What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2018 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 2017201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blindspotting

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Leave No Trace

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

 

Best Director

*Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade

The Coen Brothers for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Alfonso Cuaron for Roma

Debra Granik for Leave No Trace

Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

 

Best Actor

John Cho in Searching

Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting

*Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

 

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade

Lady Gaga in A Star is Born

*Regina Hall in Support the Girls

Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor

Thomason McKenzie in Leave No Trace

 

Best Supporting Actor

Peter Bogdonavich in The Other Side of the Wind

*Ben Foster in Leave No Trace

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Josh Hamilton in Eighth Grade

Tim Blake Nelson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Michael Palin in The Death of Stalin

 

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place

*Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Zoe Kazan in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Emma Stone in The Favourite

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

 

Best Voice Over or Motion-Capture Performance

*Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War

Jake Johnson in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Holly Hunter in The Incredibles 2

Shamiek Moore in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

John C. Reilly in Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2

 

Best Original Screenplay

Blindspotting

The Death of Stalin

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Game Night

Support the Girls

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

If Beale Street Could Talk

Leave No Trace

*A Simple Favor

A Star is Born

 

Best Animated Feature

Early Man

Have A Nice Day

The Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Ralph Breaks the Internet

*Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Best Documentary Feature

Avicii: True Stories

Recovery Boys

Shirkers

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

*Three Identical Strangers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Battle

Gun City

Happy as Lazzaro

Have A Nice Day

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World

*Roma

 

Best Casting

Blindspotting

Eighth Grade

Mandy

Mid90s

Roma

*Support the Girls

 

Best Cinematography

Aquaman

Avengers: Infinity Wars

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Panther

*Mandy

Roma

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

*Black Panther

The Favourite

Lizzie

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

 

Best Film Editing

Avengers: Infinity Wars

Eighth Grade

Mission Impossible: Fallout

*The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

Searching

Best Makeup and Hair Styling

*The Favourite

Lizzie

Mandy

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

Best Original Score

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Death of Stalin

If Beale Street Could Talk

*Mandy

The Other Side of the Wind

Best Original Song

*“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

“All the Stars” from Black Panther

“Limitless” from Second Act

“I’ll Never Love Again” from A Star is Born

“Is that Alright” from A Star is Born

“Shallow” from A Star is Born

 

Best Overall Use of Music

Bohemian Rhapsody

Eighth Grade

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mid90s

*A Star is Born

Three Identical Strangers

 

Best Production Design

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

The Commuter

*The Favourite

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Quiet Place

Best Sound Editing

Annihilation

*Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

12 Strong

Best Sound Mixing

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

*A Star is Born

Best Stuntwork

Avengers: Infinity War

Beirut

Black Panther

*Mission Impossible: Fallout

12 Strong

Upgrade

Best Visual Effects

Annihilation

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Aquaman

*Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

First Man

Films Listed By Number of Nominations:

11 Nominations – Avengers: Infinity War

9 Nominations – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Favourite, Roma

8 Nominations – Eighth Grade, A Star is Born

7 Nominations – Black Panther, The Other Side of the Wind

6 Nominations – A Simple Favor

5 Nominations – Leave No Trace, Support the Girls

4 Nominations – Blindspotting, Mandy, Mission Impossible: Fallout

3 Nominations – Annihilation, The Death of Stalin, Mary Queen of Scots, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

2 Nominations – Aquaman, Have A Nice Day, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Incredibles 2, Lizzie, Mid90s, A Quiet Place, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Searching, Three Identical Strangers, 12 Strong

1 Nomination – Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avicii: True Stories, Battle, Beirut, Bohemian Rhapsody, Chappaquiddick, The Commuter, Early Man, First Man, First Reformed, Game Night, Gun City, Happy as Lazzaro, Isle of Dogs, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World, Paddington 2, Recovery Boys, Second Act, Shirkers, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, Upgrade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, You Were Never Really Here

Films Listed By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Eighth Grade, The Favourite

2 Oscars – Mandy, A Star is Born, Support the Girls

1 Oscar – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Other Side of the Wind, Roma, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Three Identical Strangers

As for the real nominations, they’ll be announced on Tuesday morning!

First Man, Review By Case Wright


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Happy Horrothon……wait a minute…this isn’t a horror movie!!! Nope, but it is going to win Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.

First Man is a biopic of Neil Armstrong from his test pilot days, Gemini missions, Apollo Mission and return home.  I was moved.  Ryan Gosling inhabited that man’s very soul.  I have not seen acting that good in years and years.  At every point in the film, you are more on the edge of your seat than you have been in decades.  I knew he would land the LEM on the moon, but it was so close to disaster that you felt for him.

The picture opens with Neil doing test piloting.  He’s already getting tapped to be in the Gemini missions, but he almost passes.  He has a daughter that stricken with cancer and we share in his grief throughout the film’s entirety.  I won’t spoil it, but there’s a moment when Neil is on the moon with his late daughter’s bracelet and …. oh man.  Once his daughter passes, his wife pushes him to take the Gemini mission and we rapidly see that she is his ROCK!  We see it when his daughter passes and when the stress of the burden of achievement weighs upon this Great Man.

The weight of greatness and death is looked dead in the eye in this picture.  Brave men are facing and dealing with mortality in nearly every scene.  We see that the cost of putting the first man on the moon is paid in blood.  So many great men die in this heroic quest that it begins to feel like a Homeric adventure or great tale of an ancient Samurai told through a modern lens.  All the while they are struggling to make this great achievement, we hear the familiar whining of lesser men moaning in the background like white noise.

Once it is clear that Neil will be Commander to go to the Man, his wife demands that he explain the risks to his two remaining children.  He tells them and we feel his paternal pain twisting in him like a blade because his destiny is set.  We get closer to the other two members of his team – one I can’t remember and the other is Buzz Aldrin who is portrayed as complete asshole.  I mean…wow…what a dick!

When Neil approaches the moon, the LEM is heading for disaster and fate tempts Neil to abort, but it’s obvious that Neil will succeed or he will die trying.  There was no going back empty handed for him.  There’s a lesson here: the greatest achievements require sacrifice up to and including your life.

The film allows us to see this amazing quest through the eyes of our greatest American Representative.  It is also clear that the Space Race, Humankind’s greatest achievement, was a road that led to victory and was paved with blood.

 

Horror Trailer: Pet Sematary


Pet Sematary

It looks like one of the advantages of It being such a success in the box-office in 2017 was the return of Stephen King film adaptations. It’s not just in the theaters that we’ve seen this latest run in Stephen King films, but on streaming services like Netflix (Gerald’s Game and 1922) and Hulu (Castle Rock series).

Now we have the first trailer for the remake of the Stephen King cult classic film Pet Sematary set to come out early April 2019. The film will star Jason Clarke in the role of Louis Creed with John Lithgow playing the role of Jud Crandall (a role made famous by the late, great Fred Gwynne).

One thing that the trailer has shown me that I approve of is the fact they finally cast the correct cat in the role of the Creed family’s beloved cat Church. The original film a Russian Blue was picked for the role when in the book it was a Maine Coon. From a quick glimpse in the trailer it looks like we’re getting a pissed off Maine Coon in the role of Church.

James Franco Wins At The Gothams!


Hi, everyone!

Well, as I sit here typing this, I am eagerly awaiting the announcement of the National Board of Review’s picks for the best of 2017!  I keep thinking about how, in 2015, nobody took Mad Max: Fury Road seriously as an Oscar contender until it was named best picture by the NBR.  What the NBR does today will go a long way to determining whether this is an exciting Oscar season or a boring Oscar season.

However, the National Board of Review are not the only people who have been tabulating votes over the past few days.  Last night, the Gotham Awards were handed out in New York City.  The Gothams, which honor independent films, have lately been a pretty good indicator of what will, at the very least, receive a nomination in January.  Based on last night’s results, it looks like it could be a good year for Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, Saoirse Ronan, and James Franco!

You can check out the nominees here.  And you can see the winners below!

Best Feature — Call Me By Your Name

Best Documentary Feature — Strong Island

Audience Award — Get Out

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Best Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Best Actor: James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Best Actress: Saorise Ronan, Lady Bird

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance: “Mudbound,” presented to Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks

Made in NY Honoree: Michael K. Williams

Breakthrough Actor: Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”

Breakthrough Series — Long Form: Atlanta

Breakthrough Series — Short Form: The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes

 

Film Review: Mudbound (dir by Dee Rees)


In Mudbound, Jonathan Banks plays one of the most hateful characters to ever appear in a motion picture.

