Spring Breakdown: The Beach Bum (dir by Harmony Korine)


February is over!  Welcome to March!

Now, the first two weeks of March is, traditionally, when most schools give their students a week off for Spring Break.  I have a lot of good Spring Break memories and, to be honest, I’ve always kind of resented the fact that Spring Break is something that only schools do.  To me, it should be like a national holiday where everything stops for a week and everyone hangs out at the beach for a few days.

Of course, this year’s Spring Break may be a bit of a disappointment, what with everyone freaking out about …. well, everything.  That’s a shame but fear not!  You may not be able to leave behind your fears long enough to go down to the beach but at least you can still watch movies about the beach, right?  So, with that in mind, over the next two weeks, I will be reviewing some films for Spring Break!

It’s time for Spring Breakdown!

Let’s get things started with the 2019 film, The Beach Bum.

The beach bum of the title is an always stoned, alcoholic poet named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), who spends his time wandering around the Florida Keys.  Moondog has been working on a book for several years and he’s a bit of a local celebrity.  Everyone that he meets tends to like him, or at least they do until he ruins their lives.  Moondog is irresponsible, immature, and apparently some sort of genius as well.  Moondog is also extremely laid back.  Even when he finds out that his wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), cheated on him with his best friend, a singer named Lingerie (Snoop Dogg), Moondog is okay with it.  He’s always loved Minnie but he’s never had a problem cheating on her so why shouldn’t she do the same to him?

After Moondog shows up late for his daughter’s wedding and goes out of his way to make a scene, he goes for a drive with Minnie.  Of course, since Moondog is drunk off his ass, he ends up crashing the car and killing his wife.  In her will, Minnie leaves half of her fortune to their daughter, Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen).  She leaves the other half to Moondog, with the stipulation that Moondog will only get the money after he finishes his book.

The rest of the film follows, in an episodic fashion, Moondog as he tries to finish his book and get his money.  Along the way, he commits crimes, dabbles with various jobs, and spends time in jail and drug rehab.  He meets a host of eccentric and destructive characters, almost all of who are the type of outsiders who seem as if they’re destined to eventually be the subject of a “Florida man” headline.  For instance, Flicker (Zac Efron) is a pyromaniac.  And Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence) hosts dolphin tours but, unfortunately, cannot tell the difference between a dolphin and a shark.

When The Beach Bum was first released in March of last year, it was eagerly anticipated because it was Harmony Korine’s first film since 2012’s Spring Breakers.  Despite the fact that Spring Breakers and The Beach Bum both take place in Florida and feature a lot of beach action, the two films might as well be taking place in separate universes.  The Beach Bum is as laid back as Spring Breakers was violent.  If Spring Breakers was a film that seemed to be fueled by ecstasy and cocaine, The Beach Bum is a celebration of getting high and enjoying life.  If Spring Breakers was all about being young, The Beach Bum is about growing old without giving up your individuality.

In many ways, The Beach Bum is the ultimate Matthew McConaughey film and how you react to the film will depend on how much tolerance you have for Matthew McConaughey at his most McConaugheyest.  Indeed, if you like Moondog, it’ll probably be because you like Matthew McConaughey.  As a character, Moondog is a jerk.  He nearly ruins his daughter’s wedding.  He drives drunk and kills his wife.  He refuses to take responsibility for being a general fuck-up and, from what little we hear of his work, he appears to be a subpar poet as well.  And yet, Matthew McConaughey brings enough of his own natural charm to the role that it’s tempting to forgive Moondog.  You can understand why some people in the film are willing to tolerate him, even though he’s basically a pain in the ass to have around.

The Beach Bum is not a film for everyone.  I appreciated Matthew McConaughey’s performance and I also appreciated the fact that Harmony Korine didn’t try to remake Spring Breakers.  At the same time, the film was a bit too loosely constructed to really hold my interest and a little bit of Moondog goes a long way.  I saw this film last year and I’ve really had no desire to rewatch it.  That said, the cinematography frequently makes Florida looks like the most beautiful place on Earth and, regardless of what you may think about his poetry, at least Moondog just keeps on L-I-V-I-N, livin’.

Add to that, Moondog’s going to enjoy Spring Break, no doubt about it.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Wolf of Wall Street (dir by Martin Scorsese)


Suck it, The Big Short The Wolf of Wall Street is the best film to be made about Wall Street this century.

Martin Scorsese’s 2013 financial epic tells the true story of a group of rather sleazy people who got rich and who basically, to quote Robert De Niro from an earlier Scorsese film, “fucked it all up.”  Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, giving what I still consider to be the best performance of his career) is the son of an accountant named Max (Rob Reiner).  Fresh out of college, Jordan gets a job on Wall Street.  Under the mentorship of the eccentric (but rich) Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), Jordan discovers that the job of a stock broker is to dupe people into buying stock that they might not need while, at the same time, making a ton of money for himself.  With the money comes the cocaine and the prostitutes and everything else that fuels the absurdly aggressive and hyper-masculine world of Wall Street.  Jordan is intrigued but, after the stock market crashes in 1987, he’s also out of a job.

Fortunately, Jordan is never one to give up.  He may no longer be employed on Wall Street but that doesn’t mean that he can’t sell stocks.  He gets a job pushing “penny stocks,” which are low-priced stocks for very small companies.  Because the price of the stock is so low, the brokers get a 50% commission on everything they sell.  Because Jordan is such an aggressive salesman, he manages to make a fortune by convincing people to buy stock in otherwise worthless companies.  As Jordan’s boss (played, in an amusing cameo, by Spike Jonze) explains it, what they’re doing isn’t exactly regulated by the government, which just means more money for everyone!  Yay!

Working with his neighbor, Donny Azoff (Jonah Hill, at his most eccentric), Jordan starts his own brokerage company.  Recruiting all of his friends (the majority of whom are weed dealers who never graduated from high school), Jordan starts Stratton Oakmont.  Using high-pressure sales tactics and a whole lot of other unethical and occasionally illegal techniques, Jordan soon makes a fortune.  When Forbes Magazine publishes an expose that portrays Jordan as being little more than a greedy con man, Stratton Oakmont is flooded by aspiring stock brokers who all want to work for “the wolf of Wall Street.”

And, for a while, Jordan has everything that he wants.  While the Stratton Oakmont offices become a den of nonstop drugs and sex, Jordan buys a huge mansion, a nice car, and marries a model named Naomi (Margot Robbie).  His employees literally worship Jordan as he begins and ends every working day with inspirational (and often hilariously profane) sermons, encouraging his people to get out there and sell no matter what.  Of course, making that much money, Jordan has to find a way to hide it from the IRS.  Soon, with the help of Naomi’s aunt (Joanna Lumley), he is smuggling millions of dollars into Switzerland where a banker (Jean Dujardin, who is both hilariously suave and hilariously sleazy a the time) helps him hide it all.

When Jordan learns that the FBI and SEC are looking into his dealings, Jordan invites Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) to come visit him on his yacht and, in a scene that launched a thousand memes, the two of them have a friendly conversation that’s largely made up of passive aggressive insults.  Jordan taunts Denham over the fact that Denham washed out when he tried to get a job on Wall Street.  Denham laughingly asks Jordan to repeat something that sounded like it may have been a bribe.  When Denham leaves the boat, Jordan taunts him by tossing a wad of hundred dollars bills into the wind….

And here’s the thing.  Yes, the media and our political class tells us that we’re supposed to hate that Jordan Belforts of the world.  One can imagine Bernie Sanders having a fit while watching Jordan brag about how he cheated the IRS.  If Adam McKay or Jay Roach had directed this film, one can imagine that they would have used the yacht scene to portray Jordan Belfort as pure evil.  (McKay probably would have tossed in Alfred Molina as a waiter, asking Belfort if he wants to feast on the lost future of the children of America.)  But the truth of the matter is that most viewers, even if they aren’t willing to admit it, will secretly be cheering for Jordan when he throws away that money.  DiCaprio is so flamboyantly charismatic and Scorsese, as director, so perfectly captures the adrenaline high of Jordan’s lifestyle that you can’t help but be sucked in.  He may be greedy and unethical but he just seems to be having so much fun!  Just as how Goodfellas and Casino portrayed life in the mafia as being an intoxicating high (as well as being more than a little bit dangerous), The Wolf of Wall Street refrains from passing easy judgment and it steadfastly refuses to climb onto a moral high horse.  Jordan narrates his own story, often talking directly to the camera and almost always defending his actions.  As a director, Scorsese is smart enough to let us make up own minds about how we feel about Jordan and his story.

