Lisa Marie Picks The 30 Top Films of 2020


Well, it’s finally time!  It’s time for me to announce my picks for the best films of 2020.

Before we begin, there is one thing I want to make clear.  Unlike the Academy, I did not extend my eligibility window.  Films like Nomadland, Minari, and The Father (amongst others) will undoubtedly be competing for the Oscar for Best Picture of 2020.  However, as far as I’m concerned, those are all 2021 films.  And I imagine that a few of them will probably appear on my best films of 2021 list.  However, the list below are my picks for the best films of 2020.  You’ll probably agree with some of my picks and disagree with some of the others.  As always, I welcome any and all comments.

Also, be sure to check out my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019!  Wow, I’ve been doing this for a while!

And now, in descending order, my favorites of 2020!

30. Money Plane (dir by Andrew Lawrence) — Okay, I can sense that you’re already rolling your eyes at my list by seriously, Money Plane is such a cheerfully absurd and self-aware little B-movie that there’s no way I couldn’t include it.  Seriously, how can you not love a film that features Kelsey Grammer always a gangster known as the Rumble?  Basically, as soon as I heard that priceless declaration of “We are going to rob the Money Plane!,” this movie had me under its spell.

29. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (dir by George C. Wolfe) — Though this adaptation of August Wilson’s play never quite escapes its theatrical roots, no one can deny the powerful performances of Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, and especially Chadwick Boseman.  Boseman dominates the film from the minute that he makes his first appearance, playing an ambitious, troubled, and undeniably talented trumpeter.  Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey with the self-awareness of someone who knows that the record producers need her more than she needs them.  She has the power and she’s not going to let anyone get away with forgetting it.

28. The Invisible Man (dir by Leigh Wannell) — Before the Academy announced that they would be changing their rules to considers streaming movies, many critics speculated that one of the results of the pandemic would be The Invisible Man winning all of the Oscars.  Though they may have been joking, it was not as outlandish an idea as they seemed to think.  The Invisible Man is a horror film that proves that being a genre film does not mean that film can’t also be a good and thought-provoking work of art.  The Invisible Man breathes new life into a somewhat hokey premise and Elisabeth Moss gives a great performance as a woman stalked by her abusive (and now invisble) ex.  The Invisible Man features one of the best ending scenes of 2020.

27. The Hunt (dir by Craig Zobel) — Delayed due to a manufactured controversy and released to critical bafflement, The Hunt is a clever satire of our hyper-partisan and hyper-polarized society.  The film’s final twist is a clever commentary on social media drama and Hillary Swank steals the show with an unexpected cameo.

26. One Night In Miami (dir by Regina King) — I went back and forth on this one.  Based on a stage play, this film imagines what happened the night that Malcolm X, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Muhammad Ali met in a Miami motel room.  There are a few times that the film is undoubtedly a bit too stagey for its own good and, early on, some of the dialogue is a bit too on the nose.  But the film has a cumulative power and, despite a few uneven moments, it’s ultimately an intriguing look at race, celebrity, and political activism in America.  A good deal of the film’s power is due to the ensemble.  While most of the awards chatter seems to be focused on Leslie Odom, Jr. as Sam Cooke, it’s Aldis Hodge’s Jim Brown who truly anchors the film.

25. Gunpowder Heart (dir by Camila Urrutia) — This raw and angry film from Guatemala was one of the more powerful films to be featured at 2020’s virtual South By Southwest.  In Guatemala City, Maria and her girlfriend Claudia are assaulted by three men.  Maria wants revenge, no mater what.  Claudia, the more cautious of the two, knows that Maria’s plans are going to end in tragedy and disaster but she also knows that there’s nothing she can do to stop her.  Gunpowder Heart isn’t always easy to watch but it’s undeniably powerful.

24. The Shock of the Future (dir by Marc Collin) — Taking place in 1978, this French film follows one day in the life of a composer named Ana (Alma Jodorowsky).  It’s a typical day — Anna wakes up, a friend comes by with the latest albums, Anna tries to compose music, she goes to a party, and she hears the newest music.  It’s a simple but effective celebration of both music and the thrill of having your entire creative life ahead of you.  Alma Jodorowsky is brilliant in the role of Anna.

