[#2020oscardeathrace] Marriage Story (2019)

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever

Screenplay: Noah Baumbach

137 mins. Rated R for language throughout and sexual references.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Scarlett Johansson] [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role [Adam Driver] [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role [Laura Dern] [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) [PENDING]

IMDb Top 250: #194 (as of 1/14/2020)

 

It must be a pretty good feeling to live in the Baumbach/Gerwig household right now, with writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, The Meyerowitz Stories) and his wife, writer/director Greta Gerwig, both having films in the Best Picture race for Marriage Story and Little Women, respectively. It definitely raises the odds for them.

Marriage Story is the tale of a marriage at its end, focusing on the downward spiral between husband and wife Charlie (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Dead Don’t Die) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson, Her, Sing). It’s also a love story that uses the pain of divorce to highlight the beautiful moments that the relationship gave them both. As Charlie starts to see the mistakes he makes with not listening to his wife’s needs, Nicole finds herself down the career path she’s always wanted, and they find that they are going in different directions. Charlie struggles to find adequate representation for the divorce proceedings while Nicole hires a shark attorney, Nora (Laura Dern, Jurassic Park, TV’s Big Little Lies). While Charlie and Nicole both want the process to go as painlessly as possible, they find that they are in a system designed to turn their divorce into a war zone.

Marriage Story accomplishes something that is incredible in its storytelling, but it also makes it look easy. Baumbach is able to tell a story about divorce that is, at its core, a love story. Similar to how Taika Waititi told a story about hate that became a story about love with Jojo Rabbit, Baumbach is able to use tragic circumstances to really show how powerful its inverse is. Using his own real-life divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh as a guide, he crafts a screenplay that gives us equal moments of sadness and joy, and his direction is simple enough to focus on his powerhouse performers.

Speaking of powerhouses, I love that everyone in the film is firing on all cylinders here. Driver and Johansson have such great chemistry and they don’t try to out-act the other, instead letting each other have their moments of grandness amidst the strain, struggle, and fighting. There’s a scene near the end of the film that features the two stars in a contentious conversation that is one of the most well-acted scenes of the decade.

Even the supporting cast is spectacular. From the likely-winner Best Supporting Actress Laura Dern to Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, TV’s Shades of Blue) and Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies, TV’s M*A*S*H) who play potential lawyers for Charlie, everyone in this film is pitch-perfect, and again, none of them are competing for the spotlight. That’s key here. Everyone is as good as they need to be while also supporting the other players. It’s a real teamwork-heavy acting showcase.

Marriage Story is not a happy film even if it is a beautiful one. It plays with the inverse of a marriage crumbling but also seeing all the beauty that the marriage brought in a fascinating way. With an opening that feels like Pixar’s Up, this movie should have had investors from Kleenex because it will break your heart and then tape it back together. While it runs a little longer than it needs to be, it’s a fascinating case study of a relationship that I cannot recommend enough.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

Screenplay: Christopher Nolan

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language.

IMDb Top 250: #209 (as of 1/16/2018)

 

Dunkirk is a departure for Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar). The director is known for his high-concept sci-fi epics and comic book adaptations like The Dark Knight. Now, he turns his keen eye for storytelling to history in a film based on the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II.

Dunkirk’s story is laid out in three different perspectives. First, on the beach, where Tommy (Fionn Whitehead, Him, The Children Act) and other soldiers await rescue from the sea. At sea, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies, The BFG) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney, TV’s The Last Post) are joined by Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, ’71) in their small civilian boat headed from Weymouth to the beach to rescue the stranded soldiers. In the air above the beach, the pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road) flies his Spitfire plane and tries to take out as many enemies as possible with his limited fuel depleting. As the three plots intermingle, director Nolan shows a multi-layered view of the intense rescue mission that could save or doom the lives of 400,000 men.

As per usual, Nolan picked an interesting layout for the film by introducing the triptych nature of three interwoven stories that each runs on a different timeline. For example, the story of the pilots occurs over the course of an hour or so but in the film, Nolan runs this concurrently with the story of Mr. Dawson, which takes place over the course of a day. The time on the beach runs about a week in length. The nature of the timeline can get rather confusing for some viewers, but in running all three pieces together, it gives equal weight to everyone’s contributions and creates an interesting puzzle to put together, one I rather enjoyed.

The characters in the film have virtually no dialogue and no character development, something that I grew to appreciate on my second viewing of the film after understanding Nolan’s intention, but I feel like having something, anything, to make us care about these characters outside of their present debacle would have been better.

Dunkirk is a technical masterpiece, and if you missed the chance to see it in IMAX 70 mm, then I am sorry. The film is run time makes it a tight and exhilarating marvel to behold, and, combined with Darkest Hour, would be a splendid double feature. My heart jumped several times during the viewing, and even with the loss of character-building, I was entertained wholly by the film’s presentation. This is a powerful story that I knew very little about until seeing Nolan’s film. Dunkirk comes highly recommended.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Preliminary Visual Effects Shortlist Revealed!

 

On location in Jordan, Ridley Scott directs Matt Damon, in THE MARTIAN.

Hey everyone, the 88th Academy Awards list of films to be nominated for Best Visual Effects has been narrowed down to twenty for the Academy to officially nominate. Here they are:

 

Ant-Man

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Bridge of Spies

Chappie

Everest

Ex Machina

Furious Seven

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

In the Heart of the Sea

Jupiter Ascending

Jurassic World

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The Revenant

Spectre

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Terminator Genisys

Tomorrowland

The Walk

 

interstellar2015a

What do you think? Me personally, I believe that the frontrunners here are obviously the soon-to-be-seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road, which I saw earlier this year and should almost guarantee a win for the perfect blending of practical effects and minor digital retouching.

What films do I expect to not see on the final ballot? Chappie, Everest, Terminator Genisys, and Tomorrowland as well as Furious Seven. They just won’t be able to convince the academy that they are worthy of the final five.

It also remains to be seen if the upcoming releases for In the Heart of the Sea and The Revenant will gain any recognition once the films bow later this month.

The process of selecting nominees is a larger one than most would know, as the list will be further thinned to 10 and then each finalist will be able to vie for the role one last time.

Many have pointed out the biggest films missing including Cinderella, Crimson Peak, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and San Andreas.

The most recent winners of the award are Interstellar, Gravity, and Life of Pi.

I don’t know about you, but I am marking my calendar for January 14th when we will get the final list of nominations and begin death-racing toward the February 28th-dated awards ceremony.

lifeofpi2012a

So kids, what do you think? Which films do you expect to see on the final ballot and what are some other films you saw from this year with impressive visual effects? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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