What If Lisa Had All The Power: 2019 Emmy Nominations Edition


In a few hours, the 2019 Emmy nominations will be announced!

Since I love awards and I love making lists, it’s an annual tradition that I list who and what would be nominated if I had all the power.  Keep in mind that what you’re seeing below are not necessarily my predictions of what or who will actually be nominated.  Many of the shows listed below will probably be ignored tomorrow morning.  Instead, this is a list of the nominees and winners if I was the one who was solely responsible for picking them.

Because I got off to a late start this year, I’m only listing the major categories below.  I may go back and do a full, 100-category list sometime tomorrow.  Who knows?  I do love making lists.

Anyway, here’s what would be nominated and what would win if I had all the power!  (Winners are listed in bold.)

(Want to see who and what was nominated for Emmy consideration this year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for last year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for 2012?  I know, that’s kinda random.  Anyway, click here!)

Programming

Outstanding Comedy Series

Barry

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

GLOW

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

One Day At A Time

Veep

Vida

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul

Dynasty

Flack

Game of Thrones

The Magicians

My Brilliant Friend

Ozark

You

Outstanding Limited Series

Chernobyl

Fosse/Verdon

The Haunting of Hill House

I Am The Night

Maniac

Sharp Objects

True Detective

A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Television Movie

The Bad Seed

Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Brexit

Deadwood

King Lear

Native Son

No One Would Tell

O.G.

Performer

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Iain Armitage in Young Sheldon

Ted Danson in The Good Place

Bill Hader in Barry

Pete Holmes in Crashing

Glenn Howerton in A.P. Bio

Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Penn Badgley in You

Jason Bateman in Ozark

James Franco in The Deuce

John Krasinski in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul

Dominic West in The Affair

Outstanding Lead Actor In a Limited Series

Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal

Jared Harris in Chernobyl

Jonah Hill in Maniac

Chris Pine in I Am The Night

Sam Rockwell in Fosse/Verdon

Henry Thomas in The Haunting of Hill House

Outstanding Lead Actor In An Original Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch in Brexit

Anthony Hopkins in King Lear

Rob Lowe in The Bad Seed

Ian McShane in Deadwood

Timothy Olyphant in Deadwood

Jeffrey Wright in O.G.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

Melissa Barrera in Vida

Kristen Bell in The Good Place

Alison Brie in GLOW

Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

Zoe Perry in Young Sheldon

Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama Series

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones

Gaia Girace in My Brilliant Friend

Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Deuce

Laura Linney in Ozark

Margherita Mazzucco in My Brilliant Friend

Anna Paquin in Flack

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

India Eisley in I Am The Night

Carla Gugino in The Haunting of Hill House

Charlotte Hope in The Spanish Princess

Emma Stone in Maniac

Michelle Williams in Fosse/Verdon

Outstanding Lead Actress in an Original Movie

Shannen Doherty in No One Would Tell

Chelsea Frei in Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter

McKenna Grace in The Bad Seed

Paula Malcolmson in Deadwood

Molly Parker in Deadwood

Christina Ricci in Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Fred Armisen in Documentary Now!

Andre Braugher in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Anthony Carrigan in Barry

Tony Hale in Veep

Sam Richardson in Veep

Stephen Root in Barry

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones

Giancarlo Esposito in Better Call Saul

Peter Mullan in Ozark

Luca Padovan in You

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series

Stephen Dorff in True Detective

Timothy Hutton in The Haunting of Hill House

Chris Messina in Sharp Objects

Stellan Skarsgard in Chernobyl

Justin Thereoux in Maniac

Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Supporting Actor In An Original Movie

Jim Broadbent in King Lear

Bill Camp in Native Son

Theothus Carter in O.G.

