Uncut Gems – TIFF Review

UNCUT GEMS

TIFF film #3 of 8

Uncut Gems is one of the most chaotic, anxiety-inducing, and downright nauseating films I’ve ever seen. And I mean that in the best way possible. It is a complete and utter sensory overload. It is relentless. Much of the dialogue is shouted, yet it still manages to compete for the foreground with the cacophonous score. It sounds like it could be insufferable. But it isn’t. It is exhilarating. Adam Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner in New York City’s Diamond District, who is so deep in debt, that he’s perpetually treading water to keep out of trouble with collectors. He scams, he pawns other people’s property, and he makes exorbitant wagers on basketball games. None of his scheming seems to work out in his favour, but his luck might be about to change when a rare opal from a mine in Ethiopia arrives at his shop stuffed inside a dead fish. The opal, in his mind, is set to net him upwards of one million dollars when it sells it auction the following week, and all of his problems will be solved. Things go awry, however, when NBA star Kevin Garnett visits the shop and insists on borrowing the gem for luck in that evenings playoff game against the 76ers. What follows is one of the most entertaining and batshit crazy two hours of film you’re likely to see all year. Josh and Benny Safdie were at my screening and introduced the film. Apparently they’ve been trying to get this film made for ten years, and they talked about how everything they’ve made leading up to this, including 2017’s spectacular Good Time, served as a training ground for Uncut Gems. And it really shows. As excellent as Good Time is, I feel like this is a step even further for them. The screenplay and the direction are both pitch-perfect, with chaotic handheld camerawork complimented beautifully by Darius Khondji’s gorgeous cinematography. Adam Sandler gives what I think will go down as the greatest performance of his career, finally unseating his turn in Punch Drunk Love. When Sandler gets teamed up with a true auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson, Noah Baumbach, or in this case, the Safdie brothers, he really is a remarkably good actor. The supporting cast are all great too, including Kevin Garnett, but the two standouts for me are Lakeith Stanfield as a business partner of sorts of Sandler’s character, responsible for bringing celebrity business into the shop, and Julia Fox as his secret girlfriend for whom he rents an apartment in the city. I mentioned it earlier, but one of the true stars of this film is the score from composer Daniel Lopatin. It sets the mood early on and doesn’t let up throughout the entire two hour and ten minute runtime. I feel like Adam Sandler for best actor and Lopatin for best original score are all we can really hope for this film come awards season, but it will certainly make my personal list for a hell of a lot more. Seek this one out when it goes wide, I’m quite sure you won’t be disappointed.

10/10

2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions (September 1st, 2019)

ASSCARS.png

With the start of the fall film festivals, awards season is officially upon us! For someone like me, who gleefully obsesses over correctly predicting the outcomes of the Oscars every year (I was 16 for 24 last year, I can do better), this means initiating the first step: correctly predicting the nominations. It’s important to keep in mind that it is still very early. We still have five months to go until the actual ceremony, and three months of qualifying film releases left in 2019. So what, you might be wondering, are these predictions even based on? The answer is three things: “Buzz” (whatever the hell that means), gut feeling, and blind guessing.  I’m going to be posting an updated version of this list once a month between now and when the nominations are announced on a January 13th, 2020 live broadcast. A LOT can change between now and then, with under-the-radar releases surprising everyone, box office troubles or triumphs, and most importantly, what happens at the many awards ceremonies that are seen as Oscar success precursors (SAG, WGA, PGA, DGA, etc.).

This list was very hard to narrow down. When I began I had 22 films listed under Best Picture, and a minimum of 15 under each of the acting categories. But this list isn’t about listing every single possible contender in each of the categories, it’s about attempting to accurately pick what the nominees will actually be, so some difficult decisions had to be made. I was also thrown a few curveballs here and there, like discovering through some research that it looks like Tom Hanks might be competing in Supporting Actor instead of Lead for A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (which seems ridiculous), but in these instances I placed them where it seems most likely that their names will be submitted, not where I think they should be. Also worthy of mention I think, is that this is not the list as I think it should look like (I certainly hope Gerwig and Heller get Director nods), this is simply my best prediction of what the nominations will be. As time goes on I’ll be adding the rest of the categories, probably starting with Cinematography, Editing, and Score. But for now, here’s the list:

Scott’s 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions (September 1st, 2019)

Picture

  • 1917
  • Ford v. Ferrari
  • A Hidden Life
  • The Irishman
  • Just Mercy
  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  • Parasite
  • Waves

Director

  • Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)
  • Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite)
  • Trey Edward Schults (Waves)
  • Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Actress

  • Awkwafina (The Farewell)
  • Cynthia Evrio (Harriet)
  • Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)
  • Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim)

Supporting Actress

  • Annette Bening (The Report)
  • Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
  • Brie Larson (Just Mercy)
  • Margot Robbie (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  • Meryl Streep (The Laundromat)

Actor

  • Robert De Niro (The Irishman)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  • Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Waves)
  • Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)

Supporting Actor

  • Alan Alda (Marriage Story)
  • Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
  • Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy)
  • Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood)
  • Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Adapted Screenplay

  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Just Mercy
  • The Laundromat
  • Little Women

Original Screenplay

  • The Farewell
  • Marriage Story
  • Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  • Parasite
  • Queen & Slim

I Am Mother (Film Review)

MOTHER!

As far as low-budget, one-location, three-character sci-fi films go, I Am Mother isn’t quite on the level of Ex Machina, but it’s definitely close. I wanted to get that out of the way early on, because while these films do have those things in common, the similarities end there. I Am Mother is a wildly inventive and original film. Written by Michael Lloyd Green and directed by Grant Sputore (the feature-length debut for both of them), I Am Mother stars Clara Rugaard as Daughter, a young woman who has lived her entire life inside of an underground bunker, being raised solely by Mother, an artificially intelligent robot (voiced by Rose Byrne). Together, the two of them have been tasked with repopulating the earth following an extinction event that has allegedly taken place above the surface. I say allegedly because all of Daughter’s knowledge of what happened to the rest of humanity comes directly from Mother, and we quickly learn that not everything is as it seems when an unidentified woman (played by Hilary Swank) shows up at the door of their bunker with a gunshot wound. I Am Mother masterfully plays with audience loyalty and trust. We are placed squarely in the shoes of Daughter as she desperately tries to uncover the truth from two fiercely contradictory assertions about what is really going on from Mother and Woman. She doesn’t know who to believe, and neither do we, and this makes for some genuinely knife-cutting tension. This is not to say that this film doesn’t end up revealing its truths to us, it absolutely does. In fact, the latter two acts of this film are essentially one gnarly reveal after another, but because we sat so long in uncertainty, the reveals just feel so satisfying. With each new piece of information our loyalties swing back and forth with Daughter’s until the very end when everything fits together like a puzzle. And like any great twist-heavy movie, you’ll either be celebrating and bragging to your friends about how early on you called it, or holding your head in your hands in disbelief that you didn’t. This is an impressive directorial debut for Grant Sputore. The film is shot very well, and the practical and digital effects, especially considering what I have to assume to be a relatively small budget, are very impressive. Hilary Swank is great as always, but the real star here is Clara Rugaard, who gives an absolutely excellent performance as Daughter. She is a relatively new actress who was in Teen Spirit earlier this year, and only has a couple of other credits to her name on IMDB. As far as I’m concerned, after seeing this film, she is very much an actress to watch out for going forward. I Am Mother is currently streaming on Netflix, and I would highly recommend giving this a watch.

7.5/10