Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for April


To repeat what I say every month, it’s pretty much a fool’s errand to try to guess what’s going to be nominated for an Oscar this early in the year.  Some of the choices below — A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, The Irishman, Little Women,Once Upon A Time In Hollywood — are there because of their directors or their stars.  Some — like Cats and 1917 — are there because they sound like they’re either going to be brilliant or total disasters.  Call of the Wild and Fair and Balanced are listed because of my own instincts, for whatever they’re worth.  Harriet is listed because Clayton Davis over at Awards Circuit is currently predicting that it will be nominated and he’s got a pretty good track record as far as predicting these things is concerned.  Queen & Slim is listed because I saw a few people on twitter raving about a preview of it that they were lucky enough to see.  Myself, I have no idea what Queen & Slim is about, beyond the fact that it deals with two people on a date who are pulled over by the police.  (That’s according to the imdb.)  See how random this is?

So, I guess what I’m saying is that you should take these predictions with a grain of salt.  In fact, you should pour salt all over these predictions.  The Oscar race usually doesn’t even start to become clear until around September.

The Cannes Film Festival will be held next month.  Sometimes, Cannes lends some clarity to the Oscar race.  (Tree of Life and BlackKklansman both stated their Oscar campaigns at Cannes.)  Just as often, Cannes turns out to be totally useless as far as being  predictive tool is concerned.  Though the official lineup has not yet been announced, it seems probable that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and perhaps a few more contenders will be screened at Cannes next month.  We’ll see what happens!

If you’re interested in more predictions that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to, be sure to check out my Oscar predictions for January, February, and March!  See how my thinking has progressed.  Check out just how random my guesses occasionally are.

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Call of the Wild

Cats

Fair and Balanced

Harriet

The Irishman

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Queen & Slim

Best Director

Tom Hooper for Cats

Kassi Lemmons for Harriet

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Ben Affleck in Torrance

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Eddie Murphy in My Name Is Dolemite

Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman In The Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Blake Lively in The Rhythm Section

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari

Harrison Ford in Call of the Wild

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Sir Ian McKellen in Cats

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Dame Judi Dench in Cats

Laura Dern in Little Women

Tiffany Haddish in The Kitchen

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Lisa’s Far Too Early Oscar Predictions For March


So, it’s that time of the month again!

No, not that time.  I meant, that it’s time for me to share my Oscar predictions.  Here are the usual disclaimers: I haven’t seen any of these films, it’s way too early in the year for me to attempt to do this, this list is all about instinct and wishful thinking, blah blah blah blah.

To see how my thinking has evolved, be sure to check out my predictions for January and February!

Best Picture

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Call of the Wild

Fair and Blanced

Ford v. Ferrari

Harriet

The Irishman

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Torrance

Best Director

Greta Gerwig for Little Women

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Joe Talbot for The Last Black Man In San Francisco

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Ben Affleck in Torrance

Robert De Niro in The Irishman

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Eddie Murphy in My Name Is Dolemite

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman In The Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Blake Lively in The Rhythm Section

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Afre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari

Harrison Ford in Call of the Wild

Danny Glover in The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in Little Women

Tiffany Haddish in The Kitchen

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Janelle Monae in Harriet

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A few notes on the predictions:

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a biopic about Mr. Rogers.  Mr. Rogers is played by Tom Hanks and this sounds like the type of role that could get him his first Oscar nomination since …. well, forever.

Call of the Wild is an adaptation of Jack London’s novel.  It apparently features a CGI wolf.  It also has a potentially good supporting role for Harrison Ford, who has only one previous nomination to his name.

Fair and Balanced is about the history of Fox News and it was directed by Jay Roach.  It sounds terrible but if Vice and Adam McKay could get a nomination just for attacking Dick Cheney, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fair and Balanced manages to do the same.  John Lithgow plays Roger Ailes while the never-nominated Malcolm McDowell plays Rupert Murdoch.

Ford v Ferrari is a film about cars and competition and, if it’s a box office success, it sounds like it could pick up some nominations.  The film stars Christian Bale and Matt Damon.  I placed Damon in the supporting category because he plays Bale’s boss and his character is described as being “eccentric.”