Rory Kinnear in Brexit

Gerald McRaney in Deadwood

Will Poulter in Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Comedy Series

Caroline Aaron in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Alex Borstein in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Anna Chlumsky in Veep

Sarah Goldberg in Barry

Rita Moreno in One Day At A Time

Sarah Sutherland in Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Summer Bishil in The Magicians

Elisa Del Genio in My Brilliant Friend

Julia Garner in Ozark

Lena Headey in Game of Thrones

Elizabeth Lail in You

Shay Mitchell in You

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series

Jessie Buckley in Chernobyl

Patricia Clarkson in Sharp Objects

Sally Field in Maniac

Patricia Hodge in A Very English Scandal

Connie Nielsen in I Am The Night

Emily Watson in Chernobyl

Outstanding Supporting Actress In An Original Movie

Kim Dickens in Deadwood

Florence Pugh in King Lear

Margaret Qualley in Favorite Son

Emma Thompson in King Lear

Emily Watson in King Lear

Robin Weigert in Deadwood

 

Film Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (dir by Matthew Vaughn)


Before I say too much about Kingsman: The Golden Circle, I do want to acknowledge a few good things about the movie.

First off, it doesn’t take long for the film to reveal that Harry (Colin Firth) didn’t actually die when Samuel L. Jackson shot him in the head in the first movie.  Undoubtedly, that diminishes the power of that scene but, at the same time, it also means that Colin Firth gets to come back.

Secondly, Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy.  The script really doesn’t give him too many opportunities to show what he’s capable of as an actor, largely because the character of Eggsy was fully developed by the end of the first movie.  Now that Eggsy is a fully trained and competent Kingsman, there’s not really much for him to do other than trade a few quips and take a few lives.  That said, Egerton is a likable actor and he’s fun to watch.

Third, Julianne Moore has a few fun scenes as the film’s main villain, Poppy Adams.  Poppy is the head of an international drug cartel.  She’s also obsessed with the 1950s and always amazingly cheerful.

Fourth, all of the Kingsmen still wear suits and Michael Caine-style glasses.  Colin Firth gets to use his umbrella as a shield.

Finally, Mark Strong is back as Merlin.

So, that’s five good things about Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  Unfortunately, all five of those things are somewhat obscured by the fact that the movie really, really sucks.

Admittedly, I had really high hopes for the movie.  I loved the first Kingsman film, which was a stylish satire that featured one of the greatest action set pieces of all time.  And I was excited to see that not only was Firth returning but Matthew Vaughn would also be directing the sequel.

But no.  This movie just doesn’t work.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle attempts to do everything on a larger scale than the first Kingsman.  That means more violence, more betrayals, and a longer running time.  This time, the movie not only features the Kingsmen but also the Statesmen, which is the American equivalent of the Kingsmen.  (The Statesmen all dress like cowboys and speak in exaggerated Southern drawls, which I got kind of sick of listening to after about three minutes.)  Along with the returning stars of the first film, Jeff Bridges, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum all have small roles.  Pedro Pascal (best known for playing Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones) has a much larger role as a Statesman codenamed Whiskey.

Unfortunately, bigger is not always better.  The Golden Circle never comes close to matching the lunatic heights of the first movie.  There are a lot of action scenes but none of them match the church fight from the first film.  There’s a surprise death but it’s nowhere near as shocking or effective as Firth’s “death” in the first film.  Even the required barroom brawl falls flat.  Nowhere does The Golden Circle match the audacity of the first film.  The first film ended with exploding heads.  This film ends with the promise of more sequels.

But really, I think what really doomed The Golden Circle was that extended running time.  There’s really no good reason for The Golden Circle to last for 2 hours and 21 minutes.  Quite a bit of the film, especially during the first hour, felt padded out and, as a result, it seemed like took forever for the film’s story to actually get started.  Probably 40 minutes to an hour could have been cut from The Golden Circle without anyone missing it.

Ultimately, I think the main problem is that the first Kingsman felt like it was made by people who truly did love the material.  This film feels contractually obligated.  The Golden Circle has a lot of action but it’s just not very fun.

