The Satellites Really Like Ford V Ferrari


The Satellite Nominations were announced earlier today and they appear to really, really like Ford v. Ferrari.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Who gives out the Satellites?”  They are awarded by the International Press Academy.  They should not be mistaken for the Golden Globes, which are given out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  Instead, the Satellites should probably be considered the Golden Globes’s less popular cousins.  Unlike the Globes, they haven’t really proven themselves to be reliable as a precursor.

Anyway, here are the Satellite Film Nominations.  If you want to see their television nominations, click here!

ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE DRAMA

  • Alfre Woodard, “Clemency”
  • Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
  • Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
  • Helen Mirren, “The Good Liar”
  • Renee Zellweger, “Judy”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE DRAMA

  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
  • Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
  • Christian Bale, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • George MacKay, “1917″
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “Dark Waters” 

ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

  • Awkwafina, “The Farewell”
  • Ana De Armas, “Knives Out”
  • Constance Wu, “Hustlers”
  • Julianne Moore, “Gloria Bell”

ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

  • Adam Sandler, “Uncut Gems”
  • Daniel Craig, “Knives Out”
  • Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
  • Margot Robbie, “Bomshell”
  • Penelope Cruz, “Pain and Glory”
  • Nicole Kidman, “Bombshell”
  • Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood”
  • Willem Dafoe, “The Lighthouse”
  • Wendell Pierce, “Burning Cane”

MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA

  • 1917 Universal Pictures
  • Bombshell Lionsgate
  • Burning Cane Array Releasing
  • Ford v Ferrari Twentieth Century Fox
  • Joker Warner Bros.
  • The Lighthouse A24
  • Marriage Story Netflix
  • Two Popes Netflix

MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL

  • Hustlers STX Entertainment
  • Knives Out Lionsgate
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Columbia Pictures
  • Rocketman Paramount
  • The Farewell A24
  • Uncut Gems A24

MOTION PICTURE, INTERNATIONAL

  • Atlantics, Senegal
  • Beanpole, Russia
  • Les Miserables, France
  • Pain and Glory, Spain
  • Parasite, Korea
  • Truth and Justice, Estonia
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire, France
  • The Painted Bird, Czech Republic

MOTION PICTURE, ANIMATED OR MIXED MEDIA

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon Netflix
  • Alita: Battle Angel Twentieth Century Fox
  • Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles GKIDS
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: The Hidden World Universal Pictures
  • The Lion King Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Toy Story 4 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Weathering With You GKIDS

MOTION PICTURE, DOCUMENTARY

  • 63 Up BritBox
  • Apollo 11 Neon
  • Citizen K Greenwich Entertainment
  • Honeyland KJ Films
  • One Child Nation Amazon Studios
  • The Apollo HBO Documentary
  • The Cave National Geographic Documentary Films
  • FOR SAMA PBS

DIRECTOR

  • Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”
  • James Mangold, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Pedro Almodóvar, “Pain and Glory”
  • Sam Mendes, “1917″
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL

  • Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”
  • Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Pedro Almodóvar, “Pain and Glory”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED

  • Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”
  • Edward Norton, “Motherless Brooklyn”
  • Matthew Michael Carnahan, Mario Correa, Nathaniel Rich, “Dark Waters”
  • Steven Zaillian, “The Irishman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Todd Phillips & Scott Silver, “Joker”

ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Thomas Newman, “1917″
  • Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Randy Newman, “Marriage Story”
  • Robbie Robertson, “The Irishman”
  • Terence Blanchard, “Harriet”
  • Hildur Guonadottir, “Joker”

ORIGINAL SONG

  • Don’t Call Me (Angel), “Charlie’s Angels”
  • Into the Unknown, “Frozen II”
  • (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, “Rocketman”
  • Spirit, “Lion King”
  • The Ballade of the Lonesome Cowboy, “Toy Story 4”
  • Swan Song, “Alita: Battle Angel”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Dick Pope, “Motherless Brooklyn”
  • George Richmond, “Rocketman”
  • Lawrence Sher, “Joker”
  • Phedon Papamichael, ASC, GSC, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Rodrigo Prieto, “The Irishman”
  • Roger Deakins, “1917”

FILM EDITING

  • 1917
    Lee Smith, ACE
  • Ford v Ferrari
    Michael McCusker, ACE
    Andrew Buckland
  • Joker
    Jeff Groth
  • Marriage Story
    Jennifer Lame, ACE
  • Rocketman
    Chris Dickens
  • The Irishman
    Thelma Schoonmaker

SOUND (EDITING AND MIXING)

  • 1917
    Oliver Tarney
    Stuart Wilson
    Scott Millan
    Mark Taylor
  • Avengers: Endgame
    Shannon Mills
    Daniel Laurie
    Tom Johnson
    Juan Peralta
    John Pritchett, CAS
  • Ford v Ferrari
    Donald Sylvester
    Paul Massey
    David Giammarco
    Steven A. Morrow, CAS
  • Joker
    Alan Robert Murray
    Tom Ozanich
    Dean Zupancic
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    Wylie Stateman
    Mark Ulano, CAS
    Michael Minkler, CAS
    Christian P. Minkler, CAS
  • Rocketman
    Matthew Collinge
    John Hayes

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Alita: Battle Angel
    Joe Letteri
    Eric Saindon
  • Avengers: Endgame
    Dan DeLeeuw
    Matt Aitken
    Russell Earl
    Dan Sudick
  • The Lion King
    Robert Legato, ASC; Andrew R. Jones
    Adam Valdez; Elliot Newman
  • Ford v Ferrari
    Olivier Dumont
    Mark Byers
    Kathy Segal
  • Joker
    Edwin Rivera
    Mathew Giampa
    Bryan Godwin
  • The Irishman
    Pablo Helman

ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • 1917
    Dennis Gassner
    Lee Sandales
  • Ford v Ferrari
    François Audouy
    Peter Lando
  • Joker
    Mark Friedberg
    Laura Ballinger
  • Motherless Brooklyn
    Beth Mickle
    Michael Ahern
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    Barbara Ling
    Nancy Haigh
  • The Two Popes
    Mark Tildesley
    Saverio Sammali

COSTUME DESIGN 

  • Dolemite Is My Name
    Ruth E. Carter
  • Joker
    Mark Bridges
  • Judy
    Jeny Temime
  • Rocketman
    Julian Day
  • The Two Popes
    Luka Canfora
  • Downton Abbey
    Caroline McCall
    Anna Robbins
    Susannah Buxton
    Rosalind Ebbutt

Lisa’s Early Oscar Nominations for August


It’s the time of the month again!

It’s time for me to share my early Oscar predictions!  With the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals currently underway, the Oscar picture does seem to be a little bit less murky.  But then again, we should remember that appearances can be deceiving.  Last year, at this time, most people were still expecting a First Man vs. Beale Street vs. A Star is Born Oscar race.

These predictions below take into account the reports that have been coming back from Telluride and Venice.  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved over the year, be sure to check out my predictions from January, February, March, April, May, June, and July!

And now, for what their worth, here are my predictions for August:

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

The Farewell

Ford v Ferrari

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

Little Women

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Waves

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A HIdden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Trey Edward Shults for Waves

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Awkwafina in The Farewell

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Sterling K. Brown in Waves

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes

John Lithgow in Bombshell

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz in Pain & Glory

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Zao Shuzhen in The Farewell

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For September


To see how my thinking has progressed, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, JuneJuly, and August!

 

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Detroit

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

It

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Logan

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missiouri

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

Sean Baker for The Florida Project

Kathryn Bigelow for Detroit

Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Meryl Streep in The Papers

 

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Will Poulter in Detroit

Patrick Stewart in Logan

 

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz in Murder on the Orient Express

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in The Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstuck

Margot Robbie in Goodbye Christopher Robin

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for August!


 

To see how my thinking has progressed, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, and July!

 

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Detroit

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Goodbye Christopher Robin

The Greatest Showman

Logan

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

Sean Baker for The Florida Project

Kathryn Bigelow for Detroit

Michael Gracey for The Greatest Showman

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Meryl Streep in The Papers

 

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Will Poulter in Detroit

Patrick Stewart in Logan

 

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz in Murder on the Orient Express

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in The Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstuck

Margot Robbie in Goodbye Christopher Robin

 

Lisa’s Early Oscar Nominations for July


With each passing month, the Oscar race becomes just a little bit clearer.  We are still a few months away from the true Oscar season but a few contenders have emerged.

My predictions are below.  Previously, my predictions were all based on wishful thinking and instinct.  Well, there’s still a lot of wishful thinking to be found below but, at the same time, the festival season is providing a guide and there are some early reviews that have started to come in.  I’ve never been a 100% correct in my predictions and I doubt this year is going to be any different.  (For one thing, I always predict 10 best picture nominees, even though that’s close to being a mathematical impossibility under the current Academy rules.)

One final note: Some day, the Academy will get over their resistance to Netflix and streaming.  I don’t think that’s going to happen this year, though.  I kept that in mind while considering the chances of such heavily hyped (and, for that matter, less heavily hyped) contenders as Mudbound and The Meyerowitz Stories.

