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The Post and All The Money in the World: A clinic on how NOT to pace your first act

old car cold day

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.

An Abbreviated Look at the 2017 Oscar Nominees

2017-oscars-89th-academy-awards

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.

Best Picture
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.

Best Director
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.

Best Actor
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond T. Doss
I really like Garfield and this is his finest performance.

Best Actress
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
Also great.

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.

Best Cinematography
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

Sure.

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.

Blue Jasmine (movie review)

The Academy seemed to regard Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine as a performer’s piece not worthy of a Best Picture nomination, despite having an open slot in their new-ish top ten. It’s performances, unique casting and apparently personal story (it bares some similarities to Woody Allen’s life, apparently) wasn’t enough to move the Academy, but if you haven’t seen Blue Jasmine yet, I suggest you take a look. Read the rest of this entry

Dallas Buyers Club (movie review)

More than any movie I’ve seen in the last few years, Dallas Buyers Club is a strong character study and performance piece for the actors, but as a movie over all, it has some problems. Read the rest of this entry

Thoughts following the 86th Academy Awards (Oscars recap)

oscar-statueThe 86th Academy Awards has come and gone, and it went about as expected – no surprises save one, and it wasn’t a big deal. Read the rest of this entry

Oscars Predictions 2014 (86th Academy Awards)

oscar-statueI’ve tried to see all of the movies before, but like previous years, I just couldn’t get to it.  So here we are:  the 86th Academy Awards, and I’m making my picks from more of “I understand the people who actually get to vote” sort of view as well as based on what I’ve seen.  And, rather than go through the entire list, I shall now most humbly present to you my picks for Best Picture and Best Directing for the 2014 Oscars. Read the rest of this entry

85th Annual Academy Awards – just as crappy as Mcfarlane promised

seth-macfarlane-oscars-2013-academy-awards

“I know, I can’t believe I’m hosting either. Hence the ‘worst host ever’ skit that went on twice as long as it should have… No, I’ve never heard of the comedic rule of three – have you ever seen any of my shows? Flip to FOX, TBS or any of a dozen other channels – one of my crappy shows must be on somewhere…”

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

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