Harriet is a biopic of Harriet Tubman.  It just sounds like it should be an Oscar nominee.  Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet while Janelle Monae …. well, I’m not sure who she plays.  But I’m going to predict she’ll get a supporting actress nomination.  What can I say?  It’s early in the year and supporting actress is always hard to predict.

The Irishman is directed by Martin Scorsese and it has a cast to die for: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, and more!  The Irishman should also have the full force of Netflix behind it.  My one concern is that the film is apparently going to use CGI to “de-age” its cast so that they can play characters who are in their 30s and 40s.  If it works, it’ll be great.  If it doesn’t, it’s going to be a huge distraction from whatever else is going on in the movie.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco was a big hit at Sundance.  Can Joe Talbot get a nomination for his directorial debut?  Can Danny Glover score his first ever nomination?  We’ll find out!

Little Women is Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to Lady Bird.  Previous adaptations of Little Women have done well at the Oscars.  I’m predicting acting nominations for Saoirse Ronan and Laura Dern but Meryl Steep is also in this film so she’s definitely a possibility as well.  At this point, Meryl could get nominated for appearing in a two-minute video on YouTube.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is Quentin Taranino’s 9th film.  Tarantino’s film usually do well with the Oscars and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is about Hollywood’s favorite subject, itself.  Some would say that Brad Pitt is overdue for an acting win.  Margot Robbie, meanwhile, is a rising star and some feel that she should have won for I, Tonya.

Torrance features Ben Affleck in what sounds like an Oscar bait role.  Affleck plays an alcoholic who ends up coaching a high school basketball team.  Director Gavin O’Connor previously worked wonders with Warrior so Torrance sounds right up his alley.

My Name is Dolemite is a biopic of the comedian and blaxploitation film star, Rudy Ray Moore.  Eddie Murphy plays Moore and the role sounds like it could allow him to display both his comedic and dramatic skills.  In theory, the Academy loves a comeback.

The Woman In The Window is based on an excellent novel and features Amy Adams as an agoraphobic woman who thinks that she may have witnessed a murder.  Adams is definitely a bit overdue for an Oscar.

The Rhythm Section is also based on a novel.  While it’s thriller plot doesn’t sound like typical Oscar bait, the film’s release was moved from February to November.  That would seem to indicate that Paramount has faith in both it and Blake Lively’s lead performance.

Clemency was another hit at Sundance.  Alfre Woodard is an acclaimed actress who has only been twice nominated for an Oscar.  A nomination here would honor not just Woodard’s performance but her entire career.

The Kitchen is a crime drama.  Tiffany Haddish, who is definitely an up-and-coming star, plays the wife of a Irish mobster who, when her husband is sent to prison, takes over his rackets.  It sounds like a good role and there are a lot of people who think Haddish’s performance in Girls Trip was unfairly snubbed.

The Goldfinch is based on a novel by Donna Tartt.  Nicole Kidman plays a wealthy widow who adopts the survivor of a terrorist bomber.  It just sounds like the type of role for which Kidman would be nominated.

In the end, nobody knows anything.  Especially me!  We’ll see how all of this plays out over the next few months!

 

 

 

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for February


Well, with the 2018 Oscars finally out of the way, we can now shift our focus to the 2019 race.

As of February, that race is totally cloudy.  The predictions below should be taken with a grain of salt because 1) they’re mostly wild guesses and 2) the Oscar race never starts to become clear until after the summer.  You could probably argue that doing predictions this early in the year is a pointless exercise but here we are!

Best Picture

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Call of the Wild

Captain Marvel

Harriet

The Irishman

The Last Thing He Wanted

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Report

Toy Story 4

 

Best Director

Greta Gerwig for Little Women

Kassi Lemmons for Harriet

Chris Sanders for Call of the Wild

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

Best Actor

Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari

Robert De Niro in The Irishman

Taron Egerton in Rocketman

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Ian McKellen in The Good Liar

 

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman In The Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Emma Thompson in Late Night

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

 

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Last Thing He Wanted

Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari

Harrison Ford in Call of the Wild

Al Pacino in The Irishman

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Janelle Monae in Harriet

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Meryl Streep in Little Women

 

After checking out my pointless predictions for February, be sure to check out my even more pointless predictions for January!

