FlixChatter Review: Phantom Thread (2017)

Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.

Ok, firstly a confession: this is my intro to Paul Thomas Anderson (known as PTA to cinephiles). Secondly: It’s a film I appreciate but not love. Wait, what? Yes I know, this film has garnered unanimous adulation. Critics as well as fellow filmmaker I know (including my short film director) calling it exquisite, masterpiece, sublime.

Now, I don’t disagree with them. On a technical level, the film is superb. Even the story is intriguing, impossibly elegant and mysterious. The painstaking attention to detail is amazing and amazingly-stylish, which is fitting considering it’s a film about an obsessive fashion designer.

On an emotional level however, it just doesn’t resonate with me. It feels like a cold film. Perhaps it’s intentional and perhaps PTA himself intentionally kept viewers at arms’ length, as that’s how the film’s protagonist Reynolds Woodcock keeps his lovers. Played with elegance aloofness by Daniel Day-Lewis, it made me wish he isn’t serious about retiring.

Even playing such an unlikable character, Day-Lewis is mesmerizing. There’s something so precise about his acting, and being a method actor that he is, he makes you believe he is whoever he is playing. But equally mesmerizing is Vicky Krieps as Alma, who’s pretty much Day-Lewis’ equal. It’s fitting given that Alma’s pretty much Reynold’s equal despite her initial meek demeanor. I haven’t seen miss Krieps before, but the Luxembourg-born actress has quite a resume. I just wish there’s more to her character, it’d be more interesting to see more of her backstory.

This is the kind of film that makes you ponder for days. What is it about exactly? There are many themes being explored here, and one that comes to mind immediately is obsession, specifically Reynold’s obsession with perfection. But he’s also a narcissist, a mama’s boy and frankly, a demanding big baby in terms of how he conducts his work. Everything has to be just so–no noise on the table as he eats his breakfast–or his entire day would be ruined.

He seems obsessed with Alma likely because she’s nurturing, yet she’s also headstrong like his loyal sister Cyrill. The always-reliable Lesley Manville is perfectly icy cool as Cyrill. There’s one particular scene between Cyrill and Reynolds that’s quite funny. The few darkly comedic scenes didn’t exactly offer respite from the gloomy spirit of the film however. I likened it to a chilly, windy, foggy day in London, perfectly tinged with melancholy.

Perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy this film as much was because I sat on the front row at the screening, so it was uncomfortable having to tip my head back the entire time to watch it. I don’t know if I would feel differently on second viewing, this isn’t something I’m keen on rewatching. Though it may appear like a romance drama, the film isn’t particularly romantic. It’s elegant yes, and tantalizing at times, but not really romantic. As I mentioned in my Shape of Water review, I love films that connect with me emotionally and this one didn’t really do that.

Despite my quibbles, I still give it high marks because I think it’s competently-done. PTA also did the cinematography on this and shot it on 35mm hence the rather-grainy quality. There’s not a lot of action in the film, but yet PTA made even the seemingly mundane act of sewing, cutting fabric, and especially cooking, so intriguing… and suspenseful. You won’t ever see mushroom the same way again after this. The style and camerawork suits the narrative and period well, complemented by Jonny Greenwood‘s evocative score. He’s a composer I’m also not familiar with, but his music here adds a hypnotic quality to the film.

So yeah, I can see why people admire PTA’s work and I’m glad I finally got to see one of his films. My film friends have all suggested that I check out his previous films, so I’ll do that eventually as I’m especially intrigued by Magnolia. As for this one, well I’m glad I saw it on the big screen, it’s certainly a good looking film.


So did you see Phantom Thread? Let me know what YOU think!

Wordless Wednesday: the unrequited love of ‘The Age of Innocence’

WordlessWednesdayIn honor of the double birthday of Michelle Pfeiffer (57) and Daniel Day-Lewis (58), I thought I’d highlight their work (and scorching chemistry) in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. It remains one of my all time favorite period dramas (and one of my faves of the 90s), and that unrequited love story never fails to move me to my core.

Words fail me to describe the beauty of this story… so I’m going to borrow the words of Roger Ebert: “It was the spirit of it — the spirit of the exquisite romantic pain. The idea that the mere touching of a woman’s hand would suffice. The idea that seeing her across the room would keep him alive for another year.”
AgeOfInnocenceageofinnocence_still

Newland Archer: You gave me my first glimpse of a real life. Then you asked me to go on with the false one. No one can endure that.

Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it.

tumblr_li78h0dD3V1qzyy9go1_r1_500

Ellen: I think we should look at reality, not dreams.

Newland: I just want us to be together!

Ellen: I can’t be your wife, Newland! Is it your idea that I should live with you as your mistress?

Newland: I want… Somehow, I want to get away with you… and… and find a world where words like that don’t exist!

ageofinnocence_still2This may not be a violent film from Scorsese in physical term, but it’s certainly a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. Certainly one of the most painfully-exquisite portrayal of unrequited love.


What’s your thoughts on The Age of Innocence?

Music Break: Marion Cotillard’s musical segments in NINE

I was browsing Netflix Instant yesterday when I saw the cover of NINE flashed by. I remember seeing that film a few years back and I even reviewed it. Overall I wasn’t fond of the film, it felt extremely indulgent and vapid. Despite Daniel Day-Lewis’ best effort and the spectacular female cast, Rob Marshall’s musical just didn’t wow me.

The two scenes that did make an impression on me, were the two musical segments performed by Marion Cotillard. She played Luisa Contini, Guido’s former-film-star-but-now-abandoned wife. Cotillard is also the only cast member who has two musical numbers in the movie, and I adore both of them. Kudos to composer Maury Yeston for writing such beautiful melody and lyrics of all the songs in the film.

NINE_MyHusbandMakesMovies

Luisa laments about husband’s obsession with making movies, and bedding his actresses, in the sequence My Husband Makes Movies. It’s such an emotional song and Cotillard conveys such pathos in the way she sings the song. I like that the scene also shows the first time Guido meets Luisa during her audition. It adds so much to the sentiment of the moment. The song such a gorgeous melody that has a sad, haunting quality. It’s quite a heartbreaking song that it actually made me tear up every time I hear it.

Her second musical sequence Take it All is far less demure. In fact, it’s quite a seductive number as Luisa shimmied down the catwalk in sparkly stripper getup. The spirited sequence is decidedly sexual and provocative, but it’s just as sad as the first one as she bares it all, body and soul, for her husband to see just how much she’s kept on giving.

NINE_TakeItAll

I love how passionate this song is, it’s both sexy and heartbreaking at the same time. Marion’s performance is nothing short of brilliant, I think her character is definitely the scene-stealer of the film. I dare say that she even outshone Day-Lewis every time she appeared in the film.

I still need to see her Oscar-winning performance as French singer Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. In her IMDb trivia, it’s said that ‘if she had not been an actress, she would have liked to become a singer’ No doubt Marion would have a flourishing career in that as well, heck she could probably do both. Another actor I wish would venture into singing is Ewan McGregor, LOVE his voice in Moulin Rouge!

So yeah, if you haven’t seen NINE yet, I’d say it’s worth a rent. The soundtrack however, should be worth buying.


What do you think of NINE and/or these two musical numbers?

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite biopic(s)?

A biographical film, or biopic (/ˈbɵpɪk/; abbreviation for biographical motion picture), is a film that dramatizes the life of an actual person or people.

JeannedArcThis week I saw two press screenings (The Butler and Jobs) that are both based on real-life characters. So I thought I’d blog about one of Hollywood’s favorite genre [or is it sub-genre?]. There are a plethora of biopics getting made every single year. I mean, if you look at this list of biopics in Wikipedia, the number is in the thousands, dating all the way to the year 1900 with short, silent film Jeanne d’Arc by Georges Méliès — clearly Joan of Arc is a popular subject that’s been filmed time and time again. Just in 2000s alone, there are nearly 500 biopics in just one decade! I think biopics have become a favorite for actors to portray, perhaps because they tend to be popular come award season. A bunch of actors have won Oscars portraying real-life characters, as Daniel Day Lewis did most recently playing President Lincoln.

Obviously, just like any genre/sub-genre, there are good and bad biopics, and there’ll never be a shortage of them in the years to come. I for one don’t mind them, especially when the subject matter are intriguing and even inspiring. I prefer biopics that focus on a certain period of the person’s life instead of an overarching biography, just because it’s so challenging to do the latter and make it compelling. I’m excluding documentaries for this post, as it’s kind of a whole different genre entirely.

