Minari Takes The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance

Well, another Sundance Film Festival has come to a close!  Here’s what won at this year’s festival.  If this year is like other years, a few of the films mentioned below will also be players once Oscar season begins later this year.  For instance, just from what I’ve read, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Minari‘s name come up quite a bit between now and next January.

  • U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic: “Minari” Lee Isaac Chung
  • U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: “Boys State,” Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine
  • Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Tesla”
  • Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing: Carla Guttierez and Affonso Gonçalves
  • Producers Award: Huriyyah Muhammad, “Farewell Amor”
  • Short Film Grand Jury Prize: “So What If the Goats Die,” Sofia Alaoui
  • NEXT Audience Award: “I Carry You With Me,” Heidi Ewing
  • NEXT Innovator Award: “I Carry You With Me,” Heidi Ewing
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: “Softie,” Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko, and Ryan Mullins
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography: “Acasa, My Home,” Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling: “The Painter and the Thief,” Benjamin Ree
  • Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary: Iryna Tsilyk, “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange”
  • Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic: Radha Blank, “The 40-Year-Old Version”
  • Directing Award: U.S. Documentary: Garrett Bradley, “Time”
  • World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: Hubert Sauper, “Epicentro”
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Ben Whishaw, “Surge”
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, “This is Not a Burial, This is a Resurrection”
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay: Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero, “Identifying Features”
  • Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic: Maïmouna Doucouré, “Cuties”
  • World Cinema Grand Jury Prize World Dramatic: “Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness,” Massoud Bakhshi
  • Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary: “The Reason I Jump”
  • Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic: “Identifying Features”
  • Audience Award: U.S. Documentary: “Crip Camp”
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker: Arthur Jones, “Feels Good Man”
  • Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic: “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres, “The Fight”
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling: Kirsten Johnson, “Dick Johnson Is Dead”
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: Tyler H. Walk, “Welcome to Chechnya”
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast: “Charm City Kids”
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking: Josephine Decker, “Shirley”
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Neorealism: Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Edson Oda, “Nine Days”
  • Directing Award: U.S. Documentary: Garrett Bradley, “Time”

Here Are the 2016 Seattle Film Award Nominees!

Here are the 2016 Seattle Film Award Nominees!  I don’t know what the cat’s yawning about; these nominations are actually an interesting mix of the usual suspects (Moonlight, Manchester, La La Land) and a few unexpected but intriguing picks (like 13th and The Witch).




  • Damien Chazelle – La La Land
  • Robert EggersThe Witch
  • Barry JenkinsMoonlight
  • Paul Verhoeven – Elle
  • Denis Villeneuve – Arrival


  • Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
  • Ryan GoslingLa La Land
  • Logan Lerman – Indignation
  • Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington – Fences


  • Amy Adams – Arrival
  • Kate Beckinsale – Love & Friendship
  • Isabelle Huppert – Elle
  • Natalie Portman – Jackie
  • Emma StoneLa La Land



  • Viola Davis – Fences
  • Lily Gladstone – Certain Women
  • Naomie HarrisMoonlight
  • Kate McKinnonGhostbusters
  • Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea





  • EllePaul Verhoeven, director
  • The HandmaidenPark Chan-wook, director
  • The InnocentsAnne Fontaine, director
  • Under The ShadowBabak Anvari, director
  • The WailingNa Hong-jin, director








BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCE (18 years of age or younger upon start of filming):



What If Awards Season Began And Lisa Totally Missed It? Here Are The Gotham Nominations!


As proof of how busy I’ve been over the past few days, just consider this: On October 20th, awards season kicked off and I totally missed it!

That’s right.  On October 20th, the nominations for the 2016 Gotham Awards were announced.  The Gothams honor independent films and they actually have some pretty strict guidelines regarding what they consider to be independent.  So, a lot of this year’s potential Oscar nominees are not eligible for the Gotham Awards.

That said, over the past few years, the Gothams have slowly emerged as a somewhat helpful precursor.  While getting a Gotham nomination does not guarantee any film an Oscar nomination, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  That may especially be true this year as 2016 has, for the most part, not been the great cinematic year that 2015 was.  With no real favorites having yet to emerge, every precursor counts.

So, with that in mind and just a few days late, here are the Gotham nominations!

Best Feature

Certain Women
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (IFC Films)

Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater, director; Megan Ellison, Ginger Sledge, Richard Linklater, producers (Paramount Pictures)

Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan, director; Kimberly Steward, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin J. Walsh, producers (Amazon Studios)

Barry Jenkins, director; Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, producers (A24)

Jim Jarmusch, director; Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan, producers (Amazon Studios)

Best Documentary

Kirsten Johnson, director; Marilyn Ness, producer (Janus Films)

I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck, director; Rémi Grellety, Raoul Peck, Hébert Peck, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

O.J.: Made in America
Ezra Edelman, director; Caroline Waterlow, Ezra Edelman, Tamara Rosenberg, Nina Krstic, Deirdre Fenton, Erin Leyden, producers (ESPN Films)

Keith Maitland, director; Keith Maitland, Megan Gilbride, Susan Thomson, producers (Kino Lorber, Independent Lens)

Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg, directors and producers (Sundance Selects and Showtime Documentary Films)


Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Robert Eggers for The Witch (A24)

Anna Rose Holmer for The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert for Swiss Army Man (A24)

Trey Edward Shults for Krisha (A24)

Richard Tanne for Southside with You (Roadside Attractions and Miramax)

Best Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan (CBS Films)

Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman (Amazon Studios)

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Screenplay by Barry Jenkins (A24)

Paterson, Jim Jarmusch (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor*

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (CBS Films)

Adam Driver in Paterson (Amazon Studios)

Joel Edgerton in Loving (Focus Features)

Craig Robinson in Morris from America (A24)

Best Actress*

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship (Amazon Studios)

Annette Bening in 20th Century Women (A24)

Isabelle Huppert in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Ruth Negga in Loving (Focus Features)

Natalie Portman in Jackie (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor*

Lily Gladstone in Certain Women (IFC Films)

Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Royalty Hightower in The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Sasha Lane in American Honey (A24)

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch (A24)

* The 2016 Best Actor/Best Actress and Breakthrough Actor nominating panels also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award for ensemble performance to Moonlight, “in which actors at all levels of experience give outstanding performances that speak eloquently to one another both within and across each chapter of the story.” The awards will go to actors Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders.




Documentary Review: Weiner (dir by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg)


I just finished watching Weiner, the new documentary about Anthony Weiner, the very creepy former Congressman from New York.

I know it may seem strange for me, the girl who launches into at least one “I’m sick of hearing about politics” rant a day, to watch Weiner but this documentary has been getting considerable acclaim.  In a year when very few Oscar contenders have yet to emerge, Weiner has already been declared by many to the be the front-runner for this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film.  So, really — what choice did I have but to watch?

Then again, even if it wasn’t a potential Oscar contender, I would probably still want to watch Weiner.  Anthony Weiner’s story is a fascinatingly awful one and how people react to it seems to largely depend on whether they lean to the right or to the left.  To those on the left, Anthony Weiner is almost a tragic figure, a forceful advocate who was undone by his personal weaknesses.  To those on the right, Weiner is a symbol of liberal hypocrisy.  And, for those in the apathetic middle (like me), he’s a creepy and somewhat pathetic perv who used to serve in Congress and who is now lucky if he can get a cameo in a Sharknado sequel.

Of course, when it comes to Anthony Weiner, the thing that we can all agree on is that, regardless of what happened, it was all his fault.  Weiner opens with a montage of Antony Weiner’s rise and fall.  We see him screaming on the house floor and taunting Republicans on a news program.  We then see him being asked if he posted a picture of his “bulge” on twitter.  We watch as Weiner denies posting the picture and then admits to posting the picture.  Weiner says he will never resign from Congress.  Obama pops up for a second to tell an interviewer that he thinks Weiner should resign.  And then, Weiner does resign.

The documentary picks up two years later.  Anthony Weiner is running for Mayor of New York and, despite lingering questions about his online activities, Weiner has emerged as the front runner.  In fact, Weiner is so confident that he’s going to win the Democratic nomination that he even invites a documentary film crew to follow him during the campaign.  It’s obvious that, initially, both Weiner and the documentarian believe that this documentary is going to be a story of redemption.

And so, we follow Weiner as he campaigns.  We see his enthusiastic volunteers, all talking about why they want Anthony Weiner to be the next mayor of New York.  We meet Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, and we listen as people gush about how close she is to Hillary Clinton.  Everything seems to be perfect…

…And then, suddenly, things change.  It turns out that Weiner has not stopped his online activities.  Instead, it appears that he’s become even more reckless than before.  The press discovers that Weiner’s online name was “Carlos Danger.”  One of Weiner’s sexting partners, Sydney Leathers, emerges as a celebrity.  Thought Huma stands with her husband in public, the documentary cameras catch her in private, often sitting alone and looking like she can’t believe that, out of all the available men in D.C., she ended up married to someone who thought Carlos Danger sounded like a plausible name.

And through it all, Anthony Weiner seems blissfully unaware.  He continues to campaign for mayor and cannot seem to understand why people keep asking him about the scandal.  He gets angry.  He snaps at hecklers.  Suddenly, nobody is returning his phone calls.  Nobody is taking him seriously as a candidate.  And yet, Weiner still seems to be convinced that he’s going to win.  One of the documentary’s best scenes takes place on election night, when Weiner watches the results and realizes that, in a matter of days, he’s gone from being the front runner to coming in dead last.  Making matters even worse, of course, is that both the press and Sydney Leathers have gathered outside of Weiner’s campaign headquarters, waiting for him and Huma to emerge so that they can literally pounce on them.

It makes for a fascinating documentary, though perhaps not in the way that the documentarians originally intended.  As much as the film attempts to paint Weiner as being a tragic character, a talented man brought down by his own mistakes, the real Anthony Weiner comes across as being a shallow narcissist who, through a combination of arrogance and stupidity, actually thought it would be a good idea to have a documentary crew follow him around despite knowing that there was a potential scandal hanging over his head.  It makes for a memorable portrait of what happens with ambition meets compulsion.

The film’s getting a lot attention because it provides a behind-the-scenes look at Huma Abedin.  With Hillary Clinton pretty much guaranteed to be our next President, Huma is also guaranteed to soon become one of the most powerful people in the country.  Unlike Weiner, who sometimes comes across as being almost compulsive in his need to be the center of attention, Huma is a far more reticent figure.  Whereas Weiner frequently talks straight to the camera and answers questions from the filmmakers, Huma is usually seen in the background, smiling when Weiner is doing well and glaring when he’s not.  There’s not a single scene in the movie where she doesn’t seem to have up her guard but then again, can you blame her?  Unlike her husband, Huma instinctively understands that there’s no coming back from being outed as Carlos Danger.  When Huma eventually leaves Weiner’s campaign so that she can travel with Hillary Clinton, you feel almost relieved for her.  At least she won’t have to put up with Anthony’s bullshit for a while.

Weiner may have originally be envisioned as tale of redemption but instead, it became a story of how a narcissist self-destructed.  Whether that narcissist deserves a third or fourth chance to live up to his potential is a question that the audience will have to answer for themselves.