Last Flag Flying Review

After summer months of superheroes, minions, and talking animals, I often find myself yearning for human stories from the cinema by autumn. Thankfully, directors like Richard Linklater step up to the camera and provide us with such films on a regular basis. I loved his recent entries Before Midnight, Boyhood, and Everybody Wants Some. These films allow us to spend time with humans, walk in their shoes, and become better for the experience. Linklater’s latest entry, Last Flag Flying, while not quite as strong, continues this tradition and is a beautiful depiction of male friendship in America.

Last Flag Flying is billed as an ‘unofficial sequel’ to the film The Last Detail with Jack Nicholson. Set in 2003, the film follows three Vietnam War veterans played by Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne; Cicely Tyson also has a lovely small role as the mother of one of their marine corps friends. These three men haven’t spoken since the war but are reunited when Carell’s son is killed in the war in Iraq, brought together because Carell purposely seeks them out. Evidently, he doesn’t have anyone else to assist him with this difficult task or, at least, it is never really explained why they lost touch or why he needed them in particular.

At first, they are planning to go to Arlington, and then events take them all up to Delaware and further. All along the way, the men talk about war, faith (Fishburne plays a minister), women, raising kids, and everything else. This is where the movie shines, as expected. The three actors have wonderful chemistry and Richard Linklater is a master at realistic dialogue. It felt emotionally true to the way men deal with friendship and support one another in these difficult circumstances – especially men who are not used to supporting each other.

We also see J. Quinton Johnson as a young marine, an honest voice of the government, who knew Carell’s son. The rest of the military is painting a glossy picture of heroism but he is willing to tell the truth to a grieving father.

Some viewers become frustrated with Linklater’s thin plots and consequently may actually find that Last Flag Flying has more structure, and therefore is more satisfying. However, I felt the film grew a little repetitive at times with the men learning the same lessons over and over again. Also, Bryan Cranston’s character bordered on caricature at times, and his ‘tough guy’ persona got a little old.

In spite of that, there is much to like in Last Flag Flying. The ending particularly worked well and had me tearing up. I also appreciate that it is not an anti-war or pro-nationalism film, but is instead focused on these three men and their friendship, and that is definitely worth watching.

Overall Grade: B

Everybody Wants Some Review

Today I got my vintage movie on and did a bit of a 70s double header.  I saw my favorite director Richard Linklater’s new movie Everybody Wants Some and the Mormon musical Saturday’s Warrior.  My Warrior review will be on my other blog http://smilingldsgirl.com/2016/04/04/saturdays-warrior-review/.  It probably goes without saying that Everybody Wants Some was the stronger of the two films but they are very different so tough to compare.

dazed-and-confused-picture-31000Everybody Wants Some is billed as the ‘spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused’.  If you haven’t seen Dazed it is set in 1976 and follows a group of high school students on their last day of school.  What makes it special is it feels so real. Linklater isn’t afraid to have mean characters or for things to be unfair at the same time they are also funny.

In Dazed you have everything from the cruel bullies to the star football player.  Linklater is so great at writing dialogue and making things feel authentic to real life. Dazed and Confused is funny, sweet, sad and has one of the best soundtracks ever.

everybody wants some6I’ve never heard of the concept of a ‘spiritual sequel’ but it does seem to fit Everybody Wants Some.  Instead of high school students, here we get college students in 1980-something and just like Dazed we follow them around for a weekend.  This wouldn’t work if Linklater wasn’t such a master at what he does.

I wrote on twitter after I saw the film “I liked spending time with these guys” and that’s how I felt.  They are losers, jerks, friends, party-animals and everything else.  That’s what makes them feel like real people.

everybody wants some5Coming out of the screening they were asking for feedback and one man said ‘it was slow’.  This is the problem some people have with Linklater’s ‘day in the life’ kind of movies.  Some people want more plot.  I actually think that is what makes his movies special but it’s not for everyone.

Everybody Wants Some is perhaps more relatable than Boyhood but it also has less emotional heft to it (I’m a huge Boyhood fan).  It feels lighter and a little bit nicer than Dazed and Confused and I’m kind of still processing whether that makes it better or worse.  Either way, it is very enjoyable.  I’ll repeat- I liked spending time with these guys.

everybody wants someThe story revolves around Jake played by Blake Jenner who is a freshman baseball player who is moving in to the home shared by the rest of the championship baseball team.  They are of course told by their coach to not party or have girls in their rooms, which they promptly disobey.

eerybody wants someAt the end of the film Jake is exhausted and can’t hardly get through his first class which is no surprise with the amount of stuff they pack into a weekend.  It will make most of you wonder why your college life was so boring!  But through all the shenanigans the boys felt real and authentic and even when they were being brats I still kind of liked them.

everybody-wants-someTyler Hoechlin as Glen, Glen Powell as Finnegan and Quinton Johnson as Dale were 3 of my favorite of the boys but they were all good.  Zoey Deutch was believable and great as Beverly a girl that catches Jake’s attention.  Amidst all the chaos you totally get why he likes her and she likes him. That’s what makes Richard Linklater so great.  I don’t know how he does it!

