Film Review: Avengers: Endgame (dir by the Russo Brothers)


(Minor Spoilers Below!  Read at your own risk.)

So, how long does the no spoiler rule for Avengers: Endgame apply?  There’s so much that I want to say about this film but I know that I shouldn’t because, even though it had a monstrous opening weekend, there are still people out there who have not had a chance to see the film.  And while this review will have minor spoilers because, otherwise, it would be impossible to write, I’m not going to share any of the major twists or turns.

I will say this.  I saw Avengers: Endgame last night and it left me exhausted, angry, sad, exhilarated, and entertained.  It’s a gigantic film, with a plot that’s as messy and incident-filled as the cinematic universe in which it takes place.  More than just being a sequel or just the latest installment in one of the biggest franchises in cinematic history, Avengers: Endgame is a monument to the limitless depths of the human imagination.  It’s a pop cultural masterpiece, one that will make you laugh and make you cheer and, in the end, make you cry.  It’s a comic book film with unexpected emotional depth and an ending that will bring a tear to the eye of even the toughest cynic.  By all logic, Avengers: Endgame is the type of film that should collapse under its own weight but instead, it’s a film that thrives on its own epic scope.  It’s a three-hour film that’s never less than enthralling.  Even more importantly, it’s a gift to all of us who have spent the last ten years exploring the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film itself starts almost immediately after the “Snap” that ended Avengers: Infinity War and we watch as Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, returning to the franchise after being absent in the previous film) finds himself powerless to keep his family from disintegrating.  After often being dismissed as the Avengers’s weak link, both Clint Barton and Jeremy Renner come into their own in the film.  As one of two members of the Avengers who does not have super powers, Clint serves as a everyperson character.  He’s a reminder that there’s more at stake in Endgame than just the wounded pride of a few super heroes.  When Thanos wiped out half the universe, he didn’t just wipe out Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Groot.  He also left very real wounds that will never be healed.

When the film jumps forward by five yeas, we discover that the world is now a much darker place.  When we see New York, the once vibrant city is now gray and deserted.  Our surviving heroes have all dealt with the Snap in their own way.  Clint is now a vigilante, killing anyone who he feels should have been wiped out by Thanos but wasn’t.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) drinks and eats and feels sorry for himself.  Captain America (Chris Evans) attends support groups and, in one nicely done scene, listens as a man talks about his fear of entering into his first real relationship in the years since “the Snap.”  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is living as a recluse and is still blaming himself.  Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is now an avuncular, huge, and very green scientist.  Only Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) remains convinced that the Snap can somehow be undone.  She’s right, of course.  But doing so will involve some unexpected sacrifices and a lot of time travel….

And that’s as much as I can tell you, other than to say that the film takes full advantage of both the time travel aspects (yes, there are plenty of Back to the Future jokes) and its high-powered cast.  With our heroes — which, along with the usual Avengers, also include Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) — hopping through time and space, we get a chance to revisit several of the films that led up to Endgame and it’s a thousand times more effective than it has any right to be.  Yes, one could argue that the cameos from Robert Redford, Tom Hiddleston, Hayley Atwell, and others were essentially fan service but so what?  The fans have certainly earned it and the MCU has earned the chance to take a look back at what it once was and what it has since become.

Indeed, Avengers: Endgame would not work as well as it does if it hadn’t been preceded by 21 entertaining and memorable movies.  It’s not just that the MCU feels like a universe that it as alive as our own, one that is full of wonder, mystery, sadness, and love.  It’s also that we’ve spent ten years getting to know these characters and, as a result, many of them are much more than just “super heroes” to us.  When Tony Stark and Captain America argue over whether it’s even worth trying to undo the Snap, it’s an effective scene because we know the long and complicated history of their relationship.  When the Avengers mourn, we mourn with them because we know their pain.  We’ve shared their triumphs and their failures.  Tony Stark may be a guy in an iron suit but he’s also a man struggling with his own demons and guilt.  Steve Rogers may be a nearly 100 year-old super solider but he’s also every single person who has struggled to make the world a better place.  As strange as it may be to say about characters known as Iron Man, Captain America, and the Black Widow, we feel like we know each and every one of them.  We care about them.

Needless to say, the cast is huge and one of the great things about the film is that previously underused or underestimated performers — like Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, and Karen Gillan — all finally get a chance to shine.  As always, the heart of the film belongs to Chris Evans while Robert Downey, Jr. provides just enough cynicism to keep things from getting to superficially idealistic.  Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo get most of the film’s big laughs, each playing their borderline ludicrous characters with just the right combination of sincerity and humor.  Of course, Josh Brolin is back as well and he’s still perfectly evil and arrogant as Thanos.  But whereas Thanos was the focus of Infinity War, Endgame focuses on the heroes.  If Infinity War acknowledged that evil can triumph, Endgame celebrates the fact that good never surrenders.

As Endgame came to an end, I did find myself wondering what the future is going to hold for the MCU.  A part of me wonders how they’re going to top the past ten years or if it’s even possible to do so.  Several mainstays of the MCU say goodbye during Endgame and it’s hard to imagine the future films without their presence.  It’s been hinted that Captain Marvel is going to be one of the characters holding the next phase of the  MCU together and, fortunately, Brie Larson is a quite a bit better in Endgame than she was in her previous MCU film.  Hopefully, regardless of what happens in the future, Marvel and Disney will continue to entrust their characters to good directors, like the Russo Brothers, James Gunn, and Taika Waititi.  (Wisely, Disney reversed themselves and rehired James Gunn for the next Guardians of the Galaxy film.  Of course, Gunn never should have been fired in the first place….)

And that’s really all I can say about Avengers: Endgame right now, other than to recommend that you see it.  In fact, everyone in the world needs to hurry up and see it so we can finally start talking about the film without having to post spoiler warnings!

For now, I’ll just say that Avengers: Endgame is a powerful, emotional, and entertaining conclusion to one of the greatest cinematic sagas ever.

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 DGA Nominations!


The Director’s Guild announced their nominations for 2018 earlier today.

Typically, getting a DGA nomination tends to translate into a film also getting a Best Picture nomination from the Academy.  There’s been some exceptions, of course.  David Fincher somehow received a DGA nom for his work on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but the Academy was not quite as enamored.  Personally, I’m hoping that, this year, Adam McKay will get the David Fincher treatment.  McKay may have picked up a DGA nom for Vice but that doesn’t mean that the film’s actually any good.  In fact, I’d say that Vice is one of smuggest, most self-congratulatory films that I’ve ever seen but I’ll save all that for my review.

Anyway, here are the DGA nominations!  For Best Director of a Feature Film:

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Peter Farrelly, Green Book

Spike Lee, BlackKklansman

Adam McKay, Vice

Can you believe that, until today, Spike Lee has never received a nomination for the DGA?  Interestingly, BlackKklansman is one of his weaker films but it’s also definitely more of a mainstream crowd pleaser than some of his previous work, which I imagine is why he received a nomination for it and not Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.

This is also the first nomination for both Cooper and Peter Farrelly.  With Cooper, that makes sense because this is the first film that he’s ever directed.  But how did the Guild fail to nominate Peter Farrelly for that movie where Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear are conjoined twins?

This was Cuaron’s second nomination.  It was also McKay’s second nomination, despite the fact Adam McKay hasn’t made a good film since The Other Guys.

Here are the nominations for Best First Time Director:

Bo Burhnam, Eighth Grade

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Carlos Lopez Estrada, Blindspotting

Matthew Heineman, A Private War

Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You

For everyone who is hoping to see Black Panther become the first comic book movie to receive a best picture nomination, it’s hard not to be disappointed by the snubbing of Ryan Coogler.  A DGA nomination would have really Black Panther with the members of the Academy who might still be hesitant about the idea of honoring a Marvel film.

Personally, I would have replaced Adam McKay with Ryan Coogler.  For that matter, I would have replaced Adam McKay with just about anyone else who had a film released last year.  Lynne Ramsay.  Debra Granik.  Yorgos Lanthimos.  The Russo Brothers.  Peyton Reed.  Who directed The Equalizer 2?  I’m not sure but I’d nominate him before I nominated Adam McKay.  Hell, I’d even build a time machine and bring Ed Wood and Phil Tucker into the present and have them collaborate on a movie about a haunted laundromat before I gave that fifth slot to Adam McKay.

Anyway, should I try to make a prediction?  Okay: Alfonso Cuaron wins Best Director for Roma while Bradley Cooper is named Best First-Time Director for A Star is Born.

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions for December


Well, it’s that time of the month!

It’s time for me to post my Oscar predictions.  With precursor season in full swing, the Oscar picture has become a lot clearer.

If you want to see how my thinking has evolved over the year, be sure to check out my predictions of January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November!

Also, keep in mind — these are not necessarily my picks for the best of the year.  I’ll be posting those during the second week of January.  Instead, these predictions are based on the precursor awards and just my own guesses based on the Academy’s past picks.

Best Picture

BlackKklansman

Black Panther

The Favourite

Green Book

If Beale Street Could Talk

Roma

A Star is Born

Vice

Best Director

Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

Bradley Cooper for A Star is Born

Alfonso Cuaron for Roma

Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Adam McKay for Vice

Best Actor

Christian Bale in Vice

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody

Viggo Mortensen in Green Book

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Glenn Close in The Wife

Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Lady Gaga in A Star is Born

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali in Green Book

Timothee Chalamet in Beautiful Boy

Sam Elliott in A Star is Born

Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams in Vice

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace

Emma Stone in The Favourite

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

 

Here Are The 2018 Houston Film Critics Society Nominations!


Finally, the only state that matters is starting to make it’s voice heard in this year’s Oscar race!

On Sunday, the Houston Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2018.  Houston really, really liked both The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk.  The winners will be announced on January 3rd.

Here are the nominees!

Best Picture
A Star is Born
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Eighth Grade
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Favourite
First Reformed
Green Book
Hereditary
Roma
Vice

Best Director
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Adam McKay, Vice

Best Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Best Actress
Glenn Close, The Wife
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Claire Foy, First Man
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Screenplay
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Adam McKay, Vice

Best Cinematography
Rachel Morrison, Black Panther
Linus Sandgren, First Man
Robbie Ryan, The Favourite
James Laxton, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Animated Film
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Original Score
Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther
Justin Hurwitz, First Man
Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
Thom Yorke, Suspiria

Best Original Song
“All the Stars,” Black Panther
“Ashes,” Deadpool 2
“Hearts Beat Loud,” Hearts Beat Loud
“Revelation,” Boy Erased
“Shallow,” A Star is Born

Best Foreign Language Film
Burning
Border
Cold War
Roma
Shoplifters

Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo
Minding the Gap
RBG
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Texas Independent Film Award
1985
An American in Texas
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Support the Girls
Tejano

Visual Effects
Black Panther
First Man
Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Best Poster
BlacKkKlansman (two)
Mandy
Suspiria (two)

Best Worst Film of the Year
The 15:17 to Paris
The Happytime Murders
Life Itself
Peppermint
Venom

The Las Vegas Film Critics Society Names Roma The Best of 2018!


On Friday, the Las Vegas Film Critics named Roma the best film of 2018!

Best Picture
“Roma”

Best Actor
Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”

Best Actress
Lady Gaga, “A Star is Born”

Best Supporting Actor
Sam Elliott, “A Star is Born”

Best Supporting Actress
Regina King – “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Best Director
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”

Best Original Screenplay
Bryan Woods, Scott Beck & John Kransinski, “A Quiet Place”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, “Leave No Trace”

Best Cinematography
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”

Best Film Editing
Alfonso Cuarón and Adam Gough, “Roma”

Best Score
Thom Yorke, “Suspiria”

Best Song
“Shallow,” by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born”

Best Documentary
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”

Best Animated Film
“Isle of Dogs”

Best Foreign Film
“Roma”

Best Costume Design
“The Favourite”

Best Art Direction
“Isle of Dogs”

Best Visual Effects
“Ready Player One”

Best Action Film
“Mission Impossible: Fallout”

Best Comedy
“Sorry to Bother You”

Best Horror/ Sci-Fi
A Quiet Place”

Best Family Film
“Mary Poppins Returns”

Best Ensemble
“Widows”

Breakout Filmmaker (Director)
Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born”

Best Youth Male Performance
Ed Oxenbould, Wildlife”

Best Youth Female Performance
Elsie Fisher, “Eighth Grade”

The William Holden Lifetime Achievement Award
Sam Elliott

LVFCS Top 10 Films of 2018
1. Roma
2. A Star is Born
3. Green Book
4. First Reformed
5. BlackkKlansman
6. The Favourite
7. Vice
8. Eighth Grade
9. Wildlife
10. The Rider