Insomnia File #49: Mystery Date (dir by Jonathan Wacks)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep last night, around one in the morning, you could have turned over to the HBO Family channel and watched the 1991 comedy, Mystery Date!

A young and extremely adorable Ethan Hawke plays Tom McHugh, a college student who is in love with Geena (Teri Polo), the housesitter next door. The only problem is that Tom is extremely shy and can’t even work up the nerve to ask Genna out. It sure would help if he was rich and charming like his older brother, Craig (Brian McNamara). Eventually, Craig helps his brother out. He gives Tom his credit card and his car so that Tom can take Geena out on a date. What an nice brother! Soon, Tom and Geena are hitting the town and having a great time. They even see Gwar perform which …. well, okay. That probably would not be my ideal first date but whatever.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Craig has gotten involved with some pretty bad things and, as a result, there are two dead bodies in the trunk of the car! Uh-oh, that could be awkward. Plus, the Chinese mafia (led by B.D. Wong) are determined to kill Tom because they think that he’s Craig. And finally, to top it all off, Tom has got a crazed flower delivery guy (played by Fisher Stevens) following him all over the city. Can Tom possibly survive the night and still get a second date!?

Mystery Date starts out nicely. Ethan Hawke is cute in a non-threatening sort of way. Teri Polo is likable. They seem like they would make a cute couple. You want things to work out for them. Unfortunately, once the date actually starts, the film gets frantic without getting any funnier. It becomes a case of the film just trying too hard and you feel as if the film is demanding that you laugh as opposed to offering up a reason to laugh. You watch the film and you don’t so much think about what you’re watching as you think about films like Risky Business and Better Off Dead, both of which told similar stories with a lot more energy and imagination. You have to kind of imagine that whenever Ethan Hawke gives one of his interviews where he talks about why he’s not interested in doing typical mainstream films, this is probably the type of movie that he was talking about. Among the many other things for which we have to thank Richard Linklater, he ensured that Ethan Hawke would never have to star in Mystery Date 2.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice

Here’s The Trailer For The Black Phone!


Not all horror comes out in October!

In fact, just yesterday, a trailer dropped for a horror film that will be coming out in February!  So, happy Valentine’s Day, I guess.

Anyway, the trailer is for The Black Phone, which is the latest film from Scott Derrickson.  It’s a return to his horror roots after his detour into the MCU.  It appears to be about a kidnapping and the kidnapper is Willy Wonka!  Oh, wait a minute …. that’s Ethan Hawke.

The trailer looks kind of creepy.  Derrickson’s Sinister is still one of the scariest films of the past ten years.  Plus, Ethan Hawke should get all the roles that seem like they were originally written for Johnny Depp.  So, I’ll give this one a shot when it comes out next year.

Here’s the trailer:

Music Video of the Day: Stay by Lisa Loeb (1995, directed by Ethan Hawke)


This song was originally used in the film Reality Bites.  The film’s co-star, Ethan Hawke, was a friend of Lisa Loeb’s and he brought the song to the attention of director Ben Stiller.  Hawke would then go on to direct the music video for Stay.  This was not only Lisa Loeb’s first music video but it was also Ethan Hawke’s directorial debut.  Filmed in a SoHo loft, the video featured not only Lisa Loeb but also Ethan Hawke’s cat.

Enjoy!

Here Are The SAG Nominations!


Here are the SAG nominations!  I’ll be post my thoughts under the noms because — let’s be honest, the noms are what you’re here for:

BEST ENSEMBLE
Da 5 Bloods
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
One Night In Miami
The Trial Of The Chicago 7

BEST LEAD ACTOR (FEMALE)
Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces Of A Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

BEST LEAD ACTOR (MALE)
Riz Ahmed – Sound Of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Gary Oldman – Mank
Steven Yeun – Minari

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (FEMALE)
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman – The Father
Youn Yuh-Jung – Minari
Helena Zengel – News Of The World

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (MALE)
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial Of The Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Daniel Kaluuya – Judas And The Black Messiah
Jared Leto – The Little Things
Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night In Miami

BEST STUNT ENSEMBLE
Da 5 Bloods
Mulan
News of the World
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Wonder Woman 1984

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A DRAMA SERIES
Better Call Saul
Bridgerton
The Crown
Lovecraft Country
Ozark

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Gillian Anderson – The Crown
Olivia Colman – The Crown
Emma Corrin – The Crown
Julia Garner – Ozark
Laura Linney – Ozark

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jason Bateman – Ozark
Sterling K. Brown – This Is Us
Josh O’Connor – The Crown
Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul
Regé-Jean Page – Bridgerton

