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 African-American Film Critics Association Honors Us


The African American Film Critics Association has selected Jordan Peele’s Us as the best film of the year!

Here’s a full list of their winners:

Best Film: “Us” (Universal Pictures)

Best Director: Jordan Peele (“Us,” Universal Pictures)

Best Actor: Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name,” Netflix)

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (“Us,” Universal Pictures)

Best Supporting Actor: Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy,” Warner Bros. Pictures)

Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“Dolemite Is My Name,” Netflix)

Best Breakout Performance: Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (“Waves,” A24)

Best Animated Film: “Abominable” (Universal Pictures)

Best Documentary: “The Black Godfather” (Netflix)

Best Foreign Film: “Parasite” (Neon)

Best Independent Film: “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (A24)

Best Screenplay (Presented with The Black List): Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite” (Neon)

Impact Award: “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)

We See You Award: Taylor Russell (“Waves,” A24)

The AAFCA 2019 Top Ten Films

1. “Us” (Universal Pictures)

2. “Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix)

3. “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

4. “Clemency” (Neon)

5. “The Irishman” (Netflix)

6. “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)

7. “Waves” (A24)

8. TIE “Parasite” (Neon) and “Atlantics” (Netflix)

9. The Farewell (A24)

10. “Harriet” (Focus Features)

The San Diego Film Critics Society Honors The Irishman


The San Diego Film Critics Society announced their picks for the best of 2019 earlier today!

And here they are!

(Check out a list of the nominations here!)

Best Picture

  • Winner: THE IRISHMAN
    Runner Up: MARRIAGE STORY

Best Director

  • Winner: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, UNCUT GEMS
    Runner Up: Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY

Best Actor

  • (TIE) Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER

Best Actress

  • Winner: Lupita Nyong’o, US
    Runner Up: Renée Zellweger, JUDY

Best Supporting Actor

  • (TIE) Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN & Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD

Best Supporting Actress

  • Winner: Zhao Shuzhen, THE FAREWELL
    Runner Up: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY

Best Comedic Performance

  • Winner: Wesley Snipes, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
    Runner Up: Taika Waititi, JOJO RABBIT

Best Original Screenplay

  • Winner: Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY
    Runner Up: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, UNCUT GEMS

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Winner: J.C. Lee, Julius Onah, LUCE
    Runner Up: Steven Zaillian, THE IRISHMAN

Best Documentary
Runner Up: LOVE, ANTOSHA

  • Winner: ONE CHILD NATION

Best Animated Film

  • Winner: I LOST MY BODY
    Runner Up: TOY STORY 4

Best Foreign-Language Film

  • Winner: PARASITE
    Runner Up: TRANSIT

Best Costume Design

  • Winner: Ruth E. Carter, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
    Runner Up: Anna Robbins, DOWNTON ABBEY

Best Editing

  • Winner: Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker & Dirk Westervelt, FORD V FERRARI
    Runner Up: Benny Safdie, Ronald Bronstein, UNCUT GEMS

Best Cinematography

  • Winner: Jarin Blaschke, THE LIGHTHOUSE
    Runner Up: Roger Deakins, 1917

Best Production Design

  • Winner: Dennis Gassner, 1917
    Runner Up: Jess Gonchor, LITTLE WOMEN

Best Visual Effects

  • Winner: AD ASTRA
    Runner Up: 1917

Best Use of Music

  • Winner: ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
    Runner Up: JOJO RABBIT

Best Ensemble

  • Winner: KNIVES OUT
    Runner Up: THE IRISHMAN

Breakthrough Artist

  • Winner: Florence Pugh, LITTLE WOMEN, MIDSOMMAR
    Runner Up: Kelvin Harrison Jr., LUCE, WAVES

The New York Film Critics Online Named Parasite The Best of 2019


Yesterday, the New York Film Critics Online voted on and announced their picks for the best of 2019!

