“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.

ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. Review & Analysis

“Roman J Israel, Esq.” isn’t quite as the trailers suggest.  It’s a redemption story of sorts as Roman (Denzel Washington) transforms from idealistic advocate into someone who is out for himself.

Colin Farrell also stars.

For more about “Roman J Israel, Esq.”, including some significant product placement, 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 film photos are courtesy of Sony Pictures.

TOP MOVIES OF 2017 (So Far)

The Fall brings pumpkin flavors and Oscar movie hopefuls.  As we leave the first half (and then some) of 2017 behind, let’s take a look back at some of the top movies so far:

 

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

Wonder Woman and Dunkirk photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Baby Driver photos courtesy of Sony.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard photos courtesy of Lionsgate.

 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Movie Review & Analysis

Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a “tale as old as time” though it’s anything but stale.  This live-action reimagining of the 1991 animated movie retains the original plot while introducing new interpretations of the characters and their backstories.  Additional scenes provide parallels between Belle (Emma Watson) and the Beast (Dan Stevens).  The Beast’s worthiness is now a forgone conclusion.  Life would have been different growing up with a kind father like Maurice (Kevin Kline).  The Beast is now worthy of Belle in a way that he wasn’t previously–or is he?

The new plot points don’t gel as well as intended.  Scenes showing Belle’s past don’t illuminate anything new.  Her key qualities of bravery, intelligence and kindness remain unquestioned.  For the Beast, a cruel father seems to be explanation enough regarding his worthiness for redemption.  An audience already willing to accept the premise of Belle and the Beast’s relationship doesn’t need these additional scenes.  Likewise, an audience questioning the Beast’s growth will not be satisfied with hints of a cruel father.

Despite some moments that aren’t quite as smooth as they could be, the movie does many things well.  Sarah Greenwood, an Oscar-nominated production designer, will surely receive her fifth nomination for her work on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  The sets are magnificent.  Design choices for everything from the castle’s chandeliers to the wall moulding show a marked attention to detail.  These sets provide the most compelling reason of all for remaking the animated movie.

Along with reinterpreting scenes and sets in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Disney as a whole seems to be updating their stance on princesses.  As waves of feminists have long criticized the depiction of princesses in need of saviors, recent movies like MOANA have made an effort to show the heroics of their female leads.  Belle, like Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), declares quite emphatically that she is not a princess.

While it’s great to see the strength these women possess and studio’s attempts to modernize, it seems somewhere along the way, ‘princess’ became a four letter word.  The definition of princess is not “woman who needs to be saved”.  It’s wonderful seeing Moana risk her life for her people.  It’s fabulous that Belle loves reading and recognizes beauty comes from within.  No matter how often Gaston (a fabulous Luke Evans) shows off his muscles he will never be the man for her.  Belle’s confidence never wavers.

Just as Moana declares “I am not a princess”, so does Belle when she’s asked to put on a beautiful dress.  It’s an unprovoked comment so emphatically declared that she looks right at the camera.  When did princesses become so maligned?  The real issue isn’t with royalty, but this Disney depiction which has remained unchecked for decades.  The pendulum is swinging wildly without recognizing the core of the issue.  Women–princesses–don’t need to wait around helplessly for the right man to come along (I’m looking at you SLEEPING BEAUTY).  The very act of being a princess isn’t what put the women in that position in the first place.

The gorgeous dress Belle refuses to wear isn’t going to magically turn her into a helpless woman the moment she slips it over her head.  If Disney wants to work on its depiction of strong women, why not address the question that the only person in town who likes Belle is literally a beast?  Belle doesn’t defend the castle from intruders, she doesn’t take part in the final fight.  Her only glory is in returning to the Beast.

It isn’t that the movie is bad or particularly different from the animated classic in that regard.  Appreciate the movie for what it is, but don’t declare Belle has a new type of strength just because she is not a princess.

