The TSL’s Grindhouse: Space Mutiny (dir by David Winters)


— Dave Ryder (Reb Brown) in Space Mutinty (1988)

Space Mutiny, a sci-fi epic from 1988, is full of dialogue about all sorts of political and philosophical concerns but none of it is quite as memorable as the quote above.  Dave Ryder says, “Argggggh!” a lot over the course of Space Mutiny.  He’s the newly appointed head of security for the Southern Sun, a gigantic spaceship that has spent the last 260 years traveling from Earth to a new planet.  Being head of security is important because there are some people on the Southern Sun who are plotting a mutiny.  Dave Ryder decides that the most effective way to battle the mutineers is to yell loudly and frequetly.  “ARGGGGGH!’ Ryder yells whenever he’s being shot at.  “ARGGGGGGGH!” he screams when he finds himself on a very slow and gradual collision course with the head of the mutineers.

When Dave isn’t saying stuff like, “Argggggh!,” he’s saying stuff like, “Go!  Go!  Go!”  When the bad guys open fire on him and his men, it’s time for them to “Go!  Go!  Go!”  When the mutineers are being chased, Dave is quick to tell everyone to “Go!  Go!  Go!”  He’s like the physical fitness trainer from Hell.  He never actually yells “Feel the burn!” but you can be damn well sure that he’s thinking it.  In fact, there’s a point in the movie where “Feel the burn!” actually would have been a good line.  Dave and his girlfriend, Lea (Cissie Cameron), set a mutineer on fire.  It’s actually a bit of a sadistic scene and it doesn’t come across as being the big hero moment that it’s obviously meant to be.  But, then again, Dave isn’t yelling because he’s a nice guy.  He’s yelling because he’s played by Reb Brown.  Reb Brown yelled all the way through Strike Force Commando.  Why wouldn’t he do the same for Space Mutiny?

Of course, Dave isn’t the only person barking out orders on the Southern Sun.  Cameron Mitchell plays the ship’s captain, a wise old man who looks like Santa Claus.  John Phillip Law is Kalgon, the main mutineer.  He laughs a lot.  Cissie Cameron is the captain’s daughter.  She falls for Ryder, despite the fact that she appears to be old enough to be Ryder’s mother.  (In real life, Reb Brown and Cissie Cameron are married and Cissie is only a few years older than Reb.  In Space Mutiny, she’s stuck with an unflattering hair style and is made up to look like an aging cheerleading coach.)  There’s also a woman who works on the ship’s bridge.  She’s killed in one scene, just to mysteriously turn up alive in the scene that follows.  In space, no one can hear the script supervisor.  Finally, there’s a group of alien witches who board the ship and spend the entire movie dancing in front of a ball of electricity.  Since they don’t actually interact with any of the main characters, it’s obvious that they were added to pad out the film’s running time.

One of the more interesting things about Space Mutnity is that Kalgon actually has a point.  It does seem kind of stupid to spend several hundred years traveling to just one planet when there’s other planets nearby that the ship could just as easily reach.  Indeed, the mission of the Southern Sun never makes that much sense and the Captain seems to be delusional in his insistence that it does.  The Captain’s unending faith and his long-flowing beard makes him come across like a minor biblical prophet, the type who always had to ask a major prophet to interpret his visions for hm.  The Captain does not come across like someone who really knows what he’s doing.  I don’t care how much Ryder screams, Kalgon had a point!

Today, Space Mutiny is best known for being featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for later being taken apart by the Rifftrax crew.  Space Mutiny, though, is such an extremely silly movie that you really don’t even need any professionals to help you snark your way through it.  The film offers up such a treasure trove of material then even the most humorless among your friends will be a comedic genius by the time it ends.  It’s a fun movie, made even more so by the fact that the filmmakers apparently meant for the film to be taken seriously.  There’s a lot of talk about important issues like freedom, duty, and faith.  In the end, what you’ll remember is the screaming.

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being : Karen Shangguan’s “Quiet Thoughts”

You know, it’s funny — I was just remarking to a couple of friends/fellow critics on Twitter earlier today that “understated and contemplative” just aren’t where my reading interests are at these days. It’s not only that they’ve been done done to death in contemporary “alternative” comics (although that surely plays a large part), either : it’s also that they’re a pretty cheap and easy pose for people without a whole hell of a lot to say if they want to try and come off as more profound than they actually are. Disappointed about where you are in life? Confused about the future? Feeling isolated, alone, and disconnected from humanity? Hey, that’s too bad and all, but how about you tell us something about yourself that actually sets you apart from the overwhelming majority of people in late-stage capitalist society?

Speaking of which, a lot of books that indulge in the kind of navel-gazing I’m bored to death with reek of privilege — after all, folks who are clocking 60 hours a week (or more) at back-breaking, dehumanizing menial jobs, or struggling to figure out how they’re going to feed their kids, simply don’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for themselves even though they surely have every right to do so. After all, reflecting on the admitted bummers of unrealized dreams, unfulfilled potential, and unrequited love is only something you can do if you’ve got the free time to do it with.

The simple fact that Vancouver-based artist Karen Shangguan’s Quiet Thoughts (Avery Hill, 2021) was able to impress me, then, given my current negative disposition toward all things blatantly introspective, is something of an achievement in and of itself. I mean, the title gives away what sort of work this is from word go, and it doesn’t lie : collected in this slender volume are visually lyrical musings, ruminations, and illustrations that, fair enough, present one person’s interpretation of various aspects of the human condition from the inside out, but Shangguan goes about her business with a deft enough touch that nothing on offer here will remind you of your annoyingly “angsty” friends — assuming you’re foolhardy enough to still keep any around.

Crucially, while her art and sparse prose are uniformly delicate — sometimes to the point of being downright ethereal — they’re imbued with enough earnestness to give them a conceptual weight that both accentuates, and creates a kind of aesthetic tension by default with, their formal presentation. Shangguan’s use of space and intuitive understanding of sequential rhythm are keys in this regard, communicating at all times the fleeting and transitory nature of, well, pretty much everything, but doing so in a way that manages to be instantly memorable while grasping for ideas and feelings that come and go like a summer cloud. Change is the only constant, as the old cliche goes, but hidden within that is something both inherently more haunting and more wondrous that Shaungguan’s work captures with disarming alacrity : impermanence is the only thing a person can actually count on.

Okay, yeah, there’s still something a bit plastic-bag-in-the-wind about all this, but unlike that infamously vapid scene from an infamously vapid film (American Beauty, in case you’d mercifully forgotten), Shangguan doesn’t hold your hand through the process of interpreting and understanding how she feels about what she’s poetically expounding upon. She establishes a flow from the outset and trusts in your ability as a reader to go with it. This takes more confidence than the tone of many of these pieces would at least imply this artist to be in possession of, but have it she does, and the end result is something of a gently bumpy glide through the semi-turbulent air of life itself — by turns almost too painful to contemplate and too beautiful to ever want to let go of.

And I guess that’s my cue to hop off before I get more pretentious than I’m comfortable with here, but kudos to Shangguan for making me look at things in a way that would normally work my nerves and not only get me to see the value in doing so, but even to enjoy it. There are some raw wounds to be found in this book, no doubt, but even they’re presented as exactly what they are : part of the rich overall tapestry of an existence that will be over with all too soon however one measures it. And I’ve got a sneaky feeling that when it’s all said and done, those contemplative moments of introspection that I claim to be so over and done with will turn out to be what life’s really been about all along — so hey, as Dave Gahan said, “enjoy the silence.”


Quiet Thoughts can be ordered directly from Avery Hill Publishing at

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The San Diego Film Critics Society Honors The Power of the Dog!

Yesterday, the San Diego Film Critics Society announced its picks for the best of 2021 and it was another victory of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog!

Here are all the winners from San Diego!  Honest question: it was universe does Don’t Look Up deserve the Best Ensemble award more than Mass?

Best Picture

Best Director
Kenneth Branagh – BELFAST (RUNNER-UP)
Guillermo del Toro – NIGHTMARE ALLEY
Maggie Gyllenhaal – THE LOST DAUGHTER
Denis Villeneuve – DUNE

Best Actor
Nicolas Cage – PIG (WINNER)
Benedict Cumberbatch – THE POWER OF THE DOG
Peter Dinklage – CYRANO
Andrew Garfield – TICK, TICK…BOOM! (RUNNER-UP)
Jude Hill – BELFAST

Best Actress
Caitriona Balfe – BELFAST (WINNER TIE)
Emilia Jones – CODA
Kristen Stewart – SPENCER

Best Supporting Actor
Ciaran Hinds – BELFAST
Jason Isaacs – MASS (WINNER)
Troy Kotsur – CODA

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett – NIGHTMARE ALLEY
Ann Dowd – MASS
Martha Plimpton – MASS

Best Comedic Performance
Leonardo DiCaprio – DON’T LOOK UP
Simon Rex – RED ROCKET

Best Youth Performance (Performers under the age of 16)

