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girlonthetrain

Based on the best selling novel, the industry was stunned when Emily Blunt got a SAG Award nomination for ‘The Girl on the Train.’  The question is, is it better than some of the other ‘high profile’ performances that will likely get an Oscar nom in the morning?

‘Better’ is relative obviously, but as far as popcorn movies go, it’s not a bad lead performance.  The story (in short) is a woman (Blunt) prone to blackout binge drinking rides the train everyday past her old home.  Her husband still lives there with his second wife and their baby.  When their nanny turns up dead, all hell breaks loose.

The story is a little soapy for my taste, but the cast is solid and is filled with enough likable actresses in supporting roles (Alison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Haley Bennett continuing to make us double take and ask, wait is that Jennifer Lawrence?)

Again, it’s not a prestige pic, but it’s exactly what you think it is, like most popcorn pics.

 

aziz-ansari-c-ruvan-wijesooriya

This has been a weekend.

Saturday: how can you not be impressed? I know men and women who marched in DC, I know men and women who marched in L.A.  I don’t think it’s remotely coincidental these are the same people who have my back when I drop the comedy and speak with passion about my racial or religious identities.  The best compliment I can give is the truest; I was going to privately message everyone I saw on the streets, but I would literally still be sending my praise and support out 24 hours later.  You guys all did well.  Now on to the next phase…

Sunday: I was writing something completely political this morning when I got the news Yordano Ventura died in a car accident.  Forget sports for a minute, 25 is just an extremely young age to die.  Prayers to his family, the Royals organization and the Dominican Republic (as Ventura wasn’t the only native ballplayer who died today).

So the wind was taken out of my ‘Sunday post’ sails pretty early.  We’ll start this week with some comedy.  My Hollywood twin Aziz Ansari hosted SNL this weekend and no surprise he did well.  Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday morning; this one definitely got some chuckles out of me.

Enjoy!

 

 

ciara

The weekend.

We ended up talking about Ciara last weekend because of the playoffs, thus today’s song.

Lot of choices, but…for the sake of the children, let’s go with the safest one.

Have a good weekend gang!

 

‘Jackie’

 

jackie

Sometimes, you need to see something to realize how obvious it should have been.  Of course if you wanted to do a fresh take on the Kennedy assassination, you should do it from Jackie’s point of view. Of course, if you want an A-list actress who can play glamorous, fragile, and upper class in one stroke, who else but Natalie Portman?

So on paper, ‘Jackie’ was already a great idea; the execution of the idea pretty much comes through.  Portman is aces as the First Lady; she nails the light, finishing school accent that was part of the public’s image of the future Mrs. Onassis.  This is the story of the film as well: immediately after the assassination, Jackie Kennedy tosses back every suggestion, some genuine, some condescending, to ‘take her children and disappear’.  At least not until she plays a major role in assuring her husband’s (fairly short) time as President of the United States goes down in history.

Portman and the screenplay both do an excellent job of reminding us: this woman had to be under an extraordinary amount of stress.  She was sitting right next to her husband when his head is literally blown off; she’s suddenly a single mother of two very young children, and by the way she happens to be one of the most famous women in the world.

‘Jackie’ is a really powerful film, and my gut says it’s Portman’s best overall performance.  Worthy of its spot in the awards season conversation.

 

MSDNEJA EC008

Dating myself here, but can’t here this song without thinking of New Jack City…

Can’t even put an accurate number on the number of times I was in the club, saw some Flavor of the Month dude walk in feeling himself, and just have to throw on my sunglasses and put my arms around two honeys…

(turning comments off…)

Enjoy!

 

‘Hidden Figures’

 

hidden-figures

What a cast!

That was my first impression after watching the number one movie on MLK weekend.  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae star as the trio of black women who were instrumental to the success of NASA and the space program in the 60s.  Aldis Hodge and Mahershala Ali have supporting roles as the men who doubt but ultimately support their women; Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons play masters of microaggression as the middle management bosses who are clearly threatened by the new blood rising; Kevin Costner gets to play another ‘man of his time’ who ultimately chooses to stand on the right side of history.

The title is a fantastic pun; even a lot of us who take pride in knowing black history couldn’t immediately quote back to you the story of these three real women: Katherine Johnson (Taraji) was instrumental in working out the math that helped America win the space race; Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia) was the first African-American supervisor at NASA; Mary Jackson (Monae) was one of the earliest black aerospace engineers and used her own foothold to help other women and minorities get their foot in the door.

These ‘based on a true story’ movies can veer in a lot of directions, but it’s easy to see why this one has been a critical and commercial favorite.  Definite recommend.

 

mobama

Planned to spend a week paying tribute to all the times the White House welcomed and encouraged the arts.  I fell behind on my movie reviews this year, but this is a nice substitute.

All isn’t forgotten yet Jimmy with the way you fawned over you know who.

But this is nice.  Happy MLK Weekend everyone.  Back Monday night.

 

‘Arrival’

 

arrival

Put another notch in the ‘A list’ belt for Amy Adams.

Hard to underestimate Lois Lane at this point, but she anchors this science fiction film for the grownups, playing a linguistics professor who gets called into duty when several spaceships arrive from outer space and position themselves strategically around the planet.  Forrest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner round out the main cast for the best intellectual sci fi film in recent memory (yeah I said it).

I don’t consider sci fi my number one genre, but one of the things I’ve always admired about it is the way the best of its stories are so well suited to serve as parables for current events.  In this story, the inciting action is aliens make their presence known to us.  But they don’t attack.  So the human race has their defenses up.  Some want to strike first since they obviously have superior technology.  Most aren’t sure how to react initially but the fear is palpable.  The American team tries to communicate and establish a common ground and some type of rapport first (stop laughing).

To go much deeper into the plot is to give away the experience of the movie.  I’ll tell you it benefits from a second viewing but I don’t think it’s a movie you ‘have to’ watch twice.  The way it all comes together feels earned.  Definitely a throwback feeling watching this when you could enjoy a ‘big’ movie completely on its own and not worry one way or another about a potential sequel.

This one deserves a Best Picture nomination. We’ll see if it gets one soon enough.

‘Lion’

 

lion

The second best ‘quiet film’ I’ve watched so far this season is ‘Lion’.  Based on a true story, Dev Patel gets a major star turn as a young Indian man raised by Australian parents.  A visit to the home of some Indian friends triggers long ago memories of his original life: his birth mother and a biological brother he was separated from decades ago in India.  A rare positive take on our current ‘Too Much Information’ Age, Saroo (the name of the main character) uses Google Maps to systematically track down his hometown (and his family).

Nicole Kidman gets one of those parts she was born to play as the Australian adoptive mother of Dev Patel’s character.  Her performance is worthy of the nominations she’s been given so far this season.  The cinematography is gorgeous as we spend a lot of time in a part of the world that hasn’t been overexposed.  And as for the meaning of the title?  You’ll have to watch to the end to understand.

This one snuck up on me, but it’s a definite recommend.

 

atlanta

The only show I had time to binge over the holiday break was ‘Atlanta’.  But oh it was so worth it.  Talking among (black) creative friends, nothing else this year brought out the same mix of laughter and creative envy.  More than worthy of the Golden Globes it won last night.

So take your juice and nutella sandwich and enjoy…