The Hollywood Critics Association Honors 1917!

On Thursday night, the Hollywood Critics Association named their picks for both the best of 2019 and the best of the decade!  Following it’s previous Golden Globe win, 1917 notched up another win with the HCA.  After being something of an also-ran during the first half of awards season, 1917 is closing strong and we’ll see if that carries through to the Oscars in February.

Here are the winners:

  • Best Picture – “1917″
  • Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Best Actress – Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
  • Best Supporting Actor – Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Best Original Screenplay – Han Jin-won and Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”
  • Best Male Director – Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Best Female Director – Olivia Wilde, “Booksmart”
  • Best Performance by an Actor 23 and Under – Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”
  • Best Performance by an Actress 23 and Under – Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart”
  • Breakthrough Performance Actor – Kelvin Harrison Jr., “Waves”
  • Breakthrough Performance Actress – Jessie Buckley, “Wild Rose”
  • Best Cast Ensemble – “Knives Out”
  • Best First Feature – “Honey Boy”
  • Best Independent Film (Tie) – “The Farewell” & “Waves”
  • Best Action/War Film – “1917”
  • Best Animated Film – “Toy Story 4”
  • Best Blockbuster – “Avengers: Endgame”
  • Best Comedy/Musical (Tie) – “Rocketman” & “Booksmart”
  • Best Documentary – “Apollo 11”
  • Best Foreign Language Film – “Parasite”
  • Best Horror – “Us”
  • Best Animated or VFX Performance – Rosa Salazar, “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • Best Cinematography – Roger Deakins, “1917”
  • Best Costume Design – Julian Day, “Rocketman”
  • Best Editing – Lee Smith, “1917”
  • Best Hair and Makeup – Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker, “Bombshell”
  • Best Original Song – “Glasgow,” “Wild Rose”
  • Best Score – Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”
  • Best Stunt Work – “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”
  • Best Visual Effects – Dan Deleeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl, and Dan Sudick “Avengers: Endgame”

2020 Hollywood Critics Association Honorary Awards

  • Actor Achievement Award – Anton Yelchin (posthumously)
  • Filmmaker Achievement Award – Bong Joon Ho
  • Artisans Achievement Award – Ruth E. Carter
  • Game Changer Award – Paul Walter Hauser
  • Star on the Rise – Taylor Russell
  • Newcomer – Zack Gottsagen
  • Trailblazer – Olivia Wilde

End of a Decade Awards Recipients

  • Actor of the Decade – Adam Driver
  • Actress of the Decade – Kristen Stewart
  • Director of the Decade – Denis Villeneuve
  • Producer of the Decade – Daniela Taplin Lundberg
  • Next Generation of Hollywood – Kelvin Harrison Jr., Geraldine Viswanathan, Brooklynn Prince, Millicent Simmonds, Mckenna Grace, Jack Dylan Grazer, Thomasin McKenzie, Zoey Deutch, Noah Jupe, Kaitlyn Dever, Lana Condor, and Shahadi Wright Joseph

Here Are The Winners of The Dorian Awards!

The Dorian Awards are awarded by GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.  This year, the Dorain for Best Film went to …. Parasite!

Check out all the winners below:

Film of the Year
Little Women
Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Director of the Year
Pedro Almodovar, Pain and Glory
Greta Gerwig, Little Women
*Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Sam Mendes, 1917
Celine Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Film Performance of the Year — Actress
Awkwafina, The Farewell
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Alfre Woodard, Clemency
*Renée Zellweger, Judy

Film Performance of the Year — Actor
*Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Film Performance of the Year — Supporting Actress
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Florence Pugh, Little Women
*Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell

Film Performance of the Year — Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood
*Song Kang-ho, Parasite

LGBTQ Film of the Year
End of the Century
Pain and Glory
*Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Foreign Language Film of the Year
The Atlantics
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
The Farewell

Screenplay of the Year
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
*Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won, Parasite
Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Céline Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Rian Johnson, Knives Out

Documentary of the Year
American Factory
Apollo 11
For Sama
One Child Nation

LGBTQ Documentary of the Year
Circus of Books
Gay Chorus Deep South
The Gospel of Eureka
*Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

Visually Striking Film of the Year ** TIE
The Lighthouse
*Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Unsung Film of the Year
Her Smell
Gloria Bell
The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Campy Flick of the Year
Knives Out

TV Drama of the Year

TV Comedy of the Year
The Other Two
Russian Doll
Schitt’s Creek

TV Performance of the Year — Actor
Bill Hader, Barry
Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us
*Billy Porter, Pose
Jeremy Strong, Succession

TV Performance of the Year — Actress
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Mj Rodriguez, Pose
*Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

