Movies to See Right Now

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in LADY BIRD

The prestige movies are rolling out in theaters and I’ve already added two Must Sees to my Best Movies of 2017 – So Far:

  • Lady Bird , an entirely fresh coming of age comedy that explores the mother-daughter relationship – an impressive debut for Greta Gerwig as a writer and director.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a powerful combination of raw emotion and dark hilarity with an acting tour de force from Frances McDormand and a slew of great actors.

Other choices:

  • My Stream of the Week is Louder Than Bombs, the intricately constructed family drama from writer-director Joachim Trier (his new film Thelma is rolling out). Louder Than Bombs is now available to stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play.

    On December 3, Turner Classic Movies presents Pushover, which is highly recommended on my list of Overlooked Noir. Tracking a notorious criminal, the cop (Fred MacMurray) follows – and then dates – the gangster’s girlfriend (“Introducing Kim Novak”) as part of the job, but then falls for her himself. He decides that, if he can double cross BOTH the cops and the criminal, he can wind up with the loot AND Kim Novak. (This is a film noir, so we know he’s not destined for a tropical beach with an umbrella drink.)

    Fred MacMurray and Kim Novak in PUSHOVER
    Fred MacMurray and Kim Novak in PUSHOVER

Stream of the Week: LOUDER THAN BOMBS – an intricately constructed family drama

Devin Druid in LOUDER THAN BOMBS
Devin Druid in LOUDER THAN BOMBS

Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier’s new film Thelma is rolling out, so it’s a good time to check in with his recent – and overlooked – American movie Louder Than Bombs.  All of Trier’s work (with his writing partner Eskil Vogt) focuses on the psychological, and Louder Than Bombs is an intricately constructed family drama.

Gabriel Byrne plays the father of two sons – a man whose vital wife (Isabelle Huppert) has died suddenly in middle age.  His young adult son (Jesse Eisenberg) is superficially achieving, but it turns out, has some real issues.  But the younger teen son (Devin Druid) is clearly troubled; the dad is trying, but he just can’t get ANY traction with younger son.

The unstable younger son is about to find out that his mother committed suicide, and Louder Than Bombs is a ticking clock, as we wait to see what happens when younger son finds out.   The audience has an ever-present fear that tragedy is going to erupt.

Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Byrne in LOUDER THAN BOMBS

In flashback, Huppert’s character is strong and Sphinx-like, ever dominating the three men she left behind.  The rest of the cast is also excellent: Byrne, Eisenberg, Amy Ryan, Rachel Brosnahan, and David Strathairn.  Young Devin Druid is a revelation as the younger son.

Devin Druid and Gabriel Byrne in LOUDER THAN BOMBS
Devin Druid and Gabriel Byrne in LOUDER THAN BOMBS

In Louder Than Bombs  Trier employs flashbacks, dream sequences, and even the same scene replayed from a different point of view a la Rashomon.

Joachim Trier previously made Reprise, a wonderful film about sanity and the creative process in which two young novelists send in their manuscripts at the beginning of the film, just before one suffers a psychotic breakdown. Reprise was #4 on my list of Best Movies of 2008. w Trier’s next film was the well-crafted and utterly authentic Oslo August 31, which I didn’t like as much as most critics.  Trier’s newest film, Thelma, opens this fall.

The critical response to Louder Than Bombs has been mixed from middling to rhapsodic.  Right after seeing it, I wasn’t sure that I’d recommend it, but the film stayed with me for several days.  Eventually, I realized that this is an excellent film to see and then mull over.

Louder Than Bombs is now available to stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play.

A plea from The Movie Gourmet for Critics’ Awards and the Oscars

Lily Gladstone in CERTAIN WOMEN
Lily Gladstone in CERTAIN WOMEN

I’m always worried that the work of deserving filmmakers will get overlooked by the Academy Awards. It’s time for the critic’s awards, which can prompt Oscar nominations. And I have some opinions about some nuggets that should be recognized.

