I, Tonya movie review: a performer’s delight with an emphasis on the journey rather than the destination
Movies are, by their very nature, destined to be viewed by a specific audience. For example, you wouldn’t send a room full of kindergarteners to watch Dunkirk. (That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy it anyway, but probably not the intention of the filmmaker.) The thing about a movie like I, Tonya is that the majority of the audience for this movie already knows key the plot points. They essentially know how the story is going to end and while that’s not the only reason you go to see a movie, it is a big part of the storytelling process and the audience anticipates the satisfaction of a well-crafted tale. So how do you do that when the audience knows what happens to the protagonist at the end film? The answer is this movie.
There are lots of movies about how characters grow and/or change during the course of the story and this is where I, Tonya really succeeds. This movie delivers multiple perspectives in a way we rarely see and does it more successfully then I could have possibly imagined. As this is the case, the emphasis of the movie is how the characters end up where they are at the end of the movie rather than their specific circumstances. I, Tonya is a question of how rather than where.
Should you take this journey? I would have to say yes. Even general audiences who may not have a strong desire for nuanced character development and even if they know the story points can still find something to enjoy in this movie. I wouldn’t refer to these roles as showy opportunities for actors such as what is afforded to James Franco in The Disaster Artist, but all the performers here not only have a great deal to do but do their jobs well. I, Tonya is the rare opportunity for viewers to make a first impression on a character and continuingly reevaluate them as the movie goes on and reach a final conclusion at the film’s end.
2017 was a good year for movies and I certainly didn’t see everything, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a movie better than I, Tonya. It’s got a compelling story but the character arcs and performances really power this movie home. The other quality technical elements have to take a backseat while the most visible members of a larger team take center stage. This movie gets my highest recommendation.
I’m starting this double movie review about The Post and All the Money in the World with a picture of an old car on a cold day. Why? Because that’s how these movies start – and not because they’re period pieces that take place in the winter. Before the 1980s, car engines weren’t fuel injected (fuel injection is the introduction of fuel in an internal combustion engine by the means of an injector), so you needed to let them warm up for a few minutes before you could drive away. Compare that to today, when you only need to wait about 15 to 30 seconds, which is, of course, much faster.
And by that, I mean I want to talk about the act one pacing of The Post and All the Money in the World.
SPOILER ALERT: it’s too slow.
The closest theater to my house has changed hands a number of times throughout my life. It was a Lowes, then a Sony, then a Lowes again and so on. Now, it’s an AMC (because nearly every theater that has more than five screens in Bergen County, New Jersey is an AMC), but just before THAT, it was a Starplex Cinemas, and when they bought the theater, they tore out all the old seats and put in plush recliners which remain to this day.
And it is awesome.
On the other hand, if the movie you’re watching has pacing problems of the slow variety, one can find it difficult to keep their eyes open in such comfy confines. (COUGH Murder on the Orient Express COUGH) Such is the case with The Post and All the Money in the World. A big part of why these openings don’t work is the initial introductions to these characters just aren’t very interesting. On the other hand, as they are slowly (VERY. SLOWLY.) revealed to us through their choices, they become fascinating players in a story I care about, but man does it take a while.
Hence the old car on a cold day metaphor.
So how did this happen? Stephen Spielberg and Ridley Scott are both competent directors (one more competent than the other, but whatever) and the simple answer is making a movie is really hard. Another problem is both of these movies were rushed jobs. This doesn’t mean they don’t have quality performances, camera work, editing and so on, but movies are very complicated machines with a gazillion parts and it’s never a good idea to rush anything, let alone something complicated.
When it comes to All the Money in the World, I don’t have much to say – the movie starts out slow, it picks up later, Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams ares excellent in it, it’s redundant and a bit uneven in its story telling and then the movie ends. It’s what I refer to as “extremely watchable.” The average rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 7 out of 10 and I would go as high as 7.5, maybe even 8 if you caught me in a good mood. (You’re not, I’m tired and hungry.) So even if I’m at an 8, if we remember back to our schooling days, that’s a low B, and I think that sounds about right. It’s worth seeing, but there’s nothing special or even new here – it’s just solid entertainment.
