Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for August!


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Well, here we are.  The year is more than halfway over.  The fall movie season is approaching.  And yet, not a single true Oscar front-runner has yet to emerge.  Could this be the year that a true populist hit, like Mad Max: Fury Road, or an unexpected art house wonder, like Ex Machina, manages to secure a spot?

Well, probably not.  But still, it’s fun to speculate!

(Are Oscar pundits being too quick to dismiss Straight Outta Compton?  I have not seen it yet but look at those reviews and look at that box office.  It’s an interesting question.)

Anyway, here are my prediction for August!  To see how my thinking has evolved over the year, check out my predictions of January, February, March, April, May, June, and July!

Best Picture

Black Mass

Brookyln

Carol

The Danish Girl

Everest

Inside Out

Joy

Sicario

Suffragette

Youth

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Julianne Moore in Freeheld

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Robert De Niro in Joy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Tom Hardy in The Revenant

Harvey Keitel in Youth

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Helena Bonham Carter in Suffragette

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Ellen Page in Freeheld

Julie Walters in Brooklyn

Best Director

John Cowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

David O. Russell for Joy

Paolo Sorrentino for Youth

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

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But Could He Act?: Elvis Presley in FLAMING STAR (20th Century Fox, 1960)


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Elvis Presley left this Earthly building on August 16, 1977. The King was undoubtably one of the greatest entertainers of his (or any) generation. He brought rock’n’roll into the mainstream, recorded country and gospel albums, and his stage shows were legendary. The movies, however, were another story. Critics complained about him being a ‘one-note’ actor in a series of formulaic musicals. But Elvis’s early films tell another story. Case in point: the 1960 Western drama FLAMING STAR.

Directed by Don Siegel (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, DIRTY HARRY, THE SHOOTIST), Elvis gives a well-rounded performance as Pacer Burton, a half-breed youth caught in the middle of a war between white settlers and Kiowas in 1878 Texas. Pacer’s father Sam (John McIntyre) is white, his mother Neddy (Dolores Del Rio) Kiowa. He has a half-brother, Clint (Steve Forrest), who chooses family over factions. When the neighboring Howard clan is attacked by a Kiowa war party…

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Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Fantastic Four”


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If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that director Josh Trank’s new Fantastic Four flick just isn’t very good, right? I mean, yeah, the troglodyte faction of comics fandom has been out to bury this one since the day it was announced that an African-American actor, Michael B. Jordan, would be playing Johnny Storm/The Human Torch (of course, if you ask them, racism had nothing to do with their petulant reaction — rather they claim, embarrassingly, that they just wanted the movie to remain true to the “source” material. Which, ya know, came out in 1963 and was aimed at an all-white audience of 12-year-olds. Good luck with that in 2015), but there’s just gotta be more to it than that, right? I mean, the movie only has a 9% score on Rotten Tomatoes and absolutely toxic word of mouth has poisoned its chances at the box office.

Sure…

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Insomnia File No. 2: Stag (dir by Gavin Wilding)


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What’s an Insomnia File?  You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable?  This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were suffering from insomnia around 2:30 in the morning, you could have turned over to Flix and watched Stag, a dreary film from 1997!

And I know what you’re saying.  “Really, Lisa?  I could have watched a dreary film!  WHY DIDN’T SOMEBODY TELL ME!?”  Well, sorry.  Your loss.  Maybe next time you won’t be so quick to resist the call of insomnia…

Anyway, Stag eventually turns out to be pretty bad but it actually has a pretty good opening.  A bunch of rich guys get together in a big house and throw a bachelor party.  Whenever one of them first appears on screen, they get a freeze frame that tells us their name and gives us a few biographical facts.

