What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2020 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa 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.

I should also point out that I’ve only nominated films that were actually released in 2020.  Undoubtedly, Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, and The Father will do very well with the Academy tomorrow but, as far as I’m concerned, they’re 2021 films and not eligible for my nominations.  They will be eligible next year, when I do my 2021 edition of What If Lisa Had All The Power.

It should also go without saying that I’ve nominated films that I’ve actually seen.

You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.

Click on the links to see my nominations for 2019, 20182017201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

The Assistant
Bad Education
First Cow
The Girl With A Bracelet
i’m thinking of ending things
Lovers Rock
Palm Springs
Promising Young Woman
Soul
The Vast of Night

Best Director

Stéphane Demoustier for The Girl With A Bracelet
Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman
Charlie Kaufman for i’m thinking of ending things
Steve McQueen for Lovers Rock
Andrew Patterson for The Vast of Night
Kelly Reichardt for First Cow

Best Actor

Ben Affleck in The Way Back
Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
John Boyega in Red, White, and Blue
Hugh Jackman in Bad Education
Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods

Best Actress

Alison Brie in Horse Girl
Sidney Flanigan in Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Julia Garner in The Assistant
Melissa Guers in The Girl With A Bracelet
Sophia Loren in The Life Ahead
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Actor

Brian Dennehy in Driveways
Aldis Hodge in One Night In Miami
Orion Lee in First Cow
Clarke Peters in Da 5 Blood
Paul Raci in The Sound of Metal
J.K. Simmons in Palm Springs

Best Supporting Actress

Jane Adams in She Dies Tomorrow
Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Cooke in Sound of Metal
Allison Janney in Bad Education
Chiara Mastroianni in The Girl With A Bracelet
Talia Ryder in Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Best Voice Over Performance

Jack Cruz in What Did Jack Do?
Bruce Davis in The Vast of Night
Tina Fey in Soul
Jamie Foxx in Soul
Nick Offerman in Frances Ferguson
Chris Pratt in Onward

Best Original Screenplay

The Assistant
Palm Springs
Possessor
Promising Young Woman
Soul
The Vast of Night

Bad Education

Best Adapted Screenplay

Bad Education
Emma
First Cow
The Girl With A Bracelet
i’m thinking of ending things
The Outpost

Best Animated Feature Film

A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Onward
Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs
Soul

Best Documentary Feature Film

Alabama Snake
Athlete A
The Mystery of D.B. Cooper
Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind
The Social Dilemma
Tread

Best International Feature Film

Figurant
The Girl With A Bracelet
Gunpowder Heart
The Hater
The Life Ahead
The Shock of the Future

Best Live Action Short Film

Basic
Figurant
Host
Run/On
Waffle
What Did Jack Do?

Best Documentary Short Film

Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business
John Was Trying To Contact Aliens
Lions in the Corner
Quilt Fever

Best Animated Short Film

Canvas

If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Original Score

Call of the Wild
First Cow
Mangrove
Possessor
She Dies Tomorrow
The Shock of The Future

Best Original Song

“Boss Bitch” from Birds of Prey
“Diamonds” from Birds of Prey
“Everybody Dies” from The Outpost
“Future Shock Work in Progress” from The Shock of the Future
“Gratia Plena” from Fatima
“Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“Jah Jah Ding Dong” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“Metamorph” from Gunpowder Heart
“The Spirit of Christmas” from The Christmas Chronicles 2
“True Love’s Flame” from What Did Jack Do?

Best Overall Use of Music

Bill & Ted Face The Music
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Lovers Rock
Proising Young Woman
The Shock of the Future
Soul

Best Sound

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Lovers Rock
The Outpost
Possessor
The Shock of the Future
Sound of Metal

Best Production Design

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Emma
First Cow
i’m thinking of ending things
Possessor
The Shock of the Future

Best Casting

The Assistant
First Cow
Lovers Rock
Palm Springs
Promising Young Woman
The Vast of Night

Best Cinematography

First Cow
i’m thinking of ending things
Lovers Rock
Mank
She Dies Tomorrow
The Vast of Night

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bill & Ted Face The Music
i’m thinking of ending things
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Promising Young Woman

Best Costume Design

Emma
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Fatima
First Cow
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Tesla

