Zak’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft (Version 5.0)

More commentary and updates to come as draft approaches. This mock predicts trades as well.

And check out Cole’s mock right here

Updated June 22nd, 4:30 PM

Round 1

#1) Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz (G, Washington)

Duh.

#2) Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (G, UCLA)

All the talk of Jackon or Fox going here seems to have been a smokescreen to convince the Celtics to take Jackson #1. I still think Lonzo is the Lakers’ guy. The trading of Russell all but confirms it.

#3) *Sacramento Kings – Josh Jackson (F, Kansas)

*via trade with Boston. Teams swap 3 & 5, Celtics get additional future pick.

Whether the Kings want Jackson or Fox, they have to move ahead of Phoenix to guarantee it happens.

#4) Phoenix Suns – De’Aaron Fox (G, Kentucky)

The Eric Bledose era in Phoenix is coming to an end and Fox is the best player on the board.

#5) *Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum (F, Duke)

Boston gets their guy at 5, picking up extra picks along the way.

#6) Orlando Magic – Dennis Smith Jr. (G, N.C. State)

DSJ is the most explosive guard in the class and should make for a fine Elfrid Payton replacement.

#7) *Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina (G, International)

*via trade with T’Wolves. Teams swap picks #7 & #9, T’Wolves receive additional future pick.

Both Dallas and New York love Ntilikina. Here, the Mavs leapfrog NY to ensure they get their guy. He’s a big guard still developing but reminds me of a longer George Hill.

#8) New York Knicks – Jonathan Isaac (F, Florida State)

The Knicks would have to be ecstatic to see Isaac on the board here. He’s a tantalizing and diverse defensive prospect, who also has great touch on his jumper and plays within himself offensively.

#9) *Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen (F, Arizona)

The Wolves grab the sweet shooting seven-footer they probably would’ve taken at 7, picking up a future pick in the process. A wise move.

#10) Sacramento Kings – Donovan Mitchell (G, Louisville)

Maybe Mitchell won’t develop the point guard skills the Kings would like with one of their two picks, but he’s going to be an elite defender capable of guarding 1-3. 

#11) Charlotte Hornets – Malik Monk (G, Kentucky)

I really thought Charlotte might take a center here, but the trade for Dwight Howard would seemingly end that idea. Monk would make for a nice pick though and would elevate the Charlotte bench right away with his ability to score without being ball dominant.

#12) Detroit Pistons – Zach Collins (F/C, Gonzaga)

Whether or not they view Drummond as part of the team’s future, Collins is a nice pickup outside the top 10.

#13) *Phoenix Suns – O.G. Anunoby (F, Indiana)

*via trade with Nuggets. Phoenix sends Eric Bledsoe and a future 2nd rounder in exchange for #13 & Emmanuel Mudiay

Enter the polarizing O.G. Anunoby, who’s ready to be a plus defender right away and showed some nice strides offensively pre-injury. Phoenix lands him, after trading Bledsoe for this pick to clear minutes for Fox.

#14) *Los Angeles Lakers – Luke Kennard (G, Duke)

*via trade with Heat. Miami receives #27, #28, & a future pick swap rights in exchange for #14

The Lakers reportedly LOVE Kennard and want to move up to get him. A possible a Paul George trade package involving picks #27 & #28 complicates things a bit but if Kennard is still on the board in the 12-16 I wouldn’t be surprised to see L.A. pounce.

#15) Portland Trail Blazers – D.J. Wilson (F, Michigan)

An intriguing faceup 4 with a high skill level offensively and great measurables/athleticism defensively. He finally started to put it together this year and thus has risen up boards.

#16) Chicago Bulls – John Collins (PF, Wake Forest)

Best low-post scorer in the draft. By no means a position of need but Chicago is rebuilding soon and I think Collins is better than Portis.

#17) Milwaukee Bucks – Jordan Bell (F, Oregon)

Rising up boards because he can both protect the rim and move his feet. Has the makings of an elite defender.

#18) Indiana Pacers – Terrance Ferguson (G/F, International)

Not quite ready yet but oozes potential as a 3nD wing. High level athlete. would be a nice start to Pacers rebuild.

