Film Review: All The King’s Men (dir by Steven Zaillian)


On September 10th, 1935, a Senator named Huey Long was shot and killed at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rogue.

While it’s generally agreed that Carl Weiss, the son-in-law of a political opponent, approached Long, there’s still some debate as to whether or not Weiss was the one who shot Long. Did Weiss fire one shot at Long or was Long himself accidentally shot by his many bodyguards, all of whom opened fire on Weiss? (Weiss died at the scene, having been wounded at least 60 times.) There’s even some who argue that Weiss didn’t even have a gun on him when he approached Long and that Long’s bodyguards misinterpreted Weiss’s intentions. Or, as some more conspiracy-minded historians have suggested, perhaps Long’s bodyguards were themselves paid off by one of Long’s many enemies. With Huey Long, anything was possible.

Huey Long has been described as being an American dictator, a man who ran for office as a populist and who, as governor and then senator, ruled Louisiana with an iron fist. His slogan was “Every man a king,” and he promoted a platform that mixed Socialism with redneck resentment. (In modern terms, he mixed the vapid but crowd-pleasing rhetroic of AOC with the bombastic but calculated personal style of Donald Trump.) He often played the flamboyant buffoon but he also knew how to reward his friends and punish his enemies. At the time of his death, he was planning to run for President against FDR. It’s said that, in typical Long fashion, he planned to run as a third party candidate and draw away enough votes from Roosevelt to allow Republican Alf Landon to win. Then, in 1940, Long would run for the Democratic nomination and send President Landon back to Kansas.

Huey-Long-radio-3000-3x2gty-5c2934d246e0fb00012da4a1

Whether his plan was feasible or not, they came to an end with his death. However, his legacy continued as members of the Long family dominated Louisiana politics for decades to come. Huey’s brother, Earl, served as governor of Louisiana for several contentious terms. Huey’s son, Russell, spent nearly 40 years in the Senate and, as chairman of the Finance Committee, was one of the most powerful men in the country. As late at 2020, Huey’s third cousin was serving in the Louisiana Senate. In the past few years, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been compared to Huey Long. Of course, if Huey were alive today, he’d probably be very popular online. Political Twitter has never met an authoritarian that it couldn’t make excuses for.

Among those who were fascinated by the life and death of Huey Long was a Southern poet and novelist named Robert Penn Warren. Warren used Long as the basis for Willie Stark, the man at the center of the novel All The King’s Men. In the novel, Stark is a classic and tragic American archetype, the man of the people who loses his way after coming to power. Stark starts the book as an idealist who wants to make life better for the poor but who, as he works his way up the political ladder, loses sight of why he first entered politics in the first place. He goes from fighting for the people to fighting only for himself. The book was controversial but popular and won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize. In later interviews, Warren often said that All The King’s Men was never meant to be a book about politics but instead a book about two men, Willie Stark and reporter Jack Burden, losing their way during the tumult of the Great Depression.  Regardless of Warren’s intentions, most readers and critics have focused on the book as a cynical look at American politics and the authoritarian impulse.

All-the-Kings-Men-1949

Considering the book’s popularity, it’s not surprising that All The King’s Men was turned into a movie just three years after it was published.  Directed by Robert Rossen and starring a perfectly cast Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark, the film won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1949.  Just as with the book, the film was considered to be controversial.  Many claimed that the film’s cynical portrayal of American politics was the equivalent of supporting communism, despite the fact that both the novel and the original film present Stark as being the epitome of the hypocritical Marxist dictator.  Indeed, if any character would have inspired audiences in 1949 to distrust socialism, it would have been a faux populist like Willie Stark.  Still, John Wayne was so offended by the book and the script that he very publicly turned down the role of Willie Stark.  That was all the better for Broderick Crawford, who won an Oscar playing the role.  When seen today, the original All The King’s Men holds up surprisingly well, as does Crawford’s lead performance.  Filmed in harsh black-and-white and featuring a cast of cynical, tough-talking characters, it’s a political noir.

Those who found the 1949 version of All The King’s Men to be dangerously subversive obviously had no idea what was in store for them and the country over the next couple of decades.  There’s a reason why the best-known book about the downfall of Richard Nixon was called All The President’s Men.  By the start of the current century, with all of the political corruption that was happening in the real world, the flaws and crimes of Willie Stark seemed almost quaint by comparison.  In 2006, with George W. Bush serving his second term, America embroiled in two unpopular wars, and the economy looking shaky, it was decided that it was time for a new version of the story of Willie Stark.

This version was directed by Steven Zaillian, the screenwriter whose credits included Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York, Hannibal, and American Gangster.  The role of Willie Stark was played by Sean Penn, who was both an Academy Award winner and an outspoken critic of George Bush.  (And, make no mistake about it, the new version of Willie Stark would be as much based on Bush as he was on Huey Long.)  Jude Law played Jack Burden, the reporter who narrated the story of Stark’s rise and fall.  Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini, Patricia Clarkson, Mark Ruffalo, Jackie Earle Haley, and Kathy Baker all had supporting roles.  This was a cast full of Oscar nominees and, indeed, the film’s trailer had that portentous, “the movie is very important and award-worthy” feeling to it that studios go with whenever they’re trying to convince audiences that they have an obligation to see a film, regardless of how boring or annoying it may look.  Entertainment Weekly predicted that All The King’s Men would be an Academy Award contender. For nearly two months, one could not see a movie at the Dallas Angelika without also seeing thee trailer for All The King’s Men.  It was a movie that was due to arrive at any minute and it was coming with an awful lot of hype.

And then, the strangest thing happened.  The film itself kind of disappeared.  It arrived and then it promptly got lost.  The reviews were overwhelmingly negative.  Audiences did not turn out to see the film.  It was a box office bomb, one that pretty much ended Steven Zaillian’s career as a director.  The film played for a week in Dallas and then left the city’s movie screens.  Even if I had been planning on seeing the film when it was originally released, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity.  The Gods of cinema, politics, and Southern accents were conspiring to protect me from suffering through a bad movie and I guess I should be thankful.  There’s nothing that makes me cringe more than hearing a bad Southern accent in a movie and the trailer for All The King’s Men was full of them.

