Molly’s Game

Directed By: Aaron Sorkin
Written By: Aaron Sorkin (based on the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong

It’s perhaps no great surprise, or mollys_gamecritical insight, to remark that Aaron Sorkin directs like he writes. Aaron Sorkin is a man who lives and dies by the power of the spoken word—he champions it as the foremost tool in any dramatic arsenal, and he inhabits that ethos with a fullness of force that gives way to an apparent phobia of silences.

It’s a familiar if timeless routine by now (assuming it’s performed correctly)—acerbic wit, total breathlessness, punch, panache, and an excess of energy. Sorkin’s alacritous style works for many (Emmys for The West Wing— an Oscar for The Social Network) and is just as surely a great frustration to others. I find myself somewhere in between, Continue reading “Molly’s Game”

Phantom Thread

Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

There’s a scene in Paul Thomas Phantom_Thread_PosterAnderson’s latest outing Phantom Thread, in which elite and urbane British courtier Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) sits at a hotel restaurant and orders the most extravagant, labyrinthine of breakfasts: Welsh rarebit with a poached egg on top (not too runny), bacon, a pot of Lapsang souchong tea, scones, butter, cream, and jam (not strawberry). And some sausages, tacked on the end of the order like some cursory condiment. The warm, compulsively smiling Alma (Vicky Krieps) is the waitress tasked with Reynolds’ order, and she must do it, per the request of her customer, by memory. She does, and as if in premeditation of Reynolds’ asking her to dinner afterwards, she has Continue reading “Phantom Thread”

I, Tonya

Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Written By: Steven Rogers
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian11-tonya-harding-margot-robbie-at-the-1994-olympics-in-i-tonya-courtesy-of-neon-and-30westh Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser

Never have I seen a film based on a real-life story, make such a point of knowing so few of the facts.

I, Tonya, the tragicomic recounting of the improbable rise and calamitous fall of former figure skating champion Tonya Harding, is a film which has a peculiar relationship with “truth.” From the outset, Steven Rogers’ dexterous screenplay aims to deconstruct truth’s viability in a sleazy, pop-culture sphere; “there’s no such thing as truth” Tonya narrates to us at one point. For Tonya, truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; “everyone has their own.”

Tonya’s truth is that her role in the attack on fellow skater Continue reading “I, Tonya”

The Shape of Water

Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Written By: Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg

The fact that The Shape of Water is so SoW_posterdifficult to pin down is the first suggestion of its enormous, captivating power. Overviewing the plot is the easy part, a kind-of Beauty and the Beast for adults in which the most unlikely of romances flourishes between a mute female janitor working at a government laboratory (Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins), and the half man, half fish, possible deity that is being studied there (Doug Jones)— dredged from the Amazon by the U.S military in the hope that it/he might prove an “asset” in the escalating Cold War conflict with Russia. It’s a creature to whom Elisa is firstly sympathetic, and then enamoured of.

Inspecting the style with which director Guillermo del Toro embraces this Continue reading “The Shape of Water”

Darkest Hour

Directed By: Joe Wright 
Written By: Anthony McCarten
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup

1$_Characters AW_G Oldman Darkest Hour

I came across a peculiar statistic recently: nearly a quarter of all Britons believe Winston Churchill— former Prime Minister and poster-boy for the world’s resistance to the Nazis— to be a fictional character. In a sense, I suppose it’s almost understandable. It’s easy to forget that Churchill, given the enormity of his character and the historical standing to which he has laid claim, was made of the same stuff—skin, bone, muscle— as the rest of us.

Take a look at his perceived personality, a crude amalgamation of a gruff, belligerent grandfather likely to hog the couch at Christmas, and Superman. It’s one that appears purpose-built for pop media in its eccentricity and bombast, reflected in Churchill’s finding a de-facto home on Continue reading “Darkest Hour”

The Post

Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson

If awards were given on pedigree post_ver5alone, The Post would be the winningest film of this millennium. The story attacks with a two-pronged socio-political blitzkrieg, on one hand polemicizing governmental censorship of the press, and on the other hand defying the alleged inability of women to hold power in the workplace. It’s a narrative based on fact too, a recounting of how The Washington Post sought to deliver the most veiled of truths to the American public, and how the government scrambled to preserve that veil—a narrative that is uncanny in its timeliness, seemingly a gift from the gods in this maligned period of fake news and alternative facts (the production was in fact streamlined to cash in on the story’s Continue reading “The Post”

All the Money in the World

Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: David Scarpa (based on the book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson)
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris

It’s become impossible to divorce timthumb.phpthe onscreen story of All the Money in the World, from the offscreen story which has since enveloped it. With production complete and a release-date sweat inducingly imminent, director Ridley Scott played cattle wrangler and impossibly lassoed his crew back together for extensive reshoots. Swivelling on a three-week dime, Scott somehow purged his film of the disgraced Kevin Spacey, and in the eleventh-hour, subbed in Christopher Plummer to assimilate one of the film’s most substantial roles. Then came the editing process, and the unenviable task of transposing new footage into an Continue reading “All the Money in the World”

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Written By: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Francis McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges

There’s a scene in Three Billboards three_billboards_outside_ebbing_missouriOutside Ebbing, Missouri in which, without revealing specifics, two characters on a knife’s edge completely invert their personalities. Mildred Hayes (Francis McDormand) is couped up in a police interview room where she is subject to harsh, if not entirely unearned antagonism, courtesy of the town Sheriff (Bill Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson). She’s there, technically, because she drilled a hole in the thumb of her dentist, but in actuality it’s because of an audacious, ongoing publicity stunt in which she has rented three derelict billboards along a seldom travelled road, and plastered on them, with the most menacing of presentations (bold, black text stamped on a crimson Continue reading “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Call Me by Your Name

Directed By: Luca Guadagnino
Written By: James Ivory (based on the novel Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman)
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar

Few films have ever taken their Call-Me-By-Your-Name-Film-Poster-2017time as effectively as Call Me by Your Name, the latest from Italian director Luca Guadagnino–  a masterwork guaranteed to enrapture audiences in fits of seduction and intimacy, before leaving them crumpled on the floor,enlightened, but aching.

In it, Timothee Chalamet plays a soon to be lovelorn seventeen-year-old named Elio Perlman, a precocious, confident, intellectual (occasionally smart-ass) type with a prodigious talent for music and who seems to know a great deal about a great many things, except himself.

Elio spends his summers in Northern Italy with his parents, doing what he can to keep busy— Continue reading “Call Me by Your Name”

The Florida Project

Directed By: Sean Baker
Written By: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
Starring: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Valeria Cotto, Mela Murder 

Verisimilitude has fast become florida_projectSean Baker’s stock-in-trade. A crusader of the socioeconomically marginalised, Baker’s filmmaking has immediacy, realism, and is marked by an eagerness to completely lose itself in whatever portion of the world it’s depicting.

2015’s Tangerine, for example, although teeming with cinematic flair and flamboyance, signals a miraculous deep-dive into one of LA’s sketchiest corners, and a single day in the lives of two transgender prostitutes who work on it. It’s a film Baker famously shot entirely on iPhone 5 cameras, as a means of achieving heightened propinquity.

Take-Out took us inside the world of an illegal Chinese immigrant, who rallies to muster funds for a loan Continue reading “The Florida Project”