Lisa Marie’s Possibly Pointless Oscar Predictions For March


I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I should even bother to continue my monthly Oscar predictions.  With the current Coronavirus pandemic, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if there will even be an Oscar ceremony next year.  Many completed films have been taken off the schedule so that they can be released at a time when people aren’t scared to leave their house.  Meanwhile, production on several other films — some of them expected to be Oscar contenders — has been suspended.  New films are continuing to premiere on the streaming services but the Academy has always insisted that films also play in a theater if they want to contend for an Oscar.  That’s going to be difficult with the majority of the country’s theaters currently being closed.

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not necessarily apocalyptic or even that pessimistic in my outlook.  I think that, one way or another, we will eventually be able to leave our homes again and that at least some of the movie theaters will reopen.  So, I think that we will be able to have some sort of Oscar ceremony.  For that reason, I’m going to make my predictions for March but, needless to say, take all of these with an even bigger grain of salt than usual.

If you’re curious to see what my Oscar thinking was in the months before the world went crazy, check out my predictions for January and February!

(I’ve tried to take the fact that the Coronavirus led to the suspension of many ongoing productions while making out my list below.  As far as I know, filming wrapped on all of the films listed below before the outbreak.)

Best Picture

Ammonite

Annette

Hillbilly Elegy

The Father

Minari

News of the World

Nomadland

On the Rocks

Tenet

West Side Story

Best Director

Isaac Lee Chung for Minari

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Christopher Nolan for Tenet

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Florian Zeller for The Father

Best Actor

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Bill Murray in On the Rocks

Gary Oldman in Mank

Will Smith in King Richard

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy

Clare Dunne in Herself

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

Kate Winslet in Ammonite

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Burke in Mank

Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Mark Rylance in The Trial of the Chicago 7

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steve Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Abigail Breslin in Stillwater

Glenn Close in Hillybilly Elegy

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite

Helena Zengel in News of the World

 

Criminal Law (1988, directed by Matin Campbell)


Gary Oldman is Ben Chase, a hotshot defense attorney who graduated from Harvard and now practices law in Boston.  That means that he gets to have a Boston accent and you know how much Gary Oldman loves playing a role with an accent.  Ben also has a pompadour because Gary Oldman always has something weird going on with his hair in almost every film he appears in.

Ben’s latest client is Martin Thiel (Kevin Bacon), a sociopathic rich kid who has been accused of murder.  Even though Ben thinks that Martin is probably guilty, he still gets Martin off the hook.  As soon as Martin get his acquittal, he starts murdering again.  Ben feels responsible so he decides that what he needs to do is trick Martin into implicating himself.  However, Martin knows what Ben is planning so, instead, he decides to frame Ben for the murders.  Somehow, it all links back to Martin’s feelings about abortion.  I guess Martin is against abortion or maybe he’s for it.  It was hard to keep track.  I watched the movie and I’m still not sure I followed everything that I saw.  It’s not that the plot is diabolically clever.  It’s just that it’s so incoherent that not a single plot point logically follows from another.

The film experiments with suggesting that there’s some sort of deeper connection between Martin and Ben.  Martin is obsessed with Ben and when Ben is in bed with his girlfriend, he briefly imagines that she’s turned into Martin and has a good old-fashioned freak out as a result.  It doesn’t make any sense.  First off, you have to believe that Ben can’t tell the difference between Kevin Bacon and his girlfriend.  Secondly, you have to then accept that Ben — a HARVARD GRADUATE — is so stupid that he would actually believe that his girlfriend had suddenly transformed into Kevin Bacon and must now be strangled.

Criminal Law is a film that you may be tempted to watch because of the pairing of Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman but you’d be better off just watching JFK again.  They’re both great actors and and it’s always interesting to see them cast against type but neither one of them is particularly good in Criminal Law.  They’re let down by a script that doesn’t allow either one to create a consistent character.  Sometimes, Martin is a soulless attorney and other times, he’s a panicky social justice crusader.  Sometimes, Kevin Bacon is a clever sociopath and, other times, he’s just your typical mindless movie slasher.

On the plus side, Joe Don Baker is in this mess, playing a cop.  Joe Don Baker has played so many cops in so many bad movies that I wonder if he’s ever been tempted to try to arrest someone in real life.  In Criminal Law, he’s not given much to do but it doesn’t matter.  He’s Joe Don Baker!

4 Shots From 4 Film: Special Gary Oldman 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!

Today is the 62nd birthday of one of the best actors currently working, Gary Oldman!  In honor of both this day and also Gary Oldman’s amazing versatility as a performer, here are…

4 Shots From 4 Films

Sid & Nancy (1986, directed by Alex Cox)

The Firm (1989, directed by Alan Clarke)

The Fifth Element (1997, directed by Luc Besson)

The Dark Knight (2008, directed by Christopher Nolan)

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Darkest Hour (dir by Joe Wright)


The 2017 best picture nominee, Darkest Hour, opens with Europe at war.

