The Boston Society of Film Critics Names Little Women As The Best of 2019!


The Boston Society of Film Critics today named their picks for the best of 2019 and they did not pick Parasite or The Irishman for best picture.  Nor did the pick Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, 1917, or Knives Out.  Instead, the BSFC picked Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, which has — so far — been flying a bit under the awards season radar.

Will this provide a boost to Little Women’s chances or will this be an outlier?  We’ll find out soon enough!  For now, here are the winners:

Best Picture: LITTLE WOMEN
Runner-up: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

Best Director: Bong Joon Ho, PARASITE
Runner-up: Greta Gerwig, LITTLE WOMEN

Best Actor: Adam Sandler, UNCUT GEMS
Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER

Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan (LITTLE WOMEN)
Runners up: TIE – Elisabeth Moss (HER SMELL) and Mary Kay Place (DIANE)

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt (ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD)
Runner up: Joe Pesci (THE IRISHMAN)

Best Supporting Actress LAURA DERN (MARRIAGE STORY)
Runner up: Florence Pugh for (LITTLE WOMEN)

Best Ensemble Cast: LITTLE WOMEN
Runners-up: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD and PARASITE

Best Screenplay: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Runners-up: MARRIAGE STORY and LITTLE WOMEN

Best Cinematography: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE
Runner up: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Best Editing: THE IRISHMAN
Runner-up: UNCUT GEMS

Best Original Score: LITTLE WOMEN
Runner-up: THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

Best Foreign Language Film: PARASITE
Runner-up: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

Best Animated Film: I LOST MY BODY
Runner up: TOY STORY 4

Best Documentary: HONEYLAND
Runners-up: APOLLO 11 and HAIL, SATAN?

Best New Filmmaker: Joe Talbot for THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Runner up: Mati Diop for ATLANTICS

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association Honors Parasite and Jennifer Lopez


On Sunday, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2019!  Parasite was named Best Picture while Jennifer Lopez finally picked up an award for her acclaimed performance in Hustlers.

Here’s a full list of the winners:

Best Picture

  • “PARASITE”

Runner-up: “THE IRISHMAN”

Best Foreign-Language Film

  • “PAIN AND GLORY”

Runner-up: “PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE”

Best Director

  • Bong Joon Ho, “PARASITE”

Runner-up: Martin Scorsese, “THE IRISHMAN”

Best Actor

  • Antonio Banderas – “PAIN AND GLORY”

Runner-Up: Adam Driver – “MARRIAGE STORY”

Best Actress

  • Mary Kay Place, “DIANE”

Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, “US”

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Lopez, “HUSTLERS”

Runner-up: Zhao Shuzhen, “THE FAREWELL”

Best Supporting Actor

  • Song Kang Ho, “PARASITE”

Runner-Up: Joe Pesci, “THE IRISHMAN”

Best Cinematography

  • Claire Mathon, “PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE” & “ATLANTICS”

Runner-Up: Roger Deakins, “1917”

Best Screenplay

  • Noah Baumbach, “MARRIAGE STORY”

Runner-Up: Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, “PARASITE”

Best Music/Score

  • Dan Levy, “I LOST MY BODY”

Runner-Up: Thomas Newman, “1917”

Best Documentary/Nonfiction Film

  • “AMERICAN FACTORY”

Runner-up: “APOLLO 11”

Best Animation

  • “I LOST MY BODY”

Runner-Up: “TOY STORY 4”

Best Production Design

  • Barbara Ling, “ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD”

Runner-up: Ha Jun Lee, “PARASITE”

Best Editing

  • Todd Douglas Miller, “APOLLO 11”

Runner-up: Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie,” UNCUT GEMS”

Douglas Edwards Experimental Film

  • THE GIVERNY DOCUMENT, Ja’Tovia Gary

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

Insomnia File #32: Smooth Talk (dir by Joyce Chopra)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep around one in the morning last night, you could have turned over to This TV and watched Smooth Talk, a disturbingly creepy coming-of-age film from 1985.

Connie Wyatt (played by Laura Dern in one of her first film roles) is fifteen years old and ready to discover the word.  It’s the summer and, for Connie and her friends, that means going to the mall, trying to capture the attention of the cute boys who go to their school, and lying to her parents about where she goes at night.  (She tells them that she and her friends have been going to the same movie, night-after-night.)  She likes it when the boys in the mall smile at her but not when the stranger honk their car horn at her whenever she walking at night.  Connie thinks of herself as being an independent adult, even though she’s not sure what that means.

Connie does know that she doesn’t want to be like her mother (Mary Kay Place).  Her mother, who claims that she was once a great beauty herself, complains that all Connie does is indulge in “trashy daydreams.”  Her mother tells Connie to be careful about who she flirts with and constantly demands that Connie stay home and help to paint the house.

Connie also doesn’t want to be like her older sister, June (Elizabeth Berridge).  June is obviously her mother’s favorite.  June never sneaks out.  June never rebels.  Whenever Connie and her mother argue, June always take their mother’s side.

In fact, the only member of her family that Connie’s close with is her father (Levon Helm).  Her father is always cheerful and always in a good mood.  Somehow, the constant tension in the house never seems to get to him and he never seems to be worried about anything.  He’s nice but he’s hardly an authority figure.

And then there’s an older man (Treat Wiliams).  When we first see him, he’s sitting outside of a diner and casually watching all of the teenage girls as they walk by.  (We all know the type.)  When he sees Connie and her friends, he looks over at Connie and tells her, “I’m watching you.”  Later, when Connie is alone at her house, the man pulls up in front of her house and starts to talk to her.

His name, he explains, is Arnold Friend.  “A. Friend,” he puts it.  That’s what he wants to be to her.  When she asks how old he is, he says that he’s 18, though he’s clearly closer to 30.  He’s handsome and he’s charming but there’s something off about him.  He shows Connie his car.  “Arnold Friend” is written on the side.  “33, 19, 17,” is written on the back.  Written next to a dent: “A woman driver did this.” Sitting in the car is a friend of Arnold’s, a man who hides his face behind a portable radio.

“He’s strange,” Arnold explains with a sly smile, before suggesting that Connie get in the car with them…

Smooth Talk is based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates and, oh my God, is it ever creepy!  The first half of the movie plays out like a typical coming-of-age teen film but then Arnold shows up in that car and the film turns into a nightmare.  I spent almost the entire movie cringing, mostly because I once was Connie Wyatt, the only real difference being that I was even younger when I decided that I understood how the world worked better than my parents and I started rebelling.  As I watched the movie, I found myself wondering what I would have done if Arnold Friend had pulled up in front of my house.  Would I have gotten in the car or what I would have run back into the house, locked the door, and called the police?  I’d like to think I would have done the smart thing but … no.  Doing the smart thing would have meant admitting that the adults were right and there were situations that I couldn’t control or even really understand.

Laura Dern was 18 years old when she played 15 year-old Connie and she gave an amazing and naturalistic performance.  When Treat Williams first appeared as Arnold, I thought that he was overacting but, as the film progressed, I came to see that he was actually perfectly cast and giving exactly the type of performance that the movie’s story needed.  Arnold Friend, who speaks in outdated slang and always seems to be trying just a little bit too hard, has to be a slightly ridiculous figure because otherwise, no one would drop their guard enough to get into his car.  As I watched the movie, I realized that it was a mistake to think of Arnold as being a human being.  Instead, he’s a nightmare come to life.

Smooth Talk was a deeply unsettling film about growing up in an increasingly dangerous world.  It’s right up there with Out of The Blue, Christiane F, and Blue Velvet among nightmarish coming-of-age stories.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Big Chill (dir by Lawrence Kasdan)


Big_chill_ver1

There are certain films that truly are “You just had to be there” films.  These are the movies that were apparently loved by contemporary audiences but, when viewed today, it’s difficult to see just what exactly everyone was getting so excited about.  Sometimes, this is because the film itself was so influential and has been copied by so many other films that the original has had its power diluted.  And then, sometimes, it’s just a case that the film was never that good to begin with.

I’m guessing that The Big Chill must be one of those “you just had to be there” type of films.  First released in 1983, The Big Chill was nominated for best picture.  If you look the film up over at the imdb, you’ll find lots of comments from people who absolutely adore this film.  However, when I watched the film as a part of TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar, I have to admit that my reaction can be best summed in one word.

