Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: All That Jazz (dir by Bob Fosse)


“Bye bye life….

Bye bye happiness….

Hello loneliness….

I think I’m going to die….”

So sings Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) at the end of the 1979 film, All That Jazz.  And he’s right!  It’s hardly a spoiler to tell you that All That Jazz ends with Joe Gideon in a body bag.  It’s not just that Gideon spends a good deal of the film flirting with the Angel of the Death (Jessica Lange).  It’s also that, by the time the film ends, we’ve spent a little over two hours watching Joe engage in non-stop self-destruction.  Joe is a director and a choreographer who is so in love with both death and show business that his greatest triumph comes from choreographing his own death.

Joe wakes up every morning, pops a handful of pills, stares at himself in the mirror and says, “It’s showtime!”  He spends his day choreographing a Broadway play.  He spends his nights editing his latest film, a biopic about Lenny Bruce called The Stand-Up.  He’s particularly obsessed with a long monologue that Lenny (played by Cliff Gorman) delivers about the inevitability of death.  When he’s not choreographing or editing, he’s smoking, drinking, and cheating on his girlfriend (Ann Reinking).  It’s obvious that he’s still in love with his ex-wife (Leland Palmer) and that she loves him too but she’s also too smart to allow herself to get fully sucked back into his self-destructive orbit.  He loves his daughter (Erzsébet Földi) and yet still ignores her when she begs him not to die.

Joe and the Angel of Death

When Joe has a heart attack and ends up in the hospital, he doesn’t change his behavior.  Instead, he and the Angel of Death take a look back at his youth, which was spent hanging out in strip clubs and desperately trying to become a star.  Joe Gideon, we see, has always know that he’s going to die early so he’s pushed himself to accomplish everything that he can in what little time he has.

As a result of his drive and his refusal to love anyone but himself, Gideon is widely recognized as being an artistic genius.  However, as O’Connor Flood (Ben Vereen, essentially playing Sammy Davis, Jr.) puts it, “This cat allowed himself to be adored, but not loved. And his success in show business was matched by failure in his personal relationship bag, now – that’s where he really bombed. And he came to believe that show business, work, love, his whole life, even himself and all that jazz, was bullshit. He became numero uno game player – uh, to the point where he didn’t know where the games ended, and the reality began. Like, for this cat, the only reality – is death, man. Ladies and gentlemen, let me lay on you a so-so entertainer, not much of a humanitarian, and this cat was never nobody’s friend. In his final appearance on the great stage of life – uh, you can applaud if you want to – Mr. Joe Gideon!”

Now, of course, Connor doesn’t really say all that.  Gideon just imagines Connor saying that before the two of them launch into the film’s final musical number, Bye Bye Life.  It should be a totally depressing moment but actually, it’s exhilarating to watch.  It’s totally over-the-top, self-indulgent, and equally parts sincere and cynical.  It’s a Bob Fosse production all the way and, as a result, All that Jazz is probably about as fun as a movie about the death of a pathological narcissist can be.  This is a film that will not only leave you thinking about mortality but it will also make you dance.

All That Jazz was Bob Fosse’s next-to-last film (he followed it up with the even darker Star 80) and it’s also his most openly autobiography.  Roy Scheider may be playing Joe Gideon but he’s made-up to look exactly like Bob Fosse.  Like Joe Gideon, Bob Fosse had a heart attack while trying to direct a Broadway show and a film at the same time.  Gideon’s girlfriend is played by Fosse’s real-life girlfriend.  The character of Gideon’s ex-wife is clearly meant to be a stand-in for Gwen Verdon, Fosse’s real-life ex-wife.  When the film’s venal Broadway producers make plans to replace the incapacitated Gideon, Fosse is obviously getting back at some of the producers that he had to deal with while putting together Chicago.  It’s a confessional film, one in which Fosse admits to his faults while also reminding you of his talent.  Thank God for that talent, too.  All that Jazz is self-indulgent but you simply can’t look away.

It helps that Gideon is played by Roy Scheider.  Originally, Scheider’s Jaws co-star Richard Dreyfuss was cast in the role but he left during rehearsals.  Dreyfuss, talented actor that he was, would have been all-wrong for the role of Gideon.  One can imagine a hyperactive Dreyfuss playing Gideon but one can’t imagine actually feeling much sympathy for him.  Scheider, on the other hand, brings a world-weary self-awareness to the role.  He plays Gideon as a man who loves his talent but who hates himself.  Scheider’s Joe Gideon is under no illusions about who he is or how people feel about him.  When Fosse’s own instincts threatens to make the film unbearably pretentious, Scheider’s down-to-Earth screen presence keeps things grounded.