Of course, when Jordan falls, it’s a dramatic fall.  That said, it’s not quite as dramatic of a fall as what happened to Ray Liotta in Goodfellas or Robert De Niro in Casino.  No one gets blown up, for instance.  But Jordan does lose everything that gave his life meaning.  By the end of the film, he’s been reduced to giving seminars and challenging attendees to sell him a pen.  (“Well,” one hapless gentleman begins, “it’s a very nice pen…..”)  During the film’s final scenes, it’s not so much a question of whether Jordan has learned anything from his fall.  Instead, the movie leaves you wondering if he’s even capable of learning.  At heart, he’s the wolf of Wall Street.  That’s his nature and it’s really the only thing that he knows how to do.  He’s a bit like Ray Liotta living in the suburbs at the end of Goodfellas.  He’s alive.  He has his freedom and a future.  But he’s still doesn’t quite fit in.  Much like Moses being denied the opportunity to physically enter the Promised Land, Jordan’s punishment for his hubris is to spend his life in exile from where he truly belongs.  And yet, you know that Jordan — much like Henry Hill — probably wouldn’t change a thing if he had the chance to live it all over again.  He’d just hope that he could somehow get a better ending while making the same decisions.

Unlike something like The Big Short, which got bogged down in Adam McKay’s vapid Marxism, The Wolf of Wall Street works precisely because it refuses to pass judgment.  It refuses to tell us what to think.  I imagine that a lot of people watched The Wolf of Wall Street and were outraged by the way Jordan Belfort made his money.  I imagine that an equal number of people watched the film and started thinking about how much they would love to be Jordan Belfort.  The Wolf of Wall Street is a big, long, and sometimes excessive film that dares the audience to think of themselves.  That’s one reason why it’ll be remembered after so many other Wall Street films are forgotten.

The Wolf of Wall Street was nominated for best picture of the year.  It lost to 12 Years A Slave.

What If Lisa Had All The Power: 2019 Emmy Nominations Edition


In a few hours, the 2019 Emmy nominations will be announced!

Since I love awards and I love making lists, it’s an annual tradition that I list who and what would be nominated if I had all the power.  Keep in mind that what you’re seeing below are not necessarily my predictions of what or who will actually be nominated.  Many of the shows listed below will probably be ignored tomorrow morning.  Instead, this is a list of the nominees and winners if I was the one who was solely responsible for picking them.

Because I got off to a late start this year, I’m only listing the major categories below.  I may go back and do a full, 100-category list sometime tomorrow.  Who knows?  I do love making lists.

Anyway, here’s what would be nominated and what would win if I had all the power!  (Winners are listed in bold.)

(Want to see who and what was nominated for Emmy consideration this year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for last year?  Click here!)

(Want to see my picks for 2012?  I know, that’s kinda random.  Anyway, click here!)

Programming

Outstanding Comedy Series

Barry

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

GLOW

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

One Day At A Time

Veep

Vida

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul

Dynasty

Flack

Game of Thrones

The Magicians

My Brilliant Friend

Ozark

You

Outstanding Limited Series

Chernobyl

Fosse/Verdon

The Haunting of Hill House

I Am The Night

Maniac

Sharp Objects

True Detective

A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Television Movie

The Bad Seed

Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Brexit

Deadwood

King Lear

Native Son

No One Would Tell

O.G.

Performer

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Iain Armitage in Young Sheldon

Ted Danson in The Good Place

Bill Hader in Barry

Pete Holmes in Crashing

Glenn Howerton in A.P. Bio

Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Penn Badgley in You

Jason Bateman in Ozark

James Franco in The Deuce

John Krasinski in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul

Dominic West in The Affair

Outstanding Lead Actor In a Limited Series

Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal

Jared Harris in Chernobyl

Jonah Hill in Maniac

Chris Pine in I Am The Night

Sam Rockwell in Fosse/Verdon

Henry Thomas in The Haunting of Hill House

Outstanding Lead Actor In An Original Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch in Brexit

Anthony Hopkins in King Lear

Rob Lowe in The Bad Seed

Ian McShane in Deadwood

Timothy Olyphant in Deadwood

Jeffrey Wright in O.G.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

Melissa Barrera in Vida

Kristen Bell in The Good Place

Alison Brie in GLOW

Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

Zoe Perry in Young Sheldon

Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama Series

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones

Gaia Girace in My Brilliant Friend

Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Deuce

Laura Linney in Ozark

Margherita Mazzucco in My Brilliant Friend

Anna Paquin in Flack

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

India Eisley in I Am The Night

Carla Gugino in The Haunting of Hill House

Charlotte Hope in The Spanish Princess

Emma Stone in Maniac

Michelle Williams in Fosse/Verdon

Outstanding Lead Actress in an Original Movie

Shannen Doherty in No One Would Tell

Chelsea Frei in Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter

McKenna Grace in The Bad Seed

Paula Malcolmson in Deadwood

Molly Parker in Deadwood

Christina Ricci in Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Fred Armisen in Documentary Now!

