I expected the experimental new Broadway revival of Oklahoma! would be intriguing, if nothing else. But I fell for the production and can’t get it off my mind. Daniel Fish and company attack the Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II musical in a way usually reserved for Shakespeare: by taking a well-known text, stripping it down to its essence, and shaking it up to see what comes out.
I’d always wanted to see a major production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady, but I was sold on the replacement casting of Laura Benanti, who hasn’t been shy about wanting to play Eliza. I can imagine sitting through a My Fair Lady without a strong Henry Higgins, but it wouldn’t work at all without an Eliza who can fully commit to the dual persona of flower girl and well-educated lady, plus sing the ravishing score. Thankfully, this beautiful revival has both.
Click to see my final ballot predictions for next Sunday’s Oscars.
Oscars luck this year didn’t hold out for everyone. Cuarón dominates and Jenkins got another screenplay nom, but Chazelle’s biopic of Neil Armstrong ran out of fuel. Awards excitement makes it easy to overlook interesting work, especially when we elevate a movie’s chances of winning over conversations against its originality. These are not your typical Oscar bait movies; each is a beautiful, highly personal movie worth watching.
What would Oscar nominations be without a few surprises?
Crossing my fingers for Ethan Hawke, Crazy Rich Asians, and the Roma women!
It’s understandable why Adam McKay’s Vice wants to remind us that Bush’s presidency was a massive failure, and he does so by focusing on the power-hungry puppeteer in the passenger seat. But this biopic of Dick Cheney, a dark quasi-comedy, feels like a debate tournament PowerPoint, not an insightful look at what makes Cheney tick. McKay reuses all of his magic tricks from The Big Short, but they don’t make sense here. Despite good performances, Vice is sophomoric, not satisfying as a traditional biopic or as a satire.
Two of this fall’s guttiest (and best) movies are led exclusively by women: Yorgos Lanthimos’ royal send-up The Favourite and Steve McQueen’s slow-burn heist thriller Widows. Queens are a dime a dozen on screen, but they seldom get to be this wild and sexual; and I can’t think of a comparable movie to McQueen’s four women (including three women of color) who finish the job their men couldn’t.
What did I think of Bohemian Rhapsody? Well, it’s exactly what I expected from a band-produced biopic of Freddie Mercury rated PG-13.
And there’s Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, an unrepentant, unlovable writer who, down on her luck, begins crafting fake letters from the likes of Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward.
Here’s a cheat sheet for all the young-men-with-dark-secrets movies this fall: Beautiful Boy is the one with Timothée Chalamet as a real-life addict, not to be confused with Boy Erased starring Lucas Hedges in a true story about gay conversion therapy, neither of which are the same as Ben Is Back, also about addiction and also starring Hedges.
He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t move quickly. Michael Myers lingers because he’s unstoppable. No matter how quickly we run, he’s steadily sneaking up behind you, waiting to catch you in a dead end, at a locked door. He doesn’t explain why he’s coming for you–though others, including the writers, have decided over the years they must explain for him.
Lady Gaga is the first who becomes a movie star in front of us. When she first appears here, Gaga is worlds removed from her concert act: her hair is natural; her eyes are wide and unadorned; she speaks with a slight New York accent. Jackson Maine cautions her character Ally to be honest, and that’s advice Gaga has taken to heart. Gaga’s strongest career asset seems to be her ability to transform, to costume herself and strip herself down like a chameleon.
One year after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Spike Lee is here with BlacKkKlansman, shedding light on our nationalist upswing through the lens of the true-to-life 1970s infiltration by two cops (one black, one Jewish) of a chapter of the KKK.
You might think this straight-up satire, if you didn’t know it’s (mostly) true.
Last week, I caught Eighth Grade, the first movie written and directed by comedian Bo Burnham. I don’t know his comedy, though I’m watching his “Kill Yourself” bit right now. It’s the perfect late-summer movie. Pick this one when your MoviePass won’t let you into Mission Impossible: Fallout. Burnham captures the strange and terrifying world of […]
That’s right, I watched every Hitchcock movie from 1929 on, and compiled a master list from #44 down to #1.
Which of Hitch’s less familiar movies have been overlooked? And which (wink, The 39 Steps) are a little overrated?
I have the feeling Jagged Little Pill has a long future in store.
The new musical, directed by Diane Paulus, isn’t content just to give us nineties nostalgia. The creators reexamine Alanis Morissette’s hyper-popular 1995 album to fit the issues facing us today. Start checking them off; they’re all here, from coming out to opiate addiction to sexual assault. It’s a lot for one show to attempt, and the writing doesn’t always prioritize story over message. But we realize how character-driven Morissette’s songwriting has always been. Her work is so personal and confessional that it seems to belong here on the musical stage.
