Category Archives: Julianne Moore

May December-2023

May December-2023

Director Todd Haynes

Starring Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton

Scott’s Review #1,412

Reviewed December 13, 2023

Grade: A-

Throughout May-December (2023) there exists a quiet gloominess and a sense of foreboding dread during nearly every scene that as a viewer I could not shake. The unsettling nature is what makes the film so fascinating to watch.

Making it even more peculiar is the feeling seeps through a mirage of cheeriness, small-town humility, and the Southern politeness of Savannah, Georgia, United States amongst a lofty helping of cakes, parties, and sunshine.

All is not as it seems.

As a fan of director Todd Haynes and his brilliant films Far From Heaven (2002) and Carol (2015), I had an idea of his style and tone from the get-go.

As excellent as May-December is I was left wanting perhaps one more potato chip than I was offered.  I was slightly unsatisfied only because I had Haynes’s other films as a comparison and May-December is not quite on par with those masterpieces despite being exceptionally well made.

But we can’t always expect a classic like Led Zeppelin IV.

Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, Gracie Atherton-Yu (Julianne Moore) and her husband Joe (Charles Melton) who is twenty-three years her junior are happily preparing for their twins to graduate from high school.

When Hollywood actress Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) arrives in town to study the family to better understand Gracie and prepare for the role the family dynamics crack under the pressure of the spotlight.

Joe, in particular, who never got a chance to deal with his feelings and emotions as a teenager, begins to face the reality of having grown-up children. At the age of thirty-six, he confronts the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Gracie study each other, and the similarities and differences between the two women begin to surface causing friction.

Drama develops between Elizabeth, Gracie, Joe, and various family members as long-buried emotions and new scandals erupt in the small town.

I felt snippets of Persona, a 1966 avante-garde psychological thriller by Ingmar Bergman, and even the theatrical posters of the two women looking into the camera and facing side by side are identical in both films.

There’s also a teasing Single White Female (1992) similarity to a lesser degree.

The point is that May-December produces a haunting merging of two female characters in a creepy way.

Identity and obsession are also explored.

Portman and Moore play against and with each other deliciously. It’s not so much a rivalry but an obsession. Portman’s Elizabeth refers while speaking to a class of aspiring actors about becoming a character and we know she means Gracie.

When Gracie helps put Elizabeth’s makeup on just the right way resembling her more and more they look at the camera and see themselves in a mirror. It’s a haunting realization that both women are neurotic and have issues.

Does Gracie want to become Elizabeth as much as Elizabeth wants to become Gracie? Is it real or pretend because of the film?

At different points, I felt sympathy for both characters but at other times I didn’t. Elizabeth seems kind, then not so kind, then dismissive, then demanding.

Gracie seems kind, then neurotic, then sympathetic, then catty. Did she give her daughter’s scales as a graduation present? Did she intentionally point out her daughter’s unflattering arms?

Portman and Moore are successful at portraying these emotions in the subtlest of ways making the characters complex and tough to figure out.

The standout is Melton though. As Joe, the actor made me wonder how astonishingly quick the teenager had to grow up. He never had a childhood and is subsequently childlike, unable to make himself be heard until he broils over with rage.

Melton is on the map as an up-and-coming actor.

At the end of the film, when Elizabeth heads off to the airport I was left disappointed. I wanted more and felt there was more to uncover. What’s to become of Joe and Gracie? Could the three be friends if Elizabeth lived in the town?

What Haynes does so well is create tension even when there is none on the surface. The guttural feelings I was left with made May-December (2023) a quiet and powerful experience.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Screenplay

Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: 1 win-Best Film, Best Director-Todd Haynes, Best Lead Performance-Natalie Portman, Best Supporting Performance-Charles Melton, Best First Screenplay (won)

Short Cuts-1993

Short Cuts-1993

Director Robert Altman

Starring Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin

Scott’s Review #1,400

Reviewed September 20, 2023

Grade: A

I am such a fan of acclaimed director Robert Altman because he typically features an enormous cast with richly composed characters all serving a story purpose. Frequently, with much character development and investment.

Short Cuts (1993) is a latter-day Altman offering set in Los Angeles, California, the City of Angels that is nearly as good as my all-time favorite of his, Nashville made in 1975.

Similarities burst to the screen with twenty-two principal characters to Nashville’s twenty-four. Their lives frequently intersect and the fun is peeling back the layers of their lives and discovering who is connected to whom.

Comparisons to 1992’s The Player (also Altman) and 1999’s Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson can also be made for obvious Los Angeles setting reasons.

But, Magnolia is much weirder than Short Cuts.

The irony is that most characters are anything but angels as they suffer from insecurities, deaths, infidelity, and various shenanigans as they attempt to get through California life amid an earthquake and a fleet of helicopters spraying for medflies.

Altman based the film on the nine short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver.

Some of the tales include a waitress Doreen (Lily) who is married to an alcoholic limo driver (Tom Waits) who accidentally runs into a boy with her car. Soon after walking away, the child lapses into a coma. While at the hospital, the boy’s grandfather (Jack Lemmon) tells his son, Howard (Bruce Davison), about his past affairs.

Meanwhile, a baker (Lyle Lovett) starts harassing the family when they fail to pick up the boy’s birthday cake.

Dr. Ralph Wyman (Matthew Modine) and his wife, Marian (Moore), meet Stuart Kane (Fred Ward), an unemployed salesman, and Claire Kane (Anne Archer), a party clown, at a cello concert.

They impulsively decide to have a Sunday dinner date. seemingly having nothing in common.

Meanwhile, Marian’s sister, Sherri (Madeleine Stowe), is married to a cheating cop named Gene (Tim Robbins), who is having an affair with Betty Weathers (Frances McDormand), while Betty is divorcing one of the helicopter pilots, Stormy (Peter Gallagher).

There are other stories and connections to round out the fabulous cast.

The juicy and dramatic storylines play out like a terrific story arc on Days of Our Lives or As the World Turns with some needed comedic elements to balance things out.

Anyone who knows Altman will salivate with the name recognition among the cast most notably Tomlin and Robbins. Actors frequently chomped at the bit to appear knowing that he was an actor’s director.

This means he allowed his cast open range to create dialogue appropriate for their characters.

There’s no better example than when Jack Lemmon tells a story in the film. His improv and free dialogue are a dream to watch and a lesson in good and natural acting.

Despite the enormous cast everyone has something of quality to do. Nobody is languishing on the back burner with throwaway scenes or unimportant activities. All characters connect to others in some way.

Fans who fancy Los Angeles both in film and in real life with its bursting sunshine and cheery perception will revel in the down and dirty sub texture of Short Cuts.

The fun is getting there.

Some characters are wealthy but most struggle with day-to-day routine so the film contains a harsh realism. They try to find some shreds of happiness wherever they can get them.

Like real life which is part of the mastery of Short Cuts. The audience can relate to the characters because we all know people like them which makes the film a beautiful and treasured experience.

Or some may even be like us. The writing is brilliant and the characters are true to form.

One day I’ll create a list of my Top Ten Robert Altman films and I bet Short Cuts (1993) lands in the Top Five.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Robert Altman

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 3 wins-Best Feature (won), Best Director-Robert Altman (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Supporting Actress-Julianne Moore

Game Change-2012

Game Change-2012

Director Jay Roach

Starring Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris

Scott’s Review #1,094

Reviewed December 23, 2020

Grade: B

Sarah Palin is an idiot. John McCain is not. We didn’t know that in 2008. We do now.

Somehow their different worlds collided as partners in crime for the 2008 United States Presidential election, she was the vice-presidential nominee to his.

McCain’s people wanted a fresh face, someone with charisma, who could help defeat the surging U.S. Senator from Illinois, named Barack Obama.

Game Change (2012), an HBO film, chronicles how an unknown female governor from Alaska was chosen as McCain’s running mate without proper vetting, leading to one of the biggest political fiascos of the twenty-first century.

The production is a well-acted, well-paced affair that makes even the most liberal viewer (me!) sympathize, ever so slightly, with Palin, who was thrust into the spotlight at lightning speed.

Julianne Moore takes center stage, giving the political figure empathy and some heart. Supporting turns by Woody Harrelson as the campaign’s senior strategist, Steve Schmidt, and Ed Harris as John McCain provide levity.

The acting is the best part of the film. Otherwise, the film might have been best served as a documentary (more about that below).

As believable as Moore, Harrelson, and Harris are, they feel like performances rather than authenticity. They try to give their best interpretations of the players instead of immersing themselves in their bodies.

Maybe that’s the point of the film?

I love how the film opens.

In 2010, after the debacle has ended, Steve Schmidt sits uncomfortably before Anderson Cooper from CNN. He asks Schmidt if Palin was chosen as the VP candidate because she would make the best vice president or because she could win the election.

The question is quite poignant and the basis for the entire film.

Another excellent sequence is set during the Republican National Convention. Palin’s speech is well received, bombastic even, and energetic, catapulting her as the potential saving grace of the party.

Sadly, for her, the campaign becomes concerned that she is ignorant about many political issues and grossly unprepared. These scenes are the weakest- the audience laughably realizes she believes Korea is one country, and many other gaffs follow.

But, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, this is common knowledge.

Game Change makes a mistake by editing too many snippets of real-life interviews and other news media moments. This detracts from the dramatization that is the intention and makes me wonder why a solid documentary wasn’t made instead.

Jay Roach, who directs Game Change, revels in close-ups, especially of Palin, perhaps as a nod to her being thrust onto every television station in the United States.

Danny Strong screen writes the project.

The duo sets up the predictable situations nicely. Palin’s disagreements with McCain, the woman, not his choice. For reference, he wanted Joe Lieberman, a moderate from Connecticut who was considered “boring”.

Let’s give the most credit to Moore. The actress doesn’t exactly embody Palin. She is more like a dressed-up impersonator, hardly Charlize Theron flawlessly playing Aileen Wuornos.

But what she does do is successfully make the audience care about her and feel sorry for her. Palin had no idea what she was in store for, nor knew what she signed up for. Moore portrays the emotions well.

Moore carries the film. Palin became a source of venom and mockery after her embarrassing interview with Katie Couric in which she was unable to name any magazines.

She quickly became the whipping girl rather than the ‘it” girl.

The message is competent without feeling preachy or overpowering, but there is something a bit dull about Game Change. Schmidt and Nicole Wallace chose Palin, making the enormous mistake of knowing very little about the woman.

Game Change (2012) is recommended for those who want to be entertained or who desire a history lesson without seeing the real people.

I still think a documentary would have worked better.

The Hours-2002

The Hours-2002

Director Stephen Daldry

Starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep

Scott’s Review #803

Reviewed August 17, 2018

Grade: A

The Hours (2002) is a film containing the ultimate in acting riches. With names like Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore associated with the film this is not surprising.

Not solely belonging to the ladies, however, Ed Harris, in particular, is dynamic in his role as are all the other males who appear in the film.

Told in three different sections in chronological order, but going back and forth, the stories all share connections via the novel Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf.

One of the best films of the decade!

Each segment of the film takes place within a single day, but decades apart. Wisely, director Stephen Daldry switches between the stories frequently leaving sort of a cliffhanger, making the drama more compelling and spicy.

In 1923, a depressed Virginia Woolf is portrayed by an unrecognizable Nicole Kidman in a role that won her the Best Actress Oscar.

Woolf resides outside of London and struggles to complete her novel amid nervous breakdowns and the watchful eye of her husband, who is aware of her mental pain.

In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) seemingly has it all, living the “American Dream”. Residing in a nice neighborhood with a loving husband, she is pregnant with her second child, spending the days at home raising her young son, Richie, whom she is very close to yet does not understand.

After a fleeting lesbian dalliance with a neighbor, Laura goes off to a hotel with bottles of pills, intending to kill herself. She changes her mind after reading Woolf’s novel and dozing off, deciding instead to make a different decision.

Finally, in 2001, Clarissa (Meryl Streep), is bisexual and in a same-sex relationship. She lives with Richard (Harris), whom she dated in college, now the best of friends. He is gay, stricken with the AIDS virus, and close to committing suicide as he plans to jump out of a window.

This story (present times) is crucial to the film because it involves two characters from the 1951 story. These characters intersect with others in a touching and heart-wrenching way.

The greatest parts of The Hours are the brilliant acting and the richly written storytelling. Arguably, Kidman, Streep, and Moore all could have won Oscars for their performances, and I must mention that as brilliant as Kidman is (she is the sole Oscar recipient), and Streep is just universally good, I would have given the Oscar to Moore- the standout in my opinion.

Glamorous and intelligent, warm to her son, she makes a monumental and controversial decision. The character should not be sympathetic- yet she is. This is a testament to Moore’s infusing the character with confidence, reasonable thoughts, and even some empathy. We finally understand why she does what she does.

May I boast for a moment about Harris’s performance? Richard, once known as Richie as a kid (this will give something away), has lived a difficult life.

Abandoned, wounded, and suffering much loss, he is a tragic figure, pained beyond belief. His suffering is so monumental that we almost welcome his demise, and Harris offers so much of himself in this difficult role. He is both physically and emotionally hurt and Harris portrays this in spades.

Uniquely, all three stories work independently of each other. Yes, characters from one appear in another, but they are like well-crafted vignettes. Similarly, they each begin with breakfast, then involve the planning of a party or celebration of some sort, and culminate in sadness.

Yet, the film does not feel like a downer or preachy in any way, but rather, good, solid, humanistic story-telling, which I adore.

Sure, the film is considered a drama, but it also contains multiple gay or bisexual characters and therefore must be included in the chambers of LGBT filmmaking.

With an A-list cast, the film helps lead the charge (successfully so) to bring more rich LGBT films to center stage and garner mainstream audiences.

The great aspect of The Hours is that it is a mainstream film- a good solid drama.

Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours (2002) does not try to draw parallels with each story or necessarily connect them in an obvious fashion.

Rather, the film version provokes thought both with LGBT and feminist approaches. Each female central character lives in a world run by men, as Woolf argues in her novel.

The film brilliantly adapts the novel and brings it to large audiences in a fantastic, riveting fashion.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Director-Stephen Daldry, Best Actress-Nicole Kidman (won), Best Supporting Actor-Ed Harris, Best Supporting Actress-Julianne Moore, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing



Director Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly

Scott’s Review #777

Reviewed June 21, 2018

Grade: A

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my favorite modern directors. His best film in my opinion is Boogie Nights (1997) but has also created other dark offerings such as Phantom Thread (2017) and Inherent Vice (2014).

Arguably, his most peculiar effort might be Magnolia (1999), a cerebral film with themes of forgiveness and the meaning of life.

An ambitious effort with a stellar ensemble cast makes the film a fantastic experience.

Set in San Fernando Valley (a mountainous area of Los Angeles), the film resembles David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) in area and oddness alone with unusual dialogue and offbeat characters.

A narrator explains three situations of extreme coincidence and surmises that chance may not be the only responsible party. Anderson then carves an intricate tale involving numerous characters, intersecting lives, and a riveting final climax during one rainy California day (an oddity in itself!).

