Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Marriage Story (dir by Noah Baumbach)


The Oscar nominations were announced earlier today and, as happens every year, some of the nominations were met with acclaim while others left observers scratching their heads.  Right now, on twitter, there’s a fierce debate going on between those who think Joker deserved all of its nominations and those who believe that the Academy has once again deliberately snubbed women and people of color.

As for me, I’m just shaking my head at all the nominations for Marriage Story.  I get the feeling that, out of all of the recently unveiled best picture nominees, Marriage Story is the one that we will have forgotten about within the next year.  It’s an acclaimed film and I’m happy that Scarlett Johansson finally got a nominations (two nominations, as a matter of fact, as she was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit) but, in the end, Marriage Story feels rather hollow.

Marriage Story is about the end of a marriage.  Charlie Barber (Adam Driver) is a New York-based theatrical director.  Nicole Barber (Scarlett Johansson) is his wife.  Nicole is an actress who, before she married Charlie, was best known for appearing topless in a teen comedy.  Charlie is often credited with having resurrected her career.  On the surface, they’re the perfect New York couple.  However, when we first meet them, their marriage is coming to an end.  Charlie, we learn, cheated on Nicole with a production assistant.  Nicole wants to go to Los Angeles so that she can star in a television series and have a career that’s not dependent upon her husband.  Caught in the middle of all this is their son, Henry (Azhy Robertson).

At first, Charlie and Nicole agree to an amicable split, one with no lawyers and no accusations.  That doesn’t last.  Nicole hires the cheerfully ruthless Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern).  Charlie, after moving out to Los Angeles, finds himself torn between hiring either the the kindly (but ineffectual) Bert Spitz (Alan Alda, in a role he was born to play) or the somewhat sinister (but definitely effective) Jay Marotta (Ray Liotta, also in a role that he was born to play).  While both Charlie and Nicole try (and often) fail to maintain a civil relationship for Henry’s sake, their attorneys go to war.

There’s a lot of good things to be said about Marriage Story.  Though I think that his truly award-worthy work for 2019 was not in this film but instead in The Report, Adam Driver does a good job with role of Charlie.  Scarlett Johansson, who has so often been unfairly overlooked at awards time, again proves herself to be one of the best actresses around.  Dern, Alda, and Liotta are well-cast as three very different (but very recognizable) attorneys.  Noah Baumbach’s script has several good lines.  The scene where Nicole’s sister is awkwardly recruited to serve Charlie with the divorce papers is both funny and cringey.  The much-acclaimed scene where Charlie and Nicole go from having a polite (if awkward) conversation to yelling at each other is definitely effective even if it’s power has been diluted by it’s subsequent reinvention as a twitter meme.

That said, Marriage Story ultimately left me feeling dissatisfied.  It’s pretty much an open secret that the film is based on Noah Baumbach’s divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh and, watching the film, you can’t help but feel that you’re only getting one side of a very complex story.  My first warning sign came when Nicole left for Los Angeles and the film cut to her on the set for her new television series.  Marriage Story goes so overboard in portraying Nicole’s show as being vapid and silly that you can’t help but feel that we’re meant to look down on Nicole for abandoning Charlie’s avant-garde theater productions to star in it.  We’re meant to say, “She gave up Broadway so she could star in some second-rate Marvel show!?”  From the claim that no one took Nicole seriously until Charlie married her to it’s portrayal of her being easily manipulated by her attorney, there’s a pettiness to the film’s portrayal of Nicole.

As for Charlie, he’s presented as being flawed but, as the film progresses, it’s hard not to notice that almost all of his flaws can also serve as a humble brag.  He’s a little dorky,  He’s too intense.  He works too hard.  Sometimes, he has a hard time not being the director.  Almost all of Charlie’s flaws are the type of stuff that people mention in job interviews whenever they’re asked to name their biggest weakness.  “Well, I guess I am a bit of a perfectionist, sometimes….” It’s hard not to feel that, despite a few scenes where Nicole gets to open up, the film is really only interested in Charlie’s perspective.  By the end of the film, Marriage Story reduces Nicole to merely being an obstacle standing in the way of Charlie and his son and it’s hard not to feel that both the character and the actress who plays her deserves better than that.  The film goes from being Marriage Story to simply being Charlie’s Story.

While you’re watching the film, it’s easy to get swept up in Driver and Johansson’s performances.  It’s only afterwards, when you really think about it, that you come to realize that Marriage Story doesn’t really add up to much.  It’s a good acting exercise and I’m sure that it will be popular among community theater actors who have been asked to prepare a monologue for their next audition.  But the whole is ultimately far less than the sum of its parts.

The Nevada Film Critics Society Name Marriage Story As The Best of 2019!


Here’s a full list of the winners in Nevada:

Best Film: Marriage Story

Best Director: Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Best Actor: Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Best Actress (tie): Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story & Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Adapted Screenplay: Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

Best Animated Movie: Toy Story 4
Best Documentary: Apollo 11

Best Production Design: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Cinematography: 1917
Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Endgame

 

The Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association Names 1917 As The Best of 2019!


Reunion Tower (picture by Erin Nicole)

Here are the winners in Dallas!

BEST PICTURE

Winner: 1917

Runners-up: MARRIAGE STORY (2); PARASITE (3); THE IRISHMAN (4); ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (5); JOJO RABBIT (6); LITTLE WOMEN (7); THE FAREWELL (8); THE TWO POPES (9); KNIVES OUT (10)

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER (2); Antonio Banderas, PAIN AND GLORY (3); Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Robert De Niro, THE IRISHMAN (5)

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Scarlett Johansson, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Renée Zellweger, JUDY (2); Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL (3); Saoirse Ronan, LITTLE WOMEN (4); Awkwafina, THE FAREWELL (5, tie); Lupita Nyong’o, US (5, tie)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runners-up: Willem Dafoe, THE LIGHTHOUSE (2); Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN (3); Al Pacino, THE IRISHMAN (4); Shia LaBeouf, HONEY BOY (5)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Margot Robbie, BOMBSHELL (2); Florence Pugh, LITTLE WOMEN (3); Jennifer Lopez, HUSTLERS (4); Annette Bening, THE REPORT (5)

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

Runners-up: Bong Joon-ho, PARASITE (2); Martin Scorsese, THE IRISHMAN (3); Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY (5)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE

Runners-up: PAIN AND GLORY (2); THE FAREWELL (3); LES MISÉRABLES (4); PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (5)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

Runners-up: ONE CHILD NATION (2); AMERICAN FACTORY (3); HONEYLAND (4); FOR SAMA (5)

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

Runner-up: I LOST MY BODY

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner: Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-up: Steven Zaillian, THE IRISHMAN

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917

Runner-up: Hong Kyung-pyo, PARASITE

BEST MUSICAL SCORE

Winner: Thomas Newman, 1917

Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, LITTLE WOMEN

RUSSELL SMITH AWARD (best low-budget or cutting-edge independent film)

Winner: THE LIGHTHOUSE

The Vancouver Film Critics Circle Honors Parasite, Driver, Johansson, Pitt, and Dern!


Love you, Canada!

Here are the winners from Canada!

Best Picture — Parasite

Best Actor — Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress — Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Director — Bong Joon-ho, Marriage Story

Best Screenplay — Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Best Foreign Language Film — Parasite

Best Documentary — Honeyland

 

The North Texas Film Critics Association Selects The Irishman As The Best of 2019!


The North Texas Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2019 earlier today.  Speaking as a North Texas film critic, I’m a bit annoyed that I wasn’t consulted but oh well!  (To quote King of the Hill, “North Texas?  More like South Oklahoma!”)  Here are their winners:

BEST FILM

Winner: THE IRISHMAN

Runners-up: 1917; PARASITE; THE FAREWELL; MARRIAGE STORY; JOJO RABBIT; THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON; A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD; ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD; FORD V FERRARI; JOKER

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER

Runners-up: Robert De Niro, THE IRISHMAN; Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY; Adam Sandler, UNCUT GEMS and Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL

Runners-up: Scarlett Johansson, MARRIAGE STORY; Renée Zellweger, JUDY; Awkwafina, THE FAREWELL and Lupita Nyong’o, US

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Tom Hanks, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Runners-up: Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN; Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD; Al Pacino, THE IRISHMAN and Song Kang-Ho, PARASITE

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Zhao Shuzhen, THE FAREWELL

Runners-up: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY; Scarlett Johansson, JOJO RABBIT; Kathy Bates, RICHARD JEWELL and Annette Bening, THE REPORT

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

Runners-up: Martin Scorsese, THE IRISHMAN; Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD; Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY and Lulu Wang, THE FAREWELL

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE (South Korea)

Runners-up: PAIN AND GLORY (Spain) and LES MISÉRABLES (France)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

Runners-up: AMERICAN FACTORY; ONE CHILD NATION; DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME and ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

Runners-up: ABOMINABLE and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917,

Runner-ups: Jarin Blaschke, THE LIGHTHOUSE; Rodrigo Prieto, THE IRISHMAN; Hoyte Van Hoytema, AD ASTRA; Robert Richardson, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD and Phedon Papamichael, FORD V FERRARI

BEST NEWCOMER

Winner: Roman Griffin Davis was awarded Best Newcomer for JOJO RABBIT

GARY MURRAY AWARD (Best Ensemble)

Winner: KNIVES OUT

The Detroit Film Critics Society Embraces Parasite!


Earlier today, The Detroit Film Critics Society became the latest group to name Parasite the best film of 2019!

You can check out the DFCS’s nominees here and its winners below!

Best Film — Parasite

Best Director — Martin Scorsese, The Irishman

Best Actress — Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Best Actor — Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actor — Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Screenplay — Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Best Animated Film — Toy Story 4

Best Use of Music — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Ensemble — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Documentary — Apollo 11

Breakthrough — Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family, Midsommar, Little Women)

 

The Southeastern Film Critics Association Name Parasite The Best of 2019!


Parasite continued it’s critical victory run today as it was named the best film of the year by the Southeastern Film Critics Association!

TOP 10 FILMS

Parasite
The Irishman
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Marriage Story
1917
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women
The Farewell
Uncut Gems
Ford v Ferrari

BEST ACTOR

  • Adam Driver, Marriage Story
  • Runner-Up: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

BEST ACTRESS

  • Renee Zellweger, Judy
  • Runner-Up: Lupita Nyong’o, Us

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
  • Runner-Up: Joe Pesci, The Irishman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Laura Dern, Marriage Story
  • Runner-Up: Florence Pugh, Little Women

BEST ENSEMBLE

  • Knives Out
  • Runner-Up: The Irishman

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
  • Runner-Up: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite
  • Runner-Up: Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Steven Zaillian, The Irishman
  • Runner-Up: Greta Gerwig, Little Women

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Apollo 11
  • Runner-Up: American Factory

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

  • Parasite
  • Runner-Up: Pain and Glory

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • Toy Story 4
  • Runner-Up: I Lost My Body

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Roger Deakins, 1917
  • Runner-Up: Robert Richardson, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

THE GENE WYATT AWARD FOR FILM THAT BEST EVOKES THE SPIRIT OF THE SOUTH

  • The Peanut Butter Falcon
  • Runner-Up: Just Mercy