What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2017 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

Baby Driver

The Big Sick

The Disaster Artist

*A Ghost Story*

It

Kedi

Lady Bird

The Meyerowitz Stories

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Wonder Woman

Best Director

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman

*David Lowery for A Ghost Story*

Martin McDonagh for Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Andy Muschietti for It

Edgar Wright for Baby Driver

Best Actor

*Sam Elliott in The Hero*

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

James McAvoy in Split

Robert Pattinson in Good Time

Best Actress

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Sally Hawkins in Maudie

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Cynthia Nixon in A Quiet Passion

Aubrey Plaza in Ingrid Goes West

*Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird*

Best Supporting Actor

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories

Bill Skarsgard in It

*Patrick Stewart in Logan*

Jason Sudekis in Colossal

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Catherine Keener in Get Out

Sophia Lillis in It

*Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird*

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Ella Rumpf in Raw

Best Voice-Over or Stop Motion Performance

Will Arnett in The LEGO Batman Movie

Gael Garcia Bernal in Coco

Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2

Doug Jones in The Shape of Water

*Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes*

Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast

Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick

Get Out

A Ghost Story

*Lady Bird*

The Meyerowitz Stories

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before I Fall

*The Disaster Artist*

It

Logan

Their Finest

Wonder Woman

Best Animated Film

Cars 3

Coco

*The Lego Batman Movie*

Leap!

Best Documentary Feature

Karl Marx City

*Kedi*

Risk

Step

Strong Island

32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide

Best Foreign Language Film

First They Killed My Father

Frantz

*Kedi*

Raw

Best Casting

The Big Sick

Detroit

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

*The Meyerowitz Stories*

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

*A Ghost Story*

It

Lost City of Z

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast

The Beguiled

Free Fire

Thor: Ragnarok

Victoria & Abdul

*Wonder Woman*

Best Editing

*Baby Driver*

Before I Fall

Dunkirk

A Ghost Story

It

Wonder Woman

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Disaster Artist

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Lady MacBeth

Logan Lucky

My Cousin Rachel

*Thor: Ragnarok*

Best Original Score

Blade Runner 2049

A Ghost Story

*Good Time*

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Wind River

Best Original Song

“Buddy’s Business” from Brawl In Cell Block 99

“Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast

“Friends are Family” from The Lego Batman Movie

“How Does A Moment Last Forever” from Beauty and the Beast

“Myron/Byron” from The Meyerowitz Stories

*”The Pure and the Damned” from Good Time*

Best Overall Use Of Music

Atomic Blonde

*Baby Driver*

The Disaster Artist

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Thor: Ragnarok

T2: Trainspotting

Best Production Design

*Beauty and the Beast*

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2049

It Comes At Night

Logan

Thor: Ragnarok

Best Sound Editing

Baby Driver

*Dunkirk*

Kong: Skull Island

Spider-Man: Homecoming

War For The Planet of the Apes

Wonder Woman

Best Sound Mixing

Baby Driver

*Dunkirk*

Kong: Skull Island

Spider-Man: Homecoming

War For The Planet of the Apes

Wonder Woman

Best Stuntwork

Baby Driver

Dunkirk

Logan

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok 

*Wonder Woman*

Best Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Thor: Ragnarok

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

*War For The Planet of the Apes*

Films Listed By Number of Nominations

9 Nominations — Wonder Woman

7 Nominations — Baby Driver, Dunkirk, It, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

6 Nominations — A Ghost Story, Lady Bird, Thor: Ragnarok

5 Nominations — Beauty and the Beast, The Disaster Artist, The Meyerowitz Stories

4 Nominations — The Big Sick, Blade Runner 2049, Get Out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War For The Planet Of The Apes

3 Nominations — Good Time, Kedi, The LEGO Batman Movie

2 Nominations — Before I Fall, The Beguiled, Coco, Kong: Skull Island, Raw, Shape of Water

1 Nominations — Atomic Blonde, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Cars 3, Colossal, Detroit, First They Killed My Father, Frantz, Free Fire, The Hero, Ingrid Goes West, It Comes At Night, Karl Marx City, Lady MacBeth, Leap!, Logan Lucky, Lost City of Z, Maudie, Mudbound, My Cousin Rachel, A Quiet Passion, Risk, Split, Step, Strong Island, Stronger, T2: Trainspotting, Their Finest, 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Victoria & Abdul, Wind River

Films Listed By Number of Wins

3 Oscars — A Ghost Story, Lady Bird

2 Oscars — Baby Driver, Dunkirk, Good Time, Kedi, War For the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman

1 Oscar — Beauty and the Beast, The Disaster Artist, The Hero, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, The Meyerowitz Stories, Thor: Ragnarok

Will the Academy be smart enough to agree with me?  Probably not.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow!

