Phantom Thread, 2017 – ★★★½

PTA never disappoints, does he? To go from Inherent Vice to this gothic romance shows his range; to get these performances (and collaboration) out of DDL and Vicky Krieps shows his skill and talent; and to make the audience increasingly uncomfortable as the film nears its end shows the magician in him. I was entranced the whole way through. Beautiful score too, whether it be Greenwood’s originals or the Debussy/Ravel pieces.

This was the final Oscar-nominated film I saw this year, the first time in some time (maybe ever?) where I’ve seen all Best Pic noms before the big night. Wheeeee.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

Call Me by Your Name, 2017 – ★★★½

As an evocation of a first love during a summer vacation, the film is perfect: vignettes take precedent over plot. As for the romance itself, well, it’s not very romantic and surprisingly chaste, and wouldn’t make too many blush.
Michael Stuhlbarg’s monologue at the end is great (as is Chalamet’s final scene, up there with the ending of Tsai Ming-Liang’s “Vive l’amour” for embracing heartbreak.) But, as Ian McDonald once pointed out about Sgt. Pepper’s, the album would just be good-not-great if it wasn’t for “A Day in the Life,” and Stuhlbarg’s speech is just that. The film rests on those moments, and without it…well, your mileage may vary.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

Black Panther, 2018 – ★★★★

Sure this has its problems like any Marvel movie–fight scenes have no weight, powers seem to vary scene to scene, etc.–but have you ever read a Marvel comic? The MCU movies suffer from the same problems in all their comics. BUT! What an amazing world this creates, from the black sand based tech to the sci-fi world building, from the all the bad-ass female fighters to the amazing costume and production design. Many parents are going to have to explain to their kids that Wakanda is not a real place, btw.
A cultural event in the middle of the most racist administration we’ve had since…well, make your choice and discuss among yourselves.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

The Passionate Friends, 1949 – ★★★★

Quite a superb romantic film from David Lean that is also a lesson in old school directing that younger filmmakers could steal whole-heartedly from. Even though Mary and Steven (Ann Todd and Trevor Howard) are the focus, some of the best moments are when Lean settles on Howard’s discovery of the affair. It’s all very Hitchcockian! There are many sublime moments in the film–the gondola ride into the clouds; Mary behind a lace curtain, her face hidden to Howard; the evocation of the rush of air before the Underground train arrives; the flashbacks within flashbacks, along with fantasies and daydreams.

Watched on FilmStruck channel after reading how Paul Thomas Anderson borrowed several elements (including the New Year’s Eve scene) for Phantom Thread.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

Ingrid Goes West, 2017 – ★★★½

The first half of this film, a social satire about mental illness crashing into the self-involved world of social media (esp. Instagram, and the worlds we construct therein) is so spot-on that the second half, where the plot chugs in unannounced, can only disappoint. Aubrey Plaza has this character, Ingrid, down perfectly, as we spend most of the film wondering if we should laugh with or at her as she inveigles her way into the world of a Instagram marketer/shallow twee person played by Elizabeth Olsen. Nobody seems to have an actual job; avocado toast is eaten; there’s vaping (O’Shea Jackson, the voice of reason in this film); and all the locations you expect to see (or be referenced) in Joshua Tree are there. As I said, spot on.
It almost craps out near the end too, but the final scene saves it and shows that Matt Spicer knows what he’s doing in his first feature.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

In the Fade, 2017 – ★★★½

Hard to discuss this Diane Kruger-led film unless you can talk about the final moments and whether they make sense with all that’s come before. However, I must admit that because Kruger’s character is so distraught and so realistic, her decisions in the final third cause an incredible amount of suspense and tension. Does she know what she’s doing? Does she have a plan at all? It doesn’t seem like she does.
As a film however, is this all the film is set up to do? Provide us with a logical path to a desperate act? It’s like when you watch a short film and realize the whole thing is designed to make the twist pay off.
Kruger is all in for this role, and the insight into the German legal system (the courtroom looks like the final room in 2001) is fascinating. I left the cinema rather unaffected.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

The Shape of Water, 2017 – ★★★★

One of del Toro’s best realized films, combining all his aesthetics and themes into one cohesive whole, rewriting The Creature from the Black Lagoon as a love story, and “Splash” as a monster movie. Enjoyable from start to finish, including its musical number (whaaa?), with great performances from everybody, their characters all given depth outside their plot-based roles. Beautiful production design, lovely moments, and more. Bravo!

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills