Lisa Marie’s Early Oscar Predictions For May


It’s that time of the month again! It’s time for me to go out on a limb and attempt to predict what will be nominated for the Oscars. Of course, trying to do this early in the year is a fool’s errand. We all know that. That’s actually part of the fun.

As of right now, the list below is full of familiar names, a few films that were acclaimed at Sundance, and a few random guesses. A lot of the predicted nominees are films that were expected to be Oscar contenders last year but which were delayed due to the pandemic. (Looking at you, West Side Story.) Some of them are contenders that I personally would just like to see nominated, even though it probably won’t happen. (I’m not going to jinx anything by pointing out which nomination about which I’m specifically thinking. You’ll probably be able to guess for yourself.) Over the next few months, the Oscar picture will become a bit clearer. Many of the contenders listed below will be forgotten about. Meanwhile, new contenders will emerge. My point is, take it all with a grain of salt and don’t put down any money just yet.

Two big developments to keep in mind:

First off, the Academy is officially going back to having a set a number of nominees. Next year, ten films will be nominated for best picture. Not seven. Not nine. Ten. Personally, I’m thrilled by this development. Nothing irritated me more than when they used to announce those weird, seven-picture lineups. (As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like odd numbers.)

Secondly, the Academy is going back to the old eligibility dates. Yay! What that means is that only films that are released between March and the end of this year will be eligible to compete for the Oscars. More importantly, it means that the best film of 2021 will not be released in 2022.

Anyway, here are my predictions for this month! Don’t take them too seriously. If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April.

Best Picture

CODA

The Duke

The French Dispatch

House of Gucci

A Journal for Jordan

Nightmare Alley

Passing

Soggy Bottom

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson for Soggy Bottom

Guillermo Del Toro for Nightmare Alley

Ridley Scott for House of Gucci

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denzel Washington for A Journal For Jordan

Best Actor

Jim Broadbent in The Duke

Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey

Peter Dinklage in Cyrano

Michael B. Jordan in A Journal For Jordan

Will Smith in King Richard

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Ana de Armas in Blonde

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Nicole Kidman in Being the Ricardos

Tessa Thompson in Passing

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Bradley Cooper in Soggy Bottom

Adam Driver in The Last Duel

Al Pacino in House of Gucci

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Best Supporting Actress

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Marlee Matlin in CODA

Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of MacBeth

Ruth Negga in Passing

Lisa Marie’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For April


Well, now that the latest Oscar ceremony is out of the way, I guess it’s time to focus on predicting what will be nominated next year.

(Well, it’s not really time but if you’re an Oscar-obsessive like I am, you really have no choice. Oscar speculation is an addiction that’s easily shaken off.)

Below, you’ll find my predictions for April. As always, these should be taken with several grains of salt.

First off, I haven’t seen any of these films and some of them might not live up to expectations.

Secondly, I’m not even sure whether the Academy is going to go back to the old rules of using the end of December as their eligibility cut-off or if they’re going to continue with the extended release window that they used last year.

Third, the Oscar picture is never anywhere close clear until November or December rolls around. Right now, I can only predict what I know is going to be released between now and December 31st. Obviously some of the movies below might have their release date changed and several movies will be picked up from the various film festivals. In all probability, next year’s big Oscar winner isn’t even on anyone’s radar right now. (Let’s not forget that, up until February of this year, most people were still predicting that Da 5 Bloods would be a huge Oscar player.)

Also note, the Academy is finally going back to having a set number of best picture nominees so no more of this stupid 7 or 9 nominees nonsense. In theory, that’s good news for film like Dune, which will probably get a lot of technical nominations but which probably would have struggled to make the final best picture lineup under the former rules. Of course, the Academy is also about to institute their inclusion requirements so it will be interesting to see if any of the expected contenders are disqualified from competing for best picture.

If you want to follow how my thinking has developed, be sure to check out my predictions for March!

Best Picture

Dune

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

The French Dispatch

A Journal for Jordan

King Richard

The Last Duel

Nightmare Alley

Respect

Soggy Bottom

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson for Soggy Bottom

Wes Anderson for The French Dispatch

Guillermo Del Toro for Nightmare Alley

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denzel Washington for A Journal For Jordan

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley

Peter Dinklage in Cyrano

Adam Driver in The Last Duel

Michael B. Jordan in A Journal for Jordan

Will Smith in King Richard

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Nightmare Alley

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Rachel Zegler in West Side Story

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Willem DaFoe in Nightmare Alley

Andrew Garfield in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Bill Murray in The French Dispatch

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Best Supporting Actress

Chante Adams in A Journal for Jordan

Judi Dench in Belfast

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Audra MacDonald in Respect

Marlee Matlin in CODA

Lisa’s Way Too Early 2022 Oscar Predictions for March!


Yes, it’s time to start this again.

The Oscar nominations for 2020-2021 were finally revealed earlier this month. They weren’t particularly surprising. To be honest, they were kind of boring. But, with those nominations now revealed and the Oscars sets to be awarded at the end of April, that means it’s time to start looking forward to next year!

Of course, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen next year. Most of the films that are scheduled to come out later in 2021 were originally scheduled to come out in 2020. (And they were made in 2018 and 2019, which means the first big releases of 2021 are already dated.) Right now, most of the probable nominees are films that I originally expected to be contenders last year, like Spielberg’s West Side Story and Dune. Needless to say, new contenders will emerge over the next few months. Quite frankly, I’m skeptical of West Side Story because it sounds like the type of project that will bring out all of Spielberg’s worst instincts as a filmmaker. But, until it’s released, it’ll be a contender because he’s Spielberg.

As of right now, we don’t even know what the eligibility window is going to be for the next set of Oscar contenders. Is the Academy going to go back to a December cut-off or are they going to continue to extend the eligibility window. Are we predicting the 2021 Oscars or are we predicting the 2021-2022 Oscars? Again, as of now, we just don’t know. Personally, I’m hoping they return to a December cut-off but I have a feeling that the Academy will disagree.

About the only thing we do know for sure, right now, is that the Academy is going to go back to a set number of nominees. 10 films will be nominated. No more of this maybe 7 or maybe 8 nominees. It’s about time.

Anyway, the list below is based on the assumption that the Academy’s going to go back to the old eligibility window, which means that only films released between the start of March and the end of December will be eligible for Oscar consideration.

It’s also based on the presumption that the Oscars can be predicted this far out. They can’t. But I enjoy making lists and I love the Oscars. Doing these predictions has become a part of my monthly ritual. You know how much I love a good ritual.

So, here are my potentially worthless predictions for what will be nominated next year!

Best Picture

CODA

Dune

The French Dispatch

House of Gucci

In the Heights

The Last Duel

Nightmare Alley

Passing

Respect

West Side Story

Best Director

Guillermo Del Toro for Nightmare Alley

Rebecca Hall for Passing

Ridley Scott for House of Gucci

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor

Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey

Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley

Matt Damon in The Last Duel

Adam Driver in The Last Duel

Will Smith in King Richard

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Tessa Thompson in Passing

Rachel Zegler in West Side Story

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Daniel Durant in CODA

Jeremy Irons in House of Gucci

Al Pacino in House of Gucci

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett in Nightmare Alley

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Marlee Matlin in CODA

Ruth Negga in Passing

Here Are The Winners From The 2021 Sundance Film Festival


Sundance just kind of came and went this year, didn’t it?  Due to the pandemic, it was pretty much a virtual festival and it only lasted a week.  There were no celebrities posing for pictures.  There were no stories about people getting lost in the mountains of Colorado.  There was no interviews with a leathery Robert Redford pontificating about the importance of the type of indie films that could never afford to pay his salary.

Is Sundance about the films or is it about the celebrities?  This year, it was about the films and it never trended on twitter once.

That said, the prizes for this year’s Sundance Film Festival have been awarded and here they are!  Some of these films could be contenders at next year’s Oscars so read on:

(h/t to NextBestPicture)

GRAND JURY PRIZES
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, for Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)/ U.S.A. (Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Producers: David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent, Joseph Patel) — During the same summer as Woodstock, over 300,000 people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival, celebrating African American music and culture, and promoting Black pride and unity. The footage from the festival sat in a basement, unseen for over 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost – until now.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Siân Heder, for CODA / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Siân Heder, Producers: Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, Patrick Wachsberger) — As a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents. Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Jonas Poher Rasmussen, for Flee / Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway (Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Producers: Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen) — Amin arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Denmark from Afghanistan. Today, he is a successful academic and is getting married to his long-time boyfriend. A secret he has been hiding for 20 years threatens to ruin the life he has built.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Blerta Basholli, for Hive / Kosovo, Switzerland, Macedonia, Albania (Director and Screenwriter: Blerta Basholli, Producers: Yll Uka, Valon Bajgora, Agon Uka) — Fahrije’s husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision: to wait for his return, or to continue to persevere. Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi, Kumrije Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Kaona Sylejmani.

