You Should Be Watching: August 23-29

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Exorcist

 — August 30 is last day to watch

Year: 1973

Director: William Friedkin

Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, William O’Malley, Jack MacGowran, Barton Heyman, Peter Masterson, Rudolf Schündler, Robert Symonds, Titos Vandis, Donna Mitchell, Robert Gerringer, Mercedes McCambridge, Eileen Dietz

Even if you’ve never seen The Exorcist, you’re probably familiar with its premise of a young girl named Regan finding her body the battleground between a powerful demon and the priests trying to exorcise it (Max von Sydow and Jason Miller). But what makes it so effective and worth seeing, even beyond William Friedkin’s masterful direction, is the grave authenticity William Blatty’s script provides to its subject matter, without so much as a wink at the camera, and the characters caught up in it.

Ellen Burstyn is a mother on a desperate search for answers to her daughter’s ever-worsening condition. Linda Blair is her daughter Regan, who having played with a Ouija board now finds herself host to the worst kind of guest. Regan’s increasingly disturbing state of body and mind is all the more shocking given her cuteness and sweet disposition at the start.

The film invites deep thought and discussion of the spiritual world, from the nature of faith to God’s providence and sovereignty to questions about the impact of physical and mental health versus that of angels and demons and where the two diverge. As badly as the doctors want Regan’s problem to be something they can physically see in the brain or have treated as a mental health issue, the evidence grows increasingly undeniable that the cause is supernatural.


Escape from Alcatraz

        — August 30 is last day to watch

Year: 1979

Director: Don Siegel

Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom, Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward, Paul Benjamin, Larry Hankin, Bruce M. Fischer, Frank Ronzio, Fred Stuthman, David Cryer Hank Brandt, Ray K. Goman, Blair Burrows

Escape from Alcatraz details the most famous prison break in American history. While both the film and the real life escape involved several inmates, the vast majority of the film’s focus is on Frank Morris, played by Clint Eastwood. Most of the character and emotional beats are seen through his eyes. It’s a fascinating exploration into the problem solving process and the risks needing to be taken for people to escape an inescapable prison.

But the film doesn’t work unless the audience cares to some extent about Frank and his accomplices. To this end, J. Campbell Bruce’s script provides very few details about the crimes that sent these convicts to the island prison. Instead, we see men trapped in cages and dehumanized by a hard warden (Patrick McGoohan), who prevents them at a whim from having niceties that would make their incarceration at least palatable. Once the audience feels sympathizes with the prisoners for being treated unfairly in a hopeless situation, it’s easy to be sucked into the means of their escape and want them to succeed. Clint himself is a big part of that as well with his no-nonsense motivated yet compassionate manner.


My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown

  — August 31 is last day to watch

Year: 1989

Director: Jim Sheridan

Genre: Biography, Drama

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan, Declan Croghan, Eanna MacLiam, Marie Conmee, Kirsten Sheridan, Cyril Cusack, Phelim Drew, Ruth McCabe, Fiona Shaw, Ray McAnally, Pat Laffan, Derry Power

Christy Brown was an Irishman born into extreme poverty and having a severe case of cerebral palsy that even as an adult left him unable to control any part of his body but his left foot. Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of the adult Christy is one more example for why the now retired actor is one of the most acclaimed in film history. His chameleon-like level and skill of intense physical acting is nothing short of astonishing. It’s difficult to believe the man on the screen doesn’t have cerebral palsy himself. Christy goes through a wide range of capabilities and emotional states, and Lewis nails them all. Even the child who played young Christy was remarkable in his short screen time.

It’s heartwarming to see that despite all of his trouble interacting with the world around him, Christy always had friends, siblings, and especially his mother support him, especially since his father is so dismissive of him most of his life. However, this film is not about them and so they do not receive a lot of development in the script. The focus throughout is on the struggle and triumph of being Christy Brown.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

August 24
The Road (2009)

August 25
Gangs of New York (2002)
Night Will Fall (2014)

August 26
White God (2014)

August 27
Ernest & Celestine (2012)
Wrinkles (2011)

August 29
Destiny (1921)

August 31
Batman Begins (2005)
Casino (1995)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
The Descent (2005)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
It Might Get Loud (2008)
Man on Wire (2008)
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

September 4
To The Wonder (2012)

AMAZON PRIME

August 23
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

August 24
Captain Fantastic (2016)

August 29
Dirty Dancing (1987)

