What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2020 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 listed in bold.

I should also point out that I’ve only nominated films that were actually released in 2020.  Undoubtedly, Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, and The Father will do very well with the Academy tomorrow but, as far as I’m concerned, they’re 2021 films and not eligible for my nominations.  They will be eligible next year, when I do my 2021 edition of What If Lisa Had All The Power.

It should also go without saying that I’ve nominated films that I’ve actually seen.

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 2019, 20182017201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

The Assistant
Bad Education
First Cow
The Girl With A Bracelet
i’m thinking of ending things
Lovers Rock
Palm Springs
Promising Young Woman
Soul
The Vast of Night

Best Director

Stéphane Demoustier for The Girl With A Bracelet
Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman
Charlie Kaufman for i’m thinking of ending things
Steve McQueen for Lovers Rock
Andrew Patterson for The Vast of Night
Kelly Reichardt for First Cow

Best Actor

Ben Affleck in The Way Back
Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
John Boyega in Red, White, and Blue
Hugh Jackman in Bad Education
Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods

Best Actress

Alison Brie in Horse Girl
Sidney Flanigan in Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Julia Garner in The Assistant
Melissa Guers in The Girl With A Bracelet
Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Actor

Brian Dennehy in Driveways
Aldis Hodge in One Night In Miami
Orion Lee in First Cow
Clarke Peters in Da 5 Blood
Paul Raci in The Sound of Metal
J.K. Simmons in Palm Springs

Best Supporting Actress

Jane Adams in She Dies Tomorrow
Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Cooke in Sound of Metal
Allison Janney in Bad Education
Chiara Mastroianni in The Girl With A Bracelet
Talia Ryder in Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Best Voice Over Performance

Jack Cruz in What Did Jack Do?
Bruce Davis in The Vast of Night
Tina Fey in Soul
Jamie Foxx in Soul
Nick Offerman in Frances Ferguson
Chris Pratt in Onward

Best Original Screenplay

The Assistant
Palm Springs
Possessor
Promising Young Woman
Soul
The Vast of Night

Bad Education

Best Adapted Screenplay

Bad Education
Emma
First Cow
The Girl With A Bracelet
i’m thinking of ending things
The Outpost

Best Animated Feature Film

A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Onward
Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs
Soul

Best Documentary Feature Film

Alabama Snake
Athlete A
The Mystery of D.B. Cooper
Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind
The Social Dilemma
Tread

Best International Feature Film

Figurant
The Girl With A Bracelet
Gunpowder Heart
The Hater
The Life Ahead
The Shock of the Future

Best Live Action Short Film

Basic
Figurant
Host
Run/On
Waffle
What Did Jack Do?

Best Documentary Short Film

Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business
John Was Trying To Contact Aliens
Lions in the Corner
Quilt Fever

Best Animated Short Film

Canvas

If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Original Score

Call of the Wild
First Cow
Mangrove
Possessor
She Dies Tomorrow
The Shock of The Future

Best Original Song

“Boss Bitch” from Birds of Prey
“Diamonds” from Birds of Prey
“Everybody Dies” from The Outpost
“Future Shock Work in Progress” from The Shock of the Future
“Gratia Plena” from Fatima
“Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“Jah Jah Ding Dong” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“Metamorph” from Gunpowder Heart
“The Spirit of Christmas” from The Christmas Chronicles 2
“True Love’s Flame” from What Did Jack Do?

Best Overall Use of Music

Bill & Ted Face The Music
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Lovers Rock
Proising Young Woman
The Shock of the Future
Soul

Best Sound

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Lovers Rock
The Outpost
Possessor
The Shock of the Future
Sound of Metal

Best Production Design

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Emma
First Cow
i’m thinking of ending things
Possessor
The Shock of the Future

Best Casting

The Assistant
First Cow
Lovers Rock
Palm Springs
Promising Young Woman
The Vast of Night

Best Cinematography

First Cow
i’m thinking of ending things
Lovers Rock
Mank
She Dies Tomorrow
The Vast of Night

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bill & Ted Face The Music
i’m thinking of ending things
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Promising Young Woman

Best Costume Design

Emma
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Fatima
First Cow
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Tesla

Best Film Editing

Extraction
i’m thinking of ending things
The Outpost
Palm Springs
Promising Young Woman
The Way Back