AUDIENCE AWARDS
The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented to: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson for Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) / U.S.A. (Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Producers: David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent, Joseph Patel) — During the same summer as Woodstock, over 300,000 people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival, celebrating African American music and culture, and promoting Black pride and unity. The footage from the festival sat in a basement, unseen for over 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost – until now.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented to: Siân Heder, for CODA / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Siân Heder, Producers: Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, Patrick Wachsberger) — As a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents. Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Blerta Basholli, for Hive / Kosovo, Switzerland, Macedonia, Albania (Director and Screenwriter: Blerta Basholli, Producers: Yll Uka, Valon Bajgora, Agon Uka) — Fahrije’s husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision: to wait for his return, or to continue to persevere. Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi, Kumrije Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Kaona Sylejmani.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, for Writing With Fire / India (Directors and Producers: Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh) — In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. Armed with smartphones, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their own homes, redefining what it means to be powerful.

The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented to: Marion Hill, for Ma Belle, My Beauty / U.S.A., France (Director and Screenwriter: Marion Hill, Producers: Ben Matheny, Kelsey Scult, Marion Hill) — A surprise reunion in southern France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers. Cast: Idella Johnson, Hannah Pepper, Lucien Guignard, Sivan Noam Shimon.

DIRECTING, SCREENWRITING & EDITING AWARDS
The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to: Natalia Almada, for Users / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Natalia Almada, Producers: Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, Josh Penn) — A mother wonders, will my children love their perfect machines more than they love me, their imperfect mother? She switches on a smart-crib lulling her crying baby to sleep. This perfect mother is everywhere. She watches over us, takes care of us. We listen to her. We trust her.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Siân Heder, for CODA / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Siân Heder, Producers: Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, Patrick Wachsberger) — As a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents. Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Hogir Hirori, for Sabaya / Sweden (Director and Screenwriter: Hogir Hirori, Producers: Antonio Russo Merenda, Hogir Hirori) — With just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and their group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls being held by ISIS as Sabaya (abducted sex slaves) in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Blerta Basholli, for Hive / Kosovo, Switzerland, Macedonia, Albania (Director and Screenwriter: Blerta Basholli, Producers: Yll Uka, Valon Bajgora, Agon Uka) — Fahrije’s husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision: to wait for his return, or to continue to persevere. Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi, Kumrije Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Kaona Sylejmani.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, for On the Count of Three / U.S.A. (Director: Jerrod Carmichael, Screenwriters: Ari Katcher, Ryan Welch, Producers: David Carrico, Adam Paulsen, Tom Werner, Jake Densen, Ari Katcher, Jimmy Price) — Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done. Cast: Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish, J.B. Smoove, Lavell Crawford, Henry Winkler.

The Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to: editors Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno, for Homeroom / U.S.A. (Director: Peter Nicks, Producers: Peter Nicks, Sean Havey) — Following the class of 2020 at Oakland High School in a year marked by seismic change, exploring the emotional world of teenagers coming of age against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world.

SPECIAL JURY AWARDS
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast was presented to: the cast of CODA, for CODA / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Siân Heder, Producers: Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, Patrick Wachsberger) — As a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents. Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Actor was presented to: Clifton Collins Jr., for Jockey / U.S.A. (Director: Clint Bentley, Screenwriters: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar, Producers: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar, Nancy Schafer) — An aging jockey is determined to win one last championship, but his dream is complicated when a young rookie shows up claiming to be his son. Cast: Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Emerging Filmmaker was presented to: Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt, for Cusp / U.S.A. (Directors: Parker Hill, Isabel Bethencourt, Producers: Zachary Luke Kislevitz, Parker Hill, Isabel Bethencourt) — In a Texas military town, three teenage girls confront the dark corners of adolescence at the end of a fever dream summer.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Nonfiction Experimentation was presented to: Theo Anthony, for All Light, Everywhere / U.S.A. (Director: Theo Anthony, Producers: Riel Roch-Decter, Sebastian Pardo, Jonna McKone) — An exploration of the shared histories of cameras, weapons, policing and justice. As surveillance technologies become a fixture in everyday life, the film interrogates the complexity of an objective point of view, probing the biases inherent in both human perception and the lens.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Vérité Filmmaking was presented to: Camilla Nielsson, for President / Denmark, U.S.A., Norway (Director: Camilla Nielsson, Producers: Signe Byrge Sørensen, Joslyn Barnes) — Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. The leader of the opposition MDC party, Nelson Chamisa, challenges the old guard ZANU-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as “The Crocodile.” The election tests both the ruling party and the opposition – how do they interpret principles of democracy in discourse and in practice?