LGBTQ TV Show of the Year
The Other Two
Schitt’s Creek
Tales of the City

Unsung TV Show of the Year
Gentleman Jack
On Becoming a God in Central Florida
*The Other Two
Years and Years

TV Current Affairs Show of the Year
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
The Rachel Maddow Show
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
*Leaving Neverland

TV Musical Performance of the Year
*Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, “Shallow,” The 91st Academy Awards
Lizzo, “Truth Hurts,” VMAs 2019
Megan Mullally, “The Man That Got Way,” Will & Grace
Annie Murphy, “A Little Bit Alexis,” Schitt’s Creek
Michelle Williams, “Who’s Got the Pain?,” Fosse/Verdon

Campy TV Show of the Year
American Horror Story 1984
Big Little Lies
RuPaul’s Drag Race
*The Politician

The “We’re Wilde About You!” Rising Star Award
Roman Griffin Davis
Kaitlyn Dever
Beanie Feldstein
*Florence Pugh
Hunter Schafer

Wilde Wit of the Year
(Honoring a performer, writer or commentator whose observations both challenge and amuse)
Dan Levy
Billy Porter
Randy Rainbow
Taika Waititi
*Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Wilde Artist of the Decade (Special Accolade)
*Lady Gaga
Greta Gerwig
Ryan Murphy
Billy Porter
Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Timeless Star (Career achievement award)
*Catherine O’Hara

Avenging Force (1986, directed by Sam Firstenberg)

If you think this year’s elections are messed up, just watch Avenging Force and see what happens when two martial artists run against each other for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Steve James plays Larry Richards, a former military commando who is now running for the Senate in Louisiana.  His opponent is Wade Delaney (Bill Wallace), who is described as being “the South’s youngest senator” and who is also secretly one of the world’s greatest martial artists.  Wade is a member of Pentangle, a Neo-Nazi cult that is made up of wealthy businessmen and other politicians.  When Larry and his family are invited to ride a float in the most sedate Mardi Gras parade of all time, the Pentangle attempts to assassinate him.  While Larry escapes injury, his oldest son does not.

Larry’s best friend, Col. Matt Hunter (Michael Dudikoff), is also in town and Hunter just happens to be another one of the world’s greatest martial artists.  (This film leave you wondering if there’s anyone in Louisiana who isn’t secretly a ninja.)  Matt tries to protect Larry and the remaining members of his family from Pentangle.  Matt fails miserably.  With Larry and the entire Richards family now dead, Matt goes deep into the Louisiana bayou, seeking both to rescue his sister (who has been kidnapped and is set to be sold at some sort of Cajun-run sex auction) and avenge Larry’s death.

As you probably already guessed, Avenging Force is a Cannon Film and it’s crazy even by that company’s fabled standards.  It’s not often that you come across a movie about a U.S. Senator who is also a neo-Nazi ninja who spends his spare time stalking people through the bayous.  What makes this plot point even more memorable is that no one in Avenging Force seems to be shocked by it.  Matt isn’t surprised in the least when an elected official suddenly lunges out of the fog and attempts to drown him in swamp water.  Of course, Senator Delaney isn’t the only villain in the film.  In fact, he’s not even the main bad guy.  That honor goes to Prof. Elliott Glastenbury (John P. Ryan), who lives in a huge mansion and who sees himself as a real-life version of The Most Dangerous Game‘s General Zaroff.  He not only wants to secretly rule the world but he also wants to hunt human prey in the bayou.  When Matt shows up at Glastenbury’s mansion, he is greeted by a butler who complains that Matt hasn’t bothered to wipe the blood off his shirt before showing up.

Avenging Force was originally planned as a sequel to Invasion U.S.A., with Chuck Norris reprising the role of Matt Hunter.  When Norris declined to appear in the film, the connection to Invasion U.S.A. was dropped and Michael Dudikoff of the American Ninja films was cast in the lead role.  (Of course, they didn’t bother to change anyone’s name in the script so the hero of Avenging Force is still named Matt Hunter, even if he’s not meant to be the same Matt Hunter from Invasion U.S.A.)  What Dudikoff lacked in screen presence, he made up for in athleticism and Avenging Force features some Cannon’s best fight scenes.  The plot may be full of holes but the idea of ninjas in the bayou is so inherently cool that it carries the film over any rough patches.

The critics may not have loved Avenging Force when it was first released but it holds up well as a fast-paced and weird action film.  It is perhaps the best Cajun ninja film ever made.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: In Which We Serve (dir by Noel Coward and David Lean)

“This is the story of a ship….”

The 1942 British war film, In Which We Serve, opens with footage of the HMS Torrin, a destroyer, being constructed in a British shipyard.  When the Torrin is finally finished, the men who worked on it cheer as it leaves on its maiden voyage.  The film then abruptly jumps forward to the year 1941.  The Torrin is sinking, the victim of German bombers.  The surviving members of her crew float in the ocean, holding onto debris and watching as their home for the past few years capsizes and slowly goes underneath the surface of the water.  Even as the Torrin sinks, German planes continue to fly overhead, firing on the stranded men and killing several of them.

As the men fight to survive both the ocean and the Germans, they remember their time on the Torrin.  Captain Kinross (Noel Coward, who also wrote the script and co-directed the film) thinks back to 1939, when he was first given command of the Torrin.  He remembers the early days of the war and the time that he spent with his wife (Celia Johnson) before leaving to do his duty.  As the captain of the ship, Kinross was a tough but compassionate leader.  He expected a lot out of the men but he also came to view them as his second family.  Meanwhile, Shorty Blake (John Mills) thinks about his wife and his newborn son back in London.  Everyone on the Torrin has left their families behind.  Some of them even lose their loved ones during the war, victims of the relentless German Blitz.  But, even as they float in the ocean, everyone continues to fight on, knowing that there will be bigger ships to replace the Torrin and that Britain will never surrender.

In 1942, British film producer Anthony Havelock-Allan approached Noel Coward and asked him if he would be interested in writing the screenplay for a morale-boosting propaganda film.  Coward agreed, on the condition that he be given complete control of the project and that the film deal with the Royal Navy.  Though one might not immediately think that the author of drawing room comedies like Easy Virtue and Private Lives would be the obvious choice to write a war film, Coward’s family actually had a long tradition of serving in the Navy and Coward based a good deal of the film’s action on the wartime exploits of his friend, Lord Mountbatten.  Though there was initially some concern about Coward’s insistence that he should play the lead role on top of everything else, the Ministry of Information fully supported the production of In Which We Serve.

However, Corward knew that he would need help directing the film.  He asked his friend, John Mills, for advice and Mills suggested that Coward should bring in, as co-director, “the best editor in Britain,” David Lean.  Though Lean was initially only meant to handle the action scenes, Coward quickly discovered that he didn’t particularly enjoy all of the detail that went into directing a film.  As a result, David Lean ended up directing the majority of the film.  This would be Lean’s first film as a director and he would, of course, go one to become one the top British directors of all time.

(Also of note, frequent Lean collaborator Ronald Neame served as the film’s cinematographer.  Neame later went on to have his own career as a director.  In 1972, Neame directed another film about a capsized ship, The Poseidon Adventure.)

As for the film itself, In Which We Serve is an unapologetic propaganda film, carefully crafted to inspire the British people to support the war effort and also to win over the sympathy of American viewers.  (During the film’s production, America had finally entered the war but there were still skeptics, at home and abroad.)  Along with being a war film, In Which We Serve is also a rather touching and heartfelt tribute to the strength and determination of the British people.  Though it’s a rather grim film at times and it doesn’t shy away from the fact that lives are going to be lost in the battle to defeat Hitler, it’s also a rather inspiring film.  The sacrifice will be great, In Which We Serve tells us, but it will also be worth it.  The entire ensemble — including future director Richard Attenborough, making his film debut as a frightened sailor — does an excellent job of creating memorable characters, some of whom only appear for a few fleeting moments before meeting their fate.

In Which We Serve was a box office hit in both the UK and the US.  It was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture of the year, though it ultimately lost to another film about World War II, Casablanca.

Quick Review: Ratatouille (dir. by Brad Bird)

The following is a Mini Review for Ratatouille, written on June 17, 2007,  taken word forratatouille word from my old Livejournal.

“The absolute worst thing I could ever say about Disney / Pixar’s “Ratatouille” is that I have to wait 2 whole weeks until I can see it again at the official release.”

The Movie: “Ratatouille”

(cast list borrowed from the IMDB)
Patton Oswalt … Remy (voice)
Ian Holm … Skinner (voice)
Lou Romano … Linguini (voice)
Brian Dennehy… Django (voice)
Peter Sohn … Emile (voice)
Peter O’Toole … Anton Ego (voice)
Brad Garrett … Gusteau (voice)
Janeane Garofalo … Colette (voice)

This review may be biased, as I’m a Pixar Nut. I have no idea how they do it. Right now, they’re 8 for 8 in my opinion (or maybe 7 for 8 only because anyone who hates or doesn’t understand Nascar may have had problems relating to Cars, like myself).