I love All That Jazz.  (Admittedly, a good deal of that love is probably connected to my own dance background.  I’ve known my share of aspiring Joe Gideons, even if none of them had his — or Bob Fosse’s — talent or drive.)  It’s not for everyone, of course.  Any musical that features actual footage of open heart surgery is going to have its detractors.  For the record, Stanley Kubrick called All That Jazz “the best film I think I’ve ever seen.”  It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and it was nominated for Best Picture, though it ultimately lost to the far more conventional Kramer vs. Kramer.

All that Jazz would be the last of Fosse’s film to receive a best picture nomination.  (Fosse directed five features.  3 of them were nominated for Best Picture, with the other two being Cabaret and Lenny.)  8 years after filming his cinematic doppelganger dying during heart surgery, Fosse would die of a heart attack.  Gwen Verdon was at his side.

Catching Up With The Films of 2019: Late Night (dir by Nisha Ganatra)


Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) has just gotten a new job.  A struggling comedienne who, up until now, has been forced to test out her best material on her coworkers at a chemical plant, Molly is hired to join the writing staff of late night talk show host, Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson).  Even though Molly knows that she was largely hired so that the show could claim to have a diverse writing staff (all of the other writers are white males), she is still thrilled to be working for Katherine.  Why wouldn’t she be?  Katherine is a notoriously difficult boss who can’t even be bothered to learn the names of most of the people working for her but Katherine is also a legend, one of the first women to ever host her own late night talk show.

Of course, all legends have to come to an end and Katherine’s career as a late night talk show host appears to be in its final days.  Katherine’s rating have been in a steep decline for several years and her nonthreatening monologues and habit of booking guests like Doris Kearns Goodwin are not doing much to reverse the trend.  Safely hidden away in her mansion and continually worried about the health of her Parkinson’s-stricken husband, Walter (John Lithgrow), Katherine has grown out of touch.  Making matters even worse, the president of the network (played by Mindy Kaling’s Office co-star, Amy Ryan) hates Katherine and is eager to replace her with an obnoxious, Dane Cook-style comedian named Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz).

Molly’s new job is a struggle at first.  The other writers dismiss Molly as merely being a “diversity hire” while Katherine often seems to be put off by Molly’s cheerful earnestness.  Over time, Molly proves herself and soon, she’s inspiring Katherine to refuse to leave her show without a fight.  Gone are bland monologues and boring presidential historians, replaced by politically charged humor and YouTube stars.

Late Night, as you may remember, was a huge hit at Sundance back in January.  Amazon Studios paid 13 million for the distribution rights.  The film was released in June to generally positive reviews and …. well, it made very little money.  Despite an extensive advertising campaign and a deluge of think pieces that literally begged audiences to see the film, Late Night flopped at the box office and it is estimated that, taking into account the film’s ad campaign, Amazon lost about 40 million dollars on the film.

Why wasn’t Late Night a bigger success at the box office?  At the time, the popular answer was misogyny.  While one should never discount that, I think that the film’s failure had more to do with the fact that the ad campaign made Late Night look more like the latest Netflix series than an actual cinematic experience.  Like a lot of movies about TV, Late Night was a film that seemed like it could wait for television.  I mean, I am the film’s target audience and even I waited to watch the film on Prime.

As for the film itself, it’s flawed but likable.  Along with co-starring in the film, Mindy Kaling wrote the script and the dialogue is consistently witty, even if the plot occasionally struggles to keep up.  At its best, this is a fun movie to listen to.  Visually, the film’s a bit flat and there’s a big third act development that feels a bit forced but, for the most part, the film works.  Not surprisingly, Emma Thompson is perfectly cast as Katherine and she delivers her razor sharp lines with the right mix of scorn and pathos.  Mindy Kaling effortlessly holds her own opposite Thompson and even John Lithgow, who can usually be counted upon to chew every piece of scenery available to him, is effective in his small but important role.  In the end, it’s kind of a sweet film and there’s something touchingly naive about the film’s steadfast belief that a late night talk show can actually be worth all the trouble.

Late Night is available on Prime so check it out.

 

Lisa’s Early Oscar Nominations for August


It’s the time of the month again!

It’s time for me to share my early Oscar predictions!  With the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals currently underway, the Oscar picture does seem to be a little bit less murky.  But then again, we should remember that appearances can be deceiving.  Last year, at this time, most people were still expecting a First Man vs. Beale Street vs. A Star is Born Oscar race.

