Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Irishman (dir by Martin Scorsese)


Released by Netflix in 2019 and clocking in at close to 4 hours, the Martin Scorsese-directed Best Picture nominee, The Irishman, is a film about many different things.

At its simplest, it’s a film about a very old man named Frank Shearan (played by Robert De Niro).  Frank is an Irish-American from Philadelphia.  Frank is a veteran of World War II and a former truck driver who was briefly a fairly important figure in the Teamsters union.  He did a few years in prison.  At the start of the film, though, he’s just another elderly man living in a retirement community.  All of his friends are dead.  His wife passed away years ago.  His children never comes to visit.  In fact, the only people interested in talking to Frank are the FBI but Frank doesn’t have much to say to them.  That’s not to say that Frank isn’t talkative.  For the first time in his life, he wants to talk to people but there’s no one left to talk to.  The only people who listen are those who are required to do so.  A nurse politely nods along as as he tells her about his old friend Jimmy Hoffa.  (She’s never heard of him.)  A priest listens to the story of Frank’s life and offers him absolution.  At times, Frank looks straight at Scorsese’s camera and appears to be talking straight to the audience.  Frank has a lot of interesting stories but who knows how truthful he’s being or if his memory can be trusted.

The Irishman, though, is not just the story of Frank.  It is also a secret history of America during the latter half of the 20th Century.  Frank may look old and harmless in that nursing home but, to hear him tell it, he was once acquainted with some of the most powerful men in America.  He went from executing Italian POWs during World War II to executing hits for the Mafia in post-war America.  Along the way, he became close to crime bosses like Skinny Razor (Bobby Cannavale), Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), men who may not have been household names but who still wielded a lot of power.  These are men who, Frank flatly states, fixed the presidential election of 1960 and who later quite possibly killed the man they had elected president.  Frank also became a close associate of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the labor leader who was reputed to have mob connections and who disappeared in 1975.

The Irishman is also a tribute to the modern gangster film, featuring role for nearly every living actor associated with the genre.  De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Domenick Lombardozzi, Gary Basaraba, they’ve all played their share of gangsters in films and television show that were both good and bad.  Having them all appear in one film together serves to remind the viewer of just how much of America’s popular entertainment has revolved around stories of organized crime.  Even as the old school Mafia has declined as a real-world power, it’s become a permanent part of pop culture.  Everyone loves a gangster, except for the people who actually have to deal with them on a daily basis.

Not surprisingly, considering the stars and the director, it’s a film full of smart, detailed performances.  When the film was originally released, Pacino and Pesci got the lion’s share of the praise and they certainly deserved it.  Pacino gets the best lines and brings some unexpected wit to his performance as Jimmy Hoffa.  Pesci, meanwhile, finally gets to play a gangster who is not psychotic and shows that he can be just as compelling when he’s not raising his voice as when he is.  Still, some of my favorite performances came from actors who one wouldn’t necessarily associate with a Scorsese gangster film.  I liked the nervous humor that Ray Romano brought to the role of a corrupt union lawyer.  I liked the seething resentment that Stephen Graham brought to the role of Jimmy Hoffa’s main rival in the union.  (The scene where Graham and Pacino argue over who is more owed an apology for all of their past disagreements is both funny and, due to the people involved, somewhat frightening.)  Jesse Plemons is poignantly dumb in his brief role as Hoffa’s stepson.  Louis Cancelmi doesn’t get a lot of screen time but he steals every scene in which he appears as a paranoid hitman.  (Cancelmi plays a character named Sally Bugs, proving that not everyone in the Mafia gets a cool nickname.)

And then there’s Anna Paquin, who provides the film with its moral center.  When the film was first released, many Twitter critics complained that Paquin, who played Frank’s daughter Peggy, only a had a handful of lines.  It was one of the stupidest controversies of 2019, which is saying something when you consider how much time Film Twitter devotes to generating stupid controversies.  Peggy doesn’t say much because she’s decided that she doesn’t want to be a part of her father’s life.  From the moment that she first sees Frank beating up a store owner, Peggy knows that her father and his associates are violent men.  She not only fears them but she resents the damage that Frank does to not only her family but to the families as other as well.  The only one of her father’s associates who she likes is Jimmy Hoffa, because Hoffa cares about helping others.  When Hoffa disappears, Peggy makes a decision to disappear from Frank’s life and Paquin’s withering stare says more than any lengthy monologue could.  Peggy doesn’t say much because she knows that her words would be wasted on a man who she knows is a liar.  The scene where she silently walks away from her now elderly father tells us everything we need to know about the emotional consequences of the life that Frank has chosen to live.  Regardless of how many lines she did or didn’t have, Paquin gave one of the best performances of 2019.

