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.


Cassandra’s Dream (2007)

Not the biggest Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Match Point) fan myself, I feel that his movies I have seen in recent years, particularly Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris, lack the overall substance I desire in my romances as well as my dramas as well as my romantic dramas. Cassandra's Dream is a movie I would never have given a chance when it had been released back in 2007. I'm not a huge fan of Colin Farrell (The Lobster, In Bruges) or Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Incendiary). Ferrell has grown on me by shedding his bad boy, box office revenue chasing persona and doing a lot more indies. McGregor just never really has. The point is is that I never thought I would have liked this movie and am surprised that I even watched it. I'm grateful that I gave it a chance some nine years after it was released. It was a nice, simple film that kept me entertained the whole time.


The Lobster (2016)

Yorgos Lanthimos The Lobster is one weird movie. I don't often do well with movies I find to be weird. Some movies that have gotten high ratings with the critics (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Bottle Rocket, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, or basically any other Wes Anderson film) are movies that I have found to be so absolutely dreadful that they are virtually unwatchable. There is a simplicity in the tone, the dialect, and the actions that I find a little peculiar in itself, but the overall strangeness of these movies is what makes the overall experience a chore. I know there are those who love Wes Anderson and to each his own. I personally don't understand what the point of his movies is. The Lobster feels very similar to one of these Anderson movies but, oddly enough, it held my interest. And while I didn't necessarily understand why a movie so strange needed to be made, I did find it engaging and it really didn't feel like I was watching the movie just to say that I watched it. While I didn't like it and would never watch it again, there were parts of it (the loneliness of the characters, their isolation from society, their inability to accept themselves) that hit home, albeit in a way that I am not normally accustomed to.


Free State of Jones (2016)

With his scraggly beard, yellow teeth, foreboding scowl, and deliberate limp, Matthew McConaguhey's (Amistad, A Time to Kill) portrayal of Newt Knight, a poor white farmer who led an extraordinary rebellion during the Civil War, is a far cry from the same man who was pigeonholing his career a decade earlier by playing the same character over and over in hit or miss romantic comedies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner, Fool's Gold, and The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past just to name a few. McConaguhey reinvented himself three or four years ago and re-established himself as dramatic leading man with the likes of The Lincoln Lawyer, Interstellar, HBO's True Detective, Killer Joe, Mud, and Dallas Buyer's Club, for which he won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role at the 2014 Academy Awards ceremony. While he's had his misses recently (has anyone even heard of 2016's The Sea of Trees?), he has continued to have the ability to pick and choose his movies and, unlike his string of romantic comedies, he continues to branch himself out further and further.


The Danish Girl (2015)

The closer that each of my reviews is to awards season, the more unconventional they become. For the past four or five years, I've tried to see absolutely everything I can. If a movie gets nominated in one of the big six awards, I will see it regardless of how I feel about it. Sometimes this can be a painful experience, but it's part of what I'm trying to do. So before I get into my review of The Danish Girl, I want to talk about the Best Actor Academy Award nomination category. In a year where the male lead performances have been far below the caliber that they have been in recent years, the battle for Best Actor comes down to two people. They are Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, My Week With Marilyn) for this movie and Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant. When Matt Damon (The Martian) or Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) are the next guys in line behind these two, you know it's a two dog race. I am a huge fan of both Damon and Fassbender, but they each have at least three movies in their filmography in which they delivered better performances than the ones they gave this year.