The Unnominated: Auto Focus (dir by Paul Schrader)


Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences claim that the Oscars honor the best of the year, we all know that there are always worthy films and performances that end up getting overlooked.  Sometimes, it’s because the competition too fierce.  Sometimes, it’s because the film itself was too controversial.  Often, it’s just a case of a film’s quality not being fully recognized until years after its initial released.  This series of reviews takes a look at the films and performances that should have been nominated but were,for whatever reason, overlooked.  These are the Unnominated.

The 2002 film Auto Focus start out as almost breezy satire of the perfect all-American life and it ends with an act of shocking violence.  It’s based on a real-life mystery, a murder that revealed a secret life.

When we first see Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear), he’s a disc jockey and a drummer living in the suburbs of Los Angeles in the mid-60s.  He’s got what would appear to be the ideal life.  He’s got a nice house.  He and his wife (Rita Wilson) seem to be devoted to each other.  His children are adorable.  He goes to church.  He tells corny Dad jokes.  He’s got a quick smile and a friendly manner and it’s impossible not to like him.  When he gets offered the lead in a sitcom, his happiness and enthusiasm feels so generous that it’s impossible not to be happy for him.

Of course, the show is a comedy that takes place in World War II POW camp, which doesn’t really sound like a surefire hit or really anything that should be put on the air.  (“Funny Nazis?” Crane says in disbelief when he’s first told about the project.)  Still, with Crane in the lead role, Hogan’s Heroes becomes a hit and, for a while, Bob Crane becomes a star and it seems like it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.

The problem, of course, is that Crane seems like he’s too good to be true and we all know what they say about things like that.  From the start, there are hints that Crane may be hiding another side of his personality.  His wife, for instance, is not happy when she discovers his stash of pornographic magazines in their garage.  (“They’re photography magazines!” Crane protests with a smile that’s a bit too quick.)  Crane obviously enjoys the recognition that comes from being the star of a top-rated show.  He starts hanging out at strip clubs, occasionally playing drums with the club’s band and watching the dancers with a leer that’s really not all that different from the smile that he flashes whenever he asks anyone if they want an autograph.

Crane also meets John Carpenter (Willem DaFoe), an electronics expert who introduces him to the then-expensive and exclusive world of home video.  As opposed to the clean-cut and smoothly-spoken Crane, Carpenter is so awkward that it’s sometimes painful to watch him move or listen to him speak.  He’s the epitome of the Hollywood hanger-on, the type who has deluded himself into thinking that his celebrity clients genuinely like him and enjoy his company.  He and Crane become fast friends, though it’s always obvious that Crane considers himself to be better than Carpenter.  However, Carpenter is the only person with whom Crane can share the details of his secret life.

The film covers several years, from the late 60s to the mid-70s.  Crane goes from being so clean-cut that he neither drinks nor curses to being so addicted to sex that he can stop himself even when it starts to destroy his career and leads to him losing everything that he loves.  Carpenter and Crane’s friendship becomes progressively more and more self-destructive until the film ends in violence and tragedy.

Auto Focus begins on a light and breezy note but, as Crane’s addiction grows, the film grows darker.  By the time the movie enters the 70s, the camerawork becomes more jittery and the once soft-spoken Crane seems to be drowning in his own anxiety.  He becomes the type who causally goes from talking to Carpenter about how he wants to direct the world’s greatest sex film to cheerfully announcing that Disney has decided to cast him in a film called SuperDad.  Auto Focus‘s key scene comes towards the end, when Crane is a guest on a silly cooking show and shocks the audience by harassing a woman sitting in the front row.  When the audience boos, Crane flashes his familiar smile and it becomes obvious just how much of Crane’s life has been spent hiding behind that smile.  By the end of the film, not even Crane himself can keep track of whether or not he’s a wholesome comedy star or a self-destructive sex addict.