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Impact for Change was presented to: Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, for Writing With Fire / India (Directors and Producers: Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh) — In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. Armed with smartphones, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their own homes, redefining what it means to be powerful.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting was presented to: Jesmark Scicluna, for Luzzu / Malta (Director and Screenwriter: Alex Camilleri, Producers: Rebecca Anastasi, Ramin Bahrani, Alex Camilleri, Oliver Mallia) — Jesmark, a struggling fisherman on the island of Malta, is forced to turn his back on generations of tradition and risk everything by entering the world of black market fishing to provide for his girlfriend and newborn baby. Cast: Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia, David Scicluna.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision was presented to: Baz Poonpiriya, for One for the Road / China, Hong Kong, Thailand (Director: Baz Poonpiriya, Screenwriters: Baz Poonpiriya, Nottapon Boonprakob, Puangsoi Aksornsawang, Producer: Wong Kar Wai) — Boss is a consummate ladies’ man, a free spirit and a bar owner in NYC. One day, he gets a surprise call from Aood, an estranged friend who has returned home to Thailand. Dying of cancer, Aood enlists Boss’ help to complete a bucket list – but both are hiding something. Cast: Tor Thanapob, Ice Natara, Violette Wautier, Aokbab Chutimon, Ploi Horwang, Noon Siraphun. World Premiere

NEXT INNOVATOR PRIZE PRESENTED BY ADOBE
The NEXT Innovator Prize presented by Adobe was presented to: Dash Shaw, for Cryptozoo / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Dash Shaw, Producers: Kyle Martin, Jane Samborski, Bill Way, Tyler Davidson) — As cryptozookeepers struggle to capture a Baku (a legendary dream-eating hybrid creature) they begin to wonder if they should display these rare beasts in the confines of a cryptozoo, or if these mythical creatures should remain hidden and unknown. Cast: Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Angeliki Papoulia, Zoe Kazan, Peter Stormare, Grace Zabriskie.

SHORT FILM AWARDS PRESENTED BY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES®
Jury prizes for short filmmaking were awarded at the same ceremony. The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Lizard / United Kingdom (Director: Akinola Davies, Jr., Screenwriter: The Davies Brothers).

The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was awarded to The Touch of the Master’s Hand / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Gregory Barnes.

The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was awarded to Bambirak / U.S.A., Germany (Director and Screenwriter: Zamarin Wahdat).

The Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction was awarded to Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma / U.S.A., Germany, France, Italy (Directors and Screenwriters: Topaz Jones, rubberband.).

The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was awarded to Souvenir Souvenir / France (Director and Screenwriter: Bastien Dubois). A Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to Wiggle Room / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Sam Guest, Julia Baylis).

A Short Film Special Jury Award for Screenwriting was awarded to The Criminals / France, Romania, Turkey (Director and Screenwriter: Serhat Karaaslan).

EARLIER SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS
The 2021 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to Sons of Monarchs. The filmmakers received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction went to Nicole Salazar, for Philly D.A.
The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Fiction went to Natalie Qasabian, for Run.
The Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Nonfiction went to Juli Vizza, and the Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Fiction went to Terilyn Shropshire.
The Sundance Institute | NHK Award went to Meryman Joobeur, for her film Motherhood.

The Films of 2020: Coda (dir by Claude LaLonde)


Coda tells the story of Sir Henry Cole and Helen Morrison.

Sir Henry (Patrick Stewart) is a world-famous pianist who hasn’t played in public since his wife died several years ago.  He’s about to embark on a comeback tour but he finds himself struggling with stage fright.  Some of it is because he still hasn’t recovered from the loss of his wife.  Some of it is because he’s getting older and his memory is no longer as good as it used to be.  And, a lot of it is because he doesn’t know who he can trust.  He fears that the only reason people will come to his recitals is because they want to hear him screw up.

Helen Morrison (Katie Holmes) is a former music student who is now a writer for The New Yorker.  She is a free spirit who desperately wants to interview Sir Henry and write a profile of him.  She is also the film’s narrator, which means that the film opens with her talking about Nietzsche.  That’s never a good sign as Nietzsche is the philosopher who is most likely to be quoted by people who are trying to sounds smart by pretending that they spend their spare time studying philosophy.