Andre Braugher in Brooklyn Nine Nine

Anthony Carrigan in Barry

Tony Hale in Veep

Sam Richardson in Veep

Stephen Root in Barry

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones

Giancarlo Esposito in Better Call Saul

Peter Mullan in Ozark

Luca Padovan in You

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series

Stephen Dorff in True Detective

Timothy Hutton in The Haunting of Hill House

Chris Messina in Sharp Objects

Stellan Skarsgard in Chernobyl

Justin Thereoux in Maniac

Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal

Outstanding Supporting Actor In An Original Movie

Jim Broadbent in King Lear

Bill Camp in Native Son

Theothus Carter in O.G.

Rory Kinnear in Brexit

Gerald McRaney in Deadwood

Will Poulter in Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Comedy Series

Caroline Aaron in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Alex Borstein in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Anna Chlumsky in Veep

Sarah Goldberg in Barry

Rita Moreno in One Day At A Time

Sarah Sutherland in Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Summer Bishil in The Magicians

Elisa Del Genio in My Brilliant Friend

Julia Garner in Ozark

Lena Headey in Game of Thrones

Elizabeth Lail in You

Shay Mitchell in You

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series

Jessie Buckley in Chernobyl

Patricia Clarkson in Sharp Objects

Sally Field in Maniac

Patricia Hodge in A Very English Scandal

Connie Nielsen in I Am The Night

Emily Watson in Chernobyl

Outstanding Supporting Actress In An Original Movie

Kim Dickens in Deadwood

Florence Pugh in King Lear

Margaret Qualley in Favorite Son

Emma Thompson in King Lear

Emily Watson in King Lear

Robin Weigert in Deadwood

 

Film Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (dir by Mike Mitchell)


Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel that the Lego movies are their own worst enemy.

I mean, they’re just so cute and fun and likable and cheerfully dorky that it’s easy to overlook just clever they often are.  Everything is Awesome may have been a cute song but it was also a pitch perfect parody of mindless conformity.  And yes, The Lego Batman Movie got a lot of laughs out of Will Arnett’s guttural growl but it was also the best Batman film since The Dark Knight and it also had a lot to say about how lonely it can be when you’re an extremely paranoid super hero.  As for The Lego Ninjago Movie …. well, give me a minute and I’ll think of something.  Uhmmmm …. it had that cute kitty!  Woo hoo!

Beyond all that, all of the Lego movies — from the best to the less-than-the-best — celebrate imagination.  They celebrate being an individual and the joy of creating your own world as opposed to just conforming to someone else’s rules.  As much as I loved Chris Pratt as Emmett and Elizabeth Banks as Wyldstyle, the heart of the first Lego Movie is to be found in the scene where Will Ferrell essentially realizes that he’s being a jerk when he won’t let his son build what he wants to build.

That said, the main appeal of the Lego movies is that they’re incredibly cute.  Just take The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part for instance.  Especially when compared to the first Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, this sequel has its flaws.  Admittedly, some of those flaws are unavoidable.  Just the fact that we start the movie knowing that everyone is in Will Ferrell’s house means that the sequel can’t take us as much by surprise as the first Lego Movie did.  Though the film’s original directors, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, wrote the script and contribute some genuinely witty dialogue, the sequel’s pacing occasionally seems a little bit off.  There’s a few slow spots, the majority of which are really only noticeable when you compare the sequel to the flawlessly paced first film.  And yet, in the end, it’s such a cute movie that it’s easy to overlook those flaws.

The sequel begins immediately where the first ended, with Will Ferrell decreeing that both his son and his daughter are now allowed to play with his Lego collection.  Jump forward five years and this has basically led to chaos.  The Lego Universe is now a Mad Max-style wasteland.  Not surprisingly, both Wylstyle and Batman have really gotten into their new dystopian lifestyle.  Meanwhile, Emmett remains just as blindly cheerful and optimistic as ever.  He still feels that everything is awesome.

Or, at least Emmet feels that way until all of his friends are kidnapped to the Systar System, where Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) wants to marry Batman.  Determined to rescue his friends, Emmett decides to travel to the Systar System himself.  Helping him out is Rex Dangervest, who seems like the type of adventurer that Emmett has always dreamed of becoming.  Chris Pratt voices both Rex and Emmett and the film has a lot of fun playing with Pratt’s post-Guardians of the Galaxy stardom.  Rex is not just an intergalactic explorer.  No, he’s also a cowboy, a dinosaur trainer, an archaeologist, a first baseman, and — we’re told — a script doctor.  (Those, of course, are references to Pratt’s roles in The Magnificent Seven, Jurassic World, and Moneyball.  Interestingly enough, his work in Passengers goes unmentioned.)  Rex pressures Emmett to become more cynical and ruthless in his efforts to save his friends and destroy the Systar System and Chris Pratt does a great job voicing both roles.  Indeed, if nothing else, this film will always stand as a tribute to the incredible and unending charm of Chris Pratt.

If Lego Movie 2 never reaches the glorious heights of the first film, that’s because the element of surprise has been lost.  There’s no moment  in the sequel that’s as memorable as when a live action Will Ferrell suddenly showed up in the first movie.  (In the second movie, Ferrell appears in a flashback and has a brief voice cameo as President Business.  Maya Rudolph does show up as his wife but the sequel’s live action scenes just don’t have the emotional impact of the first film’s.)  But, with all that in mind, it’s still an undeniably cute and entertaining movie.  All of your old favorites back — everyone from Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern to Alison Brie as Unikitty to Charlie Day as the astronaut. (Sadly, Liam Neeson did not return as the Good Cop/Bad Cop and his absence is felt.)  The film is full of clever parodies, my favorite being the references to Mad Max: Fury Road.  There’s more than enough witty lines, visual gags, and sweet moments that Lego Movie 2 will hold your interest and bring a smile to your face.

At the box office, Lego Movie 2 fell victim to the same Lego fatigue that took down the Lego Ninjago film and it did not become quite the phenomenon that the first movie did.  Regardless, it’s still a worthy sequel.  I wouldn’t quite say it’s awesome but it’s definitely a lot of fun.

Trailer Round-Up: Lizzie, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, The Good Cop, Maniac


Lisa already shared this week’s big trailer, the one for Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk.  Here’s the best of the rest:

Starring Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, Lizzie is revisionist take on the infamous Lizzie Borden murder trial.  Lizzie received some attention at Sundance this year and is set to be released into theaters on September 14th.

The Puppet Master and his puppets are back in the red band trailer for Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich .  Keep an eye out for them on August 17th!

Josh Groban is The Good Cop, in this upcoming series from Netflix.  Based on an acclaimed Israeli series, The Good Cop drops on September 21st.

And finally, Maniac.  Dropping the same day as The Good Cop, Maniac is described as being “a dark 10-episode comedy based on the 2014 Norwegian series about a guy who lives a fantasy life in his dreams but in reality is locked up at an institution.”  Directed by True Detective‘s  Cary Fukunaga, Maniac reunites Superbad co-stars, Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Alita: Battle Angel, Mid 90s, Love Gilda, Final Score, Hunter Killer, Iron Fist


Welcome to this week’s trailer round-up!

What do you get when you combine a script co-written by James Cameron with the direction of Robert Rodriguez?  We’ll find out when Alita: Battle Angel is released into theaters on December 21st!

A24’s latest period piece, Mid90s, will be released into theaters on October 19th.  This film is the directorial debut of Jonah Hill and, judging from the trailer, his film has got the 90s down.

SNL comedienne Gilda Radner gets a much deserved tribute in Love, Gilda.  This documentary will be in theaters on September 21st.

Judging from the trailer, Final Score looks like it might be the best action film of 1992.  It’s Die Hard in a stadium.  The Eurotrash villains take 35,000 football hooligans hostage but everyone’s too much into the match to notice.  At first, I thought this trailer had to be a parody.

Speaking of things that seem like parodies but are actually meant to be taken seriously, Hunter Killer is a real movie starring two real Oscar winners.  Keep an eye out for Gary Oldman and Common in theaters on October 26th.

Finally, proving that not even bad reviews can keep a Marvel hero down, Netflix’s Iron Fist returns for a second season on September 7th.

 

 

 

Playing Catch-Up: Sausage Party (dir by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan)


Sausage Party opens with a scene that could have come straight for a heart-warming Pixar film.  It’s morning and, in a gigantic grocery store called Shopwell’s, all of the grocery items are excited about the start of a new day.  The hot dogs are singing.  The buns are harmonizing.  The produce is bragging about how fresh they are.  Everyone is hoping that this will be the day that they are selected to leave the aisles of Shopwell’s and that they’ll be taken to the Great Beyond.  At Shopwell’s, shoppers are viewed as being Gods and being selected by a God means…

…well, no one is quite sure what it means but everyone’s sure that it has to be something good.  Surely, the Great Beyond couldn’t be something terrible, right?  At least, that’s what everyone assumes until a previously purchased jar of Honey Mustard returns to the store and tells a hot dog named Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote the film) that the Great Beyond is a lie.  The Great Beyond is not a paradise.  Instead, it’s something terrible.  Before Honey Mustard can be persuaded to give more details, it leaps off the shelf, choosing suicide over being restocked.

What could it all mean?  Well, there’s not too much time to worry about that because, even as Honey Mustard is committing suicide, a customer is selecting both Frank and Frank’s girlfriend, a bun named Brenda (Kristin Wiig).  They’re going to the Great Beyond together!  Yay!  Except…

…calamity!  A shopping cart collision leads to both Frank and Brenda being thrown to the floor.  While their friends are taken to the Great Beyond, Frank and Brenda are left to wander the store.  It turns out that Shopwell’s really comes alive after the lights go down and the doors are locked.  All of the grocery items leave their shelves and have one big party.  Frank seeks answers about the Great Beyond from a bottle of liquor named Firewater (Bill Hader).  Firewater has all the answers but you need to be stoned to truly understand.  This is a Seth Rogen movie, after all.  Meanwhile…

…Frank’s friends, the ones who survived the earlier cart collision, are discovering that the Great Beyond is not what they thought it was…

I apologize for all the ellipses but Sausage Party is the kind of movie that warrants them.  This is a rambling, occasionally uneven, and often hilariously funny little movie.  (I know that there were allegations that the film’s animators were treated horribly.  That’s sad to hear, not least because they did a truly wonderful job.)  Sausage Party was perhaps the ultimate stoner film of 2016, a comedy with a deeply philosophical bent that plays out with a logic that feels both random and calculated at the same time.

(If you’ve ever had the three-in-the-morning conversation about “What if our entire universe is just a speck of dust in a bigger universe?”, you’ll immediately understand what Sausage Party is trying to say.)

It’s also an amazingly profane little movie but again, that’s a huge reason why it works.  Yes, a lot of the humor is juvenile and hit-and-miss.  (I cringed whenever the film’s nominal villain, a douche voiced by Nick Kroll, showed up.)  But for every joke that misses, there’s a joke that works perfectly.  Interestingly, for all the silliness that’s inherent in the idea of making a film about talking grocery items, there’s a strain a very real melancholy running through Sausage Party.  Sausage Party may be a dumb comedy but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a lot on its mind.

Since it’s a Seth Rogen film, the cast is full of familiar voices.  Yes, James Franco can be heard.  So can Paul Rudd, Danny McBride, Salma Hayek, Edward Norton, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson.  They all sound great, bringing vibrant life to the film’s collection of consumables and condiments.

Sausage Party.  After watching it, it’s possible you’ll never eat another hot dog.

Here Are The 74th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


Oscar season continued today with even more precursors announcing their picks for the best of 2016!  Perhaps most importantly, the 74th Annual Golden Globe nominations were announced today!  Even though they rarely match up 100%, the Golden Globe nominations are considered to be one of the best precursors for what will be nominated for an Oscar in January.

So, should Silence be worried?  Martin Scorsese’s latest acclaimed film was totally snubbed by the Golden Globes.  That could be an ominous sign for a film that everyone seems to respect but which is still going to be a far harder sell at the box office than either The Wolf of Wall Street or Hugo.

But again, it’s never an exact match between the Globes and the Oscars and the Academy can nominate up to ten films for best picture.  Though it would certainly be interesting (and kinda neat) if it happened, I somehow doubt that the Academy is going nominate Deadpool over Silence.

(For that matter, I doubt Simon Helberg is going to pick up an Oscar nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins.  Just a feeling…)

Below are the Golden Globe film nominations!

(For the TV nominations, why not check out the list over at Awards Watch?)

MOTION PICTURES

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
20th Century Women
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street

Best Motion Picture – Animated
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
Sing
Zootopia

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
Divines (France)
Elle (France)
Neruda (Chile)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Amy Adams, Arrival
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Jonah Hill, War Dogs
Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel, Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Best Director – Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Arrival
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Gold,” Gold
“City of Stars,” La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
“Faith,” Sing
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls

Moana

Guilty Pleasure No. 31: Hail, Caesar! (dir by the Coen Brothers)


Sometimes, I wonder if I was the only filmgoer who actually enjoyed Hail, Caesar! when it was released in February.