And here they are:

  • Picture: “Parasite” (NEON)
  • Director: Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite” (NEON)
  • Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker” (Warner Bros.)
  • Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, “Us” (Universal Pictures)
  • Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci, “The Irishman” (Netflix)
  • Supporting Actress: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story” (Netflix)
  • Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-Won, “Parasite” (NEON)
  • Breakthrough Performer: Kelvin Harrison Jr., “Luce” (A24) and “Waves” (A24)
  • Debut Director: Lila Avilés, “The Chambermaid” (Kino Lorber)
  • Ensemble Cast: Mary Vernieu, “Knives Out” (Lionsgate)
  • Documentary: Todd Douglas Miller, “Apollo 11” (NEON)
  • Foreign Language: Céline Sciamma, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (NEON)
  • Animated Feature: Jérémy Clapin, “I Lost My Body” (Netflix)
  • Cinematography: Roger Deakins, “1917” (Universal Pictures)
  • Use of Music: Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Giles Martin, Matthew Margeson, “Rocketman” (Paramount Pictures)

Top 10 Films

  • 1917” (Universal Pictures)
  • The Farewell” (A24)
  • Hustlers” (STX Films)
  • The Irishman” (Netflix)
  • Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Joker” (Warner Bros.)
  • Marriage Story” (Netflix)
  • Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” (Sony Pictures)
  • Parasite” (NEON)
  • The Two Popes” (Netflix)

The Atlanta Film Critics Circle Names Parasite The Best of 2019


Earlier today, the Atlanta Film Critics Circle announced their picks for the best of 2019!

Their choice for picture: Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite!

Here’s a full list of winners:

Top 10 Films

  • Parasite
  • The Irishman
  • Marriage Story
  • Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
  • 1917
  • Little Women
  • Uncut Gems
  • Knives Out
  • Pain and Glory
  • Apollo 11

Best Film: Parasite

Best Lead Actor: Adam Driver in “Marriage Story”

Best Lead Actress: Renee Zellweger in “Judy”

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern in “Marriage Story”

Best Ensemble: “The Irishman”

Best Director: Bong Joon-ho for “Parasite”

Best Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin Woo for “Parasite”

Best Documentary: “Apollo 11”

Best International Film: “Parasite” (South Korea)

Best Animated Film: “Toy Story 4”

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins for “1917”

Best Original Score: Thomas Newman for “1917”

Best Breakthrough Performance: Kelvin Harrison Jr. for “Luce” and “Waves”

Best First Feature Film: Olivia Wilde for “Booksmart”

Here Are The Hollywood Critics Association’s Nominations For The Best of 2019


The Hollywood Critics Association was, up until a few days ago, known as the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society.  Perhaps realizing that HCA just plans looks better than LAOFCS, they announced yesterday that they were changing their name.

They also announced their nominees for the best of films and performances of 2019!  While the HCA may not be one of the major precursors of awards season, their nominations do give a fairly good picture of which films and performances are currently being touted as possible Oscar nominees.

And here they are:

BEST PICTURE

  • “1917”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Joker”
  • “Jojo Rabbit”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Marriage Story”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves

BEST ACTOR

  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
  • Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Awkwafina, “The Farewell”
  • “Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
  • Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
  • Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Shia LaBeouf, “Honey Boy”
  • Sterling K. Brown, “Waves”
  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
  • Margot Robbie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”

BEST MALE DIRECTOR

  • Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
  • Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR

  • Alma Har’el, “Honey Boy”
  • Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Olivia Wilde, “Booksmart”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won, “Parasite”
  • Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, & Katie Silberman, “Booksmart”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Scott Silver and Todd Phillips, “Joker”
  • Steven Zailian, “The Irishman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR OR ACTRESS 23 AND UNDER

  • Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart”
  • Julia Butters, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”
  • Roman Griffin Davis, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Thomasin McKenzie, “Jojo Rabbit”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

  • Jessie Buckley, “Wild Rose”
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr., “Waves”
  • Paul Walter Hauser, “Richard Jewell”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zack Gottsagen, “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

BEST CAST

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Knives Out”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves”

BEST FIRST FEATURE

  • “Brittany Runs a Marathon”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “The Peanut Butter Falcon”
  • “Queen & Slim”

