The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Go Crazy For La La Land!


la-la-land

Oscar season continued today as the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2016!  What films and performers were honored in America’s capitol?

Here the complete list!

Best Film

Best Director

Best Actor

Best Actress

  • Amy Adams (Arrival)
  • Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
  • Ruth Negga (Loving)
  • Natalie Portman (Jackie) — Winner
  • Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis (Fences) — Winner
  • Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women)
  • Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
  • Molly Shannon (Other People)
  • Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Acting Ensemble

Best Youth Performance:

  • Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) — Winner
  • Lewis MacDougall (A Monster Calls)
  • Sunny Pawar (Lion)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)
  • Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch)

Best Voice Performance

  • Jason Bateman (Zootopia)
  • Auli’i Cravalho (Moana)
  • Ellen DeGeneres (Finding Dory)
  • Ginnifer Goodwin (Zootopia)
  • Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls) — Winner

Best Motion Capture Performance

  • Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls)
  • Mark Rylance (The BFG) — Winner

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Eric Heisserer, Based on the Story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (Arrival) — Winner
  • August Wilson, Based on his Play (Fences)
  • Luke Davies, Adapted from the Memoir “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley (Lion)
  • Patrick Ness, Based on his Novel (A Monster Calls)
  • Tom Ford, Based on the Novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Animated Feature

Best Documentary

  • Gleason
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • 13th — Winner
  • Weiner

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Elle — Winner
  • Julieta
  • The Handmaiden
  • The Salesman
  • Toni Erdmann

Best Production Design

Best Cinematography

Best Editing

Best Original Score

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC

Finally, The Oscars Have A Host!


Hi, everyone!

You know what?  2016 has been such a crazy year that I hadn’t even noticed that it was December and the Academy still hadn’t announced who would be hosting next year’s Oscar telecast!

Well, they finally announced their pick earlier today.  With the exception of that time that Eddie Murphy accepted the job and then withdrew, has the Academy ever waited this long to name a host?  I have no idea and, to be honest, I really don’t care enough to look it up.

Anyway, your host will be…

JIMMY KIMMEL!

jimmy-kimmel

Personally, I’m happy.  I like Jimmy Kimmel and I was kind of worried that the Academy would pick someone like the painfully overrated Stephen Colbert.

That said, I’ve always thought that Jon Stewart did a petty good job when he hosted the show and I wouldn’t have minded him returning, on the condition that he shave off that hideous beard.

Speaking of hideous beards, let’s hope that it’s a clean-shaven Jimmy who shows up for the telecast next February!

Congratulations, Jimmy!

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #32: Sister Cities (dir by Sean Hanish)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Wednesday, December 7th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

Sister Cities originally aired on Lifetime on September 17th.  When it first aired, I was really expecting to like it just because it’s a movie about four sisters and I’m the youngest of four sisters.  Add to that, one of the sisters was named Dallas and Dallas is my city.  Seriously, I seemed destined to like Sister Cities.

But then I actually saw the film.  And I have to admit that, for the first hour or so, I felt a little bit guilty about not liking the film.  It may have been a painfully slow film but I figured that it deserved some credit for at least trying to take the time for the viewers to get to know the four sisters.  As well, I couldn’t deny that casting did a good job when it came to selecting the four lead actresses.  You looked at them and they all had enough features and mannerisms in common that you could actually believe that they were related.

In the film, the four sisters gather together after the suicide of their mother (played, in flashbacks, by both Amy Smart and Jacki Weaver).  The sisters all have their own distinct personalities and, for some reason, three of them are named after cities.

For instance, the youngest sister is named Baltimore (Troian Bellisario).  She’s a free-spirit who does what she wants.  Now, my boyfriend is from Baltimore.  I have friends who live in Baltimore.  I’ve visited Baltimore and I loved it.  But I would not name my daughter Baltimore because Baltimore is a great name for a city but it’s a terribly clunky one for a human being.  If I was going to pick a city to name my daughter after, I’d probably go with Savannah or maybe Charlotte.  Or, for that matter, maybe Ardglass.   But not Baltimore.

Then there’s Dallas (Michelle Trachtenberg), who is the super organized and neat sister.  She’s the one who gets taunted for always wearing matching underwear but seriously, what’s wrong with that?  At least Dallas gets a pretty name.

Austin (Jess Wexler) has a pretty name too.  We’re told that she’s a successful writer.  We never believe it for a second.  Austin lived with her mother and she’s the one who called the other sisters back home.  Austin is as close as the film comes to having a central character.

And then there’s Carolina (Stana Katic), who is the oldest.  She’s a lawyer and she’s angry because her mother named her after one of the Carolinas but never clarified which one.

To be honest, it’s a bit too much.  The sisters are all exaggerated types.  The mother is an exaggerated type.  They all have cutesy names.  The nonstop theatrical quirkiness of it all is very off-putting and it doesn’t help that the film’s first hour is painfully slow.  There’s a few attempts at dark humor but it’s never as insightful or affecting as it seems to think it is.

Then we get to the second hour and the film remains painfully slow but it also turns into a rather strident screed about assisted suicide.  Eventually, the whole film comes down to an extended flashback of a beatific-looking Jacki Weaver smiling as she calmly explains that Austin will have to help her commit suicide because she’s the only sister who is emotionally strong enough to handle it.  It was all so manipulative and heavy-handed that I ended up getting so annoyed that I took off my shoes and nearly threw them at the TV.

Sorry, Baltimore.

Sorry, Dallas.

Sorry, Austin.

Sorry, Carolina.

People of Earth, “Significant Other”, Season 1, Episode 6


people-of-earth

We open with Scroty at the computer again.  He’s alone on the lived in and dingy spacecraft.  He’s doing the work of three because Kurt is dead and LOTR-Guy is making coffee and trying to make time with Kelly.

Father Doug is taking confession and they are hilarious, including one man who confesses to masturbating twenty-two times.  His response: You know that’s too much.  This made it awesome because it established an acceptable range.  However, he certainly is risking carpal tunnel.  Father Doug reminisces about his time as a hip NYC musician.

The Spaceship- Scroty is struggling to replace a printer cartridge and the printer is hysterically outdated.

Gina is planning a take your significant other to your abduction support group day.

Ozzie, still struggling with his abductee status, opts to play hooky and heads to a bar. Father Doug is there getting slowly loaded after a long day of hearing people confess to self-abuse.  The two of them begin to do shots and Father Doug is amazingly disappointed that people have a lack of interest in soccer.  We have the Sounders here in Seattle and I have to write that I was truly amazed that we had a soccer team and that people went to see them … on purpose. I was even more stunned to discover that the tickets weren’t free.  It’s not like they were handing the tickets out in a mall …gratis.  These people knew ahead of time that the tickets would cost money….currency! I’m serious…people paid to see them….Americans…really….in my very city! Sad. Soccer is the Prius of sports. 

Father Doug and Ozzie proceed to groove to “Word Up”! It’s kind of awesome.

The Significant Other get together is a disaster! Ernie’s son is like you’re gay and abducted by aliens?! Can’t you pick one?!  Joy’s sister just starts laughing at her.  Kelly and Chelsea fight about their affair with LOTR-Guy and his “Big Alien Dick”.  Chelsea’s husband arrives and she has to leave.  Bummer.

Father Doug admits to Ozzie that he’s in love with Chelsea.  Ozzie wants to disclose to his mother that he is an abductee, but Father Doug tries to thwart Ozzie from telling his mom that he’s an abductee because it will forever define him.

During an active hangover, Ozzie gets a call from a friend who has information on Jonathan.

All of the Starcrossers go the bar together and bond.

Wait for it….Scroty gets a call from the Mothership.

Also, another great song is in the near credits:

Remember, as always, if you don’t watch People of Earth, all of the unicorns will die!

unicorny

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #31: Black and White (dir by James Toback)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Wednesday, December 7th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

black_and_white_black_white-681253575-large

On November 15th, I recorded the 1999 melodrama, Black and White, off of Encore.

Black and White is a film that I’ve seen several times and I’ve always meant to review it.  It’s an attempt to explore the state of race, rap, crime, and sex in the late 20th century.  It’s also a James Toback film, which means that it contains all of the stuff that appears in every James Toback film: a threesome in the park, improvised dialogue, cameos from famous people playing themselves, an obsession with college basketball games, casual sexism, and a lot of talk about why you should never send “a little boy to do a man’s job.”  By his own admission, the white Toback is obsessed with the black experience but, when you watch a James Toback film, you get the feeling that his entire knowledge of African-American culture comes from watching other movies.

In short, Black and White is probably one of the silliest and most misjudged films that I’ve ever seen.  In fact, it’s so misjudged that it’s compulsively watchable.  Though I’m always hesitant to casually toss around the term “guilty pleasure,” that’s exactly what Black and White is.

Black and White tells several different stories, some of which are connected and some of which are not.  Sam Donager (Brooke Shields) is an independent filmmaker who is attempting to make a documentary about white people who try to act black.  Her husband, Terry (Robert Downey, Jr.), is gay and hits on every man (and boy) that he sees.  Sam and Terry start following around a group of privileged white kids who are obsessed with rap music.  Sam asks them if they want to be black.  They say that they’re going through a phase.

One of the kids is named Wren and he’s played by Elijah Wood.  He doesn’t really do much but every time he shows up in the film, you go, “It’s Elijah Wood!”  And then there’s Marty King (Eddie Kaye Thomas) who is the son of the Manhattan District Attorney (Joe Pantoliano).  Marty’s older brother is Will (William Lee Scott) ,who is some sort of low-level criminal.  And finally, the unofficial leader of the kids is Charlie (Bijou Phillips) and she gets to give a long monologue explaining the various uses of the n-word.

(Their teacher, incidentally, is played by Jared Leto.  If you’ve ever wanted to listen to Jared Leto lecture about the relationship between Othello and Iago, this is the film to see.  That said, the whole Othello and Iago lecture is just kinda randomly tossed in and doesn’t really pay off.)

Charlie is one of the many girlfriends of Rich Bower (Power), who is not only an up-and-coming rap producer but he’s also the head of a criminal organization.  (There’s a lengthy and kinda pointless scene where he and his associates demand money from a club manager played by Scott Caan.)  Rich is also friends with Mike Tyson.  Tyson plays himself and he gets to deliver an entire monologue about how Rich should never send a boy to do a man’s job.

But we’re not done!  Rich’s cousin is Dean Carter (Allan Houston), a college basketball player.  Dean is dating an anthropology graduate student (Claudia Schiffer, giving a hilariously terrible performance) who is obsessed with fertility symbols.  Dean is also being blackmailed by a corrupt cop named Mark Clear.  Guess who plays Mark Clear?

BEN FREAKING STILLER!

Needless to say, Ben Stiller is massively miscast.  He delivers he lines in his trademark comedic fashion, which makes it next to impossible to take him seriously as any sort of threat.  He also has a backstory that is needlessly complex but at least it allows him to say, “I’m Saul of Fucking Tarsus!”

Anyway, almost the entire film was improvised, which is one of those things that probably seemed like a good idea at the time.  A few of the actors do well with the improvisation.  Stiller may be miscast but at least he can come up with stuff to say.  Robert Downey, Jr.’s character may seem out-of-place but again, Downey knows how to keep things interesting.  But the rest of the cast seems to be a bit stranded so we end up with a lot of lengthy scenes of characters struggling to make some sort of sense of Toback’s storyline.

It’s obvious that James Toback felt that this film had something important to say but, instead of any insight, it can only offer up the occasionally strange-as-Hell scene.

Like this scene, for instance, in which Mike Tyson literally attempts to kill Robert Downey, Jr:

Or this weird little scene between Ben Stiller and Joe Pantoliano, which is dominated by Stiller’s odd delivery of his lines:

Or the closing montage, which is actually rather well-put together and makes great use of Michael Fredo’s Free:

Sadly, the video above ends before it gets to the part where we see Claudia Schiffer on a date with Mike Tyson, telling him about fertility symbols.

Anyway, Black and White is one of those films that wants to say something despite not being sure what.  Again, it may ultimately be rather silly but it’s still compulsively watchable.

(For the record, Marla Maples — who also appeared in Maximum Overdrive and was married to future President Donald Trump when this movie was made — has a cameo as a character named Muffy.  We live in a strange fucking world, don’t we?)

Music Video of the Day: Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles (1986, dir. Gary Weis)


I have no idea what to say about this music video for what is one of the best known songs of the 1980s. Lucky for me, Vicki Peterson shares a little behind-the-scenes bit about her part in the video, and Hoffs shares pretty much everything else in the book I Want My MTV. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

Vicki Peterson:

“It wasn’t just the hair that was big in the ’80s. It was the shoulder pads, parachute pants, everything. For ‘Walk Like an Egyptian,’ I wore four pairs of false eyelashes.”

Susanna Hoffs:

“We used Gary Weis because we’d been huge fans of the Rutles movie he codirected. It was a two-day shoot in New York. You really felt like you had arrived when you had a two-day shoot. Part one was a live performance in some warehouse filled with contest winners from a radio station. The DP was using a long lens way back in the crowd. There was a close-up on me toward the end of the video, when I sing my section, but because the camera was so far away from me, I had no idea how close up it really was. Back then, when we performed live, I’d pick a friendly face in the middle of the crowd and then someone to my left and someone to my right, and I would sing to them, using them as focal points. That’s what I was doing in that part of the video. I wasn’t aware it was such a tight shot. People always ask me, ‘Were you trying to do something with your eyes there? Was that a thing?'”

This is another one of those that made the Clear Channel list of songs not to play in the days following 9/11. That’s sad seeing as I hear this and think it is a song about acceptance of different cultures by having a swath of different kinds of people share in something comical.

I want to remind people again that while a whole bunch of AC/DC songs were also on that list, Thunderstruck was not one of them, and there are numerous military montages set to it on YouTube. There are many examples of songs about peace and acceptance on that list while one that is arguably promoting revenge was just fine. That list never ceases to amaze me.

Robert Glassenberg produced the music video. He seems to have worked on one other music video for the group Fishbone.

Enjoy!