Like Dazed and Confused, the soundtrack to Everybody Wants Some is stellar.  Needless to say I already have it on pre-order with amazon.  Pat Benatar, Blondie, Jermaine Jackson, Van Halen, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, Devo etc.  You also get to hear a variety of songs- disco, rock, country and even punk.  All of this adds to the authentic feel of the film.

everybody wants some4Everybody Wants Some is not for everyone.  It is a hard R with a lot of profanity, vulgar dialogue, sensuality, brief nudity and drug use.  If I wasn’t so in love with Linklater’s characters and writing it would probably be too much for me if I’m honest.

However, if you can handle the content and the pacing than you are in for a treat.  Is it as good as Dazed and Confused?  Ask me in a couple weeks but for now I’m just happy I saw it and enjoyed a slice of life in the 1980.

If any of you see Everybody Wants Some let me know what you think.  Are you a fan of Richard Linklater’s films?  What is your favorite?  Mine is still Boyhood but I love the Before trilogy as well.  He just nails it every time.

Overall Grade- A

My youtube review

Oscar Reactions

“Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers.”
―Peter Greenaway

So the Oscars came and went last night and for the most part I was really bummed out.  I did horribly on my picks so hopefully none of you went off my ballot…(I think I got 9 right). I know it is the Oscars and they usually screw it up.  It is just a stupid awards show but at the same time it feels good as a film lover when films you love get recognized.

Highs-

There were some highs of the extremely long telecast (honestly next time make it an hour and get this done more quickly!).

1. Lady Gaga singing Sound of Music and Julie Andrews coming in was the highlight of the night.  I didn’t realize it was the 50th anniversary of Sound and have now ordered the 50th anniversary bluray which comes out next month.  Sound of Music is my favorite musical and I was shocked to hear Gaga have such classical pipes.  Who knew?

2. All the musical numbers were ok and at least brought some energy to the show.  I particularly liked Everything is Awesome from Lego!

3. John Legend and Common were very good singing Glory from Selma but I thought it was strange they used their real names for the award.  They don’t do that for the Grammy’s or any other award or any other part of their music? Kind of odd.

4. I was happy with all the acting winners even though I haven’t seen Still Alice (I can only handle so many depressing movies at once guys!).  They all are deserving winners.  I was especially happy for Patricia Arquette as she will go down as my favorite Mother in the movies ever.

gal_oscar_winners-620x4145. I was also happy to see Grand Budapest Hotel win so much but it should have won best original screenplay.  Birdman’s script was nothing special.  I also didn’t think Imitation Game was the best adapted screenplay of the year but the winners speech was great. I think Wes Anderson deserved it for GBH’s script.

grand-budapest-hotel

6. We all knew Kaguya and Song of the Sea weren’t going to win and if Lego wasn’t going to be included than I am thrilled Big Hero 6 won.  I like How to Train Your Dragon 2.  I gave it an A. However, I think out of the 3 mainstream Big Hero 6 had more heart. I connected more with it emotionally and it is more creative with its cityscape and characters.  The fact is I’ve seen movies that look and feel like Dragon and Boxtrolls.  They are both great but I’m super happy Big Hero 6 won.

BigHero6Team

Lows- oh boy there were a lot.

NPH-host

1. Neal Patrick Harris can be so great.  I’m a huge fan of him on How I Met Your Mother and he’s great hosting the Tony Awards. But I think he may have gotten the HIMYM finale writers to write the jokes for the Oscars because they all fell just as flat.  Not one joke worked. In fact, most were really awkward like when he bothered seat fillers or appeared on stage in his underwear. Also the belabored unfunny bit with the predictions box was terrible.

Here’s what you do Oscars- have a 1 hour show where you give the awards for acting, best picture, animation, music, costumes, effects and screenplay.  Have a couple montages a combined number that showcases every song and your done. 3 and 1/2 hours was brutal.

sq_birdman2.  I sincerely don’t understand the Birdman love.  It is a well made movie and Keaton is good but for it to win director, script and picture is baffling to me.  I don’t get how nobody else seems to see how misogynistic and predictable it is?  Characters like the critic are so poorly written and completely unbelievable.  Honestly out of the 8 nominees it would have been my 7 out of 8.  People said Boyhood was overrated but I think Birdman is very overrated.

