Ghosts of Sundance Past #4: Frozen River (dir by Courtney Hunt)


The 2008 film, Frozen River, tells the story of two desperate mothers.

Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) has spent two years working as a clerk in a discount store and still cannot convince her boss to promote her to full time because, in his opinion, she’s just not “long-term employee” material.  Ray’s husband, a compulsive gambler, has vanished and taken the majority of their money with him.  Ray and her two sons live in a mobile home, where they subsist on a diet of popcorn and tang.  Every few days, a man comes by and threatens to repossess the home and leave Ray and her children homeless.  Ray always manages to talk him out of it.  If there’s anything that Ray can do, it’s talk her way out of trouble.

Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham) is a Native American who lives on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation and who works at a bingo parlor.  Because Lila is struggling financially and often resorts to illegal means to make ends meet, Lila’s mother-in-law has taken away her infant son.  If Ray’s defining characteristic seems to be her ability to talk her way out of trouble, Lila is quiet and often seems to be hiding from the world.

One day, while Ray is out looking for her husband, she spots Lila driving his car.  Lila claims that she found the car, sitting deserted at a gas station.  (It’s never established whether Lila is telling the truth or if she actually stole the car.)  Ray discovers that Lila makes her money by smuggling undocumented immigrants over the Canadian border and Ray soon joins her.

Frozen River takes place a few days before Christmas in Upstate New York.  There’s snow on the ground and a Christmas tree in the mobile home but there’s little holiday cheer to be found in the film.  In order to smuggle people across the border, Ray and Lila take them across the frozen St. Lawrence River and, just like the ice on the river, Ray’s occasional moments of happiness seem to be destined to only be temporary.  Just as the ice is eventually going to break, so is Ray and Lila’s operation.  One gets the feeling that it’s only a matter of time.  Ray and Lila almost immediately attract the attention of the stern State Trooper Finnerty (Michael O’Keefe).  Significantly , Finnerty’s suspicions are initially limited to only Lila and he even tries to warn Ray that she’s hanging out with a known smuggler.

Frozen River is dominated by two strong lead performances.  Melissa Leo is the one who was nominated for best actress but I actually think that Misty Upham (who tragically died a few years after this film was released) is even better.  Leo is the one who gets the big scenes and who gets to deliver all of the best lines and she does a great job with a richly written character.  Upham, meanwhile, has to largely create her character in silence.  She rarely speaks but, when she does, she makes it count.  When Ray and Lila get pulled over by Finnerty and Lila snaps that Ray will be okay because she’s white, the way Upham delivers that one line tells you so much about what has led her to be in her current situation.  When you see Upham in the background, watching Ray or Finnerty or anyone else who is standing in the way of her seeing her baby, her glare is worth a thousand monologues.  Both Leo and Upham are so good that they hold your interest even when the film’s script and direction veers towards the heavy-handed.  (Director Courtney Hunt, for the most part, does a good job of keeping things credible but it’s hard not to roll your eyes a bit when a duffel bag being carried by two refugees turns out to not contain, as Ray originally suspects, explosives but a baby instead.)

Frozen River was a hit at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize.  Leo went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, though she lost to Kate Winslet in The Reader.

Here Are The 2017 Nominations of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle!


Yesterday, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle announced their nominees for the best of 2017!  The winner will be announces tomorrow!

Like almost all of the precursors so far, San Francisco seems to really like The Shape of Water.

Best Picture
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
GET OUT
THE SHAPE OF WATER
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Director
Sean Baker  – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Guillermo del Toro  – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Greta Gerwig  – LADY BIRD
Christopher Nolan  – DUNKIRK
Jordan Peele – GET OUT

Best Actor
Timothee Chalamet – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
James Franco  – THE DISASTER ARTIST
Daniel Kaluuya  – GET OUT
Gary Oldman – DARKEST HOUR
Andy Serkis  – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Actress
Annette Bening – FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
Sally Hawkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Frances McDormand  – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Margot Robbie – I, TONYA
Saoirse Ronan – LADY BIRD

Best Supporting Actor 
Willem Dafoe  – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Armie Hammer – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Richard Jenkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Sam Rockwell  – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Michael Stuhlbarg  – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Best Supporting Actress
Holly Hunter – THE BIG SICK
Allison Janney – I, TONYA
Melissa Leo – NOVITIATE
Lesley Manville – PHANTOM THREAD
Laurie Metcalf – LADY BIRD

Best Foreign Language Film
BPM
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
FRANTZ
IN THE FADE
THE SQUARE

Best Animated Feature
THE BREADWINNER
COCO
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
LOVING VINCENT
YOUR NAME

Best Documentary
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
CITY OF GHOSTS
DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME
FACES PLACES
JANE

Best Cinematography
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Roger Deakins
DUNKIRK – Hoyte van Hoytema
THE FLORIDA PROJECT – Alexis Zabe
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Dan Laustsen
WONDER WHEEL – Vittorio Storaro

Best Production Design
BLADE RUNNER 2049  – Dennis Gassner
DUNKIRK  – Nathan Crowley
PHANTOM THREAD  – Mark Tildesley
THE SHAPE OF WATER  – Paul D. Austerberry
WONDERSTRUCK – Mark Friedberg

Best Editing
BABY DRIVER – Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Joe Walker
DUNKIRK – Lee Smith
THE POST – Michael Kahn
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Sidney Wolinsky

Best Screenplay (original)
THE BIG SICK – Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon
GET OUT – Jordan Peele
LADY BIRD  – Greta Gerwig
THE SHAPE OF WATER  – Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI  – Martin McDonagh

Best Screenplay (adapted)
THE DISASTER ARTIST  – Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME  – James Ivory
MOLLY’S GAME – Aaron Sorkin
MUDBOUND  – Dee Rees and Virgil Williams
WONDERSTRUCK  – Brian Selznick

Best Original Score
BLADE RUNNER 2049  – Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
DUNKIRK  – Hans Zimmer
PHANTOM THREAD  – Jonny Greenwood
THE SHAPE OF WATER  – Alexandre Desplat
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Michael Giacchino

Special Citation (for that underappreciated indie gem)
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
COLUMBUS
THE OTHER KIDS

The Detroit Film Critics Nominate James Franco!


