The nominees for the SAG Awards were announced earlier today! The SAG Awards are usually one of the more accurate of the various Oscar precursors. Because so many members of the Academy are also members of the Screen Actors Guild, the SAG Awards are usually a pretty good indication of what films are on the Academy’s radar and which ones aren’t. Occasionally, an actor will be nominated by SAG and then snubbed by the Academy. Last year, for instance, SAG nominated Jake Gyllenhall for Nightcrawler, Jennifer Aniston for Cake, and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent. None of those three received any love from the Academy. But, for the most part, SAG is one of the most reliable precursors out there.
And that’s why so many of us are in shock today! The SAG Awards in no way resembled what many of us were expecting. Other than Spotlight, none of the film’s that many of us expected to be nominated for best ensemble (the SAG’s equivalent of the Academy’s best picture) were nominated (and even Spotlight only received one other nomination, for Rachel McAdams who, up to this point, hasn’t really figured into the Oscar discussion). The Martian was not nominated for best ensemble or anything else for that matter. Creed was totally snubbed. Brooklyn was nominated for actress but not ensemble. Mad Mad: Fury Roadwas nominated for its stunt work and nothing else. Helen Mirren received two nominations, for films that hardly anyone (outside of the SAG, obviously) was really paying any attention to. Sarah Silverman received a best actress nomination for I Smile Back, which I hadn’t even heard of until about a week ago. It’s an unexpected and strange group of nominees.
Keep in mind, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the nominees are unexpected. Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton will both receive deserved boosts in their hunt for Oscar gold. At the same time, I have to admit that I wasn’t happy to see either The Big Short or Trumbo nominated for best ensemble because I know I’m going to feel obligated to see them and they both look so freaking tedious and blandly political! But consider this: if The Big Short and Trumbo are both huge Oscar contenders, we may face a situation where both Jay Roach and Adam McKay are nominated for best director in the same year. I think that’s one of the signs of the apocalypse and, at this point, I’m kind of ready to welcome the end of the world.
Anyway, here are the SAG nominations! Look them over and, after the Golden Globe nominations are announced tomorrow, update your Oscar predictions accordingly.
Best Performance by a Cast Ensemble in a Motion Picture
2014 has been a very good year in the realm of great television. We have the perennial stand-outs like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Justified and The Americans. Some shows that have been brought down a peg or two in seasons past made a resurgence in quality and consistency with The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.
Yet, it is with the new kid on the block that I pick my latest “Scenes I Love” and probably the most memorable scene on TV all year. The scene I speak of is the “seance” scene of the second episode of Showtime’s gothic horror series Penny Dreadful. This scene wasn’t even the big reveal in the episode but it ultimately set the tone for what’s to come for the rest of the series’ inaugural season.
The scene focuses on Eva Green’s character, Vanessa Ives, as she attends and participates in a seance held by Madame Kali in the home of renowned Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle. It’s a powerful performance from Eva Green who has become an actor with a penchant for pulling off bravura performances in the small and big screen.
Green’s Ives has several more performances such as these during the rest of the season, but they all didn’t come with that first shock and awe this scene gave the episode and the series. It’s actually a shame that Green’s work on Penny Dreadful hasn’t garnered as much, if any, year end accolades. Her work as Vanessa Ives was that good.
Earlier today, the American Film Institute announced their picks for the top 11 movies and top 10 television shows of 2014! As much as it pains me to admit it, Sasha “You Know Who I Am” Stone of Awards Daily actually makes a valid point when she says that the AFI picks are actually a pretty good guide to what the Academy voters are responding to. While Oscar watchers like me might get excited when Tom Hardy wins at LAFCA, the AFI is actually probably a better precursor to what actually will be nominated.
(Of course, immediately after making that point, she starts in on her usual “it’s all about me” nonsense because that’s what she does, after all.)
So, with all that in mind, here are the AFI’s picks:
AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR
“Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
“The Imitation Game”
“Into the Woods”
AFI TV PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR
“Game of Thrones”
“How to Get Away With Murder”
“Jane the Virgin”
“Orange Is the New Black”
And, here are the names of the 20 members of the AFI jury:
Before I get to my review, you should understand that I nearly didn’t see The Town last night. Earlier, on Friday morning, I had to leave work early because I was so sick and nauseous that I was on the verge of passing out. Once I got home, I had to 1) convince my aunt that I wasn’t pregnant (“Are you sure?” she said after I reassured her) and 2) had to convince myself that my appendix wasn’t about to burst (and it’s not so don’t worry). After all that, there was a part of me that said, “The Town can wait. I’ll go on Saturday or maybe even later in the week.”
But I ignored that part of me and I went and saw the movie anyway. Why? Well, I wanted to review it for this site. (That’s dedication for you!) Plus, I knew my friend Jeff wanted to see it with me and I wanted to see it with him and since when has a little thing like a ruptured appendix ever been an excuse not to have a good time? Last but not least, The Town is Ben Affleck’s second movie as a director. His first was 2007’s Gone, Baby, Gone. Personally, I think Gone, Baby, Gone is one of the best crime films ever made. It’s certainly one of my favorite. I was curious to see if The Town would be a worthy follow-up or would it just prove Gone, Baby, Gone to have been a fluke.