These predictions below take into account the reports that have been coming back from Telluride and Venice.  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved over the year, be sure to check out my predictions from January, February, March, April, May, June, and July!

And now, for what their worth, here are my predictions for August:

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

The Farewell

Ford v Ferrari

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Waves

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A HIdden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Trey Edward Shults for Waves

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Awkwafina in The Farewell

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Sterling K. Brown in Waves

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes

John Lithgow in Bombshell

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz in Pain & Glory

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Zao Shuzhen in The Farewell

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For July


It’s that time of the month, again!

(No, not that time!)

It’s time for me to present my predictions for who and what will be nominated for the Academy Awards next January!  Now that we’re nearly done with the summer, the Oscar picture is becoming a bit more clear.  For instance, I do think that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is going to be a player, if just because it’s about actors and the Actors Branch is the biggest voting bloc in the Academy.  (How do you think Birdman and Argo managed to win?)  And the trailer for The Irishman makes it look like the type of Scorsese film that often gets nominated.

Still, it’s too early to say anything for sure.  Last year, for instance, Green Book didn’t really become a player until fairly late in the season.  In fact, at this time last year, everyone still thought A Star Is Born was going to win everything.

So, with all that in mind, here are my predictions for July.  Be sure to also check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

1917

The Aeronauts

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Fair and Balanced

Harriet

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Pain & Glory

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Best Director

Pedro Almodovar for Pain & Glory

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go Bernadette?

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Rene Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Shia LaBeouf in The Peanut Butter Falcon

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

Taika Waititi in JoJo Rabbit

Best Supporting Actress

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Janelle Monae in Harriet

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Meryl Streep in Little Women

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For June


We’re at the halfway mark as far as 2019 in concerned, which means that the Oscar race is about to start getting a lot more clear.  Soon, instead of random guesses, we’ll be making educated guesses.  Then again, it is important to remember that — at this time last year — no one thought Bohemian Rhapsody would score a best picture nomination.  In fact, only a few people have ever heard about Green Book.

So, as always, take my monthly predictions with a grain of salt.  They’re based on a combination what I’m hearing (and reading) from other film people and my own instincts (for whatever their worth).  To be honest, I suppose that these predictions reflect my own prejudices as well.  I’d love to see Terrence Malick honored, for instance.  I also think that it’s a crime that Amy Adams hasn’t ever won an Oscar so I have her listed, even though I fear she might be miscast as the lead in The Woman In The Window.  At the same time, I’m bored with Meryl Streep getting nominated just for showing up so I left her out of my predictions, even though she has two high-profile films coming out later this year.

To see how my thinking has (or hasn’t) evolved, check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, and May!

And now, here are the predictions!

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Cats

Fair and Balanced

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon On A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Shia LaBeouf in The Peanut Butter Falcon

Malcolm McDowell in Fair & Balanced

Ian McKellen in Cats

Sam Neill in Blackbird

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Laura Dern in Little Women

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions For May


It’s that time of the month again!

It’s time for me to offer up my early Oscar predictions!

These will be my first set of predictions since the Cannes Film Festival.  It’s always debatable just how much of an influence Cannes will actually have on the Oscar voting.  A victory at Cannes pretty much led to Tree of Life receiving an Oscar nomination and it certainly didn’t harm the chances of BlackKklansman last year.  While Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life may not have picked up any major awards at Cannes, the positive critical reception that both of those films received can only help.  The same can be said of The Lighthouse, which was shown out of competition.  Finally, the Cannes jury gave its best actor award to Antonio Banderas and, for now, that’s enough for me to add him to my list of predicted nominees.

So, without any further ado, here are my predictions for May!  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved over the year, be sure to also check out my predictions for January, February, March, and April!

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Fair and Balanced

The Goldfinch

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Blake Lively in The Rhythm Section

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon in Ford v. Ferrari

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Ian McKellen in Cats

Sam Neill in Blackbird

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Laura Dern in Little Women

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

 

Lisa’s Far Too Early Oscar Predictions For March


So, it’s that time of the month again!

No, not that time.  I meant, that it’s time for me to share my Oscar predictions.  Here are the usual disclaimers: I haven’t seen any of these films, it’s way too early in the year for me to attempt to do this, this list is all about instinct and wishful thinking, blah blah blah blah.

To see how my thinking has evolved, be sure to check out my predictions for January and February!

