Love Simon: The Charming John Hughes Love Story For A New Generation

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By Miles Shapiro

After an extended hiatus in the 90s and early 2000s coming of age stories seem to have been granted a resurgence as of late with films such as “The Spectacular Now” and “The Edge of Seventeen”. On television in particular shows like “Riverdale” and “13 Reasons Why” have brought in massive following while also being reasonably well received by critics. This 1980’s teen flick renaissance continues with “Love Simon”, the story of a high school senior coming to terms with life, love, and all the other ups and downs of adolescence. It is refreshing how “Love Simon” features a gay protagonist, making it the first major studio romantic comedy to do so.

In the titular role of Simon, Nick Robinson radiates charisma; bringing debt and relatability to the films closeted lead. The screenplay by Elizabeth Burger as well as Arlington High School Alumni Isaac Aptaker crackles with youthful energy and provides a sappy but deeply honest portrait of adolescence and unexplored sexuality. The film bends to genre tropes unabashedly while at the same time, its unique voice and charm gives it a style all its own. Despite its contemporary setting, the films atmosphere, music, and visual palet give it a timelessly seductive feel and coaxes the viewer into a feeling of nostalgia.

The films supporting cast also shines with a slew of young talents as well as more well known names like Tony Hale and Josh Duhamel rounding out the well drawn cast of characters. The film is well paced and despite not necessarily breaking any new ground in terms of storytelling, this film is revolutionary for what it doesn’t show. Unlike many stories of inclusion that put their progressiveness at the forefront of the story, “Love Simon” is refreshingly restrained. The movie features a homosexual protagonist, but that is is not the story, it’s just part of it. Simon’s sexuality of course plays a large role in the film but the story is never compromised to make room for the message.

This film is not going to be competing at any festivals or winning any oscars, but that was not its intent. What this film sets out to do is tell a charming romance with just enough substance and heart to elevate it above its contemporaries. In this goal, the movie fully succeeds and in time will likely take its well deserved place as one of the more prominent entries in the teen film’s second coming as well as a welcome milestone in the journey to on screen equality.

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Oscar Movies Review

By Eliza McKissick

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Oscar Winners

Best Picture: The Shape Of Water

My Final Order for “Best Picture” Films

  1. Call Me by Your Name
  2. Get Out
  3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Phantom Thread
  6. The Post
  7. Lady Bird
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. Shape of Water

 

Lady Bird:

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson  is a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento California. The film follows the outspoken Lady Bird as she navigates her way through friendships, relationships, family drama, and the pressures of being a teen.

  1. Storyline- 7
  2. Originality-2
  3. Acting- 9
  4. Realism/ accuracy- 10
  5. Resonance- 6
  6. Bonus: none

Total-  34/51… 67%

The overall plot of “Lady Bird” is far from original. There have been countless films released that touch on practically the same subject. That being said, what sets “Lady Bird” apart is the acting, and the accuracy of the relationships being portrayed. Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) have a somewhat destructive relationship, something that many teenage girls, and mothers alike can relate to. Both Ronan and Metcalf do a tremendous job dedicating themselves to these characters. I definitely enjoyed the film, and I believe “Lady Bird” deserved to be nominated; however, in my opinion, the lack of originality prevents it from being a serious contender for the award.

 

Call Me by Your Name:

Set in the summer of 1983 in a small town in northern Italy, the film follows Elio Perlman as he comes to terms with his sexuality. Elio falls in love with his fathers intern, Oliver, but spends much of his summer trying to repress these feelings.

  1. Storyline- 10
  2. Originality- 9
  3. Acting- 10
  4. Realism/ accuracy- 10
  5. Resonance- 9
  6. Bonus: soundtrack-1

Total- 49/51… 96%

“Call Me by Your Name” was spectacularly done; the acting was incredible, the storyline was amazing, and the relationships portrayed were heartwarming. Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver’s (Armie Hammer) romance was beautifully captured; both actors did a tremendous job. The romance between Elio and Oliver was not the only well developed relationship: Elio and his parents shared a moving connection. Their continuous love and support for Elio added to the films overall storyline. I would label “Call Me by Your Name” as most deserving to win the award for Best Picture.