23. She Dies Tomorrow (dir by Amy Seimetz) — This a disturbing mood piece about a woman who is convinced that she is going to die in a day.  Everyone who she meets also becomes convinced that they’re going to die within 24 hours.  Some of them go out of their way to make sure that it happens while others just wait for death to come.  Is it a mass delusion or is it something else?  The atmospheric film may raise more questions than it answers but it will definitely stick with you.

22. Driveways (dir by Andrew Ahn) — Kathy (Hong Chau) and her young son, Cody (Lucas Jaye), move into the home that was owned by Kathy’s deceased sister.  In his final film appearance, Brian Dennehy plays the gruff but caring neighbor who befriends both Cody and his mother.  This is a low-key but emotionally resonant film, elevated by Dennehy’s heartfelt performance.

21. Figurant (dir by Jan Vejnar) — Clocking in at 14 minutes, this unsettling but powerful French/Czech co-production tells the story of a quiet man (Denis Levant) who follows a group of younger men into a warehouse and who soon finds himself in uniform and on a battlefield.  Or is he?  It’s not an easy question to answer but this intriguing short film will keep you watching, guessing, and thinking.

20. What Did Jack Do? (dir by David Lynch) — David Lynch interrogates a monkey in an expressionistic train station.  The monkey talks about a chicken and sings a song about true love’s flame.  “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?” Lynch asks.  It’s a brilliant short film and really, it’s the sort of thing that only David Lynch, with his mix of earnestness and eccentricity, could have pulled off.  Technically, this film was made a few years ago but it only got it’s official premiere in 2020, when Netflix released it on Lynch’s birthday.

19. Red, White, and Blue (dir by Steven McQueen) — Steve McQueen’s Small Axe was made up of five short films.  Three of them appear on this list.  There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not the Small Axe films should be considered individual features or if they should be considered a miniseries.  Obviously, I see them as being individual features but, in the end, they’re brilliant and thought-provoking regardless of whether they’re television or film.  Red, White, and Blue takes a nuanced look at institutional racism and features an excellent lead performance from John Boyega.

18. Mr. Jones (dir by Agnieszka Holland) — A film that deserved more attention than it received, Mr. Jones tells the story of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who, in 1933, discovered the truth about the state-sponsored famine that was killing millions in the Ukraine.  Despite his efforts, the press refused to report on what was really happening in the Ukraine and instead, an odious propagandist named Walter Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer prize for writing pro-Stalin stories that were later determined to be full of deliberate lies.  An important and heartfelt film, Mr. Jones features a subtle but effective lead performance from James Norton and a memorable supporting turn from Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Walter Duranty as a smug snake.

17. The Outpost (dir by Rod Lurie) — Based on a true story and directed by Rod Lurie, this film pays tribute to the men who have fought and died in America’s forgotten conflict, the War in Afghanistan.  Well-acted and doggedly unsentimental, The Outpost will literally leave you breathless.

16. Emma (dir by Autumn de Wilde) — The latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s much-adapted novel, Emma has a playful spirit that is lacking in so many other literary adaptations.  It also has a great performance from Anya Taylor-Joy, who makes the character of Emma Woodhouse her own.

15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (dir by Eliza Hittman) — Two teenagers, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), travel to New York City from Pennsylvania so that Autumn can get an abortion without having to get her parent’s consent.  Though I’m occasionally a bit skeptic of cinema verite, Never Rarely Sometimes Always makes good use of the style.  Far more than just being a film about abortion, it’s a character study of two people trying to survive in a harsh world.  The scene where the previously withdrawn Autumn is prodded to open up about her past is one of the most powerful of the year.

14. Possessor (dir by Brandon Cronenberg) — Brandon Cronenberg’s disturbing sci-fi/horror hybrid is not an easy film to explain or to even describe.  Questions of identity and betrayal are mixed with grotesque images of body horror and societal neglect.  By the end of the film, you’ll find yourself reconsidering everything that you previously assumed about the movie.  This one sticks with you, even though you may not want it to.  (How’s that for a recommendation?)

13. Horse Girl (dir by Jeff Baena) — This is a film that definitely deserved a bit more attention than it received.  Alison Brie gives a brave and sympathetic performance as someone who believes that she’s a clone who has been abducted by aliens.  Is she suffering from delusions brought on by a combination of loneliness and too much television?  Or is she right?  The film will leave you guessing.  While Brie is at the center of almost every scene, Molly Shannon also gives a good performance as one of Brie’s only friends.

12. Sound of Metal (dir by Darius Marder) — Riz Ahmed plays an occasionally obnoxious drummer who goes deaf.  Worried that Ahemd is going to relapse into drug use, his girlfriend and musical partner (Olivia Cooke) checks him into a rehab center for the deaf.  With the help of a sympathetic but no-nonsense counselor (Paul Raci), Ahmed struggles to come to accept the loss of sound and music from his life.  The three main performances elevate this film, making it one of the year’s best.  In the film’s best moments, we hear the world through Ahmed’s ears and experience what he’s experiencing.

11. Mangrove (dir by Steve McQueen) — The first film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology tells the story of a true life court case.  Politically charged from beginning to end and leaving no doubt as to what the true stakes were in the case, Mangrove is the film that Trial of The Chicago 7 should have been.

10. Soul (dir by Peter Docter) — The latest from PIXAR made me cry as only a great PIXAR film can.  A music teacher named Joe (voices by Jamie Foxx) falls down a manhole shortly after winning his dream job in a jazz band.  Unwilling to die before performing on stage, Joe finds himself in the Great Before, assigned to teach an unborn soul named 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) what it means to be human …. okay, you know what?  This film has one of those plots that sounds silly if you try to explain it.  What matters is that it’s a heartfelt film that celebrates every minute of life.  Foxx and Fey both do wonderful voice work and the animation is as clever as always.  Plus, there’s a cat!

9. The Vast of Night (dir by Andrew Patterson) — This low-budget film is a wonderfully atmospheric look at what may or may not be an alien invasion taking place in the 1950s.  Featuring wonderfully naturalistic performances and an intelligent storyline, The Vast of Night is a triumph of the independent spirit.  I can’t wait to see what Andrew Patterson does next.

8. Lovers Rock (dir by Steve McQueen) — The 2nd film is Steve MQueen’s Small Axe anthology, Lovers Rock centers on one exhilarating house party.  Though the world outside of this party may be harsh and full of oppression and racism (a group of white teens shout racial slurs at one partygoer when she steps outside of the house), the world inside of the party is one of love, music, and celebration.

7. i’m thinking of ending things (dir by Charlie Kaufman) — A riddle wrapped in an enigma, i’m thinking of ending things features great performance from Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis.  What starts out as an awkward drive to visit Plemons’s parents grows increasingly more and more surreal until the audience is left to wonder what is real, what is fantasy, and whether the majority of the film’s characters even exist.  This film plays out like a dream and stays with you long after it end.

6. Palm Springs (dir by Max Barbakow) — Perhaps the ultimate twist on Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is a thought-provoking comedic gem from Lonely Island Classic Pictures.  Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, and Cristin Milioti find themselves living the same day over and over again.  Each one reacts to their predicament in a different way.  It’ll make you laugh and then it’ll make you cry.  Revealing too much else about the plot would be a crime.  It’s on Hulu so go watch it.

5. The Assistant (dir by Kitty Green) — This infuriating and ultimately tragic film follows one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a production assistant at a film company.  Though he’s never seen, Jane’s boss is clearly meant to be a fictionalized version of Harvey Weinstein.  Should Jane save her career or try to warn the actress that her boss has clearly set his eyes upon as his next victim?  The scene where the head of HR assures Jane that she needn’t worry about her boss’s behavior because “you’re not his type,” rings all too horribly true.  The Assistant was obviously designed to be a rallying call for #MeToo but sadly, today, it feels more like an obituary.

Bad Education

4. Bad Education (dir by Cory Finley) — All year, I have been lamenting the fact that Bad Education was bought by HBO and not Netflix.  If it had been released on Netflix, it would probably be an Oscar contender and Hugh Jackman would be in the hunt for his first Best Actor Oscar.  Instead, it aired on HBO and it had to settle for limited Emmy recognition.  It’s a shame because this film, which centers on embezzlement at one suburban school, was one of the best of 2020.  At a time when we’re being told not to question authority, Bad Education encourages us to question everything.  Along with being thought-provoking, it’s also occasionally laugh out loud funny.  Jackman is brilliant in the lead role.  Allison Janney is award-worthy as his partner-in-crime.  Ray Romano takes another step in proving that he’s more than just a sitcom actor.  All in all, this was a great movie.

