Thursday, March 01, 2018


Dunkirk (2017)
Starring Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Cillian Murphy, and Kenneth Branagh
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan

Summary (in 500 words or less):  A look at the land, sea, and air military actions taking place in Dunkirk, France, during an epic battle during WWII between the Allied and Nazi forces.

  • There's a visceral excitement to Dunkirk as director-writer Christopher Nolan drops the viewers right into the action from the film's outset leaving behind backstories about characters and instead focusing the flick's entire 100-minute runtime on the action taking place as Allied troops retreat to coastal Dunkirk, France, while they await to be rescued as the Germans close in on them.
  • The fact that Nolan isn't really in the running for the Best Director Oscar (despite being nominated) is shocking to me.  While it's true Nolan's film isn't so much about characters, what he's done here visually and cinematically is stunning. 
  • The men on the beaches of Dunkirk fought together and died together and Nolan's desire to treat them as a mass of men instead of singular individuals is an interesting concept.  While it's not something we're used to as a cinematic audience, the film still manages to carry emotional weight which is a triumph.
  • Nolan puzzle pieces the land, sea, and air battles together, eschewing a linear timeline which does at times prove a bit confusing, but in the end works as the pieces fit together and we see the whole picture he was trying to create.
  • Ultimately, the film doesn't quite succeed at showcasing the MASSIVE battle and rescue attempt that happened at Dunkirk -- in fact, fellow Oscar nominee Darkest Hour did a better job at that -- but Nolan's film is still a great visceral piece of cinema...and this is coming from someone who thinks Nolan has been a bit overrated prior to this.
The RyMickey Rating:  B+

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Post

The Post (2017)
Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, and Bruce Greenwood
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer

Summary (in 500 words or less): Washington Post owner Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) -- the first female owner of a major newspaper -- and editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) are struggling to keep their paper afloat in the early 1970s.  The New York Times -- one of their major competitors -- breaks a huge story about multiple presidential administrations hiding information about the Vietnam War from the American public.  This classified info was admittedly stolen from the US government and the Nixon administration sues them to stop the release of any more info. Fortunately for the Washington Post, a secret informant drops that same information off to them and Graham and Bradlee are faced with the challenge of whether to publish the information or not.

  • A true story, Spielberg's The Post feels a bit languid, slow, and plodding.  
  • A good performance from Meryl Streep -- seriously, I keep wanting to not like her in things, but I can't -- balances out a less successful turn from Tom Hanks who, despite having some backstory given to his character, never really connected with me.
  • Much like Hanks not connecting with me, the film itself didn't either.  Spielberg's direction felt a bit stiff and stolid, and while I liked the way the film looked and some camera angles here and there, it's just bland and unexciting.
  • The script by Liz Hannah and John Singer thinks it cleverly is inserting subtle jabs at the current administration and praise of the #MeToo movement, but they're so blatantly displayed by Spielberg that it often proves to be laughable.  Particularly towards the end, the feminism angle is ridiculously displayed -- Streep's Graham leaves a Supreme Court hearing to find herself surrounded by cheering throngs of women as the music swells around her.  Ridiculous.  The film didn't need that -- we already saw what a strong and committed woman Graham was...we didn't need the silly visual.
  • This may be a film that generationally simply doesn't work.  Perhaps the older crowd -- re: those around in the Vietnam War era -- may feel more connection and excitement with the unfolding story.  To me, however, I was left disappointed.
The RyMickey Rating:  C

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (2017)
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

Summary (in 500 words or less): Mute janitor Elisa (Sally Hawkins) at a top secret government facility befriends a violent sea creature (Doug Jones) that was captured and is being held captive.  Elisa soon realizes that the sea creature doesn't see her for her faults, but instead enjoys her company and appreciates her for who she is.  This creates an idea in the lonely Elisa's mind to break the sea creature out of the facility with the help of her friends (Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer) while steering clear of the malevolent and watchful Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) whose torture of the creature is supposedly for the good of mankind.

