Lisa’s Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for January


It’s a new year and that means that it’s once again time for me to do something spectacularly stupid.

Below, you’ll find a list of Oscar predictions.  However, this is not a list of what I think will be nominated on January 13th.  No, instead, these are my predictions for the upcoming year.  This the first installment of my monthly predictions for which 2020 films will be nominated next year at this time.

Just in case it’s not already obvious how foolish this is, consider the following: Last year, at this time, no one had heard of Parasite.  Maybe a handful of people knew that Noah Baumbach’s next film was going to be called Marriage Story.  There were vague rumors about 1917 and there were still serious doubts as to whether Scorsese would ever finish putting together The Irishman.  In short, trying to predict the Oscars 12 months out is impossible.

Needless to say, I haven’t seen a single one of these films listed below so I can’t tell you one way or the other whether or not they’re going to set the world on fire.  Instead, what is listed below is a combination of random guesses and my own gut feelings.  You’ll notice that there are a lot of big names listed, Spielberg, Anthony Hopkins, Ron Howard, and Glenn Close.  Yes, all of them could very well be Oscar contenders.  At the same time, they’re all also a known quantity.  They’ve all got a good track record with the Academy and, as of right now, that’s all that I have to go on.

You may also notice that I’ve listed several films that will, in just a few weeks, be playing at the Sundance Film Festival.  Again, it’s not that I know anything about these films that the rest of the world doesn’t.  Instead, it’s simply a case of I looked at the list of Sundance films, I read the plots, and a few times I said, “That sounds like it could potentially be a contender.”  After all, it seems like at least one nominee comes out of Sundance every year.  Why shouldn’t it happen again?

My point is that you shouldn’t take these predictions too seriously.  Some of the films and performers below may be nominated.  Some definitely will not be.  But, next year, we will at least be able to look back at this list and have a laugh!

So, without further ado, here are my Oscar predictions for January!

Best Picture

Dune

Hillbilly Elegy

The Many Saints of Newark

Minari

News of the World

Respect

Tenet

The Personal History of David Copperfield

The Trial of the Chicago 7

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy

Christopher Nolan for Tenet

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper in Bernstein

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Lance Henriksen in Falling

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Michael Keaton in Worth

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy

Glenn Close in Four Good Days

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Elisabeth Moss in Shirley

Amy Ryan in Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Last Thing He Wanted

Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Mark Rylance in The Trial of the Chicago 7

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Tilda Swinton in The Personal Life of David Copperfield

Marisa Tomei in The King of Staten Island

Helena Zengel in News of the World

The Boston Society of Film Critics Names Little Women As The Best of 2019!


The Boston Society of Film Critics today named their picks for the best of 2019 and they did not pick Parasite or The Irishman for best picture.  Nor did the pick Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, 1917, or Knives Out.  Instead, the BSFC picked Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, which has — so far — been flying a bit under the awards season radar.

Will this provide a boost to Little Women’s chances or will this be an outlier?  We’ll find out soon enough!  For now, here are the winners:

Best Picture: LITTLE WOMEN
Runner-up: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

Best Director: Bong Joon Ho, PARASITE
Runner-up: Greta Gerwig, LITTLE WOMEN

Best Actor: Adam Sandler, UNCUT GEMS
Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER

Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan (LITTLE WOMEN)
Runners up: TIE – Elisabeth Moss (HER SMELL) and Mary Kay Place (DIANE)

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt (ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD)
Runner up: Joe Pesci (THE IRISHMAN)

Best Supporting Actress LAURA DERN (MARRIAGE STORY)
Runner up: Florence Pugh for (LITTLE WOMEN)

Best Ensemble Cast: LITTLE WOMEN
Runners-up: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD and PARASITE

Best Screenplay: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Runners-up: MARRIAGE STORY and LITTLE WOMEN

Best Cinematography: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE
Runner up: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Best Editing: THE IRISHMAN
Runner-up: UNCUT GEMS

Best Original Score: LITTLE WOMEN
Runner-up: THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

Best Foreign Language Film: PARASITE
Runner-up: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

Best Animated Film: I LOST MY BODY
Runner up: TOY STORY 4

Best Documentary: HONEYLAND
Runners-up: APOLLO 11 and HAIL, SATAN?

Best New Filmmaker: Joe Talbot for THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Runner up: Mati Diop for ATLANTICS

Film Review: The Kitchen (dir by Andrea Berloff)


Eh.  Who cares?

I mean, seriously, do you understand what I mean?  Sometimes, you just see a film that leaves you feeling so indifferent that it’s a struggle to even think of anything to say about it.  That’s the way I feel about The Kitchen, which is neither bad enough to hatewatch nor good enough to recommend.  It’s a mediocre film, one that would be totally forgettable if not for a few remarkably inept choices made by the director and the cast.

Melissa McCarthy is Kathy Brennan.  Tiffany Haddish is Ruby O’Connell.  Elisabeth Moss is Claire Walsh.  The year is 1978 and all three of them live in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York.  All three of them are also married to men who are involved with the Irish Mob.  When their husbands all get busted by the FBI and the new mob boss refuses to help the three women pay the bills, they team up and take over the neighborhood themselves.  With the help of their number one enforcer, Gabriel O’Malley (Domhnall Gleeson), the women prove that they can be even more ruthless than their husbands and their competitors.

And really, this should have been fun.  I’m all about girl power and I’m half-Irish.  If I was going to join the mob, I would definitely join the Irish Mob.  But, seriously, The Kitchen is not just a mess but it’s a dreadfully heavy-handed mess as well.  I knew that this film was going to suck as soon as James Brown started singing, “This is a man’s world,” over the opening credits because it was just such an obvious choice to go with.  To me, picking the song showed that the filmmakers weren’t really interested in giving too much thought to what the film was about.  Instead, they just said, “Hey, that’s a really on-the-nose choice!  Let’s go with it!”  About an hour later, Clare and Gabriel were making love while Carry On My Wayward Son blasted on the soundtrack and I found myself wondering if this film’s soundtrack was put together by listening to a random classic rock station and just jotting down the names of the first ten songs that were played.

Adding to the disappointing atmosphere of the film is a talented cast, everyone of whom appears to be acting in a different movie from everyone else.  Melissa McCarthy, for instance, gets all of the dramatic scenes but gives a comedic performance, one that feels like it’s been assembled from outtakes of the “awkward humor” bits of Ghostbusters.  Tiffany Haddish is ruthless but it’s a very one-note type of ruthlessness.  It gets boring after a while.  Elisabeth Moss gives the best performance out of the three but her character often seems to be pushed to the side.  Once Claire starts threatening to shoot people, you can tell that the film doesn’t know what to do with her.

You also have to feel bad for the supporting cast, all of whom deserve better than this film.  Annabella Sciorra plays a Mafia wife who walks up to the women in the middle of the street and tells them that they’re just like Gloria Steinem and, when she shows up, you can’t help but think that Sciorra would have been a better pick for the role of Kathy than Melissa McCarthy.  Then Common shows up as an FBI agent because, for some reason, Common always plays a member of law enforcement in films like this.  Margo Matindale gets a few good scenes as an Irish mafia matriarch but her character disappears from the film far too quickly.

It’s a mess of a film.  Kathy, Ruby, and Claire’s rise to power happens too abruptly to be credible and none of the subsequent betrayals make much sense.  Appropriately, for a gangster film, it’s violent but the violence is so repetitive that it gets a little bit dull after a while.  None of the characters are really memorable enough for their subsequent deaths to generate much of a reaction.  An hour into the film, you just find yourself thinking, “Oh, hey, that dude’s dead now.  Yay, I guess.”  Much like Captain Marvel, The Kitchen often seems to only be interested in girl power as a way to disguise the fact that the script kind of sucks.  I kept waiting for one of the male gangsters to shout, “The ancient prophecy said that I will be defeated by no man!,” just so Melissa McCarthy could respond, “Yes …. by no man!” It didn’t happen but maybe they’ll get around to it in the sequel.

Here Are The 2019 Independent Spirit Award Nominees!


Here are the 2019 Indie Spirit Award nominations!  These nominations are meant to honor the best independent films of 2019 and their announcement marks the official beginning of awards season (at least as far as this sight is concerned!)  I hate to say it but I still need to see quite a few of the films nominated below so, for now, I’ll hold off on any editorial commentary.

For those looking for some sort of evidence of how the Oscar nominations can go, the Independent Spirit Awards can be an iffy precursor, just because several of the expensive, major studio contenders aren’t eligible to nominated.  (For instance, neither The Irishman nor Once Upon A Time In Hollywood were eligible.)  That said, for the record, the two biggest Spirit nominees are The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems.  Waves and The Farewell, which have been the center of considerable Oscar speculation, did not do as strongly in the nominations as many people apparently expected.  Make of that what you will!

Here are the nominees!