3. First Cow (dir by Kelly Reichardt) — This melancholy tale follows two men who meet in Oregon in the 1820s and who become unlikely business partners.  Unfortunately, being partners means stealing milk from Toby Jones’s cow and thievery was even less appreciated in the 1820s than it is today. Featuring outstanding lead performances from Jon Magaro and Orion Lee, First Cow is a rewarding work of historical fiction.  Kelly Reichardt makes you feel as if you’ve woken up in the 1820s, even as she uses the past to comment upon the present.  This probably isn’t a film for everyone.  Reichardt’s style has always been more about observing than passing judgment.  But for viewers willing to stick with it, this deliberately paced film is a rewarding experience.

Finally, when it comes to the best film of the year, I’ve been going back and forth between two films.  In the end, I have to declare a tie.  In alphabetical order by title, here are the two best films of 2020:

2. The Girl With A Bracelet (dir by Stéphane Demoustier) — This French film is about a teenage girl who is on trial for murdering her best friend.  Whether or not she’s guilty is ultimately less important than why everyone has been so quick to accuse her in the first place.  Featuring an outstanding ensemble and an intelligent script, The Girl With A Bracelet will leave you thinking about …. well, everything.  It can currently be viewed on Prime.

1. Promising Young Woman (dir by Emerald Fennell) — When I first started watching this film, I worried that it might be too stylized to be effective.  But it soon became apparent the director/screenwriter Emerald Fennell and star Carey Mulligan both knew exactly what they needed to do to tell this story.  Mulligan plays a med school drop-out who is seeking her own unique style of revenge against not only the men who raped her best friend in college but also the people who Mulligan feels subsequently let her friend down.  Bo Burnham plays the pediatrician who asks Mulligan out on a date and who appears to be the perfect nice guy, the adorably awkward boyfriend who you you would expect to find in a 90s rom com.  Neither character turns out to be exactly who they initially appeared to be.  Promising Young Woman mixes genres that normally don’t go together, smashing together drama and comedy, and it’s just audacious enough to be one of the best films of the year.

 

 

TSL Looks Back at 2020:

  1. 2020 In Review: The Best of Lifetime (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  2. 12 Good Things I Saw On Television in 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  3. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Novels of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  4. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Non-Fiction Books of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  5. Lisa Marie’s 20 Favorite Songs of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  6. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  7. My Top 20 Albums of 2020 (Necromoonyeti)
  8. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems That I Saw In 2020 (Valerie Troutman)
  9. Top 10 Vintage Collections (Ryan C)
  10. Top 10 Contemporary Collections (Ryan C)
  11. Top 10 Original Graphic Novels (Ryan C)
  12. Top 10 Ongoing Series (Ryan C.)
  13. Top 10 Special Mentions (Ryan C.)
  14. Top Ten Single Issues (Ryan C)

14 Shots From 13 Films: Special David Lynch Edition


4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a very special 75th birthday to the one and only David Lynch.  As should be evident by now, we’re big fans of David Lynch around here.  Not only is he a wonderfully unique filmmaker but he’s also literally the only person who can do what he does.  Trust me — I’ve seen hundreds of films that were made by people who obviously thought they were going to be the next David Lynch and none of them even come close.  David Lynch is a filmmaker who can make the most surreal images seem like the most natural thing in the world.

Speaking of images, it’s time for….

14 Shots From 13 David Lynch Films

Eraserhead (1977, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frederick Elmes, Herbert Cardwell)

The Elephant Man (1980, dir by David Lynch, DP: Freddie Francis)

Dune (1984, dir by David Lynch, DP: Freddie Francis)

Blue Velvet (1986, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frederick Elmes)

Twin Peaks 1.3 “Zen or the Skill To Catch a Killer” (1990, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frank Byers)

Wild At Heart (1990, dir by Frederick Elmes)

Twin Peaks 2.22 “Beyond Life and Death” (1991, dir by David Lynch, DP: Frank Byers)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, dir by David Lynch, DP: Ron Garcia)

Lost Highway (1997, dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

The Straight Story (1999, dir by David Lynch, DP: Freddie Francis)

Mulholland Drive (2001, dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

Inland Empire (2006, dir by David Lynch, DP: David Lynch)

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 15 (dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 18 (2017, dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

Happy birthday, David Lynch!