Famously (or, depending on which critics you read, infamously), de-aging technology was used so that De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel could play both the younger and the older version of their characters.  At first, it can be a bit jarring.  The de-aging works fine with Pesci and Keitel, both of whom are already supposed to be middle-aged when they first meet Frank.  (Admittedly, Keitel only has a few minutes of screen time.)  With De Niro and Pacino, it’s a bit less successful.  Even when they’re playing younger versions of themselves, De Niro and Pacino still move and stand like old men.  Fortunately, in the case of Pacino, his natural movie star charisma wins out over his obvious age.  In the end, we believe that he’s Hoffa because we want to believe that all of our important historical figures were as interesting and entertaining as Al Pacino is in The Irishman.

And yet, ultimately, even the awkward de-aging works to the film’s advantage because it reminds us that we’re not necessarily seeing what happened.  Instead, we’re seeing what Frank says happened.  We’re seeing his memories, or at least what he claims to remember.  It makes sense that, when Frank thinks about himself as a young truck driver in 1956, he would picture himself not as he was but instead as just a slightly less weathered version of who he would eventually become.  Throughout the film, there are hints that Frank’s memory should not be trusted.  Some of his stories are incredibly detailed while others — like when he transports weapons for the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs — are a bit more vaguely presented.  Is Frank lying or is he misremembering or are we just expecting too much detail from a man who is now essentially waiting to die?  The film leaves that up for us to determine.

The Irishman is Scorsese at his most reflective.  Compared to Goodfellas and Casino, The Irishman is certainly one of Scorsese’s less “flashy” films.  But, on repeat viewings, it becomes cleat that The Irishman is the perfect conclusion to the gangster trilogy that began with Goodfellas and continued with Casino.  All three of these films deal with someone who rises up the ranks in the mob while remaining, as a result of their ethnicity, an outsider.  (Henry Hill and Frank Shearan are both Irish.  Ace Rothstein was Jewish.)  All three of them are briefly on top of the world and all three of them are left wondering how they’re going to continue their lives after their days at the top are over.  In Goodfellas, Henry Hill makes no secret of his disgust at having to live in the bland anonymity of the suburbs.  In Casino, Ace Rothstein ends the film with a mournful acceptance the fact that he will never return to his beloved Vegas.  (“And that’s that.”)  In The Irishman, Frank finally realizes that he has comes to the end of it all, alone and with nothing but death in his future.  All three of them made their decisions and, in the end, all three of them are left to deal with the consequences.  The trilogy goes from Henry’s anger to Ace’s depression to Frank’s acceptance.

It may seem strange to describe a film like The Irishman as being underrated, seeing as how it was nominated for 10 Oscars and got a Criterion release in record time.  And yet, when the film first came out, there was a vague sense of disappointment to found in even some of the positive reviews.  It was a Scorsese film that was so eagerly awaited and arrived with so much hype that there was no way it could live up to some of the expectations that had been set for it.  (And, of course, there’s also a whole set of people who were predestined to dislike the film precisely because it was a Scorsese film and it was so anticipated.)  It’s a long film and, while Netflix should be praised for allowing Scorsese the freedom to make his epic, it’s also not a film that should be viewed in bits and pieces on a tiny screen.  The Irishman is a film that should be watched in one sitting and it’s definitely a film that most viewers should watch more than once.  It takes more than one viewing to truly grasp the the world that Scorsese has recreated.

The Irishman was nominated for Best Picture.  It lost to a worthy competitor, Parasite.  Still, regardless of who took him the Oscars, The Irishman is a film that will live forever.

What Could Have Been: The Godfather, Part II


Years ago, I wrote a post called What Could Have Been: The Godfather, in which I discussed all of the actors and the directors who were considered for The Godfather. 

It remains one of the most widely viewed posts that we’ve ever had on this site.  I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise.  People love The Godfather and they love playing What If?  Would The Godfather still have been a classic if it had been directed by Otto Preminger with George C. Scott, Michael Parks, Burt Reynolds, and Robert Vaughn in the lead roles?  Hmmm …. probably not.  But, in theory, it could have happened.  All of them were considered at one point or another.