Meh.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that The Big Chill was a bad film.  To be honest, it was neither memorably bad nor remarkably good.  Instead, it just was.  Overall, the performances were good, the direction was shallow, and the screenplay was occasionally good and occasionally shallow but mostly, it was the epitome of serviceable.

At the start of The Big Chill, Alex is dead.  With the exception of a scene where his corpse is being prepared for burial, Alex never actually appears on screen.  (Originally, Kevin Costner was cast to play the role in a flashback but director Lawrence Kasdan cut the scene.)  What little we learn about Alex, we learn from listening to the other characters in the film talk about him.  For instance, Alex was apparently brilliant but troubled.  He attended the University of Michigan in the 1960s and was close to 7 other politically radical students.  While everyone else was busy selling out their ideals, Alex stayed true to his and, as a result, he ended up spending his life depressed and poor.  Alex ultimately ended up committing suicide, an act that leads to his 7 friends reuniting for his funeral.

Opening with Alex’s funeral and taking place over one long weekend, The Big Chill follows Alex’s friends as they try to figure out why Alex committed suicide and debate whether or not they’ve sold out their college ideals.  They also spend a lot of time listening to the music of the youth, getting high, watching a football game, and washing dishes.

(Interestingly enough, they spend the weekend in the exact same house where Alex committed suicide.  Which, to be honest, I would think would be kind of creepy.)

There’s Harold (Kevin Kline) and Sarah (Glenn Close), who are the unofficial grown ups of the group.  It was at their vacation home that Alex committed suicide and, over the course of the film, we find out that Alex and Sarah had a brief affair.  Harold owns a company that makes running shoes and, to at least one friend’s horror, is now good friends with the local police.  Sarah, meanwhile, splits her time between crying in the shower and smiling beatifically at her friends.

(Incidentally, throughout the film, Kevin Kline speaks in one of the least convincing southern accents that I’ve ever heard…)

Meg (Mary Kay Place) is a former public defender who, after deciding that all of her poverty-stricken clients really were scum, has now become a real estate attorney.  Meg wants a baby and is hoping that one of the men at the funeral might be willing to impregnate her.  Meg is a chain smoker so good luck, unborn child.  Before Alex killed himself, she had an argument with him.  (“That’s probably why he killed himself,” someone suggests.)

I liked Karen (JoBeth Williams) because she’s prettier than Meg and less condescending than Sarah.  She’s unhappily married to an advertising executive named Richard (Dan Galloway).  As they drive to the cemetery, Richard tells Karen that he can’t believe her famous friends all turned out to be so boring.  Karen is unhappy in her marriage and, after Richard returns home and leaves her in South Carolina for the weekend, decides that she wants a divorce.

That’s good news for Sam (Tom Berenger), an actor who is best known for playing private detective J.T. Lancer on television.  Sam is upset that nobody takes him or his career seriously.  Meg was hoping that Sam would be the father of her baby but, instead, Sam is more interested in Karen.

And then there’s Nick (William Hurt), who is a former radio psychologist-turned-drug dealer.  Nick was wounded in Vietnam and is impotent as a result.  In case you somehow forget that fact, don’t worry.  Nick brings it up every few minutes.

Michael (Jeff Goldblum) was my favorite among the men because he’s at least willing to admit that he’s a self-centered jerk.  Michael is a former underground journalist who now works for People Magazine.  Nobody seems to like Michael and yet, he’s still invited to stay over the weekend.  Personally, I like to think that he does so just to get on everyone’s nerves.  Good for him.

And finally, there’s Chloe (Meg Tillis), who was Alex’s much younger girlfriend and who doesn’t seem to be impressed with any of Alex’s friends (with the exception, of course, of impotent old Nick).

I have to admit that I probably would have responded more to The Big Chill if it was actually about my generation, as opposed to being about my grandparents. Someday, someone my age will make a movie about a bunch of college friends reunited for a funeral and it will be filled with my music and my cultural references and I’ll think it’s brilliant.  And then, a 30 years later, some snotty little film reviewer will watch and probably say, “Meh.  Old people.”

