Film Review: The Good Nurse (dir by Tobias Lindholm)


It’s suspected that Charles Cullen might be the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history.

He’s currently sitting in prison, serving 18 consecutive life sentences.  (For those keeping track, he’ll be eligible for parole in the 25th Century.)  In order to avoid getting the death penalty, Cullen confessed to killing 29 people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  It is thought that, between the years 1988 and 2003, he actually killed over 400 people.  What made Cullen’s crimes especially horrifying is that he was a nurse and his victims were his patients.  When Cullen first confessed, he tried to portray himself as being a mercy killer, someone who only murdered those who would have no quality of life.  Cullen also claimed that he had been traumatized the first time that he saw a team of doctors fail to resuscitate a patient so he would specifically give overdoses to terminal patients so that they could die both with dignity and without leaving him traumatized.  It was subsequently discovered that few of Cullen’s victims had been terminally ill and that many of them were actually only a day or two away from being discharged from the hospital when Cullen killed them.  Cullen later said that many of his murders were impulsive acts and he wasn’t sure why he had committed them.  In the end, no one can be sure what drove Cullen to commit his murders.

Even before he was arrested, Cullen had developed a bad reputation as a nurse who lost a lot of patients.  He moved from hospital to hospital and he seemed to generate suspicion wherever he went.  Cullen would leave the hospitals whenever it became apparent that anyone was investigating any of the deaths in which he had been involved.  The hospitals were usually happy to be rid of him.  Despite all of the suspicions about him, no one ever tried to stop Cullen from getting another job.  Why risk getting sued for having had Cullen on staff when you could just dump him off on another hospital?

The Good Nurse, which just dropped on Netflix this week, stars Eddie Redmayne as Charles Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren, the nurse who worked with Cullen at his final place of employment.  In the film, Amy is workaholic single mother who needs a heart transplant but who still finds time to show compassion to the patients in the ICU.  She is, as the title states, the good nurse.  When Charles Cullen shows up to work the night shift, she is happy for the help and she takes an immediate liking to the polite and seemingly hardworking Cullen.  Just like Amy, Cullen has two daughters and they bond over their struggles to be both good nurses and good parents.  Cullen tells Amy about how his former coworkers were always plotting against him.  Amy, somewhat naively, invites Cullen to come to her house to meet her daughters.  But when patients start to die, Amy soon suspects that Cullen is responsible.  When she ends up as a patient in the hospital and is faced with the horrifying prospect of Charles Cullen being her nurse, Amy goes to the police and offers to to help them build their case against her former friend.

The Good Nurse is a typical Netflix true crime movie, complete with the slightly washed-out look that almost all of these films seem to share.  The film does a good of capturing the isolation of an ICU ward at night.  With only a handful of nurses and patients on the floor, it’s easy to see how someone like Charles Cullen could have committed his crimes without being caught.  Indeed, some of the film’s most disturbing moments are when Cullen appears to literally emerge from the dark shadows of the ICU ward, like some sort of ghostly hunter seeking his prey.  At the same time, there’s a few moments where the movie feels more like an extra-long episode of Law & Order than a feature film.  Noah Emmerich and Nnamdi Asomugha play the two detectives who are assigned to investigate Cullen’s crimes and their scenes often feel as if they could have been lifted from a dozen other similar true crime films.

As Amy, Jessica Chastain is well-cast, though the role itself is somewhat underwritten.  The film is stolen by Eddie Redmayne, who plays Charles Cullen with an intensity that is frightening to behold at times.  As played by Redmayne, Cullen is creepy from the first time that we see him but, at the same time, Redmayne plays the role with just enough needy charm that the viewer can understand how he was able to fool so many people at so many hospitals.  Redmayne plays Cullen as man who is incapable of compassion but who has learned how to fake it.  It’s only towards the end of the film that Cullen allows his mask to slip and what we see underneath is terrifying.  Eddie Redmayne brings to life a truly evil man, someone who is all the more nightmarish because he really exists.