However, in the end, it was Francis Ford Coppola who directed The Godfather and it was Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Cann, and Robert Duvall who brought the Corleone family to life.  The Godfather, as everyone knows, was a huge hit and it went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture of the year.  As the film ended with the future of the Corleone family still up in the air, there was obviously room for a sequel.

When Paramount Pictures first approached Coppola about writing and directing a sequel, he turned them down.  He said he was done with The Godfather and didn’t see any way that he could improve on the story.  It’s debatable whether or not Coppola truly felt like this or if he was just holding out for more money.  It is known that Coppola did suggest to Paramount a possible director for Part II and that director’s name was Martin Scorsese.

What would Martin Scorsese’s The Godfather Part II have looked like?  It’s an intriguing thought.  At the time, Scorsese was best-known for Mean Streets and it’s probable that Scorsese’s film would have been a bit messier and grittier than Coppola’s version.  If Coppola made films about the upper echelons of the Mafia, Scorsese’s interest would probably have been with the soldiers carrying out Michael’s orders.  While Scorsese has certainly proven that he can handle a huge productions today, he was considerably younger and much more inexperienced in the early 70s.  To be honest, it’s easy to imagine Scorsese’s Godfather Part II being critically and commercially rejected because it would have been so different from Coppola’s.  A failure of that magnitude would have set back Scorsese’s career and perhaps even led to him returning to Roger Corman’s production company.  As such, it’s for probably for the best that Coppola did eventually agree to shoot the sequel, on the condition that Coppola be given creative control and Paramount exec Robert Evans not be allowed on the set.  While Coppola was busy with Godfather Part II, Scorsese was proving his versatility with Alice Doesn’t Live Her Anymore.

After Coppola was signed to direct, the next best question was whether or not Marlon Brando would return to play the role of Vito Corleone.  The film’s flashback structure would ensure that Vito would remain an important character, despite his death in the first film.  Coppola reportedly considered offering Brando the chance to play the younger version of Vito but he changed his mind after he saw Robert De Niro in Scorsese’s Mean Streets.  Still, it was felt that Brando might be willing to show up in a cameo during the film’s final flashback, in which Michael tells his family that he’s enlisted in the army.  Frustrated by Brando’s refusal to commit to doing the cameo, Coppola told him to show up on the day of shooting if he wanted to do the film.  When Brando didn’t show, the Don’s lines were instead rewritten and given to Tom Hagen.  It’s hard not to feel that this worked to the film’s advantage.  A last-minute appearance by Brando would have thrown off the film’s delicate balance and probably would have devalued De Niro’s own performance as the younger version of the character.

Brando wasn’t the only member of the original cast who was hesitant about returning.  Al Pacino held out for more money, which makes sense since he was literally the only cast member who could not, in some way, be replaced.  Richard Castellano, who played Clemenza in the first film, however learned that he that hard way that he was not quite as indispensable as Al Pacino.  In Part II, Clemenza was originally meant to have a large role in both the flashbacks and the present-day scenes.  However, when Castellano demanded more money and the right to rewrite his own lines, the older Clemenza was written out the film and replaced by the character of Frankie Petangeli (played by Michael V. Gazzo).

It’s impossible to find fault with Gazzo’s performance but it’s still hard not to regret that Castellano didn’t return.  Imagine how even more poignant the film’s final moments would have been if it had been the previously loyal Clemenza who nearly betrayed Michael as opposed to Frankie?  Indeed, even after the part was rewritten, many of Frankie’s lines deliberately harken back to things that Clemenza said and did during the first film.  Because Clemenza is a very prominent character during the film’s flashbacks, his absence in the “modern” scenes is all the more obvious.

When the role of Young Clemenza was cast, it was still believed that Richard Castellano would be appearing in that film.  One of the main reasons that Bruno Kirby was selected for the role of Young Clemenza was because Kirby had previously played Castellano’s son in a television show.  Also considered for the role was Joe Pesci, who was working as a singer and a comedian at the time.  (His partner in his comedy act was Frank Vincnet.)  If Pesci had been cast, he would not only have made his film debut in The Godfather Part II but the film also would have been his first pairing with Robert De Niro.  (Interestingly enough, Frank Sivero — who played Pesci and De Niro’s henchman, Frankie Carbone, in Goodfellas, also had a small role in Godfather Part II, playing Vito’s friend, Genco.)

As for the film’s other new major character, there were several interesting names mentioned for the role of gangster Hyman Roth.  Director Sam Fuller read for the role and Coppola also considered Elia Kazan.  Perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned as a possible Roth was that of James Cagney.  (Cagney, however, made it clear that he was content to remain retired.)  In the end, the role was offered to Al Pacino’s former acting teacher, Lee Strasberg.  Like Gazzo, Strasberg made his film debut in The Godfather Part II and, like Gazzo, he received his only Oscar nomination as a result.

