Film Review: Mary Magdalene (dir by Garth Davis)


“Dress more like the Virgin and less like the Magdalene.”

That’s something my grandmother always used to tell me and my sisters.  That’s because, Mary Magdalene — who is described in the Gospels as being a woman who traveled with and supported Jesus — is often mistaken for being the “sinful woman” who scandalized Simon the Leper by anointing Jesus’s feet.  As such, there’s a tradition that Mary Magdalene was either a former prostitute or, at the very least, a formerly promiscuous woman who repented and followed Jesus.  That said, there’s nothing in the canonical gospels that supports that tradition and, in all probability, the sinful woman was another Mary, Mary of Bethany.  In 1969, Pope Paul VI officially removed all reference to Mary Magdalene being the sinful woman but it’s still fairly common for Mary Magdalene to be portrayed as being a former prostitute.

Mary Magdalene, which was released briefly in theaters last year, attempts to set the record straight by imagining a different backstory for Mary Magdalene.  In fact, the whole theme of this movie seems to be, “See?  She wasn’t a prostitute!”  And that’s fine except, while watching the movie, I really had to wonder if it was somehow an improvement to instead portray her as being the most boring person in Judea.  Watching the film, one gets the feeling that the filmmakers were so proud of themselves for making Mary Magdalene a feminist that it didn’t occur to them that they might also want to make her an interesting character as well.

In this movie, Mary Magdalene (played by a dependably dull Rooney Mara) is a young Jewish woman who rebels against the wishes of her family and refuses to enter into an arranged marriage with Ephraim (Tzachi Halevy) and who instead decides to follow a preacher named Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix).  As portrayed in this movie, Jesus is charismatic but often moody, preaching a good message (though the film seems to interpret that message as mostly being vague Gnostic liberalism) while getting annoyed with almost everyone around him.  Jesus often seems to be exhausted by his followers, especially Judas (Tahar Rahim) who is way too eager for Jesus to lead an armed uprising against the forces of the Roman Empire.  Meanwhile, Jesus’s main disciple, Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), often finds himself growing jealous of Mary Magdalene and the trust that builds between her and Jesus.  While this film does not go the Jesus Christ Superstar route of portraying them as being a couple, it also leaves little doubt that Mary Magdalene, who is defying not just Rome but also the entire patriarchy, understands Jesus and his teachings in a way that the male disciples never will.

As a film, Mary Magalene takes itself and its story very seriously and it generally eshews the type of grandeur that one might expect from a biblical epic.  That low-key approach may be historically accurate but it’s not much fun to watch and, with a running time of 120 minutes, the action just kind of plods along.  Rooney Mara can give a good performance when she has the right material but here, she’s often just reduced to just wanly staring off into the distance.

As for Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus …. well, the casting actually works better than you might think.  Phoenix plays Jesus as being a passionate leader who is haunted by his destiny.  With his long hair and his scruffy beard, Phoenix is not a glamorous Jesus but he’s very much a credible one.  The film is probably at its best in the scene where Jesus witnesses the money changers in the temple.  Rather than playing Jesus as being simply enraged, Phoenix plays him as being deeply disappointed.  One gets the feeling that he’s looking at what is happening in his father’s house and he’s thinking, “These are the people I’m supposed to sacrifice my life to save?”

Mary Magdalene is one of those films that took forever to actually show up in theaters.  The Weinstein Company was originally set to release the film in early 2017 but the release was pushed back to 2018, for reasons that have never been particularly clear.  Eventually the Weinstein Company pulled out of distributing the film and, for that, I’m thankful.  The idea of any film about Jesus carrying the Harvey Weinstein name is just too terrible to think about.  The film was then picked up by IFC, who gave it a perfunctory release in 2019.

It’s a flawed film, even though it’s heart may be in the right place.  The approach that it takes is just too low-key to be consistently interesting.  Sometimes, bigger is better.

Here Are The Oscar Winners!