Best Film Editing

Extraction
i’m thinking of ending things
The Outpost
Palm Springs
Promising Young Woman
The Way Back

Best Stuntwork

Bad Boys For Life
Birds of Prey
Bloodshot
Extraction
The Hunt
The Outpost

Best Visual Effects

The Christmas Chronicles 2
The Midnight Sky
The Outpost
Possessor
Radioactive
Tesla

Films By Number of Nominations

8 Nominations — First Cow, Promising Young Woman

7 Nominations — Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, i’m thinking of ending things

6 Nominations — The Girl With A Bracelet, Lovers Rock, The Outpost, Shock of the Future, Soul, The Vast of Night

5 Nominations — Palm Springs, Possessor

4 Nominations — The Assistant, Bad Education, Sound of Metal

3 Nominations — Birds of Prey, Emma, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, She Dies Tomorrow, What Did Jack Do?

2 Nominations — Bill & Ted Face the Music, The Christmas Chronicles 2, Da 5 Bloods, Extraction, Fatima, Figurant, Gunpowder Heart, Hillbilly Elegy, The Life Ahead, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Onward, Tesla, The Way Back

1 Nomination — Alabama Snake, Athlete A, Bad Boys For Life, Basic, Bettye Saar: Taking Care of Business, Bloodshot, Call of the Wild, Canvas, Driveways, Frances Ferguson, The Hater, Horse Girl, Host, The Hunt, If Anything Happens I Love You, John Was Trying To Contact Aliens, Lions in the Corner, Mangrove, Mank, Midnight Sky, The Mystery of D.B. Cooper, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, One Night in Miami, Quilt Fever, Radioactive, Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, Red White and Blue, Run/On, A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, The Social Dilemma, Tread, Waffle

Films By Number of Oscars Won

3 Oscars — The Girl With A Bracelet, Promising Young Woman

1 Oscar — The Assistant, Bad Education, Driveways, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Figurant, First Cow, Frances Ferguson, If Anything Happens I Love You, i’m thinking of ending things, John Was Trying To Contact Aliens, Lovers Rock, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Outpost, Palm Springs, Possessor, Shock of the Future, The Social Dilemma, Soul, Sound of Metal, The Vast of Night, What Did Jack Do?

Tomorrow, the Oscar nominations will be released and we’ll see if how much or, more likely, how little the Academy and I agree upon!

Nomadland Wins At The Satellite Awards


Here’s what won at the Satellite Awards on the 15th.  I apologize for being a bit late in posting this but the weather conspired to keep me from watching the Satellite Awards.

Actually, did anyone watch the Satellite Awards?  Does anyone even know who is even giving these things out?

Well, regardless, here’s what won in the film categories:

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

Mary Pickford Award: Tilda Swinton
Tesla Award: Dick Pope
Auteur Award: Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Best First Feature: Channing Godfrey Peoples – Miss Juneteenth
Stunt Performance Award: Gaëlle Cohen
Humanitarian Award: Mark Wahlberg
Ensemble Motion Picture: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Ensemble Television: The Good Lord Bird

Actress in a Motion Picture Drama
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Kate Winslet – Ammonite
Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead

Actor in a Motion Picture Drama 
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Steven Yeun – Minari
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gary Oldman – Mank

Actress in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical 
Meryl Streep – The Prom
Rashida Jones – On the Rocks
Margot Robbie – Birds of Prey
Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Anya Taylor-Joy – Emma

Actor in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Andy Samberg – Palm Springs
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Hamilton
Dev Patel – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Leslie Odom Jr. – Hamilton

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Olivia Colman – The Father
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Ellen Burstyn – Pieces of a Woman
Nicole Kidman – The Prom
Helena Zengel – News of the World

Actor in a Supporting Role
Brian Dennehy – Driveways
David Strathairn – Nomadland
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami
Bill Murray – On the Rocks

Motion Picture, Drama
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Father
Promising Young Woman
Minari
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Tenet
Sound of Metal
One Night in Miami
Miss Juneteenth

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical 
On the Rocks
Hamilton
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Palm Springs
The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Forty-Year-Old Version

Motion Picture, International
Another Round
Tove
A Sun
Two of Us
Jallikattu
I’m No Longer Here
Atlantis
My Little Sister
La Llorona

