January and February are considered the “dump months” for movie releases: the ones the studios don’t expect to garner great reviews or box office proceeds. Also, by the time the Oscar race starts later in the year, these won’t have a chance to be remembered, unless there is a PR push for them. With that in mind, I thought I’d take this column to present a pot pourri of thoughts about certain movies I didn’t get to review and a new TV show.
First of all, regarding the upcoming Oscars: Let me say that the fact that the Mr. Rogers documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” did NOT make the final list of contenders is simply a crime. The good news is that it begins streaming on HBO on Feb. 9. And I feel the same about “A Quiet Place,” John Krasinski’s masterpiece of unseen horror in a future world. There is one nomination, for sound editing, when Krasinski’s direction and Emily Blunt’s acting were certainly superior to some on the finalist list. Was the fact that it opened in April a handicap? Okay, complaining over.
This does seem to be Glenn Close’s year for best actress and well deserved for her performance in “The Wife.” As her husband, Jonathan Pryce is also superb, but it’s her film all the way. The performance is all about subtext: numerous close-ups that reveal what she, as the long-suffering wife of a famous writer, is not saying. Amazing stuff, really. As I write this she is the winner of best actress in most of the contests so far this year. In my opinion, only Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” could beat her for an Academy Award. The movie itself has its origins in Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 novel, and its literary roots show too much, which is why it’s not a great film. But worth seeing, for sure, because it’s Close at her very best.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has been open for a while but I just got a chance to catch up to it this past week and I was wowed by it. Even if you’re not a comic books fan, or not a “Spiderman” films fan, there will be something for you in this unique, creative, even daring cartoon adventure. It is all about the existence of many different Spidermans, a multiracial, multicreature bunch of them, all being put to work to battle evil. The voiceover work is terrific, and visually it is a sensation: We can never forget the film’s origins as huge comic book pages are utilized, then turned, brilliant flashes of color light up the screen, all kinds of great effects come at us. I recommend it highly.
TNT has a new series called “I Am The Night” that debuted last week, and while I found some of it filled with overwrought acting and clichéd dialogue, Chris Pine as a messed up war vet, a cocaine-addict-headed-for-suicide, made me know I’d be setting my DVR to watch the series. Pine is that rare truly handsome actor who can not only act but whose comedic timing is delicious. In this story (set in 1965) of a bi-racial teenager looking for her family, an out-of-work reporter and what seems to be a respected doctor who’s into some dark and kinky shenanigans, there is the possibility of fun goings-on down the road.
Opening this week at one theater, Laemmle’s Glendale, is a small film called “The Isle.” Set in the mid-19th century, it’s a tale of a shipwreck off the coast of Scotland that leaves four survivors stranded on a mist-enclosed island. What follows is part horror, part ghost/witch story and is intended to keep us on the edge of our seats. However, even though the film has been honored by the London Independent Film Festival, and even though it’s quite successful in creating an eerie atmosphere, I found myself mostly unimpressed. In fact, it felt like a predictable B movie from the 1950s, albeit with much better special effects.