Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions for December


Well, the year’s nearly over and that means that it is time for me to post my final Oscar predictions for 2021.  The race has gotten much clearer with the start of the precursor season.  The critics love The Power of the Dog.  However, it’s perhaps a bit too early to declare it the front runner.  I want to see how things go with the Guilds in January before I bestow that title on any film.

A few thoughts:

There are ten Best Picture nominees this year so we won’t have any of that, “Here’s a random number of nominees” crap.  In theory, that should open the door for some unconventional nominees that might have missed the cut-off in previous years.  Again, I said, “In theory.”  They tried this 10 nominee thing before and it didn’t really lead to the results that a lot of people were expecting.

Still, I’m going to swing out on a web and predict a Best Picture nomination for Spider-Man: No Way Home.  It’s got Disney and Sony behind it.  It’s making a ton of money despite not playing in China.  It’ the film that’s currently giving the industry hope that there’s a future outside of the streaming sites.  Plus, after the nominations of Black Panther and Joker, it might be time to give the whole “They’ll never nominate a comic book movie!” argument a rest.  

I’m also going to predict a Best Picture nomination for Drive My Car, which has been getting a lot of attention from the critics.  

The critics also loved West Side Story but now, it’s probably best known for being a bust at the box office.  I still think the movie will be nominated but I don’t think it’ll win.  And I think it’s a lot less likely that Rita Moreno will pick up a nomination.  People seem to have moved on from the movie.  Again, this could all change once the Guilds start announcing their nominations.

The critics are split on Don’t Look Up.  I personally think it’s one of the worst films of 2021.  But the film will be nominated for much the same reason that The Big Short and Vice were nominated.  There’s a lot of Academy members who agree with McKay’s politics.  And the people who do like Don’t Look Up really, really like it.  And I also think there’s probably enough people annoyed with Elon Musk that Mark Rylance will sneak into the supporting actor race.

Belfast has not been dominating the early part of awards season but I think it will come on strong once the Guilds start announce their nominations.

Anywya, these are just my guesses, for better or worse.  To see how my thinking has evolved,  check out my predictions for March and April and May and June and July and August and September and October and November!

Best Picture

Belfast

CODA

Don’t Look Up

Drive My Car

Dune

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

The Power of the Dog

Spider-Man: No Way Home

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza

Kenneth Branagh for Belfast

Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog

Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car

Denis Villeneueve for Dune

Best Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog

Peter Dinklage in Cyrano

Andrew Gardield for tick….tick….BOOM!

Will Smith in King Richard

Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of MacBeth

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci

Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza

Kristen Stewart in Spencer

Rachel Zegler in West Side Story

Best Supporting Actor

Bradley Cooper in Licorice Pizza

Ciaran Hinds in Belfast

Troy Kostur in CODA

Mark Rylance in Don’t Look Up

Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story

Ann Dowd in Mass

Kirsten Dunst in The Power of the Dog

Aunjanue Ellis in King Richard

Marlee Matlin in CODA

 

Film Review: Licorice Pizza (dir. by Paul T. Anderson)


Age is one of those strange factors when it comes to relationships.

My Dad was 35 when he married my Mom, who was 10 years his junior. Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson have a 23 year age difference between each other and they’re doing fine (I hope). Florence Pugh and Zach Braff have a 21 year difference. Anna Nicole Smith was about 27 when she married a near 90 year old J. Howard Marshall. If your mind is totally shutting down on you on the age differences, I’d tell you that maybe Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza may not be for you, but to still give it a chance. The story is so well written that you’ll often forget there any kind of age differences. If that’s not a problem, the movie is more than worth your time.

A Licorice Pizza is another word for a vinyl album. Although I grew up with records (Purple Rain and Jaws were on constant rotation as a kid), I can’t say I’ve ever heard the term before.

Licorice Pizza is a love story at heart, between 15 year old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, an Anderson regular) and 25 year old Alana Kane (Alana Haim, of the band Haim) set in the early 1970s. Gary’s young, but is both very curious and confident, actively looking for the next opportunity ahead of him (even if he has to create it). Alana’s successful at what she does, is resourceful in her own right and doesn’t hesitate to call someone out on their crap.

I caught Licorice Pizza on the Friday after Thankgsiving at the Village East by Angelika just below 14th Street in Manhattan. which hosts one of the best 70 MM screens in the borough. This was the same theatre I attended for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master in 70MM. The place is absolutely beautiful and reminds me of the old Ziegfeld. Think of 70MM as what IMAX was before IMAX ever existed.

By far, Licorice Pizza‘s greatest strengths are the plot and cast. For Hoffman and Haim, these are their first acting performances, but they flow so well in every scene (with Haim the stronger of the two) that it feels completely natural. Hoffman is energetic and smooth, and I hope to see him do more in the future. Haim is a marvel, and if she doesn’t end up with some kind of award for all this, I’d be very shocked. She dances with all of these actors as if she’s done it for years, and in the rare instance where there’s a hiccup – there’s a moment regarding the character’s age – the recovery’s so quick that you have to wonder if that was scripted or not. It reminds me of Michael Mann’s Miami Vice, in that being undercover is basically taking on a persona and throwing yourself fully into it to make it believable. Both leads are the heart of all this.

Jack Holden (Sean Penn) takes Alana Kane (Alana Haim) for a ride in P.T. Anderson’s Licorice Pizza

Of course, it helps to have backup to support the leads. Alana Kane’s family is also Alana Haim’s. Her sisters, Danielle and Este, along with their parents are all on hand here. The film is also peppered with stars like Tom Waits (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Sean Penn playing a variant on Bill Holden(Milk), Christine Ebersole (The Wolf of Wall Street), Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems) and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, and she’s Anderson’s wife) that help to round out the weirdness of Los Angeles in the 1970s. Of particular note are both George DiCaprio (Father of Leonardo) as a waterbed salesman, and Bradley Cooper as legendary producer Jon Peters (who was responsible for Batman, A Star is Born and Man of Steel). Of all of the supporting cast, Cooper has by far the most positive and zany appearance, with his version of Peters feeling more like a live action Rocket Raccoon. His character here is almost the opposite of the one he plays in Nightmare Alley. I also loved Benny Safdie’s politician here. Each supporting character has a story of their own that Alana & Gary are pulled into.

And then there’s John Michael Higgins, who plays a restaurant owner who makes fun of his Japanese wife’s ability to speak English. He talks to her in a made up broken version of Japanese, which my audience seemed to be okay with. They laughed, mostly. It’s like the Christmas Story Chinese Food scene, where the family has to listen to a broken version of “Deck the Halls”. Depending on who you are, it may come across as cringeworthy, and is honestly the only thing that stumble steps the movie in any way. Then again, one could argue that it’s just the 70s. Things were different. Anyone recollecting what life was life back then is bound to have a relative or someone just like that.

All that aside, I loved the flow of the movie. Between The Master and Inherent Vice, I half expected Licorice Pizza to take some dark turns. While the movie does get a little strange where the effects of the gas shortage plays in (also one of the best scenes), the film is incredibly lighthearted and fun. Like every romantic comedy, you have all of the great elements. Gary pursues Alana, but her attentions are turned towards another. By the time Alana starts to realize that maybe Gary is good for her, he’s kind of moved on. You may find yourself hoping everything works out – it’s hard not to love these characters. All of this is done with a soundtrack from the era that rivals some of the best offerings from Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. A little Bowie, some Nina Simone, some Paul McCartney and Wings & even Donovan pepper the film. For the score, Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood is back once again as Anderson’s go-to composer.

Overall, Licorice Pizza is a surprisingly lighthearted tale from Paul T. Anderson. It never overreaches or spends too much time in any one place, understanding that love is a complex thing. Grounded by two talented newcomers, a plethora of supporting heavies, a wonderful soundtrack and a screenplay that’ll make you smile, Licorice Pizza is an easy recommendation.

Here Are The Nominations From The Detroit Film Critics Society


The Detroit Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2021 earlier today.  It’s an interesting group of nomination, though I would point out that Detroit is usually one of the quirkier of the critics groups.  Every awards season, they nominate something or someone unexpected, there’s a brief flurry of excitement, and then everyone moves on.

I guess that’s one reason why I love them.

Anyway, here’s their nominations:

BEST PICTURE
Belfast
CODA
Cyrano
Don’t Look Up
King Richard

BEST DIRECTOR
Sean Baker – Red Rocket
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
David Lowery – The Green Knight
Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up
Lan-Manuel Miranda – Tick, Tick…Boom!

BEST ACTOR
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Peter Dinklage – Cyrano
Andrew Garfield – Tick, Tick…Boom!
Oscar Isaac – The Card Counter
Will Smith – King Richard

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Jennifer Hudson – Respect
Nicole Kidman – Being The Ricardos
​Kristen Stewart – Spencer

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jon Bernthal – King Richard
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jared Leto – House Of Gucci
Ray Liotta – The Many Saints Of Newark
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power Of The Dog

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Kirsten Dunst – The Power Of The Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Rita Moreno – West Side Story
Diana Rigg – Last Night In Soho

BEST ENSEMBLE
CODA
Don’t Look Up
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
House Of Gucci

BREAKTHROUGH
Alana Haim – Actress – Licorice Pizza
Emilia Jones – Actress – CODA
Woody Norman – Actor – C’mon C’mon
Agathe Rousselle – Actress – Titane
Emma Seligman – Writer/Director – Shiva Baby

BEST USE OF MUSIC/SOUND
Cyrano
In The Heights
Last Night In Soho
Tick, Tick…Boom!
West Side Story

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Don’t Look Up
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
Licorice Pizza
Parallel Mothers

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
CODA
The Green Knight
In The Heights
The Power Of The Dog
Tick, Tick…Boom!

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Belle
Cryptozoo
Encanto
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. The Machines

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Flee
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
The Sparks Brothers
Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street
Summer Of Soul

The National Board of Review Names Licorice Pizza The Best of 2021


The National Board of Review just announced their picks for the best of 2021 and, while many thought they might go with West Side Story or The Power of the Dog, the NBR instead announced that their pick for Best Picture was Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza!

In fact, Power of the Dog went curiously unmentioned by the National Board of Review.  I wouldn’t read too much into that, though.  While the NBR is one of the more prominent of the precursors, they’re also not one of the most reliable.  If the Guilds ignore a film that was considered to be contender, that’s when you might want to start changing your predictions.

Anyway, here are the NBR winners:

Best Film: LICORICE PIZZA
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, LICORICE PIZZA
Best Actor: Will Smith, KING RICHARD
Best Actress: Rachel Zegler, WEST SIDE STORY
Best Supporting Actor: Ciarán Hinds, BELFAST
Best Supporting Actress: Aunjanue Ellis, KING RICHARD
Best Original Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, A HERO
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
Breakthrough Performance: Alana Haim & Cooper Hoffman, LICORICE PIZZA
Best Directorial Debut: Michael Sarnoski, PIG
Best Animated Feature: ENCANTO
Best Foreign Language Film: A HERO
Best Documentary: SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
​Best Ensemble: THE HARDER THEY FALL
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: FLEE

Top Films (in alphabetical order)
Belfast
Don’t Look Up
Dune
King Richard
The Last Duel
Nightmare Alley
Red Rocket
The Tragedy of Macbeth
West Side Story

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)
Benedetta
Lamb
Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
Titane
The Worst Person in the World

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
Ascension
Attica
Flee
The Rescue
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
The Card Counter
C’mon C’mon
CODA
The Green Knight
Holler
Jockey
Old Henry
Pig
Shiva Baby
The Souvenir Part II

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza Has A Trailer and A Poster


After weeks of hearing about the trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, I finally got to see it for myself earlier today.

Just a few thoughts:

  1. The film is obviously a return to the 70s mileu of Anderson’s pervious films, Boogie Nights and Inherent Vice.
  2. Bradley Cooper does appear to be playing the legendary Hollywood producer Jon Peters.
  3. So much of the pre-publicity has centered on Cooper Hoffman that it’s interesting to see that the trailer is pretty much dominated by Alana Haim.
  4. Of course, there’s a scene of Alana walking in Los Angeles.
  5. Licorice Pizza was apparently the name of an actual record store. I prefer the title to Soggy Bottom.
  6. I’m always excited for a new Paul Thomas Anderson movie!
  7. Life on Mars is the perfect soundtrack for the trailer.
  8. I have to wonder if Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, and Benny Safdie have large roles or if they’re basically just doing cameos in this film. We’ll find out soon!

Along with the trailer, the film’s poster was also released. Here it is: