In Review: First Reformed

In a year where so many films have plumbed the depths of dire mental health to visceral effect – Annihilation, Tully, and even Hereditary – perhaps the most punishing of them all is Paul Schrader’s First Reformed. Placing us squarely into the devolving headspace of Ethan Hawke’s tormented priest, Schrader’s film is a battering ram to the body and the spirit. But where those other films gaze into the abyss and find some semblance of an answer, First Reformed finds only deeper and deeper emptiness. It’s grim stuff, but it’s also convincingly profound.

firstreformed-review1.jpg

Continue reading “In Review: First Reformed”

In Review: Maudie

Like Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky several years before it, Aisling Walsh’s Maudie proves to be an remarkable showcase for the subtle gifts of actress Sally Hawkins. In the lead role, Hawkins stars as famous Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis who grew in notoriety while maintaining a humble lifestyle in the tiny home she shared with her husband. Plagued by rheumatoid arthritis, her paintings were modest in size though loaded with imagination. The film is true to both that humility and charming spirit, especially thanks to the absorbing performance by Hawkins and Ethan Hawke as her grumbling husband Everett.

maudie-review1.jpg

Continue reading “In Review: Maudie”

Best Actor of 2016

I’m getting my Year In Review work started earlier than last year – and before the Oscar nominations arrive on Tuesday! Last year, my Best Actor choice was Michael Fassbender in the already forgotten Steve Jobs, but my choice this year will likely have much more staying power. What nearly made my lineup: a career-best Chris Pine in the underwhelming Hell or High Water, Andrew Garfield’s broken idealism in Silence, Viggo Mortensen’s Captain Fantastic watchability, Logan Lerman’s enervated and paranoid Indignation performance, and Jesse Plemons’s uncomfortable queerness in Other People.

2016bestactorlineup.png

Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
You could easily be wowed by Affleck’s immersion into profound grief and guilt, but it’s the cracks in his resolve that are most impressive. His evasion is by turns infuriating, devastating, and hilarious as Affleck finds unexpected tones throughout unremarkable moments. On the page, Lee is battling the expectations of others, but Affleck makes him at odds with himself.

Colin Farrell – The Lobster
Farrell’s minimalism goes a long way to balance out the film’s more misanthropic moments and absurdities. His plainfaced acceptance and dejection is consistently hilarious and helps the audience submit to the film’s concept. Just like the film, the stifled sincerity and compassion beneath the surface of his performance is both surprising and a crucial piece to the satire.

Ralph Fiennes – A Bigger Splash
An exclamation point of a performance, Fiennes is all drunken and self-justified id. With sultry chemistry for every friend, foe, and in-between (not to mention the damn camera), he’s sleezily schmoozing everyone – foremost, the audience. His questionable morals should be our first hint at the film’s intention, but like the film, he’s able to deceive us – those dance moves help.

Ethan Hawke – Born to Be Blue
Chances are you probably missed this Chuck Baker biopic during it’s quick and quiet release, but catch up to it soon: Hawke’s portrait of dying hope in the face of addiction and artistic submission is one of his most passionate and surprising performances. A rare performance that illuminates a real person beyond their persona and greatest hits highlights.

Denzel Washington – Fences
A massive performance defined more by its intense intimacy. Washington reveals a compulsive component to his wrongdoing, an unaware self-destructive streak and the powerlessness to prevent it. So lost in his own despair that he’s blind to the pain he inflicts, Troy all but begs for adoration, dominance, and reverance; Washington, however, commands it.

And the Winner is…

Continue reading “Best Actor of 2016”