Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For November


We are right on the cusp of Awards Season, which means that the Oscar race is about to become a bit more clear!

Below, you’ll find my predictions for November!  In order to see how my thinking has evolved over the course of the year, be sure to check out my predictions for February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October!

Best Picture

Aftersun

Babylon

The Banshees of Inisherin

Elvis

Everything Everywhere All At Once

The Fabelmans

TAR

Till

Top Gun: Maverick

Women Talking

Best Director

Todd Field for TAR

Martin McDonagh for The Banshees of Insherin

Sarah Polley for Women Talking

Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans

Charlotte Wells for Aftersun

Best Actor

Austin Butler in Elvis

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Insherin

Brendan Fraser in The Whale

Paul Mescal in Aftersun

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in TAR

Viola Davis in The Woman King

Danielle Deadwyler in Till

Margot Robbie in Babylon

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson in The Banshees of Insherin

Tom Hanks in Elvis

Brian Tyree Henry in Causeway

Judd Hirsch in The Fabelmans

Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Supporting Actress

Jessie Buckley in Women Talking

Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Claire Foy in Women Talking

Nina Hoss in Tar

Janelle Monae in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Here Are The 2022 Gotham Winners!


The Gotham Awards were handed out last night and Everything Everywhere All At Once took best picture.  Danielle Deadwyler may have been snubbed by the Spirit Awards but that didn’t prevent the Gothams from honoring her performance in Till.  While the Gothams may not be as strong an Oscar precursor as some of the other groups that will be handing out prizes over the next two months, every win helps.

Here are all the winners:

Breakthrough television under 40 minutes
“Abbott Elementary” (ABC)
“As We See It” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Mo” (Netflix)
“Rap Sh!t” (HBO Max)
“Somebody, Somewhere” (HBO)

Breakthrough television over 40 minutes
“Pachinko” (Apple+)
“Severance” (Apple+)
“Station Eleven” (HBO Max)
“This Is Going To Hurt” (AMC+)
“Yellowjackets” (Showtime)

Television performers:
Bilal Baig (“Sort Of”)
Ayo Edebiri (“The Bear”)
Janelle James (“Abbott Elementary”)
Matilda Lawler (“Station Eleven”)
Britt Lower (“Severance”)
Melanie Lynskey (“Yellowjackets”)
Sue Ann Pien (“As We See It”)
Minha Kim (“Pachinko”)
Zahn McClarnon (“Dark Winds”)
Ben Whishaw (“This Is Going To Hurt”)

Breakthrough nonfiction series
“The Andy Warhol Diaries”
“The Last Movie Stars”
“Mind Over Murder”
“The Rehearsal”
“We Need to Talk About Cosby”

Breakthrough director
Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”)
Owen Kline (“Funny Pages”)
Elegance Bratton (“The Inspection”)
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic (“Murina”)
Beth De Araújo (“Soft & Quiet”)
Jane Schoenbrun (“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”)

Best screenplay
Kogonada (“After Yang”)
James Gray (“Armageddon Time”)
Lena Dunham (“Catherine Called Birdy”)
Todd Field (“Tár”)
Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”)

Breakthrough performer
Frankie Corio (“Aftersun”)
Kali Reis (“Catch the Fair One”)
Gracija Flipovic (“Murina”)
Anna Diop (“Nanny”)
Anna Cobb (“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”)

Outstanding supporting performance
Mark Rylance (“Bones and All”)
Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”)
Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Raúl Castillo (“The Inspection”)
Gabrielle Union (“The Inspection”)
Nina Hoss (“Tár”)
Noémie Merlant (“Tár”)
Hong Chau (“The Whale”)

Oustanding lead performance
Cate Blanchett (“Tár”)
Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”)
Dale Dickey (“A Love Song”)
Colin Farrell (“After Yang”)
Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)
Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”)
Thandiwe Newton (“God’s Country”)
Aubrey Plaza “(Emily the Criminal)”
Taylor Russell (“Bones and All”)
Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”)

Best international feature
“Athena”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Corsage”
“Decision to Leave”
“Happening”
“Saint Omer”

Best documentary feature
“All That Breathes”
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
“I Didn’t See You There”
“The Territory”
“What We Leave Behind”

Best feature
“Aftersun”
“The Cathedral”
“Dos Estaciones”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“Tár”

Here Are The Independent Spirt Nominations!


