Two black men in Philadelphia were arrested at a Starbucks for being two black men in a Starbucks. This week Ryan and Zach talk about the incident and the company's response along with the new movie A Quiet Place and the documentary Tickled.
Best Picture Predictions
The Oscars are this Sunday and this has to be one of the most contentious years when it comes to Best Picture. Of the nine movies that are nominated there are five with a legitimate chance of winning. So let’s talk about movie’s biggest night and see who could win.
First off let’s just toss out The Post, Darkest Hour, and Phantom Thread. Nominating these movies is the reason no one watches the Oscars anymore. The first two are movies for old white men and while the last one is attempting to do something interesting it’s too boring for anyone to notice. Phantom Thread relies solely on the performance of Daniel Day Lewis. According to Vegas all three movies have100-1 shot of winning, let’s move on.
Call Me By Your Name also has no shot but I don’t want to just throw it out like the others. That’s because I didn’t have a chance to see it – the problem is I’m not the only one. The buzz around the movie is small. I want to go see it, in part because I’ve heard the performance by Timothee Chalamet is masterful and deserving to win Best Actor over Gary Oldman (it won’t). However, I am in the minority and most people would rather just go see Black Panther again (which I respect/want to as well). So farewell to this darling little movie.
So what of the top 5? Of the ones that are left Dunkirk seems to have the slimmest chance with 50-1 odds. But Oscar voting is weird. To win the Oscar you have to have over 50% of the votes. If that doesn’t happen then you discard the last place movie and count first and second place votes. So was this anyone’s favorite movie of the year? Maybe. But can it be someone’s second favorite movie of the year? It’s the safest and most traditional movie left on the list and on a technical discussion this was far and away the best movie. There is a path for this movie to win, but to even have a chance it is going to have to win every technical award possible and hope the other four movies split the vote, which may actually be possible.
There is a clear and obvious divide between Oscar voters. Traditionalist will tell you that Shape of Water and Three Billboards were the two best movies and it is just between those two. But those movies don’t really speak to the world we are living in. That is what the younger generation sees and why they believe Lady Bird and Get Out is worthy of discussion.
From what I have read when Lady Bird won at the Golden Globes there were a group of voters who became got resentful. They didn’t think this movie deserved to win, so people have been trashing the movie ever since. I don’t think it is the best movie of the year but I do like it better than two other movies I haven’t mentioned yet. The movie is 33-1 and while it may not win I am excited to see what Greta Gerwig does next.
Get Out is the best movie of the year and it’s not even worthy to argue for anything else. It is a fantastic story, with something smart to say, sharply directed, and it’s a good watch. But how could a movie released in February, a horror movie no less, really be in discussion as the best picture? That is the old, white, crusty response but after Moonlight won anything is possible. This is the movie more people have seen than anything else and besides some trolls on the internet I haven’t heard a bad thing about it. If this Oscar takes place three years from now with all the same nominees Get Out wins but because there are still old, white crusty voters who think more traditionally there is a natural road block.
Who would have thought that a movie about fish fucking would be the traditional pick? Any yet here stands Shape of Water. A movie which I don’t believe is great but is good across a lot of different categories. The sound design and visual spectacle are both award worthy. This movie also has three actors that are nominated for their performances, though you can decide how worthy they are. Then there is Guillermo Del Toro who puts it all together. He probably should have won for Pan’s Labyrinth but at the time he was too new so politically speaking they decided he didn’t deserve the award yet. Luckily that way of thinking seems to be going away but for now it lingers on. This is a movie for movie lovers and the story pays tribute to the cinema which Oscar voters traditionally love. If this movie wins that would be fine and it would be expected. But with other movies that have so much more to say to in terms of what is going on around us shouldn’t that be rewarded?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has something to say. About revenge, the police, and what’s going on in America. It also happens to be masterfully acted by the three leads in the movie, two of which will probably be rewarded for those performances. The story is good even if it does go off the rails by the end. So of the more traditional movies on the list at least I will be more satisfied if this wins.
Here is how I think it will break down.
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What will win: Shape of Water
What could win: Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What should win: Get Out
Here are the other nominees and some predictions. I hope you enjoy the show on Sunday. Let me know who you want to win.
