Hawkeye finds Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) back in the spotlight when a vigilante similar to the Ronin appears in NYC. This leads him to Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld, Bumblebee), an archer who’s just as good as our Avenger. What she’s into, we don’t know, but it makes for an excellent team up. The show bridges the character we know with the 2005 comic counterpart (with some changes to tie things into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe). With a Christmas setting, part of me hoped that Shane Black had a hand in it some where. Not to worry, as Mad Men and Bridgerton writer/producer Jonathan Igla is the showrunner here.
Hawkeye also stars Brian d’Arcy James (Spotlight), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Zahn McClarnon (Doctor Sleep), Ava Russo (Avengers: Endgame), and Florence Pugh (Black Widow).
Hawkeye premieres on Disney Plus on November 24th.
The year is 1981 and Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, of course!) have just screwed up another exorcism. Only Ed hears as Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor) begs the demon that has possessed 8 year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard) to enter him instead. Unfortunately, Ed also has a heart attack and passes out before he can tell Lorraine what has happened.
The next month, a hollow-eyed Arne is walking down a road. He’s just murdered his sleazy landlord, stabbing the man 22 times. It seems like an open-and-shut case, except for the fact that Arne claims that he was possessed by a demon and that it was the demon who actually committed the crime. At first Arne’s lawyer is planning to go for an insanity plea but then Ed and Lorraine invite her to come have dinner with them and to see their favorite doll, Annabelle. The film immediately cuts to Arne’s visibly shaken lawyer announcing to the court that her client pleads “not guilty by reason of demonic possession.”
It’s a funny scene and I was a little bit surprised to see it because, in the past, TheConjuring films have always been distinguished by how seriously they took themselves. The first two films both unfolded in atmospheres of growing dread, following families that not only had to deal with societal evolution but also with angry spirits. The first two Conjuring films worked not only as horror films but also as period pieces, as stories about changing times. Though Ed and Lorraine were always the main investigators, the first two films devoted as much time to exploring the dynamics of the haunted families as it did to portraying the Warrens.
TheConjuring: TheDevilMadeMeDoIt (or, as we’ll call it in the interest of space, TheConjuring3) takes a different approach, which I imagine has much to do with Michael Chaves directing the film instead of James Wan. This time, Arne and the possessed family all remain ciphers. We never learn much about who they are or who they were before they met the Warrens. We don’t know what Arne was like before he became possessed and, as such, it’s hard to get emotionally invested in him once he does end up with a demon inside of him.
Instead, the film emphasizes Ed and Lorraine Warren and their work to uncover the occultist who was behind the original possession. Ed worries about Lorraine as she has psychic visions and wanders around yet another dirty basement. Lorraine worries that Ed is going to give himself another heart attack as he hobbles through the woods in search of an evil spirit. Lorraine proves her powers to a skeptical detective. Ed complains that he doesn’t want people treating his wife’s abilities like a carnival sideshow but he still allows himself a slight smile when she selects the correct murder weapon. Of course, at one point, SuspiciousMinds is heard on the radio and we briefly flashback to Patrick Wilson singing the song in TheConjuring2. Once again, the film argues that Ed and Lorraine’s romance, their endless love, makes them uniquely capable of battling the Devil.
The film has its moments, largely because Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are adorable as Ed and Lorraine. At the same time, though, there’s a definite “greatest hits” feel to the third Conjuring film. There’s little about the film that feels truly spontaneous or surprising and most of the scenes feel like reworkings of scenes that worked in the previous two films. As good as Farmiga and Wilson are in their roles (and as much as I appreciate the idea of a Catholic super hero film franchise), Ed and Lorraine work best when they’re relating to and helping other characters. TheConjuring3 often solely focuses on them and the end result often feels more like an Insidious sequel than a Conjuring film.
TheConjuring3 is enjoyable enough. It gets the job done, while never reaching the emotional heights of the first two films. It has enough jump scares to be a fun movie to watch on a rainy night but it’s not one that really sticks in your mind after it ends.
It’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to post my monthly predictions!