The legendary character actor Timothy Carey (who was courted to play Luca Brasi in the first film) met with Coppola to discuss playing Don Fanucci, the gangster who is assassinated by Vito.  A favorite of Stanley Kubrick’s, Carey reportedly lost the role when he pulled out a gun in the middle of the meeting.

Originally, the film was supposed to end in the mid-60s, with a now teenage Anthony Corleone telling Michael that he wanted nothing to do with him because he knew that Michael had Fredo murdered.  (That famous scene of Michael bowing his head was originally supposed to be in response to Anthony walking out on him as opposed to the sound of Fredo being shot.)  Cast in the role of teenage Anthony was actor Robby Benson so perhaps it’s for the best that the scene was ultimately not included in the film.

Some of the smaller roles in Part II were played by actors who were considered for larger roles in the first film.  The young Tessio was played by John Aprea, who was also considered for the role of Michael.  Peter Donat, who played the lead Senate counsel in Part II, was considered for the role of Tom Hagen.  The rather tall Carmine Caridi, who played Camine Rosato in Part II, was originally cast as Sonny until it was discovered that he towered over everyone else in the cast.  And, of course, Robert De Niro famously read for the role of Sonny and was cast in the small role of Paule Gatto before he left The Godfather to replace Al Pacino in The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  (Of course, the whole reason that Pacino left The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight was so he could play the role of Michael in The Godfather.  In the end, it all worked out for the best.)

Finally, former teen idol Troy Donahue played Connie Corleone’s second husband, Merle Johnson.  Merle Johnson was Troy Donahue’s real name.

Personally, I think The Godfather Part II is one of the few films that can be described as perfect. Still, it’s always fun to play what if.

Spring Breakdown: Eureka (dir by Nicolas Roeg)


 

In this 1983 film, Gene Hackman plays Jack McCann, a prospector who is determined to either get rich or freeze to death as he wanders around Alaska in the 1920s.  When he’s not having sex and philosophical discussions with the local witch, Freida (Helena Kallianiotes), Jack desperately searches for gold.  Jack is convinced that gold is all that he needs to be happy, though Freida counsels him that it’s also important to pursue more Earthly delights.  Everywhere Jack looks, he sees people dying in the snow.  In fact, Jack nearly dies himself until he stumbles across a mountain full of gold.  As gold dust pours down on him, he celebrates while having flashbacks to Freida writhing in ecstasy.  It’s just that type of film.  When Jack tells Freida about his claim, he asks what’s going to happen next.  Freida tells him that it’s both the end and the beginning.  Once again, it’s just that type of film.

At this point, Eureka jumps ahead 20 years.  The year is 1945.  World War II is coming to an end.  Jack is no longer freezing and starving to death in Alaska.  Now, he is one of the world’s richest men.  He even owns his own island in the Caribbean.  Jack has a huge house, a beautiful view of the ocean, and all the money in the world.  One could even say that his life has become an exclusive beach vacation, an eternal Spring Break, if you will.  And yet, even with all of his money, Jack has fallen victim to ennui.  He was happier when he was poor and starving and seeking warmth from Freida.  Now, he’s got an alcoholic wife (Jane LaPotaire) and his daughter, Tracy (Theresa Russell), is in love with a dissolute aristocrat named Claude (Rutger Hauer), to whom Jack takes an instant dislike.  Claude claims that Jack has stolen his wealth from the Earth.  Claude is the type who eats gold and then promises to return it to Jack as soon as he can.  That’s something that actually happens.  It’s kind of silly but Rutger Hauer is such a charmer that he nearly pulls it off.

Claude and Tracy aren’t the only thing that Jack has to worry about.  An American gangster named Mayakofsky (Joe Pesci) wants to take over Jack’s island so that he can build a casino on it.  However, despite the best efforts of Mayakofsky’s attorney (Mickey Rourke), Jack is still not willing to sell.  When hitman Joe Spinell shows up outside the estate, are Jack’s days of ennui numbered?