The Town takes place in the Charlestown section of Boston. At the opening of the film, we’re told that Charlestown apparently produces more professional armed robbers than any other place in the entire world. It’s a practice that is handed down from father-to-son. (Or, in the case of this movie, from Chris Cooper to Ben Affleck.)
Affleck plays Doug, a former hockey player who is now the head of a gang of Charlestown bank robbers. His second-in-command is Jem (played by Jeremy Renner). Over the course of the film, we learn Doug’s father (Chris Cooper) is a career criminal who is currently serving a life sentence in prison. When his father went to prison, Doug was taken in by Jem’s family. Doug even ended up dating Jem’s sister (Blake Lively) and might be the father of Lively’s daughter. For this reason, Doug and Jem are fiercely loyal to each other despite the fact that Doug is essentially a nice guy and Jem is not.
(As a sidenote, why is it in the crime films that people are always shocked when the psychotic supporting character ends up doing psychotic? I mean, have these people never gone to the movies before? Have they never checked out Goodfellas from Netflix? Did they miss the whole Joe Pesci “How am I funny?” thing?)
At the start of the film, Doug, Jem, and the gang rob a bank. Doug is a model of professionalism. Jem goes a little bit crazy and beats one bank employee nearly to death. This gives the bank manager, Clare (Rebecca Hall), just enough time to set off a silent alarm. Realizing that the police are on the way, Jem responds by taking Clare hostage as the gang flees. Clare is later released on a desolate beach.
However, there’s a problem. Before releasing her, Jem stole Clare’s ID. Looking at it after the robbery, he discovers that Clare lives in Charlestown and, as a result, there’s now a risk that she might simply see one of the gang on the street and identify him. Jem wants to kill her but Doug says that he’ll take care of her himself.
By “taking care of,” Doug means that he’ll follow her around town, eventually strike up a conversation with her, and then end up pursuing a romance with her (while declining, of course, to mention that he already knows her). Jem, however, was under the impression that “taking care of” meant to kill. So, needless to say, he’s a little bit miffed when he stumbles across Doug and Clare having a lunch date.
Soon, Doug finds himself trapped in the life he’s created for himself. In love with Clare but torn by his loyalty to the increasingly unstable Jem, Doug agrees to one more big job. All the while, he is pursued by two relentless FBI agents (Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver) and he has to deal with an Irish mob boss (Pete Postlewaite) who has an agenda of his own.
The Town works largely because Ben Affleck has, unexpectedly, turned out to be an intelligent, no-nonsense director. The movie features three robbery scenes and, in each one of them, Affleck creates genuine tension and excitement without ever once resorting to outlandish stunts or random slow motion. Unlike a lot of (bad) actors turned director, Affleck never seems to feel the need to toss in any showy (but ultimately empty) tricks to try to convince us that he’s a director. This is a confident movie that shows that Gone, Baby, Gone wasn’t a fluke. (That said, Gone, Baby, Gone remains the superior film for reasons that I’m getting to.)
Also, as with Gone, Baby, Gone, The Town benefits from Affleck’s obvious love for the city and people of Boston. Shot on location and featuring a number of local actors, The Town has a wonderful sense of place to it. By the end of it, you feel as if you know Charlestown even if, like me, you’re just a country girl from Texas.
Ben Affleck the director also manages to do something truly surprising — he gets a good performance out of Ben Affleck the actor. In the past, I’ve always enjoyed looking at Ben Affleck on-screen but I never really wanted to hear him talk. Because as soon as he would open his mouth, whatever appeal that Affleck possessed would immediately dissolve. In the past, as an actor, Affleck often epitomized that whole concept of “there’s no there there.” However, in this film, he gives a low-key, subtle performance that really helps to hold the entire film together. I still wouldn’t call Affleck a good actor. Instead, he’s one of those rare directors who (like fellow bad actor Quentin Tarantino) knows how to get good performances even from the most unlikely of performers.
Affleck is well-supported by Hall, Lively, and Renner. Hall has a difficult job because she’s not so much playing an actual human being as much as she’s playing an idealized concept. Her character really doesn’t have any purpose beyond offering Doug a chance at redemption and (this is obvious more in retrospect than during the actual film) really doesn’t have much of an identity beyond how her life touches Doug’s. Hall, however, is so vulnerable in the role that, while you’re watching the film, that none of this really becomes obvious until a few hours after the movie ends. Lively (better known for her role on Gossip Girl) is only in a few scenes and, in many ways, her character is even less developed than Hall’s. If Hall has to represent the Madonna part of the Whore/Madonna complex, guess what Lively represents. Still, Lively brings some much needed humor to the role and to the film. She’s having fun playing her drunken, drug-addled character and she steals almost every scene that she’s in.
