365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Elle (2016)

Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) Elle opens with a scene that even the most jaded person would find difficult to watch. Whenever we see a rape scene on the big screen, we are mortified. Rape is a crime we abhor and, next to murder, the one we find most unacceptable in society. To start a movie with a brutal rape sets the immediate somber tone of the movie and, ironically, a tone that we often get away from. There are so many genres in this French subtitled film. It can be classified as a drama, romance, suspense, thriller, revenge, mystery, and even comedy. I'd be lying if I said I understood every component of this movie without having to do some research for it afterward. Apparently, the older gentleman didn't have that problem as he began clapping as we rolled to credits. The reason I saw this film was because Isabelle Huppert (Things to Come, Amour) is a lock for a Best Actress Academy Award nomination after winning a Golden Globe. I think she has a solid chance to win. I think her only real competition are Natalie Portman (Jackie) and Emma Stone (La La Land) I'm uncertain, at the time of this writing, which way I would lean. I wasn't the biggest fan of Jackie, but Natalie Portman did nail the role perfectly. It was dark and dreary and I wasn't sure the movie was needed. Elle was fresh and original and while the content was dark, Huppert gives a career-defining performance as Michele, a woman who refuses to show any reactionary human emotion for the events she is put through. If someone forced me to make a pick today, I would say that my heart says Huppert, but my mind says Portman. It would not be unprecedented for an actress to win cinema's top prize. In fact, there have been two winners in the past decade (Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose and Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as well as a slew of other nominations, including two in the past four years. And Portman already has her Oscar for Lead Actress (2010's Black Swan). While Huppert might be an unknown commodity in the western hemisphere, she has been one of the most revered actresses in Europe for the past 40 years. With no Oscar nominations to her name yet, the one she receives this year may come with the trophy itself.


Lion (2016)

Prepare yourself. I'm not sure if I've had a movie theater experience with a more constant steady stream of tears since 1997's Titanic. I know there have been movies that have scenes that have affected me more and there have been home viewings where I don't feel the same pressure to hold it together as I would in the theater. While I was having sort of a sentimental day prior to my engagement with this movie, for whatever reason I was wiping away tears early and often in this movie. It some ways it was eerily reminiscent to 2008's Slumdog Millionaire in that it starred Dev Patel (Chappie, HBO's The Newsroom) and revolved around the story set, mostly, in the present with flashbacks to childhood memories in India. Much like the fantastic Slumdog Millionaire put Patel on the map for the first time, Lion will, for sure, launch him to leading man status for years to come. Though he didn't appear on screen until the movie was about 40% over, he commanded every scene he was in from that point going forward to transformed this movie from great to must-see. In a year where the top lead actors have portrayed characters riddled with guilt, doubt, regret, and self-loathing, Patel holds his own with the more accomplished Denzel Washington (Fences), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), and frontrunner Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea).


Moonlight (2016)

Barry Jenkins' (Medicine for Melancholy) Moonlight is an ambitious film in so many different ways. Though it particularly revolves around the uncertainty of being gay, it also touches on many of the other important issues of the day, including adolescent bullying, drug abuse, masculinity, broken relationships, and poverty. The acting in this movie is out of this world. Never does this feel like a movie to me. Rather it feels like you are just an invisible camera watching three different stages of a male discovering and dealing with his sexual identity in the hardships of a destitute part of Miami, Floria. The film is divided into three chapters. All are centered around the same Chiron. At age 6 or 7, he is referred to as Little. At age 16 or 17 (which is the chapter that gets the most focus), he is Chiron. And for the last chapter, he's age 26 or 27 and goes by the name Black. He's equally conflicted in all three different stages of his life. The simplicity of this movie is its strength. If you like artistic movies that center around a real story with characters who feel real, you will probably find this movie absolutely riveting.


La La Land (2016)

Don't let the first ten minutes of Damien Chazelle's (Whiplash) La La Land influence you too much. As much as it might seem like West Side Story, Grease, or a host of other musicals, rest assured it is not that kind of movie. Ten minutes in, after a supporting cast of characters who you never see again finished performing a song and dance on top of and around their cars while in a traffic jam on the 105/110 interchange in Los Angeles, CA, I wondered what the heck I had gotten myself into. There was a reason I have never been able to get through Chicago or Moulin Rouge. I am sure that these are fine movies, heck Chicago won Best Picture and Moulin Rouge was a Best Picture nominee. I'm just not into musicals as much as I am other genres. There is nothing wrong with them (I don't like animated movies much either), but they just aren't my cup of tea. I think the only reason I was able to sit through Les Miserables was because my dad had already tricked me into watching it in the theater. My biggest fear was that La La Land would be either all song and dance (which was implied from the trailers early in the year) or a lot of song and dance (which was inferred from later previews). However, neither was the case. While there was a lot of music in this film and it certainly was a musical, it's not JUST music. There is so much more. I think if you're at least willing to give this movie a chance, you'll enjoy it in some fashion.


Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Almost perfect. While it may not even end up in my top five movies of the year, Kenneth Lonergan's (You Can Count on Me, Margaret) Manchester by the Sea was almost perfect. I said the same thing when I started my review I began my review for Nocturnal Animals just a week ago. Both movies had such potential to be a serious movie of the year candidate (both with the Academy and with me), but both movies had some serious holes. While Nocturnal Animals will likely not receive any nominations com, Manchester by the Sea will likely earn multiple ones (and rightfully so). Manchester by the Sea will likely finish as one of my five favorites of the year, but boy did it have the possibility to absolutely be number one.