I, Daniel Blake Wins At Cannes And Americans Ask, “Who Is Ken Loach And Who Does He Play For?”

The winners of this year’s Cannes Film Festival have just been announced!

As I look over these winners and think about the rather muted reviews that came out of Cannes this year, I have to ask: Is it just me or is 2016 shaping up to be a fairly blah year for the movies?

I mean, just think about last year at this time.  Everyone at the Cannes Film Festival was excited over Carol.  People were still talking about how much they loved Brooklyn and End of The Tour at Sundance.  Both Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina were playing in theaters.  Inside Out was on the verge of being released and people were whispering that Straight Outta Compton might actually be a great movie.  There was a lot to be excited about!

This year, however, it’s just like, “Who cares?”  Even the excitement that some people have for Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation and Martin Scorsese’s Silence feels more obligatory than sincere.

(Did Sasha Stone go to Cannes this year?  I know I could check the Awards Daily web site but, as of late, reading Awards Daily has become almost as tedious as reading the Daily Kos.  But I mention Stone specifically because she epitomizes something that I’ve noticed about almost all of the big names in the online film community. They are currently more concerned with bitching about this meaningless and stupid election than in talking about movies.  Even when they do talk about movies, it’s always in relation to this election.  BLEH!  Political situations are only temporary.  Movies are forever.)

Anyway, just from what I did hear back from Cannes, I’m looking forward to seeing Personal Shopper, Elle, The Neon Demon, Toni Edrmann, and American Honey.  I doubt I’ll get a chance to see the Palme D’or winner because it’s a Ken Loach film and Ken Loach films rarely get much distribution in the U.S.

In fact, when Ken Loach won the Palme d’Or (and this is his second time to win), he immediately started trending on twitter.  In the UK, he was trending because people were saying, “Ken Loach won!”  In the US, he was trending because everyone who is not a member of Film Twitter was saying, “Who is Ken Loach and who does he play for?”

(As for how this will affect the upcoming Oscar race, it probably won’t.  With the exception of the year that Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or and then went on to to score a best picture nomination, Cannes is usually ignored by the Oscar voters.)

Anyway, here’s the winners!


Palme d’Or: “I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach, U.K.)

Grand Prix: “It’s Only the End of the World” (Xavier Dolan, Canada-France)

Director (tie): Olivier Assayas, “Personal Shopper” (France), and Cristian Mungiu, “Graduation” (Romania)

Actor: Shahab Hosseini, “The Salesman” (Iran)

Actress: Jaclyn Jose, “Ma ‘Rosa” (Philippines)

Jury Prize: Andrea Arnold, “American Honey” (U.K.-U.S.)

Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, “The Salesman” (Iran)


Palme d’Honneur: Jean-Pierre Léaud

Camera d’Or: “Divines” (Houda Benyamina, France-Qatar)

Short Films Palme d’Or: “Timecode” (Juanjo Jimenez, Spain)

Special Mention – Short Films Palme d’Or: “The Girl Who Danced With the Devil” (Joao Paulo Miranda Maria, Brazil)

Ecumenical Jury Prize: “It’s Only the End of the World” (Xavier Dolan, Canada-France)


Un Certain Regard Prize: “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki” (Juho Kuosmanen, Finland)

Jury prize: “Harmonium” (Koji Fukada, Japan)

Director: Matt Ross, “Captain Fantastic” (United States)

Screenplay: Delphine and Muriel Coulin, “The Stopover” (France)

Special Jury Prize: Michael Dudok de Wit, “The Red Turtle” (France-Japan)


Art Cinema Award: “Wolf and Sheep” (Shahrbanoo Sadat)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “The Together Project” (Solveig Anspach)

Europa Cinemas Label: “Mercernary” (Sacha Wolff)


Grand Prize: “Mimosas” (Oliver Saxe)

Visionary Prize: “Album” (Mehmet Can Mertoğlu)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “Diamond Island” (Day Chou)


Competition: “Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade, Germany-Austria)

Un Certain Regard: “Dogs” (Bogdan Mirică, Romania-France)

Critics’ Week: “Raw” (Julia Ducournau, France-Belgium)

Playing Catch-Up: Clouds of Sils Maria (dir by Olivier Assayas)


It’s a little bit disheartening, to be honest, to see the lack of attention that has been given to Clouds of Sils Maria.  Kristen Stewart has picked up a lot of awards for her supporting performance and she might even get an Oscar nomination on Thursday but otherwise, the film has been ignored and that’s a shame.  Last year, it was one of the best films to be released here in the States.

Of course, it’s difficult to talk about Clouds of Sils Maria without also talking about Maps To The Stars.  After all, both films premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and both of them deal with an aging actress struggling to remain relevant in an industry that prizes youth above all else.  The main difference between the two is that Clouds of Sils Maria is a great movie while Maps To The Stars is a pretentious mess.  And yet, when initially released, Maps To The Stars was the more critically acclaimed of the two films.

Why was that?

I imagine it has something to do with the fact that Clouds of Sils Maria demands a certain amount of intelligence on the part of the audience.  Whereas there’s neither a subtle moment nor an unexpected detail to be found in Maps To The Stars, Clouds of Sils Maria rewards repeat viewing.  Clouds of Sils Maria invites the audience to ponder its mysteries and it does so without spelling anything out.  Clouds of Sils Maria is all about nuance and, as such, it’s not exactly the ideal film for critics who make their living off of clickbait.

As for what the film is about, it tells the story of Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), a world-famous stage and screen actress.  20 years ago, Maria became a star when she appeared in both the theatrical and the film versions of Maloja Snake.  Maria played the role of Sigrid, a callous young woman who seduces a middle-aged, bourgeois woman named Helena.  When Sigrid eventually abandons Helena, the older woman is driven to suicide.  Though she is now closer in age to Helena, Maria continues to think of herself as being Sigrid.

When the writer of Maloja Snake dies, Maria is offered a chance to appear in a new stage production.  However, this time, she will be playing Helena and a young American actress named J0-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz) will play Sigrid.  (Jo-Ann is better known for her scandalous private life than her acting.  Moretz appears to have a lot of fun playing the Lindsay Lohanesque Jo-Ann.)  At first, Maria does not want to play Helena.  She dismisses the role as being boring and says that she cannot see herself playing such a “normal” character.  (As well, Maria is haunted by the memory of the death of the actress who originally played Helena opposite Mara’s Sigrid.)  Even after Maria is finally convinced to take on the role, she continues to insist that she’s not right for it.  As quickly becomes apparent, it’s not so much the role that upsets Maria but what the role represents.  By playing Helena, Maria will be admitting that she is no longer the invulnerable Sigrid.

In order to rehearse, Maria retreats to a remote cabin in the Alps.  Accompanying her is Valentine (Kristen Stewart), her assistant.  At first, it seems that Val and Maria have an almost sisterly relationship but it quickly becomes obvious that the out-of-touch Maria is largely dependent on Val for any information about the outside world.  (Maria has to be constantly reminded that she can google any information she needs.)  Despite needing her, Maria occasionally talks down to Val (especially after learning that Val thinks Jo-Ann is a good actress and that Val likes a sci-fi film that Jo-Ann has appeared in) and Val occasionally seems to be annoyed with Maria’s neediness.

In the Alps, Maria continues to try to learn Helena’s role and, as the weeks pass, her line readings go from awkward to natural.  Reading opposite her, in the role of Sigrid, is Val and, often times, it’s difficult to distinguish between the play and reality.  How much of Val and Maria’s relationship is real and how much of it is just a rehearsal?

Clouds of Sils Maria is a visually stunning film, one of that is fully mystery and beautiful images.  Even more importantly, it’s a film that features three strong roles for three talented actresses, all of whom do some of their best work.  Clouds of Sils Maria did not get the attention that it deserved when it was first released but it’s never too late to discover a good movie.

