Phantom Thread

January 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Daniel-Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”)
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”)

As elegant and stunning as the couture dresses three-time Oscar winner Daniel-Day Lewis’ character designs in the film, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s period piece is a work of art. In what he is calling his final acting performance, Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned and pedantic English dressmaker whose life is upended when he meets a young muse who is far more strong-willed than he anticipated. Anderson expands his exploration on relationship dynamics (he touches on it in “The Master” with Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s characters), to reveal a wickedly humorous newfound romance that is both suffocating and Machiavellian. Watching that play out for 130 glorious minutes with a remarkable score by Johnny Greenwood hovering above it is sensuous and sublime.

Lincoln

November 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (“War Horse”)
Written by: Tony Kushner (“Munich”)

Even more than a historic drama about the 13th Amendment, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is an actor’s showcase. History buffs aside, mainstream audiences will be hard-pressed to remember all the intricacies it took to get the U.S. Senate to abolish slavery in 1864, but what will be impossible for them to forget is the incredible work by the entire ensemble cast. From two-time Academy Award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”) to each minor character that walks the halls of Congress, everyone is at top form.

“Lincoln” is easily Spielberg’s most restrained film since 1997’s “Amistad,” a court-room drama about a man who led an 1839 mutiny on a slave ship. Unlike “Amistad,” however, “Lincoln” doesn’t allow for much emotion to come from the stories of the slaves themselves. This isn’t a narrative about slavery as much as it is about the details behind the controversial amendment that would change the face of America forever. “Lincoln” is congressional theater at its finest.

Leading the cast in this tremendous collection of actors is Day-Lewis. As 16th President of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln, Day-Lewis, who is a spitting image of Honest Abe, commands the screen with his soft-spoken albeit passionate rendition. Look for him to grab the fifth Oscar nomination of his career for channeling such an iconic personality.

It is the final month of his presidency and Lincoln is determined to end the Civil War by finding the support he needs from fellow politicians to free all slaves. It will take 20 extra votes from the House to get the amendment passed, but with the nation divided by the war, finding the men who are brave enough to cross party lines is a challenge.

There are so many small cogs inside “Lincoln” that would bowl over any other director, but Spielberg makes them all work succinctly. As abolitionist Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Academy Award-winner Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive”) gives a strong performance, which puts him in the short list of Best Supporting Actors this year. In a male-heavy cast, the category could also see Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn (“Good Night, and Good Luck”) find a spot in the top five. His role as Secretary of State William Seward) is his best work since his award-worthy turn as broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow.

“Lincoln” will be, at times, a chore to get through if dialogue-heavy scenes and constitutional debates don’t fascinate you. But screenwriter Tony Kushner packages it all in such an intelligent and thought-provoking way, you can almost forgive it for its grandstanding moments, which are plentiful.

Nine

January 26, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz
Directed by: Rob Marshall (“Chicago”)
Written by:  Michael Tolkin (“Changing Lanes”) and Anthony Minghella (“Cold Mountain”)

It’s nowhere near his 2002 Academy Award-winning film “Chicago,” but Rob Marshall manages to get as much out of Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella’s script as he possibly can. While the musical numbers of Kate Hudson, Fergie, and Penelope Cruz are quite good, the rest of the cast’s singing and dancing contributions are unmemorable (Judi Dench is one of the greatest living actresses today, but I never want to hear karaoke again).  Overall, it’s a passable musical because of the choreography and some of the catchier tunes, but “Nine” doesn’t live up to its Oscar-grubbing hype as well as it promised.