BEST INDEPENDENT FILM

  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “Luce”
  • “Waves”

BEST ACTION/WAR FILM

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • “Abominable”
  • “Frozen II”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
  • “Missing Link”
  • “Toy Story 4”

BEST BLOCKBUSTER

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Shazam!”
  • “Spider-Man: Far from Home”

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL

  • “Booksmart”
  • “Blinded by the Light”
  • Dolemite Is My Name”
  • “Long Shot”
  • “Rocketman”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “American Factory”
  • “Apollo 11”
  • “Hail Satan?”
  • “The Kingmaker”
  • “Love, Antosha”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • “The Farewell”
  • “Monos”
  • “Pain & Glory”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

BEST HORROR FILM

  • “Crawl”
  • “Doctor Sleep”
  • “Midsommar”
  • “Ready or Not”
  • “Us”

BEST ANIMATED OR VFX PERFORMANCE

  • Josh Brolin, “Avengers: Endgame”
  • Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”
  • Rosa Salazar, “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • Ryan Reynolds, “Detective Pikachu”
  • Tom Hanks, “Toy Story 4”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Drew Daniel, “Waves”
  • Jarin Blaschke, “The Lighthouse”
  • Lawrence Sher, “Joker”
  • Robert Richardson, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Roger Deakins, “1917”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Arianne Phillips, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Julian Day, “Rocketman”
  • Jacqueline Durran, “Little Women”
  • Ruth E. Carter, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Mark Bridges, “Joker”

BEST EDITING

  • Fred Raskin, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Lee Smith, “1917”
  • Michael McCusker, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, ‘The Irishman”
  • Yang Jin-mo, “Parasite”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP

  • “Bombshell”
  • “Joker”
  • “Judy”
  • “Rocketman”
  • “The Irishman”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Catchy Song” from “The Lego Movie: The Second Part”
  • “Glasgow” from “Wild Rose”
  • “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”
  • “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II”
  • “Speechless” from “Aladdin”

BEST SCORE

  • Alexandre Desplat, “Little Women”
  • Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”
  • Michael Abels, “Us”
  • Thomas Newman, “1917”
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Waves”

BEST STUNT WORK

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • “1917”
  • “Ad Astra”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • “The Irishman”

The winners will announced in December!

Here Are The 2019 Independent Spirit Award Nominees!


Here are the 2019 Indie Spirit Award nominations!  These nominations are meant to honor the best independent films of 2019 and their announcement marks the official beginning of awards season (at least as far as this sight is concerned!)  I hate to say it but I still need to see quite a few of the films nominated below so, for now, I’ll hold off on any editorial commentary.

For those looking for some sort of evidence of how the Oscar nominations can go, the Independent Spirit Awards can be an iffy precursor, just because several of the expensive, major studio contenders aren’t eligible to nominated.  (For instance, neither The Irishman nor Once Upon A Time In Hollywood were eligible.)  That said, for the record, the two biggest Spirit nominees are The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems.  Waves and The Farewell, which have been the center of considerable Oscar speculation, did not do as strongly in the nominations as many people apparently expected.  Make of that what you will!

Here are the nominees!

Best Supporting Female

  • Jennifer Lopez – HUSTLERS
  • Taylor Russell – WAVES
  • Zhao Shuzhen – THE FAREWELL
  • Lauren “Lolo” Spencer – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Octavia Spencer – LUCE
  • Best Supporting Male
  • Willem Dafoe – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Noah Jupe – HONEY BOY
  • Shia Labeouf – HONEY BOY
  • Jonathan Majors – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • Wendell Pierce – BURNING CANE

Best Screenplay

  • Noah Baumbach – MARRIAGE STORY
  • Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder – TO DUST
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Chinonye Chukwu – CLEMENCY
  • Tarell Alvin Mccraney – HIGH FLYING BIRD

