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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 22, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 51
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Heartfelt Call Me a truthfully nuanced journey of youthful discovery
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Now playing


As the summer days merge into one, 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) spends his time studying classical music and coyly flirting with childhood friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). He's also not sure what to make of his father Professor Perlman's (Michael Stuhlbarg) latest graduate student, a tall, handsome American named Oliver (Armie Hammer) studying Greco-Roman history. Elio is captivated by the slightly older man, especially the way he so easily makes friends with his translator mother Annella (Amira Casar) as well as how he beguiles every woman he meets with such apparent effortlessness. More, the teen sees something in Oliver that he's drawn to in a way unlike anything he's felt before, secret longings burning inside of him suddenly forced out into the open whenever the two find themselves alone in one another's company.

Based on the novel by André Aciman, with a script written by the great James Ivory (A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries), director Luca Guadagnino's (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) ravishing, gorgeously cinematic Call Me by Your Name is a feast for the senses. A hypnotic coming of age story set in the Italian countryside circa 1983, this is a tale of self-discovery and acceptance that, while hardly original, feels as authentically realized as anything a fan of either the book, Ivory's or Guadagnino's could ever have hoped for. Featuring an astonishing, star-making turn from young Chalamet and strong, shrewdly complex assistance from the remainder of the stellar supporting cast, the movie casts an alluring spell that's difficult to resist, and for my part I was happily captivated for every second of the admittedly lengthy 132-minute running time.

Not that I am completely in the bag for the film. Unlike similar efforts like Todd Haynes's Carol or even Ivory's own 1987 classic Maurice (which helped propel newcomer Hugh Grant to stardom), not all of the varying subplots lingering at the edges of the story are dealt with or resolved as satisfactorily as I'd hoped they would be. Marzia is given particularly short shrift, the cruel dismissal the character is forced to endure not sitting at all well with me, even though the moment is clearly foreshadowed early on. It should also be said that, even though I am unfamiliar with the source material, I never had any doubt where things were headed, Elio and Oliver's relationship walking down a familiar path that a number of LGBTQ coming out tales have sauntered upon for well over three decades.

This is still one magnificent piece of filmmaking. The way in which the story allows Elio to open up and pursue Oliver, the latter's hesitant if still welcoming reactions when learning of the teenager's feelings, these elements work together in such harmony the symphony they compose is hauntingly rapturous. While not so much a love story as an analysis of longing, acceptance, understanding and even lust, the pair evocatively join to form a union that is immediate, concrete and undeniably sincere. Elio's internal battles as he grapples with who he is and what he wants as it pertains to this sexual awakening are adolescently pure, his mistakes coupled together with his triumphs revealed in a way that is authentically profound; hurt, joy, loss and love all colliding together with mesmeric ease.

Chalamet is a revelation. Having small, noteworthy moments in features as diverse as Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, Julia Hart's Miss Stevens and Scott Cooper's upcoming Christian Bale/Wes Studi Western Hostiles, as much as I've liked the young actor's performances in the past that still did not prepare me for just how superb he would be here. Chalamet channels all of Elio's idiosyncratic tendencies and mannerisms as if he's been playing the character since birth, the way in which he interacts with Stuhlbarg, Casar, Garrel and every other member of the cast as easygoing as it is unforced. His chemistry with Hammer is off the charts, the emotions flowing between the two actors having an informal power that is as comforting as it is undeniably sexy. But it is the pain he nakedly showcases when Elio is hurt or is forced to deal with the ramifications of his actions where Chalamet soars, the final sequences of the movie haunting in their simplistic naturalism in large part thanks to the actor's spellbinding performance.

Guadagnino remains as visually confident a director as there is working today. Working with esteemed cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), the sights the filmmaker chooses to showcase at the periphery of the screen are almost always just as important as the ones sitting in the center of the frame. This gives the film a look that, while calmingly recognizable, is just as equally its own living, breathing entity as well. The image comes alive in much the same way Elio does, growing in depth, complexity and introspective candor as events slowly make their way towards their emotionally affecting conclusion. Call Me by Your Name might not go anywhere unexpected, yet that doesn't make the getting to the destination any less of a joy, Guadagnino's latest a marvel of truthful nuance worthy of a standing ovation.


Seattle Film Critics Society names Get Out Best Picture of 2017
The Seattle Film Critics Society (SFCS) announced the winners in 19 categories for the 2017 Seattle Film Critics Society Awards on Monday, December 18.