However, the film is ultimately dominated by Jeremy Renner. With his angelic voice and deceptively soft voice, Renner is the psychopath that you can’t help but love. Movie psychos are a dime-a-dozen so when an actor comes along and actually finds something new to do with the role, it’s impossible not to be impressed.
So much works in The Town that I almost feel guilty talking about what doesn’t. For all its strengths, it also has three rather glaring flaws. As with all things, the final verdict on this film depends on just how willing the viewer is to overlook these flaws.
First off, Ben Affleck proves himself to be a better director than writer. The Town’s story is well told but the majority of it will still be awfully familiar to anyone who has ever seen a heist film. Unlike Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, or Michael Mann, Affleck doesn’t embrace the conventions in order to deconstruct them. Instead, he uses the conventional storyline as an excuse to explore the Charlestown culture. As a result, this flaw arguably works to the film’s advantage. Still, those viewers who are expecting to be surprised by the film’s plot should consider themselves warned.
As well acted as the movie is, there is one big exception in the cast and that is Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. Hamm plays the FBI agent who is determined to capture Affleck. He’s the Javert to Affleck’s Valjean. Unfortunately, as played by Jon Hamm, he’s also a cinematic black hole. Hamm may be an excellent television actor but, playing a key supporting role and surrounded by actual film actors, it’s obvious that Hamm has no idea how to act for the big screen. As a result, he never comes across as a worthy or even dangerous adversary and his pursuit of Affleck never becomes compelling nor do we ever worry that Affleck might not be able to outsmart him. There’s a scene, towards the end of the film, where Hamm yells something like, “Drop your weapon, asshole!” I have to admit that I stunned just about everyone in the theater when I burst into laughter at the sound of Hamm shouting “asshole” and sounding, more or less, like an overgrown kid on a playground.
(Hamm’s sidekick, by the way, is played by another tv actor, Titus Welliver. Welliver is probably best known for playing the Man In Black on the final season of Lost. Though he gets next to nothing to do, Welliver dominates every scene that he’s in. Unlike Hamm, he knows how to act on a big screen.)
The most glaring flaw with The Town, however, is that the entire plot pretty much depends on the viewer accepting that Hall’s character, just days after being traumatized by being held hostage and seeing one of her co-workers nearly beaten to death because he attempted to protect her, would so easily trust and open up her life to a stranger (even if that stranger is Ben Affleck). Never mind the fact that we are then expected to believe that she would stay loyal to Affleck even after learning the truth. Realistically, this would seem to indicate that the character’s something of a sadomasochist but the film really doesn’t explore that (or really anything else that might make Hall’s character anything more than just an idealized Madonna figure).
I mean, I’m always open to experimentation in a relationship. Different people enjoy different things and I’ve never been one to judge anyone else’s particular fetish. However, just speaking for myself, the day that you stick a gun in my face, put a blindfold over my eyes, and then abandon me out on the beach is the same day that I decide that there’s probably not going to be a long-term relationship there.
So, once again, it’s all a question of whether or not you can accept these flaws. I have to admit that, as I watched the film, I occasionally had a hard time doing so. If you can agree to overlook the flaws, however, then The Town is an entertaining, well-acted crime thriller with an authentic sense of place. And if you can’t overlook those flaws, than The Town is a good but imperfect movie that still indicates that Ben Affleck has got quite a future as a director.
It may be weeks before AMC puts up a much more high-quality version of this trailer, but until then this is the only one non-Comic-Con goers can watch. The trailer definitely shows enough of what Darabont and his writers are going for to assuage any fear I have that they’re straying too far away from Kirkman’s laid out plans and that they may be staying too loyal to the original source.
I really like how the trailer shows enough scenes from the comic book’s first couple issues that fans have memorized. This series (6 episodes in total) will definitely be the show to watch this coming tv season. That scene with the zombies swarming in, around and over the tank sent chills up my spine.
I also love how loud and well the panel attendees received the trailer. Now time for the series to impress the non-fans. If the series does that then The Walking Dead will join Mad Men and Breaking Bad in creating a trifecta of the best shows on basic cable and probably tv in general.
To inaugurate the start of the corporations Hottie of the Day program I am proud to present to you the first in what will be aline of the hottest hot hotties to be found in this and any planet.
She can be seen in the hit cable drama, Mad Men, shown on the AMC network. Her work in the role of Joan Holloway for the show has garnered her accolades and has created quite the fan following. She is a rare gem in Hollywood in that she is both tall, beautiful and naturally curvy. While her gorgeous red locks have been mentioned as being quite an asset of hers she is actually a natural blonde but has been dyeing her hair a golden-red since she was a child. Golden-red or blonde, it really doesn’t matter as it doesn’t diminish the fiery hotness that is Christina Hendricks. If there ever was still a search for a live-action Jessica Rabbit then that search needs to end for she is it. For that men, and some women, are thanking whatever creator they pray to for making her the way she is.