Lisa Marie Picks The 30 Top Films of 2020


Well, it’s finally time!  It’s time for me to announce my picks for the best films of 2020.

Before we begin, there is one thing I want to make clear.  Unlike the Academy, I did not extend my eligibility window.  Films like Nomadland, Minari, and The Father (amongst others) will undoubtedly be competing for the Oscar for Best Picture of 2020.  However, as far as I’m concerned, those are all 2021 films.  And I imagine that a few of them will probably appear on my best films of 2021 list.  However, the list below are my picks for the best films of 2020.  You’ll probably agree with some of my picks and disagree with some of the others.  As always, I welcome any and all comments.

Also, be sure to check out my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019!  Wow, I’ve been doing this for a while!

And now, in descending order, my favorites of 2020!

30. Money Plane (dir by Andrew Lawrence) — Okay, I can sense that you’re already rolling your eyes at my list by seriously, Money Plane is such a cheerfully absurd and self-aware little B-movie that there’s no way I couldn’t include it.  Seriously, how can you not love a film that features Kelsey Grammer always a gangster known as the Rumble?  Basically, as soon as I heard that priceless declaration of “We are going to rob the Money Plane!,” this movie had me under its spell.

29. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (dir by George C. Wolfe) — Though this adaptation of August Wilson’s play never quite escapes its theatrical roots, no one can deny the powerful performances of Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, and especially Chadwick Boseman.  Boseman dominates the film from the minute that he makes his first appearance, playing an ambitious, troubled, and undeniably talented trumpeter.  Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey with the self-awareness of someone who knows that the record producers need her more than she needs them.  She has the power and she’s not going to let anyone get away with forgetting it.

28. The Invisible Man (dir by Leigh Wannell) — Before the Academy announced that they would be changing their rules to considers streaming movies, many critics speculated that one of the results of the pandemic would be The Invisible Man winning all of the Oscars.  Though they may have been joking, it was not as outlandish an idea as they seemed to think.  The Invisible Man is a horror film that proves that being a genre film does not mean that film can’t also be a good and thought-provoking work of art.  The Invisible Man breathes new life into a somewhat hokey premise and Elisabeth Moss gives a great performance as a woman stalked by her abusive (and now invisble) ex.  The Invisible Man features one of the best ending scenes of 2020.

27. The Hunt (dir by Craig Zobel) — Delayed due to a manufactured controversy and released to critical bafflement, The Hunt is a clever satire of our hyper-partisan and hyper-polarized society.  The film’s final twist is a clever commentary on social media drama and Hillary Swank steals the show with an unexpected cameo.

26. One Night In Miami (dir by Regina King) — I went back and forth on this one.  Based on a stage play, this film imagines what happened the night that Malcolm X, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Muhammad Ali met in a Miami motel room.  There are a few times that the film is undoubtedly a bit too stagey for its own good and, early on, some of the dialogue is a bit too on the nose.  But the film has a cumulative power and, despite a few uneven moments, it’s ultimately an intriguing look at race, celebrity, and political activism in America.  A good deal of the film’s power is due to the ensemble.  While most of the awards chatter seems to be focused on Leslie Odom, Jr. as Sam Cooke, it’s Aldis Hodge’s Jim Brown who truly anchors the film.

25. Gunpowder Heart (dir by Camila Urrutia) — This raw and angry film from Guatemala was one of the more powerful films to be featured at 2020’s virtual South By Southwest.  In Guatemala City, Maria and her girlfriend Claudia are assaulted by three men.  Maria wants revenge, no mater what.  Claudia, the more cautious of the two, knows that Maria’s plans are going to end in tragedy and disaster but she also knows that there’s nothing she can do to stop her.  Gunpowder Heart isn’t always easy to watch but it’s undeniably powerful.

24. The Shock of the Future (dir by Marc Collin) — Taking place in 1978, this French film follows one day in the life of a composer named Ana (Alma Jodorowsky).  It’s a typical day — Anna wakes up, a friend comes by with the latest albums, Anna tries to compose music, she goes to a party, and she hears the newest music.  It’s a simple but effective celebration of both music and the thrill of having your entire creative life ahead of you.  Alma Jodorowsky is brilliant in the role of Anna.

23. She Dies Tomorrow (dir by Amy Seimetz) — This a disturbing mood piece about a woman who is convinced that she is going to die in a day.  Everyone who she meets also becomes convinced that they’re going to die within 24 hours.  Some of them go out of their way to make sure that it happens while others just wait for death to come.  Is it a mass delusion or is it something else?  The atmospheric film may raise more questions than it answers but it will definitely stick with you.

22. Driveways (dir by Andrew Ahn) — Kathy (Hong Chau) and her young son, Cody (Lucas Jaye), move into the home that was owned by Kathy’s deceased sister.  In his final film appearance, Brian Dennehy plays the gruff but caring neighbor who befriends both Cody and his mother.  This is a low-key but emotionally resonant film, elevated by Dennehy’s heartfelt performance.

21. Figurant (dir by Jan Vejnar) — Clocking in at 14 minutes, this unsettling but powerful French/Czech co-production tells the story of a quiet man (Denis Levant) who follows a group of younger men into a warehouse and who soon finds himself in uniform and on a battlefield.  Or is he?  It’s not an easy question to answer but this intriguing short film will keep you watching, guessing, and thinking.