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
What will win: Guillermo del Toro
What could win: Christopher Nolan
What should win: Christopher Nolan
Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post
What will win: Frances McDormand
What could win: Sally Hawkins
What should win: Saoirse Ronan
Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
What will win: Gary Oldman
What could win: Timothee Chalamet
What should win: Daniel Day-Lewis (though I haven’t seen all of the movies on this list)
Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
What will win: Allison Janney
What could win: Laurie Metcalf
What should win: Laurie Metcalf
Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What will win: Sam Rockwell
What could win: Willem Dafoe
What should win: Woody Harrelson
The Black Panther Reviewed
There is a lot of positive buzz following the release of Black Panther, no doubt prompting a sigh of relief for those involved, because there was also a lot of pressure on this movie to be good. When I went to see this movie in my South Philadelphia community I knew the theater would be packed, so I tried to go in the early afternoon, but the theater was filled and two other later showings were already sold out. People dressed in traditional African outfits were taking pictures in front of the move poster, and a class full of kids filled the back rows of the theater, with their teachers shouting instructions to behave during the screening. This movie meant something to a lot of people as the Black community has waited so long for representation in superhero movies, and it delivers.
Black Panther is the 18th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and takes place a week after the events of Captain America: Civil War. The last king of Wakanda, T’Chaka, died following an explosion at the United Nations now his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is set to become the country’s new king and the Black Panther, protector of Wakanda. But there are several challenges to his throne and a mercenary looking to sell the country’s most valuable resource, vibranium, on the black market.
The success of a superhero movie hinges on its villain. While most villains want to rule the world or destroy the world, the rationale behind it is usually “because I want to.” Michael B. Jordan plays Erik Killmonger and is one of the most fully-formed characters in the Marvel Universe. Sure, he's trying to kill our hero so we have to root against him; however, his rationale for doing so made me take pause and question – maybe we should hear this guy out. He has a line towards the end of the movie that vaulted him up to quite possibly my favorite movie villain of all time. It all helps that Jordan is one of the best young actors working out there. His performance and this character take this movie to another level.
Black Panther is full of well-rounded characters, from a flawed father-figure, to the leader of the Jabari Tribe who is kind of a jerk but justified in feeling slighted. But the best characters in the movie are the people surrounding T’Challa, specifically the four women in his life. Lupita Nyong’o plays his ex-girlfriend and a bad ass spy; his female entourage also includes the general of his armies, the queen mother played by Angela Bassett, and the real hero of the movie—his younger sister and the nation’s leading scientist, Shuri (Letitia Wright). The Black Panther looks to these women for guidance throughout the story and what they do is maybe even more impressive than our hero because they do it without a vibranium suit.
Black Panther is not as funny as some of the more recent Marvel movies, but that’s never really who the Black Panther was. Don't get me wrong—there are funny parts to this movie. Martin Freeman in particular, stands out as a comedic mouthpiece and clueless American. However, the Black Panther himself needs to be forthright and strong, and having him make a lot of quips during a fight would betray that.
There isn’t a bad Marvel movie out there, but Black Panther stands out to me because it is not just a great superhero movie, it’s a great movie. Beyond the costumes and stunts, this movie deals with questions of identity, responsibility, and what we owe to the people around us. Director Ryan Coogler is forcing the audience to think about what we believe in even within the framework of an entertaining blockbuster. The Black Panther is arguably the MCU’s most complete movie and should be the bar for what we expect going forward. A
P.S. Stay tuned for two after credit scenes that help set up the role Wakanda plays in the next movie Avengers: Infinity War.
I, Tonya Reviewed
I don't really remember the events surrounding Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. I remember them competing in the 1994 Olympics against one another. I remember that my parents were rooting for Nancy Kerrigan to win. And I remember that Tonya Harding hit Nancy Kerrigan in the knee with a tire iron. Time can do wonders for your memory. Luckily, I, Tonya is an entertaining trip down memory lane and one that casts doubt on the story we thought we knew.
I, Tonya is about the life and career of figure-skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), her rise to fame and her fall into infamy. While it is mostly told in flashback, the movie features mockumentary-style interviews from Robbie-as-Harding and the important people in her life, including her mother LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney) and then-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan).