 

Playing Catch-Up With Four Biopics From 2017: All Eyez On Me, Maudie, A Quiet Passion, and Victoria and Abdul


Continuing with my efforts to get caught up on the major films that I saw in 2017, here are my reviews of four biopics!  Two of them are very good.  One of them is so-so.  And the other one … well, let’s just get to it…

All Eyez on Me (dir by Benny Boon)

All Eyez On Me is a movie that I think a lot of people had high hopes for.  It was a biopic about Tupac Shakur, who died over 20 years ago but remains one of the most influential artists of all time.  Starring Demetrius Shipp, Jr. (who, if nothing else, bore a strong physical resemblance to Tupac), All Eyez on Me followed Shakur from his youth as the son of activist Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), through his early stardom, his political awakening, his time in prison, his eventual association with Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana), and his still unsolved murder in Las Vegas.  Along the way all of the expected people pop up.  Kat Graham plays Jada Pinkett and tells Tupac that he’s wasting his talent.  Someone who looks nothing like Dr. Dre is introduced as being Dr. Dre.  Another actor wanders through a scene and says his name is Snoop Dogg.  The film last 2 hours and 20 minutes, with some scenes feeling oddly rushed while other drag on interminably.

The main reason why All Eyez On Me fails is that, unlike Straight Outta Compton, All Eyez on Me never figures out how translate Tupac’s legacy into cinematic form.  For instance, when I watched Straight Outta Compton, I probably knew less about NWA than I knew about Tupac Shakur when I watched All Eyez On Me.  But then there was that scene where NWA performed “Fuck That Police” while surrounded by the police and, at that moment, I understood why NWA deserved their own movie.  There’s no comparable scene in All Eyez On Me, which gets so bogged down in going through the usual biopic motions that it never really comes to grips with why Tupac is such an iconic figure.  Combine that with some less than stellar performances and some amazingly awkward dialogue and the end result is a film that is massively disappointing.

Maudie (dir by Aisling Walsh)

Maudie tells the story of Maud Lewis, a Canadian woman who found fame as a painter despite suffering from crippling arthritis.  Working and living in a one-room house with her husband, a fisherman named Everett (Ethan Hawke), Maud Lewis’s paintings of flowers and birds eventually became so popular that one was even purchased by then-Vice President Richard Nixon.

Maudie is a very special movie, largely because of the incredibly moving performance of Sally Hawkins in the role of Maud.  As played by Hawkins, Maud may occasionally be meek but she never surrenders her dream to create something beautiful out the often harsh circumstances of her life.  Hawkins not only captures Maud’s physical struggles but she also captures (and makes compelling) the inner strength of this remarkable artist.  Ethan Hawke also gives a remarkable performance as the gruff Everett.  When you Everett first appears, you hate him.  But, as the film progresses, Hawke starts to show hints of a sensitive soul that’d hiding underneath all of his gruffnes.  In the end, Everett is as saved by Maud’s art as is Maud.

Directed by Aisling Walsh, this is a low-key but all together remarkable and touching film.  If Sally Hawkins wasn’t already certain to get an Oscar nomination for Shape of the Water, she would definitely deserve one for Maudie.

A Quiet Passion (dir by Terrence Davies)

You would be totally justified in assuming that this film, a biopic of poet Emily Dickinson, would have absolutely nothing in common with The Last Jedi.  However, believe it or not, they actually do have something very much in common.  They are both films that, on Rotten Tomatoes, scored high with critics and not so high with audiences.  When last I checked, it had a 93% critical score and a 51% audience score.

Well, you know what?  Who cares?  The idea that you can judge a film’s worth based on an arbitrary number is pure evil, anyway.

