Underseen Movies of the Decade Part 2

We're onto the second part of my four part series. Here I'm talking about a few films of this past decade that I felt deserved more attention. 

Part 1

1) Kill Your Darlings

I cannot stress enough just how wonderful the entire cast is in this film. There's quite a few films covering the beat generation but this one remains my favorite. Review

2) The Incredible Jessica James

This is a more recent find for me, but with all the articles out there covering Netflix originals this film does not get talked about nearly enough It's amazing. Review

3) Una

This is one of those films that under the right distributor, it would've been an awards vehicle for Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn but instead went largely unnoticed. It's rather uncomfortable at times but it's so well done. Review

4) Laurence Anyways

Remember when Xavier Dolan was all the rage on film twitter? If there's one film of his that still sticks with me, its this epic story about Laurence and Suzanne and how Laurence's transition affects their long term relationship. This is about three hours long but is worth every second. Review

5) For Ellen

As a long time card carrying Paul Dano Stan, this is a film of his that didn't get a lot of notice, but one he pours a lot of heart in soul into. His character isn't likable but he makes you invested in him quite easily. Review

6) The Music Never Stopped

There aren't many solid, non-animated PG films out there for adults. I would probably struggle just naming 10, but this one with the fabulous Lou Taylor Pucci and J.K Simmons is a wonderful story about a father and his son that begs to be seen. Review

7) The Brass Teapot

This is one of those very whacky indie movies that you need to see to believe. A young couple finds a brass teapot that gives them anything they want if they harm themselves while wishing on it. It's a lot of fun. Review

8) King of Devils Island

I thought about this film a lot when Chernobyl was on last year because this also has an amazing Stellan Skarsgard performance in it. And it's fairly depressing as well. If you're a fan of his you definitely need to see this movie. Review

9) Hello I Must Be Going

One of these days, Melanie Lynskey is finally going to get nominated for an Oscar and I'll be here screaming "She should've been nominated for this!" into the abyss. If you've been around my blog for a while this probably isn't the first time you've heard of it. But if you haven't seen it yet..you should. Review

10) Violet and Daisy

Not many assassin movies take place from the perspective of a teenage and early 20 something girls, but this one does and it's a lot of fun. I feel like the only time this was talked about was when James Gandolfini tragically died as this was one of his last films but it should've stayed in the conversation for much longer as Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel (who grew on me with re-watching. Upon looking at my review I wasn't thrilled with her the first time) wonderful and the cinematography was gorgeous. Review

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Romance

The last love theme Wanderer has for the month is reserved for the small screen. Here are some shows I enjoy that romance was a main topic.

1) Euphoria

This is one of my favorite series that debuted in 2019. Euphoria is about growing up in gen Z, and along with that comes crushes, curiosity, and love. I think this show does a wonderful job of giving us a peek into what it's like to be a teenager today.

2) True Blood

This is a very sexy show and Sookie and Eric is the best romance in it. No, I'm not taking any other opinions. This is a fact.

3) The Mindy Project

I didn't watch every episode of this, but the entire premise was about Mindy's dating life and I did enjoy the episodes I saw.

Review: The Photograph

My life in pictures.

Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) is a reporter from New York City doing a story in Louisiana. While interviewing Isaac (Rob Morgan) he notices a photograph of Christina (Chanté Adams) on his mantelpiece. Christina was a photographer who recently passed away leaving behind Mae (Issa Rae) an art curator who also lives in NYC.  Michael tracks her down to learn more about Christina's work. It turns out Mae is also trying to learn more about her mother's past. 

Have you ever seen a movie where every single actor in it is SO good looking it's almost a bit distracting? That's my first thought about The Photograph. Everyone in this movie just looks *good.* Being a big fan of LaKeith Stanfield I knew immediately after I saw the trailer that I would definitely be seeing this.

I think this is a wonderful date movie. It's not just about Mae and Michael's relationship. It's about the loves of Christina's life as well. There's many moving parts to this. Some get more time than others, but the overall message is about making room for love.

I think Stanfield and Rae have wonderful chemistry. I liked both of their characters quite a bit. Even though Michael is quite flawed Mae brings out the best in him. I've talked about Rob Morgan plenty on my blog before so of course I love seeing him as well even though his part is quite small.

If there's one place that The Photograph stumbles, it's that some of the conversations between characters feel very stilted. Never between Michael and Mae but when Mae would talk to her friend or Michael his brother, that's when I felt I noticed it the most. I also wish we had been given just a bit more of Christina and Mae's relationship. Especially since Chanté Adams was so captivating.

Overall, The Photograph is a solid watch that's out in theaters right now that is certainly worth the price of a ticket.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "He makes me feel guilty." - Mae (Issa Rae)

Best Performances of the Decade Not Nominated for an Oscar

In continuing on with my decade posts, I thought it would be fun to talk about the Oscars. Yes, I know, we just got through that, but here we are again. January and February are slow content months, y'all. These a few performances from the 2010-2019 Oscar seasons that should've gotten more love. I'm bound to miss some, some don't forget to chime in with your favorites

Best Actor - Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine
Was it fair that Michelle Williams got that coveted nomination, when her counterpart who was there every step of the way did not? No. It wasn't. 2010 was a stacked year, arguably the most competitive so Gosling was shut out, but I truly felt he deserved a place.

Best Actress - Adepero Oduye in Pariah
I realize no one saw this movie so it was never on anyone's radar but Oduye is so devastatingly good and was Albert Nobbs really more Oscar Worthy than this? No.
Best Actor - Michael Fassbender in Shame
The only excuse for his lack of nomination was that there must be a lot of tiny dicked Academy voters that were intimated but the glorious full frontal nudity we got in this film. 
Best Actor - Joaquin Phoenix in Her
This is my favorite performance of Phoenix's and they somehow ignored it. 

Best Actress - Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin
She was so close! I love Swinton in this role and it's still one of her best

Best Supporting Actor - Ezra Miller in We Need To Talk About Kevin
Like Swinton, he was perfect in this. This was Miller's first "big" film and he'd go on to give other wonderful performances but he was such a force here. Ezra made Kevin more than just a creepy kid.

Best Actress - Brie Larson in Short Term 12
Room was Brie's big break out but I'm always over here screaming "BUT DID YOU SEE SHORT TERM 12?" I love this movie and I thought she was wonderful in it. I love her in Room too, but this is what I wish she had her Oscar for.

Best Actor - Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station
The 2014 Oscars had 4 very good performances and Bradley Cooper in American Sniper. Yet Michael B. Jordan was over here giving a very powerful performance in the important Fruitvale Station and was getting ignored. *heavy sigh*

Best Actor - Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler
*phew* Does everyone here remember the massive fit I threw on Twitter about this? I'm still not over it, to be honest. There are so many egregious errors the Academy makes and this one will always be towards the top. HOW did he not get nominated? How?

Best Supporting Actor - Payman Maadi in Camp X-Ray
I'm part of the problem here because I didn't get to see Camp X-Ray until it hit DVD but this is one of the most moving films I've ever seen and it made me fall in love with Payman's work, when I had only been familiar with him in A Separation before. I can't describe how good he is here.

Best Actor - Abraham Attah in Beasts of No Nation
Idris Elba was the center of a lot of awards talk for his film, but I always felt it should've been Attah. This was his first performance and he was so convincing. I hate that the Best Actor category always ignores kids.

Best Supporting Actor - Paul Dano in Love & Mercy
His Golden Globe nomination for this role looked promising but once again Paul Dano fell to the wayside. I hope this trend is reversed soon because I've never been here for it. 

Best Actor - Jacob Tremblay in Room
I know he was being campaigned for supporting but since we're "what if'ing" here, I'm putting him in the category he belongs in. Not many young children can give a performance like he did, and they should've recognized it. 

Best Supporting Actor - Rob Morgan in Mudbound
I feel like I've complained frequently about Rob Morgan's lack of acknowledgement anywhere but the best chance he had was in Mudbound, which was nominated for a few Oscars and they still slept on him. There is a cast to be made here for Jason Mitchell as well.

Best Actor - Hugh Jackman in Logan
You can nominate and give Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar for crawling into a refrigerator and contorting his body but not Hugh Jackman, who starred in a "darker comic book film" that was actually GOOD and gave a heart wrenching performance that was an excellent send off to his established character? Please.

