Here Are The DGA Nominations!

Todd Phillips did not pick up a DGA nomination but fear not Joker fans.  The film did pick a nomination from the PGA.

Uncut Gems has now been snubbed by the SAG, the DGA, and the PGA so I’m going to assume that it’s Oscar chances are pretty much dead.  It was one of my favorite films of the year but, at the same time, I can also understand why some people might not share my feelings.

JoJo Rabbit, on the other hand, has been nominated by the DGA, PGA, and the SAG so it’s definitely a stronger contender than some have been giving it credit for being.

Anyway, here are the 2019 Director’s Guild nominations!

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film

Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
Sam Mendes, 1917
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit

Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director

Mati Diop, Atlantics
Alma Har’el, Honey Boy
Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim
Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, The Peanut Butter Falcon

Cyborg (1989, directed by Albert Pyun)

The time is the future and the world has seen better days.  As a result of solar flares and war, Earth has been reduced to a barren wasteland where only the strong survive.  Making things even worse is that a plague has broken out and is threatening to wipe out what remains of the world’s population.

A cyborg named Pearl Prophet (Dayle Haddon) has been sent to New York to retrieve the information on how to cure the plague from a computer system.  Now that she has the information, it’s all a matter of safely returning to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.  She’s being pursued by the evil Fender (Vincent Klyn), a pirate who says that he loves the new world and who wants to be the one to decide who does and who does not get the cure.  When a mercenary named Gibson (Jean-Claude Van Damme) offers to protect her on her journey back to Atlanta, Pearl declines.  She says that Gibson is not strong enough to defeat Fender and that she’ll take her chances with the pirates.  (Pragmatically, Pearl says that her allies in Atlanta can kill Fender themselves.)

However, Gibson is not willing to take no for an answer.  Gibson is less concerned with saving humanity and more concerned with avenging the death of his lover, who was murdered by Fender.  Working with Nady (Deborah Richter), another sole survivor of one of Fender’s massacres, Gibson sets out to track down and destroy the pirate.

When Cyborg started, I was really looking forward to watching Jean-Claude Van Damme play a cyborg but it turned out that Van Damme was playing a human.  I thought that Fender might be a cyborg but he’s also just a human.  There’s only one cyborg in this film and she’s often superfluous to the action.  I imagine that this movie was called Cyborg in order to capitalize on the popularity of movies like Terminator and Robocop but Cyborg actually has more in common with the Mad Max films.  Van Damme is a haunted loner, just like Max Rockatansky, while Fender and his crew feel as if they could have stepped out of the Road Warrior.  Even the lengthy scene where Gibson is crucified in the desert feels tailor-made for Mad Max and Mel Gibson’s habit of playing characters who undergo lengthy torture scenes.  (And is it coincidence that Mel Gibson and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s haunted hero both share the same last name?)

Jean-Claude Van Damme, with his pun-worthy name and his reputation for bad behavior off-screen, never got much respect but he was one of the best of the Arnold Schwarzenegger imitators of the 80s and 90s.  He was a genuine athlete and he was a far better actor than someone like Steven Seagal.  When Van Damme was under contract with Cannon Films, he was offered his choice of starring in three films: Delta Force 2, American Ninja 3, and Cyborg.  He chose Cyborg, playing a role that was originally envisioned for Chuck Norris.  As a film, Cyborg will never win any points for originality but the fight scenes are kinetic and exciting and, even more importantly, this is a movie that lets Van Damme be Van Damme.  There are no attempts at character development or any sort of self-aware winking at the audience.  Instead, Van Damme shows up and fights.  Matching Van Damme blow for blow is the imposing Vincent Klyn, whose opening monologue (“I like the death! I like the misery! I like this world!”) is a classic of its own.

Cyborg would be followed by two sequels, which were largely unrelated to the first film.  Jean-Claude Van Damme would not return for either of them.

Here Are The 2019 PGA Nominations

The Producer’s Guild of America announced their nominations for the best of 2019 today.  The PGA, in general, is a pretty reliable precursor of what’s going to get nominated for best picture.  Getting a PGA nomination does not, of course, mean that a film is automatically guaranteed to be nominated for an Oscar.  But it certainly doesn’t hurt!

With that in mind, here are the PGA nominees for 2019:

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures

Producers: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne‐Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall

Ford v Ferrari
Producers: Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, James Mangold

The Irishman
Producers: Jane Rosenthal & Robert De Niro, Emma Tillinger Koskoff & Martin Scorsese

Jojo Rabbit
Producers: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi

Producers: Todd Phillips & Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

Knives Out
Producers: Rian Johnson, Ram Bergman

Little Women
Producer: Amy Pascal

Marriage Story
Producers: Noah Baumbach, David Heyman

Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
Producers: David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Quentin Tarantino

Producers: Kwak Sin Ae, Bong Joon Ho

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures

Producer: Suzanne Buirgy

Frozen II
Producer: Peter Del Vecho

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Producers: Bradford Lewis, Bonnie Arnold

Missing Link
Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight

Toy Story 4
Producers: Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera

I’m sad to see that Uncut Gems was not nominated.  It has now missed out on the SAG, the DGA, and the PGA so, despite how much I like the film, it’s probably not going to be nominated.  I know, I know.  It’s amazing that the Academy would not nominate what I personally think they should nominate but incredibly enough, it happens.

That said, all of you Joker and Little Women fans should be happy.  Though both films failed to pick up a DGA nomination today, the PGA should keep them both in the conversation.

The Oscar nominations will be announced on Monday!

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: All That Jazz (dir by Bob Fosse)

“Bye bye life….

Bye bye happiness….

Hello loneliness….

I think I’m going to die….”

So sings Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) at the end of the 1979 film, All That Jazz.  And he’s right!  It’s hardly a spoiler to tell you that All That Jazz ends with Joe Gideon in a body bag.  It’s not just that Gideon spends a good deal of the film flirting with the Angel of the Death (Jessica Lange).  It’s also that, by the time the film ends, we’ve spent a little over two hours watching Joe engage in non-stop self-destruction.  Joe is a director and a choreographer who is so in love with both death and show business that his greatest triumph comes from choreographing his own death.

Joe wakes up every morning, pops a handful of pills, stares at himself in the mirror and says, “It’s showtime!”  He spends his day choreographing a Broadway play.  He spends his nights editing his latest film, a biopic about Lenny Bruce called The Stand-Up.  He’s particularly obsessed with a long monologue that Lenny (played by Cliff Gorman) delivers about the inevitability of death.  When he’s not choreographing or editing, he’s smoking, drinking, and cheating on his girlfriend (Ann Reinking).  It’s obvious that he’s still in love with his ex-wife (Leland Palmer) and that she loves him too but she’s also too smart to allow herself to get fully sucked back into his self-destructive orbit.  He loves his daughter (Erzsébet Földi) and yet still ignores her when she begs him not to die.

Joe and the Angel of Death

When Joe has a heart attack and ends up in the hospital, he doesn’t change his behavior.  Instead, he and the Angel of Death take a look back at his youth, which was spent hanging out in strip clubs and desperately trying to become a star.  Joe Gideon, we see, has always know that he’s going to die early so he’s pushed himself to accomplish everything that he can in what little time he has.

As a result of his drive and his refusal to love anyone but himself, Gideon is widely recognized as being an artistic genius.  However, as O’Connor Flood (Ben Vereen, essentially playing Sammy Davis, Jr.) puts it, “This cat allowed himself to be adored, but not loved. And his success in show business was matched by failure in his personal relationship bag, now – that’s where he really bombed. And he came to believe that show business, work, love, his whole life, even himself and all that jazz, was bullshit. He became numero uno game player – uh, to the point where he didn’t know where the games ended, and the reality began. Like, for this cat, the only reality – is death, man. Ladies and gentlemen, let me lay on you a so-so entertainer, not much of a humanitarian, and this cat was never nobody’s friend. In his final appearance on the great stage of life – uh, you can applaud if you want to – Mr. Joe Gideon!”

Now, of course, Connor doesn’t really say all that.  Gideon just imagines Connor saying that before the two of them launch into the film’s final musical number, Bye Bye Life.  It should be a totally depressing moment but actually, it’s exhilarating to watch.  It’s totally over-the-top, self-indulgent, and equally parts sincere and cynical.  It’s a Bob Fosse production all the way and, as a result, All that Jazz is probably about as fun as a movie about the death of a pathological narcissist can be.  This is a film that will not only leave you thinking about mortality but it will also make you dance.

All That Jazz was Bob Fosse’s next-to-last film (he followed it up with the even darker Star 80) and it’s also his most openly autobiography.  Roy Scheider may be playing Joe Gideon but he’s made-up to look exactly like Bob Fosse.  Like Joe Gideon, Bob Fosse had a heart attack while trying to direct a Broadway show and a film at the same time.  Gideon’s girlfriend is played by Fosse’s real-life girlfriend.  The character of Gideon’s ex-wife is clearly meant to be a stand-in for Gwen Verdon, Fosse’s real-life ex-wife.  When the film’s venal Broadway producers make plans to replace the incapacitated Gideon, Fosse is obviously getting back at some of the producers that he had to deal with while putting together Chicago.  It’s a confessional film, one in which Fosse admits to his faults while also reminding you of his talent.  Thank God for that talent, too.  All that Jazz is self-indulgent but you simply can’t look away.

It helps that Gideon is played by Roy Scheider.  Originally, Scheider’s Jaws co-star Richard Dreyfuss was cast in the role but he left during rehearsals.  Dreyfuss, talented actor that he was, would have been all-wrong for the role of Gideon.  One can imagine a hyperactive Dreyfuss playing Gideon but one can’t imagine actually feeling much sympathy for him.  Scheider, on the other hand, brings a world-weary self-awareness to the role.  He plays Gideon as a man who loves his talent but who hates himself.  Scheider’s Joe Gideon is under no illusions about who he is or how people feel about him.  When Fosse’s own instincts threatens to make the film unbearably pretentious, Scheider’s down-to-Earth screen presence keeps things grounded.

I love All That Jazz.  (Admittedly, a good deal of that love is probably connected to my own dance background.  I’ve known my share of aspiring Joe Gideons, even if none of them had his — or Bob Fosse’s — talent or drive.)  It’s not for everyone, of course.  Any musical that features actual footage of open heart surgery is going to have its detractors.  For the record, Stanley Kubrick called All That Jazz “the best film I think I’ve ever seen.”  It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and it was nominated for Best Picture, though it ultimately lost to the far more conventional Kramer vs. Kramer.

All that Jazz would be the last of Fosse’s film to receive a best picture nomination.  (Fosse directed five features.  3 of them were nominated for Best Picture, with the other two being Cabaret and Lenny.)  8 years after filming his cinematic doppelganger dying during heart surgery, Fosse would die of a heart attack.  Gwen Verdon was at his side.

Music Video of the Day: Orange Crush by R.E.M. (1988, directed by Matt Mahurin)

“The song is a composite and fictional narrative in the first person, drawn from different stories I heard growing up around Army bases. This song is about the Vietnam War and the impact on soldiers returning to a country that wrongly blamed them for the war.”

— Michael Stipe, on the meaning of Orange Crush

“I must have played this song onstage over three hundred times, and I still don’t know what the fuck it’s about. The funny thing is, every time I play it, it means something different to me, and I find myself moved emotionally.  Noel Coward made some remark about the potency of cheap music, and while I wouldn’t describe the song as cheap in any way, sometimes great songwriting isn’t the point. A couple of chords, a good melody and some words can mean more than a seven-hundred-page novel, mind you. Not a good seven-hundred-page novel mind you, but more say, a long Jacqueline Susann novel. Well alright, I really liked Valley of the Dolls.”

— Peter Buck, on the meaning of Orange Crush

“Mmm, great on a summer’s day. That’s Orange Crush.”

— Simon Parkin, after R.E.M. performed Orange Crush on Top of the Pops

Despite (or perhaps because of) all of the differing opinions as to what the song is actually about, Orange Crush is one of R.E.M.’s signature songs.  It was not only a hit in the U.S. but it was also their highest charting single in the UK.  It was the popularity of this song that led to R.E.M. being invited to make their first appearance on Top of the Pops, where host Simon Parkin assumed that the song was about the soft drink instead of the cancer-causing defoliant used in Vietnam.

This video, which won the inaugural Best Post-Modern Video award at the VMAs, was directed by photographer Matt Mahurin.  Mahurin has directed several music videos, including the video for Metallica’s Enter Sandman.  His most notorious work, though, might be a 1994 Time Magazine cover that featured a heavily darkened version of O.J. Simpson’s mugshot.