Film Review: Everest (dir by Baltasar Kormákur)


Everest_poster

If I wasn’t already scared of heights, I definitely would be after seeing Everest.

Based on a true story, Everest tells the story of two expeditions attempting to climb to the top of Mt. Everest.  One expedition is led by a New Zealander named Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), an experienced climber who, we’re told, pretty much invented the entire industry of taking commercial expeditions up to the top of Mt. Everest.  Criticized by some for being a “hand holder” who gets too emotionally involved with his clients and, as a result, cheapens the Everest “experience” by helping weaker clients make it to the top of the summit, Rob is married to a fellow climber, Jan Arnold (Keira Knightley).  While Rob tries to lead his clients to the highest place on Earth, the pregnant Jan stays home and waits for his return.

The other expedition is led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Scott and Rob are friendly rivals, with Scott taking a much more hands off approach to his clients.  (It’s not a coincidence that Rob’s company is called Adventure Consultants while Scott works for Mountain Madness.)

Everest details what happens when the two expeditions are both caught in a sudden blizzard and find themselves trapped at the top of Everest.  The rest of the film is about the attempts of a stranded few to make it back to civilization.  A few make it, though not without suffering a good deal of pain and, in one particularly case, sacrificing a few body parts as a result.  Tragically, several others fall victim to the whims of nature, some dying of hypothermia while others, hallucinating from the lack of oxygen, literally walk off the side of the mountain.

Everest is one of those films where men die tragically but we’re supposed to find some sort of comfort from the fact that they died doing what they loved.  To be honest, I usually have a hard time buying into these type of narratives.  For instance, I love shopping but I wouldn’t expect anyone to be happy for me if I died while looking for a new purse.  (In fact, that’d probably upset me if not for the fact that I’d be too dead to know about it.)  At the same time, guys seems to love movies like this and I think, in the future, Everest will probably be remembered for being the epitome of a guy movie.

And that’s not meant to be a criticism on my part!  Everest does what it does with a lot of skill and confidence.  It’s an exciting film that, once the disaster hits, will leave you breathless.  And yes, at the end of the film, I did shed a tear or two.  Narratively, there’s really not a surprising moment to be found in the entire film.  I went into Everest not even knowing it was a true story and I was still able to guess who would survive and who would not.  But Everest‘s amazing visuals make up for the predictable narrative.  The term “visually stunning” is probably overused (especially by me!) but Everest is truly a visually stunning film.  For someone like me — who has asthma, a huge fear of heights, and who lives in North Texas (where, regardless of what you may see in the movies, the land is remarkably flat) — Everest is probably as close as I’ll ever get to climbing a mountain.

I should also mention that it never ceases to amaze me that Josh Brolin was born in Santa Monica, California because, on the basis of this film and No Country For Old Men, he is one of the most convincing Texans to appear in the movies.  In this film, he plays Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor who is a member of Rob’s expedition team.  Usually, of course, if a Texan (especially one who is specifically identified as being a Republican, as Beck is at the beginning of a film) shows up in a movie, you know he’s going to end up being the villain.  Fortunately, Everest was based on a true story and, as a result, Beck turned out to be one of the most compelling characters in the film.  (If you know the story behind the film, you already knew that.  However, I went into Everest blind.)  Josh Brolin brings a lot of strength to his role and to the film overall.

Everest may predictable but it’s still an exciting film.  Make sure that you have someone beside you to whom you can hold on and that you see it in 3D!

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #126: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Part 2 (dir by Laurie Collyer)


On Sunday night, I watched Part 2 of Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

The Secret Life of Marilyn MonroeWhy Was I Watching It?

I was watching it because I watched Part One on Saturday and I absolutely loved it!  I wanted to see how Part Two would deal with the second half of Marilyn’s life.  Would it explore the mysteries that still surround her death?  Would the Kennedys make an appearance?  Who would come off worse — Joe DiMaggio or Arthur Miller?

