Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For November


Well, it’s that time again!  It’s time for me to update my predictions for what will be Oscar-nominated in January.

This is also the point of the year when, for better or worse, the Oscar race starts to get a bit clearer.  I guess it’s time for me to stop pretending that either It or Wonder Woman is going to be nominated for best picture.  *Sigh*  That said, there still might be a few surprises.

(At least, I hope there will be…)

Be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October!

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Get Out

Lady Bird

Logan

Phantom Thread

The Post

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director

Sean Baker for The Florida Project

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Steven Spielberg for The Post

Best Actor

Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Tom Hanks in The Post

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

Saorise Ronan in Lady Bird

Meryl Streep in The Post

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Mark Rylance in Dunkirk

Best Supporting Actress

Tiffany Hadish in Girl Trip

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Allison Janney in I, Tonya

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

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Belatedly, here are the trailers for Thor: Ragnarok and Ready Player One!


I know, I know.  These two trailers dropped in July and I’m late in sharing them.  Trust me, I feel totally guilty.

Anyway, it’s been a good year for comic books movies so far.  Will that trend continue with Thor: Ragnarok?  Traditionally, of all the MCU films, it’s the Thor movies that always have the toughest time with the critics.  I’ll just say that, to me, Jeff Goldblum was born to play an intergalactic villain.

Plus, Tom Hiddleston!  Everyone loves Tom Hiddleston!

Thor: Ragnarok is coming out later this year.  We won’t get to see Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One until 2018 but we can watch this teaser!

Hopefully, after slipping a bit with The BFG, Spielberg will return to quality filmmaking with Ready Player One.

(It’s interesting to note that Spielberg does — in theory — have a film coming out this year.  It’s called The Papers and it was hastily put together to serve as both a historical drama and a rebuke to the Trump administration’s criticism of the press.  The Papers is currently in post-production and there’s some confusion as to whether it will be ready for a 2017 release and Oscar run.  To be honest, Ready Player One sounds like it’ll be more fun than The Papers.)

A Big Screen, Some Popcorn, and JAWS (Universal 1975)


cracked rear viewer

Dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun…..

This past Wednesday night, I went out to New Bedford’s Zeiterion Theater to watch a screening of the summertime classic JAWS. The Z, as we locals call it, began life as a vaudeville palace in 1923, and five months later changed its name to The State and ran the latest silent movies. The State operated as a movie house until the late 70’s, with the historic building refurbished in 1982 and retro rebranded as the Zeiterion, hosting concerts, plays, dance, and other performing arts. The city (which now owns and operates the Z) recently purchased a state-of-the-art high-definition digital projector and, after an absence of almost a year,  movies are back in New Bedford! They kicked off a “summer series” of films with Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster scarefest, filmed not far from here (just a fast ferry ride away aboard the Sea Streak) on Martha’s Vineyard.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

And…

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A Movie A Day #160: Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (1973, directed by John Erman as “Bill Sampson”)


Sometimes, the story behind a movie is more interesting than the movie itself.

A young Steven Spielberg received a “story by” credit for Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies but, at one time, he was going to be credited with much more.  Spielberg wrote the treatment for Ace Eli and sold it to 20th Century Fox because he was hoping to make his directorial debut with the film.  However, shortly after selling the story, there was an executive shakeup at the studio.  Spielberg’s supporters were out and the men who replaced them gave the treatment to another screenwriter and director.  Spielberg was so angered by his treatment that it would be close to thirty years before he ever again worked with 20th Century Fox.  (In 2002, 20th Century Fox co-produced Minority Report with Dreamworks.)  Ace Eli ended up being directed by television veteran John Erman, who was so upset by the studio’s final edit of the film that he demanded to be credited under a pseudonym.

The plot of Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies is recognizably Spielbergian.  Ace Eli (Cliff Robertson, who was a pilot in real life and who, after he won his Oscar of Charly, was involved in several flying films) is a stunt pilot in the 1920s.  After his wife is killed in a crash, Eli and his 11 year-old son, Rodger (Eric Shea), set off on a barnstorming tour.  Going from small town to small town, Eli deals with his pain through nonstop womanaizer.  With Eli refusing to take any responsibility for his actions, Rodger is forced to grow up quickly.  It is a typical Spielberg coming of age story, combining a nostalgia for the past with a clear-eyed portrayal of irresponsible adulthood.

In fact, it is easy to imagine the approach the Spielberg would have taken if he had been allowed to direct his story.  Unfortunately, Spielberg did not get to direct the film and John Erman takes an impersonal approach to the material.  Whereas Spielberg would have captured the excitement of both flying and life on the road, Erman keeps the audience at a distance.  An underrated actor, Cliff Robertson is still miscast as the irresponsible Ace Eli.  The reason why Cliff Robertson was perfect for the role of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man is the same reason why he feels all wrong as Ace Eli.  He is just too upstanding a citizen to be as impulsive as Eli often is.  An actor like Warren Oates would have been perfect for the role.

Steven Spielberg directing Warren Oates in Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies?  That would have been something worth seeing!

Playing Catch-Up: The BFG (dir by Steven Spielberg)


the_bfg_poster

I heard so many negative things about Steven Spielberg’s latest film, The BFG, that I was really expecting it to be terrible.  When it came out this summer, a lot of critics seemed to take an almost perverse delight in talking about its flaws and some people actually seemed to be thrilled over the fact that it flopped at the box office.

And I have to admit that the commercials that I had seen didn’t really fill me with much desire to actually sit through the movie.  Mark Rylance looked vaguely grotesque as the giant.  Add to that, I spent several months convinced that BFG stood for “Big Fucking Giant.”  Once I was reminded that he was actually a Big Friendly Giant, I was kinda like, “But wouldn’t my way be more fun?”