Best First Screenplay

  • Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol – SEE YOU YESTERDAY
  • Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen – DRIVEWAYS
  • Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy – BLOW THE MAN DOWN
  • Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe – GREENER GRASS
  • James Montague, Craig W. Sanger – THE VAST OF NIGHT

Best Cinematography

  • Todd Banhazl – HUSTLERS
  • Jarin Blaschke – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Natasha Braier – HONEY BOY
  • Chananun Chotrungroj – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Pawel Pogorzelski – MIDSOMMAR

Best Editing

  • Julie Béziau – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Tyler L. Cook – SWORD OF TRUST
  • Louise Ford – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Kirill Mikhanovsky – GIVE ME LIBERTY

Best International Film

  • INVISIBLE LIFE, Brazil
  • LES MISERABLES, France
  • PARASITE, South Korea
  • PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, France
  • RETABLO, Peru
  • THE SOUVENIR, United Kingdom

Best Documentary (Award given to the director and producer)

  • AMERICAN FACTORY
  • APOLLO 11
  • FOR SAMA
  • HONEYLAND
  • ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS

The John Cassavetes Award is presented to the best feature made for under $500,000 and is given to the writer, director, and producer. 2020 #SpiritAwards Nominees are:

  • BURNING CANE
  • COLEWELL
  • GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • PREMATURE
  • WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY

Best Female Lead

  • Karen Allen – COLEWELL
  • Hong Chau – DRIVEWAYS
  • Elisabeth Moss – HER SMELL
  • Mary Kay Place – DIANE
  • Alfre Woodard – CLEMENCY
  • Renée Zellweger – JUDY

Best Male Lead 

  • Chris Galust – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Kelvin Harrison  Jr., – LUCE
  • Robert Pattinson – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Adam Sandler – UNCUT GEMS
  • Matthias Schoenaerts – THE MUSTANG

Best First Feature (Award given to the director and producer)

  • BOOKSMART
  • THE CLIMB
  • DIANE
  • THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • THE MUSTANG
  • SEE YOU YESTERDAY

Best Feature [award given to the producer(s)]

  • A HIDDEN LIFE
  • CLEMENCY
  • THE FAREWELL
  • MARRIAGE STORY
  • UNCUT GEMS

Best Director

  • Robert Eggers – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Alma Har’el – HONEY BOY
  • Julius Onah – LUCE
  • Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Lorene Scafaria – HUSTLERS

The Robert Altman Award is given to the ensemble cast, director & casting director of one film: MARRIAGE STORY – Noah Baumbach, Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler, Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever

The Truer Than Fiction Award, in its 25th year, is for emerging directors of non-fiction features and includes an unrestricted grant. Finalists:
Khalik Allah – BLACK MOTHER
Davy Rothbart – 17 BLOCKS
Nadia Shihab – JADDOLAND
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside – AMÉRICA

The Producers Award, now in its 23rd year, honors emerging producers who demonstrate creativity, tenacity and vision, despite highly limited resources. The award includes an unrestricted grant. These are the finalists:
Mollye Asher
Krista Parris
Ryan Zacarias

The Someone To Watch Award, in its 26th year, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision and includes an unrestricted grant. The finalists are:
Rashaad Ernesto Green – PREMATURE
Ash Mayfair – THE THIRD WIFE
Joe Talbot – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

The Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant. The 2020 Film Independent #SpiritAwards Bonnie Award finalists are:
MarielleHeller
KellyReichardt
LuluWang

Film Review: Mudbound (dir by Dee Rees)


In Mudbound, Jonathan Banks plays one of the most hateful characters to ever appear in a motion picture.

We never find out the character’s given name.  Everyone just calls him Pappy.  He’s the patriarch of an unimpressive family, a wannabe king who has no kingdom over which to rule.  Pappy never has a kind word to say to anyone.  He even tends to be brusque with his grandchildren.  When one of his sons returns from serving in World War II, Pappy only wants to know if he got laid in Europe and how many men he killed.  Pappy only killed one man in World War I but he did it face-to-face.  He’s proud of that.

As much as Pappy dislikes the members of his family, it’s nothing compared to how much Pappy hates people who aren’t white.  Pappy is the type to demand that, when he dies, he not buried anywhere near anyone black.  Pappy is also the type who takes it as a personal insult if a black man uses the same door that he uses.  When he sees Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) using the font door of the local grocery store, it doesn’t matter that Ronsel has just returned from serving his country and is still wearing his uniform.  It also doesn’t matter that Ronsel’s mother is helping to raise Pappy’s granddaughters.  What matters is that Ronsel is defying the social norms of 1940s Mississippi and Pappy takes that as a personal insult.

There are six narrators in Mudbound, all of whom tell us their story and share with us their thoughts.  Pappy is not one of those narrators and, for that, I was thankful.  I would have been frightened at the thought of entering his hate-fueled mind.  All we have to do is look into his hateful eyes or listen to his scornful voice and we know what’s going on in Pappy’s head.  He’s a man who has accomplished nothing in his long life, whose only happiness comes from making others miserable, and who fears the change that he secretly knows is coming.  It’s not just hate that makes Pappy demand an apology when Ronsel Jackson uses the front door.  It’s fear.

Mudbound tells the story of two families in Mississippi and the farmland on which they both live and work.  (Early on, when a skull with a bullet hole is discovered, we’re informed that an old slave cemetery is under plowed fields.)  Pappy’s oldest son, Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke), owns the land.  Desperate for his father’s approval, Henry hopes to succeed as a farmer but he soon proves himself to be rather clueless.  Henry’s wife is Laura (Carey Mulligan).  Laura was a 31 year-old virgin when she met Henry.  She tells us that she married him because she didn’t want to be alone.  She stays with him because she loves their children.

The Jacksons live on Henry’s land.  They’re tenant farmers and Hap (Rob Morgan), the family patriarch, dreams of one day owning his own farm.  While Pappy openly hates the Jacksons, Henry treats them with a patronizing condescension.  (Whereas Pappy knows that he’s hated, Henry actually thinks that the Jacksons look up to him.  There’s not a lot of humor to be found in Mudbound but I couldn’t help but smile at Henry’s cluelessness about how little Hap thought of him.)  Henry and Laura even hire Hap’s wife, Florence (Mary J. Blige), to serve as a housekeeper.  Henry and Laura think they’re doing Florence a favor, never considering that they are essentially asking Florence to neglect her own family so that she can take care of their’s.

The Jackson and the McAllans do have one big thing in common.  They both have sons serving in the army.  Ronsel is a sergeant who is both surprised and happy to discover that white Europeans are not the same as white Americans.  Henry’s younger brother, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), is a captain in the Air Force.  When the war ends, both Ronsel and Jamie return to their families.  Jamie returns with a severe case of PTSD and a drinking problem.  Having experienced freedom in Europe, Ronsel is angered to return to a country where he is still expected to sit in the back of the bus and cheerfully accept being treated like a second class citizen.

When both of them are caught off guard by the sound of a car backfiring, Ronsel and Jamie immediately recognize each other as returning soldiers.  A friendship develops between them, one that goes against the racist norms of their society.  Violence and tragedy follows.

Mudbound is a Netflix film.  It’s currently getting a one-week theatrical release so that it’ll be Oscar-eligible.  (If it is nominated for best picture — and many think that it may be — it’ll be the first Netflix film to be so honored.)  That said, the majority of the people who see Mudbound will see it via Netflix.  That’s a shame because, visually, Mubound is a film that should be seen on a big screen.  The imagery — the farmland that seems to stretch on forever, the storms that always seem to roll in at the worst possible moment, the scenes of Ronsel and Jamie in Europe — is frequently beautiful and haunting.  (The comparisons to the work of Terrence Malick are justified.)  Even when viewed on a laptop, Mudbound still looks good but I fear that the small screen will rob the film of some of its epic scope.  Since Mudbound is a leisurely paced film, I fear that many members of the Netflix audience are going to be tempted to hit pause and then not return to the film for an hour or two, therefore robbing Mudbound of its cumulative power.