Best Actress - Rebecca Hall in Christine
The studio that released this film should've pushed it like crazy for awards season and they didn't. Because of that, few people got to see the amazing performance Hall gave and no one is better for it.

Best Actress - Carey Mulligan in Wildlife
Wildlife in general was so snubbed. Everyone went nuts over Bradley Cooper's directorial debut, but no one paid Paul Dano's less flashy debut any mind. It's sad, especially when Mulligan was so good in it. 

Best Supporting Actress - Cynthia Erivo in Bad Times at the El Royale
When I started writing this post, Cynthia hadn't been nominated for an Oscar yet. Now that she's a double nominee, I'm happy she finally has that next to her name, but I still think she should've been nominated for her wonderful turn in this film.

Best Actor - Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting
If you haven't seen Blindspotting, you should. We all let this film down. A summer release that quietly went to DVD only for everyone who missed it to discover just how good and important it was. Daveed was amazing. 

Best Actress - Viola Davis in Widows
Widows in general should've gotten way more Oscar love than it did. If there are two people who most certainly should've gotten nominations, Davis was wonderful

Best Supporting Actress - Elizabeth Debicki in Widows
And while we're at it, Debicki should've gotten nominated for this too, damn it. 

Quick Indie Spirit* Nominated Reviews

Every year when the Independent Spirit Awards are announced I make it a point to drop as many of the nominees as I can into both of my Netflix queues to see what I've missed. Lucky for me, there were a few nominees readily available for me to check out. Here are a few quick reviews. A couple of these are not Spirit Award nominees, but they were in the current conversation so I put them here too. I meant to have this post up before the actual Spirit Awards aired, but time got away from me. 

The Mustang 

Nominations: Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best First Feature
Matthias Schoenaerts was indeed very good and a wild Jason Mitchell appeared for a few minutes which was a nice surprise, but I found this to be unbearably boring. I just can't do horse movies. I felt similar to Lean on Pete last year. Something about horses just puts me to sleep. C-


Nominations: None
While this one technically didn't get any Spirit nominations, I added it to my queue at the same time because it was getting other festival buzz and let me tell you, this movie was not what I expected. I didn't watch the trailer and only read the IMDb synopsis that talks about the love story between the two leads, but it takes an interesting supernatural turn that I didn't see coming at all. I'm really impressed with this movie, it captivated me. B

High Flying Bird

Nominations: Best Screenplay
This was great. I think it also should've been up for the cast award. Andre Holland is such a wonderful actor and Sonja Sohn, Jeryl Prescott and Zazie Beetz are always actresses I'm happy to see. At first glance, a movie about an NBA lockout might not have caught my attention, but I'm glad this one did. B+

Burning Cane

Nominations: Best Supporting Actor, and the John Cassavetes Award for cast.
I need to think of a better word to describe films like this other than "art house." I can see why Wendell Pierce got a supporting actor nomination. His character is despicable but it's quite different from what I'm used to seeing him play and the cast did a good job. It reminds me of movies like A Ghost Story or All My Friends are Funeral Singers. It feels more like a string of thoughts and moments than a movie. That's not a bad thing, it's a perfectly fine way to spend a little over an hour. Plus the director is a 19 year old, and that's impressive. C+

See You Yesterday

Nominations: Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay
The lead actors in this, Eden Duncan-Smith and Dante Crichlow are absolutely delightful together. I loved their chemistry. This film is both exciting and heartbreaking as we follow two teenagers who invent time travel with drastic consequences. This was easily of my favorite of the films I watched. I didn't want it to end. A

The Souvenir

Nominations: None
It turns out Tilda Swinton's daughter has some acting chops as well. I had a bit of trouble understanding why her character, Julie would be drawn to someone like Anthony because he's kind of a twat the entire movie, but I found the film interesting. The biggest hurdle for me, which unfortunately affected my score a bit was how much the DVD I got of this skipped. It took me over two hours to finish it because I had to work through it. Not the film's fault, but I probably would've enjoyed this more had I saw it in theaters. B-

Thursday Movie Picks: Love in the Tech Age

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is about love in the tech age. I stretched this theme a bit. My favorite techy movies have love in them, but only one pick has it as a main focal point. Here are three movies where technology played into love.

1) Her

I think this movie will be popular. Theo falls in love with his operating system, Samantha. It's one of my favorite movies and so beautiful.

