Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for June


We’re nearly halfway through 2018 and it’s time for me to once again post my somewhat random Oscar predictions!

As usual, these predictions are a combination of instinct or wishful thinking.  Do I really think that Orson Welles’s final film will dominate the Oscars?  Well, why not?  It’d be a great story if it happened.  The same goes for Black Panther becoming the first comic book movie to receive a best picture nomination.  It’d be nice if it happened and, with most of the contenders still unseen, there’s no reason to arbitrarily dismiss the film’s chances.

Based on the reaction that it received at Cannes, I’ve added Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman to my list of predicted best picture nominees.

As always, take these predictions with a grain of salt.  Some of these films and performers will be nominated.  (First Man, for instance, seems like a lock.)  Many of them will not.  If nothing else, my monthly predictions always seem to be useful for a good laugh in retrospect.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!  The predictions that don’t come true are often even more fun than the predictions that do.

It should also be remembered that some of the films listed below don’t even set release dates yet.  Some of them might not even open this year.  There are other films — like Burden — that seems like they should be contenders but they’ve yet to get a distributor.  And then there’s Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which is scheduled to be released by Netflix in 2019 but it’s always possible that film could be moved up on the schedule.  If The Irishman does get a last-minute December release, chances are that the Oscar race will be dramatically altered.

Or maybe not.  Remember how Silence was a front runner all through 2016, just to end up with one nomination?  It’s hard to predict which films will have “that Barton Fink feeling.”

(Yes, I’m currently watching Barton Fink.  Thinking about the Oscars will enjoying a film from the Coen Brothers?  Life is good, as my twitter girl crush often puts it.)

Please be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, and May.

Best Picture

BlackKklansman

Black Panther

Boy Erased

First Man

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary, Queen of Scots

The Other Side of the Wind

A Star is Born

White Boy Rick

Widows

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for First Man

Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk

Spike Lee for BlackKklansman

Steve McQueen for Widows

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Willem DaFoe in At Eternity’s Gate

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Robert Redford in The Old Man & The Gun

Best Actress

Viola Davis in Widows

Felicity Jones in On The Basis of Sex

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Chloe Grace Moretz in The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Supporting Actor

Timothee Chalamet in Beautiful Boy

Russell Crowe in Boy Erased

Adam Driver in BlackKklansman

Sam Elliott in A Star is Born

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Best Supporting Actress

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Margot Robbie in Mary, Queen of Scots

Sissy Space in The Old Man & The Gun

Here’s What Won At Cannes 2018!


This year’s strangely low-key Cannes Film Festival has come to a close!  Here’s what won at Cannes this year:

In Competition

Palme d’Or: Shoplifters by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Grand Prix: BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee
Best Director: Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War
Best Screenplay:
Alice Rohrwacher for Happy as Lazzaro
Jafar Panahi for 3 Faces
Best Actress: Samal Yeslyamova for Ayka
Best Actor: Marcello Fonte for Dogman
Jury Prize: Capernaum by Nadine Labaki
Special Palme d’Or: Jean-Luc Godard

Un Certain Regard

Un Certain Regard Award: Border by Ali Abbasi
Un Certain Regard Jury Prize: The Dead and the Others by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora
Un Certain Regard Award for Best Director: Sergei Loznitsa for Donbass
Un Certain Regard Jury Award for Best Performance: Victor Polster for Girl
Un Certain Regard Award for Best Screenplay: Meryem Benm’Barek-Aloïsi for Sofia

Cinéfondation

First Prize: The Summer of the Electric Lion by Diego Céspedes
Second Prize:
Calendar by Igor Poplauhin
The Storms in Our Blood by Shen Di
Third Prize: Inanimate by Lucia Bulgheroni

The question that we ask every year is whether the Cannes Film Festival will have any effect on the Oscar race.  We especially ask that whenever an American film wins the Palme d’Or or an American or British performer takes home one of the acting prizes.  This year, BlacKkKlansman was the highest rewarded American film, though it didn’t pick up the Palme.  That said, even if it didn’t win the top prize, BlacKkKlansman did receive rapturous reviews, certainly enough justify it’s current status as a possible Oscar nominee.

So, in the end — who knows?

Here’s The Trailer For Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman!


Earlier today, Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman was screened at the Cannes Film Festival to enthusiastic reviews and a ten minute standing ovation.

Not coincidentally, the first trailer was released today as well.  And here it is:

Amazingly enough, this film is based on a true story.  In Colorado, an African-American cop named Ron Stallworth really did manage to not only infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan but also eventually became the head of the chapter.  In the film, Stallworth is played by John David Washington, son of Denzel.  His partner is played by Adam Driver, who seems to be destined to get an Oscar nomination at some point in the near future.  And David Duke is played by Topher Grace, who has certainly come a long way since That 70s Show.

