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)


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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.

Here Are The Independent Spirit Award Nominations!


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Before I forget, The Independent Spirit Award Nominations were announced earlier today!  In a year that has yet to see a Spotlight, a Mad Max, or even a Big Short, the Oscar race remains undeniably murky.  Maybe the Spirit nominations will help to clarify things.

(Sad to say but I haven’t seen most of the films that were nominated.  They’ve either just opened down here in Dallas or they’ll be opening next month.  So, you’ll have to forgive me if I can’t provide much commentary beyond saying that I look forward to seeing and reviewing them all for myself!)

(I will say, however, that I’m happy to see that American Honey was nominated because, even though I missed seeing the film, it’s directed Andrea Arnold.  Arnold’s previous film, Fish Tank, is pretty much one of my essential movies.)

Here are the nominees!

BEST PICTURE
“American Honey”
“Chronic”
“Jackie”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

BEST DIRECTOR
Andrea Arnold, “American Honey”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Pablo Larraín, “Jackie”
Jeff Nichols, “Loving”
Kelly Reichardt, “Certain Women”

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
David Harewood, “Free In Deed”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Jesse Plemons, “Other People”
Tim Roth, “Chronic”

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening, “20th Century Women”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Sasha Lane, “American Honey”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Ralph Fiennes,  “A Bigger Splash”
Ben Foster, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Shia LaBeouf, “American Honey”
Craig Robinson, “Morris from America”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Edwina Findley, “Free In Deed”
Paulina Garcia, “Little Men”
Lily Gladstone, “Certain Women”
Riley Keough, “American Honey”
Molly Shannon, “Other People”

BEST SCREENPLAY
“Hell or High Water”
“Little Men”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”
“20th Century Women”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Ava Berkofsky, “Free In Deed”
Lol Crawley,”The Childhood of a Leader”
Zach Kuperstein,”The Eyes of My Mother”
James Laxton,”Moonlight”
Robbie Ryan,”American Honey”

BEST FILM EDITING
Matthew Hannam,”Swiss Army Man”
Jennifer Lame,” Manchester by the Sea”
Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders, “Moonlight”
Jake Roberts, “Hell or High Water”
Sebastián Sepúlveda, “Jackie”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
“13th”
“Cameraperson”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Sonita”
“Under the Sun”

BEST INTERNATIONAL PICTURE
“Aquarius” (Brazil)
“Chevalier” (Greece)
“My Golden Days” (France)
“Toni Erdmann” (Germany and Romania)
“Under the Shadow” (Iran and U.K.)

BEST FIRST FEATURE
“The Childhood of a Leader”
“The Fits”
“Other People”
“Swiss Army Man”
“The Witch”

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
“Barry”
“Christine”
“Jean of the Joneses”
“Other People”
“The Witch”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (best feature made for under $500,000)
“Free In Deed”
“Hunter Gatherer”
“Lovesong”
“Nakom”
“Spa Night”

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Andrea Arnold is Back With American Honey! Check out the Trailer!


I will be the first to admit that it feels strange to admit that I’m actually looking forward to a movie featuring Shia LaBeouf.

(You ever notice how I always say stuff like that, despite the fact that Lawless wasn’t terrible and I enjoyed Fury about as much as I can enjoy any movie about war.  Despite the fact that he’s actually appeared in a lot of decent films, I will always think of Shia as being the whiny kid from The Battle of Shaker Heights.  That is the revolting power of Shia LaBeouf…)

However, I am very much looking forward to American Honey!

And you know why?

Because it’s the latest film from Andrea Arnold, who previously directed the absolutely exquisite Fish Tank.  Fish Tank is one of those films that I watch and I just see myself, who I’ve been and who I could have become.  It’s an amazing film.

Will American Honey be just as amazing?

I hope so!  Check out the trailer below:

Film Review: Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II (2013, dir. Lars Von Trier)


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I’ll try and keep this short, unlike the movie, which if you watch the director’s cut as I did, comes out to about five and a half hours. Once you’ve sat through something like Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 (1971), which comes out to a little over twelve hours, this isn’t much. Also, despite what I’m going to say about it, it’s problems don’t come from it’s length. A lot of movies damage themselves by going past two hours, but not this one. The length really wasn’t an issue for me.

I’m also not going to pick out all the little stupid things like you see me do with Hallmark movies. Yes, Stellan Skarsgard says the Christian church split up in 1054 into Roman Catholic and Orthodox, but it actually fractured a long time before that break. Or the onscreen text, which you would expect in a Godard film. Especially when Skarsgard brings up Fibonacci numbers. That probably only ticked me off because I went through about nine years of college level computer science and really don’t want to hear about Fibonacci numbers ever again. Also, there’s a scene where she makes one attempt to have sex with black guys. It kind of reminded me of that “documentary” from the early 1970’s called Black Love. It’s there to mention that men are homophobic, but she is implicitly homophobic since sex with a woman is never brought up in this sex addict film. Von Trier also whips out the Two Kinds Of People In The World cliche, but it only makes sense if everyone is right handed. Well, let’s talk about the movie.

First, if you’re a fan of Lars Von Trier, then it’s a no brainer. This movie is for you. Don’t hesitate to watch it. If you are like me and love Breaking The Waves (1996), then this has similar material, but it’s not even remotely as moving. If you were offended by Dogville (2003) like I was, then don’t worry, this isn’t offensive stuff. It’s just boring.

The movie is about a girl named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who recounts her life as a self proclaimed nymphomaniac to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgad). The movie cuts back and forth between the actual story and then Seligman’s thoughts on it. Kind of like sitting in on a therapy session if it were being conducted by college students in a debate class. And that’s where this film’s biggest issue is for me. A lot of the analysis feels pedestrian or the kind of thing you would expect in a college paper written by a student who hopes the teacher will be impressed. And at times its almost like argument for arguments sake. Like when you’re in a class and a topic is tossed out for discussion. The topic may actually be rather simple, but people keep trying to throw things in to pad out the conversation to fill the class time. A lot of the dialogue feels like that sort of thing.

The story begins when she is a little girl and takes us up to the events that led Seligman to find her in the alley outside of his place at the beginning of the film. Her father is played by Christian Slater who I think does a good job. His British accent may be a problem for you, but it wasn’t for me. Neither was it a problem for me with Shia LaBeouf’s character who is a male presence in Joe’s life pretty much throughout the film. The accent was a problem for me with Uma Thurman’s character though.

There’s a point where Joe just starts referring to the men in her life by letters. She casually tosses them around. During one of these scenes, Uma Thurman shows up as the wife of one of the guys who’s there with Joe along with their kids in tow. The scene is supposed to start a little funny, then get really uncomfortable as it keeps going. Like when Thurman asks if she can show her kids the “whoring bed”. The problem for me was the accent. If they had just let her speak normally, then it would have worked, but it was a voice that at this point in her career is obviously not her’s and I can’t suspend disbelief. So the scene was just hilarious to me. Especially when she actually screams. That made me think of Julianne Moore in Map To The Stars (2014), which also had me laughing.

This film has been dismissed as porn or on the flip side, played up for showing so much. People especially like to mention that the sex is unsimulated. Well, it really doesn’t count in my book if that isn’t Shia LeBeouf’s penis, which it isn’t. They use CGI to graft porn actors genitalia onto some of the actors. So it’s not anything to brag about. Is it porn? Far from it. Anybody who tells you that has no idea what they are talking about. It probably comes closest to an exploitation movie at best in that department.

I said I wouldn’t pick out little flaws, but there’s a big one I have with the title and her consistently referring to herself as either a nymphomaniac or being addicted to sex. She’s not really addicted to sex. She’s addicted to sex like someone who only smokes Marlboro is addicted to cigarettes, but won’t smoke any other brand. She’s like that. She’ll take penetration by a penis, give a blow job, and poorly dabbles in S&M. That’s really it. She’s rather discriminating about what she’ll do. Another analogy is like when someone says they’re a cinephile, but that means to them that they love watching highly acclaimed foreign films. An addiction to something broad like movies or sex means you’re indiscriminate. However, I get why Von Trier sticks with the term nymphomaniac because the movie does have a reason to make sure the apparent love of sex and guilt about it is explicitly associated with a female character. The ending depends on it.

The only thing that was kind of noteworthy to me was how the way the movie is shot changes in the final part of the film. It’s divided into chapters and in the last one Von Trier either shot it to get film grain and over exposed lights or did it in post processing. I think it was probably a reference to a movement in film he was involved in back in the 1990’s called Dogme 95. You can watch something like Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998) and it will look similar.

Honestly, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s really for people who like Von Trier stuff. If you like his stuff, see it. If you don’t, definitely skip it. If you’re totally new, then don’t start here. Begin with Breaking The Waves and Europa (1991) before wading into films like The Idiots (1998), Dancer In The Dark (2000), Dogville, and beyond.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Sabotage, The Raid 2, John Wick, Fury


2014 had it’s share of very good action films and here are four that I was particularly drawn to. While the film themselves were of varying degrees of quality in terms of storytelling. These 4 films all had one thing that I enjoyed despite their films’ flaws. They all had action scenes that I thought were quite excellent.

You have gritty present-day action thriller, an operatic gangster epic, a revenge thriller and a war film. One stars an aging action star back from playing politician. Another a foreign film whose filmmaker and star have set the bar for all action films for years to come. Then there’s the stunt coordinators and 2nd unit directors finally making their mark with their first feature-length film. Lastly, a war film that brings the brutality of World War II tank warfare to the forefront.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)