Horror Film Review: It Comes At Night (dir by Trey Edward Shults)


It Comes At Night is yet another film about people waiting for the end of the world.  In this case, the end is due to the outbreak of a mysterious disease.  It Comes At Night is a film that I meant to see in theaters when it originally released but I never got a chance.  It Comes At Night was acclaimed by critics but generally hated by audiences.  (Some of the comments on twitter, from people who had just returned from seeing the film, were incredibly angry.)  To be honest, it’s really not surprising that audiences didn’t embrace the film.  Having recently watched the film myself, I can tell you that It Comes At Night is one of the most depressing movies ever made.

Seriously, remember how depressing the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Abigail Breslin zombie film Maggie was?  Well, compared to It Comes At Night, Maggie might as well have been a musical comedy.

It Comes At Night opens with a former school teacher named Paul (Joel Edgerton) executing his father-in-law.  Paul’s wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and his teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) understand that Paul had no choice.  There’s been an outbreak of a disease and the old man was infected.  The only way to keep everyone else in the family safe was to kill him and burn his body.

Paul and his family live in an isolated cabin.  At all times, the front door remains locked.  Only Paul and Sarah are allowed to carry the key.  No one is allowed to leave the house at night and under no circumstances are strangers allowed to enter the house.  Sometimes, after the sun goes down, Travis thinks that he can hear sounds in the surrounding woods.  It’s a reminder that people are out there but the majority of them are either slowly dying from the disease or scavengers trying to survive.

Paul ruthlessly enforces the rules but then, one night, a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) attempts to break into the house.  Will swears that he’s not infected.  He was just trying to find food for his wife, Kim (Riley Keough) and his son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner).  After Paul determines that Will does not have the disease, he agrees to let Will and his family stay with them.  If the house is ever attacked, Paul and Sarah figure, Will and Kim will provide an extra layer of defense.

And, for a few weeks, everything is fine.  The two families bond.  But Travis is still having vivid nightmares in which he sees men and women who have been infected and who are living in the woods.  And he is still hearing sounds at night…

The inevitability of death hangs over minute of It Comes At Night.  From the film’s first scene, you know that things are probably not going to end well.  When the two families do start to surrender to their paranoia, it’s upsetting but not particularly shocking.  It’s depressing because it all seems very plausible.  I think we all know that, if the world really was ending, it wouldn’t bring about peace or reflection.  Instead, people would keep fighting until the final second.  That’s just human nature.  What makes It Comes At Night so sad and disturbing is that there are no traditional heroes or villains.  There’s just six people trying to live their lives in a world that’s rapidly coming to an end.  They think they can beat the darkness surrounding them but the audience knows better.

I know, I know.  You just read that paragraph and you thought, “Yeah, Lisa, that sounds like a really fun movie.”

And you’re right.  It’s not a fun movie.  I would seriously warn anyone struggling with depression to be careful about watching It Comes At Night.  It’s definitely not going to cheer you up.  I spent the first half of thid 90 minute film convinced that I was probably going to stop watching because it was just too dark.  But I ended up watching it to the end because, even if it was depressing, it was also a very well-made film.  It sucks you in, even though you might not want it to.  The entire cast does a good job but special praise has to be given to Kelvin Harrison, Jr., who gives a searingly vulnerable performance as Travis.

It Comes At Night is a well-made, disturbing, and heartbreakingly sad movie and probably not one that I’ll have any desire to watch again for quite some time.

Playing Catch Up With The Films of 2016: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (dir by Glenn Ficara and John Requa)