In the end, The Good Nurse suffers from the same problem as Netflix’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile.  It attempts to comprehend an evil that is beyond normal comprehension.  In the end, both films suggest that there’s no real way to understand what motivates a Ted Bundy or a Charles Cullen.  Instead, all one can do is remain vigilant and hope they’ll be stopped before they can cause any more pain. Cullen is in prison for life.  Bundy got the electric chair.  Both of them left behind many questions that will never be answered.

Here Are The Nominees of the 2020 Indiana Film Journalists Assosciation!


Bad Education

The Indiana Film Journalists Association (IJA) has announced their nominees for the best of 2020!  They’ll be announcing the winners on December 21st!

What I like about these nominations is that there’s a lot of them.  2020 may have been a difficult year for many but there were a lot of good films released and it does seem kind of silly (as it does every year) to limit things to some sort of arbitrary number.  Why only nominate 10 films when you could nominate 20 or 30?  Many of the nominees below will appear on my own personal best lists in January.

The other thing that I like about these nominees is that the include films like Bad Education and Mangrove.  There’s some debate as to whether or not these films should be considered Oscar eligible.  I feel that they should be so it’s nice to see that the folks in Indiana agree with me!

Here are the nominees:

BEST FILM
Da 5 Bloods
Another Round
The Assistant
Athlete A
Bad Education
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Dick Johnson is Dead
Emma.
The Father
First Cow
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
The Nest
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
Palm Springs
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Possessor
Promising Young Woman
Small Axe: Mangrove
Song Without a Name
Soul
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Twentieth Century
The Vast of Night

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Onward
Soul
Wolfwalkers

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
76 Days
Another Round
Bacurau
Beanpole
La Dosis
Song Without a Name

BEST DOCUMENTARY
76 Days
All In: The Fight for Democracy
Athlete A
Boys State
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Desert One
Dick Johnson is Dead
Disclosure
John Lewis: Good Trouble
The Last Out
Miss Americana
MLK/FBI
Time
Totally Under Control
Welcome to Chechnya

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Brandon Cronenberg – Possessor
Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers – Soul
Sean Durkin – The Nest
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Kitty Green – The Assistant
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round
James Montague and Craig W. Sanger – The Vast of Night
Matthew Rankin – The Twentieth Century
Andy Siara – Palm Springs
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Alice Wu – The Half of It

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller – The Father
Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Charlie Kaufman – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Mike Makowsky – Bad Education
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami
Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

BEST DIRECTOR
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Brandon Cronenberg – Possessor
Pete Docter – Soul
Sean Durkin – The Nest
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Kitty Green – The Assistant
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Kirsten Johnson – Dick Johnson is Dead
Charlie Kaufman – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Regina King – One Night in Miami
Spike Lee – Da 5 Bloods
Melina Léon – Song Without a Name
Steve McQueen – Small Axe: Mangrove
Matthew Rankin – The Twentieth Century
Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
George C. Wolfe – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Alice Wu – The Half of It
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

BEST ACTRESS
Haley Bennett – Swallow
Jessie Buckley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Carrie Coon – The Nest
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Sidney Flanigin – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Julia Garner – The Assistant
Han Ye-ri – Minari
Leah Lewis – The Half of It
Rachel McAdams – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Pamela Mendoza – Song Without a Name
Cristin Milioti – Palm Springs
Elisabeth Moss – The Invisible Man
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Aubrey Plaza – Black Bear
Margot Robbie – BIrds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Anya Taylor-Joy – Emma.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jane Adams – She Dies Tomorrow
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Toni Collette – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Olivia Colman – The Father
Olivia Cooke – Sound of Metal
Allison Janney – Bad Education
Margo Martindale – Blow the Man Down
Talia Ryder – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari

BEST ACTOR
Christopher Abbott – Possessor
Ben Affleck – The Way Back
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami
Paul Bettany – Uncle Frank
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Eli Goree – One Night in Miami
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Hugh Jackman – Bad Education
Jude Law – The Nest
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Mads Mikkelsen – Another Round
Jesse Plemons – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Eddie Redmayne – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Steven Yeun – Minari

