Spotlight and Paul Dano Win At the Gothams


Spotlight

The Gotham Awards were held last night!  Spotlight was the big winner though Paul Dano picked up the supporting actor award for his performance in Love & Mercy.

Best Screenplay
“Carol,” Phyllis Nagy
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” Marielle Heller
“Love & Mercy,” Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner
“Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – WINNER
“While We’re Young,” Noah Baumbach

Breakthrough Actor
Rory Culkin in “Gabriel”
Arielle Holmes in “Heaven Knows What”
Lola Kirke in “Mistress America”
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in “Tangerine”
Mya Taylor in “Tangerine” – WINNER

Breakthrough Series – Long Form
“Jane the Virgin,” Jennie Snyder Urman, Creator (The CW)
“Mr. Robot,” Sam Esmail, Creator (USA Network) – WINNER
“Transparent,” Jill Soloway, Creator (Amazon)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Creators (Netflix)
“UnREAL,” Marti Noxon, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Creators (Lifetime)

Best Feature
“Carol”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
“Heaven Knows What”
“Spotlight” – WINNER
“Tangerine”

Best Documentary
“Approaching the Elephant”
“Cartel Land”
“Heart of a Dog”
“Listen to Me Marlon”
“The Look of Silence” – WINNER

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director
Desiree Akhavan for “Appropriate Behavior”
Jonas Carpigano for “Mediterranea” – WINNER
Marielle Heller for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
John Magary for “The Mend”
Josh Mond for “James White”

Best Actor
Christopher Abbott in “James White”
Kevin Corrigan in “Results”
Paul Dano in “Love & Mercy” – WINNER
Peter Sarsgaard in “Experimenter”
Michael Shannon in “99 Homes”

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
Blythe Danner in “I’ll See You in My Dreams”
Brie Larson in “Room”
Bel Powley in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” – WINNER
Lily Tomlin in “Grandma”
Kristen Wiig in “Welcome to Me”

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Brian D’Arcy James for their ensemble work in “Spotlight”

Breakthrough Series – Short Form
“Bee and PuppyCat,” Natasha Alllegri, Creator (Cartoon Hangover)
“The Impossibilities,” Anna Kerrigan, Creator (seriesofimpossibilities.com)
“Qraftish, Christal,” Creator (Blackgirldangerous.com)
“Shugs and Fats,” Nadia Manzoor and Radhka Vaz, Creator (ShugsandFats.TV)
“You’re So Talented,” Sam Bailey, Creator (Open TV)

Paul Dano

Awards Season Is Here With The 2015 Gotham Award Nominations!


Officially, awards season started yesterday when it was announced that Chris Rock would host the Oscars in 2016.  And let me tell you, I was so excited about that prospect that, for the first time since this site began, I actually didn’t even post that a new Oscar host had been officially selected.  But anyway, here’s hoping that Chris does well!  (Personally, I still want them to give James Franco a second chance…)

However, today, we had the first of our annual Oscar precursors when the 2015 Gotham Nominations were announced!  It’s debatable just how much influence that Gothams have on the actual Oscar race.  The Gothams are designed to only honor independent, American-made films, which means that several potential Oscar nominees aren’t even eligible.  A lot of Oscar pundits have pointed out that, last year, Birdman did very well with the Gothams.  But wouldn’t Birdman have been nominated even without the Gothams?

As for this year’s Gotham nominations, Spotlight and The Diary of a Teenage Girl dominated.  Spotlight has regularly been mentioned as an Oscar contender.  Will the Gotham nominations propel Teenage Girl into the hunt?  (Even more importantly, how did I miss seeing Diary of a Teenage Girl when it was first released?)

As well, Carol got some recognition.  That’s probably a good thing since, after being an early front runner, Carol has lately been overshadowed by Spotlight, Steve Jobs, Bridge of Spies, and The Martian.