I guess it makes sense for Hollywood to love a movie about how hard it is to be in Hollywood, how tortured and difficult it is to be a star but why the rest of American moviegoers championed it is a mystery to me…Boo!

Caesar (played in a performance-capture suit by Andy Serkis) is the leader of the ape nation in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”  Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes got the shut out last night which was easy to do because it was only nominated once for visual effects.  I loved Interstellar.  It’s one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen.  But come on, as great as Interstellar looked we’ve seen visuals like that before.  Just last year we had even better space visuals in Gravity.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes created whole characters that were not there and made them come alive.  They were flawless visual effects. Andy Serkis should have been nominated and I thought Gary Oldman was terrific in that movie (I will never forget the scene where he finally loads the battery in the ipad and can see photos of his dead family. So powerful).  Sigh…

4. Citzenfour wins- It disgusts me anyone would award a film even mildly praising Edward Snowden (and then she did in her speech too).  He has hurt our national security and put people’s lives at risk. America is a weaker less secure place because he thinks he knows what is best and he twists his recklessness and ego into supposed honesty.

I rarely agree with President Obama but even he said about Snowden:

“If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.”

Boyhood-poster-quad4. The Boyhood snubs really bummed me out.  And it’s not just because it took 12 years to make.  It is a movie about LIFE and all the small things that make up a person.  It’s about the journey of adolescence and how you  become who you are.  I honestly think we will look back and wonder what the heck were they thinking?  Kind of like when Saving Private Ryan lost or the way we see American Beauty as a bunch of pretentious nonsense now.  I think Birdman will not hold up like Boyhood will.

I can see film students for years studying Boyhood and the small moments of authentic conversation.  Scenes like when Mason is in the photography lab with his teacher.  That is so authentic to life. I think if we all could be a fly on the wall we would realize how many small voices are championing us along the way. Again I quote…

“Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers.”
―Peter Greenaway

It makes me sad so many people missed what was special about Boyhood.  Why does every movie have to be the same? Not every book tells a story.  Some are random, some teach us, others are poetry and others are art. I think movies should be granted the same license to take on differing forms and purposes.

People look at every movie as having to entertain you when it doesn’t need too.  People make the same criticism of Fantasia.  That it is boring and has no story.  Ridiculous.  Fantasia is trying to inspire you with art and music.  It’s not trying to tell you a story but give you something beautiful to contemplate. Boyhood is trying to get you to think about your life and that has value.

I just think people need to go into different movies with different glasses.  I don’t watch Schindler’s List and Star Wars with the same mindset, looking for the same things.  I don’t watch Tree of Life and Monty Python with the same perspective.

If you only like movies for entertainment sake than you miss out on so much.  It makes me sad.

I found myself thinking yesterday of the amazing documentary Hoop Dreams.  This follows 2 inner city boys for 5 years as they dream of basketball stardom.  It is a movie about LIFE and how our dreams can both haunt and inspire us.  Movies like Hoop Dreams and Boyhood have high value but they require some effort on our part.

Most of the sublime movie going experiences of my life require effort.  Last night the academy had a chance to recognize a film that took on life but required some effort on the part of the moviegoer and went instead for the story of how hard it is to be a star…It makes no sense to me.

I guess it’s appropriate because in 1994 Hoop Dreams wasn’t even nominated for Best Documentary.  It’s so silly.

I think Roger Ebert’s thoughts on Hoop Dreams apply to Boyhood:

“A film like “Hoop Dreams” is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself…

Many filmgoers are reluctant to see documentaries, for reasons I’ve never understood; the good ones are frequently more absorbing and entertaining than fiction. “Hoop Dreams,” however, is not only a documentary. It is also poetry and prose, muckraking and expose, journalism and polemic. It is one of the great moviegoing experiences of my lifetime

I’d say the same thing about Boyhood and just like Hoop Dreams holds up 31 years later because it is about life and human experience so will Boyhood because even if the trappings change, growing up is never really that different.

I wish I could talk to Richard Linklater and tell him how much his movies have ment to me. If you are out there Richard thank you!  My life is better from watching your movies. How many people can say that about watching Birdman?…

I guess at the very least the Oscars got me to see a lot of movies I probably would not have otherwise seen, so there’s that. Thanks for the great year of films 2014 (Btw I am going to post an updated best and worst list now that I have seen more of the 2014 movies) .