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Over the Moon
Soul
Wolfwalkers
Demon Slayer-Kimetsu No Yaiba-The Movie: Mugen Train
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
No. 7 Cherry Lane

Motion Picture, Documentary
Collective
Crip Camp
MLK / FBI
The Dissident
A Most Beautiful Thing
The Truffle Hunters
Acasa, My Home
Coup 53
Gunda
Circus of Books

Director
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
David Fincher – Mank
Darius Marder – Sound of Metal
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Florian Zeller – The Father

Screenplay, Original
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Jack Fincher – Mank
Pete Docter, Mike Jones & Kemp Powers – Soul
Andy Siara – Palm Springs
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Screenplay, Adapted
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller – The Father
Jessica Bruder & Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami
Edoardo Ponti – The Life Ahead
Luke Davies & Paul Greengrass – News of the World

Original Score
Ludwig Goransson – Tenet
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Mank
Alexandre Desplat – The Midnight Sky
James Newton Howard – News of the World
Emile Mosseri – Minari
Terence Blanchard – One Night in Miami

Original Song
“Io Si” – The Life Ahead
“Hear My Voice” – The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Rocket to the Moon” – Over the Moon
“Speak Now” – One Night in Miami
“Everybody Cries” – The Outpost
“The Other Side” – Trolls World Tour

Cinematography
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland
Mank 
News of the World
One Night in Miami
Tenet

Film Editing
Nomadland
The Father
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Mank
One Night in Miami
Minari

Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Sound of Metal
Tenet
Mank
The Prom
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland

Visual Effects
The Midnight Sky
Mank
Tenet    
Birds of Prey
Greyhound
Mulan

Art Direction and Production Design
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami
Mank
The Midnight Sky
The Prom
Mulan

Costume Design
Mulan
Emma
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami

Here Are the 2020 Satellite Nominations!


If the Golden Globes are the bastard children of the Oscars than the Satellites are the bastard children of the Golden Globes.  And if there’s anything that will always hold true, it’s that bastard children can eventually be accepted but bastard grandchildren are always going to struggle.  That’s my fancy way of saying that the Satellites have been around for 25 years and still, it doesn’t seem like anyone pays them much attention.  It’s also an excuse to use the word bastard 4 times in one paragraph.

Anyway, the Satellites announced their nominees earlier today.  Their film nominees can be found below!  If you want to see what they nominated in the television categories, check it out for yourself at their site!

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

Mary Pickford Award: Tilda Swinton
Tesla Award: Dick Pope
Auteur Award: Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Best First Feature: Channing Godfrey Peoples – Miss Juneteenth
Stunt Performance Award: Gaëlle Cohen
Humanitarian Award: Mark Wahlberg
Ensemble Motion Picture: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Ensemble Television: The Good Lord Bird

NOMINEES FOR MOTION PICTURE

Actress in a Motion Picture Drama
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Kate Winslet – Ammonite
Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead

Actor in a Motion Picture Drama
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Steven Yeun – Minari
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gary Oldman – Mank

Actress in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Meryl Streep – The Prom
Rashida Jones – On the Rocks
Margot Robbie – Birds of Prey
Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Anya Taylor-Joy – Emma

Actor in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Andy Samberg – Palm Springs
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Hamilton
Dev Patel – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Leslie Odom Jr. – Hamilton

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Olivia Colman – The Father
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Ellen Burstyn – Pieces of a Woman
Nicole Kidman – The Prom
Helena Zengel – News of the World

Actor in a Supporting Role
Brian Dennehy – Driveways
David Strathairn – Nomadland
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami
Bill Murray – On the Rocks

Motion Picture, Drama
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Father
Promising Young Woman
Minari
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Tenet
Sound of Metal
One Night in Miami
Miss Juneteenth

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
On the Rocks
Hamilton
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Palm Springs
The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Forty-Year-Old Version

Motion Picture, International
Another Round
Tove
A Sun
Two of Us
Jallikattu
I’m No Longer Here
Atlantis
My Little Sister
La Llorona

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Over the Moon
Soul
Wolfwalkers
Demon Slayer-Kimetsu No Yaiba-The Movie: Mugen Train
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
No. 7 Cherry Lane

Motion Picture, Documentary
Collective
Crip Camp
MLK / FBI
The Dissident
A Most Beautiful Thing
The Truffle Hunters
Acasa, My Home
Coup 53
Gunda
Circus of Books