Here are the 2015 Gotham Nominees!

diary-of-a-teenage-girl-kristen-wiig

Best Feature

Carol
Todd Haynes, director; Elizabeth Karlsen, Tessa Ross, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley, producers (The Weinstein Company)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Marielle Heller, director; Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit, Miranda Bailey, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Heaven Knows What
Josh and Benny Safdie, directors; Oscar Boyson, Sebastian Bear-McClard, producers (RADiUS)

Spotlight
Tom McCarthy, director; Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagan Faust, producers (Open Road Films)

Tangerine
Sean Baker, director; Darren Dean, Shih-Ching Tsou, Marcus Cox & Karrie Cox, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

Best Documentary

Approaching the Elephant
Amanda Rose Wilder, director; Jay Craven, Robert Greene, Amanda Rose Wilder, producers (Kingdom County Productions)

Cartel Land
Matthew Heineman, director; Matthew Heineman, Tom Yellin, producers (The Orchard and A&E IndieFilms)

Heart of a Dog
Laurie Anderson, director; Dan Janvey, Laurie Anderson, producers (Abramorama and HBO Documentary Films)

Listen to Me Marlon
Stevan Riley, director; John Battsek, RJ Cutler, George Chignell, producers (Showtime Documentary Films)

The Look of Silence
Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge Sørensen, producer (Drafthouse Films)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Desiree Akhavan for Appropriate Behavior (Gravitas Ventures)
Jonas Carpigano for Mediterranea (Sundance Selects)
Marielle Heller for The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Sony Pictures Classics)
John Magary for The Mend (Cinelicious Pics)
Josh Mond for James White (The Film Arcade)

Best Screenplay

Carol, Phyllis Nagy (The Weinstein Company)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Marielle Heller (Sony Pictures Classics)
Love & Mercy, Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner (Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate, and River Road Entertainment)
Spotlight, Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Open Road Films)
While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach (A24)

Best Actor

Christopher Abbott in James White (The Film Arcade)
Kevin Corrigan in Results (Magnolia Pictures)
Paul Dano in Love & Mercy (Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate, and River Road Entertainment)
Peter Sarsgaard in Experimenter (Magnolia Pictures)
Michael Shannon in 99 Homes (Broad Green Pictures)

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol (The Weinstein Company)
Blythe Danner in I’ll See You in My Dreams (Bleecker Street)
Brie Larson in Room (A24)
Bel Powley in The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Sony Pictures Classics)
Lily Tomlin in Grandma (Sony Pictures Classics)
Kristen Wiig in Welcome to Me (Alchemy)

Breakthrough Actor

Rory Culkin in Gabriel (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Arielle Holmes in Heaven Knows What (RADiUS)
Lola Kirke in Mistress America (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures)
Mya Taylor in Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures)

Welcome to Oscar season!

mara_blanchett_carol

 

Back to School #70: Lymelife (dir by Derick Martini)


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Lymelife is an odd but occasionally effective indie film from 2008.  Taking place in 1979, the film tells the story of two brothers living on Long Island.  The older brother, Jimmy Bartlett (Kieran Culkin) has recently graduated from high school and is preparing to enter the army.  (We hear that he’s going to be shipped off to fight in a war against Argentina, which is odd because, to the best of my knowledge, the U.S. has never been at war with Argentina.)  The younger brother is 15 year-old Scott (Rory Culkin), a gentle boy who loves Star Wars and who is doted on by his overprotective mother, Brenda (Jill Hennessy).  Scott’s relationship with his father, Mickey (Alec Baldwin), is far less positive with Mickey feeling that his youngest son is weak and Scott resenting the fact that Mickey is always cheating on Brenda.

As the film opens, a recent outbreak of Lyme Disease has got everyone in a panic.  Brenda, in particular, is terrified that Scott is going to get bitten by a tick and refuses to let him go outside unless every inch of his skin is covered and protected.  Causing Brenda even more panic is the fact that their neighbor, Charlie Bragg (Timothy Hutton), has contracted the disease and has lost his job as a result.  Now, he spends all of his time either outside trying to hunt deer or hiding down in his basement.  His wife (Cynthia Nixon) is forced to take a job from Mickey in order to support the family and soon, she and Mickey are having an affair.

