Lisa Marie Picks The 30 Top Films of 2020


Well, it’s finally time!  It’s time for me to announce my picks for the best films of 2020.

Before we begin, there is one thing I want to make clear.  Unlike the Academy, I did not extend my eligibility window.  Films like Nomadland, Minari, and The Father (amongst others) will undoubtedly be competing for the Oscar for Best Picture of 2020.  However, as far as I’m concerned, those are all 2021 films.  And I imagine that a few of them will probably appear on my best films of 2021 list.  However, the list below are my picks for the best films of 2020.  You’ll probably agree with some of my picks and disagree with some of the others.  As always, I welcome any and all comments.

Also, be sure to check out my picks for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019!  Wow, I’ve been doing this for a while!

And now, in descending order, my favorites of 2020!

30. Money Plane (dir by Andrew Lawrence) — Okay, I can sense that you’re already rolling your eyes at my list by seriously, Money Plane is such a cheerfully absurd and self-aware little B-movie that there’s no way I couldn’t include it.  Seriously, how can you not love a film that features Kelsey Grammer always a gangster known as the Rumble?  Basically, as soon as I heard that priceless declaration of “We are going to rob the Money Plane!,” this movie had me under its spell.

29. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (dir by George C. Wolfe) — Though this adaptation of August Wilson’s play never quite escapes its theatrical roots, no one can deny the powerful performances of Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, and especially Chadwick Boseman.  Boseman dominates the film from the minute that he makes his first appearance, playing an ambitious, troubled, and undeniably talented trumpeter.  Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey with the self-awareness of someone who knows that the record producers need her more than she needs them.  She has the power and she’s not going to let anyone get away with forgetting it.

28. The Invisible Man (dir by Leigh Wannell) — Before the Academy announced that they would be changing their rules to considers streaming movies, many critics speculated that one of the results of the pandemic would be The Invisible Man winning all of the Oscars.  Though they may have been joking, it was not as outlandish an idea as they seemed to think.  The Invisible Man is a horror film that proves that being a genre film does not mean that film can’t also be a good and thought-provoking work of art.  The Invisible Man breathes new life into a somewhat hokey premise and Elisabeth Moss gives a great performance as a woman stalked by her abusive (and now invisble) ex.  The Invisible Man features one of the best ending scenes of 2020.

27. The Hunt (dir by Craig Zobel) — Delayed due to a manufactured controversy and released to critical bafflement, The Hunt is a clever satire of our hyper-partisan and hyper-polarized society.  The film’s final twist is a clever commentary on social media drama and Hillary Swank steals the show with an unexpected cameo.

26. One Night In Miami (dir by Regina King) — I went back and forth on this one.  Based on a stage play, this film imagines what happened the night that Malcolm X, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Muhammad Ali met in a Miami motel room.  There are a few times that the film is undoubtedly a bit too stagey for its own good and, early on, some of the dialogue is a bit too on the nose.  But the film has a cumulative power and, despite a few uneven moments, it’s ultimately an intriguing look at race, celebrity, and political activism in America.  A good deal of the film’s power is due to the ensemble.  While most of the awards chatter seems to be focused on Leslie Odom, Jr. as Sam Cooke, it’s Aldis Hodge’s Jim Brown who truly anchors the film.

25. Gunpowder Heart (dir by Camila Urrutia) — This raw and angry film from Guatemala was one of the more powerful films to be featured at 2020’s virtual South By Southwest.  In Guatemala City, Maria and her girlfriend Claudia are assaulted by three men.  Maria wants revenge, no mater what.  Claudia, the more cautious of the two, knows that Maria’s plans are going to end in tragedy and disaster but she also knows that there’s nothing she can do to stop her.  Gunpowder Heart isn’t always easy to watch but it’s undeniably powerful.

24. The Shock of the Future (dir by Marc Collin) — Taking place in 1978, this French film follows one day in the life of a composer named Ana (Alma Jodorowsky).  It’s a typical day — Anna wakes up, a friend comes by with the latest albums, Anna tries to compose music, she goes to a party, and she hears the newest music.  It’s a simple but effective celebration of both music and the thrill of having your entire creative life ahead of you.  Alma Jodorowsky is brilliant in the role of Anna.

23. She Dies Tomorrow (dir by Amy Seimetz) — This a disturbing mood piece about a woman who is convinced that she is going to die in a day.  Everyone who she meets also becomes convinced that they’re going to die within 24 hours.  Some of them go out of their way to make sure that it happens while others just wait for death to come.  Is it a mass delusion or is it something else?  The atmospheric film may raise more questions than it answers but it will definitely stick with you.

22. Driveways (dir by Andrew Ahn) — Kathy (Hong Chau) and her young son, Cody (Lucas Jaye), move into the home that was owned by Kathy’s deceased sister.  In his final film appearance, Brian Dennehy plays the gruff but caring neighbor who befriends both Cody and his mother.  This is a low-key but emotionally resonant film, elevated by Dennehy’s heartfelt performance.

21. Figurant (dir by Jan Vejnar) — Clocking in at 14 minutes, this unsettling but powerful French/Czech co-production tells the story of a quiet man (Denis Levant) who follows a group of younger men into a warehouse and who soon finds himself in uniform and on a battlefield.  Or is he?  It’s not an easy question to answer but this intriguing short film will keep you watching, guessing, and thinking.

20. What Did Jack Do? (dir by David Lynch) — David Lynch interrogates a monkey in an expressionistic train station.  The monkey talks about a chicken and sings a song about true love’s flame.  “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?” Lynch asks.  It’s a brilliant short film and really, it’s the sort of thing that only David Lynch, with his mix of earnestness and eccentricity, could have pulled off.  Technically, this film was made a few years ago but it only got it’s official premiere in 2020, when Netflix released it on Lynch’s birthday.

19. Red, White, and Blue (dir by Steven McQueen) — Steve McQueen’s Small Axe was made up of five short films.  Three of them appear on this list.  There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not the Small Axe films should be considered individual features or if they should be considered a miniseries.  Obviously, I see them as being individual features but, in the end, they’re brilliant and thought-provoking regardless of whether they’re television or film.  Red, White, and Blue takes a nuanced look at institutional racism and features an excellent lead performance from John Boyega.

18. Mr. Jones (dir by Agnieszka Holland) — A film that deserved more attention than it received, Mr. Jones tells the story of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who, in 1933, discovered the truth about the state-sponsored famine that was killing millions in the Ukraine.  Despite his efforts, the press refused to report on what was really happening in the Ukraine and instead, an odious propagandist named Walter Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer prize for writing pro-Stalin stories that were later determined to be full of deliberate lies.  An important and heartfelt film, Mr. Jones features a subtle but effective lead performance from James Norton and a memorable supporting turn from Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Walter Duranty as a smug snake.

17. The Outpost (dir by Rod Lurie) — Based on a true story and directed by Rod Lurie, this film pays tribute to the men who have fought and died in America’s forgotten conflict, the War in Afghanistan.  Well-acted and doggedly unsentimental, The Outpost will literally leave you breathless.

16. Emma (dir by Autumn de Wilde) — The latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s much-adapted novel, Emma has a playful spirit that is lacking in so many other literary adaptations.  It also has a great performance from Anya Taylor-Joy, who makes the character of Emma Woodhouse her own.

15. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (dir by Eliza Hittman) — Two teenagers, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), travel to New York City from Pennsylvania so that Autumn can get an abortion without having to get her parent’s consent.  Though I’m occasionally a bit skeptic of cinema verite, Never Rarely Sometimes Always makes good use of the style.  Far more than just being a film about abortion, it’s a character study of two people trying to survive in a harsh world.  The scene where the previously withdrawn Autumn is prodded to open up about her past is one of the most powerful of the year.

14. Possessor (dir by Brandon Cronenberg) — Brandon Cronenberg’s disturbing sci-fi/horror hybrid is not an easy film to explain or to even describe.  Questions of identity and betrayal are mixed with grotesque images of body horror and societal neglect.  By the end of the film, you’ll find yourself reconsidering everything that you previously assumed about the movie.  This one sticks with you, even though you may not want it to.  (How’s that for a recommendation?)

13. Horse Girl (dir by Jeff Baena) — This is a film that definitely deserved a bit more attention than it received.  Alison Brie gives a brave and sympathetic performance as someone who believes that she’s a clone who has been abducted by aliens.  Is she suffering from delusions brought on by a combination of loneliness and too much television?  Or is she right?  The film will leave you guessing.  While Brie is at the center of almost every scene, Molly Shannon also gives a good performance as one of Brie’s only friends.

12. Sound of Metal (dir by Darius Marder) — Riz Ahmed plays an occasionally obnoxious drummer who goes deaf.  Worried that Ahemd is going to relapse into drug use, his girlfriend and musical partner (Olivia Cooke) checks him into a rehab center for the deaf.  With the help of a sympathetic but no-nonsense counselor (Paul Raci), Ahmed struggles to come to accept the loss of sound and music from his life.  The three main performances elevate this film, making it one of the year’s best.  In the film’s best moments, we hear the world through Ahmed’s ears and experience what he’s experiencing.

