14 Shots From 14 Films: Special Roger Deakins Edition


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

Usually, we only do 4 shots from 4 films but today is the birthday of our greatest living cinematographer, Roger Deakins!  And it’s impossible to only pick 4 when it comes to Deakins.

So, it’s time for….

14 Shots From 14 Films

Marquis De Sade’s Justine (1977, dir by Chris Boger, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984, dir by Michael Radford, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Barton Fink (1991, dir by the Coen Brothers, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Fargo (1996, dir by the Coen Brothers, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Kundun (1997, dir by Martin Scorsese, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

House of Sand and Fog (2003, dir by Vadim Perelman, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

No Country For Old Men (2007, dir by the Coen Brothers, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

A Serious Man (2009, dir by the Coen Brothers, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Skyfall (2012, dir by Sam Mendes, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Prisoners (2013, dir by Denis Villeneuve, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Sicario (2015, dir by Denis Villeneuve, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Hail Caesar! (2016, dir by the Coen Brothers, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, dir by Denis Villeneuve, cinematography by Roger Deakins)

1917 (2019, dir by Sam Mendes. cinematography by Roger Deakins)

 

What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2018 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 2017201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blindspotting

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Leave No Trace

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

 

Best Director

*Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade

The Coen Brothers for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Alfonso Cuaron for Roma

Debra Granik for Leave No Trace

Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

 

Best Actor

John Cho in Searching

Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting

*Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

 

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade

Lady Gaga in A Star is Born

*Regina Hall in Support the Girls

Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor

Thomason McKenzie in Leave No Trace

 

Best Supporting Actor

Peter Bogdonavich in The Other Side of the Wind

*Ben Foster in Leave No Trace

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Josh Hamilton in Eighth Grade

Tim Blake Nelson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Michael Palin in The Death of Stalin

 

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place

*Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Zoe Kazan in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Emma Stone in The Favourite

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

 

Best Voice Over or Motion-Capture Performance

*Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War

Jake Johnson in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Holly Hunter in The Incredibles 2

Shamiek Moore in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

John C. Reilly in Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2

 

Best Original Screenplay

Blindspotting

The Death of Stalin

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Game Night

Support the Girls

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

If Beale Street Could Talk

Leave No Trace

*A Simple Favor

A Star is Born

 

Best Animated Feature

Early Man

Have A Nice Day

The Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Ralph Breaks the Internet

*Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Best Documentary Feature

Avicii: True Stories

Recovery Boys

Shirkers

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

*Three Identical Strangers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Battle

Gun City

Happy as Lazzaro

Have A Nice Day

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World

*Roma

 

Best Casting

Blindspotting

Eighth Grade

Mandy

Mid90s

Roma

*Support the Girls

 

Best Cinematography

Aquaman

Avengers: Infinity Wars

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Panther

*Mandy

Roma

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

*Black Panther

The Favourite

Lizzie

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

 

Best Film Editing

Avengers: Infinity Wars

Eighth Grade

Mission Impossible: Fallout

*The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

Searching

Best Makeup and Hair Styling

*The Favourite

Lizzie

Mandy

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

Best Original Score

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Death of Stalin

If Beale Street Could Talk

*Mandy

The Other Side of the Wind

Best Original Song

*“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

“All the Stars” from Black Panther

“Limitless” from Second Act

“I’ll Never Love Again” from A Star is Born

“Is that Alright” from A Star is Born

“Shallow” from A Star is Born

 

Best Overall Use of Music

Bohemian Rhapsody

Eighth Grade

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mid90s

*A Star is Born

Three Identical Strangers

 

Best Production Design

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

The Commuter

*The Favourite

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Quiet Place

Best Sound Editing

Annihilation

*Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

12 Strong

Best Sound Mixing

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

*A Star is Born

Best Stuntwork

Avengers: Infinity War

Beirut

Black Panther

*Mission Impossible: Fallout

12 Strong

Upgrade

Best Visual Effects

Annihilation

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Aquaman

*Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

First Man

Films Listed By Number of Nominations:

11 Nominations – Avengers: Infinity War

9 Nominations – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Favourite, Roma

8 Nominations – Eighth Grade, A Star is Born

7 Nominations – Black Panther, The Other Side of the Wind

6 Nominations – A Simple Favor

5 Nominations – Leave No Trace, Support the Girls

4 Nominations – Blindspotting, Mandy, Mission Impossible: Fallout

3 Nominations – Annihilation, The Death of Stalin, Mary Queen of Scots, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