2) Chatroom

This film is about teens in a chatroom, and it's staged in a way where it looks like they are sitting in a hotel room talking to each other. There isn't a central romance between characters, but one of the teens, Emily feels unloved by her parents. It's a very clever film with an amazing cast.

3) Searching

This film is shot entirely on computer screens, tablets and phones. While the plot is about a father looking for his missing daughter - why did that daughter go missing? Because a boy fell in love with her and catfished her. 

Review: Horse Girl

Sometimes that awkwardness never leaves you.

Sarah (Alison Brie) is a socially awkward woman working at an arts and craft store. She spends time binge watching her favorite supernatural crime show over and over, visiting the horse she used to ride as a child much to the owner's chagrin, but more recently she's been having strange dreams and nose bleeds. She eventually starts to question her reality.

This film reminded me a lot of Safety Not Guaranteed. It's a quirky story that eventually gets weird. Very weird. In fact, I'm not sure what exactly the writers were going for by the end if it. I want to assume they knew exactly what they wanted their movie to be, but the way it translated on screen felt aloof and kind of messy.

That's not to say it's bad, in fact, I liked a lot of Horse Girl. It really didn't start feeling jumbled until the ending. I expected something a little closer to the horse girl stereotype I'm familiar with but that's only a small part of Sarah. It's also the most interesting part, like her brief flashback of an accident that permanently injured her friend. Sarah is an interesting character and I enjoyed the glimpses we got into her life. I just wish everything had been a bit more cohesive. 

Alison Brie is very good in this. I think it might be her best performance. She's also a co-writer and you can tell she cared a lot about Sarah and put everything into her performance.  I liked the supporting cast as well, especially Molly Shannon and Matthew Gray Gubler. This is a bit of a nitpick, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how Sarah and Nikki (Debby Ryan) became roommates. I kept waiting for them to address it because Nikki is clearly at least a decade younger and they don't appear to like each other that much at all. It's a nitpick, but it's something I thought about the entire time.

This film is currently streaming on Netflix and I think it's definitely worth the watch, it's just a bit messy.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "It's okay, I'm making an anklet." - Sarah (Alison Brie)

2020 Blind Spot Series: Malcolm X

What I knew going in: I had seen parts of it on TV before.

Spike Lee's sprawling epic follows the legendary activist Malcolm Little (Denzel Washington) from his gangster days, his prison sentence, and his eventual rebirth in the Nation of Islam before becoming what we know him as now - Malcolm X. 

I realize now why I probably never saw this all in one sitting. This movie is three and a half hours long. I must have known that at some point but when I went to start this film on Netflix it came as quite a surprise. 

To tell Malcolm X's entire story, I think the length is justified. There's just so much and you really can't leave out certain parts of it if you want the big picture. I think Spike Lee did a great job of containing everything and an amazing performance by Denzel Washington helped as well.

One of the things I always want from a biopic is a teaching moment. I liked that this film gave me a better understanding of his journey. In history, especially for me growing up in a small, predominantly white town, I feel like we were wrongly given broad strokes about various points during the Civil Rights movement, and Malcolm X fell into that category. 

I'm glad I finally sat down and finished this. I realized that I never saw any part of this film before he got out of prison. It was always afterwards that I'd catch it somewhere. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I have to stand here today as what I was when I was born: a black man." - Malcolm X (Denzel Washington)

Thursday Movie Picks: Meet Cute

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves follows the "meet cute" trope. I'm not going to lie, I had to look this up. I've never heard this term before. It seems obvious in hindsight but Meet Cute is "characters that meet under cute circumstances." So here are a few films I enjoy where that happens.

1) La La Land

Mia and Sebastian have a bad run in at the club, but their official meeting at a garden party where Mia makes his band play I Ran is about as cute as it gets.

2) 5 to 7

Brian and Arielle have an adorably awkward first meeting while smoking cigarettes and begin an affair that can only last between 5 and 7 pm.  Did I mention Arielle's husband has a mistress too? This is a great film, and I highly recommend. Especially if you're an Anton Yelchin fan. 

3) (500) Days of Summer

This isn't about how Tom meets Summer, but how he meets his likely eventual girlfriend. In the lobby at a job interview that they're both competing for, and she has the ironic name of Autumn.