Best Supporting Female

  • Jennifer Lopez – HUSTLERS
  • Taylor Russell – WAVES
  • Zhao Shuzhen – THE FAREWELL
  • Lauren “Lolo” Spencer – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Octavia Spencer – LUCE
  • Best Supporting Male
  • Willem Dafoe – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Noah Jupe – HONEY BOY
  • Shia Labeouf – HONEY BOY
  • Jonathan Majors – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • Wendell Pierce – BURNING CANE

Best Screenplay

  • Noah Baumbach – MARRIAGE STORY
  • Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder – TO DUST
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Chinonye Chukwu – CLEMENCY
  • Tarell Alvin Mccraney – HIGH FLYING BIRD

Best First Screenplay

  • Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol – SEE YOU YESTERDAY
  • Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen – DRIVEWAYS
  • Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy – BLOW THE MAN DOWN
  • Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe – GREENER GRASS
  • James Montague, Craig W. Sanger – THE VAST OF NIGHT

Best Cinematography

  • Todd Banhazl – HUSTLERS
  • Jarin Blaschke – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Natasha Braier – HONEY BOY
  • Chananun Chotrungroj – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Pawel Pogorzelski – MIDSOMMAR

Best Editing

  • Julie Béziau – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Tyler L. Cook – SWORD OF TRUST
  • Louise Ford – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Kirill Mikhanovsky – GIVE ME LIBERTY

Best International Film

  • INVISIBLE LIFE, Brazil
  • LES MISERABLES, France
  • PARASITE, South Korea
  • PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, France
  • RETABLO, Peru
  • THE SOUVENIR, United Kingdom

Best Documentary (Award given to the director and producer)

  • AMERICAN FACTORY
  • APOLLO 11
  • FOR SAMA
  • HONEYLAND
  • ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS

The John Cassavetes Award is presented to the best feature made for under $500,000 and is given to the writer, director, and producer. 2020 #SpiritAwards Nominees are:

  • BURNING CANE
  • COLEWELL
  • GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • PREMATURE
  • WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY

Best Female Lead

  • Karen Allen – COLEWELL
  • Hong Chau – DRIVEWAYS
  • Elisabeth Moss – HER SMELL
  • Mary Kay Place – DIANE
  • Alfre Woodard – CLEMENCY
  • Renée Zellweger – JUDY

Best Male Lead 

  • Chris Galust – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Kelvin Harrison  Jr., – LUCE
  • Robert Pattinson – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Adam Sandler – UNCUT GEMS
  • Matthias Schoenaerts – THE MUSTANG

Best First Feature (Award given to the director and producer)

  • BOOKSMART
  • THE CLIMB
  • DIANE
  • THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • THE MUSTANG
  • SEE YOU YESTERDAY

Best Feature [award given to the producer(s)]

  • A HIDDEN LIFE
  • CLEMENCY
  • THE FAREWELL
  • MARRIAGE STORY
  • UNCUT GEMS

Best Director

  • Robert Eggers – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Alma Har’el – HONEY BOY
  • Julius Onah – LUCE
  • Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Lorene Scafaria – HUSTLERS

The Robert Altman Award is given to the ensemble cast, director & casting director of one film: MARRIAGE STORY – Noah Baumbach, Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler, Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever

The Truer Than Fiction Award, in its 25th year, is for emerging directors of non-fiction features and includes an unrestricted grant. Finalists:
Khalik Allah – BLACK MOTHER
Davy Rothbart – 17 BLOCKS
Nadia Shihab – JADDOLAND
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside – AMÉRICA

The Producers Award, now in its 23rd year, honors emerging producers who demonstrate creativity, tenacity and vision, despite highly limited resources. The award includes an unrestricted grant. These are the finalists:
Mollye Asher
Krista Parris
Ryan Zacarias

The Someone To Watch Award, in its 26th year, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision and includes an unrestricted grant. The finalists are:
Rashaad Ernesto Green – PREMATURE
Ash Mayfair – THE THIRD WIFE
Joe Talbot – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

The Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant. The 2020 Film Independent #SpiritAwards Bonnie Award finalists are:
MarielleHeller
KellyReichardt
LuluWang

Here’s The Trailer For The Invisible Man


Sorry, everyone!  I’ve been so busy this week that I’m a little bit late in sharing this trailer.  All apologies!

Without any further delay, here’s the trailer for The Invisible Man, which features Elisabeth Moss being menaced by her abusive ex!  It appears that, having faked his own death, he is using a formula designed by Moss to torment her without being seen! Seriously, he couldn’t even come up with his own invisibility formula?  What a jerk!

