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

21Jan/180

Phantom Thread (2017)

Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans, The Unbearable Lightness of Being) is the Brett Favre, Sugar Ray Leonard or Michael Jordan of acting. I say that for two reasons. He's the best at what the does (and there aren't many out there who would disagree and even if they tried, they wouldn't have much of a foot to really stand on), but also because he threatens to, and often does, retire from his craft, only to, after a non-predetermined set of time, return to peak performance. He retired from stage acting in 1989 when he walked off the stage during a production of Hamlet. After 1997's The Boxer, he took up cobbling for five years (where he made exactly one pair of shoes, before Martin Scorsese pulled him out of retirement to star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Gangs of New York, a film that netted him his third Best Actor Oscar nomination at the time. He then went into hiding for another three years before The Ballad of Jack and Rose (perhaps only one of two misses in his career...the other being The Nine which didn't live up to its hype). Between these two misses, Day-Lewis gave, perhaps, the most memorable performance of his career as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, a role that won him his fourth nomination and second Oscar for Best Actor. After 2009's The Nine, he disappeared for another three years before returning as President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Speilberg's Lincoln, which landed him his fifth Best Actor Oscar nomination and third win. That was in 2012. 2017's Phantom Thread is his return film and one that he assures us is the last of his career. Will it earn him his sixth Oscar nomination? I am guessing that it will, though he will have no chance of winning acting's top prize. This year belongs to Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour. But if this is how Day-Lewis will go out, he'll do so in a role that isn't as captivating as many of his previous role, but one that is so subdued that you'll find yourself comparing against these past masterful roles and wondering how he is so easily able to create characters that are so different from one another when it seems like such a challenge for so many of the other actors of our generation, even some of our better ones.

16Jan/180

I, Tonya (2017)

Boy, do I have a completely different opinion of Tonya Harding after seeing Craig Gillespie's (Lars and the Real Girl, The Finest Hours) I, Tonya. The movie revolves around the 1994 Winter Olympics when her main competition for a gold medal that year (Nancy Kerrigan) had her knee taken out after a 1993 skating session in Detroit, MI by someone on Harding's payroll. Kerrigan's recorded screams of "Why?! Why ?!" that were then shown in media outlets throughout the world still resonate in our heads. Harding became the punchline of every late night talk show host's monologue and, unlike any time other time in history, we had a physical, life-altering altercation between two of the very best competitors in their sport. Even without all of the facts, we identified Kerrigan as the protagonist and Harding as the antagonist. And rightfully so. However, though it is made clear from the film's first scene that what we were about to see was going to be a "mostly true, wildly contradictory" account of what happened. Yes, Gillespie only gave us one side of the story, but it's a side that makes us think of Harding as an extremely sympathetic, misinterpreted, and even likable character who was, perhaps, as much a victim as Kerrigan was. Personally, I have a newfound affinity towards Harding that I hadn't had in the 24 years since the near 25 years since the incident happened. 

14Jan/180

Darkest Hour (2017)

Before I start the review for Darkest Hour, we might as well get one thing out of the way. It's Gary Oldman's (Sid and Nancy, The Dark Knight Rises) will win this year's Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Whoever the other four nominees don't even need to show up for the ceremony. Buried in thick coats of makeup and padding that make him unrecognizable, Oldman (who was only six years younger in real life than the many he was portraying on screen was at the time of this movie but who clearly takes better care of himself physically than the man he is portraying) pulls off one of the most remarkable actor/character transformations in recent memory in his portrayal of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  His performance will draw comparisons to Colin Firth's portrayal of King George VI (who ironically was a character in this movie) in 2010's The King's Speech, a role in which earned numerous awards for, including the coveted Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Oscar. When an actor's performance is so much greater than that of his peers in a given year, I often find myself comparing that role against roles in previous years. I do believe, had Darkest Hour come out last year that Oldman would have beat Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and had it come out in 2015, he would have given Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) a run for his money. Ultimately, though, this is a movie review site and not an acting review site. Darkest Hour is a good movie but, in my opinion, doesn't rival The King's Speech, Manchester by the Sea, or The Revenant in terms of entertainment and lasting impact. But in terms of the importance of telling its story and doing so in a way that keeps the audience interested and educated, Darkest Hour tops the other three.

7Feb/170

Hidden Figures (2016)

I get knocked a little bit when I talk to my friends about Hidden Figures. The Ted Melfi (St. Vincent) directed movie based on the untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson - Hustle & Flow, Four Brothers), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer - The Help, Snowpierecer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe - Moonlight, Made in America) as brilliant African-American women who were hired by NASA and who served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. When I rip on the movie a little bit, it is not because I think the movie is not good, but rather that it's just a little too predictable and too PG for me. While I really do enjoy and recognize a movie that is based on a true story, I appreciate a darker, edgier movie that much more. When I say a movie is too Disney for me, it doesn't have anything to do with Disney at all. It has to do with a movie being too toned down for my jaded self to be able to appreciate it. And, unfortunately, that's my feeling on Hidden Figures. Based on the preview alone, I had no intention of seeing it unless it got nominated for best picture. When it did, I reluctantly dragged myself to the theater and even paid the extra three dollars because it was playing in my theaters featured auditorium. With all of that said, Hidden Figures is by no means a bad movie. It just felt like a "been there, done that" type of movie for me. I feel like I've seen movies about overcoming adversity, fighting segregation, achieving a goal in the eleventh hour, and much more of what this movie does. In fact, I'm often drawn to this type of movie. But, as someone who sees movies a lot, I just feel like I've seen this exact movie a lot recently and it just lacked the intensity and edge that I appreciate at this point in my life.

27Jan/170

Fences (2016)

We all know about Alonzo Harris (Training Day). Most of us know about Frank Lucas (American Gangster). Some of us even know Tobin Frost (Safe House). Add Troy Maxson to that list of vile characters portrayed by Denzel Washington. Okay, so the character he portrays in Fences (a movie he also directed) isn't AS bad as the characters in portrayed in those aforementioned films. He's a different kind of bad. There is some good in Troy. I think he means well. But he is a complete hypocrite. He talks about doing right by others, providing for his family, and teaching them the importance of right over wrong. But in the end, Troy does only things that fill his massive ego. And in doing so, he hurts every single person who has ever cared for him.