The Internet Film Critics Society has announced their picks for the best of 2022!
And here they are:
Best Drama: Tar
Best Comedy: The Banshees of Inisherin
Best Horror or Science Fiction: Crimes of the Future
Best Action Film: Top Gun: Maverick
Best Actor: Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Best Actress: Ana de Armas in Blonde
Best Director: Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans
Best Experimental Film: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Most Underrated Film: The Outfit
Worst Film: The Munsters
Little by little, the Oscar race is starting to become just a little bit clearer. It’s still early, of course. Really, it’s way too early to say anything for sure. But it’s also hard to deny that certain films are now much more in the conversation than others.
The biggest development this month was the announcement that Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon will not be released until 2023. That takes it out of Oscar contention …. for now. (For those who may have forgotten, it was originally announced, halfway through 2013, that The Wolf of Wall Street would not be ready until sometimes in 2014. Everyone dutifully updated their Oscar predictions, striking The Wolf of Wall Street from their lists of likely best picture nominees. Then, at the last minute, Scorsese announced that the film actually would be ready for 2013. If something similar happens this year, Killers of the Flower Moon will go right back to being a huge contender because it’s Scorsese and he’s one of the best, regardless of what certain Marvel fans would have you believe.) With Scorsese apparently out, it would now appear that Steven Spielberg is going to be the only member of the old guard with a film in the Oscar race. Considering that many people believe that Spielberg’s West Side Story was snubbed last year when it only took home one Oscar (out of a total of sever nominations), The Fabelmans seems like it will be a major contender. Admittedly, my hope that David Lynch will earn an acting nomination for playing John Ford in The Fabelmans may be a longshot but it can not be denied that it would be a cool development.
As for the other contenders, Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and Everything Everywhere All At Once all seem poised to ride a combination of critical acclaim and box office success into the Oscar race. Todd Field has finally returned with Tar. The Whale has the potential to be a comeback vehicle for the always likable Brendan Fraser. She Said, Till, and Women Talking all stand to take advantage of the current political climate. And Babylon will presumably give Hollywood a chance to celebrate itself.
The Oscar picture is still a bit cloudy but, with so many major festival on the horizon, those clouds should be parting soon.
There are some people out there (mainly on Twitter) who are convinced that Andrew Dominik’s film adaptation of Blonde will be the first NC-17 film to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Well …. maybe. If I’m skeptical, it’s because I can still remember suffering through Dominik’s previous non-documentary film, Killing Them Softly. That said, Ana de Armas seems like she’s destined to be nominated some day and playing the lead role of Marilyn Monroe in a controversial film adapted from a controversial Joyce Carol Oates novel seems like the sort of thing that will get the Academy’s attention.
The trailer for this upcoming Netflix spy thriller had the misfortune to drop as the same time as the trailer for the new Mission: Impossible film. Needless to say, The Gray Man has been a bit overshadowed, despite being directed by the Russo Brothers and starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas.
As for the trailer itself, it looks like a standard Netflix action flick but, if you’ve seen The Iceman, you know that Chris Evans can be an entertainingly eccentric villain. And I think the Russo Brothers do have the potential to be a force outside of the MCU, even if Cherry did fall a bit flat. So, we’ll see!
Just released on Hulu, Deep Water is the funniest film of the year so far.
Ben Affleck stars as Vic Van Allen. (Even his name is funny!) Vic made a fortune by inventing a computer chip that is used to help drones track people down and blow them up. Now, Vic is retired, living in a nice and small town, and publishing a photography/poetry magazine. He enjoys going to parties with his friends, joking about committing murder, and riding the heck out of his bike. Seriously, the shots of Affleck riding that bike are comparable to Will Ferrell playing the flute in Anchorman.
Ana de Armas plays Vic’s wife, Melinda. Everyone, including Vic, knows that Melinda cheats on Vic with almost every man that she meets. Vic accepts Melina’s infidelities on the condition that she not leave him and their daughter, Trixie (Grace Jenkins). Of course, Vic does still get upset. When Melinda’s former lover vanishes, Vic jokes to Melinda’s current lover that he killed the previous lover. Everyone in town gets a good laugh out of that one. Everyone, that is, but for Melinda and local busybody Don Wilson (Tracy Letts).
Both Melinda and Don think that Vic is capable of murder. As far as Don is concerned, Vic is responsible for the death of every single person who has ever been blown by a drone. Meanwhile, Melinda knows that there’s something strange about the way that Vic spends all of his time taking care of the hundreds of snails that he keeps in the basement. Vic, of course, insists that he was just making a joke when he said that he was a murderer. But then Vic actually does murder someone and things get complicated….
From what I understand, Deep Water is supposed to be a serious thriller but I absolutely refuse to believe that it’s not actually meant to be a parody of the genre. It’s director Adrian Lyne’s first film in 20 years. Lyne is best know for directing movies like 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction. Indecent Proposal, and Unfaithful and so many of the scenes in Deep Water feel as if they’ve been specifically designed as a way to poke fun at Lyne’s previous films that one can’t help but suspect that at least a few of the film’s laughs are meant to be intentional. This is a film that features Ben Affleck, on a bicycle, chasing a car while the driver rants about how autocorrect is always ruining his text messages. I absolutely refuse to accept that this was truly meant to be taken seriously.
That said, Affleck wanders through the film with a glum expression on his face, one that suggests that he wasn’t let in on the joke ahead of time. Ana de Armas is ultimately defeated by a script that refuses to allow her character to behave with any consistency but she’s still smart enough to play Melinda as being a character who is at least partially aware that she’s in a movie. As for Tracy Letts, I have never seen any reputable actor overact quite as much as Tracy Letts does towards the end of Deep Water. It’s a sight to behold.
Adrian Lyne makes sure that the film looks good but he never manages to strike a consistent tone and the film’s plot is full of holes. Affleck spends a lot of time gazing at snails while Ana de Armas throws a fit when her daughter keeps insisting that Alexa play Old MacDonald. Tracy Letts, at one point, sees Affleck riding his bicycle and starts cursing like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Deep Water doesn’t really work as a thriller but, as a comedy, it’s a lot of fun.
Is it too early to start talking about next year’s Oscar race?
Of course, it is! But I’m going to do it anyway.
Below, you’ll find the installment of my monthly list of Oscar predictions, not for what will win at the end of March but instead for what we’ll see nominated next year. Obviously, there’s a lot that we don’t know about what’s going to happen later this year. Only a few of the movies listed below have firmly set release dates. Needless to say, I haven’t seen any of the films below and, as a result, I’m largely going on instinct. Who knows if the films will be as good as their plot descriptions? As much as I hate the overused quote from William Goldman, right now, no one knows anything. Indeed, it’s not really until Festival Season hits that we really start to get even a vaguely clear picture of the Oscar race and we’ve got a long way to go until Cannes.
(And really, it’s debatable how much of a factor Cannes really is. If the Oscar nominations were determined by Cannes, Red Rocket and The French Dispatch would be battling it out for best picture right now.)
The predictions below are, for the most part, just random guesses. Most of them involve people who have won Oscars in the past. The Fabelmans is there because it’s a Spielberg film, just as Killers of the Flower Moon makes the list because it’s directed by Martin Scorsese and it stars Leonard DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. And, of course, a lot of the predictions are just the result of wishful thinking on my part. I think it would be kind of fun if David Lynch got an acting nomination for his role in The Fabelmans, whatever that role may be. I also think it would be nice if Brendan Fraser got a nomination to go along with his recent comeback. I don’t know much about The Whale, beyond the fact that Fraser plays a 600-pound man trying to reconnect with his daughter. For now, that’s enough.
So, without further ado, here are my way too early Oscar predictions! As always, take them with a grain of salt.
On the surface, Deep Water just looks like “The movie Ben and Ana did during Lockdown”, but with Adrian Lyne’s name attached to this, I’ve had a double take. Lyne is responsible for Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks, Indecent Proposal and Unfaithful. I’m curious about where this one is going. Judging from the heavy breathing, it seems this couple is good at giving tummy tickles.
It’s that time of the month again! It’s time for me to go out on a limb and attempt to predict what will be nominated for the Oscars. Of course, trying to do this early in the year is a fool’s errand. We all know that. That’s actually part of the fun.
As of right now, the list below is full of familiar names, a few films that were acclaimed at Sundance, and a few random guesses. A lot of the predicted nominees are films that were expected to be Oscar contenders last year but which were delayed due to the pandemic. (Looking at you, West Side Story.) Some of them are contenders that I personally would just like to see nominated, even though it probably won’t happen. (I’m not going to jinx anything by pointing out which nomination about which I’m specifically thinking. You’ll probably be able to guess for yourself.) Over the next few months, the Oscar picture will become a bit clearer. Many of the contenders listed below will be forgotten about. Meanwhile, new contenders will emerge. My point is, take it all with a grain of salt and don’t put down any money just yet.
Two big developments to keep in mind:
First off, the Academy is officially going back to having a set a number of nominees. Next year, ten films will be nominated for best picture. Not seven. Not nine. Ten. Personally, I’m thrilled by this development. Nothing irritated me more than when they used to announce those weird, seven-picture lineups. (As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like odd numbers.)
Secondly, the Academy is going back to the old eligibility dates. Yay! What that means is that only films that are released between March and the end of this year will be eligible to compete for the Oscars. More importantly, it means that the best film of 2021 will not be released in 2022.
Anyway, here are my predictions for this month! Don’t take them too seriously. If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April.
That’s not how The Night Clerk was advertised, though perhaps it should have been. This is one of those overheated melodramas that’s so sure that it’s making a bigger statement than it actually is that it becomes somewhat fascinating to watch. Usually, when we say that a film is fascinating to watch, we mean that it’s either fascinatingly good or fascinatingly bad. The Night Clerk is fascinatingly middle-of-the-road. It has opportunities to be good, largely due to the performances of Tye Sheridan and Ana de Armas. And it has opportunities to be bad, largely due to the direction and script of Michael Cristofer. Try as it might, the film never becomes truly good and yet it’s never truly bad, either. It’s just kind of there.
The title character is Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan), a young man who has Asperger’s syndrome and who works as a night desk clerk at a hotel. He’s hidden cameras all over the hotel, so that he can observe the guests in their rooms. He even watches the guests when he returns to the home that he shares with his mother, Ethel (Helen Hunt). That’s undeniably creepy but we’re not supposed to hold that against Bart because he’s only watching the guests so that he can learn how to talk and communicate with other people.
(To be honest, the film is very lucky that Tye Sheridan was available to play Bart. As written, Bart is not a particularly sympathetic character. But Sheridan is such a likable actor and has such an appealing screen presence that you’re willing to overlook a lot of narrative inconsistencies where his character is concerned.)
Anyway, Bart ends up taking an interest in a guest named Karen (Jacque Gray) but, when Karen’s murdered, Bart becomes the number one suspect. Even though Bart knows that Karen was killed by a mysterious man who had a distinctive tattoo, he can’t reveal how he knows that information. When Bart is assigned to another hotel, he meets Andrea Riviera (Ana de Armas). Andrea seems to take an interest in Bart but is she sincere or is she somehow involved with the murderer herself?
Do I really need to answer that question for you?
And again, the film is lucky that Ana de Arams was available to play Andrea because Andrea is another character who wouldn’t be particularly sympathetic if she had been played by a less appealing performer. The film can never seem to make up its mind whether she’s a calculating femme fatale or a naive victim and it’s somewhat amazing that de Amas is able to give a good performance considering how badly Andrea is written.
The Night Clerk is one of those films that holds your interest while you watch it but it tends to fade from the memory as soon as it ends. Sheridan and de Armas are appealing actors but the film’s central mystery isn’t a particularly interesting one. When the mystery is finally solved, I was so underwhelmed that I kept waiting for another twist to suddenly pop up. Surely, I kept saying, it can’t be that simple. But yes, it is. Though the hotels are impressively trashy, the film itself has a rather flat, uninteresting look and director Michael Cristofer never really brings the story together. It’s a mess of a film but it does work as a testament to the talents of Tye Sheridan and Ana de Armas.
Sergio, which dropped on Netflix last Friday, is a biopic of the Brazilian diplomat, Sérgio Vieira de Mello. Sergio spent 34 years as a diplomat with the United Nations, going to some of the most dangerous places in the world and trying to negotiate with people who were determined to kill one another. Sergio was so respected within the UN that he was seen as a likely candidate for Secretary-General. Instead, in 2003, Sergio was killed in a terrorist attack while he was in Baghdad, observing the American occupation of Iraq.
Starring Wagner Moura in the title role, Sergio opens with Sergio arriving in Baghdad. For the majority of the film, he’s buried in the rubble of his blown-up office, thinking about his past life while an American soldier (played, with quiet authority, by Garret Dillahunt) tries to dig him and his assistant, Gil (Brian F. O’Byrne) out. Through the use of flashbacks, we watch as Sergio negotiates peace in East Timor and argues against the occupation of the Iraq. We also watch as he meets and falls in love with Carolina (Ana de Armas), pursuing a passionate affair with her despite being married.
Sergio is a rather staid biopic. If you’re expecting to see an Adam McKay-style screed about international diplomacy and American war crimes, that is not what this film is and we should be happy for that because, seriously, have you tried to watch The Big Short or Vice lately? Instead, Sergio is more like a Jay Roach film without the attempts at humor. It’s a blandly liberal biopic that is conventionally structured and a bit too convinced that the audience is going to automatically agree with its points. Indeed, one of the film’s most glaring flaws is that it assumes that we’re all as enamored with the UN as it is. Instead of making a case for why the UN should be taken seriously, Sergio just assumes that it is.
The other big problem with the film is that it’s just boring. There’s nothing interesting about the film’s structure and, as portrayed in the rather bland script, both Sergio and Carolina come across as being ciphers. We’re constantly told that Sergio is charismatic and controversial but we really don’t see much evidence of it. The film itself doesn’t seem to know what made Sergio tick but what’s even worse is that it doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in finding out. There’s not much interest in digging into Sergio’s mind or his motives, The film forgets that you can portray someone as a hero and celebrate their accomplishments without necessarily idealizing them. With the exception of one or two scenes (and there is an effective moment where one of Sergio’s assistants does call him out for putting everyone’s life in danger by refusing to accept protection from the U.S. army), Sergio is portrayed in such an idealized that he comes across as being a bit dull. Wagner Moura is an appealing actor but there’s no depth to his performance. Meanwhile, Ana de Armas is reduced to playing the stock girlfriend with a social conscience role.
All that said, I almost feel guilty about not liking Sergio. The film was made with good intentions but good intentions don’t necessarily translate to compelling storytelling.