 

Darkest Hour

Based on true events, “Darkest Hour” follows Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, through his decision of whether or not to negotiate peace deals with Nazi Germany. Churchill was forced to make this decision just days after accepting the role as Prime Minister; he had to do so while dealing with opposition from his own party, skepticism from the King, and civilians who were not yet ready to fight a war.  

  1. Storyline- 4
  2. Originality-9
  3. Acting-9
  4. Resonance- 1
  5. Realism/Accuray- 8
  6. Bonus: filming-1

Total: 32/51… 63%

Full disclosure: I am not a huge fan of war movies, so going into this, I was a bit biased. That being said, my biggest issue with “Darkest Hour” was its plot. Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) struggle over his decision to either negotiate a peace deal with Nazi Germany, or fight for Britain’s liberty, is interesting, but not enough so to stretch it out over 2 hours. I feel like I could have gotten the basic premise of the film in a 20 minute clip. However, Gary Oldman does a great job in his role, and the filming was excellent. “Darkest Hour” was docked a few points in the accuracy section because of the scene with Churchill on the train. With some quick research it became clear that that never actually happened. Overall, the film was impressive, but not my top choice.

 

Dunkirk

1940, Allied forces were trapped on Dunkirk beach by an encroaching German army. British and French civilian boats were brought to evacualte the soldiers, saving over 300,000 soldiers. The film spans between a few British soldiers fighting to get home, a boat with three British citizens sailing to Dunkirk, and a British Air Force pilot.

  1. Storyline-9
  2. Originality-9
  3. Acting-9
  4. Realism/Accuracy-10
  5. Resonance- 4
  6. Bonus: Soundtrack-1

Total: 42/51… 82%

Despite my general unenthusiastic attitude towards war movies, I genuinely enjoyed “Dunkirk”. The story is incredible, and the film does a great job capturing it. There is no real character development, but that could be a creative choice to show that in times of war one doesn’t really have the time to get to know their fellow soldiers. The soundtrack does an great job building up the suspense in a scene, and keeping the overall sense of nervousness present throughout the film. “Dunkirk” was not my favorite of the nominated movies, but it definitely deserved its nomination, and it was, altogether, an impactful film.

 

Get Out

Rose takes her boyfriend Chris upstate to meet her parents for the first time. Chris is anxious to meet them because he is black and they are white. Upon their arrival everything seems okay; Rose’s parents are doing their earnest best at welcoming Chris. Chris then begins to notice strange behavior from the families servants, who happen to be the only other black people on the farm. As the film progresses, the family’s motives appear to be more sinister than anticipated, and Chris decides it is time to “Get Out”.

  1. Storyline- 10
  2. Originality- 10
  3. Acting- 9
  4. Realism/ Accuracy- 7
  5. Resonance- 10
  6. Bonus: Content- 1

Total: 46/51… 90%

“Get Out” was spectacular. The filming was incredible, the blend of horror and political/racial satire produced a wonderfully unique film. What hurt “Get Out” in terms of my (possibly flawed) scoring system was the realism aspect. I decided to remain optimistic in my decision that the specifics of the plot would never happen. That being said, “Get Out” definitely made the audience think about racial injustice. The horror aspect of the film was not so much fear of a tangible person, but more a fear of the reality of racism, and of whites who are complicit in the exploitation of blacks. In the current political state that America lives in, this film was crucial. While “Get Out” did a tremendous job tackling major issues, I do not believe that it will win the award for best picture.

 

The Post

Katherine Graham, the first female publisher the Washington Post had seen, must decide whether or not to publish top-secret government files that expose the details of the Vietnam war, which the U.S. government’s  had previously kept secret. If the Post were to publish the leaked documents, they could be charged in federal court for Contempt. If the Post chooses not to publish they are abandoning the American ideal of “Freedom of the Press”. Graham must struggle with this decision while facing the doubt of many of her peers.

