This is a continuation of observations on films I’ve seen this year. The sub-goals are 5 films with Michelle Williams, 5 films with Casey Affleck (I’ve been slacking with watching more recent work so picking these two seems like a way to catch up), 5 films in which three or more actors were nominated for Academy Awards, and 5 pairs of films that competed for Oscars. Manchester By the Sea counts in all categories.
Movie #151/ 1990s Film #11/ 3 Acting Nominations #1/ Casey Affleck Movie #1/ Pair #1A: Good Will Hunting
Too many of the characters in the film are world-class intellects, but this is otherwise a good story about conflicting views of how to help a man with tremendous potential, and some serious flaws. Robin (not Michelle) Williams is amazing as the wise psychiatrist. The film is legitimately inspirational, and quite rewatchable.
Movie #152/ New Movie #82/ 2010s Movie #20/ Michelle Williams Film #1: Venom
Thanks to recent Sony announcements, this is officially the worst MCU film, and probably the worst Spider-Man adjacent film. It’s not terrible, just bland, wasting actors like Tom Hardy and (Michelle) Williams on a generic superhero origin story.
Movie #153/ 2019 Movie #11: Knives Out
This is an immensely satisfying and entertaining mystery, simultaneously old-fashioned (a suspicious murder and a surprising reading of the will) and modern (dealing with immigration, race and social media in the 21sr Century.) The cast is extraordinary (the star turn for Ana De Armas is the highlight), and the script is clever.
Movie #154/ New Film #83/ 2020 Movie #8: The Hunt
The controversy here was way too overblown, especially since the whole plot about liberal elites hunting Trump supporter types was not going to make the left look good.
Movie #155/ New Film #84/ 1980s Movie #14: Clue
After watching Knives Out again, I figured I’d check out an obvious influence. It’s fine, with some standout sequences, especially when some of the suspects try to distract an officer from noticing the corpse in the room.
Movie #156/ New Movie #85/ 2019 Movie #12: Long Shot
Decent high concept for a political romantic comedy, as a shlub goes after the ultimate women way out of his league; a young Secretary of State/ Presidential candidate. Do I buy everything? Nope. Some of the satire is too obvious even with Trump in the White House. But it’s fun.
Movie #157/ New Movie #86/ 2019 Movie #13: Frozen 2
An interesting sequel that explores some dark themes, as the royal sisters learn about the flaws of their ancestors. Maybe it’s a difference between Pixar and Disney, but the songs do get on my nerves on this one.
Movie #158/ New Movie #87/ 2019 Movie #14: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
This is a decent buddy pic about a cynical reporter and the nicest man in the world. Tom Hanks is great at showing a Mr. Rogers who is a great guy, but who still has to work hard at it.
Movie #159/ 2010s Movie #21: The Martian
It solidifies Ridley Scott as one of the great science fiction directors, with this, Alien and Blade Runner among the best top three of any director in any medium. It’s a really enjoyable piece about one man’s survival, both from his perspective, and the forces of Earth, unable to fully help him when he’s literally on a different planet.
Movie #160/ New Movie #88/ 1940s Film #12/ Pair #2A: Wilson
The biopic of Woodrow Wilson is not a great example of the Golden Age of Hollywood. I could see why it flopped. It’s episodic, without much of a narrative, as the President of Princeton becomes President of the United States during World War One. Major moments are skipped, including his entire decision and rationale for running for President. They do also gloss over the racism and civil liberties violations.
Movie #161/ New Movie #89/ 2010s Film #22/ 3 Acting Nominations #2/ Casey Affleck Movie #2/ Michelle Williams Film #2/ Pair #3A: Manchester By the Sea
It’s not as draining as you would think, in a film about a damaged family, and a guy trying to do the right thing by his nephew after his brother dies (which is by no means the worst thing that has happened to the family.) It is a well made film about a truly troubled family.
Movie #162/ New Movie #90/ 1940s Film #13/ 3 Acting Nominations #3/ Pair #2B: Going My Way
This is a bit unusual in the 3+ performances category as one actor was nominated in two categories. It’s a pleasant film about two priests learning to get along (there are initial conflicts, but they’re not enemies), with an ending that is truly powerful and well-earned.
Movie #163/ 1960s Film #19/ 3+ Acting Nominations #4/ Pair #3B: Judgment at Nuremberg
Maximilian Schell won an Oscar for the best performance in a film with Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift, as a lawyer walking a very fine line between defending Germany after World War II, and suggesting that anyone else could be capable of that. It’s a terrific film about some serious ideas.
Movie #164/ 2010s Film #23/ Michelle Williams Film #3: The Greatest Showman
The musical about PT Barnum is historically inaccurate, but has some legitimately moving moments, and fantastic showtunes. I completely understand why it was such a hit, and wouldn’t mind a sequel introducing Bailey.
Movie #165/ 1960s Movie #20/ French Film #5/ Criterion Edition #31: Alphaville
Watching it again, this Godard curiosity remains aggressively weird. It’s very much a noir, with Eddie Constantine playing detective Lenny Caution, just as he has in many other films. Except this time it’s by Godard with Anna Karina as the love interest. And its a sci fi dystopia, with very little special effects. But the computer is kind of a fascist, controlling a world where no one is allowed to show emotion. It’s more interesting than great.
