January Positivity: Consider It All Joy (dir by William Mings)


The 1986 short film, Consider It All Joy, features one of my favorite scene transitions.

Newly married Claire (Bonnie Hawley) and David (Gary Costello) kiss while sitting in front of the fireplace.  One jump cut later and Claire is smiling and pregnant and David has a look on his face that says, “My boys can swim!”  That’s about as close as any faith-based film will ever get to acknowledging that two people, even two married people, have not only had sex but that they actually enjoyed having sex and that they probably had sex more than once.  Of course, it helps that Hawley and Costello had a lot of chemistry and they just seemed like they belonged together as a couple.  They’re totally believable as one of those married couples who rarely fight and yet don’t annoy their friends with their happiness.

The other thing that Consider It All Joy has is a lot of wood paneling.  I wouldn’t say that every room in this film has wood paneling but enough of them do that, as I watched, I found myself saying, “That’s a lot of wood paneling.”  But that makes sense.  This is a low-budget, indie film that was shot in the 80s.  It was designed for a very specific audience and there’s nothing particularly slick or overly stylized about it.  Watching the film, the viewer gets the feeling that the majority of it was filmed in someone’s house, as opposed to on a set.  The actors probably wore their own clothes.  In many ways, the film itself feels like a time capsule.  Until time machines are invented, watching a film like this might be the closest that one could get to witnessing the 80s firsthand.

As for the film itself, it tells the story of Claire dealing with the sudden death of David.  The majority of the film is told in flashback so we watch all of the scenes of them meeting, courting, marrying, and starting a family with a sense of dread.  As happy as they are, we know that it’s not going to last.  When David is laid off from his job, he refuses to get upset and instead tells his boss that he knows everything will work out because he has faith and that God will provide.  Everyone at the office is apparently really impressed with David’s good attitude.  Of course, they’re not impressed enough to keep him around and to continue to pay his salary.  Personally, I think they’re getting off easy but then again, everything that I know about downsizing and corporate America comes from the second season of The Office.

David does eventually find a new job and it turns out to be a far better one than he previously had!  However, no sooner has David left for work than the police show up at the door and tell Claire that he’s been killed in an auto accident.  At first, Claire is angry but then she remembers David’s faith and she decides to consider it all joy.  The film ends with her witnessing to one of David’s friends, with the suggestion being that Claire might not be single for long!

As I’ve said before, I have a weakness for low-budget indie films, especially ones that pretty much epitomize the era in which it was made.  This is pretty earnest film and I doubt that it will change the minds of anyone who doesn’t already agree with its message but Bonnie Hawley and Gary Costello are a believable couple and the film couldn’t be more 80s if it tried.

Prey of the Jaguar (1996, directed by David DeCoteau)


Derek Leigh (Maxwell Caulfield) is a former Special Ops agent whose son and wife are killed by a drug lord (Trevor Goddard) than Leigh helped to put behind bars.  Inspired by his dead son’s love of super heroes, Leigh puts on a purple rubber suit and learns karate from Master Yee (John Fujioka) while The Toymaker (Paul Bartel) supplies him with an arsenal of weapons.  Calling himself the Jaguar, Leigh goes after the men who killed his family.

Caulfield wears an obviously fake mustache for the first half of the film so that he can shave it off when he becomes The Jaguar.  The camera never stops spinning around.  Most of the fights look fake and the exterior of Derek’s house changes from shot-to-shot.  Stacy Keach plays a high-ranking government official but doesn’t bother to get a haircut or hide his pony tail.  Linda Blair plays a cop and sounds like she sucked helium before filming her lines.  I’m not sure what she was doing in the movie.  She may not have been sure either.  Prey of the Jaguar is a reminder of just how cheap and cruddy most super hero films were before Marvel took over Hollywood.  Of course, Derek doesn’t really have any super powers, beyond getting proficient at martial arts in record time.  He is just wearing the outfit to honor the spirit of his dead son.  That actually makes more sense than most of the Marvel origin stories.  The movie itself was too cheap to work and the actors were so disinterested that they seemed to actively be trying to make sure that there would never be a Prey of the Jaguar 2.

