The Washington D.C. Film Critics Nominate Coogler, Jordan, and The Favourite


Yesterday, the Washington D.C. Film Critics announced their nominees for the best of 2018.  While the big three contenders — Roma, Star is Born, and Green Book — are all present and accounted for, the D.C. Film Critics did take the time to nominate Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan for their work on Black Panther.  They also nominated The Favourite for Best Picture, which isn’t unexpected but The Favourite, like Black Panther, can use all the support it can get to prevent being overshadowed by the big three contenders.

(Before anyone asks what I’m basing my analysis on, allow me to point out that I’m not the first film blogger to pretend to be an Oscar expert and I’m sure I won’t be the last….)

Best Film:
The Favourite
Green Book
If Beale Street Could Talk
Roma
A Star Is Born

Best Director:
Ryan Coogler (Black Panther)
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)

Best Actor:
Christian Bale (Vice)
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Best Actress:
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy)
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)

Best Supporting Actress:
Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale)
Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Best Acting Ensemble:
Black Panther
The Favourite
If Beale Street Could Talk
Vice
Widows

Best Youth Performance:
Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie (Leave No Trace)
Milly Shapiro (Hereditary)
Millicent Simmonds (A Quiet Place)
Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give)

Best Voice Performance:
Bryan Cranston (Isle of Dogs)
Holly Hunter (Incredibles 2)
Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
Sarah Silverman (Ralph Breaks the Internet)
Ben Whishaw (Paddington 2)

Best Motion Capture Performance:
Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War)
Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Solo: A Star Wars Story)

Best Original Screenplay:
Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade)
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Favourite)
Paul Schrader (First Reformed)
Nick Vallelonga & Brian Currie & Peter Farrelly (Green Book)
Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole (Black Panther)
Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters (A Star Is Born)

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

Best Documentary:
Free Solo
RBG
Science Fair
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Best Foreign Language Film:
Burning
Capernaum
Cold War
Roma
Shoplifters

Best Production Design:
Production Designer: Hannah Beachler; Set Decorator: Jay Hart (Black Panther)
Production Designer: Fiona Crombie; Set Decorator: Alice Felton (The Favourite)
Production Designer: Nathan Crowley; Set Decorator: Kathy Lucas (First Man)
Production Designer: John Myhre; Set Decorator: Gordon Sim (Mary Poppins Returns)
Production Designer: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decorator: Bárbara Enríquez (Roma)

Best Cinematography:
Robbie Ryan, BSC (The Favourite)
Linus Sandgren, FSF (First Man)
James Laxton (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Matthew Libatique, ASC (A Star Is Born)

Best Editing:
Yorgos Mavropsaridis, ACE (The Favourite)
Tom Cross, ACE (First Man)
Alfonso Cuarón, Adam Gough (Roma)
Jay Cassidy, ACE (A Star Is Born)
Joe Walker, ACE (Widows)

Best Original Score:
Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther)
Justin Hurwitz (First Man)
Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Thom Yorke (Suspiria)
Hans Zimmer (Widows)

The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DC:
The Front Runner
RBG
Vice

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: The Book of Henry (dir by Colin Trevorrow)


In the movies, child geniuses inevitably turn out to be little creeps at that’s certainly the case with The Book of Henry.

Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is an 11 year-old with an exceptional IQ, which essentially means that it’s supposed to be cute when he talks down to people and treats them like shit.  In fact, Henry is such a genius that he’s managed to make a lot of money on the stock market and he also invents stuff.  He practically raises his younger brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay, who is as authentic as Lieberher is overbaked).  He also takes care of his mom, Susan (Naomi Watts).  Susan’s a waitress because it’s a rule of movies like this that the single parent of a child genius will always either be a waitress or a physicist.  There’s really no middle ground.  Anyway, Susan appears to be destined to be forever single but she says that’s okay because Henry is the only man she needs in her life.

(Cringe)

Anyway, Henry lives next door to the Sickleman family.  You know that’s going to be a problem because, in the movies, good people never have names like Sickleman.  Glenn Sickleman (Dean Norris) is not only the police commissioner but he’s also not a very good neighbor.  He’s the type of neighbor who complains if the leaves from your tree gets in his yard.  He’s also not really comfortable living next door to a child genius.  It’s probably because Henry is kind of a condescending jerk.

Henry suspects that Glenn is abusing his stepdaughter, Christina (Maddie Ziegler, who is best known for Dance Moms).  However, before Henry can do anything about it, he has a seizure dies.  Uh-oh, turns out that Henry had a brain tumor!  A genius killed by his own brain.  So.  Much.  Irony.

However, before he died, he left behind a book and recorded instructions for Susan.  It turns out that Henry knew he was going to die because Henry was a super genius who could see the future.  (At least, I assume that’s what happened.)  So, he decided that his mother should murder Glenn and he even came up with some helpful instructions for how she could do it and not get caught.

Now, let me ask you a question.  If you discovered that your recently deceased son spent the last few days of his life plotting how to murder his neighbor would you…

a) Destroy all the evidence and pretend you never saw it

b) Shrug and decide to grant his last wish by following his instructions and killing the neighbor?

I mean, let’s think about this.  By all evidence, it would appear that Henry was a sociopath.  Even if you accept the idea that he had to kill Glenn to save Christina, you still also have to accept the idea that he coldly and methodically plotted out the perfect way to commit a murder and then, realizing he was going to die, he decided that his mom should commit the murder instead.

This is the type of material that a director like David Fincher, Michael Haneke or Lars Von Trier could have a lot of fun with.  However, The Book of Henry was directed by Colin Trevorrow and he takes this weird sentimental approach to the material.  Instead of freaking out over having raised a sociopath, Susan immediately starts to follow all of his instructions.  What’s amazing is that, even in the recording he made for his mom to listen to after his death, Henry is still a condescending little jerk.  At one point, from beyond the grave, Henry directs his mom to take a right turn.  Then he adds, “No, your other right.”

But what really gets me about this movie is that, after all the build up, Henry’s big genius plan is for Susan to get a rifle and shoot Glenn.  That’s it.  I mean, anyone could have thought of that!  If you’re going to make a movie like this, at least have Henry come up with some big complicated scheme!  At least give us that!  I mean, honestly, Susan could have come up with Henry’s plan on her own.

Does Susan follow through with the plan?  I’m not going to tell you.  But I will tell you that the film’s climax features a school talent show.  Maddie Ziegler gets to dance.  Jacob Tremblay gets to perform a magic trick.  They’re both really talented.  Sparkle Motion does not perform and that’s a shame.  Sometimes, I doubt Colin Trevorrow’s commitment to Sparkle Motion.

Anyway, to say that The Book of Henry is a bad film doesn’t quite do justice to just how ill-conceived this film really is.  Someone decided to make a heartwarming and rather humorless film about a child ordering his mother to commit a murder.  You may think it’s a parody at first but no, it’s a real movie.  It’s The Book of Henry.

 

Playing Catch-Up: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)


Have you heard of Conner4Real?

If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music.  His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz.  Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up.  Kid Brain became a farmer.  Kid Contact became a DJ.  And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy.  His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.

But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed.  In fact, it was hated by just about everyone.  This is despite featuring classic songs like:

Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)

Mona Lisa

and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).

Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle.  For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves.  We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.

Oh well, these things happen.

So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film.  It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock.  It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame.  Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer.  In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.

But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg.  It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does.  There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg.  He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role.  Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz.  Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?

Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar.  The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows.  It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves.  But in Popstar, it works.  One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.

Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016.  (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.)  However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following.  In a few years, we’ll get a sequel.  It probably won’t be as as good.

Oh well.  These things happen.

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For December!


For the final time this year, here are my monthly Oscar predictions.  Usually, the critic groups and the guilds help to make it a bit more clear what is going to be nominated.  That’s not so much the case this year.  It’s been a very good year for film and let’s hope the actual Oscar nominations reflect that.

You can also check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November.

Best Picture

Beasts of No Nation

The Big Short

Carol

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Trumbo

Best Director

Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

Adam McKay for The Big Short

George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Jay Roach for Trumbo

Ridley Scott for The Martian

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston in Trumbo

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Brie Larson in Room

Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back

Best Supporting Actor

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

Michael Shannon in 99 Homes

Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Jacob Tremblay in Room

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Helen Mirren in Trumbo

Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria

Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina

Here Are The Very Confusing SAG Nominations!


Spotlight

The nominees for the SAG Awards were announced earlier today!  The SAG Awards are usually one of the more accurate of the various Oscar precursors.  Because so many members of the Academy are also members of the Screen Actors Guild, the SAG Awards are usually a pretty good indication of what films are on the Academy’s radar and which ones aren’t.  Occasionally, an actor will be nominated by SAG and then snubbed by the Academy.  Last year, for instance, SAG nominated Jake Gyllenhall for Nightcrawler, Jennifer Aniston for Cake, and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent.  None of those three received any love from the Academy.  But, for the most part, SAG is one of the most reliable precursors out there.

And that’s why so many of us are in shock today!  The SAG Awards in no way resembled what many of us were expecting.  Other than Spotlight, none of the film’s that many of us expected to be nominated for best ensemble (the SAG’s equivalent of the Academy’s best picture) were nominated (and even Spotlight only received one other nomination, for Rachel McAdams who, up to this point, hasn’t really figured into the Oscar discussion).  The Martian was not nominated for best ensemble or anything else for that matter.  Creed was totally snubbed.  Brooklyn was nominated for actress but not ensemble.  Mad Mad: Fury Road was nominated for its stunt work and nothing else.  Helen Mirren received two nominations, for films that hardly anyone (outside of the SAG, obviously) was really paying any attention to.  Sarah Silverman received a best actress nomination for I Smile Back, which I hadn’t even heard of until about a week ago.  It’s an unexpected and strange group of nominees.

Keep in mind, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the nominees are unexpected.  Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton will both receive deserved boosts in their hunt for Oscar gold.  At the same time, I have to admit that I wasn’t happy to see either The Big Short or Trumbo nominated for best ensemble because I know I’m going to feel obligated to see them and they both look so freaking tedious and blandly political!  But consider this: if The Big Short and Trumbo are both huge Oscar contenders, we may face a situation where both Jay Roach and Adam McKay are nominated for best director in the same year.  I think that’s one of the signs of the apocalypse and, at this point, I’m kind of ready to welcome the end of the world.

Anyway, here are the SAG nominations!  Look them over and, after the Golden Globe nominations are announced tomorrow, update your Oscar predictions accordingly.

Best Performance by a Cast Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Helen Mirren – Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Best Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Best Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • House of Cards
  • Mad Men

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

  • Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
  • Jon Hamm – Mad Men
  • Rami Malek – Mr. Robot
  • Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul
  • Kevin Spacey – House of Cards

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

  • Claire Danes – Homeland
  • Viola Davis – How to Get Away with Murder
  • Julianna Marguilles – The Good Wife
  • Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey
  • Robin Wright – House of Cards

Best Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Key and Peele
  • Modern Family
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Transparent
  • Veep

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Ty Burrell – Modern Family
  • Louis CK – Louie
  • William H. Macy – Shameless
  • Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
  • Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Uzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black
  • Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
  • Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
  • Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a TV Movie or Mini-Series

  • Idris Elba – Luther
  • Ben Kingsley – Tut
  • Ray Liotta — Texas Rising
  • Bill Murray – A Very Murray Christmas
  • Mark Rylance – Wolf Hall

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Mini-Series

Best Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

  • Blacklist
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • Marvel’s Daredevil
  • The Walking Dead

The Washington D.C. Critics Are Mad About Max!


MadMaxFuryRoad

One good thing about Mad Max: Fury Road doing so well during award seasion is that it gives me an excuse to say that “So-and-so Is Mad About Max!”  Thank you, film critics, for making my job a lot easier.

Anyway, yesterday, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics announced their nominees for the best of 2015!  And, once again, a lot of love was shown to Fury Road.  However, I am even happier to see that they also gave some attention to one of my favorite films of the year, Ex Machina.

Here are the nominees!

Best Film:
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario
Spotlight

Best Director:
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Todd Haynes (Carol)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ridley Scott (The Martian)

Best Actor:
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Johnny Depp (Black Mass)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back)
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Best Supporting Actor:
Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Best Acting Ensemble:
The Big Short
The Hateful Eight
Spotlight
Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton

Best Youth Performance:
Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation)
Raffey Cassidy (Tomorrowland)
Oona Laurence (Southpaw)
Güneş Şensoy (Mustang)
Jacob Tremblay (Room)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)
Phyllis Nagy (Carol)
Drew Goddard (The Martian)
Emma Donoghue (Room)
Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs)

Best Original Screenplay:
Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen (Bridge of Spies)
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley (Original Story by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen) (Inside Out)
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Spotlight)
Amy Schumer (Trainwreck)

 

Film Review: Ashby (dir by Tony McNamara)


Ashby

At first glance, Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) seems like your typical nerdy high school student.  An introvert who has a hard time making friends, Ed is a talented writer but what he really wants to do is play for his school’s legendary football team.  One thing that sets Ed apart from cinematic nerds of the past is that he is not lacking in confidence.  He’s shy but he understands what he’s capable of accomplishing.  He knows he’s a good writer.  He also know that he has the potential to be a good football player.  When he crashes the team’s practice and manages to talk Coach Burton (Kevin Dunn) into giving him a shot, Ed proves that he’s the faster than anyone else on the team.  And when one of the other players starts to bully him, Ed has no trouble convincing the quarterback to stand up for him.  After all, as Ed explains it, if Ed’s not in a good mood than he’s not going to catch anything that the quarterback throws.  And if Ed doesn’t make those catches, the quarterback won’t have a good game and, if he doesn’t have a good game, he won’t get any scholarship offers.

