6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1990s


Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1990s.

Dazed and Confused (1993, dir by Richard Linklater)

 An ensemble cast that was full of future stars, including future Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.  A killer soundtrack.  A script full of quotable lines.  Dazed and Confused seemed like it had everything necessary to score a Best Picture nomination and perhaps it would have if the film had been set in Los Angeles instead of the suburbs of Atlanta.  Unfortunately, Richard Linklater’s classic was overlooked.

Casino (1995, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster film had all the glitz of Vegas and Joe Pesci to boot!  Despite being one Scorsese’s best, the Academy largely overlooked it, giving a nomination to Sharon Stone and otherwise ignoring the film.

Normal Life (1996, dir by John McNaughton)

Life, love, crime, and death in the suburbs!  John McNaughton’s sadly overlooked film featured award-worthy performances from both Ashley Judd and Luke Perry and it definitely deserves to be better-known.  Unfortunately, the Academy overlooked this poignant true crime masterpiece.

Boogie Nights (1997, dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)

Paul Thomas Anderson first made a splash with this look at the porn industry in the 70s and 80s.  Along the way, he made Mark Wahlberg a star and briefly rejuvenated the career of Burt Reynolds.  Though both Reynolds and Julianne Moore received nominations, the film itself went unnominated.  Oh well.  At least Dirk Diggler got to keep his award for best newcomer.

Rushmore (1998, dir by Wes Anderson)

Though the film was nominated for its screenplay, the Wes Anderson classic missed out on best picture  Even more surprisingly, Bill Murray was not nominated for his funny yet sad performance.  Murray would have to wait until 2003’s Lost In Translation to receive his first nomination.  Meanwhile, a Wes Anderson film would not be nominated for best picture until Grand Budapest Hotel achieved the honor in 2015.  (That same year, Boyhood became the first Richard Linklater film to be nominated.)

10 Things I Hate About You (1999, dir by Gil Junger)

This wonderful take on Shakespeare not only introduced the world to Heath Ledger but it also proved that a teen comedy need not be stupid or misogynistic.  Because it was viewed as being a genre film (and a comedy to boot!), it didn’t get any love from the Academy but it continues to be loved by film watchers like me!

Up next, in an hour or so, the 2000s!

Film Review: White Boy Rick (dir by Yann Demange)


Last night, as a part of my attempt to get caught up with the films of 2018, I watched White Boy Rick.

As you might guess from the title, this film is about a white boy named Rick.  It’s based on the true story of Richard Wershe, Jr., who grew up on the streets of Detroit.  His father sold guns out of the trunk of his car and, by the time he turned 14, Rick was running with drug dealers and street gangs.  (The fact that he was white while all of his friends were black is what led to him getting his nickname.)  Rick became an informant for the FBI and, according to Wershe, the government helped him build up his reputation by supplying him with the drugs that he would then sell on the streets.  When the FBI eventually decided that Wershe was no longer a useful asset, he was arrested for dealing and sentenced to life in prison.

The story seems like one that has the potential to say a lot that needs to be said about not only the economic realities of life in a dying city but also about the role that race plays in America’s often misdirected “war on drugs.”  Unfortunately, the film falls flat because, with the exception of a few scenes, it never really convinces us that Rick was really worthy of being the subject of a film.  While the film surrounds him with interesting supporting characters, Rick himself remains something of a cipher.  Rick is played by a young actor named Richie Merritt.  Merritt’s has the right look for the character but you never get the feeling that there’s anything going on underneath the surface.  Rick comes across as just being a moron who got lucky and then, eventually, not so lucky.

The supporting cast fares a bit better.  For instance, Matthew McConaughey plays Rick’s father with just the right amount of manic energy and Bel Powley has a few harrowing scenes as Rick’s drug addicted sister.  Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie don’t get to do much as Rick’s grandparents but it doesn’t matter because they’re Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie.  (All Bruce Dern has to do to make a character interesting is look at the camera.)  Jennifer Jason Leigh plays one of Rick’s FBI handlers with the perfect hint of subversiveness.  You’re never quite sure whether she’s messing with Rick’s life because she’s incompetent or because she’s enjoying it.  Unfortunately, the supporting characters are often so interesting that Rick often gets overshadowed.  He’s a bystander in his own story, which may have been the film’s point but, from a storytelling point of view, it hardly makes for compelling viewing.

Admittedly, there are a few memorable scenes to be found in White Boy Rick.  At one point, Rick goes to a wedding at the mayor’s mansion and he’s a sight to behold in his blue tuxedo.  In another scene, it’s explained to Rick why, when it comes to being arrested, charged, and incarcerated, the stakes are very different when you’re black than when you’re white.  In scenes like that, you kind of get a hint of White Boy Rick could have been if it had been centered around a more compelling character.