I’m tempted to say that Henry and Helen solve crimes but sadly, they don’t.  The film probably would have been a lot more fun if they had.  Instead, Henry struggles to find his confidence and Helen struggles to help Henry find his confidence and there’s a lot of scenes of Henry trying to play the notes while Helen stares off into the distance.  Eventually, it leads to a very mild love story and a few scenes of a bearded Henry walking through the Swiss Alps.  The Alps, as always, are quite impressive.

(I visited Switzerland the summer after I graduated high school.  Beautiful country but don’t even think about trying to leave dinner early.)

This is one of those films that I wanted to like more than I actually did.  I mean, it’s a serious-minded film for adults and there’s no explosions or gunfights and we’re all supposed to be in favor of that, right?  Add to that, it features Patrick Stewart doing what Patrick Stewart does best, revealing the inner humanity of a somewhat imposing character.  And make no mistake about it, Stewart gives a warm and likable performance in the lead role.  It’s impossible not to empathize with Henry when he finds himself staring down at his piano and wondering if he’ll ever again be able to use it to create beautiful music.

But, ultimately, the film doesn’t really work.  It’s a bit too slowly paced and the dialogue is full of lines that are meant to be profound but actually feel rather empty.  Katie Holmes does her best but Helen never feels like a fully-realized character.  For the most part, she’s just there to inspire Henry before vanishing from the movie.  Fortunately, once Helen’s gone, other characters show up to continue to inspire Henry.  It really does seem like a full-time job, keeping Henry inspired.

The film did improve a bit when Henry arrived in the Alps, largely because the Alps are lovely and there’s a scene where Henry has a dream about standing next to Beethoven while staring over the edge of a cliff.  The imagery was breath-taking but it’s not enough to save the movie.  That said, if anyone ever makes a documentary about Patrick Stewart hiking through Switzerland, I’ll be the first to watch it.

 

Review: The Walking Dead S5E08 “Coda”


TheWalkingDeadS5E08

“You’ve all been out here too long.” — Ofc. Bob Lamson

[spoilers]

We’ve finally reached the mid-season finale of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. It has been a strong first-half that showed some major improvements in terms of strong narrative structure and pacing. The first-half also saw growth in the Beth Greene character which we saw hints of in the second-half of season 4. We didn’t get much of the so-called ‘wheel-spinning” episodes which literally went nowhere. The long existential philosophizing monologues were kept to a minimum and when we did get them they were essential to the scene and the episode (example: Gareth’s final monologue before dying all the way back in Episode 3: “Four Walls and a Roof”).

Last week’s episode could be considered the weakest of the first-half episodes as it focused more on setting up the the many different groups. All the groups eventually leading up to reuniting in one way or another with tonight’s mid-season finale. A finale that we’ve been told would see the death of a major character.

The guessing games have had Carol as being the one to die in tonight’s episode. It’s not a bad guess considering how much the show’s writers have been foreshadowing her death as something akin to a hero’s tragic end. She was the character who literally came out of nowhere from being one of the useless and weakest in the bunch to one of it’s strengths. The show and it’s writers have been notorious for removing very popular characters from the playing field and it wouldn’t have been surprising if that was the case with Carol with tonight’s episode.

“Coda” follows through on the full-speed ahead style Gimple and his writers have adopted this season by using a cold opening that occurs literally right after last week’s cliffhanger. We see Agent Sitwe…I mean Officer Lamson still fleeing from the Rick group with his hands tied behind his back. In the past, Lamson would make it back to Grady Memorial and we would have a major stand-off between Rick and Dawn. Not this season and too bad for Lamson. Rick chases him down with scary efficiency that gives us more hints that he’s starting to travel deep down the dark path that the Governor, Gareth and Joe saw themselves go down and not make it back out.

Rick doesn’t brook second-chances when it comes to new people (which might just mean bad news for Father Gabriel who put Baby Judith in harm’s way trying to confirm Bob’s story about Gareth and his Hunters). Past seasons would see Rick agonize over killing another human being. Not season 5 Rick who has seen how indecision has cost him his wife and many friends since he awoke from his coma. He has learned to compartmentalize that part of him which still sees the good in people. He has become pragmatic about the new world he finds himself in and in doing so could be losing that very humanity which has made him a leader everyone seems to gravitate to.

While Rick hasn’t gone full-on Shane he definitely would understand some of the dark things that Shane was capable of doing and had done in order to survive. We see this with how calmly he shoots Lamson in the head. He could’ve done it to save Lamson the horror and pain of being devoured by the approaching zombies since Rick’s driving broke his back. Or he could’ve done it just to shut him up from continuing his talk about how Rick has been out in this world too long and how it has affected him. Just like fans and critics of the show itself, Rick seems to have gotten tired of everyone telling him that he’s losing his mind and/or his humanity. If Rick has lost it at least we know that he still has his people’s well-being and survival in mind. As for anyone new coming into the group that would be a question that would have to wait.

