Sundance Film Review: Searching (dir by Aneesh Chaganty)


With this year’s Sundance Film Festival getting underway in Colorado, I’m going to be spending the next two weeks looking at some films that caused a stir at previous Sundance Film Festivals.  Today, I’m taking a look at the 2018’s Searching.

Searching tells the story of David Kim (John Cho) and his daughter, Margot (Michelle La).

David thinks that he has a close relationship with his daughter but, in reality, they’ve been drifting apart ever since David’s wife died two years earlier.  Now, Margot is away at college and David is alone at home.  They still communicate, of course.  They message each other on Facebook.  They Skype.  David sill sends Margot money for her piano lessons.

And yet, even if he can’t bring himself to fully admit it, David knows that they’re not as close as they once were.  Their conversations are often awkward and he doesn’t really know much about the friends that Margot has made at college.  Too often, he finds himself starting to ask her about what’s really going on in her life, just to then erase the message before sending.  One night, when Margot tells David that she’s going to a friend’s house for a study group, he has no reason not to believe her.  It’s not until Margot fails to return from studying that David is forced to confront how little he actually knows about his daughter’s life.

As a film, Searching is set almost entirely on smartphones and computer screens.  Considering that the movie could have just as easily been called Unfriended 3: Searching, this is a surprisingly good and emotionally resonant film.  We watch as David helplessly sends out messages to his daughters, messages that are destined to be unanswered.  We watch as David looks at old pictures and videos of the family he once had, searching for some sort of answer hidden in the past.  And, as we watch all of this, we come to realize that David is not just searching for his daughter’s whereabouts.  Instead, in a world dominated by social media, he’s also searching for a human connection, for something more than just a tweet or a cryptic status update.

Of course, the film does occasionally threaten to take its format just a bit too far.  Sometimes, you really do find yourself wishing that David would just get offline and go outside and look for his daughter.  (Actually, he does do that but, because of the film’s narrative structure, we don’t really get to witness it.)  By the time David is having nightly FaceTime sessions with the detective (Debra Messing) assigned to his daughter’s case, you can be excused for fearing that the film’s style is going to end up collapsing in on itself.

Fortunately, Searching is held together by the lead performance of John Cho.  Whenever Searching threatens to veer into self-parody, Cho is there to bring it back on track.  Before this film came out, I guess Cho was probably best known for appearing in the Star Trek movies.  Searching made him the first Asian-American to headline a mainstream thriller in Hollywood and Cho gives such a sympathetic and compelling performance that you’re willing to excuse whatever flaws might be present in the film’s narrative.  Because he’s played by John Cho, you want David to find his daughter.  You want him to find that for which he’s searching.

What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2018 Edition


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

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

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

Best Picture

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blindspotting

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Leave No Trace

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

 

Best Director

*Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade

The Coen Brothers for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Alfonso Cuaron for Roma

Debra Granik for Leave No Trace

Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

 

Best Actor

John Cho in Searching

Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting

*Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

 

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade

Lady Gaga in A Star is Born

*Regina Hall in Support the Girls

Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor

Thomason McKenzie in Leave No Trace

 

Best Supporting Actor

Peter Bogdonavich in The Other Side of the Wind

*Ben Foster in Leave No Trace

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Josh Hamilton in Eighth Grade

Tim Blake Nelson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Michael Palin in The Death of Stalin

 

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place

*Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Zoe Kazan in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Emma Stone in The Favourite

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

 

Best Voice Over or Motion-Capture Performance

*Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War

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

Holly Hunter in The Incredibles 2

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

John C. Reilly in Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2

 

Best Original Screenplay

Blindspotting

The Death of Stalin

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Game Night

Support the Girls

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

If Beale Street Could Talk

Leave No Trace

*A Simple Favor

A Star is Born

 

Best Animated Feature

Early Man

Have A Nice Day

The Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Ralph Breaks the Internet

*Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Best Documentary Feature

Avicii: True Stories

Recovery Boys

Shirkers

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

*Three Identical Strangers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Battle

Gun City

Happy as Lazzaro

Have A Nice Day

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World

*Roma

 

Best Casting

Blindspotting

Eighth Grade

Mandy

Mid90s

Roma

*Support the Girls

 

Best Cinematography

Aquaman

Avengers: Infinity Wars

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Panther

*Mandy

Roma

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

*Black Panther

The Favourite

Lizzie

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

 

Best Film Editing

Avengers: Infinity Wars

Eighth Grade

Mission Impossible: Fallout

*The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

Searching

Best Makeup and Hair Styling

*The Favourite

Lizzie

Mandy

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

Best Original Score

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Death of Stalin

If Beale Street Could Talk

*Mandy

The Other Side of the Wind

Best Original Song

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

“All the Stars” from Black Panther

“Limitless” from Second Act

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

“Is that Alright” from A Star is Born

“Shallow” from A Star is Born

 

Best Overall Use of Music

Bohemian Rhapsody

Eighth Grade

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mid90s

*A Star is Born

Three Identical Strangers

 

Best Production Design

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

The Commuter

*The Favourite

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Quiet Place

Best Sound Editing

Annihilation

*Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

12 Strong

Best Sound Mixing

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

*A Star is Born

Best Stuntwork

Avengers: Infinity War

Beirut

Black Panther

*Mission Impossible: Fallout

12 Strong

Upgrade

Best Visual Effects

Annihilation

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Aquaman

*Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

First Man

Films Listed By Number of Nominations:

11 Nominations – Avengers: Infinity War

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

8 Nominations – Eighth Grade, A Star is Born

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

6 Nominations – A Simple Favor

5 Nominations – Leave No Trace, Support the Girls

4 Nominations – Blindspotting, Mandy, Mission Impossible: Fallout

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

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

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

Films Listed By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Eighth Grade, The Favourite

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

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

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

Star Trek Beyond Looks Much Faster and More Furious


Star Trek Beyond

J.J. Abrams reinvigorated the Star Trek film franchise when he did a sort of sort-reboot in 2009. It brought the franchise into the consciousness of a younger demographic who didn’t grow up as fans of the franchise both in film and the many tv series. The film was a success and Paramount made sure to strike while it was still hot and greenlit a sequel that looked to build on the strong foundation set-up by J.J. Abrams.

2013 saw that sequel come out and to say that it underwhelmed and burned much of the goodwill created with the 2009 film would be an understatement. Star Trek Into Darkness (a title derided the moment it was announced) literally took the “darkness” part of the title and ramped it up to 11. There wasn’t any of the fun and adventurous nature of the first film. It didn’t help that screenwriter’s Robert Orci’s 9/11 Truther ideology seeped into the film’s plot.

When it was announced that Robert Orci would end up directing the third film after J.J. Abrams went to go direct the latest Star Wars film, the outcry was loud and clear. Orci was a bad choice and just keeping him on would just sink a film franchise already teetering on the brink of becoming irrelevant in a blockbuster environment where superhero universes and the original blockbuster universe reigned supreme.

So, it was with some relief and cautious optimism when Paramount dumped Orci and went with Justin Lin (hot off the massive success of Fast & Furious 6) and rewrites by Simon Pegg. The franchise was going to get the fun back into the series and everyone was invited. Even the chosen title, Star Trek Beyond, spoke to a creative team who saw a chance to bring back the franchise from just being part of a fandom but for those who wouldn’t know a dilithium crystal from a Sith Lord.

The first teaser shows the fun part of what Justin Lin and Simon Pegg have been talking about. Now, will the next trailer show a much more dramatic side to the events fans are hoping will balance all the fun.

Star Trek Beyond looks to land on July 22, 2016.

Shattered Politics #78: American Dreamz (dir by Paul Weitz)


Americandreamz

Nothing ages worse than heavy-handed satire and, if you need proof of that, just try watching the 2006 film American Dreamz.  American Dreamz is a satire of two things that are no longer exactly relevant, the presidential administration of George W. Bush and Simon Cowell-era American Idol.

Dennis Quaid plays President George W. Bush Joseph Stanton.  Stanton has just been reelected to a second term.  One morning, he impulsively decides to read a newspaper for the first time in his life and he ends up having a nervous breakdown.  “The world isn’t black-and-white,” he declares, “Instead, it’s gray.”  Sinking into a deep depression, Stanton isolates himself from the American people and his approval rating starts to plunge.  His evil Chief of Staff (William DaFoe, made up to look like Joe Biden but, I’m assuming, meant to be Dick Cheney) comes up with a plan to restore Stanton’s popularity.  President Stanton will serve as a guest judge on his favorite television show, American Idol American Dreamz!

(To be honest, I think Obama would be more likely to show up as a guest judge than Bush.)

The host of American Dreamz is a self-loathing Englishman named Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant).  Tweed hates both the show and himself.  Early on in the film, he’s literally seeing begging for American Dreamz to be canceled.  However, American Dreamz is the number one show in the country and the show must go on.

Along with President Stanton, the latest season of American Dreamz features a group of contestants who all have dramatically compelling backstories.  Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) emerges as a favorite, largely do to her ability to manipulate the camera and the fact that her well-meaning but simple-minded boyfriend (Chris Klein) was wounded in Iraq.

Oh wow — reality shows manipulate reality and contestants are rarely as innocent as they seem!?

Tell me more, American Dreamz!

Also competing on American Dreamz is Omer (Sam Golzari), a former jihadist who proved to be too clumsy to take part in the various propaganda videos being shot by his terrorist cell.  Omer was sent to America, where his love for show tunes eventually landed him on American Dreamz.  With the finale rapidly approaching, Omer has been instructed to blow both himself and the President up on national TV.

The satire of American Dreamz really wasn’t all that sharp when the film was first released and now, 9 years later, it feels even weaker.  Quaid and Grant both give good performances but the film’s attempts at humor largely fall flat because they’re all so predictable.  It’s not exactly mind-blowing to say that reality TV is fake or that politics has a lot in common with show business.  The film attempts to add some bite to its message by ending with a surprisingly dark twist but it’s just not enough.  Even a dark ending has to be earned.

 

Trailer: Star Trek Into Darkness (International)


StarTrekIntoDarkness

Less than two months remain before the sequel to J.J. Abrams surprise reboot hit of Star Trek arrives in the theaters this summer. It’s set to be one of this summer’s tentpole event films and this later trailer looks to set to prove that to be true.

While the first two trailers went light on the main narrative of the sequel this international trailer looks to really focus on Benedict Cumberbatch’s character who is either going to be this Star Trek alternate timeline’s Khan or Gary Mitchell or an amalgam of the two. Either way the trailer is all about action and Sherlock-Smaug looking, talking and acting all superior evil towards Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew.

Star Trek Into Darkness is set for a May 17, 2013 release date.

Trailer: Star Trek Into Darkness (Super Bowl Exclusive)


StarTrekIntoDarkness

The sequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek is just months away. It returns not just Abrams into the director’s chair but also the whole cast of the rebooted franchise back to boldly go where no one’s gone before.

Star Trek Into Darkness (still an awkward title but then we don’t to watch a film in the theaters because we like or don’t like how the title sounds) just released it’s latest trailer (this time a TV spot) during Super Bowl XLVII. The spot has new scenes and images that the previous teasers and trailers didn’t already show. We may have gotten a hint into the villain portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film. While the name Khan has never been mentioned in any ad and marketing spots since the film was announced I’d be very surprised if the villain is not some sort of analogue of that classic Star Trek rogue.

Star Trek Into Darkness is set for a May 17, 2013 release date.

Source: Joblo Movie Network

Trailer: Star Trek Into Darkness (Official Trailer)


StarTrekIntoDarkness

Over ten days ago we saw the release of the teaser trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness. This sequel by J.J. Abrams for the reboot of the storied scifi franchise looks to be one of the most-anticipated films of 2013 (if the world doesn’t end in a couple days of this posting that is). Today we get the release of the official trailer which adds in a couple of new scenes and images not included in the teaser.

Again there’s some debate as to which villain Benedict Cumberbatch is really portraying despite being listed in the cast as the character of John Harrison. The even money bet is that he plays a version of Kirk’s archenemy Khan Noonien Singh which is a strong possibility since the early draft for the Khan character was suppose to be a Nordic superhuman by the name of John Ericssen. Even Abrams himself has never said outright that he would never use the Khan character as the villain in this rebooted franchise. Whether he uses the classic Trek villain in this sequel or the next should get an answer as we get closer to the film’s release date.

Star Trek Into Darkess has a release date of May 17, 2013.