As it is, though, White Boy Rick is well-made but kind of dull.  It’s definitely a missed opportunity.

 

Trailer Round-Up: Captive State, The Beach Bum, The Boat, Her Smell


This week, we have already shared trailers for Fuck You All: The Uwe Boll Story, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Here’s the best of the rest:

Captive State is the latest science fiction epic from director Rupert Wyatt.  Wyatt previously proved himself with Rise of the Planet of the Apes so I am looking forward to seeing what he can do with the story of an Earth that has been taken over by aliens.  Captive State will be released in March of 2019.

Harmony Korine returns to the beach with The Beach Bum.  Starring Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, and Snoop Dogg, this appears to be an unexpectedly light-hearted film from the mind behind Kids, Gummo, and Spring Breakers.  The Beach Bum will be released on March 22nd.

Judging from the trailer, The Boat appears to be Christine-in-the-water.  The Boat will be released on September 22nd.

Finally, a legendary punk rocker struggles to stay sober in Her Smell.  Judging from this teaser, it does not appear to be working.

Here’s The Trailer For White Boy Rick!


Here’s the trailer for White Boy Rick!

Now, White Boy Rick is based on a true story that’s actually pretty interesting.  At the age of 14, Richard Wershe, Jr. was the youngest criminal to ever become an informant for the FBI.  Of course, once the FBI got what they wanted from him, Wershe was left on his own and, when he was 17, he was arrested for selling cocaine and sentenced to life in prison.  Wershe, who was finally paroled in 2017, claims that the harsh sentence was politically motivated and that he basically learned how to become a successful drug dealer through his work for the government.

It’s a great story and, with more and more people questioning both drug prohibition and national law enforcement, a timely one.  The film’s got a good cast, with Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bel Powley, Rory Cochrane, Piper Laurie, and Bruce Dern all in supporting roles.  The director, Yann Demange, previously directed the great ’71 and is definitely an up-and-coming filmmaker.  Rick is played by a Richie Merritt, who will be making his film debut in the leading role.

As for the trailer itself, it’s effective.  I had a hard time understanding some of the dialogue and it’s hard to really judge Merritt’s performance based on what’s present here.  But I like the look of the trailer and the music is damn near perfect.

Some are saying this movie might be an Oscar contender.  We’ll have to see!

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: The Dark Tower (dir by Nikolaj Arcel)


What the Hell was The Dark Tower about, anyway?

It’s a legitimate question.  I know that the film was technically a continuation of Stephen King’s overrated Dark Tower books.  Matthew McConaughey was Walter, the Man in the Black, the man who is kidnapping psychic children so that he can weaponize their powers and destroy The Dark Tower.  Idris Elba was Roland, the last of the gunslingers, who is obsessed with killing Walter because Walter killed his father.  And Tom Taylor is Jake, an eleven year-old boy who lives in New York City and who keeps having visions of the Tower, Walter, and Roland.  Walter wants Jake.  Roland wants Walter.  Jake wants to understand it all…

And that’s pretty much the entire movie.  Jake switches back and forth between his world and Roland’s world.  Walter occasionally pops up in New York so that he can kill Jake’s family and assure that Jake won’t have any reason not to continue traveling with Roland at the end of the movie.  It all basically feels like the pilot for a television series and, to be honest, it probably wouldn’t be that bad of a show.  For one thing, if The Dark Tower was a tv show, there would be more of an opportunity to develop the characters of Roland, Walter, and Tom.  The Dark Tower movie only last 95 minutes and the majority of those minutes feel very rushed.

Obviously, if you’ve read Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, this film will be easier for you to follow than it will be for people who have never had to suffer through them.  I know I’m in the minority as far as this is concerned but I find The Dark Tower series to be King at his most pretentious.  Interestingly enough, a little bit of pretension probably would have helped the film version of The Dark Tower.  As it is, The Dark Tower is almost too workmanlike and straight-forward.  It could have really used a pointless Stephen King-style soliloquy about faith, innocence, and horror.  At the very least, they could have had someone in the background, droning on about politics in a Maine accent.

I have to admit that I really, really, really wanted to like The Dark Tower.  I love Idris Elba.  I love Matthew McConaughey.  Even more importantly, I love being a contrarian.  Whenever a film gets as many negative reviews as The Dark Tower, my natural instinct is always to assume that it has to be a secret masterpiece.  I mean, seriously, who trusts critics?  I really wanted to watch The Dark Tower and then write a 1,000-word defense of it.  I was hoping that, much like The Counselor, it would turn out to be a masterpiece that only I could recognize.

Sadly, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  I will say that Matthew McConaughey seemed to be having a sincerely good time playing the bad guy.  And Idris Elba had just the right mix of weariness and compassion to play Roland.  But otherwise, the movie just felt so pointless.

Overall, this has been a pretty good year for Stephen King film adaptations.  It deserves to be nominated for an Oscar, though it won’t be.  Gerald’s Game made people thankful for Netflix.  The Dark Tower, though, will be quickly forgotten.

Here’s The Trailer for The Dark Tower!


Today, Columbia finally released the first trailer for their adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower!

I love the idea of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey playing rivals but, in all honesty, this trailer … well, I don’t know how I feel about this trailer.  Watching it, I found myself flashing back to watching both Tomorrowland and Prisoners of the Lost Universe.   (No, that’s not a good thing.) Columbia is advertising this with “In a world of superheroes, there is only one gunslinger” but, to be honest, this could just as easily be a trailer for the latest entry in either the MCU or the Superman Kills People saga.

That said, trailers are often the worst way to guess what a movie is going to be like and I still hope The Dark Tower is good!

(By the way, the comments section underneath the trailer on YouTube is really annoying.  Yes, Roland’s black.  Yes, the Man in Black is white.  Get over it.)

Film Review: The Sea of Trees (dir by Gus Van Sant)


The_Sea_of_Trees

Nobody wants to admit it but there was a time when all of us self-styled award divas were convinced that Gus Van Sant’s latest film, The Sea of Trees, would be a huge Oscar contender.

Can you blame us?

Sure, you can!  But, before you do, look at it from our point of view.  Gus Van Sant is an acclaimed director who has split his time between Oscar-baity mainstream movies (Good Will Hunting, Milk) and deliberately obscure art films (Elephant).  Two of Van Sant’s films have been nominated for best picture and he has twice been nominated for best director.  The Sea of Trees stars two Oscar nominees (Naomi Watts and Ken Watanabe) and an Oscar winner (Matthew McConaughey).  Much like the 2003 best picture nominee Lost in Translation, The Sea of Trees dealt with an American in Japan.

Yep, The Sea of Trees definitely looked like a contender but then it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and everything went downhill.  The audience laughed.  The critics booed.  The negative reaction to the film quickly became legendary.  Suddenly, it looked like this former Oscar contender would be lucky to even get an American release.  Both Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions acquired the U.S. distribution rights and both companies dropped the film.

As a result, I found myself growing fascinated with The Sea of Trees.  How bad could it be, I wondered.  The fact that I might never get a chance to actually see the movie only added to my interest.

Well, fortunately, A24 eventually acquired the distribution rights to The Sea of Trees and they have now given the film a limited release in the States.  I saw it last night and…

Meh.

Seriously, after all the publicity and drama, I was expecting that The Sea of Trees would be a total and complete fiasco, one of those train wreck movies that you just can’t look away from.  But, to be honest, The Sea of Trees is not an artistic fiasco in the style of Batman v Superman, nor is it unintentionally amusing like April Rain.  Instead, it’s just a really boring film.

When I heard the plot of the film, I thought it would be an unofficial companion piece to Van Sant’s acclaimed Death Trilogy.  In many ways, the plot sounded a lot like the plot of Gerry.  Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey) is a widowed professor who goes to Japan and visits Aokigahara Forest, the famous suicide forest at the foot of Mt. Fiji.  Brennan is planning to end his life but he’s distracted by a Japanese man, Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), who claims to be lost in the forest.  However, Nakamura has deep cuts on his wrists.

Brennan tries to help Nakamura find his way out of the forest but soon, the two of them discover themselves to be lost.  Brennan spends a lot of time talking about life philosophy and I have to admit that I had a hard time following what he was saying because I was bored out of my mind.  (It doesn’t help that McConaughey delivers his dialogue in the same style that he used for his infamous car commercials.)  Nakamura doesn’t say much at all.

We also get several flashbacks to Brennan’s former life with his wife (played by Naomi Watts).  The scenes all have a definite Nicholas Sparks feel to them.  And yet, the flashbacks were the best part of the film because of the chemistry between McConaughey and Watts.  The flashbacks are openly and unapologetically sentimental, without any of the pretension that mars the scenes between Brennan and Nakamura.

On a positive note, the film’s cinematography is often striking and the opening, with Brennan walking past random corpses while looking for the perfect place to end his life, is nicely done.  Otherwise, almost the entire film is a misfire.  Matthew McConaughey is one of those actors who is naturally so full of life that it’s hard to buy him as a suicidal academic and the film, which is already overlong at nearly two hours, drags.  This is one of those films that has about a dozen false endings before the final credits finally roll.  Meanwhile, as the action slowly plays out, the original score pounds you over the head.  Important Important Important, the score demands even as the film fails to deliver.

And so, that’s The Sea of Trees.  

It’s not exactly a fiasco but it is unforgivably forgettable.

You gotta keep livin', man! L-I-V-I-N!

You gotta keep livin’, man! L-I-V-I-N!