Best Stuntwork

Bad Boys For Life
Birds of Prey
Bloodshot
Extraction
The Hunt
The Outpost

Best Visual Effects

The Christmas Chronicles 2
The Midnight Sky
The Outpost
Possessor
Radioactive
Tesla

Films By Number of Nominations

8 Nominations — First Cow, Promising Young Woman

7 Nominations — Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, i’m thinking of ending things

6 Nominations — The Girl With A Bracelet, Lovers Rock, The Outpost, Shock of the Future, Soul, The Vast of Night

5 Nominations — Palm Springs, Possessor

4 Nominations — The Assistant, Bad Education, Sound of Metal

3 Nominations — Birds of Prey, Emma, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, She Dies Tomorrow, What Did Jack Do?

2 Nominations — Bill & Ted Face the Music, The Christmas Chronicles 2, Da 5 Bloods, Extraction, Fatima, Figurant, Gunpowder Heart, Hillbilly Elegy, The Life Ahead, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Onward, Tesla, The Way Back

1 Nomination — Alabama Snake, Athlete A, Bad Boys For Life, Basic, Bettye Saar: Taking Care of Business, Bloodshot, Call of the Wild, Canvas, Driveways, Frances Ferguson, The Hater, Horse Girl, Host, The Hunt, If Anything Happens I Love You, John Was Trying To Contact Aliens, Lions in the Corner, Mangrove, Mank, Midnight Sky, The Mystery of D.B. Cooper, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, One Night in Miami, Quilt Fever, Radioactive, Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, Red White and Blue, Run/On, A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, The Social Dilemma, Tread, Waffle

Films By Number of Oscars Won

3 Oscars — The Girl With A Bracelet, Promising Young Woman

1 Oscar — The Assistant, Bad Education, Driveways, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Figurant, First Cow, Frances Ferguson, If Anything Happens I Love You, i’m thinking of ending things, John Was Trying To Contact Aliens, Lovers Rock, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Outpost, Palm Springs, Possessor, Shock of the Future, The Social Dilemma, Soul, Sound of Metal, The Vast of Night, What Did Jack Do?

Tomorrow, the Oscar nominations will be released and we’ll see if how much or, more likely, how little the Academy and I agree upon!

Here Are The Golden Globe Winners!


Supporting Actor, Motion Picture — Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Supporting Actor, Television — John Boyega, Small Axe

Actress, TV Music or Comedy — Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek

Motion Picture, Animated — Soul

Actor, TV Limited Series or Movie — Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True

Screenplay, Motion Picture — Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Actress, TV Series, Drama — Emma Corrin, The Crown

Original Song, Motion Picture — lo Si, The Life Ahead

Original Score, Motion Picture — Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste, Soul

Actor, TV Series, Musical or Comedy — Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso

TV Series, Musical or Comedy — Schitt’s Creek

Actress. Musical or Comedy Film — Rosamund Pike, I Care A Lot

Actor, TV Series, Drama — Josh O’Connor, The Crown

Foreign Language Film — Minari

TV Series, Drama — The Crown

Supporting Actress, Film — Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian

Supporting Actress, TV Drama — Gillian Anderson, The Crown

Actress, TV Limited Series or Made-For-Television Film — Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit

Limited Series or TV Movie — The Queen’s Gambit

Actor, Motion Picture Drama — Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Director, Motion Picture — Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Motion Picture Comedy — Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Actor, Motion Picture Comedy — Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Actress, Motion Picture Drama — Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holliday

Motion Picture Drama — Nomadland

The London Film Critics Circle Honors Nomadland


Even in London, they love Nomadland!

The London Film Critics Circle named their best of the year yesterday.  I imagine that this will have negligible influence on the Oscar race since some of the films honored have yet to be released in the States and some of the biggest Oscar contenders have yet to be released in the UK.  Still, I think it’s always interesting to see what films are being honored outside of the U.S.  Cinema is an international art form.