Celebrate Life Day With The Star Wars Holiday Special!


Happy Life Day!

The Star Wars Holiday Special was first aired in 1978 and, over the years, it has achieved a certain amount of infamy.  Some people say that it’s the worst thing to ever be made for TV.  To those people, I say that 1) that’s not a good attitude to have on Life Day and 2) have you seen Disco Beaver From Outer Space?

Anyway, this is a musical Star Wars extravaganza.  One thing that makes it interesting is that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher were all ordered to appear in it.  Seeing as how Harrison Ford tends to come across as being grumpy on a good day, I can only imagine how he reacted to filming The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Also, a few years ago, Val reviewed the Hell out of this thing.  Be sure to check out her review.

And now, for those of you looking to experience a dubious piece of pop culture history on this Christmas, we present to you …. The Star Wars Holiday Special!

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Working Girl (dir by Mike Nichols)


(With the Oscars scheduled to be awarded on March 4th, I have decided to review at least one Oscar-nominated film a day.  These films could be nominees or they could be winners.  They could be from this year’s Oscars or they could be a previous year’s nominee!  We’ll see how things play out.  Today, I take a look at the 1988 best picture nominee, Working Girl!)

Welcome to the 80s!

Yes, Working Girl is definitely a film of its time.  It’s a film that’s obsessed with big things: big dreams, big offices, big money, and big hair.  It’s a movie where the heroes talk about hostile takeovers and where everyone’s dream is to eventually to be an executive on Wall Street.  You know all of those people who claim that The Big Short is the greatest movie ever made?  I can guarantee that the majority of them would totally hate every character in Working Girl.  Working Girl is such a film of the past that it even features Alec Baldwin doing something other than bellowing at people.  In fact, Baldwin’s actually sexy in Working Girl.  It was strange to see him in this film and realize that he was the same actor who currently spends all of his time picking fights on twitter and defending James Toback.

Of course, Alec Baldwin has a relatively small role in Working Girl.  He plays Mick Dugan, the type of blue-collar guy who gives his girlfriend lingerie for her birthday (“I just wish you would get me something that I could wear outside,” she says as she tries it on) and who then proceeds to cheat on her while she’s off at work.  From the minute we first meet Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), we know that she deserves better than Mick.

Tess is a professional administrative assistant.  She’s just turned 30 but she’s not ready to give up her dreams and settle for a life of fighting off coke-snorting executives and coming home to some guy like Mick.  (Speaking of early performances from infamous actors, one of the coke-snorting executives is played by Kevin Spacey.)  Tess has got a bachelor’s degree in Business.  As she puts it, she has a “mind for business and a bod for sin.”

She’s also got a new boss, an up-and-coming executive named Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver).  It turns out that Katherine is 29 years old.  (“I’ve never worked for someone younger than me before,” Tess says as Katherine gives her a condescending smile.)  Katharine encourages Tess to think of her as being a mentor.  If Tess has any ideas for investments, she should feel free to bring them to Katharine.  Of course, when Tess does so, Katharine claims that her bosses shot the idea down.  It’s only after Katharine breaks her leg in a skiing accident and is laid up in Europe that Tess discovers that Katharine has actually been stealing her ideas and not giving her any credit for them.

What is Tess to do?  Well, she does what any of us would do.  She passes herself off as an executive and presents her idea to Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) herself.  Jack is impressed with the idea but he’s even more impressed with Tess.  Of course, complicating things is that Jack was once in a relationship with Katharine and Katharine still thinks that she’s going to eventually marry Jack.  And, of course, there’s the fact that Tess is lying about actually being an executive…

Working Girl is a frequently amusing film, elevated by performances of Melanie Griffith and, in the role of Tess’s best friend, Joan Cusack.  Add to that, Harrison Ford is remarkable non-grouchy as Jack Trainer and Sigourney Weaver appears to be having the time of her life playing a villain.  Even as I laughed at some of the lines, here was a part of me that wished that the film had a bit more bite.  At times, Working Girl tries too hard to have it both ways, both satirizing and celebrating Wall Street culture.  In the end, the film works best as a piece of wish-fulfillment.  It’s a film that says that not only can you win success and Harrison Ford but you can get your bitchy boss fired too.