Best Picture — Parasite

Best Director — Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay — Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay — JoJo Rabbit

Best Animated Feature Film — Toy Story 4

Best International Feature Film — Parasite

Best Documentary Feature Film — American Factory

Best Documentary Short Subject — Leaning to Skate In A Warzone (If You’re A Girl)

Best Live Action Short Subject — The Neighbors’ Widow

Best Animated Short Film — Hair Love

Best Original Score — Joker

Best Original Song — Rocketman

Best Sound Editing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing — 1917

Best Production Design — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Cinematography — 1917

Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Bombshell

Best Costume Design — Little Women

Best Editing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Visual Effects — 1917

Here’s What Lisa Wants To Win At The Oscars


Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019, dir by Quentin Tarantino)

Yesterday, I posted my list of the film and performers that I believe will win Oscars tonight.

Below is a different list.  This is what I wish would win tonight.  These are the nominees that I would vote for if I was a member of the Academy.  Now, to be honest, there were a lot of films and performances that I liked that were not nominated.  My favorite film of 2019 was The Souvenir.  It received zero Oscar nominations.  But, for the purposes of this list, I’ve limited my choice to the actual nominees.

So, here we go:

Best Picture — 1) Once Upon A Time In Hollywood 2) The Irishman 3) Parasite 4) 1917 5) Joker 6) JoJo Rabbit 7) Little Women 8) Ford v Ferrari 9) Marriage Story

Best Director — Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress — Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actor — Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay — Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay — The Irishman

Best Animated Feature Film — I Lost My Body

Best International Feature Film — Parasite

Best Documentary Feature Film — The Edge of Democracy (which I didn’t even really like, it’s just the only nominee that I’ve seen)

Best Documentary Short Subject — Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If you’re a girl)

Best Live Action Short Subject — Nefta Football Club (that’s for you, Jason)

Best Animated Short Film — Sister

Best Original Score — 1917

Best Original Song — I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away from Toy Story 4

Best Sound Editing — 1917

Best Sound Mixing — 1917

Best Production Design — Parasite

Best Cinematography — The Lighthouse

Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Judy

Best Costume Design — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Editing — The Irishman

Best Visual Effects — Avengers: Endgame

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For Sunday Night


The Oscars are tomorrow and I guess that means that it’s time for me to post my predictions for what will win at the big ceremony on Sunday night!

So, without further ado:

Best Picture — 1917

Best Director — Sam Mendes for 1917

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay — Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Adapted Screenplay — Taika Waititi , JoJo Rabbit

Best Animated Feature Film — Klaus

Best International Feature Film — Parasite

Best Documentary Feature — American Factory

Best Live Action Short Film — Nefta Football Club

Best Animated Short Film — Sister

Best Documentary Short Subject — Learning To Skateboard In A War Zone (If You’re A Girl)

Best Original Score — 1917

Best Original Song — (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again from Rocketman

Best Sound Editing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Production Design — Parasite

Best Cinematography — 1917

Best Makeup and Hair Styling — Joker

Best Costume Design — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Editing — Parasite

Best Visual Effects — The Irishman

The SAG Honors Parasite and All The Usuals.


The SAG Awards were held tonight.  I did not bother to watch them but apparently, a good time was had by all.  Parasite won the award for Best Ensemble, which is the SAG equivalent for Best Picture.  (1917, which won at the PGA  Awards earlier this week, was not nominated for the Ensemble award.)  This might mean that Parasite is the new front runner for Best Picture or it might not.  Do you remember what won last year?  Black Panther.

(I’m a little bit surprised that SAG didn’t go for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which is is a film about actors.  I mean, Birdman won a prize it didn’t deserve by appealing to the ego of actors.  Then again, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood centers on an actor whose career is going downhill so maybe it hits too close to home.)

Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt, and Laura Dern won the acting prizes and I imagine that they’ll repeat at the Oscars.  To be honest, it’s hard for me to remember who else is nominated in any of those categories.