August 30
The ’Burbs (1989)
Boy (2010)
Breathing (2011)
A Bullet for the General (1966)
Companeros (1970)
Computer Chess (2013)
David and Lisa (1962)
Deep Red (1975)
Django (1966)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Keoma (1976)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Opera (1987)
The Return of Ringo (1965)
The Running Man (1987)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

August 31
Anthropoid (2016)
The Big Racket (1976)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Capote (2005)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Death at a Funeral (2007)
A Fistful Of Dynamite (1971)
The Flowers of War (2011)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Inferno (1980)
The Natural (1984)
Raging Bull (1980)
Red River (1948)
Stories We Tell (2012)
Training Day (2001)
Trees Lounge (1996)

FILMSTRUCK

August 24
Act of Violence (1949)
Boy (2010)
Casablanca (1942)
The Freshman (1925)
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Get Carter (1971)
The Little Foxes (1941)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Nine Queens (2000)
Now, Voyager (1942)
The Producers (1967)
Stella Dallas (1937)
Swing Time (1936)
Top Hat (1935)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

August 31
Badlands (1973)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
The Exorcist (1973)
Gun Crazy (1950)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Kameradschaft (1931)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The Searchers (1956)
They Live by Night (1948)
Tootsie (1982)
Westfront 1918 (1930)
You Only Live Once (1937)

HULU

August 31
Across the Universe (2007)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Clue (1985)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Hellboy (2004)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Primal Fear (1996)
Rain Man (1988)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Peter Rabbit (2018)
The Motive – NETFLIX FILM (2017)
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

Unsane (2018)

FILMSTRUCK

My Brilliant Career (1979)
On Golden Pond (1981)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

HULU

A Ciambra (2017)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Minding the Gap — HULU DOCUMENTARY (2018)
Role Models (2008)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

August 24
The After Party — NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

August 26
mother! (2017)

HULU

August 26
Gangs of New York (2002)
mother! (2017)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

MOVIE REVIEW: Phantom Thread

PHANTOM THREAD (2017)

GOING IN

Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis together again. In 2007, this pair of genius artists gifted the world with There Will Be Blood, one of the finest films of the 21st century, which resulted in Day-Lewis’ second Academy Award for Best Actor. Now, after a career of unrivaled success, Day-Lewis gives his final performance as a renowned dressmaker in 1950’s London who finds his muse, bringing love, creativity, and disruption to his methodical life. Paul Thomas Anderson serves as the film’s writer, director, and cinematographer – a rare feat that is no doubt within his ability. The film will almost certainly look and sound incredible, and in an Anderson script there are sure to be surprises along the way. With Anderson and Day-Lewis’ track record of excellence, it is impossible not to be giddy with excitement to discover the secrets Phantom Thread hides.

2 Hours and 10 Minutes Later.


COMING OUT

Reynolds Woodcock. The name of Daniel Day-Lewis’ distinguished dressmaker should have tipped us off. It is a fine, strong name that sounds prestigious enough, but also one that provokes a little private chuckle on the side. And that is exactly what Phantom Thread turns out to be – part period romance melodrama, and part dark personal comedy. At times it felt almost wrong to be letting out an audible laugh when the characters are taking things oh so seriously. Come to find out, though, that is precisely what makes these wonderful moments so funny.

Phantom Thread turns out to be quite unpredictable. In addition to the humor, there is a psychosexual nature to the story that is both fascinating and uncomfortable. Alma (Vicky Krieps) and Reynolds’ relationship quickly becomes something unexpected. Woodcock puts dressmaking first, and Alma soon realizes that her existence is only noticed and appreciated within the routine he allows it to be. What he isn’t prepared for, though, is her push back and willingness to engage and challenge his status quo. Also vying for Reynolds’ attention (though in a much different manner) is Cyril (Lesley Manville), Reynolds’ sister, manager, and closest confidante. This triangle of relationships is always a little uneasy and how they ultimately resolve is the crux of the film.

Anderson’s work as the film’s uncredited cinematographer is incredible. His camera often focuses close-in on the actors’ faces, and much is said in a lingering stare or the slight turn of an upper lip. Though the dialogue is brilliant, so much is conveyed via body language. It speaks to the acting prowess of the entire cast, but also to PTA’s eye for knowing how to capture it perfectly in the frame. The atmosphere and set design of the film is mesmerizing, as well, combining with a beautiful violin and piano based score from Jonny Greenwood to cast a spell on viewers and immerse them in another time and place.