The nomination for the Independent Spirit Awards were announced earlier today.

Making a very good showing were Tar, Women Talking, and Everything Everywhere All At Once.  Not showing up at all was Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, which failed to even pick up a lead performance nomination for Brendan Fraser.  Seeing as how Fraser has been viewed as being the Oscar front runner for a few months now, his lack of a nomination definitely took observers by surprise.

Anyway, here are all the nominees!

FILM CATEGORIES

Best Feature
“Bones and All” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
“Our Father, the Devil” (Resolve Media)
“Tár” (Focus Features)
“Women Talking” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

Best Director
Todd Field – “Tár” (Focus Features)
Kogonada – “After Yang” (A24)
Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert – “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
Sarah Polley – “Women Talking” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
Halina Reijn – “Bodies Bodies Bodies” (A24)

Best Lead Performance

Cate Blanchett – “Tár” (Focus Features)
Dale Dickey – “A Love Song” (Bleecker Street)
Mia Goth – “Pearl” (A24)
Regina Hall – “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” (Focus Features)
Paul Mescal – “Aftersun” (A24)
Aubrey Plaza – “Emily the Criminal” (Roadside Attractions)
Jeremy Pope – “The Inspection” (A24)
Taylor Russell – “Bones and All” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
Andrea Riseborough – “To Leslie” (Momentum Pictures)
Michelle Yeoh – “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)

Best Supporting Performance

Jamie Lee Curtis – “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
Brian Tyree Henry – “Causeway” (A24/Apple Original Films)
Nina Hoss – “Tár” (Focus Features)
Brian D’Arcy James – “The Cathedral” (Mubi)
Ke Huy Quan – “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
Trevante Rhodes – “Bruiser” (Onyx Collective)
Theo Rossi – “Emily the Criminal” (Roadside Attractions)
Mark Rylance – “Bones and All” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
Jonathan Tucker – “Palm Trees and Power Lines” (Momentum Pictures)
Gabrielle Union – “The Inspection” (A24)

Best Breakthrough Performance
Frankie Corio – “Aftersun” (A24)
Garcija Filipovic – “Murina” (Kino Lorber)
Stephanie Hsu – “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
Lily McInerny – “Palm Trees and Power Lines” (Momentum Pictures)
Daniel Zolghardi – “Funny Pages” (A24)

Best Screenplay
“After Yang” (A24) – Kogonada
“Catherine Called Birdy” (Amazon Studios) – Lena Dunham
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24) – Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
“Tár” (Focus Features) – Todd Field
“Women Talking” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – Sarah Polley

Best First Screenplay
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” (A24) – Sarah DeLappe, Kristen Roupenian
“Emergency” (Amazon Studios) – K.D. Dávila
“Emily the Criminal” (Roadside Attractions) – John Patton Ford
“Fire Island” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joel Kim Booster
“Palm Trees and Power Lines” (Momentum Pictures) – Jamie Dack, Audrey Findlay

Best First Feature
“Aftersun” (A24) – Charlotte Wells (director), Mark Ceryak, Amy Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski (producers)
“Emily the Criminal” (Roadside Attractions) – John Patton Ford (director), Tyler Davidson, Aubrey Plaza, Drew Sykes (producers)
“The Inspection” (A24) – Elegance Bratton (director), Effie T. Brown, Chester Algernal Gordon (producers)
“Murina” (Kino Lorber) – Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović (director), Danijel Pek, Rodrigo Teixeira (producers)
“Palm Trees and Power Lines” (Momentum Pictures) – Jamie Dack (director), Leah Chen Baker (producer)

John Cassavetes Award (Given to the best feature made for under $1,000,000)
“The African Desperate” (Mubi) – Martine Syms (writer, director, producer), Rocket Caleshu (writer, producer), Vic Brooks (producer)
“A Love Song” (Bleecker Street) – Max Walker-Silverman (writer, director, producer), Jesse Hope, Dan Janvey (producers)
“The Cathedral” (Mubi) – Ricky D’Ambrose (writer, director), Graham Swon (producer)
“Holy Emy” (Utopie Films) – Araceli Lemos (writer, director), Giulia Caruso (writer, producer), Mathieu Bompoint, Ki Jin Kim, Konstantinos Vassilaros (producers)
“Something in the Dirt” (XYZ Films) – Justin Benson (writer, director, producer), Aaron Moorhead (director, producer), David Lawson Jr. (producer)

Best Cinematography
“Aftersun” (A24) – Gregory Oke
“Murina” (Kino Lorber) – Hélène Louvart
“Neptune Frost” (Kino Lorber) – Anisia Uzeyman
“Pearl” (A24) – Eliot Rockett
“Tár” (Focus Features) – Florian Hoffmeister

Best Documentary
“A House Made of Splinters” (Madman Entertainment) – Simon Lereng Wilmont (director), Monica Hellström (producer)
“All that Breathes” (HBO) – Shaunak Sen (director, producer), Teddy Leifer, Aman Mann (producers)
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (Neon) – Laura Poitras (director, producer), Howard Gertler, Nan Goldin, Yoni Golijov, John Lyons (producers)
“Midwives” (POV) – Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing (director, producer), Mila Aung-Thwin, Ulla Lehmann, Bob Moore (producers)
“Riotsville, U.S.A.” (IFC Films) – Sierra Pettengill (director), Sara Archambault, Jamila Wignot (producer)

Best Editing
“Aftersun” (A24) – Blair McClendon
“The Cathedral” (Mubi) – Ricky D’Ambrose
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24) – Paul Rogers
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” (A24) – Dean Fleischer Camp, Nick Paley
“Tár” (Focus Features) – Monika Willi

Robert Altman Award (Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)

“Women Talking” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – Sarah Polley (director), John Buchan, Jason Knight (casting directors), Shayla Brown, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Kira Guloien, Kate Hallett, Judith Ivey, Rooney Mara, Sheila McCarthy, Frances McDormand, Michelle McLeod, Liv McNeil, Ben Whishaw, August Winter (ensemble cast)

Best International Film
“Corsage” (Austria/Luxembourg/France/Belgium/Italy/England) – dir. Marie Kreutzer
“Joyland” (Pakistan/USA) – dir. Saim Sadiq
“Leonor Will Never Die” (Philippines) – dir. Martika Ramirez Escobar
“Return to Seoul” (South Korea/France/Belgium/Romania) – dir. Davy Chou
“Saint Omer” (France) – dir. Alice Diop

Producers Award (presented by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey  – The Producers Award, now in its 26th year, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films.)
Liz Cardenas
Tory Lenosky
David Grove Churchill Viste

Someone to Watch Award (The Someone to Watch Award, now in its 29th year, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition)
Adamma Ebo – “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul”
Nikyatu Jusu – “Nanny”
Araceli Lemos – “Holy Emy”

“The Truer Than Fiction Award” (The Truer Than Fiction Award, now in its 28th year, is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition)
Isabel Castro – “Mija”
Reid Davenport – “I Didn’t See You There”
Rebeca Huntt – “Beba”

Here Are The 2022 Gotham Nominations!


And just like that, the 2022 Awards Season began.

The 2022 Gotham Nominations were announced earlier today.  While the Gothams have recently started to get some attention as an Oscar precursor, it is important to remember that the Gothams are specifically designed to honor low-budget, independent films.  There’s some very strict rules about which films are eligible and which are not.  So, don’t be shocked at the lack of nominations for something like The Fabelmans.  Spielberg has never been eligible for a Gotham.