Over the time that I’ve spent writing this review, I’ve come to realize that I actually liked Mudbound a lot more than I originally thought I did.  As opposed to many of the films that I’ve seen this year, I have a feeling that Mudbound is actually going to stick with me.  Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, and Rob Morgan all give wonderful performances, though the cast standout is Jason Mitchell, playing a man who, having tasted freedom, refuses to silently go back to the way things were.

Mudbound is a very good film.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it a great film, though many other critics and viewers are.  Director Dee Rees captures some beautiful images and some wonderful performances but the film itself has some pacing problems.  The first part of the film is occasionally too slow while a few of the final scenes felt rushed.  I haven’t always been a huge fan of Garrett Hedlund in the past and, when the movie started, I had my doubts about whether or not I’d be able to accept him as Jamie but, by the end of the movie, he had won me over.  In the past, I’ve found Hedlund to be a little stiff but, having now seen Mudbound, I have to say that he’s grown as an actor.  I’m looking forward to seeing where his talent takes him next.

Even if it does have flaws, Mudbound is a powerful film and one that I recommend taking the time to watch.

Here Are The 2017 IFP Gotham Award Nominees!


Hi, everyone!

Well, today is officially the start of Oscar season.  This morning, the Independent Filmmakers Project announced this year’s nominees for the Gotham Awards!  While the Gotham Awards may not be as well-known as some of the other precursors, their importance has grown over the past few years.  Though most of the major studio contenders are typically not eligible, a Gotham nomination can provide a definite boost for an independent film.

This year, Get Out received the most nominations.  Get Out has been mentioned as an outside possibility for an Oscar nomination.  It’s generally considered to be the best reviewed film of the year but horror is a genre that has traditionally struggled with the Academy.  For Get Out to receive a nomination, it’s going to need some help from the precursors (much as how Mad Max: Fury Road was legitimized by the critic groups in 2015).  With the announcement of the Gotham nominations, Get Out is off to a good start.

I’m also happy to see that James Franco received a nomination for playing Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist.

Here are the nominees:

Best Feature

Call Me by Your Name
Luca Guadagnino, director; Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, Rodrigo Teixeira, Marco Morabito, James Ivory, Howard Rosenman, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

The Florida Project
Sean Baker, director; Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Francesca Silvestri, Shih-Ching Tsou, producers (A24)

Get Out
Jordan Peele, director; Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm, Jr., Jordan Peele, producers (Universal Pictures)

Good Time

Josh and Benny Safdie, directors; Paris Kasidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Oscar Boyson, producers (A24)

I, Tonya
Craig Gillespie, director; Bryan Unkeless, Steven Rogers, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, producers (NEON)

Best Documentary

Ex Libris – The New York Public Library
Frederick Wiseman, director and producer (Zipporah Films)

Rat Film
Theo Anthony, director; Riel Roch-Decter, Sebastian Pardo, producers (MEMORY and Cinema Guild)

Strong Island
Yance Ford, director; Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes, producers (Netflix)

The Work 
Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis, directors; Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis, Jennifer MacArthur, Flannery Miller, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

Whose Streets?

Jairus McLeary, director;  Alice Henty, Eon McLeary, Jairus McLeary, Miles McLeary, producers (The Orchard and First Look Media)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Maggie Betts for Novitiate (Sony Pictures Classics)
Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird (A24)
Kogonada for Columbus (Superlative Films/Depth of Field)
Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal Pictures)
Joshua Z Weinstein for Menashe (A24)

Best Screenplay

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (Amazon Studios)
Brad’s Status, Mike White (Amazon Studios)
Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory (Sony Pictures Classics)
Columbus, Kogonada (Superlative Films/Depth of Field)
Get Out, Jordan Peele (Universal Pictures)
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig (A24)


*
Best Actor*

Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project (A24)
James Franco in The Disaster Artist (A24)
Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out (Universal Pictures)
Robert Pattinson in Good Time (A24)
Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Netflix)
Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky (Magnolia Pictures)

Best Actress

Melanie Lynskey in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (Netflix)
Haley Lu Richardson in Columbus (Superlative Films/Depth of Field)
Margot Robbie in I, Tonya (NEON)
Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird (A24)
Lois Smith in Marjorie Prime (FilmRise)

Breakthrough Actor

Mary J. Blige in Mudbound (Netflix)
Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)
Harris Dickinson in Beach Rats (NEON)
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. in It Comes at Night (A24)
Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project (A24)

* The 2017 Best Actor/Best Actress nominating committee also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award for ensemble performance to Mudbound, The award will go to actors Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks.

