Here The Trailer for Kajillionaire!


Here’s the trailer for Kajillionaire!  This comedy has already received some critical acclaim on the festival circuit and, assuming that we’re actually going to give out Oscars next year, there’s been some speculation that Debra Winger could pick a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Kajillionaire will be released on September 18th.  Though I find the title to be a bit annoying, I always find myself relating to any character played by Evan Rachel Wood so I look forward to seeing the film.

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for July


At this point, who knows anything?

I’m making my monthly predictions on the assumption that most of these movies are even going to be released this year (and during the first two months of 2021).  I may be making an even bigger assumption when I predict that they’ll even give out Oscars for 2020.  Right now, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen.

But I am going to keep making these predictions because their fun to make and I believe that you do have to have some sort of normalcy in life.  You can’t just say, “OH MY GOD, EVERYTHING’S SO NEGATIVE!  I’M JUST GOING TO SIT IN FRONT OF TWITTER AND DRINK FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!”  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  A lot of people are, in fact, saying and doing just that.  It’s kind of sad to think about the number of people who I once liked but who I have still, over the past few months, muted because I’m just sick of all the drama.  I suppose I could list them all here just to see if any of them are actually bothering to read my posts but …. no, no.  This post is about the movies and the performers and the Oscars who make every year a special year.

Be sure to check out my previous predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

Ammonite

Da 5 Bloods

The Father

Hillbilly Elegy

Kajillionaire

News of the World

Nomadland

Respect

Soul

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy

Spike Lee for Da 5 Bloods

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Chloe Zhao for Nomadland

Best Actor

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods

Bill Murray in On The Rocks

Gary Oldman in Mank

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillybill Elegy

Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

Kate Winslet in Ammonite

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Tom Burke in Mank

Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking about Jamie

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman in The Father

Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite

Debra Winger in Kajillionaire

Helena Zengel in News of the World

18 Days of Paranoia #11: Betrayed (dir by Costa-Gavras)


The 1988 film, Betrayed, starts out on a strong note but then quickly becomes annoying as Hell.

It opens with shots of a radio talk show host, an outspoken liberal named Sam Kraus (Richard Libertini).  Kraus berates his callers.  Kraus ridicules anyone who is to the left of Bernie Sanders.  When a man with a rural-accent calls in and attacks Karus for being Jewish, Kraus calls the man an idiot.  After he gets off the air, Kraus walks through a parking garage and stops in front of his car.  Another car pulls up beside Kraus and suddenly, a masked man with a gun opens fire on Kraus, killing him.  The gunman gets out of the car and spray paints, “ZOG” on Kraus’s car before then fleeing the garage.

(ZOG stands for Zionist Occupational Government.  It’s a term used by the type of anti-Semitic dipshits who thinks that the Protocols of Elder Zion are real.)

From this shockingly brutal opening, we cut to panoramic shots of beautiful farmland and crops being harvested in the American midwest, the heartland.  Gary Simmons (Tom Berenger) owns a farm.  He’s a Vietnam vet who nearly received the medal of honor.  He lives with his mother and he has two children.  (He’s divorced and his ex-wife died as the result of a mysterious hit-and-run in California.)  Almost everyone in his small hometown seems to worship Gary.  They’re certainly curious about his new girlfriend, Katie Phillips (Debra Winger).

And really, they probably should be.  Katie Phillips isn’t Katie Phillips at all.  She’s actually an FBI agent named Cathy Weaver and she’s been sent undercover to investigate whether or not Gary was involved in the murder of Kraus.  Cathy, who comes from a broken family and who we’re told has always been seeking some sort of deeper meaning in her life, is charmed by both Gary and his family.  In fact, she falls in love with Gary.  She tells her superior, Mike Carnes (John Heard), that there’s no way Gary is dangerous.  Mike doesn’t believe her but, of course, Mike has a personal stake in this because he and Cathy used to be romantically involved.

(That’s right, everyone.  Betrayed is so narratively lazy that it resorts to making Mike a scorned lover, even though the film’s plot would have worked just as well if he wasn’t.)

As I said, the first part of the movie works.  Debra Wingers gives a strong performance and Tom Berenger is a charming roughneck.  For the first half-hour or so, the film does a good job of showing why men like Gary and his friends are susceptible to conspiracy theories and why they feel that the entire world is stacked against them.  You can understand why Cathy is so troubled by her assignment because Gary’s friends are hardly master criminals.  For the most part, they’re farmers who feel like their entire way of life has been taken away from them.