Yet, despite how Rick has become hardened to this new world he still finds himself affected by the death of someone close to him.

Beth’s death (not Carol’s as many have been guessing) wasn’t as surprising, but still a shock at how it happened so close to her finally being reunited with her sister Maggie. Her death marks a further erosion of that innocence and hope the show has been trying to keep a hold onto since season 1. Like her character or not, Beth Greene remained optimistic despite all that this new world threw at her. She had taken over her father’s role as the show’s moral center and just like in season’s past it’s a role that continues to spell doom on whoever takes on it.

Tonight’s episode wasn’t as strong as past mid-season finales. While it had the requisite shocking moment it was still too similar to last week’s episode where the episode juggled too many groups in too little time (AMC’s getting ridiculous with its commercial breaks). There’s an understanding that seeing the different groups reuniting in the end would make for a much more dramatic conclusion to the first-half, but too little time was spent on the rescue itself that the writers were almost hoping the audience would make the necessary leaps in storytelling to excuse why the end happened the way it did.

It’s not a bad episode or even an average one, it was a good enough entry in this first-half that we get a definite conclusion to the final hanging plot-thread from season 4. Beth has been found and just when they (and us as an audience) was finally getting a stronger and more confident young woman the show yanks that hope away and we find the show much darker.

Beth’s death should reverberate through the second-half of this season (or it would’ve been for naught) and should affect many of the characters left in Rick’s group. Rick might blame himself for her death. Maggie has now lost the last remaining family member she had despite having a new one with Rick and the others. Daryl lost that bright, hopeful link that has made him less a lone wolf and more of a well-rounded badass.

As a character Beth Greene started out as weak, one-note and barely there with season 2. She became a running joke as the bard of this merry band of zombie apocalypse survivors in season 3 with her penchant for singing. Something turned with season 4 as Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner. She became a rough gem that the show’s writers were attempting to smooth out and find the true character underneath. This season finally revealed that character. A character that continued to be hopeful despite the despair all-around. A character that learned how not to be a victim and became stronger as she remained separated from the rest of the group.

Even in the end, as she and Dawn had their final exchange that showed how she and not Dawn was the true survivor, Beth did what she did in order to try and save a friend who she had faith would come back for her. Beth went out the only way she knew how and that’s helping others.

“Coda” was an appropriate title for tonight’s episode. A musical passage that brings an end to a musical piece. Beth was the music to Rick and his group of survivors and tonight was her coda.

Notes

  • “Coda” was written by Angela Kang and directed by Ernest Dickerson.
  • Just like in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maximiliano Hernández’s character on The Walking Dead meets his demise after getting hit by a moving vehicle. Though in tonight’s episode it was a contributing factor.
  • This particular sequence is similar to a scene in the comic books which occurred earlier in the story and the character who gets run over is Martinez who was fleeing back to Woodbury to tell the Governor where the prison was located.
  • Probably only interesting to me, but the Atlanta PD at Grady Memorial Hospital using Smith & Wesson MP .40 which means the zombie apocalypse occurred before 2013 which was when the department began switching to the Glock 22 Gen 4.
  • Father Gabriel’s actions was very frustrating yet fitting in with the way the character has been adapted from the comics. This is a man who is just beginning to learn that not everyone who has survived out in the world will be as kind and forgiving as he expects them to be. It will be interesting to see whether the writers develop Gabriel’s psychological issues of survivor’s remorse further in the second-half of this season.
  • Noah’s character may end up being the key to Rick’s group heading up north and towards the Alexandria community which will lead into one of the longest-running story-arcs in the comics: War between Rick and his people against Negan and his.
  • Interesting how the Grady Memorial haven is now the second survivor group Rick and his people have come across since the show began. Will they survive the death of Dawn and now having five less police officers protecting them or will they end up like the Vatos and the nursing home group which we find out in a season 2 deleted scene that they were ultimately overrun.
  • The first-half of season 5 ends the way it began with the premiere and finale episodes featuring Morgan coming across the aftermath of Rick’s group passing through: lots of destroyed zombies. Will Morgan be a boon for Rick and his people if and when he finally catches up to them?
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are Keegan Michael-Key (Key & Peele), series creator Robert Kirkman and, Beth Greene herself, Emily Kinney.

Season 5