While the movie is about Harding and wants the audience to sympathize with her, it doesn’t give her a pass or paint her as a hero. She makes a lot of bad choices as she gets to and through the Olympics. But the movie also provides context on how Harding may have gotten to where she was.
This might all be cripplingly depressing if most of the tragedy wasn't played for laughs. It seemed almost inevitable that Harding would wind up in some kind of scandal, given her life with an abusive mother, only to fall into the arms of her abusive husband. But in between getting punched and slammed into walls, Robbie would break the fourth wall and provide an aside as to some context in her life that would cut through the sadness. I even found myself laughing when she got stabbed with a steak knife, though I doubt I should have.
Allison Janney gives an Oscar-worthy performance as LaVona Golden. It seems to be the year of hardened mothers at the movies because for a while I was convinced that Laurie Metcalf from Lady Bird was going to be a front-runner for a supporting actress nomination. But once the credits start to roll you see footage of Tonya's Mom and she is a dead ringer, not only in looks but in delivery as well. You want to hate this character because she is a despicable person, but she speaks a lot of truths even when they are hard to hear.
It is actually hard to tell what is true in the movie because the story deals with several unreliable narrators and the audience has to decide who to believe. But what seems undeniable is the unfair treatment Harding received in competition. Despite her talent, especially the fact that she was the first American woman to pull off the triple axel, the judges would still rate her poorly because of the way she presented herself. Robbie captured that unrefined drive and ambition that made Harding the competitor and personality the public came to know, and gives the best performance of her young career.
Despite the laughs, by the end of I, Tonya, I felt sad. Sad about how classism stacked the deck against Harding, about the violence she endured growing up, and sad that I—as someone who laughed at all the jokes—played a part in destroying everything she made. This story is a real-life American tragedy that I couldn’t pull my eyes away from, and will undoubtedly be in the running for major awards this season. A
2017 has been a hell of a year. The news cycle almost demands us to take a break, and that's what we got this year; a lot of movies gave us a chance to clock out for a minute. So let's take a look back at some the best movies that gave us a respite, and some that gave us something to think about.
When I was finalizing this list, it was down to this movie and Spiderman Homecoming. I went with It not only because superhero movies are well-represented on this list but also I was just overall impressed with the movie. I think casting child actors can be difficult, but all the kids in the movie were great, especially Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things, who was hilarious throughout. The screenwriters condensed the story to make it easily digestible, which makes me excited for the sequel.
9) Thor: Ragnarok
The first of a couple superhero movies on this list, but of the three this one is the most fun. That is a credit to Chris Hemsworth, who was finally allowed to let the character match his own silly personality, and the director, Taika Waititi. He is the same guy who did What We Do In The Shadows and is known for his more eccentric humor. Waititi took what has typically been the most boring of the Marvel movies and made it into something fun. Marvel is one of the most creative and successful studios in Hollywood and I can't wait to see where their cinematic universe goes in 2018.
8) Wonder Woman
Finally, a good DC movie. Warner Brothers decided to not take themselves so seriously and let the movie have a little fun. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have terrific chemistry, and Patty Jenkins is an amazing director and gives Wonder Woman an interesting origin story. The story falls off a bit in the third act when Jenkins felt compelled to keep the superhero climax and have Diana face off with the big bad guy. But overall Wonder Woman gave DC something to hang its hat on and brought female empowerment to the masses.
Okay, the last of the superhero movies, I swear. But this was my favorite of the bunch. FOX took the Wolverine character to its logical conclusion and gave the character the R rating it deserved. (Shout out to Deadpool for helping that happen.) Hugh Jackman could probably play this role in his sleep, but it was interesting to add a new wrinkle, one where Logan was losing his power and wouldn't necessarily be able to regenerate his way out of a problem. This grittier feel was a nice change of pace and is probably what Zak Snyder has been trying to do with his Superman series. In Logan, all the characters are able to breathe before charging into battle and that helped the movie succeed.