20. What Did Jack Do? (dir by David Lynch) — David Lynch interrogates a monkey in an expressionistic train station.  The monkey talks about a chicken and sings a song about true love’s flame.  “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?” Lynch asks.  It’s a brilliant short film and really, it’s the sort of thing that only David Lynch, with his mix of earnestness and eccentricity, could have pulled off.  Technically, this film was made a few years ago but it only got it’s official premiere in 2020, when Netflix released it on Lynch’s birthday.

19. Red, White, and Blue (dir by Steven McQueen) — Steve McQueen’s Small Axe was made up of five short films.  Three of them appear on this list.  There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not the Small Axe films should be considered individual features or if they should be considered a miniseries.  Obviously, I see them as being individual features but, in the end, they’re brilliant and thought-provoking regardless of whether they’re television or film.  Red, White, and Blue takes a nuanced look at institutional racism and features an excellent lead performance from John Boyega.

18. Mr. Jones (dir by Agnieszka Holland) — A film that deserved more attention than it received, Mr. Jones tells the story of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who, in 1933, discovered the truth about the state-sponsored famine that was killing millions in the Ukraine.  Despite his efforts, the press refused to report on what was really happening in the Ukraine and instead, an odious propagandist named Walter Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer prize for writing pro-Stalin stories that were later determined to be full of deliberate lies.  An important and heartfelt film, Mr. Jones features a subtle but effective lead performance from James Norton and a memorable supporting turn from Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Walter Duranty as a smug snake.

17. The Outpost (dir by Rod Lurie) — Based on a true story and directed by Rod Lurie, this film pays tribute to the men who have fought and died in America’s forgotten conflict, the War in Afghanistan.  Well-acted and doggedly unsentimental, The Outpost will literally leave you breathless.

16. Emma (dir by Autumn de Wilde) — The latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s much-adapted novel, Emma has a playful spirit that is lacking in so many other literary adaptations.  It also has a great performance from Anya Taylor-Joy, who makes the character of Emma Woodhouse her own.

15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (dir by Eliza Hittman) — Two teenagers, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), travel to New York City from Pennsylvania so that Autumn can get an abortion without having to get her parent’s consent.  Though I’m occasionally a bit skeptic of cinema verite, Never Rarely Sometimes Always makes good use of the style.  Far more than just being a film about abortion, it’s a character study of two people trying to survive in a harsh world.  The scene where the previously withdrawn Autumn is prodded to open up about her past is one of the most powerful of the year.

14. Possessor (dir by Brandon Cronenberg) — Brandon Cronenberg’s disturbing sci-fi/horror hybrid is not an easy film to explain or to even describe.  Questions of identity and betrayal are mixed with grotesque images of body horror and societal neglect.  By the end of the film, you’ll find yourself reconsidering everything that you previously assumed about the movie.  This one sticks with you, even though you may not want it to.  (How’s that for a recommendation?)

13. Horse Girl (dir by Jeff Baena) — This is a film that definitely deserved a bit more attention than it received.  Alison Brie gives a brave and sympathetic performance as someone who believes that she’s a clone who has been abducted by aliens.  Is she suffering from delusions brought on by a combination of loneliness and too much television?  Or is she right?  The film will leave you guessing.  While Brie is at the center of almost every scene, Molly Shannon also gives a good performance as one of Brie’s only friends.

12. Sound of Metal (dir by Darius Marder) — Riz Ahmed plays an occasionally obnoxious drummer who goes deaf.  Worried that Ahemd is going to relapse into drug use, his girlfriend and musical partner (Olivia Cooke) checks him into a rehab center for the deaf.  With the help of a sympathetic but no-nonsense counselor (Paul Raci), Ahmed struggles to come to accept the loss of sound and music from his life.  The three main performances elevate this film, making it one of the year’s best.  In the film’s best moments, we hear the world through Ahmed’s ears and experience what he’s experiencing.

11. Mangrove (dir by Steve McQueen) — The first film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology tells the story of a true life court case.  Politically charged from beginning to end and leaving no doubt as to what the true stakes were in the case, Mangrove is the film that Trial of The Chicago 7 should have been.

10. Soul (dir by Peter Docter) — The latest from PIXAR made me cry as only a great PIXAR film can.  A music teacher named Joe (voices by Jamie Foxx) falls down a manhole shortly after winning his dream job in a jazz band.  Unwilling to die before performing on stage, Joe finds himself in the Great Before, assigned to teach an unborn soul named 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) what it means to be human …. okay, you know what?  This film has one of those plots that sounds silly if you try to explain it.  What matters is that it’s a heartfelt film that celebrates every minute of life.  Foxx and Fey both do wonderful voice work and the animation is as clever as always.  Plus, there’s a cat!

9. The Vast of Night (dir by Andrew Patterson) — This low-budget film is a wonderfully atmospheric look at what may or may not be an alien invasion taking place in the 1950s.  Featuring wonderfully naturalistic performances and an intelligent storyline, The Vast of Night is a triumph of the independent spirit.  I can’t wait to see what Andrew Patterson does next.

8. Lovers Rock (dir by Steve McQueen) — The 2nd film is Steve MQueen’s Small Axe anthology, Lovers Rock centers on one exhilarating house party.  Though the world outside of this party may be harsh and full of oppression and racism (a group of white teens shout racial slurs at one partygoer when she steps outside of the house), the world inside of the party is one of love, music, and celebration.

