Sundance Film Review: Moon (dir by Duncan Jones)


With this year’s Sundance Film Festival getting underway in Colorado, I’m going to be spending the next few days looking at some films that caused a stir at previous Sundance Film Festivals.  Today, I’m taking a look at the 2009’s Moon.

It’s time for all good people to praise Sam Rockwell.

As far as I’m concerned, Sam Rockwell is one of the patron saints of character acting.  Is there anything that he can’t do?  He can do comedy.  He can do drama.  He can play the cool, older guy, like he did in The Way, Way Back.  He can play the nerdy, weirdo as he’s done in too many movies for me to list.  He can play a mentor and he can play a student.  He can make you laugh and he can make you cry.  He’s one of those actors who can seamlessly transition from small indie films to huge blockbusters without missing a beat.  Rockwell won an Oscar for his performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and he might just win another one for playing President George W. Bush in Vice.  He can even dance, as anyone who has seen him in Iron Man 2 can tell you.  Rockwell’s been acting since he was a teenager and he’s definitely earned the right to be known as one of our greatest actors.

For that reason, it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to decide just which performance is Rockwell’s best.  He’s appeared in so many different movies and he’s played so many different characters.  Even when the movie’s bad, Rockwell is usually great.  However, if I had to sit down and pick one Rockwell performance as being the epitome of everything that makes him a great actor, I’d probably go with his performance in Duncan Jones’s contemplative sci-fi film, Moon.

In Moon, Rockwell plays a man named Sam.  Sam has spent three years living on the dark side of the moon.  He works for shadowy Lunar Industries.  His job is to mine the moon for helium-3, an alternative energy source that is now all the rage on Earth.  It’s a lonely job for Sam.  He gets up every day.  He rides his lunar rover across the stage.  He returns to the sterile facility, where he lives.  Sometimes, if he’s lucky, he gets recorded messages from his wife and daughter.  His only companion is a robot named GERTY.  Though Sam trusts GERTY, we know better, if just because GERTY speaks with the voice of Kevin Spacey.

From the minute we meet Sam, we can see how living on the Moon has affected him.  He’s quiet and a bit meek.  After three years of isolation, Sam accepts whatever he has to accept to survive.  He doesn’t complain about rarely getting to talk to his family.  He doesn’t question why he has to work alone.  Whatever fight Sam once had in him is gone.  Now, Sam just wants to finish out his time and go home.

And then, one day, Sam is driving the lunar rover when he has a sudden hallucination and then passes out.  He ends up crashing into a crater….

Suddenly, Sam wakes up at the facility.  However, it doesn’t take long to notice that this Sam seems different from the Sam who we met at the start of the movie.  The Sam who wakes up in the facility is younger and angrier than the Sam who we first met.  This new Sam is less willing to accept everything that GERTY tells him.  Even more strangely, this new Sam is convinced that he’s just arrived on the moon….

And then the new Sam meets the old Sam….

In Moon, Sam Rockwell gives two empathetic and memorable performances as the same person.  Old Sam is beaten down by life.  New Sam is angry and just a little bit arrogant.  And yet, what makes the performance so brilliant is that you can easily see how the New Sam could eventually transform into the Old Sam.  Thanks to both Rockwell’s performance and the film’s stark imagery, it’s easy to see how the isolation could eventually rob Sam of his passion, his will to fight, and his intellectual curiosity.  When the Old Sam meets the New Sam, he’s reminded that there used to be more to his life than just the drudgery of his daily routine.  And when the New Sam meets the Old Sam, he’s confronted with what a future of isolation means to him.

Of course, the new Sam and the Old Sam weren’t meant to meet.  And now that they have met, Lunar Industries is on their way to clean up the mess….

Released in the same year as James Cameron’s bombastic Avatar, Moon is a low-key and thoughtful science fiction film, a meditation on isolation and identity.  Duncan Jones directs the film in a stark and low-key style, allowing the film’s story to play out at its own pace.  As visualized by Jones, the lunar landscape is impressive the first time you see it and increasingly bleak with each subsequent look.  Far more than Ridley Scott did in The Martian, Jones captures what it actually is to be totally alone.  (That no critics compared The Martian and Moon, despite their obvious similarities, is astounding to me.)

Featuring Sam Rockwell at his absolute best, Moon is a sci-fi film that remains haunting and powerful, even after films with bigger budgets and flashier special effects have faded into obscurity.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Burning
Cold War
Dogman
Roma
Shoplifters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts on the Golden Globe Nominations


Well, it happens every year.

The precursor season always starts with some unexpected winners and you start to think that maybe some of the year’s best indie films might be able to get some Oscar love.  This season, for instance, I was excited to see the attention being given to Eighth Grade and, to a lesser extent, First Reformed.  I was also excited to see that A Quiet Place and Black Panther were being remembered.

“Oh my God!” I thought, “Even if we already know that either Green Book or A Star is Born are going to win everything this year, the Oscar nominations could still be interesting!”

And then, as they do every year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had to come along and basically fuck everything up.  For some reason, the HFPA have become one of the biggest of the precursor awards.  Getting nominated for a Golden Globe is considered to be a major step for any Oscar contender.  Getting ignored by the Golden Globes is enough to knock a previously strong contender out of the contest.  Why is this?  I’m not sure.  The HFPA is a notorious bunch of star fuckers and it’s pretty much an open secret that almost anyone can buy a Golden Globe nomination if they’ve got enough money.  But, for some reason, the annually mediocre Golden Globe nominations carry a lot of weight in Hollywood.

Anyway, this year’s nominations pretty much ignored all of the cool indie films that have come out this year.  Elsie Fisher was nominated for Best Actress but otherwise, Eighth Grade was ignored.  First Reformed was nominated for nothing.  Hereditary was nominated for nothing.  I am happy to see that Black Panther was nominated.  That’s a step in the right direction in that film’s quest to be the first comic book movie to be nominated for best picture.

I guess what really bugs me is that Vice — a film that I have no desire to see — received the most nominations and is now definitely an Oscar contender.  I’ve been told that Vice is even more smug and shallow than The Big Short.  And now, I guess I have to see it.  AGONY!

Anyway, here are the nominees.  (Below are the film nominees.  For the TV nominees, click here.)

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
If Beale Streat Could Talk
A Star Is Born

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
Crazy Rich Asians
The Favourite
Green Book
Mary Poppins Returns
Vice

Best Director
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Peter Farrelly (Green Book)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Adam McKay (Vice)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate)
Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Nicole Kidman (Destroyer)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Rosamund Pike (A Private War)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
Christian Bale (Vice)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)
Robert Redford (The Old Man & the Gun)
John C. Reilly (Stan & Ollie)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)
Charlize Theron (Tully)
Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians)

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Amy Adams (Vice)
Claire Foy (First Man)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Best Screenplay
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Favourite)
Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Adam McKay (Vice)
Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie (Green Book)

Best Score
Marco Beltrami (A Quiet Place)
Alexandre Desplat (Isle of Dogs)
Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther)
Justin Hurwitz (First Man)
Marc Shaiman (Mary Poppins Returns)

Best Original Song
“All the Stars” (Black Panther)
“Girl in the Movies” (Dumplin’)
“Requiem For A Private War” (A Private War)
“Revelation’ (Boy Erased)
“Shallow” (A Star Is Born)

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

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Girl (Belgium)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

 

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Aladdin, Shoplifters, Jonathan, The Best of Enemies


On May 24th, 2019, Disney will be releasing their live action remake of Aladdin.  Earlier this week, they released this brief but intriguing teaser.  It leads off this week’s trailer round-up.

Shoplifters is Japan’s official submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.  The film, about a poverty-stricken family in Japan, won the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and will be released into theaters on November 23rd.

Starring Ansel Elgort, Jonathan is a science fiction film about two minds sharing one body.  Jonathan is in control during the day while Jon is in control during the night.  This movie is set to be released on November 16th.

The Best of Enemies tells the true story of the unlikely friendship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and KKK leader, C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell).  This film is set to be released on April 5th, 2019.

Other Trailers Released This Week:

 

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Aquaman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Mule, Vice, On The Basis of Sex, Mortal Engines


Last week the internet was abuzz after the release of an extended, five-minute trailer for Aquaman.  That trailer kicks off this week’s trailer round-up.  Aquaman will be released on December 21st.

Coming out the week before Aquaman, the animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse will provide a new look at everyone’s favorite webslinger and will help us all emotionally recover from the end of Avengers: Infinity War.  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters on December 14th.

Clint Eastwood is a machine.  At an age when most people are retired, Eastwood is still cranking out movies and winning awards.  The Mule is based on the true story of the world’s oldest drug runner.  Eastwood directed and, for the first time since Trouble With The Curve, stars.  The Mule will be released on December 14th.

In Vice, Christian Bale is transformed into former Vice President Dick Cheney.  This film was directed by Adam McKay so it’s portrayal of Cheney and George W. Bush (played by Sam Rockwell) will probably not be a positive one.  Vice will be released on December 25th and will answer the question: “Does anyone other than Adam McKay care about Dick Cheney anymore?”

Vice will be getting some competition on Christmas from another politically charged biopic.  On the Basis of Sex stars Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Finally, if you’d rather escape the real world in December, Mortal Engines will be released on December 14th.

People Are Dumb: Happy Hell Night (1992, directed by Brian Owens)


In 1966, Father Zachary Malius (Charles Cragin), a priest-turned-Satanist, murders a group of frat boys who have broken into his family’s crypt as part of an initiation prank.  After he’s captured by policeman Henry Collins (Sam Rockwell), Malius falls into a catatonic state and is sent to a mental asylum

25 years later, two pledges from the same fraternity break into the asylum so that they can take their picture with Father Malius.  Why?  Because people are dumb.  Of course, as soon as they take their picture, Father Malius wakes up and goes on a rampage.  Armed with a pickax and an endless supply of one-liners that even Freddy Krueger would have turned down, Father Malius heads back to the fraternity.  Also returning to the frat is retired Detective Henry Collins (who is now played by a clearly slumming Darren McGavin).

When I was growing up in the 90s, Happy Hell Night used to be a mainstay on late night HBO.  It’s a typical straight-to-video slasher, distinguished only be a few familiar faces in the cast  and a decently scary murderer.  With his pale skin and his gaunt appearance, Malius looks like Nosferatu in a priest’s collar.  Charles Cragin has a perfect thousand-yard stare for the role.  It’s just too bad that Happy Hell Night was made at the time when every killer had to be a comedian because most of Malius’s one-liners feel out of place for a Satanist who has spent the last 25 years locked away in an asylum.

As for the familiar faces, Happy Hell Night not only features future Oscar winner Sam Rockwell in a small role but also CSI’s Jorja Fox , who shows up just long enough to get hit in the head with a pickax.  When the movie was released, Darren McGavin was the best-known member of the cast.  He has about five minutes of screen time and overacts his death scene like a real pro.

 

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions for July


Well, here we are.  We’re more than halfway through the year and, to be honest, the Oscar forecast seems just as cloudy as ever.

To be honest, I’m starting to get the feeling that this is going to be a year where the Academy is more concerned with sending a message than anything else.  Just as the Emmy nominations were all about sticking it to Trump (as opposed to actually honoring the best that television has to offer), it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Academy try to do the same thing.  That doesn’t mean that the nominees aren’t going to deserve to be nominated, of course.  Instead, it just means that this might be a good year for films with a political agenda.

Anyway, here are my predictions for July!  They’re still pretty random, to be honest.  Be sure to also check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

Backseat

Black Panther

BlackKklansman

Boy Erased

The Favourite

First Man

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary, Queen of Scots

Old Man and The Gun

Widows

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for First Man

Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk

Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Spike Lee for BlackKklansman

Josie Rourke for Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Actor

Christian Bale in Backseat

Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Robert Redford in Old Man and The Gun

John David Washington in BlackKklansman

Best Actress

Glenn Close in The Wife

Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex

Keira Knightley in Colette

Rosamund Pike in A Private War

Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Supporting Actor

Russell Crowe in Boy Erased

Sam Elliott in A Star is Born

Topher Grace in BlackKklansman

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Sam Rockwell in Backseat

Best Supporting Actress

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Margot Robbie in Mary, Queen of Scots

Sissy Spacek in Old Man and the Gun