Friday, January 12

Phantom Thread Review

Phantom Thread

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, and Lesley Manville

Paul Thomas Anderson directed a film called “There Will Be Blood”. It is a cinematic masterclass, a film that continues to grow stronger amongst the heavyweights of film history because of Mr. Anderson’s attention to detail and the rigorous composition of a character named Daniel Plainview. 

Portraying this murky, dense character in the film is one of the greatest thespians to put performance to celluloid. Daniel Day-Lewis, a three-time Academy Award winner, is an actor who completely, obsessively embodies the characters he portrays. Mr. Day-Lewis played the 16th President with subtle, quiet attention in “Lincoln”, the resilient Christy Brown in “My Left Foot”, and a patriotic, murderous butcher named Bill in “Gangs of New York”; the actor can do just about anything in a performance.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis are similar in that they strive for a unique, personal purpose in film and rally for perfection in everything they do. “Phantom Thread”, the second film together for these two cinematic titans, is a complicated love story, one that harbors themes of dominating control, deep and dangerous emotional connections, and a passion that is not easily defined. 

Reynold Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a dress designer in London during the 1950’s. Working with royalty and the upper echelon, the designer passionately crafts masterpieces with needle and fabric; his stern and particular personality assists in the meticulous creations, each of which have a secret message sewn into the seams by the artist. Reynold’s meets a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) while on vacation, the two begin a personal and professional relationship, one that challenges Alma’s independence and ideals about love while disrupting Reynold’s obsessive and tormented world.

“Phantom Thread” is a beautiful film, filled to the edges with meticulous detail. The gorgeous costume design is the most obvious elegance, each dress fashioned as a nod to the character’s, and most likely the filmmaker’s, sensibilities. The score, composed by Johnny Greenwood from the band Radiohead, is exceptional; a blend of melodic harmonies that sway throughout the shifting tones of the film. 

The composition of the characters here is intriguing and at times arresting. Mr. Anderson utilizes three characters to dictate the subtle and drastic changes in tone throughout the film. Whether the modeling of a new dress design, a stroll along a blustery beach, or the preparation of dinner, the director controls these scenes and guides the audience in ways most filmmakers would struggle to maintain. The film has an inherent sense of humor, one that is manipulated in numerous amusing ways through an offhanded comment or a sly remark. It walks the thin runway of comedy, drama, and melodrama, though it is dependent on the viewer to make that determination, that’s the fun of it all. 

Daniel Day-Lewis is again impressive, from start to finish, in moments that are spoken and unspoken, Mr. Day-Lewis is intoxicating to watch. How does one challenge this powerful performance? You cast Vicky Krieps as the equal counterpart. Ms. Krieps, a relative newcomer, steals the show many times throughout the film. Her performance is pure confidence.

Anderson paints an image here that will linger long after it is over, not because of anything offensive or obscene but because of the startling and subtle emotion portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't need a big canvas to paint his portraits, even with a film that has three primary characters with most of the scenes taking place inside closed doors, the final product is still a work of art. This is supposedly Mr. Day-Lewis’ last film, if so, he ends on a fine note. 

“Phantom Thread” is a strange love story unlike many you’ll see in the multiplex, it’s a tale of complicated lust and love, a psychological battle of wits between two passionate people, and a comedy about evolving relationships. Relationships are complicated and romance is unique and subjective; “Phantom Thread” never hides those qualities in the seams.

Monte’s Rating

5.00 out of 5.00

Sunday, January 7

Voice for the Voiceless

A Voice for the Voiceless

By: Theresa Dillon


The 2018 Golden Globes are upon us and once again everyone will be watching Meryl Streep. Will she be wearing black? Will she win for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, increasing her record to 9 wins? Will she speak up for the #MeToo movement or will she remain silent?

For many viewers, politics has no room in Hollywood and should stay away from the red carpet and award shows. But for the 41-year-old woman who was harassed by her boss for 20 years and couldn’t say something without her career reputation being smashed to pieces, these actresses standing up are the voice she can’t deliver. They have the loudest microphones, the largest stage, the most cameras and the biggest audience. They are giving a voice to the voiceless. Which, in a sense, has always been their job.