7. i’m thinking of ending things (dir by Charlie Kaufman) — A riddle wrapped in an enigma, i’m thinking of ending things features great performance from Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis.  What starts out as an awkward drive to visit Plemons’s parents grows increasingly more and more surreal until the audience is left to wonder what is real, what is fantasy, and whether the majority of the film’s characters even exist.  This film plays out like a dream and stays with you long after it end.

6. Palm Springs (dir by Max Barbakow) — Perhaps the ultimate twist on Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is a thought-provoking comedic gem from Lonely Island Classic Pictures.  Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, and Cristin Milioti find themselves living the same day over and over again.  Each one reacts to their predicament in a different way.  It’ll make you laugh and then it’ll make you cry.  Revealing too much else about the plot would be a crime.  It’s on Hulu so go watch it.

5. The Assistant (dir by Kitty Green) — This infuriating and ultimately tragic film follows one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a production assistant at a film company.  Though he’s never seen, Jane’s boss is clearly meant to be a fictionalized version of Harvey Weinstein.  Should Jane save her career or try to warn the actress that her boss has clearly set his eyes upon as his next victim?  The scene where the head of HR assures Jane that she needn’t worry about her boss’s behavior because “you’re not his type,” rings all too horribly true.  The Assistant was obviously designed to be a rallying call for #MeToo but sadly, today, it feels more like an obituary.

Bad Education

4. Bad Education (dir by Cory Finley) — All year, I have been lamenting the fact that Bad Education was bought by HBO and not Netflix.  If it had been released on Netflix, it would probably be an Oscar contender and Hugh Jackman would be in the hunt for his first Best Actor Oscar.  Instead, it aired on HBO and it had to settle for limited Emmy recognition.  It’s a shame because this film, which centers on embezzlement at one suburban school, was one of the best of 2020.  At a time when we’re being told not to question authority, Bad Education encourages us to question everything.  Along with being thought-provoking, it’s also occasionally laugh out loud funny.  Jackman is brilliant in the lead role.  Allison Janney is award-worthy as his partner-in-crime.  Ray Romano takes another step in proving that he’s more than just a sitcom actor.  All in all, this was a great movie.

3. First Cow (dir by Kelly Reichardt) — This melancholy tale follows two men who meet in Oregon in the 1820s and who become unlikely business partners.  Unfortunately, being partners means stealing milk from Toby Jones’s cow and thievery was even less appreciated in the 1820s than it is today. Featuring outstanding lead performances from Jon Magaro and Orion Lee, First Cow is a rewarding work of historical fiction.  Kelly Reichardt makes you feel as if you’ve woken up in the 1820s, even as she uses the past to comment upon the present.  This probably isn’t a film for everyone.  Reichardt’s style has always been more about observing than passing judgment.  But for viewers willing to stick with it, this deliberately paced film is a rewarding experience.

Finally, when it comes to the best film of the year, I’ve been going back and forth between two films.  In the end, I have to declare a tie.  In alphabetical order by title, here are the two best films of 2020:

2. The Girl With A Bracelet (dir by Stéphane Demoustier) — This French film is about a teenage girl who is on trial for murdering her best friend.  Whether or not she’s guilty is ultimately less important than why everyone has been so quick to accuse her in the first place.  Featuring an outstanding ensemble and an intelligent script, The Girl With A Bracelet will leave you thinking about …. well, everything.  It can currently be viewed on Prime.

1. Promising Young Woman (dir by Emerald Fennell) — When I first started watching this film, I worried that it might be too stylized to be effective.  But it soon became apparent the director/screenwriter Emerald Fennell and star Carey Mulligan both knew exactly what they needed to do to tell this story.  Mulligan plays a med school drop-out who is seeking her own unique style of revenge against not only the men who raped her best friend in college but also the people who Mulligan feels subsequently let her friend down.  Bo Burnham plays the pediatrician who asks Mulligan out on a date and who appears to be the perfect nice guy, the adorably awkward boyfriend who you you would expect to find in a 90s rom com.  Neither character turns out to be exactly who they initially appeared to be.  Promising Young Woman mixes genres that normally don’t go together, smashing together drama and comedy, and it’s just audacious enough to be one of the best films of the year.

 

 

TSL Looks Back at 2020:

  1. 2020 In Review: The Best of Lifetime (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  2. 12 Good Things I Saw On Television in 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  3. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Novels of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  4. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Non-Fiction Books of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  5. Lisa Marie’s 20 Favorite Songs of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  6. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  7. My Top 20 Albums of 2020 (Necromoonyeti)
  8. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems That I Saw In 2020 (Valerie Troutman)
  9. Top 10 Vintage Collections (Ryan C)
  10. Top 10 Contemporary Collections (Ryan C)
  11. Top 10 Original Graphic Novels (Ryan C)
  12. Top 10 Ongoing Series (Ryan C.)
  13. Top 10 Special Mentions (Ryan C.)
  14. Top Ten Single Issues (Ryan C)

The Films of 2020: Driveways (dir by Andrew Ahn)


There’s a certain type of independent film that you tend to see quite frequently towards the end of the year.  It’s the type of film where a single mother and her precociously intelligent child move to a new town and get to know their neighbors.  Usually, the child has to deal with a bully or two while the mother reflects on her own rebellious past.  Almost inevitably, there’s a cantankerous older neighbor who seems a little bit intimidating at first but who eventually turns out to be a decent guy.  That older neighbor is often played by a character actor who has never quite gotten the appreciation that he deserves.

Driveways is one of those films.  This time, the mother is named Kathy (Hong Chau) and her 9 year-old son is named Cody (Lucas Jaye).  Cody is intelligent but shy.  He struggles to fit in.  He worries about the fact that his mom is constantly smoking and whenever she curses, he gives her a slightly judgmental look.  If he gets too anxious, he has a habit of vomiting.  He’s one of those kids who you just want to protect from the outside world and assure him that everything’s going to (eventually) be okay.

The neighbor is Del and he’s played by the late, great Brian Dennehy.  Del is a veteran of the Korean War and a widower.  He spends a lot of time sitting out on his porch.  He’s a nice guy and one of the things that I appreciated about this film is that Del was nice from the minute he first appeared.  Usually, in films like this, it takes a while for the neighbor to let down his defenses and show that he’s not some sort of bitter ogre.  Usually, there’s all sorts of conflicts and “Get off my lawn” moments but, in Driveways, Del pretty much warms up to Kathy and Cody as soon as he meets them.  He shows Cody how drink from a hose.  Kathy gives him a ride to VFW Hall, where he plays bingo with his friends.  Soon, Del is Cody’s only friend on the block and Del is also one of the few sources of support that Kathy has as she cleans out her recently deceased sister’s home.

There’s not really a lot of drama in Driveways.  There is one annoying neighbor named Linda (Christine Ebersole), who shows up for some of the film’s weaker moments.  And there’s a wonderfully acted scene where Del goes shopping with friend (played by Jerry Adler) who has Alzheimer’s.  Otherwise, this is a low-key film about three people who are at the beginning, the middle, and the end of life.  It’s occasionally a little predictable but it’s sweet-natured film and it has a good heart.

And, most importantly, it gives Brian Dennehy one final great role.  When Dennehy passed away earlier this year, Tommy Boy was soon trending on twitter because, whenever a great actor dies, it seems that their worst films always end up trending.  (This is largely because people on twitter have terrible taste.)  Dennehy was a great actor with a commanding screen presence and it’s somewhat surprising that he died without having ever been nominated for an Oscar.  In Driveways, he brings Del to poignant life.  At the end of the film, he delivers a lengthy monologue about his life and its a powerful moment and one that deserves awards consideration.  A supporting actor nomination for Brian Dennehy would not only be a way to acknowledge a great performance but also a great career, in which he appeared in a lot more films than just Tommy Boy.  Here’s hoping!

Here Are The 2019 Independent Spirit Award Nominees!


Here are the 2019 Indie Spirit Award nominations!  These nominations are meant to honor the best independent films of 2019 and their announcement marks the official beginning of awards season (at least as far as this sight is concerned!)  I hate to say it but I still need to see quite a few of the films nominated below so, for now, I’ll hold off on any editorial commentary.

For those looking for some sort of evidence of how the Oscar nominations can go, the Independent Spirit Awards can be an iffy precursor, just because several of the expensive, major studio contenders aren’t eligible to nominated.  (For instance, neither The Irishman nor Once Upon A Time In Hollywood were eligible.)  That said, for the record, the two biggest Spirit nominees are The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems.  Waves and The Farewell, which have been the center of considerable Oscar speculation, did not do as strongly in the nominations as many people apparently expected.  Make of that what you will!

Here are the nominees!

Best Supporting Female

  • Jennifer Lopez – HUSTLERS
  • Taylor Russell – WAVES
  • Zhao Shuzhen – THE FAREWELL
  • Lauren “Lolo” Spencer – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Octavia Spencer – LUCE
  • Best Supporting Male
  • Willem Dafoe – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Noah Jupe – HONEY BOY
  • Shia Labeouf – HONEY BOY
  • Jonathan Majors – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • Wendell Pierce – BURNING CANE

Best Screenplay

  • Noah Baumbach – MARRIAGE STORY
  • Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder – TO DUST
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Chinonye Chukwu – CLEMENCY
  • Tarell Alvin Mccraney – HIGH FLYING BIRD

Best First Screenplay

  • Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol – SEE YOU YESTERDAY
  • Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen – DRIVEWAYS
  • Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy – BLOW THE MAN DOWN
  • Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe – GREENER GRASS
  • James Montague, Craig W. Sanger – THE VAST OF NIGHT

Best Cinematography

  • Todd Banhazl – HUSTLERS
  • Jarin Blaschke – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Natasha Braier – HONEY BOY
  • Chananun Chotrungroj – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Pawel Pogorzelski – MIDSOMMAR

Best Editing

  • Julie Béziau – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Tyler L. Cook – SWORD OF TRUST
  • Louise Ford – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Kirill Mikhanovsky – GIVE ME LIBERTY

Best International Film

  • INVISIBLE LIFE, Brazil
  • LES MISERABLES, France
  • PARASITE, South Korea
  • PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, France
  • RETABLO, Peru
  • THE SOUVENIR, United Kingdom

Best Documentary (Award given to the director and producer)

  • AMERICAN FACTORY
  • APOLLO 11
  • FOR SAMA
  • HONEYLAND
  • ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS

The John Cassavetes Award is presented to the best feature made for under $500,000 and is given to the writer, director, and producer. 2020 #SpiritAwards Nominees are:

  • BURNING CANE
  • COLEWELL
  • GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • PREMATURE
  • WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY

Best Female Lead

  • Karen Allen – COLEWELL
  • Hong Chau – DRIVEWAYS
  • Elisabeth Moss – HER SMELL
  • Mary Kay Place – DIANE
  • Alfre Woodard – CLEMENCY
  • Renée Zellweger – JUDY

Best Male Lead 

  • Chris Galust – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Kelvin Harrison  Jr., – LUCE
  • Robert Pattinson – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Adam Sandler – UNCUT GEMS
  • Matthias Schoenaerts – THE MUSTANG

Best First Feature (Award given to the director and producer)

  • BOOKSMART
  • THE CLIMB
  • DIANE
  • THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • THE MUSTANG
  • SEE YOU YESTERDAY

Best Feature [award given to the producer(s)]

  • A HIDDEN LIFE
  • CLEMENCY
  • THE FAREWELL
  • MARRIAGE STORY
  • UNCUT GEMS

Best Director

  • Robert Eggers – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Alma Har’el – HONEY BOY
  • Julius Onah – LUCE
  • Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Lorene Scafaria – HUSTLERS

The Robert Altman Award is given to the ensemble cast, director & casting director of one film: MARRIAGE STORY – Noah Baumbach, Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler, Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever

The Truer Than Fiction Award, in its 25th year, is for emerging directors of non-fiction features and includes an unrestricted grant. Finalists:
Khalik Allah – BLACK MOTHER
Davy Rothbart – 17 BLOCKS
Nadia Shihab – JADDOLAND
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside – AMÉRICA

The Producers Award, now in its 23rd year, honors emerging producers who demonstrate creativity, tenacity and vision, despite highly limited resources. The award includes an unrestricted grant. These are the finalists:
Mollye Asher
Krista Parris
Ryan Zacarias

The Someone To Watch Award, in its 26th year, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision and includes an unrestricted grant. The finalists are:
Rashaad Ernesto Green – PREMATURE
Ash Mayfair – THE THIRD WIFE
Joe Talbot – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

The Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant. The 2020 Film Independent #SpiritAwards Bonnie Award finalists are:
MarielleHeller
KellyReichardt
LuluWang

Here Are The 2017 Nominations of The Florida Film Critics!


Oddly, the Florida Film Critics showed very little love to The Florida Project.  The acclaimed film only received one nomination, for Willem DaFoe.

BEST PICTURE

  • “Call Me By Your Name”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Get Out”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Shape Of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Christopher Nolan – “Dunkirk”
  • Greta Gerwig – “Lady Bird”
  • Guillermo del Toro – “The Shape of Water”
  • Jordan Peele – “Get Out”
  • Martin McDonagh – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR

  • Daniel Kaluuya – “Get Out”
  • Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour”
  • James Franco – “The Disaster Artist”
  • Robert Pattinson – “Good Time”
  • Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Cynthia Nixon – “A Quiet Passion
  • Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya”
  • Sally Hawkins – “The Shape of Water”
  • Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Armie Hammer – “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Barry Keoghan – “The Killing of A Sacred Deer”
  • Michael Stuhlbarg – “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Allison Janney – “I, Tonya”
  • Holly Hunter – “The Big Sick”
  • Hong Chau – “Downsizing”
  • Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird”
  • Mary J. Blige – “Mudbound”

BEST ENSEMBLE

  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Get Out”
  • “I, Tonya”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Big Sick”
  • “The Shape Of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • “Get Out”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Big Sick”
  • “The Shape Of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • “Call Me By Your Name”
  • “Marjorie Prime”
  • “Molly’s Game”
  • “The Disaster Artist”
  • “The Lost City of Z”
  • “Wonderstruck”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • “Blade Runner 2049”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Personal Shopper”
  • “The Post”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Wonderstruck”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

BEST ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Blade Runner 2049”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Phantom Thread”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Wonderstruck”

BEST SCORE

  • “Blade Runner 2049”
  • “Dunkirk”
  • “Phantom Thread”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “Dawson City: Frozen Time”
  • “Ex Libris: New York Public Library”
  • “Faces Places”
  • “Jane”
  • “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold”
  • “Kedi”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • “BPM”
  • “First They Killed My Father”
  • “Loveless”
  • “The Ornithologist”
  • “The Square”

BEST ANIMATED FILM

BEST FIRST FILM

BREAKOUT AWARD

  • Barry Keoghan
  • Greta Gerwig
  • Jordan Peele
  • Millicent Simmonds
  • Timothée Chalamet

Here Are The SAG Nominations for 2017!


Mudbound

As far as Oscar precursors are concerned, all of the critic groups are fun to follow but the guilds are what you really need to pay attention to.  The reason is simple enough.  Critics may have influence but they’re not members of the Academy.

The Guilds, on the other hand, do include members who are voting members of the Academy.  And the biggest branch of the Academy is the Actors Branch.  That’s why the Screen Actors Guild nominations are traditionally viewed as being one of the most important of the precursors.

Of course, getting a SAG nomination does not always translate into an Oscar nomination.  It’s rare that the SAG noms and the Oscar noms line up 100%.  I can still remember, back in 2015, when we were all briefly excited when Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton picks up Best Ensemble nominations.  Of course, when the Oscar noms came out, Compton got one nomination and Beasts was totally shut out.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, according to Clayton Davis on Awards Circuit, the screeners for The Post and Phantom Thread weren’t sent out in time for either of those movies to be a factor in the voting.  Believe me, I was really excited when it seemed as if The Post had been totally snubbed.  The last thing I want to do next year is have to sit through another one of Meryl Streep’s speeches about how she’s just an average, middle class person from New Jersey who went to public school.  (Meryl always comes across like the type who would brag about being on a first name basis with her maid.)  But, it would appear that there is a perfectly understandable reason for The Post‘s lack of a nomination.

Anyway, here’s my main takeaways:

  1. Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya is emerging as a pretty strong contender for best actor.  I’d be surprised if he actually won over Timothee Chalamet and Gary Oldman but it does more and more likely that he will at least receive a nomination.
  2. Denzel Washington for Roman Israel, Esq?  Did anyone actually see that movie?  I didn’t so I don’t know if Denzel’s nomination was deserved or not.  Washington got a Golden Globe nomination as well.
  3. The biggest surprises in Best Supporting Actor?  Not only did Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg not get nominated but Steve Carell did.
  4. My favorite nomination is The Big Sick for Best Ensemble.
  5. Mudbound keeps its Oscar hopes alive, with its nomination here.
  6. I don’t have a sixth reason but I don’t do odd numbers.

Here are the film nominations:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
THE BIG SICK
GET OUT
LADY BIRD
MUDBOUND
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Timothée Chalamet, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
James Franco, THE DISASTER ARTIST
Daniel Kaluuya, GET OUT
Gary Oldman, DARKEST HOUR
Denzel Washington, ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Judi Dench, VICTORIA AND ABDUL
Sally Hawkins, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Frances McDormand, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Margot Robbie, I, TONYA
Saoirse Ronan, LADY BIRD

Outstanding Performance by Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Steve Carell, BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Willem Dafoe, THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Woody Harrelson, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Richard Jenkins, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Sam Rockwell, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, MUDBOUND
Hong Chau, DOWNSIZING
Holly Hunter, THE BIG SICK
Allison Janney, I, TONYA
Laurie Metcalf, LADY BIRD

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
BABY DRIVER
DUNKIRK
LOGAN
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
WONDER WOMAN

The Big Sick

And, finally, here are the nominations of the St. Louis Film Critics Association!


As soon as I post this, I will be caught up on sharing all of the precursor awards here on the Shattered Lens (or, at the very least, all of the precursor awards that have been announced so far.  There’s several more to come).  It’s not a minute to soon either!  Tomorrow, the SAG Nominations will be announced.  That’s one of the biggest of the precursors.

Anyway, the St. Louis Film Critics Association announce their nominations yesterday.  The winners will be announced on December 17th.

Here are the nominees!

BEST PICTURE

  • “Get Out”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “The Post”
  • “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
  • Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
  • Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”
  • Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
  • Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Kristen Stewart, “Personal Shopper”
  • Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
  • Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
  • Meryl Streep, “The Post”
  • Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR

  • Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
  • Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
  • James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
  • Tom Hanks,”The Post”
  • Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Kristin Scott Thomas, “Darkest Hour”
  • Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
  • Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
  • Hong Chau, “Downsizing”
  • Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Michael Shannon, “The Shape of Water”
  • Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
  • William Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
  • Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • “The Big Sick”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “Get Out”
  • “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”
  • “The Shape of Water”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

BEST SOUNDTRACK

BEST EDITING

  • “Darkest Hour”
  • “The Post”
  • “Baby Driver”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Dunkirk”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

BEST SCORE

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “Jane”
  • “Last Man in Aleppo”
  • “Never Say Goodbye: The Kshe Documentary”
  • “Whose Streets?”
  • “City of Ghosts”

BEST ANIMATED MOVIE

  • “Despicable Me 3”
  • “Loving Vincent”
  • The LEGO Batman Movie”
  • “Coco”
  • “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie”

BEST FOREIGN FILM

  • “Frantz”
  • “The Square”
  • “Graduation”
  • “Land of Mine”
  • “First They Killed My Father”

BEST SCENE

  • Harlem Shuffle Opening, “Baby Driver”
  • Elio’s Dad’s Monologue, “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Stairway Fight, “Atomic Blonde”
  • Coach Directing The Tempest, “Lady Bird”
  • ‘Oh, hi, Mark,’ “The Disaster Artist

WORST FILM

Here Are The Typically Strange Golden Globe Nominations!


“I’ll show you a pair of golden globes!”

Yes, I know, I know.  I say that every year.  I’ll probably say it next year as well.  There’s no joke that I can’t run into the ground.

Anyway, this year’s Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning and they are as strange as always.  I have to admit that I kinda hate the Golden Globes.  At least in my memory, there’s never been a year that the Golden Globes haven’t felt somewhat unsavory.  The general agreement seems to be that the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press will nominate anyone who is willing to come have a drink with them.  And yet, the Golden Globes continue to have such an outsized influence on who actually gets an Oscar nomination.

This year, the biggest shocks were:

  1. The Big Sick getting totally snubbed in every category, despite the fact that the Golden Globes specifically split their awards into Drama and Comedy categories and…
  2. …the totally unexpected strong showing of Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World.  It picked up nominations for Best Actress (Michelle Williams), Best Director (Ridley Scott), and Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Plummer, who just finished filming his role a little less than a month ago).

So, does this make All The Money In The World a sudden Oscar contender?  Maybe.  But then again, maybe not.  It does make both the film and Plummer a part of the conversation.  If, in a few days from now, Plummer picks up a SAG nomination, he will definitely start to look more like a probable contender.

Anyway, here are the Golden Globe film nominations:

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Call Me By Your Name
Dunkirk
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
The Disaster Artist
Get Out
The Greatest Showman
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

Best Motion Picture – Animated
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
A Fantastic Woman, Chile First They Killed My Father, Cambodia
In the Fade, Germany
Loveless, Russia
The Square, Sweden

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Meryl Streep, The Post
Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Tom Hanks, The Post
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul
Helen Mirren, The Leisure Seeker
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes
Ansel Elgort, Baby Driver
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Best Director – Motion Picture
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk”
Ridley Scott, All the Money in the World
Steven Spielberg, The Post

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Lady Bird
Molly’s Game
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Home,” from Ferdinand
“Mighty River,” from Mudbound
“Remember Me” from Coco
“The Star” from The Star
“This is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Here Are The Nominations For the 23rd Annual Critics Choice Awards!


Awards season is in full swing!  I’m running a little bit behind in updating all of the precursor awards here on the Shattered Lens but hopefully, I’ll have the site up-to-date by the end of today!

For instance, today, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations and, just judging from the number of nominations it received, it looks like they really, really liked Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water!

Here are the film nominees:

BEST PICTURE

“The Big Sick”
“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Dunkirk”
“The Florida Project”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR

Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me by Your Name”
James Franco – “The Disaster Artist”
Jake Gyllenhaal – “Stronger”
Tom Hanks – “The Post”
Daniel Kaluuya – “Get Out”
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Phantom Thread”
Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour”

BEST ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain – “Molly’s Game”
Sally Hawkins – “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep – “The Post”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project”
Armie Hammer – “Call Me By Your Name”
Richard Jenkins – “The Shape of Water”
Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Patrick Stewart – “Logan
Michael Stuhlbarg – “Call Me by Your Name”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mary J. Blige – “Mudbound
Hong Chau – “Downsizing”
Tiffany Haddish – “Girls Trip”
Holly Hunter – “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney – “I, Tonya”
Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer – “The Shape of Water”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS

Mckenna Grace – “Gifted”
Dafne Keen – “Logan”
Brooklynn Prince – “The Florida Project”
Millicent Simmonds – “Wonderstruck”
Jacob Tremblay – “Wonder”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE

“Dunkirk”
“Lady Bird”
“Mudbound”
“The Post”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR

Guillermo del Toro – “The Shape of Water”
Greta Gerwig – “Lady Bird”
Martin McDonagh – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Christopher Nolan – “Dunkirk”
Luca Guadagnino – “Call Me By Your Name”
Jordan Peele – “Get Out”
Steven Spielberg – “The Post”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – “The Shape of Water”
Greta Gerwig – “Lady Bird”
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani – “The Big Sick”
Liz Hannah and Josh Singer – “The Post”
Martin McDonagh – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Jordan Peele – “Get Out”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

James Ivory – “Call Me by Your Name”
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber – “The Disaster Artist”
Dee Rees and Virgil Williams – “Mudbound
Aaron Sorkin – “Molly’s Game”
Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky – “Wonder”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Roger Deakins – “Blade Runner 2049”
Hoyte van Hoytema – “Dunkirk”
Dan Laustsen – “The Shape of Water”
Rachel Morrison – “Mudbound
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom – “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin – “The Shape of Water”
Jim Clay, Rebecca Alleway – “Murder on the Orient Express”
Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis – “Dunkirk”
Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola – “Blade Runner 2049
Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer – “Beauty and the Beast
Mark Tildesley, Véronique Melery – “Phantom Thread”

BEST EDITING

Michael Kahn, Sarah Broshar – “The Post”
Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos – “Baby Driver
Lee Smith – “Dunkirk”
Joe Walker – “Blade Runner 2049”
Sidney Wolinsky – “The Shape of Water”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Renée April – “Blade Runner 2049
Mark Bridges – “Phantom Thread”
Jacqueline Durran – “Beauty and the Beast
Lindy Hemming – “Wonder Woman
Luis Sequeira – “The Shape of Water”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP

Beauty and the Beast
“Darkest Hour”
“I, Tonya”
“The Shape of Water”
“Wonder”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049
“Dunkirk”
“The Shape of Water”
“Thor: Ragnarok”
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

“The Breadwinner”
“Coco”
“Despicable Me 3”
“The LEGO Batman Movie”
“Loving Vincent”

BEST ACTION MOVIE

Baby Driver”
Logan”
“Thor: Ragnarok”
War for the Planet of the Apes”
“Wonder Woman”

BEST COMEDY

“The Big Sick”
“The Disaster Artist”
“Girls Trip”
“I, Tonya”
“Lady Bird”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY

Steve Carell – “Battle of the Sexes”
James Franco – “The Disaster Artist”
Chris Hemsworth – “Thor: Ragnarok”
Kumail Nanjiani – “The Big Sick”
Adam Sandler – “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Tiffany Haddish – “Girls Trip”
Zoe Kazan – “The Big Sick”
Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”
Emma Stone – “Battle of the Sexes”