Of course, they are!  That’s not really a spoiler.  Eureka is (loosely) based on the real-life murder of Sir Harry Oakes, an American-born prospector who was thought to be one of the world’s richest men when he was brutally murdered in the 40s.  Jack is, of course, a stand-in for Oakes while Mayakofsky is based on Meyer Lansky, the mobster who many people suspect ordered Oakes’s murder.  Lansky was never charged with the crime.  Instead, Oakes’s son-in-law, Count Alfred de Marigny, was arrested and charged with the crime.  After a trial that made international news and was described as being “the trial of the century,” de Marigny was acquitted and the murder of Harry Oakes remains officially unsolved.

It’s an interesting story and it seems like one that should perfectly translate to film.  Surprisingly though, Eureka doesn’t really do it justice.  The film was directed by one of the masters of cinematic surrealism, Nicolas Roeg.  Roeg, of course, is probably best remembered for films like Performance, Don’t Look Now, Walkabout, and The Man Who Fell To Earth.  As one might expect from a Roeg film, Eureka is visually stunning but, as a director, Roeg can’t seem to decide whether he’s more interested in Jack’s ennui or in all the soapy melodrama surrounding Jack’s murder.  As such, neither element of the film gets explored with any particular depth and the resulting film, while always watchable, still feels rather shallow and disjointed.  (After taking forever to reach the end of Jack’s story, Eureka then turns into a rather conventional courtroom drama.  Theresa Russell does get to utter the immortal line, “Did you cut off my father’s head?” but otherwise, it’s kind of dry.)  The film is at its strongest when Jack is just a prospector in Alaska.  The harsh landscape and the crazed dialogue is perfect for Roeg’s dream-like style.  Once the film moves to the Caribbean, it suffers the same fate that befell Jack when he become rich.  It loses its spark.

That said, Eureka has its moments.  Any film that features Gene Hackman, Mickey Rourke, Joe Pesci, Rutger Hauer, and Joe Spinell all acting opposite of each other is going to have at least a few scenes worth watching.  I particularly liked Pesci’s surprisingly subdued performance as Mayakofsky.  With everyone else in the film chewing every piece of scenery on the island, Pesci wisely underplays and is all the more menacing for it.  While Eureka ultimately doesn’t add up too much, it’s worth watching at least once for the cast.

Finally, my personal theory is that Harry Oakes’s murder had more to do with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson) than it did with Meyer Lansky.  (The Duke was the governor of the Bahamas at the time of Oakes’s murder.)  But that’s just my opinion.

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 Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Raging Bull (dir by Martin Scorsese)


This is not my favorite Martin Scorsese film.

I feel like I have to make that clear from the start because, for many people, this is their favorite Scorsese film.  Though it may have gotten mixed reviews when it was first released, it is now regularly described as being the high point of Scorsese’s fabled collaboration with Robert De Niro.  This was also the first film that Scorsese made with not only Joe Pesci but at also Frank Vincent as well.  (In fact, the whole scene in Goodfellas where Pesci and De Niro nearly stomp Vincent to death is a bit of an homage to a scene in Raging Bull.  Of course, Vincent got his revenge on Pesci in Casino.)  This film earned Martin Scorsese his first Oscar nomination for best director and it’s regularly cited as being one of the greatest film ever made.

Even more importantly, 1980’s Raging Bull has been described — by none other than the director himself — as the film that saved Martin Scorsese’s life.  Like a lot of his contemporaries, Scorsese got hooked on cocaine during the 70s.  He even nearly died of an overdose.  De Niro, who has been on Scorsese to direct Raging Bull for years, visited him in the hospital, brought him the script, told him to clean up his act, and make the film.  When Scorsese started to work on the film, he assumed it would be his last.  Whether Scorsese thought he would be dead or if he just thought he’d retire, I’m not sure.  Still, if Raging Bull had not rejuvenated Scorsese’s love of cinema, he wouldn’t have subsequently directed some of the greatest films ever made.  So, regardless of anything else, we have to be thankful that De Niro kept pushing Scorsese to direct Raging Bull.

The film itself is a biopic of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a brutal boxer who destroys opponents in the ring while destroying everyone who loves him outside of the ring.  He’s the type of guy who takes joy in destroying one opponent’s face just because his wife, Vicki (Cathy Moriarty), said that the guy was handsome.  When he’s forced to take a dive in order to win a title shot, he sobs in the locker room and it’s as close to being sympathetic as Jake gets.  The rest of the movie, he spends his time terrorizing his wife and taking out his frustrations on his loyal brother, Joey (Joe Pesci).

