Top 3 Things You Don’t Know About “Downsizing”

“Downsizing” is the latest from actor Matt Damon and director Alexander Payne.

Here are three things you don’t know about it:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

Top 6 Things You Don’t Know About “Lady Bird”

“Lady Bird” has garnered a lot of attention as a well-made coming of age story set in 2002.  Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, it captures the mother-daughter relationship without a singe misstep.

The movie stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet.

A lot has been written about this multiple Oscar nominated film, but here are 6 things you don’t know about “Lady Bird”:

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

“The Shape of Water” a princess romance

It’s difficult to discern the plot of “The Shape of Water” by watching the trailers.  It turns out, the movie is a love story between a sea creature and a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins).  Even more specific than a love story, it’s a fairy tale princess story at heart.  Writer/director Guillermo del Toro makes that clear from the opening words in the film, in a voice over that declares all that follows the story of the “sleeping princess”.  In fact, Hawkins is reminiscent of multiple princesses: Snow White and Ariel, to name just two.

While the concept behind girl-meet-boy and falls in love may be common, del Toro’s interpretation (co-written with Vanessa Taylor) is anything but.  It’s magical and mystical in ways live action films rarely are; the world on-screen feels grounded and real, despite an opening that tells viewers otherwise.

There is, of course, a difference between a world that “feels real” and one which is grounded in our reality.  We may buy into the fantasy of “Star Wars” without once thinking this is truly our future.  Here, however, “The Shape of Water” at once creates our past and future simultaneously.  It’s real and also realistic.

For more about “The Shape of Water”, take a look below:

 

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

The real winner in “Molly’s Game”

“Molly’s Game” is based on the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain).  She runs a high-stakes poker game frequented by A-list celebrities and other recognizable faces, an endeavor which eventually leads to her arrest.

Unlike the memoir upon which the movie is based, the film refrains from naming some of the celebrities involved, choosing instead to keep the focus solely on Molly and her…ethics?  Her illegal activities didn’t begin until relatively late in the game’s run and writer/director Aaron Sorkin’s point here is that she refused to give up the names of the players to make a deal for herself.  Is that truly enough to declare Molly an example of integrity in light of her other actions?  Possibly, though it seems that the real winner in “Molly’s Game” is the actual Molly Bloom herself.

Though her arrest led to restitution and fines, rather than jail time, even her attempt at a memoir didn’t help her recoup a significant amount of money.  By refusing to give up the names from the game–the ones that were published came from another player–her advance was lower than it could have been.  When the book came out in 2014, it didn’t do particularly well (though of course now it’s in the midst of a resurgence).  Molly Bloom had nothing.  Of particular significance, too, is that the movie makes a point of Molly explaining she could have sold the rights to her life for a movie anytime, but that she wanted more control.  It’s meant as yet another example of Molly’s virtue.  Think about the timeline, though.  When the film came out in 2017, it was only three years after her book.  The amount of time she waited for that “right moment” wasn’t as significant as Sorkin would have us believe.

So, the real winner in this high stakes game is Molly Bloom.  With can-do-no-wrong Jessica Chastain portraying her on-screen, she’s suddenly a victim, a go-getter, a successful business owner–and, above all, an honorable scapegoat.

That said, aside from the film’s questionable morals lesson, it’s well-made and well-acted.  For more about “Molly’s Game”, take a look below:


–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

“I, Tonya” and its imperfect narrator

The documentary style filmmaking of “I, Tonya” recreates interviews with Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) while chronicling the skater’s life leading up to the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan.  Though many films utilize a “based on a true story” title card to capitalize on the sensationalism of what follows, “I, Tonya” does the opposite.  The opening of the movie warns that the source material interviews were completely contradictory.  In fact, further research into the film shows the pair disagreed on absolutely everything, including the basic details of their first date.  This note of caution extends further than the biased narrators, a point Tonya herself underscores by saying everyone has their own truth and this is merely hers.

Robbie met the film’s subject only once prior to shooting as she was reluctant to turn the character into a carbon copy of the skater.  That said, Robbie does so well in the role that it often feels like watching archival footage.

While many are undoubtedly curious about the Nancy Kerrigan beating, a fact Tonya acknowledges on screen, the actual event goes by quickly.  This movie is Tonya’s moment, not Nancy’s.  And, whereas that event may seem like the pinnacle of drama, the high-stakes of the movie actually come from the abuse she’s subject to by her mom and husband.  In fact, the repeated beatings are so disturbing that this feels like a cautionary tale about domestic violence much of the time.

To find out more about what makes Tonya an imperfect narrator, as well as behind-the-scenes details about incorporating her famous triple axel into the movie, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All photos courtesy of LuckyChap Entertainment.

“The Post” attempts high-stakes drama with history

Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” recalls a pivotal time in 1971 when Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) invokes the First Amendment right to freedom of the press while publishing top secret government conspiracy papers in The Washington Post.  Despite threats of jail time and bankruptcy, Graham stands by her paper and the reporting.

While the First Amendment may be important here, it’s actually Graham’s role in history that strikes a weightier chord.  Unfortunately, the narrative doesn’t make the significance as apparent as it should.  It becomes necessary for Tony Bradlee (Sarah Paulson, wasted here) to spell it out.  Her job isn’t just to make it clear for her husband Ben (Tom Hanks) within the context of the movie, but for the audience as well.  And, if a movie can’t make its own point without utilizing a character for this purpose, then how successful has it really been?

“The Post” certainly attempts to create high-stakes drama and lays out the history well.  In fact, the film relies heavily on an alternating blue/yellow color palette to this end.  For more about “The Post” and how these colors are used specifically, take a look below:

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

“The Greatest Showman” an uplifting end-of-year musical

Movie musicals seem to be making a comeback–or perhaps they never really left.  Original musicals are that much more complicated, attempting to entice the masses to see and hear the unfamiliar.  Director Michael Gracey spent nearly 10 years bringing “The Greatest Showman” to life, work-shopping the story of PT Barnum’s life with Broadway veterans in New York.  When he felt ready, Gracey staged a performance for executives to sell them on the concept.  It worked, and the first-time feature film director moved on to the next part of the process.

For most directors, that would mean a bit of prep and then actually making the film.  For Gracey, it involved ten weeks of rehearsals and producing shot-for-shot video footage (at times on his iphone!) of what would later be re-created by the director of photography, two-time Oscar nominee Seamus McGarvey.

“The Greatest Showman” is a passionate take on the circus founder’s life.  The film balances many issues of the period, including classism and interracial relationships.  While there are moments of un-evenness, overall the production is uplifting; it’s a feel-good movie at its core.

For more about “The Greatest Showman”, including information directly from Hugh Jackman and Michael Gracey, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

“Major Crimes” hits its 100th episode: the cast looks back (exclusive)

TNT’s “Major Crimes” is about to air its milestone 100th episode.  The series has been a rating juggernaut since the beginning, despite some initial trepidation.  After all, it derived from the popular “The Closer” with nearly the same cast, minus popular star Kyra Sedgwick. In her place: two time Academy Award nominee Mary McDonnell.

Fans embraced the new series and its star, proving their loyal support week after week as “Major Crimes” garnered ratings previously reserved for network television.  Alongside the show’s procedural element, deeper stories emerged as characters’ backstory–and relationships–developed.  In fact, the relationship between McDonnell’s Sharon Raydor and Tony Denison’s Andy Flynn recently culminated in a long-anticipated wedding.

Part of the appeal of “Major Crimes” may be that fans see themselves on screen.  The show reflects real life in diversity of gender, ethnicity and maturity.

I sat down with eleven of the series’ stars to discuss the 100th episode, their roles on the show and some behind-the-scenes trivia:

Part One (in order of groupings): Kearran Giovanni and Daniel di Tomasso, GW Bailey and Jessica Meraz, and Tony Denison and Leonard Roberts —

 

Part Two (in order of groupings): Phillip Keene and Raymond Cruz, Michael Paul Chan and Jonathan Del Arco and Mary McDonnell —


The 100th episode of “Major Crimes” will air on Tuesday, December 19th.

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct links? Click here for Part One, and here for Part Two.

“Phantom Thread” true art house cinema

There’s no mistaking a Hollywood Popcorn Flick.  Between the big laughs and over-the-top action sequences, audiences don’t have to think too hard: it’s escapism.  Art house cinema is the opposite in every way and generally appeals to a very niche market.  Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s films generally skate a thin line between the two realms, though his latest, “Phantom Thread”, settles solidly into the latter category.

“Phantom Thread” tells the story of Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis), a respected dressmaker, and his model-turned-muse Alma (Vicky Krieps).  There’s very little dialogue and the actors are challenged to emote wordlessly, trusting that the camera will capture their inner thoughts.  It’s a credit to the formidable Lewis and Krieps, as well as their director, that the movie works at all.

Long silences are punctuated only by dialed up sound effects.  In fact, the sound effects, or foley, are added at such a pointedly-loud volume that they nearly become another cast member entirely.  Sounds like scratching pencils on paper and shoes on stairs lend a unique emphasis to the action.

For more about “Phantom Thread”, including the meaning behind the title, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Tommy Flanagan talk “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”

Traditional Westerns have fallen out of favor in recent years, though the values they espouse remain timeless.  Writer/director Jared Moshe’s “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” may fit the mold of a Western but with one distinct difference: it focuses on the overlooked sidekick rather than the standard hero.

Moral codes like integrity and loyalty, however, remain at the forefront.  In fact, it was this code of ethics in particular that drew Peter Fonda (“Edward Johnson”) and Tommy Flanagan (“Tom Harrah”) to the film.

For more about “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” directly from Bill Pullman (“Lefty Brown”), Fonda, Flanagan and Moshe themselves, take a look below:

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

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