Way back in November of last year, I noticed that the 2006 version of All The King’s Men was available on Encore On Demand.  At the time, I had politics on my mind.  The Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections had bee held earlier that week.  Biden’s huge infrastructure bill had passed the House on the very same night that I came across the film.  Hell, I figured, could watching Sean Penn as Willie Stark be any worse than watching Joe Biden try to give a speech from the Oval Office?  So, I decided to give the movie a chance and I quickly discovered that watching Sean Penn’s Willie Stark was a lot worse.

In All The King’s Men, Sean Penn gives the type of bad performance that can only be given by a good actor.  Penn yells and grimaces and barks out order like the villain in a badly dubbed Bollywood movie.  When he watches a dancer, he doesn’t just look at her.  Instead, he stares with all the intensity of a cartoon wolf who has just spotted Little Red Riding Hood.  There’s nothing subtle about Penn’s performance, least of all his overbaked accent.  The only thing wilder than Penn’s accent is his hair, which often seems to be standing up straight as if he’s just removed his fingers from an electrical socket.  It’s a performance that is heavy on technique but empty on substance.  In both the book and the original film, Willie Stark is flamboyant in public but cool and calculating in private.  In the remake, Penn yells and sweats and jumps around and comes across as being so desperate that it’s hard to buy into the idea that anyone would believe a word that he said.  Broderick Crawford’s Willie Stark was believable because Crawford, with his bulky build and his plain-spoken manner, came across as being a real human being.  One could imagine voters looking at Crawford and believing that he was just like them.  Sean Penn, on the other hand, comes across like a rich man’s version of a poor man.  Penn is too obviously condescending to be an effective populist.  Voters will forgive a lot but they’ll never forgive a politician who openly talks down to them.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re a very talented group but not one of them is convincingly cast.  In fact, many of them give career-worst performances.  Anthony Hopkins does his usual eccentric routine but it doesn’t add up too much because the audience never sees him as being anything other than Anthony Hopkins using a rather spotty Southern accent.  When Hopkins’s character dies, it’s not a tragedy because the character himself never feels real.  Instead, you’re juts happy that Hopkins collected a paycheck.  Kate Winslet seems to be bored with the role of Stark’s mistress.  Mark Ruffalo is dazed in the role of Winslet’s brother.  As Jack Burden, Jude Law seems as lost as anyone, which wouldn’t be problem if not for the fact that Jack is the one narrating the film.  When your narrator is lost, you’re in trouble.

There’s really only two members of the cast who escape the film unscathed.  Jackie Earle Haley is properly intimidating as Stark’s devoted bodyguard.  Haley doesn’t get many lines but one look at his disturbed eyes tells you all you need to know about how far he’ll go to protect his boss.  On the other hand, James Gandolfini gets several lines and he does such a good job of delivering them and he plays the role of a corrupt political boss with such a perfect combination of good humor and cold pragmatism that you have to wonder just how much All The King’s Men would have been improved if Gandolfini had played Willie Stark instead of Sean Penn.

Steve Zaillian’s direction involves a lot of soft-focused flashbacks and several visual references to the Nuremberg rallies.  Just as with Penn’s performance, there’s nothing subtle about Zaillian’s direction, despite the fact that the story itself is so melodramatic that it calls for the opposite of a heavy-handed approach.  One wonders what exactly Zaillian was trying to say with his version of All The King’s Men, which presents Willie Stark as being a monster but still as the audacity to end with a clip of him giving a rousing campaign speech.  Again, the problem is that we never buy into the idea that Willie Stark was ever sincere in his desire to help the common man.  Everything about both Penn’s performance and Zaillian’s direction serves to suggest that, from the start, Stark viewed them as just being a means to an end.  Ending the film with a flashback of Willie giving a campaign speech is about as moving as a friend from high school contacting you on Facebook and then trying to get you to take part in a pyramid scheme.  There’s no sincerity to be found in any of it.

In the end, it’s a film of overheated performances and meticulously shot scenes that all add up to very little.  There are a few moments where Sean Penn’s body language and his vocal inflections suggest that he’s trying to channel George W. Bush but there’s nothing particularly shocking or subversive about that.  In 2006, every movie and TV show had to find a way to take a swipe at Bush and Penn’s never been particularly reticent when it comes to broadcasting his politics.  Though All The King’s Men was executive produced by political consultant James Carville, there’s very few moment in the film that feel authentic.  It’s like a high school senior’s view of politics.

All The King’s Men came and went quickly.  Fortunately, everyone was able to move on.  Steven Zaillian has not directed another film but remains an in-demand scriptwriter.  Sean Penn, Anthony Hopkins, and Kate Winslet all won Oscars after appearing in this film (though, it should be noted, none of them won for this film).  Mark Ruffalo and Jude Law went on to join the Marvel Universe.  Jackie Earle Haley continues to be a much-respected character actor.  Tragically, James Gandolfini is no longer with us but his performance as Tony Soprano will never be forgotten.  The second version of All The King’s Men wasted a lot of talent but, fortunately, talent always finds a way to survive.

Here Are The Golden Globe Winners!