On the other hand, The Post seems to me to be a dereliction in the duty of choices by Spielberg and writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. This is the difficult thing with these sorts of ensemble movies – who’s the main character? Is it Meryl Streep, making a difficult choice, or is it Tom Hanks, navigating uncharted waters in an uncertain time, or maybe it’s Bob Odenkirk in the pursuit of the biggest story of his career? These are all important threads, but one doesn’t dominate and I think the movie suffers for it. While the threads Streep and Hanks are rollicking through are (relatively) compelling, they’re not especially cinematic. I would have chosen Odenkirk’s story and made him the lead of the movie, but let’s face it, that’s just not going to happen. Streep and Hanks are two of the biggest stars in the world right now (and have been for some time) and sure, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul raised Odenkirk’s profile, but he’s not going to be the lead in a movie with Streep and Hanks. He’s just not. And these big ensemble movies are tough to pull off – most movies aren’t Spotlight or JFK. The average rating on Rotten Tomatoes for The Post is an 8 and I’d say that’s about right. I might go up to 8.5… but as previously mentioned, I’m hungry, so let’s just move on with our lives.
The Post and All the Money in the World are getting best picture and/or director nominations from the Golden Globes and the Oscars, which is kinda nuts. I know award shows are arbitrary by nature and they have to nominate something, but to mention these movies in the same sentence as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a waste of everyone’s time.
Ah, the Oscars. It’s the proverbial mixed bag that I’ve finally figured out how to approach in the way that works best for me. It’s great that people pay attention to film and maybe some movies that otherwise wouldn’t get attention do (thank the lord they nominated Avatar in 2010), but I am not sitting through another three and a half hour snooze fest. Look how bored James Franco was, AND HE WAS HOSTING! AND THIS IS JUST THE FIRST FOUR MINUTES!
So I would say to use the nominees as a watch list rather than worrying about who wins, because you never know – you could wind up sitting there for 200 minutes and they give Best Picture to Return of the King instead of Mystic River. Anyway, the 89th Academy Awards is nearly upon us and while I didn’t get to see everything, here’s my take on what I did see.
Hacksaw Ridge – Bill Mechanic and David Permut
Uhm… this is a difficult movie to talk about. It’s cliche, it’s kind of three movies in one, the tone kind of waves around… but I still found it really compelling. Depending on how you feel about Mel Gibson, you may not want to give this movie your money, but all things being equal, I’d say it’s worth seeing.
Hell or High Water – Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn
I think this is the most well rounded movie on the list: acting, directing, editing, cinematography, etc… very impressive. I find this to be the best movie on this list.
Lion – Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Angie Fielder
This movie has some pacing problems, and I think some of it is intentional, but there’s also some editing issues in the sense that they left stuff in they didn’t need, there’s a seriously underdeveloped character in there… but man, that kid is MAGIC. There’s a lot of compelling stuff in here – I managed not to cry in the theater.
Moonlight – Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner
I think everybody should see this flick as there’s a lot of life experience in here that may be beyond a lot of people’s experience. Great acting, but I think this movie suffers a little from its desire to be stylistic… it’s a great movie, but there are definitely things could be trimmed and choices they made that are a bit pretentious for my taste.
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
This movie looks like it was a monster to direct, and whatever my issues are with Gibson or the movie in general, I can’t deny that he’s doing good work here.
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
I think Jenkins might have gotten carried away here and there, but his directing voice is strong and this movie is great.
David Mackenzie wasn’t nominated for Hell or High Water, so I’ll go with Jenkins here. Gibson did a fine job, but he’s only turning up the volume rather than reinventing the wheel.
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond T. Doss
I really like Garfield and this is his finest performance.
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins as Florence Foster Jenkins
I’d say she’s a victim of her own success this time – she’s great, the control she shows as a singer here is amazing and I haven’t see the other actresses in those flicks, but she doesn’t need to win for this one.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight as Juan
Ali turns in a great performance, but his role is small and probably not award worthy.
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water as Marcus Hamilton
Hey look, it’s Rooster Cogburn! Again, great performance, but I’d pass.
Dev Patel – Lion as Saroo Brierley
THey should have nominated Patel’s counterpart, Sunny Pawar – he was amazing. Pawar is my pick. FU, Academy!