Unfortunately, almost immediately after Mike refuses to allow her to end her investigation, Cathy returns to the farm and sleeps with Gary.  Not only is this a plot development a disservice to everything that has previously been established about Cathy as a character but it also marks the point where the movie entirely falls apart.  Immediately after sleeping with Cathy, Gary suddenly goes from being a complex but troubled character to being a cartoonish super villain.  And listen — we’ve all been there.  You meet a guy.  He’s handsome.  He says all the right things.  He seems like he’s sensitive.  He makes you feel safe.  You let down your defenses for one night and the next morning, he’s yelling at you for wearing a short skirt in public.  It happens.  Of course, in Gary’s case, it means that he’s not only criticizing the way that Cathy dresses but he’s also taking her on a hunt where the prey is terrified person of color who Gary and his friends have kidnapped.  It also means that Gary drags Cathy along on a bank robbery and then expects her to join him when he wants to assassinate a presidential candidate.  Even after all that, Cathy remains conflicted about what to do with Gary.  The problem is that it’s not like Gary’s a guy who needs sensitivity training or who spends too much time watching ESPN.  Gary is a guy who is carting around weapons and talking about how he wants to kill “mud people.”  That Cathy still has mixed emotions after all of that goes against everything that the film previously asked us to believe about her.  Gary becomes too cartoonish to be plausible and, as a result, he drags down Cathy’s character as well.

Unfortunately, as the film’s narrative falls apart, so do the majority of the performances.  While Debra Winger struggles to make her character’s motivations plausible, Tom Berenger is reduced to doing a lot of glaring.  (Poor John Heard spends most of the movie shouting and bugging his eyes.)  About the only actor who comes out Betrayed unscathed is John Mahoney, who plays Shorty.  Shorty is one of Gary’s friends.  He’s a friendly and personable guy who seems to sincerely care about everyone and who has a charmingly gentle smile.  He’s also a total racist and the contrast between Shorty’s amiable nature and his hateful thoughts provide the latter half of Betrayed with its only powerful moments.  Mahoney gets one big scene, where he talks to Cathy about how much he hates violence but, at the same time, he feels that the world has left him no other choice.  Mahoney does a great job with his small role.  It’s unfortunate that the rest of Betrayed couldn’t live up to his performance.

Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
  4. The Falcon and the Snowman
  5. New World Order
  6. Scandal Sheet
  7. Cuban Rebel Girls
  8. The French Connection II
  9. Blunt: The Fourth Man 
  10. The Quiller Memorandum

Love On The Shattered Lens: An Officer and a Gentleman (dir by Taylor Hackford)


Almost everyone knows that one scene from the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman.  You can probably guess which scene it is that I’m talking about.  It’s been parodied and imitated in so many other shows and movies that it’s one of those pop cultural moments that everyone has “seen” even they haven’t actually watched it.  It’s the scene where….

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

What?

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

I know, Mayo, I’m getting to that!  Let me tell everyone about the iconic factory scene first, okay?

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Uhmmm …. right.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, it’s the scene where Debra Winger is working in a factory and a youngish Richard Gere suddenly shows up and he’s wearing a white uniform and he picks her up and carries her out of the factory while all of her coworkers cheer.  Meanwhile, that Up Where We Belong song starts to play on the soundtrack.  Even though, up until recently, I had never actually sat down and watched An Officer and a Gentleman, I certainly knew that scene.

Last Friday, I noticed that I had An Officer and a Gentleman saved on the DVR and I thought to myself, “Well, I might as well go ahead and watch it and find out what else happens in the movie.”  Add to that, I only had three hours of recording space left on the DVR so I figured I could watch the movie and then delete it and free up some space….

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Goddammit, Mayo, be quiet!  I’m getting to it!

Anyway, I watched the film and I discovered that it’s actually about a lot more than just Richard Gere getting Debra Winger fired from her job at the factory.  It’s also about how Zack Mayo (the character played by Richard Gere) hopes to make something of himself by graduating from Aviation Officer Candidate School so that he can become not only a Navy pilot but also an officer and a gentleman.  His father (Robert Loggia) is an alcoholic, his mother committed suicide when Mayo was a child and Mayo …. well, I’ll let him tell you himself.

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

That’s right.  Mayo has not got anywhere else to go.

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Ain’t is not a word, Mayo.

As you may have already guessed, we know that Mayo doesn’t have anywhere else to go because there’s a scene where he continually yells, “I ain’t got nowhere else to go!” over and over again.  He yells it after being forced to do a thousand push-ups and sit-ups by his drill sergeant, Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.)  Foley thinks that Mayo doesn’t have the right attitude to be either an officer or a gentleman.  Mayo is determined to prove him wrong.

I AIN’T GOT–

Oh give it a rest, Mayo!

Debra Winger plays Paula.  Paula is a townie.  She lives in a dilapidated house with her parents.  Her friend, Lynette (Lisa Blount), dreams of marrying a Naval officer and getting to travel the world.  Lynette gets involved with Mayo’s friend, Sid Worley (David Keith).  Foley warns both Sid and Mayo to stay away from the townie girls because they’re not to be trusted.  That turns out to be true in Lynette’s case but Paula’s love provides Mayo with the strength that he needs to believe in something more than just himself.