Supporting Actor, Motion Picture — Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Supporting Actor, Television — John Boyega, Small Axe

Actress, TV Music or Comedy — Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek

Motion Picture, Animated — Soul

Actor, TV Limited Series or Movie — Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True

Screenplay, Motion Picture — Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Actress, TV Series, Drama — Emma Corrin, The Crown

Original Song, Motion Picture — lo Si, The Life Ahead

Original Score, Motion Picture — Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste, Soul

Actor, TV Series, Musical or Comedy — Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso

TV Series, Musical or Comedy — Schitt’s Creek

Actress. Musical or Comedy Film — Rosamund Pike, I Care A Lot

Actor, TV Series, Drama — Josh O’Connor, The Crown

Foreign Language Film — Minari

TV Series, Drama — The Crown

Supporting Actress, Film — Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian

Supporting Actress, TV Drama — Gillian Anderson, The Crown

Actress, TV Limited Series or Made-For-Television Film — Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit

Limited Series or TV Movie — The Queen’s Gambit

Actor, Motion Picture Drama — Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Director, Motion Picture — Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Motion Picture Comedy — Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Actor, Motion Picture Comedy — Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Actress, Motion Picture Drama — Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holliday

Motion Picture Drama — Nomadland

Here Are The SAG Nominations!


Here are the SAG nominations!  I’ll be post my thoughts under the noms because — let’s be honest, the noms are what you’re here for:

BEST ENSEMBLE
Da 5 Bloods
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
One Night In Miami
The Trial Of The Chicago 7

BEST LEAD ACTOR (FEMALE)
Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces Of A Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

BEST LEAD ACTOR (MALE)
Riz Ahmed – Sound Of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Gary Oldman – Mank
Steven Yeun – Minari

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (FEMALE)
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman – The Father
Youn Yuh-Jung – Minari
Helena Zengel – News Of The World

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (MALE)
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial Of The Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Daniel Kaluuya – Judas And The Black Messiah
Jared Leto – The Little Things
Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night In Miami

BEST STUNT ENSEMBLE
Da 5 Bloods
Mulan
News of the World
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Wonder Woman 1984

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A DRAMA SERIES
Better Call Saul
Bridgerton
The Crown
Lovecraft Country
Ozark

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Gillian Anderson – The Crown
Olivia Colman – The Crown
Emma Corrin – The Crown
Julia Garner – Ozark
Laura Linney – Ozark

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jason Bateman – Ozark
Sterling K. Brown – This Is Us
Josh O’Connor – The Crown
Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul
Regé-Jean Page – Bridgerton

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES
Dead To Me
The Flight Attendant
The Great
Schitt’s Creek
Ted Lasso

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Nicholas Hoult – The Great
Daniel Levy – Schitt’s Creek
Eugene Levy – Schitt’s Creek
Jason Sudekis – Ted Lasso
Ramy Youseff – Ramy

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Christina Applegate – Dead To Me
Linda Cardellini – Dead To Me
Kaley Cuoco – The Flight Attendant
Annie Murphy – Schitt’s Creek
Catherine O’Hara – Schitt’s Creek

BEST ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES
Bill Camp – The Queen’s Gambit
​Daveed Diggs – Hamilton
Hugh Grant – The Undoing
Ethan Hawke – The Good Lord Bird
Mark Ruffalo – I Know This Much Is True

BEST ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES
Cate Blanchett – Mrs. America
Cole – I May Destroy You
Nicole Kidman – The Undoing
Anya Taylor-Joy – The Queen’s Gambit
Kerry Washington – Little Fires Everywhere

Okay, my thoughts:

I guess the big news is that the SAG appreciated Hillbilly Elegy a bit more than the critics.  Glenn Close picking up a supporting actress nom isn’t a huge shock but I do think a few people were a bit surprised to see Amy Adams nominated.  Personally, I think Amy Adams was okay in Hillbilly Elegy but I’ll be kind of disappointed if — after all the great performance she’s given — this is the one that she picks up an Oscar for.

We all kind of laughed off Jared Leto picking up that supporting nomination from the Golden Globes but the SAG nominated him as well!  Is this a sign of momentum or just a crazy coincidence?  Either way, this doesn’t bode well for the Oscar hopes of Sound of Metal‘s Paul Raci.  Raci’s picked up a lot of critical support but getting snubbed by both the Globes and SAG doesn’t seem like a good sign.

Speaking of signs, I’m going to assume that Sidney Flanigan’s Oscar hopes are pretty much gone.  Like Raci, she seems like she would have needed either a GG or a SAG nomination to really break through.

Amanda Seyfried was not nominated.  That took me by surprise but it didn’t upset me as much as Raci getting snubbed, largely because I like Sound of Metal considerably more than Mank.

I think Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is the overrated film of 2020 but you still have to wonder how the film could pick up a Best Ensemble nomination without also getting best actor nomination for Delroy Lindo.  Lindo was also snubbed by the Globes so again, the prospect of him getting nominated for an Oscar no longer seems like a sure thing.

Good news for Steven Yeun!  Some people were writing him off after he didn’t get a Golden Globe nomination but the SAG nomination puts him right back into the hunt.

Finally, the SAG is one of the best precursors regarding what films and performances will actually receive Oscar nominations.  So, whether or not I or anyone else agrees with all of the nominations, the nominees have to be feeling very happy right now.  Best of luck to them all!

Here Are The 78th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


I’m totally turned off by the self-importance of the Golden Globes and I resent every time that I have to write about them.

That said, despite the fact that no one is quite sure who actually votes for the damn things and stories of corruption in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have been rampant for years, the Golden Globes have still emerged as one of the main Oscar precursors.  So, you kind of have to pay attention to them.  Bleh.

There really aren’t any huge shocks in the list of nominees below, with the exception of maybe Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor and James Corden’s Prom nomination.  I mean, if you’re that determined to nominate someone for The Prom, why would you go for James Corden as opposed to Meryl Streep?  That’s just odd.