Both Greg Kinnear and Willem DaFoe gave Oscar-worthy performance in Auto Focus, performances that hold your interest even after their characters sink to some truly low depths.  The film makes good use of Kinnear’s amiable screen presence and Kinnear convincingly creates a man who wishes that he could be the person that he’s fooled everyone into thinking that he is.  By the time he’s reduced to begging his agent (well-played by Ron Leibman) to find him a game show so that he can finally stop doing dinner theater, it’s hard not to have a little sympathy for him, even if the majority of his problems are self-created.  As Carpenter, DaFoe is convincingly creepy but, at times, he’s also so pathetic that, again, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for him.  At his worst, Carpenter is the 70s equivalent of the twitter user who stans a celebrity by sending them adoring tweets and then picking fights with anyone who disagrees.

Unfortunately, the Academy nominated neither Kinnear for Best Actor nor DaFoe for Best Supporting Actor.  The competition for Best Actor was fierce that year, with Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jack Nicholson all losing to Adrien Brody in The Pianist.  While Kinnear deserved a nomination, it’s hard to say who I would drop from that line-up to make room for him.  As for DaFoe, I would argue that he was more deserving of a supporting actor nomination than The Hours‘s Ed Harris or The Road To Perdition’s Paul Newman.  Perhaps DaFoe was just too convincing as the type of clingy groupie that most members of the Academy probably dread having to deal with.

Nominated or not, Auto Focus is a disturbing and ultimately sad look at the darkness that often hides behind a perfect facade.

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special James Coburn Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Whether he was appearing in a western, a spy film, a war film, a comedy, or a dark drama, James Coburn was one of the coolest and most underapperciated actors around.  He made bad films tolerable and good films even better.  Regardless of the role, Coburn brought his own unique style to each and every performance.  He was born 92 years ago today in Nebraska so here are just four of the films from his legendary career.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Magnificent Seven (1960, directed by John Sturges)

In Like Flint (1967, directed by Gordon Douglas)

A Fistful of Dynamite (1971, directed by Sergio Leone)

Affliction (1998, directed by Paul Schrader)

Here Are The Winners of the 24th Annual Critics Choice Awards!


TSL writer Patrick Smith has referred to The Critics Choice Awards as being his “fifth favorite awards show” and that seems like the perfect description of where they fall in awards season.  People do pay attention to them and, in the past, they’ve been a pretty good precursor as far as the Oscars are concerned.  At the same time, there always seem to be confusion as just who exactly votes for the Critics Choice Awards.

Well, the answer to that question is that the Critics’ Choice Awards are voted on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association and, tonight, they announced their picks on the CW.

It was interesting night — two ties and Christian Bale was named Best Actor twice, which of course meant we had to suffer through his “I’m just an ordinary working bloke!” routine two times too many.  By far, my favorite winner was Amy Adams for Sharp Objects.

(On another note: Taye Diggs was an interesting choice to host.  I thought he did okay but, with his talent, he really should be receiving the awards instead of talking about them.  Someone write a great role for Taye Diggs ASAP!)

Here are tonight’s winners!  (Check out the nominees here!)

Movie

Best Song — Shallow from A Star is Born

Best Young Actor or Actress — Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Best Supporting Actor — Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Best Supporting Actress — Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Movie — A Quiet Place

Best Acting Ensemble — The Favourite

Best Action Film — Mission Impossible: Fallout

Best Animated Film — Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse

Best Foreign Language Film — Roma

Best Original Screenplay — Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best Adapted Screenplay — Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Actress In A Comedy — Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Best Actor In A Comedy — Christian Bale, Vice

Best Comedy — Crazy Rich Asians

Best Cinematography — Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Production Design — Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart, Black Panther

Best Editing — Tom Cross, First Man

Best Costume Design — Ruth Carter, Black Panther

Best Hair and Makeup — Vice

Best Visual Effects — Black Panther

Best Original Score — Justin Hurwitz, First Man

Best Director — Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Actress (tie) — Glenn Close, The Wife and Lady Gaga, A Star is Born

Best Actor — Christian Bale, Vice

Best Motion Picture — Roma

Television

Best Supporting Actor (Drama) — Noah Emmerich, The Americans

Best Supporting Actress (Drama) — Thandie Newton, Westworld

Best Supporting Actor (Comedy) — Henry Winkler, Barry

Best Supporting Actress (Comedy) — Alexis Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Best Supporting Actor (Limited Series or Made-For-TV Movie): Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal

Best Supporting Actress (Limited Series or Made-For-TV Movie): Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects

Best Movie Made For Television — Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert

Best Animated Series — BoJack Horseman

Best Actor (Limited Series or Movie Made-For-TV): Darren Criss, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Best Actress (Limited Series or Movie Made-For-TV): (Tie) Amy Adams, Sharp Objects and Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora

Best Actor (Comedy Series) — Bill Hader, Barry

Best Actress (Comedy Series) — Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Best Actor (Drama Series) — Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Best Actress (Drama Series) — Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

Best Limited Series — American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Best TV Drama Series — The Americans

Best TV Comedy Series — The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

 

Here Are The 2018 Houston Film Critics Society Nominations!


Finally, the only state that matters is starting to make it’s voice heard in this year’s Oscar race!

On Sunday, the Houston Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2018.  Houston really, really liked both The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk.  The winners will be announced on January 3rd.

Here are the nominees!

Best Picture
A Star is Born
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Eighth Grade
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Favourite
First Reformed
Green Book
Hereditary
Roma
Vice

Best Director
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Adam McKay, Vice

Best Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Best Actress
Glenn Close, The Wife
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Claire Foy, First Man
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Screenplay
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Adam McKay, Vice

Best Cinematography
Rachel Morrison, Black Panther
Linus Sandgren, First Man
Robbie Ryan, The Favourite
James Laxton, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Animated Film
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Original Score
Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther
Justin Hurwitz, First Man
Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
Thom Yorke, Suspiria

Best Original Song
“All the Stars,” Black Panther
“Ashes,” Deadpool 2
“Hearts Beat Loud,” Hearts Beat Loud
“Revelation,” Boy Erased
“Shallow,” A Star is Born

Best Foreign Language Film
Burning
Border
Cold War
Roma
Shoplifters

Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo
Minding the Gap
RBG
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Texas Independent Film Award
1985
An American in Texas
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Support the Girls
Tejano

Visual Effects
Black Panther
First Man
Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Best Poster
BlacKkKlansman (two)
Mandy
Suspiria (two)

Best Worst Film of the Year
The 15:17 to Paris
The Happytime Murders
Life Itself
Peppermint
Venom

The Kansas City Film Critics Circle Announces Their Picks For The Best of 2018


And here they are!

Best Picture: ROMA and The Favourite (tie)

Robert Altman Award for Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, ROMA
Runner-up: Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best Actor: Christian Bale, Vice and Ethan Hawke, First Reformed (tie)

Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Runner-up: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Best Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Runner-up: Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Vice
Runner-up: Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Leave No Trace

Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Runner-up: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Original Screenplay: The Favourite
Runner-up: Eighth Grade

Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
Runners-up: Incredibles 2 and Isle of Dogs (tie)

Best Foreign-Language Film: ROMA
Runner-up: Cold War

Best Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Runner-up: Free Solo

Vince Koehler Award for Best Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film: A Quiet Place
Runner-up: Sorry to Bother You

Tom Poe Award for Best LGBTQ Film: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Runner-up: Love, Simon

The Boston Online Film Critics Association are there for You Were Never Really Here


 

On Friday, the Boston Online Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2018!  They really liked You Were Never Really Here!

Best Picture
You Were Never Really Here

Best Director
Lynne Ramsay – You Were Never Really Here

Best Actor
Ethan Hawke – First Reformed

Best Actress
Toni Collette – Hereditary

Best Supporting Actor
Richard E.Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actress
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Ensemble
Support The Girls

Best Screenplay
First Reformed

Best Foreign Language Film
Roma

Best Documentary
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Best Animated Feature
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Best Cinematography
Roma

Best Editing
You Were Never Really Here

Best Score
You Were Never Really Here

Top 10 Films Of 2018
1. You Were Never Really Here
2. First Reformed
3. Roma
4. BlacKkKlansman
5. Black Panther
6. Shoplifters
7. Support The Girls
8. The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
9. Hereditary
10. If Beale Street Could Talk

The Vancouver Film Critics Circle Announce Their Nominations For The Best of 2018!


On Friday, the Vancouver Film Critics Circle announced their nominations for the best of 2018!