Winning the top prize of Best Picture of the Year was Jordan Peele"s Get Out, a satirical horror film looking at race relations in America. The film, which earned six nominations in the SFCS awards, also won Best Ensemble Cast.

"2017 has been a great year for movies, and our awards this year reflect that," said Seattle Film Critics Society President Mike Ward. "The spreading of the wealth is indicative of the large number of films that have passionate support among our membership. Our recipients this year reflect a diverse sampling of stories and characters, which define why critics and audiences equally love the movies. Recognizing Get Out, which opened in February, is a testament to that film"s staying power, message, and success."

Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig"s highly acclaimed comedic drama, won three awards, including Saoirse Ronan for Best Actress, Laurie Metcalf as Best Supporting Actress, and Gerwig"s script winning Best Screenplay.

Paul Thomas Anderson"s period drama Phantom Thread, reportedly the final film for actor Daniel Day-Lewis, also won three prizes. The film earned Day-Lewis the award for Best Actor, as well as wins for Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.

Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan"s epic summer blockbuster won two awards; including Nolan named Best Director and the film winning for Best Film Editing.

Sean Baker"s The Florida Project earned two acting prizes: Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor and 7-year-old newcomer Brooklynn Prince, who won this year"s Best Youth Performance award.

The year"s most nominated film, Blade Runner 2049, turned eight nominations into two wins: Best Production Design and Best Cinematography, rewarding the work of legendary cinematographer Roger A. Deakins.

Other winners include: Coco, which won Best Animated Feature, Faces Places, which picked up the prize for Best Documentary Feature, and Raw, a French horror film about a teenage vegetarian who realizes she is a cannibal, was named Best Foreign Language Film.

After forming in the fall of 2016, The Seattle Film Critics Society officially became a non-profit organization in 2017, with a membership consisting of 25 film critics, representing print, broadcast, podcasting, and online film criticism. www.seattlefilmcritics.com and on Facebook and Twitter. This year"s awards are the second held under the banner of the SFCS, honoring the best films and performances of the year.

The full list of recipients of the 2017 Seattle Film Critics Society Awards are as follows:

The 2017 Seattle Film Critics Society Award Winners:

Best Picture of the Year: Get Out (Universal); Best Director Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk; Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread; Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird; Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project; Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird; Best Ensemble Cast: Get Out; Best Screenplay: Lady Bird - Greta Gerwig; Best Animated Feature: Coco - Adrian Molina, Lee Unkrich, Directors; Best Foreign Language Film: Raw - Julia Ducournau, Director; Best Documentary Feature: Faces, Places - JR, Agnès Varda, Directors; Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049 - Roger A. Deakins; Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread - Mark Bridges; Best Film Editing: Dunkirk - Lee Smith; Best Original Score: Phantom Thread - Jonny Greenwood; Best Production Design: Blade Runner 2049 - Dennis Gassner (Production Designer), Alessandra Querzola (Set Decorator); Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes - Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist; Best Youth Performance: Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project; Villain of the Year: Dennis & The Hord, Split - portrayed by James McAvoy

Courtesy of Seattle Film Critics Society


New Jumanji a game well worth playing
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

JUMANJI:
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Now playing


After being sent to detention, Spencer (Alex Wolff), a brainy nerd with a sensitive side who's lacking in confidence, Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), a football star who feels it more important to maintain a tough guy reputation than mingle with less popular fellow students he used to be friends with, Bethany (Madison Iseman), an Instagram junkie who has been bamboozled into thinking all anyone cares about are her looks and nothing else, and Martha (Morgan Turner), a quick-witted loner who focuses entirely upon her studies as she's more comfortable having her nose in a book than she is interacting with others, are forced to clean out a massive storage unit containing all sorts of bric-a-brac. While searching through the various shelves and boxes, the group discovers a video game entitled 'Jumanji.' With nothing better to do, and not wanting to do any actual work, they decide to give the game a go, each picking a character they believe will be most representative of their various personalities.

Next thing each knows they've all been transported inside the game itself, forced to play Jumanji for real with each of them stuck in the body of the character they had picked to portray. Spencer is famed explorer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), a fearless adventurer with no known weaknesses. Fridge is now Franklin 'Moose' Finbar (Kevin Hart), a noted zoologist serving as Bravestone's weapons valet who happens to have an explosive aversion to cake. Bethany finds herself transformed into crack cartographer Dr. Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), the svelte high school beauty queen not at all certain how she's supposed to cope with being middle-aged, overweight and decidedly male. As for erudite Martha, she's Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), a martial arts expert and vaunted killer of men who also just happens to be a deadly dance fighter. They all have to learn how to work together as a team while also getting used to these new bodies. It's a fight for survival inside a jungle where almost everything is out to kill them, and if they can't finish the quest before exhausting all three of their lives, it's likely they'll be stuck inside Jumanji forever.

Inspired by Chris Van Allsburg's best-selling children's book and something of a sequel to director Joe Johnston's 1995 hit Jumanji, the decades-in-the-making Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is that odd duck of a second chapter in a potential series that no one asked for yet still happens to be far superior to the motion picture that proceeded it. Fast, funny and unexpectedly clever, director Jake Kasdan's (Zero Effect) latest is somewhat impressive. Not only is the script (credited to four writers) lighter on its feet than anticipated, it also proves to be refreshingly honest with how it assesses Spencer, Fridge, Bethany and Martha, assembling this quartet into a cohesive unit who will learn from their mistakes while they embrace one another's differences as they make their way through each of the increasingly difficult (and lethal) tasks the game forces them to accomplish with unforeseen ease.

Black steals the show. At first, his performance looks like it will be nothing more than a frustratingly effete caricature. But slowly I came to realize just how deep he was going. Black does a shockingly magnificent job channeling Bethany's interior conflicts, showing how this apparently self-centered prima donna has been beaten and bowed by various pressures, many of them self-imposed, to become the petty, selfish brat others see her as. He allows her transformation to be cagily empowering, the empathy and selflessness the character ultimately exudes so touchingly genuine I couldn't help but be amazed.

Gillan is also terrific, and I loved the way she visualizes Martha's wonderment as she learns to embrace all sides of her personality and not just the ones that have turned the young brainiac into a closed-off hermit unwilling, maybe even unable, to develop friendships with anyone other than herself. As for Johnson and Hart, they're as good here as they were in Central Intelligence, the pair's comedic chemistry arguably even stronger in this than it was in that 2016 hit. Best of all might just be pop superstar Nick Jonas, his mid-movie arrival a welcome infusion of spunk, enthusiasm, hesitation and heart that helps augment the emotional stakes driving the narrative significantly.

I love me some Joe Johnston, and I'll go to bat every day of the week to fight for the glories of The Rocketeer, October Sky and Captain America: The First Avenger. But even with the late, great Robin Williams throwing himself into things, even with the likes of Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Grier and Jonathan Hyde going above and beyond to add support, the original Jumanji is nothing more than a frenetic mess. It confuses chaos and confusion with character-driven storytelling, the picture so obsessed with delivering magnificent sights of rampaging animals crashing through quiet small town utopia that it forgets to craft anything close to resembling a story worth caring even the faintest bit about.

But here, it's as if Kasdan and his team studied Johnston's feature and realized where it both went wrong as well as what potentially might have allowed it to work. By focusing on the characters more than it does the spectacle, by creating a wild and wacky Indiana Jones meets John Hughes aesthetic that feels slightly more original than it probably is, the filmmaker has elevated this sequel-slash-reboot in a way that had me grinning for almost every second of the almost two-hour running time. Only during the last third does the film start to begin to wear out its welcome, the routine action dynamics as tired as they are uninspiring. But Kasdan brings things full circle during the denouement in a manner that is tenderly authentic, giving the characters a moment of familial togetherness that's honestly kind of priceless. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle might not be a great movie, but sure as heck it's an entertaining one, and unlike its forerunner, this is one kid-friendly action spectacular I wouldn't mind watching again.


Moderately amusing Pitch Perfect 3 a pleasant farewell tour
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

PERFECT PITCH 3
Now playing


Now out of college, the a cappella-loving women who used to make up the award-winning Barden Bellas are struggling to find themselves out in the big, bad world. Their talented ringleader Beca (Anna Kendrick) has just quit her job as a music producer. Aimless Amy (Rebel Wilson) is living her life as flippantly as ever. Chloe (Brittany Snow) is a nervous wreck waiting to learn whether or not she's gotten into veterinary school. Aubrey (Anna Camp) is considering a career change. Heck, all of the Bellas, Cynthia (Ester Dean), Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), Flo (Chrissie Fit), Jessica (Kelley Jakle) and Ashley (Shelley Regner) included, are currently floundering. Only happy-go-lucky Stacie (Alexis Knapp) appears to have any direction, the young woman excitedly anticipating the birth of her first child.

After reuniting to watch a performance of the current Barden Bellas led by Beca's former wide-eyed protégé Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), Aubrey has an amazing idea. Her incarnation of the Bellas, the ones led by her, Chloe and Beca, they should all reunite for one last hurrah, and as her father is a high-ranking military officer she's positive she can get them signed on to a current USO tour traveling through Spain and France. With all of the young ladies interested, and with Emily agreeing to fill in for Stacie, the group heads to Europe. Once there, they learn that the four acts scheduled to perform for the troops will also be competing for a spot opening for DJ Khaled on an upcoming tour. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Bellas once again are determined to put on an amazing show, these a cappella titans eager to prove they still have what it takes to sing with the best of them.

It's hard to know what to make of Pitch Perfect 3. The movie understandably plays like a farewell tour, returning writer Kay Cannon's script not exactly going out of its way to change up the tune. Collaborating on the sequel with Beatriz at Dinner and Year of the Dog impresario Mike White, the film isn't invested in its own scenario. If anything, Cannon and White must have been bored by the prospect of setting up another competition for the women to be a part of. Instead, they choose to focus on the relationships the Bellas have formed since the original Pitch Perfect, doing their best to give each character a moment to stand out, all in attempt to give each woman a little more dimensionality than they've maybe been allowed to exhibit in either of the prior motion pictures.

Not that it works. There is a haphazard, devil-may-care élan to events that sometimes led me to believe Cannon, Kay and director Trish Sie (Step Up All In) were making things up as they were filming. Even what appear to be major subplots, most notably one involving Amy's estranged thief father Fergus (portrayed by a game John Lithgow) appearing seemingly out of nowhere to mysteriously reunite with his daughter, add up to practically zero, delivering very little that's substantive no matter how game each of the various cast members might appear to be. I also can't say Beca's interactions with a DJ Khaled music producer named Theo (Guy Burnet) go anyplace unexpected, and while I like how the film takes her journey to its logical conclusion, things get there with all the sizzle and spice of an undercooked slice of Spam marinating in low-calorie mayonnaise.

And yet, call me crazy but Pitch Perfect 3 made me laugh. More importantly, it got me to smile. The Bellas aren't played as jokes. Even when they mess something up, their performances are still professional each and every time out. At this point, these women are pros, and while their various personal lives might be in shambles, once they hit the stage they know how to put on an audience-friendly show better than just about anyone else. I really liked how much respect the filmmakers were giving them. No pointless crotch shots mooning the President of the United States. No reliance on gross-out humor to generate a cheap laugh. Other than one obnoxious bit of chaos these women have grown up. They know how to take care of themselves as well as how to look out for those they hold dear, everything adding together to help give the sequel a layer of restraint that's moderately surprising.

Cannon could have given the rival bands more to do, especially the all-girl rock group calling themselves Evermoist led by a suitably sneering, high-energy Ruby Rose. I'm also not sure why Steinfeld, the only actual bona fide pop star in the movie, decided to return, her character introduced in Pitch Perfect 2 mostly relegated to the background save for the opening number. There's also no certainty that this capper to the trilogy will be anywhere near as pleasantly re-watchable as the 2012 first film has proven to be, and as such I can't say that my initial reaction will hold when I give this one a second look at some unknown point in the future.

Nevertheless, I had far more fun sitting in the theatre watching this sequel than I should probably admit. Don't get me wrong. A third act twist sends thing into James Bond meets Mission: Impossible territory, and it's easily as silly as it sounds. Yet Kendrick, Wilson, Camp, Snow and all the rest of the actresses never allow things to descend into a state of cartoonish tomfoolery, and as bizarrely nonsensical as this subplot proves to be there's still a layer of charm I found pleasing. I also really liked the closing musical number quite a little bit, and if Pitch Perfect 3 ends up being the Bellas' a cappella swan song, for my part I can't help but feel the entire group goes out on something of a satisfying high note.




The Cornish Nutcracker: Imaginative, well-executed and well worth seeing
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BEST OF TRAVEL 2017: Our favorite hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist attractions from this year
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Seattle Public Theater presents charming The Flight Before Xmas
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Out NPR co-host Ari Shapiro returned to his native Portland last month for his international-themed one-man show, 'Homeward'
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What could happen if Trump were president...? Oh, yeah, he is.
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David Sedaris returns to Seattle for 8 shows January 5-11
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Seattle Humane - Pets of the Week


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Lady GaGa announces two-year residency in Las Vegas
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Heartfelt Call Me a truthfully nuanced journey of youthful discovery
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Seattle Film Critics Society names Get Out Best Picture of 2017
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New Jumanji a game well worth playing
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Moderately amusing Pitch Perfect 3 a pleasant farewell tour
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