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods
Bo Burnham – Promising Young Woman
Bill Burr – The King of Staten Island
Peter Capaldi – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Colman Domingo – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Aldis Hodge – One Night in Miami
Caleb Landry Jones – The Outpost
Alan Kim – Minari
Frank Langella – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Orion Lee – First Cow
Ewan McGregor – BIrds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Bill Murray – On the Rocks
Leslie Odom, Jr. – One Night in Miami
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
J.K. Simmons – Palm Springs
Dan Stevens – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
David Strathairn – Nomadland
David Thewlis – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

BEST VOCAL / MOTION CAPTURE PERFORMANCE
Sean Bean – Wolfwalkers
Tina Fey – Soul
Jamie Foxx – Soul
Oliver Platt – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Donald Ray Pollock – The Devil All the Time
Ben Schwartz – Sonic the Hedgehog

BEST ENSEMBLE ACTING
Da 5 Bloods
Another Round
The Devil All the Time
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
The King of Staten Island
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
One Night in Miami
The Personal History of David Copperfield
She Dies Tomorrow
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Uncle Frank

BEST MUSICAL SCORE
Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer – The Vast of Night
Terence Blanchard – One Night in Miami
Ludovico Einaudi – Nomadland
Ludwig Göransson – Tenet
Emile Mosseri – Minari
Richard Reed Parry – The Nest
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Soul
William Tyler – First Cow
Jay Wadley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Isobel Waller-Bridge and David Schweitzer – Emma.
Benjamin Wallfisch – The Invisible Man
Jim Williams – Possessor

BREAKOUT OF THE YEAR
Maria Bakalova (actress) – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Max Barbakow (director) – Palm Springs
Emerald Fennell (writer / director) – Promising Young Woman
Sidney Flanigin (actress) – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Alan Kim (actor) – Minari
Orion Lee (actor) – First Cow
Leah Lewis (actress) – The Half of It
Darius Marder (writer / director) – Sound of Metal
Andrew Patterson (director) – The Vast of Night
Tayarisha Poe (writer / director) – Selah and the Spades
Kemp Powers – co-writer / co-director for Soul and writer for One Night in Miami
Matthew Rankin (writer / director) – The Twentieth Century
Andy Siara (writer) – Palm Springs
Autumn de Wilde (director) – Emma.

HOOSIER AWARD
Athlete A
Eliza Hittman, writer / director of Never Rarely Sometimes Always and graduate of Indiana University

ORIGINAL VISION AWARD
After Midnight
Assassin 33 A.D.
Dick Johnson is Dead
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Possessor
Promising Young Woman
She Dies Tomorrow
The Twentieth Century
The Vast of Night
Vivarium

Mangrove

Here Are The 9 Semi-Finalists For The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar!


Awards season continues!  Over 200 films were submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and yesterday, the Academy announced the 9 semi-finalists.  Goodbye Mommy did not make the cut.  The Second Mother did not make the cut.  The Assassin did not make the cut, which is a shame because I caught the final five minutes of it when I went to see Suffragette yesterday and it looked pretty damn good.  A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Contemplating Existence did not make the cut, which sucks because I love that title.

Here’s what did make the cut:

Belgium, “The Brand New Testament,” Jaco Van Dormael, director;
Colombia, “Embrace of the Serpent,” Ciro Guerra, director;
Denmark, “A War,” Tobias Lindholm, director;
Finland, “The Fencer,” Klaus Härö, director;
France, “Mustang,” Deniz Gamze Ergüven, director;
Germany, “Labyrinth of Lies,” Giulio Ricciarelli, director;
Hungary, “Son of Saul,” László Nemes, director;
Ireland, “Viva,” Paddy Breathnach, director;
Jordan, “Theeb,” Naji Abu Nowar, director.

Best Foreign Language Film is notorious for being a difficult category to predict.  Right now, assuming it’s one of the five finalists, Son of Saul is considered to be the front runner.  Some people even thought it would receive a nomination for best picture of the year but so far, it hasn’t really been much of a factor in the precursor awards.