Best Picture
The Favourite
First Reformed
Roma

Best Actor, Male
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Christian Bale, Vice

Best Actor, Female
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Regina Hall, Support the Girls

Best Supporting Actor, Male
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Peter Bogdanovich, The Other Side of the Wind
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Steven Yeun, Burning

Best Supporting Actor, Female
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Claire Foy, First Man

Best Director
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Best Screenplay
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best Foreign Language Film
Burning
Roma
Shoplifters

Best Documentary
Free Solo
Minding the Gap
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The Phoenix Critics Circles Rises From The Ashes To Announce Their Nominations For The Best of 2018


Earlier today, the Phoenix Critics Circle rose from the ashes of this year and announced their nominations for the best of 2018.  They really liked The Favourite.  They also liked First Reformed and Eighth Grade, both of which could use the help after being snubbed by those SAG bastards yesterday.

BEST PICTURE
The Favourite
First Reformed
Roma
A Star is Born
Vice

BEST COMEDY FILM
Eighth Grade
The Favourite
Game Night
Sorry to Bother You
Vice

BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM
Annihilation
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One
Sorry to Bother You
Upgrade

BEST HORROR FILM
Halloween
Hereditary
Mandy
Quiet Place
Suspiria (oh, fuck you, Phoenix)

BEST ANIMATED FILM
The Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Miral
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Burning
Cold War
Dogman
Roma
Shoplifters

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Free Solo
Minding the Gap
RBG
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

BEST MOVIE BASED ON A COMIC BOOK OR GRAPHIC NOVEL
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther
Deadpool 2
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

BEST ACTRESS
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Toni Collette, Hereditary
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Richard E Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Michael B Jordan, Black Panther
Sam Rockwell, Vice

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Vice
Claire Foy, First Man
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay, Vice
Paul Schrader, First Reformed

BEST SCREENPLAY
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Spike Lee, David Robinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott, BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay, Vice
Paul Schrader, First Reformed

BEST SCORE
Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
Ludwig Goransson, Black Panther
Justin Hurwitz, First Man
Thom Yorke, Suspiria

The Chicago Film Critics Association Makes Roma An Offer It Can’t Refuse


Last night, the Chicago Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2018!  Like many other critic groups, they selected ROMA as the best film of 2018.  (They also picked Olivia Colman for Best Supporting Actress, though she’s being pushed for an Oscar nominations for Best Actress for her role in The Favourite.)

Ethan Hawke for First Reformed is coming on strong, as far as the precursors are concerned.  Right now, I’m assuming First Reformed will do well when the Oscar nominations are announced but the fact that the film was not only snubbed but apparently loathed by the Golden Globe voters does give me reason to wonder if maybe we could see a repeat of what happened with Nightcrawler (i.e., a film and a performance loved by the critics but totally ignored by the Academy).

Check out their nominations here and then check out the winners below!

BEST PICTURE
Roma

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

BEST ACTOR
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

BEST ACTRESS
Toni Collette, Hereditary

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Olivia Colman, The Favourite

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
If Beale Street Could Talk by Barry Jenkins

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
First Reformed by Paul Schrader

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Minding the Gap

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Roma

BEST ART DIRECTION
The Favourite

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron

BEST EDITING
Roma

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell

BEST USE OF VISUAL EFFECTS
Annihilation 

MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER
Ari Aster, Hereditary

MOST PROMISING PERFORMER
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

 

The Toronto Film Critics Association Honors ROMA!


The word out of Canada is that, earlier today, the Toronto Film Critics Association met and picked ROMA as the best film of 2018!  Just like the L.A. Critics, Toronto picked Steven Yeun for best supporting actor, for his work in Burning.

Here’s a full list of the winners in Toronto!

Best Picture: ROMA
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón (ROMA)
Best Actor: Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Best Actress: Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Best Supporting Actor: Steven Yeun (Burning)
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Best Screenplay: The Favourite and First Reformed (tie)
Best Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Best Animated Feature: Isle of Dogs
Best Foreign Language Film: Burning
Best First Feature: Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You)

Love you, Canada!