  • Much like Three Billboards, The Shape of Water feels a little kitchen-sinky with director-cowriter Guillermo del Toro tossing a bunch of plot points or character traits into the mix, jumbling them around, and hoping they make a cohesive movie together.  While Shape of Water fares better than Three Billboards, it's not a runaway success by any means.
  • Sally Hawkins is always good and her performance here is no exception.  Without speaking a single word (well, for the most part), we in the audience know everything she is feeling and trying to convey.  A nice job.
  • The film itself, though, is a bit odd -- although I'm sure that was the intention -- and I have a tough time trying to critique what I didn't really like about it because the whole thing -- the tone, the story -- just landed with a bit of a "nothing burger" for me.  del Toro wavers between quirky comedy and (sometimes over-the-top) melodrama and the balance never finds itself.  
  • While the aforementioned Hawkins is in top form, Michael Shannon gives a blatantly one-note and extremely "caricaturish" performance as the egotistical man in charge at the secret government facility.  Granted, I'm sure Shannon was directed to act over-the-top by del Toro, but amidst the "normalcy" of Hawkins character (and even Doug Jones's sea creature character, to be honest), Shannon sticks out like a sore thumb.
  • The film goes on too long as well with some silly subplot about the Russians attempting to steal the sea creature which goes absolutely nowhere.  In the end, The Shape of Water was just ho-hum.  I realize I'm kind of alone on the island with this one as it's shaping up to be the frontrunner of the Oscars Best Picture line-up (well, either this or the godawful Three Billboards), but this one just didn't work for me.
The RyMickey Rating:  C

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lady Bird

Lady Bird (2017)
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Written by Greta Gerwig

Summary (in 500 words or less): High school senior Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is navigating the difficult landscape of going to Catholic school, dealing with an overprotective mother (Laurie Metcalf) whom she can never seem to please, trying to make her out-of-work father (Tracy Letts) a bit less depressed, and contemplating whether she's ready to lose her virginity to either the good Catholic boy (Lucas Hedges) or the dark edgy musician (Timothée Chalamet).  With her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) by her side, Lady Bird faces the typical existential struggle of any high school senior -- what to do with the rest of her life.

  • Lady Bird is a lovely, charming film.  Director Greta Gerwig takes her script and deftly balances the comedic and dramatic aspects of it.  Several laugh-out-loud moments punctuate the piece and Gerwig keeps the movie moving at a quick pace, making the most out of the film's ninety minute doesn't overstay its welcome in the slightest.
  • Saoirse Ronan has given us some fantastic performances -- her role in Brooklyn was my favorite in 2015 -- and her take on a typical high school student is no exception.  She's just a joy to watch -- so incredibly natural and easygoing, yet easily holding the audience's attention.  Saoirse isn't alone in being fantastic, however.  
    • Laurie Metcalf is lovely as the prickly mom who wants the best for her daughter, but never feels as if she's living up to her potential.  
    • Lucas Hedges, who I admittedly thought was slightly overpraised in 2016's Manchester on the Sea, proves that he has the acting chops to make it in the industry.  
    • Stealing the show is Beanie Feldstein who has very few credits to her name, but proves capable of delivering humor and heartache.  I hope she has a future in the industry.
  • Lady Bird is by no means reinventing any type of wheel.  It's a simplistic story, but it's told so exceptionally well that it doesn't really matter.  Many of Gerwig's films as an actress feel filled with a bit too much eccentricity to feel relatable.  That's not the case here as she has crafted a script that feels lived in and natural.
  • Side Note:  I much appreciate the fact that film lovingly pokes fun at, yet appreciates the Catholic religion.  In fact, the concept of "faith" plays a key role in the film's final scenes and its kindness towards certain peoples' beliefs was a bit shocking frankly.  That's not to say that the film doesn't have moments where characters question things -- or even try and debunk the concept -- but it plays a nice balance.
The RyMickey Rating:  B+

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour (2017)
Starring Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, and Lily James
Directed by Joe Wright
Written by Anthony McCarten

Summary (in 500 words or less): British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) accepts the job and is immediately thrust into how to tackle the Axis forces as they invade Dunkirk in France. With tens of thousands of British soldiers in harm's way, Churchill faces the difficult decision of bargaining with Hitler or saving his men utilizing a very unique method of recruiting civilians with boats to head into war territory to carry of British troops.