While the United States remains officially neutral, the Nazi war machine marches across Europe.  After years of appeasement, the United Kingdom has finally declared war on Germany but the feeling in Parliament is that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) is not strong enough to take on Hitler.  When the Opposition demands that Chamberlain resign, Chamberlain does so with the hope that he’ll be replaced by Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane).  Like Chamberlain, Halifax continues to hold out hope for some sort of negotiated peace with the Germans.  However, Halifax declines, saying that it’s not yet his time.  Instead, Chamberlain’s successor is Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), the only Conservative that the Opposition is willing to accept as Prime Minister.

(This is a bit of invention on the part of the filmmakers.  In reality, the Opposition did demand Chamberlain’s resignation but they did not stipulate that he could only be replaced by Churchill.)

No one is particularly enthusiastic about the idea of Winston Churchill becoming prime minister.  Chamberlain and Halifax both view him as being a war monger who is so determined to prove himself as a military strategist that he’ll sacrifice thousands of British lives just for his own glory.  The King (Ben Mendelsohn) worries that Churchill is an unreliable radical and he still resents Churchill for defending the marriage of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.  Churchill is regularly described as being a buffoon and an eccentric.  He’s quick-tempered and obsessive about things that many people would consider to be of no importance.  When we first see Churchill, he’s making his new assistant (played by Lily James) cry because he’s discovered that she single-spaced a memo as opposed to double-spacing it.  The only people who seem to like Winston are the member of his family and even his loyal wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) is frequently frustrated with him.

Churchill’s enemies are not impressed by his first actions as prime minister.  They listen in disgust as he lies about the prospects of victory in France.  They are shocked by his refusal to even consider a negotiated peace.  They are horrified by his ruthless pragmatism as he willing sacrifice a thousand British soldiers in order to save several thousand more at Dunkirk.  An aristocrat who has been rejected by his peers, Churchill is betrayed by those serving in his government but beloved by the people who ride the Underground and who are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything to defeat Hitler’s war machine.

As directed by Joe Wright, Darkest Hour plays out like a dream, with 1940s Britain recreated in hues of black and gray.  The film’s visual palette is so dark that, at times, Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill appears to literally emerge out of the shadows, an almost mythical figure who symbolizes a society in transition.  In many ways, Churchill is an old-fashioned Edwardian who nostalgically remembers the glory days of the British Empire.  At the same time, Churchill is enough of a realist to see that the world is changing and, regardless of who wins the war, that it will never be the same.  Churchill is enough of an aristocrat to be unaware of what a backwards V-sign means but also enough of a commoner to laugh uproariously upon learning its meaning.

Churchill spends a good deal of the film bellowing and, at times, it’s easy to see why many initially dismissed him as being a buffoon.  Indeed, in Darkest Hour, Churchill frequently is a buffoon.  But he’s also a pragmatic leader who truly loves his country and its people.  Oldman has a lot of scenes where he’s loud but he also has other scenes in which he reveals Churchill to be a thoughtful man who loves his country and who is determined to win a war that many believe to be unwinnable.  When he’s reduced to calling the United States and has to pathetically beg President Roosevelt to honor a treaty, you feel for Churchill and you share his frustration as he tries to get the flaky FDR to understand the reality of what’s happening in Europe.  When Churchill explains why he’s willing to sacrifice a thousand in order to save 41,000 more, Oldman delivers his lines with a steely certainty.  As played by Oldman, Churchill knows what has to be done, even if no one else has any faith in him.

It’s a good film, even if it ultimately feels more like a showcase for one actor than a cohesive narrative.  The rest of the cast does a good job, especially Ronald Pickup as the haunted and dying Neville Chamberlain.  But ultimately, Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman’s show.  That’s appropriate.  Much as how Churchill dominated British politics, Gary Oldman has dominated British acting.  Not surprisingly, Gary Oldman won his first Oscar for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.  The film was also nominated for best picture but it lost to Shape of Water.

 

The Things You Find On Netflix: The Laundromat (dir by Steven Soderbergh)


To say that Meryl Streep gives a bad performance in The Laundromat actually does a disservice to your average, run-of-the-mill bad performance.

Meryl Streep instead gives an absolutely terrible performance in The Laundromat, playing not one, not two, but three characters.  One of the characters is Ellen Martin, a middle-class widow from Michigan whose attempts to collect a fair settlement after the death of her husband provides a portal in the world of shady con men and corrupt financial institutions.  One of the characters is a secret, which means that Meryl wears a lot of make-up and frumpy clothes.  That said, from the minute the character appeared on screen, I went, “Oh, there’s Meryl again.”  Then, in her third role, Meryl plays herself, demanding campaign finance reform and striking a Statue of Liberty pose while holding a hairbrush instead of a torch.

