Tag Archives: emma stone

“The Favourite” Feels Fitting

Do we really need another period piece about the English monarchy? Haven’t we seen enough of them already? Well, yes. But “The Favourite” is not a stuffy portrait about royalty. It’s a semi-dramatic satire of power and control all too pertinent in today’s world, one that delights in interesting characters and sublime plot.

In the early 18th century, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is frail and reliant on “friend” Lady Sara (Rachel Weisz) to run the country. When Lady Sara’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, she offers her a job in the castle, but Abigail has her sights set on regaining her economic status and works to gain the queen’s favor at Sara’s expense. A war towards becoming the queen’s favorite ensues.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the film is an allegory on the nature of power and how those who seek it doom themselves because of the lengths they go.

The men are seen more as frivolous dolls to the machinations of the women around them, the film a testament on feminine strength and ambition. For Sara and Abigail, their quest for power runs through Anne’s favor and they use love, healing, connection and friendship to gain that favor. In the end, they have nothing because of their greed, a very elemental, classical theme.

The rich are pompous and petty and the poor are morose and misused. It mirrors a current climate of wage disparity and also highlights Abigail’s fears of being a commoner. When not being wealthy is so abysmal, doing everything in your power to become important seems logical.

As for Queen Anne, the constant pandering to her childish whims is indicative of fascist leanings, our leaders blind to self-serving idolatry, fake worship leading to personal disaster. As in “King Lear” when the king asks “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?”, ego portends ruin.

More than just classical themes however, the film does a great job of building character and inner conflicts. If Abigail gets everything she wants, is she happy? Does Queen Anne know she is being manipulated and using it to her advantage? Does Lady Sara actually care for Queen Anne or does she just use her for her own agenda? Like any good film, these questions are only posed and never answered, and often does so is painfully hilarious ways.

“The Favourite” is a very good film, one of the best of the year, and it seems built to last.

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“Battle of the Sexes” a solid crowd pleaser

“Battle of the Sexes” details the 1973 tennis match between professionals Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). Dubbed as “man versus woman” as the feminist era was growing, the contest garnered national attention and illuminated feminist ideals in a changing world.

The film fully illustrates the personal lives of Billie Jean and Bobby, showing how their relationships with the men and women around them influence their tennis-playing ability. For the married Billie Jean, will her budding lesbian relationship with Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough) distract her and doom her chances? For Bobby, will the separation from his wife over his gambling addiction drive him to failure? For a film that is really all about the final 20 minutes, it does a good job of building the pressures up to that moment with filler that has purpose.

Carell and Stone are solid as Bobby and Billie Jean. Both have excelled in the past in these types of roles so it is no surprise to see Stone accentuate Billie’s determination and Carrel to highlight Bobby’s goofiness. As two of the premiere actors working today, they are at the top of their game.

The film mixes equal bits humor and drama. It is very much the type of movie you expect it to be. It doesn’t try to be flashy or wow your socks off. It just tells its story, imbued with a pertinent sense of feminism. You could maybe wish for a little bit more jazziness, but you can’t really ask for anything more.

‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ a solid work of craftsmanship

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) tells the story of Riggan (Michael Keaton), a washed-up actor known for playing the superhero Birdman in a number of films, as he tries to stage a Broadway production of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, a last desperate plea for true artistic brilliance. He is forced to deal with a dwindling budget, his demanding agent (Zach Galifianakis), squabbling actors (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough), his ex-wife (Amy Ryan) and his recently-out-of-rehab daughter (Emma Stone), all while tackling the little voice in the back of his head that continually reminds him how much of a failure he has been throughout his life (which also just happens to be his Birdman alter ego).

The film creates the illusion that it was shot in one continuous take, various effects used to hide the cuts. By removing the cuts in the film, the viewer is forced to stay with the characters continuously, never having the luxury of an edit to escape the drama onscreen. At times, this becomes a bit of a show-off technique and distracts from the plot, some of the scene transitions a bit overdone, but the effect is nevertheless compelling and commendable for a movie of this type.

Michael Keaton steals the show for his portrayal of Riggan. His own self-doubt echoes in every frame of his performance. The rest of the cast is also very good, especially Edward Norton and Emma Stone, who portray their incredibly flawed characters with a strong degree of empathy.