What Was It About?

Part Two of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe deals with her life after she became a star.  We watch as the increasingly fragile Marilyn marries the physically abusive Joe DiMaggio (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the mentally abusive Arthur Miller (Stephen Bogaert).  (Seriously, neither Joe nor Arthur comes across positively in this film.)  Marilyn continues to deal with her own fears that she’ll go crazy like her mother (Susan Sarandon).  She has a brief moment of hope when she meets John F. Kennedy, though the film is deliberately vague about the details of their relationship.  Ultimately, she ends up having a breakdown and is hospitalized against her will.  By the end of the film, it seems like she’s found some hope for the future but then, we see her tossing and turning in bed and clumsily reaching for a bottle of pills…

What Worked?

Kelli Garner’s performance as Marilyn was just impressive here as it was during the first part of the film.

What Did Not Work?

Sadly, Part Two just wasn’t as good as Part One.  To a large extent, Part One worked because of the emphasis on Marilyn’s relationships with her mom (Susan Sarandon) and her adopted aunt Grace (Emily Watson).  In Part Two, those relationships were overshadowed by Marilyn’s unhappy marriages to DiMaggio and Miller.  As a result, the film lost some of its focus and it often seemed to be meandering from one unhappy scene to another until Marilyn’s final night.

Also, I was disappointed that the film was so vague in its approach to Marilyn’s relationship with the Kennedys.  Listen, everyone knows that Marilyn had an affair with both Jack and Bobby Kennedy.  The film tried to create some ambiguity about this point, never actually showing either Kennedy brother on screen and instead, just having Marilyn talk about them.  Rather unfairly, this created the impression that both affairs could have been another one of Marilyn’s delusions.  Quite frankly, Marilyn Monroe deserves better than that.

“Oh My God!  Just like me!” Moments

Just as with Part One, there were several.  Kelli Garner humanized her iconic role to such an extent that I think everyone watching could relate to her.  I’ll just say that I’ve known my DiMaggios and my Millers and leave it at that.

Lessons Learned

Fame does not equal happiness.

In the end, Part Two was not as good as Part One but, overall, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was worth the 4 hours it took to watch it.  It did a great job of recreating the Hollywood of the past and Kelli Garner gave a great performance.  Since this is Lifetime that we’re talking about, I imagine both parts will be rerun frequently.  If you missed them the first time, don’t make the same mistake twice!

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #125: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Part I (dir by Laurie Collyer)


Earlier tonight, I watched Part One of the latest Lifetime original movie, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Why Was I Watching It?

Lifetime has been advertising The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe for about two months now.  From the first commercial, I knew that this was something that I was going to have to watch.  After all, a movie about a famous and tragic actress on the always melodramatic Lifetime network?  How could I not watch?

What Was It About?

It’s right there in the title.  The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe tells the story of how poor country girl Norma Jean Baker became the iconic Marilyn Monroe.  The first part of this two-part film dealt with Marilyn’s early years.  We watched as Marilyn (played by Kelli Garner) made her way out to Hollywood and appeared in her first few films, all the while dealing with her mentally unstable mother, Grace (Susan Sarandon).  Part One ended with Marilyn on the verge of becoming the world’s biggest star.  It was a happy ending for Marilyn but not so much for the audience because we know what’s going to happen to her during Part II.

What Worked?

The first part of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was everything that you could possibly want from a Lifetime movie.  The costumes, the production design, the cinematography — it was all properly opulent and wonderful to look at.

Even more importantly, Part One was anchored by three wonderful performances from three great actresses.  Susan Sarandon was heartbreaking and poignant as Marilyn’s unstable mother.  Emily Watson brought a quiet strength to the role of Marilyn’s surrogate mother, Grace.  And finally, there’s Kelli Garner in the title role.  After years of doing good work in small roles (Bully, Lars and The Real Girl), The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe finally gives Kelli Garner a chance to show what she’s capable of doing as an actress.  In part one, Garner gave a performance that both humanized an icon while also suggesting the legend that she would eventually become.