If I were to choose my top 10 favorites from what I’ve seen, it’d probably look something like this (in no particular order):

  1. Schindler’s List (1993)
  2. Veronica Guerin (2003)
  3. Ray (2004)
  4. The Insider (1999)
  5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  6. Elizabeth (1998)
  7. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  8. Amazing Grace (2006)
  9. The Queen (2006)
  10. Walk The Line (2005)

5 Honorable Mentions: Amadeus, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Nowhere Boy, The Aviator

I say ‘favorite’ because a large part of how well we receive a biopic is how much we care about the subject matter. I mean, I’m fascinated by royal families (esp. British), but I know some people don’t and they probably aren’t going to be keen on films about them. Of course another big thing is how well we think the actors portray the real-life persona on screen, physical resemblance notwithstanding. Keep in mind I haven’t seen some of the essentials like Gandhi, Citizen Kane, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Ragging Bull, etc.


So my question to you two-fold… do you like Biopics and which ones are your favorite?

Oscar Musings, Predictions & Everybody’s Chattin’

Happy last Friday of February… or as we cinephiles call it, the start of Oscar weekend! As usual, the Oscars will be televised live this Sunday by ABC and in more than 225 countries worldwide from 8:30-11:30 p.m., ET.

Adele_Bassey_OscarI’m a bit bummed out that the James Bond tribute won’t be featuring all of the Bond actors after all, that’s been something I’ve been anticipating. I mean, wouldn’t that be cool?! But I guess that’s too good to be true. I guess we’ll have Adele singing the Oscar-nominated theme song Skyfall and I believe Dame Shirley Bassey will also make an appearance (yay!) Not sure what she’ll be singing though, but I’m sure it’ll be phenomenal! Oh, did you know that the cast of The Avengers will be on hand to present? Apparently that’s what it said on the Oscar blog.

Now, it’s been sort of tradition (well, only since a couple of years ago) that I’d post my winner predictions in the major categories. I haven’t seen ALL of the films nominated, but heck this is just for fun, so who’s gonna stop me! 😀

  1. Best Picture: ARGO
  2. Best Director: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
  3. Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln)
  4. Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
  5. Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
  6. Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
  7. Best Animated Feature: Brave
  8. Best Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom
  9. Best Adapted Screenplay: ARGO
  10. Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
  11. Best Song: Skyfall
  12. Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
  13. Best Cinematography: Life of Pi

Most of my predictions are basically just gut instinct so we’ll see how I’d fare, ahah. This year I’m rooting for ARGO, that’s the film I chose for the LAMB Devours the Oscars Series.

Click the banner below to read why I think ARGO deserves to win Best Picture!

Argo_UKposter

For sure I’ll be tuning in and live blogging Sunday night. Good thing I’ve asked my boss to take Monday off as I’ll be so tired and my brain will be filled with film stuff to concentrate on work anyway.

So now, on to the links! These are some awesome Oscar-related posts you should check out if you haven’t already:

BestPictureOscarEnvelope

Paula and Aurora are currently hosting a spectacular 31-Days-of-Oscar blogathon and this week Paula posted her random Oscar predictions. See if her picks match yours.

On a related note, Michael @ It Rains…You Get Wet participated in that blogathon by posting what he calls Oscar’s misjudgments… Recasting Oscar’s Picks of the 1990s. See what he’d righteously overturn within each of the decades he’s been watching movies, starting with the 1980s and later he’ll be posting his picks for the 2000s.

Another entry to the 31 Days of Oscar deals with the ever-so-fascinating topic of Oscar Curse… Is it for real? Well head out to check out Iba‘s post on I Luv Cinema and decide for yourself.

I don’t know how he does it but Josh @ Classicblanca has taken it upon himself to RANK all 85 Best Picture Oscar Winners since 1929 (honoring films in 1927 and 1928). Check out which films made his top 10 and which number the first Oscar-winning-film Wings falls on his list!

HowGreenWasMyValleySpeaking of Best Picture Oscars, there’s always one of those Best Pictures that people deem as ‘non deserving.’ That somehow it had robbed another more well-deserved nominee. Well, Ryan @ The Matinee ruminates over the year HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY won Best Picture over CITIZEN KANE in his Battle Born post.

Now, some moviegoers care about the award shows and some don’t even bother with them (I know my pal Ted is nodding profusely). Well, Dan @ Public Transportation Snob recently appeared on The Film Pasture’s Podcast discussing if the Oscar still matters.

Now, on top of the industry awards, some bloggers have been posting their own awards in various categories. Andrew @ Encore Entertainment just posted his picks of top ensemble cast in 2012, Very interesting list since I had just posted the question on best and worst casting of the year.

Now, last but certainly not least… Keith @ Keith and the Movies has been posting reviews of films nominated for Oscar this year (or contain Oscar-nominated performances). He apparently found nothing objectionable about Michael Haneke’s Amour, giving it a full 5 stars. Find out why in his Amour review.


Well that’s it for the Oscar links. Thoughts on this weekend’s ceremony and/or my predictions?

Encore Entertainment’s Essential Performances of the 90s Showdowns – Game # 17

This is Part II of Encore’s World of Film & TV that was spearheaded by Andrew. I have posted GAME 13 two days ago. The goal of this tournament is to determine the single performance, chosen by you fine lovers of cinema, that is worthy to be the BEST of the decade. Andrew asked me to do a write up to a couple of the showdowns [you can see the entire bracket here].

Please take part in this well, essential blog event by casting your VOTE and make your voice heard!

Without further ado, here’s my writeup for Game 17:

Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) as Hannibal Lecter

I happened to see Silence of the Lambs in the cinema and I tell you, for a while I was so terrified of Anthony Hopkins and even the mere mention of ‘chianti’ and ‘liver’ makes me shudder. It’s no wonder his personification of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the charismatic cannibal who never blinks when he speak, was ranked #1 on the American Film Institute’s Villains in its compilation of the 100 Years of The Greatest Screen Heroes and Villains.

Much of the iconic mannerisms: the nasty slurping sound and the creepy way he speaks Clarice’s name to taunt the young FBI officer are all improvised by the seasoned actor. Yet it takes a special skill not to overdo the creepy-ness, it takes skill to avoid becoming caricature. Such a character could easily have the opposite effect of being comical instead of sinister but Hopkins avoid the potential dilemma. He manages to forge that delicate balance of portraying a charismatic figure that effortlessly pulls you in, whilst at the same time scares the living heck out of you.

VS.


Michelle Pfeffier in The Age of Innocence (1993) as Ellen Olenska

I believe Scorsese’s period drama showcases Pfeiffer’s best work and in a way proves that she is a serious actress who somehow, unfortunately, is not regarded as such by her peers. So perhaps that’s why the beautiful actress identify so well with Ellen Olenska, an outcast in a 19th century New York high society when she is separated from her husband. Raised by a single mother in a society where divorce was still a taboo, I immediately identify with her predicament.

This is my favorite Scorsese film and though it’s not violent in the physical term, it’s definitely a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. The conversations between Newland Archer (the sublime Daniel Day-Lewis) and Olenska are heart-wrenching, their yearning and frustration that they cannot be with each other just makes my heart bleed. Yet Olenska is not just some lovesick puppy. She is a strong woman who defies society and refuses to conceal her independence, even at the risk of being scorned by people around her. That defiance spirit is magnetic and I credit Pfeiffer’s astute performance in getting that across without being overbearing. A magnum opus from a celebrated director, and I’m glad to say the film’s stunning cinematography and costume design match the equally beautiful performances. It’s rare to see a flawed heroine depicted in such a bewitching way, but Countess Olenska is surely one of them.

So…

Which of these is the finer performance of the 90s?


Please cast your VOTE on Andrew’s blog and/or let me know your pick and why in the comments.

The Ten Best Actors of All Time: Relay Race

My friend Nostra at My Filmviews started this back in mid March, as if he needed to prove to anyone that he lives up to the title ‘King of all Blog Series’ that I gave him 😀 What’s this relay race all about? I’ll let Nostra himself explain:

“So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors”

Since then the baton has been passed on to Terrence @ The Focused Filmographer, Scott @ Front Room Cinema, then off to Pete @ I Love That Film who then passed it on to yours truly!


All right, so here we go:

Robert De Niro

robert Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Although he may not have had any roles that stood out in the last couple of years, he has proven what an amazing actor he is. Just think of his roles in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Godfather: Part II, Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Heat and Cape Fear.

Daniel Day Lewis

daniel day lewis 6 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Although he might not have appeared in as many movies as some of the other actors in this list he makes up for it in the amazing performances he gives. He really disappears in his roles. Some of his best work includes My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, In the Name of the Father and Last of the Mohicans.

Charlie Chaplin

charlie chaplin1 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Now this might not be someone you’d immediately think of, but when it comes to comedy and silent movies he was perfect, funny and knew exactly how to make his audience care about the character he played. Some of his best work can be enjoyed in The Kid, City Lights, The Great Dictator and Modern Times.

Gary Oldman

garyoldman e1331475012125 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

He has proven that he is a true chameleon, with a very distinct look in every movie he appears in. His acting is always a joy to watch. Some of his best known work is that in the Harry Potter series, Leon, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the latest Batman movies and Dracula.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

psm Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

He started acting in 1991 and really has had a very versatile career appearing in movies that are loved in art houses, but in mainstream movies as well. His movies include The Ides of March, Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Wilson’s War, Capote and Magnolia.

Marlon Brando

marlon brando Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Now I must admit that I haven’t seen many of his movies, but he was stunning in his most famous role in The Godfather, but also roles in Apocalypse Now, On The Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire he wowed audiences.

Robert Duvall

robert duvall Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Robert Duvall has had an amazing career as well. I don’t know much about his early work, but I always enjoy to see him on the screen. His characters always are injected with something that grounds them into reality. He appeared in movies like Get Low, The Godfather, Colors, Apocalypse Now and THX1138.

Christian Bale

christian bale Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

With quite the diverse range in roles, Oscar-winner Christian Bale goes to great lengths for many of his roles. From losing weight to almost unhealthy standards twice (The Machinist, The Fighter) to taking dance and martial arts lessons for 10 weeks for Newsies (a film which he dislikes), Bale consistently goes to incredible lengths to bring a role to life. Other examples of his great work include: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Empire of the Sun, Equilibrium, and 3:10 to Yuma.

Edward Norton

The star of one of the greatest films of all time; David Fincher’s Fight Club.  He has made a career out of playing characters with two sides to their personalities.  From an ‘innocent’ abused choirboy with a dark side in Primal Fear right up to his turn as The Incredible Hulk, Norton does Dr Jekyll and Mr Nutcase Hyde better than anybody!  American History X and Fight Club are the standout performances of his career and though he might not have a huge filmography, his casting with Brando and De Niro in The Score was a significant baton-passing to the best actor of a new generation.

My Choice: Gregory Peck

Yes I realize my pick is quite predictable to most of you, ahah. But hey, we are talking about the best actors of ALL TIME here and after seeing twenty eight of his feature films in the last six months, I can confidently say he wasn’t just a great and versatile actor, he’s an acting legend! I think even fellow AFI Lifetime Achievement Award recipient DeNiro (and his co-star in the Cape Fear remake) would vouch for him. Interestingly, Mr. Peck passed away the night DeNiro received the AFI honor, and he called Peck “elegant, distinguished and a film icon” (per People).

Most of you know he won an Oscar as the quiet hero Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, but few know that it was his fifth Oscar nomination. He nabbed the other four Best Actor nominations within the first five years of his career. Though he’s known for portraying serious roles and a lot of noble men, I think he’s as adept and convincing in his more comic roles such as in Arabesque, Designing Woman and Roman Holiday. He’s also fun to watch as an all-out bad guy, such as in Duel in the Sun and Boys of Brazil (based on what I read anyway as I haven’t seen it yet), though by his own admission he wasn’t as keen on playing. I really think Mr. Peck is the real deal, a quintessential movie star with enormous acting talent and strong screen presence to boot.

Who I Replaced: Paul Giamatti

slice paul giamatti 01 Thursday List   The Ten: Best Actors of All Time   Relay Race

Oh man, I am in tears that I have to remove Giamatti from the list because I really like this guy!! I’m so sorry Scott, since you’re the one who added him to this list but if it’s any consolation, I do think he’s excellent, excellent actor but I guess out of all the nine other actors on this list, I feel like Giamatti is the one who’s perhaps more successful as a character or supporting actor, but doesn’t necessarily have that ‘star quality’ to get people to see a film simply because his name is on the marquee. I guess you could argue that about Philip Seymour Hoffman as well (which was my second choice to take out), but I do think Hoffman is the stronger and more compelling performer one of the two.



Ok, since it’s been mostly guys who’ve been picked to do the relay, I’m going to pick another girl for the next one. So I’m handing the baton over to… Kristin @ All Eyes on Screen. All right Kris, you’ve got a week to take part in the relay. Looking forward to see who you’d add and replace!
… 


So what do you think of my pick? Who would you replace if you were me? Let’s hear it in the comments!