Bang The Drum Slowly (1973, dir. by John Hancock)


 

The last time I wrote a film review for this site, it was because I was missing baseball.

Guess what?

I still miss baseball!  Luckily, I’ve still got plenty of baseball films to keep me busy until the MLB gets its act together and starts up again.  I hope we’ll get baseball this year but if we don’t, at least I can watch a movie like Bang The Drum Slowly.

Bang The Drum Slowly is the ultimate baseball movie.  It’s about a pitcher named Henry Wiggin (Michael Moriarty) who plays for the New York Mammoths and who has a side job selling insurance and writing books.  When it’s time to renegotiate his contract, Henry says that he’ll re-sign with the team if the team agrees to not release or trade one of their catchers, Bruce Pearson (a really young Robert de Niro).  Henry says that he and Bruce are a package deal.  No one can understand why Henry cares because Bruce isn’t an outstanding player and everyone thinks that he’s slow but Henry finally gets the team’s general manager, Dutch (Vincent Gardenia), to agree to his terms.  What only Henry knows is that Bruce is terminally ill and that he will be lucky to survive the entire season.

Though the Mammoth eventually make a run for the World Series and there’s a lot of great baseball footage, Bang the Drum Slowly is more about friendship than it is about winning or losing.  Henry is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure that Bruce enjoys his final days and Bruce finally gets to play on a wining team.  Because Bruce is so young and he appears to be so healthy for most of the film, it’s really devastating when he suddenly does get ill and he’s finally has to come to terms with his mortality.  I cried a lot while I was watching Bang The Drum Slowly.  You will too.

The other players eventually rally around Bruce and they become a stronger teams as a result.  That’s one of the things that I love about baseball.  One player, no matter how good, can’t win a game on his own.  Instead, the entire team has to work together.  Not everyone can go out and try to hit a home run.  That’s not the way you win at baseball.  Instead, you win by doing what you have to do to bring your teammates home.  Bang The Drum Slowly celebrates friendship and loyalty and it perfectly captures the spirit of the game.

We may not be able to watch baseball right now.  But at least we can watch movies like Bang The Drum Slowly.

An Offer You Can Refuse #4: The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (dir by James Goldstone)


“Oh, fuck you.”

That was my reaction, last night, as I watched the 1971 film, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  I was talking to my DVR and yes, I was cursing quite a bit.  You know that a film has to be bad when it actually drives me to start cursing at an inanimate object.  The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight was so bad that I actually got pissed off at my DVR for recording it.  It’s true that I am the one who scheduled the recording but still …. my DVR should have known better than to listen to me!

What is The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight about?  I have no idea.  I watched the damn movie and I have no idea what the point of it was.  The film stars Jerry Orbach as a low-level gangster named Kid Sally.  Kid Sally’s crew — the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight — is made up of a collection of malcontents, morons, and other stereotypes.  One member of the crew is a little person.  That’s the joke.  He’s a tough gangster who is wiling to put a bullet between your legs but that’s just because he’s crotch-height.  Ha ha.

Anyway, the big boss is a guy named Baccala (Lionel Stander).  Every morning, Baccala’s wife starts the car to check for bombs.  Whenever she goes outside, Baccala crawls underneath the kitchen table and waits.  Like a lot of the stuff in this movie, that’s one of those things that would be funny if it hadn’t been taken too such a cartoonish extreme.  Anyway, Baccala has zero respect for Kid Sally and Kid Sally wants to take over Baccala’s rackets.  Is it time for a mob war!?

Maybe.  A lot of people die in various “amusing” ways over the course of the film but I was never quite sure whether or not the killings were part of a mob war or if they were just the type of random mishaps that occur when a bunch of dumbasses get their hands on a cache of weapons.  Trying to follow the plot of The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight is next to impossible.  The editing of the film is so ragged that you’re rarely aware of how one scene relates to another.  If The Godfather showed how a gangster story could be a historical epic and if Goodfellas showed how an editor could recreate the kinetic experience of being a gangster, The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight shows how a mafia movie can just be a collection of random vignettes that may or may not be connected.  It’s impossible to care about the potential war between Kid Sally and Baccala because neither Kid Sally nor Baccala exist as characters beyond their silly names.

