Here Are The 2017 IFP Gotham Award Nominees!


Hi, everyone!

Well, today is officially the start of Oscar season.  This morning, the Independent Filmmakers Project announced this year’s nominees for the Gotham Awards!  While the Gotham Awards may not be as well-known as some of the other precursors, their importance has grown over the past few years.  Though most of the major studio contenders are typically not eligible, a Gotham nomination can provide a definite boost for an independent film.

This year, Get Out received the most nominations.  Get Out has been mentioned as an outside possibility for an Oscar nomination.  It’s generally considered to be the best reviewed film of the year but horror is a genre that has traditionally struggled with the Academy.  For Get Out to receive a nomination, it’s going to need some help from the precursors (much as how Mad Max: Fury Road was legitimized by the critic groups in 2015).  With the announcement of the Gotham nominations, Get Out is off to a good start.

I’m also happy to see that James Franco received a nomination for playing Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist.

Here are the nominees:

Best Feature

Call Me by Your Name
Luca Guadagnino, director; Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, Rodrigo Teixeira, Marco Morabito, James Ivory, Howard Rosenman, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

The Florida Project
Sean Baker, director; Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Francesca Silvestri, Shih-Ching Tsou, producers (A24)

Get Out
Jordan Peele, director; Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm, Jr., Jordan Peele, producers (Universal Pictures)

Good Time

Josh and Benny Safdie, directors; Paris Kasidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Oscar Boyson, producers (A24)

I, Tonya
Craig Gillespie, director; Bryan Unkeless, Steven Rogers, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, producers (NEON)

Best Documentary

Ex Libris – The New York Public Library
Frederick Wiseman, director and producer (Zipporah Films)

Rat Film
Theo Anthony, director; Riel Roch-Decter, Sebastian Pardo, producers (MEMORY and Cinema Guild)

Strong Island
Yance Ford, director; Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes, producers (Netflix)

The Work 
Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis, directors; Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis, Jennifer MacArthur, Flannery Miller, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

Whose Streets?

Jairus McLeary, director;  Alice Henty, Eon McLeary, Jairus McLeary, Miles McLeary, producers (The Orchard and First Look Media)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Maggie Betts for Novitiate (Sony Pictures Classics)
Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird (A24)
Kogonada for Columbus (Superlative Films/Depth of Field)
Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal Pictures)
Joshua Z Weinstein for Menashe (A24)

Best Screenplay

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (Amazon Studios)
Brad’s Status, Mike White (Amazon Studios)
Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory (Sony Pictures Classics)
Columbus, Kogonada (Superlative Films/Depth of Field)
Get Out, Jordan Peele (Universal Pictures)
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig (A24)


*
Best Actor*

Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project (A24)
James Franco in The Disaster Artist (A24)
Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out (Universal Pictures)
Robert Pattinson in Good Time (A24)
Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Netflix)
Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky (Magnolia Pictures)

Best Actress

Melanie Lynskey in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (Netflix)
Haley Lu Richardson in Columbus (Superlative Films/Depth of Field)
Margot Robbie in I, Tonya (NEON)
Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird (A24)
Lois Smith in Marjorie Prime (FilmRise)

Breakthrough Actor

Mary J. Blige in Mudbound (Netflix)
Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)
Harris Dickinson in Beach Rats (NEON)
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. in It Comes at Night (A24)
Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project (A24)

* The 2017 Best Actor/Best Actress nominating committee also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award for ensemble performance to Mudbound, The award will go to actors Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks.

 

Horror Film Review: Split (dir by M. Night Shyamalan)


There are a lot of negative things that you can say about 2017.  In the future, when historians look back of the second decade of the 21st century, I imagine that they will point to 2017 as being one of the worst years in American history.  The country is divided.  The world seems like a scary and dangerous place.  The outlook for the future feels bleak.  It’s not so much that people are angry.  Instead, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for all the anger.  It’s difficult to imagine that the differences that currently divide the world are ever going to be resolved.

However, there is one thing that can be said about 2017.  It’s been a very good year for horror cinema.

Sure, there have been a few less-than-perfect films.  Rings left most people disappointed.  Does anyone remember The Bye Bye Man or have we said farewell to the memories of that unfortunate film?  While The Dark Tower was never specifically a horror movie, it’s still not easy to think of any other Stephen King adaptation that has been greeted with such indifference.  The less said about Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, the better.

But even with all that in mind, there have been some truly outstanding horror movies released this year.  Movies like Get Out, It, and The Belko Experiment will be well-remembered long after the more “traditional” films of 2017 have faded from the collective memory.  I would go as far as to argue that David Lynch’s revival of Twin Peaks should itself be considered an 18-hour horror movie.  Maybe it is because the world seems like such a dark place right now.  Maybe, at this point, horror movies are the only movies that accurately reflect the way many people are feeling about the present and the future.  For whatever reason, 2017 has been a great year for horror.

Really, we wouldn’t be surprised.  Way back in January, things got off to a good start with the release of Split.  Split was a film that not many people were expecting to be impressive.  Just consider: the film was coming out in January, which is when the worst films are usually released.  (The theory is that everyone’s too busy with the Oscars to notice that studios are desperately trying to write off all of the losers that they misguidedly greenlit for production the previous year.)  Split was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, a formerly respected director whose last few films had been disappointing.  Finally, the film’s plot just didn’t sound that good: James McAvoy plays a man with multiple personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula) and holds them captive.  Throughout the film, McAvoy cycles through his different personalities and the girls try to find a way to escape before McAvoy turns into the Beast.