11. Mangrove (dir by Steve McQueen) — The first film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology tells the story of a true life court case.  Politically charged from beginning to end and leaving no doubt as to what the true stakes were in the case, Mangrove is the film that Trial of The Chicago 7 should have been.

10. Soul (dir by Peter Docter) — The latest from PIXAR made me cry as only a great PIXAR film can.  A music teacher named Joe (voices by Jamie Foxx) falls down a manhole shortly after winning his dream job in a jazz band.  Unwilling to die before performing on stage, Joe finds himself in the Great Before, assigned to teach an unborn soul named 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) what it means to be human …. okay, you know what?  This film has one of those plots that sounds silly if you try to explain it.  What matters is that it’s a heartfelt film that celebrates every minute of life.  Foxx and Fey both do wonderful voice work and the animation is as clever as always.  Plus, there’s a cat!

9. The Vast of Night (dir by Andrew Patterson) — This low-budget film is a wonderfully atmospheric look at what may or may not be an alien invasion taking place in the 1950s.  Featuring wonderfully naturalistic performances and an intelligent storyline, The Vast of Night is a triumph of the independent spirit.  I can’t wait to see what Andrew Patterson does next.

8. Lovers Rock (dir by Steve McQueen) — The 2nd film is Steve MQueen’s Small Axe anthology, Lovers Rock centers on one exhilarating house party.  Though the world outside of this party may be harsh and full of oppression and racism (a group of white teens shout racial slurs at one partygoer when she steps outside of the house), the world inside of the party is one of love, music, and celebration.

7. i’m thinking of ending things (dir by Charlie Kaufman) — A riddle wrapped in an enigma, i’m thinking of ending things features great performance from Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis.  What starts out as an awkward drive to visit Plemons’s parents grows increasingly more and more surreal until the audience is left to wonder what is real, what is fantasy, and whether the majority of the film’s characters even exist.  This film plays out like a dream and stays with you long after it end.

6. Palm Springs (dir by Max Barbakow) — Perhaps the ultimate twist on Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is a thought-provoking comedic gem from Lonely Island Classic Pictures.  Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, and Cristin Milioti find themselves living the same day over and over again.  Each one reacts to their predicament in a different way.  It’ll make you laugh and then it’ll make you cry.  Revealing too much else about the plot would be a crime.  It’s on Hulu so go watch it.

5. The Assistant (dir by Kitty Green) — This infuriating and ultimately tragic film follows one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a production assistant at a film company.  Though he’s never seen, Jane’s boss is clearly meant to be a fictionalized version of Harvey Weinstein.  Should Jane save her career or try to warn the actress that her boss has clearly set his eyes upon as his next victim?  The scene where the head of HR assures Jane that she needn’t worry about her boss’s behavior because “you’re not his type,” rings all too horribly true.  The Assistant was obviously designed to be a rallying call for #MeToo but sadly, today, it feels more like an obituary.

Bad Education

4. Bad Education (dir by Cory Finley) — All year, I have been lamenting the fact that Bad Education was bought by HBO and not Netflix.  If it had been released on Netflix, it would probably be an Oscar contender and Hugh Jackman would be in the hunt for his first Best Actor Oscar.  Instead, it aired on HBO and it had to settle for limited Emmy recognition.  It’s a shame because this film, which centers on embezzlement at one suburban school, was one of the best of 2020.  At a time when we’re being told not to question authority, Bad Education encourages us to question everything.  Along with being thought-provoking, it’s also occasionally laugh out loud funny.  Jackman is brilliant in the lead role.  Allison Janney is award-worthy as his partner-in-crime.  Ray Romano takes another step in proving that he’s more than just a sitcom actor.  All in all, this was a great movie.

3. First Cow (dir by Kelly Reichardt) — This melancholy tale follows two men who meet in Oregon in the 1820s and who become unlikely business partners.  Unfortunately, being partners means stealing milk from Toby Jones’s cow and thievery was even less appreciated in the 1820s than it is today. Featuring outstanding lead performances from Jon Magaro and Orion Lee, First Cow is a rewarding work of historical fiction.  Kelly Reichardt makes you feel as if you’ve woken up in the 1820s, even as she uses the past to comment upon the present.  This probably isn’t a film for everyone.  Reichardt’s style has always been more about observing than passing judgment.  But for viewers willing to stick with it, this deliberately paced film is a rewarding experience.

Finally, when it comes to the best film of the year, I’ve been going back and forth between two films.  In the end, I have to declare a tie.  In alphabetical order by title, here are the two best films of 2020:

2. The Girl With A Bracelet (dir by Stéphane Demoustier) — This French film is about a teenage girl who is on trial for murdering her best friend.  Whether or not she’s guilty is ultimately less important than why everyone has been so quick to accuse her in the first place.  Featuring an outstanding ensemble and an intelligent script, The Girl With A Bracelet will leave you thinking about …. well, everything.  It can currently be viewed on Prime.

1. Promising Young Woman (dir by Emerald Fennell) — When I first started watching this film, I worried that it might be too stylized to be effective.  But it soon became apparent the director/screenwriter Emerald Fennell and star Carey Mulligan both knew exactly what they needed to do to tell this story.  Mulligan plays a med school drop-out who is seeking her own unique style of revenge against not only the men who raped her best friend in college but also the people who Mulligan feels subsequently let her friend down.  Bo Burnham plays the pediatrician who asks Mulligan out on a date and who appears to be the perfect nice guy, the adorably awkward boyfriend who you you would expect to find in a 90s rom com.  Neither character turns out to be exactly who they initially appeared to be.  Promising Young Woman mixes genres that normally don’t go together, smashing together drama and comedy, and it’s just audacious enough to be one of the best films of the year.

 

 

TSL Looks Back at 2020:

  1. 2020 In Review: The Best of Lifetime (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  2. 12 Good Things I Saw On Television in 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  3. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Novels of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  4. Lisa Marie’s Top 8 Non-Fiction Books of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  5. Lisa Marie’s 20 Favorite Songs of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  6. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2020 (Lisa Marie Bowman)
  7. My Top 20 Albums of 2020 (Necromoonyeti)
  8. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems That I Saw In 2020 (Valerie Troutman)
  9. Top 10 Vintage Collections (Ryan C)
  10. Top 10 Contemporary Collections (Ryan C)
  11. Top 10 Original Graphic Novels (Ryan C)
  12. Top 10 Ongoing Series (Ryan C.)
  13. Top 10 Special Mentions (Ryan C.)
  14. Top Ten Single Issues (Ryan C)

An Offer You Can’t Refuse #9: Rob the Mob (dir by Raymond De Felitta)


The 2014 film, Rob the Mob, tells the true story of a young couple in love who became minor celebrities when they robbed the mob.  Of course, they also ended up with a huge target on their back, which tends to happen when you repeatedly humiliate a bunch of angry men who have weapons at their disposal.

The year is 1992 and Tommy Uva (Michael Pitt) and his wife, Rosemarie (Nina Arianda) are professional criminals who, after getting busted for trying to rob a florist on Valentine’s Day, end up working at a debt collection agency.  Their boss (played by Griffin Dunne) spent time in prison for insider trading and he believes in giving convicts a second chance.  The problem is that Tommy doesn’t really want a second chance.  He’s actually pretty happy being a criminal.

Tommy has some issues with the Mafia, largely due to the fact that his father borrowed money from the mob to open up a shop and spent the rest of his short life being beaten and humiliated by loan sharks.  Tommy believes that the pressure is what led his father to an early grave.  Tommy’s mother (Cathy Moriarty), on the other hand, claims that it was the stress caused by Tommy being a criminal.  Regardless, seeing his father repeatedly mistreated has definitely left Tommy with some anger issues.

Even though Tommy claims that he hates the Mafia, he still seems to be rather obsessed with them.  At times, it’s hard to tell if Tommy is angry with the Mafia or if he’s just jealous about the fact that he’ll never be as rich or as powerful as the local neighborhood mobster.  Tommy starts to skip work so that he can observe the trial of John Gotti.  It’s while doing this that Tommy hears that guns are not allowed in Mafia social clubs.

Soon, Tommy is robbing those same clubs, taking all of the money that he can and humiliating the mobsters at the same time.  (He forces one group of paunchy gangsters to march outside in their underwear.)  With Rosemarie serving as his getaway driver, Tommy soon becomes something of a legend.  The mobsters even nickname the pair “Bonnie and Clyde.”  Because the Mafia doesn’t want to attract any unnecessary attention during the Gotti trial, Tommy and Rosemarie are able to get away with their activities for a while.  But then they make the mistake of stealing a list that could bring down the entire New York Mafia….

Rob the Mob is a bit of an uneven film.  The film starts with Tommy and Rosemarie getting high and then attempting to rob a florist and, in that scene, they both seemed like such idiots that I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend 104 minutes of my life watching a film about them.  Even after Tommy got out of a prison and got a legitimate job, he still seemed like such an unsympathetic loser that I found myself wondering why I should care.

However, once Tommy and Rosemarie start actually robbing the mob, the film picks up.  We meet Big Al, the temporary head of the New York mafia, and he’s played by Andy Garcia, who gives an intelligent and understated performance.  Big Al may be a mobster but he’s not an unsympathetic character.  The film presents him as being someone who has been unexpectedly thrust into a position of power and who is doing his best to keep everything from falling apart.  Then, as the robberies continue, Ray Romano shows up as Jerry Cardozo, a reporter who makes “Bonnie and Clyde” famous but who realizes too late that he’s also put their lives in even greater danger than they were before.  Over the past few years, Romano has gone from being a former sitcom star to being a surprisingly effective character actor and his performance here gives Rob the Mob its conscience.

Perhaps even more importantly, during the second half of the film, the chemistry of Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda finally won me over and I actually started to care about what would happen to Tommy and Rosemarie.  Tommy and Rosemarie find a reason for living in their criminal activities.  They go from being losers to being minor New York celebrities, even if they can’t reveal their actual identities.  They may be idiots but their love is real and there’s something very touching about how much they actually do care about each other.  It’s hard not to be happy for them, even if it’s obvious from the start that their story is not going to have a happy ending.

Rob the Mob is uneven but, in the end, it’s more than worth watching.  This is an offer you should not refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil

Here’s The New Trailer For The Irishman!


The second trailer for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming gangster epic, The Irishman, dropped today and …. wow.

Now, admittedly, the reaction online has been kind of mixed.  Some people are a little bit concerned that the de-aging technology is just going to be too distracting, especially considering that this is a four-hour movie.  I will admit that both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci looked a bit …. well, off.  I mean, all the CGI in the world can’t change the fact that this is a film that will feature elderly actors playing youngish gangsters.

Still, the story that The Irishman is telling is a fascinating one and, since Robert De Niro’s character claimed to be both a hitman and a participant in the JFK assassination, the film seems like it will appeal to both mafia afficianadoes and conspiracy theorists.

Add to that, is a Scorsese film and how can you not be excited about that?

That said, the main reaction to this latest trailer seems to be shock that Ray Romano is apparently holding his own opposite actors like De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Harvey Keitel.  But, believe it or not, Romano actually has developed into a pretty dependable character actor.  Anyone who has seen The Big Sick can attest to that.

Anyway, The Irishman is expected to be a major Oscar contender.  Of course, they said the same thing about Silence.  We’ll see what happens!

The Irishman will be released on November 1st in select theaters and will then drop on Netflix on November 27th.

Here’s the trailer!

Oh Hell Yeah! It’s The Trailer for The Irishman!


Oh hell yeah!

The trailer for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman has been released!

In The Irishman, Robert De Niro plays Frank Shearan, a hitman who was active in the mob for decades.  Before his death, he claimed that he was not only responsible for the death of Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, Sr. but also that he played a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy!

Robert De Niro plays the Irishman.  Al Pacino plays Hoffa.  Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ann Paquin, and Ray Romano all have supporting roles!  (Don’t roll your eyes at that last one.  Romano has actually developed into a fairly interesting character actor.)  Apparently, a huge amount of money was spent on de-aging CGI so that the elderly De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel could all play men in their 30s and 40s.  It’s either going to be brilliant or it’s going to be like Captain Marvel, where you were happy to see Samuel L. Jackson looking so young but you couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t seem to be quite as expressive as usual.

Listen, I love conspiracy movies.  I love gangster movies.  I love historical movies.  And I love Scorsese movies!

Bring it on, Netflix!

A (Not-So) Brief Note On WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT (20th Century Fox 2004)


cracked rear viewer

Sometimes while scrolling through the channels one come across a pleasant surprise. So it’s Saturday afternoon,a thundershower has cancelled my plan to hit the beach, the Red Sox don’t start for awhile, and I’m clicking the old clicker when I land on WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT. I wasn’t expecting much, just a way to kill time; instead, I found an underrated little gem of a comedy that kept me watching until the very end.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT is an undiscovered classic or anything like that. It’s just a solidly made piece of entertainment about small-town life starring Ray Romano (riding high at the time thanks to his successful sitcom EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND) and Oscar winning Gene Hackman. Romano uses his nebbishy TV persona to portray Mooseport, Maine’s local hardware store owner “Handy” Harrison, who gets involved in a mayoral campaign against Hackman’s Monroe “Eagle”…

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Sundance Film Review: The Big Sick (dir by Michael Showalter)


The Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place in Utah so, for this week, I’m reviewing films that either premiered, won awards at, or otherwise made a splash at Sundance!  Today, I take a look at 2017’s The Big Sick.

Until the very end, I had hope.

I really and truly believed that The Big Sick, a charming comedy that premiered at Sundance last year and which was one of the best reviewed films of the summer, would manage to pick up an Oscar nod for best picture.  I was actually expecting it would get three nominations, best picture, best original screenplay, and best supporting actress for Holly Hunter.  I knew that the film wasn’t really flashy enough to pick up a best director nomination for Michael Showalter.  And I knew that, despite giving a really good performance, Ray Romano would probably not be nominated for best supporting actor because … well, because he’s Ray Romano and he’ll always be thought of as being primarily a sitcom actor.

It’s true that, as a romantic comedy, The Big Sick would not have been a “traditional” nominee.  But, honestly, the Oscars haven’t been traditional for a while.  If the Oscars were still traditional, Mad Max: Fury Road would not have been nominated.  Not only was The Big Sick critically acclaimed but it’s story — about a Pakistani comedian getting to know his American girlfriend’s parents — seemed tailor-made for the current cultural moment.  The film got some attention during the precursor season, mostly for Holly Hunter.  It picked up a best ensemble nomination from SAG.  The AFI and the PGA both named it one of the best of the year.

But then, this morning, the Oscar nominations were announced.  The Big Sick was nominated for best original screenplay and that was it.  Not even Holly Hunter was nominated.  And again, I don’t buy the whole “it wasn’t a traditional Oscar film” argument.  Neither was Get Out.  I would happily trade The Post for The Big Sick.

In The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani plays a version of himself.  Zoe Kazan plays Emily Gardner, a version of Nanjiani’s wife, Emily V. Gordon.  (Nanjiani and Gordon wrote the screenplay, which is based on their life.)  Kumail is a stand-up comedian in Chicago.  His parents are devout Muslims and want Kumail to marry a Pakistani girl.  Kumail isn’t sure what he believes and is more comfortable watching Night of the Living Dead than praying.  The first half of the film deals with Kumail and Emily’s relationship and they’re an adorable couple.  You really do what them to stay together.  Unfortunately, they don’t.  When Emily discovers that Kumail hasn’t told his parents about her and that he isn’t sure their relationship can survive their cultural differences, Emily breaks up with him.

A few weeks later, Kumail learns that Emily is in the hospital.  She’s in a medically induced coma, with an infection creeping towards her heart.  Kumail goes to the hospital, where he meets Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano).  It’s awkward, at first.  But as they wait for word from the doctor, it becomes obvious that all three of them have at least one thing in common.  They all love Emily and want her to wake up.

The Big Sick is a sweet-natured comedy about love, dating, culture clashes, and health care.  It’s a pleasant and heartfelt film.  There’s only one negative character in the entire film, a heckler who interrupts Kumail during his act and who, in one of the film’s best scenes, get a verbal beatdown from Beth.  Perhaps if the film had a little more melodrama, it would have picked up that best picture nomination.  But it wouldn’t have been as good a movie.

The Big Sick works because it rings true.  You care about Kumail and Emily and, as the film progresses, you care about Terry and Beth as well.  All four of the lead actors — Nanjiani, Kazan, Hunter, and Romano — gives excellent performances and, with the help of a genuinely witty script, create truly unforgettable characters.  It’s a sweet movie and it’ll probably be remembered longer than some of the film that were nominated in its place.

Previous Sundance Film Reviews:

  1. Blood Simple
  2. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  3. Circle of Power
  4. Old Enough
  5. Blue Caprice

Belatedly, Here Are The Nominations of the North Texas Film Critics!


Two days ago, the North Texas Film Critics Association announced their nominations for the best of 2017!

On twitter, there’s been a lot of speculation as to why the NTFCA totally snubbed Call Me By Your Name in their nominations.  Hilariously, some people — all from out-of-state, of course — are assuming that the NTFCA must be made up of evangelical, right-wingers because it’s a Texas organization.  Seriously, those people have no idea how left-wing most members of the Texas media are.  Texas may be a Republican state but most of our native film critics are somewhere to the left of Bernie Sanders.

Anyway, here are the nominees:

BEST PICTURE
“Baby Driver”
“The Big Sick”
“Dunkirk”
“Get Out”
“The Florida Project”
“Lady Bird”
“Logan”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST ACTOR
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Stronger”
Tom Hanks, “The Post”
Hugh Jackman, “Logan”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
James McAvoy, “Split”
Kumail Nanijiani, “The Big Sick”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”
Jeremy Renner, “Wind River”
Andy Serkis, “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”
Judi Dench, “Victoria & Abdul”
Gal Gadot, “Wonder Woman”
Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Nicole Kidman, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Tatiana Maslany, “Stronger”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Tilda Swinton, “Okja”
Kristin Scott Thomas, “Darkest Hour”
Bria Vinaite, “The Florida Project”
Allison Williams, “Get Out”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Steve Carell, “Battle of the Sexes”
Daniel Craig, “Logan Lucky”
Bryan Cranston, “Last Flag Flying”
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Idris Elba, “Molly’s Game”
Will Poulter, “Detroit”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Ray Romano, “The Big Sick”
Mark Rylance, “Dunkirk”
Patrick Stewart, “Logan”

BEST DIRECTOR
Sean Baker, “The Florida Project”
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Patty Jenkins, “Wonder Woman”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Steven Spielberg, “The Post”
Aaron Sorkin, “Molly’s Game”
Denis Villeneuve, “Blade Runner 2049”
Joe Wright, “Darkest Hour”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Thimios Bakatakis, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”
Hoyte Van Hoytema, “Dunkirk”
Matthew Jensen, “Wonder Woman”
Dan Laustsen, “The Shape of Water”
Janusz Kaminski, “The Post”
Michael Seresin, “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“First They Killed My Father”
“In the Fade”
“Menashe”
“Raw”
“The Square”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”
“Chasing Coral”
“City of Ghosts”
“Cries from Syria”
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
“Jane”
“Step”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“The Breadwinner”
“Cars 3”
“Coco”
“Despicable Me 3:
“The LEGO Batman Movie”
“Loving Vincent”

Here Are The Nominations From The San Diego Film Critics Society!


The San Diego Film Critics Society announced their nominations for the best of 2017 earlier today!  The actual winners will be announce on December 11th.

Check them out below!

(I know this might seem a little dry to some people but I love lists.)

(By the way, in case you’re wondering which sites I usually put the most trust in when it comes to Oscar coverage, here they are: AwardsWatch and AwardsCircuit.  Two of my favorite sites ever, right there.)

Best Picture
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
DUNKIRK
GET OUT
LADY BIRD
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Director
Christopher Nolan, DUNKIRK
Greta Gerwig, LADY BIRD
Guillermo del Toro, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Jordan Peele, GET OUT
Martin McDonagh, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Actor
Gary Oldman, DARKEST HOUR
James Franco, THE DISASTER ARTIST
James McAvoy, SPLIT
Robert Pattinson, GOOD TIME
Timothée Chalamet, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Best Actress
Frances McDormand, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI
Margot Robbie, I, TONYA
Sally Hawkins, MAUDIE
Sally Hawkins, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Saoirse Ronan, LADY BIRD

Best Supporting Actor
Ethan Hawke, MAUDIE
Oscar Isaac, SUBURBICON
Sam Rockwell, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI
Willem Dafoe, THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Woody Harrelson, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney I, TONYA
Bria Vinaite, THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Catherine Keener, GET OUT
Holly Hunter, THE BIG SICK
Laurie Metcalf, LADY BIRD

Best Comedic Performance
Daniel Craig, LOGAN LUCKY
Ezra Miller, JUSTICE LEAGUE
James Franco, THE DISASTER ARTIST
Lil Rel Howery, GET OUT
Ray Romano, THE BIG SICK

Best Original Screenplay
Christopher Nolan, DUNKIRK
Greta Gerwig, LADY BIRD
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, THE BIG SICK
Jordan Peele, GET OUT
Martin McDonagh, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Adapted Screenplay
James Gray, THE LOST CITY OF Z
James Ivory, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, THE DISASTER ARTIST
Sofia Coppola, THE BEGUILED
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees, MUDBOUND

Best Documentary
EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
FACES PLACES
JANE
LAST MEN IN ALEPPO
THE WORK

Best Animated Film
COCO
LOVING VINCENT
MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA
MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI
THE BOSS BABY

Best Foreign Language Film
BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)
FACES PLACES
THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE
THE SQUARE
THELMA

Best Editing
Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss, BABY DRIVER
Jon Gregory, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Lee Smith, DUNKIRK
Sarah Broshar, Michael Kahn, THE POST
Sidney Wolinsky, THE SHAPE OF WATER

Best Cinematography
Ben Richardson, WIND RIVER
Dan Laustsen, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Darius Khondji, THE LOST CITY OF Z
Hoyte Van Hoytema, DUNKIRK
Roger Deakins, BLADE RUNNER 2049

Best Production Design
Anne Ross, THE BEGUILED
Alessandora Querzola and Dennis Gassner, BLADE RUNNER 2049
Nathan Crowley, DUNKIRK
Paul D. Austerberry, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Sarah Greenwood, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Best Visual Effects
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
BLADE RUNNER 2049
DUNKIRK
THE SHAPE OF WATER
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Costume Design
Jacqueline Durran, BEAUTY and the BEAST
Jenny Eagan, HOSTILES
Luis Sesqueria, THE SHAPE OF WATER
Mark Bridges, PHANTOM THREAD
Sonia Grande, THE LOST CITY OF Z
Stacey Battat, THE BEGUILED

Best Use of Music
BABY DRIVER
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
DUNKIRK
THE SHAPE OF WATER

Breakthrough Artist
Barry Keoghan
Brooklyn Prince
Greta Gerwig
Jordan Peele
Sophia Lillis
Timothée Chalamet

Best Ensemble
GET OUT
LADY BIRD
MUDBOUND
THE POST
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI

Here’s The Trailer For The Big Sick


Back in January and February, I was looking forward to seeing The Big Sick.  Then I spent March and April listening to people insist that 1) The Big Sick is the greatest comedy ever and 2) if you don’t see and love The Big Sick, then you’ll somehow be responsible for the end of the world.  Nothing turns me off quicker than excessive and oppressive hype.

That said, I still hope the movie’s good because I will definitely be seeing it.

Shattered Politics #72: Welcome to Mooseport (dir by Donald Petrie)


Welcome_To_Mooseport

The 2004 film comedy Welcome to Mooseport would probably be totally forgotten if not for one thing.  This is the film that was supposedly so bad that co-star Gene Hackman looked at the final cut and then probably looked over at the Oscars he won for The French Connection and Unforgiven and then probably looked back at the final cut and then announced, “I quit!”  There’s a reason why Hackman now spends his time writing novels and, according to most accounts, Welcome to Mooseport is that reason.

In Welcome to Mooseport, Gene Hackman plays Monroe “Eagle” Cole, the former President of the United States.  From the minute we first hear the President’s name, we know exactly what type of film Welcome to Mooseport is going to be.  It’s not enough to give Hackman’s a character a totally over-the-top name like Monroe Cole.  He also has to have a cutesy nickname.  The entire time I watched the film, I found myself wondering if Monroe Cole was listed on the presidential ballots as being Monroe “Eagle” Cole.  Personally, I always find it funny when people feel the need to include their nickname in the credits.  Is it really important for every William out there to let everyone know that some people call him Billy?

Anyway, Eagle is apparently the most popular president ever.  However, he’s also recently divorced and his ex-wife (Christine Baranski, playing the same role that she played in Bulworth) wants all of his property.  Eagle is forced to retire to one of the few residences that he has left, his vacation home in Mooseport, Maine.  In order to keep his wife from claiming that home, Eagle decides to run for mayor of Mooseport…

Now, right here, we’ve got a huge issue.  Eagle’s only motivation for running for mayor is because he doesn’t want to have to give over his vacation home to his wife.  But that could be anyone’s motivation.  One does not have to be President to want to keep the house in a divorce.  It would have been more interesting if Eagle, now out of office and struggling to adjust to no longer being the most powerful man in the world, ran for mayor because he really wanted the job.

But anyway, Eagle is not the only person running for mayor.  Hardware store owner Hardy Harrison (Ray Romano) is also running.  At first, Hardy wants to withdraw but then he sees Eagle flirting with Hardy’s longtime girlfriend (Maura Tierney) and Hardy suddenly decides that he’s going to run and he’s going to win.

I actually like Ray Romano as an actor and he doesn’t give a bad performance here.  But, at the same time, it’s obvious that his scenes were written to capitalize on his TV persona.  It’s easy to imagine stumbling across a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray runs for mayor and has a panic attack when he loses.  The difference, of course, is that Ray Barone would not have been running against Gene Hackman (much less a former President).

Needless to say, Welcome to Mooseport has a sitcom feel to it.  After every line, you find yourself waiting for a laugh track.  Gene Hackman feels incredibly out-of-place in the film and there’s a discomfort to his performance.  Watching him in this film, you can see the wheels turning in his brain.  You can literally see Gene Hackman thinking, “I’m too old for this shit.”

And I guess he was because, in the 11 years since Welcome to Mooseport was first released, Gene Hackman has not appeared in another film.  Which is bad news for everyone waiting for Welcome to Mooseport Part II