This place has to be the most enjoyable and creative working establishment on the planet. The absolute worst thing I could ever say about Disney / Pixar’s “Ratatouille” is that I have to wait 2 whole weeks until I can see it again at the official release. Yesterday, Disney hosted a Special Sneak Peek around the country of the film. A one time showing that didn’t quite fill all of the seats in the theatre (and I think that’s only because not too many people were aware of it – about 20 -30 in my audience), but amused and amazed everyone who did show. We had laughter, applause and even a few happy murmurs in the audience. 🙂

Ratatouille is the story of Remy, a rat who adores food. Not just eating it, but actually creating meals with it. Walking in the footsteps of a great and renowned chef Gusteau, Remy wants to cook (with the assistance of his brother Emile), but his father feels that his place is with the rats he lives with. After finding himself in need of job, Linguini is brought on as the newest worker at the famous Gastau’s restaurant, which has seen better days. Linguini wants to fit in, but the staff have regulated him to something of a low position. Together, Remy and Linguini are able to help one another, in quite a few funny ways.

Like all of the Pixar stories before it, the themes are universal. One of Ratatouille’s themes is a “being brave enough to go after what you want most, despite the changes that may occur” and under director Brad Bird’s leadership (who also directed “The Incredibles” and my favorite Amazing Stories episode, “The Family Dog”), this comes across really well. All of the main characters are made to grow in some way (even the ones that appear to not really have a sense of direction).

The graphics (if you can even call them that) are wonderful, and Paris is rendered in a near picture perfect look. According to the film, it’s 100% animation, without any motion capturing whatsoever (which makes sense, considering that Brad Bird has gone on record as stating that animation is an art form and not a genre). The food looks great, and the a lot of the smoke effects (fire, steam, hair getting wet) have improved since The Incredibles. The sound (at least my theatre) was also very good, sounds typically jumped around the speakers for the most part.

As a kids film, Ratatouille works, but parents may want to be on the lookout. The word ‘dead’ comes up quite a bit, and if you’re one of those parents that haven’t had that talk with your kids, I’m just warning you now. There’s some animated violence throughout, but considering my movie theatre had parents that were taking their kids to see Hostel II, I don’t think it’s too bad. It’s up for the viewer to really decide.

Also note that before the movie starts, the animated short “Lifted” also appears, which was hilarious and may cause one to remember their first few driving lessons. I’ll leave it at that. ☺ “Ratatouille” is a marvelous triumph by Disney and Pixar, who always seem to remember that that the story (above all), comes first.

The film doesn’t contain any ACP’s (I call them After Credit Pieces – those little snippets of film that show up right after the credits are done – see Pirates of the Carribean (any one of them) to understand what I mean), though the credits themselves are cute, complete with a new set of Pixar Babies. Michael Giacchino was also on board with the Soundtrack, which is a mix of mostly french violin/piano pieces. Quite a jump from the Incredibles and Mission Impossible III for him, but sweet, nonetheless.

Ratatouille opens in theatres June 29.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Birthday Lee Van Cleef!

Lee Van Cleef in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today is the 95th birthday of the great, late Lee Van Cleef!  Van Cleef got his start playing western outlaws in Hollywood westerns like High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  In the 1960s, Van Cleef did what many American actors of the time.  He went overseas to find better roles and bigger paychecks.  A series of roles in Spaghetti westerns made Van Cleeef one of the biggest stars in Europe and it also made him a timeless film icon.

In honor of the career and legacy of Lee Van Cleef, here are 4 shots from 4 films.

 4 Shots From 4 Lee Van Cleef Films

High Noon (1952, directed by Fred Zinnemann)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, directed by John Ford)

For A Few Dollars More (1965, directed by Sergio Leone)

Sabata (1969, directed by Gianfranco Parolini)


Music Video Of The Day: I Can’t Dance by Genesis (1992, directed by Jim Yukich)

“It’s not about being unable to dance.  It’s about guys that look good but can’t string a sentence together. Each verse is a piss-take at the scenario of a jeans commercial. It was good fun, but the audience thought, ‘What does he mean that he can’t dance?’ They didn’t see the humor, and it killed the fun.”

— Phil Collins on I Can’t Dance

Ok, Phil.  Whatever you say.

Tony Banks, Genesis’s keyboardist, has said that the song actually came about because he and Mike Rutherford were fooling around with various sounds in the recording studio and Phil, hearing what they were doing, suddenly sang out, “I can’t dance!” The song started out as an improvised joke but then went on to become one of the band’s biggest hits.  It was also nominated for a Grammy.

The end of the video is meant to be a parody of the original ending of Michael Jackson’s video for Black or WhiteBlack or White originally ended with Michael Jackson’s dancing erratically and destroying a car.  I Can’t Dance ends with Tony and Mike dragging Phil away before can do too much damage.