What Did Not Work?

The film’s framing device, in which Marilyn told her story to a psychologist played by Jack Noseworthy, occasionally felt a bit awkward.  Otherwise, as far as the first half of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was concerned, it all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Obviously, I don’t want to sit here and compare myself to Marilyn Monroe.  I’ll leave that for others to do.  However, I do have to say that there were quite a few “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments in the first part of The Secret Life Of Marilyn Monroe.  That was one reason why the film worked so well — it took an iconic figure and humanized her to the extent that anyone viewing could relate to her.

There were many moments that I related to during part one, particularly when it came to Marilyn’s emotional vulnerability and her desire to be seen as something more than just another pretty face.  In fact, there were more than a few times that I had to look away from the screen because, often, Marilyn’s pain was my pain.

Ultimately, though, the biggest “OMG!  Just like me!” moment came at the start of the film when Marilyn spent over an hour trying on different outfits before greeting the psychologist waiting in the next room.  I’m just as obsessive, especially when it comes to picking the right clothes for a doctor’s appointment.

(Seriously, I once spent an entire day putting together the perfect outfit for seeing the allergist.)

Lessons Learned

Fame can’t buy happiness but it can come awfully close.  (Of course, I have a feeling that lesson will be invalidated once I watch the second part of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.)

Film Review: The Theory of Everything (dir by James Marsh)


theory-of-everything-felicity-redmayne

Earlier this year, when I was sitting in the audience for the unfortunate Nicholas Sparks film The Best Of Me, I found myself staring at the sight of an oil rig worker (played by James Marsden) relaxing by reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.  And, before I could stop myself, I laughed out loud and I may have even loudly said something along the lines of, “Oh come on!”

At the time, I got a lot of dirty looks but I stand by my reaction.  It’s such a cliché.  Any movie character who is meant to be intelligent and soulful will be seen casually reading a copy of Hawking’s book and scrunching up his brow as he considers whatever it is that Hawking has to say.  It makes sense, of course.  If the current cult surrounding Neil deGrasse Tyson proves anything, it’s that it is currently in to pretend to be fascinated by science.

I have to admit, though — science has never been my subject.  The cold logic of it all bores me to tears and there’s no bigger turn-off then listening to someone brag about being a “rational thinker.”  (Rational thought is incredibly overrated.)  As long as things work like they’re supposed to, the how and the why don’t really concern me.  Whenever I hear someone complain that there are “too many unanswered questions,” I think to myself, “Good.”  I like unanswered questions.  I like irrational feelings.  I like mysteries that can never be solved.  They fuel imagination.  They inspire great art.  They make life interesting and unpredictable.

(Please understand, I am not anti-science.  I’m anti-pretending-to-care-when-I-don’t.)

With all that in mind, you might think that I would be bored by The Theory of Everything, the recently released biopic about Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his marriage to Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones).  And, I’ll be honest.  If not for the fact that the film has been pegged as being a certain Oscar contender, I might not have ever wanted to see The Theory of Everything.  However, seeing as how The Theory of Everything is a certain Oscar contender, I did want to see it.

And, up until the final 30 minutes of the film, I was surprised with just how much I liked The Theory of Everything.  I have to admit that the film’s science still went over my head.  As far as that was concerned, the only thing I really learned is that there’s a difference between General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory but don’t ask me to explain that difference.  (And, for the love of all that is good, please don’t try to explain it to me…)  But, to be honest, the exact details of Hawking’s theories aren’t really that important to The Theory of Everything.  Instead, the film is content to have supporting characters assure us that Hawking’s work is brilliant and important and that’s really all that it has to do.  After all, everyone in the audience already knows that Stephen Hawking is a genius.  The appeal of The Theory of Everything is not the science but instead the human behind the science.