Most boxing films tend to present boxers as being lovable lugs, guys who might not be too smart but who have found the one thing that they’re good at.  (Think of the pre-Creed Rocky films.)  In Raging Bull, there’s nothing lovable about Jake.  He’s an animal, an angry man who fights because that’ the only way that he knows how to relate to the world.  He’s the type of guy who spends all of his time looking for an excuse to get mad and throw a punch.  The most dangerous thing you can do is make a joke in the presence of Jake LaMotta because, as portrayed in this film, he’s such an idiot that his reaction will always be to see it as a provocation.  From beginning to end, he’s a loathsome figure but the young De Niro was such a charismatic actor that you keep watching because — much like Vicki — you keep hoping that you’ll see some glimmer of humanity and some chance of redemption.

Reportedly, Scorsese and De Niro feel that the end of Raging Bull does provide Jake with some redemption.  Having lost everyone that ever loved him, an overweight Jake runs a sleazy nightclub and makes a fool of himself reciting dramatic monologues.  The production actually shut down so that De Niro could overeat and gain all the extra weight and it is shocking to see him go from being a handsome, athletic man to a fat slob whose shirt can’t even cover his belly.  No longer a boxer, Jake is now a faded D-list celebrity.  Now that he can’t fight and he can’t make money for the mob and the gamblers, no one cares about him.  That’s unfortunate for Jake but I have to say that I’ve never seen much redemption in Jake’s fate.  If anything, I was just happy that Vicki finally got away from him.

Raging Bull is a film that’s easier to admire than to actually like.  It’s impossible not to appreciate the black-and-white cinematography or the performances of De Niro, Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty.  As directed by Scorsese, the boxing scenes are horrifying brutal, to the extent that you find yourself wondering how anyone could enjoy the sport.  (When a spray of Jake’s blood hits the people in the first row, you can’t help but think that they’re all getting what they deserved.)  That said, the film’s never been a favorite of mine because, as well done as it is, Jake LaMotta never seems like he’s worth spending two hours with.

Obviously, a lot of people disagree with me on that.  Raging Bull received 8 Oscar nominations.  Robert De Niro won Best Actor.  Raging Bull, itself, lost Best Picture to Robert Redford’s Ordinary People.

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 Nevada Film Critics Society Name Marriage Story As The Best of 2019!


Here’s a full list of the winners in Nevada:

Best Film: Marriage Story

Best Director: Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Best Actor: Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Best Actress (tie): Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story & Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Adapted Screenplay: Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

Best Animated Movie: Toy Story 4
Best Documentary: Apollo 11

Best Production Design: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Cinematography: 1917
Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Endgame

 

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

The North Texas Film Critics Association Selects The Irishman As The Best of 2019!


The North Texas Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2019 earlier today.  Speaking as a North Texas film critic, I’m a bit annoyed that I wasn’t consulted but oh well!  (To quote King of the Hill, “North Texas?  More like South Oklahoma!”)  Here are their winners:

BEST FILM

Winner: THE IRISHMAN

Runners-up: 1917; PARASITE; THE FAREWELL; MARRIAGE STORY; JOJO RABBIT; THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON; A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD; ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD; FORD V FERRARI; JOKER

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER

Runners-up: Robert De Niro, THE IRISHMAN; Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY; Adam Sandler, UNCUT GEMS and Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL

Runners-up: Scarlett Johansson, MARRIAGE STORY; Renée Zellweger, JUDY; Awkwafina, THE FAREWELL and Lupita Nyong’o, US

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Tom Hanks, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Runners-up: Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN; Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD; Al Pacino, THE IRISHMAN and Song Kang-Ho, PARASITE

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Zhao Shuzhen, THE FAREWELL

Runners-up: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY; Scarlett Johansson, JOJO RABBIT; Kathy Bates, RICHARD JEWELL and Annette Bening, THE REPORT

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

Runners-up: Martin Scorsese, THE IRISHMAN; Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD; Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY and Lulu Wang, THE FAREWELL

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE (South Korea)

Runners-up: PAIN AND GLORY (Spain) and LES MISÉRABLES (France)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

Runners-up: AMERICAN FACTORY; ONE CHILD NATION; DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME and ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

Runners-up: ABOMINABLE and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917,

Runner-ups: Jarin Blaschke, THE LIGHTHOUSE; Rodrigo Prieto, THE IRISHMAN; Hoyte Van Hoytema, AD ASTRA; Robert Richardson, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD and Phedon Papamichael, FORD V FERRARI

BEST NEWCOMER

Winner: Roman Griffin Davis was awarded Best Newcomer for JOJO RABBIT

GARY MURRAY AWARD (Best Ensemble)

Winner: KNIVES OUT