Lisa Marie Picks The 30 Top Films of 2020


Well, it’s finally time!  It’s time for me to announce my picks for the best films of 2020.

Before we begin, there is one thing I want to make clear.  Unlike the Academy, I did not extend my eligibility window.  Films like Nomadland, Minari, and The Father (amongst others) will undoubtedly be competing for the Oscar for Best Picture of 2020.  However, as far as I’m concerned, those are all 2021 films.  And I imagine that a few of them will probably appear on my best films of 2021 list.  However, the list below are my picks for the best films of 2020.  You’ll probably agree with some of my picks and disagree with some of the others.  As always, I welcome any and all comments.

Also, be sure to check out my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019!  Wow, I’ve been doing this for a while!

And now, in descending order, my favorites of 2020!

30. Money Plane (dir by Andrew Lawrence) — Okay, I can sense that you’re already rolling your eyes at my list by seriously, Money Plane is such a cheerfully absurd and self-aware little B-movie that there’s no way I couldn’t include it.  Seriously, how can you not love a film that features Kelsey Grammer always a gangster known as the Rumble?  Basically, as soon as I heard that priceless declaration of “We are going to rob the Money Plane!,” this movie had me under its spell.

29. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (dir by George C. Wolfe) — Though this adaptation of August Wilson’s play never quite escapes its theatrical roots, no one can deny the powerful performances of Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, and especially Chadwick Boseman.  Boseman dominates the film from the minute that he makes his first appearance, playing an ambitious, troubled, and undeniably talented trumpeter.  Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey with the self-awareness of someone who knows that the record producers need her more than she needs them.  She has the power and she’s not going to let anyone get away with forgetting it.

28. The Invisible Man (dir by Leigh Wannell) — Before the Academy announced that they would be changing their rules to considers streaming movies, many critics speculated that one of the results of the pandemic would be The Invisible Man winning all of the Oscars.  Though they may have been joking, it was not as outlandish an idea as they seemed to think.  The Invisible Man is a horror film that proves that being a genre film does not mean that film can’t also be a good and thought-provoking work of art.  The Invisible Man breathes new life into a somewhat hokey premise and Elisabeth Moss gives a great performance as a woman stalked by her abusive (and now invisble) ex.  The Invisible Man features one of the best ending scenes of 2020.

27. The Hunt (dir by Craig Zobel) — Delayed due to a manufactured controversy and released to critical bafflement, The Hunt is a clever satire of our hyper-partisan and hyper-polarized society.  The film’s final twist is a clever commentary on social media drama and Hillary Swank steals the show with an unexpected cameo.

26. One Night In Miami (dir by Regina King) — I went back and forth on this one.  Based on a stage play, this film imagines what happened the night that Malcolm X, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Muhammad Ali met in a Miami motel room.  There are a few times that the film is undoubtedly a bit too stagey for its own good and, early on, some of the dialogue is a bit too on the nose.  But the film has a cumulative power and, despite a few uneven moments, it’s ultimately an intriguing look at race, celebrity, and political activism in America.  A good deal of the film’s power is due to the ensemble.  While most of the awards chatter seems to be focused on Leslie Odom, Jr. as Sam Cooke, it’s Aldis Hodge’s Jim Brown who truly anchors the film.

25. Gunpowder Heart (dir by Camila Urrutia) — This raw and angry film from Guatemala was one of the more powerful films to be featured at 2020’s virtual South By Southwest.  In Guatemala City, Maria and her girlfriend Claudia are assaulted by three men.  Maria wants revenge, no mater what.  Claudia, the more cautious of the two, knows that Maria’s plans are going to end in tragedy and disaster but she also knows that there’s nothing she can do to stop her.  Gunpowder Heart isn’t always easy to watch but it’s undeniably powerful.

24. The Shock of the Future (dir by Marc Collin) — Taking place in 1978, this French film follows one day in the life of a composer named Ana (Alma Jodorowsky).  It’s a typical day — Anna wakes up, a friend comes by with the latest albums, Anna tries to compose music, she goes to a party, and she hears the newest music.  It’s a simple but effective celebration of both music and the thrill of having your entire creative life ahead of you.  Alma Jodorowsky is brilliant in the role of Anna.

23. She Dies Tomorrow (dir by Amy Seimetz) — This a disturbing mood piece about a woman who is convinced that she is going to die in a day.  Everyone who she meets also becomes convinced that they’re going to die within 24 hours.  Some of them go out of their way to make sure that it happens while others just wait for death to come.  Is it a mass delusion or is it something else?  The atmospheric film may raise more questions than it answers but it will definitely stick with you.

22. Driveways (dir by Andrew Ahn) — Kathy (Hong Chau) and her young son, Cody (Lucas Jaye), move into the home that was owned by Kathy’s deceased sister.  In his final film appearance, Brian Dennehy plays the gruff but caring neighbor who befriends both Cody and his mother.  This is a low-key but emotionally resonant film, elevated by Dennehy’s heartfelt performance.

21. Figurant (dir by Jan Vejnar) — Clocking in at 14 minutes, this unsettling but powerful French/Czech co-production tells the story of a quiet man (Denis Levant) who follows a group of younger men into a warehouse and who soon finds himself in uniform and on a battlefield.  Or is he?  It’s not an easy question to answer but this intriguing short film will keep you watching, guessing, and thinking.

20. What Did Jack Do? (dir by David Lynch) — David Lynch interrogates a monkey in an expressionistic train station.  The monkey talks about a chicken and sings a song about true love’s flame.  “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?” Lynch asks.  It’s a brilliant short film and really, it’s the sort of thing that only David Lynch, with his mix of earnestness and eccentricity, could have pulled off.  Technically, this film was made a few years ago but it only got it’s official premiere in 2020, when Netflix released it on Lynch’s birthday.

19. Red, White, and Blue (dir by Steven McQueen) — Steve McQueen’s Small Axe was made up of five short films.  Three of them appear on this list.  There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not the Small Axe films should be considered individual features or if they should be considered a miniseries.  Obviously, I see them as being individual features but, in the end, they’re brilliant and thought-provoking regardless of whether they’re television or film.  Red, White, and Blue takes a nuanced look at institutional racism and features an excellent lead performance from John Boyega.

18. Mr. Jones (dir by Agnieszka Holland) — A film that deserved more attention than it received, Mr. Jones tells the story of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who, in 1933, discovered the truth about the state-sponsored famine that was killing millions in the Ukraine.  Despite his efforts, the press refused to report on what was really happening in the Ukraine and instead, an odious propagandist named Walter Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer prize for writing pro-Stalin stories that were later determined to be full of deliberate lies.  An important and heartfelt film, Mr. Jones features a subtle but effective lead performance from James Norton and a memorable supporting turn from Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Walter Duranty as a smug snake.

17. The Outpost (dir by Rod Lurie) — Based on a true story and directed by Rod Lurie, this film pays tribute to the men who have fought and died in America’s forgotten conflict, the War in Afghanistan.  Well-acted and doggedly unsentimental, The Outpost will literally leave you breathless.

16. Emma (dir by Autumn de Wilde) — The latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s much-adapted novel, Emma has a playful spirit that is lacking in so many other literary adaptations.  It also has a great performance from Anya Taylor-Joy, who makes the character of Emma Woodhouse her own.

15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (dir by Eliza Hittman) — Two teenagers, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), travel to New York City from Pennsylvania so that Autumn can get an abortion without having to get her parent’s consent.  Though I’m occasionally a bit skeptic of cinema verite, Never Rarely Sometimes Always makes good use of the style.  Far more than just being a film about abortion, it’s a character study of two people trying to survive in a harsh world.  The scene where the previously withdrawn Autumn is prodded to open up about her past is one of the most powerful of the year.

14. Possessor (dir by Brandon Cronenberg) — Brandon Cronenberg’s disturbing sci-fi/horror hybrid is not an easy film to explain or to even describe.  Questions of identity and betrayal are mixed with grotesque images of body horror and societal neglect.  By the end of the film, you’ll find yourself reconsidering everything that you previously assumed about the movie.  This one sticks with you, even though you may not want it to.  (How’s that for a recommendation?)

13. Horse Girl (dir by Jeff Baena) — This is a film that definitely deserved a bit more attention than it received.  Alison Brie gives a brave and sympathetic performance as someone who believes that she’s a clone who has been abducted by aliens.  Is she suffering from delusions brought on by a combination of loneliness and too much television?  Or is she right?  The film will leave you guessing.  While Brie is at the center of almost every scene, Molly Shannon also gives a good performance as one of Brie’s only friends.

12. Sound of Metal (dir by Darius Marder) — Riz Ahmed plays an occasionally obnoxious drummer who goes deaf.  Worried that Ahemd is going to relapse into drug use, his girlfriend and musical partner (Olivia Cooke) checks him into a rehab center for the deaf.  With the help of a sympathetic but no-nonsense counselor (Paul Raci), Ahmed struggles to come to accept the loss of sound and music from his life.  The three main performances elevate this film, making it one of the year’s best.  In the film’s best moments, we hear the world through Ahmed’s ears and experience what he’s experiencing.

11. Mangrove (dir by Steve McQueen) — The first film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology tells the story of a true life court case.  Politically charged from beginning to end and leaving no doubt as to what the true stakes were in the case, Mangrove is the film that Trial of The Chicago 7 should have been.

10. Soul (dir by Peter Docter) — The latest from PIXAR made me cry as only a great PIXAR film can.  A music teacher named Joe (voices by Jamie Foxx) falls down a manhole shortly after winning his dream job in a jazz band.  Unwilling to die before performing on stage, Joe finds himself in the Great Before, assigned to teach an unborn soul named 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) what it means to be human …. okay, you know what?  This film has one of those plots that sounds silly if you try to explain it.  What matters is that it’s a heartfelt film that celebrates every minute of life.  Foxx and Fey both do wonderful voice work and the animation is as clever as always.  Plus, there’s a cat!

9. The Vast of Night (dir by Andrew Patterson) — This low-budget film is a wonderfully atmospheric look at what may or may not be an alien invasion taking place in the 1950s.  Featuring wonderfully naturalistic performances and an intelligent storyline, The Vast of Night is a triumph of the independent spirit.  I can’t wait to see what Andrew Patterson does next.

8. Lovers Rock (dir by Steve McQueen) — The 2nd film is Steve MQueen’s Small Axe anthology, Lovers Rock centers on one exhilarating house party.  Though the world outside of this party may be harsh and full of oppression and racism (a group of white teens shout racial slurs at one partygoer when she steps outside of the house), the world inside of the party is one of love, music, and celebration.

7. i’m thinking of ending things (dir by Charlie Kaufman) — A riddle wrapped in an enigma, i’m thinking of ending things features great performance from Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis.  What starts out as an awkward drive to visit Plemons’s parents grows increasingly more and more surreal until the audience is left to wonder what is real, what is fantasy, and whether the majority of the film’s characters even exist.  This film plays out like a dream and stays with you long after it end.

6. Palm Springs (dir by Max Barbakow) — Perhaps the ultimate twist on Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is a thought-provoking comedic gem from Lonely Island Classic Pictures.  Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, and Cristin Milioti find themselves living the same day over and over again.  Each one reacts to their predicament in a different way.  It’ll make you laugh and then it’ll make you cry.  Revealing too much else about the plot would be a crime.  It’s on Hulu so go watch it.

5. The Assistant (dir by Kitty Green) — This infuriating and ultimately tragic film follows one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a production assistant at a film company.  Though he’s never seen, Jane’s boss is clearly meant to be a fictionalized version of Harvey Weinstein.  Should Jane save her career or try to warn the actress that her boss has clearly set his eyes upon as his next victim?  The scene where the head of HR assures Jane that she needn’t worry about her boss’s behavior because “you’re not his type,” rings all too horribly true.  The Assistant was obviously designed to be a rallying call for #MeToo but sadly, today, it feels more like an obituary.

Bad Education

4. Bad Education (dir by Cory Finley) — All year, I have been lamenting the fact that Bad Education was bought by HBO and not Netflix.  If it had been released on Netflix, it would probably be an Oscar contender and Hugh Jackman would be in the hunt for his first Best Actor Oscar.  Instead, it aired on HBO and it had to settle for limited Emmy recognition.  It’s a shame because this film, which centers on embezzlement at one suburban school, was one of the best of 2020.  At a time when we’re being told not to question authority, Bad Education encourages us to question everything.  Along with being thought-provoking, it’s also occasionally laugh out loud funny.  Jackman is brilliant in the lead role.  Allison Janney is award-worthy as his partner-in-crime.  Ray Romano takes another step in proving that he’s more than just a sitcom actor.  All in all, this was a great movie.

3. First Cow (dir by Kelly Reichardt) — This melancholy tale follows two men who meet in Oregon in the 1820s and who become unlikely business partners.  Unfortunately, being partners means stealing milk from Toby Jones’s cow and thievery was even less appreciated in the 1820s than it is today. Featuring outstanding lead performances from Jon Magaro and Orion Lee, First Cow is a rewarding work of historical fiction.  Kelly Reichardt makes you feel as if you’ve woken up in the 1820s, even as she uses the past to comment upon the present.  This probably isn’t a film for everyone.  Reichardt’s style has always been more about observing than passing judgment.  But for viewers willing to stick with it, this deliberately paced film is a rewarding experience.

Finally, when it comes to the best film of the year, I’ve been going back and forth between two films.  In the end, I have to declare a tie.  In alphabetical order by title, here are the two best films of 2020:

2. The Girl With A Bracelet (dir by Stéphane Demoustier) — This French film is about a teenage girl who is on trial for murdering her best friend.  Whether or not she’s guilty is ultimately less important than why everyone has been so quick to accuse her in the first place.  Featuring an outstanding ensemble and an intelligent script, The Girl With A Bracelet will leave you thinking about …. well, everything.  It can currently be viewed on Prime.

1. Promising Young Woman (dir by Emerald Fennell) — When I first started watching this film, I worried that it might be too stylized to be effective.  But it soon became apparent the director/screenwriter Emerald Fennell and star Carey Mulligan both knew exactly what they needed to do to tell this story.  Mulligan plays a med school drop-out who is seeking her own unique style of revenge against not only the men who raped her best friend in college but also the people who Mulligan feels subsequently let her friend down.  Bo Burnham plays the pediatrician who asks Mulligan out on a date and who appears to be the perfect nice guy, the adorably awkward boyfriend who you you would expect to find in a 90s rom com.  Neither character turns out to be exactly who they initially appeared to be.  Promising Young Woman mixes genres that normally don’t go together, smashing together drama and comedy, and it’s just audacious enough to be one of the best films of the year.

 

 

TSL Looks Back at 2020:

  1. 2020 In Review: The Best of Lifetime (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  2. 12 Good Things I Saw On Television in 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  3. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Novels of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  4. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Non-Fiction Books of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  5. Lisa Marie’s 20 Favorite Songs of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  6. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  7. My Top 20 Albums of 2020 (Necromoonyeti)
  8. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems That I Saw In 2020 (Valerie Troutman)
  9. Top 10 Vintage Collections (Ryan C)
  10. Top 10 Contemporary Collections (Ryan C)
  11. Top 10 Original Graphic Novels (Ryan C)
  12. Top 10 Ongoing Series (Ryan C.)
  13. Top 10 Special Mentions (Ryan C.)
  14. Top Ten Single Issues (Ryan C)

The Films of 2020: Horse Girl (dir by Jeff Baena)


Horse Girl tells the story of a lost woman named Sarah (played, in a bravely committed performance, by Alison Brie).

Sarah is an introvert who works in a craft store, where she can tell the customers exactly the right type of paint to buy and where she’s watched over by her friendly co-worker, Joan (Molly Shannon).  During the day, she occasionally visits the grave of her mother, who committed suicide.  Sometimes, she might have a conversation with her wealthy stepfather (Paul Reiser).  She enjoys going out to the stables and watching a horse named Willow.  When she was a little girl, she rode Willow and she still thinks of him as being her horse.  The owners of the stable, however, are never particularly enthused to see Sarah hanging around.  In one scene, Sarah attempts to give advice to the girl who was just riding Willow, despite the fact that the girl obviously has no idea who Sarah is.  Despite her good intentions, Sarah tends to be so awkward in her attempts to socialize that she just leaves people feeling uncomfortable.

When she’s not at work or at the stables or trying to fit in with the other students at her zumba class, Sarah lives in an apartment with her roommate, Nikki (Debby Ryan).  While Nikki has a boyfriend, Sarah spends most of her nights in her living room, watching a cheesy sci-fi adventure show called Purgatory.  She knows every detail about the show and is always shocked when no one else is as interested in it as she is.

In short, Sarah is a misft but she’s a familiar misfit.  We all probably know someone like Sarah.  At the very least, we all follow someone on twitter who is like Sarah, someone who always seems to be trying to make a connection but who can never quite get comfortable enough to just relax and be herself.

Strange things start to happen to Sarah.  She hears voices in the apartment.  She has dreams in which she’s lying on the floor of what appears to be a spaceship.  Sarah starts to sleepwalk and is soon waking up to find herself in random locations.  When she sees a picture of her grandmother, she wonders if it’s possible that she’s a clone.  Strange scratches start to appear on the walls of her apartment.  Did Sarah put them there or are they result of something coming after her?

Horse Girl is a surprisingly effective film, one that keeps you guessing as to whether or not what we’re seeing is really happening or if it’s all just occurring in Sarah’s head.  Horse Girl was produced by Duplass Brothers Productions and it really does feel like a mumblecore version of Repulsion, with Alison Brie stepping into Catherine Deneuve’s role of the repressed young woman who finds herself a prisoner of her own fears.  Whereas Repulsion featured arms growing out of the walls, Horse Girl features alien abductions and clones.

It’s a film that is sometimes heart-breaking and occasionally darkly funny.  As much as we care and worry about Sarah, the people around her are interesting as well.  The world that Horse Girl creates feels very real and very familiar and even the actors in the smallest roles create an indelible impression.  This is one of those rare movies where it actually seems like the characters in the film all have a life even when they’re not in a scene.  Every performance and every character feels real and authentic.  I particularly liked the performance of Molly Shannon, who brings a very natural and sincere kindness to the role of Sarah’s co-worker.  Playing Sarah’s father and Sarah’s gently humorous doctor, Paul Reiser and David Paymer shine in small roles.

That said, the film works best as a showcase for Alison Brie, who is both sympathetic and, eventually, more than a little frightening in the role of Sarah.  Brie gives such an emotionally vulnerable performance as Sarah that there are times when you really wish that you could step into the film yourself and assure her that everything’s going to be okay.  It’s also a rather brave performance, one that wins our sympathy while also showing why the increasingly manic Sarah might be too much for some people to take.