  1. Storyline-7
  2. Originality-7
  3. Acting-9
  4. Realism/Accuracy-10
  5. Resonance-3
  6. Bonus: none

Total: 36/51… 71%

The plot of “The Post” was fascinating. The film did a great job covering the events that transpired, and was definitely informative. Meryl Streep, who played Katherine Graham, did a fantastic job. However, there wasn’t anything that really set “The Post” aside from the other nominated films. I enjoyed it while I was watching, but didn’t think about the film once I had left the theatre. Overall, a decent film, but I do not believe it deserves to win the award for best picture.

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frustrated by the lack of action in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes purchases three billboards and platers a controversial message directed towards the chief of police, William Willoughby. By doing so, Mildred Hayes is waging war on her local police force. The film focuses on the grief of a mother mourning the loss of her brutally murdered daughter.

  1. Storyline- 10
  2. Originality- 9
  3. Acting- 10
  4. Realism/ Accuracy- 8
  5. Resonance- 6
  6. Bonus: Character development-1

Total: 44/51… 86%

The acting in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was outstanding. Frances McDormand, who played Mildred Hayes, gave an incredible performance. I appreciated the character development throughout the film. The audience was able to see Mildred working through her pain, Chief Willoughby coming to terms with his personal affairs, and Willoughby’s right-hand man, Officer Dixon, turn his life around. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” did a beautiful job blending the juxtaposition between grief, redemption, and humor. This film was one of my favorites out of the nominated, and I would not be completely surprised if it won best picture.

 

The Shape of Water

Set in Baltimore during the 1960’s, the film follows Elisa, a mute woman who works as an overnight cleaner in a military lab. During her shift, Elisa discovers a new “asset” that has been brought to the lab. Elisa and this creature form an intense bond, and the film focuses on the development of their relationship.

  1. Storyline- 4
  2. Originality- 10
  3. Acting- 9
  4. Realism/Accuracy- N/A
  5. Resonance- 2
  6. Bonus: none

Total: 25/ 41… 61%

“The Shape of Water” was very visually appealing; the effects were stunning. However, the film lacked any character development. On top of that, the film was boring. The ending was predictable, and the lack of character development allowed the audience to anticipate each characters next move. The romance between Elisa and the “Asset” seemed so forced, and was a bit disturbing. Overall, I was not a fan of the film, and I do not believe it deserves to win the award of best picture.

 

Phantom Thread

Set in 1950’s London, the film follows renowned couturier, Reynolds Woodcook. Reynolds and his sister, Cyril, work together to maintain a tight regime in their shared business, The House of Woodcook. Reynolds finds inspiration in the various women who come and go from the House of Woodcook. All of this changes when Reynolds becomes fixated on Alma, a strong willed waitress who quickly becomes his muse.

  1. Storyline- 9
  2. Originality- 7
  3. Acting- 8
  4. Realism/ Accuracy- 8
  5. Resonance- 5
  6. Bonus: visuals- 1

Total: 38/51… 75%

The storyline of “Phantom Thread” was quite compelling. Daniel Day-Lewis, who played Reynolds Woodcook, did a fantastic job in his portrayal of obsession. The entire movie is composed of microaggressions between Reynolds and Alma, each trying to establish their power over the other. Unfortunately, the film gets worse as it progresses. The constant struggle in Reynold and Alma’s relationship grows old quickly. The film never reaches a true climax, and the issues plaguing Reynold and Alma’s relationship are never fully resolved. For me, this made the ending particularly unsatisfying. Overall, the film was well done, but left some to be desired.

