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!

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2014 Edition

FiveForFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Inspired by my recent viewing of Gone Girl which features yet another collaboration between David Fincher & Trent Reznor, it made me think of other great director/composer partnerships.

Fincher_Reznor

Fincher & Reznor have collaborated on Se7en, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo previously. There are many other similar partnerships that have churned out amazing works: Steven Spielberg & John Williams, Christopher Nolan & Hans Zimmer, Ridley Scott & Hans Zimmer, J.J. Abrams & Michael Giacchino, Peter Jackson & James Horner, just to name a few. Wiki has a list of all director/composer partnerships if you’re curious.

So what’s your favorite director/composer collaborations?
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2. I just want to highlight a couple of new trailers that came out in the last couple of weeks. The main draw for me for both of these are the filmmakers. Now, first one is Blackhat.

A man is released from prison to help American and Chinese authorities pursue a mysterious cyber criminal. The dangerous search leads them from Chicago to Hong Kong.

Now, I’m most curious to see this mostly because I LOVE Michael Mann‘s work and he’s the kind of director who’d go into great lengths into researching his films. His last film he directed was Public Enemies in 2009, and though it’s my least fave film of his, I’m still hugely anticipating what he’ll tackle next. I wonder if he’s spent the last five years researching about cyber crime, but that doesn’t seem far-fetched to me. The casting of Chris Hemsworth as a hacker is a bit odd, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m a fan of Viola Davis however, and the cast & scenery does have an international flair to it. Btw, did you catch that ‘big hammer’ reference in the trailer? 😉

The other one that really piqued my interest is Paul Thomas Anderson‘s comedy caper Inherent Vice.

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.


Confession: I haven’t seen any of PT’s film before. Yes I know, I know, I guess I better get on that. This one might be the first of his movies I’d see on the big screen. It looks like a dark comedy and there are some goofy parts in the trailer, which is interesting as I don’t normally see him directing comedies, but it intrigues me even more. Plus the cast is fantastic, especially Joaquin Phoenix who’s such a chameleon!

Does either one of these trailers pique your interest?

3. Now, this is a VERY special topic for me, considering how big of a fan I am of the massively talented Toby Stephens. Not only is he joining Twitter, woo hoo, he’s also making his directorial debut in a short film called In Vitro, hence his Twitter handle. Ahah, his Twitter background photo is hilarious!

TobyOnTwitter

As Toby’s described in his own words, In Vitro is a film that subtly explores how infertility can erode a marriage, and what can happen when cold science, replaces passion and a sense of mutual purpose. It’s a subject that’s rarely explored in film, but it’s one that [he] feels needs to be. Sounds like one of my fave British actors, Rupert Penry-Jones, have signed on to be the lead actor! How awesome, as both will be in Black Sails 2 next year!

Toby’s looking to get support via the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, here’s the direct link to his project. I’m so thrilled for him and you can bet I’m one of the contributors! 😉 Check out the video w/ all the details:

Thoughts on this project? I’m also curious which crowd-funding project(s) are you supporting and/or planning to?
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4. Last night I watched Jon Favreau’s Chef which was pretty enjoyable. Man, even though we watched it after dinner, those food porn shots definitely got us salivating.

ChefMoviePics

Chef is the perfect feel-good movie for the weekend, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The story is pretty engaging though editing could’ve been much tighter. I think a 90-min film would’ve suffice for a story like this one, and the two Iron Man cast (RDJ & Scarlett Johansson) weren’t given hardly anything to do in their gratuitous cameos. Still, the food stuff are incredible. It certainly made me want to take up more cooking and I wish there’s a Cubano food truck like El Jefe here in town!! Last time I was wiping my drool as I watching was when I saw Julie & Julia and Today’s Special.

What are YOUR fave food movies you’d recommend?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Melissa from SnapCrackleWatch blog!