The Theory of Everything works for two very old-fashioned reasons — it’s well-directed by James Marsh and it’s well-acted by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.  For all the time that the film devotes to people talking about how Hawking challenged the conventional view of the universe, The Theory of Everything is, in many ways, a conventional biopic.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  A familiar story well-told is still a well-told story.

The film starts with Stephen as a student at Cambridge and we follow him as he awkwardly courts Jane and takes her on an amazingly well-filmed and soul-achingly romantic date.  Shortly after this, he’s diagnosed with motor neuron disease.  (As I discovered while doing some research for this review, Hawking was actually diagnosed before he even met Jane.)  Told he only has two years to live, Stephen’s first instinct is to isolate himself from the world but, largely as a result of Jane’s love and support, Stephen instead continues his work and becomes world famous.  The film suggests that it took a combination of Stephen’s logical (and skeptical) genius and Jane’s devout and unwavering faith (in both his genius and the God that Stephen doesn’t believe in) for him to eventually become the Stephen Hawking that we all recognize today.

And it’s all extremely well-done and touching, up until the final 30 minutes of the film.  Going into the film, I did not know much about Stephen Hawking but (thanks to Wikipedia), I did know that he eventually left Jane for another woman.  I have to admit that I did not expect the film to deal with this part of the story.  To the film’s credit, it does attempt to deal with the end of Stephen and Jane’s marriage but it does so in such an awkward way that it’s obvious that the filmmakers weren’t quite sure how they should handle the situation.

After all, the film had just spent 90 minutes presenting Jane as being an occasionally frustrated saint and Stephen as being idiosyncratic but likable.  And now, suddenly, Stephen is going to have to act like a jerk.  The film doesn’t know how to handle this and, as such, those final 30 minutes feel fake in a way that the rest of the film does not.  When Stephen tells Jane that he’s leaving her for another woman, it’s presented as being an almost mutual decision made by the two of them.  Tears are shed but there’s little visible anger, with the film going so far as to suggest that Stephen is leaving Jane because he wants her to be able to live the life that she put on hold to take care of him.  It’s even implied that Stephen was kind enough to pick out a new husband for her.

That new husband is played, quite well, by Charlie Cox.  When he first told Jane that he’s attracted to her, I assumed that the scene was included so that Jane could gently rebuff him and show us how devoted she is to Stephen.  However, thinking back on it now, it almost feels as if that scene was largely included so it could provide some cover for Stephen.  It’s as if the filmmakers are saying, “See?  Stephen wasn’t the only one tempted to end the marriage…”

And I have to admit that the way the film handled the end of Stephen and Jane’s marriage felt so false to me and the way Jane was treated and portrayed seemed so unfair that, as soon as I got home, I actually did the following google search: “Was The Theory Of Everything unfair to Jane Hawking?”

And the first result that came up was an article in The Guardian that essentially stated: “Yes, The Theory of Everything was unfair to Jane Hawking.”

Reading the article, I discovered that, according to Jane’s autobiography (upon which the film is ostensibly based), both her marriage to and divorce from Stephen Hawking was far more complex and intriguing than what was presented in the film.  For one thing, the marriage ended not with tears of acceptance but instead with a shouting match.  And trust me, if any actress could have done justice to Jane Hawking’s anger, it would be Felicity Jones.  By the time the film ends, both the character and the actress have earned the right to express their anger.  But neither one of them gets that opportunity, largely because that version of the Hawking marriage would also have been far less crowd pleasing.

And, if anything, The Theory of Everything is specifically designed to be a crowd pleaser.

And don’t get me wrong.  It’s a good film and it’s one that left me with tears in my eyes.  Do I recommend the film?  You bet I do.