Avengers: Endgame won for Best Stunt Ensemble.  Why isn’t their an Oscar category for Best Stunts?  Seriously, that’s messed up.

Anyway, here’s your list of film winners.  They also gave out some TV awards but, to be honest, who cares about that in January?  The Emmys are over!  If you want to see a full list of winners, click here or do a google search.  Whatever works for you.

Best Ensemble — Parasite

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Stunt Ensemble — Avengers: Endgame

Here Are Your 2019 Golden Globe Winners!


Best Actor, TV Musical or Comedy — Ramy Youssef in Ramy

Best Actor, Limited Series or TV Movie — Russell Crowe in The Loudest Voice

Best Supporting Actor, Series, Limited Series, or TV Movie — Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl

Best TV Series, Drama — Succession

Best Actress, TV Musical or Comedy — Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Best Foreign Language Film — Parasite

Best Actor, TV Series Drama — Brian Cox, Succession

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture — Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Motion Picture, Animated — Missing Link

Best Supporting Actress, Film — Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy — Fleabag

Best Original Song, Motion Picture — “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman

Best Supporting Actress, Series, Limited Series. or TV Movie — Patricia Arquette in The Act

Best Actress, TV Series, Drama — Olivia Colman in The Crown

Best Director, Motion Picture — Sam Mendes, 1917

Best Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie — Michelle WIlliams in Fosse/Verdon

Best Limited Series or TV Movie — Chernobyl

Best Original Score, Motion Picture — Joker

Best Supporting Actor, Motion Picture — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor, Comedy Motion Picture — Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Best Actress, Comedy, Motion Picture — Awkwafina, The Farewell

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor, Drama, Motion Picture — Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Best Actress, Drama, Motion Picture — Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Motion Picture, Drama — 1917

 

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For December


Well, here we go!

This is my last set of Oscar predictions for the year.  With the critics groups and some of the guilds having now announced their picks for the best of 2019, the Oscar picture is now a lot more clear.  Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Parasite, The Irishman, 1917, and Marriage Story all seem to be guaranteed to pick up a nomination.    

I am going to go out on a limb and predict that, despite being ignored at SAG and by the Golden Globes, Uncut Gems will get some nominations as well.  Right now, the film just seems to have momentum on its side.  Realistically, I’m not a 100% convinced that it’ll be nominated, not the way I am with some other films.  It’s divisive film and I’m sure that some people think that rewarding Adam Sandler will just lead to him using his newfound respect to get a theatrical release for the next Grown Ups sequel.  But I’m going to take a chance and go with it.

(Of course, Nightcrawler and Jake Gyllenhaal also had a lot of momentum a few years ago and ended up getting totally shut out of the Oscars.)

Below are my predictions for December.  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November!

Best Picture

1917

Bombshell

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Parasite

Uncut Gems

Best Director

Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Sam Mendes for 1917

The Safdie Brothers for Uncut Gems

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Adam Driver for Marriage Story

Taron Egerton for Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix for Joker

Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story

Luptia Nyong’o for Us

Saoirse Ronan for Little Women

Charlize Theron for Bombshell

Renee Zellweger for Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Al Pacino for The Irishman

Joe Pesci for The Irishman

Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Florence Pugh in Little Women

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 13th!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Oscar, in happier times

The Utah Film Critics Association honors Parasite and 1917!


On Sunday, the Utah Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2019 and it was another good showing for Parasite!  The film picked up awards for best picture, best screenplay, and best non-English language film.  Meanwhile, 1917 took awards for direction and cinematography while Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson took home the acting awards for Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: Endgame …. just kidding!  They both won for Marriage Story.

Here are the winners!

Best Picture: Parasite. Runner-up: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Best Achievement in Directing: Sam Mendes, 1917. Runner-up: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Best Lead Performance, Male: Adam Driver, Marriage Story. Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker.

Best Lead Performance, Female: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story. Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, Us.

Best Supporting Performance, Female: Florence Pugh, Little Women. Runner-up: Rebecca Ferguson, Doctor Sleep.