Anyway, here are the nominations:

Best Motion Picture, Drama
“The Father”
“Mank”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
“Hamilton”
“Music”
“Palm Springs”
“The Prom”

Best Director, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Regina King, “One Night In Miami”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Kate Hudson, “Music”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “French Exit”
Rosamund Pike, “I Care a Lot”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “Emma”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Helena Zengel, “News of the World”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Tahar Rahim, “The Mauritanian”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
James Corden, “The Prom”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”
Dev Patel, “The Personal History of David Copperfield”
Andy Samberg, “Palm Springs”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Jared Leto, “The Little Things”
Billy Murray, “On the Rocks”
Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night In Miami”

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”
Jack Fincher, “Mank”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton, “The Father”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Original Score, Motion Picture
Alexandre Desplat, “The Midnight Sky”
Ludwig Göransson, “Tenet”
James Newton Howard, “News of the World”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Mank”
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, “Soul”

Best Original Song, Motion Picture
“Fight For You,” Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Hear My Voice,” The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Io Sì (Seen),” The Life Ahead”
“Speak Now,” One Night In Miami”
“Tigress & Tweed,” The United States Vs. Billie Holiday”

Best Motion Picture, Animated
“The Croods: A New Age”
“Onward”
“Over the Moon”
“Soul”
“Wolfwalkers”

Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language
“Another Round”
“La Llorona”
“The Life Ahead”
“Minari”
“Two Of Us”

Best Television Series, Drama
“The Crown”
“Lovecraft Country”
“The Mandalorian”
“Ozark”
“Ratched”

Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy
“Emily in Paris”
“The Flight Attendant”
“The Great”
“Schitt’s Creek”
“Ted Lasso”

Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
“Normal People”
“The Queen’s Gambit”
“Small Axe”
“The Undoing”
“Unorthodox”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama
Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
Emma Corrin, “The Crown”
Laura Linney, “Ozark”
Sarah Paulson, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Lily Collins, “Emily In Paris”
Kaley Cuoco, “The Flight Attendant”
Elle Fanning, “The Great”
Jane Levy, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”
Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”
Daisy Edgar Jones, “Normal People”
Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
Nicole Kidman, “The Undoing”
Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Supporting Role
Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Julia Garner, “Ozark”
Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Cynthia Nixon, “Ratched”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Al Pacino, “Hunters”
Matthew Rhys, “Perry Mason”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy
Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”
Nicholas Hoult, “The Great”
Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Bryan Cranston, “Your Honor”
Jeff Daniels, “The Comey Rule”
Hugh Grant, “The Undoing”
Ethan Hawke, “The Good Lord Bird”
Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much is True”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Supporting Role
John Boyega, “Small Axe”
Brendan Gleeson, “The Comey Rule”
Daniel Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”
Donald Sutherland, “The Undoing”

Here Are The Major 72nd Emmy Nominations!


Usually, when it’s time for the Emmy nominations to be announced, I’ll post what I personally would have nominated.  I didn’t do it this year because, for whatever reason, I didn’t watch as much TV last season as I have in the past so I felt like, if I had done a Lisa Has All The Power post for the Emmy nominations, I would have ended up just nominating a bunch of shows that I hadn’t actually watched and that would just be wrong.

I will say that I was hoping to see nominations for Bad Education and Unbelievable.  Both did receive nominations, though not as much as they should have.  Bad Education was nominated for Best TV Movie and Hugh Jackman received a nomination but it deserved so much more.  (It’s the best film that I’ve seen so far this year and it bugs the Hell out of me that it was sold to HBO and not Netflix because Bad Education is the type of movie that should get Oscar recognition.)  Unbelievable was nominated for Best Limited Series but Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Weaver deserved nominations as well.  I was also disappointed that neither Aaron Paul nor Robert Forster were nominated for El Camino.  I’m also upset that my favorite comedy series — Medical Police — was totally snubbed but I’m not really surprised.  Medical Police is hilarious but it’s not self-important enough for the Emmys.  Still, considering that Curb Your Enthusiasm was kind of terrible this year, it’s a shame that Medical Police couldn’t sneak in there.

(This year still isn’t as bad as the year that Twin Peaks: The Return was snubbed in all the major categories.)

Anyway, here are the major nominees.  At least The Mandalorian got some recognition.  GO BABY YODA!

Drama Series

“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
“Killing Eve” (BBC America/AMC)
“The Mandalorian” (Disney Plus)
“Ozark” (Netflix)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“Succession” (HBO)

Comedy Series

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)
“Dead to Me” (Netflix)
“The Good Place” (NBC)
“Insecure” (HBO)
“The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Schitt’s Creek” (Pop TV)
“What We Do in the Shadows” (FX)

Limited Series

“Little Fires Everywhere” (Hulu)
“Mrs. America” (Hulu)
“Unbelievable” (Netflix)
“Unorthodox” (Netflix)
“Watchmen” (HBO)

Televison Movie

“American Son” (Netflix)

“Bad Education” (HBO)

“Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones” (Netflix)

“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” (Netflix)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Netflix)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman (“Ozark”)
Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
Steve Carell (“The Morning Show”)
Brian Cox (“Succession”)
Billy Porter (“Pose”)
Jeremy Strong (“Succession”)

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”)
Olivia Colman (“The Crown”)
Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”)
Laura Linney (“Ozark”)
Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”)
Zendaya (“Euphoria”)

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)
Don Cheadle (“Black Monday”)
Ted Danson (“The Good Place”)
Michael Douglas (“The Kominsky Method”)
Eugene Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”)
Ramy Youssef (“Ramy”)

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Christina Applegate (“Dead to Me”)
Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)
Linda Cardellini (“Dead to Me”)
Catherine O’Hara (“Schitt’s Creek”)
Issa Rae (“Insecure”)
Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”)

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Jeremy Irons (“Watchmen”)
Hugh Jackman (“Bad Education”)
Paul Mescal (“Normal People”)
Jeremy Pope (“Hollywood”)
Mark Ruffalo (“I Know This Much Is True”)

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Cate Blanchett (“Mrs. America”)
Shira Haas (“Unorthodox”)
Regina King (“Watchmen”)
Octavia Spencer (“Self Made”)
Kerry Washington (“Little Fires Everywhere”)

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Giancarlo Esposito (“Better Call Saul”)
Bradley Whitford (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Billy Crudup (“The Morning Show”)
Mark Duplass (“The Morning Show”)
Nicholas Braun (“Succession”)
Kieran Culkin (“Succession”)
Matthew Macfadyen (“Succession”)
Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”)