A young Robert De Niro is in this film.  He plays Mario, an Italian thief who comes to New York for a bicycle race and joins Kid Sally’s crew.  Or at least, I think he joins the crew.  It’s hard to tell.  Mario often dresses like a priest, for some reason.  He’s also fallen in love with Angela (Leigh Taylor-Young), who is Kid Sally’s sister though she could just as easily be his cousin or maybe his daughter-in-law from Tuscon.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that De Niro gives a good performance here as much as it’s just impossible not to pay attention to him because he’s a young Robert De Niro.  He and Leigh Taylor-Young do have a very sincere and touching chemistry but it’s out-of-place in a film that’s dominated by slapstick and scenes of Kid Sally using a lion to intimidate shop owners.  (Yes, that happens.)  De Niro certainly seems to be trying hard to give a good performance but he’s not a natural comedian.  Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WE’VE ALL SEEN DIRTY GRANDPA!

Anyway, the main problem with this film is that it’s a comedy that was apparently put together by people who think that comedy involves a lot of screaming and silly music.  I’ve actually seen a handful of other films that were directed by James Goldstone — Brother John, Rollercoaster, When Time Ran Out.  Significantly, none of those other films were comedies and there’s nothing about any of Goldstone’s other films that suggest that he was anything more than a director-for-hire.  The film itself was written by Waldo Salt, who also worked on the scripts for Midnight Cowboy, Coming Home, and Serpico.  Again, none of those films are particularly funny.  70s era Mel Brooks probably could have made this into a funny film but James Goldstone and Waldo Salt could not.

As bad as The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight is, it is also the answer to a very interesting trivia question.  This is the film that Al Pacino dropped out of when he was cast as Michael Corleone in The Godfather.  The actor who replaced Pacino was Robert De Niro.

Anyway, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight is an offer you can refuse.

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

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Raging Bull (dir by Martin Scorsese)


This is not my favorite Martin Scorsese film.

I feel like I have to make that clear from the start because, for many people, this is their favorite Scorsese film.  Though it may have gotten mixed reviews when it was first released, it is now regularly described as being the high point of Scorsese’s fabled collaboration with Robert De Niro.  This was also the first film that Scorsese made with not only Joe Pesci but at also Frank Vincent as well.  (In fact, the whole scene in Goodfellas where Pesci and De Niro nearly stomp Vincent to death is a bit of an homage to a scene in Raging Bull.  Of course, Vincent got his revenge on Pesci in Casino.)  This film earned Martin Scorsese his first Oscar nomination for best director and it’s regularly cited as being one of the greatest film ever made.

Even more importantly, 1980’s Raging Bull has been described — by none other than the director himself — as the film that saved Martin Scorsese’s life.  Like a lot of his contemporaries, Scorsese got hooked on cocaine during the 70s.  He even nearly died of an overdose.  De Niro, who has been on Scorsese to direct Raging Bull for years, visited him in the hospital, brought him the script, told him to clean up his act, and make the film.  When Scorsese started to work on the film, he assumed it would be his last.  Whether Scorsese thought he would be dead or if he just thought he’d retire, I’m not sure.  Still, if Raging Bull had not rejuvenated Scorsese’s love of cinema, he wouldn’t have subsequently directed some of the greatest films ever made.  So, regardless of anything else, we have to be thankful that De Niro kept pushing Scorsese to direct Raging Bull.

The film itself is a biopic of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a brutal boxer who destroys opponents in the ring while destroying everyone who loves him outside of the ring.  He’s the type of guy who takes joy in destroying one opponent’s face just because his wife, Vicki (Cathy Moriarty), said that the guy was handsome.  When he’s forced to take a dive in order to win a title shot, he sobs in the locker room and it’s as close to being sympathetic as Jake gets.  The rest of the movie, he spends his time terrorizing his wife and taking out his frustrations on his loyal brother, Joey (Joe Pesci).