6) The Big Sick
How can a movie about a girl dying from an unknown medical condition be funny? I have no idea but Kumail Nanjani's semi-autobiographical movie pulls it off. The story has the perfect mix of sweet humor and emotional turmoil. While Kumail is great in the title role, Holly Hunter is the best part of the movie. The character is strong-willed with a Southern accent and serves as the surrogate for Emily when she can't talk. This is another hit for Amazon Studios and I hope gets just as much Oscar buzz as their last movie, without all the rape allegations.
5) Baby Driver
Speaking of rape allegations—can we still like Kevin Spacey movies? Man, I hope so, because this is a great movie. I love Edgar Wright’s work; a couple years ago I had The World's End on my list, and Wright gets better with every movie he does. In Baby Driver, Wright gives his spin to the getaway genre and while there isn't much in the way of plot, the colors and effects provide eye-popping visual stimulation. The soundtrack, which is an essential part of the story for the protagonist, is full of fantastic selections. The acting (even Spacey) is over the top in a fun way. This movie was similar in its silliness and visual stimulation to Thor: Ragnarok, but the music pushes it to the next level for me.
It's almost a guarantee that a Pixar movie is going to be on the list every year, but during the first half of this movie, it didn't feel so obvious. Coco felt like every other Pixar/coming of age story I have seen over the years. As the movie went on, the story tied up every loose end with an emotional payoff. This may be a by-the-number Pixar movie, but when you can do something great why mess with it? Added bonus, the soundtrack is delightful. I still bring it up on my Spotify playlist every so often when I'm looking for something bouncy or need a little Spanish in my life.
3) Lady Bird
Of all the movies I saw this year, Lady Bird felt the most genuine and relatable, which is weird because of how personal the story was. But Greta Gerwig's story spoke so honestly about her own experiences that I think many people will connect with it. According to my fiancée, this is the most accurate portrayal of teenage girlhood that she has seen on the big screen. The story wasn't trying to be cute with its characters; it was more concerned with getting that portrayal right. Not only that, but Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird's Mom is the best supporting role performance I have seen this year. She deserves an Oscar nomination and as of right now she is my pick to win the award.
At this point in his career, Christopher Nolan can do anything he wants. That is made clear by Warner Brothers giving him a $150 budget to do a war movie about a battle no American knows about, all while playing with the constructs of time. While there is a mix of big-name actors with relative unknowns, I wouldn't describe this as a Tom Hardy movie or a Harry Styles movie (though Styles is pretty good); this is a Christopher Nolan movie. The visual effects and cuts between shots are the true stars of the film. Nolan uses frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer to emphasize his manipulation of time via the movie soundtrack. This is the most technically daring movie of the year and one that should be awarded with many visual Oscars when the time comes.
1) Get Out
Any great movie should have something to say, and while there may be smarter movies than Get Out, I don't think I have seen one quite so smart that was also a horror movie. But Get Out isn't your typical horror movie; not only does it provide razor-sharp commentary on the fear inherent in being the only black person in a room full of white people, but it also doesn't go for the cheap scare. This isn't a pop out from around the corner kind of scary; this is a movie that steeps itself in tension and then makes you stay there. Jordan Peele gets the absolute best out of his actors, some of them relatively unknown, and gives us a story with something to think about for not only this year but going forward as well. Get Out deserves all the praise it has already received and more. It tells a story from a perspective often neglected in an entertaining way and forces you to change the way you think. That's why Get Out is the best movie of 2017.
The Last Jedi Reviewed
The buzz surrounding The Last Jedi has been an emotional roller coaster. Initially, the critics came out with rave reviews for the second movie in the current trilogy. Then fans of the franchise made it to theaters and everyone whose opinion I trust hated what they saw. Because of this, my expectations for the movie were lowered, and I think that may have helped my viewing. The Last Jedi builds upon the characters we met in The Force Awakens in a way that pays tribute to The Empire Strikes Back, which is probably the exact reason that fans will hate it.
The Last Jedi finds The First Order in almost complete control of the Galaxy. They are now trying to stamp out the last of the Resistance led by General Leia Organa, who in turn is doing her best to keep her troops ahead of the enemy. Meanwhile, Rey is working to convince Luke Skywalker that the Resistance needs him, while simultaneously plying him to teach her the ways of the force.