I AIN’T–

Yes, you do have some place to go, Mayo!  That’s the point of the whole goddamn movie!

Anyway, watching An Officer and a Gentleman, I was kind of surprised to discover that it’s actually two movies in one.  It’s a traditional army training film, one in which Richard Gere is whipped into shape by a tough drill sergeant.  It’s also a film about life in an economically depressed small town, where the only hope of escape comes from marrying the right aviation officer candidate.  As a military film it’s predictable if occasionally effective.  As a film about small town life, it’s surprisingly poignant.  An Officer And A Gentleman doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to depicting just how little life in the town has to offer to people like Paula and Lynette.  They have spent their entire lives being told they can either work in a factory for minimum wage and get drunk on the weekend or they can land a man who will hopefully take them away from all that and give them something more to look forward to than cirrhosis of the liver.  Lynette has accepted that as being her only option.  While Paula dreams of escape, she dreams of escaping on her terms.  She may fall in love with Mayo but she’s not going to pretend to be someone that she’s not just to keep him around.

Though he’s evolved into a good character actor, Richard Gere was remarkably blank-faced when he was younger and his performance as Mayo alternates between being bland and shrill.  However, Debra Winger brings a welcome edge to her role.  She plays Paula as someone who knows she’s stuck in a dead end existence.  She’s not happy about it but, at the same time, she’s not going to surrender her principles in order to escape.  She holds onto her ideals, even though she appears to be stuck in a crappy situation and that’s something that Mayo learns from her.  In the end, Paula saves Mayo just as surely as the Navy does.  And, just as Paula saves Mayo, Winger saves the movie.

I AIN’T GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!

Oh, shut the Hell up, Mayo.  Go pick up Paula and carry her off to a better life….

Film Review: Thank God, It’s Friday (dir by Robert Klane)


529thank_god_its_friday

So, I just finished watching Thank God, It’s Friday, a movie from 1978.  It’s an episodic comedy, one that follows a group of genuinely unlikable characters as they all gather in one genuinely unlikable location and proceed to have some fairly generic experiences.

For example, there’s the married couple and the husband needs to loosen up.  There’s the DJ who is going to lose his job if he can’t deliver the big stars that he’s promised.  There’s the short, violent guy who is upset because he’s been set up on a date with a tall woman.  There’s the dental hygienist who comes across like she’s desperately trying to convince everyone that she’s eccentric when she’s really just boring.  (We all know the type.)  There’s the teenager girls who try to sneak into the club, despite being underage.  There’s the two dorky guys who are looking for love.  There’s the two dorky girls who are looking for love.

In fact, everyone in the movie is looking for love!  Except for Jeff Goldblum!  He just wants to get laid.  He manages the club where everyone has gathered on this particular Friday.  He’s a womanizer.  We can tell because he wears a red jacket and his shirt is half-buttoned.  Goldblum decides that he wants to break up the married couple.  Boo!  Hiss!  But wait a minute — neither the husband nor the wife are likable or interesting.  Go, Jeff, go!  BREAK UP THAT BORINGASS MARRIAGE!

Oh!  And Nicole (Donna Summer) is wandering around the club too.  She wants a chance to perform but the DJ refuses to let her.  So, eventually, she just grabs a microphone and she starts to sing.  Luckily, the song she sings is Last Dance and, by singing it, she gives everyone an excuse to go home.  If you’ve ever been to a karaoke night, you know that, as soon as a drunk sings Last Dance, it’s time to pay the bill and get the Hell out of there.

Last Dance was apparently written specifically for Thank God, It’s Friday.  Or maybe Thank God, It’s Friday was written specifically for Last Dance, who knows?  What we do know is that Last Dance won the Oscar for Best Original Song.  That’s right — Thank God, It’s Friday is an Oscar winner and therefore, will always be enshrined with fellow Oscar winners like Crash, Titanic, and SPECTRE.

(Which songs did Thank God, It’s Friday beat?  It defeated a song from Grease, which is a good thing because Grease is even more annoying than Thank God, It’s Friday.  That’s right, I said it.  And you know it’s true.)

Anyway, Thank God, It’s Friday is a really bad movie, one that is full of bad writing, bad jokes, bad performances, and indifferent direction.  It’s tempting to say that the music was really good but actually, we don’t hear much of the music.  The movie is often more concerned about what’s happening in the club’s parking lot than in what is happening (and being heard) on the inside.  We may not hear much music but we do get to see some pretty icky racial stereotyping and who would guess that a movie about disco would be so homophobic?

