Ghosts of Sundance Past #1: Brittany Runs A Marathon (dir by Paul Downs Colaizzo)


As we all know, this year’s Sundance Film Festival started last week on Thursday.

To me, Sundance has always signified the official start of a new cinematic year.  Not only is it the first of the major festivals but it’s also when we first learn about the films that we’ll be looking forward to seeing all year.  It seems like every year, there’s at least one successful (or nearly successful) Oscar campaign that gets it start at Sundance.  This year, for instance, people are already intrigued by Zola, Minari, Shirley, and Ironbark and it’s almost entirely due to how those films have been received at Sundance.

My initial plan for this year was to spend the last few days of January looking at some of the films that have won awards or otherwise created a splash at previous Sundance Film Festivals.  I was planning on starting last Thursday but then I came down with a terrible cold, from which I’m still recovering.

So, instead, I’m starting today.  It happens.  In the past, I would have beaten myself up over not starting on time but, if I’ve learned anything from my 10 years of writing for TSL, it’s that sometimes you just have to accept that life can be unpredictable.  Sometimes, you just have to embrace the mystery.

Anyway, to start things off, I want to take a look at one of my favorite films from last year, Brittany Runs A Marathon.

When we first meet Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell), she is a 28 year-old New Yorker who works at a theater.  She’s single.  She’s funny.  She’s irresponsible.  She usually either drunk or hungover.  In many ways, she’s the ideal friend.  You wouldn’t necessarily want her to be your best friend, of course.  But she’s still someone who seems like she’d be the perfect member of a group, in that she can make a joke but, at the same time, she doesn’t have much of a life so you don’t have to worry about her attracting attention away from you.  Add to that, Brittany has an Adderall prescription, which she tends to abuse.  (It happens.)  Everyone loves someone who can provide them easy access to prescription medication.

In fact, it’s while she’s trying to get her prescription updated that Brittany is given some very serious news.  Her doctors informs her that she’s not very healthy.  She’s overweight and rarely gets any exercise.  Her doctor tells her that she needs to change that.  And since Brittany can’t afford to be a member of even the cheapest of gyms, it seems like the only option left is to start running.

In public.

In New York City.

Now, you can probably guess from the title that Brittany eventually comes to love running and decides that she wants to run in the New York marathon.  And you can probably guess that, about halfway through the movie, Brittany faces a crisis that causes her to consider just giving up.  As far as the running is concerned, this is a likable but occasionally predictable film.

Fortunately, Brittany Runs A Marathon is about more than just running.  It’s about growing up and taking responsibility for your life but it’s also about loving who you are, regardless of who that might be.  What makes this film so special is that Brittany doesn’t automatically become an Olympic class runner.  Nor does her life magically come together just because she manages to complete a 5k.  Instead, what makes this film so special is that it’s about Brittany finding her own happiness and accepting who she is.  When Brittany struggles, it’s impossible not to feel for her.  When Brittany succeeds, it’s impossible not to cheer.

It helps that this is also a terrifically funny film.  The dialogue is sharp and witty and Jillian Bell is one of those actresses who can make even the simplest of lines hilarious.  (She can also make them heart-breaking when she needs to.)  While Brittany is running, she’s also working as a pet sitter.  When she discovers that another pet sitter, Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), is essentially squatting in their employer’s house while she’s out of town, Brittany ends up moving in with him.  Everyone tells Brittany that she’s eventually going to end up sleeping with Jern.  Brittany says it will never happen.  Jern says it will never happen.  We know it will happen because Bell and Ambudkhar have such a wonderful chemistry.  They’re like a 21st century version of Tracy and Hepburn.

I wasn’t expecting much from Brittany Runs A Marathon but it’s a good film, a funny comedy with a good heart and serious points to make.  Not surprisingly, it was also loved at Sundance, where it won the Audience Award.

Here Are The Hollywood Critics Association’s Nominations For The Best of 2019


The Hollywood Critics Association was, up until a few days ago, known as the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society.  Perhaps realizing that HCA just plans looks better than LAOFCS, they announced yesterday that they were changing their name.

They also announced their nominees for the best of films and performances of 2019!  While the HCA may not be one of the major precursors of awards season, their nominations do give a fairly good picture of which films and performances are currently being touted as possible Oscar nominees.

And here they are:

BEST PICTURE

  • “1917”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Joker”
  • “Jojo Rabbit”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Marriage Story”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves

BEST ACTOR

  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
  • Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Awkwafina, “The Farewell”
  • “Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
  • Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
  • Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Shia LaBeouf, “Honey Boy”
  • Sterling K. Brown, “Waves”
  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
  • Margot Robbie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”

BEST MALE DIRECTOR

  • Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
  • Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR

  • Alma Har’el, “Honey Boy”
  • Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Olivia Wilde, “Booksmart”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won, “Parasite”
  • Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, & Katie Silberman, “Booksmart”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Scott Silver and Todd Phillips, “Joker”
  • Steven Zailian, “The Irishman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR OR ACTRESS 23 AND UNDER

  • Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart”
  • Julia Butters, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”
  • Roman Griffin Davis, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Thomasin McKenzie, “Jojo Rabbit”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

  • Jessie Buckley, “Wild Rose”
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr., “Waves”
  • Paul Walter Hauser, “Richard Jewell”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zack Gottsagen, “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

BEST CAST

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Knives Out”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves”

BEST FIRST FEATURE

  • “Brittany Runs a Marathon”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “The Peanut Butter Falcon”
  • “Queen & Slim”

BEST INDEPENDENT FILM

  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “Luce”
  • “Waves”

BEST ACTION/WAR FILM

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • “Abominable”
  • “Frozen II”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
  • “Missing Link”
  • “Toy Story 4”

BEST BLOCKBUSTER

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Shazam!”
  • “Spider-Man: Far from Home”

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL

  • “Booksmart”
  • “Blinded by the Light”
  • Dolemite Is My Name”
  • “Long Shot”
  • “Rocketman”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “American Factory”
  • “Apollo 11”
  • “Hail Satan?”
  • “The Kingmaker”
  • “Love, Antosha”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • “The Farewell”
  • “Monos”
  • “Pain & Glory”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

BEST HORROR FILM

  • “Crawl”
  • “Doctor Sleep”
  • “Midsommar”
  • “Ready or Not”
  • “Us”

BEST ANIMATED OR VFX PERFORMANCE

  • Josh Brolin, “Avengers: Endgame”
  • Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”
  • Rosa Salazar, “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • Ryan Reynolds, “Detective Pikachu”
  • Tom Hanks, “Toy Story 4”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Drew Daniel, “Waves”
  • Jarin Blaschke, “The Lighthouse”
  • Lawrence Sher, “Joker”
  • Robert Richardson, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Roger Deakins, “1917”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Arianne Phillips, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Julian Day, “Rocketman”
  • Jacqueline Durran, “Little Women”
  • Ruth E. Carter, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Mark Bridges, “Joker”

BEST EDITING

  • Fred Raskin, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Lee Smith, “1917”
  • Michael McCusker, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, ‘The Irishman”
  • Yang Jin-mo, “Parasite”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP

  • “Bombshell”
  • “Joker”
  • “Judy”
  • “Rocketman”
  • “The Irishman”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Catchy Song” from “The Lego Movie: The Second Part”
  • “Glasgow” from “Wild Rose”
  • “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”
  • “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II”
  • “Speechless” from “Aladdin”

BEST SCORE

  • Alexandre Desplat, “Little Women”
  • Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”
  • Michael Abels, “Us”
  • Thomas Newman, “1917”
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Waves”

BEST STUNT WORK

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • “1917”
  • “Ad Astra”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • “The Irishman”

The winners will announced in December!