What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2018 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 2017201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blindspotting

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Leave No Trace

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

 

Best Director

*Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade

The Coen Brothers for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Alfonso Cuaron for Roma

Debra Granik for Leave No Trace

Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

 

Best Actor

John Cho in Searching

Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting

*Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

 

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade

Lady Gaga in A Star is Born

*Regina Hall in Support the Girls

Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor

Thomason McKenzie in Leave No Trace

 

Best Supporting Actor

Peter Bogdonavich in The Other Side of the Wind

*Ben Foster in Leave No Trace

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Josh Hamilton in Eighth Grade

Tim Blake Nelson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Michael Palin in The Death of Stalin

 

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place

*Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Zoe Kazan in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Emma Stone in The Favourite

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

 

Best Voice Over or Motion-Capture Performance

*Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War

Jake Johnson in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Holly Hunter in The Incredibles 2

Shamiek Moore in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

John C. Reilly in Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2

 

Best Original Screenplay

Blindspotting

The Death of Stalin

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Game Night

Support the Girls

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

If Beale Street Could Talk

Leave No Trace

*A Simple Favor

A Star is Born

 

Best Animated Feature

Early Man

Have A Nice Day

The Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Ralph Breaks the Internet

*Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Best Documentary Feature

Avicii: True Stories

Recovery Boys

Shirkers

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

*Three Identical Strangers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Battle

Gun City

Happy as Lazzaro

Have A Nice Day

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World

*Roma

 

Best Casting

Blindspotting

Eighth Grade

Mandy

Mid90s

Roma

*Support the Girls

 

Best Cinematography

Aquaman

Avengers: Infinity Wars

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Panther

*Mandy

Roma

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

*Black Panther

The Favourite

Lizzie

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

 

Best Film Editing

Avengers: Infinity Wars

Eighth Grade

Mission Impossible: Fallout

*The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

Searching

Best Makeup and Hair Styling

*The Favourite

Lizzie

Mandy

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

Best Original Score

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Death of Stalin

If Beale Street Could Talk

*Mandy

The Other Side of the Wind

Best Original Song

*“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

“All the Stars” from Black Panther

“Limitless” from Second Act

“I’ll Never Love Again” from A Star is Born

“Is that Alright” from A Star is Born

“Shallow” from A Star is Born

 

Best Overall Use of Music

Bohemian Rhapsody

Eighth Grade

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mid90s

*A Star is Born

Three Identical Strangers

 

Best Production Design

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

The Commuter

*The Favourite

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Quiet Place

Best Sound Editing

Annihilation

*Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

12 Strong

Best Sound Mixing

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

*A Star is Born

Best Stuntwork

Avengers: Infinity War

Beirut

Black Panther

*Mission Impossible: Fallout

12 Strong

Upgrade

Best Visual Effects

Annihilation

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Aquaman

*Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

First Man

Films Listed By Number of Nominations:

11 Nominations – Avengers: Infinity War

9 Nominations – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Favourite, Roma

8 Nominations – Eighth Grade, A Star is Born

7 Nominations – Black Panther, The Other Side of the Wind

6 Nominations – A Simple Favor

5 Nominations – Leave No Trace, Support the Girls

4 Nominations – Blindspotting, Mandy, Mission Impossible: Fallout

3 Nominations – Annihilation, The Death of Stalin, Mary Queen of Scots, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

2 Nominations – Aquaman, Have A Nice Day, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Incredibles 2, Lizzie, Mid90s, A Quiet Place, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Searching, Three Identical Strangers, 12 Strong

1 Nomination – Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avicii: True Stories, Battle, Beirut, Bohemian Rhapsody, Chappaquiddick, The Commuter, Early Man, First Man, First Reformed, Game Night, Gun City, Happy as Lazzaro, Isle of Dogs, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World, Paddington 2, Recovery Boys, Second Act, Shirkers, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, Upgrade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, You Were Never Really Here

Films Listed By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Eighth Grade, The Favourite

2 Oscars – Mandy, A Star is Born, Support the Girls

1 Oscar – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Other Side of the Wind, Roma, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Three Identical Strangers

As for the real nominations, they’ll be announced on Tuesday morning!

Here Are The 2018 Women Film Critics Circle Nominations!


BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN
Mary Shelley
Roma
The Favourite
Widows

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Leave No Trace
The Kindergarten Teacher
You Were Never Really Here

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]

Sara Colangelo: The Kindergarten Teacher
Debra Granik: Leave No Trace
Tamara Jenkins: Private Life
Audrey Wells: The Hate U Give

BEST ACTRESS
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Viola Davis, Widows
Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Kindergarten Teacher

BEST ACTOR
Ben Foster, Leave No Trace
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Hugo Weaving, Black 47

BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS
Helena Bonham Carter, 55 Steps
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Kathryn Hahn, Private Life
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

BEST YOUNG ACTRESS
Elle Fanning, Mary Shelley
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace
Amandla Stenberg, The Hate U Give

BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN
Capernaum
Happy As Lazzaro
Roma
Zama

BEST DOCUMENTARY BY OR ABOUT WOMEN
RBG
Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland
Seeing Allred
Shirkers

WOMEN’S WORK/BEST ENSEMBLE
55 Steps
Ocean’s Eight
The Favourite
Widows

SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

COURAGE IN FILMMAKING
Haifaa Al-Mansour, Mary Shelley
Sara Colangelo, The Kindergarten Teacher
Sandra Luckow, That Way Madness Lies
Jennifer Fox, The Tale

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]Helena Bonham Carter: 55 Steps
Viola Davis: Widows
Nicole Kidman: Destroyer
Melissa McCarthy: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women
Call Her Ganda
I Am Not A Witch
On Her Shoulders
Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland

JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America
If Beale Street Could Talk
Life And Nothing More
The Hate U Give
Widows

KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity
93 Queen
On The Basis Of Sex
Roma
Woman Walks Ahead

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD: [Performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Andrea Riseborough, Nancy
The Women Of Widows

BEST SCREEN COUPLE
A Star Is Born
Crazy Rich Asians
Disobedience
If Beale Street Could Talk

BEST FEMALE ACTION HEROES
Adrift
55 Steps
Black Panther
RBG

MOMMIE DEAREST WORST SCREEN MOM OF THE YEAR AWARD
Krista Allen, Party Mom
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Nicole Kidman, Destroyer
Jacki Weaver, Widows

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES
Black Panther
Like Me
On The Basis Of Sex
Widows

BEST ANIMATED FEMALES
Incredibles 2
Liyana
Mary And The Witch’s Flower
Mirai No Mirai

BEST FAMILY FILM
Eighth Grade
Incredibles 2
Science Fair
The Hate U Give

WFCC HALL OF SHAME
Bryan Singer

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association Embrace Roma, Debra Granik, and Steven Yeun!


The Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2018 earlier today and guess who picked up their award for Best Supporting Actor?

Steven Yeun!

That’s right.  As sad as we all were to see Glenn brutally murdered on The Walking Dead, at least we can find some happiness in the fact that Steven Yeun’s career has prospered since leaving the show.  Yeun won the LAFCFA’s Best Supporting Actor prize for his role in the Korean film, Burning.  The LAFCA liked Burning quite a bit actually.  It also came in second for the Best Picture prize, an award that was won by Roma.

Finally, Debra Granik won Best Director for her work on Leave No Trace, making her the first woman to win the directing prize of a major critics group this year.

Here are the winners!

Best Picture – ROMA
Runner up: Burning

Best Director – Debra Granik (Leave No Trace)
Runner up: Alfonso Cuarón (ROMA)

Best Actor – Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Runner up: Ben Foster (Leave No Trace)

Best Actress – Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Runner up: Toni Collette (Hereditary)

Best Supporting Actor – Steven Yeun (Burning)
Runner up: Hugh Grant (Paddington 2)

Best Supporting Actress – Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Runner up: Elizabeth Debicki (Widows)

Best Screenplay – Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Runner up: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Favourite)

Best Production Design – Hannah Beachler (Black Panther)
Runner up: Fiona Crombie (The Favourite)

Best Editing –  Joshua Altman and Bing Liu (Minding the Gap)
Runner up: Alfonso Cuarón and Adam Gough (ROMA)

Best Cinematography – Alfonso Cuarón (ROMA)
Runner up: James Laxton (If Beale Street Could Talk)

Best Music Score – Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Runner up: Justin Hurwitz (First Man)

Best Foreign Language Film – Burning and Shoplifters (tie)

Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film – Shirkers
Runner up: Minding the Gap

Best Animation – Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
Runner up: Incredibles 2

New Generation – Chloé Zhao (The Rider)

Special CitationThe Other Side of the Wind

Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video – Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson and Guy Maddin (The Green Fog)

Career Achievement (previously announced) – Hayao Miyazaki

Here Are The 2018 Satellite Nominations!


Awards season has just begun, which means that it’s time for the International Press Academy to announce their nominees for the 23rd Satellite Awards.  If you’ve never heard of the Satellite Awards, they’re like the Golden Globes, just with even less credibility.  For instance, the Satellite people are the one who nominated The Wolf of Wall Street for best picture, despite having not seen the film.

That said, the Satellite nominations are good way to gauge which films are currently getting awards buzz.  Let’s put it like this: getting a Satellite nomination is not going to automatically translate into Oscar recognition.  But it doesn’t hurt.

Below are the film nominations.  (In the interest of space, I’m only posting the film nominations.  If you want to see which tv shows picked up nominations, click here.)

Film

Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Major, Independent or International

  • Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
  • Glenn Close, “The Wife”
  • Viola Davis, “Widows”
  • Nicole Kidman, “Destroyer”
  • Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
  • Rosamund Pike, “Private War”

Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Major, Independent or International

  • Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
  • Ben Foster, “ Leave No Trace”
  • Ryan Gosling, “First Man
  • Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”
  • Lucas Hedges, “Boy Erased”
  • Robert Redford, “The Old Man & the Gun”

Actress in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Major, Independent or International

  • Emily Blunt, “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
  • Trine Dyrholm “Nico, 1988″
  • Elsie Fisher, “Eighth Grade”
  • Lady Gaga, “A Star is Born”
  • Constance Wu, “Crazy Rich Asians”

Actor in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Major, Independent or International

  • Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born”
  • Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
  • Nick Robinson, “Love, Simon
  • John David Washington, “BlacKkKlansman”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Major, Independent, Comedy & Musical or International

  • Claire Foy, “First Man
  • Nicole Kidman, “Boy Erased”
  • Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Margot Robbie, “Mary Queen of Scots”
  • Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
  • Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Actor in a Supporting Role
Major, Independent, Comedy & Musical or International

  • Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
  • Timothée Chalamet, “Beautiful Boy”
  • Russell Crowe, “Boy Erased”
  • Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Sam Elliott, “A Star is Born”
  • Richard Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Motion Picture, Drama
Major

  • Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  • First Man,” Universal
  • “Hereditary,” A24
  • “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Annapurna Pictures
  • “Mary Queen of Scots,” Focus Features
  • “Widows,”  Twentieth Century Fox

Motion Picture, Independent

  • “BlacKkKlansman,” Focus Features
  • “Eighth Grade,” A24
  • “First Reformed,” A24
  • “Leave No Trace,” Bleecker Street Media
  • “Private Life,” Netflix
  • “A Private War,” Aviron Pictures

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Major, Independent or International

  • “Crazy Richard Asians,” Warner Bros.
  • “The Favourite,” Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • “Green Book,” Universal Pictures
  • “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney
  • “Nico, 1988,” Magnolia Pictures
  • “A Star is Born,” Warner Bros.

Motion Picture, International Film

  • “The Cakemaker,” Israel
  • “Cold War,” Poland
  • “The Guilty,” Denmark
  • “I Am Not A Witch,” United Kingdom
  • “Roma,” Mexico
  • “Shoplifters,” Japan

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media

  • “Incredibles 2,” Walt Disney
  • “Isle of Dogs,” Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • “Liz and the Blue Bird,” Eleven Arts
  • “Mirai,” GKIDS Films
  • “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Walt Disney
  • “Ruben Brandt, Collector,” Sony Pictures Classics

Motion Picture, Documentary

  • “Crime + Punishment,” Hulu
  • “Free Solo,” National Geographic
  • “Minding the Gap,” Hulu
  • “RBG,” Magnolia Pictures
  • “Three Identical Strangers,”  Focus Features
  • “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” Focus Features

Director

  • Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born”
  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • Peter Farrelly, “Green Book”
  • Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
  • Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Screenplay, Original

  • Bo Burnham, “Eighth Grade”
  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, “The Favourite”
  • John Krasinski, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, “A Quiet Place
  • Paul Schrader, “First Reformed”
  • Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie & Peter Farrelly, “Green Book”

Screenplay, Adapted

  • Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, “A Star is Born”
  • Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, “Leave No Trace”
  • Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
  • Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows, “The Death of Stalin”
  • Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Wilmott, Charlie Wachtel, “BlacKkKlansman”

Original Score

  • Thomas Ades, “Colette”
  • Terence Blanchard, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Nicholas Britell, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Alexandre Desplat, “The Sisters Brothers”
  • Justin Hurwitz, “First Man”
  • Hans Zimmer, “Widows”

Original Song

  • “All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
  • “Can You Imagine That?” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • “Requiem for a Private War” from “A Private War”
  • “Revelation” from “Boy Erased”
  • “Shallow” from “A Star is Born”
  • “Strawberries & Cigarettes” from “Love, Simon

Cinematography

  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • James Laxton, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Matthew Libatique, “A Star is Born”
  • Robbie Ryan, “The Favourite”
  • Rachel Morrison, “Black Panther
  • Lukasz Zal, “Cold War”

Visual Effects

  •   “Avengers: Infinity War,” Walt Disney
  •   “Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  •   “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Warner Bros.
  •   “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Universal
  •   “Rampage,” Warner Bros.
  •   “Ready Player One,” Warner Bros.

Film Editing

  • Barry Alexander Brown, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Jay Cassidy, “A Star is Born”
  • Tom Cross, “First Man
  • Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”
  • Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Joe Walker, “Widows”

Sound (Editing and Mixing)

  • Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  • First Man,” Universal
  • “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney
  • A Quiet Place,” Paramount
  • “Roma,”  Netflix
  • “A Star Is Born,” Warner Bros.

Art Direction and Production Design

  • Black Panther,” Walt Disney
  • “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,”  Warner Bros.
  • “The Favourite,” Fox Searchlight
  • First Man,” Universal
  • “Mary Poppins Returns,” Walt Disney
  • “Roma,” Magnolia Pictures

Costume Design

  • Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”
  • Erin Benach, “A Star is Born”
  • Alexandra Byrne, “Mary Queen of Scots”
  • Ruth E. Carter, “Black Panther
  • Andrea Flesch, “Colette”
  • Sandy Powell, “The Favourite”

 

 

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for September


It’s that time again!

It’s time for my somewhat random Oscar predictions!

Judging from the reactions at Venice Film Festival, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born would appear to be the current Oscar front runner.  At the very least, it seems destined to be nominated.  Personally, I still wonder if a remake of A Star is Born is going to have enough political cachet in a year that, so far, has been dominated by Hollywood virtue signaling.

Anyway, it’s a bit of a cliché to say the Oscar race is wide open but, despite all of the buzz around A Star is Born, it still feels as if it is.  That said, it’s also becoming a bit more clear.  Former front runners like Mary, Queen of Scots have fallen off the radar.  It seems likely the Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman will not be released until next year.  There are rumors that Clint Eastwood’s The Mule might get a December qualifying run but, for now, those are just rumors.

Below are my predictions for this month.  The usual caveats about wishful thinking and wild guesses apply.  To be honest, we won’t know anything for sure until the critics and the guilds make their voices heard in December and January.

Be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August!

Best Picture

Beautiful Boy

BlackKklansman

Black Panther

Crazy Rich Asians

The Favourite

First Man

Green Book

If Beale Street Could Talk

Roma

A Star is Born

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for First Man

Jon M. Chu for Crazy Rich Asians

Bradley Cooper for A Star is Born

Alfonso Cuaron for Roma

Spike Lee for BlackKklansman

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody

Robert Redford in Old Man and the Gun

Best Actress

Glenn Close in The Wife

Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Nicole Kidman in Destroyer

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Julia Roberts in Ben Is Back

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali in Green Book

Timothee Chalamet in Beautiful Boy

Sam Elliott in A Star is Born

Ben Foster in Leave No Trace

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Best Supporting Actress

Claire Foy in First Man

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Sissy Spacek in Old Man and the Gun

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

Michelle Yeoh in Crazy Rich Asians

Barry and Oscar

Here’s The Trailer For Leave No Trace!


This trailer dropped last week but, somehow, I missed it until today.

Leave No Trace appears to be yet another film about an irresponsible and/or unconventional father raising his daughter in the woods.  On the negative side, this is literally my least favorite genre of film.  After sitting through both Captain Fantastic and The Glass Castle, I’ve pretty much reached my limit as far as screwed-up cinematic fathers are concerned.

On the plus side, however, is the fact that the father is played by Ben Foster and he seems like the type of actor who could actually do something interesting with the role.  Also, the film is directed by Debra Granik, who did such a great job with Winter’s Bone.

So, perhaps against my better judgment, I will give this one a shot.

Here’s the trailer:

Sundance Film Review: Alpha Dog (dir by Nick Cassavetes)


The Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place in Utah so, for this week, I’m reviewing films that either premiered, won awards at, or otherwise made a splash at Sundance!  Today, I take a look at 2006’s Alpha Dog, which premiered, out of competition, at Sundance.

Sometimes, I suspect that I may be the only person who actually likes this movie.

Alpha Dog is a film about a group of stupid people who end up doing a terrible thing.  Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) is a 20 year-old living in Los Angeles.  His father, Sonny (Bruce Willis) and his godfather, Cosmo (Harry Dean Stanton), are both mob-connected and keep Johnny supplied with the drugs that Johnny then sells to his friends.  It’s a pretty good deal for Johnny.  He’s got a nice house and a group of friends who are willing to literally do anything for him.  Johnny, after all, is the one who has the money.

When Johnny’s former best friend, Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster), fails to pay a drug debt, things quickly escalate.  When Johnny refuses to accept even a partial payment, Jake responds by breaking into Johnny’s house and vandalizing the place.  (Just what exactly Jake does, I’m not going to go into because it’s nasty.  Seriously, burn that house down…)  Johnny decides that the best way to force Jake to pay up is to kidnap Jake’s younger brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin, who is heartbreakingly good in this film).

It quickly turns out that Zack doesn’t mind being kidnapped.  Everyone tells Zack not to worry about anything and that he’ll be set free as soon as Jake pays his debt.  Zack decides to just enjoy his weekend.  Since Johnny is better at ordering people to commit crimes than committing them himself, he tells his friend, Frankie (Justin Timberlake), to keep an eye on Zack.

And so it goes from there.  While Johnny leaves town, Frankie introduces Zack to all of his friends.  Everyone laughs about how Zack is “stolen boy.”  Zack’s going to parties and having a good time.  However, Johnny returns and reveals that he’s been doing some thinking, as well as talking to his lawyer.  Regardless of whether Zack’s enjoying himself, both Johnny and Frankie could go to prison for kidnapping him.  Frankie argues that Zack won’t tell anyone about what happened.  Maybe they could just pay him off.  Johnny thinks it might be easier to just have him killed.  Frankie’s not a murderer but what about Elvis Schmidt (Shawn Hatosy)?  Elvis is a loser who desperately wants to be a part of Johnny’s crew and he owes Johnny almost as much money as Jake does.  How far would Elvis be willing to go?

(While this plays out, the film keeps a running tally of everyone who witnesses Zack not only being kidnapped but also held hostage.  In the end, there were at least 32 witnesses but none of them said a word.)

Alpha Dog is based on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood and the murder of 15 year-old Nicholas Markowitz.  Hollywood spent five years as a fugitive from justice, hiding out in Brazil and reportedly being protected by his wealthy family.  He was arrested shortly before the Sundance premiere of Alpha Dog.  Since it was filmed before Hollywood’s arrest and subsequent conviction, Alpha Dog changed his name to Johnny Truelove.  Johnny Truelove is a good name but it’s nowhere near as memorable as Jesse James Hollywood.

Alpha Dog sticks close to the facts of the case, providing a disturbing portrait of a group of aimless wannabe gangsters who, insulated by money and privilege, ended up getting in over their heads and committing a terrible crime.  Emile Hirsch gives one of his best performances as the sociopathic Johnny Truelove while Ben Foster is both frightening and, at times, sympathetic as Jake.  Justin Timberlake is compelling as he wrestles with his conscience while Shawn Hatosy is properly loathsome as the type of idiot that everyone knows but wish they didn’t.  The dearly missed Anton Yelchin is heartbreaking and poignant as Zack.  And finally, there’s Harry Dean Stanton.  Stanton doesn’t say a lot in this movie.  Often times, he’s just hovering in the background.  The moment when he reveals his true self is one of the best in the movie.

As I said, I sometimes feel as if I’m the only person who likes this movie.  It got mixed reviews when it was released and, in the years since, it rarely seems to ever get mentioned in a positive context.  Personally, I think it’s a well-done portrait of privilege, stupidity, and the lengths to which people will go to avoid taking a stand.  In the end, no one escapes punishment but it’s the rich guy who, at the very least, gets to spend at least a few years enjoying his freedom in Brazil.

Previous Sundance Film Reviews:

  1. Blood Simple
  2. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  3. Circle of Power
  4. Old Enough
  5. Blue Caprice
  6. The Big Sick