Lady Bird Review

For some time now Greta Gerwig has been slowly taking the title of “queen of independent films” away from its longtime holder, Parker Posey. Well, now she has once again gone behind the camera and released her second film, Lady Bird, which she also has written. Lady Bird also stars one of the industries best young actresses, two-time Academy Award nominee, Saoirse Ronan. Ronan blew everyone away when she stole the show in 2007’s Atonement as well as her beautiful performance in one of 2015’s best films, Brooklyn. 

Lady Bird is the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a seventeen-year-old girl who is doing her best to exist in a city, school, and home that feels out of place in. These feelings are compounded by a contentious relationship with her overly critical mother, Marion played by Laurie Metcalf in the role of her career.

As Lady Bird navigates her way through her senior year of high school she discovers heartbreak, superficial friendships and how these experiences can mold you into everything that makes you who you are. Hell-bent on attending an east coast college she consistently butts heads with her mother on her future while discovering the depths of her parents struggle with their own lives. Lady Bird at times goes to great lengths to hide her family’s meager means while attending a private school with much better to do children. 

The relationship Lady Bird and her mother have is one that can easily be related to by most. Sympathy can easily be felt for both of them as it is well portrayed what each one’s deeper feelings and motivations truly are. Marion wants the best for her daughter but her blunt honesty and critical views of her daughter’s life and choices feel overbearing to Lady Bird. While on the other hand, Lady Bird also wants what she feels is best for herself while still not knowing what that is.

She desperately wants the encouragement and support from her mother in her choices and wants but can’t seem to get that from her. It is in this aspect that the movie really settles your heart because we come to want what they BOTH want. We see Lady Bird grow significantly throughout her final year of school and she gets all the support and understanding from her loving father played by Tracy Letts. Her father is struggling in his life both outwardly and within himself all while doing all he can to give his daughter everything she needs to be a successful woman. 

This is Saoirse Ronan’s first major role since her Oscar-nominated performance in Brooklyn and she seamlessly transitions from a 1950’s Irish immigrant trying to make it in a new world, to an eccentric teenager battling her way through some of the most tumultuous times in her life.

Her performance is so genuine and real that we feel every emotion and difficulty she has and her struggle to navigate her way through it. This is a character that could not have been played by any other actress out there because of how we feel about her. As much as this is due to Ronan’s unbelievable abilities it is equally attributed to the magnificent script that Gerwig has masterfully crafted. 

Lady Bird is one of the most heartwarming yet raw coming of age stories that have been put out in years. Without question, Gerwig has established herself as a preeminent filmmaker working right now. In a time and industry that is in recent times been plagued with mistreatment of women and abuses of power that make everyone sick, Lady Bird is the glittering jewel that makes people want to make films and makes the viewer continue to enjoy them.

All is not lost in the industry that seems to have had its legs knocked out from underneath it. Films can be built back into what it once was and it will be done with the strength of filmmakers like Gerwig. She will soon become a signal of hope for all the women fighting for equality in the industry. 

Lady Bird is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime for free.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Review

This was Published on December 29, 2017. Frances McDormand has quietly become one of the most reliable actresses working today. I would dare say her consistency is above even Meryl Streep. She doesn’t churn out movie after movie. She isn’t exactly a marquee draw, but every time she makes a movie she MAKES the film. She has four Oscar nominations to her name and one win for her brilliant turn in Fargo. She is on her way to her fifth nomination and very possibly her second win for her roll in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Despite being married to one of the brilliant Coen brothers and often being in their films, she has no reason to think that is the reason for the respect she receives.

McDormand’s latest film is no exception to her long list of exceptional performance. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an emotional yet tender and look at personal tragedy and loss. McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a mother who lost her daughter to rape and murder just seven months before the start of the film. Fed up with the lack of progress in her daughter’s case by the local police, she rents three billboards on the edge of town and leaves a message for everyone to read and especially Chief of police played by Woody Harrelson.