In fact, the only person who doesn’t completely shun Charlie is Scott, though this is largely because Scott has, for years, had a crush on Charlie’s daughter, Adrianna (Emma Roberts).  Adrianna finally starts to return Scott’s affection but then Charlie discovers the truth about his wife’s job with Mickey and things … well, things do not end happily.

Lymelife is a strange film, one that at times almost plays like a parody of a typical indie film.  This is one of those films where a lot of things happen but you’re not always quite sure why they happened and ultimately, it’s hard not to feel like the film is essentially a collection of loosely related scenes, all looking for a stronger narrative.   But, with all that in mind, I still like Lymelife.  Director Derik Martini brings such an intense and humanistic touch to the film’s dangerously quirky storyline and it’s such an obviously personal film that it becomes fascinating in its own way.  Not surprisingly, both Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessy overact in their roles (and considering that they have the most melodramatic lines, that’s not always a good thing) but, fortunately, Timothy Hutton, Emma Roberts, and the Culkin Brothers all give excellent performances.

Plus, the film’s ending is absolutely haunting, largely because of the wise use of the song Running Out Of Empty, which can be heard below.

Back to School #66: Mean Creek (dir by Jacob Aaron Estes)


mean-creek1

2004’s Mean Creek is one of those films that makes me cry every time.

The story that it tells is, at first glance, a rather simple one.  It’s only as you start to dig beneath the surface that you discover just how complex the film really is.  Sam (Rory Culkin) is being picked on by the school bully, the overweight George (Josh Peck).  When Sam accidentally knocks over George’s video camera while George is filming himself playing basketball, George beats Sam up.

Sam’s older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) decided to get revenge and recruits two of his friends to help him out, Clyde (Ryan Kelly) and Marty (Scott Mechlowicz).  Their plan is to invite George to Sam’s birthday party and to take him on a rafting trip.  Eventually, they plan to challenge him to truth or dare, get him to strip naked, and then basically abandon him.

Needless to say, things don’t quite go as planned.

For one thing, it turns out that George is sincerely happy to have been invited to Sam’s party and he even shows up with a gift. George, it turns out, doesn’t consider himself to be a bully.  Instead, he’s just an overweight kid who is insecure about his dyslexia and who doesn’t have any social skills.  Once the boys and Sam’s girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) are floating down the creek, they’re forced to reconsider their plans. Some want to forget about it and let George go.  Some want to still go through with the plan.

And, meanwhile, poor George continues to be his own worst enemy…

Mean Creek is a fascinating film because George is such an unexpectedly complex character.  When we first see him, it’s easy to dismiss him as just your standard middle school bully but, as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that there’s more to George than our first impressions may have suggested.  And yet, every time that we start to feel truly sorry for George, he says the wrong thing or he displays some sort of behavior that reminds us of why he was invited to the birthday party in the first place.  In the end, we’re as conflicted about him as everyone else on the boat.  He’s a bully but he’s not a bad kid.  Can we forgive him for being a bully or does he still need to be taught a lesson?

That’s the question at the heart of Mean Creek and the film’s final answer (or, perhaps I should say, lack of a final answer) makes me cry every time.  I don’t want to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it (and everyone should see it), so I’m not going to give any more details about the film’s plot.  I’ll just say that Mean Creek is an important film and one that will leave you thinking about what you’ve just seen and how you feel about it.

Mean Creek

Film Review: Scream 4 (dir. by Wes Craven)


Before I start, note that Scream 4 is also referred to as Scre4m. While this is true and cool in a hacking/cyberpunk sort of way, I refuse to call it that as it just erodes my writing ability (which is rough enough as it is). I keep that up by the end of the year, everything I write will have numbers in it.

Compared to some of his earlier attempts, Scream 4 is pretty much a triumph for Wes Craven. With Kevin Williamson’s help, they manage to take the fourth part of a story and turn it into something remarkably enjoyable and surprising. The audience at my showing loved the way it started and ended. Although it retreads some of the older themes of the series, it does so in a way that almost makes fun of itself and the genre it’s a part of. Since it’s not taking itself too seriously, the audience doesn’t have to either.

Scream 4 basically brings what’s left of the remaining cast back to the tale. The Arquette’s (Courtney Cox and David) have returned as Gail Weathers-Riley and Sheriff Dewey Riley, respectively. Neve Campbell returns to form after a long hiatus, and really, it’s almost as if none of them ever left. The film starts off in a way where it pays homage to the original Drew Barrymore opening while still managing to keep it fresh. Cameos by Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell help to move that along.

After the events of the last three films (ten years of time in the movie), Sidney Prescott (Campbell) has managed to put her life back together by writing a novel about being a survivor. Thanks to Gail’s book on the Woodsboro murders and the multiple “Stab” movies that were created for them, the town has become famous for something it really shouldn’t be. Ghostface masks are a dime a dozen now, yearly Stab marathons are all the rage and the town kind of looks at it all like Crystal Lake – people died there, sure, but it’s just so much to say “I was there!”.

Sidney’s fame did little for her niece, Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friends, Kirby (a short hairdo wearing Hayden Panettiere) and Olivia (Marielle Jaffe). Having to grow up as a relative to the most famous person in town means everyone has something to ask her about Sidney when she returns to Woodsboro on her book tour. The younger trio keep their distance from Sidney as they consider her trouble. After all, all these deaths seem to occur when she’s around or has something to do with her. However, when a new rash of murders start when Sidney arrives, everyone has something to worry about. What follows is a bloodbath in typical Scream fashion, and as always, just about everyone is a suspect.

The Positives:

– Conspiracy Theory

What worked for me in Scream 4 was the conspiracy aspect. Williamson paints a picture that basically says “Here’s your cast. Any one of them could be the killer. Can you figure out who?”. The misdirection isn’t on a Harry Potter like level, but it does serve a purpose here. By the time everything was brought out, I found myself nodding and smiling. It’s actually worth it to ride out the movie to get to the big reveal. Without giving anything away, both that reveal and the story behind it was damn near excellent.

-Sidney as Ripley

Another good thing about the film is that Sidney is pretty much a powerhouse here. She takes on the Ghostface without too much fear. So much so that it sometimes seems like she’s like a Jason Bourne type character. It’s nice that she’s able to hold her own, though after 3 films, you’d expect the character to probably do that.

– Remembering the Original

Another element that proved useful was the homages to the original Scream films. There are a few scenes that even if you only watched the Original Scream, you’ll recognize them instantly. Some serious recognition goes to Panettiere’s Kirby, who at one point spits out the name of nearly 30 horror films in the space of a minute. All in all, it might seem like rehashing, but the context they were set up in were enough to warrant a whispered “Wow” from me. Maybe I’m just easily impressed. Craven also managed to bring back Roger L. Jackson (Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls) as the voice of the Ghostface Killer. So much fun to hear his voice again after all these years. That was definitely a plus.

The Negatives:

Not a lot of Bodies Hitting the Floor.

If Scream 4 suffers from any problems, it’s that there really isn’t that much of a body count. Granted, I wasn’t expecting anything like Dead Alive or Dawn of the Dead, but as slasher films go, it’s pretty light on the numbers, and as always, most of the people who are dispatched are done well, but I left the theatre wondering if there weren’t just a few more people who could have been taken out. That, and outside of the main players, I didn’t really care about the rest of the cast. They were pretty much cannon fodder for Ghostface.

– The Rules have Changed, but aren’t Exactly Enforced

While the movie seemed to be big on changing what the rules for how horror movies go, they weren’t really mind-blowing. In some ways, it seemed it was useful, but perhaps it would have been better to simply say that there were no rules and leave it at that. The rules here didn’t seem as enforced as the first film. Anything kind of goes.

Overall, Scream 4 is a fun ride, and quite possibly the best entry in the series since the first Scream. It peppers original elements with a few new ideas. It’s not all perfect and there some moments that are over the top, but in the end, it’s refreshing when compared to the 2nd and 3rd parts of the series.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Twelve (directed by Joel Schumacher)


I’ve seen a lot of reviews for the just-released Twelve that have referred to this movie as just being an extended episode of Gossip Girl, largely because the movie deals with spoiled, rich teenagers and it stars Chace Crawford.  I’m going to venture a guess that the majority of these reviewers have never actually seen an episode of Gossip Girl, which is actually entertaining and self-aware in a way that the ploddingly obvious Twelve could never hope to match.

Crawford plays White Mike.  He’s a recent high school drop out who now makes his living selling drugs — mostly marijuana — to his former classmates.  However, his classmates — not to mention his cousin, Charlie — are more interested in sampling a new designer drug known as twelve.  We’re told that twelve feels like a combination of cocaine and ecstasy.  As this movie struggled to reach its apocalyptic conclusion, I found myself thinking, “That doesn’t sound too bad.  I wonder if I can get some twelve after the movie…”

Anyway, Twelve charts out four days in the life of Crawford and his former classmates.  It starts with Crawford ignoring a pathetic phone call from his junkie cousin and it ends with a shooting rampage at a party that leaves the majority — but not all — of the cast dead.  It’s supposed to be an anti-drug film but, like far too many anti-drug films, it can’t disguise the fact that the characters are a lot more fun to watch when they’re on drugs than when they aren’t.  (For instance, we’re told early on that White Mike doesn’t do drugs, smoke, or drink and just look how miserable he is.)  Director Joel Schumacher gives us a lot of really pretty images but there’s nothing below the surface and as a result, the film’s massacre doesn’t so much feel tragic as it just feels like a poorly planned fashion spread in Elle

(As opposed to Nick McDonnell’s original novel, the film Twelve is mainstream enough to only allow unlikable characters to die at the end.)

The cast is almost achingly pretty but, at the same time, largely forgettable, with two major exceptions.  Poor Rory Culkin (who I worry about because he always seems so sad every time he shows up in a movie) brings a lot of pathos to his role as the geeky kid who happens to have the perfect party house, permissive parents, and a psychotic older brother.  Emily Meade is memorable playing a character who, in many ways, is a female version of Culkin’s.  Playing a bipolar girl who discovers a love for twelve, Meade actually manages to overcome the generic plot (the type that demands that she go from being an honor’s student to selling her body to Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in little over 24 hours) and makes her character compelling.  Plus, she has a fun scene where her teddy bears encourage her to kill people.

Still, the movie ultimately belongs to Keifer Sutherland who never appears on-screen but who gets more dialogue than anyone else in the entire film.  Sutherland plays the narrator.  That’s right, as simplistic as the movie is, Schumacher apparently felt that the movie needed a narrator to tell us what we’ve just seen onscreen.  For instance, we see Crawford selling drugs.  Suddenly, Sutherland’s voice informs us, “White Mike is a drug dealer.”  “Oh,” we say in the audience, “so that’s why he’s exchanging marijuana for money…” 

Even though the narrator is essentially just quoting large chunks of prose from McDonnell’s novel, the use here is technically a mistake.  I say “technically” because it cannot be denied that Sutherland has probably got the sexiest narrator voice around.  Regardless of whether the movie needed it, I needed it.  If nothing else, I will always remember seeing Twleve as the time I heard Keifer Sutherland say, in his purring growl of a voice, “I want to tap that ass,” and I thought, “Well, okay…”