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies”)
Meryl Streep (“Big Little Lies”)
Helena Bonham Carter (“The Crown”)
Samira Wiley (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Fiona Shaw (“Killing Eve”)
Julia Garner (“Ozark”)
Sarah Snook (“Succession”)
Thandie Newton (“Westworld”)

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Andre Braugher (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”)
William Jackson Harper (“The Good Place”)
Alan Arkin (“The Kominsky Method”)
Sterling K. Brown (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)
Tony Shalhoub (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)
Mahershala Ali (“Ramy”)
Kenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live”)
Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”)

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Betty Gilpin (“GLOW”)
D’Arcy Carden (“The Good Place”)
Yvonne Orji (“Insecure”)
Alex Borstein (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)
Marin Hinkle (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)
Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”)
Cecily Strong (“Saturday Night Live”)
Annie Murphy (“Schitt’s Creek”)

Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Dylan McDermott (“Hollywood”)
Jim Parsons (“Hollywood”)
Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend”)
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Watchmen”)
Jovan Adepo (“Watchmen”)
Louis Gossett Jr. (“Watchmen”)

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Holland Taylor (“Hollywood”)
Uzo Aduba (“Mrs. America”)
Margo Martindale (“Mrs. America”)
Tracey Ullman (“Mrs. America”)
Toni Collette (“Unbelievable”)
Jean Smart (“Watchmen”)

Reality Competition

“The Masked Singer” (FOX)
“Nailed It” (Netflix)
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” (VH1)
“Top Chef” (Bravo)
“The Voice” (NBC)

Variety Sketch Series

“A Black Lady Sketch Show” (HBO)
“Drunk History” (Comedy Central)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)

Variety Talk Series

“Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central)
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS)
“Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC)
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO)
“Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (CBS)

The Satellites Really Like Ford V Ferrari


The Satellite Nominations were announced earlier today and they appear to really, really like Ford v. Ferrari.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Who gives out the Satellites?”  They are awarded by the International Press Academy.  They should not be mistaken for the Golden Globes, which are given out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  Instead, the Satellites should probably be considered the Golden Globes’s less popular cousins.  Unlike the Globes, they haven’t really proven themselves to be reliable as a precursor.

Anyway, here are the Satellite Film Nominations.  If you want to see their television nominations, click here!

ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE DRAMA

  • Alfre Woodard, “Clemency”
  • Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
  • Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
  • Helen Mirren, “The Good Liar”
  • Renee Zellweger, “Judy”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE DRAMA

  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
  • Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
  • Christian Bale, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • George MacKay, “1917″
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “Dark Waters” 

ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

  • Awkwafina, “The Farewell”
  • Ana De Armas, “Knives Out”
  • Constance Wu, “Hustlers”
  • Julianne Moore, “Gloria Bell”

ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

  • Adam Sandler, “Uncut Gems”
  • Daniel Craig, “Knives Out”
  • Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
  • Margot Robbie, “Bomshell”
  • Penelope Cruz, “Pain and Glory”
  • Nicole Kidman, “Bombshell”
  • Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood”
  • Willem Dafoe, “The Lighthouse”
  • Wendell Pierce, “Burning Cane”

MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA

  • 1917 Universal Pictures
  • Bombshell Lionsgate
  • Burning Cane Array Releasing
  • Ford v Ferrari Twentieth Century Fox
  • Joker Warner Bros.
  • The Lighthouse A24
  • Marriage Story Netflix
  • Two Popes Netflix

MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

  • Hustlers STX Entertainment
  • Knives Out Lionsgate
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Columbia Pictures
  • Rocketman Paramount
  • The Farewell A24
  • Uncut Gems A24

MOTION PICTURE, INTERNATIONAL

  • Atlantics, Senegal
  • Beanpole, Russia
  • Les Miserables, France
  • Pain and Glory, Spain
  • Parasite, Korea
  • Truth and Justice, Estonia
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire, France
  • The Painted Bird, Czech Republic

MOTION PICTURE, ANIMATED OR MIXED MEDIA

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon Netflix
  • Alita: Battle Angel Twentieth Century Fox
  • Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles GKIDS
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: The Hidden World Universal Pictures
  • The Lion King Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Toy Story 4 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Weathering With You GKIDS

MOTION PICTURE, DOCUMENTARY

  • 63 Up BritBox
  • Apollo 11 Neon
  • Citizen K Greenwich Entertainment
  • Honeyland KJ Films
  • One Child Nation Amazon Studios
  • The Apollo HBO Documentary
  • The Cave National Geographic Documentary Films
  • FOR SAMA PBS

DIRECTOR

  • Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”
  • James Mangold, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Pedro Almodóvar, “Pain and Glory”
  • Sam Mendes, “1917″
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL

  • Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”
  • Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Pedro Almodóvar, “Pain and Glory”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED

  • Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”
  • Edward Norton, “Motherless Brooklyn”
  • Matthew Michael Carnahan, Mario Correa, Nathaniel Rich, “Dark Waters”
  • Steven Zaillian, “The Irishman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Todd Phillips & Scott Silver, “Joker”

ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Thomas Newman, “1917″
  • Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Randy Newman, “Marriage Story”
  • Robbie Robertson, “The Irishman”
  • Terence Blanchard, “Harriet”
  • Hildur Guonadottir, “Joker”

ORIGINAL SONG

  • Don’t Call Me (Angel), “Charlie’s Angels”
  • Into the Unknown, “Frozen II”
  • (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, “Rocketman”
  • Spirit, “Lion King”
  • The Ballade of the Lonesome Cowboy, “Toy Story 4”
  • Swan Song, “Alita: Battle Angel”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Dick Pope, “Motherless Brooklyn”
  • George Richmond, “Rocketman”
  • Lawrence Sher, “Joker”
  • Phedon Papamichael, ASC, GSC, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Rodrigo Prieto, “The Irishman”
  • Roger Deakins, “1917”