Daniel Ranieri – THE TENDER BAR
Demi Singleton – KING RICHARD

Best Original Screenplay
Pedro Almodovar – PARALLEL MOTHERS
Kenneth Branagh – BELFAST (RUNNER-UP)
Fran Kranz – MASS (WINNER)

Michael Sarnoski – PIG

Best Adapted Screenplay
Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan – NIGHTMARE ALLEY (RUNNER-UP)
Rebecca Hall – PASSING
Sian Heder – CODA

Best Documentary

Best Animated Film


Best Foreign Language Film

Best Editing
Úna Ní Dhonghalle – BELFAST (RUNNER-UP)
Paula Huidobro – CODA
Myron Kerstein – IN THE HEIGHTS (WINNER)
Joshua L. Pearson – SUMMER OF SOUL
Joe Walker – DUNE

Best Cinematography
Alice Brooks – IN THE HEIGHTS
Greig Fraser – DUNE (WINNER)


Best Production Design
Jim Clay – BELFAST
Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo – THE FRENCH DISPATCH (RUNNER-UP)
Patrice Vermette, Richard Roberts, Zsuzsanna Sipos – DUNE

Best Visual Effects

Best Costumes
Jenny Beavan – CRUELLA (WINNER)
Odile Dicks-Mireaux – LAST NIGHT IN SOHO
Jacqueline West, Bob Morgan – DUNE
Janty Yates – HOUSE OF GUCCI

Best Sound Design
Malte Bieler, Brandon Jones – A QUIET PLACE PART II (RUNNER-UP TIE)
Simon Chase, James Mather – BELFAST (RUNNER-UP TIE)
Theo Green, Dave Whitehead – DUNE (WINNER)
Nathan Robitaille – NIGHTMARE ALLEY

Best Use of Music

Breakthrough Artist
Emilia Jones – CODA (WINNER)

Fran Kranz – MASS
Anthony Ramos – IN THE HEIGHTS

Best Ensemble

Best Body of Work

End of a Gun (2016, directed by Keoni Waxman)

Decker (Steven Seagal) is a former DEA agent who now lives in France.  Lisa Durant (Jade Ewen) is a stripper who Decker saves from getting beat up one night.  Decker and Lisa become lovers and Lisa recruits Decker to help her steal two million dollars from a sadistic drug lord named Gage (Florin Piersic, Jr.).  Gage doesn’t like having his money stolen so he has his men kidnap Lisa.  Decker eventually gets around to trying to do something about it.

First question: Why is this movie set in France?  There’s nothing notably French about the story or any of the characters.  According to Wikipedia, End of a Gun was filmed in Romania, New Orleans, and Atlanta.  The movie does include stock footage of the Eiffel Tower and there’s a French flag in one scene.

Second question: who was this movie made for?  Will Seagal fans want to see their man Steve standing in a corner while his stunt double handles all of the action?  I know Seagal has claimed that he did all of his own stunts in End of a Gun but it’s hard not to notice that Decker’s face is never visible whenever he fights anyone.  Even though Seagal is not as heavy as he’s been in some of his direct-to-video films, he still seems out of breath for much of the film.  Seagal still whispers all of his lines.

Seagal is not in much of End of a Gun.  Most of the movie is about Gage looking for Decker and Lisa.  That works to the film’s advantage.  The more Seagal is in a film, the more difficult it gets not to focus on his deficiencies as an actor.  Steve showed up long enough to pick up his paycheck and probably sat in on the stripper casting call.  It’s all in a day’s work.

Here are The Nominees Of The Seattle Film Critics Society!

Yesterday, the Seattle Film Critics Society announced their nominees for the best of 2021!  They even give out an award for villain of the year, which I really like.

The winners will be announced on January 17th.  The nominees are below:

Best Picture of the Year
CODA (Apple TV+)
Drive My Car (Janus Films)
Dune (Warner Bros.)
The Green Knight (A24)
In the Heights (Warner Bros.)
Licorice Pizza (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
Pig (NEON)
The Power of the Dog (Netflix)
Titane (NEON)
West Side Story (20th Century Studios)

Best Director
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Julia Ducournau – Titane
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car
David Lowery – The Green Knight
Denis Villeneuve – Dune

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…BOOM!
Dev Patel – The Green Knight
Simon Rex – Red Rocket

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Lady Gaga – House of Gucci
Renate Reinsve – The Worst Person in the World
Agathe Rousselle – Titane
Kristen Stewart – Spencer

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Colman Domingo – Zola
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Vincent Lindon – Titane
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog
Jeffrey Wright – The French Dispatch

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Ann Dowd – Mass
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Ruth Negga – Passing