Such is life.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Bound for Glory (dir by Hal Ashby)


Bound_for_glory_Poster

One of my favorite online film reviewers is Mitch Lovell of the Video Vacuum.  The thing I like about Mitch is that he doesn’t worry about how many Oscars a film has been nominated for or whether or not a film’s politics are currently in fashion.  Unlike a lot of online reviewers, he doesn’t worry about whether or not he’s going against the “accepted” views of the critical establishment.  Instead, he’ll watch a film and tell you exactly how he felt about it.

For example, Mitch Lovell’s review of the otherwise critically acclaimed 1976 best picture nominee Bound for Glory can be summed up in three words: “boring as fuck.”  Every other online review that I’ve found for Bound for Glory offers up polite but rarely inspiring praise for this rather lengthy film about the folk singer Woody Guthrie.  Most of those reviews do acknowledge that the film moves at its own pace but we are told that we will be rewarded for being patient.  If the review was written after 2010, you can be sure that the reviewer will be sure to say that Bound for Glory reminds us of why labor unions are still important and need to be protected from the Tea Party.  (The idea apparently being that, if a film has the right politics, it doesn’t have to actually be all that interesting.)  It’s all rather predictable and that’s why we’re lucky to have reviewers like Mitch Lovell around.  Whether you agree with him or not, it’s good to have a reviewer who will go against the conventional wisdom.

I recently watched Bound for Glory as a part of TCM’s 31 Days of Oscars and, to a large extent, I have to agree with Mitch Lovell’s review.  This is a movie that is not only long but which moves slowly as well.  It’s not that the film has a deliberate pace.  It’s just slow!  (If you want to see a film that makes good use of a deliberate pace, check out Barry Lyndon.)  David Carradine plays Woody Guthrie, a sign painter who, during the Great Depression, abandons his family in Texas and, by hopping trains, makes his way to California.  He works with fruit pickers.  He tries to convince his fellow workers to form a union.  He gets beat up a lot.

And he plays his guitar.

If there’s anything that remains consistent about Bound for Glory, it’s that Woody is always playing his guitar and that every time he starts to play, something terrible either has happened or does happen.  There’s a huge dust storm.  Woody plays his guitar.  A fight breaks out at a union meeting.  Woody plays his guitar.  A bunch of hoboes on a train get beat up.  Woody plays his guitar.  Woody shows up at a textile mill and starts to play his guitar.  He gets beaten up by a bunch of thugs.  Woody impresses Pauline (Gail Strickland) by playing his guitar and soon, he’s cheating on his wife.  Woody partners up with another folk singer, Ozark Blue (Ronny Cox), and they get their own radio show where Woody plays guitar.  Woody promptly gets fired.

It quickly became apparent to me that Woody Guthrie’s guitar was cursed.  Whenever he played it, poor people ended up getting oppressed.

In many ways, Bound for Glory is a prototypical example of what it means to be an acclaimed-at-its-time-but-subsequently-forgotten best picture nominee.  It’s a big epic film that tells a fictionalized account of a real person’s life story.  Woody Guthrie is best known for writing This Land Is Your Land, which is a song that I mostly associate with pretentious super bowl commercials.  As Bound for Glory details, Woody was also a union organizer and political activist but what’s odd is that the film keeps the exact details of what he believed rather vague.  We’re given the general idea of what Woody believed but we’re not given any specifics.  As a result, Woody just comes across like another part-time social protestor as opposed to being a true political thinker (much less a revolutionary).

On a positive note, Bound for Glory is impressive to look at.  The film’s cinematographer was the famous Haskell Wexler (who also directed Medium Cool, a film that was as upfront about its politics as Bound for Glory is vague) and Wexler captures some hauntingly beautiful images of the American wilderness.  The scene where a gigantic wall of dust crashes down onto a small Texas town is especially memorable.

Otherwise, though, Bound for Glory is pretty much a snoozefest.  It was nominated for best picture of 1976 and, when you compare it to fellow nominees like All The President’s Men, Network, Taxi Driver, and even RockyBound for Glory does feel a bit out of place.

Then when you consider some of the other films that came out in ’76 — Carrie,  Face to FaceThe Front, God Told Me To, Logan’s Run, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Marathon Man, The Omen, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Lipstick, Robin and Marian, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown — the nomination of Bound for Glory feels like even more of a mistake.

Oh well.

Occasionally, the Academy gets it wrong.

Shocking, I know.