#19) Atlanta Hawks – Bam Adebayo (C, Kentucky)

Bam has reportedly impressed many teams in workouts. He didn’t always get to show it at Kentucky but he’s got a really high skill level for a guy who also protects the rim and mauls inside. Atlanta would be wise to start their frontcourt rebuild around him.

#20) Portland Trail Blazers – Harry Giles (C, Duke)

Apparently the medicals are promising. Portland has three picks this round and a full roster already, so it’d be a nice risk for them regardless.

#21) Oklahoma City Thunder – Justin Jackson (F, UNC)

I’m not sure how real Jackson’s improvement as a perimter shooter actually is, but he’s a player who keeps getting better and makes up for his thin frame/average athleticism with smart positioning on both ends.
#22) Brooklyn Nets – Justin Patton (C, Creighton)

Upside pick for Brooklyn. Patton probably isn’t ready to play major minutes yet but he moves really well for a seven-footer.

#23) Toronto Raptors – T.J. Leaf (F, UCLA)

Skilled big who projects as a nice offensive option off bench.

#24) Utah Jazz – Wesley Iwundu (G/F, Kansas State)

Skilled guy with point guard instincts who defends. Evan Turner but maybe a better athlete. One of my personal 15 favorite players in this draft.

#25) Orlando Magic – Jonah Bolden (F, International)

Fast riser, arguable lottery talent. He can move.

#26) Portland Trail Blazers – Anzejs Paseckniks (F/C, International)

With three picks this round, Portland probably needs to trade or draft-n-stash someone. Paseckniks has become a late riser and looks like a great bet to go in the first.

#27) *Miami Heat – Ike Anigobogu (C, UCLA)

A big, big man who should at the very least turn into a plus rebounder and rim protector.

#28) *Miami Heat – Dwayne Bacon (G, Florida State)

I think this bouncy bucket getter is higher on team’s boards than the media is giving him credit for. I know Miami has looked closely at him. He’s ready to play. My favorite sleeper this year.

#29) San Antonio Spurs – Jawun Evans (G, Oklahoma State)

Lottery pick if he’s 2″ taller. Creates his own shot, distributes, and defends. A complete backup PG prospect.

#30) Utah Jazz – Derrick White (G, Colorado)

Arguably the best senior in the draft, White is a very good offensive combo guard who could be this year’s Malcolm Brogdon

 

2nd Round

This round is a crapshoot. Half these picks will be traded. This is more of a stab at which guys will actually be taken rather than where they’ll go.

#31) Charlotte Hornets – Semi Ojeleye (F, SMU)

#32) Phoenix Suns – Ivan Rabb (F/C, California)

#33) Orlando Magic – Tyler Lydon (F, Syracuse)

#34) Sacramento Kings – Isaiah Hartenstein (F/C, International)

#35) Orlando Magic – Frank Jackson (G, Duke)

#36) Philadelphia 76ers – Jarrett Allen (C, Texas)

#37) Boston Celtics – Mathias Lessort (F/C, International)

#38) Chicago Bulls – Thomas Bryant (C, Indiana)

#39) Philadelphia 76ers – Devin Robinson (F, Florida)

#40) New Orleans Pelicans – P.J. Dozier (G, South Carolina)

#41) Atlanta Hawks – Kyle Kuzma (F, Utah)

#42) Utah Jazz – Sterling Brown (G, SMU)

#43) Houston Rockets – Caleb Swanigan (F, Purdue)

#44) New York Knicks – Johnathan Motley (F, Baylor)

#45) Houston Rockets – Vlatko Cancar (F, International)

#46) Philadelphia 76ers – Edmond Summer (G, Xavier)

#47) Indiana Pacers – Tony Bradley (C, UNC)

#48) Milwaukee Bucks – V.J. Beachem (F, Notre Dame)

#49) Denver Nuggets – Cameron Oliver (F, Nevada)

#50) Philadelphia 76ers – Aleksandar Vezenkov (F, International)

#51) Denver Nuggets – Sindarius Thornwell (G, South Carolina)

#52) New Orleans Pelicans – Josh Hart (G, Villanova)

#53) Boston Celtics – Rolands Smits (F, International)

#54) Phoenix Suns – Isaiah Briscoe (G, Kentucky)

#55) Utah Jazz – Kobi Simmons (G, Arizona)

#56) Boston Celtics – Alec Peters (F, Valparaiso)

#57) Brooklyn Nets – Damyean Dotson (G/F, Oregon)

#58) New Yorks Knicks – Jaron Blossomgame (F, Clemson)

#59) San Antonio Spurs – Frank Mason (G, Kansas)

#60) Atlanta Hawks – Davon Reed (G/F, Miami)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cole’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft (Version 2.0)

Woj leaked me every pick already, so don’t even worry about watching the draft tonight. I got you all covered.