Oh, don’t met wrong.  I know that I’m being a bit overdramatic when I say that.  It got some good reviews from the critics, though the praise was rather muted when compared to the reviews that traditionally greet the latest film from the Coen Brothers.  I know more than a few people who have agreed with me that Hail, Caesar! was an entertaining lark of a film.

But I know a lot more people who absolutely hated Hail, Caesar!  Of course, no film is going to please everyone and the Coen Brothers have always had a tendency to attempt to deliberately alienate their audience.  But what has always struck me is the fact that the people who disliked Hail, Caesar seem to really, really dislike it.  Talk to them and you get the feeling that they view Hail, Caesar as almost being some sort of a crime against both humanity and cinema.

Taking place in a stylized Hollywood in 1951, Hail, Caesar! tells the story of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).  Eddie is a shadowy figure.  As head of production at Capitol Pictures, Eddie’s job is to keep the “bad” behavior of the stars from getting out into the press.  (The press is represented by Tilda Swinton who, in a typical Coen Brothers twist, plays twin sisters who are rival gossip columnists.  If the thought of that makes you smile, you are potentially a part of the right audience for Hail Caesar.  If it makes you roll your eyes, you should probably avoid the film.)  Eddie is the most powerful man in Hollywood and he will do anything to protect the image of the American film industry.  He will lie.  He will cheat.  He will threaten.  He is so ruthless and so good at his job that even Lockheed Martin is trying to hire him away from Capitol.  And yet, at the same time, Eddie is also a family man and a Catholic who is so devout that he goes to confession on a nearly hourly basis.

(For all you non-Catholics out there, Pope Francis only goes to confession twice a month.)

Hail, Caesar! follows Eddie as he deals with a series of potential problems.  Temperamental director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) is upset because he’s been forced to cast Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich, giving the film’s best performance), a good-natured but inarticulate cowboy star, in his sophisticated comedy.  Synchronized swimmer DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansoon) is not only pregnant but unmarried as well!  (It’s the 50s, remember.)

However, the biggest crisis is that Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has vanished from the set of his latest film. A mysterious group known as The Future has taken credit for kidnapping him.  It’s not really much of a spoiler to reveal that The Future is a cell of communist scriptwriters and they are determined to convert the rather dumb Baird to the struggle.  As opposed to most films about Hollywood in the 50s, the communist screenwriters are portrayed as being a bunch of self-righteous and rather cowardly nags, the majority of whom spend more time debating minutiae than actually trying to the overthrow capitalism.  In many ways, Hail, Caesar is the anti-Trumbo.

As you might guess from the plot description, there’s a lot going on in Hail, Caesar but none of it really adds up too much.  Nor is it supposed to.  We’re encouraged to laugh at these frantic characters, as opposed to sympathize with them.  Eddie Mannix and Hobie Doyle both emerge as heroes because they’re the only characters who remain calm and confident, regardless of what strangeness is happening onscreen.  Eddie may be ruthless, the film tells us, but at least he gets results.  Hobie may not be the smartest or most talented guy in Hollywood, we are told, but at least he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than who he is.

Hail, Caesar! is a bit of a lark, a celebration of style over substance.  As far as Coen Brother films go, Hail, Caesar has more in common with Burn After Reading than No Country For Old Men.  The film is largely an inside joke aimed at people who know the history of Hollywood, which is perhaps why some viewers reacted so negatively.  Inside jokes are fun when you’re in on the joke.  When you’re not in on it, though, they’re just annoying.

As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed Hail, Caesar!  It may not be the Coens at their best but it’s a lot of fun and it appealed me as both a history nerd and a lover of old movies.  The best parts of Hail, Caesar! are the scenes that parody the largely forgotten, big-budget studio productions of the 1950s.  This is the rare film that acknowledges that not every film made before the 1960s was a masterpiece.  The Coens love movies but that doesn’t keep them from getting a little bit snarky.  For example, check out this production number featuring Channing Tatum:

Is Hail, Caesar self-indulgent?

Yes.

Is it largely an inside joke?

Yes.

Did I absolutely adore it?

You better believe I did.

Hail,_Caesar!_Teaser_poster

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen

Film Review: True Story (dir by Rupert Goold)


True_Story_poster

In 2002, a man named Christian Longo was arrested in Mexico.  Longo, who was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, was charged with murdering his wife and his three children.  When he was arrested, he was using the name of Michael Finkel, a real-life travel writer for the New York Times.  When asked why he had been using Finkel’s name, Longo explained that he admired Finkel as a writer.

At the same time that Christian Longo was getting arrested, Michael Finkel was in the process of watching his career fall apart, the result of his having fabricated part of a story.  Fired from the New York Times, Finkel found himself unemployable.  When he discovered that Longo had been using his name, Finkel arranged to meet with him.  Not only was he curious as to why Longo wanted to be him but he also saw Longo as potentially being the story that could relaunch his career.

During their initial meeting, Longo told Finkel that he was a long-time admirer.  Longo agreed to tell Finkel his side of the story in exchange for writing lessons and Finkel’s promise to keep the details of their conversations a secret until after the trial.  Finkel agreed and soon, the two men became unlikely friends.

At first, Finkel believed that Longo was innocent.  But then, on the first day of the trial, Longo was asked how he pled to four charges of murder.   Longo entered two pleas of not guilty and two pleas of guilty and Finkel found himself forced to reexamine everything that he had previously believed about his new friend…

Amazingly enough, that’s a true story.  It’s also the subject matter of a recently released film called True Story.

In True Story, Michael Finkel is played by Jonah Hill and Christian Longo is played by James Franco.  Both Franco and Hill (who, despite having 3 Oscar nominations between them, remain oddly underrated actors) give the type of excellent performances that can elevate an entire film.  Interestingly enough, they’re both playing dramatic versions of their own typically comedic personas.  Hill plays up his trademark nerdy aggressiveness while Franco brings his own deliberately ambiguous persona to Christian Longo.  Just as James Franco enjoys leaving people guessing about who he really is, Longo seems to get a perverse pleasure out of keeping Finkel guessing about whether or not he really killed his family.  When Longo takes the stand in his own defense and gives his version of what happened on the night of the murders, he does it with a perverse gleam in his eye.  Longo may be facing the death penalty but mostly, he’s just enjoying being in the spotlight.

Hill and Franco are famous for being off-screen friends and they bring a lot of their own real-life chemistry to their shared scenes.  As played by Hill and Franco, Finkel and Longo develop a relationship that is nearly co-dependent.  Longo wishes that he could be a writer like Finkel.  Finkel wishes that he could be as personable and outwardly confident as Longo.  When Longo writes Finkel an 80-page letter that’s full of crude drawings, Finkel responds by taping each page to the wall of his office until he’s literally encircled by Longo’s words, much as how someone like me may have once been tempted to tape pictures of James Franco to the wall of her college dorm room.

With Franco and Hill both giving great performances, it’s a bit disappointing that the rest of the film isn’t always as strong.  Director Rupert Goold makes his feature film debut here and, at times, it feels as if he’s struggling to keep up with his actors.  There’s a lot of slow motion scenes of people walking down hallways and getting out of cars.  As well, too much of Finkel and Longo’s relationship is portrayed via montage.  We see countless rapidly-edited montages of Longo and Finkel speaking but, instead of actually hearing what the two of them are talking about, we instead listen to Marco Beltrami’s score.  Goold gets a lot of perfectly lit visuals but True Story is a film that could have used a rougher edge.

Even more unfortunate is that the film totally wastes Felicity Jones.  Playing Finkel’s wife, she doesn’t get to do much beyond looking pensive and concerned.  It’s a role that anyone could have played and it’s frustrating to watch because Felicity Jones is capable of doing so much more than just playing a worried wife.  Towards the end of the film, there’s a great scene where Longo and Jill talk on the phone and, at that moment, Felicity Jones finally gets to show some strength and personality.  James Franco, as well, seems to be relishing the chance to play up Longo’s manipulative side.  (It’s interesting to listen to the perversely flirtatious tone that he takes with her as opposed to the passive aggressive flattery that he uses on Finkel.)  The scene works wonders but then, the film makes the mistake of having Jill face Longo face-to-face and it falls flat precisely because Jill isn’t deep enough a character for us to feel any real satisfaction in watching her tell him off.

In the end, True Story is worth watching.  James Franco and Jonah Hill both give great performances.  If you’re a true crime fan like I am, you’ll find a lot of True Story to be intriguing.  Ultimately, if True Story is frustrating, it’s because it’s a good film that should have been great.