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE

Blade Runner 2049
“Get Out”
It
“The Shape of Water”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“BPM (Beats Per Minute)”
“A Fantastic Woman”
“First They Killed My Father”
“In the Fade”
“The Square”
“Thelma”

BEST SONG

“Evermore” – “Beauty and the Beast
“Mystery of Love” – “Call Me By Your Name”
“Remember Me” – “Coco”
“Stand Up for Something” – “Marshall”
“This Is Me” – “The Greatest Showman”

BEST SCORE

Alexandre Desplat – “The Shape of Water”
Jonny Greenwood – “Phantom Thread”
Dario Marianelli – “Darkest Hour”
Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer – “Blade Runner 2049”
John Williams – “The Post”
Hans Zimmer – “Dunkirk”

Film Review: Inherent Vice (dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)


Inherent-Vice-poster

One of the best things about Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Inherent Vice, is that Doc Sportello, the private detective played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a real stoner.  He’s not one of those weekend smokers, who gets high on Saturday, brags about it on Sunday, and then spends the rest of the week interning at Vox.  For the entire 2 hour and 20 minute running time of Inherent Vice, Doc is stoned.  From the minute we first meet him to the end of the film, there is never one moment where Doc is not stoned.  Most stoner comedies feature a scene where the main character shocks everyone by turning down a hit because he’s dealing with something so important that he has to “keep his mind straight.”

Not so with Doc!

And, in Doc’s case, it definitely helps him out.  Inherent Vice tells a story that is so full of paranoia, conspiracy, and random connections that only a true stoner could follow it.  Much like Doc, the film often seems to be moving in a haze but occasionally, out of nowhere, it will come up with a scene or a line of dialogue or a detail that is so sharp and precise that it will force you to reconsider everything that you had previously assumed.

To be honest, if you are one of the people who watched Inherent Vice this weekend and could actually follow the film’s plot, then you’ve got a leg up on me.  (That said, I’ve still got pretty good legs so it all evens out.)  But, that’s not necessarily a complaint.  As befits a film based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon and directed by one of the most idiosyncratic filmmakers around, the twists and turns of Inherent Vice are deliberately meant to be obscure and confusing.  Characters appear and then vanish.  Clues are discovered and then forgotten.  Connections are hinted at but then never confirmed.  Inherent Vice ultimately serves a tribute to stoner’s paranoia and, as a result, the plot’s incoherence leads to a certain contact high.

The film takes place in California in the 1970s.  Doc is both a hippie and a private detective. His current girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon) works for the district attorney’s office and doesn’t seem to like him much.  His ex-girlfriend, Shasta (Katherine Waterston), reenters his life and asks him to help protect her new boyfriend, real estate developer Mickey Wolfman (Eric Roberts).  Mickey has disappeared.  Shasta disappears.  As Doc investigates, he wanders through a psychedelic Los Angeles and deals with an ever growing collection of eccentrics.

For instance, there’s Hope Harlingen (Jena Malone), a former heroin addict who now runs a group that aims to promote “responsible drug use” among children.  She believes that her husband, Coy (Owen Wilson), is dead but actually Coy is a government informant who keeps popping up in the strangest places.

There’s Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short), a decadent dentist who may or may not be responsible for all of the heroin entering California.

There’s Sauncho Smilax (Benicio Del Toro), Doc’s lawyer who specializes in maritime law.

There are Nazi bikers, new age doctors, a formerly blacklisted actor turned right-wing spokesman, a black revolutionary whose best friend was a member of the Aryan brotherhood, three FBI agents who keep picking their noses, the decadent rich, and, of course, the endlessly clean-cut and bullying officers of the LAPD.

And then there’s Detective “Big Foot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), a celebrity cop and occasional television extra who seems to admire Doc, except for when he’s trying to frame Doc for everything from murder to drug smuggling.  Bjornsen is probably the most interesting character in the entire film and Brolin plays the character perfectly.  His scenes with Phoenix crackle with a comedic energy that bring the film to life.

As for the movie itself, it’s not for everyone.  A lot of very smart people are going to dislike it, much as many of them did with The Master.  In some ways, Inherent Vice truly is an endurance test.  Speaking as someone who enjoyed the film, even I occasionally found myself saying, “Okay, does everyone have to have a silly name?”  Inherent Vice is a long, rambling, and occasionally frustrating film but, for me, it still worked because of the strong cast and Anderson’s attention to detail.

Unbroken is a film that seems to take place in an entirely different world from Inherent Vice but these two films do have one big thing in common.  Both of them have been victims of the expectation game.  Many of the same people who thought Unbroken would be a surefire Oscar nominee also assumed, sight unseen, that Inherent Vice would be right there with it.  Much as how Unbroken has suffered for merely being good as opposed to great, Inherent Vice is also suffering for failing to live up to the expectations that were thrust upon it.  Inherent Vice is not an awards movie.  Instead, it’s a fascinatingly idiosyncratic film that was made by a director who has never shown much concern with playing up to the audience.  While Unbroken is enough of a crowd pleaser to still have a shot at some Oscar glory, Inherent Vice is the type of film that will probably never get nominated.  (I do have some hope that Brolin will get a supporting actor nomination but, even there, it appears likely that Brolin’s spot will be given to The Judge‘s Robert Duvall.)

Well, no matter!  Flaws and all, Inherent Vice will be a film that people will still be debating and watching years from now.