If any one film is really going to benefit from these nominations, it’s probably Everything Everywhere All At Once.  Seeing as how it’s been a while since Everything Everywhere came out, the Gotham nominations may (or may not) serve to remind the members of the Academy of the excitement that was generated by the film earlier in the year.

Here are the Gotham nominations for 2022.  The winners will be announced on November 28th.

Breakthrough television under 40 minutes
“Abbott Elementary” (ABC)
“As We See It” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Mo” (Netflix)
“Rap Sh!t” (HBO Max)
“Somebody, Somewhere” (HBO)

Breakthrough television over 40 minutes
“Pachinko” (Apple+)
“Severance” (Apple+)
“Station Eleven” (HBO Max)
“This Is Going To Hurt” (AMC+)
“Yellowjackets” (Showtime)

Television performers:
Bilal Baig (“Sort Of”)
Ayo Edebiri (“The Bear”)
Janelle James (“Abbott Elementary”)
Matilda Lawler (“Station Eleven”)
Britt Lower (“Severance”)
Melanie Lynskey (“Yellowjackets”)
Sue Ann Pien (“As We See It”)
Minha Kim (“Pachinko”)
Zahn McClarnon (“Dark Winds”)
Ben Whishaw (“This Is Going To Hurt”)

Breakthrough nonfiction series
“The Andy Warhol Diaries”
“The Last Movie Stars”
“Mind Over Murder”
“The Rehearsal”
“We Need to Talk About Cosby”

Breakthrough director
Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”)
Owen Kline (“Funny Pages”)
Elegance Bratton (“The Inspection”)
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic (“Murina”)
Beth De Araújo (“Soft & Quiet”)
Jane Schoenbrun (“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”)

Best screenplay
Kogonada (“After Yang”)
James Gray (“Armageddon Time”)
Lena Dunham (“Catherine Called Birdy”)
Todd Field (“Tár”)
Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”)

Breakthrough performer
Frankie Corio (“Aftersun”)
Kali Reis (“Catch the Fair One”)
Gracija Flipovic (“Murina”)
Anna Diop (“Nanny”)
Anna Cobb (“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”)

Outstanding supporting performance
Mark Rylance (“Bones and All”)
Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”)
Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Raúl Castillo (“The Inspection”)
Gabrielle Union (“The Inspection”)
Nina Hoss (“Tár”)
Noémie Merlant (“Tár”)
Hong Chau (“The Whale”)

Oustanding lead performance
Cate Blanchett (“Tár”)
Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”)
Dale Dickey (“A Love Song”)
Colin Farrell (“After Yang”)
Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)
Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”)
Thandiwe Newton (“God’s Country”)
Aubrey Plaza “(Emily the Criminal)”
Taylor Russell (“Bones and All”)
Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”)

Best international feature
“Athena”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Corsage”
“Decision to Leave”
“Happening”
“Saint Omer”

Best documentary feature
“All That Breathes”
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
“I Didn’t See You There”
“The Territory”
“What We Leave Behind”

Best feature
“Aftersun”
“The Cathedral”
“Dos Estaciones”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“Tár”

Film Review: The Woman In The Window (dir by Joe Wright)


Joe Wright’s The Woman In The Window is a film that was kicked around a bit before it was eventually released.

Based on the best-selling novel by A.J. Finn, The Woman In The Window was filmed in 2018 and was originally set to be released in October of 2019.  At the time, there were many who predicted that this would be the film for which Amy Adams would finally win an Oscar.  However, after a few poor test screenings, the release of Woman In The Window was pushed back.  The film’s producer, the now-infamous Scott Rudin, reportedly brought in Tony Gilory to re-shoot a few scenes.  The film was finally set to be released in May of 2020 and, needless to say, it was no longer expected to be an Oscar contender.  Then, the pandemic hit and, like so many movies, The Woman In The Window was left in limbo.  With its theatrical release canceled, the film was eventually purchased by Netflix.  Netflix finally released it in May of this year.  With all of the delays and the bad buzz, the critics had plenty of time to sharpen their knives and I don’t think anyone was surprised when the film got scathing reviews.