2 Nominations – Aquaman, Have A Nice Day, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Incredibles 2, Lizzie, Mid90s, A Quiet Place, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Searching, Three Identical Strangers, 12 Strong

1 Nomination – Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avicii: True Stories, Battle, Beirut, Bohemian Rhapsody, Chappaquiddick, The Commuter, Early Man, First Man, First Reformed, Game Night, Gun City, Happy as Lazzaro, Isle of Dogs, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World, Paddington 2, Recovery Boys, Second Act, Shirkers, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, Upgrade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, You Were Never Really Here

Films Listed By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Eighth Grade, The Favourite

2 Oscars – Mandy, A Star is Born, Support the Girls

1 Oscar – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Other Side of the Wind, Roma, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Three Identical Strangers

As for the real nominations, they’ll be announced on Tuesday morning!

The San Diego Film Critics Society Gives Some Love To Buster Scruggs!


On Firday, the San Diego Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2018 and, to their credit, they showed a lot of love to the Coen Brother’s fascinatingly strange western anthology film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs!

(That’s Buster up at the top of the post.  He’s only in the movie for about 20 minutes but you’ll never forget him.)

Here are the nominations from San Diego!

Best Picture
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
THE FAVOURITE
GREEN BOOK
LEAVE NO TRACE
A QUIET PLACE

Best Director
Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE
Debra Granik, LEAVE NO TRACE
John Krasinski, A QUIET PLACE
Peter Farrelly, GREEN BOOK
Yorgos Lanthimos, THE FAVOURITE

Best Actor, Male
Christian Bale, VICE
Ethan Hawke, FIRST REFORMED
Viggo Mortensen, GREEN BOOK
John C. Reilly, THE SISTERS BROTHERS
Lucas Hedges, BOY ERASED

Best Actor, Female
Carey Mulligan, WILDLIFE
Glenn Close, THE WIFE
Lady Gaga, A STAR IS BORN
Melissa McCarthy, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Elsie Fisher, EIGHTH GRADE

Best Supporting Actor, Male
Joel Edgerton, BOY ERASED
Mahershala Ali, GREEN BOOK
Richard E. Grant, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Sam Elliott, A STAR IS BORN
Timothée Chalamet, BEAUTIFUL BOY

Best Supporting Actor, Female
Alia Shawkat, BLAZE
Nicole Kidman, BOY ERASED
Nina Arianda, STAN & OLLIE
Thomasin McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
Zoe Kazan, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

Best Comedic Performance
Awkwafina, CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Hugh Grant, PADDINGTON 2
Jason Bateman, GAME NIGHT
Jesse Plemons, GAME NIGHT
Ryan Reynolds, DEADPOOL 2

Best Original Screenplay
Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE
Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski, A QUIET PLACE
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, GREEN BOOK
Wes Anderson, ISLE OF DOGS

Best Adapted Screenplay
Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows, Fabien Nury, THE DEATH OF STALIN
David Lowery, THE OLD MAN & THE GUN
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, LEAVE NO TRACE
Joel Edgerton, BOY ERASED
Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Best Documentary
FREE SOLO
LOVE, GILDA
RBG
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

Best Animated Film
HAVE A NICE DAY
INCREDIBLES 2
ISLE OF DOGS
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Best Foreign-language Film
CAPERNAUM
COLD WAR
THE GUILTY
ROMA
SHOPLIFTERS

Best Costume Design
Sandy Powell, THE FAVOURITE
Guy Speranza, STAN & OLLIE
Lindy Hemming, PADDINGTON 2
Mary E. Vogt, CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Mary Zophres, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

Best Editing
Christopher Tellefsen, A QUIET PLACE
Jamie Gross, David Egan, GAME NIGHT
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
Patrick J. Don Vito, GREEN BOOK
Yorgos Mavropsaridis, THE FAVOURITE

Best Cinematography
Alexander Dynan, FIRST REFORMED
Alfonso Cuarón, ROMA
Bruno Delbonnel, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
Joshua James Richards, THE RIDER
Magnus Nordenhof Jønck, LEAN ON PETE

Best Production Design
Adam Stockhausen, READY PLAYER ONE
Fiona Crombie, THE FAVOURITE
Hannah Beachler, BLACK PANTHER
John Paul Kelly, STAN & OLLIE
Tim Galvin, GREEN BOOK

Best Visual Effects
BLACK PANTHER
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
ISLE OF DOGS
PADDINGTON 2
READY PLAYER ONE

Best Use Of Music In A Film
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
BLAZE
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
GREEN BOOK
A STAR IS BORN

Best Ensemble
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
BOY ERASED
THE FAVOURITE
GAME NIGHT
GREEN BOOK

Best Breakout Artist
Thomasin McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
Elsie Fisher, EIGHTH GRADE
Rami Malek, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
Charlie Plummer, LEAN ON PETE
Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE

Here’s The Trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs!


Today, everyone else is talking about the fact that Henry Cavill will not be playing Superman in any future DC films but all I care about is the fact that the trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has been released!

This is the latest film from the Coen Brothers.  It’s a western.  Originally, it was going to be a miniseries but apparently, the Coens decided that it worked better as a movie so they edited the anthology together.  It’s six stories about death in the old west and it will soon be available on Netflix!

4 Shots From 4 Films That Won The Palme d’Or: Wild At Heart, Barton Fink, The Piano, Pulp Fiction


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

All four of these films have one thing in common: they all won the Palme d’Or at Cannes!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Wild At Heart (1990, dir by David Lynch)

Barton Fink (1991, dir by the Coen Brothers)

The Piano (1993, dir by Jane Campion)

Pulp Fiction (1994, dir by Quentin Tarantino)

Playing Catch-Up: Crisscross, The Dust Factory, Gambit, In The Arms of a Killer, Overboard, Shy People


So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see.  I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it.

So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past few weeks!

  • Crisscross
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Chris Menges
  • Starring David Arnott, Goldie Hawn, Arliss Howard, Keith Carradine, James Gammon, Steve Buscemi

An annoying kid named Chris Cross (David Arnott) tells us the story of his life.

In the year 1969, Chris and his mother, Tracy (Goldie Hawn), are living in Key West.  While the rest of the country is excitedly watching the first moon landing, Chris and Tracy are just trying to figure out how to survive day-to-day.  Tracy tries to keep her son from learning that she’s working as a stripper but, not surprisingly, he eventually finds out.  Chris comes across some drugs that are being smuggled into Florida and, wanting to help his mother, he decides to steal them and sell them himself.  Complicating matters is the fact that the members of the drug ring (one of whom is played by Steve Buscemi) don’t want the competition.  As well, Tracy is now dating Joe (Arliss Howard), who just happens to be an undercover cop.  And, finally, making things even more difficult is the fact that Chris just isn’t that smart.

There are actually a lot of good things to be said about Crisscross.  The film was directed by the renowned cinematographer, Chris Menges, so it looks great.  Both Arliss Howard and Goldie Hawn give sympathetic performances and Keith Carradine has a great cameo as Chris’s spaced out dad.  (Traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam, Chris’s Dad left his family and joined a commune.)  But, as a character, Chris is almost too stupid to be believed and his overwrought narration doesn’t do the story any good.  Directed and written with perhaps a less heavy hand, Crisscross could have been a really good movie but, as it is, it’s merely an interesting misfire.

  • The Dust Factory 
  • Released: 2004
  • Directed by Eric Small
  • Starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Kelly, Kim Myers, George de la Pena, Michael Angarano, Peter Horton

Ryan (Ryan Kelly) is a teen who stopped speaking after his father died.  One day, Ryan falls off a bridge and promptly drowns.  However, he’s not quite dead yet!  Instead, he’s in The Dust Factory, which is apparently where you go when you’re on the verge of death.  It’s a very nice place to hang out while deciding whether you want to leap into the world of the dead or return to the land of the living.  Giving Ryan a tour of the Dust Factory is his grandfather (Armin Mueller-Stahl).  Suggesting that maybe Ryan should just stay in the Dust Factory forever is a girl named Melanie (Hayden Panettiere).  Showing up randomly and acting like a jerk is a character known as The Ringmaster (George De La Pena).  Will Ryan choose death or will he return with a new zest for living life?  And, even more importantly, will the fact that Ryan’s an unlikely hockey fan somehow play into the film’s climax?

The Dust Factory is the type of unabashedly sentimental and theologically confused film that just drives me crazy.  This is one of those films that so indulges every possible cliché that I was shocked to discover that it wasn’t based on some obscure YA tome.  I’m sure there’s some people who cry while watching this film but ultimately, it’s about as deep as Facebook meme.