On December 4th (see, I told you I was running behind!), The Detroit Film Critics announced their nominations for the best of 2017!  The winners will be announced tomorrow and you can see the nominees below!

Patrick Stewart picks up a nomination for Logan, which may not make a difference as far as the Oscars are concerned but which is still extremely nice to see.  Also nice to see?  That best film nomination for James Franco’s The Disaster Artist!

BEST FILM

  • The Disaster Artist
  • The Florida Project
  • Get Out
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
  • Sean Baker, The Florida Project
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Geuillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

BEST ACTOR

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
  • James Franco, The Disaster Artist
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
  • Robert Pattinson, Good Time

BEST ACTRESS

  • Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saroise Ronan, Lady Bird

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Patrick Stewart, Logan
  • Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
  • Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
  • Allison Janney, I, Tonya
  • Melissa Leo, Novitiate
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

BEST ENSEMBLE

  • The Big Sick
  • Lady Bird
  • Mudbound
  • The Post
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BREAKTHROUGH

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name (actor)
  • Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman (actress)
  • Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip (actress)
  • Caleb Landry Jones, American MadeThe Florida ProjectGet Out, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (actor)
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out (writer/director)

BEST SCREENPLAY

  • Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
  • Liz Hannah, Josh Singer, The Post
  • Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Taylor Sheridan, Wind River

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • The Defiant Ones
  • Human Flow
  • Kedi
  • Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
  • Step
  • Strong Island
  • Whose Streets?

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

BEST USE OF MUSIC

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For November


Well, it’s that time again!  It’s time for me to update my predictions for what will be Oscar-nominated in January.

This is also the point of the year when, for better or worse, the Oscar race starts to get a bit clearer.  I guess it’s time for me to stop pretending that either It or Wonder Woman is going to be nominated for best picture.  *Sigh*  That said, there still might be a few surprises.

(At least, I hope there will be…)

Be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October!

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Get Out

Lady Bird

Logan

Phantom Thread

The Post

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director

Sean Baker for The Florida Project

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Steven Spielberg for The Post

Best Actor

Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Tom Hanks in The Post

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

Saorise Ronan in Lady Bird

Meryl Streep in The Post

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Mark Rylance in Dunkirk

Best Supporting Actress

Tiffany Hadish in Girl Trip

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Allison Janney in I, Tonya

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for October!


Hi, everyone!

It’s time for me to post my monthly Oscar predictions!  With Oscar season finally getting started, things are starting to become a lot more clearer.  At the same time, especially when compared to the previous few years, it’s hard not to feel as if there’s a lot more uncertainty than usual.

For months, people were convinced that The Post was going to be the big Oscar contender but rumor has it that the film’s a bit of a mess.  I can’t say that I’m surprised.  Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and Steven Spielberg teaming up for a celebration of the press?  That sounds like exactly the type of project that will bring out everyone’s worst, most mawkish instincts.

With the downfall of Hollywood power players and monsters like Harvey Weinstein, the Oscar outlook becomes even more hazy.  If ever there’s been a year for the Academy to make a statement, this would be it.  But will they have the courage?  On the one hand, the Academy has made an attempt to broaden their membership and to bring in new voices and perspectives.  On the other hand, Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel has already said he won’t be mentioning anything about Weinstein (or, I assume, James Toback or Kevin Spacey) during next year’s ceremony.  Is the Academy going to make a statement or are they just going to try to pretend like nothing’s happened?

Could next year be the year that the Oscars embrace genre films?  Some of the biggest disappointments of the year have been the movies that would typically contend for Oscars.  Meanwhile, some of the most acclaimed films of the year — Get Out, It, Wonder Woman, Logan, — are all so-called genre films.

For my predictions below, I’ve decided to live in a world where the Academy embraces genre films.  These predictions may be totally off but screw it.  It’s the night before Halloween and I’m going to have fun.  Besides, I can make a case for every single prediction found below.

Check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September!

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

Get Out

It

Logan

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Wonder Woman

Best Director

Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water

Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

Best Actor

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Andrew Garfield in Breathe

Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky

Best Actress

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Forida Project

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adam Sander in The Meyerowitz Stories

Patrick Stewart in Logan

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige in Mudbound

Allison Janney in I, Tonya

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For September


To see how my thinking has progressed, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, JuneJuly, and August!

 

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Detroit

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

It

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Logan

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missiouri

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

Sean Baker for The Florida Project

Kathryn Bigelow for Detroit

Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Meryl Streep in The Papers

 

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Will Poulter in Detroit

Patrick Stewart in Logan

 

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz in Murder on the Orient Express

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in The Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstuck

Margot Robbie in Goodbye Christopher Robin

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for August!


 

To see how my thinking has progressed, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, and July!

 

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Detroit

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Goodbye Christopher Robin

The Greatest Showman

Logan

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

Sean Baker for The Florida Project

Kathryn Bigelow for Detroit

Michael Gracey for The Greatest Showman

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Meryl Streep in The Papers

 

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Will Poulter in Detroit

Patrick Stewart in Logan

 

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz in Murder on the Orient Express

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in The Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstuck

Margot Robbie in Goodbye Christopher Robin