#1) Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz (PG, Washington)

Philly capitalizes on the Celtics questionable move of trading out of this pick to get Fultz, the clear top player in the draft. Philly now can hang a banner for having the most talented young core in the league.

#2) Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA)

This is a virtual lock now that DLoading is gone. I don’t like this fit as much without Russell in the fold, but Ball fits Luke Walton’s uptempo and free-flowing offense.

TRADE – Boston trades the rights to the 3rd overall pick, Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier and their own pick next year for Kristaps Porzingis.

#3) *New York Knicks – Josh Jackson (F, Kansas)

If Boston stays here, I think they’ll take Tatum, but Phil Jackson is reportedly trying to trade into the top 4 to take Josh Jackson. I don’t know why the Knicks are trying to trade Kristaps, but Boston takes advantage of the Knicks inept front office and nabs Porzingis while the Knicks get the talented and athletic wing in Jackson.

#4) Phoenix Suns – De’Aaron Fox (G, Kentucky)
Phoenix elects to pass on Tatum and take Fox, the more talented prospect. Fox will mesh well with Phoenix’s young and talented core. The Suns will then look to flip Eric Bledsoe.

#5) Sacramento Kings – Jayson Tatum (F, Duke)

Sacramento misses out on Fox, but they get a talented wing in Tatum. Tatum is a three level scorer who can rebound and is an underrated defender.

#6) Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac (F, Florida State)
New Magic GM John Hammond drafted Giannis while he was in Milwaukee, and he takes a similarly built and talented prospect in Isaac. Isaac is the second best player in the class.

#7) Minnesota Timberwolves – Zach Collins (F/C, Gonzaga)

Minnesota lands the talented big man in Collins that can play the 4 or 5. Collins can protect the rim, rebound and switch in pick and roll situations on defense, while provide shooting and post scoring on offense.

#8) New York Knicks – Dennis Smith Jr. (G, NC State)

The Knicks get their point guard of the future in Smith. Smith is a three level scorer with elite athletic tools. He has loads of potential if he can put it all together.

#9) Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina (G, International)

Dallas gets their choice of two talented guards here in Monk or Ntilikina, but decide to go with the big and French prospect. Ntilikina can play either guard spot and guard 1-3 on defense. He’ll also provide shooting.

#10) Sacramento Kings – Malik Monk (G, Kentucky)

The Kings miss out on the top point guards, but never fear, Monk is a great consolation prize. Monk can flat out shoot the rock. Sacramento will start him off ball, but will hope to mold him into a point guard to play next to Hield.

#11) Charlotte Hornets – Donovan Mitchell (G, Louisville)

The Hornets land the talented and athletic guard in Mitchell. Mitchell has been the biggest riser throughout the draft process. He can play and guard either guard position and score at all three levels.

#12) Detroit Pistons – Lauri Markkanen (F/C, Arizona)

Markkanen’s fall ends here. Detroit scoops up the extremely talented big man who is the best shooter in the draft. Markkanen will start off as a bench player with the ability to play either the 4 or 5.

#13) Denver Nuggets – O.G. Anunoby (F, Indiana)

The Nuggets land arguably the most talented defender in the draft. Anunoby is recovering from a knee injury, but the Nuggets can be patient with him. OG has a good shot to be a quality 3&D player in time.
TRADE – Miami trades the rights to this pick for the Lakers 27, 28 and Larry Nance Jr.

#14) *Los Angeles Lakers – Luke Kennard (G, Duke)
The Lakers reportedly want to trade back up into the lottery for Zach Collins or Luke Kennard. Kennard can score from 3 or from mid range. Kennard will complement Lonzo well on the offensive end..