The Last Jedi is a quiet movie. At first, I thought this meant it was boring. And maybe it is. But how action-packed is The Empire Strikes Back? A lot of that movie is Luke sitting in a swamp moving rocks while Han and Leia are hiding on a ship or in a city of clouds. Put that way, Empire doesn't sound like a great movie, but it’s usually considered the best in the Star Wars universe. Why? Because it’s in The Empire Strikes Back that we really come to understand our favorite characters. I believe that’s what Rian Johnson was going for as he tried to make his own Empire.
The Last Jedi feels like a mix of Rogue One and Empire Strikes Back. I hated Rogue One, primarily because the first 2/3 of the movie was a slog while the last 1/3 was great. The Last Jedi has those same problems, but I was much more connected to these characters. Even the new characters who we only know from these two movies feel three-dimensional, and lot of that character development is a credit to Johnson's story and direction.
That is not to say that the movie doesn't have problems. The most notable, (besides the almost slapstick humor inserted into the movie) is the handling of Luke and Leia. There is a particularly egregious moment involving Leia early on that I'm sure had fans throwing up their hands. I mean, I guess that moment could make sense—but it feels like a cheap ploy just to get a rise from the audience. I also dislike the reasons given for Luke’s isolation. But this movie isn't about Luke and Leia anymore, and what these characters do must be in service to the new ones. It’s also nice that Luke isn't as whiny as I remember him being. I disagree with the direction of the character but I understand the rationale of the decision.
There are several ridiculous moments throughout the first half of The Last Jedi that don’t make sense to the universe as a whole, and focusing on them could ruin the movie for you. But for me, the sins of the first half are atoned for by the emotional efficacy of the second half. Rian Johnson slowly built a story that pays a loving tribute to the original sequel, one that will hopefully look and feel more complete once the final movie comes out in two years. B-
Earlier this year I posted about the five movies I was looking forward to for the second half of the year. I put Ferdinand on the list even though I knew Pixar's Coco would probably be better and Ferdinand was coming out the same day as Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Pitting it against a movie that big seemed like a death sentence, but I was still looking forward to this movie because I was such a fan of the book. In fact, the 1936 Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson book has been a known gift for friends’ babies. But would a full-length movie do justice to the short children's story?
Ferdinand tells the story of a bull that is being raised to fight, but all he wants to do is smell flowers. After an incident involving a bumble bee, Ferdinand (John Cena) gets mistaken for a dangerous animal and is torn from a family who loves him and is forced to fight the matador in Spain.
The important thing to remember here is that this is a kids’ movie. And because of that, there is a lot of juvenile humor. Don't mistake that as a bad thing. I like a good fart joke or dance battle as much as the next guy, but I can see that in any generic kids’ movie. Ferdinand is at its best when it does things that ring true to the character, like how Ferdinand reacts when someone might get hurt, or his concern when he finds himself around fine china. There are moments when you can see the writers trying to stretch the story and when the movie strains itself or adds too much (much of the middle section) the story suffers.
One thing the movie gets right is the voice acting. It would have been nice to get a Spanish voice actor in the title role, but I liked John Cena here. Here is a guy who made a wrestling career out of always being the good guy, never giving up, and always being who you are despite the boos from half the audience. He speaks perfectly to who the character is. Many of the other secondary voice actors are Latino/a, including Gina Rodriguez and Gabriel Iglesias. Peyton Manning as the bull who always gets an upset stomach before a big moment was a bit of a weird casting choice, but since he had a long face like a steer I think it probably made sense.
Likewise, there probably could have been a little more Spanish music in the soundtrack than one Juanes song and the Macarena. But since I was tapping my toe to the Nick Jonas song that played over the growing up montage should probably shut up.
When it comes to kids movies there is a lot of garbage out there. The Penguins of Madagascar always jumps out in my mind when I think of bad kids’ movies. Ferdinand is better than that, a lot better. The thing is, Pixar is also out there and they have set the bar higher. Ferdinand is not that good, mostly due to the injection of too much story to increase the run-time. But with good animation, fun voice actors, and a heartfelt message about being true to yourself, there is enough in Ferdinand for everyone to enjoy. B-/C+
As we await a slew of new Star Wars and Oscar-bait movies, there hasn't been a lot in the theaters in the past couple weeks. One movie that has benefited from this break is Wonder. This little $20 million movie is on track to break $100 million at the box office by the end of the weekend. Now I know why; Wonder is a heartwarming story with a terrific cast of actors and should be seen by people of all ages.