For instance, one coke-snorting character is introduced as “Jon DiCapri: Soap opera star, spokesman for “Stars Against Drugs.”  A drunk guy begging for money is identified as “Timan Bernard: Accountant, Author of ‘Ethics in Business.'”  The pensive fellow standing by the window and a smoking a cigarette is “Daniel Kane: Gulf war veteran, post traumatic stress disorder,” while the guy running around in a wig and lingerie is “Ed Labenski: Contractor, church treasurer.”  My personal favorite of the introductions belonged to the guy with the neck tattoo and the terrible teeth.  We’re told that he’s “Pete Weber: Drug dealer, extortionist. Self employed.”

Of course, Pete Weber is also Andrew McCarthy, playing a character who is far removed from the world of Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire.  And Daniel Kane is actually Kevin Dillon, taking part in the type of misogynistic hi-jinks that would later be celebrated in Entourage.  Jon DiCapri is actually William McNamara, who will always be remembered for his memorable death scene in Dario Argento’s Opera.  As for Timan Bernard, he’s played by John Henson, who was the host of that terrible Wipeout show that was on the air forever despite the fact that nobody in the world would admit to watching it.

And they’re not the only ones at this bachelor party!  The bachelor himself is played by John Stockwell, the director of movies like CheatersCrazy/Beautiful and In The Blood.  His best friend is played by Mario Van Peebles.  Even distinguished character actor Ben Gazzarra is at this bachelor party!

As I said, the film starts out well enough, with the men all acting like idiots and pretty much confirming everything that I’ve always suspected about bachelor parties.  But then the strippers show up and there’s a highly improbable accident and soon there are two dead bodies bleeding out on the linoleum floor of John Stockwell’s house.  The rest of the movie is pretty much the men yelling at each other and arguing about what they should do.  Some fear going to jail.  Some want to frame someone else.  Some want to cover up the accident.  A few suggest calling the police but then Andrew McCarthy rips the landline phone out of the wall and, since this movie was made in the 90s, that is literally all he has to do to keep everyone from contacting the outside world.

Despite some decent performances, the film turned out to be pretty tedious.  That said, as I watched it, I found myself wondering how my girlfriends and I would have handled a similar situation.  What if we were throwing a bachelorette party and suddenly Magic Mike ended up lying in the middle of the floor with a broken neck?  To be honest, I get the feeling we’d probably handle it in roughly the same way as the characters in Stag.  We would just be a lot more passive aggressive about it.

“Oh my God, is that guy dead!?”

“I don’t know but that’s what I think Heather said.  But it’s all Amy’s fault and … Bitch, everyone says it’s your fault so unless everyone in the entire world is wrong … whatever, Amy.”

“Oh my God, what are we going to do with him?”

“I don’t know but Vanessa said that maybe we should say that he like never showed up at the party and then she said that Jen said that … oh my God, are those new earrings!?”

“Yeah, do you like them!?”

“They’re so pretty!  Anyway, Jen said that maybe you should like go bury him somewhere…”

“Oh my God, Jen said I should go bury him!?”

“Well, I didn’t hear for sure but Tina said that she heard Vanessa say that Jen said that you should go bury him…”

“That bitch!  I am so going to kick her ass!  Oh my God!”

But anyway, the body would eventually get buried.  Just not by me.

ANYWAY!  What was I talking about?

Right … Stag.

It’s not a very good movie.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. The Story of Mankind

What Lisa Watched Last Night #134: Sugarbabies (dir by Monika Mitchell)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Sugarbabies!

Sugar Babies

 

Why Was I Watching It?

The main reason, of course, is that it was on Lifetime.  But beyond that, I was watching the film because I was genuinely curious to see how Sugarbabies could possibly be any different from Sugar Daddies and Babysitter’s Black Book.

What Was It About?

It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect.  Katie (Alyson Stoner) wants to go to an expensive university and study art history but her bald father is kind of a jerk and her family is supposed to be so poor, despite the fact that they live in a huge house.  Once Katie enrolls in school, she discovers how expensive an education can be.