This comes out on February 28th so, if you have a bad Valentine’s Day next year, just remember that you have this to look forward to!

Here’s the trailer!

Horror Film Review: Us (dir by Jordan Peele)


“They’re us,” a child says in Jordan Peele’s second film, Us.

And indeed, they are.  Us suggests that everyone has at least one doppelganger, living underground in conditions of absolutely misery and awkwardly imitating the same lives as those above ground, just without any of the rewards that those of us above-ground take for granted.  Those underground are known as the Tethered, because they’re permanently tied to those of us above ground.  Of course, what’s easily overlooked is that we’red tied to them as well.  Or, at least, we are until someone picks up a knife or a pair of scissors and violently severs the connection.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the film’s title — Us — can just as easily be read as U.S, as in the United States.  Jordan Peele may have said that he wanted Us to be a full-on horror film, as opposed to Get Out‘s mix of comedy, horror, and social commentary, but Us definitely has its political subtext, with the Tethered meant to stand in for every marginalized group that has been pushed underground by American society.  Though the film may have been inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone, it actually has more in common with the classic British shocker, Death Line (a.k.a. Raw Meat.)  There’s not a huge amount of difference between the largely mute Tethered and the pathetic cannibal in Death Line who, after growing up in the British Underground, is capable of only telling his victims to “Mind the doors.”

If nothing else, Us proves that Jordan Peele actually is a good filmmaker with a firm grasp on how to make an effective horror movie.  Get Out was good but also, I think, a bit overpraised by mainstream critics who often seemed to not realize just how much, in their attempts to make sure that we understood just how much they loved and understood the movie, they sounded like Bradley Whitford bragging about how he would have voted for Obama a third time.  When Us came out, a lot of viewers were waiting to see if Peele’s second film could possibly live up to all the hype surrounding its director and, for the most part, it does.

Political subtext aside, this is the all-out horror film that Peele promised, full of jump scares, disturbing imagery, and just enough humor to keep things from getting too unbearably nightmarish.  (As bad as you might feel for Elisabeth Moss’s character and her family, it’s hard not to appreciate the irony of the film’s Alexa-substitute misunderstanding a command to call the police.)  Interestingly enough, the Tethered are pretty much homicidal as soon as they come above ground.  This isn’t a case where a tragic misunderstanding leads to bloodshed that could have been avoided.  No, this is a case where the Tethered have spent decades trapped and out-of-sight and they’re pissed off about it.  Just because the Tethered may be us, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to have any sympathy for us when they finally do track us down.  In the style of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Have Eyes, Us follows a perfect family as they eventually find themselves resorting to the same violence as the Tethered, in an attempt to save not only their lives but also the lifestyle that they’ve come to take for granted.  The Tethred are us indeed.

The film is well-acted, with Lupita Nyong’o standing out as both the mother of an imperiled family and her doppelganger, who has spent years underground and who is one of the few Tethered to be able to speak.  Of course, there’s a twist at the end of the movie and I won’t ruin it here, other than to say that it’s effectively done and will actually make you reconsider everything that you’ve just seen.

Us is another triumph from Jordan Peele.  Even more importantly, it’s an undeniably effective horror film.

Here’s The Trailer For The Kitchen


The Kitchen, which will be coming out in August, is one of those films about which I am cautiously optimistic.

It’s about three women in 1970s New York.  Each one is married to a member of the Irish mafia.  When their husbands all end up getting arrested by the FBI, the women take control of the rackets themselves.  This, of course, brings them into conflict with the old and patriarchal Italian mob.

It is it a comedy?  Well, it does star TIffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy as two of the of the wives.  However, though they both may be thought of as being primarily comedic actresses, Haddish is a critical favorite right now and McCarthy has two Oscar nominations despite the fact that she’s appeared in some truly terrible movies over the past few years.  Both of them have proven that they can handle drama just as well as comedy.

So, is this a drama?  Well, as you can see in the trailer below, it does appear to feature Elisabeth Moss falling in love with violence.  In fact, the trailer features a few people getting killed but it also appears to take a rather jaunty approach to all the death.  “Oh look!  He’s sitting on the toilet and he got shot!”

So, I’m going to guess that this film is going to try to balance both comedy and drama.  That approach, when it works, can lead to wonderful things.  And when it doesn’t work …. well, let’s not even think about it.

I will say this — the trailer’s glimpse of 42nd Street is gorgeous!

Anyway, here’s the trailer for Widows …. I mean, The Kitchen: