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

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!

Here Are The 2019 Independent Spirit Award Nominees!


Here are the 2019 Indie Spirit Award nominations!  These nominations are meant to honor the best independent films of 2019 and their announcement marks the official beginning of awards season (at least as far as this sight is concerned!)  I hate to say it but I still need to see quite a few of the films nominated below so, for now, I’ll hold off on any editorial commentary.

For those looking for some sort of evidence of how the Oscar nominations can go, the Independent Spirit Awards can be an iffy precursor, just because several of the expensive, major studio contenders aren’t eligible to nominated.  (For instance, neither The Irishman nor Once Upon A Time In Hollywood were eligible.)  That said, for the record, the two biggest Spirit nominees are The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems.  Waves and The Farewell, which have been the center of considerable Oscar speculation, did not do as strongly in the nominations as many people apparently expected.  Make of that what you will!

Here are the nominees!

Best Supporting Female

  • Jennifer Lopez – HUSTLERS
  • Taylor Russell – WAVES
  • Zhao Shuzhen – THE FAREWELL
  • Lauren “Lolo” Spencer – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Octavia Spencer – LUCE
  • Best Supporting Male
  • Willem Dafoe – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Noah Jupe – HONEY BOY
  • Shia Labeouf – HONEY BOY
  • Jonathan Majors – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • Wendell Pierce – BURNING CANE

Best Screenplay

  • Noah Baumbach – MARRIAGE STORY
  • Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder – TO DUST
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Chinonye Chukwu – CLEMENCY
  • Tarell Alvin Mccraney – HIGH FLYING BIRD

Best First Screenplay

  • Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol – SEE YOU YESTERDAY
  • Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen – DRIVEWAYS
  • Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy – BLOW THE MAN DOWN
  • Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe – GREENER GRASS
  • James Montague, Craig W. Sanger – THE VAST OF NIGHT

Best Cinematography

  • Todd Banhazl – HUSTLERS
  • Jarin Blaschke – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Natasha Braier – HONEY BOY
  • Chananun Chotrungroj – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Pawel Pogorzelski – MIDSOMMAR

Best Editing

  • Julie Béziau – THE THIRD WIFE
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Tyler L. Cook – SWORD OF TRUST
  • Louise Ford – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Kirill Mikhanovsky – GIVE ME LIBERTY

Best International Film

  • INVISIBLE LIFE, Brazil
  • LES MISERABLES, France
  • PARASITE, South Korea
  • PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, France
  • RETABLO, Peru
  • THE SOUVENIR, United Kingdom

Best Documentary (Award given to the director and producer)

  • AMERICAN FACTORY
  • APOLLO 11
  • FOR SAMA
  • HONEYLAND
  • ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS

The John Cassavetes Award is presented to the best feature made for under $500,000 and is given to the writer, director, and producer. 2020 #SpiritAwards Nominees are:

  • BURNING CANE
  • COLEWELL
  • GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • PREMATURE
  • WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY

Best Female Lead

  • Karen Allen – COLEWELL
  • Hong Chau – DRIVEWAYS
  • Elisabeth Moss – HER SMELL
  • Mary Kay Place – DIANE
  • Alfre Woodard – CLEMENCY
  • Renée Zellweger – JUDY

Best Male Lead 

  • Chris Galust – GIVE ME LIBERTY
  • Kelvin Harrison  Jr., – LUCE
  • Robert Pattinson – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Adam Sandler – UNCUT GEMS
  • Matthias Schoenaerts – THE MUSTANG

Best First Feature (Award given to the director and producer)

  • BOOKSMART
  • THE CLIMB
  • DIANE
  • THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
  • THE MUSTANG
  • SEE YOU YESTERDAY

Best Feature [award given to the producer(s)]

  • A HIDDEN LIFE
  • CLEMENCY
  • THE FAREWELL
  • MARRIAGE STORY
  • UNCUT GEMS

Best Director

  • Robert Eggers – THE LIGHTHOUSE
  • Alma Har’el – HONEY BOY
  • Julius Onah – LUCE
  • Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – UNCUT GEMS
  • Lorene Scafaria – HUSTLERS

The Robert Altman Award is given to the ensemble cast, director & casting director of one film: MARRIAGE STORY – Noah Baumbach, Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler, Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever

The Truer Than Fiction Award, in its 25th year, is for emerging directors of non-fiction features and includes an unrestricted grant. Finalists:
Khalik Allah – BLACK MOTHER
Davy Rothbart – 17 BLOCKS
Nadia Shihab – JADDOLAND
Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside – AMÉRICA

The Producers Award, now in its 23rd year, honors emerging producers who demonstrate creativity, tenacity and vision, despite highly limited resources. The award includes an unrestricted grant. These are the finalists:
Mollye Asher
Krista Parris
Ryan Zacarias

The Someone To Watch Award, in its 26th year, recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision and includes an unrestricted grant. The finalists are:
Rashaad Ernesto Green – PREMATURE
Ash Mayfair – THE THIRD WIFE
Joe Talbot – THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

The Bonnie Award will recognize a mid-career female director with a $50,000 unrestricted grant. The 2020 Film Independent #SpiritAwards Bonnie Award finalists are:
MarielleHeller
KellyReichardt
LuluWang

Music Video of the Day: Shia LaBeouf by Rob Cantor (2014, dir by Scott Uhlfelder)


Did you know that Shia LaBeouf was an actual cannibal?

Well, after watching this video, you do now!  And I know that the song claims that Shia LaBeouf has been defeated but you know the first rule of horror.  Shia LaBeouf is never totally gone.

Actually, I should take this time to point out that, despite his somewhat obnoxious public persona, Shia LaBeouf has given some surprisingly good performances over the years.  It’s easy to make fun of him for doing that whole 24-hour Come-Yell-At-Trump webcam thing a few years ago but, at the same time, he was pretty good in American Honey and The Peanut Butter Falcon.

And, even more importantly, he’s a good enough sport to show up here, applauding his decapitation.  Trust me when I say that Sean Penn would not do the same.

Enjoy!

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For July


It’s that time of the month, again!

(No, not that time!)

It’s time for me to present my predictions for who and what will be nominated for the Academy Awards next January!  Now that we’re nearly done with the summer, the Oscar picture is becoming a bit more clear.  For instance, I do think that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is going to be a player, if just because it’s about actors and the Actors Branch is the biggest voting bloc in the Academy.  (How do you think Birdman and Argo managed to win?)  And the trailer for The Irishman makes it look like the type of Scorsese film that often gets nominated.

Still, it’s too early to say anything for sure.  Last year, for instance, Green Book didn’t really become a player until fairly late in the season.  In fact, at this time last year, everyone still thought A Star Is Born was going to win everything.

So, with all that in mind, here are my predictions for July.  Be sure to also check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

1917

The Aeronauts

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Fair and Balanced

Harriet

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Pain & Glory

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Best Director

Pedro Almodovar for Pain & Glory

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go Bernadette?

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Rene Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Shia LaBeouf in The Peanut Butter Falcon

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

Taika Waititi in JoJo Rabbit

Best Supporting Actress

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Janelle Monae in Harriet

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Meryl Streep in Little Women

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For June


We’re at the halfway mark as far as 2019 in concerned, which means that the Oscar race is about to start getting a lot more clear.  Soon, instead of random guesses, we’ll be making educated guesses.  Then again, it is important to remember that — at this time last year — no one thought Bohemian Rhapsody would score a best picture nomination.  In fact, only a few people have ever heard about Green Book.

So, as always, take my monthly predictions with a grain of salt.  They’re based on a combination what I’m hearing (and reading) from other film people and my own instincts (for whatever their worth).  To be honest, I suppose that these predictions reflect my own prejudices as well.  I’d love to see Terrence Malick honored, for instance.  I also think that it’s a crime that Amy Adams hasn’t ever won an Oscar so I have her listed, even though I fear she might be miscast as the lead in The Woman In The Window.  At the same time, I’m bored with Meryl Streep getting nominated just for showing up so I left her out of my predictions, even though she has two high-profile films coming out later this year.

To see how my thinking has (or hasn’t) evolved, check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, and May!

And now, here are the predictions!

Best Picture

1917

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Cats

Fair and Balanced

Harriet

A Hidden Life

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Best Director

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon On A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Best Actress

Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Best Supporting Actor

Shia LaBeouf in The Peanut Butter Falcon

Malcolm McDowell in Fair & Balanced

Ian McKellen in Cats

Sam Neill in Blackbird

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Annette Bening in The Report

Laura Dern in Little Women

Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Film Review: American Honey (dir by Andrea Arnold)


american_honey_poster

You would probably be justified in thinking that there’s no way that a great film could be made about those weirdos who occasionally show up at your front door and pressure you to buy a dozen magazine subscriptions (the better to help them win a trip to Europe or go to drug rehab or get a college education) but Andrea Arnold has managed to do just that with American Honey.

American Honey features several scenes of the film’s characters swarming through neighborhoods, knocking on doors and launching into their sales pitch.  We see how the group’s top salesman, Jake (Shia LaBeouf, for once playing a role that makes perfect use of his “permanently full of shit” image), changes his approach from house to house and we listen as he explains his selling technique.  When the smarmy but charming Jake knocks on a door and then starts to flirt with the teenage girl who answers, I immediately started to have flashbacks to when I was going to college and, every summer, the magazine people would descend on Denton, looking for gullible students.  I once opened the door of my apartment and got trapped into a long conversation with a cute but annoyingly hyper guy who ended every sentence by holding up his hand and going, “High five!”  He very well could have been Jake.

We also watch as Krystal (Riley Keough), the group’s somewhat frightening manager, gives everyone their assignments and constantly pressures her crew to bring in as much money as possible.  Though the film never quite becomes an expose, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the whole door-to-door magazine subscription industry is essentially an unregulated scam that largely survives by exploiting people who don’t have anywhere else to go.  As Krystal puts it, if someone can’t make their sales, that person can easily just be left on the side of the road.

That said, American Honey isn’t really about selling magazines.  What is it about?  It’s about many things.  It’s a road movie, one that lasts nearly three hours and which features a narrative that at times seems to meander almost aimlessly.  (Of course, that randomness is deceptive.  Andrea Arnold knows exactly what she’s doing.)  It’s a tour of what has been termed flyover county, with the crew invading neighborhoods both wealthy and poor.  (When they arrive in a poor South Dakota town, Krystal announces, “I got a lot of relatives here!”)  It’s a celebration of youth and impulsiveness because, even though the magazine crew is being exploited, they’re also having a really good time.  Most of the members of the crew were played by nonactors and they bring a rough authenticity to their roles.  They may be outcasts but, if just for a little while, they’ve formed their own family.  (Albeit a family that lives in vans, cheap motels, and occasionally a deserted farmouse…)

Ultimately, the film is coming-of-age story.  When we first meet Star (Sasha Lane), she’s 18 and she’s living in Oklahoma.  Star was born in Texas and her meth-addict mother died when she was young.  Now that she’s in Oklahoma, she’s working as some sort of live-in nanny, taking care of two children while their mother dances at a redneck bar and their father continually gropes her.  When she sees Jake and the magazine crew dancing in a supermarket (and getting thrown out by security), she’s immediately drawn to them.  When Jake offers her a position with the crew, it’s a chance to both escape and to belong.  Krystal asks if Star is 18.  Star says that she is.  Krystal asks if anyone is going to miss Star after she leaves.  Star says no one will.

And soon, Star is in the back of a van, being driven across the country.  Krystal doesn’t like or trust her.  Jake may or may not be using her.  But, for the first time, Star has a family.  For the first time, she belongs.

And, she soon finds herself discovering and seeing things that she would never have had a chance to see otherwise.  One morning, she sits out on a hill and watches as an equally curious bear approaches her.  When she and Jake attempt to sell in a rich neighborhood, she watches with barely disguised jealousy as a spoiled teenager celebrates her birthday.  In one of the film’s best scenes, she ends up attending an impromptu barbecue with three cowboys and we find ourselves, much like her, trying to figure out just how much she can trust these seemingly friendly men.  In one of film’s saddest scenes, she stops at a house and discovers three neglected children and a junkie mother.  And, in one of the film’s most disturbing scenes, an oil rig worker says he doesn’t want any magazines but he’ll pay her $1,000 for a hand job.

Through it all, we watch as Star approaches each new situation with equal doses of fear and hope, confidence and doubt.  And like her, we find ourselves wondering how far she should go and who she should trust.  Sasha Lane is in every scene of the film and gives an amazingly good performance, one that is all the more remarkable for the fact that this was her first movie.  Much like Katie Jarvis in Arnold’s Fish Tank, Sasha Lane was discovered by the director.  (Jarvis was famously discovered after yelling at her boyfriend on a train platform.  Lane was discovered under somewhat less contentious circumstances, while sunbathing on the beach.)   Sasha Lane gives a brave and unflinchingly honest performance.  At times, I found myself cringing because I could totally understand what Star was feeling and what she was going through.  (Though I never ended up selling magazines, I went through my lost phase.)  There was not a single false note to be found in Lane’s performance.

Special mention should also be made of Riley Keough’s work as the manipulative Krystal.  Keough alternates between being harsh and being strangely likable with such skill that it’s impossible not to share both Star’s fear and her occasional admiration of her.

Ultimately, though, this is Andrea Arnold’s film.  The British director approaches the so-called heartland of America with an outsider’s view and she captures some of the most unexpected and strikingly beautiful images of 2016.  American Honey is a powerful, demanding, and occasionally enigmatic movie, one that feels almost like the type of film that Terrence Malick would make if Malick could curb his tendency to descend into self-parody.  American Honey is one of the best of the year.