 

Horror Film Review: It Comes At Night (dir by Trey Edward Shults)


It Comes At Night is yet another film about people waiting for the end of the world.  In this case, the end is due to the outbreak of a mysterious disease.  It Comes At Night is a film that I meant to see in theaters when it originally released but I never got a chance.  It Comes At Night was acclaimed by critics but generally hated by audiences.  (Some of the comments on twitter, from people who had just returned from seeing the film, were incredibly angry.)  To be honest, it’s really not surprising that audiences didn’t embrace the film.  Having recently watched the film myself, I can tell you that It Comes At Night is one of the most depressing movies ever made.

Seriously, remember how depressing the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Abigail Breslin zombie film Maggie was?  Well, compared to It Comes At Night, Maggie might as well have been a musical comedy.

It Comes At Night opens with a former school teacher named Paul (Joel Edgerton) executing his father-in-law.  Paul’s wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and his teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) understand that Paul had no choice.  There’s been an outbreak of a disease and the old man was infected.  The only way to keep everyone else in the family safe was to kill him and burn his body.

Paul and his family live in an isolated cabin.  At all times, the front door remains locked.  Only Paul and Sarah are allowed to carry the key.  No one is allowed to leave the house at night and under no circumstances are strangers allowed to enter the house.  Sometimes, after the sun goes down, Travis thinks that he can hear sounds in the surrounding woods.  It’s a reminder that people are out there but the majority of them are either slowly dying from the disease or scavengers trying to survive.

Paul ruthlessly enforces the rules but then, one night, a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) attempts to break into the house.  Will swears that he’s not infected.  He was just trying to find food for his wife, Kim (Riley Keough) and his son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner).  After Paul determines that Will does not have the disease, he agrees to let Will and his family stay with them.  If the house is ever attacked, Paul and Sarah figure, Will and Kim will provide an extra layer of defense.

And, for a few weeks, everything is fine.  The two families bond.  But Travis is still having vivid nightmares in which he sees men and women who have been infected and who are living in the woods.  And he is still hearing sounds at night…

The inevitability of death hangs over minute of It Comes At Night.  From the film’s first scene, you know that things are probably not going to end well.  When the two families do start to surrender to their paranoia, it’s upsetting but not particularly shocking.  It’s depressing because it all seems very plausible.  I think we all know that, if the world really was ending, it wouldn’t bring about peace or reflection.  Instead, people would keep fighting until the final second.  That’s just human nature.  What makes It Comes At Night so sad and disturbing is that there are no traditional heroes or villains.  There’s just six people trying to live their lives in a world that’s rapidly coming to an end.  They think they can beat the darkness surrounding them but the audience knows better.

I know, I know.  You just read that paragraph and you thought, “Yeah, Lisa, that sounds like a really fun movie.”

And you’re right.  It’s not a fun movie.  I would seriously warn anyone struggling with depression to be careful about watching It Comes At Night.  It’s definitely not going to cheer you up.  I spent the first half of thid 90 minute film convinced that I was probably going to stop watching because it was just too dark.  But I ended up watching it to the end because, even if it was depressing, it was also a very well-made film.  It sucks you in, even though you might not want it to.  The entire cast does a good job but special praise has to be given to Kelvin Harrison, Jr., who gives a searingly vulnerable performance as Travis.

It Comes At Night is a well-made, disturbing, and heartbreakingly sad movie and probably not one that I’ll have any desire to watch again for quite some time.