We never find out the character’s given name.  Everyone just calls him Pappy.  He’s the patriarch of an unimpressive family, a wannabe king who has no kingdom over which to rule.  Pappy never has a kind word to say to anyone.  He even tends to be brusque with his grandchildren.  When one of his sons returns from serving in World War II, Pappy only wants to know if he got laid in Europe and how many men he killed.  Pappy only killed one man in World War I but he did it face-to-face.  He’s proud of that.

As much as Pappy dislikes the members of his family, it’s nothing compared to how much Pappy hates people who aren’t white.  Pappy is the type to demand that, when he dies, he not buried anywhere near anyone black.  Pappy is also the type who takes it as a personal insult if a black man uses the same door that he uses.  When he sees Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) using the font door of the local grocery store, it doesn’t matter that Ronsel has just returned from serving his country and is still wearing his uniform.  It also doesn’t matter that Ronsel’s mother is helping to raise Pappy’s granddaughters.  What matters is that Ronsel is defying the social norms of 1940s Mississippi and Pappy takes that as a personal insult.

There are six narrators in Mudbound, all of whom tell us their story and share with us their thoughts.  Pappy is not one of those narrators and, for that, I was thankful.  I would have been frightened at the thought of entering his hate-fueled mind.  All we have to do is look into his hateful eyes or listen to his scornful voice and we know what’s going on in Pappy’s head.  He’s a man who has accomplished nothing in his long life, whose only happiness comes from making others miserable, and who fears the change that he secretly knows is coming.  It’s not just hate that makes Pappy demand an apology when Ronsel Jackson uses the front door.  It’s fear.

Mudbound tells the story of two families in Mississippi and the farmland on which they both live and work.  (Early on, when a skull with a bullet hole is discovered, we’re informed that an old slave cemetery is under plowed fields.)  Pappy’s oldest son, Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke), owns the land.  Desperate for his father’s approval, Henry hopes to succeed as a farmer but he soon proves himself to be rather clueless.  Henry’s wife is Laura (Carey Mulligan).  Laura was a 31 year-old virgin when she met Henry.  She tells us that she married him because she didn’t want to be alone.  She stays with him because she loves their children.

The Jacksons live on Henry’s land.  They’re tenant farmers and Hap (Rob Morgan), the family patriarch, dreams of one day owning his own farm.  While Pappy openly hates the Jacksons, Henry treats them with a patronizing condescension.  (Whereas Pappy knows that he’s hated, Henry actually thinks that the Jacksons look up to him.  There’s not a lot of humor to be found in Mudbound but I couldn’t help but smile at Henry’s cluelessness about how little Hap thought of him.)  Henry and Laura even hire Hap’s wife, Florence (Mary J. Blige), to serve as a housekeeper.  Henry and Laura think they’re doing Florence a favor, never considering that they are essentially asking Florence to neglect her own family so that she can take care of their’s.

The Jackson and the McAllans do have one big thing in common.  They both have sons serving in the army.  Ronsel is a sergeant who is both surprised and happy to discover that white Europeans are not the same as white Americans.  Henry’s younger brother, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), is a captain in the Air Force.  When the war ends, both Ronsel and Jamie return to their families.  Jamie returns with a severe case of PTSD and a drinking problem.  Having experienced freedom in Europe, Ronsel is angered to return to a country where he is still expected to sit in the back of the bus and cheerfully accept being treated like a second class citizen.

When both of them are caught off guard by the sound of a car backfiring, Ronsel and Jamie immediately recognize each other as returning soldiers.  A friendship develops between them, one that goes against the racist norms of their society.  Violence and tragedy follows.

Mudbound is a Netflix film.  It’s currently getting a one-week theatrical release so that it’ll be Oscar-eligible.  (If it is nominated for best picture — and many think that it may be — it’ll be the first Netflix film to be so honored.)  That said, the majority of the people who see Mudbound will see it via Netflix.  That’s a shame because, visually, Mubound is a film that should be seen on a big screen.  The imagery — the farmland that seems to stretch on forever, the storms that always seem to roll in at the worst possible moment, the scenes of Ronsel and Jamie in Europe — is frequently beautiful and haunting.  (The comparisons to the work of Terrence Malick are justified.)  Even when viewed on a laptop, Mudbound still looks good but I fear that the small screen will rob the film of some of its epic scope.  Since Mudbound is a leisurely paced film, I fear that many members of the Netflix audience are going to be tempted to hit pause and then not return to the film for an hour or two, therefore robbing Mudbound of its cumulative power.