Director
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
David Fincher – Mank
Darius Marder – Sound of Metal
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Florian Zeller – The Father

Screenplay, Original
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Jack Fincher – Mank
Pete Docter, Mike Jones & Kemp Powers – Soul
Andy Siara – Palm Springs
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Screenplay, Adapted
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller – The Father
Jessica Bruder & Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami
Edoardo Ponti – The Life Ahead
Luke Davies & Paul Greengrass – News of the World

Original Score
Ludwig Goransson – Tenet
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Mank
Alexandre Desplat – The Midnight Sky
James Newton Howard – News of the World
Emile Mosseri – Minari
Terence Blanchard – One Night in Miami

Original Song
“Io Si” – The Life Ahead
“Hear My Voice” – The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Rocket to the Moon” – Over the Moon
“Speak Now” – One Night in Miami
“Everybody Cries” – The Outpost
“The Other Side” – Trolls World Tour

Cinematography
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland
Mank
News of the World
One Night in Miami
Tenet

Film Editing
Nomadland
The Father
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Mank
One Night in Miami
Minari

Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Sound of Metal
Tenet
Mank
The Prom
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland

Visual Effects
The Midnight Sky
Mank
Tenet
Birds of Prey
Greyhound
Mulan

Art Direction and Production Design
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami
Mank
The Midnight Sky
The Prom
Mulan

Costume Design
Mulan
Emma
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami

Nomadland Wins In North Dakota


The North Dakota Film Society announced its picks for the best of 2020 earlier today.  All of the usual suspects won.  Nomadland took best picture.  Chloe Zhao took best director.  Frances McDormand picked up yet another best actress awards.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a complaint.  It’s just that, by this point, I’m so used to Nomadland, Zhao, and McDormand winning that I’m struggling to find a new way to announce their victories.

Nomadland is definitely the Oscar front runner right now.  To be honest, though, it’s sometimes better to be the underdog.  A lot of front runners have fallen to the side — The Social Network, La La Land, A Star is Born, Joker, 1917.  In other words — nothing has been determined yet and there’s still a whole month to go before we even know what’s been nominated for the Oscars.  In other words, don’t give up on Money Plane just yet!

Here are the winners from North Dakota:

Best Picture
FIRST COW (RUNNER UP)
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (RUNNER UP)
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
NOMADLAND (WINNER)
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Best Director
Emerald Fennell – PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
David Fincher – MANK (RUNNER UP)
Charlie Kaufman – I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
Kelly Reichardt – FIRST COW
Chloé Zhao – NOMADLAND (WINNER)

Best Actress
Viola Davis – MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Sophia Loren – THE LIFE AHEAD
Frances McDormand – NOMADLAND (WINNER)
Carey Mulligan – PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (RUNNER UP)
Kate Winslet – AMMONITE

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed – SOUND OF METAL (WINNER)
Chadwick Boseman – MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Delroy Lindo – DA 5 BLOODS (RUNNER UP)
Gary Oldman – MANK
Steven Yeun – MINARI

Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova – BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM (WINNER)
Ellen Burstyn – PIECES OF A WOMAN (RUNNER UP TIE)
Saoirse Ronan – AMMONITE
Amanda Seyfried – MANK (RUNNER UP TIE)
Yuh-Jung Youn – MINARI (RUNNER UP TIE)

Best Supporting Actor
Bo Burnham – PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Sacha Baron Cohen – THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (WINNER)
Orion Lee – FIRST COW (RUNNER UP)
Paul Raci – SOUND OF METAL
David Strathairn – NOMADLAND

Best Screenplay
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (RUNNER UP)
MANK
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (WINNER)
SOUND OF METAL

Best Production Design
EMMA.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
MANK (WINNER)
NEWS OF THE WORLD
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD (RUNNER UP)

Best Cinematography
EMMA.
FIRST COW
MANK (RUNNER UP)
NOMADLAND (WINNER)
TENET

Best Film Editing
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
MANK
NOMADLAND (WINNER)
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
TENET (RUNNER UP)

Best Original Score
AMMONITE
THE INVISIBLE MAN
MANK (WINNER)
SOUL (RUNNER UP)
TENET

Best Original Song
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM – ”Wuhan Flu” (WINNER)
MISS AMERICANA – ”Only the Young”
ON THE ROCKS – ”Identical”
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI – ”Speak Now”
OVER THE MOON – ”Rocket to the Moon” (RUNNER UP)

Best International Feature
AND THEN WE DANCED (WINNER)
ANOTHER ROUND
BEANPOLE (RUNNER UP TIE)
COLLECTIVE (RUNNER UP TIE)
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Best Documentary Feature
ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY (WINNER)
BOYS STATE
COLLECTIVE
DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD (RUNNER UP)
TIME
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS

Best Animated Feature
THE CROODS: A NEW AGE
ONWARD
OVER THE MOON
SOUL (WINNER)
WOLFWALKERS (RUNNER UP)

Here Are The 2020 Nominations of the North Dakota Film Society!


The North Dakota Film Society has announced their nominations for the best of 2020!  They’ll announce their winners a week from now, on January 15th.

I have to say that I kind of love the fact that we have so many different regional critics groups.  I mean, yes — it can be difficult to keep up with all of them once award seasons kicks into full gear.  (It’s been a little bit easier this year, with so many groups deciding to hold off on announcing their picks so that they can suck up to the Academy.)  But, seriously, why shouldn’t the film critics of North Dakota make their voice heard?  Why should we act like only New York, Los Angles, and the National Board of Review matter?  Personally, I like seeing how different regional groups react to different films.  For instance, the North Dakota Critics showed some love to Ammonite, a film that’s kind of fallen off the radar as far as the Oscar race is concerned.  They also gave a best picture nomination to I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a fascinating film that might be too strange for the Academy but which still deserves some recognition.  Regional groups are important because they remind us that Nomadland and Minari weren’t the only good films released in 2020.

My point is that — despite what Film Twitter might tell you — it’s good to have a lot of voices and opinions out there.  Anything that challenge group think is a good thing, I believe.

Here are the nominations from North Dakota:

Best Picture
FIRST COW
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
NOMADLAND
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Best Director
Emerald Fennell – PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
David Fincher – MANK
Charlie Kaufman – I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
Kelly Reichardt – FIRST COW
Chloé Zhao – NOMADLAND

Best Actress
Viola Davis – MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Sophia Loren – THE LIFE AHEAD
Frances McDormand – NOMADLAND
Carey Mulligan – PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Kate Winslet – AMMONITE

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed – SOUND OF METAL
Chadwick Boseman – MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Delroy Lindo – DA 5 BLOODS
Gary Oldman – MANK
Steven Yeun – MINARI

Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova – BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
Ellen Burstyn – PIECES OF A WOMAN
Saoirse Ronan – AMMONITE
Amanda Seyfried – MANK
Yuh-Jung Youn – MINARI

Best Supporting Actor
Bo Burnham – PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Sacha Baron Cohen – THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
Orion Lee – FIRST COW
Paul Raci – SOUND OF METAL
David Strathairn – NOMADLAND

Best Screenplay
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
MANK
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
SOUND OF METAL

Best Production Design
EMMA.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
MANK
NEWS OF THE WORLD
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

Best Cinematography
EMMA.
FIRST COW
MANK
NOMADLAND
TENET

Best Film Editing
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
MANK
NOMADLAND
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
TENET

Best Original Score
AMMONITE
THE INVISIBLE MAN
MANK
SOUL
TENET

Best Original Song
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM – ”Wuhan Flu”
MISS AMERICANA – ”Only the Young”
ON THE ROCKS – ”Identical”
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI – ”Speak Now”
OVER THE MOON – ”Rocket to the Moon”

Best International Feature
AND THEN WE DANCED
ANOTHER ROUND
BEANPOLE
COLLECTIVE
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Best Documentary Feature
ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
BOYS STATE
COLLECTIVE
DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD
TIME
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS

Best Animated Feature
THE CROODS: A NEW AGE
ONWARD
OVER THE MOON
SOUL
WOLFWALKERS

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Honor Nomadland


The Alliance of Women Film Journalists have announced that their pick for the best of 2020 is Nomadland.  Just as the AWFJ did with their nominations, they announced the winners in an exclusive for Variety.  Fear not, though — my picks for the best of 2020 will be released exclusively to this site.  Two can play at this game.

