My Movie Diary: Week 1 (‘The Vanishing of Sidney Hall,’ ‘Phantom Thread’)

Week 1 of “My Movie Diary” is in the books. The goal was to post at least something every day, but there’s still a ton of content to be had. The Vanishing of Sidney Hall, Phantom Thread, and my latest CinemAddicts giveaway are among the topics discussed . . . 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall is opening on Friday, and its horrible 22% Rotten Tomatoes rating won’t stop me from checking the movie out. I still haven’t seen Indignation, but since 2012 Logan Lerman’s choice of films (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Noah, Fury) have been stellar. The Percy Jackson films were just fine as family oriented fare, and 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma (a remake of an equally fine Western starring Van Heflin), is a Grade A Western.

The story of a successful writer (Lerman) who eventually becomes a drifter and burner of his own books is an intriguing premise, and setting the narrative during three stages of Hall’s life, in a non-linear style, sounds like a great idea. I’m requesting a screener for the film today, and I’m hoping I’ll be one of the reviewers who champions the flick.

Anderson Cowan, my good friend and better half of the movie review podcast CinemAddicts, is uploading the March episode tomorrow, and over two years in I’m absolutely happy we’ve re-established our long standing friendship. Below’s an amusing video of his filmmaking journey (along with being a dad!):

Cowan has a much better memory recall than I do, but our paths crossed some twenty years ago at Westwood One. I was doing a radio prep service show where I supplied entertainment news to various affiliates and Anderson was an engineer over at Loveline. Our respective movie addictions lead to lengthy conversations about cinema, and his entertaining and refreshly candid takes on movies have always held my attention.

The great thing about our mutual movie love is that we usually have differing opinions about flicks but respect each other’s opinions. And though Anderson often jokes about my love for every single movie known to man on CinemAddicts, it’s all in good fun.

Our schedules (he’s busy with his debut film Groupers and is also the co-host of the podcasts The Film Vault and the After Disaster – I’m just a full time nanny!!) has led us to change up the CinemAddicts format to just once a month. The bottom line is we’re keeping the show afloat and maybe, somewhere down the road, we can return to a more regular pace and continue to grow the CinemAddicts community. The listeners of the program, as well as our mutual bond, are the reasons why the show still has a heartbeat, and I’m very thankful CinemAddicts still exists.

The idea of “My Movie Diary,” first and foremost, to provide value added insight and info on movies that are out there in the ether. If there’s a movie coming out via streaming or in theaters, there’s a good chance I’ve checked it out, and I’ll provide my two cents (or in my case, one and a half pennies!) on the matter.

Though I’ve been interviewing actors/filmmakers since 1991, am a voting member of the BFCA, and also a veteran podcaster (two years puts me in vet status right?), I am always the least interesting person in the room. In the March episode of CinemAddicts, Cowan discussed how 15:17 to Paris was weakened by “charisma free” performances. I have that same “charisma free” problem, but the cool thing is I’ve met a ton of charisma laden (Anderson included) and talented folks. Hopefully, I can share a few of those stories/interactions, and provide a little value and entertainment to your day.

Along with building the CinemAddicts community and driving more traffic to my blogs, the real drive is to simply reach out into the unknown and gain as much movie knowledge as possible. I’m not the best movie critic, interviewer, blogger, podcaster, out there, and self-deprecating attitude aside, I simply want to be part of the dialogue.

The Vanishing of Sydney Hall
Kyle Chandler in “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall” (A24)

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall took a huge beating by the critics, but I absolutely dug the film, and though it could have possibly used a few trims here and there (it runs 117 minutes), I found little fault with the flick. In fact, it’s a pretty ambitious narrative for one major reason.

There’s no getting around that Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) is a pretty unlikable guy, and though writer/director Shawn Christensen (Jason Dolan’s the co-writer) shows us Sidney from three different stages of his life, he’s a tough pill to take in each of these periods!

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall
Elle Fanning and Logan Lerman in “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall” (A24)

That being said, The Vanishing of Sidney Hall succeeds as a mystery on why a world renowned and reclusive writer, at the height of his fame, decided to vanish into thin air and wander the lands as a drifter. Michelle Monaghan co-stars as his Sidney’s abusive mother, Elle Fanning is his lifelong muse Melody, and Blake Jenner is the bullying high school jock who has a very special request for Mr. Hall.

If you’re a fan of Kyle Chandler’s (Friday Night Lights, Bloodline, Game Night), then Then Vanishing of Sidney Hall is a more than worthy watch. He’s the mystery man who sets on a quest to find Hall and bring him back to reality no matter what the cost. The payoff between his character and Sidney is a memorable one (and my favorite section of the flick).

The narrative jumps back and forth between timelines in an almost freewheeling, dizzying sense, and though some detractors may have wanted a more linear story, I absolutely dug Christensen’s storytelling approach. Life for Sidney Hall has been one fragmented, oftentimes tragic mess, and spotlighting his journey in a straight line would have made it a less resonant experience.

Talent must be a beautiful and rare thing, and we hope the wielders of such gifts to at least be moderately amiable and thankful. Sidney Hall doesn’t have any of those traits, but that doesn’t mean he’s a cold and vile being either. There is a method to his madness, and sometimes a person’s heartbreak and struggles are rooted in an unforgiving ground that simply won’t give.

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall is not just a reference to his disappearance, as each of his three stages (a passionate youth, a soon to be divorced writer, a drifter) features him slowly receding into the distance. If you’re in the mood for feel good stories wherein life lessons are learned, The Vanishing of Sidney Hall may not be your film of choice. Maybe this movie hit me in the right mood, but thanks to effective storytelling from Christensen and engaged work from the ensemble (Lerman does a good job btw w/ each of Sidney’s stages), The Vanishing of Sidney Hall is a film I’d definitely recommend.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Phantom Thread - Vicky Krieps
Vicky Krieps stars as “Alma” in writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s PHANTOM
THREAD, a Focus Features release. Credit : Laurie Sparham / Focus Features

Saturday, March 3, 2018

I absolutely loved Phantom Thread and was actually surprised that Anderson had an absolutely different take on the flick. We both checked out There Will Be Blood years ago, and it took a minute for him to warm up to that flick’s greatness.

Sad to say that he’s seen Phantom Thread twice and has the exact same opinion. I absolutely fell in love  with the flick (I’ll be checking out Vicky Krieps’ past body of work moving forward), and it’s my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson feature (I love slow moving, methodical dramas – that’s why Barry Lyndon is my favorite Kubrick flick). Anyways would love to hear your thoughts on Phantom Thread!! Below is our discussion of the feature, which is taken from Episode 80 of CinemAddicts:

My Blu-ray copies of Murder On The Orient Express and I, Tonya are up for grabs. I’ll be posting the giveaway on Deepest Dream come Sunday, but if you want to get a head start (and be kept abreast of the weekly giveaways), please “like” the CinemAddicts Facebook page.

Murder on the Orient Express

***Thanks again for the support everyone, and just a heads up a great way to support CinemAddicts is by shopping via Amazon on either this site or Deepest Dream (AC and I split the stuff down the middle). Also feel free to comment on anything under the sun below – the back and forth movie dialogue is what I live for!!



Greg Srisavasdi

Editor/Owner of Deepest Dream and Find Your Seen, I'm also a BFCA member and editor of Hollywood Outbreak. I also do a weekly movie review podcast called CinemAddicts (housed on BFCA member, Clippers and UCLA Bruins lifer!!

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