Despite being a rather slight (if likable) film, Working Girl was nominated for Best Picture of 1988.  However, it lost to Rain Man.

Blade Runner 2049 wins in New Mexico!


Yesterday, the New Mexico Film Critics Association named their picks for the best of 2017!  They also became the first group to pick Blade Runner 2049 as the best film of 2017.

Here are their winners:

Best Picture
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird:

Best Director
Winner: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Runner Up: Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”

Glenn Strange Honorary Awards

  • Glenn Close
  • Olivia De Haviland
  • John Carpenter
  • David Lynch

Best Actor
Winner: Sam Elliot, “The Hero”
Runner Up: James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

Best Actress
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Runner Up: Jessica Rothe, “Happy Death Day”

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Catherine Kenner, “Get Out”
Runner Up: Maryana Spivak, “Loveless”

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Harrison Ford, “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: Ewen Bremner, “Trainspotting II”

Best Ensemble
Winner: “Raw”
Runner Up: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Lady Bird”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: “The Disaster Artist”
Runner Up: “Call Me By Your Name”

Best Animated Film
Winner: “Loving Vincent”
Runner Up: “The Breadwinner”

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: “November” (Estonia)
Runner Up: “BPM” (France)

Best Editing
Winner: “November”
Runner Up: “Blade Runner 2049”

Best Cinematography
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “Song of Granite”

Best Music/Score
Winner: “The Shape of Water”
Runner Up: “mother!”

Best Production Design
Winner: “Blade Runner 2049”
Runner Up: “The Shape of Water”

Best Documentary
Winner: “City of Ghosts”
Runner Up: “Faces Places”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Winner: Garance Mirillier, “Raw”
Runner Up: Sophia Lillis, “It”

Best Original Song
Winner: “The Misery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name”
Runner Up: “Prayers for this World” from “Cries from Syria”

A Movie A Day #310: Hanover Street (1979, directed by Peter Hyams)


The time is World War II and, for the British, the American army is “overpaid, oversexed, and over here.”  David Halloran (Harrison Ford) is a pilot who has been stationed in England.  With no loved ones to worry about, David has no fear of flying over occupied France and dropping bombs on the Nazis below.  But then David meets an English nurse, Margaret (Lesley-Anne Down).  As David falls in love, he loses his enthusiasm for the war because he now has “a reason to live.”  The only problem is that Margaret is already married to Paul (Christopher Plummer), an officer in British Intelligence.  When David accepts an assignment to fly a British agent into France, he is shocked when the agent turns out to be Paul.  When David’s plane crashes, he and Paul have to work together to complete Paul’s mission and escape back to Britain.

Hanover Street is a very old-fashioned and very slow wartime romance.  If not for a love scene between Lesley-Ann Down and Harrison Ford, this movie could probably pass for a 1940s film, just not a good one.  The most interesting thing about Hanover Street is how awkward Harrison Ford seems to be.  Hanover Street was made shortly after Star Wars made him a sudden star and Ford still doesn’t seem like he’s comfortable with the whole idea of being a movie star.  Fortunately, for Ford, he still had Indiana Jones in his future.

Here’s The Trailer For Blade Runner 2049!


At first, I was enthusiastic about Blade Runner 2049.

Then, for reasons that I’m still not quite sure that I understand, I became rather less enthusiastic.  I thought about all the disappointing sequels and reboots that I’ve seen and, for whatever reason, I failed to take into account all of the recent sequels — Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2– that I’ve seen that actually did work.  I thought about how tremendous hype often leads to disturbing results.  I considered that, after a countless number of brilliant films, Denis Villeneuve is due for disappointment.  These were my concerns and I started to lower my expectations.