  • Gambit
  • Released: 2012
  • Directed by Michael Hoffman
  • Starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman, Togo Igawa

Harry Deane (Colin Firth) is beleaguered art collector who, for the sake of petty revenge (which, as we all know, is the best type of revenge), tries to trick the snobbish Lord Shabandar (Alan Rickman) into spending a lot of money on a fake Monet.  To do this, he will have to team up with both an eccentric art forger (Tom Courtenay) and a Texas rodeo star named PJ Puznowksi (Cameron Diaz).  The plan is to claim that PJ inherited the fake Monet from her grandfather who received the painting from Hermann Goering at the end of the World War II and…

Well, listen, let’s stop talking about the plot.  This is one of those elaborate heist films where everyone has a silly name and an elaborate back story.  It’s also one of those films where everything is overly complicated but not particularly clever.  The script was written by the Coen Brothers and, if they had directed it, they would have at least brought some visual flair to the proceedings.  Instead, the film was directed by Michael Hoffman and, for the most part, it falls flat.  The film is watchable because of the cast but ultimately, it’s not surprising that Gambit never received a theatrical release in the States.

On a personal note, I saw Gambit while Jeff & I were in London last month.  So, I’ll always have good memories of watching the movie.  So I guess the best way to watch Gambit is when you’re on vacation.

  • In The Arms of a Killer
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Robert L. Collins
  • Starring Jaclyn Smith, John Spencer, Nina Foch, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Sandahl Bergman, Linda Dona, Kristoffer Tabori, Michael Nouri

This is the story of two homicide detectives.  Detective Vincent Cusack (John Spencer) is tough and cynical and world-weary.  Detective Maria Quinn (Jaclyn Smith) is dedicated and still naive about how messy a murder investigation can be when it involves a bunch of Manhattan socialites.  A reputed drug dealer is found dead during a party.  Apparently, someone intentionally gave him an overdose of heroin.  Detective Cusack thinks that the culprit was Dr. Brian Venible (Michael Nouri).  Detective Quinn thinks that there has to be some other solution.  Complicating things is that Quinn and Venible are … you guessed it … lovers!  Is Quinn truly allowing herself to be held in the arms of a killer or is the murderer someone else?

This sound like it should have been a fun movie but instead, it’s all a bit dull.  Nouri and Smith have next to no chemistry so you never really care whether the doctor is the killer or not.  John Spencer was one of those actors who was pretty much born to play world-weary detectives but, other than his performance, this is pretty forgettable movie.

  • Overboard
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Garry Marshall
  • Starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond, Roddy McDowall, Michael G. Hagerty, Brian Price, Jared Rushton, Hector Elizondo

When a spoiled heiress named Joanne Slayton (Goldie Hawn) falls off of her luxury yacht, no one seems to care.  Even when her husband, Grant (Edward Herrmann), discovers that Joanne was rescued by a garbage boat and that she now has amnesia, he denies knowing who she is.  Instead, he takes off with the boat and proceeds to have a good time.  The servants (led by Roddy McDowall) who Joanne spent years terrorizing are happy to be away from her.  In fact, the only person who does care about Joanne is Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell).  When Dean sees a news report about a woman suffering from amnesia, he heads over to the hospital and declares that Joanne is his wife, Annie.

Convinced that she is Annie, Joanne returns with Dean to his messy house and his four, unruly sons.  At first, Dean says that his plan is merely to have Joanne work off some money that she owes him.  (Before getting amnesia, Joanne refused to pay Dean for some work he did on her boat.)  But soon, Joanne bonds with Dean’s children and she and Dean start to fall in love.  However, as both Grant and Dean are about to learn, neither parties nor deception can go on forever…

This is one of those films that’s pretty much saved by movie star charisma.  The plot itself is extremely problematic and just about everything that Kurt Russell does in this movie would land him in prison in real life.  However, Russell and Goldie Hawn are such a likable couple that the film come close to overcoming its rather creepy premise.  Both Russell and Hawn radiate so much charm in this movie that they can make even the stalest of jokes tolerable and it’s always enjoyable to watch Roddy McDowall get snarky.  File this one under “Kurt Russell Can Get Away With Almost Anything.”

A remake of Overboard, with the genders swapped, is set to be released in early May.