Best Picture

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Call of the Wild

Fair and Blanced

Ford v. Ferrari

Harriet

The Irishman

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Torrance

Best Director

Greta Gerwig for Little Women

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Joe Talbot for The Last Black Man In San Francisco

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Ben Affleck in Torrance

Robert De Niro in The Irishman

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Eddie Murphy in My Name Is Dolemite

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman In The Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Blake Lively in The Rhythm Section

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Afre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari

Harrison Ford in Call of the Wild

Danny Glover in The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in Little Women

Tiffany Haddish in The Kitchen

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Janelle Monae in Harriet

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A few notes on the predictions:

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a biopic about Mr. Rogers.  Mr. Rogers is played by Tom Hanks and this sounds like the type of role that could get him his first Oscar nomination since …. well, forever.

Call of the Wild is an adaptation of Jack London’s novel.  It apparently features a CGI wolf.  It also has a potentially good supporting role for Harrison Ford, who has only one previous nomination to his name.

Fair and Balanced is about the history of Fox News and it was directed by Jay Roach.  It sounds terrible but if Vice and Adam McKay could get a nomination just for attacking Dick Cheney, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fair and Balanced manages to do the same.  John Lithgow plays Roger Ailes while the never-nominated Malcolm McDowell plays Rupert Murdoch.

Ford v Ferrari is a film about cars and competition and, if it’s a box office success, it sounds like it could pick up some nominations.  The film stars Christian Bale and Matt Damon.  I placed Damon in the supporting category because he plays Bale’s boss and his character is described as being “eccentric.”

Harriet is a biopic of Harriet Tubman.  It just sounds like it should be an Oscar nominee.  Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet while Janelle Monae …. well, I’m not sure who she plays.  But I’m going to predict she’ll get a supporting actress nomination.  What can I say?  It’s early in the year and supporting actress is always hard to predict.

The Irishman is directed by Martin Scorsese and it has a cast to die for: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, and more!  The Irishman should also have the full force of Netflix behind it.  My one concern is that the film is apparently going to use CGI to “de-age” its cast so that they can play characters who are in their 30s and 40s.  If it works, it’ll be great.  If it doesn’t, it’s going to be a huge distraction from whatever else is going on in the movie.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco was a big hit at Sundance.  Can Joe Talbot get a nomination for his directorial debut?  Can Danny Glover score his first ever nomination?  We’ll find out!

Little Women is Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to Lady Bird.  Previous adaptations of Little Women have done well at the Oscars.  I’m predicting acting nominations for Saoirse Ronan and Laura Dern but Meryl Steep is also in this film so she’s definitely a possibility as well.  At this point, Meryl could get nominated for appearing in a two-minute video on YouTube.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is Quentin Taranino’s 9th film.  Tarantino’s film usually do well with the Oscars and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is about Hollywood’s favorite subject, itself.  Some would say that Brad Pitt is overdue for an acting win.  Margot Robbie, meanwhile, is a rising star and some feel that she should have won for I, Tonya.

Torrance features Ben Affleck in what sounds like an Oscar bait role.  Affleck plays an alcoholic who ends up coaching a high school basketball team.  Director Gavin O’Connor previously worked wonders with Warrior so Torrance sounds right up his alley.

My Name is Dolemite is a biopic of the comedian and blaxploitation film star, Rudy Ray Moore.  Eddie Murphy plays Moore and the role sounds like it could allow him to display both his comedic and dramatic skills.  In theory, the Academy loves a comeback.

The Woman In The Window is based on an excellent novel and features Amy Adams as an agoraphobic woman who thinks that she may have witnessed a murder.  Adams is definitely a bit overdue for an Oscar.

The Rhythm Section is also based on a novel.  While it’s thriller plot doesn’t sound like typical Oscar bait, the film’s release was moved from February to November.  That would seem to indicate that Paramount has faith in both it and Blake Lively’s lead performance.

Clemency was another hit at Sundance.  Alfre Woodard is an acclaimed actress who has only been twice nominated for an Oscar.  A nomination here would honor not just Woodard’s performance but her entire career.

The Kitchen is a crime drama.  Tiffany Haddish, who is definitely an up-and-coming star, plays the wife of a Irish mobster who, when her husband is sent to prison, takes over his rackets.  It sounds like a good role and there are a lot of people who think Haddish’s performance in Girls Trip was unfairly snubbed.

The Goldfinch is based on a novel by Donna Tartt.  Nicole Kidman plays a wealthy widow who adopts the survivor of a terrorist bomber.  It just sounds like the type of role for which Kidman would be nominated.

In the end, nobody knows anything.  Especially me!  We’ll see how all of this plays out over the next few months!