Day-Lewis’ portrayal of the obsessive, controlling Woodcock is pitch perfect. As expected, the method actor whose preparation is the stuff of legend, put in plenty of work to become the sought after dressmaker. For Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis actually learned how to sew, going so far as to hand-stitch a Balenciaga dress from scratch, while his wife (director Rebecca Miller) served as a model. Oh, and he also apprenticed for a year under costume director Marc Happel of the New York City Ballet, sewing 100 buttonholes as he learned the intricacies of the craft. All of this incredible effort leads to a performance that feels perfectly natural. Day-Lewis’ history is so fantastic that it might be easy to compare and call his work in Phantom Thread merely “very good”, but when measured against the rest of the acting field it really is one of the finest performances of the year.

However, it’s not even Day-Lewis that gives the best performance of the film. That honor must go to newcomer Vicky Krieps who is not just his equal, but is able to even outshine him at times. Her patient demeanor is both delicate and fiery, always giving the impression that at any moment she might crumble under Reynolds’ force or powerfully take control of a moment herself. Her acting is exquisite and the ability to emote so much without words makes her performance such a force. Not to be outdone is Lesley Manville, who also holds her own in every scene opposite Day-Lewis as the ever-steady rock of their strange sibling union. Combined these three stars are as good as any other ensemble cast you will see all year. They make every line sing and create characters you won’t easily forget.

VERDICT

Though PTA’s films had never commanded much of my attention before, Phantom Thread captivated me from the opening scene to the end credits and bewitched me unlike any other film experience in 2017. Thematically, it’s exploration of an unconventional romance between the obsessive man and his delicate muse goes in directions you never expect, and never ceases to hold your attention throughout. Cinematically, it is one of the most well-crafted, stunningly beautiful, perfectly scored, impeccably acted dramas I’ve seen in years. PTA’s meticulous attention to detail marries so well with Daniel Day-Lewis’ devotion to character immersion, and newcomer Vicky Krieps owns the screen in every scene. Like the notes left by Reynolds inside the seam of his dresses, Phantom Thread will embed itself in your memory and linger in your thoughts for long after your initial date is over.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: June 18-24

LESSON #1: THE HAN SOLO MOVIE IS IN BIG TROUBLE— Any film where the director leaves the project six months into shooting (and triple that time in pre-production) is more than a shade problematic.  When that film is a nine-figure budgeted potential blockbuster under the Star Wars banner of the Disney label, that shockwave of s–t hitting the fan is even greater.  The firing of the 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from the upcoming solo prequel Han Solo film starring Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover draws ire and head-scratching.  The more that we hear about it, the worse it sounds.  This far from the first time this has happened in Hollywood and several classics rose out of some of these situations, but the news this week is not a good sign in the slightest.  If this was 1997 after Apollo 13 and Ransom or 2007 after The Da Vinci Code and Cinderella Man, I’d feel a more excited about Ron Howard, but this is 2017 and his last decade (outside of Rush and Frost/Nixon has been rough. Go ahead and say it: “It’s a movie no one asked or anyway  #teamharrisonford.”  Maybe this becomes a lesson to Disney to keep the anthology films away from recasted prequels.

LESSON #2: FIND A WAY TO RETIRE AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME— Reclusive-yet-renowned king of all cinematic thespians, Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting this week.  Take the man at his word.  He is notoriously selective and has never chased a paycheck.  Can he be talked out of it with the right pitch in a few years?  Maybe, but if it sticks, the man retires at his peak as a living legend.  Lewis is the only man is history with three Oscars for Best Actor and is gunning for his fourth as a swan song with Paul Thomas Anderson’s as-yet-untitled new film coming this December.  It won’t take much for the deep industry respect for Lewis to start etching his name on that future statuette.

LESSON #3: THE EXCUSE OF “WE DIDN’T MAKE THIS FILM FOR CRITICS” AND ITS MANY ITERATIONS CARRY ZERO WEIGHT— Yes, as press credentialed film critic in Chicago, I find myself from time to time lumped into the hate volleyed at critics who have differing opinions than the box office results might show.  The Mummy director Alex Kurtzman is the latest film director to push back against poor reviews to cite more positive audience response.  I don’t know if foreign box office and a B- from Cinemascore audience ratings is anything to brag about.  News flash, Alex and all other directors and studio heads: Critics are fans too and an extremely small sample size.  We’re munching on the same popcorn and putting on the same pants.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  Want better results?  Make better movies.

LESSON #4: DIRECTOR COLIN TREVORROW DOESN’T GET IT AND WE DON’T GET HIM EITHER— I’m as big of supporter of the breakout indie film Safety Not Guaranteed as much as the next cinephile of discerning taste who has discovered it, but I don’t know if what has come to Colin Trevorrow and is coming to him in the future, i.e. Star Wars, are good things for audiences.  The reactions to his newest film, The Book of Henry, are polarizing, to say the least (I was fine with it, but I’m in the minority).  Veering uglier, Pajiba put together a nice and telling piece titled “The Upwards Falling of Colin Trevorrow and Why It Matters” recently examining his treatment of female characters and quotes on the state of female directors.  I buy what that column is selling.  This man is beginning to reek of tone-deafness and I don’t know if the critical main trilogy of Star Wars is the place for him.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: March 5-11

LESSON #1: THE SUCCESS RATE OF INDIE DIRECTORS STEPPING TO BLOCKBUSTERS IS IMPROVING— Other than Marc Webb stepping up from “(500) Days of Summer” to the ill-fated “Amazing Spider-Man” double bill and “Moon” director Duncan Jones bombing on “Warcraft,” the recent push of larger studios’ farming of indie directors to helm blockbusters have gone pretty successfully.   All of the greats started small (take Christopher Nolan going from “Memento” to Batman), but the trend is swelling lately.   Colin Treverrow turned “Safety Not Guaranteed” into “Jurassic World” and J.A. Bayona will be moving from “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls” into the dinotastic sequel.  “The Kings of Summer” director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cashed up to “Kong: Skull Island.”  This list goes on and on, and 2017 is full of more.  Rian Johnson flips “Looper” for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and Taika Waititi goes from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” for “Thor: Ragnarok.”  Jon Watts of “Cop Car” hopes to not pull a Marc Webb with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

LESSON #2: BIGGER IS BETTER— Speaking of “Kong: Skull Island,” the head honchos at Legendary Entertainment found the easiest and most irresistible route to selling a new Kong film: Make him bigger.   The powers that be have smacked an invisible label on the cinematic Cheez Whiz jar that reads “now bigger than ever,” jacking up the normally and plenty-imposing 25-foot gorilla into a gigantic 100-foot bipedal behemoth.  That changes everything when it comes to the monster’s capacity for destruction and man’s impossible chances of opposition.  Go see the film.  It’s a blast.

LESSON #3: KEEP AN EYE ON THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL— For nine days and 125 features this month, Austin, Texas becomes the center of the independent film scene with the annual South by Southwest Film Festival that is starting to rival January’s Sundance Film Festival for exclusive films and a Hollywood-level red carpet.  This year, you’ll get the premieres of the latest films from Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”), Terrance Malick (“Song to Song”), and Ben Wheatley (“Free Fire”).   SXSW’s merger of the arts is becoming a hot ticket with good gets.

LESSON #4: THE WHITEWASHED CASTING OUTRAGE IS STARTING TO SMARTEN STUDIOS UP— I think the combination of warranted complaints,  butthurt rants, and internet courage-fueled protests are starting to work.   Movie news reported this week that director Guy Ritchie will seek Middle Eastern lead performers for Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” re-imagining and Niki Caro looks to be doing the same for “Mulan.”   If you look past the animated curtain and beyond all of its inherent entertainment value, “Aladdin” is one of the worst perpetrators in film history for white-washing.  I’m intrigued to see something different and call these active attempts an initial victory towards improved diversity.

LESSON #5: LET’S MAKE UP A NEW WORD: “BRITWASHING”— Piggybacking from Lesson #4, race relations also have a national vs. international bend to them from time to time.  Samuel L. Jackson just stepped out in an interview to criticize the casting of black British actor Daniel Kaluuya to play an American African-American guy in “Get Out” and wonders about missed opportunities.  Honestly, the man isn’t wrong and, as I coin the term, “Britwashing” has been a quietly unsettling trend when you see the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Henry Cavill, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Oyelow playing real and fictional American heroes.  One has to wonder if there is a talent gap between the Brits and the Americans.  What do you think?  How do you feel about foreigners playing American figures and heroes?

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current President of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

Episode 046: The Last of the Mohicans

This week we are discussing Michael Mann’s collaboration with Daniel Day Lewis, the frontier epic, The Last of the Mohicans. This film was chosen by our listeners via a voting process that was conducted using all of the movies recommended with our #feelthisfilm hashtag. With a strong theme throughout of duty to family vs. duty to society, this movie gives us a big question to wrestle with while we sit back and enjoy its gorgeous cinematography and emotionally powerful score. Plus, Daniel Day Lewis, and we love talking about Daniel Day Lewis. Enjoy!

Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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