Best Supporting Performance, Male: Joe Pesci, The Irishman. Runner-up: Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse.

Vice/Martin Award for Performance in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film: Robert Downey, Jr., Avengers: Endgame. Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, Us.

Best Original Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite. Runner-up: Rian Johnson, Knives Out.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Greta Gerwig, Little Women. Runner-up: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit.

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, 1917. Runner-up: Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse.

Best Original Score: Matt Morton, Apollo 11. Runner-up: Dan Levy, I Lost My Body.

Best Film Editing: Todd Douglas Miller, Apollo 11. Runner-up: Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker and Dirk Westervelt, Ford v Ferrari.

Best Documentary Feature: Apollo 11. Runner-up: Hail Satan?

Best Animated Feature: I Lost My Body. Runners-up: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Toy Story 4.

Best Non-English Language Feature: Parasite. Runner-up: Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

 

The Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association Names 1917 As The Best of 2019!


Reunion Tower (picture by Erin Nicole)

Here are the winners in Dallas!

BEST PICTURE

Winner: 1917

Runners-up: MARRIAGE STORY (2); PARASITE (3); THE IRISHMAN (4); ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (5); JOJO RABBIT (6); LITTLE WOMEN (7); THE FAREWELL (8); THE TWO POPES (9); KNIVES OUT (10)

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER (2); Antonio Banderas, PAIN AND GLORY (3); Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Robert De Niro, THE IRISHMAN (5)

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Scarlett Johansson, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Renée Zellweger, JUDY (2); Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL (3); Saoirse Ronan, LITTLE WOMEN (4); Awkwafina, THE FAREWELL (5, tie); Lupita Nyong’o, US (5, tie)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runners-up: Willem Dafoe, THE LIGHTHOUSE (2); Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN (3); Al Pacino, THE IRISHMAN (4); Shia LaBeouf, HONEY BOY (5)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Margot Robbie, BOMBSHELL (2); Florence Pugh, LITTLE WOMEN (3); Jennifer Lopez, HUSTLERS (4); Annette Bening, THE REPORT (5)

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

Runners-up: Bong Joon-ho, PARASITE (2); Martin Scorsese, THE IRISHMAN (3); Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY (5)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE

Runners-up: PAIN AND GLORY (2); THE FAREWELL (3); LES MISÉRABLES (4); PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (5)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

Runners-up: ONE CHILD NATION (2); AMERICAN FACTORY (3); HONEYLAND (4); FOR SAMA (5)

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

Runner-up: I LOST MY BODY

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner: Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-up: Steven Zaillian, THE IRISHMAN

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917

Runner-up: Hong Kyung-pyo, PARASITE

BEST MUSICAL SCORE

Winner: Thomas Newman, 1917

Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, LITTLE WOMEN

RUSSELL SMITH AWARD (best low-budget or cutting-edge independent film)

Winner: THE LIGHTHOUSE

Joker Arises From The Ashes To Be Named Best Picture By The Phoenix Film Critics Society!


Joker picked up its first award for best picture earlier today, courtesy of the Phoenix Film Critics Society!

Here’s a complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE
Joker

BEST DIRECTOR
Sam Mendes – 1917

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Renee Zellweger – Judy

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Laura Dern – Marriage Story

BEST ENSEMBLE ACTING
Knives Out

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Knives Out

BEST SCREENPLAY ADAPTED FROM OTHER MATERIAL
Jojo Rabbit

THE OVERLOOKED FILM OF THE YEAR
Hotel Mumbai

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Toy Story 4

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Parasite

BEST DOCUMENTARY
One Child Nation

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Into the Unknown – Frozen 2

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
1917

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
1917

BEST FILM EDITING
1917

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
1917

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Rocketman

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers: Endgame

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH
Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit

PFCS TOP TEN (in alphabetical order)
1917
Avengers: Endgame
JoJo Rabbit
Joker
Knives Out
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite
The Irishman
The Two Popes