The film is able to balance comedy and drama in a very compelling way, keeping both in check as Riggan breaks down over the course of the film. It is an incredibly raw vision of life, full of love and hate for the self, for others and for the world. Films that are able to balance both humor and tragedy carry a richness with them that creates an encompassing feeling for the viewer, and Birdman, with a few tonal discrepancies, handles this balance very well.

What is most interesting about Birdman however, is how many themes it manages to juggle without toppling over into incoherence. The film is about how self-love and self-loathing are equally present in ourselves, the inability of true works of art to overcome works of pedestrian violence and sex, how pressure and failure can drive you over the edge, how motivations can actually mean little in the grand scheme of things, how an age of instant media can create sensationalism for sensationalism’s sake, among a list of other things. Indeed, there are so many interpretations from just one viewing that multiple screenings are sure to elicit further theories. The film rustles inside the viewer’s head, and that is all an audience member can ask of a movie nowadays.

Oscar Predictions 2017

Best Picture

  • Hidden Figures
    • Going for the upset here. I’m thinking politics will ultimately win out over heart.

Best Director

  • Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
    • He’s won the DGA. That usually leads to success.

Best Actor

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea”
    • Denzel has already won, and that might be enough for Affleck to sneak a win.

Best Actress

  • Emma Stone, “La La Land”
    • She’s won everything. This is the easiest category of the night.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
    • He’s won the SAG and is the favorite.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis, “Fences”
    • She also won the SAG and has no real competition.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Moonlight
    • Any of the nominees could realistically win. “Moonlight” might win by a hair.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Manchester by the Sea
    • It’s seen as a writer’s film, but watch out for La La Land if it sweeps.

Best Animated Film

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
    • “Zootopia” should put up a fight, but the beauty of the animation of “Kubo” might sway the voters.

Best Cinematography

  • La La Land
    • Alternative: Arrival

Best Costume Design

  • Jackie
    • Alternative: Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Documentary

  • OJ: Made in America
    • Alternative: I Am Not Your Negro

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • The White Helmets
    • Alternative: Watani: My Homeland

Best Editing

  • Arrival
    • Alternative: La La Land

Best Foreign Language Film

  • The Salesman
    • Alternative: Toni Erdmann

Best Makeup

  • Star Trek Beyond
    • Alternative: A Man Called Ove

Best Original Score

  • La La Land
    • Alternative: Lion

Best Original Song

  • “City of Stars”, from “La La Land”
    • Alternative: “How Far I’ll Go”, from “Moana”

Best Production Design

  • Arrival
    • Alternative: La La Land

Best Animated Short Film

  • Piper
    • Alternative: Pearl

Best Live Action Short

  • Timecode
    • Alternative: La Femme et le TVG

Best Sound Editing

  • Arrival
    • Alternative: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Mixing

  • La La Land
    • Alternative: Arrival

Best Visual Effects

  • The Jungle Book
    • Alternative: Doctor Strange

‘La La Land’ an enjoyable love story

Directed and written by Damien Chazelle, ‘La La Land’ tells the story of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), two dreamers living in Los Angeles, one looking for fame as a jazz musician, the other as an actress. As they meet and fall in love, their passions for fame and artistic brilliance threaten to tear them apart.

It is an incredibly well-made film, utilizing dramatic camera movements, a full color palette and strong performances to tell its story. Emma Stone’s huge blue eyes have never been used more effectively.

The music is not all that memorable, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be either. It stands as more of a metaphor for how the characters (as dreamers) view the world: full of love and possibility, a poem from the heart. It is both sad and happy, full of longing, hope and regret.

Much like his previous film “Whiplash” though, there’s something about Chazelle’s work that feels just a tad off. It doesn’t stick with you as much as it should. Perhaps it’s a case of style over substance. Perhaps because his characters are not wholly developed, more archetypes than fully fleshed out. Perhaps the stakes are not deep enough, the forces confronting both characters not crafted well enough to understand the character’s plights.

Regardless, “La La Land” is an enjoyable ride, full of great little moments and great visuals. Experience it for yourself and see what you take away from it.