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES
Dead To Me
The Flight Attendant
The Great
Schitt’s Creek
Ted Lasso

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Nicholas Hoult – The Great
Daniel Levy – Schitt’s Creek
Eugene Levy – Schitt’s Creek
Jason Sudekis – Ted Lasso
Ramy Youseff – Ramy

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Christina Applegate – Dead To Me
Linda Cardellini – Dead To Me
Kaley Cuoco – The Flight Attendant
Annie Murphy – Schitt’s Creek
Catherine O’Hara – Schitt’s Creek

BEST ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES
Bill Camp – The Queen’s Gambit
​Daveed Diggs – Hamilton
Hugh Grant – The Undoing
Ethan Hawke – The Good Lord Bird
Mark Ruffalo – I Know This Much Is True

BEST ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES
Cate Blanchett – Mrs. America
Cole – I May Destroy You
Nicole Kidman – The Undoing
Anya Taylor-Joy – The Queen’s Gambit
Kerry Washington – Little Fires Everywhere

Okay, my thoughts:

I guess the big news is that the SAG appreciated Hillbilly Elegy a bit more than the critics.  Glenn Close picking up a supporting actress nom isn’t a huge shock but I do think a few people were a bit surprised to see Amy Adams nominated.  Personally, I think Amy Adams was okay in Hillbilly Elegy but I’ll be kind of disappointed if — after all the great performance she’s given — this is the one that she picks up an Oscar for.

We all kind of laughed off Jared Leto picking up that supporting nomination from the Golden Globes but the SAG nominated him as well!  Is this a sign of momentum or just a crazy coincidence?  Either way, this doesn’t bode well for the Oscar hopes of Sound of Metal‘s Paul Raci.  Raci’s picked up a lot of critical support but getting snubbed by both the Globes and SAG doesn’t seem like a good sign.

Speaking of signs, I’m going to assume that Sidney Flanigan’s Oscar hopes are pretty much gone.  Like Raci, she seems like she would have needed either a GG or a SAG nomination to really break through.

Amanda Seyfried was not nominated.  That took me by surprise but it didn’t upset me as much as Raci getting snubbed, largely because I like Sound of Metal considerably more than Mank.

I think Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is the overrated film of 2020 but you still have to wonder how the film could pick up a Best Ensemble nomination without also getting best actor nomination for Delroy Lindo.  Lindo was also snubbed by the Globes so again, the prospect of him getting nominated for an Oscar no longer seems like a sure thing.

Good news for Steven Yeun!  Some people were writing him off after he didn’t get a Golden Globe nomination but the SAG nomination puts him right back into the hunt.

Finally, the SAG is one of the best precursors regarding what films and performances will actually receive Oscar nominations.  So, whether or not I or anyone else agrees with all of the nominations, the nominees have to be feeling very happy right now.  Best of luck to them all!

Here Are The 78th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


I’m totally turned off by the self-importance of the Golden Globes and I resent every time that I have to write about them.

That said, despite the fact that no one is quite sure who actually votes for the damn things and stories of corruption in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have been rampant for years, the Golden Globes have still emerged as one of the main Oscar precursors.  So, you kind of have to pay attention to them.  Bleh.

There really aren’t any huge shocks in the list of nominees below, with the exception of maybe Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor and James Corden’s Prom nomination.  I mean, if you’re that determined to nominate someone for The Prom, why would you go for James Corden as opposed to Meryl Streep?  That’s just odd.

Anyway, here are the nominations:

Best Motion Picture, Drama
“The Father”
“Mank”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
“Hamilton”
“Music”
“Palm Springs”
“The Prom”

Best Director, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Regina King, “One Night In Miami”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Kate Hudson, “Music”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “French Exit”
Rosamund Pike, “I Care a Lot”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “Emma”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Helena Zengel, “News of the World”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Tahar Rahim, “The Mauritanian”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
James Corden, “The Prom”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”
Dev Patel, “The Personal History of David Copperfield”
Andy Samberg, “Palm Springs”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Jared Leto, “The Little Things”
Billy Murray, “On the Rocks”
Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night In Miami”

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
Jack Fincher, “Mank”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton, “The Father”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Original Score, Motion Picture
Alexandre Desplat, “The Midnight Sky”
Ludwig Göransson, “Tenet”
James Newton Howard, “News of the World”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Mank”
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul”

Best Original Song, Motion Picture
“Fight For You,” Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Hear My Voice,” The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Io Sì (Seen),” The Life Ahead”
“Speak Now,” One Night In Miami”
“Tigress & Tweed,” The United States Vs. Billie Holiday”

Best Motion Picture, Animated
“The Croods: A New Age”
“Onward”
“Over the Moon”
“Soul”
“Wolfwalkers”

Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language
“Another Round”
“La Llorona”
“The Life Ahead”
“Minari”
“Two Of Us”

Best Television Series, Drama
“The Crown”
“Lovecraft Country”
“The Mandalorian”
“Ozark”
“Ratched”

Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy
“Emily in Paris”
“The Flight Attendant”
“The Great”
“Schitt’s Creek”
“Ted Lasso”

Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
“Normal People”
“The Queen’s Gambit”
“Small Axe”
“The Undoing”
“Unorthodox”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama
Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Laura Linney, “Ozark”
Sarah Paulson, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Lily Collins, “Emily In Paris”
Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant”
Elle Fanning, “The Great”
Jane Levy, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”
Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”
Daisy Edgar Jones, “Normal People”
Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
Nicole Kidman, “The Undoing”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Supporting Role
Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Julia Garner, “Ozark”
Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Cynthia Nixon, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Al Pacino, “Hunters”
Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”
Nicholas Hoult, “The Great”
Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Bryan Cranston, “Your Honor”
Jeff Daniels, “The Comey Rule”
Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”
Ethan Hawke, “The Good Lord Bird”
Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much is True”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Supporting Role
John Boyega, “Small Axe”
Brendan Gleeson, “The Comey Rule”
Daniel Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”
Donald Sutherland, “The Undoing”

A Midnight Clear (1992, directed by Keith Gordon)


In December of 1944, with the world at war and Christmas approaching, a small U.S. Army Intelligence squad is sent to a deserted chateau near the German lines.  The squad, which was decimated during the Battle of the Bulge, is made up of six young soldiers who all have genius IQs.  They’ve been hardened by war but they’re still young enough to have some hope for the future.  Leading them is “Mother” Wilkinson (Gary Sinise), an officer who cares about his men but who has been mentally struggling with not only the war but also with the recent death of a child back home.

At first, the chateau seems like a perfect sanctuary, a place to wait for the war to end.  But then the Americans discover that there is a regiment of German soldiers nearby.  The Germans are just as young as the Americans and when the two groups meet each other, they don’t fire their guns but instead have a snowball fight.  The Germans say that they know the war is about to end and that they want to surrender before the Russians arrive.  However, the Germans are worried about their families back home and what will happen when word gets back that they’ve surrendered.  They request a staged fight so that it will appear that they were captured in combat.  Almost everyone is down with the plan but it turns out that it’s not easy to fake a war in the middle of a real one.

Based on a novel by William Wharton, A Midnight Clear is one of the best Christmas films that hardly anyone seems to have heard of.  It’s a war film that is more concerned with the men who fight the wars than with the battles. Along with Sinise, the ensemble cast includes Ethan Hawke, Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, Ayre Gross, Frank Whaley, and John C. McGinley and all of them make an impression, bringing their characters to life.  By the end of the movie, you feel like you know each member of the squad and their individual fates hit you hard.  Some of them make it to the next Christmas and tragically, some of them don’t.  The film starts out almost gently and all of the soldiers are so intent on just letting the war end while they hide out at the chateau that you find yourself believing that it could actually happen.  When reality intrudes, it’s tragic and poignant.  Intelligently directed by Keith Gordon (making his directorial debut), A Midnight Clear is an unforgettable anti-war story that has an amazing final shot.  A Midnight Clear makes an impression on Christmas and every other day.

Future Winners: 6 Actors Who I Hope Will Win An Oscar In The Next Ten Years


We talk a lot about which performers and directors have been snubbed at Oscar time.  For movie lovers, that’s an important subject.  We all know that great actors like Peter O’Toole, Cary Grant, Albert Finney, and others all went to their grave with several nominations but not a single competitive Oscar to their name.  Earlier this week, Kirk Douglas died at the age of 103 without having ever won a competitive Oscar.  We always talk about how certain actors are overdue for their first Oscar but sometimes we forget that being overdue doesn’t always translate into an eventual win.

With that in mind, here are 6 actors who I sincerely hope will have won their first Oscar by the time 2040 rolls around:

  1. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is kind of the obvious choice for a list like this.  It’s still amazing to think that Cooper started the previous decade best known for a supporting role on Alias and for playing the smarmiest of the friends in The Hangover films.  Over the past ten years, he has emerged as not only a excellent actor but an excellent filmmaker as well.  (He may not have received a nomination for Best Director for A Star Is Born but he deserved one.)  Considering how often he’s been nominated over the past few years, Cooper is reaching overdue status and I full expect he’ll win an Oscar sometime during the next decade.

2. Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke has hardly been snubbed when it comes to nominations.  He’s been twice supported for Best Supporting Actor and he’s got two nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.  That Ethan Hawke was not nominated for First Reformed is still a shock to me.  It was one of the best performances of 2018 but it was also a rather subtle and, at times, rather depressing performance as well.  With the exception of his nomination for Training Day, all of Hawke’s nominations have been the result of collaborating with Richard Linklater.  Hopefully, Linklater is currently working on a great script that has a great role for Ethan Hawke because Hawke deserves to win an Oscar before 2040.

3. Steve Carell

When it comes to talking about actors who will someday win an Oscar, Steve Carell seems like an obvious choice.  He’s only received one nomination — for Foxcatcher — but people just seem to love him.  I think the man obstacle standing in Carell’s way is that he has a habit of appearing in movies that sound like they should be good but then turn out to be the total opposite.  (Welcome to Marwen, anybody?)  Still, it’s hard not to feel that Carell will eventually get the right role.

4. Oscar Isaac

Isaac has yet to receive his first nomination but it feels like it’s only a matter of time.  He’s talented, he’s super hot, and I still love the way he delivered the line, “I declare him to be an ….. OUTLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!” in Robin Hood.

5. Robert Downey, Jr.

Obviously, Robert Downey, Jr. is not going to win for Dr. Doolittle.  In fact, if he keeps making movies like that, he’s going to make me look really stupid for putting him on this list.  But the fact of the matter is that Downey is an actor who not only made an amazing comeback but who also served as the anchor for one of the most successful film franchises in history.  It’s hard to imagine the MCU becoming what it became without Downey’s involvement.  Downey can also be an excellent actor.  (People tend to forget that he had two nominations to his name before he ever played Iron Man.)  Someone needs to write Downey the perfect role and hope that he’ll accept it, regardless of how much money he’s being offered to star in the latest Disney live action remake.

6. Kurt Russell

Somehow, Kurt Russell does not have a single Oscar nomination to his name!  Despite being one of the most beloved actors out there and being something of a cinematic icon, Russell has never once been nominated.  (One problem is that all of the truly great Kurt Russell roles end up going to Jeff Bridges.  It’s every easy to imagine Russell playing every role ever played by Jeff Bridges and vice versa.)  The thing is, Kurt’s not getting any younger.  So, let’s hope that Quentin Tarantino is currently writing the role of a lifetime for Hollywood’s greatest Libertarian.

Agree?  Disagree?  Have someone else who you have picked over these six?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

Here’s The Trailer For The Truth!


The Truth is a film about the strained relationship between an legendary actress (Catherine Deneuve) and her screenwriter daughter (Juliette Binoche).  Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, it’s his first film to be set outside of Japan and not to be in his native language.  Completing the international feel of the production is Ethan Hawke, cast as Binoche’s husband.

The Truth received some favorable reviews when it played at both the Venice and the Toronto Film Festivals earlier this year.  It will be receiving a general release on March 20th of 2020.

Here’s the trailer!

Film Review: Hamlet (dir by Michael Almereyda)


What if Hamlet was a hipster douchebag?

That appears to be the question at the heart of the 2000 film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s most famous play.  In this adaptation, a young Ethan Hawke plays a Hamlet who is no longer a melancholy prince but who is instead a film student with a petulant attitude.

As you probably already guessed, this is one of those modern day adaptations of Shakespeare.  Denmark is now a Manhattan-based corporation.  Elsinore is a hotel.  Hamlet ponders life while wandering around a Blockbuster and, at one point, the ghost of his father stands in front of a Pepsi machine.  While Shakespeare’s dialogue remains unchanged, everyone delivers their lives while wearing modern clothing.  It’s one of those things that would seem rather brave and experimental if not for the fact that modern day versions of Shakespeare have gone from being daring to being a cliché.

At the film’s start, the former CEO of the Denmark Corporation has mysteriously died and his brother, Claudius (Kyle MacLachlan), has not only taken over the company but he’s also married the widow, Gertrude (Diane Venora).  Hamlet comes home from film school, convinced that there has been a murder and his suspicions are eventually confirmed by the ghost of his father (Sam Shepard).  Meanwhile, poor Ophelia (Julia Stiles) takes pictures of flowers while her brother, Laertes (Liev Schreiber), glowers in the background.  Polonius (Bill Murray) offers up pointless advice while Fortinbras (Casey Affleck) is reimagined as a corporate investor and Rosencrantz (Steve Zahn) wears a hockey jersey.  Hamlet spends a lot of time filming himself talking and the Mousetrap is no longer a player but instead an incredibly over-the-top short film that will probably remind you of the killer video from The Ring.

I guess a huge part of this film’s appeal was meant to be that it featured a lot of people who you wouldn’t necessarily think of as being Shakespearean actors. Some of them did a surprisingly good job.  For instance, Kyle MacLachlan was wonderully villainous as Claudius and Steve Zahn was the perfect Rosencrantz.  Others, like Diane Venora and Liev Schreiber, were adequate without being particularly interesting.  But then you get to Bill Murray as Polonius and you start to realize that quirkiness can only take things so far.  Murray does a pretty good job handling Shakespeare’s dialogue but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s totally miscast as the misguided and foolish Polonius.  One could easily imagine Murray in the role of Osiric.  Though it may initially seem a stretch, one could even imagine him playing Claudius.  But he’s simply not right for the role of Polonius.  Murray’s screen presence is just too naturally snarky for him to be convincing as a character who alternates between being a “tedious, old fool” and an obsequious ass kisser.

Considering that he spends a large deal of the movie wearing a snow cap while wandering around downtown Manhattan, Ethan Hawke does a surprisingly good job as Hamlet.  Or, I should say, he does a good job as this film’s version of Hamlet.  Here, Hamlet is neither the indecisive avenger nor the Oedipal madman of previous adaptations.  Instead, he’s portrayed as being rather petulant and self-absorbed, which doesn’t necessarily go against anything that one might find within Shakespeare’s original text.  Hawke’s not necessarily a likable Hamlet but his interpretation is still a credible one.

At one point, while Hamlet thinks about revenge, we see that he’s watching Laurence Olivier’s version of Hamlet on television.  There’s Olivier talking to Yorick’s skull while Hawke watches.  It’s a scene that is somehow both annoying and amusing at the same time.  On the one hand, it feels rather cutesy and more than a little pretentious.  At the same time, it’s so over-the-top in its pretension that you can’t help but kind of smile at the sight of it.  To me, that scene epitomizes the film as a whole.  It’s incredibly silly but it’s so unapologetic that it’s easy to forgive.

I Watched The Phenom


The Phenom is a movie that really took me by surprise.

It’s about a pitcher named Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons), a kid just out of high school who has a 100 mile fastball and a big future in major league baseball.  However, after a promising start, Hopper is struggling.  He has control issues.  He’s throwing wild pitches.  He’s losing games.  The team finally sends Hopper to see Dr. Mobley (Paul Giamatti), a sports psychologist who say that he can help Hopper regain his focus.

Hopper has a lot to deal with.  He’s still just a teenager but he feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He promised his mom that he’d buy her a new house and, at the same time, the press is constantly hounding him and demanding that he give them a good quote every time that he loses a game.  Meanwhile, Hopper’s father (Ethan Hawke), who has always put tremendous pressure on his son, is failed ball player himself and a drug dealer.  Hopper finds himself torn between two philosophies, his father’s belief that winning is the only thing that matter and Dr. Mobley’s more gentle approach to the game.  The problem is that, with everyone wanting someone from him, Hopper doesn’t know who he can trust.

The Phenom is a baseball movie and the main character is a pitcher but hardly any of the action takes place on the mound.  Instead, most of the movie takes place in either Dr. Mobley’s office or in Hopper’s head.  The Phenom does a good job of showing the type of daily pressure that Hopper is living under.  All of his life, everyone has told Hopper that he has a special gift and now, he’s so scared of not living up to his potential that he can’t get the ball across the plate.  At the same time, the film is also critical about the the emphasis that society puts on celebrities and professional athletes.  While Hopper goes into the major leagues straight out of high school, his valedictorian girlfriend struggles to pay for college.  Because Hopper can throw a fastball, no one has ever cared about whether or not he actually got an education.  But what’s going to become of Hopper and all the professional athletes like him when they can no longer play the game?  Hopper is a kid who was always told that he would never have to grow up and now, he’s expected to make adult decisions about the rest of his life.

Johnny Simmons does a really good job playing Hopper and the film really makes you think about the pressure that society puts on professional athletes to constantly win.  Most people can get away with having a bad day but, if a pitcher or a quarterback does it, the whole world wants their head.  The next time I want to yell at whoever’s pitching for the Rangers, I’m going to remember Hopper and this movie.

The Phenom was directed and written by Noah Buschel and it is currently streaming on Netflix.