Tell Them What You Love, St. Louis Film Critics!


The St. Louis Film Critics announced their nominations yesterday and they gave a lot of love to one of my favorite films of the year, Inside Out!  Love you, St. Louis!


Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant


Todd Haynes, “Carol”
Alejandro G. Inarritu, “The Revenant”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
George Miller, “Mad Max”
Ridley Scott, “The Martian”


Abraham Attah, “Beasts of No Nation”
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Ian McKellen, “Mr. Holmes”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”


Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”


Paul Dano, “Love and Mercy”
Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”


Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Kristen Stewart, “Clouds of Sils Maria”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
Alicia Vikander, “Ex Machina”


“Clouds of Sils Maria,” Olivier Assayas
“Ex Machina,” Alex Garland
“The Hateful Eight,” Quentin Tarantino
“Inside Out,” Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen
“Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer



“Brooklyn,” Nick Hornby
“Creed,” Aaron Covington and Ryan Coogler
“The Martian,” Drew Goddard
“Room,” Emma Donoghue
“Steve Jobs,” Aaron Sorkin

The Big Short
Max Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant


“Beasts of No Nation,” Cary Joji Fukunaga
“Carol,” Edward Lachman
“The Hateful Eight,” Robert Richardson
“Max Max: Fury Road,” John Seale
“The Revenant,” Emmanuel Lubezki


The Danish Girl
Max Max: Fury Road


Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
The Walk


“Carol,” Carter Burwell
“The Hateful Eight,” Ennio Morricone
“Inside Out,” Michael Giacchino
“It Follows,” Rich Vreeland (as Disasterpeace)
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Junkie XL



Love and Mercy
The Martian
Straight Outta Compton


“See You Again” Furious 7
“Til It Happens to You” The Hunting Ground
“Feels Like Summer” Shaun the Sheep
“Writing’s on the Wall” Spectre
“Simple Song #3” Youth


The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep


Inside Out
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
What We Do in the Shadows


Best of Enemies
Cartel Land
The Hunting Ground
The Look of Silence


The Assassin
Goodnight Mommy
Son of Saul
Wild Tales


Creed’s first fight, “Creed”
Paul Walker farewell, “Furious 7”
Bear attack, “The Revenant”
Jack’s escape and rescue, “Room”
Walk between the Twin Towers, “The Walk”

SPECIAL RECOGNITION: Stunt work in “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who the Hell Are These People?

With the Golden Globe nominations set to be announced on Tuesday, I figured now would be a good time to recap which films and performances have already been honored by the various critics groups. 

One thing that I discovered as I researched this is that there are a lot of critics groups out there!   I don’t know who half these people are and most of them probably won’t have any bearing at all on who is actually nominated come Oscar time.  But since I’m a lover of trivia and lists, there you go.

The following films and performances were honored by either The National Board of Review, the D.C. Film Critics, the Boston Society of Film Critics, The New York Film Critics Online,The Los Angeles Film Critics, The Indiana Film Journalists, The Southeastern Film Critics, The New York Film Critics Circle, or the San Francisco Film Critics.

Best Picture:

The Social Network (All.  That’s right, it’s a clean sweep for an above average film.)

Best Director:

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan (S.F)

Olivier Assayas for Carlos (LAFC)

David Fincher for The Social Network (BSFC, DC, NBR, NYFCC, NYFCO, SEFC, S.F.)

Christopher Nolan for Inception (IFJ)

Best Actor:

Jesse Eisenberg (BSFC, NBR)

Colin Firth for The King’s Speech (DC, LAFC, NYFCC, SEFC, S.F.)

James Franco for 127 Hours (IFJ, NYFCO)

Best Actress:

Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right (NYFCC)

Kim Hye-ja for Mother (LAFC)

Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone (DC)

Lesley Manville for Another Year (NBR)

Natalie Portman for Black Swan (BSFC, IFJ, NYFCO, SEFC)

Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine (S.F.)