  • There's nothing particularly wrong with Darkest Hour, but in the end, it lacks uniqueness, playing a bit too much like typical formulaic historical biopics.  
  • I did appreciate that writer Anthony McCarten focuses on only a short span of Churchill's job as PM (maybe a little over a month is all we're looking at here), rather than an entire biography of Churchill's life.  Having the Dunkirk invasion as the primary focus is a smart decision in that it (a) is a pivotal moment in WWII, and (b) shows us how Churchill handled a stressful and unique situation right off the bat upon starting his job.
  • Gary Oldman is good as Churchill and creates a commanding presence, but I'm not quite sure he wowed me beyond delivering a solid performance.
  • I did find some historical elements interesting -- it's amazing how close the Brits were to caving in to Hitler and his demands -- and this film does a better job than Dunkirk at conveying the extent of the amount of soldiers on the ground in Dunkirk that needed rescuing.
  • Joe Wright is a consistently solid director whose visual aesthetic breathes a bit of fresh life into what could typically be stolid pieces of cinema.  He works his magic here as well to an admittedly lesser effect in part because much of the scenes feel purposely cloistered (particularly in the British War Rooms) as we see the weight of the situation caving in on Churchill.
The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Starring Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Hedges, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek, Peter Dinklage, and John Hawkes
Directed by Martin McDonagh
Written by Martin McDonagh

Summary (in 500 words or less):  Following her daughter's unsolved rape and murder, Mildred (Frances McDormand) buys advertising space on three billboards questioning the effectiveness of the local police force headed by the sure-fototed Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and the off-the-hinges officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell). 

  • Quite frankly, this is one of the worst movies I've seen in a while.  Very little of what happens in this film feels even remotely believable which, in a sci-fi film would be one thing, but in dramedy set in a realistic setting simply doesn't work.  
  • I've seen a few plays and movies by Martin McDonagh and his blend of dark comedy and drama usually strikes a nice balance, but here the script's comedic moments feel ludicrous and its dramatic moments fail to resonate in the slightest.
  • McDonagh throws the kitchen sink in to this one -- racist cops, foul-mouthed mothers, jokes about Catholic priests and midgets -- hoping something will stick, but nothing does.
  • Frances McDormand is okay, but I feel like I've seen her do this before.  She could play this role in her sleep.  Sam Rockwell (who, like McDormand, seems poised to win an Oscar for this role) lacks nuance, with his character experiencing a change of heart that feels unwarranted.
  • Characters do horrible things to others in this film with little repercussion which might've worked fine in In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths (other McDonagh films), but they weren't nearly as based in reality as this film is and when these characters fail to be punished for things, it irritated me immensely.
  • In short form (as I'm writing all my "reviews" now), my reasons for my utter hatred of this movie aren't fully described, but rest assured this movie is completely undeserving of the praise bestowed upon it.
The RyMickey Rating:  D

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Get Out

Get Out (2017)
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, and Catherine Keener
Directed by Jordan Peele
Written by Jordan Peele
***This film is currently streaming via HBO***

Summary (in 500 words or less): Visiting the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) for a weekend at their home, a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) soon realizes that something ominous is afoot and that his life may be at risk.

