The Austin Film Critics Association Has Announced Their Nominations!


moonlightThe Austin Film Critics Association announced their nominees for the best of 2016 earlier today!  So, let’s see what my fellow Texans selected:

Best Film:

Best Director:

Best Actor:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Colin Farrell, The Lobster
  • Denzel Washington, Fences
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Best Actress:

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  • Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Ruth Negga, Loving

Best Supporting Actor:

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
  • Min-hee Kim, The Handmaiden
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay:

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Park Chan-wook, Jeong Seo-kyeong, The Handmaiden
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship

Best Cinematography:

Best Score:

Best Foreign-Language Film:

  • The Brand New Testament
  • Elle
  • The Handmaiden
  • Things to Come
  • Toni Erdmann

Best Documentary:

  • 13th
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • Tower
  • Weiner

Best Animated Film:

Best First Film:

  • The Birth of a Nation
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Krisha
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The Witch

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award:

Best Austin Film:

  • Loving (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Midnight Special (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Slash (dir. Clay Liford)
  • Tower (dir. Keith Maitland)
  • Transpecos (dir. Greg Kwedar)

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The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Go Crazy For La La Land!


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Oscar season continued today as the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2016!  What films and performers were honored in America’s capitol?

Here the complete list!

Best Film

Best Director

Best Actor

Best Actress

  • Amy Adams (Arrival)
  • Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
  • Ruth Negga (Loving)
  • Natalie Portman (Jackie) — Winner
  • Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis (Fences) — Winner
  • Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women)
  • Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
  • Molly Shannon (Other People)
  • Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Acting Ensemble

Best Youth Performance:

  • Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) — Winner
  • Lewis MacDougall (A Monster Calls)
  • Sunny Pawar (Lion)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)
  • Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch)

Best Voice Performance

  • Jason Bateman (Zootopia)
  • Auli’i Cravalho (Moana)
  • Ellen DeGeneres (Finding Dory)
  • Ginnifer Goodwin (Zootopia)
  • Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls) — Winner

Best Motion Capture Performance

  • Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls)
  • Mark Rylance (The BFG) — Winner

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Eric Heisserer, Based on the Story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (Arrival) — Winner
  • August Wilson, Based on his Play (Fences)
  • Luke Davies, Adapted from the Memoir “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley (Lion)
  • Patrick Ness, Based on his Novel (A Monster Calls)
  • Tom Ford, Based on the Novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Animated Feature

Best Documentary

  • Gleason
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • 13th — Winner
  • Weiner

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Elle — Winner
  • Julieta
  • The Handmaiden
  • The Salesman
  • Toni Erdmann

Best Production Design

Best Cinematography

Best Editing

Best Original Score

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC

The Atlanta Film Critics Society Embraces La La Land!


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It wasn’t just the Los Angeles Film Critics who announced their picks for the best of 2016 today!  The Atlanta Film Critics Society also had their say.

Who won?

Find out below!

BEST FILM – LA LA LAND

BEST DIRECTOR – Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND

BEST ACTOR – Casey Affleck, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

BEST ACTRESS – Annette Bening, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Mahershala Ali, MOONLIGHT

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Lily Gladstone, CERTAIN WOMEN

BEST ENSEMBLE – Cast of AMERICAN HONEY

BEST ANIMATED FILM – KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM – 13TH

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – TONI ERDMANN

BEST SCREENPLAY – Kenneth Lonergan, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

BEST SCORE – Cliff Martinez, THE NEON DEMON

BEST SONG – “Drive It Like You Stole It” from SING STREET

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Linus Sandgren, LA LA LAND

BEST EDITING – Tom Cross, LA LA LAND

EMPIRE OF THE SOUTH AWARD (Best Motion Picture Filmed in GA) – HIDDEN FIGURES

Trailer: Beasts of No Nation


BeastsofNoNation

Netflix has had some recent success with creating their own content with such critically-acclaimed shows such as House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black and, most recently, with Daredevil. As their success continue they’ve now begun to create their own content in the full feature-length film area.

One such film is the adaptation of the 2005 novel Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala. It’s about the story of the young boy, Agu, who is forced to join a rebel group in some unnamed West African nation to become a child soldier. The book, and the film, will allow us to witness his journey from innocent child to a young child-soldier who sees and participates in wartime atrocities.

Beasts of No Nation stars young actor Abraham Attah in the role of Agu with Idris Elba taking on the role of the sadistic and manipulative Commandant. It also marks the follow-up project for Cary Joji Fukunaga whose most recent work was the first season of a little series on HBO called True Detective.

Beasts of No Nation premieres simultaneously on Netflix and a limited amount of small and independent theaters on October 16, 2015.

Trailer: Only God Forgives (Red Band)


OnlyGodForgives

It looks like we the makings of a new Scorsese/DeNiro combination with Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling partnering up once again for another film after their critically-acclaimed neo-noir crime thriller with Drive.

Only God Forgives transplants Refn and Gosling away from the smog and seedy glamour of Los Angeles to the anything-goes locales of Thailand. Refn has described this follow-up to Drive as a modern Western set fully in the Far East with Gosling in the role of the cowboy antihero. The red band trailer once again shows that Refn will not be skimping on the beautifully shot violence and ramps up on the film’s look of heightened reality that made his previous film such a unique viewing experience.

There’s still no announced release date for Only God Forgives, but we will surely be on the look out for when it does finally come out.

Here Are The 2012 Critics’ Choice Movie Award Nominees


Earlier today, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The BFCA is the largest of the so-called “major” critics’ groups (and, interestingly enough, it’s also the newest and the least prestigious) and it has a fairly good track record of predicting the actual Oscar nominations.  The awards themselves will be handed out on January 12th, 2012 in a self-important, kinda seedy ceremony that will be broadcast on VH-1.   

BEST PICTURE
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney – The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – The Help
Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron – Young Adult
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks – Drive
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Sir Andrew Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Asa Butterfield – Hugo
Elle Fanning – Super 8
Thomas Horn – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Artist
Bridesmaids
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March

BEST DIRECTOR
Stephen Daldry – Extreme Loud & Incredibly Close
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Steven Spielberg – War Horse

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
50/50 – Will Reiser
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen
Win Win – Screenplay by Tom McCarthy, Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Young Adult – Diablo Cody

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Eric Roth
The Help – Tate Taylor
Hugo – John Logan
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist – Guillaume Schiffman
Drive – Newton Thomas Sigel
Hugo – Robert Richardson
Tree of Life – Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse – Janusz Kaminski

BEST ART DIRECTION
The Artist – Production Designer: Laurence Bennett, Art Director: Gregory S. Hooper
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Production Designer: Stuart Craig, Set Decorator: Stephenie McMillan
Hugo – Production Designer: Dante Ferretti, Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo
The Tree of Life – Production Designer: Jack Fisk, Art Director: David Crank
War Horse – Production Designer: Rick Carter, Set Decorator: Lee Sandales

BEST EDITING
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion
Drive – Matthew Newman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo – Thelma Schoonmaker
War Horse – Michael Kahn

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Artist – Mark Bridges
The Help – Sharen Davis
Hugo – Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre – Michael O’Connor
My Week With Marilyn – Jill Taylor

BEST MAKEUP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
My Week With Marilyn

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
The Tree of Life

BEST SOUND
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Drive
Fast Five
Hanna
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

BEST COMEDY
Bridesmaids
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Horrible Bosses
Midnight in Paris
The Muppets

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In Darkness
Le Havre
A Separation
The Skin I Live In
Where Do We Go Now

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Buck
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Page One: Inside the New York Times
Project Nim
Undefeated

BEST SONG
“Hello Hello” – performed by Elton John and Lady Gaga/written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Gnomeo & Juliet
“Life’s a Happy Song” – performed by Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“The Living Proof” – performed by Mary J. Blige/written by Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman and Harvey Mason, Jr. – The Help
“Man or Muppet” – performed by Jason Segel and Walter/written by Bret McKenzie – The Muppets
“Pictures in My Head” – performed by Kermit and the Muppets/written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman – The Muppets

BEST SCORE
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Drive – Cliff Martinez
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Hugo – Howard Shore
War Horse – John Williams

The BFCA has obviously made a lot of nominations and some of them are interesting but I have to be honest: the BFCA as an organization annoys me with how they’re always bragging about how big they are and how they’re so good at celebrating the conventional establishment wisdom.  So, I’ll just say that its nice to see Hanna getting at least some sort of recognition (even if that recognition is kinda minor.)

Review: Drive (dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn)


Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has made just a handful of films with most staying under the radar of most of the general film-going public. He first caught the attention of indie film fans with his Pusher Trilogy over in Denmark, but he really caught the attention of these fans with his explosive collaboration with Tom Hardy on the Bronson biopic. He would follow that film with the violent existentialist Viking film Valhalla Rising. It would take another major collaboration with another rising star in Ryan Gosling for Winding Refn to finally have his major breakout film which has caught the attention of not just the indie film fans and cineaste crowd, but the general public at-large.

Drive was first screened over at this year’s 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered “in competition” for the Palme d’Or. While the film didn’t win the top prize for best film at Cannes it didn’t garner Nicolas Winding Refn “Best Director” award and his work on this film more than merits such an accolade. The film would begin to screen at other major film festivals before landing at the Toronto International Film Festival before making it’s major public release in North America. Everywhere the film went the consensus reaction to the film has ranged from positive to calls for the film as one of 2011’s best.

So, it would seem most everyone has been quite positive with their reaction to Refn’s Drive. Is this film just another indie arthouse title which the elitist film fans have begun to hype up to levels that would border on cosmic? Or is this film actually as good as it has been talked up to be by such film fans and those of the general public who have seen it? I think the answer lies somewhere in-between.

Drive has been called an action-drama to crime-thriller to film noir and even an existentialist meditation of the film variety. Some have even called it a modern urban fairy tale from the many traditional tropes and themes inherent in fairy tales. The film actually seems to defy genre labels as it’s all those and even more. Nicolas Winding Refn has made a film with so much variety in its cinematic DNA from other classic films and storytelling styles that watching the film once is not enough to find them all.

The film makes a strong statement with it’s introduction of the character who remains nameless but could be called “The Driver” or “The Kid”. Ryan Gosling’s performance in this opening sequence will set the foundation for his character from beginning to end. His driver role is not much for chit-chat and unnecessary talking with those who have hired him to be their expert getaway driver. He’s meticulous with his equipment and intractable when it comes to the rules he has set down for his clients. He would be theirs for the five minutes they need him to drive them away from their criminal acts. Whatever they do before or after those five minutes doesn’t matter to him and he sticks to this rule explicitly. Another rule which he lays down is that he will not be carrying a firearm. These rules have had some audiences bring to mind Jason Statham’s Transporter character and they would not be totally wrong to say so. What Gosling’s driver has over Statham’s is the air of realism to the role. It’s a realism that borders on hyper-reality as the film moves on to it’s climactic conclusion, but real nonetheless. Gosling’s “driver” will not do extensive and elaborate fighting skills the way Statham’s would.

The film would move from it’s powerful introduction and into a much more calm and somewhat serene section as the nameless driver gradually gets to know his next door neighbor in the form of Irene as played by Carey Mulligan. Their relationship will form the core of the film’s narrative and it’s the driver’s growing affection not just for Irene but her young son that would dictate some of the decisions he would make right up to the end of the film. It’s a relationship built not on extensive dialogue banter but mostly on meaningful glances and silent understanding between two characters who seem to have found a kindred kinship between them. It’s this growing relationship between the two and Irene’s son which almost look like a familial unit forming until the return of Irene’s incarcerated and newly-released husband Standard. This is a character played by Oscar Isaac as a man desperate to take full advantage of his last chance at normalcy and redemption, but ultimately doomed to fail.

Standard doesn’t just become the only wrench in the happy life Gosling’s character seems to want to have with Irene and her son. Into the picture also happens to come in is his mentor and business partner Shannon (Bryan Cranston doing a great job as the good-natured, but opportunistic fool character many Shakespearean tragedies always seem to have) and Shannon’s even seedier acquaintances in Hollywood mogul-turned-mob boss Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks in a chilling performance) and his more boisterous, but not as smart partner in Nino (Ron Perlman).

The film seems to settle on the low gears for the first hour of the film, but it’s during a botched robbery attempt where the driver becomes embroiled in that Drive finally moves into the high gears and stays there until the very end. Refn’s decision to use the first hour to round out and build the characters in this film definitely pays off in the end. The audience becomes quite clear as to who the players are and what motivates them to do what they do the rest of the film. Even the most secondary and tertiary roles in this film has a part to play. Even Christina Hendricks in the role of a low-level moll to a gang of criminals gets to have her time to shine if just briefly.

Once the narrative shifts from character study to an almost Cronenbergian exercise in violence and brutality does the film finally able to hook in the last few audiences who may have still been iffy about Drive. Not to say that the final 45-minutes of the film was a non-stop action film, but it does move at a consistently higher gear pace than the first hour. We see the driver having to show to the audience that he’s not just an expert wheelman for Hollywood (stunt driver by day) and the criminal underground (getaway driver by night). It serves the film well that Gosling’s character has the barest minimum of lines of dialogue. We see all we need to know about this character through his behavior that brings to mind roles played by such past luminaries as Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood.

Most likely it would be in the second half of the film that should satisfy the action junkies. While the action scenes are not of the Michael Bay-type they do show that Refn has a fine grasp of what makes an action scene thrilling. Whether the scene calls for some of the most well-done car chase on film since Frankenheimer showed everyone how to properly do it in Ronin or scenes of sudden brutal violence which calls to mind similar scenes from Cronenberg’s last two films (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). Both types of action were done efficiently with little to no glamour to gloss over things. The burst of violence actually adds to the mystique of Gosling’s “Man With No Name” role. One particular scene in the apartment elevator where Gosling, Mulligan and a goon sent by the mob makes for one of the best scenes in the film and of 2011.

As much as these scenes of action and violence will be the ones to get the most attention from the general film-going public in the end it’s the excellent screenplay by Hossein Amini of the James Sallis’ novel of the same name which really holds everything together in conjunction with some top-notch performances from everyone involved. The film makes or breaks itself on Gosling’s performance as the driver and he delivers on all cylinders. His performance was quite reminiscent of past performances such as James Caan as Frank in Michael Mann’s Thief, Steve McQueen also as Frank in Bullitt, but in my opinion Gosling’s work in this film brings to mind young Clint Eastwood as “The Man With No Name” in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy. Both characters were the type to let their actions speak for them and were both full of quiet confidence not to mention restrained violence which would erupt when needed.

Much has been said about Albert Brooks’ turn as the mob boss Bernie Rose. how the role was quite the 180-degrees from people’s perception of the actor who usually did comedic roles. I say that Albert Brooks always had a dark side to his comedic talent. I mean he was and is megamaniacal villain Hank Scorpio from The Simpsons. In all seriousness, Brooks’ as the mob boss was the other pillar which held all the other performances focused. In fact, Gosling’s character and Brook’s Bernie Rose could almost be considered mirror-images of each other. They were characters who had found their place in the world and the role they would play and didn’t struggle against it. Everyone else in the film struggled against their lot in life. It was also these characters who had the bulk of the film’s dialogue.

Drive has been hyped (for some overhyped) since it first premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but it’s one of those rare films which has more than earned and surpassed the hype which has preceded it’s general release to the general public. It’s a film which bucks traditional genre labels by combining the themes, ideas and foundations from many different film and storytelling genres. For fans of action there’s enough thrilling action to sate them. For those who are fans of film noir this film definitely carries within it the DNA set down by the film noir of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. For some who wish to watch a film which explore existential themes then Refn’s film has that too. In the end, Drive manages to be a film which caters to so many different audiences without ever pandering to them or dumbing the story down. It’s a film made by a filmmaker who continues to impress and who has made his best film to date.

Drive is a film that is not for everyone, but it’s also a film that everyone should see and experience at least once. It is also one of the year’s best films and, so far, my top film of 2011.