Stranger Things Season 2: The Art of Catching Lightning Twice

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Courtesy of http://www.vulture.com

By: Miles Shapiro

After the massive breakout phenomenon that was “Stranger Things” season one, expectations were incredibly high for this new installment of the 80s-set, supernatural adventure series. Season one followed groups of kids, teenagers, and adults occupying the small town of Hawkins, Indiana after the disappearance of one boy, Will Byers, and the arrival of a girl with astonishing powers, named Eleven. Season two features the return of the entire main cast along with a few new additions, most notably the characters of Max, Billy, Bob, and Dr. Owens. This season picks up around a year after the first; however, many characters are still coping with the events of the previous year. Now, when new supernatural threats seem to emerge, the beloved residents of Hawkins must jump into action once more while still dealing with the events of season one.

This series was originally planned as an anthology, with each season being disconnected. However, after early responses to the season one script, the show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, decided to continue the adventure in Hawkins. It was unclear how the story would continue to capture the magic of the first season, while still bringing something new to the audience; the task seemed impossible. Season two, however, managed to prevail, much to the viewer’s delight, delivering a new and engaging entry in the saga and somehow managing to live up to extraordinarily high fan expectation. The subsequent  season was even able to accomplish the inconceivable feat of, in the eyes of some fans, being superior to the first season.  The brilliance of the series lies in its ability to identify successful elements from the first season and and make them still feel fresh in the second season.

As hoped, this season delivers due to its phenomenal supporting cast, gripping story, and masterful directing and pacing. Whereas the first season was only eight episodes, this season bumps it up to ten—using its extra screen time to flesh out old and new characters in unexpected ways. One thing “Stranger Things” does better than most other contemporary series is character interaction and development. The way the show’s writers reveal information about characters is incredibly natural and viewers leave virtually every interaction, even seemingly meaningless ones, with a deeper understanding of the characters’ psyches. This feat is attributed not only to the air tight teleplay but also to the nuanced performances of the entire cast.

Finding a weak link in the cast proves almost impossible with each actor adding heaps of personality to already layered characters. Standouts from this season include, as usual, all the kids—especially Dustin, Will, and Eleven portrayed by Gaten Matarazzo, Millie Bobby Brown, and Noah Schnapp respectively. Will and Dustin, in particular, came into their own this season with their character arcs solidifying a layer of complexity we only saw glimpses of in the first season. David Harbor’s portrayal of Hopper was also fantastic this season and his relationship with Eleven is possibly the most engaging and emotional aspect of the show so far. The most underrated performance of the season, however, may be that of Joe Keery who plays Steve Harrington. In the beginning of season one Steve is, for all intents and purposes, a bully. Over eighteen episodes, however, Steve transforms into possibly the most likable character of the show, in no small part thanks to Kerry’s incredible charisma and ability to emote. These characters run the gambit of bright to brooding; either way, you can’t take your eyes off them.

As much as the cast and writers deserve praise, the technical aspects of this season are also to be commended. The Duffer Brothers have visibly grown as filmmakers in the past year and a half. The transitions, pacing, and visual storytelling of season two have greatly improved. Moreover, the improved visual effects, combined with stronger directing, imbue this season with a cinematic whimsy.

This show is of course not flawless and while there are no gaping issues, there is certainly room for improvement. On the performance side, Winona Ryder, while portraying the character of Joyce Byers well, did not seem to ever hold a candle to her supporting cast, save for one climactic scene where she literally holds a candle to her supporting cast. That scene is one of her best, however, and it is certainly a standout for her.

In a show with such a large ensemble there will always be one character who does not get the screen time they deserve and unfortunately that role went to Mike this season. Mike is a fantastic character and did have the occasional powerful scene, unfortunately he did not receive as much of an arc as many of his cast members. The real elephant in the room when it came to flaws in this show, however, is episode 7 (aka “The Lost Sister”). The introduction of Eight at the beginning of the season seemed like an intriguing exploration of the world of the show, so only using her to drive Eleven’s story seemed like a missed opportunity. The episode is not bad by any means and was necessary for Elevens arc, however it took away from the show’s cinematic quality by introducing a campier episodic tone.

