Payne’s Picks

By Sarah Payne

Movies Coming Soon

Live by Night – January 13

This marks Ben Affleck’s fourth film as a director—a follow up to Argo in 2008. He also stars in Live by Night, and the release date has been pushed back a couple of times because of his work on Batman v. Superman last year. Though there’s not much in the way of early reviews, this prohibition-era gangster flick looks like a fun ride (doesn’t hurt that a Hozier song is featured in the trailer). Affleck was focused on cinematography and developing his craft in the making of Live by Night. Variety reported that during a press screening, he said: “This is the first movie I’ve made that was really constructed on purpose. I wanted it to feel classic, like it could have been made in the ‘70s or even the ‘40s, not doing too much cutting, not having very tight close-ups, allowing scenes to play and giving the actors space to play across the frame.” Check it out and see if it has a classic feel.

20th Century Women – January 13

Did you know Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning’s sister) stars in both Live by Night and 20th Century Women? She’s a busy 21st century woman, slated to star in nine films between 2017 and 2018! She plays one of the women in 20th Century Women, alongside Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup (one of my favorite actors, who I wish would make more movies!). From the trailer, it seems like a typical independent movie, one that’s labeled a comedy but is more of a coming-of-age dramedy. Mike Mills, the director of the film, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that, “20th Century Women is inspired by the real women in my life who helped me figure out the world: my mom, my two older sisters, the young women I knew as a teenager.” Mills tried to draw on real events and people from his life and from history as inspiration for the film.

Movie Reviews

Allied – Set during World War II, this film is a delight—from the retro costumes and music to the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. I would recommend watching this on a bigger screen, if possible. Pitt and Cotillard play spies that fall in love while on a dangerous mission in Casablanca. Though the love story is at the heart of the film, there’s plenty of action and suspense to balance it out. For example, there’s an intense scene where Pitt and Cotillard’s characters are tested by a high-ranking Nazi officer. Later, Pitt’s character is forced to question Cotillard’s character when the British suspect she is secretly working for the Germans.

Nocturnal Animals – Who knew a fashion designer could make such a good writer and director? Tom Ford based Nocturnal Animals on the novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright. It stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal—two of my all-time favorite actors, who do not disappoint! I’ve never seen Adams in a role like this, playing a former Texan who moves to California to lead a wealthy, shallow lifestyle as a gallery owner. Everything about her is stylized—her home, her gallery, her makeup, her hair, even the way she talks. This offers an interesting juxtaposition with Gyllenhaal’s character, who leads a quiet and simple life in Texas. It’s difficult to review this film without giving too much of the plot away. When I left the theater, I immediately thought that it would be the perfect subject for an English paper. In fact, Nocturnal Animals deserves to be seen twice to understand and appreciate all its nuances, connections, and parallel themes. Overall, the film is quite subdued and serious, but there are a few moments of levity thanks to Michael Shannon, who plays a Texas detective. There’s a scene where he approaches a suspect that still has me laughing just thinking about it!

Music review

Starboy by The Weeknd – “Starboy” was one of my favorite songs of 2016. And thanks to Spotify’s personalized, “Top Songs of 2016” playlist, I now know for certain that it was my most played song of the year! It’s hard to believe The Weeknd was able to follow up 2015’s Beauty Behind the Madness with another solid album just a year later. It’s in part due to amazing collaborations—two of the tracks feature Daft Punk (“Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming”) and other songs feature Future, Kendrick Lamar, and Lana Del Rey. Not only is The Weeknd willing to reach out across genres for collaborations, but it also seems he’s toeing a line between genres. Songs like “Six Feet Under” seem to sit firmly in R&B, while “I Feel It Coming” is more pop/dance, in the Michael Jackson vein. As someone with diverse music tastes, I appreciate the variety, especially when I’m listening to the whole album straight through. If you’re interested in The Weeknd’s music, listen to his 2012 Trilogy and compare it to Starboy. It’s remarkable to see his evolution into a mainstream, top 40 artist.