The Black Film Critic Circle Select Dolemite Is My Name As The Best of 2019!


On Sunday, the Black Film Critics Circle announced their picks for the best of 2019!

And here they are:

Best Film: Dolemite Is My Name
Best Director: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) and Kasi Lemmons (Harriet)
Best Actor: Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)
Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (Us)
Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood)
Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name)
Best Original Screenplay: Lena Waithe (Queen & Slim)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian (The Irishman)
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (1917)
Best Foreign Film: Parasite
Best Documentary: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Best Animated Film: I Lost My Body
Best Ensemble: Dolemite Is My Name
Pioneer Award: Ruth E Carter
Rising Star: Kelvin J. Harrison
Special Mention: Lloyd ‘Kam’ Williams

The Women Film Critics Circle Honors Portrait of a Lady on Fire!


The Hollywood Foreign Press Association weren’t the only ones making an announcement today!  The Women Film Critics Circle also announced their picks for the best of 2019!

And here they are:

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma)
    Runner-up: Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN

  • Harriet (dir. Kasi Lemmons)
    Runner-up: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma)

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER (Screenwriting Award)

  • Greta Gerwig (Little Women)
    Runner-up: Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire)

BEST ACTRESS

  • Tie: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) and Lupita Nyong’o (US)
    Runner-up: Renée Zellweger (Judy)

BEST ACTOR

  • Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
    Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma)
    Runner-up: Atlantics (dir. Mati Diop)

BEST DOCUMENTARY BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

  • Varda by Agnès (dir. Agnès Varda)
    Runner-ups: Maiden (dir. Alex Holmes) and Honeyland (dir. Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov)

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES

  • Marriage Story
    Runner-up: The Aeronauts

BEST ANIMATED FEMALE

  • Anna (Frozen 2)
    Runner-up: Bo Peep (Toy Story 4)

BEST SCREEN COUPLE

  • (TIE) Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Noémie Merlant/Adèle Haenel) and Marriage Story (Scarlett Johansson/Adam Driver)
    Runner-up: Hustlers (Jennifer Lopez/Constance Wu)

ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD – For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women

  • (TIE) Bombshell (dir. Jay Roach) and The Nightingale (dir. Jennifer Kent)
    Runner-up: Hustlers (dir. Lorene Scafaria)

JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD – For best expressing the woman of color experience in America

  • Harriet (dir. Kasi Lemmons)
    Runner-up: Queen & Slim (dir. Melina Matsoukas)

KAREN MORLEY AWARD – For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity

  • Harriet (dir. Kasi Lemmons)
    Runner-up: Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)

ACTING AND ACTIVISM AWARD
Jane Fonda

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Alfre Woodard

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Winner: The Silence of the Lambs (dir by Jonathan Demme)


Oh, The Silence of the Lambs, I have such mixed feelings about you.

On the one hand, I’m a horror fan and Silence of the Lambs is a very important film in the history of horror.  Back in 1992, it was the first horror film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture!  It even made history by winning all of the big “five” awards — Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay!  It was the first film since One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and It Happened One Night to pull that off!

Beyond that, it’s one of the most influential films ever made.  Every erudite serial killer owes a debt to Anthony Hopkins’s performance as Hannibal Lecter.  Every competent but untested and unappreciated female FBI agent owes a debt to Jodie Foster’s performance as Clarice Starling.  Even though the whole criminal profiler craze probably owes more to Manhunter (a film to which Silence of the Lambs is a sequel, though that often seems to go unacknowledged) than to anything else, this Oscar winner still definitely played a part.  I mean, how many people watched Manhunter for the first time, specifically because Lecter mentioned the events in that earlier film in Silence of the Lambs?

Plus, this won an Oscar for Jonathan Demme, one of my favorite directors!  And while I’m sure Jodie Foster would have gone on to have a strong career regardless of whether she had played Clarice Starling or not, it’s generally acknowledged that Silence of the Lambs revitalized the career of Anthony Hopkins.  So for that, we should all be thankful.

And yet, it can be strange to watch Silence of the Lambs today.  All of the imitations (not to mention some ill-thought sequels and prequels) have lessened its bite.  I can only imagine how it must have freaked out audiences when it was first released but I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed the first time that I watched the film.  Looking back, I can see that disappointment was due to having been told that it were one of the scariest movies of all time but, because, I had seen a countless number of imitations, parodies, and homages, I felt as if I had already watched the film.  So, I wasn’t shocked when Lecter turned out to be ruthlessly manipulative and dangerously charismatic.  Nor was I shocked when he managed to escape and poor Charles Napier ended up strung up in that cage.  I’m sure that audiences in 1991 were freaked out, though.

Actually, as good as Foster and Hopkins and Scott Glenn are, I think the best performance in the film comes from Ted Levine, playing Buffalo Bill.  Seriously, Levine’s performance still freaks me out.  It’s the voice and the way he says, “Precious.”  Levine’s performance, I found to be a hundred times more frightening than Anthony Hopkins’s and I think it’s due to the fact that Hannibal Lecter was clearly an author’s invention while Levin’s Buffalo Bill came across like he might very will be hiding in an alley somewhere, waiting for one of your friends to walk by. (Interestingly enough, I had the same reaction when I first saw Manhunter.  Brian Cox did a good job as Lecter but he still came across as a bit cartoonish.  Meanwhile, Tom Noonan was absolutely terrifying.)  Levine has subsequently gone on to play a lot of nice guy roles.  He was a detective on Monk, for instance.  Good for him.  I’m glad to see he was able to escape being typecast.  Admittedly, I do kinda wonder how many serial killer roles he had to turn down immediately after the release of The Silence Of The Lambs.

Still, it’s a good film.  Time may have lessened it’s power but The Silence of the Lambs is still an effective and well-directed thriller.  It’s impossible not to cheer for Clarice.  It’s impossible not to smile at the fun that Anthony Hopkins seems to be having in the role of Lecter.  Jonathan Demme creates a world of shadows and darkness and still adds enough little quirks to keep things interesting.  (I especially liked Lecter watching a stand-up special in his cell.)  It’s the little details that makes the world of The Silence of the Lambs feel lived in, like Clarice’s nervous laugh as she gives a civilian instructions on what to do in case she accidentally gets trapped in a storage locker.  Even the film’s final one liner will make you smile, even though it’s the type of thing that every film seemed to feel the need to do nowadays.  It’s still a good movie, even if it no longer feels as fresh as it once may have.

Horror Film Review: Vampire’s Kiss (dir by Robert Bierman)


Nicolas Cage plays the world’s biggest douchebag in the 1989 film Vampire’s Kiss.

Cage is playing Peter Loew, who is kind of like Patrick Bateman’s less successful cousin.  He’s got a nice apartment in New York City and he wears fairly nice clothes and he has this weird, stuffed-up way of speaking.  By night, Peter spends all of his time at the bars and the clubs, trying to get laid.  During the day, Peter goes to his job as a literary agent, where he sits around in his office and spends most of his time tormenting his secretary, Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso).

Peter has recently been tasked with finding the Heatherton Contract.  It’s a contract from 1963, one that was signed long before either Peter or Alva joined the company.  All Peter knows is that the contract is somewhere in a huge stack of files.  Harold Heatherton wants a copy of the contract so that he can frame it.  Peter wants the contract so that he can advance at his job and make even more money.  Alva just wants to be left alone.

“ALVA!” Peter spends his days yelling from the office.

“I hate my boss!” Alva says as she spend the morning crying in bed.

Yes, Peter is a jerk.  He maintains a toxic work environment.  He’s a misogynist.  He’s the type of asshole who screams at Alva to go find the Heatherton Contract and then stares at her backside as she walks back to her desk.  He’s a terrible human being and he’s steadily getting worse.  That’s because Peter is convinced that he’s turning into a vampire.  There’s even a lengthy scene where he stands in front of a bathroom mirror, moaning that he has no reflection.  Of course, we can see that he absolutely does have a reflection.

In his apartment and his office, he is often visited by Rachel (Jennifer Beals).  Rachel has fangs.  Rachel bites him in the neck.  Rachel sucks his blood.  But is Rachel there or is she a figment of his imagination?  Is he truly a vampire or is he like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or the lead character in George Romero’s Martin?  He has become so consumed by his fantasies of being an all-powerful monster that he can no longer tell the difference between fantasy and reality?

Vampire’s Kiss is understandably best known for Cage’s demented performance.  Cage bulges his eyes, screams his lines, and spends a good deal of the film walking around with his shoulders hunched up.  This is the film for which Cage famously ate a live cockroach.  It’s undeniably watchable, though I think Cage made the mistake of playing Peter as being obviously unhinged even before he decided that he was a vampire.  The scenes where he obsesses over the Heatherton Contract start out as mildly amusing but become more disturbing as the film progresses and Peter grows more and more deranged.  From the moment that he started to chase the terrified Alva through the office, the film became so unpleasant that I just wanted it to hurry up and end.  On the plus side, Alva does get revenge though I think it would have been more effective (or maybe, just for me, more satisfying) if the film’s final action had been carried out by Alva herself.

Vampire’s Kiss is a film that has quite an enthusiastic cult following.  Having watched it, I can say that I’m not a member of that cult, though I can understand why Cage’s unhinged performance has fans.  The film is about 20 minutes too long and it reveals the truth about Cage’s “vampirism” far too early but, if nothing else, Cage really does throw himself into it.

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