I have to admit that I wasn’t necessarily expecting much when I started watching a film called Horse Girl but it turned out to be one of my favorite films of 2020 so far.

Catching Up With The Films of 2017: The Little Hours (dir by Jeff Baena)


You don’t necessarily have to be from a Catholic background to find The Little Hours to be hilarious but it probably helps.  You also don’t have to be an expert in satirical Italian literature from the Medieval era but, again, it probably helps.  Of course, what helps the most is to have a good sense of humor.

Technically, The Little Hours is based on The Decameron, though not even that famously bawdy  book featured dialogue like, “Don’t fucking talk to us!” and “Stop fucking looking at us!”  Both of those lines are delivered by Aubrey Plaza, who plays a nun in a medieval convent.  The fact that Plaza is playing a nun tells you a lot about the humor in The Little Hours.  The sets and the costumes are meticulously accurate. It’s easy to imagine that, if you got your hands on a time machine and traveled back to the Fourteenth Century, what you would see would look a lot like The Little Hours.  But the dialogue and the attitudes are all straight from the 21st century.

The Little Hours tells the story of three nuns and the people who get in their way.  Aubrey Plaza plays Sister Fernanda, the sarcastic nun who is willing to beat up anyone who looks at her for too long.  Ginerva (Kate Micucci) is the repressed nun who can’t wait to get everyone else in trouble.  Alessandra (Alison Brie) is the nun who is only a nun because her father (Paul Reiser) is making her.

When you’re bored and stuck in a convent, you find interesting ways to keep yourself amused.  For instance, gossip is always a fun way to pass the time.  Or you can get drunk on communion wine.  If you get really bored, you can always join the local coven and dance around a fire.  Or you can lust after the new handyman, a handsome deaf-mute named Massetto (Dave Franco).  Of course, Massetto isn’t really a deaf-mute.  He’s just pretending because he doesn’t want to be executed for having sex with his former master’s wife.  Life was never easy in medieval Italy.

The film may be based on The Decameron but all of the dialogue was improved.  Whenever I hear that anything’s been improvised, I always know that the end result is either going to be hilarious or it’s simply going to be unbearable.  Fortunately, the cast of The Little Hours is full of comedic pros.  They all play off of each other well.  Each line of dialogue seems like a challenge being delivered by both the character and the performer.  Behind every joke is a subtext of “Try to top this.”  Supporting roles are played by everyone from Molly Shannon to Nick Offerman to John C. Reilly.  Fred Armisen plays the Bishop who has the unenviable task of trying to keep straight everything that’s happened and his display of exasperation is absolutely brilliant.

As you can probably guess, I enjoyed The Little Hours.  It’s probably not a film for everyone.  As I said, it helps to not only have a Catholic background but to also have a sense of humor about it.  But, for those in the right mood, it’s a hilarious film.

TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel)


Twin Peaks

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Twin Peaks!

Here we are at Episode 12 of Season 2, “The Black Widow” was directed by Caleb Deschanel, who happens to be the father of Emily (Bones) and Zooey (New Girl). The episode opens with Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) paying a visit to Ben Horne (Richard Beymer). Ben is somewhat down on his luck, having learned the truth about Audrey’s (Sherilyn Fenn) visit to One Eyed Jack’s and Hank (Chris Mulkey) informing him that the brothel has been taken over by Jean Renault (Michael Parks). Ben gives Bobby a mission to follow Hank and get him on film, handing him a camera. Anything mischievous or crazy, Ben needs it for blackmail.

On the way out of Ben’s office, Bobby watches a screaming Lana Milford (Robyn Lively, who I found out is actress Blake Lively’s sister) as she runs through the hallways. Given the title of the episode, I think we may be able to get an idea of what happened.

Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is finally settling down in Twin Peaks, and with a realtor in his office, he’s given two options for Open Houses. Being Dale, he leaves the decision to chance with the flip of a quarter. The quarter spins and lands on the picture of a third property that was left out. The realtor tells him that the property is known as “Dead Dog Farm”, and no one really stays there long. It’s the place for Dale and he asks to see it right away.

Judy Swain (Molly Shannon, SNL)  from the Happy Helping Hands Organization stops by the precinct to speak with Andy (Harry Goaz), Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Dick (Ian Buchanan) about little Nicky (Joshua Harris). Judy has some interesting news on Little Nicky. It turns out that his parents were killed by mysterious circumstances, and he was bounced around to various homes. Judy doesn’t say whether Nicky had a hand in his parents death, but we can figure the best course of action here maybe to get those Megiddo daggers from The Omen and take that little kid to a church.

TP-Molly Shannon

Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) calls out to Andy as they have to make a run to the Great Northern. A tragedy has occurred. Sure enough, the next scene gives us the recently deceased Dougie Milford (Tony Jay) laying in bed. Doc Hayward (William Frost) declares it – a heart attack. Apparently, Dougie was in the throes of passion when his heart gave out. Mayor Dwayne Milford (John Boylan) says his brother couldn’t refuse a beautiful woman, and on seeing Lana in the hallway, he calls her out as a witch and a succubus. Hawk (Michael Horse) approaches Lana and attempts to console her, listening to her state that she’s cursed. Her Prom Night date in High School tried to kiss her, but his braces malfunctioned, leaving him with a lockjaw. Knowing a thing or two about curses, Hawk tells her not to worry and that when things go down, he’s the man. The scene ends on a laughable note.

Gym Class at the High School. The coach introduces the newest member of the wrestling team to her peers, Ms. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie). She challenges her crush Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger) to a sparring session. Mike sets Nadine up in a grapple hold, but she easily tackles him to the ground. She manages to also put him in a head lock and even body slam the poor fellow. Mike is down and out for the count, waiting for someone to throw a python on him and call it a day. In the next scene, we see a damaged Mike as he makes his way down the hallways of school. He reaches Donna and begs her to help him get Nadine off his back. She tells him that maybe an older woman is what he needs.

At Evelyn Marsh’s (Annette McCarthy) residence, James (James Marshall) meets Malcolm Sloan (Nicholas Love) Evelyn’s brother and the family chauffeur. If you recall from the previous episode, James is staying with Evelyn to fix her husband’s Jaguar. He was given the job by his sister, and without it would have probably gone on to drink himself into a corner. He alludes to the idea that her husband Jeffrey (John Apicella) beats her often, and to get back at him, she damages his things. Apparently, she was the one to put the Jaguar in traction. Malcolm leaves James to deal with the info he’s just provided.

Irene Littlehorse (Geraldine Kearns) brings Cooper to Dead Dog Farm.

A tiny digression here. Angelo Badalamenti has a sweet eerie tune here that sounds very much like something Charlie Clouser (Saw, The Collector) would have worked on. The closest contemporary sound I could find was as a song called “Talk to Me” by Porcelain Raft. If you get a chance, give it a listen. I wouldn’t be shocked to discover Badalamenti was an influence to them and others. This might also explain how Trent Reznor’s involved in the Revival.

Anyway, Irene and Cooper find that Dead Dog Farm was recently visited. As they go inside, they discover more clues. It appears someone’s been there in the past few hours (how Cooper realizes that is beyond me, but he’s Cooper. He deals in luck and sorcery, we’ll just accept it). He discovers baby laxative in the sink, and cocaine in a chair. With a smile, he tells Irene that they have to contact the Sheriff. The trail has become hot, and he wasn’t even trying.

Dick and Nicky are at their campsite, and Dick is trying to fix a flat. Nicky is being somewhat annoying by playing with the steering wheel and honking the horn. Dick yells at him, and Nicky puts himself out of the way, somewhat happy at the mayhem he’s caused. However, when the jack on the car gives way and almost injures Dick, Nicky runs and hugs him, worried about if he died. Dick seems a little surprised by this, and it’s something of a bonding moment between them. Then again, perhaps Nicky was just setting a trap for Dick.

At the preceinct, Truman and Cooper are talking with Colonel Riley(Tony Burton) regarding Garland Briggs’ (Don Davis) disappearance. There appears to be a connection between some messages from deep space that pertain to Agent Cooper. According to the Colonel, the source of the messages weren’t from space, but from an area very near to, or practically in Twin Peaks. The Colonel mentions that Briggs’ disappearance is a very serious thing with extreme ramifications to national security.

At the Marsh residence, James is finished fixing the Jaguar. He asks Evelyn about her husband, about what he’s done to her. She argues the point, but after a kiss and the honk of a car, she goes on alert. Jeffrey has come home, and she runs out to meet him.

Audrey meets Bobby at the Great Northern, congratulating him on the job he’s acquired with her father. She also asks him if he’d be willing to work with her as well. Misunderstanding the meaning of business, he leans in for a kiss, which she deftly evades. He smiles, saying he likes the way she thinks and heads to Ben Horne’s office.

That scene bothered me a little, and this may have to do with the idea that at the time, Lara Flynn Boyle was dating Kyle MacLachlan. Since the two of them were together, it supposedly caused a bit of a rift between she and Sherilyn Fenn. The setup that would have possibly led to an Audrey / Cooper courtship was derailed and by this point, it looked like the writers weren’t entirely sure of where to put Audrey in the scheme of things. As long as she was far from Cooper, it worked out. That’s just my speculation.

Audrey snoops in on Ben and Bobby from one of the cubbyholes in the lodge. She sees that he was able to get the pictures for Ben, though to what end, we’re not sure.

Josie (Joan Chen) is doing maid duty for Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) to pay for her scheming against here. There isn’t much to the scene save that Catherine is relishing where she has Josie here.

Cooper records something for Diane, saying that the response to Windom Earl’s first move was printed in the local paper, but he received the response to that move the day before. He understands that Windom is one step ahead of him, and needs to find a way to change that. He also points out that in the time since his suspension, he’s looked for a home, and he has to worry about his defense, which could be a problem.

Just in time, Audrey knocks on the door, presenting Cooper with a package. Inside are the pictures from Ben’s office. Pictures that include Ernie Niles (James Booth). Audrey’s happy here, considering that the information may actually exonerate Cooper, but before she could continue, Cooper’s door knocks again. This time, it’s Denise Bryson (David Duchovny), who is introduced to Audrey.

Tp-Denise-Audrey-Coop

“They have women agents?” she says, shaking Denise’s hand, a glint in her eye that suggests she may have found her calling.

“More or Less.”, Denise responds. Audrey thanks the both of them and kisses Cooper (Finally!!!) before leaving the room. It’s here that Denise points out something I missed in Audrey’s age. Cooper smiles, telling Denise that with her change in perception and identity, he assumed girls wouldn’t factor into all that. Her response is simple and it’s an effective close to the scene:

“Coop. I may be wearing a dress, but I still pull my panties on one leg at a time, if you know what I mean.”

Norma (Peggy Lipton) and Ed (Everett McGill) have a small moment over Pie about the lives they planned, and the plans that didn’t work out. She touches his hand, and says that they can make new plans, but this falls within earshot of someone holding a domino in their hands. Hank perhaps? We’re not shown. They better be careful.

Dick comes into the Precinct, pulls Andy aside and whispers that Little Nicky may very well be the Devil. Called it. Totally called it.

Mayor Milford is in Truman’s office with Truman and Doc Hayward, looking to press charges against Lana over his brother’s death by sex. He yells that she won’t get a red cent of Dougie’s money and storms out.

And here’s one of the best scenes of the episode, if short. Hawk, standing in the doorway of the room with Lana (playing the Ingenue) behind him asks the men in the main room (Hayward, Andy, Truman, and Dick) for some Irish creme to add to Lana’s coffee. Dick breaks into Act 1, Scene 5 of Romeo & Juliet, with Hayward joining in. They’re all transfixed on the redhead in the room, which reminded me of both Rita Hayworth’s introduction in Gilda, the cover models in some of the detective stories that Erin has posted here on the Lens, and Lindy Booth’s character in Cry Wolf. When everyone disperses, a phone call comes in on the line, which Lucy picks up. She finds, however, that she’s unable to reach Truman, Andy or anyone. Walking back to the room where Lana was in, she opens to door to find everyone laughing and listening to Lana’s stories. Even Andy is caught up in the magic. This, of course, infuriates Lucy, who leaves and slams the door behind her. I would have loved to know if slamming the door had any effect on the guys in the room. Whether Lana presents any kind of danger is unknown at this point, but that honestly was a great setup if we do find she’s a Femme Fatale.

We’re back at the diner, with a pair of heeled legs that step into the room. Ernie Niles is having dinner when Denise slides into the seat across from him. Taking out the pictures that Audrey stole, she informs Niles that he’s guilty of a parole violation and unless he helps her (she says, reapplying her lipstick), she’ll do everything she can to make sure he stays there. It’s a cute little scene.