Here are the nominees and, in bold, the winners from London:

FILM OF THE YEAR
About Endlessness
Collective
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Lovers Rock
The Mauritanian
Minari
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Rocks
Saint Maud

FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
About Endlessness
Another Round
Collective
Les Misérables
Minari

DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
Collective
Dick Johnson Is Dead
Time
The Truffle Hunters

BRITISH/IRISH FILM OF THE YEAR
The Father
Lovers Rock
Mangrove
Rocks
Saint Maud

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
David Fincher – Mank
Rose Glass – Saint Maud
Kevin Macdonald – The Mauritanian
Steve McQueen – Small Axe
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

SCREENWRITER OF THE YEAR
Jack Fincher – Mank
Rose Glass – Saint Maud
Charlie Kaufman – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Morfydd Clark – Saint Maud
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Tahar Rahim – The Mauritanian

SUPPORTING ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Ellen Burstyn – Pieces of a Woman
Essie Davis – Babyteeth
Jennifer Ehle – Saint Maud
Amanda Seyfried – Mank

SUPPORTING ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Aldis Hodge – Clemency
Ben Mendelsohn – Babyteeth
Shaun Parkes – Mangrove

BRITISH/IRISH ACTRESS OF THE YEAR (for body of work)
Bukky Bakray – Rocks
Jessie Buckley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things & Misbehaviour
Morfydd Clark – Eternal Beauty & Saint Maud
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman & The World to Come
Carey Mulligan – The Dig & Promising Young Woman

BRITISH/IRISH ACTOR OF THE YEAR (for body of work)
Riz Ahmed – Mogul Mowgli & Sound of Metal
Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm & The Trial of the Chicago 7
John Boyega – Red, White and Blue
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Cosmo Jarvis – Calm With Horses & Nocturnal

BREAKTHROUGH BRITISH/IRISH FILMMAKER
Henry Blake – County Lines
Fyzal Boulifa – Lynn + Lucy
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Rose Glass – Saint Maud
Remi Weekes – His House

YOUNG BRITISH/IRISH PERFORMER
Kosar Ali – Rocks
Bukky Bakray – Rocks
Millie Bobby Brown – Enola Holmes
Conrad Khan – County Lines
Molly Windsor – Make Up

BRITISH/IRISH SHORT FILM
Filipiñana – Rafael Manuel, director
Hungry Joe – Paul Holbrook, director
Lizard – Akinola Davies Jr, director
The Long Goodbye – Aneil Karia, director
The Shift – Laura Carreira, director

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT
Ammonite – Stéphane Fontaine, cinematography
Birds of Prey – Deborah Lamia Denaver & Adruitha Lee, makeup & hair
Lovers Rock – Mica Levi, music
Mank – Donald Graham Burt, production design
Nomadland – Joshua James Richards, cinematography
Rocks – Lucy Pardee, casting
Soul – Pete Docter, animation
Sound of Metal – Nicolas Becker, sound design
Tenet – Jennifer Lame, film editing
Wolfwalkers – Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart, animation

Here Are The 78th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


I’m totally turned off by the self-importance of the Golden Globes and I resent every time that I have to write about them.

That said, despite the fact that no one is quite sure who actually votes for the damn things and stories of corruption in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have been rampant for years, the Golden Globes have still emerged as one of the main Oscar precursors.  So, you kind of have to pay attention to them.  Bleh.

There really aren’t any huge shocks in the list of nominees below, with the exception of maybe Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor and James Corden’s Prom nomination.  I mean, if you’re that determined to nominate someone for The Prom, why would you go for James Corden as opposed to Meryl Streep?  That’s just odd.

Anyway, here are the nominations:

Best Motion Picture, Drama
“The Father”
“Mank”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
“Hamilton”
“Music”
“Palm Springs”
“The Prom”

Best Director, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Regina King, “One Night In Miami”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Kate Hudson, “Music”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “French Exit”
Rosamund Pike, “I Care a Lot”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “Emma”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Helena Zengel, “News of the World”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Tahar Rahim, “The Mauritanian”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
James Corden, “The Prom”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”
Dev Patel, “The Personal History of David Copperfield”
Andy Samberg, “Palm Springs”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Jared Leto, “The Little Things”
Billy Murray, “On the Rocks”
Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night In Miami”

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
Jack Fincher, “Mank”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton, “The Father”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Original Score, Motion Picture
Alexandre Desplat, “The Midnight Sky”
Ludwig Göransson, “Tenet”
James Newton Howard, “News of the World”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Mank”
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul”

Best Original Song, Motion Picture
“Fight For You,” Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Hear My Voice,” The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Io Sì (Seen),” The Life Ahead”
“Speak Now,” One Night In Miami”
“Tigress & Tweed,” The United States Vs. Billie Holiday”