Personally, I’m not surprised to hear that audiences struggled with A Quiet Passion.  It’s a very challenging film, one that is more concerned with mood than with traditional narrative.  The film is much like Dickinson herself: dark, uncompromising, sharply funny, and, on the surface, unconcerned with what people might think.  Much as how Dickinson retreated into her Amherst home, the film retreats into Dickinson’s head.  It’s not always the most pleasant place to hide out but, at the same time, it’s so alive with creativity and filled with such a sharp wit that it’s tempting never to leave.

In the role of Emily, Cynthia Nixon gave one of the best performance of the year, bringing Emily to uncompromising life.  Neither the film not Nixon ever make the mistake of sentimentalizing Dickinson.  Her pain is just as real as her genius.  Ultimately, though, both Nixon’s performance and A Quiet Passion stands as a tribute to Emily’s own quiet passion.

Much like Emily Dickinson’s poetry, A Quiet Passion will be appreciated with time.

Victoria & Abdul (dir by Stephen Frears)

If there’s ever been a film that deserves to be known as “generic Oscar bait,” it’s Victoria & Abdul.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not a bad movie or anything like that.  Instead, it’s a very respectable film about Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her servant, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian Muslim.  While the rest of the royal court is scandalized by Victoria’s close relationship with the foreigner, Karim teaches the Queen about the Koran and encourages her to enjoy life.  The royal court is played by the usual collection of distinguished actors who always appear in movies like this: Simon Callow, Tom Pigott-Smith, and Michael Gambon.  Victoria’s heir is played by Eddie Izzard, which should tell you all you need to know about how the future Edward VII is portrayed.

As I said, it’s not a bad movie as much as it’s just not a very interesting one.  You know that Abdul and Victoria are going to become close.  You know that the Royal Court is going to be a bunch of snobs.  You know that Victoria is going to get a chance to express anti-colonial sentiments that she must surely never actually possessed.  Indeed, whenever the film tries to make any sort of larger statement, all of the characters suddenly start talking as if they’re from 2017 as opposed to the late 1800s.

This is the second time that Judi Dench has played Victoria.  Previously, she played the Queen in a film called Mrs. Brown, which was about Victoria’s friendship with a Scottish servant.  Apparently, Victoria got along well with servants.

 

 

Here Are The 2017 Nominations of The Florida Film Critics!


Oddly, the Florida Film Critics showed very little love to The Florida Project.  The acclaimed film only received one nomination, for Willem DaFoe.

BEST PICTURE

  • “Call Me By Your Name”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Get Out”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Shape Of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Christopher Nolan – “Dunkirk”
  • Greta Gerwig – “Lady Bird”
  • Guillermo del Toro – “The Shape of Water”
  • Jordan Peele – “Get Out”
  • Martin McDonagh – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR

  • Daniel Kaluuya – “Get Out”
  • Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour”
  • James Franco – “The Disaster Artist”
  • Robert Pattinson – “Good Time”
  • Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Cynthia Nixon – “A Quiet Passion
  • Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya”
  • Sally Hawkins – “The Shape of Water”
  • Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Armie Hammer – “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Barry Keoghan – “The Killing of A Sacred Deer”
  • Michael Stuhlbarg – “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Allison Janney – “I, Tonya”
  • Holly Hunter – “The Big Sick”
  • Hong Chau – “Downsizing”
  • Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird”
  • Mary J. Blige – “Mudbound”

BEST ENSEMBLE

  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Get Out”
  • “I, Tonya”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Big Sick”
  • “The Shape Of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • “Get Out”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Big Sick”
  • “The Shape Of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • “Call Me By Your Name”
  • “Marjorie Prime”
  • “Molly’s Game”
  • “The Disaster Artist”
  • “The Lost City of Z”
  • “Wonderstruck”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • “Blade Runner 2049”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Personal Shopper”
  • “The Post”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Wonderstruck”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

BEST ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Blade Runner 2049”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Phantom Thread”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Wonderstruck”

BEST SCORE

  • “Blade Runner 2049”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Phantom Thread”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “Dawson City: Frozen Time”
  • “Ex Libris: New York Public Library”
  • “Faces Places”
  • “Jane”
  • “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold”
  • “Kedi”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • “BPM”
  • “First They Killed My Father”
  • “Loveless”
  • “The Ornithologist”
  • “The Square”

BEST ANIMATED FILM

BEST FIRST FILM

BREAKOUT AWARD

  • Barry Keoghan
  • Greta Gerwig
  • Jordan Peele
  • Millicent Simmonds
  • Timothée Chalamet

Here Are The Online Film Critics Society Nominations!