  • Almost like a modern-day retelling of The Stepford Wives
  • A solid thriller with a nice performance by Daniel Kaluuya
  • The debut direction of Jordan Peele shows promise, but I think it lacked a bit of finesse when it came to elevating the thrills, however Peele deserves credit for keeping his film moving
  • The film's comedic moments -- Peele is best known for his comedy -- unfortunately fall a bit flat and feel generic as opposed to the rest of the film which feels a bit fresher
  • I don't quite get the all out love for this film and should it win Best Picture at the Oscars, I'll really have lost faith in the Academy.  It's not that Get Out is bad in any way, but it doesn't have anything particularly special going for it except for its racial politics.  Once again, Get Out is decent...but it's not mind-blowing in any form.
The RyMickey Rating:  B

Monday, February 12, 2018

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread (2017)
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by Paul Thomas Anderson

Summary (in 500 words or less): 1950s England-set film in which renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) falls for a young woman (Vicky Krieps) who changes his perspective on love causing tension between Reynolds and his sister (Lesley Manville) who helps run his business.  The romantic relationship eventually creates a problem with Reynolds' creativity and starts to stunt his growth as an artist.

  • A slow burn of a movie, for sure, but an interesting look into the mind of a creative
  • Paul Thomas Anderson's direction and cinematography (which he also undertook) framed many shots like artwork; lovely to look at
  • Daniel Day-Lewis is quite good in a subdued role, but his character has depth and was certainly an intriguing figure
  • The film falters a bit with a rather weird ending; Heretofore, Reynolds was a strong character and by the end Reynolds almost accepts the concept of being weak to please his wife -- something just doesn't quite sit right with me about it at the moment, but perhaps a bit more time will lend a little more perspective to my take on the character
  • Lovely score by Jonny Greenwood accompanies the film
The RyMickey Rating:  B

The End of an Era, Part II

And with that final Best Picture posting in the 2016 RyMickey Awards, RyMickey's Ramblings as I currently know it comes to a close.  As posted back in September, Hollywood's politicization of everything -- and their insistence that they are correct and those against them are wrong -- has disenchanted me so much that I've grown a bit weary with their output.  As the Weinstein/Spacey scandals have shown us, Hollywood is not the place where integrity run rampant, yet their desire to push their agenda on the public never ceases.

That said, the entertainment industry is something that I've always been passionate about and I'll continue creating mini-posts in a more journal-type (read: abbreviated) layout.  The RyMickey Awards will at least be going on a hiatus for one year and may not return...we'll see.

I was constantly pushing myself to see as many movies as possible in a given year and the time spent on utter crap was just not time well spent.  Instead of constantly feeling the need to see current movies, I hope this change in course will permit me to explore older films again, similar to the Hitchcock Fest I ran a few years ago which was honestly one of my favorite things I did on the blog here.  Who knows...maybe I'll even attempt for a third time to make it through all the Disney animated features.  We'll see.

For the very few of you who continued to read this blog, I appreciate it.  I think the number of viewers has dwindled, but I hope that for those who still pop in every now and then I maybe opened your eyes to a few movies that you may not have seen otherwise.  As I said, I'll be continuing things in a much more trimmed down manner so I won't be going away completely.

Thanks for reading and keep visiting every so often.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The 2016 RyMickey Awards - Best Picture

Best Picture 2016
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

2016 was a solid year for films -- I essentially gave "B" ratings or above to roughly the same amount of films in 2016 as I did in the previous three years (2013-2015).  However, this is the first year since the onset of the RyMickey Awards that I failed to award an "A" grade to any movie.  Perhaps it says I'm getting too crotchety in my old age, but what I think it really says is that no movie hit me on an emotional level in the way I wanted.  These are still solid films on this list, but it's a bit of a shame.  However, I feel good about this list.  It's a wide swath of films -- from horror to animation, from low budget indie to big Hollywood blockbusters, from documentaries to Oscar-winning films -- that proves that Hollywood is able to tell a variety of stories well.  Keep in mind that well over half of the films below are available via streaming services so be sure to check them out if the tiny summaries below appear intriguing.

#50 - Free State of Jones   ---   #49 - American Honey (SoN)
#48 - The Program (SoA)   ---   #47 - Snowden
#46 - The Shallows   ---   #45 - Hello My Name Is Doris (SoA)
#44 - Fences (SoA)   ---   #43 - Hacksaw Ridge (SoH)
#42 - Manchester by the Sea (SoA)   ---   #41 - Lights Out (SoH)
#40 - Eddie the Eagle   ---   #39 - Remember (SoA)
#38 - Krisha (SoA)   ---   #37 - Team Foxcatcher (SoN)
#36 - The Phenom (SoN)   ---   #35 - Edge of Seventeen
#34 - The Family Fang   ---   #33 - Hidden Figures (SoH)
#32 - Indignation   ---   #31 - Arrival (SoA)

Honorable Mentions
  • #30 - Jackie - (B) - A strong performance by Natalie Portman in the title role helps make this a bit less boring to watch. (SoH)
  • #29 - 10 Cloverfield Lane - (B) - An improvement over its predecessor, the claustrophobic atmosphere creates a tense environment for its story to unfold. (SoA)
  • #28 - Midnight Special - (B) - Go into this one as blind as you can and its mix of sci-fi, chase film, and family drama will provide an enjoyable experience.
  • #27 - Fireworks Wednesday - (B) - One of Asghar Farhadi's first films, this finally got a release in 2016 and proves he was a pro at crafting small-scale thrillers even early on.
  • #26 - My Life as a Zucchini - (B) - An animated film that doesn't shy away from realistic, sad storytelling; adeptly walks the balance between appealing to adults and tweens alike. (SoN)
  • #25 - King Jack - (B) - A low budget indie that tells a simple story about a bullied kid, but a great central performance by the young Charlie Plummer elevates it. (SoN)
  • #24 - Lion - (B) - Split into two halves, it's anchored by two solid performances by Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel and worth your time to watch. (SoN)
  • #23 - Eye in the Sky - (B) - A morality play depicted on film, it creates an exciting environment, showing us an insider look at modern-day warfare. (SoA)
  • #22 - Paterson - (B) - This will not be for everyone, but the lack of story and strong character arcs somehow worked for me. (SoA)
  • #21 - Hush - (B+) - An exciting, Wait Until Dark-ish thriller about a deaf woman being attacked in her home.  (SoN)
And the Top Twenty...

#20 - Miss Stevens - B+
The directorial debut of Julia Hart, Miss Stevens is an incredibly pleasant, well-written, and well-acted slice of life dramedy.  The natural way the cast acts with one another anchored by a lovely performance by Lily Rabe adds a realism to what is displayed onscreen.  (SoN)

#19 - The Founder - B+
Surprisingly engaging, The Founder owes much of its success to the rather slimy performance by Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the businessman whose vision took McDonald's to the billion dollar chain it is today.  The film itself could've stood to maybe be a bit more scathing in its satire, but it's still a well-made piece that brings to life an ethically questionable character.  (SoN)

#18 - Amanda Knox - B+
A compelling true-life murder-mystery, Amanda Knox delves into the story of the title character who is accused of murdering her roommate while studying overseas in Italy.  The documentary is surprisingly even-handed in its portrayal of the facts and scores big points for getting Knox to tell her side of the story.  What proves to be most intriguing is the film's portrayal of the media which ended up drumming up more excitement with disgusting unjustified indictments than they should have. (SoN)

#17 - Silence - B
Yes, you may notice that Silence has a "B" rating, but is ranked higher than some "B+" films.  The reason for this is that Martin Scorsese's epic may be flawed, but is a gorgeous piece of storytelling that goes on a tad too long.  There are a few too many moment of silence, if you will, but it's still a masterful telling of a moment in Christianity that is not known by many.  Anytime a movie is able to focus on religion and not be preachy or sanctimonious or godawful, it's always a treat because it's an aspect of many peoples' lives that doesn't often get treated with cinematic respect.

#16 - Green Room - B+
Green Room is not an easy sit.  The story of a group of twentysomethings terrorized by a skin head gang (headed by Patrick Stewart, no less) is quite violent and gritty and doesn't always turn out well for its protagonists.  However, in his second film, director Jeremy Saulnier continues to prove that he's quite adept and capable at creating uneasiness and tension onscreen.

The Top 15 will be revealed by clicking that little tiny "Read More" to the lower left!!!

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The 2016 RyMickey Awards - Best Director

Best Director 2016

Some years, a Best Director list doesn't always line up with the Best Films of the Year...that's not the case for me this year as you'll see many of these films highlighted again in the biggest category of the awards.

Honorable Mentions
(in alphabetical order)
Clint Eastwood - Sully
Liza Jenkins - Elvis & Nixon
Denis Villeneuve - Arrival

And the Top Five...

#5 - Garth Davis - Lion
Although the film falters a bit for me in its second half, the first half of Lion which plays a lot like a silent foreign film is exquisitely handled.  Davis also pulls a great debut performance out of young Sunny Pawar which anchors the film from its outset.

#4 - Barry Jenkins - Moonlight
Jenkins' triptych movie manages to take three different stages from a young man's life in which that young man is played by three different actors and succeeds in making us believe that we're watching the same person growing up.  The film moves along at a fast clip as well which helps keep this intimate tale interesting.

#3 - Martin Scorsese - Silence
Silence is not without its faults.  Its pace is sometimes snail-like and it does feel as if at least twenty minutes could've been excised without doing much harm to the piece.  That said, Scorsese took this passion project for himself about the spread of Christianity and crafted an elegant, yet gritty period piece that fully realizes the 1600s Japanese environment in which it takes place.

#2 - Derek Cianfrance - The Light Between Oceans
Your mileage may vary with this one, but I think Derek Cianfrance did something special with The Light Between Oceans.  While many may find its first two-thirds mind-numbingly boring, to me Cianfrance takes a deliberate slow-paced approach in order to make us in the audience feel the seclusion and mundaneness that two main characters feel living alone on an island separated from everyone they know.  His direction added to the character development of this piece and although it derails a bit in its final third, I found his work extraordinarily interesting.

#1 - Damien Chazelle - La La Land
An ode to classic Hollywood, Damien Chazelle's La La Land is just a lovely piece of filmmaking.  Although not perfect -- frankly, it could've used a bit more music -- Chazelle and his team have crafted an original movie musical that feels modern, yet reverent to the past.  Through a rhapsody of gloriously Technicolor hues and stunningly gorgeous lighting along with beautiful costumes and production design, Chazelle managed to plaster a smile on my face throughout most of this flick.

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2015 -- 2014 -- 2013 -- 2012
2011 -- 2010 -- 2009

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The 2016 RyMickey Awards - Best Actor

Best Actor 2016
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

Unlike the Best Actress category which contained a battle for the Top Two and a Top Six that could've won the category in any other given year, the winner of this category was the only true standout for me.  The other men on this list also gave solid performances, but there was no real competition for the top spot.

Honorable Mentions
(in alphabetical order)
Adam Driver - Paterson
Ben Foster - The Program
Matthew McConaughey - Free State of Jones
Jack Reynor - Glassland
Johnny Simmons - The Phenom

And the Top Ten...

#10 - Charlie Plummer - King Jack
As mentioned when he topped the Best Younger Performer list, Charlie Plummer elevates this average film into something a bit more than the sum of its parts.  Portraying a bullied kid, Plummer's hardened exterior masks a melancholic nature that is palpably felt by the audience. (SoN)

#9 - Shahab Hosseini - The Salesman
As the husband of a woman who is brutally assaulted, Hosseini keeps the outward appearance of his character buttoned up, but displays a inner rage and anger towards his wife's assailant.  A third act narrative change pushes Hosseini into territory that sometimes seems unbelievable, but the Iranian actor still captivates. (SoA)

#8 - Christopher Plummer - Remember
As a Holocaust survivor suffering with dementia, the 87 year-old Plummer is in nearly every scene of Remember and his character's deterioration is incredibly sad to watch. (SoA)