Wonder, based on the bestselling novel by R.J. Palicio, is about August Pullman, a boy born with facial deformities due to Treacher Collins Syndrome. Originally homeschooled, as Auggie is about to enter middle school his parents decide it is time for him to enroll in school and be with other kids.
One of the best things about this movie is the tremendous cast. It was great seeing Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts again. I feel like I haven't seen them in ages but in these roles, as Mom and Dad, I remembered why I liked them—they both play the right mix of concern and caring.
For the most part, the child actors are good as well. It isn't until we get to some of the bully’s henchmen that you can actually see the kids thinking about what they should be doing, which is a fairly deep lineup of quality child actors—a credit to the casting director.
There were some complaints online that the movie cast Jacob Tremblay in the lead role instead of a kid who lives with Treacher Collins Syndrome. I agree it would have been nice to see the producers make an honest effort to cast this role more equitably (I have no doubt they did not try a real search), but I would also imagine the pool of 10-year-olds with Treacher Collins Syndrome who know how to act is very small. The actor playing Auggie needed to pull off a range of emotions throughout the story—a difficult job for any child actor—and Tremblay does a tremendous job in the lead role. If he hadn’t convinced the audience of Auggie’s joy, laughter, loneliness, sadness, and compassion, this movie would have fallen apart.
There is one clunker of a moment near the end of the movie where Julia Robert's character calls Auggie a wonder, and it took all the restraint I had to not stand up in my seat and yell at the screen, "No Julia! No! You are an Academy award-winning actress and you should know better than that." But besides that, the movie skillfully navigates away from melodrama. I won't lie to you; I teared up on multiple occasions, including when Auggie makes his first friend, and I know I’m not the only one in the theater who shed a few tears.
Fans of the book will enjoy the movie. I haven’t read it, but my fiancée did, and she said the movie stays true to the source material. The story even shifts perspectives in the movie, similar to the rotating chapters in the book, which surprised her – in a nice way. Keeping that narrative device helps properly signify the importance of understanding other people’s perspective.
Wonder is a story worthy of as many eyeballs as possible. It has stayed in the top five of the box office due to strong word of mouth. Class trips, church outings, and Girl Scout troops have been lining up to go see this movie. I would advocate for more people to read the book, as the author no doubt expands on ideas and characters that the movie has to bypass. However, with a terrific cast, a lot of heart, and just the right amount of silliness, there is something for everyone in Wonder.
Lady Bird Reviewed
I had no idea what Lady Bird was about when I first decided to see it. At first, I thought it was about a girl and her contentious relationship with faith while in Catholic school. My fiancé quickly corrected me, letting me know it was about a daughter’s relationship with her mother. In reality, it is both of those things (though more the latter) and so much more, as Greta Gerwig examines that wonderful/awful time that is adolescence.
The coming of age story is about Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a senior at Sacramento Catholic High School in 2002. She wants to go to a college as far away from her hometown, and presumably her mother (Laurie Metcalf), as possible. But her family is struggling financially as her Dad (Tracy Letts) deals with job issues. The movie focuses on everything that happens to Lady Bird in that year as she tries to figure out college and who she is.
This is the most honest examination of what it’s like to be a young girl that I have ever seen, which is strange because it also feels like an incredibly personal story. The movie plays like a biography for writer-director Greta Gerwig. But in those moments of personal truths, Gerwig is sharing ideas with which anyone can identify. I saw this movie with my partner and she said someone must have been following her teenaged self around with a camera because some moments felt like they came out of her life. The more specific the moment that Gerwig creates, the more the audience identifies and empathizes.