#15) Portland Trail Blazers – John Collins (F, Wake Forest)

Portland lands Collins, the talented forward from Wake Forest. Collins can provide a spark off of the bench for the Blazers at the 4 position because of his low post scoring arsenal and rebounding ability.
#16) Chicago Bulls – Jarrett Allen (C, Texas)

The Bulls take a chance on the physical freak from Texas in big man Jarrett Allen. Allen won’t play much early, but he has the tools to develop into a good defensive big who defends the rim and rebounds, and scores in the low post on offense.
#17) Milwaukee Bucks – Ike Anigbogu (C, UCLA)

Milwaukee takes another long and athletic big man. Anigbogu should be able to protect the rim and rebound immediately. He also has the length and athletic ability to catch lobs at the rim.
#18) Indiana Pacers – Justin Jackson (F, North Carolina)

PG is likely on his way out, so the Pacers select his replacement here. I’m not a big fan of him, but the Pacers will rely on Jackson to score early.
#19) Atlanta Hawks – D.J. Wilson (F, Michigan)

The Hawks should start rebuilding now that their best player in Millsap is out. Wilson can stretch the floor, attack off the dribble, and is good guarding the pick and roll on defense.
#20) Portland Trail Blazers – Anzejs Paseckniks (C, International)

Portland doesn’t have a ton of room on their roster, so they elect to take a draft and stash guy here. Paseckniks has reportedly had great workouts throughout the draft process.
#21) Oklahoma City Thunder – T.J. Leaf (F, UCLA)

I like this fit a lot. Leaf can space the floor and give Russ more space to work with. Leaf is good enough off the dribble for a big man and is a decent rebounder.
#22) Brooklyn Nets – Harry Giles (C, Duke)

Brooklyn is rebuilding and they are in no rush to win now. Therefore, Giles makes sense here, as he was an extremely athletic and talented big man before the injuries. He has the potential to be a star role player.
#23) Toronto Raptors – Jordan Bell (F, Oregon)

Bell is one of my favorite players in this class. He’s an athletic big who is best on the defensive end, blocking shots and rebounding the ball. He can finish down low on offense and has shown he is capable of developing a shot.
#24) Utah Jazz – Bam Adebayo (C, Kentucky)

Utah lands the talented Kentucky big man here in Adebayo. Bam can backup Gobert and there won’t be a big dropoff from a rebounding and rim protection perspective. I think Bam should go higher than this, but alas.
#25) Orlando Magic – Tyler Lydon (F, Syracuse)

Lydon is a stretch 4 who can hit shots. He’ll come off of the bench and he’s a good complement to Aaron Gordon’s skillset.
#26) Portland Trail Blazers – Terrance Ferguson (F, International)

Portland takes a shot on the athletic forward Terrance Ferguson. Ferguson has the chance to develop into a nice 3&D player.
#27) *Miami Heat – Justin Patron (C, Creighton)

Miami takes the falling center in Patton. Patton is good guarding the pick and roll on defense and rim running on offense, but he’s raw pretty much everywhere else. Patton can backup Whiteside early on.
#28) *Miami Heat – Frank Jackson (G, Duke)

Jackson was overshadowed in his lone season at Duke, but he’s a talented guard. He can shoot and score, while offering the versatility to play either guard position.
#29) San Antonio Spurs – Caleb Swanigan (F, Purdue)

Swanigan has the potential to be a quality role player. He can hit shots, score down low and rebound the ball. No one can better maximize Swanigan’s skillset than Popovich.
#30) Utah Jazz – Wesley Iwundu (F, Kansas State)

Iwundu is tall (6’7”) and long (7’1” wingspan) and fits perfectly into the defensive minded Jazz team. He can guard 2-4 and showed an improved 3 point shot in his senior year at Kansas State.
 

Daily Film Thoughts (5/23/17): Is ‘Baywatch’ dead on arrival?

A new daily unfiltered and unedited journal of random film thoughts going through my head. No proofreading or serious analysis allowed.