We then find Ernie being interrogated by Cooper and Denise in a cabin under the midst of a thunderstorm. Ernie confesses he had about four kilos of coke, and Denise has him set up a meet at the Dead Dog Farm, where she’ll meet him as a drug trafficker. On realizing that Denise is more than who she says she is, he kind of has a bad reaction and runs to the restroom.

Cut to the Marsh residence. Screaming. Glass breaking. James wakes up to these sounds and when Malcolm steps into the room, he asks if Evelyn will be alright. He states that he once thought revenge, but she stopped him for both of their sakes. This leaves James wondering if he should intervene.

The final scene of this episode has Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart), weeping over the loss of Major Briggs. Bobby has a great moment here where he tells her of the dream his father had about him and his future. During the storm, the lights go out, and in the darkness, we find Major Briggs suddenly in the living room. How did he get there? Where the heck was he?! He asks Bobby to fix him a drink, and when asked if everything’s alright, his answer is simple.

“Not exactly.”

And isn’t that always how is it in Twin Peaks? That’s the episode. This one was actually really good, and so far the show is holding up well. Tune in tomorrow for “Checkmate”, the next episode in our Marathon.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson

The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Go Crazy For La La Land!


la-la-land

Oscar season continued today as the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2016!  What films and performers were honored in America’s capitol?

Here the complete list!

Best Film

Best Director

Best Actor

Best Actress

  • Amy Adams (Arrival)
  • Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
  • Ruth Negga (Loving)
  • Natalie Portman (Jackie) — Winner
  • Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actress

  • Viola Davis (Fences) — Winner
  • Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women)
  • Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
  • Molly Shannon (Other People)
  • Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Acting Ensemble

Best Youth Performance:

  • Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) — Winner
  • Lewis MacDougall (A Monster Calls)
  • Sunny Pawar (Lion)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)
  • Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch)

Best Voice Performance

  • Jason Bateman (Zootopia)
  • Auli’i Cravalho (Moana)
  • Ellen DeGeneres (Finding Dory)
  • Ginnifer Goodwin (Zootopia)
  • Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls) — Winner

Best Motion Capture Performance

  • Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls)
  • Mark Rylance (The BFG) — Winner

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Eric Heisserer, Based on the Story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (Arrival) — Winner
  • August Wilson, Based on his Play (Fences)
  • Luke Davies, Adapted from the Memoir “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley (Lion)
  • Patrick Ness, Based on his Novel (A Monster Calls)
  • Tom Ford, Based on the Novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Animated Feature

Best Documentary

  • Gleason
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • 13th — Winner
  • Weiner

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Elle — Winner
  • Julieta
  • The Handmaiden
  • The Salesman
  • Toni Erdmann

Best Production Design

Best Cinematography

Best Editing

Best Original Score

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #25: Marie Antoinette (dir by Sofia Coppola)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

marie-antoinette_poster

On November 12th, I recorded 2016’s Marie Antoinette off of Starz.

Before I review Marie Antoinette, I think it’s important that you know that I am an unapologetic Sofia Coppola fan.  I love every film that she’s made and I look forward to her upcoming remake of The Beguiled.  At the same time, I can also understand why some people feel differently.  Sofia Coppola’s films are not for everyone.  For one thing, almost all of her films deal with rich people.  The existential angst of the wealthy and/or famous is not a topic that’s going to fascinate everyone.  When you watch a Sofia Coppola film, you never forget that you’re watching a film that’s been directed by someone who largely grew up in the spotlight and who knows what it’s like to have money.  An ennui born out of having everything and yet still feeling empty permeates almost every scene that Sofia Coppola has ever directed.  (If you have to ask what ennui is, you’ve never experienced it.)  Many viewers look at Sofia Coppola’s filmography and they ask themselves, “Why should we care about all these materialistic people?”

However, while Sofia Coppola may not know what’s it’s like to be poor (or even middle class for that matter), she does understand what it’s like to feel lonely.  Her filmography could just as easily be called “the cinema of isolation.”  It doesn’t matter how much money you may have or how famous you may or may not be, loneliness is a universal condition.  A typical Sofia Coppola protagonist is someone who has everything and yet still cannot connect with the rest of the world.  More often that not, they turn to excessive consumption in order to fill the void in their life.  To me, the ultimate Sofia Coppola image is not, regardless of how much I may love them, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.  Instead, it’s Stephen Dorff (playing a far less likable version of Bill Murray’s Translation character) standing alone in the desert at the end of Somewhere.

Marie Antoinette, which was Sofia’s follow-up to Lost in Translation, is technically a historical biopic, though it makes little effort to be historical or accurately biographical.  Kirsten Dunst plays Marie Antoinette, the final queen of France before the French Revolution.  It was Marie Antoinette was accused of dismissing starving French peasants by announcing, “Let them eat cake!”  (For the record, it’s probable that Marie Antoinette never said that.  It’s certainly never heard in Coppola’s film.)

Marie Antoinette opens with the title character arriving in France at the age of 14.  She’s an Austrian princess who has been sent to marry the future king of France, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman).  From the minute we meet her, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as being a pawn.  Her mother arranges the marriage as a way to seal an alliance with France.  The king of France (played by Rip Torn) expects Marie Antoinette to get produce an heir to the throne as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile, her new husband is an infantile and immature fool who doesn’t even know how to make love.  Marie Antoinette finds herself isolated in a strange country, expected to be all things to all people.

And so, Marie Antoinette does what I always do whenever I’m feeling unsure of myself.  She hangs out with her girlfriends.  She throws expensive parties.  She gambles.  She flirts.  She shops.  She has fun, regardless of whether it’s considered to be proper royal behavior or not.  Occasionally, she is warned that she is losing popularity with the French people but she’s not concerned.  Why should she be?  She doesn’t know anything about the French people.  All she knows about is the life that she was born into.  She didn’t choose to be born in to wealth and power but, since she was, why shouldn’t she have a good time?

The French Revolution doesn’t occur until near the end of Marie Antoinette and when it does happen, it happens quickly.  And yet, the shadow of the revolution hangs over the entire film.  We watch the knowledge that neither Marie Antoinette nor her husband possess: eventually, they are both going to be executed.  And knowing that, it’s hard not to cheer Marie Antionette on.  She may be destined for a tragic end but at least she’s having a little fun before destiny catches up with her.