  • Shy People
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky
  • Starring Jill Clayburgh, Barbara Hershey, Martha Plimpton, Merritt Butrick, John Philbin, Don Swayze, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Mare Winningham

Diana Sullivan (Jill Clayburgh) is a writer for Cosmopolitan and she’s got a problem!  It turns out that her teenager daughter, Grace (Martha Plimpton), is skipping school and snorting cocaine!  OH MY GOD!  (And, to think, I thought I was a rebel just because I used to skip Algebra so I could go down to Target and shoplift eyeliner!)  Diana knows that she has to do something but what!?

Diana’s solution is to get Grace out of New York.  It turns out that Diana has got some distant relatives living in Louisiana bayou.  After Cosmo commissions her to write a story about them, Diana grabs Grace and the head down south!

(Because if there’s anything that the readers of Cosmo are going to be interested in, it’s white trash bayou dwellers…)

The only problem is that Ruth (Barbara Hershey) doesn’t want to be interviewed and she’s not particularly happy when Diana and Grace show up.  Ruth and her four sons live in the bayous.  Three of the sons do whatever Ruth tells them to do.  The fourth son is often disobedient so he’s been locked up in a barn.  Diana, of course, cannot understand why her relatives aren’t impressed whenever she mentions that she writes for Cosmo.  Meanwhile, Grace introduces her cousins to cocaine, which causes them to go crazy.  “She’s got some strange white powder!” one of them declares.

So, this is a weird film.  On the one hand, you have an immensely talented actress like Jill Clayburgh giving one of the worst performances in cinematic history.  (In Clayburgh’s defense, Diana is such a poorly written character that I doubt any actress could have made her in any way believable.)  On the other hand, you have Barbara Hershey giving one of the best.  As played by Hershey, Ruth is a character who viewers will both fear and admire.  Ruth has both the inner strength to survive in the bayou and the type of unsentimental personality that lets you know that you don’t want to cross her.  I think we’re supposed to feel that both Diana and Ruth have much to learn from each other but Diana is such an annoying character that you spend most of the movie wishing she would just go away and leave Ruth alone.  In the thankless role of Grace, Martha Plimpton brings more depth to the role than was probably present in the script and Don Swayze has a few memorable moments as one of Ruth’s sons.  Shy People is full of flaws and never really works as a drama but I’d still recommend watching it for Hershey and Plimpton.

Sundance Film Review: Blood Simple (dir by Joel Coen)


(The 2018 Sundance Film Festival opens tonight!  Over the years, Sundance has become the premiere festival for independent film.  Not only have some of the best American films ever made premiered at Sundance, but it’s become the first stop in many a successful Oscar campaign.  Manchester By The Sea, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Beasts of the Southern Wild: all of them started their journey to a best picture nomination at Sundance.  For the duration of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, from today to the 28th, I’ll be reviewing films that first made a splash at Sundance.)

Blood Simple is an essential film.

If you love American movies, this is a movie that you have to see.  A delirious tribute to film noir, it’s a film that takes place in the darkest corners of America.  This is a film that shows that stories of love, betrayal, and murder can be just as complicated in the middle of America as in California and New York.

If you’re fascinated by the history of indie cinema, Blood Simple is a film that you have to see.  Joel and Ethan Coen, at a time when they were best known for their work with director Sam Raimi, created a trailer for Blood Simple long before they shot the actual movie.  They used this trailer to raise the film’s small budget.  Blood Simple was not only their directorial debut (though only Joel received a directorial credit, while the screenplay was credited to Ethan) but it was also both the feature debut of Frances McDormand and cinematographer (and future director) Barry Sonnenfeld’s first major credit as well.

If, like me, you love films about Texas, Blood Simple is an essential.  Long before they made No Country For Old Men, the Coens filmed Blood Simple in Texas.  Texas is as much a character in Blood Simple as Minnesota and the Dakotas were in Fargo.  Along with their twisty crime plots, Fargo, No Country, and Blood Simple all share a similarly cynical and fatalistic view of human nature, one that is perfectly reflected by the bleak locations where their stories take place.  Watching Blood Simple, it’s easy to imagine that, once the film ended, it fell to No Country‘s Sheriff Ed Tom Bell to laconically look over the carnage and try to figure out what the Hell just happened.

