Here Are the 2021 Nominations of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics!


The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics have announced their nominees for the best of 2021!  The winners will be announced tomorrow so that means you have exactly one day to see all the nominees.  GET TO IT!

Best Film
Belfast
The Green Knight
The Power of the Dog
tick, tick…BOOM!
West Side Story

Best Director
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
David Lowery – The Green Knight
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve – Dune

Best Actor
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…BOOM!
Will Smith – King Richard
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actress
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos
Lady Gaga – House of Gucci
Kristen Stewart – Spencer
Tessa Thompson – Passing

Best Supporting Actor
Jamie Dornan – Belfast
Ciarán Hinds – Belfast
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress
Caitríona Balfe – Belfast
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Ann Dowd – Mass
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard

Best Acting Ensemble
Belfast
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
Mass
The Power of the Dog

Best Youth Performance
Jude Hill – Belfast
Emilia Jones – CODA
Woody Norman – C’mon, C’mon
Saniyya Sidney – King Richard
Rachel Zegler – West Side Story

Best Voice Performance
Awkwafina – Raya and the Last Dragon
Stephanie Beatriz – Encanto
Abbi Jacobson – The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Kelly Marie Tran – Raya and the Last Dragon
Jacob Tremblay – Luca

Best Original Screenplay
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Mike Mills – C’mon, C’mon
Zach Baylin – King Richard
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Fran Kranz – Mass

Best Adapted Screenplay
Siân Heder – CODA
Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth – Dune
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Steven Levenson – tick, tick…BOOM!
Tony Kushner – West Side Story

Best Animated Feature
Encanto
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon

Best Documentary
The First Wave
Flee
The Rescue
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Val

Best International/Foreign Language Film
Drive My Car
A Hero
Lamb
Titane
The Worst Person in the World

Best Production Design
Jim Clay, Production Designer; Claire Nia Richards, Set Decorator – Belfast
Patrice Vermette, Production Designer; Richard Roberts and Zsuzsanna Sipos, Set Decorators – Dune
Adam Stockhausen, Production Designer; Rena DeAngelo, Set Decorator – The French Dispatch
Tamara Deverell, Production Designer; Shane Vieau, Set Decorator – Nightmare Alley
Adam Stockhausen, Production Designer; Rena DeAngelo, Set Decorator – West Side Story

Best Cinematography
Haris Zambarloukos – Belfast
Greig Fraser – Dune
Andrew Droz Palermo – The Green Knight
Ari Wegner – The Power of the Dog
Bruno Delbonnel – The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Editing
Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Belfast
Joe Walker – Dune
Andrew Weisblum – The French Dispatch
Peter Sciberras – The Power of the Dog
Myron Kerstein & Andrew Weisblum – tick, tick…BOOM!

Best Original Score
Bryce Dessner & Aaron Dessner – Cyrano
Hans Zimmer – Dune
Alexandre Desplat – The French Dispatch
Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Jonny Greenwood – Spencer

Here Are The Nominations From The Detroit Film Critics Society


The Detroit Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2021 earlier today.  It’s an interesting group of nomination, though I would point out that Detroit is usually one of the quirkier of the critics groups.  Every awards season, they nominate something or someone unexpected, there’s a brief flurry of excitement, and then everyone moves on.

I guess that’s one reason why I love them.

Anyway, here’s their nominations:

BEST PICTURE
Belfast
CODA
Cyrano
Don’t Look Up
King Richard

BEST DIRECTOR
Sean Baker – Red Rocket
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
David Lowery – The Green Knight
Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up
Lan-Manuel Miranda – Tick, Tick…Boom!

BEST ACTOR
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Peter Dinklage – Cyrano
Andrew Garfield – Tick, Tick…Boom!
Oscar Isaac – The Card Counter
Will Smith – King Richard

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Jennifer Hudson – Respect
Nicole Kidman – Being The Ricardos
​Kristen Stewart – Spencer

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jon Bernthal – King Richard
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jared Leto – House Of Gucci
Ray Liotta – The Many Saints Of Newark
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power Of The Dog

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Kirsten Dunst – The Power Of The Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Rita Moreno – West Side Story
Diana Rigg – Last Night In Soho

BEST ENSEMBLE
CODA
Don’t Look Up
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
House Of Gucci

BREAKTHROUGH
Alana Haim – Actress – Licorice Pizza
Emilia Jones – Actress – CODA
Woody Norman – Actor – C’mon C’mon
Agathe Rousselle – Actress – Titane
Emma Seligman – Writer/Director – Shiva Baby

BEST USE OF MUSIC/SOUND
Cyrano
In The Heights
Last Night In Soho
Tick, Tick…Boom!
West Side Story

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Don’t Look Up
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
Licorice Pizza
Parallel Mothers

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
CODA
The Green Knight
In The Heights
The Power Of The Dog
Tick, Tick…Boom!