For more about princesses and the reinterpretation of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

THE LAST WORD Movie Review & Director Interview

In THE LAST WORD, a retired businesswoman named Harriet (Academy Award winner Shirley MacLaine) confronts her mortality as she sculpts her own obituary.  Harriet targets Anne (Amanda Seyfried), a reporter, to distill her life into its final success story.  The pair take a metaphorical–and literal–journey with Brenda (newcomer Ann’Jewel Lee), a pre-teen who has as much to gain from the relationship as the other two.  The movie also stars Thomas Sadowski, Anne Heche, Philip Baker Hall and Tom Everett Scott.  Mark Pellington (ARLINGTON ROAD, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, COLD CASE) directs.  

I spoke with director Mark Pellington about symbolism and themes in THE LAST WORD.  He sees the film as a study in mortality and what each of us leave behind at the end of our lives.  Pellington says:  “I want these characters to have suffered some degree of loss, yet I don’t want it to be through death.  I want them to be left alone in that they’re searching to become a little more whole, a little more complete.”

Harriet, Ann and Brenda come together as incomplete sides of the same coin.  Each is missing a specific person in their lives within the parent/child relationship, but lacks in other important ways, too.  For example, Harriet appreciates the qualities about Brenda with which she herself identifies.  However, these are the very characteristics she regrets in herself having let them rule her life.  Brenda’s ability to say anything and stick up for herself are laudable, though without a measure of regulation they will overtake her life the same way they have Harriet’s.

The women’s evolution is emphasized during a baptismal scene of cleansing as they go for a late-night swim.  Traditional film analysis looks at water from this perspective, and Pellington does as well.  “By the end, for her to take off her clothes, to let it go, to get messy is a change she was ready to go through because she had achieved these goals of seeing herself differently,” he explains.

The film shows that evolution is possible regardless of age or temperament and nothing is a replacement for personal connection.  Isolation comes in many forms.  The first shot of Harriet is standing in a dormer window looking out at the grounds of her home.  Ann sits in isolation, blaring loud music on her massive headphones, though she’s surrounded by coworkers.  Even Brenda’s first interaction sets her apart as she battles a recreation center supervisor.

The complicated relationship among the trio becomes an unexpected friendship in this coming-of-age story.  True to life, it is sometimes impossible to realize something is missing until you’re confronted by it.

For more about THE LAST WORD, including Shirley MacLaine’s thoughts on labeling women in Hollywood, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

MOONLIGHT Movie Review & Analysis

MOONLIGHT is a coming of age story that follows Chiron during three stages of life as he learns who about himself while he struggles with sexual identity.  During each stage, he is called by a different name, either Little, Chiron or Black.  MOONLIGHT was written and directed by Barry Jenkins.  It stars Mahershala Ali (HIDDEN FIGURES), Janelle Monae (HIDDEN FIGURES), Naomie Harris (SKYFALL), Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes.  Brad Pitt produced.

This is a really beautiful movie that’s more quiet and methodical than anything else.  Each scene feels unhurried, as though the audience is really experiencing a piece of life.  By leaping ahead and showing Chiron over three different stages of life, there’s a strong sense that life goes on and we as an audience are only privy to certain parts of it.  

While I was willing to accept the narrative gaps, at the same time I wanted more, particularly from Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Teresa (Janelle Monae).  Chiron’s story and life were interesting, but so were they. 

For more about MOONLIGHT, including how the color blue is used as a theme throughout, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

FENCES Movie Review & Analysis

FENCES is set in the 1950s and tells the story of a family torn apart by Troy (Denzel Washington).  He is so caught up in his own suffering at the hands of society and his life circumstance that he cannot allow himself any happiness.  While trying to escape his father, he manages to become him.  Viola Davis plays Troy’s wife, Rose.  Both Washington and Davis won Tonys for their work in the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play upon which this is based.

For more about the themes in FENCES, including what fences mean to the movie and how food plays a role, take a look below:

—>Trying to find the video directly?  Click here.

Hatchet 2 Premiere

The Red Carpet Rundown crew has a prime spot on the red carpet at the Hatchet 2 premiere.

Join host Zoe Hewitt as she talks to the director, the film’s stars and other celebrities within the horror genre.
Want to know how to cut through two people with a seven foot chainsaw? So do we…sort of.

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