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« In Praise of Bradford Young | Main | Doctor Strange and the Comic Book Movie Dilemma »
Sunday
Nov272016

Five Teensy Reviews: Moana, Miss Sloane, Rules Don't Apply, Etc...

by Nathaniel R

Presented to assuage Nathaniel's guilt from not having properly reviewed them -- all five are now playing in theaters.

Moana (Clements, Hall, Musker & Williams)
Story: A chieftain's daughter sails the ocean to right an ancient wrong and save her people
Review: The episodic plot is ungainly and repetitive but the rest, from animal sidekick, to magical animation, to the heroine's self awakening and theme song ("How Far I'll Go") sure is dazzling. Disney's most resonant and hypnotic climax in forever and ever. "This is not who you are..."
Grade: B/B+
Oscar Chances: A nomination seems certain but Zootopia will be a tough film to dismount from this year's throne. It's worth noting that composer Lin-Manuel Miranda will complete his EGOT if he wins the Oscar.

Miss Sloane (John Madden)
Story: An amoral lobbyist (Jessica Chastain) takes on the gun lobby in a surprise move. They won't rest until they've buried her career.
Review: The plot twists, broad characters, and Miss Sloane's rather omniscient powers of foresight consistently push this one over the top but sometimes deliciously so. The epilogue unfortunately squanders some of the movie's mean potency.
Grade: B
Oscar Chances: In a less competitive actress year both Jessica Chastain and Gugu Mbatha-Raw might have factored into the nomination conversation with their lacerating duet. 

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (Lonny Price)
Story: A documentary about the original production of Stephen Sondheim's 1981 flop "Merrily We Roll Along" and the cast who thought it would make their young careers
Review: A beautiful marriage of theme and form, given "Merrily's" backwards topic of adult disillusionment and young dreams and the documentary's two acts forward through dreams to reality. It breaks no new ground (it's a talking head doc essentially) but it's an absolute must for musical theater fans. 
Grade: B+
Oscar Chances: It's eligible but Oscar's doc branch is sometimes allergic to showbiz documentaries outside of those about famous singers.

Rules Don't Apply (Warren Beatty)
Story: A young actress (Lily Collins) on Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) payroll falls for her chauffeur (Alden Ehrenreich), also on the payroll. But that's just the first plot. 
Review: (Sigh). An absolute mess albeit with a few bright spots (Hughes young lookalike decoys... ♥︎ ). Two or possibly three movies struggle to decide which one gets to rule the roost; none win. Dull young leads a significant problem but Beatty delivers as eccentric vain Howard Hughes. Too bad the movie didn't focus on him throughout.
GradeC-
Oscar Chances: Dream projects from legendary stars sometimes win favor even if no one particularly likes them. An original song nomination and a tech nod or two are possible though not perhaps probable.

Bleed For This (Ben Younger)
Story: The true story of a champion boxer (Miles Teller) who fights his way back from a horrific car accident to box again.
Review: The cast tries (especially Aaron Eckhart as a heavy drinking coach) but the movie remains a generic boxing drama / triumph-over-adversity tale. A dubious achievement: You've seen literally every beat before in better films -- many times directly from The Fighter
Grade: C- 
Oscar Chances: No. 

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Reader Comments (11)

Bleed for This is chock full of "Gimme an Oscar®" performances. Verging on camp at times. That aspect made me smile, at least.

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Gugu!

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Yeah MOANA could've probably been 15-20min shorter and less repetitive/episodic but other than that it really was dazzling. The songs were amazing (already listened to the soundtrack all the way through at least 4x) and YES on the climax.

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Another Chastain snub,she's becomg the JJL of the 10's.

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

Saw "Loving" this weekend.. enjoyed it , but did not love it... I would not place Ruth Negga in the top 5 slots for BA... she was very good, but I do not feel the role was that demanding... if the Academy is to make up for the lack of Black noms last year, she could slide in...

Arguably, I think Edgerton had the more difficult role and he nailed it ...

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

As much as I hate to beat a dead horse, RULES DON'T APPLY is truly atrocious. YIKES

I hope BEST WORST THING... expands or goes VOD soon, because Merrily We Roll Along is such a favorite.

November 27, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Chris - they have a list of cities an expansion dates on their website

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Best Worst Thing is the only one I really really want to see.

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Saw Bleed For This and Loving. I really liked Bleed For This and thought Teller was fantastic. Liked Loving a lot as well and was moved by Edgerton and Negga. Will be surprised if Negga gets nominated in such a competitive year though.

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

I think Zootopia will be hard to beat for Best Animated Feature, given its sophisticated story that's very adult-friendly. I loved Moana too, but it'll probably be considered more formulaic (and is on track to make less money).

It'll be interesting to see what happens in Best Original Song, which normally Disney would have on lock, but with La La Land a contender, I have a hard time imagining that an original musical that may very well win Best Picture wouldn't take Original Song too.

November 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

I don't understand why people are so lukewarm on Loving. I saw it this weekend and thought it was very good, albeit a bit slow - very, very moving. Negga and Edgerton give my two favorite leading performances of the year so far (though I haven't seen any of the big huge performance films, since they're all stacked as end-of-year releases). I'll be disappointed if they aren't both nominated.

I also saw Captain Fantastic and found it completely annoying.

November 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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