At first, Ed’s determination to play football horrifies both his mother, June (Sarah Silverman), and his best (and only) friend, Eloise (Emma Roberts).  June is a single mother who terrifies Ed by openly discussing her sex life with him.  Eloise, meanwhile, is a self-styled misfit who is nicknamed “weird girl” by Ed’s fellow jocks.  It’s only after they see Ed playing on the field (and, not coincidentally, making the winning catch), that June and Eloise start to support Ed’s athletic dreams…

Meanwhile, Ed is getting to know his neighbor, Ashby (Mickey Rourke).  Ashby is a former CIA agent who has just been informed that he has only a few months to live.  Ed needs to talk to an old person for a class assignment.  Ashby needs someone to drive him around town.  At first, Ashby refuses to open up to Ed but slowly, Ashby starts to lower his defenses.  Ashby is soon coming to Ed’s football games, flirting with June, and serving as a substitute father figure.

Of course, Asby is also murdering people.  Though Ed doesn’t know it, the reason that Ashby keeps asking him for a ride is because Ashby is determined to track down and kill three men who he feels betrayed him.  Ashby does this with the full knowledge that eventually, the CIA is going to send somebody to take him out…

Ashby is a mix of genres that don’t really go together.  It’s a gentle coming-of-age comedy that’s also a violent revenge thriller.  The end result is an extremely messy film that never finds a consistent tone.  And yet, at the same time, that inconsistency is a part of the film’s strange charm.  The film is so determined to make its oddball mix of genres work that you actually do find yourself rooting for it, even if it doesn’t quite succeed.  Ashby is one of those films that shouldn’t work and yet, somehow, it does.

Some credit for that has to go to director Tony McNamara.  He directs with a good eyes for detail (the satiric portrayal of both high school and suburbia feels totally authentic) and he keeps the action moving at such a quick pace that you really don’t have time to obsess over the film’s mishmash of themes and tones.

Even more credit, however, I think has to be given to the cast, all of whom show an admirable commitment to bringing their eccentric characters to life.  Mickey Rourke’s plays Ashby as if he might be a distant relation to his character from The Wrestler while Sarah Silverman is so perfectly cast as June that you occasionally find yourself wishing that the entire film could be just about her.  I’ve lost track of how many times Emma Roberts has been cast as a quirky high school girlfriend but she still brings as much depth as she can to her underwritten character.

Ultimately, though, the film belongs to Nat Wolff, who was so good (as was Emma Roberts) in last year’s Palo Alto.  Wolff’s character in Ashby may not have much in common with the sociopath that he played in Palo Alto or the blind friend he played in The Fault In Our Stars, but Wolff brings a sly charm to all three roles and that charm convince the audience to not only accept but even embrace some of the film’s inconsistencies.  Nat Wolff truly holds Asbhy together, helping the film to survive some of its more uneven moments.

Ashby has been given a limited theatrical release and is available through VOD.  It’s definitely an uneven film but it’s worth seeing.

Lisa’s Homestate Reviews: New Mexico and A Million Ways To Die In The West


million-ways-fix

My family lived in Carlsbad, New Mexico from January of 1991 to July of 1992.  I was only 5 years old when we arrived and 6 when we left so I really can’t say that I remember that much about Carlsbad, beyond the fact that my mom was always worried about rattlesnakes, I was excited about going to kindergarten and that, when my Dad announced that we were moving to Oklahoma, I cried and cried because, even at that age, I knew that meant I’d never get to see my friends again.

So yeah, some of my memories of New Mexico are a little traumatic.  But are they as traumatic as watching Seth McFarlane’s A Million Ways To Die In The West, a film that was shot in New Mexico and which is an early front-runner for claiming the title of worst of 2014?

Written by, produced by, directed by, and starring Seth McFarlane, A Million Ways To Die In The West tells the story of a sheep farmer named Albert (played by Seth McFarlane) who basically spends the entire movie whining about how much he hates living in the old west.  His girlfriend leaves him for … well, look, the plot is stupid.  You knew the plot was going to be stupid when you first saw the trailer earlier this year.  You probably even knew the film wasn’t going to be that good.  However, as bad as you might think the film is, it’s nothing compared to how bad the movie actually is.  And the blame pretty much rests with Seth McFarlane.