SnapCrackleWatchBlog

Originally we’re going to discuss holiday movies, but let’s table that until November 🙂

CharlieBrownPumpkinSpecialSince it’s October, and a lot of people are excited about Halloween, Melissa was wondering if you have a film tradition, whether it’s horror or otherwise, to celebrate the season. Melissa mentioned the Charlie Browns Pumpkin Special, which is something I’d be far more inclined to watch than any of the horror offerings out there. For those not a fan of scary movies like me, there are some horror-comedies that are fun to watch year after year, like Shaun of the Dead, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, The Corpse Bride, etc.

So, do you have a Halloween viewing tradition, if so what is it? 


Well, that’s it for the October 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Guest Reviews from fellow TCFF Bloggers: Frankenweenie and The Master

I was away at an interactive design conference all day today, folks, but I wanted to introduce you to two fellow TCFF bloggers who’ll be covering the film fest with me. June actually covered TCFF last year for her Girl Producer blog, but this will be the first time Emery will be covering the film fest. She’s currently studying film at the U of M Film.

Thanks June and Emery for your reviews!


FRANKENWEENIE 

Ah a beloved story of a child and his dog mixed with Ghoulish looking people, black and white theatrics, and animal zombies. Wait… what?

Frankenweenie started at a short film that got Director Tim Burton fired from Disney. Yep, fired. So it is only fitting that years later he is hired back and given a chance to revisit his old tale now embraced by Disney.

So what to say about the film? It is definitely true to the Burtonesque nature of things with it’s dark theatrics and beloved stop motion claymation and snappy humor that you have to be quick to catch. And in old Disney fashion there is something for both kids and adults to enjoy. Having seen the short years ago I was excited to see how things played out in the feature version. The thing about Burton is that he always creates fascinating abstract characters and that remains true in this film.

This is a great Halloween film that the whole family can enjoy, just be aware that there are some darker moments in the film that may be unsuitable for those really young.

– review by June Neely

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3 out of 5 reels


THE MASTER

The Master is a period piece, set directly after WWII, it focuses on a veteran named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), who is returning home. Either the war wreaked havoc on his mental state (a victim of PTSD) or he is inherently a troubled person. Whatever the reasoning is for his behavior/personality there isn’t a place for him in this post-war environment. This is the case until he meets Lancaster Dodd (the always lovely Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams), who are the founders and leaders of The Cause; the Cause is a theologically-based group that exhibits traits of a sophisticated cult.

Lancaster recognizes that Freddie needs help and takes him in, believing that he can fix him. The two men’s personalities are dissimilar to such an extent that all of their interactions put you on pins and needles. Each character brings their own tension, and each interaction creates new discomfort – laughter seems to be the most appropriate reaction. Considering Paul Thomas Anderson’s past work, if it wasn’t unsettling and confusing, many viewers would be disappointed.

Over the course of the film, The Cause becomes more and more questionable. Before the release of this film, there were rumors that this was going to be a Scientology movie– P. T. A. based The Cause and Dodd’s character loosely off of L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology) and his original group of followers. Despite resemblances, any connection with the current religion has been denied.

Paul Thomas Anderson is a highly acclaimed writer-director; he is responsible for a mere six feature films, yet all of them have numerous accolades. The acting is award-worthy, but I doubt that this will rake in the awards like 2007’s There Will Be Blood, but fans of PTA will be far from disappointed.

This is not a movie – as in something you would want to see in your leisure for quick (mindless) entertainment – this is a film. The cinematography is breathtaking (I saw it in 70mm – every shot looks like a photograph); this film is driven by its characters, which are genuine and memorable, and though the narrative takes a back seat, it is far from dull.

One of the quirks of Freddie Quell’s PTSD is that he’s a raving alcoholic, and there are a few points during the film where Freddie is shown making his own product. I have found an interview from the Vulture website that discusses the plausibility of distilling and getting intoxicated with household chemicals (worth a read after you go see The Master).

The R rating is deserved; Freddie has bad habits and the audience is given a full serving of his mature lifestyle. I walked out of the theater with my faith in today’s film industry totally restored. I am trying to give away as few plot spoilers as possible, while whole-heatedly advocating everyone to go see this. Waiting for it to come out on DVD is fine and dandy, but missing an opportunity to see this on the silver screen would be foolish.

Fun fact about the film: The Master grossed an average of $146,000 per theater during its limited release (sep. 15 and 16)– the second-highest total for a limited-release live-action film.

– review by Emery Thoresen

4 out of 5 reels


Thoughts about either one of these films? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Trailers Spotlight: Cloud Atlas, Chasing Mavericks, The Master

Hello folks! I haven’t done a trailer post since Man of Steel last weekend and this past week there have been quite a few trailers that caught my attention, so I thought I’d highlight ’em here in case some of you have not seen it.

Cloud Atlas

I’ve been quite curious about this movie for some time ever since it was reported over a year ago. I even did a spotlight post for it and boy just check out the star-studded cast! Well, this past week we got an extended trailer (5-min long!) and by golly it looks spectacular! I thought that the Tom Hanks + Halle Berry combo is rather odd, but the whole trailer is so surreal anyway. Despite the length of the trailer though, the story is as cryptic as ever. Truthfully I had no idea what it’s about but reading this description of the plot might give you somewhat of a clue:

An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

The story is based on British author David Mitchell’s award-winning sci-fi novel of the same name, it was published in 2004. On top of the amazing cast from all over the world, I’m curious about it because it’s from the Wachowski siblings. It certainly is an ambitious project, let’s see if the Wachowski could pull this off. Would this be as groundbreaking as The Matrix over a decade ago?

The Master

I’ve been waiting for Joaquin Phoenix to come back to acting from his supposed *retirement.* So the moment I saw this trailer I REALLY want to see this.

A 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as “the Master” whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man.

From the trailer, the faith-based organization is curiously similar to Scientology and this Daily Beast article written by someone who was a Scientologist for 15 years seems to confirm that The Master character could very well be based on L. Ron Hubbard.

Of course director Paul Thomas Anderson nor anyone from the studio is confirming that. No matter, this looks like an intriguing film indeed and both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Phoenix’s performances seems poised for major buzz comes award season.


Chasing Mavericks

I’ve mentioned this film on the Gerry Butler Special post, and here’s the official description:

CHASING MAVERICKS is the inspirational true story of real life surfing phenom Jay Moriarity (newcomer Jonny Weston). When 15 year old Jay discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, is not only real, but exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home, he enlists the help of local legend Frosty Hesson (Butler) to train him to survive it. As Jay and Frosty embark on their quest to accomplish the impossible, they form a unique friendship that transforms both their lives, and their quest to tame Mavericks becomes about far more than surfing.

Truth be told, I’m not too fond of this trailer. Jay’s story seems compelling but I’m not seeing it in the trailer, it looks bland and formulaic, though those waves do look spectacular. But hey, hopefully a meh trailer means a good movie, after all the Curtis Hanson did direct one of my favorite crime thrillers L.A. Confidential.

I do love the fact that Butler actually learned to surf for the first time for this movie, instead of just using a stand in. Those surf shots look real and Butler looks pretty convincing as a surfer mentor, so I remain optimistic about this one. Now that I think about it, this’ll be the first surfing movie since I watch like Point Break! Btw, I like the first poster that still has the old title, but this latest one is very artistic and has that ‘surfer dude’ personality.


BONUS:

Behold the power of iconic music. Someone made this Man of Steel teaser and set it to John Williams’ Superman score:

It’s got the EXACT same footage but it immediately feels sooooo much more powerful and gives you that holy goosebumps watching it. I know I should give Hans Zimmer the benefit of the doubt that he’d create something special for this film but man, you can’t deny just how amazing Williams’ score is and clearly it’s such a timeless piece of work!


Well, thoughts on any of these films folks? Which one are you anticipating most?