A door that’s locked tight. A mysterious tree house outside the bedroom window. A scribbled word on the wall. A creepy-as-hell little girl.
For most of its runtime, Hereditary pulls bits and pieces from horror movies across the ages to create something gripping and bewildering.
He based her on his mother. The cantankerous, mischievous, elegant dowager, 92 years old–or only 91, by her admission–that leads Three Tall Women is Edward Albee’s invocation of the woman who never accepted him. He left home, like the son in the play; we can assume his being gay had something to do with it. (There’s one fleeting reference to walking in on him with others.) And possibly he never forgave her, at least in life. “A” never forgives her son, either. They reconcile when she’s older, when she needs him, but they never dig deep enough for absolution.
Is there a classic musical more divisive than Carousel? With its transcendent score pitted against a 1940s take at gender politics, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s show returns to Broadway when we’re all anxious how abusive Billy Bigelow and the quietly devoted Julie Jordan will land.
Spring can be a drab time to go to the movies, but some well-made genre movies and smaller gems find a way to stand out. While Black Panther crushes it on the superhero front, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place has become a surprise box-office hit. Even with the presence of two married stars, this horror movie feels […]
“I want to be alone.”
These memorable words, in Greta Garbo’s Russian-accented delivery, are part of her enduring image. She was the reclusive actress who shied from fame and publicity throughout her estimable career. In the context of Grand Hotel, directed by Edmund Goulding, Garbo’s depressed ballerina urges her handlers to leave her, so that she can remove her costume and forget the disappointing crowd at the performance. Garbo doesn’t employ any dramatics to get our attention in this scene; she doesn’t need to.
Whatever happens, I’m pretty certain Kobe Bryant will be an Oscar winner by Monday morning.
Let’s start with the nine Best Picture nominees. If you asked me to predict the leading contenders months ago, I wouldn’t have anticipated a standoff between The Shape of Water and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. But though neither is #1 on my ballot, both movies, in their own way, are representative of the 2017 movie landscape.
I’m kicking off the Oscars Week countdown with a few performances that shouldn’t have been overlooked this awards season.
Eight years in Hollywood, two years in New York. Movie stars, celebrity athletes–and Russian mobsters. With Molly Bloom as our guide, we gain access to an exclusive club, where the money flows freely and the rich and famous meet once a week to gamble their wealth away. It’s prime Aaron Sorkin territory, sweeping back the curtain on the garish underworld of high-stakes poker like he did for politics, television, and Silicon Valley. And for two-thirds of Molly’s Game, he delivers a smart, sleek movie that works his crisp repartee into the glitzy adrenaline of the game. But when Molly’s poker career folds, Sorkin squanders his own hand by playing the wrong cards.
The last five minutes of BPM (Beats per Minute) are extraordinary. Director Robin Campillo takes all the strands of his story and cuts them together into an intoxicating, heartbreaking montage. Men and women are dancing their hearts out at a nightclub, while a man whose lover died spends the night with a friend, pouring out his grief in bed; all the while the ACT UP community makes one more triumphant political statement. The personal and the political are not separable…
Phantom Thread, with Daniel Day-Lewis’s alleged final performance, is as mysterious as its title suggests. Like much of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, the movie is hypnotic, engrossing–and restless. Watching one of Anderson’s movies can be an exercise in surrender: the path can feel circuitous, and the destination sometimes unfathomable.
Nothing is more stirring in Steven Spielberg’s The Post than watching the early morning newspapers get printed. Spielberg’s movie intends to rouse and inspire us, but the printing montage does that work all on its own. We watch the news text printed letter by letter, type placed into trays, trays imprinted onto a plate, and plates pressed onto newsprint. As Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks wax philosophical about the press, copies of the morning papers spiral up to the ceilings, ready to be delivered to homes across Washington. It’s dynamite for publishing and journalism geeks.
So the “incident,” which is how everyone describes it in I, Tonya, didn’t cause that much physical damage. Nancy Kerrigan pulled it together to win a silver medal six weeks later at the 1994 Winter Olympics. It’s not the most violent scene in the movie, that’s for sure. One poorly executed hit job, and Tonya Harding’s skating career ended while her life of infamy began.
With Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and season one of The Crown fresh in our consciousness, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour arrives at a moment when we’re steeped in British World War II nostalgia. Wright’s even making his second attempt at the evacuation of Dunkirk, following the middle chapter of Atonement, so there’s a real déjà vu watching this new biopic.
Guillermo del Toro’s new movie The Shape of Water fits into a storied tradition of folklore and fantasy from Hans Christian Andersen to Godzilla. It’s an old-fashioned fairy tale and a classic film throwback that clearly enchanted the director. Though Universal tried to revive its classic monster franchise this year with The Mummy, their failed attempt to create a new Dark Universe, del Toro has beaten them at their own game. The key to a new monster, it turns out, is a lighter–not darker–touch.