Movie #166/ 2000s Movie #11/ Michelle Williams Film #4: I’m Not There
It’s an odd avant-garde film, with multiple actors playing facets of Bob Dylan, that will include a lot of references that don’t make any sense to the people who aren’t familiar with his story. Even under those circumstances, it does remain quite accessible.
Movie #167/ New Movie #91/ 2010s Movie #24/ 3+ Academy Nominated Performances #5/ Pair #4A: Vice
This is an oddball biopic that has to cover a lot of territory since it’s about a man who was White House Chief of Staff, a member of Republican leadership in Congress, Secretary of Defense and a consequential Vice President. When watching it, I’ll quibble on timing before realizing that they just skipped a big moment (IE- a rather close presidential reelection.) It’s a decent take on a man pulling himself together, and a look at a major Washington power couple, although it doesn’t seem to recognize how Cheney could view his actions as correct, even if it understands that he does.
Movie #168/ New Movie #92/ 2010s Movie #25/ Casey Affleck Movie #4: A Ghost Story
It’s a decent quiet movie about what matters of a man’s life when he has become a ghost, and ends up part of the future and history of a location.
Movie #169/ 1970s Movie #15: THX-1138
The vision of a dystopia is rather well-realized and often quite modern. It is somewhat disorienting to consider whether scenes work because the film worked, or because an A-List Director with unlimited resources could play around with it after the fact.
Movie #170/ New Movie #93/ 2010s Movie #26: Time Trap
I’m a sucker for time travel films, so this story about college students bumbling into a cave where time goes differently is right up my alley. And there are some decent twists as they realize the scale of the weirdness.
Movie #171/ New Film #94/ 2020 Movie #8: The Old Guard
It’s a decent concept about an immortal team of mercenaries that results in some solid action sequences, and good twists on the concept. The main villain isn’t that interesting, although they do seed a better one for the sequel
Movie #172/ New Movie #95/ 1930s Movie #12/ Criterion Edition #32/ Pair #5A: The Smiling Lieutenant
As far as I can tell, Ernst Lubitsch and Maurice Chevalier have a rare distinction as the only director/ lead actor duo to be responsible for multiple Best Picture nominations in the same year (Francis Ford Copolla and John Cazale did The Godfather Part 2 and The Conversation together in the same year, but Cazale wasn’t lead) which speaks to their success. The comedy about a lieutenant who pisses off royalty by accidental impertinence is perfectly fine, especially when he has to choose between love and responsibility, and the film doesn’t go for the cliched choice.
Movie #173/ New Movie #96/ 1930s Movie #13/ Criterion Edition #33/ Pair #5B: One Hour With You
The other Lubitsch/ Chevalier film to earn a Best Picture nomination at the fifth Academy Awards. The songs are better, and the basic concept of a loving couple stumbling into adultery is a fun example of Pre-Code Hollywood, but there’s too much of a contrast between the light touch and the topic.
Movie #174/ New Movie #97/ 2010s Movie #27/ Pair #5B: First Reformed
This is an interesting film, worthy of deeper study that doesn’t require any familiarity with the influences, although I’m a little bit worried about its success among critics. I’m curious what happens if someone who isn’t especially politically engaged watches the movie with the understanding that critics think that Ethan Hawke’s minister has an attitude that makes sense.
Movie #175/ New Movie #98/ 1970s Movie #16: Frenzy
This is what happens when Hitchcock gets an R rating. The rape and gags involving naked corpses suggest that he worked better when restrained. It is kinda funny to see British actors I know exclusively from one TV performance decades later (Bernard Cribbins from Doctor Who, Clive Swift from Keeping up Appearances) in a radically different mystery.
Movie #176/ New Movie #99/ 2000s Movie #12/ Michelle Williams Movie #5: Meek’s Cutoff
There’s much about the film I don’t care for, but it is very deliberate in showing a version of what the west was like: indecisive miserable people on a dangerous journey where much was unknown.
Movie #177/ 1990s Film #14/ Pair #1B: L.A. Confidential
It’s a fun take on police during the Golden Age of Hollywood, with Spacey, Crowe and Pearce having a decent dynamic as different types of cops involved in a major conspiracy that doesn’t reach the depths of Chinatown, but remains kinda fun. Kim Basinger is a standout as a woman who represents the seedy side of Los Angeles.
Movie #178/ New Movie #100/ 2010s Movie #28/ Competition #1A/ / Pair #4B: Fences
This is an excellent domestic drama, with Denzel Washington’s Troy Maxson fully realized in his flaws and disappointments, and Viola Davis shining as the long-suffering wife wondering when it’s her turn.
Movie #179/ New Movie #101/ 2010s Movie #29/ Casey Affleck Movie #4: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
The story about a woman who screwed up and the lover who takes the fall makes for a decent crime drama. I will admit this is the point where the subcategories made it less fun to watch the damn movie, especially with Halloween coming up and new sub-challenges. It’s fine and it’s interesting.
Movie #180/ New Movie #102/ 2000s Movie #13/ Casey Affleck Movie #5: The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
It should not surprise anyone that a film with Roger Deakins is well-shot. Casey Affleck had well-deserved credit for his Robert Ford, a more complex figure than you may assume, although this film also has strong performances from Brad Pitt as the titular Jesse James, and Sam Rockwell as Ford’s brother. I may be a sucker for films that captures the mythos of America (My Darling Clementine, The New World, Bonnie and Clyde, Lincoln, Selma) but this is a competent example, and one I highly recommend.