#7 - David Oyelowo - Five Nights in Maine
Five Nights in Maine is not a good movie which makes it all the sadder that David Oyelowo gives such a great performance in it.  Oyelowo is riveting when his character is told in the opening moments of his wife's sudden death and he's equally compelling in the aftermath when depression rears its ugly head. (SoN)

#6 - Casey Affeck - Manchester by the Sea
Affleck is Lee, a thirtysomething janitor whose lonely present life is oppressed by a heartbreaking backstory that has weighed on his for years.  Revealed in spurts via flashbacks, the glimpses of his past add to the sullen man's characterization.  Affleck nicely balances Lee's past and present, creating two distinct personalities that evolve into one another believably. (SoA)

#5 - Ryan Gosling - La La Land
Much like his counterpart Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling brings an old school charm and panache to his role as a struggling jazz pianist in La La Land.  The chemistry between Stone and Gosling is lovely and it's impossible not to smile when they share the screen together. (SoH)

#4 - Michael Keaton - The Founder
The Founder was underrated when it was released very late in the awards season of 2016 which is a shame because Michael Keaton gives a great performance as Roy Kroc, the founder of McDonald's.  Keaton plays the sly, unethically egotistical Kroc with an outward, "aw shucks" cheeriness masking an underhanded though savvy business acumen that helped him create the biggest restaurant chain on the planet. (SoN)

#3 - Michael Fassbender - The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans is a film that wasn't loved by many, but should've been praised more in large part due to its two lead performances.  Michael Fassbender imbues his character of Tom - a loner WWII vet -- with an icy exterior that melts away when he meets the lovely Isabel, only to return once he realizes the gravity of the crime they've committed.

#2 - Tom Hanks - Sully
Tom Hanks really is the modern-day Jimmy Stewart -- cinema's everyman, cinema's "normal guy."  While there may be a simplicity to playing a regular joe character like hero airplane pilot Sully Sullenberger, Hanks creates an effortlessly humbling performance which really isn't easy to achieve.  Rather than just be portrayed as an outright hero, Hanks is allowed to layer his performance with humility, anger, confidence, weakness, and strength.  (SoH)

#1 - Denzel Washington - Fences
While I may not have loved Fences, its two leading performances by Viola Davis and Denzel Washington are more than enough to recommend a watch.  Some of said that Washington is too "actorly" or "stagy" in this flick, but I found him utterly captivating as a grizzled man who's done his share of wrong things, but wants nothing more than to create a life for his son better than the life he himself had.  This desire is palpable, showing itself in Washington's intense portrayal.  Washington plays exquisitely off of Davis in their characters' tender moments, but simply excels when the late August Wilson's script requires them to really explore their truest, basest, and fiercest emotions in the film's second half.  (SoA)

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2015 -- 2014 -- 2013 -- 2012
2011 -- 2010 -- 2009

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The 2016 RyMickey Awards - Best Actress

Best Actress 2016
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

There were some really great performances from leading ladies in 2016, many from movies you may have never heard of before.  Take the time and explore some of these lesser known flicks because most of them are pretty great and the performances listed below are worth your time.

Honorable Mentions
(in alphabetical order)
Amy Adams - Arrival
Sally Field - Hello My Name Is Doris
Rebecca Hall - Christine

And the Top Ten...