Kirsten Dunst makes no attempt to come across as being French or Austrian but then again, neither does anyone else in the film.  After all, this is a movie where Rip Torn plays the King of France without once trying to disguise his famous Texas accent.  Coppola isn’t necessarily going for historical accuracy.  Instead, in this film, Marie Antoinette serves as a stand-in for countless modern celebrities.  In the end, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as not being much different from Paris Hilton or Kardashian.  Meanwhile, the people who eventually show up outside the palace, carrying torches and shouting threats, are the same as the viewers who loudly condemn reality television while obsessively watching every episode of it.

Coppola’s stylized direction results in a film that is both thought-provoking and gorgeous to look at and which is also features several deliberate anachronisms.  (In many ways, Marie Antoinette blatantly ridicules the very idea that history can be accurately recreated.)  Perhaps because it was following up the beloved Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette has never got as much praise as it deserves but I think it’s a film that is totally deserving of a reevaluation.

(Sidenote: Fans of Italian horror should keep an eye out for Asia Argento, who has a small but very important supporting role.)

Here Are The Independent Spirit Award Nominations!


american_honey_poster

Before I forget, The Independent Spirit Award Nominations were announced earlier today!  In a year that has yet to see a Spotlight, a Mad Max, or even a Big Short, the Oscar race remains undeniably murky.  Maybe the Spirit nominations will help to clarify things.

(Sad to say but I haven’t seen most of the films that were nominated.  They’ve either just opened down here in Dallas or they’ll be opening next month.  So, you’ll have to forgive me if I can’t provide much commentary beyond saying that I look forward to seeing and reviewing them all for myself!)

(I will say, however, that I’m happy to see that American Honey was nominated because, even though I missed seeing the film, it’s directed Andrea Arnold.  Arnold’s previous film, Fish Tank, is pretty much one of my essential movies.)

Here are the nominees!

BEST PICTURE
“American Honey”
“Chronic”
“Jackie”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

BEST DIRECTOR
Andrea Arnold, “American Honey”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Pablo Larraín, “Jackie”
Jeff Nichols, “Loving”
Kelly Reichardt, “Certain Women”

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
David Harewood, “Free In Deed”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Jesse Plemons, “Other People”
Tim Roth, “Chronic”

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening, “20th Century Women”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Sasha Lane, “American Honey”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Ralph Fiennes,  “A Bigger Splash”
Ben Foster, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Shia LaBeouf, “American Honey”
Craig Robinson, “Morris from America”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Edwina Findley, “Free In Deed”
Paulina Garcia, “Little Men”
Lily Gladstone, “Certain Women”
Riley Keough, “American Honey”
Molly Shannon, “Other People”

BEST SCREENPLAY
“Hell or High Water”
“Little Men”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”
“20th Century Women”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Ava Berkofsky, “Free In Deed”
Lol Crawley,”The Childhood of a Leader”
Zach Kuperstein,”The Eyes of My Mother”
James Laxton,”Moonlight”
Robbie Ryan,”American Honey”

BEST FILM EDITING
Matthew Hannam,”Swiss Army Man”
Jennifer Lame,” Manchester by the Sea”
Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders, “Moonlight”
Jake Roberts, “Hell or High Water”
Sebastián Sepúlveda, “Jackie”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
“13th”
“Cameraperson”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Sonita”
“Under the Sun”

BEST INTERNATIONAL PICTURE
“Aquarius” (Brazil)
“Chevalier” (Greece)
“My Golden Days” (France)
“Toni Erdmann” (Germany and Romania)
“Under the Shadow” (Iran and U.K.)

BEST FIRST FEATURE
“The Childhood of a Leader”
“The Fits”
“Other People”
“Swiss Army Man”
“The Witch”

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
“Barry”
“Christine”
“Jean of the Joneses”
“Other People”
“The Witch”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (best feature made for under $500,000)
“Free In Deed”
“Hunter Gatherer”
“Lovesong”
“Nakom”
“Spa Night”

The_Witch_poster

6 Late Film Reviews: 300: Rise of Empire, About Last Night, Adult World, Jersey Boys, Ride Along, and Trust Me


Well, the year is coming to a close and I’ve got close to 50 films that I still need to review before I get around to making out my “Best of 2014” list.  (That’s not even counting the films that I still have left to see.  December is going to be a busy month.)  With that in mind, here are late reviews of 6 films that I saw earlier this year and had yet to get around to reviewing.

300_Rise_of_an_Empire

1) 300: Rise of an Empire (dir by Noam Munro)

Last night, I watched 300: Rise of an Empire for the second time and I still couldn’t figure out what exactly is going on for most of the film.  I know that there’s a lot of fighting and a lot of bare-chested men yelling and, whenever anyone swings a sword, they suddenly start moving in slow motion and dark blood spurts across the screen like Jackson Pollock decorating a previously blank canvas.  The style of 300 has been co-opted by so many other films that 300: Rise of an Empire feels more like an imitation than a continuation.

At the same time, I’m resisting the temptation to be too critical of 300: Rise of the Empire for two reasons.  First off, this movie wasn’t really made to appeal to me.  Instead, this is a total guy film and, much as I have every right to love Winter’s Tale, guys have every right to love their 300 movies.  Secondly, 300: Rise of an Empire features Eva Green as a warrior and she totally kicks ass.

About_Last_Night_One_Sheet

2) About Last Night (dir by Steve Pink)

Obviously, I made a big mistake this Valentine’s Day by insisting that my boyfriend take me to see Endless Love.  (I still stand by my desire to see Winter’s Tale.)  I say this because I recently watched this year’s other big Valentine’s Day release, About Last Night, and I discovered that it’s a funny and, in its way, rather sweet romantic comedy.

About Last Night tells the story of two couples, Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall).  All four of the actors have a very real chemistry, with Hart and Hall bringing the laughs and Ealy and Bryant bringing the tears.  The film itself is ultimately predictable but very likable.

Adult_World

3) Adult World (dir by Scott Coffey)

In Adult World, Emma Roberts plays Amy Anderson, an aspiring author and recent college graduate.  Despite her own overwhelming faith in her own abilities, Amy struggles to find a job outside of college.  She is finally reduced to working at Adult World, a small adult bookstore.  Working at the store, she befriends the far more down-to-earth Alex (Evan Peters) and eventually discovers that one of her customers is also her idol, poet Rat Billings (John Cusack).  Amy proceeds to force her way into Rat’s life, volunteering to work as his assistant and declaring herself to be his protegé.  However, it turns out that Rat is far less altruistic than Amy originally thought (and with a name like Rat, are you surprised?).

