Tuesday, January 02, 2018

As we head into Oscar season...

Watching a bunch of “for your consideration” screeners I’m picking up some patterns.

For whatever reason most of these movies begin with the sound of wind over the opening production vanity cards. I always worry that my sound is working until two minutes into the movie.  I think it was five minutes into HOSTILES. 

There seems to be a lot of biopics or depictions of real life events. And in most cases everyone knows the ending. Is Hollywood trying to make SPOILER ALERTS obsolete? The problem this creates for filmmakers is that the way you tell the story must be so compelling that you’re enthralled even if you know the ending. THE POST and I, TONYA fall into that category. THE DARKEST HOUR and DUNKIRK tell the same story but from different angles. At least in MOLLY’S GAME, although it’s the story of a real person, no one knew her before or what her game was. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN centered on P.T. Barnum but was a musical so I don’t think anyone cared about the ending.  You knew it was going to be happy.  And any movie with a bearded lady doesn't need a socko finish.

Very few comedies even bother to send screeners. THE BIG SICK and maybe LADY BIRD can be considered a comedy.

As always, there’s a bunch of movies I’ve never heard of. And a bunch of movies that are so depressing you want to blow your brains out. A few of those are even in English.

Every movie was too long.

LADY BIRD has been praised to the heavens.  Ten years ago it would just be considered a cute little movie.  

This year the word “Wonder” is in half the titles. WONDER, WONDER WHEEL, WONDER WOMAN, WONDERSTRUCK.

I’ll be reviewing a couple more movies this week and next.  But unlike film reviewers, no one's paying me so if I want to skip one I can (and I DO). 

One thing is consistent however – more of you will see STAR WARS than all the Oscar hopefuls combined. See ya at the popcorn stand.


Max said...

"DUNKIRK tell the same story" - So you did see Dunkirk? How was it?

Grace said...

Thanks for the pic of your movie screeners Ken.

I had asked regarding this on 19th Dec

Hope you share more pics and info about the Oscar season gifts in the coming days.


Phil said...

Happy New Year Ken.

Sorry, didn't log in for the past few days.

2017 - 454 That's epic Ken!!!! 3rd highest.

Now 454 may seem as just a number to many, but to us readers, that's unbelievable to think that there is a person out there who writes or talks everyday about interesting stuff just to entertain unseen, unknown people for FREE.

Those trolls need to think about this before posting another abusive comment.

Thank You.

Peter said...

I don't know if you'll get a screener for HAPPY DEATH DAY but do check it out. I thought it was one of the funniest and smartest movies of the year. Infinitely superior and wittier to the cookie cutter studio comedies like Bad Moms' Christmas, Daddy's Home 2 and whatever Jonah Hill usually appears in.

VincentS said...

BIG STICK, LADY BIRD? So, I guess anyone who writes a comedy should give it a title with a presidential connotation - ASK NOT WHAT YOUR CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND WILL DO FOR YOU...

Dr Loser said...

You want angles on 1940-1941? You don't need the Churchill carpet-chewing film, although Oldman struts his stuff as the English version of Nicholson. Dunkirk alone has the trademark Nolan "how many angles can I pack into this?" thing.

It was bloody awful. I could just about put up with Kenneth Branagh standing at the end of the Mole, wafting his binoculars in the general direction of something over which he had no control. I tried to make sense of the Spitfire squadron, and couldn't. The only point to the beached trawler was ... well, OK, I'd have to add a spoiler alert. Whatever point there was, it was hugely annoying.

But you know what really did my head in? The soundtrack. The soundtrack was inexcusable.

You can use Elgar's Nimrod for several purposes. It is about as elegiac as it gets. It works best in an expected setting (Edwardian) or even an unexpected setting (say, a union boss looking back on his life), but it has to be played at the correct tempo.

It was surrounded by aural mush in the soundtrack for Dunkirk, and played at roughly 2/3 tempo. The result was vile.

Oh, and spoiler alert? Every other story line in the film veered between shoddy, very thin indeed, and ignorant.

The bottles of brown beer at the end looked good, though.

Dr Loser said...

I will, however, claim that Mark Rylance would deserve an Oscar.

Anonymous said...

Saw Dunkirk. Agree with Dr. Loser. A lot of unguided people doing implosable things. Didn't make any sense of what was a very historic event that had a lasting effect on the outcome of WWII.

MikeN said...

I think you're wrong about Star Wars beating everyone else combined. It has already fallen behind Jumanji so it will be a disappointing total, probably because they are making one every year now.

Dunkirk did well, and I think The Post will too.
If Beauty and the Beast or Wonder Woman are in the mix then it's no contest.
Get Out is surprisingly high in the betting odds.

Vince said...

Agree with Dr Loser. Worst soundtrack.

Cheap trick to keep up the tension.

Commented earlier too about this:

Here is a video where they expose these 2 con artist duo of Nolan-Zimmer.

Why Christopher Nolan is obsessed with Shepard tones.

VillageDianne said...

I've only seen trailers for "Darkest Hour." But I find Oldman's imitation of Churchill's voice to be incredibly grating and annoying. Am I the only one who reacted this way? I'd hate to sit through a whole movie of this.

Clara said...

Did you read this Ken?

The activism of the rich and guilty:


Never spoke when the acts were being committed, they knew everything, but remained silent. Now to save face this PR gimmick.

Shameless swines these people are!!!

Wayne said...

Here again, I ask the question why the screeners aren't blu-rays instead of DVDs if they want to make the best impression on voters? And I have no problem with the disclaimer "for your consideration" in text on screen appearing periodically throughout the film, but it was permanently plastered on the frame throughout "Molly's Game" which is distracting to the point of taking away critical appreciation of the film.

Mike said...

I don't know that either Dunkirk or Darkest Hour are Hollywood films. Their studios seem largely British. Old chap.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Which is the most "politically correct" movie of 2017? I honestly believe that last year's Oscar for "Moonlight" was a direct result of Trump being elected president. That is, Hollywood was telling itself, Look how enlightened we are compared to those evil, ignorant Republicans. So, in that vain I expect, "Call Me By Your Name" to also do well this year. Ironically, if everything about that film was exactly the same except that it was about a seventeen-year-old girl instead of a boy no one would care about it. It might even be boycotted for being too creepy. (The Weinstein effect) Hollywood loves spectacle, tragedy, accents, etc. But you shouldn't underestimate the influence of politics on these awards.

Dr Loser said...

Yes, well, nobody sane would claim that you have to be a "Hollywood" film (whatever one of those might strictly be) to qualify for Oscar consideration. One would presume that distribution by a major studio, whilst even then not a prerequisite, might at a stretch just about make the cut. Old chap.

Vince: Thanks for that link to the Shepard-Risset Glissando. Now that you mention it,I'll admit that I can still hear the echos from Dunkirk in my head. I'm just about musical enough that I found the effect nauseating in a queasy sort of way ... hey, 1940s sea-sickness! Good job, Zimmer! ... in more or less the same way that I find 1960s Boulez queasy and nauseating, so not such a good job after all.

Basically, it's like an endless musical joke without a punchline. And I will repeat my claim: adding a borked version of Nimrod in the middle (more or less at random, as far as I could see) is a piss-poor substitute for the punchline you know you are not in a position to deliver.

Perhaps the Benny Hill tune would have worked better. (Arguably it might have highlighted the incompetence of the British commanders. And there's a lot of beach involved, so bikinis five years early, what an idea Mr Goldwyn!)

It was vile. And Vince's clip offers up the "interesting" information that the ticking that starts the glissando off comes, and this is so immensely clever that nobody could ever have guessed it, from a watch owned by Christopher Nolan.

What an immense prat.

One more thing. The action in Dunkirk mostly consists of a glissando going down. Planes being shot down, Stukas and Messerschmitts diving and strafing on the standard doppler effect, and so on. So, not only is this prissy little attempt to create dramatic tension effectively aural soup: it's also aural soup upside down.

I'm sure that Messrs Paganini and Rachmaninov would have a few stern words to say about that.

I'm Outraged! said...

Vince said - 'Here is a video where they expose these 2 con artist duo of Nolan-Zimmer'. Nonsense, the video explains Shepard tones and how they have been used, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Wow, kinda paltry year for movies there Hollywood. A couple of more years like that and the place will just be irrelevant.


Vince said...

Dr Loser

Thanks for the explanation.

s g,

Yes, it explains Shepard Tones. I called them con artists 😀

Dr Loser said...

One more time on Dunkirk, which is a genuinely dreadful movie. I wish to enter my objections on behalf of the various relatives, twice removed, and in one case by a 1945 Dutch toilet deliberately left behind with a trip-wire by the retreating Abwehr*, called Eric, who actually went through WW2 and were traumatised by it. Obviously, Eric the Khazi, as we fondly remember him, was more traumatised than most.

I have a lot of relatives named Eric. This causes me a nominal problem. I would like to name my new pet hamster Eric, but he seems to be a bit dim and his ears don't work properly. I think I'll call him Christopher Nolan instead.

Smell me incensed.

No, wait, that isn't right. Color me purple and incensy.

Oh, what the heck. Do not, under any circumstances, go to see Dunkirk. It is a visual, aural, and historical offense against common ordinary decency.

Just ask my hamster. (I've confiscated his watch.)

* This is actually true, btw. The official family story is that he died in a Luftwaffe bombing raid, as a radio operator for the RAF. Actually he was blown up in a stolen outhouse after the Germans had left, entirely by an otherwise inconsequential and unintended accident.

Vue Nimrod. Proper speed, please. No fucking glissandos.

DBA said...

VincentS, I know you were making a joke to an extent, but it's The Big SICK, not stick. No Roosevelt references there.

Ron Rettig said...

Ken, As a consumer I hate silent opening of movies on disc or Netflix, etc. for the reason you mention, is my sound system working?

Buttermilk Sky said...

I thought Dunkirk was covered rather well in MRS MINIVER a long time ago, establishing the myth of the little boats and their civilian owners. Actually, small craft were appropriated by the Royal Navy, used to carry soldiers to the ships anchored in deep water, and then scuttled. But why let facts get in the way of a good story?

MikeN said...

Clara, Hollywood will do nothing. They put in charge of their sexual harassment task force, someone who lied about being sexually harassed, all to remove a powerful person from their job, and then later defended someone else accused of far worse sexual harassment than anything she alleged.

And yes it is clear Anita Hill lied. The testimony of her friend made this clear at the time, telling Congress in detail about how they were in DC at her place, etc. Then someone pointed out that Hill wasn't working for Clarence Thomas yet, and she asks for a recess and comes back and suddenly all these clear memories are gone and she is not sure about the timeline.

Mike said...

@Dr Loser: I don't really understand your response, but I'll attempt to explain. British studios need American distributors to distribute in America. The studios make the films and the distributors distribute them. What is a Hollywood film? I'd say it was one made by a major American studio, probably based near Hollywood or LA.
Why did I mention the British studios? Because I'm enjoying what seems to be a small revival of the British film industry.

@Buttermilk Sky: The war-time propaganda of the plucky British & their flotilla of little ships was necessary. More here:
Rather like the British film industry in the face of Hollywood dominance.

Gary said...

Always amazing to read posts like the one from Clara, who believes that she knows, beyond any shadow of doubt, that every single celebrity was aware of Harvey Weinstein's behavior. And how can Clara be so sure? Because it's what she wants to believe -- so that automatically makes it true. Yes, Fox News has trained its sheep well.

VP81955 said...

"But why let facts get in the way of a good story?"

Or ruin the impact of a true story? Case in point: The 1976 biopic "Gable And Lombard," supposedly a romance involving the lady in my avatar (who's glad to be back -- and in color this time -- after several months' absence). Its biggest faux pas appears in the beginning, when Clark (James Brolin), in uniform, waits for Carole (Jill Clayburgh) to return home from a war bond rally, which as we all sadly know, she didn't. The problem? Gable didn't enlist until seven months later (Lombard had prodded him to a few days before her plane crash). The screenwriter argued it made Gable's character more sympathetic, something I completely disagree with. Anyway, you can read the screenwriter's comments at


Clara said...

Gary, I am an independent thinking person and doesn't need to be trained in what I need to think.

I was referring to veterans like Tom Hanks who said this:


People knew yet remained silent or called him "God" (like another veteran Meryl Streep). Its only when the public found out and after the outrage, they too jumped on this side to save their image.

Save your smug, condescending diatribes for your Hollywood parties.

By Ken Levine said...

This is a post on Oscar contenders. Play nice people or I will delete the thread. Thank you.

Barry Traylor said...

Ken, what did you think of Dunkirk? If felt more like a documentary to me as  it was difficult to engage with any of the characters, at least for me.

MikeN said...

You can talk about musical travesty and all you want, but Dunkirk is a great movie. You may say that there was no connection with the characters, but it produced an emotional connection with the viewer, making some cry, including me.