(I joke, of course.  Ever since Clayton Davis took over, Variety’s Oscar coverage has been wonderful and the AWFJ deserves a lot of credit for having categories that are a bit more interesting than the usual stuff.)

Anyway, here’s the winners!

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS

(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film

  • “Minari” (A24)
  • “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER

Best Actor

  • Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
  • Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress 

  • Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role 

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
  • Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
  • Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24) – WINNER

Best Screenplay, Original 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted

  • “First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film

  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix)
  • “Soul” (Pixar) – WINNER
  • “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing 

  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary 

  • “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Athlete A” (Netflix)
  • “Crip Camp” (Netflix)
  • “The Painter and the Thief” (Neon) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film

  • “Another Round” – Denmark – WINNER
  • “Beanpole” – Russia
  • “The Mole Agent” – Chile
  • “The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

  • “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin – WINNER (tie)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler – WINNER (tie)

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS

(These awards honor WOMEN only, excluding women who’ve won the category in the Best Of Awards.

Best Woman Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female 

  • “22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey – WINNER
  • “Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
  • “Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
  • Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry 

  • All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
  • All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” The Glorias” and others. – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
  • Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.

  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
  • Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award 

  • “The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
  • “Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
  • “Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
  • “Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years) – WINNER

She Deserves A New Agent Award 

  • Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
  • Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios) – WINNER

Most Daring Performance Award 

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ (Amazon Studios) – WINNER
  • Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award 

  • “The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
  • “Doolittle” (Universal Pictures) – WINNER
  • “Rebecca” (Netflix)

Here Are The 2020 Nominations of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists!


Earlier on Wednesday, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists announced their nominations for the best and the worst of 2020.  The nominations were announced in the pages of Variety and you can read more about them by clicking here.

Nomadland led with the most nominations which seems to be the way that the awards season is going to go.  Personally, when it comes to the AWFJ, I’m always more interested in the snarky nominations than in the serious ones.  For instance, the nominees for the She Deserves A New Agent award always leave me thinking.

The nominations are below.  The winners will be announced on January 4th.

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS
(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film
“Minari” (A24)
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)

Best Screenplay, Original
“Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted
“First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film
“Over the Moon” (Netflix)
“Soul” (Pixar)
“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography
“Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary
“All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios)
“Athlete A” (Netflix)
“Crip Camp” (Netflix)
“The Painter and the Thief” (Neon)
“Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film
“Another Round” – Denmark
“Beanpole” – Russia
“The Mole Agent” – Chile
“The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director
“Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS
(These awards honor WOMEN only)

Best Woman Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female
“22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey
“Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
“Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry
All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” “The Glorias” and others.
Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award
“The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
“The Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
“Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
“Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years)

She Deserves A New Agent Award
Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios)

Most Daring Performance Award
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award
“The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
“Dolittle” (Universal Pictures)
“Rebecca” (Netflix)

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award
Shia LeBoeuf for his ongoing abusive behavior
Christopher Nolan for insisting that “Tenet” be screened exclusively in theaters during a pandemic.
Dallas Sonnier and Adam Donaghey at Cinestate for sexual harassment, abuse and cover-up.

Film Review: The Fall of the Roman Empire (dir by Anthony Mann)


Why did the Roman Empire fall?

Well, historically, there were several reasons but they can all basically be boiled down to the fact that the Empire got too big to manage and that having two separate capitols certainly didn’t help matters.  The Empire got so large and overextended that the once fabled Roman army was no match for the barbarians.

Of course, if you’ve ever watched a movie about the Roman period, you know exactly why the Empire fell.  It all had to do with decadence, gladiators, human sacrifices, and crazed emperors with unfortunate names like Caligula and Commodus.  The Roman Empire fell because the imperial government descended into soap opera, complete with love triangles, betrayals, and whispered plotting inside the Senate.

Another thing that we’ve learned from the movies is that the fall of the Roman Empire was damn entertaining.  Between the orgies and the men wearing those weird helmets with the brushes on top of them, there’s nothing more fun that watching the Roman Empire fall.

Case in point: the 1964 film, The Fall of the Roman Empire.

This three and a half hour epic begins with the last of the good Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guiness), battling to keep the Germanic barbarians from invading the empire.  Marcus is a wise man and a great leader but he knows that his time is coming to an end and he needs to name a successor.  His daughter, Lucilla (Sophia Loren), is an intelligent and compassionate philosopher but, on the basis of her sex, is not eligible to succeed him.  His son, Commodus (Christopher Plummer), may be a great and charismatic warrior but he’s also immature and given to instability.  Marcus’s most trusted adviser, Timonides (James Mason), would never be accepted as a successor because of his Greek birth and background as a former slave.  (Add to that, Timonides is secretly a Christian.)

That leaves Livius (Stephen Boyd).  Livius is one of Marcus’s generals, a man who is not only renowned for his honesty and integrity but one who is also close to the royal family.  Not only is he a former lover of Lucilla’s but he’s also been a longtime friend to Commodus.  Unfortunately, before Marcus can officially name Livius as his heir, the emperor is poisoned.  Commodus is named emperor and things quickly go downhill.  Whereas Marcus ruled with wisdom and compassion, Commodus is a tyrant who crushes anyone who he views as being a potential threat.  Lucilla is married off to a distant king (Omar Sharif).  Timonides is declared an enemy after he suggests that the conquered Germans should be allowed to peacefully farm on Italian land.  Rebellion starts to ferment in every corner of the Empire and Livius finds himself trapped in the middle.  Which side will he join?

Despite all the drama, Commodus is not necessarily an unpopular emperor.  One of the more interesting things about The Fall of the Roman Empire is that Commodus’s popularity grows with his insanity.  The crueler that he is, the more the people seem to love him.  Soon, Commodus is fighting as a gladiator and having people burned at the stake.  While some Romans are horrified, many more love their emperor no matter what.  People love power, regardless of what it’s used for.  Perhaps that’s the main lesson and the main warning that the final centuries of the Roman Empire have to give us.

The Fall of the Roman Empire is surprisingly intimate historical epic.  While there’s all the grandeur that one would normally expect to see in a film about the Roman Empire, the film works best when it concentrates on the characters.  While Boyd and Loren do their best with their thinly drawn roles, the film is stolen by great character actors like Alec Guinness, James Mason, and Christopher Plummer.  Plummer, in particular, seems to be having a blast playing the flamboyantly evil yet undeniably charismatic Commodus.  Even with the Empire collapsing around then, both Plummer as an actor and Commodus as a character seems to be having a blast.  Add to that, there’s all of the usual battles and ancient decadence that you would expect to find in a film about the Roman Empire and the end result is a truly enjoyable epic.

As I watched The Fall of the Roman Empire, it was hard for me not to compare the film to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.  That’s because they’re both basically the same damn movie.  The main difference is that The Fall of the Roman Empire is far more entertaining.  The Fall of the Roman Empire, made in the days before CGI and featuring real people in the streets of Rome as opposed to animated cells, feels real in a way that Gladiator never does.  If Gladiator felt like a big-budget video game, The Fall of the Roman Empire feels like a trip in a time machine.  If I ever do go back to 180 A.D., I fully expect to discover James Mason giving a speech to the Roman Senate while Christopher Plummer struts his way through the gladiatorial arena.

Finally, to answer the question that started this review, why did the Roman Empire fall?

It was all Christopher Plummer’s fault, but at least he had a good time.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Quo Vadis (dir by Mervyn LeRoy)


The 1951 best picture nominee, Quo Vadis, is actually two movies in one.

The first movie is a rather stolid historical epic about life in ancient Rome.  The handsome but kind of dull Robert Taylor plays Marcus Vinincius, a Roman military officer who, after serving in Germany and Britain, returns to Rome and promptly falls in love with the virtuous Lygia (Deborah Kerr).  Complicating Marcus and Lygia’s relationship is the fact that Lygia is a devout Christian and a friend to Peter (Finlay Currie) and Paul (Abraham Sofaer).

Marcus’s uncle, meanwhile, is Petronius (Leo Genn), a government official who has a reputation for being a bon vivant.  In real-life, Petronius is believed to have been the author of the notoriously raunchy Satyricon.  You would never guess that from the way that Petronius is portrayed in Quo Vadis.  We’re continually told that Petronius is a notorious libertine but we don’t see much evidence of that, beyond the fact that he lives in a big palace and he has several slaves.  In fact, Petronius even falls in love with one of his slaves, Eunice (Marina Berti).

The second movie, which feels like it’s taking in a totally different cinematic universe from the adventures of Marcus and Lygia, deals with all of the intrigue in Nero’s court.  Nero (Peter Ustinov) is a giggling madman who dreams of rebuilding Rome in his image and who responds to almost every development by singing a terrible song about it.  Nero surrounds himself with sycophants who continually tell him that his every idea is brilliant but not even they can resist the temptation to roll their eyes whenever Nero grabs his lyre and starts to recite a terrible poem.  Nero is married to the beautiful but evil Poppaea (Patricia Laffan) and there’s nothing that they love more than going to the arena and watching people get eaten by lions.  It disturbs Nero when people sing before being eaten.  “They’re singing,” he says, his voice filled with shock an awe.

It’s difficult to describe just how different Ustinov’s performance is from everyone else’s in the film.  Whereas Taylor and even the usually dependable Deborah Kerr are stuck playing thin characters and often seem to be intimidated by playing such devout characters, Ustinov joyfully chews on every piece of scenery that he can get his hands on.  Nero may be the film’s villain but Ustinov gives a performance that feels more like it belongs in a silent comedy than a biblical epic.  Ustinov bulges his eyes.  He runs around the palace like he forgot to take his Adderall.  While Rome burns, Nero grins like a child who has finally figured out a way to outsmart his parents.  “You won’t give me more money?  I’ll just burn down the city!”

And the thing is — it all works.  The contrast between Ustinov and the rest of the characters should doom this film but, instead, it works brilliantly.  Whenever Ustinov’s performance gets to be too much, Robert Taylor and Leo Genn pop up and ground things.  Whenever things start to get too grounded, Ustinov throws everything back up in the air.  The conflict between the early Christians and the Roman Empire is perfectly epitomized in the contrast between Robert Taylor and Peter Ustinov.  It makes for a film that is entertaining almost despite itself.

Quo Vadis was nominated for best picture but lost to An American In Paris.

A Movie A Day #127: Brass Target (1978, directed by John Hough)


Everything’s a conspiracy!

At least, that is the claim made by Brass Target, a twisty and unnecessarily complicated thriller that argues that General George S. Patton (played here by George Kennedy, who is even more blustery than usual in the role) did not, as widely believed, die as the result of a car accident but was actually killed by an assassin using rubber bullets.  Why was Patton targeted for assassination?  Was he targeted by Nazis angered by Germany’s defeat or maybe Russians who knew that Patton had argued in favor of invading the Soviet Union towards the end of the war?  Would you believe it was all because Patton was investigating the theft of Nazi gold and his subordinates, the flamboyantly gay Colonel Donald Rogers (Robert Vaughn) and Rogers’s always worried lover, Colonel Walter Gilchrist (Edward Herrmann), were fearful that he was getting too close to discovering the truth?

John Cassevetes, who hopefully used part of his paycheck to fund either The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Opening Night, or Gloria, plays Joe De Lucca, the burned out OSS colonel who is assigned to track down the Nazi gold but who really just wants to go back home to New York.  Patrick McGoohan, sporting an accent that is supposed to be American, plays De Lucca’s former friend and colleague, Colonel Mike McCauley, who now lives in a German castle.  Max von Sydow is the assassin, who also has a day job as the chairman of a refugee relocation committee.  Sophia Loren plays Mara, a Polish war refugee who, by pure coincidence, has slept with not just De Lucca but almost everyone involved with the conspiracy.  Bruce Davison is the young colonel who acts as Du Lucca’s supervisor.  Even Charles “Lucky” Luciano (played by the very British Lee Montague) is featured as a minor part of the conspiracy.

That is an impressive cast for a less than impressive movie.  Brass Target never provides a convincing reason as to why the conspirators would decide that killing Patton was their only option and, once the conspiracy gets underway and the movie starts to follow around Von Sydow for some Day of the Jackal/Black Sunday-style preparation scenes, the search for the Nazi gold is forgotten.  For some reason, though, I have a soft spot for this frequently ridiculous movie.  There are enough weird moments and details, like Vaughn’s twitchy performance, McGoohan’s accent, the way Kennedy blusters about the Russians being rude to him, and glamorous Sophia Loren’s miscasting, that Brass Target is always watchable even if it is never exactly good.