Really, it’s the type of horrendous performance that could only be delivered by a truly great actress.  (If Meryl Streep is the modern Norma Shearer, this is her Romeo and Juliet.)  Watching Meryl Streep play the role of Ellen, It occurred to me that Meryl is one of those actresses who is incapable of being authentic but who can certainly act the Hell out of pretending to be authentic.  You never forget that Meryl Streep is acting and that’s one reason why her best performances are usually the ones where she’s playing theatrical characters, whether they’re politicians like Margaret Thatcher, celebrities like Julia Child, or the Witch in Into the Woods.  But when you cast Meryl as someone who is basically supposed to be a member of the “common people,” it just doesn’t work.  Laura Dern, Laurie Metcalf, Allison Janney, even Annette Bening probably could have done a decent job playing Ellen Martin but Meryl is just too Meryl.  As for her other two performances in The Laundromat, they don’t work because one is meant to be a joke on the audience and the other is just a retread of her standard “I’m just a middle class woman from New Jersey and I love the little people” awards show speech.

Of course, The Laundromat itself is a remarkably bad film.  Again, it takes a lot of talent to make a film this bad.  Watching the film, I found myself wondering why, at this point in his celebrated career, Steven Soderbergh would decide to become a second-rate Adam McKay, especially when McKay himself is just a third-rate Jean-Luc Godard?  The film is structured so that, while Ellen is obsessing on why she’s getting screwed over by the insurance companies, we’re also treated to scenes of Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas talking directly to the camera and explaining to use why the poor are always going to get screwed over by the rich.  That’s probably true but the film gets so heavy-handed in its execution that the resulting migraine is going to be due less to outrage and more due to the sledgehammer that Soderbergh takes to your head.

Along with Ellen’s story, we also get to see several other stories featuring people and their money.  Jeffrey Wright is a crooked accountant who has two families.  And then there’s an African businessman who bribes his wife and daughter with shares in a non-existent company and then we take a trip to China, where we learn about cyanide and organ harvesting. And yes, I get it.  It shows how a crime committed in China is ultimately felt by a widow living in Michigan.  But one can’t help but wish that Soderbergh had just focuses on one story, instead of trying to imitate the worst moments of The Big Short.

Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas are technically playing the film’s villains but they’re both so charming that The Laundromat at times seems like more of a recruiting film for aspiring money launderers than anything else.  (To continue the Adam McKay comparison, it’s a bit like how Vice actually left audiences feeling sympathy for Dick Cheney as opposed to writing petitions to send to The Hague.)  It desperately wants to leave us outraged but Soderbegh gets so caught up in his own cutesy storytelling techniques that it just leaves us feeling somewhat annoyed.  Watching the film, one gets the feeling that the perfect directors for The Laundromat would have been the Coen Brothers, who are capable of outrage but whose detached style would have kept them from bludgeoning the audience with it.  Soderbergh is too angry to be effective.

As I said, there’s a lot of talented people involved in The Laundromat.  It’s full of people who have done great work in the past and who will do great work in the future.  As for The Laundromat, it’s a legitimate contender for the biggest disappointment of the year.

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Alita: Battle Angel, Mid 90s, Love Gilda, Final Score, Hunter Killer, Iron Fist


Welcome to this week’s trailer round-up!

What do you get when you combine a script co-written by James Cameron with the direction of Robert Rodriguez?  We’ll find out when Alita: Battle Angel is released into theaters on December 21st!

A24’s latest period piece, Mid90s, will be released into theaters on October 19th.  This film is the directorial debut of Jonah Hill and, judging from the trailer, his film has got the 90s down.

SNL comedienne Gilda Radner gets a much deserved tribute in Love, Gilda.  This documentary will be in theaters on September 21st.

Judging from the trailer, Final Score looks like it might be the best action film of 1992.  It’s Die Hard in a stadium.  The Eurotrash villains take 35,000 football hooligans hostage but everyone’s too much into the match to notice.  At first, I thought this trailer had to be a parody.

Speaking of things that seem like parodies but are actually meant to be taken seriously, Hunter Killer is a real movie starring two real Oscar winners.  Keep an eye out for Gary Oldman and Common in theaters on October 26th.

Finally, proving that not even bad reviews can keep a Marvel hero down, Netflix’s Iron Fist returns for a second season on September 7th.

 

 

 

Here Are Your 2017 Oscar Winners!


Here are the winners of the 90th annual Academy Awards!

Best Picture — The Shape of Water

Best Director — Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape Of Water

Best Actor — Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Best Actress — Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actor — Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress — Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Best Original Screenplay– Jordan Peele, Get Out

Best Adapted Screenplay — James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name

Best Animated Feature — Coco

Best Production Design — The Shape of Water

Best Cinematography — Blade Runner 2049

Best Costume Design — Phantom Thread

Best Film Editing — Dunkirk

Best Hair and Makeup — Darkest Hour

Best Sound Mixing — Dunkirk

Best Sound Editing — Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects — Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Score — The Shape of Water

Best Original Song — “Remember Me” from Coco

Best Foreign Language Film — A Fantastic Woman

Best Documentary Feature — Icarus

Best Animated Short — Dear Basketball

Best Live Action Short — The Silent Child

Best Documentary Short — Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405