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


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.


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.


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.


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.