FILM EDITING

  • 1917
    Lee Smith, ACE
  • Ford v Ferrari
    Michael McCusker, ACE
    Andrew Buckland
  • Joker
    Jeff Groth
  • Marriage Story
    Jennifer Lame, ACE
  • Rocketman
    Chris Dickens
  • The Irishman
    Thelma Schoonmaker

SOUND (EDITING AND MIXING)

  • 1917
    Oliver Tarney
    Stuart Wilson
    Scott Millan
    Mark Taylor
  • Avengers: Endgame
    Shannon Mills
    Daniel Laurie
    Tom Johnson
    Juan Peralta
    John Pritchett, CAS
  • Ford v Ferrari
    Donald Sylvester
    Paul Massey
    David Giammarco
    Steven A. Morrow, CAS
  • Joker
    Alan Robert Murray
    Tom Ozanich
    Dean Zupancic
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    Wylie Stateman
    Mark Ulano, CAS
    Michael Minkler, CAS
    Christian P. Minkler, CAS
  • Rocketman
    Matthew Collinge
    John Hayes

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Alita: Battle Angel
    Joe Letteri
    Eric Saindon
  • Avengers: Endgame
    Dan DeLeeuw
    Matt Aitken
    Russell Earl
    Dan Sudick
  • The Lion King
    Robert Legato, ASC; Andrew R. Jones
    Adam Valdez; Elliot Newman
  • Ford v Ferrari
    Olivier Dumont
    Mark Byers
    Kathy Segal
  • Joker
    Edwin Rivera
    Mathew Giampa
    Bryan Godwin
  • The Irishman
    Pablo Helman

ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • 1917
    Dennis Gassner
    Lee Sandales
  • Ford v Ferrari
    François Audouy
    Peter Lando
  • Joker
    Mark Friedberg
    Laura Ballinger
  • Motherless Brooklyn
    Beth Mickle
    Michael Ahern
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    Barbara Ling
    Nancy Haigh
  • The Two Popes
    Mark Tildesley
    Saverio Sammali

COSTUME DESIGN 

  • Dolemite Is My Name
    Ruth E. Carter
  • Joker
    Mark Bridges
  • Judy
    Jeny Temime
  • Rocketman
    Julian Day
  • The Two Popes
    Luka Canfora
  • Downton Abbey
    Caroline McCall
    Anna Robbins
    Susannah Buxton
    Rosalind Ebbutt

Film Review: Avengers: Endgame (dir by the Russo Brothers)


(Minor Spoilers Below!  Read at your own risk.)

So, how long does the no spoiler rule for Avengers: Endgame apply?  There’s so much that I want to say about this film but I know that I shouldn’t because, even though it had a monstrous opening weekend, there are still people out there who have not had a chance to see the film.  And while this review will have minor spoilers because, otherwise, it would be impossible to write, I’m not going to share any of the major twists or turns.

I will say this.  I saw Avengers: Endgame last night and it left me exhausted, angry, sad, exhilarated, and entertained.  It’s a gigantic film, with a plot that’s as messy and incident-filled as the cinematic universe in which it takes place.  More than just being a sequel or just the latest installment in one of the biggest franchises in cinematic history, Avengers: Endgame is a monument to the limitless depths of the human imagination.  It’s a pop cultural masterpiece, one that will make you laugh and make you cheer and, in the end, make you cry.  It’s a comic book film with unexpected emotional depth and an ending that will bring a tear to the eye of even the toughest cynic.  By all logic, Avengers: Endgame is the type of film that should collapse under its own weight but instead, it’s a film that thrives on its own epic scope.  It’s a three-hour film that’s never less than enthralling.  Even more importantly, it’s a gift to all of us who have spent the last ten years exploring the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film itself starts almost immediately after the “Snap” that ended Avengers: Infinity War and we watch as Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, returning to the franchise after being absent in the previous film) finds himself powerless to keep his family from disintegrating.  After often being dismissed as the Avengers’s weak link, both Clint Barton and Jeremy Renner come into their own in the film.  As one of two members of the Avengers who does not have super powers, Clint serves as a everyperson character.  He’s a reminder that there’s more at stake in Endgame than just the wounded pride of a few super heroes.  When Thanos wiped out half the universe, he didn’t just wipe out Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Groot.  He also left very real wounds that will never be healed.

When the film jumps forward by five yeas, we discover that the world is now a much darker place.  When we see New York, the once vibrant city is now gray and deserted.  Our surviving heroes have all dealt with the Snap in their own way.  Clint is now a vigilante, killing anyone who he feels should have been wiped out by Thanos but wasn’t.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) drinks and eats and feels sorry for himself.  Captain America (Chris Evans) attends support groups and, in one nicely done scene, listens as a man talks about his fear of entering into his first real relationship in the years since “the Snap.”  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is living as a recluse and is still blaming himself.  Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is now an avuncular, huge, and very green scientist.  Only Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) remains convinced that the Snap can somehow be undone.  She’s right, of course.  But doing so will involve some unexpected sacrifices and a lot of time travel….

And that’s as much as I can tell you, other than to say that the film takes full advantage of both the time travel aspects (yes, there are plenty of Back to the Future jokes) and its high-powered cast.  With our heroes — which, along with the usual Avengers, also include Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) — hopping through time and space, we get a chance to revisit several of the films that led up to Endgame and it’s a thousand times more effective than it has any right to be.  Yes, one could argue that the cameos from Robert Redford, Tom Hiddleston, Hayley Atwell, and others were essentially fan service but so what?  The fans have certainly earned it and the MCU has earned the chance to take a look back at what it once was and what it has since become.