The most interesting thing about the film are the opening credits, which reveal that this film was executive producer by the Wolf of Wall Street himself, Jordan Belfort.

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.3 “The Beachcomber/The Last Whodunit”


Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1986.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

This week …. Tattoo gets a trumpet!

Episode 2.3 “The Beachcomber/The Last Whodunit”

(Dir by George McCowan, originally aired on September 30th, 1978)

Tattoo is learning how to play the trumpet and Mr. Roarke can barely hide his anger.  That is this week’s Tattoo/Roarke storyline and it rasies a lot of questions about Roarke and Tattoo’s relationship.  Is Roarke upset because Tattoo is a bad trumpet player or does he just dislike Tattoo in general?  Does Tattoo really care about learning how to play the trumpet or is he just looking for an excuse to annoy Mr. Roarke?  I think all of those possibilities may be true at the same time.  If the previous two episodes hinted that Roarke and Tattoo no longer hated each other, this episode seems to confirm that they’re still the frenemies that they’ve always been.  I sympathize with Roarke but it’s hard not to appreciate Tattoo’s determination to be an agent of chaos.

As for the fantasies, Charles Preston (John Astin) is a successful businessman who wants to throw it all ways so that he can spend the rest of his life as a beach bum.  Roarke sets Preston up in a cabin on one of the shabbiest beaches on Fantasy Island.  Seriously, the layout of Fantasy Island is just weird.  A third of the island is a luxury resort.  A third of the island is a magical jungle.  And a third of the island is apparently just a collection of poverty-stricken fishing villages.  Do the people who live on the island know that they could be having a fantasy if they only had the money?  Let’s hope none of them ever pick up a copy of Marx or Piketty. 

Anyway, Preston soon discovers that the life of a beach bum is not as easy as he thought it would be.  For one thing, the chief of the island’s indigenous population demands that Preston marry his daughter.  (The joke is that his daughter is overweight and …. well, it’s all pretty cringey by 2022 standards.)  Meanwhile, a bounty hunter slaps some handcuffs on Preston and threatens to take him back to his family unless Preston pays him $70,000.  “All of you beachcombers have a stash!” the bounty hunter hisses.  Fortunately, Preston’s wife shows up and announces that she’s fine with him being a beach bum, as long as he’s a responsible beach bum who helps to pay the bills.  And that’s the end of that.  What an underwhelming fantasy.

Luckily, the episode’s other fantasy is a bit more entertaining.  Mabel Jarvis (Celeste Holm) loves mystery stories and she wants to spend a weekend as her favorite fictional detective.  Of course, Mabel soon finds herself investigating the real-life murder of Mabel’s favorite writer.  Mr. Roarke explains that the writer was a friend of his and that he hoped Mabel could solve the case.  That seems like a lot of responsibility to put on someone who is just looking for a vacation but, fortunately, Mabel proves to be up to the job.  Anyway, this was a fun little fantasy and, as an avid reader of mysteries, it was one to which I could relate.  Celeste Holm seemed to be having a lot of fun as Mabel and, even more importantly, her cat played a key role in solving the mystery.

This was not a bad episode.  The beach stuff was forgettable but the episode was saved Celeste Holm and Tattoo’s trumpet.

Everything Everywhere Wins In North Carolina


The North Carolina Film Critics Associaiton has announced their picks for the best of 2022!  You can see the nominees by clicking here and the winners below!

BEST NARRATIVE FILM
Everything Everywhere All at Once

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
Fire of Love

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
RRR

BEST DIRECTOR
Daniels (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Hoyte van Hoytema (Nope)

BEST ACTOR
Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

BEST ACTRESS
Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE IN ANIMATION OR MIXED MEDIA
Jenny Slate (Marcel the Shell With Shoes On)

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
Everything Everywhere All at Once

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Sarah Polley (Women Talking)

BEST EDITING
Paul Rogers (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS
Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon, and Daniel Barrett (Avatar: The Way of Water)

BEST STUNT COORDINATION
Nick Powell (RRR)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Ruth Carter (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)

BEST HAIR & MAKE-UP
Shane Thomas, Mark Coulier, Jason Baird, and Louise Coulston (Elvis)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Jason Kisvarday and Kelsi Ephraim (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

BEST SCORE
Michael Giacchino (The Batman)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Naatu Naatu” (RRR)

BEST SOUND DESIGN
Johnnie Burn and Jose Antonio Garcia (Nope)

BEST DIRECTORIAL DEBUT
Charlotte Wells (Aftersun)

BEST BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Austin Butler (Elvis)

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: COMPOSER
John Williams

KEN HANKE MEMORIAL TAR HEEL AWARD
Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway, Bullet Train, Atlanta) – From Fayetteville, North Carolina

Here Are The 2022 Music City Film Critics Association Nominations!


The winners will be announced on January 9th and, considering that this is a Nashville-based group, I will be massively disappointed if every award doesn’t go to Elvis.

Best Picture
Aftersun
Babylon
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Nope
RRR
Tár
The Banshees of Inisherin
The Fabelmans
Top Gun: Maverick

Best Director
Damien Chazelle – Babylon
Martin McDonagh – The Banshees of Inisherin
S. S. Rajamouli – RRR
Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans
The Daniels – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Todd Field – Tár

Best Actor
Austin Butler – Elvis
Brendan Fraser – The Whale
Colin Farrell – The Banshees of Inisherin
Diego Calva – Babylon
Paul Mescal – Aftersun

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett – Tár
Margot Robbie – Babylon
Mia Goth – Pearl
Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Viola Davis – The Woman King

Best Supporting Actor
Barry Keoghan – The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Gleeson – The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry – Causeway
Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Paul Dano – The Fabelmans

Best Supporting Actress
Angela Bassett – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau – The Whale
Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Janelle Monáe – Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Kerry Condon – The Banshees of Inisherin

Best Young Actor
Banks Repeta – Armageddon Time
Gabriel LaBelle – The Fabelmans
Gregory Mann – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Jalyn Hall – Till
Mason Thames – The Black Phone

Best Young Actress
Anna Cobb – We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Bella Ramsey – Catherine Called Birdy
Frankie Corio – Aftersun
Julia Butters – The Fabelmans
Sadie Sink – The Whale

Best Acting Ensemble
Babylon
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
The Fabelmans
Women Talking

Best Music Film
Elvis
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical
Moonage Daydream
Tár

Best Animated Film
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Turning Red
Wendell & Wild

Best Documentary
All that Breathes
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Fire of Love
Good Night Oppy
Moonage Daydream

Best International Film
All Quiet on the Western Front
Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Decision to Leave
EO
RRR

Best Screenplay
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Tár
The Banshees of Inisherin
The Fabelmans
Women Talking

Best Original Song
“Ciao Papa” – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
“Hold My Hand” – Top Gun: Maverick
“Lift Me Up” – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Naatu Naatu” – RRR
“New Body Rhumba” – White Noise

Best Score
Babylon
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The Batman
The Fabelmans
Women Talking

Best Sound
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
Elvis
Nope
Top Gun: Maverick

Best Cinematography
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
Nope
The Batman
Top Gun: Maverick

Best Production Design
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The Northman

Best Editing
Aftersun
Babylon
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Top Gun: Maverick

Best Comedy Film
Confess, Fletch
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
The Banshees of Inisherin
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Best Horror Film
Barbarian
Nope
Pearl
Smile
X

Best Action Film
Avatar: The Way of Water
Everything Everywhere All at Once
RRR
The Batman
Top Gun: Maverick

Best Stunt Work
Avatar: The Way of Water
Everything Everywhere All at Once
RRR
The Batman
Top Gun: Maverick

The Jim Ridley Award
Elvis
Moonage Daydream
Still Working 9 to 5
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile
Nicole Kidman – The Northman

Here Are The 2022 Nominations of the Austin Film Critics Association!


The winners, along with their picks for the best 10 films of 2022, will be announced on January 10th.  Keep Austin weird!