Though the film was completed long before the lockdowns, The Woman In The Window does feel like a COVID thriller.  Anna Fox (played by Amy Adams) is a child psychologist who is afraid to leave her Manhattan brownstone.  She has agoraphobia, the result of a personal trauma.  She’s not only scared to leave the safety of her apartment but she’s also terrified of anyone else getting inside.  She spends her days spying on the neighbors, drinking wine, and watching old movies.  Of course, that’s also what many people in the real world spent most of the past year doing.  As I watched Anna freak out over some trick or treaters throwing eggs at her door, I was reminded of my neighbor who, a few months ago, nearly had a panic attack because she saw someone walking past her house without a mask.  One could argue that the world itself has become agoraphobic.

Despite her housebound status, Anna does still have a few contacts with the outside world.  For instance, a psychiatrist (played by Tracy Letts, who also wrote the script) comes by every weekend.  She has a tenant named David (Wyatt Russell) who lives in her basement.  She regularly has conversations with her husband and her daughter, who she says are both living in another state.  And eventually, she meets Ethan (Fred Hechinger), the 15 year-old who has just moved in across the street.  When Anna thinks that she’s witnessed Ethan’s father (Gary Oldman) murdering his mother (Julianne Moore), Anna calls the cops.  However, when a totally different woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) shows up and claims to be Ethan’s mother, Anna is forced to try to solve the mystery herself.

The Woman In The Window is a disjointed and rather messy film but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy it.  The novel (which I also greatly enjoyed) was told entirely from Anna’s point of view, which means that we saw everything through the eyes of a sometimes unreliable narrator.  The novel did such a good job of putting us inside of Anna’s head that it didn’t matter that the story itself was full of improbable coincidences.  Director Joe Wright tries to recreate the novel’s uneasiness through garish lighting, crooked camera angles, and abrupt jump cuts.  Sometimes, it’s effective (as when Anna tries to leave her apartment in the rain, just to pass out after having a panic attack) and other times, the technique feels a bit too obvious.  And then there’s other scenes — like when Anna suddenly sees an overturned car in the middle of her living room — where it becomes brilliantly bizarre.  It’s in those scenes, in which the film carefully balances on the line between the surreal and the silly, that Wright seems to be most comfortable as a director.  Much as he did with Anna Karenina, Wright fills The Woman In The Window with scenes that suggest that, on some level, the characters are aware that they’re just characters in a B-melodrama.

Indeed, despite being directed by a great filmmaker and featuring a cast of award-winning actors, The Woman In The Window is a B-movie and, when taken on those terms, it’s an entertaining melodrama.  Interestingly enough, it actually helps that almost everyone in the film has either been miscast or is too obvious a choice for their role.  Gary Oldman is such an on-the-nose choice to play a tyrannical authority figure that it actually makes sense that a film buff like Anna would automatically assume the worst about him.  Julianne Moore has even less screen time than Oldman but she makes the most of it, playing yet another one of her talkative characters who doesn’t appear to have the ability to filter her thoughts.  It’s the type of role that Moore specializes in and one that she could probably play in her sleep but she and Adams establish a good rapport and the scene that they share is one of the best in the film.  Speaking of which, Amy Adams is so incredibly miscast as Anna that you actually find yourself rooting for her to somehow bring the character to life.  Amy Adams is one of the few performers who can make being cheerful compelling so it seems like a bit of a waste to cast her as a self-destructive agoraphobe who can’t leave her apartment  And yet, much as in Hillbilly Elegy where she was similarly miscast, Adams seems to be trying so hard to make her casting work that you appreciate the effort, even if she doesn’t quite succeed.  She’s just so likable that you sympathize with her, even if she isn’t quite right for the role.

(Myself, I pictured Naomi Watts in the role when I read the book.)