Anyway, here are my predictions for July!  Be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June as well!

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Detroit

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Goodbye Christopher Robin

The Greatest Showman

Logan

Wonderstruck

Best Director

Sean Baker for The Florida Project

Kathryn Bigelow for Detroit

Michael Gracey for The Greatest Showman

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Meryl Streep in The Papers

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Will Poulter in Detroit

Patrick Stewart in Logan

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz in Murder on the Orient Express

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in The Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstuck

Margot Robbie in Goodbye Christopher Robin

 

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #16: Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)


(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 Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

zoolander_2_poster

On October 14th, I recorded Zoolander 2 off of Epix.

A sequel to the 2001 cult hit, Zoolander 2 came out earlier this year and got absolutely terrible reviews and quickly vanished from theaters.  Watching the film last night, I could understand why it got such terrible reviews.  Zoolander 2 is not only a terrible movie but it’s also a rather bland one.  Somehow, the blandness is even more offensive than the badness.

Zoolander 2 opens with Justin Bieber getting assassinated and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) being forced to come out of retirement and discover why pop stars are being targeted.  And, of course, Zoolander can’t do it without the help of Hansel (Owen Wilson)!  Penelope Cruz is in the film as well, playing  Zoolander’s handler and essentially being wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone.

Oh!  And Will Ferrell returns as well.  Ferrell gives a performance that essentially shouts out to the world, “Fuck you, I’m Will Ferrell and no one is going to tell Will Ferrell to tone his shit down!”

Actually, I think everyone in the world is in Zoolander 2.  This is one of those films that is full of cameos from people who probably thought a silly comedy would be good for their image.  For instance, there’s a huge number of journalists who show up playing themselves.  Matt Lauer shows up and I get the feeling that we’re supposed to be happy about that.  There was a reason why people cheered when the sharks ate him in Sharknado 3.

You know who else shows up as himself?  Billy Zane!  And Billy Zane has exactly the right type of attitude for a film like this.  He shows up and he mocks the whole enterprise by giving the Billy Zaniest performance of Billy Zane’s career.  For that matter, Kiefer Sutherland also shows up as himself.  I’m not really sure what Kiefer was doing in the film but he makes sure to deliver all of his lines in that sexy growl of his.  Kiefer knows what we want to hear.

You may notice that I’m not talking about the plot of Zoolander 2.  That’s largely because I couldn’t follow the plot.  This is an incredibly complicated film but it’s not complicated in a funny way.  Instead, it’s complicated in a way that suggests that the film was made up on the spot.  It’s as if the cast said, “We’re all funny!  Just turn on the camera and we’ll make it work!”

The problem with Zoolander 2 is obvious.  The first film pretty much exhausted the comic possibilities of making a spy film about shallow and stupid models.  Don’t get me wrong — the first film did a good job but it’s not like it left any material untapped.  But I would ask you to indulge me as I imagine an alternate reality.

Consider this: Terrence Malick was reportedly a huge fun of Zoolander.

Let’s take just a minute to imagine a world in which Ben Stiller asked Terrence Malick to write and direct Zoolander 2.  And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Malick agreed!

Just think about it — 4 hours of Zoolander and Hansel staring up at the sky and thinking about nature.  “What is this thing that causes the heart of man to beat?” Zoolander asks.  “Are we nature or has nature become us?” Hansel replies.

That would have been a fun film!

Defending the Counselor


The_Counselor_Poster

(Spoilers Below)

The Counselor was one of the most anticipated films of 2013.  After all, it was based on a screenplay by the Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy and it was directed by Ridley Scott.  Its cast included such stars as Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt.  The film’s two trailers promised a return to the thematic territory that the Coen Brothers explored in their Oscar-winning adaptation of McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men.

And yet, when The Counselor was released in October, the reviews were scathing and audience response was reportedly terrible.  Writing for Salon, film “critic” Andrew O’Hehir suggested that The Counselor was not only the worst film of 2013 but the worst film of all time.

And you know what?

For not the first time, Andrew O’Hehir was wrong.  The Counselor is not the worst film of 2013.  Instead, it’s one of the best.  It’s a film that will be studied long after more acclaimed films have been forgotten.

Why is The Counselor so hated?

It’s not an easy film to love.  In fact, the film is rather brave about alienating its audience and refusing to allow for the crowd-pleasing moments that viewers have come to expect from even the most prestigious of films.

In order to truly defend the Counselor, it’s necessary to know the plot of The Counselor.  Needless to say, everything that follows constitutes a huge spoiler so, if you’re one of those types, feel free to stop reading now.