The winners will be announced on December 28th.

It’s interesting to note that The Post is almost totally shut out here.  One thing I’ve noticed that critics who work for newspapers love The Post.  They see it as proof of their importance.  Online critics are far less impressed with The Post.  They tend to view it as a lament for a dead medium, a somewhat stodgy celebration of the past.  Whenever I finally get a chance to see The Post, I’ll let you know who’s right.

Best Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Dunkirk
The Florida Project
Get Out
A Ghost Story
Lady Bird
mother!
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Robert Pattinson – Good Time

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Cynthia Nixon – A Quiet Passion
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

Best Supporting Actor
Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Patrick Stewart – Logan
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Holly Hunter – The Big Sick
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Best Ensemble
Get Out
Mudbound
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Breakout Star
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Dafne Keen – Logan
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project

Best Original Screenplay
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Best Adapted Screenplay
Sofia Coppola – The Beguiled
James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name
Scott Nestadter and Micheal Weber – The Disaster Artist
James Gray – Lost City of Z
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game

Best Editing
Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos – Baby Driver
Lee Smith – Dunkirk
Ben Safdie and Ronald Bronstein – Good Time
Tatiana S Riegel – I, Tonya
Sidney Wolinsky – The Shape of Water

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049
Hoyte van Hoytema – Dunkirk
Darius Khondji – Lost City of Z
Rachel Morrison – Mudbound
Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water

Best Animated Feature
Coco
The Breadwinner
In This Corner Of The World
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

Best Foreign Film
BPM (Beats Per Minute)
First They Killed My Father
Nocturama
Raw
The Square
Thelma

Best Documentary
Dawson City: Frozen Time
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library
Faces Places
Jane
The Work

Memorial Award
Jonathan Demme
John Hurt
Bill Paxton
George A. Romero
Harry Dean Stanton

Lifetime Achievement Award
Willem Dafoe
Daniel Day-Lewis
Roger Deakins
Christopher Plummer
Agnes Varda

Here Are The Nominees From The Women Film Critics Circle!


The Women Film Critics Circle has announced their nominations for the best of 2017!  The winners will be named next week!

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN

  • “Detroit”
  • “First They Killed My Father”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “Mudbound”

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]

  • Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
  • Maggie Greenwald, “Sophie And The Rising Sun”
  • Dee Rees, “Mudbound”
  • Angela Workman, “The Zookeeper’s Wife”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Sally Hawkins, “Maudie”
  • Sally Hawkins, “The Shape Of Water”
  • Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Cynthia Nixon, “A Quiet Passion”

BEST ACTOR

  • Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
  • Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
  • Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

BEST YOUNG ACTRESS (Under 21)

  • Seo-Hyun Ahn, “Okja”
  • Mckenna Grace, “Gifted”
  • Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
  • Millicent Simmonds, “Wonderstruck”

BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS

  • Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”
  • Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
  • Margo Robbie, “I, Tonya”
  • Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

  • “A Fantastic Woman”
  • “First They Killed My Father”
  • “In The Fade”
  • “Thelma”

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women:

  • “Maudie”
  • “The Light Of The Moon”
  • “The Rape Of Recy Taylor”
  • “Wind River”

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America

  • “Girls Trip”
  • “Mudbound”
  • “Step”
  • “The Rape Of Recy Taylor”

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity

  • “Battle Of The Sexes”
  • “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”
  • Mudbound
  • “The Post”

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]

  • Sally Hawkins, “Maudie”
  • Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Michelle Rodriguez, “The Assignment”
  • Charlize Theron, “Atomic Blonde”

COURAGE IN FILMMAKING

  • Amma Asante, “A United Kingdom”
  • Kathryn Bigelow, “Detroit”
  • Angelina Jolie, “First The Killed My Father”
  • Dee Rees, “Mudbound

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD [Supporting performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]

BEST DOCUMENTARY BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

  • “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”
  • “Faces Places”
  • “Jane”
  • “Step”

WOMEN’S WORK: BEST ENSEMBLE

BEST FEMALE ACTION HERO

  • “Atomic Blonde”
  • “In The Fade”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • Wonder Woman

