Velvet Buzzsaw Movie Review

There’s a moment in Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw where one of the vapid SoCal characters walks past a pile of garbage and declares it an inspired work of art. He doesn’t realize it’s just plain garbage. The writer/director has his eye trained on the reviewing class here in this satire fueled with intermittent gore. Items are junk or priceless because critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) says so. His opinion matters and his choices influence. When he has his eyes dilated after an eye appointment, someone asks if those flimsy and disposable sunglasses he wears after are the new designer craze.

These small moments provide some well-placed humor as Gilroy dissects his power-hungry characters one by one. The setting is Los Angeles, the same locale from his 2014 effort Nightcrawler (which happened to be my favorite film of that year). Gyllenhaal starred in that as well. His portrayal of Louis Bloom was a desperate figure looking to climb the ladder of his chosen profession. In Buzzsaw, Morf already has made it. The Bloom figure would be Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works for an art gallery run by Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) and she’s trying to make her mark. Josephina gets that chance when a tenant in her building dies and leaves behind a vast collection of paintings. No one knows much about the dead man’s background, but his works are immediately deemed masterpieces.

It takes a considerable amount of time for people to discover that the paintings have a mind of their own. A violent mind for anyone who dares to exhibit them. Or perhaps they’re just blinded to it because they see the dollar signs involved. Everyone in this piece judges art by that monetary standard only. Whether it’s an image that could harm you or whether it’s literal garbage, it’s valuation is what counts.

Velvet Buzzsaw is a bizarre and hit or miss concoction filled with stuffy self-important individuals to root against. You may find yourself cheering on the paintings to do their grisly thing. The cast is sprawling with Gyllenhaal adding another peculiar part to his repertoire. Russo (who’s married to Gilroy) is as ruthlessly profit hungry as she was in Nightcrawler (though her part isn’t as memorable). Her background here does provide the title as it’s the name of a punk rock band she was in decades ago. Toni Collette is a curator looking for her best angle to get in on the new craze. Natalia Dyer (of “Stranger Things” fame) is an opportunistic assistant who gains the unfortunate distinction of finding lots of dead bodies.

The artwork comes alive in visually arresting ways from time to time. The main difference between this and Nightcrawler comes down to this – I was constantly enthralled by the disreputable populace of the latter. It’s a more rare occurrence in the former. Velvet Buzzsaw won’t be mistaken for trash, but it shouldn’t be hailed as a sensation either.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Velvet Buzzsaw

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival just before its Friday debut on Netflix is Dan Gilroy’s latest picture Velvet Buzzsaw. The horror satire reunites the writer and filmmaker with his Nightcrawler lead Jake Gyllenhaal in a film said to mercilessly mock the world of art critics and collectors. Several movie critics seem quite impressed. Others are more mixed. The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 82%. Costars include Toni Collette, Gilroy’s spouse and frequent collaborator Rene Russo, and John Malkovich (who must have office space at Netflix with this, Bird Box, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile).

Reviews suggest Buzzsaw could be quite polarizing. It may have a tough time breaking through with Oscar voters nearly a year from now. That said, both of the director’s previous works nabbed one nomination. 2014’s Nightcrawler was recognized for its Original Screenplay. In my view, it should’ve received more nods than that (especially Gyllenhaal). 2017’s Roman J. Israel, Esq. saw Denzel Washington garner a lead actor spot.

If Velvet has enough strong boosters, another screenplay nomination isn’t totally out of the question. Yet there’s a long road ahead to see whether that’s a possible outcome. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Just Getting Started Box Office Prediction

A pair of Oscar winners hope to bring in an older audience next weekend when Just Getting Started premieres. Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones star as retirees taking on the Mob in this comedy from Ron Shelton, best known for his directorial efforts of the past including Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump. Rene Russo, Glenne Headly (in her final film role), and Joe Pantoliano are among the supporting players.

Freeman has been appearing in these geriatric yuck fests with increasing frequency as of late. Earlier in the year, Going in Style debuted to a decent $11.9 million. 2013’s Last Vegas fared even better with an opening north of $16 million. A number similar to Style would seem to be the absolute high bar here. However, I have trouble seeing this getting into double digits.

One big reason: distributor Broad Green Pictures is bankrupt and promotion for Started has been muted at best. A theater count will help shed light on its potential and my estimate could be adjusted accordingly. My initial feeling is that this just gets started in the mid single digits and fades quickly.

Just Getting Started opening weekend prediction: $5.2 million

The Intern Movie Review

Nancy Meyers brings her brand of comedic drama featuring a strong female character to the screen once again in The Intern. This time it’s Anne Hathaway as Jules, the CEO of a flourishing NYC online fashion company who’s struggling to balance her harried work life with her personal one. The latter includes her stay at home husband (Anders Holm) and little girl. Jules finds someone to assist with that balance in the form of Ben (Robert De Niro). He used to work at a phone book company (an obsolete business) and he’s battling general boredom in his retirement. The 70 year old widower decides to apply for a senior internship with Jules’s company and he’s soon assigned to work directly under her.

The Intern explores the issues of Jules deciding whether or not to hand control of the business over to an outside CEO. There’s also some marital issues at hand and her ongoing frustration with her distant mother, which helps explain some of her own personality quirks. We have Ben’s burgeoning romance with the company’s in house masseuse (Rene Russo). As the over two hour tale unfolds, the pathos level continues to increase as Ben and Jules become closer.