BEST PICTURE

I’m glad to see the San Francisco Film Critics Circle at least shortlisted Hell or High Water as a finalist for Best Picture. It’s getting overlooked among all the Holiday Prestige Movies, but it’s my pick for the best film of the year.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Lily Gladstone’s heartrending performance is the most indelible in Certain Women, a movie co-starring much more recognizable actresses (Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart).
  • You can imagine the entire back story of Katy Mixon’s waitress in Hell or High Water, a gal who is fiercely determined to hang on to her tip, no matter what.
  • The absolutely irreplaceable Margo Martindale is the heart of The Hollars.
  • Michelle Williams doesn’t need any help from me to be nominated for her six or seven heartbreaking minutes in Manchester by the Sea.
Alan Rickman in EYE IN THE SKY
Alan Rickman in EYE IN THE SKY

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • The late Alan Rickman is more than a sentimental choice for a posthumous award for Eye in the Sky; it’s one of the best performances by any actor this year.
  • Simon Helberg’s hilarious non-verbal reactions are actually the funniest part of Florence Foster Jenkins.
  • I would also recognize Devin Druid in Louder Than Bombs;  it’s easy to overlook even the most brilliant portrayals of teenage boys who don’t talk much and sure don’t show their feelings (like Miles Teller in Rabbit Hole or James Frecheville in Animal Kingdom).
  • Michael Shannon is the best thing about Nocturnal Animals.
  • Jeff Bridges should get another nomination for his superb performance in Hell or High Water.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Isabelle Huppert’s performance in Elle is so astonishingly sui generis, it is so essential to the movie’s success and she has such an amazing body of work, that I can’t imagine her not winning this Oscar. It doesn’t help that, as usual, there’s shortage of other excellent roles for women.
  • I loved Imogen Poot in Frank & Lola. The entire movie hinges on whether she is a Bad Girl or a Troubled Girl, and she plays it credibly both ways.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Like Huppert, Casey Affleck is a deserving lock to win the Oscar for Manchester by the Sea.
  • But, in Hell or High WaterChris Pine finally got to act in a complex, textured role and he really delivered.  Deserves a nod.

BEST WRITING, ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Kenneth Lonergan will certainly snag a nomination for Manchester by the Sea.
  • So I am campaigning for Taylor Sheridan and his masterpiece screenplay for Hell or High Water.
Jeff Bridges and Katy Mixon in HELL OR HIGH WATER
Jeff Bridges and Katy Mixon in HELL OR HIGH WATER

 

Richard Jenkins and Margo Martindale in THE HOLLARS
Richard Jenkins and Margo Martindale in THE HOLLARS

Movies to See Right Now

Devin Druid in LOUDER THAN BOMBS
Devin Druid in LOUDER THAN BOMBS

I’m still covering the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF); the fest runs through May 5. Throughout the fest, I’ll be linking more festival coverage to my SFFIF 2016 page, including both features and movie recommendations. Follow me on Twitter for the very latest coverage.Here’s some of my SFIFF coverage:

I’m also writing about the fine slate of documentaries at this weekend’s International Film Festival of North Hollywood (IFFNOHO).

Here’s my slate of recommended movies in theaters this week:

    • Critical reception has been mixed on the intricately constructed family drama Louder Than Bombs, but I strongly recommend it.
    • Ethan Hawke’s performance makes the Chet Baker biopic Born to Be Blue a success.
    • Thriller meets thinker in Eye in the Sky, a parable from modern drone warfare starring Helen Mirren and with a wonderful final performance from the late Alan Rickman.
    • Eccentric meets quirky in the historical comedy Elvis & Nixon, with Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey.
    • I enjoyed every minute of Jake Gyllenhaal’s breakdown in Demolition (but was ambivalent about why I did).
    • Everybody Wants Some!! is a dead-on 1980 time capsule and an amusing frolic with lots of ball busting and girl chasing – but probably more fun for a heterosexual male audience.

Tom Hiddleston makes a believable Hank Williams, but that can’t save the plodding I Saw the Light, which fails to capture any of the pathos in Hank’s life and death.  The mismatched buddy movie Dough is light, fluffy and empty – just like a Twinkie.

My Stream of the Week is the offbeat documentary Meet the Hitlers, about those few people who choose NOT to change their birth name of “Hitler”. Meet the Hitlers is available for streaming rental from Amazon Video and Vudu and for streaming purchase from iTunes.

Screenwriter Anthony Veiller fleshed out a very brief Hemingway short story, resulting in Robert Siodmak’s compelling 1946 film noir The Killers, which Turner Classic Movies airs on May 4. The Killers was the screen debut of former circus acrobat Burt Lancaster and the breakthrough for the 23-year-old Ava Gardner. The toughest of noir tough guys – Charles McGraw and Broderick Crawford are hunting down Lancaster for offending their mob boss…and the clock is ticking.

Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS
Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS
Charles McGraw (left) and Broderick Crawford (center) are the title characters in THE KILLERS
Charles McGraw (left) and Broderick Crawford (center) are the title characters in THE KILLERS