When the city is somewhat divided into her methods, she is unwavering in pushing things to the limit to get the results she needs for closure. Mildred is still dealing with an abusive ex-husband played by the highly underrated John Hawkes. With a hotheaded police officer played by the ALSO underrated Sam Rockwell, with a tarnished record harassing her at every turn she seems to be fighting everyone to get closure on the death of her daughter. Mildred goes through a series of events that increase the resistance she is facing even from her own son, only to find help from the least likely of people.

Despite its unconventional title, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a masterfully crafted story lead by its incredible cast and script. The pacing of the movie is only one of its many significant aspects. The humor that accompanies it is not out of place by any means and does not at all diminish the seriousness of the central theme of the story. Writer/Director Martin McDonagh has a history of mixing these qualities well with past films such as In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths ( also with the great Sam Rockwell).

One of the great things about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is seeing a director come into his own and get such top performances out of his cast. Highly overlooked in the cast is Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage’s performance. Although a relatively minor role he plays the part of a somewhat outcast just trying to fit in and express to Mildred that he has feelings for her and even understands her anger and bitterness at the world, something she never indeed recognizes in him.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a movie that demands more than one viewing, not because of missed details but because of the different emotions, one feels during viewing that it takes more than one watch to be able to ingest all of it. The films have already garnered six Golden Globe nominations and be prepared for it to grab just as many Academy Award nominations and don’t at all be surprised to see McDormand and Sam Rockwell accept gold that night.

McDormand will have serious competition from Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie but make no mistake she is as deserving as any one of them to take the prize. At this point the only competition Sam Rockwell faces, in my opinion, is Christopher Plummer for All The Money In The World and Plummer’s ability to pull off what he did in the amount of time that he did is what gives him the advantage. I would love to see Sam Rockwell win and I’d be very curious to see the reception he would get, being as liked and respected as he is. It would make for a beautiful moment for him.

The Shape Of Water Review

I am very excited to review The Shape Of Water for one reason. Two and half years ago I wrote a post about how the creativity in the movie industry seems to be all but dead. I still wholeheartedly believe that but, like I said before there are some exceptions to this. Guillermo del Toro is maybe the leader of the original filmmakers in Hollywood.

His 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most creative films to hit cinemas in quite some time. He then brought the futuristic sci-fi action movie, Pacific Rim to theaters. This year he gave us yet another truly original story to life with The Shape Of Water. With an all-star cast including a slew of Oscar nominees, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer he brings his monsters back to life in beautiful style.

Set in the 1950s cold war in a highly secret government facility a mute cleaning woman who lives a small life who’s only friends are a fellow cleaning woman who looks out for her played by Octavia Spencer and her artist neighbor played by Richard Jenkins. When a secret project is brought into the facility by the nearly sadistic leader played by Michael Shannon. When Elisa (Hawkins) looks into the project too closely and discovers an amphibious creature which appears to be half man she finds herself unusually drawn to him and forms a friendship in secret.

When the Russians begin trying to capture the creature she forms a plan with her friends to take him out of the facility and bring him home to keep him from being experimented on. They soon pull off an unlikely heist which brings the creature to her home and has the government on a search to bring him back to the facility and keep him out of Russian hands. Elisa soon forms an even deeper bond with the creature that leads them to attempt to flee from everyone they know.

The mind of del Toro is something of people like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George Lucas (early Lucas) and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, in our own time. It has been recognized by critics and award committees and fans worldwide. He has used the film medium to bring his creatures, or as he refers to them, monsters, to life.

What makes The Shape Of Water wonderful to experience is not just his creativity but the beauty in which he makes his worlds come to life. del Toro is not just creative but he is a great filmmaker and has a very unique vision. He has a great sense of character and emotion that all great filmmakers have, which is what makes them great. His mind and worlds can captivate every cinephile and bring them into a new place which is what movies are all about.