As a film, The Woman In The Window shares the book’s flaws.  The plot is a bit too heavy on coincidences and we’re asked to believe that Anna, who can’t leave her house without having a panic attack and who is terrified of someone getting into her house without her knowledge, would also invite Ethan to visit her and allow David to live in her basement.  As well, it’s hard to watch the movie without wondering which scenes were reshot by Tony Gilroy.  (The final scene especially feels out-of-place with what came before it, leading me to suspect that it may have been added in response to those negative test screenings.)  But, while the film’s defects are obvious, I still enjoyed it.  It may be flawed but it’s hardly the disaster that some have made it out to be.

The Woman in the Window

Marvel releases the teaser for Chloe Zhao’s Eternals


Hot off her Oscar win for Nomadland, Chloe Zhao and Marvel released the teaser for her newest film, Eternals. Again, this was something where I had to delve into the Marvel Encyclopedia to fully understand. Originally, the Eternals are a group of humans gifted with accelerated evolution by Celestials to help guide others (perhaps similar to the angels in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire). I’m not sure where the MCU is taking this, but they’ll definitely need to explain why they’re only showing up now.

Eternals showcases quite a cast, including Captain Marvel‘s Gemma Chan (pulling a Chris Evans and playing a second Marvel character), Richard Madden (1917), Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber), Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones), Brian Tyree Henry (Godzilla v. Kong), and Angelina Jolie (Those Who Wish Me Dead)

Eternals is set to release this November.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (dir by Adam Wingard)


From the minute Godzilla vs. Kong was announced, I’ve been rooting for Godzilla.

I’m probably not alone in this. I mean, let’s just be honest. King Kong seems like he means well and certainly, he’s had to deal with enough dumbass humans that it’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for him. But, in the end, King Kong is just a big monkey whereas Godzilla is an atomic, fire-breathing lizard who only protects Earth because he can’t stand the thought of anyone else destroying it before he gets the chance. King Kong is cool but Godzilla is a freaking badass. (It’s not a coincidence that literally everyone hates the fact that the original, Japanese-produced King Kong vs. Godzilla ended with King Kong winning.) One of my main hopes when it came to Godzilla vs Kong was that Godzilla would be declared the rightful winner of this battle of the Titans.

Obviously, I can’t tell you whether or not my hope came true, not without spoiling the film. (That said, it’s probably debatable just how much you can really spoil a film like Godzilla vs. Kong.) I can tell you that the title of the film is accurate. Kong and Godzilla meet and they fight, a total of three times. Buildings are climbed and destroyed. Radioactive fire is spewed across the Earth. The monkey and the lizard do not team up to conquer climate change. The climatic battle takes place in a city and many people are undoubtedly killed as a result but no one ever mentions anything about any of them so you’re free not to worry about them. Though the film doesn’t quite have the same charm as the sight of two men in rubber monster suits tossing miniature trees at each other, the CGI and the fight scenes are all undeniably well-done. As far as the film’s actual story goes, it’s all pretty dumb and it has none of the subversive bite of director Adam Wingard’s pervious films but Godzilla vs Kong is still undeniably entertaining. Those who have commented that there’s not much subtext to Godzilla vs Kong have a point but that’s actually a huge part of the film’s appeal. After a year of pop culture that was marinated in doom and gloom, there’s something undeniably appealing about a film that says, “Sit back, enjoy, and don’t worry about a thing.”

(I saw one negative review of Godzilla vs Kong that complained that the film didn’t have a strong environmental message, as if the filmmakers should have stopped the action so that Greta Thunberg could show up and shout “How dare you!?” at the two monsters.)

Of the two stars, Kong gets the most screentime, despite the fact that Godzilla is the more interesting of the two monsters. There are also humans in the film, played by recognizable performers like Alexandar Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Demian Bichir, Julian Dennison, and Brian Tyree Henry. All of the humans have their own reasons for being concerned about Kong’s fight with Godzilla but, to be honest, you really won’t care. Regardless of the talent of the individuals playing them, the human characters really aren’t important and the film is at its weakest when it tries to convince us that they are. This is a film you watch because of the monsters and it works best when it focuses on them.