Indeed, Avengers: Endgame would not work as well as it does if it hadn’t been preceded by 21 entertaining and memorable movies.  It’s not just that the MCU feels like a universe that it as alive as our own, one that is full of wonder, mystery, sadness, and love.  It’s also that we’ve spent ten years getting to know these characters and, as a result, many of them are much more than just “super heroes” to us.  When Tony Stark and Captain America argue over whether it’s even worth trying to undo the Snap, it’s an effective scene because we know the long and complicated history of their relationship.  When the Avengers mourn, we mourn with them because we know their pain.  We’ve shared their triumphs and their failures.  Tony Stark may be a guy in an iron suit but he’s also a man struggling with his own demons and guilt.  Steve Rogers may be a nearly 100 year-old super solider but he’s also every single person who has struggled to make the world a better place.  As strange as it may be to say about characters known as Iron Man, Captain America, and the Black Widow, we feel like we know each and every one of them.  We care about them.

Needless to say, the cast is huge and one of the great things about the film is that previously underused or underestimated performers — like Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, and Karen Gillan — all finally get a chance to shine.  As always, the heart of the film belongs to Chris Evans while Robert Downey, Jr. provides just enough cynicism to keep things from getting to superficially idealistic.  Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo get most of the film’s big laughs, each playing their borderline ludicrous characters with just the right combination of sincerity and humor.  Of course, Josh Brolin is back as well and he’s still perfectly evil and arrogant as Thanos.  But whereas Thanos was the focus of Infinity War, Endgame focuses on the heroes.  If Infinity War acknowledged that evil can triumph, Endgame celebrates the fact that good never surrenders.

As Endgame came to an end, I did find myself wondering what the future is going to hold for the MCU.  A part of me wonders how they’re going to top the past ten years or if it’s even possible to do so.  Several mainstays of the MCU say goodbye during Endgame and it’s hard to imagine the future films without their presence.  It’s been hinted that Captain Marvel is going to be one of the characters holding the next phase of the  MCU together and, fortunately, Brie Larson is a quite a bit better in Endgame than she was in her previous MCU film.  Hopefully, regardless of what happens in the future, Marvel and Disney will continue to entrust their characters to good directors, like the Russo Brothers, James Gunn, and Taika Waititi.  (Wisely, Disney reversed themselves and rehired James Gunn for the next Guardians of the Galaxy film.  Of course, Gunn never should have been fired in the first place….)

And that’s really all I can say about Avengers: Endgame right now, other than to recommend that you see it.  In fact, everyone in the world needs to hurry up and see it so we can finally start talking about the film without having to post spoiler warnings!

For now, I’ll just say that Avengers: Endgame is a powerful, emotional, and entertaining conclusion to one of the greatest cinematic sagas ever.

Lisa Reviews Avengers: Infinity War (dir by Joe and Anthony Russo)


(Warning: There are spoilers in this review.  They’re not necessarily huge spoilers but they’re there.  Read at your own risk.)

Avengers: Infinity War is a lot of things.  It’s big, it’s thrilling, it’s emotional, it’s colorful, it’s loud, it’s flamboyant, and, clocking in at two and a half hours, it’s occasionally a bit exhausting.  It’s overwhelming but it’s never boring.  It’s a nearly perfect example of pure cinema, where the story is less about what happens and more how it’s told. It’s a tribute to not just the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also to the audiences who have been flocking to each movie since Iron Man was first released way back in 2008.  Avengers: Infinity War is a pop art masterpiece, one that provides the first part of a climax to a saga that’s been unfolding for ten years.

In the days leading up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War, the main selling point was the assumption that this movie would feature every single character that’s been introduced as a citizen of the MCU so far.  Though the film comes close to including everyone, there are still a few characters who are notable for their absence.  Ant-Man and the Wasp are nowhere to be seen.  None of the Marvel Television characters show up, which is a shame because I’m sure Jessica Jones would have had some choice words about the potential end of the universe.  Two familiar SHIELD agents make a brief appearance, though you have to wonder where they were when New York and Wakanda were being invaded.

That said, all of the big heroes show up.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) flies into space with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) teams up with Rocket Racoon and Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively).  When Wakanda is attacked, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), White Wolf (Sebastian Stan), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Rhodey (Don Cheadle), and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) are all present to defend it.  Meanwhile, Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) continue to pursue their odd relationship while Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) search for Gamora’s father, Thanos (Josh Brolin).

It’s a packed film and the fact that it works as well as it does is a testament to the power of perfect casting and movie star charisma.  At this point, we feel as if we know these characters.  We know that Tony Stark is going to be haunted by what happened the last time Thanos’s minions involved New York.  We know that Spider-Man is going to be desperate to prove that he belongs with the adults, just as we know that Dr. Strange isn’t going to be particularly impressed with anyone he meets.  Needless to say, some characters get more screen time than others.  Despite a good deal of the film taking place in Wakanda, Black Panther largely stays in the background.  I personally wish that both Natasha and Captain America had been given a bit more to do.  Considering just how talented both Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle are, it’s a shame that neither one of them ever gets to do much in these films.  At the same time, Infinity Wars allows both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany to come into their own and Chris Hemsworth again shows that he may be the most underrated star in the MCU.  I’ve read a lot of criticism of certain actions taken by Peter Quill towards the end of the film but actually, it’s exactly what you would expect his character to do in the situation and, up until that moment, Chris Pratt is a welcome presence.  It’s important to have someone around who appreciates good music and who can make you laugh, especially considering that Thanos is planning to wipe out 50% of the universe’s population…

Oh yes, Thanos.  After spending years lurking in the background, Thanos finally steps forward in Infinity War.  In fact, it can be argued that Avengers: Infinity War is actually much more of a Thanos film than an Avengers film.  While our heroes are continually spending the film trying to catch up to Thanos and reacting to his latest action, Thanos is always one step ahead.  Thanos is the one who steers the narrative and, for once, you really do believe that an MCU villain views the heroes as being mere distractions.  Thanos is the one on a quest and the film follows him through every step of his search.  In fact, the film’s most emotional moments belong to Thanos.  For all the death and destruction to be found in the film’s surprisingly dark narrative, Thanos is the only character to ever shed a tear.  Like all great villains, Thanos doesn’t view himself as being evil.  Instead, Thanos speaks very sincerely of his desire to bring balance to the universe.  The scary thing about Thanos isn’t that he claims that he’s being merciful when he slaughters millions of beings.  The scary thing about Thanos is that believes it.