BlacKkKlansman is due to be released in August of this year.  Both Awards Watch and Awards Circuit currently have it listed as a probable Oscar contender and, going by the initial reaction for Cannes, it very well may be.

 

Lisa Marie’s Too Early Oscar Predictions for May!


It’s time for me to post my monthly Oscar predictions!

As always, the usual caveats apply.  It’s way too early for me to try to make any predictions.  Most of the films listed below haven’t even been released (or screened) yet and it’s totally possible that a big contender might come out of nowhere in the fall.  That seems to happen almost every year.

So, take these predictions with a grain of salt.  These are my guesses.  Some of them are based on instinct.  Some of them are just there because I think it would be a really, really neat if that movie or performer was nominated.  However, I will say this: I do think that if a comic book movie is ever nominated for best picture, it will be Black Panther.

(I actually preferred Avengers: Infinity War to Black Panther — sorry, Ryan — but, much like Get Out, Black Panther has gone beyond being a movie.  It’s become a cultural signpost, in a way that Infinity War never will.)

The Cannes Film Festival is going on right now and one potential Oscar contender — Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman — is due to make its debut in the upcoming days.  Right now, I don’t have BlackkKlansman listed in my predictions, mostly because the Academy hasn’t exactly embraced Lee in the past.  But I will be interested to see how Cannes reacts to the film.

(Check out my predictions for January, February, March, and April!)

Best Picture

At Eternity’s Gate

Black Panther

Boy Erased

First Man

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary, Queen of Scots

The Other Side of the Wind

A Quiet Place

Widows

Wildfire

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for First Man

Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk

Steve McQueen for Widows

Josie Rourke for Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

Willem DaFoe in At Eternity’s Gate

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased

Robert Redford in Old Man and the Gun

Best Actress

Viola Davis in Widows

Felicity Jones in On The Basis of Sex

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Saoirse Ronan in Mary. Queen of Scots

Kristen Stewart in JT LeRoy

Best Supporting Actor

Russell Crowe in Boy Erased

Sam Elliott in A Star Is Born

Oscar Isaac in At Eternity’s Gate

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Forest Whitaker in Burden

Best Supporting Actress

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Margot Robie in Mary, Queen of Scots

Sissy Spacek in Old Man And The Gun

 

 

Film Review: 25th Hour (dir by Spike Lee)


(SPOILERS)

First released in 2003, 25th Hour is one of those films that gets better and better with each subsequent viewing.

Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) may have done some very bad things in the past but nearly everyone has benefited.  His childhood friends, a trader named Frank (Barry Pepper) and a teacher named Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), both get to live vicariously through their friend, even if neither one of them is quite willing to admit it.  Monty’s father (Brian Cox) is a retired fireman who now owns a bar that was largely purchased with the money that Monty made from dealing drugs.  Monty’s girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), is “living high” off of the profits of Monty’s drug deals.  For that matter, so is Monty.  Monty has a nice apartment, a loyal dog, and a supportive boss named Uncle Nikolai (Levan Uchaneishvili).

Of course, Monty understands that he’s in the business of destroying lives.  When Monty first met Naturelle, he had just completed a transaction with a well-dressed businessman.  Years later, when Monty is sitting on a bench with his dog, that same man approaches him and begs for more drugs.  The man’s no longer wearing a suit.  Now, he’s apparently homeless and so addicted that he takes it personally when Monty informs him that he’s no longer in the drug-selling business.

Why is Monty no longer selling?  Someone told on Monty.  When the DEA showed up at his apartment, it didn’t take long for them to find the packages that he had hidden in the cushions of the couch.  For all of his swagger and confidence, it would appear that Monty wasn’t quite as clever as he thought he was.  Monty was arrested and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison.

The majority of 25th Hour takes place during Monty’s final night of freedom, a night that he’s planning on spending it with Frank and Jacob, both of whom could have made the same mistakes that he did but, for whatever reason, they didn’t.  Needless to say, Monty’s got a lot on his mind.  For all of his attempts to hide it, Monty isn’t as tough as he pretends to be.  He knows that it’s not going to be easy for him to do seven years in confinement.  He’s terrified of getting raped in prison and he worries that he’s going to be locked in a holding cell with 200 other criminals.  Both he and his friends know that, even if he does survive, he’ll be a different man when he gets out.  Frank suggests that he and Monty could open a bar when Monty is released but they both know this is an empty promise.  Not only is Monty is scared of the future but he’s haunted by the past.  Is he getting what he deserves?  What if he had made different choices?  Will Nautrelle wait for him or, as some of his associates suggest, is she the one who betrayed him in the first place?

