his longtime cinematographer Robert Elswit, who had a schedule conflict, humbly stated in November that it was a collaborative effort, although Anderson had been seen by many as the cinematographer. But his camerawork is phenomenal. Shot on 35mm, the cinematography is filled with so many tense closeups & exquisite wide shots.

Dylan Tichenor's editing is excellent. Tichenor, Anderson's editor for most of his films, uses a slow pace to let the intricacies of the film slowly unfold, only revealing them so slightly.

Mark Bridges's costume design is perfect. Bridges, who has been the costume designer for all of Anderson's films, has designed costumes that are so extravagant, period-accurate & are reminiscent of haute couture. This better win the Oscar for Best Costume Design.

Mark Tildesley's production design is top-notch. The production design is as extravagant as the costume design, & are also period-accurate.

The makeup & hairstyling is astounding. It is just as extravagant & period-accurate as the costume design & production design.

And Jonny Greenwood's score is beautiful. Greenwood, the lead guitarist for Radiohead & Anderson's composer since There Will Be Blood, uses a piano & violin to drive the score, & it is haunting & tense.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year, & is an absolute masterpiece that is well-deserving of its Best Picture nomination. It has excellent direction & brilliant writing from Paul Thomas Anderson, amazing technical elements, & above all, a phenomenal send-off for Daniel Day-Lewis. We'll certainly miss him on the silver screen, & we wish him good luck in retirement.

Phantom Thread was seen by me at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI on Sunday, January 14, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 130 minutes, & it is rated R for language.

The Post

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Right now, in America, the press is being unfairly attacked for merely presenting the truth. In an era of instability in our country, the corridors of power attack the press that get all of the facts, calling them "alternative facts" & "fake news." But the press has, is, & will always be for the people, & will always seek the truth no matter the costs.

The Post is a truly amazing film that is so timely that it is one of the few films that this country truly needs right now. Set in 1971, the film follows Katherine Graham (played by Meryl Streep), the new owner & publisher of The Washington Post. Her husband's recent suicide has thrust her into the leadership of the newspaper, as the newspaper releases its IPO. She feels that she is constantly superceded by the men below her, namely Arthur Parsons (played by Bradley Whitford).

Meanwhile, Post editor Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks) notices New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan (played by Justin Swain) has essentially disappeared, as he hasn't wrote anything for the Times recently. Bradlee deduces that Sheehan's working on a big story, so he tries to catch up with them. While this occurs, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (played by Bruce Greenwood), who happens to be a close friend of Graham's, warns her of an unflattering story that will be presented by the Times about him.

The unflattering story is a story on the Pentagon Papers, a series of documents leaked by former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (played by Matthew Rhys) revealing the government's deception of the public about their interests in Vietnam since the Truman administration. The Times, however, was prevented by a court order from publishing the documents.

Ben Bagdikian (played by Bob Odenkirk), the second-in-command to Bradlee, tracks Ellsberg down & receives copies of the papers sent to the Times from him. Many Post reporters, including Bagdikian, Meg Greenfield (played by Carrie Coon), & Ben's wife, Tony (played by Sarah Paulson), try to sort the papers together.

Once the Post's lawyers hear of this, they tell them to stop due to possible criminal charges, but they refuse to stop. Graham, Bradlee, McNamara & Post chairman Fritz Beebe (played by Tracy Letts) debate whether or not to publish the material, asking the question if whether or not publishing the truth about government deception is worth risking a legendary newspaper.

The cast is phenomenal. Meryl Streep, one of the greatest actress of all time, gives her best performance in years, a performance is a departure from the average biopic performances she's given recently that didn't really deserve Oscar nominations. But her Oscar nomination for her performance here, her 21st nomination, is definitely well-deserved. Tom Hanks, one of the greatest actors of all time, also gives one of his best performances. From the supporting characters, Bob Odenkirk & Carrie Coon are the standouts.

Steven Spielberg's direction is excellent. Spielberg, one of the greatest directors of all time, has directed his best film of the decade. He keeps the thrills going, building up a tense atmosphere to an extreme boiling point.

The screenplay by Liz Hannah & Josh Singer is amazing. Hannah & Singer have written such amazing characters & excellent fast-paced dialogue.

Janusz Kamiński's cinematography is fantastic. Kamiński, Spielberg's cinematographer since Schindler's List, uses a series of tracking shots to perfection.

The editing by Michael Kahn & Sarah Broshar is excellent. Kahn, Spielberg's editor since Close Encounters of the Third Kind, & Broshar, Spielberg's former assistant editor since The Adventures of Tintin, keep the film marching along at a brisk pace, heightening the tension even more.

Rick Carter's production design is spectacular. From the extravagantly large houses of Graham & Bradlee to the offices of the Post, Carter's sets immerse us at every turn.

And John Williams's score is phenomenal. Williams, one of the greatest composers of all time, has composed one of his best scores, driven by an astounding orchestra.

This is one of the year's best films. Spielberg, Williams, Streep & Hanks fire on all cylinders, creating a film that is eerily relevant to our current political climate, & is also deserving of its Academy Award nomination for Best Picture that was announced today.

The Post was seen by me at the MJR Partridge Creek Digital Cinema 14 in Clinton Township, MI on Friday, January 12, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 115 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for language & brief war violence.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

I, Tonya

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Tonya Harding won't be remembered by most as the first American female figure skater to complete a triple axel in a competition. She won't be remembered as the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships winner. And she won't be remembered as the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships runner-up. Sadly, Tonya Harding will be remembered for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan (although she was not involved in the plan nor did she know anything about it) during practice at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, initiated by her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly; her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt; Shane Stant; & Derrick Smith.

I, Tonya, while slightly focusing more on Tonya Harding's life than on the incident, is a darkly funny, sometimes disturbing, & overall brilliant depiction of the life of one of America's greatest figure skaters along with her involvement in one of the craziest events in human history. Told through interviews & 4th-wall breaks, the film follows Tonya Harding (played as a teenager & an adult by Margot Robbie, & as a child by Mckenna Grace), a budding figure skater. Raised by her absolutely cruel mother, LaVona (played by Allison Janney), Tonya starts skating at the age of 4, & with the help of her coach, Diane Rawlinson (played by Julianne Nicholson), she hones her skills that are rarely seen in figure skating.

Time passes, & Tonya is now 15, brace-faced, with a bad hairstyle, & with almost none of the elegantly feminine qualities embraced by figure skating. However, one person becomes smitten with her: Jeff Gillooly (played by Sebastian Stan). Over the next few years, Tonya moves out of her mother's house & marries Jeff. However, the love between them doesn't last for long; Jeff becomes abusive towards Tonya, even more abusive then her mother.

Over the next few years, Tonya fires Diane & hires Dody Teachman (played by Bojana Novakovic) as her new coach, becomes the first American woman to complete a triple axel, the winner at the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the runner-up at the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships, & eventually, the fourth-place finisher at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. She returns home, suffers more abuse, & divorces Jeff.

Tonya receives a death threat & is forced to not skate for a couple months. In order to get back at whom they believe to be behind the death threat, Tonya, Jeff, & her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt (played by Paul Walter Hauser) decide to mail some threats to Nancy Kerrigan (played by Caitlin Carver) to get back at her. However, Tonya eventually decides to not take part in it.  However, Jeff & Shawn take matters to the next level: take Nancy out of the Figure Skating Championships &, in turn, out of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway by hiring Shane Stant (played by Ricky Russert) & Derrick Smith (played by Anthony Reynolds) to break her knee during practice at the Championships in Detroit, without Tonya's knowledge.

After the attack, Tonya is crucified by the media, including Hard Copy producer Martin Maddox (played by Bobby Cannavale). Her life, along with the lives of Jeff & Shawn, will never be the same.

The cast is phenomenal. Margot Robbie gives her greatest performance yet, disappearing into her role. And it's an absolute transformation, where you don't see Margot Robbie, but you see Tonya Harding. She deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Sebastian Stan is both hilarious & disturbing. As Jeff Gillooly, he is both hilariously dumb & extremely abusive, scaring you at every moment. He deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Allison Janney is phenomenal, giving one of the best perforamnces of the year. She is the mother from hell. She is bitingly funny when she's not being absolutely repugnant. She deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, & her Golden Globe win for Best Supporting Actress was well-deserved.

But the scene-stealer of the film is Paul Walter Hauser. Hauser, an unknown actor from Grand Rapids, MI, is absolutely gut-bustingly hilarious as Shawn Eckhardt. His delusions of grandeur are so hilarious. He also deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Craig Gillespie's direction is phenomenal. After directing 2007's Lars & the Real Girl & 2016's The Finest Hours, Gillespie has directed his best film yet. Gillespie creates a tense, darkly funny atmosphere that sticks throughout the entire film.

Steven Rogers's screenplay is brilliant. Rogers writes such brilliant dialogue, & creates such absolutely interesting characters. Also, Rogers deals with themes such as abuse, the way media skewers the truth, & the way we view women so brilliantly. Furthermore, it tells the truth about the story of Tonya Harding, which hasn't been very well-told until now.

Nicolas Karakatsanis's cinematography is amazing. Karakatsanis's camerawork uses a variety of long takes, zooms & pans, & uses them all to perfection.

Tatiana S. Riegel's editing is excellent. Riegel takes a lot of cues from Scorsese's long-time editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, with the uses of quick cuts. And Riegel executes them as well as Schoonmaker does.

Jennifer Johnson's costume design is amazing. Johnson has created figure skating costumes that are so realistic & accurate, along with the costumes worn by Tonya Harding that are of a lesser economic fashion.

Jade Healy's production design is fantastic. The sets are extremely realistic for skating arenas & practice rinks, & that's attributable to Healy's past as a figure skater.

The makeup & hairstyling is absolutely stunning. From the many bad hairstyles worn by Margot Robbie, to Jeff Gillooly's horrendous moustache, the makeup & hairstyling is transformative & awesome.

And the soundtrack is killer. Featuring songs such as Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4, Siouxsise & the Banshees's The Passenger, & Laura Branigan's Gloria, the soundtrack has so many amazing songs.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year, one of the best dark comedies of all time, & one of the best films I've ever seen. It's filled with excellent performances, excellent direction, & a screenplay that is a work of brilliance.

I, Tonya was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, January 5, 2018. It is currently in 4 theaters in the Detroit area: the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI; the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI; & the Phoenix Theaters Laurel Park Place in Livonia, MI; the film will expand into more theaters starting Friday, January 12. Its runtime is 120 minutes, & it is rated R for pervasive language, violence, & some sexual content/nudity.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Molly's Game

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Aaron Sorkin is one of the most brilliant storytellers of his time. With his rapid-fire dialogue, the "walk-&-talk", & the breakneck editing, Sorkin has created a style that is all his own.

He has now gone behind the camera for his directorial debut, Molly's Game, & what a directorial debut it is. It's thrilling, exciting, & running a mile a minute. Based on the 2014 autobiography of the same name by Molly Bloom, the film follows Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain), a former competitive skier, until she suffered an injury in the qualifiers for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. From her youth, she had a fiercely competitive streak, like her brothers, & she used the fierceness a lot towards her father, Larry (played by Kevin Costner).

She then moves to Los Angeles, instead of going to law school as planned. At her new job, her boss, Dean Keith (played by Jeremy Strong), introduces her to the world of underground poker in Los Angeles, which she eventually parlays that into her own poker game. Attending her poker games are some of the elites, & some who definitely aren't so elite. Most notable are the unlucky Brad (played by Brian D'Arcy James), the headstrong Harlan Eustice (played by Bill Camp), & the cunning actor known as Player X (played by Michael Cera), a supposed amalgamation of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck & Tobey Maguire.

When this game falters out, Molly then heads out to New York, & starts up a new game where the stakes get even higher for her. The players include Douglas Downey (played by Chris O'Dowd), who introduces Molly to the Russian mob out of Brighton Beach. This only heightens the stakes for Molly, who decides to start taking a rake from the games.

This leads the FBI to arrest her, seizing the money earned from the games. She then gets lawyer Charlie Jaffey (played by Idris Elba) to represent her in court. Jaffey is considered by Molly to be "the only lawyer who isn't shady." Now, Jaffey must try to work out a deal with Molly to get her to work out a deal with the FBI, but Molly doesn't want the last thing she has to be sullied: her name.

The cast is excellent. Jessica Chastain's performance is one of the best of her career. Idris Elba's performance is easily the best of his film career. Kevin Costner gives his best performance in years. And Michael Cera is delightfully villainous, a sharp contrast from his other roles.

Aaron Sorkin's direction is phenomenal. Sorkin makes every moment of this film thrilling, proving he is as great a director as he is a screenwriter.

Aaron Sorkin's screenplay is brilliant. Sorkin's dialogue, much like the dialogue of his other films, fires at all cylinders, going faster than the cars at a NASCAR race.

And the editing by Alan Baumgarten, Elliot Graham & Josh Schaeffer is excellent. Much like other films written by Sorkin, the editing uses so many quick cuts to perfection, making the film's 140-minute runtime feel like a breeze.

This is one of the 10 best films of the year. Featuring excellent performances from Jessica Chastain & Idris Elba, along with another brilliant screenplay from Aaron Sorkin, this proves to be a phenomenal directorial debut for Aaron Sorkin.

Molly's Game was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Monday, January 1, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 140 minutes, & it is rated R for language, drug content & some violence.