Fortunately, her friend (Tira Skovbye) has a suggestion.  All Katie has to do is join a website called Sugarbabies.  (It’s always the internet’s fault.)  Wealthy businessmen pay her for her companionship.  Soon, Katie is spending all of her time with the wealthy James (Giles Paton) while ignoring Sean (Keenan Tracy), another student who has a crush on her.  (Sean doesn’t help himself, however, when he gets drunk and throws up on her shoes.  Seriously — ewwwww!)  However, when Katie starts to get too serious about their “realtionship,” James stops paying Katie and Katie is forced to look for a new sugar daddy.

Meanwhile, Katie’s other friend, Rochelle (Sarah Dugdale) has a similar arrangement with a much older (but surprisingly nice) businessman (Ken Camroux-Taylor).  Will Rochelle be able to secure her financial future before her sugar daddy dies of the heart attack that everyone will see coming from a mile away?

And, while all of this is going on, how is Katie going to explain to her parents where all of her new money is coming from?

And will all of the characters in the film ever realize how silly they all sound every time they use the term “sugar baby” in a sentence?

What Worked?

This was a fairly good example of a “Let’s see what everyone’s wearing and where they live!” type of Lifetime movie.  The clothes, the offices, and the apartments were all to die for.

(Plus, seeing what everyone was wearing provided a nice distraction from the rather predictable storyline.)

Among the supporting cast, Ken Camroux-Taylor gave a good and sympathetic performance as a lonely businessman.  He wasn’t in many scenes but he took full advantage of every minute of screen time that he got.

What Did Not Work?

Ultimately, Sugarbabies just could not escape the twin shadows of Sugar Daddies and Baby Sitter’s Black Book.  Sugarbabies was alright but it was just never as much fun as Sugar Daddies, nor did it have the subtle hints of existential crisis that distinguished Baby Sitter’s Black Book.

Add to that, Katie was not exactly the most sympathetic of protagonists.  She came across as being rather bland and judgmental.  If you’re going to embrace the Lifetime version of what it is to be bad, at least have fun while you’re doing so.  What you should not do is be like Katie and spend the entire movie wandering around with the same glum expression on your face, angry that you’re actually going to be able to get an education.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Rochelle had red hair and liked to wear black lingerie.  OH MY GOD, JUST LIKE ME!

One thing that definitely did NOT make me go, “Oh my God!  Just like me!” was the film’s depiction of what it was like to an art history major.  We only saw Katie attend one art class and it was taught in a lecture hall that was always half-empty.  Whenever the film wanted to remind us that Katie was supposed to be a design genius, it would have her either say that she needed to go work on her term paper or else have her look at a nondescript piece of furniture, get excited, and say, “Oh, I love pieces from that period!”

(That’s the equivalent of having a character look at a painting and say, “Look what the artist does with color here.”  It may sound good to people who don’t know any better but for those of us who actually studied art, comments like that are the sure sign of someone with no idea what he or she is actually trying to say.)

Speaking as someone who majored in art history (and who is proud of her degree, regardless of what the President says about it), I really wish I had gone to Katie’s college because it appears to be home to the easiest art history program in the North America!  Seriously, I could have saved myself a lot of time that was spent studying.

Lessons Learned

Never turn down a handout.  And if you do turn down a handout, you lose the right to then start whining about how you don’t have any money.

CLEANING OUT THE DVR Pt 2: Five Films From Five Decades


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Well, it’s time once again to get rid of some movies on my DVR so I can make room for more movies! Last night I had myself a mini-movie marathon watching four in a row (the fifth I’d already screened and jotted down some notes on it). So here, for your education and edification, are five films from five decades:

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THE RETURN OF DR. X (Warner Brothers 1939; director Vincent Sherman)

Despite the title, this is not a sequel to 1932’s DOCTOR X starring Lionel Atwill. This one’s all about a reported (Wayne Morris) and a doctor (Dennis Morgan) investigating a string of murders where the bodies have been drained of blood. Humphrey Bogart plays Dr. Quesne, alias the mad Dr. X, in pasty white make-up and a streak of white in his hair. Seems he’s been brought back from the dead by Dr. Flegg (John Litel) after being electrocuted and…

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