Best Ensemble Cast
Dune – Jina Jay, Francine Maisler, casting directors
In the Heights – Tiffany Little Canfield, Bernard Telsey, casting directors
Licorice Pizza – Cassandra Kulukundis, casting director
Mass – Henry Russell Bergstein, Allison Estrin, casting directors
The Power of the Dog – Nikki Barrett, Tina Cleary, Carmen Cuba, Nina Gold, casting directors

Best Action Choreography
In the Heights
No Time to Die
Raging Fire
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Best Screenplay
Drive My Car – Ryûsuke Hamaguchi & Takamasa Oe
The Green Knight – David Lowery
Mass – Fran Kranz
Pig – Michael Sarnoski
The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion

Best Animated Feature
Encanto (Walt Disney Pictures) – Jared Bush, Byron Howard, director; Charise Castro Smith, co-director
Flee (NEON) – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, director
Luca (Walt Disney Pictures) – Enrico Casarosa, director
The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Netflix) – Michael Rianda, director; Jeff Rowe, co-director
Raya and the Last Dragon (Walt Disney Pictures) – Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, director; Paul Briggs, John Ripa, co-director

Best Documentary Feature
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (Apple TV+) – R.J. Cutler, director
Flee (NEON) – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, director
The Rescue (National Geographic Documentary Films/Greenwich Entertainment) – Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, directors
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Hulu) – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, director
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (Severin Films) – Kier-La Janisse, director

Best Film Not in the English Language
Drive My Car (Janus Films) – Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, director
Flee (NEON) – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, director
The Hand of God (Netflix) – Paolo Sorrentino, director
Titane (NEON) – Julia Ducournau, director
The Worst Person in the World (NEON) – Joachim Trier, director

Best Cinematography
Dune – Greig Fraser
The Green Knight – Andrew Droz Palermo
The Power of the Dog – Ari Wegner
The Tragedy of Macbeth – Bruno Delbonnel
West Side Story – Janusz Kaminski

Best Costume Design
Cruella – Jenny Beavan
Dune – Jacqueline West, Robert Morgan
The Green Knight – Malgosia Turzanska
House of Gucci – Janty Yates
Spencer – Jacqueline Durran

Best Film Editing
Drive My Car – Azusa Yamazaki
Dune – Joe Walker
The Power of the Dog – Peter Sciberras
Titane – Jean-Christophe Bouzy
West Side Story – Michael Kahn, Sarah Broshar

Best Original Score
Dune – Hans Zimmer
The French Dispatch – Alexandre Desplat
The Green Knight – Daniel Hart
The Power of the Dog – Jonny Greenwood
Spencer – Jonny Greenwood

Best Production Design
Dune – Patrice Vermette (Production Design); Zsuzsanna Sipos (Set Decoration)
The French Dispatch – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Rena DeAngelo (Set Decoration)
The Green Knight – Jade Healy (Production Design); Jenny Oman (Set Decoration)
Nightmare Alley – Tamara Deverell (Production Design); Shane Vieau (Set Decoration)
West Side Story – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Rena DeAngelo (Set Decoration)

Best Visual Effects
Dune – Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor, Gerd Nefzer
The Green Knight – Eric Saindon, Michael Cozens
The Matrix Resurrections – Dan Glass, Huw J. Evans, Tom Debenham, J.D. Schwalm
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Walker, Dan Oliver
Spider-Man: No Way Home – Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein, Dan Sudick

Best Youth Performance (18 years of age or younger upon start of filming):
Jude Hill – Belfast
Cooper Hoffman – Licorice Pizza
Emilia Jones – CODA
Woody Norman – C’mon C’mon
Joséphine Sanz – Petite Maman

Villain of the Year:
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen – Dune – portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård
The Green Goblin/Norman Osborn – Spider-Man: No Way Home – portrayed by Willem Dafoe
Phil Burbank – The Power of the Dog – portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch
Rufus Buck – The Harder They Fall – portrayed by Idris Elba
Xu Wenwu – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – portrayed by Tony Leung

Spider-Man Shows Up In The Nominations of the Denver Film Critics Society

Yesterday, the Denver Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2021 and it led to the first awards season appearance of Spider-Man: No Way Home.  There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not the Academy is going to nominate Spider-Man this year in an attempt to avoid repeating the ratings catastrophe of last year’s ceremony.  

The winners in Denver will be announced on January 17th!  Here are the nominees:

Best Picture
Drive My Car
The Power of the Dog
Spider-Man: No Way Home

Best Director
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Joel Coen – The Tragedy Of Macbeth
Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car
Denis Villeneuve – Dune

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Lady Gaga – House Of Gucci
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Nicole Kidman – Being The Ricardos
Kristen Stewart – Spencer

Best Actor
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Peter Dinklage – Cyrano
Will Smith – King Richard
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy Of Macbeth

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett – Nightmare Alley
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Ruth Negga – Passing

Best Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck – The Tender Bar
Ciaran Hinds – Belfast
Troy Kotsur – CODA
J.K. Simmons – Being The Ricardos
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog

Best Sci-Fi/Horror
The Green Knight
Last Night In Soho
A Quiet Place Part II
Spider-Man: No Way Home

Best Animated Film
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Raya And The Last Dragon

Best Comedy
Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar
Don’t Look Up
Free Guy
The French Dispatch
The Suicide Squad

Best Visual FX
Godzilla vs. Kong
The Green Knight
Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings
Spider-Man: No Way Home

Best Original Screenplay
Zach Baylin – King Richard
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Mike Mills – C’mon C’mon
Michael Sarnoski – Pig
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Joel Coen – The Tragedy Of Macbeth
​Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car
Sian Heder – CODA
Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth & Denis Villeneuve – Dune

Best Documentary
The First Wave
Summer Of Soul
The Velvet Underground

Best Original Song
“Be Alive” – King Richard
“Dos Oruguitas” – Encanto
“Guns Go Bang” – The Harder They Fall
“Just Look Up” – Don’t Look Up
“No Time To Die” – No Time To Die

Best Score
Germaine Franco – Encanto
Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Jonny Greenwood – Spencer
Jeymes Samuel – The Harder They Fall
Hans Zimmer – Dune

Best Foreign Language Film
Drive My Car
A Hero
Petite Maman
The Worst Person In The World

The Films of 2021: God’s Not Dead: We The People (dir by Vance Null)

Here’s the story so far:

In 2014, a film called God’s Not Dead was released.  Produced by PureFlix Entertainment, it was a big, messy, and often confusing movie about a college student who challenged the claim of an atheist professor that God never existed.  While the student was debating the professor, countless other characters were wandering around campus and having their own faith-related dramas.  The main theme of God’s Not Dead appeared to be that only bitterness could explain disbelief and that everyone on the planet secretly wants to be a Christian.  It was not a particularly good movie but it was a surprise hit at the box office.  After spending years being ridiculed in nearly every mainstream film ever released, hardcore evangelicals finally had a movie that ridiculed the other side.

In 2016, God’s Not Dead 2 came out.  God’s Not Dead 2 was so heavy-handed that it actually managed to make the original film appear balanced and fair.  As opposed to the previous film, God’s Not Dead 2 was overtly political, telling the story of a teacher who is put on trial for encouraging a student to pray.  Again, it wasn’t a very good film but it did have two things going for it: a sincere lead performance from Melissa Joan Hart and an amazingly over-the-top villainous turn from Ray Wise as the prosecutor.  Most prosecutors would be smart enough to just argue that the teacher’s actions violated the law and perhaps offer a deal so that they wouldn’t have to waste their time with a lengthy trial.  Instead, Wise’s prosecutor practically cackles that he’s going to prove to the jury that “God is dead.”  Not surprisingly, the jury responded with “That’s a little above our paygrade.”

After all of that, 2018’s God’s Not Dead: A Light In The Darkness was a surprisingly low-key affair.  Largely eschewing the overt political content of the previous installment, the third God’s Not Dead film returned the story to campus and followed the efforts of Rev. David Hill (played by David A.R. White, the franchise’s producer) to keep his church from being closed down.  Of all the films, the third God’s Not Dead probably comes the closest to being a conventional film.  It even admits that not all atheists are evil and acknowledges that there is a legitimate constitutional argument to be made for not having a church on campus.  Because it didn’t feature any villains as memorable Ray Wise, A Light In The Darkness is also probably the most boring of all the films.  It also underwhelmed at the box office, a sign that the novelty of seeing a Christian film in a theater had worn off for even the film’s target audience.

And that brings us to God’s Not Dead: We The People, which had a three-day exclusive theatrical engagement in October of 2021.  As you can probably guess from the title, the fourth God’s Not Dead returns to the political themes of the second film.  Congress is thinking about infringing on the rights of parents to homeschool their children.  Rev. Hill and a group of parents (one whom is played by Antonio Sabato, Jr.) head to Washington D.C. so that they can testify in front of a Congressional hearing that’s being chaired by a smug liberal played by legitimate actor William Forsythe.  Isaiah Washington appears as a congressman who supports homeschooling and who thinks the education system needs to be reformed.  (“He’s that Congressman from Texas!” one character exclaims.)  Judge Jeanine Pirro plays a judge who is originally against homeschooling but who changes her mind after her daughter argues with her because, in the world of God’s Not Dead, not a single atheist or skeptic has any sort of firmly held conviction that can’t be overturned by an argument that would be more appropriate for a community college Intro to Philosophy class.  The film ends with the reverend giving an impassioned speech while Forsythe glowers and Washington stares on in beatific appreciation.

