The African-American Film Critics Association Honors Us


The African American Film Critics Association has selected Jordan Peele’s Us as the best film of the year!

Here’s a full list of their winners:

Best Film: “Us” (Universal Pictures)

Best Director: Jordan Peele (“Us,” Universal Pictures)

Best Actor: Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name,” Netflix)

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (“Us,” Universal Pictures)

Best Supporting Actor: Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy,” Warner Bros. Pictures)

Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“Dolemite Is My Name,” Netflix)

Best Breakout Performance: Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (“Waves,” A24)

Best Animated Film: “Abominable” (Universal Pictures)

Best Documentary: “The Black Godfather” (Netflix)

Best Foreign Film: “Parasite” (Neon)

Best Independent Film: “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (A24)

Best Screenplay (Presented with The Black List): Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite” (Neon)

Impact Award: “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)

We See You Award: Taylor Russell (“Waves,” A24)

The AAFCA 2019 Top Ten Films

1. “Us” (Universal Pictures)

2. “Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix)

3. “Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

4. “Clemency” (Neon)

5. “The Irishman” (Netflix)

6. “Queen & Slim” (Universal Pictures)

7. “Waves” (A24)

8. TIE “Parasite” (Neon) and “Atlantics” (Netflix)

9. The Farewell (A24)

10. “Harriet” (Focus Features)

Here Are The Nominations Of The Seattle Film Critics Society!


The winners will be revealed on December 16th!

BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR

1917 (Universal Pictures)
The Farewell (A24)
Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
The Irishman (Netflix)
The Lighthouse (A24)
Little Women (Sony Pictures)
Marriage Story (Netflix)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Sony Pictures)
Parasite (NEON)
Uncut Gems (A24)

BEST DIRECTOR

Robert Eggers – The Lighthouse
Greta Gerwig – Little Women
Bong Joon-ho – Parasite
Josh & Benny Safdie – Uncut Gems
Martin Scorsese – The Irishman

BEST ACTOR in a LEADING ROLE

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Robert De Niro –The Irishman
Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

BEST ACTRESS in a LEADING ROLE

Awkwafina – The Farewell
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
Renée Zellweger – Judy

BEST ACTOR in a SUPPORTING ROLE

Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse
Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Song Kang-ho – Parasite
Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

BEST ACTRESS in a SUPPORTING ROLE

Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
Florence Pugh – Little Women
Taylor Russell – Waves
Zhao Shuzhen – The Farewell

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

The Irishman
Knives Out
Little Women
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite

BEST ACTION CHOREOGRAPHY

1917
Avengers: Endgame
Ford v Ferrari
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Shadow

BEST SCREENPLAY

The Farewell – Lulu Wang
The Irishman – Steven Zaillian
Knives Out – Rian Johnson
Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach
Parasite – Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won (screenplay); Bong Joon-ho (story)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Frozen II – Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee, directors
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Dean DeBlois, director
I Lost My Body – Jérémy Clapin, director
Missing Link – Chris Butler, director
Toy Story 4 – Josh Cooley, director

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Farewell – Lulu Wang, director
Monos – Alejandro Landes, director
Pain and Glory – Pedro Almodóvar, director
Parasite – Bong Joon-ho, director
Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Céline Sciamma, director

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

American Factory – Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, directors Apollo 11 – Todd Douglas Miller, director
For Sama – Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts, directors
Fyre – Chris Smith, director
Honeyland – Ljubomir Stefanov & Tamara Kotevska, directors

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1917 – Roger Deakins
The Lighthouse – Jarin Blaschke
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Robert Richardson
Parasite – Hong Kyung-pyo
Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Claire Mathon

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Dolemite is My Name – Ruth E. Carter
Downton Abbey – Anna Mary Scott Robbins
Little Women – Jacqueline Durran
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Arianne Phillips
Rocketman – Julian Day

BEST FILM EDITING

1917 – Lee Smith
The Irishman – Thelma Schoonmaker
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Fred Raskin
Parasite – Yang Jin-mo
Uncut Gems – Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1917 – Thomas Newman
Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir
The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Emile Mosseri
Uncut Gems – Daniel Lopatin
Us – Michael Abels

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

1917 – Dennis Gassner (Production Designer); Lee Sandales (Set Decorator)
The Irishman – Bob Shaw (Production Designer); Regina Graves (Set Decorator)
Little Women – Jess Gonchor (Production Designer); Claire Kaufman (Set Decorator)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – Barbara Ling (Production Designer); Nancy Haigh (Set Decorator)
Parasite – Lee Ha-jun (Production Designer)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

1917 – Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler, Dominic Tuohy
Ad Astra – Allen Maris, Jedediah Smith, Guillaume Rocheron, Scott R. Fisher
Alita: Battle Angel – Nick Epstein, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon
Avengers: Endgame – Dan DeLeeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl, Dan Sudick
The Irishman – Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Stephane Grabli, Nelson Sepulveda

BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCE (18 years of age or younger upon start of filming)

Julia Butters – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Kyliegh Curran – Doctor Sleep
Roman Griffith Davis – Jojo Rabbit
Noah Jupe – Honey Boy

Thomasin McKenzie – Jojo Rabbit

VILLAIN OF THE YEAR

Arthur Fleck/The Joker – Joker – portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix
Red – Us – portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o
The Red Dress – In Fabric – portrayed by a red dress
Rose the Hat – Doctor Sleep – portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson

Russell Bufalino – The Irishman – portrayed by Joe Pesci

Here Are The Hollywood Critics Association’s Nominations For The Best of 2019


The Hollywood Critics Association was, up until a few days ago, known as the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society.  Perhaps realizing that HCA just plans looks better than LAOFCS, they announced yesterday that they were changing their name.

They also announced their nominees for the best of films and performances of 2019!  While the HCA may not be one of the major precursors of awards season, their nominations do give a fairly good picture of which films and performances are currently being touted as possible Oscar nominees.

And here they are:

BEST PICTURE

  • “1917”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Joker”
  • “Jojo Rabbit”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Marriage Story”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves

BEST ACTOR

  • Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
  • Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”

BEST ACTRESS

  • Awkwafina, “The Farewell”
  • “Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
  • Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
  • Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
  • Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
  • Shia LaBeouf, “Honey Boy”
  • Sterling K. Brown, “Waves”
  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
  • Margot Robbie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”

BEST MALE DIRECTOR

  • Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
  • Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST FEMALE DIRECTOR

  • Alma Har’el, “Honey Boy”
  • Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Olivia Wilde, “Booksmart”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won, “Parasite”
  • Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, & Katie Silberman, “Booksmart”
  • Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”
  • Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”
  • Scott Silver and Todd Phillips, “Joker”
  • Steven Zailian, “The Irishman”
  • Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit”

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR OR ACTRESS 23 AND UNDER

  • Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart”
  • Julia Butters, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”
  • Roman Griffin Davis, “Jojo Rabbit”
  • Thomasin McKenzie, “Jojo Rabbit”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

  • Jessie Buckley, “Wild Rose”
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr., “Waves”
  • Paul Walter Hauser, “Richard Jewell”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zack Gottsagen, “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

BEST CAST

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “The Irishman”
  • “Knives Out”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Waves”

BEST FIRST FEATURE

  • “Brittany Runs a Marathon”
  • “Booksmart”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “The Peanut Butter Falcon”
  • “Queen & Slim”

BEST INDEPENDENT FILM

  • “Booksmart”
  • “The Farewell”
  • “Honey Boy”
  • “Luce”
  • “Waves”

BEST ACTION/WAR FILM

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • “Abominable”
  • “Frozen II”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
  • “Missing Link”
  • “Toy Story 4”

BEST BLOCKBUSTER

  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • “Shazam!”
  • “Spider-Man: Far from Home”

BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL

  • “Booksmart”
  • “Blinded by the Light”
  • Dolemite Is My Name”
  • “Long Shot”
  • “Rocketman”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “American Factory”
  • “Apollo 11”
  • “Hail Satan?”
  • “The Kingmaker”
  • “Love, Antosha”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • “The Farewell”
  • “Monos”
  • “Pain & Glory”
  • “Parasite”
  • “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

BEST HORROR FILM

  • “Crawl”
  • “Doctor Sleep”
  • “Midsommar”
  • “Ready or Not”
  • “Us”

BEST ANIMATED OR VFX PERFORMANCE

  • Josh Brolin, “Avengers: Endgame”
  • Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”
  • Rosa Salazar, “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • Ryan Reynolds, “Detective Pikachu”
  • Tom Hanks, “Toy Story 4”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Drew Daniel, “Waves”
  • Jarin Blaschke, “The Lighthouse”
  • Lawrence Sher, “Joker”
  • Robert Richardson, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Roger Deakins, “1917”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Arianne Phillips, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Julian Day, “Rocketman”
  • Jacqueline Durran, “Little Women”
  • Ruth E. Carter, “Dolemite Is My Name”
  • Mark Bridges, “Joker”

BEST EDITING

  • Fred Raskin, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
  • Lee Smith, “1917”
  • Michael McCusker, “Ford v Ferrari”
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, ‘The Irishman”
  • Yang Jin-mo, “Parasite”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP

  • “Bombshell”
  • “Joker”
  • “Judy”
  • “Rocketman”
  • “The Irishman”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Catchy Song” from “The Lego Movie: The Second Part”
  • “Glasgow” from “Wild Rose”
  • “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”
  • “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II”
  • “Speechless” from “Aladdin”

BEST SCORE

  • Alexandre Desplat, “Little Women”
  • Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Joker”
  • Michael Abels, “Us”
  • Thomas Newman, “1917”
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Waves”

BEST STUNT WORK

  • “1917”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Captain Marvel”
  • “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”
  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • “1917”
  • “Ad Astra”
  • “Avengers: Endgame”
  • “Alita: Battle Angel”
  • “The Irishman”

The winners will announced in December!

Here Are The 2019 Independent Spirit Award Nominees!


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

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

Here are the nominees!

Best Supporting Female

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

Best Screenplay

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

Best First Screenplay

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

Best Cinematography

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

Best Editing

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

Best International Film

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

Best Documentary (Award given to the director and producer)

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

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

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

Best Female Lead

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

Best Male Lead 

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

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

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

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

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

Best Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horror Film Review: Escape Room (dir by Adam Robitel)


Does everyone here remember Escape Room?

Though it may be hard to believe now, Escape Room was actually the first surprise hit of 2019.  When the film was first released on January 4th, nobody expected much from it.  January, of course, is when the year’s worst movies are usually released.  The studios figure that they can get rid of their disasters while everyone’s busy trying to predict the Oscar nominees and usually, the studios are correct.  The ad campaign for Escape Room made it look like just another slasher movie, the mainstream reviewers were, as they tend to be with January horror movies, unimpressed and I don’t think anyone expected the film to make a dent in the box office.

And yet, in the end, Escape Room did pretty well for itself at the box office.  Not only did it open stronger than expected but it remained fairly strong (at least by the standards set by previous January horror films) during its second week of release.  The film managed to hold its own opposite Aquaman, which had pretty much drowned every other competitor.  A sequel was quickly greenlit.

What drew people to Escape Room?  I think it was the title.  For a while, people were genuinely obsessed with the idea of escape rooms.  For those who have a life outside of the internet, an escape room is a game in which a group of people are locked in a room and have to figure out how to get the door unlocked.  This usually involves searching the room, gathering clues, and figuring out a password or something similar.  Personally, I’ve never done the whole escape room thing and, being that I’m rather claustrophobic, I doubt that I ever will.  Add to that, I absolutely suck at solving puzzles so I imagine that I would be trapped in that room for a long time!  However, there are other people who absolutely love escape rooms and I imagine that every single one of them went to see this movie.

Escape Room is about a group of people who all receive a mysterious imitation, inviting them to an escape room and promising $10,000 to whomever wins.  Among those involved, there’s Zoey (Taylor Russell), who is a college student.  She’s studying physics so we automatically know that she’s going to be our hero.  Ben (Logan Miller) is a stockboy and is just bland enough to be a potential romantic interest for Zoey.  Mike (Tyler Labine) drives a truck.  Jason (Jay Ellis) is rich and, therefore, evil.  Danny (Nik Dodani) is the geeky escape room expert.  And Amanda (special guest Deborah Ann Woll) is the Iraq war veteran.  They’re a group of smart people but it apparently didn’t occur to anyone to just stay home for the weekend.  I mean, $10,000 is not that much.

Anyway, it turns out that the escape room isn’t just one room.  Instead, it’s several rooms and each room requires the group to solve a different puzzle.  Each room is also designed to potentially kill.  One heats up like an oven.  Another features a frozen pond, specifically designed to allow a player to fall through the ice.  Another room looks like an operating room from Hell.  My favorite room was the upside down pool hall with the floor/ceiling that started to break up as soon as the group entered.  That was fun.

Of course, it turns out that everyone playing the game has a secret in their past and each room has been designed to force them to confront those secrets.  Eventually, it’s revealed who is behind all of this and it’s not a shock at all.  In fact, Escape Room‘s final scenes are probably the film’s worst because the movie doesn’t really have a conclusion.  Instead, the filmmakers might as have just slapped a big “To Be Continued” across the screen.

Oh well!  Flaws and predictability aside, Escape Room is actually kind of fun.  The characters are all pretty much disposable but the actors all do their best with the material that they’ve been given.  Of course, the film’s main attraction is the chance to see all the various rooms and discovering how they’ve been booby trapped.  Fortunately, each room is fascinating in its own individual way and the puzzles are genuinely challenging.  (I would have totally died if I was in this movie.)

Escape Room is a decent enough way to spend 100 minutes.

Back to School #80: The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story (dir by Jason Lapeyre)


saved-by-the-bell

Well, it’s here!  This is my 80th and final Back to School review!  As I’ve mentioned before, I originally thought I’d be able to do all of these reviews in just one week.  Instead, it’s taken me five weeks but you know what?  I’ve had fun doing these reviews and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading them.  It’s been interesting to see how teen films have progressed and changed over the decades.  We started this series with 1946’s I Accuse My Parents and now, we end it with a film from 2014 that might as well be called I Accuse Screech.