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Belle
Cryptozoo
Encanto
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. The Machines

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Flee
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
The Sparks Brothers
Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street
Summer Of Soul

Nicolas Cage Does His Thing In The Trailer For Prisoners Of The Ghostland!


Even though October is nearly over, we still have a lot to look forward to this year.

For instance, just watch this trailer for Prisoners of the Ghostland, starring Nicolas Cage! This film will be available on Shudder in November.

Lisa Marie’s Early Oscar Predictions For July


It’s that time of the month again!  It’s time for me to make my early Oscar predictions.

This year, the Cannes Film Festival really didn’t clear much up.  The French Dispatch was acclaimed but, in every review, there was an admission that, for everyone who absolutely loved it, there would probably be someone else who would absolutely hate it.  I did decided to include Red Rocket on my list of predictions, based on the Cannes reaction.  I’m still not a 100% convinced that it’s going to be a contender, of course.  But the idea of a Simon Rex movie being nominated for best picture was just too wonderfully strange for me to ignore.  That’s the same logic that led to me including Pig as a best picture nominee, by the way.

On the Ridely Scott front, the overacting in the trailer for House of Gucci really turned me off so I dropped it from all of my predictions.  The Last Duel looks like it might have a chance, however.

Anyway, the main thing to remember when looking at these predictions is that the majority of them are just random guesses, based on hunches and past Academy behavior.  So, as always, take them with several grains of salt.

If you’re curious to see how my thinking has developed, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June!

Best Picture

Belfast

A Journal For Jordan

The Last Duel

Nightmare Alley

Pig

The Power of the Dog

Red Rocket

Soggy Bottom

The Tragedy of MacBeth

West Side Story

 

Best Director

Pedro Almodovar for Parallel Mothers

Paul Thomas Anderson for Soggy Bottom

Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog

Guillermo Del Toro for Nightmare Alley

Denzel Washington for A Journal For Jordan

Best Actor

Nicolas Cage in Pig

Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey

Michael B. Jordan in A Journal For Jordan

Will Smith in King Richard

Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of MacBeth

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Nicole Kidman in Being The Ricardos

Tessa Thomspon in Passing

Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Bradley Cooper in Soggy Bottom

Adam Driver in The Last Duel

Simon Helberg in Annette

Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress

Chante Adams in A Journal For Jordan

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story

Ann Dowd in Mass

Marlee Matlin in CODA

Ruth Negga in Passing

18 Days of Paranoia #2: The Humanity Bureau (dir by Rob W. King)


Welcome to the future!  It sucks!

The 2017 film, The Humanity Bureau, takes place in a dystopian future where the government is not to be trusted and bureaucracy ruins everyone’s lives.  It’s kind of like the present except that it’s taking place in the future and Nicolas Cage works for the government.  (Of course, for all I know, Nicolas Cage might work for the government in the real world, as well.  I mean, it just kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, the idea here is that, in the near future, America is out of resources.  Some of its due to climate change and some of its due to a war and apparently, there was a plague as well.  Because things got so bad, people gave up their personal freedom and basically decided to surrender control of their lives to the government.  The government responded by creating The Humanity Bureau.  The Humanity Bureau decides whether or not you’re a worthwhile part of society or if you’re just a drain on what little resources the nation has left.  If you’re not found to be an “efficient” human being, you’re deported to a city called New Eden where everyone assumes that you learn how to become more efficient or, at the very least, how to not be a burden on society.  The truth, of course, is far different.

Noah Kross (Nicolas Cage) is an agent of The Humanity Bureau.  His bosses worry that Noah might have too much real humanity to be an efficient agent.  After all, he drives an old car and he often talks about his childhood memories of going out to the lake and fishing.  Of course, when we first meet Noah, he’s busy gunning down an old alcoholic who refuses to go to New Eden so he seems pretty efficient to us.

When Noah is assigned to investigate a single mother named Rachel (Sarah Lind) and her son, Lukas (Jakob Davies), it becomes obvious that their case is personal to Noah.  Even though he’s supposed to immediately deport them, he allows them to have an extra day of freedom so that Lukas can sing Amazing Grace at a school recital.  (The kids perform in front of a gigantic American flag, just in case you’re missing the symbolism.)  When another agent (Hugh Dillon) shows up and demands to know what the hold up is, Noah, Rachel, and Lukas go on the run.  It turns out that both Noah and Rachel have a secret agenda of their own….

When you hear that a film takes place in a dystopia and that it stars Nicolas Cage, that probably creates a certain set of expectations in your head.  Unfortunately, Cage is oddly subdued for the majority of the film so those looking for a full scale Nic Cage freak-out are probably going to be disappointed.  While the film’s story has the potential to be interesting, the film never really take full advantage of just how weird things could potentially get.  This is one of those films where you know it’s the future because everyone’s in the desert.

That said, the idea of a major crisis leading to people voluntarily giving up their freedom to the state is not a particularly far-fetched one.  As I sit here writing this, a lot of people are using the panic over the coronavirus pandemic to promote their own totalitarian political vision and what’s sad is that a lot of frightened citizens are just scared enough to probably more receptive to all of that authoritarian BS than they would be under normal circumstances.  The Humanity Bureau takes place in a world where enough people have voluntarily surrendered their free will that the government can basically get away with punishing anyone who dares to think differently.  The Humanity Bureau is often an amateurish film but, when it comes to portraying how an authoritarian state could come to power and would that would mean for those who refuse to conform, it gets things exactly right.

Previous entries in the 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared

 

Horror Film Review: Vampire’s Kiss (dir by Robert Bierman)


Nicolas Cage plays the world’s biggest douchebag in the 1989 film Vampire’s Kiss.

Cage is playing Peter Loew, who is kind of like Patrick Bateman’s less successful cousin.  He’s got a nice apartment in New York City and he wears fairly nice clothes and he has this weird, stuffed-up way of speaking.  By night, Peter spends all of his time at the bars and the clubs, trying to get laid.  During the day, Peter goes to his job as a literary agent, where he sits around in his office and spends most of his time tormenting his secretary, Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso).

Peter has recently been tasked with finding the Heatherton Contract.  It’s a contract from 1963, one that was signed long before either Peter or Alva joined the company.  All Peter knows is that the contract is somewhere in a huge stack of files.  Harold Heatherton wants a copy of the contract so that he can frame it.  Peter wants the contract so that he can advance at his job and make even more money.  Alva just wants to be left alone.

“ALVA!” Peter spends his days yelling from the office.

“I hate my boss!” Alva says as she spend the morning crying in bed.

Yes, Peter is a jerk.  He maintains a toxic work environment.  He’s a misogynist.  He’s the type of asshole who screams at Alva to go find the Heatherton Contract and then stares at her backside as she walks back to her desk.  He’s a terrible human being and he’s steadily getting worse.  That’s because Peter is convinced that he’s turning into a vampire.  There’s even a lengthy scene where he stands in front of a bathroom mirror, moaning that he has no reflection.  Of course, we can see that he absolutely does have a reflection.

In his apartment and his office, he is often visited by Rachel (Jennifer Beals).  Rachel has fangs.  Rachel bites him in the neck.  Rachel sucks his blood.  But is Rachel there or is she a figment of his imagination?  Is he truly a vampire or is he like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or the lead character in George Romero’s Martin?  He has become so consumed by his fantasies of being an all-powerful monster that he can no longer tell the difference between fantasy and reality?

Vampire’s Kiss is understandably best known for Cage’s demented performance.  Cage bulges his eyes, screams his lines, and spends a good deal of the film walking around with his shoulders hunched up.  This is the film for which Cage famously ate a live cockroach.  It’s undeniably watchable, though I think Cage made the mistake of playing Peter as being obviously unhinged even before he decided that he was a vampire.  The scenes where he obsesses over the Heatherton Contract start out as mildly amusing but become more disturbing as the film progresses and Peter grows more and more deranged.  From the moment that he started to chase the terrified Alva through the office, the film became so unpleasant that I just wanted it to hurry up and end.  On the plus side, Alva does get revenge though I think it would have been more effective (or maybe, just for me, more satisfying) if the film’s final action had been carried out by Alva herself.

Vampire’s Kiss is a film that has quite an enthusiastic cult following.  Having watched it, I can say that I’m not a member of that cult, though I can understand why Cage’s unhinged performance has fans.  The film is about 20 minutes too long and it reveals the truth about Cage’s “vampirism” far too early but, if nothing else, Cage really does throw himself into it.

Scenes That I Love: Nic Cage Meets The Bees in The Wicker Man Update


From the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man.

Actually, I don’t know if love is quite the right word.  I’m actually kind of annoyed that The Wicker Man has gone from being one of the best horror films of the 70s to being known for the remake’s bees scene.  That’s one reason why remakes, in general, are not a good thing.  That said, for the record, I don’t like bees either.

Horror Film Review: Mom and Dad (dir by Brian Taylor)


Mom and Dad, which was released earlier this year, is the story of many things.

It’s a story of the suburbs, the perfect place to buy a home and raise your family.  Nice lawns, big houses, friendly people, and plenty of buried resentment.  It’s a place that can either represent a new beginning or the death of all of your childhood dreams.  It all depends on how you look at it.  Mom and Dad opens with a suburban mom leaving her newborn in a car that has been strategically parked on the railroad tracks.