As you can probably guess, God’s Not Dead: We The People is total and complete propaganda, full of strawman arguments and moralizing.  Speaking as someone who is not a fan of the government or its tendency to try to interfere in people’s lives, even I watched the film and thought, “Okay, this is just a little too heavy-handed for me.”  Director Vance Null takes a vaguely Oliver Stone-style approach to the film, editing in random shots of American flags and patriotic monuments while the film’s characters discuss how the founding fathers felt about religion.  To be honest, when it comes to how its presented, the film’s propaganda is not that different from the type of propaganda that regularly appears in more mainstream films.  The film’s flashy editing and one-sided view of the world isn’t that much different from Adam McKay’s post-Big Short filmography.  Ending the film with a passionate speech that leaves all of the main character’s opponents with nothing to say in response may be a cliché but it’s a cliché that Aaron Sorkin knows well.  All of the cameos from the characters who appeared in the previous film may feel a bit random but it’s not that much different from when Marvel used to sneak Robert Downey, Jr. into every film they made.  If nothing else, the people behind the God’s Not Dead franchise have learned the first rule of business: watch what the successful do and copy them.

All of that aside, God’s Not Dead: We The People is not a particularly interesting film.  The editing may be flashy but the pace is still slow and the final hour of the film is basically just people testifying in front of a congressional committee.  The film is less concerned with converting the skeptical and more about rallying the faithful to vote in 2022.  That’s always been my main problem with the propaganda films of both the left and the right.  It’s always less about making a case and more about vanquishing any shred of doubt from those who already largely agree with the film’s message.  Ideological purity tests do not make for enlightening or memorable entertainment.

The San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Honors The Power of the Dog!

Yesterday, the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle (try saying that 10 times fast) named The Power of the Dog as the best film of 2021!  Here are all the winners from the city by the bay.

Best Picture
Drive My Car
The Green Knight
Licorice Pizza
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story

Best Director
Denis Villeneuve – Dune
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story

Best Original Screenplay
Being the Ricardos – Aaron Sorkin
Belfast – Kenneth Branagh
C’mon Cmon – Mike Mills
Don’t Look Up – Adam McKay, David Sirota
Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson

Best Adapted Screenplay
Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
Dune – Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
The Lost Daughter – Maggie Gyllenhaal
Passing – Rebecca Hall
The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Kristen Stewart – Spencer
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Penelope Cruz – Parallel Mothers
Tessa Thomson – Passing

Best Actor
Andrew Garfield – Tick, Tick … Boom!
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth
Hidetoshi Nishijima – Drive My Car
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Will Smith – King Richard

Best Supporting Actress
Arianna DeBose – West Side Story
Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Marlee Matlin – CODA
Ruth Negga – Passing

Best Supporting Actor
Bradley Cooper – Licorice Pizza
Cirián Hinds – Belfast
J.K. Simmons – Being the Ricardos
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog
Troy Kotsur – CODA

Best Animated Feature
The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Best Foreign Language Film
A Hero
Drive My Car
Parallel Mothers
The Worst Person in the World

Best Documentary Feature
The Rescue
Summer of Soul
The Velvet Underground

Best Cinematography
Dune – Greg Fraser
The French Dispatch – Robert Yeoman
The Green Knight – Andrew Droz Palermo
Nightmare Alley – Dan Laustsen
The Power of the Dog – Ari Wegner
The Tragedy of Macbeth – Bruno Delbonnel
West Side Story – Janusz Kaminski

Best Production Design
Dune – Patrice Vermette
The French Dispatch – Adam Stockhausen
The Green Knight – Jade Healy
Nightmare Alley – Tamara Deverell
The Tragedy of Macbeth – Stefan Dechant

Best Film Editing
Belfast – Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
Dune – Joe Walker
Licorice Pizza – Andy Jurgensen
The Power of the Dog – Peter Sciberras
West Side Story – Sarah Broshar, Michael Kahn

Best Original Score
Dune – Hans Zimmer
The French Dispatch – Alexandre Desplat
The Green Knight – Daniel Hart
The Power of the Dog – Jonny Greenwood
Spencer – Jonny Greenwood

Marlon Riggs Award (For Bay Area filmmaker(s) or individual(s) who represents courage and innovation in the world of cinema)
Rita Moreno – “Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It” & “West Side Story”

Special Citation for Independent Cinema
Kuessipan (TIE)
Test Pattern (TIE)

Here Are The 2021 Nominations of The North Dakota Film Society!

Yesterday, the critics in North Dakota announced their nominees for the best of 2021. The winners will be announced on January 17th. I personally like the North Dakota nominations. Yes, a lot of the regulars are there but they also have a few quirky nominees as well.

Best Picture
FLEE (Monia Hellstrom and Signe Byrge Sorensen)
THE FRENCH DISPATCH (Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson and Steven Rales)
LICORICE PIZZA (Paul Thomas Anderson, Sara Murphy, JoAnne Sellar and Daniel Lupi)
NIGHTMARE ALLEY (J. Miles Dale, Guillermo del Toro and Bradley Cooper)
THE POWER OF THE DOG (Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Jane Campion and Tanya Seghatchian)

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson (LICORICE PIZZA)
Guillermo del Toro (NIGHTMARE ALLEY)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (TICK, TICK…BOOM!)

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain (THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE)
Agathe Rousselle (TITANE)
Kristen Stewart (SPENCER)

Best Actor
Nicolas Cage (PIG)
Bradley Cooper (NIGHTMARE ALLEY)
Benedict Cumberbatch (THE POWER OF THE DOG)
Andrew Garfield (TICK, TICK…BOOM!)
Denzel Washington (THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH)

Best Supporting Actress
Caitriona Balfe (BELFAST)
Jessie Buckley (THE LOST DAUGHTER)
Kirsten Dunst (THE POWER OF THE DOG)
Ruth Negga (PASSING)

Best Supporting Actor
Bradley Cooper (LICORICE PIZZA)
Robin de Jesus (TICK, TICK…BOOM!)
Ciaran Hinds (BELFAST)

Best Screenplay
C’MON C’MON (Mike Mills)
DRIVE MY CAR (Hamaguchi Ryusuke and Oe Takamasa)
THE FRENCH DISPATCH (Wes Anderson, Jascon Schwartzman and Roman Coppola)
LICORICE PIZZA (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Best Cinematography
DUNE (Greig Fraser)
THE GREEN KNIGHT(Andrew Droz Palermo)
WEST SIDE STORY (Janusz Kaminski)

Best Film Editing
LICORICE PIZZA (Andy Jurgensen)
THE POWER OF THE DOG (Peter Sciberras)
TICK, TICK…BOOM! (Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum)
WEST SIDE STORY (Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn)

Best Production Design
DUNE (Patrice Vermette, Richard Roberts and Zsuzsanna Sipos)
THE FRENCH DISPATCH (Adam Stockhausen and Rena DeAngelo)
NIGHTMARE ALLEY (Tamara Deverell and Shane Vieau)
THE POWER OF THE DOG (Grant Major and Amber Richards)
WEST SIDE STORY (Adam Stockhausen and Rena DeAngelo)

Best Costume Design
CRUELLA (Jenny Beavan)
DUNE (Jacqueline West)
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (Odile Dicks-Mireaux)
WEST SIDE STORY (Paul Tazewell)

Best Sound
DUNE (Mac Ruth, Mark A. Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett)
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (Julian Slater, Dan Morgan, Colin Nicolson and Tim Cavagin)
THE POWER OF THE DOG (Robert Mackenzie, Richard Flynn, Leah Katz, Tara Webb and Dave Whitehead)
TICK, TICK…BOOM! (Paul Hsu and Tod A. Maitland)
WEST SIDE STORY (Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson, Tod A. Maitland and Shawn Murphy)

Best Visual Effects
DUNE (Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer)
NO TIME TO DIE (Charlie Noble and Chris Corbould)
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Walker and Dan Oliver)
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
CRUELLA (Nadia Stacey and Carolyn Cousins)
DUNE (Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr)
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh)
THE GREEN KNIGHT (Eileen Buggy, Audrey Doyle and Barrie Gower)
WEST SIDE STORY (Judy Chin and Kay Georgiou)

Best Original Score
DUNE (Hans Zimmer)
ENCANTO (Germaine Franco)
THE FRENCH DISPATCH (Alexandre Desplat)
THE POWER OF THE DOG (Jonny Greenwood)

Best Original Song
ANNETTE – “So May We Start” (Ron Mael and Russell Mael)
DON’T LOOK UP – “Just Look Up” (Nicholas Britell, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi and Taura Stinson)
ENCANTO – “Dos Oruguitas” (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
KING RICHARD – “Be Alive” (Beyonce and Dixson)
NO TIME TO DIE – “No Time to Die” (Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell)

Best Animated Feature
ENCANTO (Jared Bush, Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith)
FLEE (Jonas Poher Rasmussen)
LUCA (Enrico Casarosa)
THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES (Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe)

Best Documentary Feature
THE FIRST WAVE (Matthew Heineman)
FLEE (Jonas Poher Rasmussen)
PROCESSION (Robert Greene)
VAL (Ting Poo and Leo Scott)

Best International Feature
DRIVE MY CAR (Hamaguchi Ryusuke) – Japan
FLEE (Jonas Poher Rasmussen) – Denmark
THE HAND OF GOD (Paolo Sorrentino) – Italy
TITANE (Julia Ducournau) – France
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (Norway) – Joachim Trier

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.10 “Sins of the Father” (dir by Marcos Siega)

I’ve been thinking about the finale of Dexter: New Blood for about three days now.  I’m going to guess that if you’re a Dexter fan, you’ve already seen it so I’m going to just talk about what happened without posting any spoiler warnings.  I hate spoiler warnings anyways.

Harrison shot and apparently killed Dexter.  Now, I have to admit that, when Harrison first showed up during the first episode, my initial thought was that Harrison was going to end up killing Dexter for the same reason that Dexter had killed so many others.  And, as other have pointed out, the entire show was pretty much leading up to either Harrison killing Dexter or Dexter being forced to kill Harrison.  So, really, I guess I should be happy that the show followed its storyline to its only logical conclusion.  I can certainly respect the show for staying true to itself but respect and happiness don’t always go together.

To be honest, even though I knew that it should happen, I really thought there was no way that the show would actually do it.  I was so used to Dexter being able to get out of any situation that I just naturally assumed that he would be able to do it again.  And if Dexter had managed to escape from the jail without killing Logan in the process, I think Dexter probably could have pulled it off.  But, by killing Logan, Dexter broke Harry’s code.  Dexter revealed that the code was really just a part of his own sociapathic ritual.  It wasn’t something that he truly obeyed,  Instead, it was something that he used to justify his dark urges.

Harrison realized what Dexter had done and, as a result, Harrison shot him.  I didn’t necessarily buy the idea that Dexter would just stand there and encourage his son to kill him.  That was a bit convenient and it required Dexter to have a conscience, which is something that we all know he didn’t have.  Even Dexter’s comment that he had never felt love until the minute Harrison pulled the trigger felt like another case of Dexter what he knew the audience wanted to hear.

My main issue with the episode wasn’t so much Harrison shooting Dexter as it was what happened next.  Allowing Harrison to escape and agreeing to cover up what he did was totally out-of-character for Angela.  Angela, who has shown that she’s willing to arrest anyone in town regardless of how close she may be to them, had no problem wiping Harrison’s prints off the gun and tossing him some money for his journey.  It didn’t make any sense.  Angela barely knows Harrison.  How does she know that Harrison didn’t help Dexter with the murders?  Also, after Angela discovered that Dexter was a murderer, did it not occur to her that there might be something strange about the stabbing at the school?  Is Angela okay with Harrison driving off to freedom while the kid that Harrison tried to murder is destined to always be remembered as a potential school shooter?  I can accept Harrison shooting Dexter.  I can even respect it.  But I cannot accept that Angela would let him get away with it.

There were other loose ends that bothered me.  Why was Edward Olsen such an important character in the first few episodes?  Why did he mysteriously vanish?  Why did the show seem to building up to a twist about Audrey’s parentage, just to abandon the whole thing an episode later?  How did Kurt manage to capture Molly, who was more or less aware that Kurt was a killer and certainly wouldn’t go anywhere willingly with him.  Considering that this episode appeared to be the definitive end of Dexter’s story, those loose ends are frustrating.

That said, it was a well-directed episode.  Michael C. Hall was riveting and genuinely frightening in the scenes where he manipulated Angela and Logan.  The final montage of the faces of everyone innocent person who died as a result of Dexter’s actions was an emotional moment and I’m glad to see that Doakes was included with Deb, Rita, LaGuerta, Lundy, and all the rest.  Doakes always got a raw deal.

Dexter: New Blood was a success.  Even the fact that I have mixed feelings about how it ended is proof of how well executed this revival was.  (Trust me, I could have hardly cared less when Dexter sailed into that hurricane, so fed up was I with the show at the time.)  And, between you and me, I’m not convinced that Dexter’s dead.  Yes, he was shot.  Yes, he didn’t look good.  But Harrison drove away before the paramedics arrived.  Dexter’s survived a lot.

At the very least, Ghost Dex would be amusing….