Technically, it’s called The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story but that’s kind of an unwieldy name, isn’t it?  I can’t really see myself typing that title over and over again.  So, for the purposes of this review, this movie is called I Accuse Screech.

First off, some background.  When I was a kid, I used to watch Saved By The Bell: The New Class.  What’s weird is that, when I look back at it, I think even then I knew that the show wasn’t very good.  I knew that the jokes were frequently not funny.  I knew that the story lines were predictable.  I think I was even aware that it was strange how frequently actors were either dropped from or added to the cast.  Don’t get me wrong.  The show was (and still is) oddly watchable but it was never any good and I am pretty sure I knew that.  Then again, maybe that’s just way I want to remember it.  Being a fan of Saved By The Bell: The New Class isn’t exactly something that you brag about.  However, one thing that I can be sure of is that, even when I was young, I knew that Screech Powers sucked.

As played by Dustin Diamond, Screech was the principal’s assistant at Bayside High.  He was also probably the most annoying character ever to be unleashed onto the psyches of impressionable children and tweens.  Screech spoke in a high, squeaky voice and could usually be relied upon to do something incredibly stupid.  Whenever he fucked things up (and he managed to do this several times in each episode), he would say something like, “Zoinks!”  Everybody hated Screech.

Now, I have to admit that I never actually saw an episode of the classic original Saved By The Bell until after the New Class was already off the air.  And that’s when I discovered the adventures of Zack Morris, A.C. Slater, Kelly Kapowski, Jessie Spano, and … Screech.  That’s right, you can’t escape Screech!

And here’s the thing — the original Saved By The Bell is one of those shows that really is kind of terrible and yet you can’t stop watching.  It’s addictively bad, the type of show that you watch with a combination of shock, horror, and amusement.   The original Saved By The Bell is the television equivalent of The Room or Troll 2.  It’s terrible but it’s fun.

So, you would think that a made-for-tv movie about what went on behind-the-scenes of Saved By The Bell would also be terrible yet fun.  That’s certainly the way that it was advertised by Lifetime.  Lifetime appeared to be hoping that their version of the story behind Saved By The Bell would give them a Sharknado of their very own.

And hey, it should have been great.  There’s an interesting story there.  How would a bunch of teens handle suddenly becoming famous?  How would they handle the pressure of being famous while also appearing on a show so bad that it would essentially run the risk of ruining their lives, not to mention their careers?  How would they handle having to grow up both on TV and in real life?

Those are the questions that we expected to have answered by this movie but instead…

Well, let’s just say that I Accuse Screech!

In 2009, Dustin Diamond published a “memoir” called Behind The Bell and oh my God, it is literally the worst fucking book ever written.  Words escape me to describe just how terrible this book is.  Essentially, the book is full of Diamond either complaining that his co-stars didn’t like him or bragging about the fact that he used to have sex with 12 year-olds at Disneyland.  Diamond accuses his castmates of smoking weed.  (Wow, teenagers smoking weed.  MY GOD, THE SCANDAL!)  Diamoned accuses his castmates of having sex.  (OH MY GOD, TEENAGERS HAVING SEX!)  In other words, the book is pretty much Dustin Diamond complaining about the fact that everyone but him was having fun on the set of Saved By The Bell.

So, of course, if you’re going to make a movie about Saved By The Bell, where would you go for your source material?  Well, you can’t go to any of the stars because, with the exception of Dustin Diamond, they all have successful careers outside of Saved By The Bell.  And you can’t go to Dennis Haskins because, seriously, who cares what Mr. Belding thought?

Lifetime decided to use Behind the Bell as their source material.  Unfortunately, Diamond himself has admitted that the book was a pack of lies.  As a result, most of the more salacious (and therefore entertaining) material could not actually be used in the movie.  The Lifetime film is full of hints of bad behavior but no direct evidence.  At one point, we see the actor playing Mario Lopez flirting with an extra in a deserted classroom.  In another scene, the girls get snarky with each other because they all like Mark-Paul Gosselaar.  But, beyond those hints, we don’t get to see any of the book’s more sordid accusations.  Instead, all we get are a lot of scenes of the actor playing Dustin Diamond looking annoyed with his castmates.

(Because, literally, the only verifiable, non-slanderous thing to be found in the book is that apparently Dustin Diamond was whiny, bitter, and jealous…)

As a result, the film seems to be suggesting that Saved By The Bell was put together and performed by the most boring people on Earth.  The end result is not only the worst film to have appeared on Lifetime but perhaps one of the worst films of all time.

Why is it so bad?

I accuse Screech!

(Incidentally, if you want to learn more about Saved By The Bell, I suggest checking out the best Saved By The Bell review site around, The Summer of Morris!)

And, on that note of failure, we conclude this series of 80 Back to School reviews!  Thank you, everyone, for your indulgence and your patience!  I hope everyone enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

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