All movies are not made the same.
If there is one person who knows that, that person is Dayton’s own Jonathan McNeal.
Seeing movies — good ones, bad ones, and those somewhere in the middle — is Jonathan’s business. He manages the Neon.
Opened Aug. 22, 1986, the theater at 130 E. 5th St. in downtown Dayton screens some of the finest films around.
Jonathan’s touch is on nearly everything the theater shows. With that in mind, we asked him about his favorites in 2017.
He offered one caution when he gave us his top choices.
“This list is a little premature, because I have not yet seen Phantom Thread or The Post, both of which I'm quite interested to see,” he told us.
With that in mind, below are four movies Jonathan says shouldn’t be missed.
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He saw most of his picks at the Toronto International Film Festival. They have played the Neon, or soon will.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Why Jonathan loved it: “Brilliant coming-of-age film with exceptional central performances by both male leads.”
Movie description: “In the summer of 1983, in the north of Italy, Elio Perlman, (Timothée Chalamet) a 17-year-old American spends his days in his family's 17th century villa lazily transcribing music and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). One day Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student working on his doctorate arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio's father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture. Soon, Elio and Oliver discover a summer that will alter their lives forever.”
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Why Jonathan loved it: “Sci-fi, romantic brilliance from del Toro.”
Movie description: “From master storyteller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER - an other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones.”
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A FANTASTIC WOMAN
Why Jonathan loved it: “I hope (it) gets all the ‘Best Foreign Film’ awards and I'd love to see Daniela Vega get a ‘Best Actress’ nomination, which would be barrier-breaking.”
Movie description: “Marina and Orlando are in love and planning for the future. Marina is a young waitress and aspiring singer. Orlando is 20 years older than her, and owns a printing company. After celebrating Marina's birthday one evening, Orlando falls seriously ill. Marina rushes him to the emergency room, but he passes away just after arriving at the hospital. Instead of being able to mourn her lover, suddenly Marina is treated with suspicion. The doctors and Orlando's family don't trust her. A woman detective investigates Marina to see if she was involved in his death. Orlando's ex-wife forbids her from attending the funeral. And to make matters worse, Orlando's son threatens to throw Marina out of the flat she shared with Orlando. Marina is a trans woman and for most of Orlando's family, her sexual identity is an aberration, a perversion. So Marina struggles for the right to be herself. She battles the very same forces that she has spent a lifetime fighting just to become the woman she is now -- a complex, strong, forthright and fantastic woman.”
Why Jonathan loved it: “ I hope gets all the "Best Documentary" awards.”
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Movie description: “89-year old Agnes Varda, one of the leading figures of the French New Wave, and acclaimed 33 year-old French photographer and muralist JR teamed up to co-direct this enchanting documentary/road movie. Kindred spirits, Varda and JR share a lifelong passion for images and how they are created, displayed and shared. Together they travel around the villages of France in JR’s photo truck meeting locals, learning their stories and producing epic-size portraits of them. The photos are prominently displayed on houses, barns, storefronts and trains revealing the humanity in their subjects, and themselves. Faces Places documents these heart-warming encounters as well as the unlikely, tender friendship they formed along the way.”
MORE OF JONATHAN’S NOTES
“I'd love to see Sally Hawkins get the Oscar for ‘Maudie,’ but that's not gonna happen, so I'll settle for her superb performance in ‘The Shape of Water.’
I'd like to see Laurie Metcalf get ‘Best Supporting’ and Greta Gerwig get ‘Best Original Screenplay’ for ‘Lady Bird.’
We all know Gary Oldman is almost certain to get ‘Best Actor’ for ‘Darkest Hour,’ but Timothee Chalamet gives a truly subtle and wonderful performance in ‘Call Me By Your Name.’
I hope James Ivory, a lifetime favorite of mine, finally gets an Oscar for ‘Adapted Screenplay,’ also for ‘Call me By Your Name.’”