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Some day, someone will get around to making the ultimate Tina Fey movie, which will basically just be 4 and a half hours of people talking about how much they love Tina Fey while Tina makes silly faces in the background.  Until that day comes, viewers will just have to settle for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Tina Fey plays Tina Fey playing real-life journalist, Kim Baker.  When the film starts, Kim accepts an assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan.  Though she starts out as neurotic and intimidated, Kim soon steps up and emerges as a passionate and committed journalist, one who is dedicated to revealing the truth — both good and bad — about what’s happening in Afghanistan.  Helping her along the way is a BBC reporter, Tanya Vanderpool (Margot Robbie) and a Scottish photographer named Iain (Martin Freeman).  Iain and Kim may be attracted to one another but Kim has a boyfriend (Josh Charles) back in New York.  How long do you think it takes for Kim to catch her boyfriend cheating via Skype?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is one of those movies that you just know was made to be an Oscar contender.  Not only does it deal with a big important subject but it stars a popular performer in a change-of-pace role.  Except, of course, it’s not really that much of a change-of-pace.  Tina Fey’s a good actress but you never forget that you’re watching Tina Fey.  You never think to yourself, “Kim is caught in the middle of a firefight” or “Kim is getting addicted to the rush of being a war zone.”  Instead, you think, “Any minute now, Tina Fey’s going to start shooting a gun and it’s going to be funny because she’s Tina Fey.”  Towards the end of the film, when a U.S. soldier who has lost his legs tells Kim to never stop trying to tell the people the truth about what’s happening in Afghanistan, you don’t think, “Don’t give up, Kim!”  Instead you think, “Wow — so that soldier lost his legs so that Tina Fey could have an Oscar moment.”

If I haven’t already made it clear, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an extremely uneven film, one that never seems to be sure if it wants to be a relationship comedy, a media satire, or a serious look at the realities of war.  The film works best when it concentrates on the friendship between Tanya and Kim and it’s nice to see a film about two women who are colleagues and friends.  When Tanya first showed up, I was worried that the film would devolve into one of those “Women can’t work together” diatribes or that Tanya would immediately be set up as some sort of mean girl rival for Iain.  Instead, the film explores how women support each other through even the most difficult of circumstances.  But then there’s other scenes that just don’t work as well, like the scenes with Alfred Molina as an Afghan politician who has a crush on Kim.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has its moment but ultimately its too uneven to be of much consequence.

The Chicago Film Critics Society Rounds Up The Usual Suspects!


 The Chicago Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2015 yesterday and it’s pretty much the usual suspects, with a few unexpected names tossed in as well!  Check them out below and try not to get on the Mayor’s bad side because I hear he’s one scary guy.

BEST PICTURE
Carol
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight

BEST DIRECTOR
Todd Haynes–Carol
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu–The Revenant
Tom McCarthy–Spotlight
Adam McKay–The Big Short
George Miller–Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST ACTOR
Christopher Abbott–James White
Leonardo DiCaprio–The Revenant
Michael Fassbender–Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne–The Danish Girl
Jason Segel–The End of the Tour

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett–Carol
Brie Larson–Room
Charlotte Rampling–45 Years
Saoirse Ronan–Brooklyn
Charlize Theron–Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Benicio Del Toro–Sicario
Sam Elliott–Grandma
Mark Rylance–Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon–99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone–Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh–Anomalisa
Jennifer Jason Leigh–The Hateful Eight
Cynthia Nixon–James White
Kristen Stewart–Clouds of Sils Maria
Alicia Vikander–Ex Machina

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bridge of Spies–Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen
Ex Machina–Alex Garland
The Hateful Eight–Quentin Tarantino
Inside Out–Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley
Spotlight–Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Anomalisa–Charlie Kaufman
The Big Short–Adam McKay & Charles Randolph
Brooklyn–Nick Hornby
Room–Emma Donoghue
Steve Jobs–Aaron Sorkin

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Carol–Edward Lachman
The Hateful Eight–Robert RIchardson
Mad Max: Fury Road–John Seale
The Revenant–Emmanuel Lubezki
Sicario–Roger Deakins

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Carol–Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight–Ennio Morricone
Inside Out–Michael Giacchino
It Follows–Disasterpeace
Mad Max: Fury Road–Junkie XL

BEST ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Assassin
Brooklyn
Carol
Crimson Peak
Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST EDITING
The Big Short–Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road–Jason Ballantine & Margaret Sixel
The Martian–Pietro Scalia
The Revenant–Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight–Tom McArdle

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
The Assassin
The Look of Silence
Phoenix
Son of Saul
White God

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Amy
Cartel Land
The Hunting Ground
The Look of Silence
Where to Invade Next

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
The Shaun the Sheep Movie

MOST PROMISING PERFORMER
Christopher Abbott–James White
Bel Powley–The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Geza Rohrig–Son of Saul
Amy Schumer–Trainwreck
Jacob Tremblay–Room

MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER
Alex Garland–Ex Machina
Marielle Heller–The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Josh Mond–James White
Laszlo Nemes–Son of Saul
Bill Pohlad–Love & Mercy

The Detroit Film Critics Announce Their Nominations! Congratulations, Liev Schrieber!


Awards seasons continues as, earlier today, the Detroit Film Critics announced their nominations for the best of 2015!  Like almost all the other film critics groups, Detroit showed a lot of love to Spotlight.  However, unlike previous groups, Detroit did not nominate Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, or Rachel McAdams.  Instead, they nominated Liev Schrieber who, up until this point, had not really figured into the awards race.

If nothing else, the current confusion over who, if anyone, should be nominated for Spotlight might inspire someone to ask why the Academy doesn’t give an award for Best Ensemble.

Another question raised by Detroit: why does the Academy only allow actors to be nominated for one performance per category.  Detroit nominated Alicia Vikander twice for best supporting actress, for both The Danish Girl and Ex Machina.  And why not?  As we saw with Jessica Chastain in 2011, sometimes one performer delivers several great performances in one year.

Here are the Detroit nominations!

BEST FILM

BEST DIRECTOR

BEST ACTOR

  • Christopher Abbott, James White
  • Michael Caine, Youth
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hardy, Legend

BEST ACTRESS

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

BEST ENSEMBLE

BREAKTHROUGH

  • Sean Baker, Tangerine (director)
  • Emory Cohen, Brooklyn (actor)
  • Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl (actress)
  • Jacob Tremblay, Room (actor)
  • Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina, The Danish Girl (actress)

BEST SCREENPLAY

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Spotlight and Paul Dano Win At the Gothams


Spotlight

The Gotham Awards were held last night!  Spotlight was the big winner though Paul Dano picked up the supporting actor award for his performance in Love & Mercy.

Best Screenplay
“Carol,” Phyllis Nagy
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” Marielle Heller
“Love & Mercy,” Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner
“Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – WINNER
“While We’re Young,” Noah Baumbach

Breakthrough Actor
Rory Culkin in “Gabriel”
Arielle Holmes in “Heaven Knows What”
Lola Kirke in “Mistress America”
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in “Tangerine”
Mya Taylor in “Tangerine” – WINNER

Breakthrough Series – Long Form
“Jane the Virgin,” Jennie Snyder Urman, Creator (The CW)
“Mr. Robot,” Sam Esmail, Creator (USA Network) – WINNER
“Transparent,” Jill Soloway, Creator (Amazon)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Creators (Netflix)
“UnREAL,” Marti Noxon, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Creators (Lifetime)

Best Feature
“Carol”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
“Heaven Knows What”
“Spotlight” – WINNER
“Tangerine”

Best Documentary
“Approaching the Elephant”
“Cartel Land”
“Heart of a Dog”
“Listen to Me Marlon”
“The Look of Silence” – WINNER

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director
Desiree Akhavan for “Appropriate Behavior”
Jonas Carpigano for “Mediterranea” – WINNER
Marielle Heller for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
John Magary for “The Mend”
Josh Mond for “James White”

Best Actor
Christopher Abbott in “James White”
Kevin Corrigan in “Results”
Paul Dano in “Love & Mercy” – WINNER
Peter Sarsgaard in “Experimenter”
Michael Shannon in “99 Homes”

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
Blythe Danner in “I’ll See You in My Dreams”
Brie Larson in “Room”
Bel Powley in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” – WINNER
Lily Tomlin in “Grandma”
Kristen Wiig in “Welcome to Me”

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Brian D’Arcy James for their ensemble work in “Spotlight”

Breakthrough Series – Short Form
“Bee and PuppyCat,” Natasha Alllegri, Creator (Cartoon Hangover)
“The Impossibilities,” Anna Kerrigan, Creator (seriesofimpossibilities.com)
“Qraftish, Christal,” Creator (Blackgirldangerous.com)
“Shugs and Fats,” Nadia Manzoor and Radhka Vaz, Creator (ShugsandFats.TV)
“You’re So Talented,” Sam Bailey, Creator (Open TV)

Paul Dano

Here Are The 2015 Independent Spirit Nominations!


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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

Anomalisa
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
Spotlight
Tangerine

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
Mediterranea
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

(T)error
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
Meru
The Russian Woodpecker

Best International Film

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Embrace of the Serpent
Girlhood
Mustang
Son of Saul

Best Cinematography

Beasts of No Nation
Carol
It Follows
Meadlowland
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best Editing

Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias

Room

Spotlight

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

Advantageous
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Krisha
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)

Spotlight

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

BeastsofNoNation

Awards Season Is Here With The 2015 Gotham Award Nominations!


Officially, awards season started yesterday when it was announced that Chris Rock would host the Oscars in 2016.  And let me tell you, I was so excited about that prospect that, for the first time since this site began, I actually didn’t even post that a new Oscar host had been officially selected.  But anyway, here’s hoping that Chris does well!  (Personally, I still want them to give James Franco a second chance…)

However, today, we had the first of our annual Oscar precursors when the 2015 Gotham Nominations were announced!  It’s debatable just how much influence that Gothams have on the actual Oscar race.  The Gothams are designed to only honor independent, American-made films, which means that several potential Oscar nominees aren’t even eligible.  A lot of Oscar pundits have pointed out that, last year, Birdman did very well with the Gothams.  But wouldn’t Birdman have been nominated even without the Gothams?

As for this year’s Gotham nominations, Spotlight and The Diary of a Teenage Girl dominated.  Spotlight has regularly been mentioned as an Oscar contender.  Will the Gotham nominations propel Teenage Girl into the hunt?  (Even more importantly, how did I miss seeing Diary of a Teenage Girl when it was first released?)

As well, Carol got some recognition.  That’s probably a good thing since, after being an early front runner, Carol has lately been overshadowed by Spotlight, Steve Jobs, Bridge of Spies, and The Martian.

Here are the 2015 Gotham Nominees!

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Best Feature

Carol
Todd Haynes, director; Elizabeth Karlsen, Tessa Ross, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley, producers (The Weinstein Company)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Marielle Heller, director; Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit, Miranda Bailey, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Heaven Knows What
Josh and Benny Safdie, directors; Oscar Boyson, Sebastian Bear-McClard, producers (RADiUS)

Spotlight
Tom McCarthy, director; Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagan Faust, producers (Open Road Films)

Tangerine
Sean Baker, director; Darren Dean, Shih-Ching Tsou, Marcus Cox & Karrie Cox, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

Best Documentary

Approaching the Elephant
Amanda Rose Wilder, director; Jay Craven, Robert Greene, Amanda Rose Wilder, producers (Kingdom County Productions)

Cartel Land
Matthew Heineman, director; Matthew Heineman, Tom Yellin, producers (The Orchard and A&E IndieFilms)

Heart of a Dog
Laurie Anderson, director; Dan Janvey, Laurie Anderson, producers (Abramorama and HBO Documentary Films)

Listen to Me Marlon
Stevan Riley, director; John Battsek, RJ Cutler, George Chignell, producers (Showtime Documentary Films)

The Look of Silence
Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge Sørensen, producer (Drafthouse Films)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Desiree Akhavan for Appropriate Behavior (Gravitas Ventures)
Jonas Carpigano for Mediterranea (Sundance Selects)
Marielle Heller for The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Sony Pictures Classics)
John Magary for The Mend (Cinelicious Pics)
Josh Mond for James White (The Film Arcade)

Best Screenplay

Carol, Phyllis Nagy (The Weinstein Company)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Marielle Heller (Sony Pictures Classics)
Love & Mercy, Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner (Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate, and River Road Entertainment)
Spotlight, Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Open Road Films)
While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach (A24)

Best Actor

Christopher Abbott in James White (The Film Arcade)
Kevin Corrigan in Results (Magnolia Pictures)
Paul Dano in Love & Mercy (Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate, and River Road Entertainment)
Peter Sarsgaard in Experimenter (Magnolia Pictures)
Michael Shannon in 99 Homes (Broad Green Pictures)

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol (The Weinstein Company)
Blythe Danner in I’ll See You in My Dreams (Bleecker Street)
Brie Larson in Room (A24)
Bel Powley in The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Sony Pictures Classics)
Lily Tomlin in Grandma (Sony Pictures Classics)
Kristen Wiig in Welcome to Me (Alchemy)

Breakthrough Actor

Rory Culkin in Gabriel (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Arielle Holmes in Heaven Knows What (RADiUS)
Lola Kirke in Mistress America (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures)
Mya Taylor in Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures)

Welcome to Oscar season!

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