Thanos, you see, is a bit of an intergalactic environmentalist.  As he explains it, the universe only has a finite number of resources.  By killing half of the universe’s population, he is ensuring that the other half will be able to survive in peace and harmony.  Most people would call Thanos’s actions genocidal but Thanos would probably say that he’s merely making the difficult decisions that others don’t have the courage or intelligence to make.  It may all sound rather far-fetched and melodramatic until you consider that, just last week, bureaucrats and doctors in the UK decided it would be better to starve a sick infant to death rather than allow his parents to take him to be treated in another country.  With his mix of narcissism and absolutely belief in his own moral certitude, Thanos is a far more familiar villain than a lot of viewers might want to admit.  As opposed to the forgettable villains who have appeared in so many MCU films, Thanos is a compelling and complicated figure.  It’s interesting to note that two of the best performances of the year so far were given by actors appearing as villains in MCU films, Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther and Josh Brolin in this one.

As befits the film’s subject matter, Infinity War is a sprawling film, one that skips from world to world.  The visuals are frequently spectacular, as are the many battles.  From the opening attack on New York to the final battles in Wakanda and in space, the action is non-stop and thrilling.  (It helps that, as opposed to some of the previous MCU films, it’s always clear who is fighting who and why they’re fighting.)  For me, though, the most memorable scenes are the scenes where Thanos looks and considers the worlds that he’s destroyed.  There’s a scene where an exhausted Thanos rests on a placid planet and it’s one of the strongest images in the history of the MCU.

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t worry too much about all of the characters who are killed over the course of Infinity War.  From what I’ve been told, it’s apparently something of a tradition in Marvel comics to kill off a bunch of recognizable characters and then have them come back to life an issue or two later.  And the fact that the sequel to Infinity War has already been filmed and is set to released next year leads me to suspect that nothing’s permanent.  I mean, if all of these people are really dead, there aren’t going to be many heroes left to make any more movies about.  That said, I still got far more emotional than I probably should have at some of the unexpected demises.  Especially … well, no.  I won’t say the name.  But seriously, it was upsetting.

2018 is shaping up to be the year of Marvel.  So far, Marvel has released two of the best films of the year.  To be honest, a film as huge as Infinity War shouldn’t have worked and yet, it does.  It’s a masterpiece of pop art.*

* For a totally different response to Avengers: Infinity War, check out Ryan’s review by clicking here!

Check Out These Avengers: Infinity War Character Posters!


With the release of Avengers: Infinity War right around the corner, Marvel has released a whole new collection of character posters!  Just in case you were wondering who, from the MCU, is going to show up in Infinity War, here’s a partial reminder!

(By the way, the answer  would appear to be just about everyone who has ever appeared in an MCU film!)

Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr)

Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth)

War Machine (Don Cheadle)

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)

Captain America (Chris Evans)

White Wolf (Sebastian Stan)

Falcon (Anthony Mackie)

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt)

Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel)

Gamora (Zoe Saldana)

Nebula (Karen Gillan)

Drax (Dave Bautista)

Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)

Vision (Paul Bettany)

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)

Spider-Man (Tom Holland)

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Wong (Benedict Wong)

Mantis (Pom Klementieff)

Okoye (Danai Gurira)

Shuri (Letitia Wright)

 

 

The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Get In With Get Out!


Today, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2017!  After picking up awards from many of the other precursors, Get Out has finally been named best picture of the year.  While it’s always debatable how much weight these various groups carry with the Academy, Get Out can use all the help it can get to become one of the few horror films to ever receive a best picture nomination.

​Best Film
Call Me by Your Name
Dunkirk
Get Out – WINNER
Lady Bird
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk – WINNER
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Dee Rees – Mudbound

Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour – WINNER

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – WINNER
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name
Jason Mitchell – Mudbound
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – WINNER
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Holly Hunter – The Big Sick
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird – WINNER

Best Acting Ensemble
Dunkirk
It
Mudbound
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – WINNER

Best Youth Performance
Dafne Keen – Logan
Sophia Lillis – It
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project – WINNER
Millicent Simmonds – Wonderstruck
Jacob Tremblay – Wonder

Best Voice Performance
Will Arnett – The LEGO Batman Movie
Gael García Bernal – Coco
Michael Cera – The LEGO Batman Movie
Bradley Cooper – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Anthony Gonzalez – Coco – WINNER

Best Motion Capture Performance
Andy Serkis – War for the Planet of the Apes – WINNER
Dan Stevens – Beauty and the Beast
Steve Zahn – War for the Planet of the Apes
Taika Waititi – Thor: Ragnarok

Best Original Screenplay
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
Jordan Peele – Get Out – WINNER
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water

Best Adapted Screenplay
Hampton Fancher & Michael Green, Story by Hampton Fancher – Blade Runner 2049
James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Virgil Williams and Dee Rees – Mudbound – WINNER

Best Animated Feature
The Breadwinner
Coco – WINNER
Despicable Me 3
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

Best Documentary
City of Ghosts
Faces Places
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Jane – WINNER
Step

Best Foreign Language Film
BPM (Beats Per Minute) – WINNER
First They Killed My Father
In the Fade
The Square
Thelma

Best Production Design
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049 – WINNER
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Wonder Woman

Best Cinematography
Roger A. Deakins – Blade Runner 2049 – WINNER
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom – Call Me by Your Name
Hoyte Van Hoytema – Dunkirk
Rachel Morrison – Mudbound
Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water

Best Editing
Baby Driver – WINNER
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Get Out
The Shape of Water

Best Original Score
Blade Runner 2049 – WINNER
Coco
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC:
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Last Flag Flying
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Post – WINNER