Like many Coen Brothers films, Blood Simple starts out simply and then gets progressively more and more complicated.  Almost all of those complications are due to a combination of human stupidity and greed.  Abby (Frances McDormand) and Ray (John Getz) are having an affair.  Abby’s husband, Marty (Dan Hedaya), owns the bar where Ray works as a bartender.  Marty hires a sleazy private detective named Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh) to kill Abby and Ray.  Visser has other plans.  By the end of the movie, almost everyone is dead but no one’s sure why.

The film largely serves as a showcase for Walsh, so much so that McDormand, Hedaya and Getz run the risk of getting lost in the shuffle.  That’s a shame, because all three give excellent performances.  McDormand brings strength and determination to the role of Abby.  Meanwhile, both Getz and Hedaya play two very familiar types.  Anyone who has spent any time in Texas will immediately recognize the characters played by Getz and Hedaya.  Ray may not be the smartest guy in the world but he’ll keep your car running and your glass full.  He’s probably never going to amount too much but he’s what is universally known as a good guy.  On the other hand, Marty, as played by Hedaya, is perhaps one of the most pathetic characters to ever appear in an American film.  Film noirs are full of betrayed husbands but it’s hard to think of a bigger loser than Marty.  Marty is the guy who tries to act tough but even he secretly knows that no one will ever take him seriously.  With the combination of his northern accent and his pathetic attempts to dress “western,” Marty is an outsider in Texas, one who is too stupid to realize just how far outside he actually is.

That said, the film is dominated by M. Emmett Walsh.  As played by Walsh, Loren Visser is one half sleazy redneck and one half demon from Hell.  Speaking in a sarcastic drawl and seemingly amused by all the chaos he has created, Walsh turns Visser into a truly fascinating villain.  He may be evil but you can’t stop watching him.  Walsh’s best moment is also his last in the film, a sarcastic one-liner that suggests that everything that has happened was caused more for his own amusement than anything else.  Visser is clever but not even he can escape the random whims of fate.

Violent and, as is typical for the Coens, darkly humorous, Blood Simple won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival.  Though it was only a modest box office success, it not only launched the careers of the Coen Brothers but continues to be on the most influential independent films ever made.  The film remains impressive today.  Whenever I see it, I’m always stunned to see how, even with their first film, the Coens had already developed their own very unique aesthetic.

Blood Simple is an essential film.

Here Are The Trailers for LBJ, Suburbicon, Rebel in the Rye, and 9-11!


Here’s four trailer for four films, none of which I have high hopes for.

First off, we’ve got LBJ.  You’d probably expect that I, as a history nerd, would be excited about any presidential biopic and that usually would be the case.  However, LBJ was directed by Rob Reiner and this seems like exactly the type of project that is going to bring out all of his worst tendencies as a filmmaker.  I imagine this film will make Lincoln look subtle.  I also imagine it will get some good review from the “Let’s make every review about Trump” crowd.

LBJ has actually been around for a while.  It was mentioned as an Oscar contender last year.  Then festival and preview audiences were exposed to it and all that LBJ Oscar talk abruptly ended.  No one is mentioning it as an Oscar contender this year.

The good news about Suburbicon is that it was co-written by the Coen Brothers.  The bad news is that it was directed by George Clonoey, a great actor who just happens to be an absolutely lousy director.  Much like LBJ, this is another film that I hope will be good but I just fear the material will bring out all of Clooney’s worst instincts as a filmmaker.

That said, as an actor, Clooney had done some of his best work for the Coens.  (His self-mocking performance in Burn After Reading was absolutely brilliant.)  So, I’m hoping that I’ll be proven wrong and Suburbicon will be great.

Rebel in the Rye is a biopic of writer J.D. Salinger.  The advance word on this one is not good.  Not good at all.

And finally, here’s the trailer for 9-11, which I’m predicting will be one of the worst films of 2017.  Outspoken truther Charlie Sheen plays a man stuck in a elevator September 11th.  Apparently, this was directed by Martin Guigui, who also directed National Lampoon’s Cattle Call.  

Apparently, this will be the first Charlie Sheen film to actually make it into theaters since A Glimpse Into The Mind of Charlie Swan III.  It’ll be released on September 8th and hopefully, it won’t be as annoying as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

 

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Announced Their Picks For The Best of 2016!


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The Alliance of Women Film Journalists (of which I am not a member and what’s up with that!?) announced their picks for the best of 2016 earlier this week.

And here they are:

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS
These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration.
Best Film
Arrival
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Director
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Screenplay, Original
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
Hail Caesar – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan

Best Screenplay, Adapted
Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Lion – Luke Davies
Love & Friendship – Whit Stillman
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins
Nocturnal Animals –Tom Ford

Best Documentary
13th – Ava DuVernay
Gleason – Clay Tweel
I Am Not Your Negro – Raoul Peck
OJ Made in America – Ezra Edelman
Weiner – Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegma

Best Animated Film
Finding Dory – Andrew Stanton andAngus MacLane
Kubo and the Two Strings- Travis Knight
Moana – Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
Zootopia – Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush

Best Actress
Amy Adams – Arrival
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis – Fences
Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Best Actor
Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
Joel Edgerton – Loving
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Tom Hanks – Sully
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Ben Foster – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By the Sea
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director
20th Century Women – Mark Bennett and Laura Rosenthal
Hail Caesar – Ellen Chenoweth
Hell or High Water – Jo Edna Boldin and Richard Hicks
Manchester by the Sea – Douglas Aibel
Moonlight – Yesi Ramirez

Best Cinematography
Arrival – Bradford Young
Hell or High Water – Giles Nuttgens
La La Land – Linus Sandgren
Manchester by The Sea – Jody Lee Lipes
Moonlight – James Laxton

Best Editing
Arrival – Joe Walker
I Am Not Your Negro — Alexandra Strauss
La La Land – Tom Cross
Manchester By The Sea – Jennifer Lame
Moonlight – Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders

Best Non-English-Language Film
Elle – Paul Verhoeven, France
Fire At Sea – Gianfranco Rossi, Italy
The Handmaiden – Chan-Wook Park, South Korea
Julieta – Pedro Almodovar. Spain
Toni Erdmann – Maren Ede, Germany

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS
These awards honor WOMEN only

Best Woman Director
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Ava DuVernay -13TH
Rebecca Miller – Maggie’s Plan
Mira Nair – Queen of Katwe
Kelly Reichardt – Certain Women

Best Woman Screenwriter
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Rebecca Miller – Maggie’s Plan
Kelly Reichardt – Certain Women
Lorene Scafaria – The Meddler
Laura Terruso – Hello, My Name is Doris

Best Animated Female
Dory in Finding Dory –Ellen DeGeneres
Judy in Zootopia – Ginnifer Goodwin
Moana in Moana – Auli’i Cravalho

Best Breakthrough Performance
Sasha Lane – American Honey
Janelle Monáe – Moonlight and Hidden Figures
Madina Nalwanga – Queen of Katwe
Ruth Negga – Loving

Outstanding Achievement by A Woman in The Film Industry
Ava DuVernay – For 13TH and raising awareness about the need for diversity and gender equality in Hollywood
Anne Hubbell and Amy Hobby for establishing Tangerine Entertainment’s Juice Fund to support female filmmakers
Mynette Louie, President of Gamechanger Films, which finances narrative films directed by women
April Reign for creating and mobilizing the #OscarsSoWhite campaign

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Actress Defying Age and Ageism
Annette Bening – 20th Century Women
Viola Davis – Fences
Sally Field – Hello, My Name is Doris
Isabelle Huppert – Elle and Things to Come
Helen Mirren – Eye in the Sky

Most Egregious Age Difference Between The Lead and The Love Interest Award
Dirty Grandpa – Robert De Niro (b. 1943) and Aubrey Plaza (b. 1984)
Independence Day: Resurgence – Charlotte Gainsbourg (b 1971) and Jeff Goldblum (b 1952)
Mechanic Resurrection – Jason Statham (b. 1967) and Jessica Aba (b. 1981)
Rules Don’t Apply – Warren Beatty (b. 1937) and Lily Collins (b. 1989)

Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent
Jennifer Aniston – Mother’s Day and Office Christmas Party
Melissa McCarthy – The Boss and Ghostbusters
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad and Tarzan
Julia Roberts – Mother’s Day
Shailene Woodley – Divergent Series

Bravest Performance
Jessica Chastain – Miss Sloane
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Sasha Lane – American Honey
Ruth Negga – Loving

Remake or Sequel That Shouldn’t have been Made
Ben-Hur
Ghostbusters
Independence Day: Resurgence
The Magnificent Seven
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award
Sharon Maguire and Renee Zellweger for Bridget Jones’s Baby
Nicholas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning for The Neon Demon
David Ayer and Margot Robbie for Suicide Squad
David E. Talbert and Mo’Nique for Almost Christmas

Guilty Pleasure No. 31: Hail, Caesar! (dir by the Coen Brothers)


Sometimes, I wonder if I was the only filmgoer who actually enjoyed Hail, Caesar! when it was released in February.