5/23/17

Baywatch is opening over this long Memorial Day weekend. The Paramount film is being destroyed by critics, sitting at a just 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. In theory, it should’ve been an easy sell. Make an unaplogetic big-screen comedy out of a campy but loved TV series with charasmatic stars in the leads. That’s what the Jump Street films did. But despite the prescence of Zac Efron’s abs and Dwayne Johnson’s arms, the film doesn’t seem to have drummed up much interest. Paramount hasn’t sold the nostalgia factor. Nor have they sold it as a buddy comedy like Jump Street. I’m not entirely sure of the strategy behind the marketing. Who is this movie for? Although, the marketing folks at Paramount probably aren’t to blame. With word on the movie so bad they maybe had nothing of quality to sell.

It’s not going to have a great opening in the states. I’d be shocked if it gets anywhere close to the $45-50M number over its five-day opening weekend that early tracking suggested. Hell, $30M may be tough to beat given the reviews and competition in Disney’s latest Pirates film. The production budget for Baywatch is just $40M, but based on recent comparables and continually raising costs it’s safe to assume that at least another $40M was spent marketing the film. Maybe it’ll stay out of the red if audiences like it more than critics. Maybe. Even then, when you consider oppurtnity cost, it looks like a failure for Paramount, a studio that also saw Ghost in the Shell bomb earlier this year and the disaster that was Ben-Hur last year. It’s been a tough stretch for the studio as their only recent film that’s really out-performed expectations was Arrival. They better hope the latest Transformers hits big next month.

The Zac Efron & Dwayne Johnson fan in me is upset, as I think both are surprisng comedic talents capable of carrying studio films. Efron may be limited, but he thrived as a bro in both Neighbors films and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates as well. Johnson is obviously a capable star, one of the biggest in the industry, but unless he’s aprt of a franchise or paired with a comedic sidekick like Kevin Hart who has their own appeal, I’m starting to wonder about his real draw.

Daily Film Thoughts (5/21/17): ‘Okja’ looks dope.

A new daily unfiltered and unedited journal of random film thoughts going through my head. No proofreading or serious analysis allowed.

5/21/17

Thanks to a well-received world premeire at Cannes (despite the anti-Netflix sentiment) and a kick-ass new trailer, buzz for Bong Joon-ho’s Okja has never been higher. The latest from the acclaimed helmer of The Host and Snowpiercer stars Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyleenhaal, and newcomer Ahn Seo-hyun. The plot concerns a young girl named Mija (Seo-hyun) trying to prevent a large company headed by Swinton’s character from taking her best friend away, a gigantic hog/hippo-esque animal named Okja.

Here’s the trailer.

Most of my initial anticipation for the film stems from my love for Bong Joon-ho, a true auteur who seamllessly made the transition to english-language filmmaking with Snowpiercer. He has a great control of atmosphere, and his writing does a fine job bringing weighty themes into genre films. Okja looks like another homerun.

Okja comes on Netflix June 28th.

Daily Film Thoughts (5/18/17): ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ and the Anti-Establishment ideals of 70’s Hollywood

A new daily unfiltered and unedited journal of random film thoughts going through my head. No proofreading or serious analysis allowed.

5/18/17

I wasn’t alive during the 70’s. If you need someone who was to function as a primary source, I highly recommend following my friend Shane on twitter (@Shane1Alexander). But based on what I’ve read and seen, there seemed to be a great deal of social confusion amongst Americans. After the war in Vietnam and the counterculture movement that accompanied it domestically, but before the rise of home computers and the supply-side economics of Ronald Reagan and Robert Mundell; it was a decade in American history where folks on both ends of the spectrum didn’t know what or who to believe. When certain events happened (like Watergate, for instance), people knew they were angry, but not entirely sure where that anger should be directed beyond the obvious figureheads. People were searching for leaders at all levels of society.

I think. At least that’s what I’ve seen in movies.

Many films from the New Hollywood movement in the 70’s explored this confusion. Arthur Penn’s Bonnie & Clyde and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider were the unofficial start of the movement in the late 60’s, but it wasn’t until a new generation of directors rose that studios began to show faith in auteurism. This creative freedom granted to filmmakers who came of age during controversial wars and periods of social change in America (rather than rah-rah WWII types) brought about not only technical innovation but also a willingness to explore existentialism and anti-establishment thought through everyman characters pushed to dark psychological extremes. Some films were meant to disturb. Some were meant to satirize. Some were meant educate. Think of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Robert Altman’s Nashville, and Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men.

