The Films of 2020: Dolittle (dir by Stephen Gaghan)


Dolittle tells the story of Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey, Jr.), the eccentric doctor who can talk to the animals and who hasn’t had much use for humans ever since the tragic death of his wife, Lily (Kasia Smutniak).  Dolittle would be happy to just spend his entire life locked away in his estate, talking to Poly the Parrot (voice of Emma Thompson) and Chee-Chee the Gorilla (voice of Rami Malek) and all of the other animals but Dolitle has to eventually leave his home because otherwise, there wouldn’t be a movie.

When Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) is mysteriously taken ill, only Dolittle can save her.  Dolittle quickly realizes that the Queen has been poisoned and that the only cure for the poison is to be found on a tree that’s located on an island that no one has ever seen before.  Soon, Dolittle and the animals are sailing in search of the island.  Accompanying them is Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), a sensitive teen who hates to hunt and who hopes to become Dolittle’s apprentice.  Pursuing Dolittle is the evil Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen), who went to college with Dolittle and who is in cahoots with the conspirators who are trying to do away with Queen Victoria.

Got all of that?  I hope so because we haven’t even gotten to the dragon with a set of bagpipes crammed up her ass.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Last year, Dolittle was one of the few major studio productions to actually get a wide release before COVID-19 closed down all the theaters.  It was released in January, which is traditionally the time when studios release the films that they hope everyone will have forgotten about by the time April rolls around.  January is traditionally the month when studios release the films that they know aren’t any good.  And, indeed, the reviews of Dolittle were overwhelmingly negative.  Not only did the critics hate Dolittle but audiences were also rather unenthusiastic and the film bombed at the box office.  Indeed, under normal circumstances, the reaction to Dolittle and its subsequent box office failure would be considered one of the year’s biggest disasters.  However, 2020 was a year of disasters.  Compared to everything else that ended up happening over the past 12 months, Dolittle’s lukewarm reception seems almost quaint now.

Earlier today, I finally watched Dolittle on HBOMax.  I was expecting the film to be terrible but it’s actually not quite as bad as I had been led to believe.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  Dolittle has a ton of problems.  The tone is all over the place as the film tries to mix cartoonish humor with thrilling adventure in a style that owes more to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise than it does to Dr. Dolittle.  Despite a few self-consciously manic moments, Robert Downey, Jr. seems remarkably bored in the lead role.  Many of the jokes fall flat and the awkward attempts to shoehorn the usual message of “be true to yourself” into the film just felt awkward.  That said, the CGI animals were cute enough to hold my interest and that’s really the most important thing when it comes to a film like Dolittle.  Cute animals — even computer generated ones — help to make up for a lot of flaws.

Dolittle’s final scene hints at a sequel or even a franchise.  Considering the reaction to the first film, I doubt we’ll get a second.  I do think Dr. Dolittle could make for an enjoyable PIXAR film but it might be time to give the live action adaptations a rest.

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Honor Nomadland


The Alliance of Women Film Journalists have announced that their pick for the best of 2020 is Nomadland.  Just as the AWFJ did with their nominations, they announced the winners in an exclusive for Variety.  Fear not, though — my picks for the best of 2020 will be released exclusively to this site.  Two can play at this game.

(I joke, of course.  Ever since Clayton Davis took over, Variety’s Oscar coverage has been wonderful and the AWFJ deserves a lot of credit for having categories that are a bit more interesting than the usual stuff.)

Anyway, here’s the winners!

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS

(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film

  • “Minari” (A24)
  • “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER

Best Actor

  • Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
  • Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress 

  • Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role 

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
  • Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
  • Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24) – WINNER

Best Screenplay, Original 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted

  • “First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film

  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix)
  • “Soul” (Pixar) – WINNER
  • “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing 

  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary 

  • “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Athlete A” (Netflix)
  • “Crip Camp” (Netflix)
  • “The Painter and the Thief” (Neon) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film

  • “Another Round” – Denmark – WINNER
  • “Beanpole” – Russia
  • “The Mole Agent” – Chile
  • “The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

  • “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin – WINNER (tie)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler – WINNER (tie)

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS

(These awards honor WOMEN only, excluding women who’ve won the category in the Best Of Awards.

Best Woman Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female 

  • “22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey – WINNER
  • “Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
  • “Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
  • Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry 

  • All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
  • All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” The Glorias” and others. – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
  • Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.

  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
  • Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award 

  • “The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
  • “Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
  • “Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
  • “Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years) – WINNER

She Deserves A New Agent Award 

  • Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
  • Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios) – WINNER

Most Daring Performance Award 

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ (Amazon Studios) – WINNER
  • Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award 

  • “The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
  • “Doolittle” (Universal Pictures) – WINNER
  • “Rebecca” (Netflix)

Here Are The 2020 Nominations of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists!


Earlier on Wednesday, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists announced their nominations for the best and the worst of 2020.  The nominations were announced in the pages of Variety and you can read more about them by clicking here.

Nomadland led with the most nominations which seems to be the way that the awards season is going to go.  Personally, when it comes to the AWFJ, I’m always more interested in the snarky nominations than in the serious ones.  For instance, the nominees for the She Deserves A New Agent award always leave me thinking.

The nominations are below.  The winners will be announced on January 4th.

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS
(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film
“Minari” (A24)
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)

Best Screenplay, Original
“Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted
“First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film
“Over the Moon” (Netflix)
“Soul” (Pixar)
“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography
“Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary
“All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios)
“Athlete A” (Netflix)
“Crip Camp” (Netflix)
“The Painter and the Thief” (Neon)
“Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film
“Another Round” – Denmark
“Beanpole” – Russia
“The Mole Agent” – Chile
“The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director
“Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS
(These awards honor WOMEN only)

Best Woman Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female
“22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey
“Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
“Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry
All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” “The Glorias” and others.
Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award
“The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
“The Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
“Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
“Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years)

She Deserves A New Agent Award
Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios)

Most Daring Performance Award
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award
“The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
“Dolittle” (Universal Pictures)
“Rebecca” (Netflix)

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award
Shia LeBoeuf for his ongoing abusive behavior
Christopher Nolan for insisting that “Tenet” be screened exclusively in theaters during a pandemic.
Dallas Sonnier and Adam Donaghey at Cinestate for sexual harassment, abuse and cover-up.