Over the course of the night, both Frank and Jacob are also forced to deal with their feelings towards Monty.  Frank is a Type A personality, the one who spends his day screaming into telephones and who eagerly looks forward to exploiting bad economic news for his own financial gain.  Frank says that Monty is getting what he deserves but, as the film progresses, it becomes obvious that Frank knows that he has more in common with Monty than he wants to admit.  Jacob, on the other hand, is a socially awkward teacher who is struggling to deal with a crush that he’s developed on one of his students (Anna Paquin).  If Frank fears that he’s more like Monty than he wants to admit, Jacob wishes he could be more like him.  At first, it’s hard to imagine that these three men could ever have been close friends but, as soon as you see them together, it all makes sense.

As directed by Spike Lee, one of American cinema’s greatest provocateurs, 25th Hour is more than just the story of one man’s last night of freedom.  Over the course of the film, Monty becomes a symbol of not just New York City but of America itself.  Driven by self-interest, Monty has spent his life ignoring the consequences of his actions and, now that he has no choice but to confront them, it’s too late.  During the film’s most famous scene, Monty stares in a mirror while his reflection rants against every single neighborhood and ethnic group in New York City.  The rant is such a powerful scene that it’s easy to miss the most important point.  Only at the end of the rant does Monty’s reflection admit that he’s as much to blame for his life as any of them.

Oh yes, the Rant.  The Rant is so famous that I was almost tempted to not mention it in this review, just because it doesn’t seem as if there’s much left to be said about it.  Even people who dislike the film seem to be in agreement that the Rant is one of the most powerful and incendiary moments in early 21st century cinema.  The Rant gives us a portrait of a divided and angry society in collapse and it’s a portrait that is probably even more relevant today than it was when the film was first released.  The Rant feels like such a classic Spike Lee moment that it’s surprising to discover that the Rant was included in the script even before Lee was attached to the film.

A few things about the Rant:

  1. The film deliberately leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not Monty is actually speaking.  We see the back of his head and his reflection but the movement of his head rarely seems to match the movement of his reflection.  Regardless of whether Monty is actually speaking or just imagining the rant, the scene does make clear that, even on his way to prison, Monty can only truly express himself while alone.  Of course, once he’s locked up, Monty’s not going to be alone for at least seven years.
  2. “Enron!”  I have to admit that, when I recently rewatched film, I laughed when Monty started ranting about Enron.  I can vaguely remember a time when everyone was obsessed with Enron and Halliburton and all that other stuff so I found it funny that I briefly had to struggle to recall just what exactly Enron was.  16 years from now, I wonder if people will watch old movies and TV shows and say, “Why are they all so obsessed with Russia?”

As well-done and brilliantly acted as it may be, the Rant has tended overshadow an even better moment.  It has been said that the key to a successful work of art is a good ending.  As a writer, I can tell you that endings are a hundred times more difficult than beginnings.  Fortunately, 25th Hour has an absolutely brilliant ending.

After having finally convincing Frank to beat him up (in an effort to make himself look tougher once he arrives in prison), Monty is being driven to the prison by his father.  As they leave New York City, Monty takes one final look at the city and it’s citizens enjoying freedom that he’ll never again have.  (This is such a New York City that you can’t help but feel that it’s adding insult to injury that Monty’s going to have to serve his time upstate.)  As he drives, Monty’s father begins to talk…

It’s all about decisions and consequences.  Monty made his decisions years ago.  Over the course of Monty’s last night of freedom, Frank, Jacob, Naturelle, and even Uncle Nikolai made their decisions.  And now, as he drives his son to prison, Monty’s father is forced to make a decision of his own.  There’s so much great acting to be found in 25th Hour but, during that final soliloquy, Brian Cox upstages all of them.  Brian Cox is one of those character actors who seems as if he’s been around forever.  He’s the type of dependable actor who, much like Monty’s father, is often taken for granted.  If nothing else, you have to be thankful for a film like 25th Hour because it gives everyone a chance to be reminded of just how brilliant an actor Brian Cox truly is.

(Here’s a random bit of a Brian Cox trivia.  While everyone knows that, in Manhunter, Brian Cox was the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter, he also played Winton Churchill the same year that Gary Oldman won an Oscar for playing the same role in Darkest Hour.)

25th Hour is not an easy film to watch.  At times, it’s one of the most depressing films ever made.  It’s tempting to say that, as bad as things ultimately turn out for him, you’re glad that Monty has his father and his friends but that’s really not true.  No matter how much his friends care about him or how much Naturelle and his father love him, Monty’s going to prison and his story is simply not going to have a happy ending.

And yet, 25th Hour is one of those films that you can’t look away from and, after you watch it, you simply can’t forget.  Every time I watch 25th Hour, I find new details to appreciate.  With each subsequent viewing, the pungent dialogue becomes even more multi-layered.  With each subsequent viewing, Monty becomes even more of an intriguing and tragic figure.  This is a film that makes you appreciate the brilliance of Edward Norton and mourn the fact that Barry Pepper rarely gets roles as good as his role here.  With each viewing, 25th Hour reminds you of what a great talent we lost when we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman.  It’s film that gets better with each viewing.

Assuming that Monty survived and managed to stay out of trouble, he should be out of prison by now.  Hopefully, wherever he is, he’s doing okay.

A Movie A Day #205: Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013, directed by Spike Lee)


Somewhere in New York, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson stands on a stage, wearing a white suit and talking about his life.

Or, I should say, he talks about parts of his life.  Mike Tyson’s one-man show, which shared the name of his then-just published autobiography, was both insightful and frustrating.  Tyson spends a good deal of time on some topics while skipping over others entirely.  When Tyson talks about his difficult childhood and the experience of literally being adopted by the legendary Cus D’Amato, it provides a rare glimpse into the background of the man who, at his peak, was one of the most fearsome champions in the history of boxing.  When Tyson talks about his fights, especially his battles with Mitch Green, he is as engaging and charismatic as I have ever seen him.  In fact, there are times when Tyson came across as being so likable that I had to remind myself that Tyson is also a convicted rapist who, after returning to the ring, won a series of fights against weak opponents and then bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear.  I was disappointed that Tyson did not devote any time to discussing his fight with Peter McNeeley.  If Tyson has devoted two seconds to every second of the McNeeley fight, that still would have just taken up 3 minutes of screentime.  That’s less time than Iron Mike spent talking about Brad Pitt fucking Robin Givens or doing his Don King impersonation.

I had mixed feelings about Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, largely because I have mixed feelings about Mike Tyson himself.  When it comes to ranking the heavyweight champions, Mike Tyson is definitely a contender for the top spot.  That Tyson was a great boxer cannot be denied and when he throws a few punches during Undisputed Truth, he still looks he could get in the ring and win.  (At least he does until he has to stop to catch his breath.)  Tyson may not be the most articulate speaker but occasionally, he shows some hints that he is smarter than he is given credit for.  He also tells some truly terrible jokes.  Tyson was a great boxer but as a stand-up comedian, he leaves something to be desired.  At the same time, Tyson is open about his emotional and mental difficulties and his history of violence.  Every time I started to like Tyson too much, he would say something that would snap me back to reality.  No sooner had he won my sympathy by talking about how much the death of Cus D’Amato affected him than Tyson lost it by verbally attacking the woman that he was convicted of raping.   By the end of his one man show, Tyson represents both everything good and everything bad about boxing.  Boxing saved Tyson from the streets but it also thrust him into a world that he was not emotionally mature enough to handle.  Tyson was barely 20 years old when he became champion and, with Cus D’Amato having died a year before, Tyson no longer had anyone looking out for his interests and protecting him from those who wanted to take advantage of him.  Toss Don King into the mix and both Tyson’s rise and eventual fall feel predestined.

Undisputed Truth ends with Tyson declaring that he has finally found peace.  I hope he has.

Music Video of the Day: Fight The Power by Public Enemy (1989, dir. Spike Lee)


I had to do this video eventually. It’s one of those that’s so infamous that I’m going to point you to the Wikipedia article. I have no intention of discussing the messy history of Public Enemy. I will also point you to the video the Rap Critic did on the song.

I’m posting this while it’s still relevant to mention that this was the theme song for Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (1989), which was the movie Barack and Michelle went to see on their first date.

As for the people who worked on the video, I honestly had no idea that Spike Lee directed music videos. According to mvdbase, he has done about 40 of them going back to White Lines by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five in 1983. Oh, and yes, Lee did direct Hip Hop Hooray by Naughty By Nature. I guess that’s where that urban legend came from that Obama was in that music video.

The video was shot by Ernest Dickerson. He seems to have only shot 4 music videos, but there is one that is noteworthy considering he did this one. He shot Born In The U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen. Dickerson went on to do a lot of work as both a cinematographer and a director, including episodes of The Walking Dead and the movie Juice (1992).

Hank Blumenthal was the script supervisor for this music video. I’m not sure if I’ve ever come across that credit before on a music video. He appears to have worked on about 10 music videos and has worked as a producer.

If you haven’t seen Do The Right Thing, then do so. If you haven’t heard this song or seen the video, then also do so.