Mom and Dad is also the story of a family.  The Ryans may seem like they have it all but one only needs to look at their morning routine to see that things aren’t as perfect as they may appear.  Teenager daughter Carly (Anne Winters) is dating a guy who she knows her parents dislike.  Her younger brother, Josh (Zackary Arthur), is something of a brat.  Carly’s father, Brent (Nicolas Cage), is stuck in a monotonous job while her mother, Kendall (Selma Blair), had to give up her career to raise two children who don’t seem to appreciate her at all.  On top of all that, the grandparents (one of whom is Lance Henriksen) are coming over later for dinner.  The Ryans are a family who spend more time looking at their phones that actually talking to each other.

Mom and Dad is also the story of static.  It’s not just the metaphorical static that makes it difficult for the Carly to understand her parents.  It’s also a very real static, a hissing and popping noise that suddenly comes over radios, pa systems, and televisions and which, for reasons that are never really made clear, fills parents with rage.  When a parent hear the static, they suddenly become obsessed with killing their children.  Kendall’s sister attempts to smother her newborn while a group of new fathers gather in the hospital, shaking with rage as they stare at their babies.  Elsewhere, parents gather outside the high school, waiting for their kids to get out of school so that they can kill them.

As for Carly and Josh, they find themselves locked in their basement while, outside, Brent and Kendall plot their demise.  What makes all of this particularly disturbing (and, at times, darkly humorous) is that it’s not like the parents turn into glass-eyed zombies.  Instead, their personalities remain largely the same, except for the fact that they’re now obsessed with killing their children.  When Brent and Kendall discuss wanting to murder their children, they speak about everyday frustrations.  Brent wants to murder Carly because he caught her hanging out with her boyfriend.  Kendall wants to kill her son and her daughter because she feels like she’s had to give up her entire life just to be their mother.  The static didn’t drive Mom and Dad crazy.  Instead, it just really reminded them that sometimes, children can be a real pain in the ass to deal with.

When it was initially released, the film got a lot of attention for a scene in which an enraged Brent sledgehammers a pool table while singing The Hokey Pokey and yes, it is a classic Nicolas Cage scene.  That Cage goes totally and gloriously over-the-top as Brent shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.  (For the record, I always enjoy a good Nicolas Cage freakout.)  Even better though is Selma Blair, who is as subtle as Cage is wild.  When Kendall talks about everything that she’s sacrificed to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s a poignant moment.  She may be trying to kill her children but you still feel for her.  Cage is, as usual, entertainingly bizarre but Blair actually gives the film some unexpected depth.

It’s a wild and deeply subversive film and definitely not for everyone.  It also features a wonderful third act twist and one of my favorite endings of the year.  Mom and Dad has its flaws but, for those who like a little satire with their horror, it’s definitely worth seeing.

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Beautiful Boy, Mile 22, Juliet Naked, The Equalizer 2, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, King of Thieves, Assassination Nation, Mandy


Lisa already wrote about the new trailers for The Predator and Zoe.  Here are some of the other trailers that were released last week.

First up, there’s Beautiful Boy.  Based on the memoirs of both David Sheff and his son, Nic, this movie is based on the true story of David’s struggle to understand and deal with his son’s drug addiction.  It stars Oscar nominees Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, and Amy Ryan.  It will be released on October 12th by Amazon Studios, who are hoping that they’ll have the same success with this film that they had with Manchester By The Sea.

And now, to quote the poet Python, for something completely different.  Mile 22 is the latest action film from star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  Mile 22 is due to be released on August 17th.

Also due to be released on August 17th is Juliet, Naked.  This Nick Hornby adaptation is about a rock star (Ethan Hawke) and the couple (Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd) who are obsessed with his music.  We can expect this one to inspire many comparisons to High Fidelity.

On July 20th, Denzel Washington returns as retired CIA assassin Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2.  In the sequel, he’s investigating the death of a friend from the first film.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is the latest fantasy film to be based on a children’s book.  It looks like a change of pace for director Eli Roth, if not star Jack Black, and is set to be released on September 21st.

Also based on a young adult novel is The Hate U Give.  Amanda Stenberg plays Starr, a young African-American woman who finds herself at the center of protest and controversy after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend.  The Hate U Give will be released on October 19th.

King of Thieves is the latest film from The Theory of Everything‘s director, James Marsh.  Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone are over-the-hill thieves.  (Didn’t Caine already do this in Going In Style?)  This British film does not yet have an American release date.

In Assassination Nation, the citizens of suburbia become outraged and violent when a data hack leads to all of their darkest secrets being exposed.  (This would never have happened if they had just taken part in the Annual Purge like they were supposed to.)  Assassination Nation will be released on September 21st.

Finally, in Mandy, Nicolas Cage plays a man who seeks revenge on the cultists and demons that killed the woman he loved.  Mandy will be released on September 14th.