“The Greatest Showman” (2017), now available for home viewing, takes us back to a time when anything is possible if you dream big and are persistent. Did such a time ever exist? That’s beside the point, as is what happened behind the scenes at Phineas Barnum’s circuses. (Don’t do an extensive internet search if you don’t want your illusions shattered.) Last year’s most-hyped musical is – within its own confines – a joyous celebration of dreams and achievements, with brief nods to hardships.
“The Disaster Artist” (2017), now available for home viewing, starts with various actors marveling over the horrible 2003 movie “The Room” and the fact that people still talk about it years later. They also raise the central question behind the phenomenon: Who is Tommy Wiseau, the man who saw this debacle from concept to finished film? Two hours later, you will have had a great time watching “The Disaster Artist,” but disappointingly, you won’t have the answer.
Historical sports dramas – say, “42” or “Battle of the Sexes” — tend to be played straight; the true story alone is dramatic enough, and that’s why a movie is being made about it. “I, Tonya” (2017), now available on home video, is different. Tonya Harding’s life story is so bizarrely off the beaten path of sports biographies that if you told it straight, no one would believe it.
“Lady Bird,” now available from Redbox, didn’t totally connect with me, and since the glowing theatrical reviews and awards are long since in, that statement says more about me than writer Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. Coming-of-age films tend to be more personal than other genres; I got peeved in the early Aughts if anyone thought my beloved “Ghost World,”“The Good Girl” or “Garden State” were less than brilliant. So if “Lady Bird” is the most personally fulfilling movie a particular viewer has ever seen, they’re not wrong.
Can you believe the Oscars are nearly upon us? With the big show coming up in less than 24 hours, what better time to take a look at the nominees and tell you what will win and what should.
You can trust me due to my lack of anything resembling a social life and a slavish devotion to film that stretches back decades. Also, not to brag, but last year I was right with my picks 50 percent of the time!
All right, that doesn’t sound too good, but the winners in this year’s crop of nominees seem pretty predictable. Given, they always do, until they aren’t.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017) – which is still in many theaters and hits home video on Tuesday – is a brutal portrayal of the cycle of violence that exists beneath the veneer of what we call civilization. Writer-director Martin McDonagh takes humanity to task for what we’ve wrought, but also gives us enough dashes of love, decency and even humor to make “Three Billboards” a worthy Oscar contender despite being unsatisfying by traditional metrics.
Director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro puts a lot of winning elements from successful films into a blender and delivers “The Shape of Water” (2017), now in theatrical wide release. Mixing familiar substance with loads of style, this Oscar-y yet accessible movie carves off bits of “E.T.,” “Splash,” “Splice,” “The Help,” “Big Fish” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and throws in Michael Shannon’s skill at playing a villain and Octavia Spencer’s specialty as the chatty best friend to create a foundation for a sweet love story.
One of my bosses encouraged us to attend “The Post” (2017) – which recently got a wide theatrical release – to rekindle our passion for newspapering. The film encourages some of that spirit, no doubt, but overall it left me sad. It’s a great movie about the Washington Post’s decision to publish highlights of the Top Secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, very much a welcome addition to the pantheon of journalism movies, but Steven Spielberg’s entry feels curiously out of time more so than, say, 2015’s “Spotlight.”
There were a lot of great films in 2017. So many, in fact, that this year I have decided to do a top 20 list instead of my usual top 10. It means more writing, but trust me, this is a problem any movie buff loves to have.
2017 was a good year for superheros and small indie films, for action and drama and comedy alike, sometimes all within the same movie.
I have gotten used to, in my time as a film and television enthusiast, the entertainment I support being consigned to the “also ran” bin. My favorite TV shows get cancelled. Many of my favorite movies have been ignored by critics and audiences alike. If they are nominated, they are the window dressing for the film or show that gets the glory.