I recently watched Sidney Lumet’s 1975 masterwork Dog Day Afternoon again, and spent most of the film trying to put myself into the mind of a twenty-something seeing it in a theater on its original release, and how recreated the aforementioned zeitgeist. The film, based on true events that happened in Brooklyn three years prior, tells the story of a bank robbery and hostage situation perpetrated by Sonny (Al Pacino) and Salvatore (John Cazale). Beyond working as a perfectly acted, sharply edited, pulse-pounding thriller; Dog Day Afternoon is very much about the sensationalism of the crime, seen from the perspective of the robbers and their hostages.

The film opens with the robbery, no preamble. It’s clear from the jump that Sonny and Sal are out of their element, despite Sonny having worked in a bank before and Sal having been hardened by prison sodomy. These aren’t your typical masked gunman. Once the police quickly get word of what’s going down and the robbery develops into a hostage situation, unorthodox relationships develop between the hostages and the robbers, specifically Sonny. To put it simply, he seems like a nice guy who doesn’t want to hurt anybody. The film humanizes him but refuses to paint him as some sort of hero. He’s kind to the hostages, constantly reassuring them that everything is going to be okay. The bank’s security guard suffers from asthma, so Sonny lets him go. After a few hours, he even orders pizza for everyone. In one of the film’s stranger moments, Sonny, a veteran, teaches on of the tellers how to properly flip a rifle, even letting her hold the loaded weapon as he laughs. Again, Sonny isn’t your typical bank robber.

As the police surround the bank to an excessive extent, chaos arises. The media floods in, as do crowds of pedestrians who begin to root for Sonny as they learn more. In perhaps the film’s most heavily-quoted moment, Sonny, stepping outside the bank to survey the situation, gets upset with the number of seemingly trigger-happy police locked on him. He repeatedly screams “Attica! Attica!” in reference to the infamous prison riot that occurred four years earlier and resulted in 43 deaths. The crowd goes wild for Sonny. Lumet deploys a great many extras and wisely chooses angles to shoot them from, showing their restlessness. At another point in the film, Sonny comes outside and throws some of the cash he was stealing into the air. As it blows all over the place, the crowd busts down police barriers in effort to grab some. They’re like ducks rushing to bread tossed in a lake. Sonny gets great joy from this.

Sonny’s motivations for the robbery are revealed about halfway through the film. Sonny’s spouse Leon is a pre-operative transgender woman, and the money from the robbery is meant for sexual reassignment surgery. This is, obviously, a very progressive detail given the period. We learn from a newscast in the film that Sonny is immediately praised by some of the gay community, even called a hero. And it’s not just that Brooklyn subculture that lionizes or roots for Sonny. The hostages express genuine concern for what Sonny is going to do. The crowd chants his name. For a few hours, Sonny becomes a quasi-celebrity, a tragic hero who problematically comes to represent all marginalized people. I use the word “problematic” because, well, he’s a bank robber holding innocent people hostage at gunpoint.

There are strong emotional moments throughout the film thanks to the work of Pacino, Cazale, and Chris Sarandon as Leon. This is perhaps Pacino’s strongest performance. He livens up Sonny as intelligent but cynical, paranoid but strangely amused by what’s happening. For brief moments, shown subtly through Pacino smirks and energetic body quirks, Sonny seems to actually enjoy his hopeless moment of fame. Cazale says so much despite minimal dialogue, perfectly communicating Sal’s disconnection from all basic emotions.

Despite these strong character moments, Dog Day Afternoon hits its highs when it shows how nameless masses react to the events; reporters, onlookers, unfortunate policemen who happened to be on duty at the time. In a larger historical context, the robbery means nothing. Sal is killed, Sonny is is arrested, and all the hostages make it home safely. No legislation or even mild social protest comes as a result. But the film set entirely in one location, taking place over just fourteen hours, manages to make this ultimately insignificant event seem like a microcosm of an entire decade. It’s a gem, one of the strongest American films of the 70’s and essential viewing for anyone hoping to understand Hollywood’s evolution from a by-the-textbook entertainment industry to a factory of intelligent and often progressive art.

Daily Film Thoughts (5/17/17): Top 10 Ridley Scott Movies

A new daily unfiltered and unedited journal of random film thoughts going through my head. No proofreading or serious analysis allowed.

5/17/17

Continuing my anticipation for the release of Alien: Covenant this weekend, I count down the top 10 films of Sir Ridley Scott, a visually ambitious filmmaker accomplished in multiple genres.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The cool crime romance Someone to Watch Over Me, featuring an outstanding Tom Berenger.
  • The Counselor, while critically panned, is actually a a bold and sexy attempt at something new from Scott that is immensely watchable.
  • The director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, a historical epic that’s arguably problematic but filled with cool visuals and strong performances, specifcally from Edward Norton.
  • Hannibal may not be Silence of the Lambs and may be a bit silly, but it’s so much fun to watch Anthony Hopkins in the title role.
  • The stylish Black Rain, an unapolegetic action film that’s one of the forgotten gems of late-80’s violent cinema.

And now for the top 10…

#10) Matchstick Men

Was this the last great Nicolas Cage performance? True to its themes, the film is always jumping around. But it’s thoroughly well-acted and always interesting with its scathing humor. It also features Sam Rockwell doing Sam Rockwell things. Easy to see why it’s become a cult classic of sorts.

#9) The Martian

Scott’s critically-acclaimed and commercially succesful *realistic* sci-fi film was funnier than anyone expected, thanks to an exceptional Matt Damon. It also features some of the best 3D photography since the tech has been invented. Maybe its optimism holds it back from being truly thought-provoking, but it;s a fun film that proves Scott still does space as well as anyone.

#8) Legend

This 80’s cult classic is arguably Scott’s most visually immersive film, thanks to some groundbreaking makeup and beauitful cinematography from Alex Thomson. Scott wanted the film to play like old fables of old, in the sense that there’s a lot of darkness to them. The film is a bit muddled, but the visuals and Tim Curry’s work in the final act make it well worth your time.

#7) Prometheus

I wrote about this film in more detail yesterday, but let me just add that this largely unheralded blockbuster, much like The Martian, proved that practical effects and sets can work well with 3D photography.

#6) Thelma & Louise

Different than any other Scott film, this tragicomedy disguised as buddy road film remains an iconic piece of cinema decades later thanks to its memorable ending and feminist over/undertones. It’s a daring work from a director too often associated with bland studio filmmaking. Oh, and Susan Sarandon is the best.

#5) Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down was arguably the first great modern war film, and not just because it’s actually about modern war. Much like Kathyrn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker years later, Scott’s film takes an apolitcal approach, focusing more on physically detailing the conflict than sending a message. It received some critique for its lack of character work, but I think the omission was intentional and fitting. Scott used his technical prowess to show the lack of personality in war.

#4) Gladiator

Scott’s most successful film, a popular best picture-winning epic, throws an awful lot at you. Enormous sets, a heavy narrative, very aggresive sound mixing. He’s able to tell a human story though and reignite the sword-and-sandals subgenre because the film has two truly great characters, played by Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. The fight scenes are perfectly edited, and the more melodramatic moments don’t come off as cheesy.

#3) American Gangster

Stylized much like gangster films of old, Scott’s film tackles corruption and ambition and race all the while remaining competent as a popcorn movie. Denzel & Crowe are both great and the film has so much fun with its period detail. Though not usually cited as a major work from Scott, American Gangster is a great crime drama that belongs right there with Scorsese’s The Departed, which won best picture the prior year.

#2) Alien

An atmsopheric sci-fi horror film that ignited a franchise and argued on behalf of slow-building tension at a time when genre films were getting more and more forceful in their pacing, Alien is probably the film Scott will be most remembered for. It’s surprisingly beautiful given its subject matter, and more concerned with character than James Cameron’s sequel. Who these people are and how they think matters. Add in iconic design elements and you’re looking at a true classic.

#1) Blade Runner

A perfect film, truly. Rife with ideas on society and humanity, equally rooted in film noir and pulp fiction, this film was so far ahead of its time that despite its classic standing today it was a box office failure and received poorly initially. Scott’s visualazation of the future has proven wildly influential, and Harrison Ford gives his strongest dramatic performance. If by some chance you haven’t seen this masterwork, make sure to get the director’s or “final” cut, just not the theatrical cut with the god-awful narration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Film Thoughts (5/16/17): Y’all are wrong, ‘Prometheus’ was great

A new daily unfiltered and unedited journal of random film thoughts going through my head. No proofreading or serious analysis allowed.