Oh, don’t met wrong.  I know that I’m being a bit overdramatic when I say that.  It got some good reviews from the critics, though the praise was rather muted when compared to the reviews that traditionally greet the latest film from the Coen Brothers.  I know more than a few people who have agreed with me that Hail, Caesar! was an entertaining lark of a film.

But I know a lot more people who absolutely hated Hail, Caesar!  Of course, no film is going to please everyone and the Coen Brothers have always had a tendency to attempt to deliberately alienate their audience.  But what has always struck me is the fact that the people who disliked Hail, Caesar seem to really, really dislike it.  Talk to them and you get the feeling that they view Hail, Caesar as almost being some sort of a crime against both humanity and cinema.

Taking place in a stylized Hollywood in 1951, Hail, Caesar! tells the story of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).  Eddie is a shadowy figure.  As head of production at Capitol Pictures, Eddie’s job is to keep the “bad” behavior of the stars from getting out into the press.  (The press is represented by Tilda Swinton who, in a typical Coen Brothers twist, plays twin sisters who are rival gossip columnists.  If the thought of that makes you smile, you are potentially a part of the right audience for Hail Caesar.  If it makes you roll your eyes, you should probably avoid the film.)  Eddie is the most powerful man in Hollywood and he will do anything to protect the image of the American film industry.  He will lie.  He will cheat.  He will threaten.  He is so ruthless and so good at his job that even Lockheed Martin is trying to hire him away from Capitol.  And yet, at the same time, Eddie is also a family man and a Catholic who is so devout that he goes to confession on a nearly hourly basis.

(For all you non-Catholics out there, Pope Francis only goes to confession twice a month.)

Hail, Caesar! follows Eddie as he deals with a series of potential problems.  Temperamental director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) is upset because he’s been forced to cast Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich, giving the film’s best performance), a good-natured but inarticulate cowboy star, in his sophisticated comedy.  Synchronized swimmer DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansoon) is not only pregnant but unmarried as well!  (It’s the 50s, remember.)

However, the biggest crisis is that Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has vanished from the set of his latest film. A mysterious group known as The Future has taken credit for kidnapping him.  It’s not really much of a spoiler to reveal that The Future is a cell of communist scriptwriters and they are determined to convert the rather dumb Baird to the struggle.  As opposed to most films about Hollywood in the 50s, the communist screenwriters are portrayed as being a bunch of self-righteous and rather cowardly nags, the majority of whom spend more time debating minutiae than actually trying to the overthrow capitalism.  In many ways, Hail, Caesar is the anti-Trumbo.

As you might guess from the plot description, there’s a lot going on in Hail, Caesar but none of it really adds up too much.  Nor is it supposed to.  We’re encouraged to laugh at these frantic characters, as opposed to sympathize with them.  Eddie Mannix and Hobie Doyle both emerge as heroes because they’re the only characters who remain calm and confident, regardless of what strangeness is happening onscreen.  Eddie may be ruthless, the film tells us, but at least he gets results.  Hobie may not be the smartest or most talented guy in Hollywood, we are told, but at least he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than who he is.

Hail, Caesar! is a bit of a lark, a celebration of style over substance.  As far as Coen Brother films go, Hail, Caesar has more in common with Burn After Reading than No Country For Old Men.  The film is largely an inside joke aimed at people who know the history of Hollywood, which is perhaps why some viewers reacted so negatively.  Inside jokes are fun when you’re in on the joke.  When you’re not in on it, though, they’re just annoying.

As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed Hail, Caesar!  It may not be the Coens at their best but it’s a lot of fun and it appealed me as both a history nerd and a lover of old movies.  The best parts of Hail, Caesar! are the scenes that parody the largely forgotten, big-budget studio productions of the 1950s.  This is the rare film that acknowledges that not every film made before the 1960s was a masterpiece.  The Coens love movies but that doesn’t keep them from getting a little bit snarky.  For example, check out this production number featuring Channing Tatum:

Is Hail, Caesar self-indulgent?

Yes.

Is it largely an inside joke?

Yes.

Did I absolutely adore it?

You better believe I did.

Hail,_Caesar!_Teaser_poster

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen