Any Given Sunday (1999, directed by Oliver Stone)


With Any Given Sunday, Oliver Stone set out to make the ultimate football movie and he succeeded.

Any Given Sunday is not just the story of aging coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino).  It’s also the story of how third-string quarterback Willie Beamon (Jamie Foxx) allows celebrity to go to his head while the injured starter, Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid), deals with his own mortality and how, at 38, he is now over-the-hill.  It’s also about how the team doctors (represented by James Woods and Matthew Modine) are complicit in pushing the players beyond their limits and how the owners (Cameron Diaz) view those players as a commodity to be traded and toyed with.  It’s about how the Sharks represent their home city of Miami and how cynical columnists (John C. McGinley plays a character that is obviously meant to be Jim Rome) deliberately set out to inflame the anger of the team’s fans.  It’s about how politicians (Clifton Davis plays Miami’s mayor and asks everyone to “give me some love”) use professional sports to further their own corrupt careers while the often immature men who play the game are elevated into role models by the press.  It’s a film that compares football players to ancient gladiators while also showing how the game has become big business.  In typical Oliver Stone fashion, it tries to take on every aspect of football while also saying something about America as well.

In the role on Tony D, Pacino famously describes football as being “a game of inches” but you wouldn’t always know it from the way that Oliver Stone directs Any Given Sunday.  As a director, Stone has never been one to only gain an inch when he could instead grab an entire mile.  (Stone is probably the type of Madden player who attempts to have his quarterback go back and throw a hail mary on every single play.)  Tony tells his players to be methodical but Stone directs in a fashion that is sloppy, self-indulgent, and always entertaining to watch.  One minute, Al Pacino and Jim Brown are talking about how much the game has changed and the next minute, LL Cool J is doing cocaine off of a groupie’s breast while images of turn-of-the-century football players flash on the screen.  No sooner has Jamie Foxx delivered an impassioned speech about the lack of black coaches in the league then he’s suddenly starring in his own music video and singing about how “Steamin’ Willie Beamon” leaves all the ladies “creamin’.”  (It rhymes, that’s the important thing.)  When Tony invites Willie over to his house, scenes of Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur are on TV.  Later in the movie, Heston shows up as the Commissioner and says, about Cameron Diaz, “she would eat her young.”

Any Given Sunday is Oliver Stone at both his best and his worst.  The script is overwritten and overstuffed with every possible sports cliché  but the football scenes are some of the most exciting that have ever been filmed.  Only Oliver Stone could get away with both opening the film with a quote from Vince Lombardi and then having a player literally lose an eye during the big game.  Stone himself appears in the commentator’s both, saying, “I think he may have hurt his eye,” while the doctor’s in the end zone scoop up the the torn out eyeball and put it into a plastic bag.  Only Stone could get away with Jamie Foxx vomiting on the field during every game and then making amazing plays while a combination of rap, heavy metal, and techno roars in the background.  Stone regulars like James Woods and John C. McGinely make valuable appearances and while Woods may be playing a villain, he’s the only person in the film willing to call out the coaches, the players, the owners, and the fans at home as being a bunch of hypocrites.  Stone’s direction is as hyper-kinetic as always but he still has no fear of stopping the action so that Foxx can see sepia-toned images of football’s past staring at him from the stands.  Stone directs like defensive lineman on steroids, barreling his way through every obstacle to take down his target.  No matter what, the game goes on.

Any Given Sunday is the ultimate football movie and more fun than the last ten super bowls combined.

Here Are The SAG Nominations!


The SAG nominations were announced this morning.

For those of you keeping track of precursors and using them to shape your own predictions, the SAG nominations are usually a pretty big deal.  It’s rare that every film that gets a best ensemble nomination also gets a best picture nominations.  (In the past, The Big Sick, Trumbo, and Beasts of No Nation all got ensemble noms without also getting a best picture nomination.)  But, at the same time, the SAG is full of Academy members (the Actor’s Division is the largest part of the Academy) so their nominations are definitely a good sign of the way the winds are blowing.

So, a look at the nominations below — very bad news for Adam Sandler.  I have a hard time seeing how he can get an Oscar nomination without also a Golden Globe or SAG nomination.  Good news for Christian Bale, who is rapidly becoming the male Meryl Streep as far as automatic nominations are concerned.  Good news for Bombshell.  Good news for me, because I predicted that the liberals in Hollywood would embrace Bombshell for the same reason that they embraced films like Vice and The Big Short (i,e., “honoring Jay Roach and Adam McKay movies to own the cons”).  Potentially bad news for Kathy Bates, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Richard Jewell but not one from SAG.  Bad news for 1917, which was totally rejected by the SAG.  Potentially good news for Joker, which may have missed out on Ensemble but still picked up nominations for Joaquin Phoenix and the stunts crew.

Anyway, here are the SAG film nominees:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role:

Christian Bale (“Ford v Ferrari”)
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”)
Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”)
Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role:

Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”)
Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”)
Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”)
Renée Zellweger (“Judy”)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role:

Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy”)
Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”)
Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)
Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”)
Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role:

Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Jojo Rabbit”)
Nicole Kidman (“Bombshell”)
Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”)
Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:

“Bombshell” (Lionsgate)
“The Irishman” (Netflix)
“Jojo Rabbit” (Fox)
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Sony)
“Parasite” (Neon)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture:

“Avengers: Endgame”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“Joker”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

The African-American Film Critics Association Honors Us


The African American Film Critics Association has selected Jordan Peele’s Us as the best film of the year!

Here’s a full list of their winners:

Best Film: “Us” (Universal Pictures)

Best Director: Jordan Peele (“Us,” Universal Pictures)

Best Actor: Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name,” Netflix)

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (“Us,” Universal Pictures)

Best Supporting Actor: Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy,” Warner Bros. Pictures)

Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“Dolemite Is My Name,” Netflix)

Best Breakout Performance: Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (“Waves,” A24)

Best Animated Film: “Abominable” (Universal Pictures)

Best Documentary: “The Black Godfather” (Netflix)

Best Foreign Film: “Parasite” (Neon)

Best Independent Film: “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (A24)

Best Screenplay (Presented with The Black List): Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite” (Neon)

Impact Award: “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)

We See You Award: Taylor Russell (“Waves,” A24)

The AAFCA 2019 Top Ten Films

1. “Us” (Universal Pictures)

2. “Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix)

3. “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

4. “Clemency” (Neon)

5. “The Irishman” (Netflix)

6. “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)

7. “Waves” (A24)

8. TIE “Parasite” (Neon) and “Atlantics” (Netflix)

9. The Farewell (A24)

10. “Harriet” (Focus Features)

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For November


Well, here we are!

We’re on the verge of the official start of Oscar season.  The Spirit Nominations have been announced.  The National Board of Review will be announcing their picks on December 3rd (I believe).  In just about a week from now, we’re going to be flooded by hundreds of different guilds and critics groups handing out awards and it will be a struggle to keep up.  With so many strong contenders this year, it’ll be interesting to see who actually emerges with the momentum.

(For instance, I don’t think anyone really took Mad Max: Fury Road seriously as an Oscar contender until it started sweeping all the critics groups in December.  And then we were all like, “Well, of course it’s going to be nominated for best picture….”)

With all that in mind, I’m going to go out on a limb with a few of my predictions below.  I mean, why not?  At this point, anything could happen.

To see how my thinking has evolved over time, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October!

Without further ado, here are my predictions for November:

Best Picture

1917

Bombshell

The Irishman

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Parasite

Richard Jewell

Uncut Gems

Best Director

Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story

Joon-Ho Bong for Parasite

Clint Eastwood for Richard Jewell

Jay Roach for Bombshell

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Best Actor

Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Charlize Theron in Bombshell

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy

Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes

Al Pacino in The Irishman

Joe Pesci in The Irishman

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Thomasin McKenzie in JoJo Rabbit

Margot Robbie in Bombshell

Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell

 

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions for October


Well, the Oscar season is finally here and it looks like the competition is going to be fierce!  It seems like every day, a new contender is being crowned at yet another festival.  Below, you’ll find my predictions for October but, honestly, it’s still difficult to narrow down all of the possible contenders to just 10 films, 5 directors, and 20 actors.

But let’s give it a shot, anyways!

To see how my thinking has (or has not) evolved, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September!

Best Picture

1917

Bombshell

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Parasite

The Two Popes

Waves

Best Director

Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story

Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Taron Egerton in Rocketman

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Charlize Theron In Bombshell

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Sterling K. Brown in Waves

Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy

Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes

Al Pacino in The Irishman

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in Little Women

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Thomasin McKenzie in JoJo Rabbit

Margot Robbie in Bombshell

Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell

 

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For September


With the help of the festivals, the Oscar picture became a bit clearer this month.  Perhaps the biggest news is that the initial response to Harriet, which many people expected to be this year’s front runner, was decidedly lukewarm.  The other big news?  The Irishman, according to those who have seen it, may be Scorsese’s best yet.

Below, you’ll find my Oscar predictions for September.  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved over the course of this year, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August!

Now, admittedly, there’s still an element of wishful thinking in some of the predictions below.  For instance, it would be an interesting narrative development if Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy were both nominated for best actor.  That doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen but both of them have received a lot of early acclaim for their yet-to-be released films this year.  They’re contenders, even if their reputations may make them long shots.  What’s the point of making predictions if you can’t have a little fun?

Joker is going to get big Oscar punch.  I do think it’s going to probably be a bit too controversial to pick up a Best Picture nomination but I’m still going to go ahead and put down Joaquin Phoenix as a best actor nominee.

Bombshell is the new title of Jay Roach’s Fox News film.  To me, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be that good and, quite frankly, Jay Roach’s films usually prove that just being obsessed with politics doesn’t necessarily mean that you have anything interesting to say about the topic.  That said, if Vice (a film that even leftist film critics criticized as being heavy handed and cartoonish) could pick up a best picture nomination last year, then I’m going to assume Bombshell could do the same.  With both the presidential election and possible impeachment trial looming, it’s reasonable assume that certain Academy members will be even more obsessed with politics than usual.

Meryl Streep for The Laundromat?  Why not?  They’ll nominate Meryl for anything, regardless of how bad the movie is.

Here are the predictions for this month!

Best Picture

1917

Bombshell

The Farewell

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Parasite

Waves

Best Director

Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Taika Waititi for JoJo Rabbit

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story

Charlize Theron in Bombshell

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Sterling K. Brown in Waves

Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy

Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes

Al Pacino in The Irishman

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell

Meryl Streep in The Laundromat

Film Review: Baby Driver (dir by Edgar Wright)


Baby Driver, the new film from director Edgar Wright, is awesome!

That’s the succinct way of putting it and, if you really want to fully enjoy this film, I suggest that you stop reading this review now. There’s no way that a review cannot, to a certain extent, spoil a movie.  Baby Driver is a kinetic blend of action, comedy, romance, and music and it is a movie that you should see without any preconceived notions and expectations.  It’s a movie that earns the right to surprise you with just how good and entertaining it is.  It’s a movie that you should experience fresh.

So, go see the movie.  Seriously, go right now.  GET OUT OF HERE AND SEE THE MOVIE!  This review will still be waiting for you when you get back.  Who knows?  Maybe, while you’re watching the movie, I’ll actually correct some of the typos.  Or maybe not.

Anyway, go away.  I’ll wait for you to return.

la dee da la dee da…

Okay, did you see the movie?  It’s really great, isn’t it?