Best Director
Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave
Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert (Daniels), Everything Everywhere All at Once
Todd Field, Tár
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
S.S. Rajamouli, RRR

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Tár
Viola Davis, The Woman King
Danielle Deadwyler, Till
Mia Goth, Pearl
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Actor
Austin Butler, Elvis
Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Paul Mescal, Aftersun

Best Supporting Actor
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
Mark Rylance, Bones and All
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actress
Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Janelle Monae, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Keke Palmer, Nope

Best Ensemble
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Women Talking

Best Original Screenplay
Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert (Daniels), Everything Everywhere All at Once
Todd Fields, Tár
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Jordan Peele, Nope
Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, The Fabelmans

Best Adapted Screenplay
Sarah Polley and Miriam Toews, Women Talking
Rian Johnson, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
David Kajganich, Bones and All
Samuel D. Hunter, The Whale
Guillermo del Toro and Patrick McHale, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Best Cinematography
Russell Carpenter, Avatar: The Way of Water
Hoyte van Hotema, Nope
Claudio Miranda, Top Gun: Maverick
Linus Sandgren, Babylon
Larkin Seiple, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Editing
Bob Ducsay, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Eddie Hamilton, Top Gun: Maverick
A. Sreekar Prasad, RRR
Paul Rogers, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Monika Willi, Tár

Best Original Score
Carter Burwell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Son Lux, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Justin Hurwitz, Babylon
Michael Giacchino, The Batman
M.M. Keeravani, RRR

Best International Film
Close
Decision to Leave
EO
Holy Spider
RRR

Best Documentary
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Descendant
Fire of Love
Good Night Oppy
Moonage Daydream

Best Animated Film
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Mad God
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Turning Red

Best Voice Acting/Animated/Digital Performance
Stephen Lang, Avatar: The Way of Water
Ewan McGregor, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Zoe Saldana, Avatar: The Way of Water
Jenny Slate, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Sigourney Weaver, Avatar: The Way of Water

Best Stunt Coordinator
Timothy Neulich, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Kevin LaRosa Jr. and Casey O’Neill, Top Gun: Maverick
Nick Powell, RRR
Daniel Hernandez, The Woman King
C.C. Smiff & Jón Viðar Arnþórsson, The Northman

Best First Film
Aftersun, Charlotte Wells
Emily the Criminal, John Patton Ford
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Dean Fleischer Camp
Turning Red, Domee Shi
Watcher, Chloe Okuno

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award
Austin Butler, Elvis
Frankie Corio, Aftersun
Amber Midthunder, Prey
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Jenna Ortega, The Fallout, Scream, X, Studio 666

Scene That I Love: “Want to go for a swim?” from Once Upon A Time In America


Since today is Sergio Leone’s birthday, it only seems appropriate to share one of my favorite scenes from Leone’s 1984 gangster epic, Once Upon A Time In America.

For some context, Noodles (Robert De Niro) has just gotten out of prison and has been reunited with Max (James Woods) and all of the other hoodlums that he grew up with.  While Noodles was away, Max has been building up their gang and becoming a force in the underworld.  One of the first post-prison jobs that Noodles is involved with turns out to be a hit on another gangster.  Max, however, did not let Noodles know ahead of time that it was going to be hit.

In this scene, Noodles attempts to learn why.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Sergio Leone Edition


Sergio Leone (1929 — 1989)

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

94 years ago today, Sergio Leone was born in Rome, Italy.  The son of actor/screenwriter Vincenzo Leone and silent actress Edvige Valcarenghi, Sergio was born into the Italian film industry.  He began his career in the post-war rebuilding period, working as an assistant to Vittorio De Sica and, as an assistant director, for American films that were shot in Italy.  (Albeit uncredited, he worked on two Oscar-nominated Biblical epics, Quo Vadis and Ben-Hur.)

After making his directorial debut with The Colossus of Rhodes, Leone went on to direct the films that would change the face of international cinema.  Though he was hardly the first director of Spaghetti westerns, he was was the first to achieve far-reaching acclaim.  With the Dollars Trilogy, he made Clint Eastwood a star and Eastwood has often said that the majority of what he knows about directing, he learned from working with Leone and later Don Siegel.  Leone went on to direct the brilliant Once Upon A Time In The West and Once Upon A Time in America, two epic visions of American history that, sadly, were not initially treated well by their distributors.

Though Leone is only credited with directing eight films, his influence cannot be underestimated.  As both a visual artist and a cultural and political commentator, his films continue to influence directors to this day.

For that reason, it’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Sergio Leone Films

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966, dir by Sergio Leone, DP: Tonino Delli Colli)

Once Upon A Time In The West (1968, dir by Sergio Leone, DP: Tonino Delli Colli)

Duck, You Sucker (1971, dir by Sergio Leone, DP: Giuseppe Ruzzolini)

Once Upon A Time In America (1984, dir by Sergio Leone, DP: Tonino Delli Colli)

Catching Up With The Films of 2022: Emily The Criminal (dir by John Patton Ford)


An hour or so into Emily the Criminal, there’s a scene in which Emily (Aubrey Plaza) goes to what she thinks is a job interview with a prestigious ad agency.  For the second time in the film, Emily is forced to tell a potential employer that she has a felony conviction.  In this case, it doesn’t seem to matter.  Alice (Gina Gershon), the head of the agency, explains that she is looking for an intern to work in the design department.

Emily asks if Alice is asking her to take an unpaid internship.

Alice replies that everyone starts as an intern and that, if they do a great job, they might get a paid position in five to six months.

Emily asks how Alice can expect anyone to work regular hours without getting paid.

Alice replies that Emily will paid in experience.  “When I began in this industry,” Alice says, “I have no intention of just being a secretary….”

“But secretaries get paid!” Emily snaps.

Alice replies with an obviously well-rehearsed anecdote about how, when she started, there were no women in the executive office.  When Emily cuts her off again, Alice drops the Pelosiesque facade and accuses Emily of being spoiled.  When Emily tells her off before storming out of the office, you’ll want to cheer.  It doesn’t matter how you may feel about some of Emily’s earlier life decisions or Emily as a person.  When Emily calls out Alice for expecting people to work for free, you will totally be on Emily’s side.

You’ll also understand why Emily would chose to be, as the title makes clear, a criminal.

When we first meet Emily, she is a part of the gig economy, delivering food for a catering company.  There was a time when she dreamed of becoming a professional artist and living in South America.  Now, she’s just trying to figure out how to pay the huge amount of student loan debt that she owes, despite the fact that she never graduated from college.  When she learns of an opportunity to make $200 in one hour, she takes it.  As Youcef (Theo Rossi) explains it, all she has to do is use a fake credit card to buy a flat-screen TV so that Youcef and his associates can then sell it.  (In a nice bit of irony, it later turns out that Youcef is basically an unpaid intern for his cousin.)  After her first job is a success, Youcef starts to trust Emily with making bigger and riskier purchases.  Soon, Emily is making her own fake credit cards and running her own scams.  She’s still an independent contractor but now she’s making a lot more money.

Emily the Criminal takes a matter-of-fact approach to Emily’s activities.  There’s none of the condemnation that one might expect as the result of having seen other movies and, regardless of how dangerous things get for her, there’s never a moment where Emily herself reconsiders whether or not she wants to be a criminal.  The film doesn’t necessarily celebrate criminality but it does ask why Emily should care about the rules of society that obviously doesn’t care about her.  If Emily remains law-abiding, she’ll be stuck in a demeaning job and she’ll never pay off her debts, which means that she’ll just become a criminal by default.  (And, let’s be honest, we all know that all the talk about canceling student debt is just something that gets trotted out during an election year.  We’ll hear it again in 2024 and again, nothing will happen.)  As a criminal, the only risk is that Emily could be arrested or attacked by another criminal but, as the film makes clear from the start, Emily already has a criminal record so what’s one more charge?  As for being attacked, Emily continually proves herself to be tougher and far more ruthless than the other criminals around her.  Alice might brag about how she’s found success in an industry dominated by men but Emily actually does it.

Emily the Criminal is a relentlessly-paced journey through the shadows of the gig economy, a world where the only law is that everyone is looking out for themselves.  Aubrey Plaza gives a career best performance as Emily, playing her as someone who not only turns out to have a natural talent for being a criminal but who occasionally shocks herself with how ruthless she can be.  Emily may be a criminal but its hard to judge her.  It’s just a job.