They portray powerful women from history who were put down and stood up to the injustices of the world. They have placed themselves in the shoes of the invisible black woman, the over-worked blue-collar factory worker, the young career woman looking to make it in the world with only her dreams, poofed bangs, and tennis shoes. They’ve portrayed fictional superheroes, science fiction generals, and monster slayers. They’ve portrayed the mother, the daughter, and the sister. They aren’t using their voice to make noise but to make change. A change in power. A shift to true equality. And while they are using their position in society to spark a movement, as moviegoers we can unite together to support women’s voices.

It’s easy really. We can watch films written/directed by women or that feature strong female characters. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a dark theater or on your couch in your pajamas.

We can attend film festivals that celebrate women’s artistry throughout the world. Including but not limited to: Femina – International Women’s Film Festival, International Women’s Film Festival - Barcelona, Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival, San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival, Athena Film Festival, Bimovie, Etheria Film Night, Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo, Women and Fashion Film Festival, Womanimation!, Women in Horror Recognition Month, Moondance International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, AFI Fest, Toronto Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival...and many, many more. 

We can attend special movie screening events at local theaters. But most importantly, we can share our experience with our friends, family, and children. We can come together as women to support one another and stand strong. 



Friday, January 5

Insidious: the Last Key

Insidious: The Last Key

Dir: Adam Robitel

Starring: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, and Josh Stewart

“The Further”, the foggy spirit space where supernatural entities exist, has been explored numerous times within the frightening franchise “Insidious”. The liaison into the darkness is a psychic named Elise, played with vigor by actress Lin Shaye, however she does more than just connect people to the other side. Elise is a protector of sorts, a medium who rids the world of evil spirits; she has encountered terrible entities throughout her entire life. 

“Insidious: The Last Key”, the fourth installment in the franchise, focuses on the somber and tragic life of Elise. Directed by Adam Robitel, who made the underrated 2014 horror film “The Taking of Deborah Logan”, provides Lin Shaye with the opportunity to shine as the lead of this film while also executing an effective scare or two. Unfortunately the narrative stumbles into overused cliches, uninteresting setups, and ghosts that never conjure the scares this franchise is known for. 

We are introduced to Elise (played as a youth by Ava Kolker and as an adult by Lin Shaye) as a child growing up with her family in a large home located next to a prison in Five Keys, New Mexico. Elise’s father Gerald (Josh Stewart) works at the prison, he is abusive towards Elise and her brother Christian (played as a youth by Pierce Pope and as an adult by Bruce Davison). Elise’s supernatural gift brings about an evil entity that attaches itself to Elise’s family and anyone who lives inside the house after them.

It’s about time Lin Shaye was given the spotlight for this franchise. Her character is one of the more interesting parts about these films, offering a character who seems fearless yet is still affected by the scary encounters because she understands that real consequences exist with the terrible spirits she is hunting. Ms. Shaye gives it her all here, the performance holds much of the film together. It is unfortunate that many times in the film she is provided with some cringe-worthy dialogue and moments that never really tap into the emotional qualities of the character.

The film jumps throughout a few different timelines, transitioning from Elise’s life as a young woman in her family home to her life as a grown adult with her new quirky family of Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), the spectral hunting team that documents Elise’s travels. The other timeline concerns the history of the franchise, as this film aims to tie everything in the “Insidious” universe together. The composition of the film does a decent job of jumping throughout the different stories, but with everything trying to be told here some aspects feels rushed while others are completely overlooked. The film builds towards a climax that doesn’t feel very satisfying, which is a disservice to the franchise favorite characters on display here.

Mr. Robitel does a fine job of building an atmosphere, sometimes toying with expectations in amusing, less frightful, ways. The film composes moments that should satisfy fans of the franchise even though it doesn’t have the polish of the original film and doesn’t always craft the purposeful jump scares of the second or third film. While “Insidious: The Last Key” may be scarce on scares and story, it’s nice having Lin Shaye’s character in the spotlight here. 

Monte’s Rating 

2.75 out of 5.00