The Last Jedi feels cobbled together from bits and pieces of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi: we get training sequences in a remote location headed by a reticent Jedi master; we get trench battles featuring hopelessly outnumbered rebels facing down AT-ATs; we get a final duel in the throne room of a star ship as a hero of the Alliance watches her fleet be destroyed, her allies snuffed out hundreds at a time. And I probably could have lived with that, to be totally honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that writer/director Rian Johnson also borrows from the prequel trilogy’s shoddier storytelling impulses and action set pieces.
In the latest Substandard (subscribe/review, unless you want Vic to quit; if we don’t make it to 500 reviews by the end of the year I can’t see him signing up for another tour), Vic, JVL, and I discuss, um, watches, before moving on to Darkest Hour (I liked it; JVL did not; Vic was mixed) and Gary Oldman. I’ve made my case for Oldman in Darkest Hour elsewhere, but what I’d like to do here is use the medium of the blog post to more fully praise his career. What I mean by this is, rather than writing an essay or putting up some listicle with capsule reviews from his years onscreen, I think we can use the form of the blog post a bit more creatively to take a tour through his career—to fully experience his range and the breadth of his transformations. When people say “character actor” they sometimes mean “that guy I recognize from a bunch of movies.” But Oldman is rarely recognizable. And he’s never the same twice.
(Notably absent from this montage: Tiptoes.)
So, after the embed, let’s take a peek at Gary Oldman: A Career in Gifs.
As you may or may not know, I am a member of the world’s most important and influential collection of critics, the Washington Area Film Critics Association. Each year we are tasked with deciding which movies are, objectively speaking, the best. It’s a solemn duty, and one I take very seriously.
You can see the whole list of nominees and winners here. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to note who I nominated, who I voted for among the finalists, and who won. I may add a comment or two. Please feel free to yell at me about any of this on Twitter; we at Sonny Bunch, Inc. take all of your comments and concerns extremely seriously and will respond to them in the order they are received.
As a work of visual art, The Shape of Water is among the most interesting films of the year: designed with an eye for detail and soaked through with a seawater green palette, director Guillermo del Toro has created a world both familiar and strange, perfect for his “adult fairy tale.”* It’s beautifully acted, with stirring performances from top to bottom. The score is lovely.
Darkest Hour belongs to a genre that often inspires shudders this time of year: a period piece about an important historical figure muddling through some crisis or another in a way that helps reshape not only our view of him but also our view of the world. “Oscar bait,” some might say, with a despairing sigh.
Interesting new poll out from Morning Consult reveals a great deal about the state of play in the Star Wars Universe. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Here’s the topline:
Adam Driver is probably best known for playing Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens: TK One More Subtitle, but he should be known for being an American hero (he signed up for the Marines shortly after 9/11) and one of the most interesting actors of his generation. After all, Driver managed to make the most interesting character on a show called Girls a guy. He gets a lot of credit for that alone.
If one were to make a Venn diagram for a studio head demonstrating whom, exactly, The Disaster Artist is supposed to appeal to amongst the general population, I imagine the overlap in the middle would be quite small. It’s a movie about a cult film, The Room, best known for being horrible. It’s made by James Franco, whose distinctive comedic sensibility is not without its detractors. I imagine that 99 percent of the population will be either confused by some part of this précis or actively annoyed.
On the latest Substandard (subscribe, review, etc.), we talked a bit about Denzel Washington and how he’s great. I mean, obviously. But we highlighted the fact that he has a very low number of true misses: his batting average is incredibly high for a guy that’s been working for 30 years or so. Even his movies that aren’t necessarily great (American Gangster, say, or Flight) are generally pretty good. And he elevates fare that otherwise might be dismissed as generic shlock (The Equalizer, Unstoppable) simply by being there.
But, of course, they’re not all winners. And I mentioned on the show that I had made a list of his worst films. Then I never got around to unveiling it. So, after the embed and for the first time EVER, you will see Sonny Bunch’s list of Denzel Washington’s not-great movies. I say “not-great” as opposed to “bad” or “worst” because, I mean, honestly, even The Magnificent Seven is still pretty okay. I know, I know: this is an exciting moment for all of us. But calm yourselves. You won’t do any good freaking out now. Listen to the show. Breathe. Then read on.
There are few things in a film that are more annoying than inconsistent characterization. When a writer/director takes a shortcut by making bit players do whatever is needed to further the plot rather than letting them react naturally to the story as it evolves around them, one can easily become vexed. Consider the behavior of George Pierce (Colin Farrell) in Roman J. Israel, Esq.