Scenes That I Love: Putting On The Ritz From Young Frankenstein (Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks!)


Today, Mel Brooks is 94 years old!

Mel Brooks.  What can you say Mel Brooks?  Not only did he help to redefine American comedy but he was also responsible for bringing David Lynch to Hollywood.  Brooks was the one who hired Lynch to direct The Elephant Man.  It can probably be argued that, if not for Brooks, Lynch’s feature film career would have begun and ended with Eraserhead.  Brooks not only hired Lynch but also protected him for studio interference.  When the execs tried to make Lynch remove two surrealistic sequences from The Elephant Man, Brooks stood up to them.  When they requested a more conventional biopic, Brooks defended Lynch’s vision and the result was one of the best films ever made.

Of course, Brooks isn’t listed in the credits of The Elephant Man.  Though he produced the film, he went uncredited because he didn’t want people to assume that the movie was a comedy.  By doing so, Brooks missed out on an Oscar nomination but he also ensured that the film was taken seriously.  It’s hard not to respect someone who was willing to go uncredited to help make the film a success.

Though Brooks, as a producers, was responsible for a number of serious films, there’s a reason why Brooks is associated with comedy.  He’s a very funny man and he directed some very funny films.  In honor of Mel Brooks, here’s a scene that I love from 1974’s Young Frankenstein.

Happy birthday, Mel Brooks!

Short Film Review: What Did Jack Do? (dir by David Lynch)


In a dark, black-and-white station, the train has been delayed.  Though we never actually see them, a waitress (Emily Stofle) says that there are cops swarming the station.  At a small table, a Capuchin monkey named Jack (voiced, according to the credits, by Jack Cruz) waits for his order.  A white-haired Detective (played by director David Lynch) takes a seat across from the monkey.  Both the Detective and the monkey are wearing dark suits.

The Detective and Jack have a conversation.  At first, it seems like they’re just tossing out random comments.  The Detective mentions farm animals and says that he knows why the chicken cross the road.  Jack says that he works as a pipe cleaner.  The Detective asks Jack if he’s ever been a card-carrying member of the communist party.  Jack avoids the question.

As the interrogation continues, we start to pick up on small patterns and a story emerges.  Jack is in love with a hen named Toototaban.  The Detective thinks that Jack murdered a musician named Max Clegg.  Jack says that it was probably the janitor.  The Detective is firm in his belief that Jack is guilty.  Jack is only interested in talking about how much he loved Tootataban.  He even sings a song about her and it’s about as touching as a song sung by a monkey in love with a chicken can be.

What does it all amount too, this 17-minute noir film from David Lynch?  Who knows?  With an artist like Lynch, it’s always tempting to read too much into what you’re seeing.  I’m personally of the theory that many of Lynch’s most debated films and celebrated images were constructed with no particular logic beyond the fact that it would be an interesting film or a striking image.  Lynch is an artist who creates cinematic dreams and most dreams are simply a collection of random feelings and concerns.  It’s not until we start trying to piece it all together that we find any deeper meaning and that meaning is usually dependent on our own individual thoughts and obsessions.

What is What Did Jack Do about?  Personally, I think it’s about exactly what it says it’s about.  It’s about a detective interrogating a monkey in a train station.  Why is he interrogating a monkey?  Why not?  Why is the monkey in love with a hen?  Even Jack admits that part is weird but I guess it could happen.  Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the why of it all.

Instead, just enjoy it for what it is, an intriguingly weird 17-minute film.  David Lynch has developed into a pretty good actor and he does a great job playing the law-and-order detective.  He delivers his dialogue in a rapid-fire, staccato manner.  Meanwhile, Jack is as crude as you would expect a monkey to be.  The film is both funny and also somewhat ominous.  That dark train station is full of shadows and, as you listen to the Detective and Jack try to outwit each other, it’s hard not to think about what might be lurking in the those shadows.