Seth McFarlane has got cold, dead eyes and a curiously unlined face that, when taken along with his ever-present smirk, tends to make him look like one of those horror movie mannequins that comes to life once the store closes and murders horny teenagers.  I understand that it’s always been a part of McFarlane’s act to present himself as being an asshole with a heart of gold but, for the most part, that works best when you only have to deal with his voice.  The minute that you see his smug face, which is as immobile as his voice is expressive, the heart of gold part disappears.  All your left with is an asshole who insists on telling the same joke over and over again.  As both a comedic writer and director, McFarlane’s technique is to basically beat the audience into submission, dragging jokes out to such an interminable length that you eventually laugh because you simply cannot believe that you’re wasting so much time watching this crap.  Some people have mistaken that technique for genius.  Those people should be forced to watch A Million Ways To Die In The West in much the same way that Malcolm McDowell was forced to watch violent movies in A Clockwork Orange.

(And I write all of that as perhaps the only woman in the world who was not offended by Seth McFarlane singing The Boob Song at the Academy Awards, if just because the joke was clearly meant to be at the expense of McFarlane and the overage frat boys who seem to make up his fan base.)

A Million Ways to Die In The West is full of familiar faces.  Liam Neeson goes totally overboard as the film’s villain.  Neil Patrick Harris, as usual, is fun to watch, or at least he is until he’s forced to take part in one of McFarlane’s trademark endless musical numbers.  Eventually, Harris’s character gets slipped a laxative and it’s just as disgusting as it sounds.  Giovanni Ribisi plays McFarlane’s best friend and his joke is that he’s a Christian (yes, Seth takes on Christianity — what a rebel!) and that his girlfriend (Sarah Silverman, who deserves better) is a prostitute who is willing to have sex with everyone but him.  Amanda Seyfried has the thankless task of playing McFarlane’s girlfriend while Charlize Theron plays the enigmatic woman who teaches Seth how to shoot a gun.  (Theron gives a far better performance than this movie deserves and it was hard not to wish that the entire film had just been about her character.)  There are also several celebrity cameos — Ryan Reynolds, Christopher Lloyd, and even Jamie Foxx show up.

But, ultimately, the entire film is about Seth McFarlane.  He wrote it, he directed it, and he stars in it.  Seth McFarlane dominates this film and that’s the problem.  What might be slightly amusing in a 22-minute cartoon is not going to be funny enough to sustain a nearly two-hour film.  For a rambling and often aimless film like A Million Way To Die In The West to succeed, it needs a star who is both skilled at comedy and likable enough that he’ll be able to anchor the mayhem.  (Seth Rogen, for instance.)  Instead, we’re given a smirking Seth McFarlane and the end result is a film that somehow manages to be both forgettable and a disaster.

Now, you may be wondering how I ended up watching this film.  Well, originally I wasn’t planning on ever seeing it but then I started to read reviews about how terrible it was and I was like, “This is a film that I definitely need to see for myself, so that I can see if the film is actually a misunderstood masterpiece or if it’s a film that I’m going to have to keep in mind when I’m compiling my annual list of the year’s worst films.”  (Plus, when I arrived at the theater, The Fault In Our Stars was sold out.)  But anyway, I sat through it and I forced my sister Erin to watch it with me and I think Erin may be on the verge of finally forgiving me.

Finally, what was more traumatic?  Leaving behind my friends or watching this movie?

Too close to call.

A-MILLION-WAYS-TO-DIE-WEST

What If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now seems like a good time to indulge in something I like to call “If Lisa Marie Had All The Power.”  Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

For those who are interested, you can check out my picks for 2010 by clicking on this sentence.

Meanwhile, my picks for last year can be seen by clicking on this sentence.

Best Picture

Best Picture

Anna Karenina

The Avengers

Bernie

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

The Master

Silver Linings Playbook

Skyfall

Ang Lee

Best Director

Drew Goddard for The Cabin In The Woods

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Richard Linklater for Bernie

Quinton Tarantino for Django Unchained

Joe Wright for Anna Karenina

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Best Actor

Jack Black in Bernie

Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe.

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

michelle-williams-take-this-waltz-trailer

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

Greta Gerwig in Damsels in Distress

Kiera Knightley in Anna Karenina

Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

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Best Supporting Actor

Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master

Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained

Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths

Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Zoe-Kazan-in-Ruby-Sparks-e1348740167495

Best Supporting Actress

Rebecca De Mornay in Mother’s Day

Dame Judi Dench in Skyfall

Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

Zoe Kazan in Ruby Sparks

Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz

cabininthewoods_4

Best Original Screenplay

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

The Master

Ruby Sparks

Take This Waltz

Bernie Bearing Gifts

Best Adapted Screenplay

Anna Karenina

Argo

Bernie

Life of Pi

Silver Linings Playbook

"BRAVE"

Best Feature-Length Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

Paranorman

Pirates!  Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph

rustboen21

Best Foreign Language Film

Barbara

Headhunters

The Raid: Redemption

A Royal Affair

Rust and Bone

Ai Weiwei never sorry film

Best Documentary Feature

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

The Central Park Five

First Position

The Queen of Versailles

2016: Obama’s America

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Best Original Score

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Brave

The Dark Knight Rises

For Greater Glory

The Master

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Best Original Song

“For You” from Act of Valor

“Yo No Se” from Casa De Mi Padre

“The Sambola! International Dance Craze” from Damsels in Distress

“Ancora Qui” from Django Unchained

“Abraham’s Daughter” from The Hunger Games

“The Baddest Man Alive” from The Man With The Iron Fists

“Razor’s Out” from The Raid: Redemption

“Big Machine” from Safety Not Guaranteed

“Skyfall” from Skyfall

“Anything Made Out of Paper” from West of Memphis

Les Miserables 

Best Sound Editing

Chronicle

The Dark Knight Rises

End of Watch

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Les Miserables2

Best Sound Mixing

Chronicle

End of Watch

Killing Them Softly

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Anna Karenina

Best Art Direction

Anna Karenina

The Avengers

The Cabin In The Woods

Cosmopolis

Les Miserables

Skyfall

Best Cinematography

The Hobbit

Lawless

Life of Pi

Moonrise Kingdom

Skyfall

looper

Best Makeup

The Hobbit

The Hunger Games

Les Miserables

Lincoln

Looper

wesandersonmoonrisekingdom

Best Costume Design

Anna Karenina

Django Unchained

The Hunger Games

Lincoln

Moonrise Kingdom

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Best Film Editing

Anna Karenina

The Cabin In The Woods

Django Unchained

The Master

Silent House

Life of Pi

Best Visual Effects

The Avengers

The Dark Knight Rises

Life of Pi

Looper

Men In Black 3

List of Films By Number of Nominations

8 Nominations — Django Unchained

7 Nominations — Anna Karenina

6 Nominations — Les Miserables, Life of Pi, The Master, Skyfall

5 Nominations — The Cabin In The Woods, Silver Linings Playbook

4 Nominations — Bernie

3 Nominations — The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, Lincoln, Take This Waltz

2 Nominations — Brave, Chronicle, Damsels in Distress, End of Watch, Moonrise Kingdom, The Raid: Redemption, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone

1 Nomination —Act of Valor, Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Argo, Barbara,  Beasts of the Southern Wild, Casa De Mi Padre, The Central Park Five, Cosmopolis, First Position, For Greater Glory, Frankenweenie, Headhunters, Killer Joe, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Looper, The Man With The Iron Fists, Men In Black 3, Mother’s Day, The Pirates! Band of Misfits , The Queen of Versailles, A Royal Affair, Safety Not Guaranteed, Seven Psychopaths, Silent House, 2016: Obama’s America, West of Memphis, Wreck-It Ralph

List of Films By Oscars Won

2 Oscars — Anna Karenina, Brave, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi

1 Oscar — Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Bernie, The Cabin In the Woods, Looper, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, The Raid: Redemption, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone, Skyfall, Take This Waltz

Trailer: Wreck-It Ralph (Official)


I had heard about this upcoming CG animated film from the Disney Animation Studio but since it wasn’t being done by Pixar I paid no mind to it. This changed today after site co-founder Lisa Marie Bowman linked me to the first official trailer to Wreck-It Ralph.

After watching the trailer to this upcoming animated film that looks to have been created by people who understands the nostalgia gamers of my generation have for the older games of our youth. It seems like the film was made for gamers of my generation. I definitely had a huge grin on my face as well-known video game characters from days past appeared in the trailer. It’s going to be interesting to find out how Disney was able to pull off putting into one film so many characters from so many different video game publishers like Nintendo, Capcom, Atari, etc…

Wreck-It Ralph is set for a November 2, 2012 release date.