Best Supporting Actress
Naomie Harris – Moonlight as Paula
She was great.
Nicole Kidman – Lion as Sue Brierley
This is a tough one. I refuse to pick. I reminded of a scene from In and Out where Matt Dillon says that performers are artists and they shouldn’t have to compete like dogs.
“Then why are you here?”
“In case I win!”
I couldn’t find that scene, so enjoy this clip instead:
Best Original Screenplay
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
I really appreciated the writing here, especially the ending.
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
“A lobster is an excellent choice.” I think I have to pick this one – there’s some great, totally unexpected stuff happening here. This movie deserves more attention than it got.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Lion – Luke Davies from A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose
This movie has some pacing problems and I don’t know who to blame – but the first hour is so good, who cares?
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney from In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney
I think the screenplay pushed this movie in the right direction. I guess I’d pick Moonlight over Lion, but I’m splitting hairs.
Best Animated Feature Film
Kubo and the Two Strings – Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
Zootopia – Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Clark Spencer
This is tough, I loved both of these movies and they’re SO different. I’d say share it.
Best Original Score
Lion – Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
Moonlight – Nicholas Britell
The score from both of these movies made no impression on me, so I guess I don’t have a pick.
Best Sound Editing
Hacksaw Ridge – Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
These guys had a ton to do for that last hour or so and they did a great job.
Best Sound Mixing
Hacksaw Ridge – Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson
I’m going Hacksaw Ridge again – Rogue one is fine, but I don’t think it’s on the Hacksaw Ridge level.
Best Production Design
Hail, Caesar! – Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh
Man, this movie was disappointing. Not bad, I was just expecting more. Good production design, though.
Lion – Greig Fraser
Moonlight – James Laxton
I’ve got to go Lion on this one – I felt like the cinematography got in Moonlight’s way at times.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Star Trek Beyond – Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
Suicide Squad – Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson
Star Trek. No question.
Best Costume Design
Florence Foster Jenkins – Consolata Boyle
Best Film Editing
Hacksaw Ridge – John Gilbert
Hell or High Water – Jake Roberts
Moonlight – Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon
Hell or High Water – no question. One of the tightest movies I’ve seen in a long time.
Best Visual Effects
Doctor Strange – Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould
Kubo and the Two Strings – Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould
I’ve got to go Kubo on this one. I’m looking for something new and Doctor Strange looked a bit too much like Inception and Rogue One, while a step forward for ILM, is basically just ILM dialing it up to eleven. The stuff they did in Kubo… wow.
There are lots of ways to win an Academy Award – or rather, things that can increase your chances. It helps if you’re talented, but if you’re in a serious drama, that helps even more. It also helps if you cry, cry during a monologue, have cancer, have something to do with Nazis… or, if you’re a guy, you can lose a ton of weight. Read the rest of this entry
We finally got around to seeing American Hustle and it’s fair to say that the build up to watching the picture might have pulled some of the luster off the surface. Nevertheless, I certainly understand why everyone enjoyed it so much but I can also see what people mean when they say it’s two hours of people yelling at each other. Here are three points on American Hustle for both sides of the argument. Read the rest of this entry
Is there anything on TV that’s a bigger waste of time than the Academy Awards? I think not, but I’m always impressed with the way they make it a waste of time. Read the rest of this entry
I’m trying to squeeze in all of the best picture nominees before the Oscars – I’ve already seen Lincoln, Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook and yesterday, we saw Argo, the latest joint from Ben Affleck, who is not nominated for Best Director or Best Beard, and he really should be nominated for both. Read the rest of this entry
The LA Times put a fascinating article together concerning who, exactly, is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in terms of gender, race and age. Understanding this group should go a long way in understanding who gets nominated and who ultimately wins Hollywood’s top prize.
As it turns out, the data is both revealing and hilarious. (Oh, and you can see the nominees and winners here.)
There are 5,765 people that vote for the Oscars. They are:
- 94% Caucasian
- 2% Black
- Less than 2% Latino
- 77% male
- Median Age of 62
- 14% are Younger than 50 Years Old
94% Caucasian? That’s country-club white! I’m fairly certain I’m not 94% Caucasian! Clearly, if your organization is that white, it’s
- an amazing coincidence
- a result of lifetime membership
- only not entirely white due to tokenism
A median age of 62? I’m not trying to give the older generation a hard time, but are the filming Ensure commercials over there? And if 62 is the median age, then there must be a ton of old white dudes wandering around the joint to get their median age up that high. Wow. 14% under 50. Wow.