But then, earlier today, I saw the trailer and it looks totally badass!

Seriously, I love that trailer.

And here it is!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (dir. by J.J. Abrams) Is the Sequel the Fandom Has Been Waiting For


Star Wars - The Force Awakens

[some minor, very minor spoilers]

When I first began this site on Christmas Eve of 2009 I had to thank the excitement I had for event films after seeing and experiencing James Cameron’s Avatar. It was an experience I hadn’t felt since the days of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, even earlier than that, the original Star Wars trilogy. These were films that fired up one’s imagination, appreciation and love for film as entertainment and art. Some of these films would linger on longer in one’s mind than others, but that first viewing in their initial release would always imprint their effect on each viewer.

When George Lucas announced that he would be returning to that galaxy, far, far away with a trilogy of prequels almost 15 years since the world last saw Return of the Jedi premiere first the first time, the Star Wars fandom were giddy, excited and hyped beyond belief. The Star Wars films and the many spin-offs (novels, comic books, video games, etc.) which came about because of it only whetted the appetites of long-time Star Wars fans for more films detailing the adventures in the scifi universe created by George Lucas.

Yet, the prequels’ effect on these long-time fans would be the direct opposite of the effect the original trilogy had on the fandom. These three prequels (all directed and written by George Lucas himself) would do more than disappoint the fandom. It would create a schism between those who saw the original trilogy as the gateway to their fandom and those younger generation who never saw the original trilogy and had the prequels become their gateway to the fandom. Even to this day there would be some of the younger generation who truly believe that the prequels trump the original three films which began the franchise.

When news came down that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and everything which George Lucas had built and cultivated there was no chance in hell that there wouldn’t be another series of Star Wars despite the disaster which were the prequels. Lo and behold, it didn’t take long for Disney to greenlight the sequel to Return of the Jedi and have it set decades after the events of that film.

So, it is with Star Wars: The Force Awakens that the Star Wars fandom get to see whether their continued faith in the franchise was worth it or if they have been Charlie Brown’d once again and had the ball taken away at the very last second. It’s easy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great or it was awful. The true answer to whether this film succeeded in what it intended do was a bit more complicated.

Yet, if one was to look for an easy and simple answer then I’m happy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great. It had it’s moments of logic gap and plot holes, but as an overall finished product the film succeeded in course-correcting the franchise from the nadir it was at with the culmination of the prequels. It wouldn’t have taken much to surpass the very low bar set by those prequels, but The Force Awakens leapfrogged that bar and went even higher.

The film does begin thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi and we find out with the now familiar episode intro crawl that Luke Skywalker has disappeared since those events and the galaxy has remained in turmoil with his absence. The Galactic Empire has been defeated, but in its place a new danger in the form of the genocidal First Order has arisen from the Empire’s remains. Opposing the First Order is a sort of galactic force supported in secret by the New Republic and led by General (not Princess) Leia Organa calling themselves the Resistance. It’s the conflict between these two factions and the search for Luke that forms the narrative base for The Force Awakens.

The film doesn’t linger too long in explaining the events which occurred in that 30-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It doesn’t need it as we’re quickly introduced to the series’ new characters in the form of Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the galaxy, who has been sent on a secret mission by Leia to find the clues as to her brother’s whereabouts. Next in line was Kylo Ren who becomes this film’s analogue to the Darth Vader figure of the original trilogy. Yet, the bulk of the film was told through the eyes of Finn and Rey.  The former is First Order stormtrooper who has seen first-hand what the First Order truly stands for and not for the betterment of the galaxy. The latter is a young woman living life on the desert planet Jakku scavenging the graveyard of starship wreckage from a battle thirty year’s prior.