This season is as equally delightful and emotional as the last entry and the series has a bright future ahead of itself. Those who liked season one will adore this season; it may even convert those who were originally skeptical. It’s cinematic, it’s lovable, it’s mysterious, and, while it may not have completely captured the urgent magical tone of the first season, it has enough engaging stakes and characters for an excellent binge.

Columbus: The Film You Never Knew You Were Looking For

Columbus Poster
IMDb

By Miles Shapiro

Independent Cinema has already had an impact in 2017. Movies like “Get Out” and “The Big Sick” have shown remarkable success both financially and critically. Now South Korean writer and director Kogonada’s new film “Columbus” has arrived to continue the streak of pure artistic quality. While not necessarily a massive financial success, “Columbus” has gained a lot of buzz through festival screenings, including one at the Independent Film Festival of Boston where it took home the Special Jury Prize for narrative feature.

In this film Jin (John Cho) reluctantly journeys to Columbus Indiana after his architecture professor father falls ill. While there he meets Casey, played by rising talent Haley Lu Richardson, who is a recent high school graduate obsessed with architecture herself. The two form an unlikely bond as they meander through life in one of this year’s most touching films.

Every frame of this movie drips with visual splendor, and each shot on its own could be a painting. Aside from its aesthetically outstanding cinematography, however, this film boasts layered performances and an emotionally resonant and well-constructed screenplay. Cho and Richardson share a hyper realistic chemistry and wonderfully portray two lost souls searching for purpose. The story is instantly relatable to anybody who has ever felt unsure of what they want to do with their lives and it speaks to virtually all demographics. The direction by Kogonada is immaculate and precise, and manages to make a film mainly consisting of conversations in parks compelling and touching.

It should be made clear that this film is certainly not for everyone. The pacing is slow and deliberate, and information about the characters is revealed through seemingly insignificant lines and subtle nuances in the performances. It is certainly a far cry from most conventional fare, but, for those even mildly interested it is not a particularly inaccessible film and it’s worth seeing. The film also contains a strong supporting cast and subtle, yet impactful, score. Ultimately, what makes this film so wonderfully impactful is how it was able to establish such a vibrant atmosphere and craft a narrative I was utterly invested in even after the credits had rolled. This film is in a limited release and not easy to find but it’s worth seeking out for anyone even vaguely intrigued by films like this.

The Conundrum of Clever Stupidity: Kingsmen 2 Review.

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IMDb

By Miles Shapiro

Matthew Vaughn returns to direct this follow-up to his surprise action hit “Kingsman: The Secret Service”. In this entry, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), now a certified Kingsman agent, must team up with the U.S-based Statesmen after catastrophe strikes. Egerton is as charming as ever and is joined by a rich supporting cast, including Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and many others. A surprising standout in this film is Mark Strong, who plays the character of Merlin. Julianne moore also appears, in a splendidly campy turn, as the films central antagonist, alongside Elton John, who appears in an unforgettable cameo.

Where this movie succeeds is in its ridiculously fun action set pieces and delightfully over-the-top style. Vaughn once again shows his intrinsic understanding of the spy movie genre and his ability to exploit its tropes while still not falling complete into parody. Vaughn imbues each of his films with a postmodern flair entertaining enough to make the audience overlook plot holes, of which there are many.

This movie is fully aware that it makes no sense and embraces it with such gusto that one is obliged to just relax and enjoy it. As previously mentioned, the action demonstrates absurd amounts of creativity and kinetic camera work that fully engages the viewer. This inventiveness is on full display in the third act. The third act, however, in where this films flaws begin to reveal themselves. The charismatic performances and engaging action are simply unable to disguise sloppy storytelling and tedious subplots. Many of the dialogue scenes feel as though they are just filler to set up for the next big set piece, and they ultimately lead nowhere from a story perspective. The excessive subplots also serve to make the film feel bloated and disjointed.

Ultimately, this movie is an enjoyable time, and, while it is certainly not on par with the first, it’s not worthy of the slader some critics have given it . It’s dumb, but it knows it and is ridiculous enough to make fans of the first movie leave feeling satisfied.