Most boxing films tend to present boxers as being lovable lugs, guys who might not be too smart but who have found the one thing that they’re good at.  (Think of the pre-Creed Rocky films.)  In Raging Bull, there’s nothing lovable about Jake.  He’s an animal, an angry man who fights because that’ the only way that he knows how to relate to the world.  He’s the type of guy who spends all of his time looking for an excuse to get mad and throw a punch.  The most dangerous thing you can do is make a joke in the presence of Jake LaMotta because, as portrayed in this film, he’s such an idiot that his reaction will always be to see it as a provocation.  From beginning to end, he’s a loathsome figure but the young De Niro was such a charismatic actor that you keep watching because — much like Vicki — you keep hoping that you’ll see some glimmer of humanity and some chance of redemption.

Reportedly, Scorsese and De Niro feel that the end of Raging Bull does provide Jake with some redemption.  Having lost everyone that ever loved him, an overweight Jake runs a sleazy nightclub and makes a fool of himself reciting dramatic monologues.  The production actually shut down so that De Niro could overeat and gain all the extra weight and it is shocking to see him go from being a handsome, athletic man to a fat slob whose shirt can’t even cover his belly.  No longer a boxer, Jake is now a faded D-list celebrity.  Now that he can’t fight and he can’t make money for the mob and the gamblers, no one cares about him.  That’s unfortunate for Jake but I have to say that I’ve never seen much redemption in Jake’s fate.  If anything, I was just happy that Vicki finally got away from him.

Raging Bull is a film that’s easier to admire than to actually like.  It’s impossible not to appreciate the black-and-white cinematography or the performances of De Niro, Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty.  As directed by Scorsese, the boxing scenes are horrifying brutal, to the extent that you find yourself wondering how anyone could enjoy the sport.  (When a spray of Jake’s blood hits the people in the first row, you can’t help but think that they’re all getting what they deserved.)  That said, the film’s never been a favorite of mine because, as well done as it is, Jake LaMotta never seems like he’s worth spending two hours with.

Obviously, a lot of people disagree with me on that.  Raging Bull received 8 Oscar nominations.  Robert De Niro won Best Actor.  Raging Bull, itself, lost Best Picture to Robert Redford’s Ordinary People.

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


Reunion Tower (picture by Erin Nicole)

Here are the winners in Dallas!

BEST PICTURE

Winner: 1917

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

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY

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

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Scarlett Johansson, MARRIAGE STORY

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY

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

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

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

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE

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

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

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

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

Runner-up: I LOST MY BODY

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner: Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-up: Steven Zaillian, THE IRISHMAN

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917

Runner-up: Hong Kyung-pyo, PARASITE

BEST MUSICAL SCORE

Winner: Thomas Newman, 1917

Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, LITTLE WOMEN

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

Winner: THE LIGHTHOUSE

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


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

BEST FILM

Winner: THE IRISHMAN

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

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER

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

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Tom Hanks, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Zhao Shuzhen, THE FAREWELL

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

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

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

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE (South Korea)

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

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

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

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

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

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917,

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

BEST NEWCOMER

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

GARY MURRAY AWARD (Best Ensemble)

Winner: KNIVES OUT

Here Are The Nominations Of The Seattle Film Critics Society!


The winners will be revealed on December 16th!

BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR

1917 (Universal Pictures)
The Farewell (A24)
Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
The Irishman (Netflix)
The Lighthouse (A24)
Little Women (Sony Pictures)
Marriage Story (Netflix)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony Pictures)
Parasite (NEON)
Uncut Gems (A24)

BEST DIRECTOR

Robert Eggers – The Lighthouse
Greta Gerwig – Little Women
Bong Joon-ho – Parasite
Josh & Benny Safdie – Uncut Gems
Martin Scorsese – The Irishman

BEST ACTOR in a LEADING ROLE

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Robert De Niro –The Irishman
Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

BEST ACTRESS in a LEADING ROLE

Awkwafina – The Farewell
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
Renée Zellweger – Judy

BEST ACTOR in a SUPPORTING ROLE

Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse
Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Song Kang-ho – Parasite
Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

BEST ACTRESS in a SUPPORTING ROLE

Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
Florence Pugh – Little Women
Taylor Russell – Waves
Zhao Shuzhen – The Farewell

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

The Irishman
Knives Out
Little Women
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite

BEST ACTION CHOREOGRAPHY

1917
Avengers: Endgame
Ford v Ferrari
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Shadow

BEST SCREENPLAY

The Farewell – Lulu Wang
The Irishman – Steven Zaillian
Knives Out – Rian Johnson
Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach
Parasite – Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won (screenplay); Bong Joon-ho (story)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Frozen II – Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee, directors
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Dean DeBlois, director
I Lost My Body – Jérémy Clapin, director
Missing Link – Chris Butler, director
Toy Story 4 – Josh Cooley, director

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Farewell – Lulu Wang, director
Monos – Alejandro Landes, director
Pain and Glory – Pedro Almodóvar, director
Parasite – Bong Joon-ho, director
Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Céline Sciamma, director

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

American Factory – Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, directors Apollo 11 – Todd Douglas Miller, director
For Sama – Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts, directors
Fyre – Chris Smith, director
Honeyland – Ljubomir Stefanov & Tamara Kotevska, directors

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1917 – Roger Deakins
The Lighthouse – Jarin Blaschke
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Robert Richardson
Parasite – Hong Kyung-pyo
Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Claire Mathon

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Dolemite is My Name – Ruth E. Carter
Downton Abbey – Anna Mary Scott Robbins
Little Women – Jacqueline Durran
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Arianne Phillips
Rocketman – Julian Day

BEST FILM EDITING

1917 – Lee Smith
The Irishman – Thelma Schoonmaker
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Fred Raskin
Parasite – Yang Jin-mo
Uncut Gems – Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1917 – Thomas Newman
Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir
The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Emile Mosseri
Uncut Gems – Daniel Lopatin
Us – Michael Abels

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

1917 – Dennis Gassner (Production Designer); Lee Sandales (Set Decorator)
The Irishman – Bob Shaw (Production Designer); Regina Graves (Set Decorator)
Little Women – Jess Gonchor (Production Designer); Claire Kaufman (Set Decorator)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Barbara Ling (Production Designer); Nancy Haigh (Set Decorator)
Parasite – Lee Ha-jun (Production Designer)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

1917 – Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler, Dominic Tuohy
Ad Astra – Allen Maris, Jedediah Smith, Guillaume Rocheron, Scott R. Fisher
Alita: Battle Angel – Nick Epstein, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon
Avengers: Endgame – Dan DeLeeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl, Dan Sudick
The Irishman – Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Stephane Grabli, Nelson Sepulveda

BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCE (18 years of age or younger upon start of filming)

Julia Butters – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Kyliegh Curran – Doctor Sleep
Roman Griffith Davis – Jojo Rabbit
Noah Jupe – Honey Boy

Thomasin McKenzie – Jojo Rabbit

VILLAIN OF THE YEAR

Arthur Fleck/The Joker – Joker – portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix
Red – Us – portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o
The Red Dress – In Fabric – portrayed by a red dress
Rose the Hat – Doctor Sleep – portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson

Russell Bufalino – The Irishman – portrayed by Joe Pesci

Here Are The 2019 Nominations of the Detroit Film Critics Society!


Earlier on Friday, the Detroit Film Critics Society released their nominations for the best of 2019!

Now, back in 2018, the DFCS honored some great films that were overlooked by the Academy, films like Eighth Grade, A Quiet Place, and First Reformed.  I mean, I really, really loved the 2018 DFCS awards.  And you know what?  I’m pretty happy with what they came up with for 2019 as well!  I especially like the nomination for Anna Paquin in The Irishman.  With all the overblown controversy about how many lines she spoke in the film, it is often overlooked that she gave a great performance and, with just the power of her withering glare, pretty much transformed Peggy into the conscience of the film.

Here are the DFCS nominees for the best of 2019!  The winners will be announced on December 9th!

BEST PICTURE
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

BEST DIRECTOR
Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
Bong Joon-ho – Parasite
Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

BEST ACTRESS
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Julianne Moore – Gloria Bell
Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Renee Zellweger – Judy

BEST ACTOR
Robert De Niro – The Irishman
Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Robert Pattinson – The Lighthouse
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse
Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Sam Rockwell – Richard Jewell
Wesley Snipes – Dolemite Is My Name

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
Anna Paquin – The Irishman
Florence Pugh – Little Women

BEST SCREENPLAY
The Irishman
The Lighthouse
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Frozen II
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Toy Story 4

BEST USE OF MUSIC
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Rocketman
Uncut Gems
Wild Rose

BEST ENSEMBLE
Dolemite Is My Name
The Farewell
The Irishman
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Amazing Grace
Apollo 11
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror
Knocking Down the House
Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

BREAKTHROUGH
Ana de Armas – actress (Knives Out, The Informer, Yesterday)
Jessie Buckley – actress (Wild Rose, Judy)
Kaitlyn Dever – actress (Booksmart, Them That Follow)
Aisling Franciosi – actress (The Nightingale)
Paul Walter Hauser – actor (Richard Jewell)
Florence Pugh – actress (Fighting with My Family, Midsommar, Little Women)
Lulu Wang – director (The Farewell)
Olivia Wilde – director (Booksmart)

The National Board of Review Selects The Irishman and Adam Sandler


The National Board of Review, which is generally considered to be the first major precursors of the Awards Season, announced their picks for the best of 2019 earlier today and it was a good day for both The Irishman and Adam Sandler.

I haven’t seen Uncut Gems yet but, from a historical point of view, I’d love to see Adam Sandler pick up an Oscar nomination because that would seriously be the plot twist that, just a few months ago, no one saw coming.

Here are the National Board of Review’s selections!

  • Best Film:  THE IRISHMAN
  • Best Director:  Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
  • Best Actor:  Adam Sandler, UNCUT GEMS
  • Best Actress: Renée Zellweger, JUDY
  • Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kathy Bates, RICHARD JEWELL
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, Ronald Bronstein, UNCUT GEMS
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Steven Zaillian, THE IRISHMAN
  • Breakthrough Performance: Paul Walter Hauser, RICHARD JEWELL
  • Best Directorial Debut:  Melina Matsoukas, QUEEN & SLIM
  • Best Animated Feature:  HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD
  • Best Foreign Language Film: PARASITE
  • Best Documentary:  MAIDEN
  • Best Ensemble:  KNIVES OUT
  • Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Roger Deakins, 1917
  • NBR Icon Award: Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  FOR SAMA
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  JUST MERCY

Top Films (in alphabetical order)

  • 1917
  • Dolemite is My Name
  • Ford v Ferrari
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Knives Out
  • Marriage Story
  • Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
  • Richard Jewell
  • Uncut Gems
  • Waves

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)

  • Atlantics
  • Invisible Life
  • Pain and Glory
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • Transit

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)

  • American Factory
  • Apollo 11
  • The Black Godfather
  • Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
  • Wrestle

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)

  • The Farewell
  • Give Me Liberty
  • A Hidden Life
  • Judy
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  • Midsommar
  • The Nightingale
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon
  • The Souvenir
  • Wild Rose

Here Are The Hollywood Critics Association’s Nominations For The Best of 2019


The Hollywood Critics Association was, up until a few days ago, known as the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society.  Perhaps realizing that HCA just plans looks better than LAOFCS, they announced yesterday that they were changing their name.

They also announced their nominees for the best of films and performances of 2019!  While the HCA may not be one of the major precursors of awards season, their nominations do give a fairly good picture of which films and performances are currently being touted as possible Oscar nominees.

And here they are:

BEST PICTURE

  • “1917”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Joker”
  • “Jojo Rabbit”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Marriage Story”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves

BEST ACTOR

  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
  • Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Awkwafina, “The Farewell”
  • “Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
  • Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
  • Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Shia LaBeouf, “Honey Boy”
  • Sterling K. Brown, “Waves”
  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
  • Margot Robbie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”

BEST MALE DIRECTOR

  • Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
  • Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR

  • Alma Har’el, “Honey Boy”
  • Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Olivia Wilde, “Booksmart”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won, “Parasite”
  • Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, & Katie Silberman, “Booksmart”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Scott Silver and Todd Phillips, “Joker”
  • Steven Zailian, “The Irishman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR OR ACTRESS 23 AND UNDER

  • Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart”
  • Julia Butters, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”
  • Roman Griffin Davis, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Thomasin McKenzie, “Jojo Rabbit”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

  • Jessie Buckley, “Wild Rose”
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr., “Waves”
  • Paul Walter Hauser, “Richard Jewell”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zack Gottsagen, “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

BEST CAST

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Knives Out”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves”

BEST FIRST FEATURE

  • “Brittany Runs a Marathon”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “The Peanut Butter Falcon”
  • “Queen & Slim”

BEST INDEPENDENT FILM

  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “Luce”
  • “Waves”

BEST ACTION/WAR FILM

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • “Abominable”
  • “Frozen II”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
  • “Missing Link”
  • “Toy Story 4”

BEST BLOCKBUSTER

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Shazam!”
  • “Spider-Man: Far from Home”

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL

  • “Booksmart”
  • “Blinded by the Light”
  • Dolemite Is My Name”
  • “Long Shot”
  • “Rocketman”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “American Factory”
  • “Apollo 11”
  • “Hail Satan?”
  • “The Kingmaker”
  • “Love, Antosha”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • “The Farewell”
  • “Monos”
  • “Pain & Glory”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

BEST HORROR FILM

  • “Crawl”
  • “Doctor Sleep”
  • “Midsommar”
  • “Ready or Not”
  • “Us”

BEST ANIMATED OR VFX PERFORMANCE

  • Josh Brolin, “Avengers: Endgame”
  • Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”
  • Rosa Salazar, “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • Ryan Reynolds, “Detective Pikachu”
  • Tom Hanks, “Toy Story 4”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Drew Daniel, “Waves”
  • Jarin Blaschke, “The Lighthouse”
  • Lawrence Sher, “Joker”
  • Robert Richardson, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Roger Deakins, “1917”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Arianne Phillips, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Julian Day, “Rocketman”
  • Jacqueline Durran, “Little Women”
  • Ruth E. Carter, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Mark Bridges, “Joker”

BEST EDITING

  • Fred Raskin, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Lee Smith, “1917”
  • Michael McCusker, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, ‘The Irishman”
  • Yang Jin-mo, “Parasite”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP

  • “Bombshell”
  • “Joker”
  • “Judy”
  • “Rocketman”
  • “The Irishman”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Catchy Song” from “The Lego Movie: The Second Part”
  • “Glasgow” from “Wild Rose”
  • “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”
  • “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II”
  • “Speechless” from “Aladdin”

BEST SCORE

  • Alexandre Desplat, “Little Women”
  • Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”
  • Michael Abels, “Us”
  • Thomas Newman, “1917”
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Waves”

BEST STUNT WORK

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • “1917”
  • “Ad Astra”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • “The Irishman”

The winners will announced in December!

Joker (dir. by Todd Phillips)


JokerPosterWhen I used to play games like Vampire: The Masquerade, they had this disclaimer that said: “You are not really a Vampire. If you can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, you need to put this book down.”

I think the same can be said of Todd Phillips Joker, and it may be the source of a lot of the fear associated with it.

I believe the big fear that everyone has with Joker is that it’s going to incite people to violence and/or mimicry. It’s the same kind of fear that probably happened with films like Death Wish and Taxi Driver. It’s also the kind of thing that did happen with 1993’s The Program, a film that contained a scene with kids laying down in the middle of a busy road. Someone actually tried it, and ended up dying. As a result, people get a little nervous when Hollywood produces something that could lead to someone mimicking what they see on screen. In that sense, any film has the potential to have an idiot try it out, despite all of the warnings.

If that makes you in any way uncomfortable, the movie will be out on VOD in 3 months time, not a long wait. Still, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is easily worth the price of admission.

Looking past all that, Joker is actually very good. The Crow, The Dark Knight and Conan the Barbarian are comic book films, but are so serious that you wouldn’t really associate them with a comic unless you knew it beforehand. Joker falls into the same category for me. This might be a little off putting for some who are expecting a more “comic action” like performance along the lines of say, Batman Forever. It’s the kind of film where if you stripped the credits from it and sat someone down to watch it, they might not figure it all out until 3 quarters of the way in. It feels like just another film, save that happens to be dropped in Gotham City.

Joker is the story of Arthur Fleck, a man with a variant of Tourettes that causes him to laugh at inappropriate moments, among other issues. Working as a clown and hoping to become aThrough a series of events, Arthur falls and is pushed until he reaches a breaking point. That is the quickest way to explain Joker without divulging too much. Let’s focus on the particulars.

Todd Phillips’ direction is good here. We move from scene to scene with ease, and as far as I could tell, there didn’t appear to be any editing issues (which is more than what I can say with The Dark Knight). Gotham is a dark, gritty city, reminiscent of NYC during the late 70’s. The film also manages to make connections to DC Lore in some great ways, My only complaint there is that while it’s a city that could use the Batman, it wasn’t exactly screaming for help. Personally, I thought it would be better if you saw that Gotham had more issues of corruption or crime. Nothing bad, just a nitpick.

From a casting standpoint, Phoenix is the heart and soul of Joker. Having dropped some weight for the role, Phoenix throws himself fully into the role of a man trying to keep it together while his world slowly crumbles. Come awards season, I would be shocked if he wasn’t at least in talks for nominations. Between the moments of laughter, there’s a lot of pain being expressed. Granted, this isn’t entirely new to Joaquin Phoenix, who had a similar role in The Master, but he definitely takes it to some new levels here.

 

Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) is okay here as a woman living in the same apartment complex as Arthur, but isn’t given too much to do here. The same could be said of Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under), who plays Arthur’s mother, who tries to keep him on the right path. Robert DeNiro also stars as a late night tv show host who Arthur admires, which will remind some viewers of Martin Scorcese’s The King of Comedy. Of particular note is the score of the film, handled by Hildur Gudnadottir (Sicario: Day of the Soldado), which ties in nicely to every scene with its haunting themes.

If I had any problems with Joker, it would be that the film makes it sound like being a loner automatically qualifies you for crime. There are tons of people who prefer solitude to companionship (or at least in short doses).  It showcases both Mental Illness and firearms in such a way that could scare some audiences, suggesting that if you are medicated and stop, you will eventually cause someone some harm. If you own a gun, someone will probably be harmed. Having grown up around cops, guns, and family members with Bipolar Disorder, I don’t agree with that. This didn’t make the film bad in any way for me. In the context of the film, however, Joker is bound to raise some concerns.

Again, it’s mainly nitpicks, but for a story that shows the rise of a villain, it does work.  There’s nothing mystical about Joker’s rise, and perhaps that’s scarier than finding out he was irradiated by gamma rays or some other superpower. I will say that watching Phoenix have these strange moments of slow tai chi like movements had me wondering what was up with him. That was strange, indeed.

Joker is also a film that doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of action. If you’re expecting a major third-act action sequence, it’s not exactly there. As a dramatic piece, Joker excels at moving the story forward, and as someone who was originally tired of the idea of yet another Batman related story (with all of the heroes /villains DC has at their disposal), this film was quite the surprise.

Overall, Joker is definitely worth the watch for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, though if you’re not ready for it at the theatre, you can always wait for it on Digital / VOD.