It’s all perfectly pleasant, continually earnest, and sad to say – a little dull. Hathaway’s performance gives her an interesting and strong character to play with, even if her work here comes off a bit mannered occasionally. De Niro is in Mr. Nice Guy mode and he’s just fine, even if this part isn’t exactly challenging in any way.

Frankly, there’s not much else to say here. The Intern can be a little bland but it’s engaging enough to not be a total waste of time. Faint praise, I recognize. If you’ve enjoyed Meyers pics such as What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated, you’ll probably think this is decent.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Intern Box Office Prediction

This Friday, Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro headline the workplace comedy The Intern and in a sea of male driven titles like Black Mass and Everest, this will attempt to break through to a more female audience. It may succeed.

The pic comes from director Nancy Meyers, whose resume includes hits like What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated. It marks Hathaway’s return to a genre where she’s seen successes like The Devil Wears Prada. The Intern has been heavily marketed and is probably mostly critic proof (reviews have yet to be released at press time).

While the film will almost certainly have to settle for the runner up spot behind animated kiddie sequel Hotel Transylvania 2, I believe The Intern could potentially debut above $20 million. However, my prediction puts it a bit under that.

The Intern opening weekend prediction: $19 million

For my Hotel Transylvania 2 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/09/18/hotel-transylvania-2-box-office-prediction/

For my The Green Inferno prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/09/19/the-green-inferno-box-office-prediction/

Nightcrawler Movie Review

“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people, but that I don’t like them?”

So says Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), our central character in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler who barely leaves the screen during the film’s running time and probably won’t escape your mind for some time either. When we first meet Lou, he’s a common thief stealing scrap metal who makes what he believes are captivating attempts at obtaining employment. We immediately notice that Lou has no social skills whatsoever. He doesn’t know how to relate to people. All he knows is how to negotiate but he hasn’t found a field in which his negotiations bear fruit.

This changes when Lou happens upon a crime scene and figures out that Los Angeles TV news stations will pay handsomely for gruesome footage. “If it bleeds, it leads” he’s told by another “nightcrawler” played by Bill Paxton . Lou believes he’s found his calling and soon his explicit videos of horrific offenses are airing at 6AM and 11PM by the lowest rated Southern California affiliate. Their news director Nina (Rene Russo) recognizes Lou’s value in increasing ratings. And Lou knows his worth and uses his leverage to bargain with her – not just for gainful employment but for everything he wants from her. This is done in a pitch black comedic restaurant “date” with Nina in which he makes his wishes explicitly clear.

Lou also hires assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) and he suffers the endless banterings of a boss who is forever conducting a verbal performance review of his employee. Their interaction veers between hilarious (in a very dark way) and chilling (in a very real way). Our central character doesn’t like people in a manner that’s somewhat reminiscent of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Everything is negotiable to Lou and as amazingly awkward as he is, his objectives are usually met. This extends to his filming work and if the photos of a slain family member aren’t close enough to the bullet holes lodged in the fridge, there’s a way to fix that.

For the better part of this decade, Gyllenhaal has made one solid choice after another from Source Code to End of Watch to Prisoners. This is the pinnacle so far. With director Gilroy’s screenplay giving him a truly unique and endlessly fascinating character to work with, Gyllenhaal nails his quirky and creepy role. Russo gets her juiciest part in years as the producer who will go to the same lengths as Lou to ensure success. Ahmed is the most sympathetic person here (it’s not saying much) and he sees his demented mentor much like the audience does.

Nightcrawler effortlessly manages charcoal colored comedy with a heightened sense of tension. A major accomplishment indeed. The screenplay has plenty to hint at regarding the public’s insatiable need for the most violent news stories while we are eating breakfast or ready to turn in for the night. Lou Bloom realizes it and knows how to profit from it. He figures a way to achieve his sick dreams. Our brilliantly realized title character with a career best performance from Gyllenhaal gets it right with that opening quote. He doesn’t really like people. And while the characters he speaks with in Nightcrawler thinks he doesn’t understand them, maybe he does all too well.

**** (out of four)

Todd’s Final Oscar Predictions!

Well here we are! Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow morning and this is my sixth and final round of predictions for nominees in the eight major categories. For my final predictions, I’ll list the predictions as well as others that could potentially make the cut. Here’s what changed the most: I have finally gotten on the Nightcrawler bandwagon and am now predicting a number of nominations for it. Tomorrow – I”ll have my reaction post up and pontificate on where I went wrong and right.

As you may know, the Best Picture race (unlike all others) can list anywhere from 5-10 nominees. I finally settled on nine… which is the same number of films nominated each year since that system was put into place. And without further adieu – Todd’s Final Oscar Predictions:

Best Picture

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Imitation Game

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Other Possibilities: American Sniper, Gone Girl, Unbroken

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ana DuVernay, Selma

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Other Possibilities: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Clint Eastwood (American Sniper), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhall, Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Other Possibilities: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), David Oyelowo (Selma)

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Other Possibilities: Amy Adams (Big Eyes), Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Other Possibilities: Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), Tom Wilkinson (Selma)

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Other Possibilities: Laura Dern (Wild), Rene Russo (Nightcrawler), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer), Naomi Watts (St. Vincent)

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Other Possibilities: The LEGO Movie, A Most Violent Year, Selma

Best Adapted Screenplay

Gone Girl

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Other Possibilities: American Sniper, Wild 

And there you have it, folks! We’ll see how smart (or dumb) I am tomorrow morning!!