And yet somehow, Split works.  It’s a genuinely scary and unsettling film, one that left me feeling paranoid for days after I watched it.  From the minute that the film started, it grabbed hold of me and it did not let go for two hours.  I watched the movie and I wondered what would happen if I ever found myself in the same situation as the kidnapped girls.  Would I be able to survive?  Would I be able to escape?  Or would I just be another victim of the Beast?  It’s a deeply frightening film, one that feels like a waking nightmare at its most intense.

Obviously, a lot of credit has to go to James McAvoy, who is brilliant in a role that would have brought out the worst instincts in a lesser actor.  It’s a showy role and there had to be considerable temptation to go overboard.  And there are a few times when McAvoy embraces the more theatrical possibilities of the role.  However, in his best scenes, McAvoy is surprisingly subtle.  Yes, he does a lot of different voices.  Yes, his body language alters from personality to personality.  But McAvoy is at his best when he just allows his facial expression to subtly suggest that he has turned into someone else.  McAvoy is frightening but, at times, he’s also rather pathetic.  Whenever McAvoy shows up, you never know what he’s going to do.  He keeps you off-balance.

As good as McAvoy is, M. Night Shyamalan also deserves a lot of credit for Split.  For a film about a man with 23 warring personalities, Split is refreshingly direct and straight forward.  There’s none of the cloying cleverness that cheapened some of Shyamalan’s other films.  Instead, Split is simply a good, scary film for a really scary world.

Film Review: The Bronze (dir by Bryan Buckley)


The Bronze has been getting terrible reviews since it first premiered at Sundance last year.  Telling the story of an Olympic bronze medalist who has grown up to be bitter and angry, The Bronze has been unfavorably compared to Bad Santa, Bad Words, Bad Teacher and … well, bad anything.  (You know you’re in trouble when your film gets compared to Bad Teacher because most critics have an irrational hatred for that film.  I actually enjoyed it.)  The Bronze was originally scheduled to be released last July and then it was pushed back and then, for a little while, it vanished all together as it was traded between different distributors.  Finally, last Friday, Sony Pictures Classics released The Bronze with all the fanfare of a community theater announcing their annual production of Forever Plaid.

Well, after hearing how terrible it was, there was no way that my BFF Evelyn and I could resist the temptation to experience it for ourselves.  (We both enjoy watching and commenting during bad movies.  That’s what led to us watching that Tyler Perry movie about the adulterous matckmaker .)  We caught a 10:15 showing last night at the AMC Valley View and the theater was almost totally deserted.  (Admittedly, not many people are brave enough to go to Valley View Mall past 9:00 but Evelyn and I fear nothing.)  We were expecting to see a thoroughly mediocre film but you know what?

We were both kind of surprised to discover that The Bronze was not the terrible film that we had been led to expect.

Melissa Rauch (who co-wrote the script) plays Hope Ann Gregory, a former Olympic gymnast who won the Bronze medal at the Summer Olympics.  She won the medal despite competing on an injured ankle.  Unfortunately, her injury ended her competitive career but it also briefly made her a national celebrity.  12 years later, most of the country may have forgotten Hope but the people of hometown of Amherst, Ohio still love her.

When we first meet Hope, she’s masturbating while watching footage of herself competing at the Olympics.  She then proceeds to steal money from her father’s mail route so she’ll have enough money to buy weed.  Hope is rude to almost everyone and yet, no one in the town seems to notice.  Or maybe they are so happy to be in the presence of a minor celebrity that they just don’t care how terribly she treats them.  The movie is actually somewhat vague on this point but still, the contrast between Hope’s reality and the opinion that others have of her is one of the best things about the film.  Intentionally or not, it perfectly satirizes that way that we idealize our celebrities.

When Hope’s former coach commits suicide, her final request is that Hope agree to train an up-and-coming gymnast, Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson).  At first, the jealous Hope tries to sabotage Maggie but eventually, Hope starts to take her job as coach seriously.  (When Maggie first shows up, she seems to be a one-note, excessively perky character but eventually, she reveals some needed, if not exactly surprising, complexity.)  Hope also develops an unexpected relationship with Maggie’s assistant coach, Twitchy (Thomas Middleditch).  (Twitchy is called Twitchy because he blinks a lot.)

The Bronze is not a great film.  Instead, it’s an extremely uneven film, one that often seems to be trying too hard.  It never manages to find the right balance between its raunchy comedy and the occasional and surprisingly subtle moments when it suddenly becomes a character study.

And yet, at the same time, it’s not as terrible as you’ve heard.  There are moments that work surprisingly well.  Some of them are moments like an enjoyably over-the-top sex scene between two gymnasts.  But then there are moments like the scene where Hope talks about the first time she learned that, as a result of the injury she sustained while winning her Bronze, she would never be able to compete again.  There are scenes like the one where Hope proves herself to be surprisingly loyal to the citizens of Amherst or where her long-suffering father (Gary Cole) confronts her about her behavior.  Though these moments may be few and far between, they still work surprisingly well.  It’s during these moments that The Bronze drops the protective mask of outrageousness and reveals some unexpected depth.  It helps that, along with writing the script, Melissa Rauch totally commits herself to the role.  At her best, she’s like a force of stoned nature.

Is The Bronze really worth seeing on the big screen?  Probably not.  It’s too uneven to really be successful.  But when it shows up on Netflix, I predict that a lot of people are going to be surprised to discover that The Bronze isn’t as terrible as they’ve been told.

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