Adult World is a flawed film but I still really enjoyed it.  The story has a few problems and the film never really takes full narrative advantage of Adult World as a setting but the entire film is so well-acted that you’re willing to forgive its flaws.  Cusack gives a surprisingly playful performance while Evan Peters is adorable in a Jesse Eisenberg-type of way.  Emma Roberts shows a lot of courage, playing a character who is both infuriating and relatable.

Jersey_Boys_Poster

4) Jersey Boys (dir by Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood’s upcoming American Sniper has been getting so much attention as a potential Oscar contender that it’s easy to forget that, at the beginning of the year, everyone was expecting Jersey Boys to be Eastwood’s Oscar contender.  In fact, it’s easy to forget about Jersey Boys all together.  It’s just one of those films that, despite its best efforts, fails to make much of an impression.

Jersey Boys is based on one of the Broadway musicals that tourists always brag about seeing.  It tells the true story of how four kids from the “neighborhood” became the Four Seasons and recorded songs that have since gone on to appear on thousands of film soundtracks.  The period detail is a lot of fun, Christopher Walken, who has a small role as a local gangster, is always entertaining to watch, and the music sounds great but Eastwood’s direction is so old-fashioned and dramatically inert that you don’t really take much away from it.

Hopefully, American Sniper will be the work of the Eastwood who made Mystic River and not the Eastwood who did Jersey Boys.

Ride_Along_poster

5) Ride Along (dir by Tim Story)

School security guard Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) wants to marry Angela (Tiki Sumpter) but Angela’s tough cop brother James (Ice Cube) doesn’t approve.  In order to prove himself worth, Ben goes on a ride along with James and the results are just as generic as you might expect.  Probably the only really funny part of the film was the way that Hart delivered the line, “You’re white!  You don’t fight!” but we all saw that in the commercial so who cares?

On the plus side, Ice Cube has a lot of screen presence and is well-cast as James.  As for Kevin Hart — well, he should probably be thankful that About Last Night came out a month after Ride Along.

Trust Me

6) Trust Me (dir by Clark Gregg)

In Trust Me, Clark Gregg both directs and stars.  He plays Howard, a fast-talking but ultimately kind-hearted talent agent who mostly represents children.  After losing some of his most popular clients to rival agent Aldo (a hilariously sleazy Sam Rockwell), Howard meets Lydia (Saxon Sharbino), a 13 year-old actress.  Soon, Howard is representing Lydia and trying to land her a starring role in a major production.  Howard also finds the time to tentatively date his next door neighbor (Amanda Peet).  However, there’s more to Howard than meets the eye.  He is haunted by the death of one of his previous clients and his guilt leads him to become especially protective of Lydia.  When Howard concludes that Lydia is being sexually abused by her crude father (Paul Sparks), he attempts to protect her from both him and the Hollywood system that’s threatening to corrupt her.  It all leads to an oddly tragic conclusion…

I say “oddly tragic” because Trust Me is, in many ways, an odd film.  As a director, Gregg gets good performances from his cast but he never manages to find a consistent tone.  The film starts as a Hollywood satire and then it becomes a romantic comedy and then it turns into a legal drama before then becoming an all-0ut attack on the way the entertainment industry treats child actors and then finally, it settles on being a tragedy.  As a result, Trust Me is undeniably a bit of a mess.

And yet, it’s a compelling mess and the film itself is so heart-felt that you can’t help but forgive its flaws.  If nothing else, it proves that Clark Gregg is capable of more than just being Marvel’s Agent Coulson.

Back to School #57: Never Been Kissed (dir by Raja Gosnell)


Never_Been_Kissed_film_poster

The 1999 romantic comedy Never Been Kissed is a definite guilty pleasure of mine, and that’s not just because of the fact that James Franco has a small role in it.  Never Been Kissed is a genuinely sweet movie that might not be extremely realistic but is still enjoyable.

Never Been Kissed requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, largely because Josie Gellar, the character who has” never been kissed,” is played Drew Barrymore.  Oh, it’s not that Josie hasn’t ever been kissed.  Instead, it’s that she’s never gotten the type of kiss that every girl dreams of getting.  She’s never been kissed by someone who she was truly in love with.  She’s never had the type of romance that everyone dreams of having (especially when they’re in high school).

However, Josie is about to get a chance to find that kiss.  Josie works for a newspaper and her editor (John C. Reilly) has just assigned her to go undercover at a local high school.  Unfortunately, Josie was traumatized by her experiences the first time that she went to high school.  (She wrote a poem for a boy, he responded by asking her to prom and then throwing eggs at her.)  On her first day as a “student,” Josie finds that she is just as unpopular as the last time but now she’s also absolutely out-of-touch with her classmates.  Fortunately, she’s befriended by Aldys (Leelee Sobieski) and, soon, Josie has finally managed to find a place with the Denominators, a group of intelligent students.

Unfortunately, hanging out with the good kids isn’t producing the type of stories that Josie’s editor wants.  He orders Josie to reject Aldys and to befriend the school’s mean girls.  After her brother, Rob (David Arquette), also enrolls in high school, he helps Josie to become the most popular girl in the school.  Soon, Josie is no longer hanging out with Aldys and has been asked to go to the prom by the loathsome Guy Perkins (Jeremy Jordan).

However, Josie has fallen in love with her English teacher, Sam (Michael Vartan).  Sam likes Josie too but, of course, he thinks that she’s a student.  Will Josie tell the truth and risk losing Sam?  Will she be able to maintain her cover even when she discovers that her new friends are planning to humiliate Aldys?  Will Josie ever truly be kissed?

Well, you can probably guess all the answers.  Nothing really surprising happens in Never Been Kissed but it’s still a likable film.  For the most part, the actors all do a good job with their stock roles and David Arquette, especially, is hilarious as a professional slacker who thrives in high school precisely because he’s never bothered to grow up.  (Of course, by the end of the film, his new high school girlfriend is wanting to know what he’s planning on doing with his life after he graduates….)  At no point is the film in any way realistic but it’s still an enjoyable way to spend 110 minutes of your life.

Never