And yeah, dudes. I chose to say ‘dude’ as the Academy is a 3 to 1 sausage fest. 77% male + 94% white = a ton of monocles and several uttering of “Oh my!” followed quickly by, “Well, I never!”
Well maybe, guys, you should.
The academy is primarily a group of working professionals, and nearly 50% of the academy’s actors have appeared on screen in the last two years. But membership is generally for life, and hundreds of academy voters haven’t worked on a movie in decades.
Oh, so the members are not only nearly all from the same gender and racial group – they’re also out of touch with their industry. That’s just great. And just for giggles: 64% of Academy members have never even been nominated for an Oscar, never mind having won the award.
The Times found that some of the academy’s 15 branches are almost exclusively white and male. Caucasians currently make up 90% or more of every academy branch except actors, whose roster is 88% white. The academy’s executive branch is 98% white, as is its writers branch.
Men compose more than 90% of five branches, including cinematography and visual effects. Of the academy’s 43-member board of governors, six are women; public relations executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the sole person of color.
Well, it’s pretty hard to dole out the blanco salami in smaller portions when there’s so much of it.
NOT TO BE outdone, the New York Times published a fascinating story about the Academy Awards broadcast itself with specific regard to its declining ratings.
ABC estimated that this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, with two sparsely seen movies, “The Artist” and “The Iron Lady,” sweeping the top categories, drew about 39.3 million viewers, up 3.7 percent from last year. That’s about 13 percent of the United States population. Among adults 18 to 49, viewership was flat, at 14.9 million.
In the 1990s and shortly afterward, when populist movies like “Forrest Gump” and “Gladiator” won top prizes, the Oscars telecast routinely delivered about 45 million total viewers. The high point came in 1998, when the telecast delivered a peak audience of around 57.3 million.
Why it matters which movies won this year in terms of ratings, I don’t understand (I guess people saw Meryl Streep win again and were like, “Fuck this,” and switched the channel), particularly when several of the movies nominated for awards did fine at the box office. Pretty sure that Harry Potter picture did OK. Wasn’t The Help out for the entire summer? Seemed that way. And people were practically knocking each other over to praise Midnight in Paris – so I presume at least half of those people actually saw the movie.
But, the Academy Awards just isn’t the powerhouse it used to be – they want the show to be on the level with the Super Bowl and what not, but it’s just not happening as they’ve seen their overall numbers slip after 1998, but can they really blame us, the viewers? That’s the year Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture. I still can’t believe that happened. World War II vs a silly little period romantic comedy? I was particularly surprised it won since it’s star (the wonderful Gweneth Paltrow) didn’t earn a best actress nomination, but then, there was also the year during which LOTR: Return of the King beat Mystic River, and that was a much bigger disgrace, so… you know, you reap what you sow, as the saying goes.
The Academy is also worried about their ratings with the younger audience, so of course, they ran out and hired Billy Crystal to host this year. Makes sense. I think this was his ninth time hosting… so yeah, I’ve seen his act before and didn’t really need to see it again.
Speaking of things we didn’t see, what the hell happened to Best Song? I know the lazy bastards only got around to nominating 2 songs out of an eligible 30 or so, but there was no time to perform them, so we got a Cirque Du Soleil performance instead? What the shit is that? How acrobats flying around the theater is more relevant than hearing a live performance of “Am I a Man or a Muppet?” I will never understand.
The entire situation has become some strange illogical puzzle. You’ve got a deeply flawed awards show that runs too long, gives awards out seemingly at random (or laziness – as in, “I didn’t see all of the movies, but fuck it – just give it to Meryl Streep, she’s brilliant.”) and doesn’t always show things that have anything to do with movies while the movie industry itself continues to shat out (by and large) an inferior product. There are solutions to their problems, but I guess it’s hard to get around to implementing them when your organization’s median age is 62 and everyone wants to get to the early bird special at Sizzler.