I just wish that, during those final 30 minutes, the film could have been a little bit more honest with itself.  It’s a good film but it’s hard not to regret missing out on the film that it could have been.

theory-of-everything-new

Lisa Marie’s Favorite Film of 2012: Anna Karenina (dir by Joe Wright)


For the most part, 2012 was a bland year as far as cinema is concerned.  The most acclaimed films of the year (Argo and Lincoln being two obvious examples) were well-made and often entertaining but they were hardly revolutionary.  2012 was the year that the establishment told us what we should enjoy and, for the most part, film critics slavishly hopped on the bandwagon.  As you can probably guess, 2012 was not my favorite year as far as the movies are concerned.  That said, there were a few films that gave me hope.  As the year ends, despite being underwhelmed by most of the films that were released, there are a few that I truly did love.

My favorite film of 2011 was a criminally underappreciated film from director Joe Wright.  That name of that film was Hanna.  My favorite film of 2012 is another criminally underappreciated film from director Joe Wright.  The name of this film?  Anna Karenina.*

History has a way of repeating itself.

Anna Karenina is, of course, based on the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy.  Anna Karenina (played, quite brilliantly, by Kiera Knightley) is the wife of the noble (but somewhat boring and judgmental) Russian statesman Alex Karenin (Jude Law, who is also quite brilliant and rather tragic in a role that, in lesser hands, could have become a stock villain).  When Anna’s good-for-nothing brother (played in a wonderfully comedic performance by Matthew MacFayden) is caught cheating on his wife, Anna leaves her safe home in St. Petersburg and travels to Moscow where she helps to save her brother’s marriage and meets Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

Among the members of the Russian high society, it is well-known that Vronsky is pursuing the hand of the young and beautiful Kitty (Alicia Vikander, who generates a lot of sympathy for a character who, at the start of the film, could easily have been portrayed as just a spoiled brat).  However, at the ball where it is widely expected that Vronsky will ask Kitty to marry him, Vronsky creates a scandal by dancing with Anna instead.

Vronsky loses interest in Kitty and instead, he now obsessively pursues the married Anna.  Though Anna is resistant at first, she finally gives in and embarks on an adulterous affair with Vronsky, resulting in scandal and tragedy.

Again, history repeats itself.  The story of Anna Karenina is a familiar one that has been told repeatedly over the ages.  That’s one reason why Tolstoy’s novel has remained one of the greatest novels ever written and why it has been adapted into so many other mediums.  Director Joe Wright begins Anna Karenina with the assumption that the majority of the people in his audience already know the story of Anna’s ill-fated love affair with Vronsky.  As such, he puts less emphasis on the story itself and more on how the story is told.

Anna Karenina is a masterpiece of style.  When the film opens, Wright has his actors literally performing on a stage.  When Anna travels to Moscow, a miniature train is seen rolling across the stage.  When the scene changes from a factory to a high society ball, the factory workers walk backstage, change costumes, and then step back onstage, suddenly transformed into noblemen.  At one point, we even see a janitor nonchalantly cleaning up the now-empty theater while the story continues to play out on the stage in front of him.  When Anna and Vronsky dance for the first time, the other actors freeze in place and a spotlight shines down on the dancing couple.  It’s an amazingly romantic moment, one to which anyone who has ever been infatuated will be able to relate.  Finally, a door opens onstage and the characters (and the viewing audience) are able to step out into the “real” world but, throughout the film, we occasionally return to that stage.  While several critics have criticized this aspect of the film, I thought it was brilliant.  By literally putting his actors on stage, Wright both acknowledges that this is a story that may be familiar but can be interpreted in many different ways and he also drives home the point that, ultimately, we are all just actors on a stage, being observed and judged by a society that is often hostile to any sign of individual desire or unpredictable  emotion.

Needless to say, the film’s extreme stylization is not for everyone.  That’s actually one of the reasons that I love this version of Anna Karenina so much.  In a year that was almost excessively safe, Joe Wright took a risk and, as a result, encouraged us to look at a familiar story in a different way.  For that reason, Anna Karenina is my favorite film of 2012.

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* For the record, my second favorite film of 2012 was The Cabin In The Woods.