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

I, Tonya, 2017 – ★★★½ (contains spoilers)

This review may contain spoilers.

Near the end of I, Tonya, there’s a scene where we see the beginnings of the O.J. Simpson case on a TV while the Harding/Gilooly scandal is winding down. 2017 was a year where numerous filmmakers tried to pinpoint where American media went off the rails, indulging in 24-hour news, opinion-not-fact, and by extension how the hell we got to Fox News and Trump.

The film is dazzling and kinetic, especially in the skating sequences, which come at three important moments in the film. Margo Robbie has some great moments here, especially in her one close up where she struggles to conjure a smile while her career falls around her.

There is some weird dissonance in the film, however. We are asked to sympathize with Tonya’s working class plight, that no matter how good her skating, her white trashiness holds her back. Yet, some of the biggest laughs and enjoyable moments are ones that mock the trappings lower class Portland (or Portland 1.0 as I like to call it). It’s not to say that Harding’s mother wasn’t abusive and manipulative, her husband an abuser, and his “mastermind” friend a delusional doofus.

Thankfully, the film ends the original footage of Harding acing that triple axel. If anything, that’s how we need to remember her.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills

Molly’s Game, 2017 – ★★★

For most of its running time, Aaron Sorkin’s directoral debut hurries along at a GoodFellas and/or Big Short clip, as the Molly of the title, in voiceover, tells us how she went from Olympics hopeful to running one of the most profitable private poker games in America…before it all came crashing down. This is directing as punchy as Sorkin’s dialog and for once with a female protagonist.

All is good until a series of clunky scenes near the end, one on a bench near a skating rink, another in a courtroom, and the final monologue–this is where I really felt Sorkin showing his hand, unlike previously.

But damn, that opening hour is a corker.

Vía Letterboxd – Ted Mills