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES

  • “Atomic Blonde”
  • “Battle Of The Sexes”
  • “Professor Marston And The Wonder Women”
  • Wonder Woman

BEST SCREEN COUPLE

BEST ANIMATED FEMALE(S)

  • “Coco”
  • “Loving Vincent”
  • “The Breadwinner”
  • “Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming”

BEST FAMILY FILM

A Movie A Day #30: Prince of the City (1981, directed by Sidney Lumet)


220px-prince_of_the_city_foldedIn 1970s New York City, Danny Ciello (Treat Williams) is a self-described “prince of the city.”  A narcotics detective, Ciello is the youngest member of the Special Investigations Unit.  Because of their constant success, the SIU is given wide latitude by their superiors at the police department.  The SIU puts mobsters and drug dealers behind bars.  They get results.  If they sometimes cut corners or skim a little money for themselves, who cares?

It turns out that a lot of people care.  When a federal prosecutor, Rick Cappalino (Norman Parker), first approaches Ciello and asks him if he knows anything about police corruption, Ciello refuses to speak to him.  As Ciello puts it, “I sleep with my wife but I live with my partners.”  But Ciello already has doubts.  His drug addict brother calls him out on his hypocrisy. Ciello spends one harrowing night with one of his informants, a pathetic addict who Ciello keeps supplied with heroin in return for information.  Ciello finally agrees to help the investigation but with one condition: he will not testify against anyone in the SIU.  Before accepting Ciello’s help, Cappalino asks him one question.  Has Ciello ever done anything illegal while a cop?  Ciello says that he has only broken the law three times and each time, it was a minor infraction.

For the next two years, Ciello wears a wire nearly every day and helps to build cases against other cops, some of which are more corrupt than others.  It turns out that being an informant is not as easy as it looks.  Along with getting burned by malfunctioning wires and having to deal with incompetent backup, Ciello struggles with his own guilt.  When Cappalino is assigned to another case, Ciello finds himself working with two prosecutors (Bob Balaban and James Tolkan) who are less sympathetic to him and his desire to protect the SIU.  When evidence comes to light that Ciello may have lied about the extent of his own corruption, Ciello may become the investigation’s newest target.

prince-of-the-city

Prince of the City is one of the best of Sidney Lumet’s many films but it is not as well-known as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico, The Verdict, or even The Wiz.  Why is it such an underrated film?  As good as it is, Prince of the City is not always an easy movie to watch.  It’s nearly three hours long and almost every minute is spent with Danny Ciello, who is not always likable and often seems to be on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.  Treat Williams gives an intense and powerful performance but he is such a raw nerve that sometimes it is a relief when Lumet cuts away to Jerry Orbach (as one of Ciello’s partners) telling off a district attorney or to a meeting where a group of prosecutors debate where a group of prosecutors debate whether or not to charge Ciello with perjury.

Prince of the City may be about the police but there’s very little of the typical cop movie clichés.  The most exciting scenes in the movie are the ones, like that scene with all the prosecutors arguing, where the characters debate what “corruption” actually means.  Throughout Prince of the City, Lumet contrasts the moral ambiguity of otherwise effective cops with the self-righteous certitude of the federal prosecutors.  Unlike Lumet’s other films about police corruption (Serpico, Q&A), Prince of the City doesn’t come down firmly on either side.

(Though the names have been changed, Prince of the City was based on a true story.  Ciello’s biggest ally among the investigators, Rick Cappalino, was based on a young federal prosecutor named Rudy Giuliani.)

Prince of the City is dominated by Treat Williams but the entire cast is full of great New York character actors.  It would not surprise me if Jerry Orbach’s performance here was in the back of someone’s mind when he was cast as Law & Order‘s Lenny Briscoe.  Keep an eye out for familiar actors like Lance Henriksen, Lane Smith, Lee Richardson, Carmine Caridi, and Cynthia Nixon, all appearing in small roles.

Prince of the City is a very long movie but it needs to be.  Much as David Simon would later do with The Wire, Lumet uses this police story as a way to present a sprawling portrait of New York City.  In fact, if Prince of the City were made today, it probably would be a David Simon-penned miniseries for HBO.

image-w1280

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