Brad-Pitt-Michael-Fassbender-Counselor

Okay, still here?  Here’s a condensed version of what happens in The Counselor:

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is an honest lawyer in El Paso who has never broken the law and is engaged to marry the beautiful and saintly Laura (Penelope Cruz).  For reasons that are never explicitly stated (but, as I’ll explain below, are obvious to anyone who is willing to look for the clues), The Counselor agrees to help his clients Westray (Brad Pitt) and Reiner (Javier Bardem) smuggle a huge shipment of cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico.  However, Reiner’s girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) steals the drugs and frames the Counselor for the theft.  As a result, Reiner ends up getting executed by the Mexican cartel, Westray is beheaded on the streets of London, and the Counselor ends up hiding out in Juarez, Mexico, sobbing as he looks at a DVD copy of a cartel-produced snuff film that features Laura being murdered.  The end.

Yeah, it’s not exactly a happy film.  And yet, it’s a film that sticks with you, a portrait of a shadowy underworld that is fueled solely by greed, paranoia, and masculine posturing.  Ridley Scott makes good use of the South Texas landscape and the talented cast creates a memorable gallery of rouges.

And yet, The Counselor is getting some of the worst reviews of the year.  What’s especially interesting is that the things that so many critic cite as flaws are actually the film’s greatest strengths.

The Counselor

Consider the following common criticisms:

1) The film features some of the most overly articulate drug deals of all time.

This is the most frequent complaint that I’ve come across concerning The Counselor and there is some validity to it.  The Counselor is a very talky film.  The film’s first hour is pretty much made up of The Counselor having three conversations, all about the same thing and all reaching the same conclusion.  Cormac McCarthy’s dialogue is, perhaps not surprisingly, rather portentous and florid.  The Counselor does ask the audience to accept a world where even the head of Mexico’s most powerful cartel is given to going off on long philosophical digressions.  The Counselor is one of those films where nearly every line seems to have a double meaning.

That said, I think that those who attacking the film’s dialogue are missing the point.  This is not meant to be a naturalistic film.  Instead, it’s a heavily stylized B-film that uses its sordid story as a metaphor for dealing with deeper issues of greed, masculinity, and the changing mores of American culture.  Much as every line of dialogue has a deeper meaning, so does every pulpy plot twist.  It takes a while to adjust to McCarthy’s dialogue but, ultimately, that dialogue serves to remind us that the film has a lot more on its mind than just telling the story about a drug deal gone bad.  The combination of overly articulate dialogue with primitive violence and desires encourages us to look under the film’s surface.

2) The film’s plot is predictable.

This may be true but I think that’s actually McCarthy’s point.  From the start of the film, the Counselor is continually warned that things could potentially go very wrong.  Despite these warnings, the Counselor still gets involved in Reiner’s drug and, through a combination of hubris and fate, he loses everything that he loved.

The Counselor’s downfall is not meant to be a surprise.  Instead, McCarthy’s point is that the consequences of our actions are usually obvious but we, as human beings, chose to live in denial about just how little control we actually have over our own fate.

TheCounselor-Diaz-Cheetah-Tat

3) Ridley Scott’s direction is stylish but ultimately empty.

This argument goes that, while Scott manages to capture some gorgeous images of the Texas/Mexico border, those images ultimately don’t add up to much.  The idea goes back to a charge that is frequently leveled against Ridley Scott as a director, that he’s all style and technique with little substance.  (Interestingly enough, this is the same charge that is often made against the Coen Brothers.)

In the past, I’ve been critical of Ridley Scott.  (For proof, check out my reviews of Robin Hood and Gladiator.)  However, that being said, I think that, with The Counselor, Scott does a good job of visually interpreting the concepts at the heart of McCarthy’s script.  My mom was from South Texas and I’ve spent enough time down there to understand just how perfectly Ridley Scott manages to capture the combination of beauty and harshness that one finds along the border between Texas and Mexico.  In Scott’s hands, the emptiness of the Texas landscape serves as a perfect parallel for the emptiness of the lives of the majority of the film’s characters.

Speaking of which…

4) The motivations of the Counselor remain a mystery.

Why does the Counselor get involved in the drug deal in the first place?  Many of the film’s critics have complained that the Counselor’s motivations remains a mystery and therefore make it impossible for audiences to sympathize with the character.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What these critics are failing to realize is that the Counselor’s motives are obvious every time that he appears on-screen.  The audience has to be willing to look for them.  The audience has to be willing to think and that, of course, is asking quite a bit of some viewers.

The-Counselor

While the Counselor hints that his reason for getting involved with the drug deal is so that he can make enough money to provide a good life for Laura, his actual motivations are far more selfish.  One need only see the Counselor in his perfectly pressed suits or in his sleek but sterile home to understand exactly who the Counselor is.  He is a character who has made his living by defending those who break the law but who has never had the courage to actually flaunt the rules himself.   He is a man who lives in a self-constructed prison of ennui and associating with Reiner and Westray gives him a chance to escape from his conventional existence.   He is a character who spends his day profiting from the crimes of others but, because he can go home to his beautiful home and his beautiful fiancee, assumes that he’s somehow detached from the consequences of the actions of his associates.

The Counselor starts the film as an unemotional, blank-faced cipher, a man whose entire identity is based on his job title.  (Indeed, we never learn once learn or hear the character’s actual name.)  The only time that he shows even a hint of human depth or emotion is when he’s with Laura.  He’s a man who, in many ways, is dead on the inside.  It’s only after he gets involved with Reiner and Westray that the Counselor starts to show any signs of life until, by the end of the film, he literally cannot control his emotions.   The Counselor frees himself from his stifling and conventional existence at the cost of everything and everybody that he loves.  In his pursuit of freedom, he simply moves from one self-imposed prison to another.

5) Particularly in its portrayal of Malkina, there is a strong streak of misogyny running through the film.

This is a point that I’ve seen made by several critics and it’s one that bothers me as both a feminist and as a female who happens to love genre films.  Just because a film features a misogynistic character does that therefore make the film itself misogynistic?

The majority of those who claim that The Counselor is anti-female often point to the character of Malkina.  As played by Cameron Diaz, Malkina is a hyper sexual sociopath who manipulates and destroys everyone else in the film.  Even though he’s obsessed with her, Reiner also claims to fear her and he has several conversations with the Counselor in which he cites her as proof that women cannot be trusted.

However, just because Reiner says this, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film agrees.  In fact, as should be obvious to anyone who is actually willing to pay attention to the film, Reiner is portrayed as being a fool who, ultimately, is just as delusional as the Counselor.  Reiner, Wainstray, and the Counselor all exist in a hyper masculine environment.  For all of their posturing and macho talk, it’s also obvious that none of them are capable of truly dealing with women.  Wainstray can only bring himself to acknowledge them as potential sexual partners while the Counselor both idealizes Laura and uses her happiness as an excuse to pursue his own criminal enterprises.  Reiner, meanwhile, is both attracted to and terrified of Malkina.

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In perhaps the film’s most infamous scene, Malkina removes her panties and then grinds against the windshield of a Ferrari while Reiner watches from inside the car.  Some have argued that, with this scene, the filmmakers are equating Malkina’s sexuality with evil.  I, however, would argue that this scene shows that Malkina — alone of all the film’s major characters — understands the fact that all of the men in her life are essentially boys who are either incapable of or unwilling to grow up.  Malkina uses her sexuality not because she’s evil but because she’s intelligent enough to use every weapon at her disposal to make sure that she will be one of the few characters to survive to the movie’s conclusion.  By the end of the film, it’s obvious that Malkina is both the strongest and the most intelligent character in the film.

There’s an interesting scene towards the end of the film in which the Counselor, who is hiding out in Juarez, stumbles across a group of protesters who are holding pictures of young women who have either been killed on or vanished from the streets of Juarez.  Since 1993, over 4000 women have been murdered in Juarez.  The majority of those murders are still unsolved, with many blaming the Spanish tradition of machismo.  The feeling of many is that “good” girls stay home while “bad” girls get jobs in the city and are often  murdered as a result.  And, since the victims shouldn’t have been pursuing a life outside of domestic servitude in the first place, why waste the time trying to win them any sort of justice?  For the past decade, brave activists have put themselves in danger by daring to demand justice for the dead of Juarez.  When the Counselor stumbles across their rally, it’s a brief moment in which the real world and the cinematic landscape come together.

It’s also a scene that serves to remind us that the film’s characters are living in a hyper masculine world, one that embraces the concept of machismo without understanding or caring about the consequences of that destructive  culture.  The Counselor’s horrified reaction to the rally is the reaction of a man who has finally been forced to confront the evil of which he is now a permanent part.

6) The film’s ending is depressing.

Complaining about Cormac McCarthy writing a depressing ending is a bit like getting upset at a cat for purring.  It’s what McCarthy does and anyone with any knowledge of his work has no right to be shocked that the film ends on a note of hopelessness.  Much as with No Country For Old Men, The Counselor ends the only way that it can.  It may not be a happy ending but it is, at least, an honest ending.

The Counselor may not be an easy film to like but it’s definitely a film that deserves better than to be dismissed as the worst of 2013.

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