As a result of the childhood car accident that killed his parents, Baby (Ansel Elgort) has been left with a permanent case of tinnitus.  He uses music to drown out the constant ringing in his ears.  There’s almost never a time that Baby isn’t listening to his ipod.  When we first see Baby, he’s sitting behind the wheel of a car, singing along with Jon Spencer and the Blues Explosion.  The second time that we see him, he’s getting coffee while listening to Harlem Shuffle.  In a delirious homage to Singin’ In The Rain (and in a scene that puts the opening traffic jam of La La Land to shame), Baby literally dances across the streets of Los Angeles.  For Baby, every day is a musical.

Of course, Baby doesn’t just use music to block out the ringing.  He also uses the music (and an ever-present pair of sunglasses) to keep the world out.  He rarely speaks or even makes eye contact and, as long as he’s listening to his ipod, he has an excuse not to interact.  He doesn’t have to explain the small scars around his eyes or how he makes his money.  The few times that he does speak to people, it’s to record their voices, which he then turns into music.  Music and the driving are the only two ways this orphan can express his feelings.

When the movie begins, Baby appears to be close to only two men.  One is his deaf foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones).  Baby lives with Joseph, in an apartment where Baby regularly stashes thousands of dollars.  Joseph always watches in disapproval as Baby hides the money under the floorboards.  Joseph signs at Baby that he deserves better than the life he’s leading.  Baby always signs back that he’s only a few jobs away from being done.

Baby’s other father figure is Doc (Kevin Spacey).  Doc is a rich and connected man.  At times, he seems to sincerely care about Baby but there are other times when Doc is just as quick to threaten to kill him and everyone that he loves.  Doc plans bank robberies for a living.  Doc may change associates from robbery to robbery but one thing always remains consistent.  Baby is always his driver because Baby is the best.  As Doc explains it, the first time he saw Baby, he was stealing Doc’s Mercedes.  Baby drives for Doc as a way of paying off his debt to the older man but you still believe Baby’s sincerity when he tells Doc, “We’re a team.”  (One the film’s best throw-away jokes is the line where Doc reveals that he knows where Baby got the idea to say that.)

Things start to change for Baby when he meets Debora (Lily James), a waitress who appears to love music just as much he does.  For Baby and Debora, it’s love at first sight but Doc has one more job that he needs Baby for.  It’s their most dangerous job yet and, making thing even more complicated, are the three people who Doc has recruited to work with Baby.  Buddy (Jon Hamm) is a former wall street banker who is eager to prove what a badass he is.  Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) is his wife, who enjoys talking about how many of their former partners have died.  And finally, there’s Bats (Jamie Foxx), a complete and total psycho who brags about never telling a single story that doesn’t end with someone getting killed.

Baby Driver is a propulsive blast of pure adrenaline, perhaps the closest that we will ever get to a genuine pulp musical.  The action scenes left me literally breathless.  I saw the movie at the Alamo Drafthouse and, before the film started, there was a clip of Edgar Wright listing his favorite car chases.  He listed all of the usual suspects, Bullitt, The French Connection, Mad Max: Thunder Road.  The chases scenes in Baby Driver can proudly be listed next to all of those scenes.  This is genuinely exciting crime film, featuring wonderfully over-the-top turns from Foxx, Hamm, and especially Spacey.

But you know what?  Baby Driver may be a great action film but what makes it special is that it’s also a film with a heart.  Rather bravely, Edgar Wright has not only made an action musical but he’s also mixed in a very sincere and unabashedly sentimental love story.  You never doubt for a second that Baby would give up everything — music, driving, even his life — for Debora.  The scenes between Baby and Debora are almost deliriously romantic.  Ansel Elgort and Lily James both share a very likable and very real chemistry.  You want things to work out for Debora and Baby.  You feel like they belong together and, when it looks like either Baby or Debora might be in danger, you worry for both of them.  As exciting as the film’s action sequences were, it was the ending that brought tears to my eyes and that was almost totally due to the performances of Elgort and James.

Baby Driver is one of the best films that I’ve seen so far this year.  See it this weekend!  If you’ve already seen it, see it again!  This film deserves to be rewarded.