What has chanced since I last made my predictions in May? Though it was acclaimed by critics, the box office failure of InTheHeights has probably ended that film’s time as an Oscar contender. For all the musicals that are coming out this year, only Spielberg’s WestSideStory really seems like a good bet to emerge as a major contender. DearEvanHansen was pretty much eliminated from consideration as soon as its trailer dropped. Tick, Tick….Boom seems to be destined to be loved by theater kids while being dismissed by everyone else. I’d love to see Joe Wright and Peter Dinklage nominated but my instincts are telling me that Cyrano will probably not be a huge contender. In the end, WestSideStory seems like the most likely musical nominee.
I’ve been reading up on Jane Campion’s ThePoweroftheDog, which is set to premiere at Venice and then be released via Netflix. Based on a novel by Thomas Savage, this sounds like the type of film that could potentially be a strong contender, depending on what approach Campion takes the story. The main character of Phil Burbank is the type of bigger-than-life role that could lead to Oscar glory. (The closest recent equivalent to Phil would probably be Daniel Day-Lewis in ThereWillBeBlood.) Phil is a sharply intelligent but cruelly manipulative Montana rancher, the type who brags about castrating cattle while quoting Ovid and who goes out of his way to bully anyone who he considers to be effeminate. Of course, there’s a secret behind all of Phil’s cruelty and how the film handles that secret will have a lot to do with how strongly the film comes on during awards season. Phil is being played by Benedict Cumberbatch, which is …. interesting casting. (Personally, I probably would have begged Michael Fassbender to take the role.) Still, it seems like Phil could be the type of change-of-pace role that, should Cumberbatch’s casting pay off, could lead to Oscar glory.
Coming up in July, we’ve got Cannes and we’ll be getting our first look at contenders like Wes Anderson’s TheFrenchDispatch. Though Cannes is hardly a reliable precursor, the Oscar race should start to become a bit clearer as the festival start up and the contenders — many of which we’ve been waiting to see for over two years — will finally start to be released. Until then, take all predictions with a grain of salt!
If you’re curious to see how my thinking has developed, check out my predictions for March and April and May.
The Many Saints of Newark, which is finally going to be released on October 1st after being delayed by the pandemic, is a prequel to The Sopranos. It features Tony Soprano as a teenager, struggling to decide between entering the family business or going to college and — if The Test Dream episode is to be believed — maybe becoming a teacher or a coach. That’s a big decision for anyone to make. Of course, since The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel, we already know that’s going to happen. That’s kind of the problem with prequels. You can drag out the story for as long as you want but, eventually, you’re going to reach the point where everyone originally came in.
As you may have picked up on, I’m not totally sure that this film is really necessary. As I say this as someone who loves TheSopranos and who is planning on rewatchinng the entire series later in July. Thanks to the show’s use of flashbacks and the scenes of Tony talking to Dr. Melfi, it’s not as if we don’t already know about Tony’s childhood. I’m not sure that there’s a lot for the prequel to show us, beyond maybe clearing up who was actually responsible for the death of Dickie Moltisanti. If Tony ends up killing Dickie, it’ll cast his later treatment (and murder) of Christopher into an entirely new light.
Still, I’m definitely going to watch The Many Saints of Newark when it’s released on October 1st. Vera Farmiga as Livia Soprano seems like perfect casting and I’m also interested in seeing how Michael Gandolfini does at playing the young version of the character made famous by his father, the much-missed James Gandolfini. Apparently, Billy Magnussen will be playing the youngish version of Paulie Walnuts. In what world does Billy Magnussen grow up to be Tony Sirico? Ray Liotta also has a role in The Many Saints of Newark, which feels appropriate considering how much The Sopranos owed to the success of Goodfellas.
The trailer for The Many Saints of Newark was released today. And here it is:
It’s that time of the month again! It’s time for me to go out on a limb and attempt to predict what will be nominated for the Oscars. Of course, trying to do this early in the year is a fool’s errand. We all know that. That’s actually part of the fun.
As of right now, the list below is full of familiar names, a few films that were acclaimed at Sundance, and a few random guesses. A lot of the predicted nominees are films that were expected to be Oscar contenders last year but which were delayed due to the pandemic. (Looking at you, West Side Story.) Some of them are contenders that I personally would just like to see nominated, even though it probably won’t happen. (I’m not going to jinx anything by pointing out which nomination about which I’m specifically thinking. You’ll probably be able to guess for yourself.) Over the next few months, the Oscar picture will become a bit clearer. Many of the contenders listed below will be forgotten about. Meanwhile, new contenders will emerge. My point is, take it all with a grain of salt and don’t put down any money just yet.
Two big developments to keep in mind:
First off, the Academy is officially going back to having a set a number of nominees. Next year, ten films will be nominated for best picture. Not seven. Not nine. Ten. Personally, I’m thrilled by this development. Nothing irritated me more than when they used to announce those weird, seven-picture lineups. (As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like odd numbers.)
Secondly, the Academy is going back to the old eligibility dates. Yay! What that means is that only films that are released between March and the end of this year will be eligible to compete for the Oscars. More importantly, it means that the best film of 2021 will not be released in 2022.
Anyway, here are my predictions for this month! Don’t take them too seriously. If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April.
Well, now that the latest Oscar ceremony is out of the way, I guess it’s time to focus on predicting what will be nominated next year.
(Well, it’s not really time but if you’re an Oscar-obsessive like I am, you really have no choice. Oscar speculation is an addiction that’s easily shaken off.)
Below, you’ll find my predictions for April. As always, these should be taken with several grains of salt.
First off, I haven’t seen any of these films and some of them might not live up to expectations.
Secondly, I’m not even sure whether the Academy is going to go back to the old rules of using the end of December as their eligibility cut-off or if they’re going to continue with the extended release window that they used last year.
Third, the Oscar picture is never anywhere close clear until November or December rolls around. Right now, I can only predict what I know is going to be released between now and December 31st. Obviously some of the movies below might have their release date changed and several movies will be picked up from the various film festivals. In all probability, next year’s big Oscar winner isn’t even on anyone’s radar right now. (Let’s not forget that, up until February of this year, most people were still predicting that Da 5 Bloods would be a huge Oscar player.)
Also note, the Academy is finally going back to having a set number of best picture nominees so no more of this stupid 7 or 9 nominees nonsense. In theory, that’s good news for film like Dune, which will probably get a lot of technical nominations but which probably would have struggled to make the final best picture lineup under the former rules. Of course, the Academy is also about to institute their inclusion requirements so it will be interesting to see if any of the expected contenders are disqualified from competing for best picture.
If you want to follow how my thinking has developed, be sure to check out my predictions for March!
Warner Bros. has us prepped for the summer with another installment of The Conjuring! Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) takes over the directing duties from James Wan (who serves as a Producer here). This time around, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are investigating a case that puts them and an entire town in the spotlight. When a young man is arrested for a murder based on demonic possession, the Warrens are called in to find the truth. We’ll find out for sure when the film releases both in Cinemas and on HBO Max on June 4th.
The Oscar nominations for 2020-2021 were finally revealed earlier this month. They weren’t particularly surprising. To be honest, they were kind of boring. But, with those nominations now revealed and the Oscars sets to be awarded at the end of April, that means it’s time to start looking forward to next year!
Of course, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen next year. Most of the films that are scheduled to come out later in 2021 were originally scheduled to come out in 2020. (And they were made in 2018 and 2019, which means the first big releases of 2021 are already dated.) Right now, most of the probable nominees are films that I originally expected to be contenders last year, like Spielberg’s West Side Story and Dune. Needless to say, new contenders will emerge over the next few months. Quite frankly, I’m skeptical of West Side Story because it sounds like the type of project that will bring out all of Spielberg’s worst instincts as a filmmaker. But, until it’s released, it’ll be a contender because he’s Spielberg.
As of right now, we don’t even know what the eligibility window is going to be for the next set of Oscar contenders. Is the Academy going to go back to a December cut-off or are they going to continue to extend the eligibility window. Are we predicting the 2021 Oscars or are we predicting the 2021-2022 Oscars? Again, as of now, we just don’t know. Personally, I’m hoping they return to a December cut-off but I have a feeling that the Academy will disagree.
About the only thing we do know for sure, right now, is that the Academy is going to go back to a set number of nominees. 10 films will be nominated. No more of this maybe 7 or maybe 8 nominees. It’s about time.
Anyway, the list below is based on the assumption that the Academy’s going to go back to the old eligibility window, which means that only films released between the start of March and the end of December will be eligible for Oscar consideration.
It’s also based on the presumption that the Oscars can be predicted this far out. They can’t. But I enjoy making lists and I love the Oscars. Doing these predictions has become a part of my monthly ritual. You know how much I love a good ritual.
So, here are my potentially worthless predictions for what will be nominated next year!
I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I should even bother to continue my monthly Oscar predictions. With the current Coronavirus pandemic, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if there will even be an Oscar ceremony next year. Many completed films have been taken off the schedule so that they can be released at a time when people aren’t scared to leave their house. Meanwhile, production on several other films — some of them expected to be Oscar contenders — has been suspended. New films are continuing to premiere on the streaming services but the Academy has always insisted that films also play in a theater if they want to contend for an Oscar. That’s going to be difficult with the majority of the country’s theaters currently being closed.
Unlike a lot of people, I’m not necessarily apocalyptic or even that pessimistic in my outlook. I think that, one way or another, we will eventually be able to leave our homes again and that at least some of the movie theaters will reopen. So, I think that we will be able to have some sort of Oscar ceremony. For that reason, I’m going to make my predictions for March but, needless to say, take all of these with an even bigger grain of salt than usual.
If you’re curious to see what my Oscar thinking was in the months before the world went crazy, check out my predictions for January and February!
(I’ve tried to take the fact that the Coronavirus led to the suspension of many ongoing productions while making out my list below. As far as I know, filming wrapped on all of the films listed below before the outbreak.)
News of the World
On the Rocks
West Side Story
Isaac Lee Chung for Minari
Paul Greengrass for News of the World
Christopher Nolan for Tenet
Steven Spielberg for West Side Story
Florian Zeller for The Father
Tom Hanks in News of the World
Anthony Hopkins in The Father
Bill Murray in On the Rocks
Gary Oldman in Mank
Will Smith in King Richard
Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy
Clare Dunne in Herself
Jennifer Hudson in Respect
Frances McDormand in Nomadland
Kate Winslet in Ammonite
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Burke in Mank
Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
There’s a lot of film bloggers out there who have a natural aversion to anything that Jason Reitman is associated with.
And listen, I understand. The fact of the matter is that Jason Reitman probably does owe a lot of his success to the fact that people in the industry know and like his father. And it’s also true that Jason Reitman does tend to specializes in making films that you’re either going to love or you’re going to hate. His films mix drama and comedy and sentiment and snark and sometimes, his refusal to come down firmly on the side of either one can feel like a bit of a cop out. There’s a quirkiness to many of his films and sometimes, it can come across as being a bit cutesy. And I’ll even go as far as to agree with those who say that it’s been a while since Reitman’s made a really good film. The most common complaint I hear about Reitman is that his first four films (Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up In The Air, and Young Adult) were okay and then he let his good reviews go to his head. Of course, some people — okay, a lot of people — will tell you that, of those four films, Juno’s overrated.
I get all of that and I actually agree with some of those points. Reitman is a director who sometimes seems to have lost his way after his early successes. I think the closest that Reitman’s come to giving us a good film post-Young Adult was with Tully and even then, that felt more like a Diablo Cody film than a Jason Reitman film.
But, with all of that in mind, I still really like Jason Reitman’s early films and I think that he still has the potential to once again be an important and interesting filmmaker. Thank You For Smoking and Juno are better than many give them credit for being. Charlize Theron has never been better than she was in Young Adult. Finally, this morning, I rewatched 2009’s Up In The Air for the first time in a long time and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it holds up.
Up In The Air features George Clooney and Anna Kendrick. Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, an obsessive traveler who boats about living a life without commitment. Ryan works for a company that hires him out to fire people. If your boss is too much of a pussy to tell you that you’ve been terminated to your face, he hires Ryan to do it for him. Ryan specializes in trying to convince people that being fired is not a tragedy but an opportunity for a new beginning. Ryan also has a side gig as a motivational speaker. His speeches are largely about avoiding commitment and personal baggage.
Anna Kendrick plays Natalie Keener. Natalie works for the same company as Ryan but, at the age of 23 and just out of college, she’s a lot less confident when it comes to destroying people’s livelihoods. (“I’ve worked here for 17 years and I’m being fired by a 7th grader,” is one person’s response to being terminated by Natalie.) Natalie has come up with a new plan where all firings will be done via Skype. That way, the person doing the firing will never have to leave their office and won’t have to deal with the people they’ve fired one-on-one. Ryan says he considers this proposal to be inhumane but mostly, he’s just worried that he’ll lose his traveling privileges if Natalie’s plan is instituted.
Ryan and Natalie travel the country. Ryan teaches Natalie how to fire people and Natalie discovers that it’s not as easy to destroy someone’s life as she thought. Everywhere they go, they deal with people who are facing economic uncertainty. Ryan meets another frequent flyer, Alex (Vera Farmiga) and, after Alex reveals that she’s even less interested in commitment than Ryan, they begin an affair. Ryan starts to fall in love with Alex and even invited her to attend his sister’s wedding with him. However, Alex has a secret of her own.
One thing that I really like about Up in the Air is that Ryan and Natalie never end up sleeping together. I remember, when I first saw the movie, I was convinced that it was going to happen. After all, Ryan is handsome and charming and Natalie is attractive and, after her boyfriend dumps her, vulnerable. I was cringing at the knowledge that there would eventually be some contrived scene where Natalie and Ryan end up getting drunk and then end up waking up in bed together and the end result would be Natalie going from being a well-rounded, multi-dimensional character to just being a plot device in Ryan’s journey to becoming a better man. Well, there is a scene where Natalie and Ryan get drunk at the same time but it doesn’t lead to Natalie and Ryan becoming lovers and I respected Up in the Air for having enough respect for its characters to not do the convenient thing.
The other thing I liked about Up In The Air is that it’s one of the few films to make proper use of George Clooney’s deceptively smooth screen presence. We all know that Clooney is handsome and charming but what makes him an appealing actor is that there’s always been hints that there’s a lot dorkiness and insecurity hiding underneath the suave facade. Ryan may seem like he’s got it all together but, as the film progresses, you come to realize that he’s a lot more insecure and neurotic than he lets on. All of his snarky comments have more to do with his own fear of failure than anything else. Much as how the real life Clooney still sometimes seems as if he hasn’t fully gotten over being dismissed as just being another pretty face in the early days of his career, Ryan has never gotten over his dysfunctional childhood. Instead of taking a risk on love, he instead obsesses on getting frequent flyer miles. (At one point, Sam Elliott pops up out of nowhere and, in a scene that you could really only expect to find in a Jason Reitman film, gives Ryan a pep talk.) There’s a sadness to Ryan, one that seems to come from deep inside of his soul. Clooney does an excellent job of bringing that sadness to the surface while still giving a likable and compelling performance.
Up In The Air was released at a time when America was stuck in what seemed like a never-ending recession. Despite the fact that the news media and the politicians were insisting that things were on the verge of getting better (or, at the very least, boasting that unemployed actors were no longer “job-locked,” whatever the Hell that meant), many people believed that their best days were officially behind them. A lot of the contemporary reviews of the film focused on what it had to say about living in a time of economic uncertainty. That was ten years ago and we’re now living in a strong economy but, even so, Up In The Air still resonates. Reitman includes scenes in which people talk about what it was like to be fired. The majority of these people were not actors but were instead people recruited from the local unemployment office and they were speaking about their own experiences. The pain and resentment on their faces and in their voices is so palpable that it’s actually a bit jarring when J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifianakis show up, playing employees who are “terminated” by Ryan. I guess I should admit that I’ve never actually been fired from a job but, after watching Up In The Air, it’s not something that I would ever want to experience.
Up In The Air holds up well. Reitman’s direction is quirky but effective and he does a good job of mixing comedy in with the drama. (Wisely, whenever he has to make a choice, he emphasizes the drama over the comedy, instead of trying to maintain some sort of mythical 50/50 balance between them.) This film features one of George Clooney’s best performances and he has a really likable chemistry with Vera Farmiga. Anna Kendrick also does a great job with a character who could have become a stereotype in less skilled hands. Finally, along with Juno and The Gift, this film is one of the reasons why I always have a hard time watching Jason Bateman in any film or show where he’s cast as hero. Bateman plays Ryan’s boss and the character is so smarmy (and Bateman does such a good job of playing him) that he’ll make your skin crawl.
It’s been a while since Up In The Air was first released and Jason Reitman’s career has had its ups and downs. Still, regardless of whatever film Reitman makes next, Up In The Air remains a classic of the aughts.