Best Supporting Actor:

Niels Arestrup for A Prophet (LAFC)

Christian Bale for The Fighter (BSFC, DC, IFJ, NBR, NYFCO)

John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone (S.F.)

Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right (NYFCC)

Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech (SEFC)

Best Supporting Actress:

Melissa Leo for The Fighter (DC, NYFCC, NYFCO)

Juliette Lewis for Conviction (BSFC)

Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit (IFJ, SEFC)

Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (LAFC, NBR, S.F.)

Best Documentary:

Exit Through The Gift Shop (DC, IFJ, NYFCO)

The Inside Job (NYFCC, SEFC)

Last Train Home (LAFC)

Marwencol (BSFC)

The Tillman Story (S.F.)

Waiting For Superman (NBR)

Best Animated Feature:

How To Train Your Dragon (IFJ)

The Illusionist (NYFCC)

Toy Story 3 (BSFC, DC, LAFC, NBR, NYFCO, SEFC, S.F.)

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Social Network (BSFC, DC, IFJ, LAFC, NYFCO, SEFC, S.F.)

Best Original Screenplay:

Inception (DC)

The Kids Are All Right (NYFCC)

The Kings Speech (SEFC, S.F.)


The L.A. Film Critics Have Spoken

A whole lot of critics’ groups announced their picks for the best films and performances of the year today and the New York Film Critics are voting as I type.  I’m on lunch from work right now so a full list will have to wait until later tonight.  For now, I’m just going to share the choices made by the Los Angeles Film Critics.  The L.A. Critics are one of the big three as far as critics groups are concerned. 

As I’ve said before, I think professional film critics are overrated but I just love awards.  And, of course, all of these December awards tend to serve as a precursor for who and what will receive Oscar nominations next year.  At their best, these groups can remind Academy voters of films and performances that they might otherwise overlook.  Certainly, if Jacki Weaver receives a deserved nomination for Animal Kingdom, it’ll be largely due to organizations like the National Board of Review and the L.A. Film Critics.

Anyway, since my time is limited, I’m going to simply post the winners and then add a few comments on my own.


  • “The Social Network”
  • Runner-up: “Carlos”


  • Olivier Assayas, “Carlos,” and David Fincher, “The Social Network” (tie)


  • Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
  • Runner-up: Edgar Ramirez, “Carlos”


  • Kim Hye-ja, “Mother”
  • Runner-up:  Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”


  • Niels Arestrup, “A Prophet”
  • Runner-up: Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”


  • Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”
  • Runner-up: Olivia Williams, “The Ghost Writer”


  • Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network”
  • Runner-up: David Seidler, “The King’s Speech”



  • “Carlos”
  • Runner-up: “Mother”


  • “Toy Story 3″
  • Runner-up: “The Illusionist”


  • “Last Train Home”
  • Runner-up: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”


  • Matthew Libatique, “Black Swan”
  • Runner-up: Roger Deakins, “True Grit”


  • Alexandre Desplat, “The Ghost Writer,” and  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “The Social Network” (tie)


  • Guy Hendrix Dyas, “Inception”
  • Runner-up: Eve Stewart, “The King’s Speech”


  • Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture”


  • “Film Socialism”


  • Serge Bromberg, “Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno,” and the F.W. Murnau Foundation and Fernando Pena for the restoration of “Metropolis”


  • Paul Mazursky

The main news here, I guess, is just how well foreign language films did in the voting.  I haven’t seen Carlos and seeing as how I’m basically in fly-over country, I doubt I’ll get a chance to see it before the Oscar nominations are announced.  I do have Mother on DVD and I’m going to watch it sometime before the start of the new year.  It’s also nice to see some attention being given to A Prophet.

Obviously, I’m disappointed not to see more love for Black Swan but I guess it’s to be expected as Black Swan is one of those films that people either love madly or hate with a passion.  I think that’s why The Social Network will win big at the Oscars this year.  It’s well-made and offensive only if you’re 1) female or 2) Mark Zuckerberg.