#10 - Lily Rabe - Miss Stevens
Rabe gives a lovely performance as a high school English teacher who longs for an adult relationship, but also realizes the importance she plays in her students' lives and the pivotal role she plays in shaping their futures.  The natural way Rabe's title character interacts with the young actors playing her students elevates this simple film beyond the norm. (SoN)

#9 - Ruth Negga - Loving
Courtesy of an understated performance, Negga is captivating in the strong, yet subdued way she portrays Mildred, a 1950s black woman whose interracial marriage with her white husband set off a firestorm in her small Virginia town.  The film lacks oomph, but Negga's performance is lovely. (SoH)

#8 - Taraneh Alidoosti - The Salesman
The wonderful thing about director-writer Asghar Farhadi's films is that he always keys in to the slightly repressed Iranian culture and the stigmatization of women in the society.  Alidoosti plays Rana, an actress who is attacked and, rather than go to the police, lives in fear of retribution from her culture should she attempt to find the culprit of the crime.  This shameful societal notion is wonderfully conveyed by Alidoosti in a film that is buoyed by some great performances. (SoA)

#7 - Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins
This is Meryl's fourth time on the RyMickey Awards Best Actress Top Ten list (plus one Supporting Actress Top Ten berth) so like the Oscars incessant obsession with her, I too appreciate her cinematic acting chops (although not always enough to place her in the Top Five).  Here, Streep imbues the titular terrible opera singer with heart, compassion, and a survivor-esque quality.  She's captivating as always. (SoA)

#6 - Krisha Fairchild - Krisha
The center of a very low budget indie piece, Fairchild makes her debut as the title character, a sixty-something woman who returns home to a family get-together after a ten-year absence.  Fairchild was the director's aunt, but this isn't a case of inappropriate casting simply to keep things in the family.  Instead, Fairchild brings heartbreak and pain to her character of Krisha as we witness a downward spiral that leads to a frightening and sad finale that despite its inevitability at its outset is still surprising as we see it unfold onscreen. (SoA)

#5 - Emma Stone - La La Land
Admittedly, Emma Stone probably has the least complicated role in this Top Ten list.  There aren't tremendously complicated depths that her aspiring actress Mia has to plumb.  What is present is undeniable chemistry with her costar Ryan Gosling and repartee between the duo that is utterly charming and often comedic, reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn/cary Grant flicks.  I couldn't help but smile as Stone danced across the screen.  (SoH)

#4 - Anna Gunn - Equity
Gunn of "Breaking Bad" fame is fantastic as Naomi, a senior investment banker at a swanky firm in New York City.  As she fights backstabbers of both genders, she struggles to make a name for herself in the competitive industry.  Strong and powerful, Gunn anchors the film with the shrewd notion that it's okay to like's okay to want to have's okay to want to be successful.

#3 - Natalie Portman - Jackie
Director Pablo Larraín rarely strays away from Natalie Portman's face in Jackie and this almost-claustrophobic atmosphere pulls the viewer into Jackie's plight, latching on to her strength wonderfully conveyed by Portman.  Portman puts on a steely demeanor which makes for an all the more emotional experience when the rigid exterior cracks when the beleaguered widow is finally able to break down behind closed doors and fully mourn her husband's death.  Portman is fantastic here and not just in a mimicry way. (SoH)

#2 - Annette Bening - 20th Century Women
Slots 1 and 2 on this chart were so close that I'd really rather have a tie.  Ask me on another day and Ms. Bening may have taken the top spot as Dorothea, a 1970s mom who so easily could have been turned into the stereotypical "flower-power" type, but instead is a wonderful balance between that laid-back West Coast demeanor and a headstrong mother who wants the best for her son.  Through simple mannerisms and looks, Bening creates one of the most natural performances I've seen this year. (SoA)

#1 - Alicia Vikander - The Light Between Oceans
As the film opens, Alicia Vikander's Isabel is full of youthful sassiness and a zest for life that doesn't exactly match the more subdued surroundings of her quiet coastal Australian town.  Capturing the joy of impending motherhood, Vikander also completely embodies the devastation of a woman who loses two children via miscarriage and her brooding pain is palpably felt.  Vikander conveys these varied emotions that take her character on a roller coaster ride, but never feel out of place.  This film failed to catch on in 2016, but it's a shame Vikander's performance didn't get recognized across any platform because this is an even better role than the one for which she won her Oscar in 2015.

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2015 -- 2014 -- 2013 -- 2012
2011 -- 2010 -- 2009