The Shape Of Water is rightfully being recognized all over this year as one of the years best movies and rightfully so. While his style and worlds may not be for everyone, those with a desire for originality will find The Shape Of Water a refreshing new find. We can only wait for his next creation to be taken away to another fascinating world and time.

Sam Rockwell Finally Got The Credit He Deserved

I wrote this article over years ago on my old blog, loveyourfilms.com  and it was so nice to see Sam Rockwell finally get the recognition he deserves on Oscar night a few months ago.

Some years ago I remembered having a conversation with a co-worker about who is/was the greatest guitarist ever. He was convinced that the best guitarist was some guy who none of us had ever met and who wasn’t and isn’t famous and never will be. I argued with him on this point but as time has gone by I believe he is right. I think the same may be right for actors. The best actor is probably some man or woman doing small theater in a nowhere town who doesn’t have the confidence to try and make it big. That’s not to say there aren’t some outstanding working actors. It’s also fair to say that some actors, including famous ones, don’t get their due justice.
The focus here is to bring awareness to people who do and do not know who Sam Rockwell is and just how underrated his acting is. In all fairness to Sam, there have been unwise choices, but the great ones outweigh those. There are times that he acts for the love of acting or even for the experience of who he may be working with or for the enjoyment of playing the character he’s encompassing.

Most people first caught a glimpse of Rockwell in the Tom Hanks movie The Green Mile as Wild Bill Wharton. That same year he was in the cult comedy Galaxy Quest as Guy Fleegman. A couple of years later he would make a small appearance in Jon Favreau’s indie hit Made. It may have been a small role, but it was a hilarious and memorable scene as the hotel clerk. After a couple of shorts films and some very indie movies he met George Clooney and eventually won one of his most defining roles. Clooney was about to embark on his first directing project, an adaptation of the Chuck Barris autobiography, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. Rockwell won the prized role of game show host and creator Chuck Barris. He nailed it. With one of the best acting performances of the year, he made you feel like you were watching The Gong Show all over again and played the role of a CIA assassin to perfection.

He next teamed up with Nicolas Cage and Allison Lohman in the con man comedy, Matchstick Men. He career appeared to be on the rise. Then, as happens so many times, taking a role in what would be an epic failure. The highly anticipated adaptation of a beloved sci-fi classic novel and British mini-series, A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The moved fell to critical and financial dismay. The next couple years would be commercially lean for Rockwell, and he wouldn’t grab notable recognition until he was in the independent western movie, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. He would play Robert Ford’s brother, Charley. The one trouble with the Jesse James film wasn’t critical acclaim or poor box office numbers because it exceeded everyone’s expectations in those areas. Unfortunately for him, Casey Affleck was so good he stole the show from Rockwell and received his first Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Rockwell was back in the shadows as fast as he came out. Rockwell was every bit as good as Affleck just going unnoticed.
He continued to work and took a smaller but critical role the next year in the critically acclaimed Ron Howard project, Frost/Nixon based on the Broadway play. Once again acting out-shined Rockwell with stellar scenes that are instructional videos on great acting, between Frank Langella and Michael Sheen.

Returning to the indie scene, he tackled his best role and by far his most challenging. The low budget sci-fi thriller, Moon, seemed doomed from the start. With a budget of only 5 million and filmed during the writers strike and at the helm was a first time director, it seemed destined to fail. The pressure weighed all on Rockwell’s shoulders. With at least 95 percent of the scenes being him alone talking to a computer voice only rock-solid performance could save the movie. As far as indie movies go? It was a smash success! Sam had done it. He had made the film without question with a once in a lifetime performance. Sadly again not many knew about Moon nor did the awards committees see fit to honor the significant role he made.

Rockwell has worked steadily including roles in Iron Man 2 and Cowboys and Aliens working with his good friend Jon Favreau. We can only hope that one day Mr. Rockwell will get his due justice, meanwhile keep your eyes open for what could be his next great performance.