Here Are The 2015 Independent Spirit Nominations!


Here are the 2015 Independent Spirit Nominations!  That’s right — Oscar season is officially here!  Soon, we will reach the point where every day, another group will be announcing their picks for the best of 2015 and the Oscar race will start to become a lot less cloudy.  Until then, we can look at the Independent Spirit Nominations and try to figure out what they all mean in the big scheme of things.

The two big indie best picture contenders — Carol and Spotlight — were nominated for multiple awards.  That’s to be expected.  If any film is going to benefit from the Spirit nominations, it will probably be Anomalisawhich is starting to look more and more like it might be a dark horse to score a best picture nominations.  As well, the Spirit nominations may serve to remind Academy members that Beasts of No Nation is one of the best films of the year.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the Spirit nominations!

Best Feature

Beasts of No Nation

Best Director

Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Best Screenplay

Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk

Best First Feature

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay

Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend

Best Male Lead

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Female Lead

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Best Supporting Male

Kevin Corrigan, Results
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Best Supporting Female

Robin Bartlett, H.
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Best Documentary

Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker

Best International Film

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Embrace of the Serpent
Son of Saul

Best Cinematography

Beasts of No Nation
It Follows
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best Editing

Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias



John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Under $500,000)

Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)


Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award

Chloe Zhao
Felix Thompson
Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck

Piaget Producers Award 

Darren Dean
Mel Eslyn
Rebecca Green and Laura D. Smith


The Things You Find On Netflix: Beasts of No Nation (dir by Cary Fukunaga)


Like many of the films that we’ve looked at this October, Beasts of No Nation is a horror movie.  However, the horror to be found in Beasts of No Nation is not due to a ghost or a vampire or a zombie or a serial killer wearing a mask.  Instead, Beasts of No Nation is a harrowing look at a real-life horror that is currently happening even as you read this review.

Abraham Attah plays Agu, a 12 year-old boy living in a small village in an unnamed African country.  In many ways, Agu is a normal child.  He likes to hang out with his friends.  He looks up to his older brother and his father.  He loves his mother.  He goes to school, he goes to church, and he prays regularly.  Though his village may be poor, he and his friends still find ways to keep each other entertained.

However, Agu is living his life in the middle of a war zone.  Though the details are intentionally left obscure, his country is in the middle of a civil war.  Throughout the film, we continually hear people talking about the different warring factions but we never learn the specifics of what those factions believe or why they’re all fighting each other in the first place.  And, of course, it really doesn’t matter.  The only thing that’s important is that they are fighting and Agu is about to sacrifice his childhood to their war.

When his village is attacked by government forces and his brother and father are killed in front of him, Agu runs into the jungle.  It’s there that he’s eventually captured by one of the many different rebel factions.  This faction is led by the Commandant (Idris Elba), a charismatic and messianic figure who recruits Agu to serve as one of his child soldiers.

(I’m assuming that the Commandant was, at least in part, based on Joseph Kony of Kony 2012 fame.)

At first, the Commandant presents himself as being a father figure to Agu and Agu looks up to him. The Commandant, for his part, orders Agu to kill a possibly innocent man and also keeps Agu and his other child soldiers stoned on various drugs.  Whereas he once only wanted to reach the capital city and be reunited with his mother, Agu now becomes a ruthless killer.  During the day, he fights.  And, at night, he and the other soldiers run the risk of being sexually assaulted by the Commandant.

It’s a harrowing film, one that is made all the more poignant by the fact that, even as he’s committing terrible acts, Agu still remains, in many ways, an innocent child.  It’s significant that, when the Commandant takes the soldiers to a brothel, Agu ends up sitting in a corner.  He’s too young for the brothel but, under the twisted logic of his circumstances, he’s old enough to kill and be killed.  It’s not easy to watch but it is a film that should be watched because this is what is happening in certain parts of the world right now.

Beasts of No Nation has gotten a lot of deserved attention for both Attah and Elba’s performances.  It has also gotten a lot of attention because it’s being distributed by Netflix.  At the same time the film opened in theaters, it was also made available online.  And, to be honest, I’m glad that I watched Beasts of No Nation on Netflix because it allowed me to pause the film whenever it got too overwhelmingly sad.  I cried a lot of tears while watching Beasts of No Nation.  That’s just the type of film that it is.

Beasts of No Nation is not an easy film to watch.  It doesn’t offer any easy solutions and the film itself ends on a note of terrifying ambiguity.  But watch it you should.  It’s an important film about a real-life outrage and it not only deserves to be seen but it needs to be seen as well.

Lisa Marie Picks The 50 Best Films of The Past 3 Years


As of this month, I have been reviewing films here at the Shattered Lens for 3 years.  In honor of that anniversary, I thought I’d post my picks for the 50 best films that have been released in the U.S. since 2010.

Without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky)
  2. Exit Through The Gift Shop (directed by Banksy)
  3. Hanna (directed by Joe Wright)
  4. Fish Tank (directed by Andrea Arnold)
  5. Higher Ground (directed by Vera Farmiga)
  6. Shame (directed by Steve McQueen)
  7. Anna Karenina (directed by Joe Wright)
  8. The Cabin In The Woods (directed by Drew Goddard)
  9. 127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)
  10. Somewhere (directed by Sofia Coppola)
  11. Life of Pi (directed by Ang Lee)
  12. Hugo (directed by Martin Scorsese)
  13. Inception (directed by Christopher Nolan)
  14. Animal Kingdom (directed by David Michod)
  15. Winter’s Bone (directed by Debra Granik)
  16. The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius)
  17. The Guard (directed by John Michael McDonagh)
  18. Bernie (directed by Richard Linklater)
  19. The King’s Speech (directed by Tom Hooper)
  20. Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig)
  21. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (directed by Thomas Alfredson)
  22. Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
  23. Never Let Me Go (directed by Mark Romanek)
  24. Toy Story 3 (directed by Lee Unkrich)
  25. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (directed by Niels Arden Oplev)
  26. Young Adult (directed by Jason Reitman)
  27. Sucker Punch (directed by Zack Snyder)
  28. The Master (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
  29. Incendies (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
  30. Melancholia (directed by Lars Von Trier)
  31. Super (directed by James Gunn)
  32. Silver Linings Playbook (directed by David O. Russell)
  33. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (directed by Edgar Wright)
  34. The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm)
  35. Skyfall (directed by Sam Mendes)
  36. Easy A (directed by Will Gluck)
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 (directed by David Yates)
  38. The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon)
  39. How To Train Your Dragon (directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBois)
  40. Win Win (directed by Thomas McCarthy)
  41. Les Miserables (directed by Tom Hooper)
  42. Take This Waltz (directed by Sarah Polley)
  43. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (directed by Werner Herzog)
  44. Rust and Bone (directed by Jacques Audiard)
  45. Cosmopolis (directed by David Cronenberg)
  46. Ruby Sparks (directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris)
  47. Brave (directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
  48. Martha Marcy May Marlene (directed by Sean Durkin)
  49. Jane Eyre (directed by Cary Fukunaga)
  50. Damsels in Distress (directed by Whit Stillman)

Lisa Marie Does Jane Eyre (dir. by Cary Fukunaga)

Hey, ladies!  Did your man make you sit through Battle Los Angeles?  Did he spend the whole time going, “Oh Hell yeah!” every time something exploded?  Did he insist on repeatedly going, “Hoorah!” after the movie ended? 

You want to get revenge?  Well, here’s what you’re going to do.  You’re going to go up to him and you’re going to tell him, in the sweetest way possible, that he’s going to take you to see the latest film adaptation of Jane Eyre.  Tell him that this is a revisionist take on the story and that its full of scenes of lesbian flirtation between Jane and Helen.  Of course, that’s a lie but this is the same guy who just gave you a card for Valentine’s Day.  You don’t owe him a damn thing.

And who knows?  He might find something to enjoy in Jane Eyre because it’s one of the best films of 2011 so far.  (Though I doubt it because Jane Eyre really is an unapologetic chick flick.)

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is one of those books that has a timeless appeal to it.  I don’t know if it was the first novel to feature a young governess isolated in a creepy mansion but it certainly set the standard that all other gothic romances would have to meet.  The first film version was a silent film from 1910 and since then, Jane Eyre and the enigmatic Mr. Rochester have been played by everyone from Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles to Susannah York and George C. Scott to Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt.  In this latest version, Jane is played Mia Wasikowska and Rochester by Michael Fassebender and the end result is probably the best film version of Jane Eyre to date.

With a few notable exceptions, the film is faithful to Bronte’s book.  Jane is an orphan who, after being mistreated by her wealthy aunt (Sally Hawkins, cast very much against type), is sent away to a “charity school” where she is again mistreated and abused until finally, she turns 18 and she leaves the school to take a job as the governess for a young French girl named Adele (Romy Settbon Moore).  Adele is the ward of the mysterious, arrogant, surly, but oh so hot Mr. Rochester.  Though Rochester is, at first, a rather fearsome employer, he soon starts to warm up to Jane and the two of them defy the 19th century class system by falling in love.  However, not everything is perfect.  Jane discovers that Rochester has secrets of his own and then there’s the constant sound of footsteps and moaning that seem to echo through the old mansion late at night.  Fires are mysteriously set.  A guest is savagely attacked in his sleep.  When Jane discovers the truth, she also discovers that nothing is as perfect as it seems.

One reason why the original novel has remained such an important work (and one that is still readable as opposed to say, The Scarlet Letter) is because Bronte used her narrative to tell several different stories.  Me, I’ve always related to the character of Jane and her struggle to maintain her independence in a society where women are not encouraged to think for themselves.  Others see the story as an early soap opera, a melodramatic romance in which true love conquers all.  There’s also an argument to be made that the book is primarily meant to be an examination of the 19th century British class system.  Of course, if that’s all a bit too much for you, you can always just read Jane Eyre as an early “haunted house” story.

The genius of this latest film adaptation is to be found in the way that director Cary Fukunaga and screenwriter Moira Buffini brings all of these various themes to life while still crafting a compelling and entertaining movie out of them.  Perhaps the biggest change they made is to begin their film near the book’s conclusion.  They then proceed to tell the story of Jane’s childhood and romance with Rochester through flashback, a move that recreates the book’s ground-breaking 1st person narration (ground breaking because, before Jane Eyre, it was rare that any female character was allowed to tell her own tale).  While some may complain that the 1st half of the book is pretty much reduced down to 15 minutes of screen time, Fukunaga and Buffini pick their scenes carefully and, most importantly. the essence of Bronte’s narrative comes through if not the exact details.

As a director, Fukunaga plays up the gothic aspects of the story.  Whenever Jane ventures outside, the skies are overcast and you can almost literally feel the chill of a desolate wind.  Meanwhile, the interior scenes are so full of menacing shadows and expressionistic camera angles that Fukunaga’s film almost feels like the noir version of Jane Eyre.  By doing so, this Jane Eyre becomes not just a prototypical gothic love story but instead, it becomes a true coming-of-age story with the mysteries of Mr. Rochester coming to symbolize the mysteries of life itself.

Fukanaga is helped by some excellent performances.  Jamie Bell and Judi Dench — playing a clergyman and a housekeeper respectfully — both bring life to characters that have been reduced to stereotypes in previous versions of this story.  Fassebender is a perfect Rochester, displaying both strength and weakness in equally believable measures.  However, the film’s success or failure obviously lies with Mia Wasikowska’s performance in the title role and this is Jane Eyre’s crowning triumph.  Wasikowska gives a fiercely, intelligent performance.  Her Jane is strong-willed, indepedent, and intelligent without ever becoming so idealized as to be unbelievable.  If Jane Eyre was the first strong woman to appear in literature, Wasikowska gives a performance that is equally strong.  There have been over 20 Jane Eyres since 1910 and Mia Wasikowska may very well be the best.