(We don’t see any cocaine, though I’m sure you could probably hear the key grip and the gaffer snorting a line off-camera if you listened closely enough.  A lot of the cast looked pretty wired.)

ANYWAY — here’s the important thing about Thank God, It’s Friday.  Occasionally, I’ll watch a movie like Dazed and Confused or Boogie Nights or Saturday Night Fever and I’ll get jealous because I know that I’ll never get a chance to experience the 70s first hand.  Fortunately, something like Thank God, It’s Friday will always be around to reassure me, “No, Lisa.  The 70s sucked!”

Thank God, it’s Friday?

No, thank God the movie’s over.

"Is it Friday yet!?"

“Is it Friday yet!?”

Actually, you know what?  I can’t end this review without sharing this film’s trailer:

Doesn’t Skatetown, USA look better?

Oh well!  Sing us out of here, Donna!

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #72: Terms of Endearment (dir by James L. Brooks)


Terms_of_Endearment,_1983_film

I have to admit that, when I first sat down and watched the 1983 best picture winner Terms of Endearment, I was actually taken by surprise.  Before I actually saw it, I was under the impression that Terms of Endearment was considered to be one of the weaker films to win best picture.  I had read a few reviews online that were rather dismissive of Terms, describing it as being well-made but overrated.

But then, a few weeks ago, I watched Terms of Endearment on Netflix.  The film started with a scene of new mother Aurora Greenwood (Shirley MacClaine) obsessively checking on her daughter, Emma.  Stepping into the bedroom, Aurora is, at first, scared that Emma’s dead.  Without bothering to take off her high heels, Aurora nearly climbs into the crib to check on her.  Fortunately, Emma starts to cry.

And I laughed because I’ve been told about how my mom used to obsessively check in on me when I was a baby.  And, while my mom was never the type to wear high heels around the house, I could still imagine her climbing into a crib to check on me and my sisters.

And then, when Emma (now played by Debra Winger) married Flap Horton (a very young Jeff Daniels) over the objections of her mother, I smiled but I didn’t laugh because, in this case, I was relating to Emma.  Because the fact of the matter is that every girl has known a boy like Flap Horton, the smart and funny guy who is destined to ultimately hurt her.

And when Flap got a job in Des Moines and Emma moved from Houston to Iowa, I knew — as did Aurora — what was going to happen.  I knew that Flap would deal with his insecurity over not being a good provider for his wife and children by cheating on his wife.  And when he did, I wanted to cry with Emma.

But then I wanted to cheer when Emma has an affair of her own.  In the role of Sam, John Lithgow doesn’t have much screen time in Terms of Endearment but he does get the best line.  When a rude cashier claims that she doesn’t feel that she was being rude to Emma, Sam replies, “Then you must be from New York.”

Meanwhile, the widowed Aurora is having an affair of her own.  Jack Nicholson plays Garrett Breedlove, a former astronaut who now has both a drinking problem and a house with a pool.  Garrett gets Aurora to loosen up.  Aurora makes Garrett realize that he actually is capable of being a decent guy.  MacClaine and Nicholson both won Oscars for their performances here and they deserved them.

And then, Emma was diagnosed with cancer.  And I cried and cried because, at this point, I had come to think of Emma and Aurora as being real people.  And when Emma told her friends that she was dying and she spent her final days with her children, I sobbed because it made me think about my mom.  And now I’m sobbing as I write this review.

But it’s a great film, even if it did make me cry.  Because, in the end, you’re glad that you got to know these characters.  And, even through the tears, the film leaves you happy that you got to spend some time with them.

And isn’t that what a great film is supposed to do?

Scenes I Love: An Officer and a Gentleman


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The latest “Scenes I Love” comes courtesy of An Officer and a Gentleman.

This ending sequence to the film has become an iconic scene when one talks about some of the best romantic scenes in film. The film itself was your modern take on the age-old two people from the wrong-sides of the track falling for each other.

The ending scene made the film memorable in the end. It helped that the song written and composed for the film, “Up Where We Belong,” and sung as a duet by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes became as big of a hit as the film itself.

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You know that a scene has become a cultural mainstay when The Simpsons did a parody of it which ended up being just as memorable as the original.

Up Where We Belong

Who knows what tomorrow brings
in a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
when it’s real I keep it alive the road is long
There are mountains in our way
but we climb the stairway every day

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high
love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world below up where the clear winds blow

Some hang on to used to be
live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
all our lives out there to find
The road is long and there are moutains in our way
but we climb the stairway every day

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high
love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world we know
where the clear wind blows

Time goes by no time cry
life’s you and I alive

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high
love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world we know
where the clear winds blow

Love lifts us up where we belong
far from the world we know
where the clear winds blow

Love lifts us up where we belong
where the eagles cry on a mountain high