As I sit here writing this, Godzilla vs Kong is on the verge of leaving HBOMax. However, it’s still playing in theaters, which is the idea way to watch an effects-driven film like this one. It’s the first true blockbuster of the post-pandemic era. Hopefully, it’ll be the first of many.

Ghosts of Sundance Past #3: Crown Heights (dir by Matt Ruskin)


The 2017 film, Crown Heights, tells the story of two friends and a miscarriage of justice.

In 1980, a 19 year-old Trinidadian named Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield) is arrested in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Taken down to the police station, Colin is told that he has been arrested for the murder of Marvin Grant, a man who he has never heard of.  When Colin says that he is innocencent, he’s informed that eyewitnesses saw him at the scene of the crime.  Though he continues to protest his innocence, Colin is transferred to a jail where he is to await his trial.

From the start, it’s obvious that Colin didn’t have anything to do with the shooting of Marvin Grant.  What’s messed up is that the people prosecuting him know it as well.  When another prisoner tell the detectives the name of the man who actually committed the murder, his statement is ignored because he refuses to name his source.  When one of the prosecution’s witnesses testifies that he saw someone other than Colin fire the gun, the prosecutor “corrects” his witnesses’s testimony in open court. After the jury returns a guilty of verdict for Colin and another man, the judge says that he can’t be sure whether or not Colin is guilty but that he can only follow the law.  And the law says that, as an adult convicted of a crime, Colin is going to spend the rest of his life in prison.  No one in the legal establishment cares that Colin is obviously not guilty.  He’s a young black man with a minor criminal history and, by convicting him, the police can close one homicide investigation and move on to the next one.

In prison, Colin finds himself isolated, both literally and figuratively.  When he refuses to get involved with any of the prison gangs, the other prisoners shun him and he finds himself being targeted.  When a prison guard pushes Colin until Colin finally snaps and throws a punch, Colin ends up spending two years in solitary confinement.

Meanwhile, on the outside, Colin’s best friend, Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha), attempts to prove that his friend is innocent.  That proves to be even more difficult than Carl initially expects.  No one is interested in reopening a closed case and Carl can’t even afford a good attorney to help him pursue Colin’s appeal.  Still, Carl never gives up.  He even trains to become a process server so that he can have an excuse to hang out at the court house and hopefully meet a lawyer who will be willing to take on Colin’s case.  Amazingly, that’s exactly what happens.

Of course, by this point, Colin Warner has been in prison for 20 years….

Based on a true story, Crown Heights was a hit at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Audience Award for the U.S. Dramatic Film competition.  Watching the film, you can easily see why it was such a crowd pleaser.  Not only does the film deal with serious issues of race and economic disparity but, when watching the film, it’s impossible not to be moved by the strength of Carl and Colin’s friendship.  Despite all of the difficulties that are placed in front of him, Carl never gives up in his quest to prove Colin’s innocence and get him out of prison.  The film works as both a cry for freedom and a celebration of friendship.

The film’s execution is not quite as strong as its message.  Matt Ruskin’s direction occasionally veer towards made-for-TV (or, at the very least, made-for-HBO) territory and the film’s constant switching back and forth between Colin in prison and Carl searching for witnesses sometimes seems to prevent either storyline for really maintaining a consistent momentum.  20 years is a long time to cover in just 90 minutes and sometimes, it’s hard not to feel as if important parts of the story have been left out or, at the very least, glossed over.  That said, it’s a heartfelt film and it’s blessed with two wonderful lead performances from Lakeith Stanfield and Nnamdi Asomugha.

Crown Heights is not a perfect film but the story and the performances are powerful enough to make you think and to leave you moved.

Film Review: White Boy Rick (dir by Yann Demange)


Last night, as a part of my attempt to get caught up with the films of 2018, I watched White Boy Rick.

As you might guess from the title, this film is about a white boy named Rick.  It’s based on the true story of Richard Wershe, Jr., who grew up on the streets of Detroit.  His father sold guns out of the trunk of his car and, by the time he turned 14, Rick was running with drug dealers and street gangs.  (The fact that he was white while all of his friends were black is what led to him getting his nickname.)  Rick became an informant for the FBI and, according to Wershe, the government helped him build up his reputation by supplying him with the drugs that he would then sell on the streets.  When the FBI eventually decided that Wershe was no longer a useful asset, he was arrested for dealing and sentenced to life in prison.

The story seems like one that has the potential to say a lot that needs to be said about not only the economic realities of life in a dying city but also about the role that race plays in America’s often misdirected “war on drugs.”  Unfortunately, the film falls flat because, with the exception of a few scenes, it never really convinces us that Rick was really worthy of being the subject of a film.  While the film surrounds him with interesting supporting characters, Rick himself remains something of a cipher.  Rick is played by a young actor named Richie Merritt.  Merritt’s has the right look for the character but you never get the feeling that there’s anything going on underneath the surface.  Rick comes across as just being a moron who got lucky and then, eventually, not so lucky.

The supporting cast fares a bit better.  For instance, Matthew McConaughey plays Rick’s father with just the right amount of manic energy and Bel Powley has a few harrowing scenes as Rick’s drug addicted sister.  Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie don’t get to do much as Rick’s grandparents but it doesn’t matter because they’re Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie.  (All Bruce Dern has to do to make a character interesting is look at the camera.)  Jennifer Jason Leigh plays one of Rick’s FBI handlers with the perfect hint of subversiveness.  You’re never quite sure whether she’s messing with Rick’s life because she’s incompetent or because she’s enjoying it.  Unfortunately, the supporting characters are often so interesting that Rick often gets overshadowed.  He’s a bystander in his own story, which may have been the film’s point but, from a storytelling point of view, it hardly makes for compelling viewing.

Admittedly, there are a few memorable scenes to be found in White Boy Rick.  At one point, Rick goes to a wedding at the mayor’s mansion and he’s a sight to behold in his blue tuxedo.  In another scene, it’s explained to Rick why, when it comes to being arrested, charged, and incarcerated, the stakes are very different when you’re black than when you’re white.  In scenes like that, you kind of get a hint of White Boy Rick could have been if it had been centered around a more compelling character.

As it is, though, White Boy Rick is well-made but kind of dull.  It’s definitely a missed opportunity.

 

The Boston Society Of Film Critics Honors If Beale Street Could Talk and Lynne Ramsay!


Earlier today, the Boston Society of Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2018.  Along with selecting If Beale Street Could Talk as best picture, they also gave best director to You Were Never Really Here‘s Lynne Ramsay.

Best Film: If Beale Street Could Talk
Runner-up: Shoplifters

Best Director: Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here)
Runner-up: Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)

Best Actor: John C. Reilly (Stan & Ollie)
Runner-up: Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)

Best Actress: Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Runner-up: Sakura Ando (Shoplifters)

Best Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Runners-up (tie): Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Steven Yeun (Burning)

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Runner-up: J. Smith-Cameron (Nancy)

Best Ensemble: Shoplifters
Runner-up: The Favourite

Best Screenplay: Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Runner-up: Tamara Jenkins (Private Life)

Best Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Runner-up: Three Identical Strangers

Best Animated Film: Isle of Dogs
Runner-up: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Best Foreign Language Film: Shoplifters
Runner-up: Cold War

Best New Filmmaker: Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade)
Runner-up: Ari Aster (Hereditary)

Best Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón (ROMA)
Runner-up: Lukasz Zal (Cold War)

Best Editing: Tom Cross (First Man)
Runner-up: Bob Murawski and Orson Welles (The Other Side of the Wind)

Best Original Score: Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Runner-up: Justin Hurwitz (First Man) and Jonny Greenwood (You Were Never Really Here)