Here Are The 2020 Florida Film Critics Circle Nominations!


The Florida Film Critics Circle announced their nominees for the best of 2020 earlier today!

All I can say is “Thank you, Florida, for doing the right thing!”  Seriously, the best films of 2020 should be announced in December of 2020 and January of 2021.  This whole extended eligibility window that a lot of groups are doing because of the pandemic is idiotic.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the late Brian Dennehy has been getting some critical support for his final performance in Driveways.  (I’ll be seeing Driveways next week.)  It would be interesting if both Denney and Chadwick Boseman landed nominations.  I’m not sure which year holds the record for the most posthumous nominations but, if both Boseman and Denney were nominated for Oscars, it would be the first time that there was more than one posthumous acting nominee.

Here’s the nominees.  The winners will be announced on the 21st!

BEST PICTURE
First Cow
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Minari

BEST ACTOR
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
John Magaro – First Cow
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Carrie Coon – The Nest
Elisabeth Moss – Shirley
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
Brian Dennehy – Driveways
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Bill Murray – On the Rocks

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Swankie – Nomadland
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Jane Adams – She Dies Tomorrow

BEST ENSEMBLE
Mangrove
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari

BEST DIRECTOR
Florian Zeller – The Father
Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Peter Docter/ Kemp Powers/Mike Jones – Soul
Jack Fincher – Mank
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Jon Raymond/ Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Florian Zeller/Christopher Hampton – The Father
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Charlie Kaufman – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Shabier Kirchner – Lovers Rock
Hoyte van Hoytema – Tenet
Victor Kossakovsky/Egil Håskjold Larsen – Gunda
Erik Messerschmidt – Mank
Joshua James Richards – Nomadland

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Andrew Jackson – Tenet
Mark Bakowski – The Midnight Sky
Murray Barber – Possessor

BEST ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTIOIN
Dan Webster – Mank
Kirby Feagan – Shirley
Adam Marshall – Lovers Rock

BEST SCORE
Ludwig Göransson – Tenet
William Tyler – First Cow
Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross/Jon Batiste – Soul
Alexandre Desplat – The Midnight Sky

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Dick Johnson is Dead
Gunda
You Don’t Nomi
Time
David Byrne’s American Utopia

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Los Fuertes
Those Who Remained
Minari
The Painted Bird
Dry Wind

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Wolfwalkers
Soul
Ride Your Wave
The Wolf House
Over the Moon

BEST FIRST FILM
Promising Young Woman
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Relic
The Father
Some Kind of Heaven

BREAKOUT AWARD
Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Odessa Young – Shirley
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Marin Ireland – The Dark and the Wicked
Lucas Jaye – Driveways

THE GOLDEN ORANGE AWARD
ENZIAN Theater
Keisha Rae Witherspoon
Amy Seimetz

Film Review: Flint (dir by Bruce Beresford)


Undoubtedly, there’s a great and important film waiting to be made about the Flint water crisis.  Unfortunately, the new Lifetime film Flint is not it.

As I watched Flint last night, it occurred to me that it’s been a while since the Flint water crisis made the national news.  For a few weeks in 2016, it was all anyone was talking about but then the governor of Michigan announced that he wouldn’t be running for President and the media promptly deserted Flint.  I think most people in the country assumed that Flint now magically had clean water.  In reality, Flint hasn’t had reliably clean water since 2014.  Earlier this year, it was announced that Flint’s water quality has returned to acceptable levels but residents were still advised not to use it until all of Flint’s water pipes had been replaced.  When one looks at the coverage that the crisis has received, one gets the feeling that the media stopped caring once it became apparent there wasn’t going to be an easy and quick solution.

That’s the thing with this crisis.  There is no easy way to resolve it and it’s not a happy story.  Even when all of the pipes are finally replaced (which will be 2020 at the earliest), it’s not going to be a happy ending as much as it’s just going to be an ending.  The citizens of a city were poisoned because a bunch of civil servants wanted to save money.  There’s no way to spin that into a positive.  Even if the people of Flint are no longer drinking contaminated water, that doesn’t change the fact that they once did and no one in power seemed to care until they had no choice but to pretend to be outraged.

Flint is a well-meaning film but it’s immediately handicapped by the fact that it’s a Lifetime film and, therefore, has to take a Lifetime approach to the material. which means that things have to end positively.  The film does a good job of showing brown water running out of taps and detailing why clean water is a necessity.  And the film also deserves some credit for including a note informing us that the pipes in Flint are still in the process of being replaced and that the citizens are still being told either use filters or bottled water.  But, too often, the film turns what should have been a modern-day horror story into a simplistic story of “you go girl!” activism.  When the film should be angry, it’s merely annoyed.  When the film should be furious about the present, it’s too busy being optimistic about the future.  Instead of really exploring what led to the crisis in the first place, the focus of the film is on city council meetings and the cartoonishly slick mayor getting voted out of office.  “Yay!” the movie seems to proclaim, “Sucks about the poisoned water but at least everyone got to bond and now we have proof that democracy works and the government really does care!”

(There’s even two scenes where a city councilman tells the activists to keep fighting, the movie’s way of saying, “See!  Not all politicians are bad!”)

Oh well.  I don’t want to be too critical because, while the movie may have been strictly by-the-numbers, it at least tried to remind people about what’s going on in Flint.  That’s certainly more than the national media’s doing these days.

Film Review: Hell or High Water (dir by David Mackenzie)


The Texas-set film Hell or High Water features four excellent lead performances.  There’s Chris Pine and Ben Foster, playing brothers and robbing banks.  And then there’s Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, as the two Texas Rangers who are attempting to hunt the brothers down.

But for me, my favorite character was the waitress who, during the latter half of the film, serves lunch to the two Texas Rangers.  When Bridges asks her how she’s doing, she replies, “Hot and not in the good way.”  When the two Rangers start to order their food, she stops them and tells them that everyone who comes in the diner orders the same thing except for one “asshole from New York” who tried to order a trout.  “We ain’t got no goddamn trout!”  It’s a short scene but it’s one of my favorites because, if you’ve ever spent any time in West Texas, you know that this scene is probably the most realistic in the entire film.

My second favorite character was a banker teller played by the great Dale Dickey.  When the Rangers ask her if the men who robbed her bank were black, she replies, “Their skin or their souls?”  You just have to hear the way that she delivers it.  In theory, that should be an awkward line but Dale Dickey makes it sound totally natural.

In fact, everything about Hell or High Water seems totally natural.  For a film about bank robbers, it’s actually a deceptively low-key film, one that is as memorable for its quiet moments as its shoot outs.  When the violence does come, it’s all the more jarring because the movie has spent so much time focusing on the tranquil stillness of the West Texas landscape.

(That said, I should point out that the film was actually shot in New Mexico.  But, quite frankly, New Mexico is pretty much just West Texas with more Democrats.)

Hell or High Water is a film that’s all about the little details.  The film opens with a bank robbery and, as the camera gracefully circles the bank, we catch a glimpse of graffiti announcing that the artist did 4 tours in Iraq and that “bailouts (are) for banks, not for me.”  At its heart, Hell or High Water is about the many people who have been left out of this so-called “economic recovery,” in which we’re all supposed to have such faith despite having seen little evidence of its existence.  While the rich get richer, the struggle of the people in Hell or High Water is ignored by everyone but them. And so, the people do what they can to survive.  For some, that means robbing banks.  For others — like a wonderfully snarky group of witnesses in a diner — that means refusing to admit that they saw anything happen.  If you want to see a realistic portrait of economic uncertainty and populist revoltuon, don’t waste your time with the cutesy bullshit and bourgeois Marxism of The Big Short.  Watch Hell or High Water.

Of course, not everyone is willing to turn a blind eye to the bank robbing brothers.  Hell or High Water is not just about economic anxiety.  It’s also about the unique struggle of being a bank robber in a part of the country where literally everyone has a gun.  (During one robbery, Pine asks an old customer if he has a gun on him.  “Damn right I got a gun on me!” the old man snaps back.)  As opposed to so many other films, Hell or High Water gets West Texas right.

(It’s probably not a coincidence that we’re told the brothers robbed a bank in Archer City, the home of legendary Texas writer, Larry McMurtry.)

As for the film’s cast, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster get the two “showiest” roles.  Jeff Bridges plays a Texas Ranger who is only a few days away from retirement and who enjoys needling his partner.  (One of the main delights of the film is the comedic interaction between Bridges and Gil Birmingham.)  Ben Foster is the more reckless of the two brothers, an ex-con who declares that everyone is his enemy but, at the same time, shows himself to be willing to do anything to protect his brother.  Both Bridges and Foster give excellent performances and Foster, in particular, reminds us that he’s one of the most exciting actors working today.

And yet, for me, the true anchor of the film is Chris Pine.  Chris Pine, of course, is best known for starring in the last three Star Trek films.  And while he was always an adequate lead in those films and he gave a wonderfully self-aware performance in Into The Woods, none of his past films prepared me for just how good a job he does in Hell or High Water.  Pine gives a quiet and rather subtle performance and, when we first see him, we automatically assume that he’s been dragged into the criminal life by his more flamboyant brother.  But as the film progresses, we start to realize that there’s more to both the character and to Chris Pine as an actor.  By the end of the film, we’re forced to reconsider everything that we previously assumed about everyone.

Speaking of end of the film — let’s just say that Hell or High Water has one of the best final scenes of 2016.  Like the film itself, it’s deceptively low-key but it leaves you reeling.

It took me a while to see Hell or High Water but I’m glad I did.  Come Hell or high water, you should see it too.

Here Are The 2015 Independent Spirit Nominations!


mara_blanchett_carol

Here are the 2015 Independent Spirit Nominations!  That’s right — Oscar season is officially here!  Soon, we will reach the point where every day, another group will be announcing their picks for the best of 2015 and the Oscar race will start to become a lot less cloudy.  Until then, we can look at the Independent Spirit Nominations and try to figure out what they all mean in the big scheme of things.

The two big indie best picture contenders — Carol and Spotlight — were nominated for multiple awards.  That’s to be expected.  If any film is going to benefit from the Spirit nominations, it will probably be Anomalisawhich is starting to look more and more like it might be a dark horse to score a best picture nominations.  As well, the Spirit nominations may serve to remind Academy members that Beasts of No Nation is one of the best films of the year.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the Spirit nominations!

Best Feature

Anomalisa
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
Spotlight
Tangerine

Best Director

Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Best Screenplay

Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk

Best First Feature

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Mediterranea
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay

Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend

Best Male Lead

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Female Lead

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Best Supporting Male

Kevin Corrigan, Results
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Best Supporting Female

Robin Bartlett, H.
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Best Documentary

(T)error
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
Meru
The Russian Woodpecker

Best International Film

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Embrace of the Serpent
Girlhood
Mustang
Son of Saul

Best Cinematography

Beasts of No Nation
Carol
It Follows
Meadlowland
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best Editing

Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias

Room

Spotlight

John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Under $500,000)

Advantageous
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Krisha
Out of My Hand

Robert Altman Award (Best Ensemble)

Spotlight

Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award

Chloe Zhao
Felix Thompson
Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck

Piaget Producers Award 

Darren Dean
Mel Eslyn
Rebecca Green and Laura D. Smith

BeastsofNoNation