What Did Jack Do? has actually been around for a while.  Apparently, it was first screened in France way back in 2017.  (The copyright notice at the end of the film lists 2016.)  That said, it didn’t premiere in the United States until it showed up on Netflix back in January.  So, as far as I’m concerned, this is one of the best films of 2020 so far.  Be sure to watch it if you haven’t already.  Can you figure out what Jack did?

Film Review: Frances (dir by Graeme Clifford)


Frances Farmer is one of the more tragic figures to come out of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

A talented and beautiful actress, Frances Farmer came out to Hollywood in the 30s and quickly developed a reputation for being difficult.  She was politically outspoken at a time when stars were expected to either be apolitical or unquestioningly patriotic.  She criticized scripts.  She argued with directors and studio heads.  She had a well-publicized affair with communist playwright Clifford Odets and she also had numerous run-ins with the police.  Some say that she was alcoholic.  Some say that she was bipolar.  Some say that she had a mental collapse as the result of the pressure that her mother put on her to succeed.  Frances Farmer ended up in mental institution, where she was subjected to shock therapy.  After she was released, her film career was basically over, though she did end up hosting a local television program.  She died in 1970, reportedly alone and struggling to make ends meet.  In a posthumously published autobiography called Will There Ever Be A Morning?, she wrote that she was beaten, sexually abused, and eventually given a lobotomy while she was institutionalized.  Over the years, there’s been a lot of doubt about whether or not Farmer was actually lobotomized but there is no doubt that Farmer was a woman who was ultimately punished for being ahead of her time.  Frances Farmer refused to conform to the safe manufactured image that Hollywood prepared for her and, for that, she was nearly destroyed.

The 1983 film, Frances, is a biopic of Frances Farmer, starring Jessica Lange as Frances and Kim Stanley as her domineering mother.  It opens with Frances writing a school essay about why she’s an atheist and it ends with her smiling blankly at a television camera, her independent spirit broken by a lobotomy.  In between, we watch as Frances goes to Hollywood and has a self-destructive affair with Clifford Odets (played by Jeffrey DeMunn).  The infamous moment when Frances was dragged out of a courtroom while screaming at the judge is recreated and Frances’s time in the institution is depicted in Hellish detail.

We also learn about Frances’s relationship with a communist writer named Alvin York (Sam Shepard).  It seems like whenever Frances needs to be rescued or just needs someone to talk to, Alvin York pops up.  In fact, you could almost argue that York pops up too often.  Alvin York was a fictional character, one who was apparently created in order for audiences to have someone to relate to.  It’s unfortunate that the film felt that the audience would only be able to relate to Frances if it viewed her life through the eyes of a fictional character because York’s character is a bit of a distraction.  Sam Shepard does a good job of playing him and I certainly wasn’t shocked to learn that Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange were romantically involved during the filming of Frances (and for a long time afterwards) because Lange and Shepard do have a very real chemistry.  However, from a narrative point of view, Alvin York only works as a character if one accepts that he’s a figment of Frances’s imagination.  The film’s insistence that York is an actual person who just happens to show up at every important moment of Frances’s life just doesn’t work.

What does work is Jessica Lange’s performance.  Lange is amazing in the role of Frances, whether she’s playing Frances as a hopeful idealist, an out-of-control rebel, or, tragically, as a glass-eyed zombie who has been reduced to appearing on television and assuring audiences that her rebellious days are over.  Lange was nominated for Best Actress for Frances.  She lost to Meryl Streep for Sophie’s Choice.  I’ve seen Sophie’s Choice and Meryl was good but Jessica was better.

Frances was originally offered to David Lynch.  He turned the film down so he could work on Dune and instead, the film was directed by Graeme Clifford, who takes a far more straight-forward approach to the material than Lynch would have.  Still, Lynch’s interest in Frances Farmer would later lead to him working on stories that centered around a “woman in trouble.”  One of those stories became Twin Peaks.  Another would become Mulholland Drive.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Twin Peaks Day!


Happy Twin Peaks Day!

It was on this date in 1989 that Dale Cooper first arrived in the small town of Twin Peaks, Washington to help the authorities with their investigation into the death of Laura Palmer.  Here at the Shattered Lens, we’re all big fans of Twin Peaks.  Back in 2017, this site was literally a Twin Peaks fan site for a good couple of months.  As such, today is a big holiday around these parts and what better way to celebrate than with a special edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films?

So, in honor of Twin Peaks, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Twin Peaks: The Pilot (1990, dir by David Lynch)

Twin Peaks 2.22 “Beyond Life and Death” (1991, dir by David Lynch)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, dir by David Lynch)

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 18 (2017, dir by David Lynch)

Happy Twin Peaks Day!

Scenes That I Love: Cooper Says Goodbye In Twin Peaks: The Return (Happy Birthday, Kyle MacLachlan!)


Happy birthday, Kyle MacLachlan!

Kyle MacLachlan is 61 years old today.  While MacLachlan has appeared in a lot of different movies and tv shows and he’s also played a lot of different characters, he will probably always be best known for playing FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks.  MacLachlan, with his combination of earnestness and darkness, was the prefect choice to play Cooper and it’s impossible to imagine Twin Peaks without him.

Of course, MacLachlan didn’t just play Dale Cooper during the third season of Twin Peaks.  He also played Cooper’s evil Doppelganger and, for the majority of Twin Peaks: The Return, he played Dougie.  Dougie could barely speak and usually had no idea what was happening around him but he still thrived in Las Vegas.  MacLachlan’s performance as Dougie was both funny and poignant.  At the same time, I do think that every fan of Twin Peaks breathed a sigh of relief when Cooper finally woke up from that coma, stopped acting like Dougie, and started acting like himself.

Today’s scene that I love comes from Part 16 of Twin Peaks: The Return.  In this David Lynch-directed scene, Cooper — who has only recently reclaimed his identity — says goodbye to Dougie’s wife and son.  Like so much of Twin Peaks; The Return, this is a scene that could be unbelievably mawkish in the hands of another actor.  However, Kyle MacLachlan plays the scene with such sincerity that it’s actually very touching.

In honor of Kyle MacLachlan’s birthday, enjoy today’s scene that I love:

 

Future Winners: 6 Directors Who I Hope Will Have Won An Oscar By 2030


We’ve looked at actors.

We’ve looked at actresses.

Now, let’s look at directors.

But first, a word about David Lynch.  The Academy gave David Lynch a special award for his cinematic contributions back in October.  It’s not the same as a competitive Oscar but it’s probably the best that a boldly idiosyncratic filmmaker like David Lynch could ever hope to get from the Academy.  Normally, I would list Lynch below.  I’m not doing so this year because, realistically, Lynch has said that it’s doubtful he’ll ever make another theatrical film.  That said, I hope to God that someone gives David Lynch a blank check and allows him to make at least one more movie.

With that in mind, here are 6 other directors who I hope will have finally won an Oscar by 2030!

  1. The Safdie Brothers

The Safdie Brothers deserved a nomination this year for their work on Uncut Gems.  Unfortunately, that film was a bit too anxiety-inducing for the Academy.  The Safdies are exciting filmmakers and I hope that someday, the Academy will realize what everyone who has seen Good Time and Uncut Gems already knows.

2. Sofia Coppola

She was nominated for Lost In Translation.  She deserved to be nominates for several other films.  Sofia Coppola is consistently one of the most challenging and interesting (if often criminally underrated) filmmakers working today.  No other American director captures existential angst with quite the style of Sofia Coppola.

3. Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan has emerged as one of the most influential directors of the 21st century.  With The Dark Knight, he revolutionized comic book films.  With Inception, he created one of the greatest fantasy/action/sci-fi hybrids of all time.  With Dunkirk, he paid tribute to one of the most heroic moments of World War II.  Every recent film with a jumbled timeline owes a debt of gratitude to Christopher Nolan.  Nolan seems destined to win someday.

4. Denis Villeneuve

Speaking of being destined to win, that seems to also be an apt description of this visionary Canadian director.  Some people think that Villeneuve will be an Oscar contender this year with Dune.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That said, Villeneuve seems destined to win at some point in the future.

5. Andrea Arnold

You might not recognize the name but Andrea Arnold is responsible for two of my favorite films of the last ten years: Fish Tank and American Honey.  She deserved to be nominated for both of those films.  My hope is that, between now and 2030, she’ll finally get the recognition that she deserves.

6. Werner Herzog

You know it would be the greatest acceptance speech ever.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know in the comments below!