Honestly, this movie is so good. I want to move to Northern Italy to read literature and bike through the country and fall in love with Armie Hammer every day. The movie looks beautiful: Guadagnino clearly enjoys the lush flora and blue waters of Crema, where it’s impossible to resist the sensuality of your surroundings. He films the building romance simply, using few close-ups, to suggest a placid exterior that the lovers’ impulses push against.
No matter the odds, Lady Bird is determined to make something of herself. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, which she directed and wrote, is a warm coming-of-age comedy about growing up different. Based on Gerwig’s own experiences, Lady Bird’s senior year at her Catholic high school is a confusing and exciting time to be alive. She’s got that nickname (“It was given to me by me”) and dyed pink hair, but she’s still figuring everything out.
But The Disaster Artist is so perfectly meta: An hit-and-miss actor-director with endless funding for hundreds of bad movies, playing a so-bad-he’s-infamous actor-director with endless funding to make one really, really bad movie.
Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will definitely be one of the most talked about, and most contentious, movies of the year. This sprawling Midwest invective takes on police incompetence, brutality against people of color, and sexual assault, with heavy doses of small-town racism and sexism. It’s wildly entertaining; you truly don’t know where McDonagh is going. But don’t assume the movie has anything profound to say beyond that.
We just caught two revivals in New York of shows from the eighties: both highly acclaimed back in the day for pushing the boundaries of queerness and gender identity on stage. After thirty-some years, what may have been transgressive about these characters’ sexuality is now more accepted, and both playwrights have revised their work to be effective for 2017 audiences.
The last weekend she ever sees him, Alison Bechdel begs her father to talk to her. Really talk to her. This mundane car ride comes weeks after she comes out to him, hours after she learns he sleeps around with young men—and days before he steps in front of a truck. It’s Alison’s first and only chance to address what used to be their shared secret. He makes a small gesture, suggests a local gay bar, but she reminds him she’s too young to go. Nothing is really said.
For its first two hours, Blade Runner 2049 seduces us, slowly drawing us deeper into the past as we search for the key to upend this bleak authoritarian future. Where everything ends up isn’t as satisfying, but that’s not surprising for a movie motivated by mood, color, and scale more than plotlines.
I know Merrily We Roll Along from its original 1981 cast album. That recording immortalized Merrily’s 16 brief performances before Franklin Shepard and friends closed up shop. Like a few Sondheim shows that came before (looking at you, Anyone Can Whistle), that recording was so important for giving Merrily a life past its initial failure.
I don’t think a traditional review of Mother! would be effective. But I did want to wrestle a little with the movie.
Summer days drift on, and Frankie bums around his Brooklyn neighborhood, traipsing the beach with his squad of dumb goons, walking the Coney Island boardwalk, engaging with a girl who makes suggestive eyes at him. At night, he’s on a gay Brooklyn chatroom, clicking from cam to cam and scrolling past bare torsos until he […]
By land, by sea, and by air, the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France just across the water to England was a harrowing week at war. As the Germans forced the English, French, and Belgian troops to the beaches, the Allies plotted how to escape across the sea while holding the Germans off.
Sofia Coppola’s revisionist take on The Beguiled is at turns a romance, a savage fable, a brightly lit noir; and it’s that languid uncertainty—the promise that her story could go in any direction—that sustains the movie’s dreamy suspense.
THEATER REVIEW: The Little Foxes and The Price.
Regina’s story feels so familiar. She’s every woman who’s had to put up with stupid, selfish men getting ahead and keeping the rewards to themselves for far too long.
Making her return, as Norma Desmond defiantly crows, as a great star attempting her own ill-fated comeback, Glenn Close is following in the tradition of Broadway stars who’ve revived their characters for a new generation. This time around, Close’s Norma Desmond is more recognizably human.
The words the happy say Are paltry melody But those the silent feel Are beautiful— Emily Dickinson’s sister-in-law comes over in the wee hours, alarmed to see a light on, only to find Emily awake and preparing to write poetry in the quiet of the night. The look on Emily’s face is beautiful as she […]
The years are catching up with Bette and Joan. This season of Feud has only spanned two years so far, from early 1962, when Joan Crawford approached Bette Davis with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, to 1964, when Crawford exited Hush, Hush… Sweet Charlotte. At the start of the series, both actresses jumped at the chance to […]
“And the winner is… Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker.” The camera cuts to Susan Sarandon, standing in the wings, and for an infinite second she can sparely sputter a breath. Jessica Lange drops her cigarette, stamps it out beneath her silver sole—and proudly struts past Susan to collect that Oscar. “And the Winner Is…” is […]