But anyway, I finally watched The BFG last night and it’s actually not terrible.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not great.  In many ways, this movie is Spielberg at his most sentimental.  Imagine if every triumphant musical cue in Lincoln was stretched out for two hours and you might have an idea as to how he approaches The BFG.  At times, I had a hard time following the film’s storyline, largely because the pacing was totally off.  As a director, Spielberg never seems to be quite sure if he’s making a film exclusively for kids or if he’s trying to make a film that adults can appreciate with their children.  It’s a tonal mess.

And yet, for all those weaknesses, The BFG has enough sweet moments that it feels a little bit churlish to be too critical of it.  Spielberg’s heart seems to be in the right place, even if he is struggling to figure out how to express himself.  As I watched the film, I felt bad about being so dismissive of what I had seen of Rylance’s performance in the commercials leading up the actual film.  Rylance gives a heartfelt and warm performance, playing a giant who, because he is so nice, is bullied by even bigger giants.

As I said, I struggled to follow the film’s story.  I knew that BFG had been forced to abduct an orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) because she saw him and he couldn’t risk her accidentally revealing his existence to the rest of the world.  I also understood that BFG also had protect her from the other giants because the last child he befriended was eaten by those other giants.  But then there was all this stuff about dream time and eventually, Queen Elizabeth II showed up and declared war on the evil giants and I was just so confused.  For once, Spielberg’s skills as a story-teller fail him.  It’s hard to believe that they same director who did the simple and economical Duel also did The BFG.

To be honest, the folks at Pixar, with their trademark mix of sentiment and subversion, would have been the ideal team to take on The BFG.  Spielberg’s instincts are so resolutely mainstream that he doesn’t seem to understand how to best approach some of the story’s more “out there” elements.  But that said, The BFG isn’t terrible.  Mark Rylance does a really good job as the giant and, as you would expect from any Spielberg film, the film is undeniably visually impressive.

The BFG may not be great but it’s not awful.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #24: Duel (dir by Steven Spielberg)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

duel

On November 5th, I recorded the 1971 film Duel off of MeTV!

Duel tells the story of David Mann (played by Dennis Weaver).  The name is probably not a coincidence.  David is an “everyman,” if your idea of an everyman is a workaholic who is incapable of expressing his emotions.  David is driving through the California desert.  When he calls his wife (apparently, he left home in the morning without ever bothering to wake her), he tells her that he’s on a strict schedule and that he might lose an important sale if he’s delayed in any way.  You get the feeling, however, that David’s trip is less about business and more about a desire to get away from his life.  His conversation with his wife is strained and, when we watch him interact with a gas station attendant, we’re struck by how awkward David is.

Indeed, the only time that David seems to be really comfortable and relaxed is when he’s safely inside of his car.  When we first see him, he’s listening to a radio talk show and occasionally commenting on what he’s hearing.  David Mann has a better rapport with an unseen talk show host than he does with his own family.

Later, in the film, David is flagged down by a school bus that has stalled on the side of the road.  The bus driver asks David to give him a push.  For his part, David reacts with visible panic at the sight of several hyperactive children rushing towards his car. When they hop on his hood, David starts to frantically order them off.  It makes sense really.  The car is what he loves.

Of course, it’s not just bratty children that David has to deal with.  There’s also a gigantic truck traveling up and down the highway.  When David gets stuck behind the truck, he honks his horn.  He yells at the unseen driver.  He passes the truck at one point, just to have the truck promptly pass him so that it can continue to block him.  When the driver finally does motion for David to pass him, David changes lanes just to discover another car coming straight at him.

The truck’s driver, it turns out, wants to kill David.  Why does he want to kill David?  We’re never quite sure.  For that matter, we’re never quite sure what the truck is transporting, beyond the fact that it’s apparently flammable.  But the brilliance of Duel is that it doesn’t matter why the truck’s driver is trying to kill David. All that matters is that he’s determined to do so.

And David — the man who can’t even figure out how to have a conversation with his wife — must now try to figure out how to defeat a seemingly unstoppable predator…

Today, Duel is probably best known for being Steven Spielberg’s first film.  (It was a made-for-television production that got a theatrical release in Europe.)  Watching Duel (and Jaws, for that matter) it’s easy to imagine an alternative universe where, instead of becoming America’s best known creator of mainstream entertainment, Spielberg instead became one of America’s best horror director.  Duel is a suspense-filled thrill ride, one that’s scary because it remains rooted in reality.  Seriously, who hasn’t gotten nervous when they’ve found themselves sharing the road with a gigantic truck?

(If anything, I’d argue that Duel is scarier than Jaws.  I mean, I live in Dallas so it’s not like I have to worry about getting attacked by a shark.  On the other hand, I drive my car nearly every day.)

Dennis Weaver plays the archetype of what would become the typical Steven Spielberg protagonist and he does an excellent job in the role.  Weaver is on screen throughout the entire movie.  We see the entire story unfold through his eyes and Weaver gives a harrowing performance as a man who is slowly but steadily pushed to the verge of a breakdown by an enemy that he cannot even begin to comprehend.

If you haven’t seen Duel, you need to.

4 Shots From Horror History: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jaws, Carrie, The Omen


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we continue with the 70s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir by Tobe Hooper)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir by Tobe Hooper)

Jaws (1975, dir by Steven Spielberg)

Jaws (1975, dir by Steven Spielberg)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian DePalma)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian DePalma)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner)