Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 1/19/18

Phantom Thread (R)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps, Richard Graham, Camilla Rutherford, Harriet Sansom Harris, Brian Gleeson
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Director Paul Thomas Anderson is famous for his portrayals of decidedly American heroes (a porn star in Boogie Nights, California oil prospector in There Will Be Blood, and charismatic Scientologist-style leader in The Master), yet his latest film, Phantom Thread, focuses on a London fashion designer from what may have been Britain’s dowdiest era—the 1950s. Day-Lewis has announced that since he immerses himself so deeply into the characters he plays, that this is his last starring role, and the entire film is a set-up to make sure Daniel Day-Lewis is an Oscar nominee for his performance. Reynolds Woodcock is a fastidiously self-centered individual who designs dresses for “the Royals.” When he adopts a plain, young, working-class girl named Alma (Vicky Krieps) to be the centerpiece model for his latest collection, he assuage any fears of impropriety by telling her (in a soft voice), that he is “an incurable bachelor.” If you recall Henry Higgins saying almost the exact same thing to the flower-girl Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady, you might assume that this will be a Pygmalion tale of the designer falling in love with the girl he creates. You would be wrong. Phantom Thread is more like Hitchcock’s Vertigo, where the “afraid of change” male becomes obsessed with the ideal woman he creates using hairstyle, makeup, perfume and dresses. If you doubt the similarities, note the names of the designer and his model (Alma was Mrs. Hitchcock’s name). To top things off, the McGuffin is straight out of Hitchcock’s Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine film, Suspicion.
3 pieces of only Daniel Day-Lewis could play this character so well toast

Mary, and the Witch’s Flowers (PG)
Starring the voices of: Kate Winslet, Ruby Barnhill, Lynda Baron, Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Jim Broadbent
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Coveted by witches and warlocks for its magic properties, the fly-by-night-wildflower blooms every seven years. This time, the flower falls into the hands of a plucky, redheaded girl named Mary, who is almost instantly transported via flying broomstick to Endor College of witchcraft. Initially embraced by the teachers as the most talented witch of her generation, when they discover that Mary is just an ordinary girl, their interest (and protective spells) dissipate. There is a certain familiarity with the magic-centric plot devices thrown on the screen, but everything is presented in such lovingly-created artistic detail, you almost forget you know what will happen next.
2 and 1/2 pieces of Japanese animation artistry toast

The Final Year (NR)
Starring: The Obama Administration
Directed by: Greg Barker
Originally filmed with the assumption that Hilary Clinton was a shoe-in successor to the “Obama legacy,” the first part of Greg Barker’s documentary focuses on Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and speechwriter Ben Rhodes as they coalesce around the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, immigration and terrorism. But, as we are reminded each and every day, there is now an American-Business-First President in the White House. The most interesting part of this doc, is when a group of notable women (including Gloria Steinem, Madeline Albright and Ambassador Power) gathered together to watch the returns. Their distress and dismay are palpable.
2 pieces of potentially irrelevant history? toast

12 Strong (R)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Navid Negabahn, Trevante Rhodes, William Fitchner
Directed by: Nicolai Fugisig
A miniscule footnote of the Afghanistan conflict was that a dozen Green Berets rode horses into battles beside the Afghan locals branded (at least temporarily) as comrades. Code-named, Task Force Dagger, only one of these Americans knew how to ride a horse. The advertising presents this film as a manliness-personified, cowboys vs indians shoot-em up in the classic Howard Hawkes/John Wayne style. But the cynical absurdity of yet again sending troops with no understanding of the region’s history, culture, languages and fatalistic philosophy to fight in a land where no-one has won before, 12 Strong is more nuanced. As a local warlord patiently explains, “This is Afghanistan—the graveyard of Empires.”
1 and 1/2 pieces of cliched Western tropes set in Afghanistan toast