Best Motion Picture, Animated
“The Croods: A New Age”
“Onward”
“Over the Moon”
“Soul”
“Wolfwalkers”

Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language
“Another Round”
“La Llorona”
“The Life Ahead”
“Minari”
“Two Of Us”

Best Television Series, Drama
“The Crown”
“Lovecraft Country”
“The Mandalorian”
“Ozark”
“Ratched”

Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy
“Emily in Paris”
“The Flight Attendant”
“The Great”
“Schitt’s Creek”
“Ted Lasso”

Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
“Normal People”
“The Queen’s Gambit”
“Small Axe”
“The Undoing”
“Unorthodox”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama
Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Laura Linney, “Ozark”
Sarah Paulson, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Lily Collins, “Emily In Paris”
Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant”
Elle Fanning, “The Great”
Jane Levy, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”
Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”
Daisy Edgar Jones, “Normal People”
Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
Nicole Kidman, “The Undoing”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Supporting Role
Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Julia Garner, “Ozark”
Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Cynthia Nixon, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Al Pacino, “Hunters”
Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”
Nicholas Hoult, “The Great”
Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Bryan Cranston, “Your Honor”
Jeff Daniels, “The Comey Rule”
Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”
Ethan Hawke, “The Good Lord Bird”
Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much is True”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Supporting Role
John Boyega, “Small Axe”
Brendan Gleeson, “The Comey Rule”
Daniel Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”
Donald Sutherland, “The Undoing”

Lisa Marie Picks The 30 Top Films of 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Education

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

TSL Looks Back at 2020:

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

Film Review: Small Axe: Red White and Blue (dir by Steve McQueen)


Red, White, and Blue opens with a very young Leroy Logan (Nathan Vidal) standing on a London street corner.  Behind him is the school that he attends.  He’s wearing a school uniform.  As the other students walk past him, they say hi and acknowledge the very obvious fact that Leroy is a student who is waiting to be picked up by his parents.

That, however, doesn’t matter to the two white police officers who walk up to Leroy and start to interrogate him as to why he’s standing on the street corner.  They inform Leroy that there have bee several burglaries in the area and that the burglar is a young, black male.  They start to search Leroy.  The only thing that stops them is the arrival of Leroy’s father, Ken (Steve Toussaint).  Ken reprimands the police for harassing his son.  While driving Leroy home, Ken tells Leroy that he expects his son to do two things for him.  Leroy is never to become “a roughneck” and he’s never to bring the police to his front door.

Jump forward several years and Leroy Logan (now played by John Boyega) is now grown up and working as a forensic scientist.  When his father is beaten by two police officers who claim that Ken was blocking traffic and that he was resisting arrest (neither is true), Leroy decides to channel his anger into something productive.  He applies to join the police force, hoping to bring about change from within.

Needless to say, that turns out to be more difficult than even Leroy was expecting.  At first, Leroy finds himself being used as a prop.  Knowing that they’ve got to fix their public image, the police uses Leroy as a part of their latest public relations campaign, featuring him in advertisements and news stories.  But on the streets, Leroy finds himself an outsider.  His fellow cops, the majority of whom are white, refuse to have his back and welcome him to the force by writing racist graffiti on his locker.  Meanwhile, the members of his community now distrust Leroy, accusing him of selling out and calling him a traitor.  Leroy became a police officer believing that he could be an agent of change but he soon discovers that no one is interested in changing.

At the heart of the film is Leroy’s relationship with his father.  Though Leroy joined the force to try to make life better for men like his father, he didn’t tell Ken about his decision.  In fact, Ken doesn’t find out until two police officers show up at this doorstep, checking to make sure that Leroy put the correct address on his application.  Ken believes that the system cannot be changed.  Leroy disagrees.  The film leaves it to us to decide which man is correct.

Red, White, and Blue is based on a true story.  Leroy Logan was one of the first blacks to join the London Metropolitan Police and he joined for the same reasons that are shown in the film.  Eventually, Leroy would work his way up to being a superintendent and he would help to found and later chair the Black Police Association.  Interestingly enough, the details of Leroy’s eventual success are left out of Red, White, and Blue.  Instead, the film ends with Leroy and his father at the kitchen table, still wondering if things can change.  It’s an ambiguous ending, one that’s hopeful because, even though he’s disillusioned, Leroy hasn’t given up but, at the same time, it’s also one that accepts that it’s going to take more than just one man to change the culture of the police.  It’s an ending that suggests that racism is so ingrained in society that the only way to vanquish it might be to just start all over again from the beginning.  It’s an ending that manages to be both low-key and revolutionary at the same time.

Red, White, and Blue is the third film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology.  It’s a deceptively simple film, one that kind of sneaks up on you and takes you by surprise.  The minute that you start to think the film is going to be just another well-intentioned liberal plea for tolerance, McQueen will throw in an unexpectedly honest scene that will shake your expectations.  For instance, when Leroy tries to help a prisoner who has been brutalized by a bunch of racist cops, his help is rejected and Leroy discovers that the prisoner hates him even more than he hates the cops who were beating on him.  The prisoner takes it for granted that the white cops are going to be brutal but he saves his most vicious scorn for someone whom he consider to be a traitor to his race.  McQueen directs in a matter-of-fact but enthralling style, emphasizing the bleak coldness of the London landscape.

John Boyega and Steve Toussaint both anchor the film with ferocious performances.  Leroy spends the majority of the film having to hold back his anger and, sometimes, his despair and Boyega does a wonderful job suggesting what’s going on behind Leroy’s outward calmness.  Boyega does get to do some yelling, of course.  When he confronts his follow police officers for refusing to respond to his calls for backup, Boyega doesn’t hold back.  But his best moments are the quiet ones, where Boyega subtly but powerfully suggests that anger and the pain that Leroy has to deal with every day.

Red, White, and Blue is a short but powerful film.  Check it out on Prime.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Final Trailer


Well, it all comes down to this.

During tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, ESPN is hosting the final trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The last film of the new trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker seems to have Rey (Daisy Ridley) coming into her own as a Jedi. It also looks like her friends are due to face a new threat, could it really be The Emperor? While Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi may have left some audiences divided, Disney is hoping this will bring everyone in line and in the theatre. It seems to be working as theatres around the country are already selling out in pre-sales for the film.

It looks like we have Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fighting against and alongside each other again. Could this also mean some sort of redemption for Kylo? We’ll find out come December 19th, when the film is released.

Enjoy!

Film Review: Pacific Rim Uprising (dir. by Steven S. DeKnight)


Moving to directing isn’t always smooth

Pacific Rim Poster

.Duel was a success for Steven Spielberg, and Alex Garland had a wonderful success with Ex Machina. Conversely, Cinematographer Wally Pfister’s Transcendence wasn’t as well received. Though he has worked on TV, Pfister hasn’t had a motion picture follow-up (though I’m eager to see him do so). Everyone moves in different directions and at their own pace. Steven S. DeKnight is well-known for his work on Daredevil and the Spartacus series on Starz. He makes the leap to directing with Pacific Rim Uprising, the results of which are a mixed bag for me. I saw the original four times in the cinema. Uprising has some fun moments, most of them with John Boyega (John Boyega, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Cailee Spaeny (The Shoes), but it wasn’t particularly memorable for me. I don’t know if I could actually say I hated it. That doesn’t mean that the kids won’t love it. There are some good moments of action that are reminiscent of Saban’s Power Rangers, and the movie provides exactly what it advertises – Jaeger on Kaiju action.

Uprising takes place ten years after the end of Pacific Rim, focusing on Jake Pentacost (John Boyega, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) son of the now legendary Stacker Pentacost. The world has moved on from the Kaiju crisis in various ways. When a new threat looms on the horizon, Jaeger pilots are needed once again. Jake would rather not get involved, plowing his trade as Jaeger tech smuggler. When he meets up with Amara Namani, a young hacker (Spaeny), both are brought into the newest rendition of the Jaeger Program. This also leads to a family reunion of sorts with Jake’s sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who now heads the program. We even have our favorite scientist duo returning in Gottlieb (Burn Gorman, Game of Thrones) and Geiszler (Charlie Day). With all this familarity, you’d think that more of the same is the perfect recipe for a sequel.

The plot could have used a little more development, at least in comparison to the first firm. Uprising does stand on its own, and I could see some interesting arcs develop in future films. My problem with it was just that I didn’t feel a sense of worry for anyone. In the first film, there was this sense of escalation. Every incident was increasingly more dangerous for everyone involved. I didn’t quite feel that this film, but it makes up for it for having some interesting action scenes. DeKnight keeps the scenes short and sweet, and the flow of the movie is quite good, despite the lack of fights. Those moments are few and far between, which kind of left me a little drowsy waiting for them.

From a character standpoint, the real gems in Uprising are Jake and Amara. Boyega and Spaeny are great in just about every scene they’re in. Scott Eastwood isn’t bad either, actually, though he really isn’t given much to work with. Everyone else appears to be filling in roles. While it would’ve been nice to see more characterization in the rest of the crew, they do what they need to in order to keep the story moving.

Visually, Pacific Rim Uprising hits all the right notes. The Kaiju are strange and the Jaegers are impressive. The action moves in such a way where you’re not too lost with what you’re viewing. If there are any problems in this area, it’s that they appeared too clean (and that’s just a nitpick, really). Where the Original used nighttime or rainy shots to mask the effects (much like the first T-Rex encounter in Jurassic Park), most of Uprising’s effects are in broad daylight. It looks great, but also had a HDR quality to it that (for me) felt like you were watching a high end demo reel. The 3D also helped with the effects there.

Overall, I’d easily catch Pacific Rim Uprising again once it hits the digital circuit. It might be worth the viewing on an IMAX screen or even in 3D, but it isn’t anything anyone needs to rush to see.

Film Review: The Circle (dir by James Ponsoldt)


Earlier today, I got off work early and I finally saw The Circle!

The Circle is a film that I’ve been curious about for a while.  It’s based on a novel by Dave Eggers, a book that I absolutely loved when I first read it.  It stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, and John Boyega.  It’s directed by James Ponsoldt, who may not be a household name but who has previously directed such beloved films as The Spectacular Now and The End of The Tour.  It sounded like a film to which everyone should have been looking forward but instead, even with Watson appearing in the blockbuster Beauty and the Beast at the same time, The Circle opened with very little fanfare.

Then the reviews came out and, with a few notable exceptions, they were all negative.  I did a little research and I discovered that, though filming was initially completed in 2015, The Circle spent a year and a half sitting on the shelf.  In January of this year, 16 months after shooting wrapped, a few scenes were refilmed.  That’s never a good sign.  One gets the feeling that, if not for John Boyega’s role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the excitement over Emma Watson starring in Beauty and the Beast, The Circle probably would have ended up going straight to VOD.

But here’s the thing.  I loved the book.  The book managed to put a new spin on the otherwise tired topic of how social media has changed our way of looking at the world.  The book was an Orwellian masterpiece, an homage to 1984 by a writer who, as opposed to most people who are currently claiming to appreciate the novel’s dark vision, understood what George Orwell was actually saying.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the easier it was for me to assume that most critics probably missed the point of the movie.  It was entirely possible, I decided, that the negative reaction to The Circle had to do with audiences not knowing how to deal with a movie that truly challenged their assumptions.  Naively, I assumed that the story and the themes of the novel had been brought to the screen and the critics couldn’t handle it.

Well, as I said earlier, I finally saw The Circle for myself and it turns out that I was wrong.  The Circle is an absolute mess.  Despite being co-written by Dave Eggers, this film actually has very little in common with the novel that it’s based on.  The novel was a sharply satiric portrait of a world that has become brainwashed by technology and social media.  The movie is a nagging anti-internet screed that would have felt out-of-touch in 2002.  The book ends with a powerful “and he loved Big Brother” moment.  The movie ends on a note that feels so completely false that you just know it was studio mandated.

Emma Watson plays Mae Hubbard, a recent college grad whose degree in Art History is pretty much going to waste.  (Speaking as the proud recipient of an Art History degree, I can verify that the film gets this detail absolutely right.)  Through a college friend named Annie (Karen Gillian, for once not having to disguise her Scottish accent), Mae gets a job working for The Circle, an all-powerful internet company that is pretty obviously based on Google Plus.  Through a series of silly events, Mae becomes the public face of The Circle.  The Circle wants to use technology (cameras everywhere, social media addiction, everyone carries tablet, you must have a credit card to join The Circle, oh my!) to do away with the concept of privacy.  When everyone is a member of the Circle, no one will be a stranger.  No one will have any privacy.  Anyone can be found.  Anyone can be watched.  And, of course, it’ll be easier to tell everyone what to think and who to support…

…and all of this would be shocking if The Circle had been made in a time before Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway!  The Circle was founded by three men.  Two of them (Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt) are totally sinister.  Oswalt glowers in the background.  Hanks appears to channeling Christoph Waltz.  Meanwhile, the third man (John Boyega) has become disillusioned with The Circle.  He shows up occasionally, standing in the background and watching as Mae does stuff.

Throughout the film, Tom Hanks gives lectures to his employees.  They all applaud as he introduced the latest technology from The Circle.  These scenes are fun because it looks like Tom Hanks is appearing in a commercial for The Criterion Collection.

Anyway, Mae loves the brave new world but a few people don’t.  Her parents (Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly) are skeptical.  Though his role is small, Bill Paxton gave a good performance in this, his latest released film.  I got a bit emotional watching him, especially as he was playing a character struggling with his own poor health.  Ellar Coltrane, of Boyhood fame, plays the other voice of skepticism, Mae’s childhood friend who wants to live off the grid.  Coltrane is supposed to be the voice of reason but he gives such a strange and awkward performance that the main thing that comes across is that Luddites are weird.

Actually, with the exception of Bill Paxton and Karen Gillan, it’s hard to think of anyone who actually gives a good performance in The Circle.  (This is especially shocking when you consider that, in the past, Ponsoldt has proven himself to be an excellent director when it comes to getting noteworthy work from his cast.)  Everyone comes across like they were wishing that they were somewhere else.  Emma Watson, in particular, is bad.  That said, in her defense, Watson is also totally miscast.  Mae is meant to be someone searching for an identity in an overly complicated world but Watson plays her as just being dourly earnest.  As played by Watson, Mae’s just the boring person that you dread having to take a class with.  Neither Watson nor the film, as a whole, seems to be sure who exactly Mae is.  (In the novel, the character works because Mae isn’t meant to be likable.  The film, however, tries to have it both ways, making her both a true believer in the Circle and a sympathetic character.  It doesn’t work.)

For that matter, the film also appears to be confused as to just why exactly Hanks and Oswalt are villains.  We know that we’re supposed to distrust them because Hanks is way too quick to smile and Oswalt is always standing in the background and looking like he’s just deliberately killed all of his Sims.  But how evil are they actually supposed to be?  What are the stakes?  The film doesn’t appear to be sure.

Now, I’m not totally trashing The Circle.  There were a few moments that I did like.  I enjoyed the scenes that were meant to illustrate the cult-like atmosphere at the Circle.  There’s a hilarious scene where two enthusiastic Circle employees interrogate Mae as to why she never told them that she enjoys kayaking.  (“I enjoy kayaking!  We could have kayaked together!”)  And there’s another scene where Hanks and Oswalt talk about how, if countries allow The Circle to run their elections, they could then require everyone to join The Circle and then make voting mandatory.  Mandatory Voting is a really terrible idea, the type that is always embraced by people who should know better.  I appreciated seeing the idea exposed for being the ticket to totalitarianism that it truly is.

But, for the most part, The Circle was just a mess.  Like a lot of cautionary tales (especially ones dealing with the internet), The Circle will probably eventually become a bit of a camp classic.  But for now, everyone involved with the film has done better work in the past and, hopefully, will continue to do so in the future.

Here’s The First Trailer For An Obscure Art Film Called Star Wars: The Last Jedi!


Hi, everyone!

Well, here’s the teaser for an obscure little art film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  It’ll be interesting to see if anyone takes the time to discover this little film.  Hopefully, it’ll make its way to Alamo Drafthouse at some point because the trailer is actually pretty intriguing.  It looks like it might be kind of exciting and there’s a voice over that suggests that there’s actually more going on in this film than just pure spectacle for the sake of spectacle.

“I know only one truth.  It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

That doesn’t sound good.

(By the way, Mark Hamill actually speaks in this trailer.  So, all of you who thought the ending of Force Awakens indicated that Luke Skywalker had been rendered mute — well, you’re wrong!  Or, actually, it might be more correct to see that I’m wrong since I think I was the only one who thought that.)

The Last Jedi comes out on December 15th.  I get the feeling that Arleigh and most of the TSL staff have already bought their tickets.