5/16/17

In defense of ‘Prometheus’

Alien: Covenant opens this week. While Ridley Scott’s latest gets its title from his 1979 sci-fi classic, its story is more closely connected to 2012’s Prometheus. This has bothered many critics, who weren’t too high on Prometheus. The film was a victim of questionable marketing and the expectations that stemmed from that. Sold as an Alien prequel, Prometheus was really its own story that just happened to be set in the same universe as Alien. It was less a horror film about monsters terrorizing those on board a spaceship and more a mystery about human origins and faith. Despite a $403M haul at the box office (a very strong number for an R-rated movie), the general consensus about Prometheus five years later is that it was a dissapointment. That is was bad, even.

I could not disagree more. Prometheus is one of the best blockbusters in recent memory; the rare film that’s visually stimulating, thematically rich, and littered with fun performances from an all-star cast.

Prometheus tells the story of the crew of the Prometheus, a spaceship that’s traveled to a distant planet seen on various star maps from primative cultures on earth, hoping to find the origins of humanity. Being a Ridley Scott film set in the Alien universe, things quickly turn sour. Gross creatures do gross things. Different characters reveal secret motivations. The crew discovers that the voyage isn’t going to be as magical as they thought. I won’t spoil anything in case you haven’t seen it.

Scott and DoP Dariusz Wolski shot the film in 3D but did so with minimal green screen use. Over 16 different sets were built, and they give Prometheus a very physical feel relative to other 3D films set in space. There’s a lot of grey coloring, a lot of gravel and rock. Prometheus finds its aesthetic beauty by not being beautiful in the classic sense. Before anything even really happens something about the planet just feels off due to how it looks. To paraphrase a line from the film, the place looks like death. Arthur Max, a production designer who created the sets with Scott, deserves a ton of credit for the finished product.

The film’s overall aesthetic is aided by a score from Marc Streitenfeld, a usual Ridley Scott collaborator, that can be both both eerie and sweeping depending on what a scene requires. As something to look at listen to, Prometheus was a great theater spectacle.

The work of the supporting cast helps elevate what are rather thin characters. Idris Elba plays the captain of the Prometheus. He’s blunt but well-intentioned. Elba manages to make the character stand out despite only having a couple scenes where he says more than one sentance. It’s a scruffy role for an actor usually reveled for his handsomeness. Also playing against type is Charlize Theron as the woman in charge of monitoring the expedition. She’s the closest thing the film has to a clear villain, but even her motivations come from a decent place. Charlize plays the part with an aura of practicality that comes off as cold. It’s a fun role for her, and signaled her shift to genre blockbuster superstar that she’d later explore with Mad Max: Fury Road and The Fate of the Furious.

But the real scene stealer is Michael Fassbender as the Lawrence of Arabia-quoting android David, a mysterious thing at the center of every important moment in the film. Fass nails the robotic movements required. Every step is efficient, and his face always completely emotionless even as carnage surrounds him (he’s back for Alien: Covenant, btw). It’s a brilliant physical performance. Everyone knows that Fassbender is one of the finest actors working today. Prometheus provides him with a different outlet though. He’s never been cooler or scarier, and he’s played some pretty cool/scary roles.

The most intense scene in Prometheus comes when Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace), pregnant with an alien thingy, has to go on a medical pod and have it surgically removed. It’s not for squemish folk, but will appease anyone who finds entertainment from the chest-bursters in Alien. It’s sharply edited and shows the operation in pretty gruesome detail but never reverts to drowning the lens in blood.

Prometheus caught a lot of criticism for not really answering the questions it raised (no surprise when you realize Damon Lindelof helped pen the film). That’s fair, to an extent. The film was clearly made with a sequel in mind and it’s far from the first film to leave things open for the next chapter. If you’re averse to that sort of franchise filmmaking, so be it, but don’t act like the sin is something only Prometheus is guilty of. I personally found the ending of Prometheus to be very satisfying and fitting thematically. Folks came to this planet looking for answers. Instead they got terrorized and more questions were raised. A fine tragic ending.