The plot begins when we meet Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), a police officer who is called to investigate a disturbance.

After finding a woman’s body in an apartment closet, events turn bizarre as a children’s game show host (Philip Baker Hall), his estranged daughter (Melora Walters), the show’s former producer, Earl (Jason Robards), who is dying from cancer, his drug-addicted wife Linda (Julianne Moore), Earl’s male caretaker (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a former game show champion (William H. Macy), and finally, an intense motivational speaker (Tom Cruise).

Quite a bevy of talented actors!

As the plot moves along mysteriously, the connections of each of the characters are not only revealed, but their peculiar motivations start to take shape.

For example, Linda, who married Earl for his money, seems to have an epiphany and demands her lawyer change Earl’s will. Later, a character may have a connection to Earl and Linda, but is it all as it seems?

In the case of Magnolia, the film is so wonderfully strange that it leaves the audience guessing throughout most of its running time.

Bizarre scenes are commonplace throughout the film. My favorite one is a marvelously creative scene. Suddenly, frogs begin to fall out of nowhere from the Los Angeles sky with numerous consequences for the characters.

The incident causes a ripple effect, of sorts, as many of the character’s fates are determined. Though one may not be able to make heads or tails of this scene or take complete logic from it, it’s enthralling all the same.

Magnolia has an overall quirky tone- sometimes upbeat-sometimes melancholy- that I adore. Films that are tough to figure out and that add an interesting musical score are so rich with flavor.

Aimee Mann is responsible for composing many of the songs on the musical soundtrack, so much so that she received a title credit on the soundtrack itself. Mann infuses richness into her music that is moody and diverse with ambient essentials.

Many actors make frequent appearances in Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. Magnolia alone seems almost like a Boogie Nights reunion with Moore, Walters, Macy, Baker Hall, and Philip Seymour-Hoffman to name just a handful.

The amazing aspect is that all of the aforementioned actors play vastly different, and arguably even more complex roles than they did in Boogie Nights.

Similar to Quentin Tarantino’s actors appearing in many of his films, what a creative treat this must be for them.

There is no doubt that Magnolia (1999) is a complex, dream-like, film. Open to interpretation and reflection, I find it to be a film that feels brilliant and that I would like to revisit and dive into even more and more with further viewings, for hopefully a better understanding and an even deeper appreciation.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Tom Cruise, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Original Song-“Save Me”

A Single Man-2009

A Single Man-2009

Director Tom Ford

Starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore

Scott’s Review #577

Reviewed January 1, 2017

Grade: B+

A Single Man (2009) is a dark film fraught with meaning and honesty-it is a very good movie. It is a melancholy film and a bit surreal, but worth seeing.

The acting, especially from star Colin Firth, is first-rate.

The subject matter involves being gay in the 1950s and 1960s and the ramifications of living a forbidden and secretive life.

The intelligent film is based on the novel of the same name, written by Christopher Isherwood.

The film is written as a sad tale of a day in the life of a gay man living in the 1960s.

Firth portrays George Falconer, a British college professor living in liberal-minded Los Angeles. When his much younger lover (presumably a student) dies, George plans to commit suicide.

Moore plays his best friend and confidante, Charley, who is dealing with her demons.

Through flashbacks, we learn about George and his lover Jim’s secret life together and the challenges that ensued. George also had a strange relationship with a male prostitute.

We learn the path of life George leads following Jim’s tragic death- we also see them happy at one time.

A Single Man (2009) is a bit of a downer containing a definite dream-like feel and is heavy on the flashbacks, but this is intriguing to the picture and not a complaint.

A very good, but not an uplifting film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor-Colin Firth

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Male Lead-Colin Firth, Best First Screenplay, Best First Feature

The Kids Are All Right-2010

The Kids Are All Right-2010

Director Lisa Cholodenko

Starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening

Scott’s Review #560

Reviewed December 24, 2016

Grade: A

The Kids Are All Right is a fantastic film!

In my opinion, the film is one of the best of the year 2010 and was rewarded with a deserving Best Picture nomination.

Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo were also honored with acting nominations. Bening gives the best performance in the film.

Continuing the trend of more exposure to LGBT issues, The Kids Are All Right tells of a same-sex-centered family dealing with real issues.

Though not dark, the film is not light or played strictly for laughs. It is a family drama that shows how same-sex family units face problems like everyone else, and how they deal with them, never forgetting how much they love each other.

The writing is intelligent, deeply layered, and rich. The acting is superb, and the characters are complex.

The best scene is one where the entire family is eating dinner- suddenly the camera focuses on one person and goes in slow motion, the other voices become muffled and distant, and painful emotion is portrayed on one of the character’s faces as a revelation comes to the surface.


Even the seemingly unimportant dialogue throughout the film is smart as it shows the bond of the family that cannot ultimately be broken.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) is a worthwhile and compelling film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress-Annette Bening, Best Supporting Actor-Mark Ruffalo, Best Original Screenplay

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Feature, Best Director-Lisa Cholodenko, Best Female Lead-Annette Bening, Best Supporting Male-Mark Ruffalo, Best Screenplay (won)

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle-1992

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle-1992

Director Curtis Hanson

Starring Rebecca De Mornay, Annabella Sciorra

Scott’s Review #360


Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

One may argue that the slick 1992 thriller, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, is a direct rip-off of the 1987 blockbuster hit Fatal Attraction, which spawned countless imitators, and they may be accurate, but I simply adore this film.

It contains great tension and is well-acted, but above all, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle features Rebecca De Mornay in a wonderful performance as one of the screen’s most memorable villains, Peyton Flanders.

This is a film that will admittedly not win any awards for originality, but that I love all the same.

Peyton Flanders is very pregnant when we meet her. Her husband is creepy Dr. Mott, an obstetrician who sexually molests Claire Bartel (Sciorra) in his office during an exam.

Humiliated and upset, Claire, after being encouraged by her husband, Michael, files charges against Dr. Mott. He commits suicide and Peyton loses her child. Filled with vengeance, she vows to destroy Claire.

The plot may sound like a tawdry daytime soap plot device, but The Hand That Rocks The Cradle somehow works like a charm.

Unlike Fatal Attraction, there is little rooting value between Petyon and Michael- we know she is a crazed lunatic- the fun is seeing how she gets hers. She manipulates him and insinuates herself into their home- she pretends to be a nanny and subsequently manipulates Michael and Claire’s daughter.

Julianne Moore- in an early role in her storied film career- is believable as Claire’s best friend, who is the only one who sees Peyton for the monster she truly is.

Sadly, her screen time is limited.

Regardless of the other fine performances from the rest of the cast, this is De Mornay’s film- she is psychotic, then sweet, and plays both to the hilt.

I suppose a film like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992) is not intended to be analyzed too much since it tries to thrill, scare, and make the audience uneasy, but boy is it sure fun.

Far From Heaven-2002

Far From Heaven-2002

Director Todd Haynes

Starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert

Top 100 Films #53

Scott’s Review #332


Reviewed January 8, 2016

Grade: A

Far From Heaven (2002) is a gorgeous film, set in 1950’s upper-class and sophisticated Connecticut, that tackles not one, but two, separate social issues, in a wonderful story-telling fashion.

An interracial couple fraught with discrimination, and a homosexual husband hiding his secret lifestyle encompass this amazing film by acclaimed director Todd Haynes.

In years to follow, Haynes would also direct such masterpieces similar to the period (and story) of Carol (2015).

For starters, the cinematography and art direction are simply breathtaking- the beautiful and colorful small town in Connecticut, on the surface, prim and proper, is oozing with secrets and scandal just waiting to bubble to the surface.

An aerial view of the town allows the viewer to see this perfectly carved town in a sweeping motion.

Far From Heaven contains many similarities to All That Heaven Allows, made in 1955, and also focuses on a great scandal in a small, seemingly idyllic New England town.

Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) seems to have everything perfectly styled and kept at home in affluent Connecticut, a successful husband named Frank (Dennis Quaid), who is an advertising executive, beauty, and a neighborhood filled with friends.

One night when Frank is working late, Cathy surprises him with dinner at the office, only to be surprised herself by catching Frank passionately kissing another man. In an awkward scene, Frank admits to Cathy that he needs conversion therapy, but instead turns to alcohol and continues to secretly see men.

Devastated, Cathy befriends her gardener, Raymond Deagan (Haysburt), a handsome black man, and slowly begins a relationship with him. Needless to say, this causes gossip and scandal amongst the townspeople.

Far From Heaven is fantastic story-telling, weaving, in essence, two main social stories together.

Frank questions his sexuality, afraid to admit he is gay and risking his reputation and career. Undoubtedly, he is a tormented individual and we see him slowly come to terms with his sexuality.

Haynes, fantastic at crafting a worthy story, carves a similar tale in 2015’s Carol, only she is a woman confident about her sexuality, but hiding it from society. Since the time in both films is the 1950s, the sexual revolution has not occurred, let alone anything gay-related.

The center story though belongs to Cathy and Julianne Moore portrays her to perfection. I would argue that Cathy is Moore’s best role- along with Amber Waves from Boogie Nights.

Hurt and betrayed by her husband, she suddenly is filled with new and dangerous emotions- falling in love with a black man in a not very open-minded time.

Moore and Haysbert have fantastic chemistry from their very first scene together.

I love how Haynes showcases the perfection of the town- the lawns are perfectly mowed, the flower beds flawless, and everyone appears cheerful and colorful. But when something in their little town becomes amiss (in this case Cathy going against the grain) the fangs come out and the animals bear their teeth.

A wonderful scene showcases Cathy and Raymond’s slow dancing in a solely black bar. They sway as one and Cathy is accepted by the black patrons. Raymond (and his daughter) are not treated the same way by the white folks of the town once they catch wind of the shenanigans going on between the interracial couple.

Far From Heaven (2002) is a beautiful film- from the way it looks and is shot, to the powerful acting performances all around. Moore may be the star and the central character of the film, but Quaid and Haysbert certainly deserve their due.

They each give layered performances as wounded and tortured men- and the conclusion of the film- perceived as open-ended- is also not a happily ever after climax.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Julianne Moore, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 5 wins-Best Feature (won), Best Director-Todd Haynes (won), Best Female Lead-Julianne Moore (won), Best Supporting Male-Dennis Quaid (won), Best Cinematography (won)

Boogie Nights-1997

Boogie Nights-1997

Director Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds

Top 100 Films #21

Scott’s Review #312


Reviewed December 31, 2015

Grade: A

Boogie Nights (1997) is a fantastic film about the pornography industry (The Golden Age of Porn) of the 1970s and 1980s and does a wonderful job of portraying the characters as human beings with feelings and emotions, rather than as nymphomaniacs or perverts.

They bond with one another as a family- a group of misfits striving to survive. This and many other reasons are why Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films of all time.

Written, produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia-1999, There Will Be Blood-2007, Inherent Vice-2014), he is a champion at exploring the underbelly of society and flawed and desperate characters.

Boogie Nights is no different.

The dysfunctional family is the common theme of the film. Most of his characters are not happy people, but they are survivors and desperately look for a piece of happiness.

Many in his cast of Boogie Nights also appear in Magnolia. Mark Wahlberg (Eddie/Dirk Diggler), Burt Reynolds (Jack Horner), Julianne Moore (Maggie), Don Cheadle (Buck), William H. Macy (Little Bill), John C. Reilly (Reed Rothchild), Heather Graham (Rollergirl), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Scotty), Malora Walters (Jessie), and Alfred Molina (Rahad Jackson), round out the large cast.

The setting of the film in Los Angeles and the period runs from 1977-1984. Though only seven years take place, much happens to most of the characters during this time and we experience their trials and tribulations.

The unique thing about Boogie Nights is that I care about every character, thanks to great writing and fantastic acting. They succeeded in obtaining my empathy for them. Boogie Nights is an extremely character-driven film, which is an enormous part of its brilliance.

The cast is an ensemble one, but the main character is Eddie Adams, a high school dropout, who we meet working as a dishwasher at a nightclub. He has an abusive mother who kicks him out of the house, leading him to audition for and move in with Jack Horner.

Jack is a patriarch type, who shares a house with Maggie, the matriarch of the household, and roller girl, a fellow high school dropout always wearing roller skates. Eddie’s talent is his large “manhood”.

We watch Eddie, at first shy and polite, rise to superstardom in the porn industry, becoming rich and living a lavish, drug-fueled, lifestyle, where his ego gets the best of him. He, like many of the characters, hit rough times as the early 1980’s shift to videotape was the death of many 1970’s porn actors careers.

The musical soundtrack is very important to the success of Boogie Nights. Many scenes contain songs that were hits of the time or prior, including “Sister Christian”, “Jessie’s Girl”, “God Only Knows”, “Got to Give it Up”, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now”, and countless others- so much so that the soundtrack is almost a character of the film and we look forward to hearing what song might be featured next.

At one point later in the film, circa 1983, as things begin to spiral out of control for many of the characters- the musical score turns ominous with low bass music, a nighttime setting, the lighting becomes darker, and several stories begin to intersect on one late L.A. night on the streets.

Jack, filming a scene in a limousine starring Rollergirl and a young college jock they pick up off the streets, Dirk-forced to prostitute himself for $10 to a young man in a pickup truck, and Buck-who innocently stops to buy doughnuts for his very pregnant wife Jessie.

Each of these stories ends in brutal violence and the tone is crucial to the success of the scenes. This lengthy scene reminds me quite a bit of a Quentin Tarantino scene in its macabre tone.

Particular favorite scenes include the heartbreaking scene when Maggie loses custody of her son, the New Year’s Eve party at Jack’s house, and the ill-fated drug sale at Rahad Jackson’s.

Each is heartbreaking, powerful, fraught with tension, or otherwise empathetic to the characters, which makes them each quite powerful in different ways.

Induced in the drug sale scene is some black comedy- Rahad’s presumed Chinese houseboy has a fetish for firecrackers, which startle Dirk, Reed, and Todd, as the fear of possible gunshots fills the air. Maggie’s sob scene elicits viewer emotion as we cry with her, and the New Year’s Eve turn of events involving Scotty and Little Bill is tragic.

Boogie Nights (1997) is one of my favorite films because it contains brilliant writing, characters who are fleshed out, damaged, and human, a killer soundtrack, and a dark, mysterious industry (porn) that is both misunderstood and categorized.

Thanks to director, Anderson, we see the people within this lifestyle as real people, with issues, but also with full hearts and kindness.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Burt Reynolds, Best Supporting Actress-Julianne Moore, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Maps to the Stars-2014

Maps to the Stars- 2014

Director David Cronenberg

Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska

Scott’s Review #266


Reviewed August 14, 2015

Grade: A-

Maps to the Stars (2014) is a bizarre, unpleasant, film that is as dark and perverse as provocative and fascinating to observe and ponder.

It is more like an independent art film than a blockbuster Hollywood project and was made by an arguably mainstream director, David Cronenberg (Crash-1996, The Fly-1986), I am surprised it was able to be made on a large scale budget due to the negative portrayal of actors and celebrity types, specifically, troublesome starlet and child star.

One must be wary of biting the hand that feeds.

Maps to the Stars is a film where almost all the central characters are unlikable- difficult, unstable, self-absorbed, or all of the above.

The subject matter is ugly but fascinating to me.

The wealthy and glamorous are interesting and, at times the film is like a Greek tragedy containing Shakespearean elements- think Romeo and Juliet in an incestuous way times two. One must watch this film to see what I mean.

Hint- it contains the ick factor.

The plot centers on a Hollywood family, where the son is a famous child star and the primary breadwinner. They are the Weiss family- all struggling to either find success or hang on to it, all the while each of them is neurotic.

The father, Dr. Samuel Weiss, played by John Cusack, is a TV psychologist, hired by Havannah Legrand (Julianne Moore), a highly self-centered, aging actress, struggling to land a coveted role-playing her mother.

Her mother was a young actress in her day, who tragically died in a fire. Havannah despises her due to claimed childhood abuse.

Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams) is Samuel’s wife. This controlling, ambitious woman strives to get the most money out of her son Benjie, a Justin Bieber-type character with a troubled streak.

Rounding out the family is Agatha Weiss, a troubled teenager, sent away for years after giving her brother pills and setting her parents’ house on fire. Though not directly related to Weiss’s, Havannah, and the limo driver, Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson) become heavily involved with the family as events transpire.

It reminded me of a myriad of other influential film directors in peculiar ways. I noticed elements of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (1992), for instance, in a dark clever mood and the obvious setting of Los Angeles- even the score is similar during parts of the film, as the moody monotone sounds played in the background.

The Ice Storm (1997), American Beauty (1999), and Magnolia (1997) also sprang to mind in their dark and strange worlds (Magnolia) and the inclusion of the dysfunctional family element (The Ice Storm and American Beauty).

Furthermore, to a lesser extent, I saw some Robert Altman ingrained in Maps to the Stars. These aspects are an enormous reason why I loved the film so much.

A prevalent theme throughout Maps to the Stars is one of burning- a victim of burning, a fire set, a character setting oneself on fire. Some characters see dead people. Havannah regularly sees her dead mother. Benjie sees a young girl whom he visited in the hospital before she died, her last wish of meeting the big star.

She suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, who he foolishly thought had AIDS. He sees her in visions and tries to strangle her, instead of strangling an innocent living person.

The film is a weird trip, and the viewer will be dreading an oncoming dark moment.

When Benjie carelessly plays with a gun that he assumes is unloaded we know trouble will occur. He is showing off at an actor friend’s party along with equally obnoxious starlets while talking about poop, all selfish and wanting to party.

When Havannah belittles Agatha, her assistant, we see Agatha’s past anger come back into play as she slowly unravels with rage- Havannah is unaware of Agatha’s knowledge of her betrayal.

One small gripe is the continued use of gross toilet talk in multiple scenes including a raunchy discussion of a fan buying a well-known actor’s waste for thousands of dollars. What was Cronenberg’s motivation for this?

This was a silly, tasteless, unnecessary element of an otherwise great film.

Maps of the Stars (2014) is dirty and ugly but is also a quirky treasure about bad people in Hollywood. Unpleasant characters whom I could not take my eyes off of.

A brilliant film that delves into Hollywood shallowness and madness and does it in a daring, twisted, wonderful, sort of way.

Still Alice-2014

Still Alice-2014

Director Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin

Scott’s Review #224


Reviewed February 26, 2015

Grade: B+

Still Alice (2014) tells the story of a highly educated college professor who, at the young age of fifty, is afflicted with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

She wrestles with, not only the gloomy diagnosis but also the emotional effects of the disease and what effects they will have on her husband and three grown children.

Also explored are the hereditary aspects of the illness and the effects on the offspring of the inflicted person.

The film has a calm demeanor but is heartbreaking and a downer.

Alice Howland has always achieved success, she is a linguistics professor at the esteemed Columbia University in Manhattan and has a seemingly idyllic life. She lives an affluent lifestyle and has three grown, well-adjusted children.

Alec Baldwin plays John Howland and Kristen Stewart plays the most predominantly featured daughter, Lydia.

These points of perfection make the story and her gradual decline all the more tragic to watch. We root for Alice because she is an ideal character- kind, loving, and the perfect mother and wife.

How could a thing like this happen to her? When she goes for a jog near her campus and suddenly does not recognize her surroundings or where she is, the audience shares Alice’s confusion.

The primary reason to watch the film is for the astounding performance that Julianne Moore gives, as Alice. The film borders on a good Lifetime television movie, albeit, much better than that and arguably in the same vein.

The acting sets this one above the mediocre largely due to Moore- with a lesser actress, I ponder how the film would have succeeded.

The tender scenes are wonderful. When Alice wets her pants, the audience also feels her humiliation. When she breaks down in fear and anxiety we do the same with her.

The supporting cast also deserves praise, specifically Baldwin and Stewart. While not entirely fleshed out characters, their lending of support to their wife and mother respectively makes the characters themselves sympathetic and likable.

An important scene in an ice-cream parlor late in the film when John asks Alice if she “really wants to be here” is misunderstood by Alice making the importance of what he is asking even more profound.

A scene where a coherent Alice, early in her diagnosis, leaves instructions for herself via video, to be seen when she is further along in her illness, is suspenseful and left me rooting for the result to be one way, which could be interpreted as drastic, and left me conflicted.

Masterfully done.

My only criticism is that despite the subject matter of Alzheimer’s disease which is devastating and life-altering not only for the victim but for the family, the film has a safe feel to it.

I would have liked darker, grittier moments throughout the film to make it even more effective.

Not a happily ever after story, bleaker moments might have prevailed. And, centered on Moore, it also might have been interesting to explore more of the effects the family has and will go through, especially Baldwin’s John.

His character and Lydia could have been explored more deeply instead of merely supporting and comforting Alice.

Still Alice (2014) is worth seeing if only for the performance of Julianne Moore, a talented actress doing a brilliant job in the title role.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Actress-Julianne Moore (won)

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Female Lead-Julianne Moore (won)

Carrie- 2013


Director Kimberly Peirce

Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore

Scott’s Review #110


Reviewed July 15, 2014

Grade: C-

Carrie is a 2013 remake of the classic 1976 horror masterpiece of the same name directed by Brian De Palma and adapted from the Stephen King novel.

Comparing the two is difficult since the original is brilliant. The remake of Carrie showed some potential in the first half as the set-up was developed and is overall only fairly entertaining.

Carrie White is a bullied, outcast teenager who has telekinetic powers. She can make things move, usually when angry.

Her mother, played by Julianne Moore, is a repressed Christian woman with issues about sex (among other things).

Following a cruel encounter in the locker room, one of the popular girls, feeling guilty, talks her boyfriend into taking Carrie to the prom.

Chloe Grace Moretz is okay as Carrie but hardly seems nerdy or homely enough to completely pull it off. She could easily have portrayed one of the popular girls.

Julianne Moore is too sympathetic an actress to be believable as the crazy Mrs. White so that doesn’t completely work either.

Finally, the actresses playing Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and Chris (Portia Doubleday) should be reversed. Chris is a despicable character, comfortable as the queen bee, but Doubleday plays her as awkward and insecure.

Meanwhile, Wilde feels better suited to play a vicious, bitchy character.

So, there are issues with the casting.

In the original, the audience feels Carrie’s rage and cheers along with her revenge, but that does not happen in this version. There was not as much justification to warrant the revenge.

And since when did having telekinesis result in being able to fly?

Carrie circa 2013 is a pale imitation of the classic 1976 horror film, but I suppose not a complete dud either.



Director Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore

Scott’s Review #55


Reviewed June 22, 2014

Grade: B-

I am a sucker for a good airline disaster action film.

I found Non-Stop (2014) to have two parts- the first one hour and fifteen minutes and the final thirty minutes.

A film like this (action, popcorn flick) requires suspension of disbelief.

The events in this film will NEVER happen.

In recent years, Liam Neeson, at sixty years old plus, has settled nicely into action hero star in mediocre to above-average film roles.

He has found his niche.

The first part of the film is highly entertaining. One hundred and fifty passengers on board an international flight from New York to London are in peril when a terrorist begins texting troubled U.S. Air Marshall (Neeson) that someone on the flight will die every twenty minutes unless One hundred and fifty million dollars is transferred to their account.

From this point begins a compelling whodunit.

Which passenger is sending the text messages? Could it be a flight attendant or the captain of the plane? Several characters are introduced and some red herrings commence. Who begins framing the Marshall? Why?

This is compelling fun stuff.

Most of the action takes place on the plane giving the film a claustrophobic atmosphere.

Then, however, the second part of the film takes over. Not to give spoilers away, but it reaches a ridiculous, silly conclusion, and I found myself saying out loud, “this is stupid”.

A needless and contrived plot of a little girl on the flight is trivial.

I expected more from Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame.  Lupita N’Yongo is given a throwaway role (let’s assume she was cast before her Oscar-winning turn in 12 Years a Slave in 2013).

Popcorn fun, but disappointing ending summarizes Non-Stop (2014).

Don Jon-2013

Don Jon-2013

Director Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore

Scott’s Review #27


Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B+

 I did not expect Don Jon (2013) to be as good as it is.

Frankly, I was expecting a by-the-numbers romantic comedy.

Written, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it tells the story of a twenty-something New Jersey bartender who is addicted to porn despite receiving all the female attention he can imagine.

Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore play two completely different women in his life.

The film contains stereotypical, though hilarious and spot-on, New Jersey trademarks. Tony Danza is effective as the brash father.

In the last thirty minutes, the film turns into a wonderful, yet hardly sappy or traditional, love story that makes Don Jon (2013) a positive experience.

Gordon-Levitt is a breath of fresh air and a young Hollywood talent getting his due.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best First Screenplay