Saoirse Ronan is fantastic in the titular role. She plays the right amount of teenage angst and makes it clear she is not trying to force anything to become an over-the-top moment. Everything in the portrayal seems genuine, which to me says she was able to derive this character from personal experience or had a great connection with Gerwig, most likely both. But for me, the best part of this movie is Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s Mom. Both of these characters have trouble figuring out the other despite their obvious similarities. The entire cast is great but the interaction between mother and daughter is the tension that drives the story.
Let me also take a moment to appreciate the insertion of the Dave Matthews Band. Not only did I love it because I happen to be a fan of DMB, but too often we see movie characters liking only “cool” music like Bowie and Queen. I think it speaks to the character that she didn’t have great music taste; she liked the most popular songs of 2002. Not every outsider movie protagonist can be chic and artsy. Plus Dave Matthews is the best.
Make no mistake, this isn't some dramatic Oscar movie built to win awards. In fact, throughout most of the story I found myself laughing out loud, even if at times I was the only one laughing. The uncomfortable humor is similar to moments as seen in Meet the Parents, The Office, or Superbad. The biggest difference between Lady Bird and the other movies is beneath the laughs the portrayals of characters feel authentic. Even better, those moments come from the female perspective, one that remains underrepresented on the big screen.
As of this writing, Lady Bird has been reviewed by 185 critics and every one of those critics said it was a good movie. It is now the most reviewed film to maintain its 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, shattering Toy Story 2's previous record of 163 reviews. This is a good movie. In fact, along with Get Out and Dunkirk, this is one of the best movies I've seen this year. Lady Bird isn't just for women who felt like they’ve never seen their experience represented in a movie; it's for anyone who likes great movies. A
Pixar has, by this point, put out enough iconic movies that I know whatever they make has a good chance of being the best movies of the year. When I saw they were doing a movie about Mexican culture that didn’t involve Donald Duck in a sombrero I thought: about time. Though a movie about the Day of the Dead did give me pause; would a story about dead relatives be too much for kids? Not at all–rest assured, Pixar once again makes a thoughtful film that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Coco follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who loves music but is forbidden from it in all forms because his great-great-grandfather abandoned the family to follow his dreams. Refusing to let his family stop him, Miguel steals a guitar from the tomb of the famed musician Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), so that he can compete in the talent show held on Día de los Muertos. But by committing a sin against the deceased on the day of the dead, he winds up in the land of the dead; in order to get back home, he needs a blessing from his deceased ancestors.
Coco may be the most predictable Disney/Pixar movie I have ever seen. Beat by beat I knew what was going to happen, with shades of the story resembling past Pixar movies such as Inside Out and Finding Dory. Did that stop me from crying? Absolutely not. Even though I knew what was coming, the story is so well-executed that the emotional payoff wasn’t diminished at all. That is a credit to the writers and to director Lee Unkrich.
I enjoyed that the characters never broke out into song in this movie—rather, the music was worked into the narrative. However, I wasn’t wowed at first. The music starts off slow, and as the story progressed and I became more connected to the characters, the songs landed with a larger emotional impact. By the time I was driving home I had the soundtrack for Coco playing on Spotify and tried my best to sing along with the Spanish versions of the song.
It never felt like Pixar was appropriating Mexican culture, either (well, maybe in the beginning when a mariachi band played as the star flew over the iconic Disney castle). The story that is mostly about family felt universal, one that just happened to be set in Mexico. And Disney wisely used Latin voice actors, including Papa, the ultimate brogelio (Jane the Virgin fans holler). But even beyond that, the movie pays a loving tribute to our neighbors down south, with a spotlight on the food, the wrestlers, and Frida Kahlo.
While a majority of the film is filled with walking skeletons, the story never feels scary. Coco takes a wonderful cultural tradition and brings it to life with vibrant visuals and a plot that will undoubtedly give the older members in the audience the feels. A-
Be warned there is a 21 minute long Frozen short ahead of Coco. You read that right: 21 minutes. It is painful. Previous Disney/Pixar shorts such as Paperman, Feast, and Piper have been nominated for and won Academy Awards. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure felt like a holiday shill that wasn’t good enough to broadcast on TV. I would say show up late, but rumor is the short is being so poorly received they are thinking of removing it from future screenings, and already have in Mexico. If you do get stuck seeing it, consider it your last chance to go out and get snacks.