It’s through Rey and Finn that the audience learns through their adventures upon meeting up with each other on Jakku what has transpired since the Rebellion destroyed the second Death Star and killed Emperor Palpatine. To these two characters, the events from the original trilogy seem to have passed beyond the realm of history and become more like legends and myths to the younger generation. Through a combination of fear and awe, Ren and Finn get introduced to some of the original trilogies main characters (Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and even Admiral Ackbar). These are the stories they’ve been told of growing up come to life right in front of their eyes and their reaction mirrors those of the audience who haven’t seen these characters in anything new and relevant since the end of Return of the Jedi. The reaction alone to seeing Han Solo and Chewbacca alone seemed like the fandom’s collective cheer for the good that has been missing with the franchise for over 30 years now.

The Force Awakens is not a perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Like mentioned earlier, the film does suffer from some gaps in story logic and plot holes. As with most J.J. Abrams directed films he had a hand in writing the script and one could see where he sacrificed coherent storytelling beats for something that just pushed the story along the path he wanted the film to take. For those who have been steeped in Star Wars lore and backstory, this would be easily explained as the Force nudging, guiding and, if all else fails, pushing the characters onto the right path, but for the casual viewers it would come off as story beats of convenience.

As a story to bring back the faithful and lure in those still uninitiated to the franchise The Force Awakens straddles the line between nostalgia and trying to bring in something new to the proceedings.

Let’s begin with the former and just say it now that The Force Awakens does follow some major story beats directly from A New Hope (to a smaller effect from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). One could almost say that this film was a sort of soft reboot of the original trilogy with how it lifted ideas from them and through some writing and directing recombination come up with something new, but still very familiar for hardcore and non-fans alike.

Does this decision to lean heavily on the original trilogy for ideas hurt the film? For some it might be a bit too distracting to recognize too many callbacks to those earlier films, but for most it’s a reminder of what the prequels lacked and that’s the sense of adventure and fun. There was never anything fun about the prequels. The Force Awakens brings it all back and for most viewers this is the course-correction the series has needed since the last images from Revenge of the Sith faded away from the silver-screen.

Even the new characters introduced in this latest film were an amalgamation of the main characters from the original trilogy. Where Abrams and Kasdan changed this up a bit was to go beyond just creating new analogues for the classic characters of Leia, Han, Luke, Chewie and R2D2. They opted to take all the qualities fans loved about those characters and mixed them all up to be used in the roles of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren and BB8.

As the standout character in the film, Rey (played by find of the year Daisy Ridley) would bring back memories of not just the young and hopeful Luke from the original trilogy, but also some personal traits of Leia and Han. The same goes for Finn who at times reminded us of Han’s roguish charm to Luke’s naivete of his role in the larger world he has finally witnessed for the very first time. For the half-empty crowd this might look as lazy character development, but those who see the film with the half-full mindset would easily latch onto these new characters. Characters who now take on the responsibility of moving the franchise beyond the nostalgia of the original trilogy and erasure of the disappointment of the prequels to new adventures with the next two films.

So, is Star Wars: The Force Awakens worth returning back to the franchise after the prequels or is it too much of a rehash of the original three films? The answer to that is a definite yes despite some of it’s flaws. For some the very flaws some have pointed out (too many callbacks, sort of a reboot, etc.) was what made the film a fun time to be had. It’s a return to the comfort zone the fandom missed with the prequels.

Will the next two films in this new trilogy follow suit and just rely too much on nostalgia to continue trying to satisfy it’s massive audience? Or will Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow (director of Episode VIII and Episode IX, respectively) move into new territory with minimal callbacks to those earlier films? We as an audience will have to wait til 2017 and 2019 to find out. Until then enjoy what Abrams and Lucasfilm has accomplished with The Force Awakens. A film which has reinvigorated a film franchise that has seem some major lows, but one which also happens to be one hell of a fun ride from start to finish on it’s own merits.

P.S.: Some controversy has arisen since the film’s release concerning the character played by Daisy Ridley. Some have been very vocal about calling her Rey character as a sort of knee-jerk reaction to the accusation that the Star Wars films have lacked for a strong female lead. An argument that’s as misguided and misinformed as that of the films being whitewashed. The films in the franchise have always had strong female characters. The accusation that Rey as a character in The Force Awakens is such a “Mary Sue” (a female character written and created to be the best at everything, no flaws) ignore the details in the character’s development.

What’s sadder is that some of the very people (film critics and writers) who in the past have complained that major films (especially blockbusters) have been lacking in very strong female characters have been the very same who see Rey as a negative and a character too good. This despite the character following in the very same footsteps in how her predecessors have been written (Luke, Han, Anakin). It’s an argument that is sure to bring heated debate among fans and detractors, but one that takes away from the performance of Daisy Ridley who should be one of the many breakout stars to come out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Sci-Fi Film Review: Return of the Jedi (dir by Richard Marquand)


areturn1

As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve devoted this month to science fiction here at the Shattered Lens.  Gary Loggins reviewed THX-1138.  Valerie took a look at everything from The Star Wars Holiday Special to Turkish Star Wars to Return of the Ewok.  Ryan the Trashfilm Guru reviewed such Italian classics as Cosmos: War of Planets and War of the Robots.  Patrick Smith reviewed a terrifying Christmas movie about Santa. Myself, I’ve taken a look at such films as Contamination and 2019: After the Fall of New York.  

We’ve reviewed a lot of science fiction and we’ve got a lot more left to go.  (Keep an eye out for my reviews of Starcrash and The Humanoid over the upcoming few days.)  However, from the beginning, this month has always been centered around Star Wars.  You may have heard that there’s a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it’s opening this week.  Apparently, a few people are excited about it.  Since we love reviewing little known art films here at the Shattered Lens, we decided why not review all of the previous Star Wars films during the week leading up to the release of The Force Awakens?  Jeff (a.k.a. the blogger known as Jedadiah Leland) started us off by reviewing The Phantom Menace.  Then Alexandre Rothier took a look at Attack of the Clones, followed by Jeff’s look at Revenge of the Sith.  Leonard Wilson was the next to step up to the plate, reviewing both A New Hope and The Empire Strike Back.

And now, it’s my turn to add my thoughts to this project.  It’s time to review the 1983 film, Return of the Jedi.  And I have to admit that, when I first thought about what I wanted to say in this review, I was totally intimidated.  Unlike my fellow writers here at the Shattered Lens, I’m hardly an expert when it comes to Star Wars.  Don’t get me wrong — I know the basics.  I know that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.  I know that Han Solo flies the Millennium Falcon and that Princess Leia is in love with him.  I know there’s an evil Empire and I know that there are rebels.  I’m not a virgin when it comes to Star Wars but, at the same time, I’m definitely not as experienced (with Star Wars) as most of my friends and fellow movie bloggers.

"Dang, Lisa, get over it!"

“Dang, Lisa, get over it!”

So, late this afternoon, when I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi, it was with more than a little trepidation.  My obvious panic and welling tears convinced Jeff to watch the movie with me and I was happy for that.  He loves Star Wars so I knew he could explain to me what was going on.

Finally, we watched Return of the Jedi and I discovered that I was panicking over nothing.  Return of the Jedi may be the third part of trilogy and I may not be an expert on the films that came before it.  But, even with all that in mind, Return of the Jedi is not a difficult film to figure out.  As opposed to the finales of Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and The Hunger Games, Return of the Jedi keeps things simple.  A good guy has been kidnapped by a bad guy.  The other good guys come to the rescue and then go to another planet so that they can fight an even bigger bad guy.  It’s not complicated.

As I watched Return of the Jedi and realized that I was having absolutely no problem following the film’s plot, I also realized that the Star Wars films are such a huge part of our culture that, regardless of how many of them we’ve actually sat through, everyone has absorbed them by osmosis.  Bits and pieces of it are everywhere, showing up in everything from TV sitcoms to political commentary.  (Remember how everyone used to compare Dick Cheney to Darth Vader?)  The Star Wars franchise is almost biblical in that respect.  At the same time, the fact that everyone knows about these movies makes them a little difficult to review.  You don’t so much watch a Star Wars film as you join in a universal experience.  As a reviewer, you definitely find yourself wondering what you can add to a conversation that everyone else has already had.

As a stand alone movie, Return of the Jedi is actually three separate films mixed together.  The first film deals with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) showing up at Jabba the Hutt’s palace and rescuing Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and two robots from being tossed into a creature called the Sarlacc, which is basically a giant vagina out in the middle of the desert.  The second film deals with the rebels teaming up with a bunch of teddy bears and fighting the Empire on a jungle planet.  And the third film features Luke and Darth Vader (body of David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones, face of either Sebastian Shaw and Hayden Christensen, depending on which version of the film you’re watching) dealing with their family issues while the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) cackles in the background.  Some parts of the film work better than others.  The end result is entertaining but definitely uneven.

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Jedi‘s heart belongs to that third film, the one dealing with Luke and Darth Vader.  I’ve read some pretty negative online comments about Mark Hamill’s performance in New Hope and Empire Strikes Back but, in Return of the Jedi, he brings an almost haunted intensity to the role of Luke.  In theory, it’s easy to be snarky about all the talk about the “Dark Side of the Force,” but, when you look in Hamill’s eyes, you totally understand what everyone’s going on about.  You see the fire and the anger but, even more importantly, you see the struggle between good and evil.  There’s a very poignant sadness to the scenes where he and his father prepare to meet the Emperor.

And speaking of the Emperor, he is pure nightmare fuel!  AGCK!

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As for the other two films to found within Return of the Jedi, the jungles of Endor didn’t do much for me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I thought the action scenes were handled well and, unlike apparently everyone else in the world, I was not annoyed by the inclusion of the Ewoks, the killer teddy bears who helped to the Rebels to take down the Empire.  I thought the Ewoks were cute and I actually got pretty upset when one of them was killed in battle.  If I had been alive when Return of the Jedi had been released, I probably would have wanted a stuffed Ewok and, I imagine, that was the main reason they were included in the film.  (I also imagine that’s the main reason why a lot of people can’t stand them.)

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So, no, the Ewoks did not bother me.  What did bother me was that under-construction Death Star floating out in the middle of space.  It bothered me because I really couldn’t imagine any reason why — after the first Death Star was apparently such a colossal failure — the Empire would insist on trying to do the exact same thing all over again.  This, along with the fact that they were rather easily defeated by a bunch of teddy bears, leads me to wonder whether the effectiveness of the Empire was just a little overrated.  I mean, the Emperor was scary but otherwise, everyone involved with the Empire was pretty incompetent.

Far more impressive, as far as villains go, was Jabba the Hut.  In fact, Jabba and his decadent entourage were so memorable and colorful and evil and icky that they pretty much overshadowed almost everything else in the film.  I mean, Jabba even had a blue elephant playing music for him!  And I know that I’m supposed to be critical of the film for putting Leia in that gold bikini but you know what?  Leia may have been forced to wear a gold bikini but she never gave up her dignity or her defiance.  And when it came time to take out Jabba, Leia used the tools of her oppression to do so, strangling him with his own chains.  In that one scene, Leia proved herself to be a true rebel.

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There’s a lot that’s good about Return of the Jedi but, as I said earlier, it’s definitely an uneven film.  Richard Marquand’s direction is perhaps the epitome of workmanlike.  It’s efficient and it’s dependable and there’s absolutely nothing surprising or particularly challenging about it.

It’s interesting to note that, before Richard Marquand was selected as director, the job was offered to both David Lynch and David Cronenberg, two directors who are all about surprising and challenging the audience.  What would David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi been like?  Well, here’s one possibility:

As for David Cronenberg’s Return of the Jedi, it might have looked something like this:

For better or worse, the world got Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, which I imagine was pretty close to what George Lucas wanted the film to be.

As I sit here finishing up this review and wondering just why exactly I was so intimidated earlier (seriously, this turned out to be one the easiest reviews that I’ve ever written), I estimate that 75% of the people that I know are currently sitting in a theater and watching The Force Awakens.  Keep an eye out for Arleigh’s review in the next few days!

And in closing, here’s that blue elephant that I mentioned earlier.  Dance!

Maxrebo