Film Review: Rescue Dawn (dir by Werner Herzog)


Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) has been obsessed with flying ever since he was a child in Germany.  Towards the end of World War II, while his native country burned around him, Dieter would stare up at the skies and watch the American planes fly overhead and he knew that was not only what he wanted to do someday but also who he wanted to do it for.  Jump forward two decades, to 1966.  Dengler is now a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, an always smiling optimist who is considered to be something of a wild man.  When Dengler is reported as having been shot down over Loas, his fellow pilots are not only convinced that Dengler survived but that he’ll also eventually escape captivity.  Why?  Because they now Dieter Dengler is not the type to give up.

And they’re right.  Dengler not only survives the crash but he also survives in the wild.  After growing up in the rubble of Germany, Dengler is confident that he can survive anything.  Even when he’s finally captured by communist rebels, Dengler remains optimistic that he’ll make it back home.  When he’s told that he can go free if he signs a statement denouncing the United States, he refuses.  Dengler’s not going to turn on the country that allows him to fly.  Dengler soon finds himself being held in a POW camp with four other men, including two other Americans (played by Jeremy Davies and Steve Zahn).  The guards are determined to break Dengler but he’s just as determined to escape.  Hearing that it’s impossible to do so only makes Dengler more determined.

The story of Dieter Dengler and his eventual escape from captivity was originally told, by Dengler himself, in Werner Herzog’s 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs To Fly.  That Herzog saw Dengler as a kindred spirit is evident in the fact that, 9 years after the documentary, Herzog again told Dengler’s story in the 2006 film, Rescue Dawn.

On the face of it, a story about a group of Americans escaping from a POW camp might sound like an unlikely topic for a Werner Herzog film but it doesn’t take long for Herzog to put his own distinctive stamp on the project.  As played by Bale, Dengler is another one of Herzog’s obessessive heroes.  Dengler’s obsession is not just with flying but also with being free.  For Dengler, that’s what being an American means and that’s why he would rather be tortured than sign a simple piece of paper denying the existence of that freedom.  Much as how Grizzly Man portrayed Timothy Treadwell as being a man who would rather be eaten by a bear than live a life that’s been dictated by others, Dengler would rather suffer than betray his adopted country.

Rescue Dawn also centers around another common Herzog theme, the pitilessness of nature.  Watching Dengler trying to make his way through the jungle, we’re reminded that nature will always win in the end.  In Herzog’s world, neither nature nor the universe as a whole has any ideology.  Long after every warrior has died, the film tells us, nature will still be there.  The one thing that the POWs and their captors have in common is that they’re all at the mercy of the chaos of nature.  Just as the jungle threatens to swallow up Dengler and the other prisoners, their captors are slowly starving to death due to a drought.  As filmed by Herzog, the jungle is both beautiful and overwhelming.  Even at the film’s triumphant conclusion, it’s hard not to feel that, for all the planning, Dengler’s escape and survival was due to the random chaos of the universe.  How much can we control and how much must we simply leave up to the whim of nature?

Bale, Davies, and Zahn all give excellent performances and Herzog keeps the story moving quickly.  It’s probably one of his most emotionally accessible films and it’s impossible not to shed a tear at that final scene.  That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that there’s a good deal of controversy about the way that Rescue Dawn portrays Gene DeBruin, the POW played by Jeremy Davies.  The film often contrasts Dengler with DeBruin.  If Dengler is always hopeful and determined, DeBruin is portrayed as being unstable and unreliable.  However, by most accounts — including the one given by another one of the prisoners — DeBruin was actually the exact opposite of how he was portrayed in the film.  Instead of being selfish, he was a source of strength for the POWs and he actually refused to take advantage of a previous chance to escape because it would have meant abandoning the rest of the prisoners.  Herzog has said that he wasn’t aware of DeBruin’s heroism when he wrote and directed the film and that he now regrets the way that DeBruin was portrayed.  (DeBruin’s brother has said that Herzog refused to talk to the family while the film was in poduction.)  Rescue Dawn is a well-made and wonderfully acted film and it’s one that always brings tears to my mismatched eyes but, while watching it, it’s impossible not to regret the injustice that was done to Gene DeBruin.

Here Are The Winners of the 24th Annual Critics Choice Awards!


TSL writer Patrick Smith has referred to The Critics Choice Awards as being his “fifth favorite awards show” and that seems like the perfect description of where they fall in awards season.  People do pay attention to them and, in the past, they’ve been a pretty good precursor as far as the Oscars are concerned.  At the same time, there always seem to be confusion as just who exactly votes for the Critics Choice Awards.

Well, the answer to that question is that the Critics’ Choice Awards are voted on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association and, tonight, they announced their picks on the CW.

It was interesting night — two ties and Christian Bale was named Best Actor twice, which of course meant we had to suffer through his “I’m just an ordinary working bloke!” routine two times too many.  By far, my favorite winner was Amy Adams for Sharp Objects.

(On another note: Taye Diggs was an interesting choice to host.  I thought he did okay but, with his talent, he really should be receiving the awards instead of talking about them.  Someone write a great role for Taye Diggs ASAP!)

Here are tonight’s winners!  (Check out the nominees here!)

Movie

Best Song — Shallow from A Star is Born

Best Young Actor or Actress — Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Best Supporting Actor — Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Best Supporting Actress — Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Movie — A Quiet Place

Best Acting Ensemble — The Favourite

Best Action Film — Mission Impossible: Fallout

Best Animated Film — Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse

Best Foreign Language Film — Roma

Best Original Screenplay — Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best Adapted Screenplay — Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Actress In A Comedy — Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Best Actor In A Comedy — Christian Bale, Vice

Best Comedy — Crazy Rich Asians

Best Cinematography — Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Production Design — Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart, Black Panther

Best Editing — Tom Cross, First Man

Best Costume Design — Ruth Carter, Black Panther

Best Hair and Makeup — Vice

Best Visual Effects — Black Panther

Best Original Score — Justin Hurwitz, First Man

Best Director — Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Actress (tie) — Glenn Close, The Wife and Lady Gaga, A Star is Born

Best Actor — Christian Bale, Vice

Best Motion Picture — Roma

Television

Best Supporting Actor (Drama) — Noah Emmerich, The Americans

Best Supporting Actress (Drama) — Thandie Newton, Westworld

Best Supporting Actor (Comedy) — Henry Winkler, Barry

Best Supporting Actress (Comedy) — Alexis Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Best Supporting Actor (Limited Series or Made-For-TV Movie): Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal

Best Supporting Actress (Limited Series or Made-For-TV Movie): Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects

Best Movie Made For Television — Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert

Best Animated Series — BoJack Horseman

Best Actor (Limited Series or Movie Made-For-TV): Darren Criss, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Best Actress (Limited Series or Movie Made-For-TV): (Tie) Amy Adams, Sharp Objects and Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora

Best Actor (Comedy Series) — Bill Hader, Barry

Best Actress (Comedy Series) — Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Best Actor (Drama Series) — Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Best Actress (Drama Series) — Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

Best Limited Series — American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Best TV Drama Series — The Americans

Best TV Comedy Series — The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

 

Here Are The 64th Annual Golden Globe Winners!


Here are the winners of the 64th annual Golden Globes!

(Check out the nominees here.  Needless to say, the film winners have all received a huge boost to their Oscar chances.)

Best Actor (TV Series, Musical or Comedy) — Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method

Best Animated Feature Film — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Actor (TV Series, Drama) — Richard Madden, Bodyguard

Best TV Series (Drama) — The Americans

Best Supporting Actor (TV Series or Miniseries) — Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal

Best Actress (Limited Series or Made-For-TV Movie) — Patricia Arquette, Escape from Dannemora

Best Original Motion Picture Score — Justin Hurwitz, First Man

Best Original Song (Motion Picture) — “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Best Supporting Actress (Motion Picture) — Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Actress (Drama Series) — Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

Best Supporting Actor (Motion Pictures) — Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Best Screenplay (Motion Picture) — Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie, and Nick Vallelonga, Green Book

Best Supporting Actress (TV Series or Miniseries) — Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects

Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) — Christian Bale, Vice

Best Foreign Language Film — Roma

Best Actor (Limited Series or Made-for-TV movie) — Darren Criss, American Crime Story

Best Director (Motion Picture) — Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Actress (Comedy Series) — Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy) — The Kominsky Method

Best TV Limited Series or Movie — American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Best Actress (Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical) — Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) — Green Book

Best Actress (Motion Picture Drama) — Glenn Close, The Wife

Best Actor (Motion Picture, Drama) — Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Motion Picture (Drama) — Bohemian Rhapsody

 

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

 

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Swings Into The Hearts of the Utah Film Critics!


On Sunday, the Utah Film Critics reminded me why I love awards season.

After a few weeks of the same three or four films winning award after award, the Utah Film Critics decided to go against the conventional wisdom and, as best picture of 2018, they selected the animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse!

Obviously, the Utah Film Critics aren’t as influential as the National Board of Review or the Golden Globes or even the Critics Choice Awards.  If I had to choose between the two, I’d say that Black Panther has a far better chance of becoming the first comic book movie to be nominated for best picture.  Still, it’s always fun to play what if.

(Also, Utah deserves credit for giving acting awards to both Elsie Fisher and Hugh Grant.)

Anyway, here are all the winners out of Utah!

Best Picture: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (RU: Roma)

Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (RU: none)

Best Documentary Feature: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (RU: Minding the Gap)

Best Non-English Language Feature: Roma (RU: Burning)

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (RU: Ryan Coogler, Black Panther)

Best Actor: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed (RU: Christian Bale, Vice)

Best Actress: Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade (RU: Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born)

Best Supporting Actor (tie): Hugh Grant, Paddington 2 and Russell Hornsby, The Hate U Give

Best Supporting Actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite (RU: Elizabeth Debicki, Widows)

Best Original Screenplay: Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade (RU: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (RU: Audrey Wells, The Hate U Give)

Best Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (RU: Rob Hardy, Annihilation)

Best Original Score: Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury, Annihilation (RU: Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk)

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 St. Louis Film Critics Association Names A Star Is Born The Best Of 2018


On Sunday, the St. Louis Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2018!  While A Star is Born hasn’t quite dominated the precursor season in the way that many expected that it would, it still managed to win over St. Louis.

For a full list of nominees, click here.  And check out the winners below:

BEST FILM
A Star Is Born
Runner-up: BlacKkKlansman

BEST DIRECTOR
Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
Runner-up: Alfonso Cuarón – Roma

BEST ACTOR
Ethan Hawke – First Reformed
Runner-up: Christian Bale – Vice

BEST ACTRESS
Toni Collette – Hereditary
Runner-up: Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Runner-up: Mahershala Ali – Green Book

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
Runner-up: Emma Stone – The Favourite

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Vice – Adam McKay
Runner-up: The Favourite – Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
BlacKkKlansman – Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee (Screenplay); Ron Stallworth (Book)
Runner-up: Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (Screenplay); Lee Israel (Book)

BEST EDITING
Vice – Hank Corwin
Runner-up: First Man – Tom Cross

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Roma – Alfonso Cuarón
Runner-up: If Beale Street Could Talk – James Laxton

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Black Panther – Hannah Beachler
Runner-up: The Favourite – Fiona Crombie

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Avengers: Infinity War
Runner-up: Black Panther

BEST SCORE
BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard
Runner-up: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Carter Burwell

BEST SOUNDTRACK
Bohemian Rhapsody
Runner-up: BlacKkKlansman

BEST ACTION FILM
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Runner-up: Avengers: Infinity War

BEST COMEDY
The Favourite
Runner-up: Paddington 2

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
Runner-up: Isle of Dogs

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Won’t You Be Me Neighbor?
Runner-up: Three Identical Strangers

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE
Roma
Runner-up (tie): Capernaum, The Captain, The Guilty

BEST SCENE
Roma – Beach rescue
Runner-up: Bohemian Rhapsody – Live Aid