What did you guys think of the Oscars?

Golden Globes Nominations

For those of you that care about awards and recognition the Golden Globe nominations are out and the animated category went safe.

Best Animated Feature-  Click on each film to be taken to my review

All these movies are deserving of nominations but I really think Tale of Princess Kaguya belongs in the place of Book of Life.  These will probably be the 5 at Oscars and they are all good movies. Four I gave A+’s too so no argument there.   I think out of those 5 either Big Hero 6 or The Lego Movie will win.  I’m a little surprised Everything is Awesome didn’t get nominated for best song and the music in Kaguya should have been nominated. Joe Hisaishi’s score is one of the best I’ve ever heard.  You would think the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would recognize achievements by foreign animation companies not just domestic productions.

Oh well.  It does say something about the year when a list that strong is nominated and Kaguya and Song of the Sea is left off (haven’t seen it but heard great things).  Kaguya still has a 100% on rotten tomatoes.  That is almost unheard of.  Usually there is some idiot who detracts from the crowd. Kaguya is a stunning visual masterpiece and it deserves to be recognized.  Hopefully maybe the Oscars will nominate it but probably not.  I did like Book of Life but it is no masterpiece. Sigh…

So glad to see Boyhood get lots of nominations. Well deserved.  A brilliant movie.  Richard Linklater should win for best screenplay and director because what he did required vision and was incredibly smart. He didn’t just create a story and characters but he created whole lives.  It is a film that sticks with you and makes you examine your life in a new way.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy get nothing which I thought were both so brilliant.  Boo!!!  And I really think that Andy Serkis deserves to be nominated for the great ACTING he does!

Into the Woods has 3 nominations including Meryl Streep who seems to get nominated no matter what movie she is in.  I think if she did a tampon commercial it would get nominated, but I am very excited to see that movie because I love Sondheim and I hope it is one fairytale retelling I can buy into.  Johny Depp’s presence makes me nervous but the trailers have been good.

Annie got a lot of love which makes me even more excited to see it.  It was nominated for best song and best supporting actress for Quvenzhané Wallis.  The early buzz for that film has been really strong and I love the trailer.

These awards are total junk so I don’t know why I care but occasionally they get it right and honor the right thing and that is nice to see.  This they got some right but some wrong.  I guess that is too be expected.

What do you think of the nominations?

MOTION PICTURES

Best Drama

  • “Boyhood”
  • “Foxcatcher”
  • “The Imitation Game”
  • “Selma”
  • “The Theory of Everything”

Best Comedy

  • “Birdman”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • “Into the Woods”
  • “Pride”
  • “St. Vincent”

Best Director

  • Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Ava Duvernay, “Selma”
  • David Fincher, “Gone Girl”
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Best Actress in a Drama

  • Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”
  • Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
  • Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
  • Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Best Actor in a Drama

  • Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”
  • David Oyelowo, “Selma”
  • Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy

  • Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
  • Bill Murray, “St. Vincent”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”
  • Christoph Waltz, “Big Eyes”

Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy

  • Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”
  • Emily Blunt, “Into the Woods”
  • Helen Mirren, “The Hundred-Foot Journey”
  • Julianne Moore, “Map to the Stars”
  • Quvenzhané Wallis, “Annie”

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
  • Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year”
  • Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
  • Emma Stone, “Birdman”
  • Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
  • Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
  • Edward Norton, “Birdman”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
  • J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Best Screenplay

  • Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo, “Birdman”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
  • Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”

Best Foreign Language Film

  • “Force Majeure Turist,” Sweden
  • “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem Gett,” Israel
  • “Ida,” Poland/Denmark
  • “Leviathan,” Russia
  • “Tangerines Mandariinid,” Estonia

Best Animated Feature

  • “Big Hero 6”
  • “The Book of Life”
  • “The Boxtrolls”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
  • “The Lego Movie”

Best Original Song

  • “Big Eyes” from “Big Eyes” music and lyrics by Lana Del Rey
  • “Glory” from “Selma,” Music and lyrics by John legend and Common
  • “Mercy Is” from “Noah,” Music and lyrics by Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye
  • “Opportunity” from “Annie,” Music and lyrics by Greg Kurstin, Sia Furler, Will Gluck
  • “Yellow Flicker Beat” from “The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1,” Music and lyrics by Lorde

Best Score

  • “The Imitation Game”
  • “The Theory of Everything”
  • “Gone Girl”
  • “Birdman”
  • “Interstellar”