Over the time that I’ve spent writing this review, I’ve come to realize that I actually liked Mudbound a lot more than I originally thought I did.  As opposed to many of the films that I’ve seen this year, I have a feeling that Mudbound is actually going to stick with me.  Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, and Rob Morgan all give wonderful performances, though the cast standout is Jason Mitchell, playing a man who, having tasted freedom, refuses to silently go back to the way things were.

Mudbound is a very good film.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it a great film, though many other critics and viewers are.  Director Dee Rees captures some beautiful images and some wonderful performances but the film itself has some pacing problems.  The first part of the film is occasionally too slow while a few of the final scenes felt rushed.  I haven’t always been a huge fan of Garrett Hedlund in the past and, when the movie started, I had my doubts about whether or not I’d be able to accept him as Jamie but, by the end of the movie, he had won me over.  In the past, I’ve found Hedlund to be a little stiff but, having now seen Mudbound, I have to say that he’s grown as an actor.  I’m looking forward to seeing where his talent takes him next.

Even if it does have flaws, Mudbound is a powerful film and one that I recommend taking the time to watch.

Here Are The 2017 IFP Gotham Award Nominees!


Hi, everyone!

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

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

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

Here are the nominees:

Best Feature

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

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

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

Good Time

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

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

Best Documentary

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

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

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

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

Whose Streets?

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

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

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

Best Screenplay

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


*
Best Actor*

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

Best Actress

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

Breakthrough Actor

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

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

 

Film Review: Everest (dir by Baltasar Kormákur)


Everest_poster

If I wasn’t already scared of heights, I definitely would be after seeing Everest.

Based on a true story, Everest tells the story of two expeditions attempting to climb to the top of Mt. Everest.  One expedition is led by a New Zealander named Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), an experienced climber who, we’re told, pretty much invented the entire industry of taking commercial expeditions up to the top of Mt. Everest.  Criticized by some for being a “hand holder” who gets too emotionally involved with his clients and, as a result, cheapens the Everest “experience” by helping weaker clients make it to the top of the summit, Rob is married to a fellow climber, Jan Arnold (Keira Knightley).  While Rob tries to lead his clients to the highest place on Earth, the pregnant Jan stays home and waits for his return.

The other expedition is led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Scott and Rob are friendly rivals, with Scott taking a much more hands off approach to his clients.  (It’s not a coincidence that Rob’s company is called Adventure Consultants while Scott works for Mountain Madness.)

Everest details what happens when the two expeditions are both caught in a sudden blizzard and find themselves trapped at the top of Everest.  The rest of the film is about the attempts of a stranded few to make it back to civilization.  A few make it, though not without suffering a good deal of pain and, in one particularly case, sacrificing a few body parts as a result.  Tragically, several others fall victim to the whims of nature, some dying of hypothermia while others, hallucinating from the lack of oxygen, literally walk off the side of the mountain.

Everest is one of those films where men die tragically but we’re supposed to find some sort of comfort from the fact that they died doing what they loved.  To be honest, I usually have a hard time buying into these type of narratives.  For instance, I love shopping but I wouldn’t expect anyone to be happy for me if I died while looking for a new purse.  (In fact, that’d probably upset me if not for the fact that I’d be too dead to know about it.)  At the same time, guys seems to love movies like this and I think, in the future, Everest will probably be remembered for being the epitome of a guy movie.

And that’s not meant to be a criticism on my part!  Everest does what it does with a lot of skill and confidence.  It’s an exciting film that, once the disaster hits, will leave you breathless.  And yes, at the end of the film, I did shed a tear or two.  Narratively, there’s really not a surprising moment to be found in the entire film.  I went into Everest not even knowing it was a true story and I was still able to guess who would survive and who would not.  But Everest‘s amazing visuals make up for the predictable narrative.  The term “visually stunning” is probably overused (especially by me!) but Everest is truly a visually stunning film.  For someone like me — who has asthma, a huge fear of heights, and who lives in North Texas (where, regardless of what you may see in the movies, the land is remarkably flat) — Everest is probably as close as I’ll ever get to climbing a mountain.

I should also mention that it never ceases to amaze me that Josh Brolin was born in Santa Monica, California because, on the basis of this film and No Country For Old Men, he is one of the most convincing Texans to appear in the movies.  In this film, he plays Beck Weathers, a Dallas doctor who is a member of Rob’s expedition team.  Usually, of course, if a Texan (especially one who is specifically identified as being a Republican, as Beck is at the beginning of a film) shows up in a movie, you know he’s going to end up being the villain.  Fortunately, Everest was based on a true story and, as a result, Beck turned out to be one of the most compelling characters in the film.  (If you know the story behind the film, you already knew that.  However, I went into Everest blind.)  Josh Brolin brings a lot of strength to his role and to the film overall.

Everest may predictable but it’s still an exciting film.  Make sure that you have someone beside you to whom you can hold on and that you see it in 3D!

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Terminator Genisys”


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Patrick Lussier just can’t catch a break.

Think about it : after toiling away in tinseltown as an editor for a couple of decades, he finally hits it semi-big as a director with the (go on, admit it) deliriously fun and sleazy 3-D remake of My Bloody Valentine in 2009. Since then? Well, shit — it’s all been downhill.

Apparently he was then considered Hollywood’s new “go-to guy” for 3-D flicks for all of about five minutes, but when his next one — the (again, go on and admit it) flat-out awesome Drive Angry tanked at the box office in spectacular fashion, it was back to the editing room (or, as is most likely the case, laptop) for poor ol’ Pat. And again, most of the movies he worked on — like the criminally-underappreciated Apollo 18  — were way better than their tepid reception among audiences and critics (but what do they know, anyway?) would indicate. Other projects his name was attached to, like Halloween 3 (and no, I’m not talking about Season Of The Witch), failed to materialize altogether.

Then comes another big break — hell, the biggest break of all — out of the blue. The long-shelved script he wrote (or co-wrote, as the final credits would indicate, since it was later tinkered with by Laeta Kalogridis) for yet another Terminator sequel/reboot was “back on” at Paramount, with Alan Taylor of Thor : The Dark World  “fame” slated to direct. It even had a name : Terminator Genisys. And Lussier would be getting an executive producer credit on this big-budget blockbuster as well.

So what happens? It absolutely tanks at the ticket windows. And so the hard-luck saga of Patrick Lussier continues. I predict we’ll next see him as an editor on Paranormal Activity 9 or Insidious Chapter 6.

All of which is one heck of a shame because, once again contrary to popular belief, Terminator Genisys is actually pretty damn good stuff.

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Damn good stupid stuff, to be sure, but so what? Apologies to all the James Cameron fans out there who don’t like to acknowledge this simple fact, but  1984’s original The Terminator had much more in common — both in budgetary and stylistic terms — with the Roger Corman fare that the future director of Titanic and Avatar cut his teeth on than it did with the billion-dollar bonanzas for which its auteur would eventually become famous. In point of fact, it’s essentially one of the last low-budget sci-fi exploitation pictures that didn’t go straight to video. And it’s absolutely awesome.

I’m not here to tell you that Terminator Genisys is as good as that was. Shit, it’s not even close. But it is much closer to the original in spirit than it is to the later, much-more-lavish sequels/prequels — the last two of which, Terminator 3 : Rise Of The Machines and Terminator Salvation, were positively atrocious. This, at least, feels like a “proper” Terminator flick again.

Are there plot holes big enough to plow an armored tank through? Absolutely. But that’s just part and parcel of the goings-on with a movie of this nature — and besides, they engage in this sort of “timey-wimey” gimmickry on Doctor Who all the time these days, and it’s praised as “quality” television rather than the cheap and obvious stunt it is (and speaking of Doctor Who, don’t blink — sorry, couldn’t resist! — or you’ll miss Matt Smith in this). I’ll take it served up as it is here without any pretense towards faux-intellectualism, thank you very much. And anyway, are people really complaining about getting to see present-day Old Arnold Schwarzenegger duking it out vs. CGI-reconstructed Young Arnold Schwarzenegger? Where’s your sense of fun, folks?

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I guess it all just depends on who you ask. While Terminator Genisys currently “enjoys” a rather atrocious 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics hold court, it’s faring much better on the IMDB scorecard, where the fans have their say, with a perfectly respectable 7.1 out of 10. In other words, real people like this movie.

And what’s not to like? We’ve got “liquid metal” T-1000s squaring off against Ah-nuld’s earlier T-800 model. We’ve got cheesy one-liners galore. We’ve got a new plot twist involving John Connor (here played by Jason Clarke) that’s actually interesting. We’ve got a reasonably dashing new hero in the form of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). We’ve got Oscar winner J.K. Simmons doing the “old man tilting at windmills who no one else will listen to” role that he’s perfected down to a science (when he’s not selling his soul to Farmers Insurance, that is). We’ve got explosions, aerial battles, and likable good guys vs. suitably despicable bad guys. We’ve got an amped-up version of the internet that’s out to destroy the world, with requisite Luddite authorial sympathies attached. And, oh yeah, we’ve got this grin —

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My only gripe is that Emilia Clarke just plain can’t cut it as Sarah Connor. She tries her best, sure, but she’s no Linda Hamilton. Consequently, her love story with Courtney’s Kyle Reese ends up falling a little flat. But that’s small potatoes compared to everything Taylor and company (including, of course, Lussier) get right here — rather than trying to one-up the original, which never really worked anyway, they just set out to add a worthy celluloid appendage to it. When looked at that way, Terminator Genisys is — against all odds and the loud chorus of naysayers out there — a tremendous success indeed.

Shattered Politics #92: White House Down (dir by Roland Emmerich)


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To say that the 2012 film White House Down is stupid is probably unnecessary.  After all, the film was directed by Roland Emmerich and Emmerich specializes in making stupid films.

And, in many ways, White House Down is prototypical Emmerich film, a long and self-important collection of mayhem and heavy-handed pontification.  In the case of this film, liberal President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is pushing for a treaty that will magically bring about world police.  Naturally, a bunch of evil right-wingers (including characters played, somewhat inevitably, by James Woods and Richard Jenkins) don’t want world peace so they hire a bunch of mercenaries who attack the White House.  It’s all a part of a plot to force Sawyer to launch a nuclear attack on Iran because … well, why not?  Fortunately, aspiring secret service agent (and kick-ass combat veteran) John Cale (Channing Tatum) is there to work with the President and save the country.

And, since Emmerich is from the bigger is always better school of filmmaking, many familiar landmarks are blown up and it takes the film well over two hours to tell its simplistic story.  To be honest, if your action movie can’t get the job done in under two hours, then you’re going to have problems.  Once a viewer has spent two hours watching one movie, it’s inevitable that he or she will start to question the film’s logic.  If the film’s clever enough, all lapses and inconsistencies can be forgiving.  If the film is White House Down, it’s a lot less easy to be forgiving.

Of course, from a political point of view, Emmerich tries to have it both ways.  For anti-government types like me, it’s always fun to watch Washington D.C. blow up.  For those on the right, White House Down presents a situation that can only be solved by heroes with guns.  And, of course, Democrats can view White House Down as wish fulfillment, an alternative timeline where Barack Obama actually is as sincere and effective as they wish him to be.

In fact, if anything saves White House Down, it’s the chemistry between Foxx and Tatum.  Wisely, neither one of them appears to be taking the film that seriously and both of them seem to be having a lot of fun blowing things up.  Channing Tatum, in particular, deserves some sort of award.  How many bad films have been made tolerable by Tatum’s willingness to laugh at himself?  I’ve lost count but White House Down definitely benefits from his presence.  He and Foxx make Emmerich’s style of filmmaking as tolerable as it will ever be.

Terminator: Genisys (Official Trailer)


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I’m not sure if the 5th Terminator film is a prequel or a sequel. Time travel and paradoxes and all that jazz sure make it difficult to figure that out.

Now, what we do know is that Terminator: Genisys (whoever came up with that title should be shot) will take things even farther than the first film which is suppose to kickoff a divergent timeline that makes the first four films a moot point.

So, this means that Terminator: Genisys may be both prequel and sequel, but also a reset of the whole franchise. See what I mean about confusing.

Here’s to hoping that screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier have a better handle on all this jumbled time travel and resetting stuff.

Terminator: Genisys is set for July 1, 2015 release date.