The Things You Find On Netflix: The Last Thing He Wanted (dir by Dee Rees)


As I watched The Last Thing He Wanted on Netflix, it occurred to me that smoking cigarettes and slamming down phones is no substitute for a personality.

The Last Thing He Wanted stars Anne Hathaway as Elena McMahon and, over the course of the movie, she smokes a lot of cigarettes and slams down a lot of phones.  That’s because Elena is supposed to be a veteran D.C. journalist.  She works for The Atlantic Post, which is an awkward name for a newspaper.  (In the novel on which this film was based, Elena worked for The Washington Post but I assume that plot point was changed to avoid upsetting Jeff Bezos.  That’s the sort of thing that gets this film off to a bad start.)  Hathaway is never exactly believable as a hard-boiled journalist who is known for uncovering government scandals and reporting from war zones.  She is, however, believable as a talented but miscast actress who watched a lot of old journalism movies before showing up on the set of The Last Thing He Wanted.  The end result is a performance that feels like cosplay.

Anyway, the film itself is a mess.  It takes place in 1984 and starts out with Elena getting yanked off of her usual Central America beat and assigned to instead cover the presidential campaign.  This leads to a lot of scenes of Elena lighting cigarettes and slamming down phones while talking about how difficult it is to be a journalist when you’re working for a spineless organization like the Atlantic Post.

Elena is estranged from her father, a dissolute drunk named Dick.  Dick is played by Willem DaFoe, who deals with the fact that he really doesn’t have much of a character to play by chewing up every piece of scenery that he can get his hands on.  (At times, it seems like Willem DaFoe has been replaced by someone doing a poorly conceived Willem DaFoe impersonation.)  Dick is suffering from dementia and he keeps forgetting that his wife is dead.  Dick needs Elena to do something for him.  It turns out that Dick has set up a “huge deal.”  Elena assumes that it must be a drug deal but it turns out that Dick is actually a small-time arms dealer.  So now, Elena is transporting weaponry through Central America and — surprise! — it all links back to the very story that her editors at the Atlantic Post didn’t want her to cover in the first place.

Soon, Elena is flying all over the place and meeting a rogue’s gallery of anti-communist rebels and arms dealers.  In a different film, they would all be fascinating characters but, in this one, it just comes across as being more cosplay.  Ben Affleck shows up a few times, playing some sort of Washington D.C. fixer and he’s absolutely the worst actor to cast in a film like this because the film’s vaguely-defined liberalism brings out his worst instincts as a performer.  The character’s written to be an enigmatic rogue but Affleck appears to be incapable of playing him as being anything other than just a one-note Republican.  (Whenever Affleck is cast in a role like this, you can see him thinking, “How would Matt Damon play this scene?”)  Toby Jones also makes an appearance and you’re excited to see him until you realize that he’s just going to be recycling his Truman Capote imitation from Infamous to no great effect.  There’s a lot of good performers in The Last Thing He Wanted but they’re left stranded by a script that doesn’t seem to know why any of them are there.  It all leads to an absolutely terrible ending, one that proves that combining voice over narration with slow motion is not always the brilliant narrative technique that some directors believe it to be.

The Last Thing He Wanted was directed and co-written by Dee Rees and it has all of the flaws but none of the strengths of Rees’s previous Netflix film, MudboundMudbound was frequently ponderous and predictable but it was redeemed by some beautiful images and some unexpectedly nuanced performances.  The Last Thing He Wanted is ponderous without being much else.

Here Are The Independent Spirit Award Winners!


Adam Sandler may not even be an Oscar winner but he is now officially an Independent Spirit Award winner.  Last night, at the Spirits annual ceremony, he won Best Actor for Uncut Gems.  Willem DaFoe picked up the Best Supporting Male award for The Lighthouse, another film that was largely overlooked by the Academy.  Best Feature went to The Farewell, another movie that was totally snubbed by the Academy.

In other words, the Spirits were incredibly awesome and probably had better taste this year than the Oscars.  Here’s a full list of what won:

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

  • Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”
  • Shia LaBeouf, “Honey Boy”
  • Jonathan Majors, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
  • Willem Dafoe, “The Lighthouse” (WINNER)
  • Wendell Pierce, “Burning Cane”

BEST EDITING

  • Ronald Bronstein, Bennie Safdie, “Uncut Gems” (WINNERS)
  • Julie Beziau, “The Third Wife”
  • Tyler L. Cook, “Sword of Trust”
  • Louise Ford, “The Lighthouse”
  • Kirill Mikhanovsky, “Give Me Liberty”

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • “American Factory” (WINNER)
  • “Apollo 11”
  • “For Sama”
  • “Honeyland”
  • “Island of the Hungry Ghosts”

BONNIE AWARD

  • Kelly Reichardt (WINNER)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Todd Banhazl, “Hustlers”
  • Jarin Blaschke, “The Lighthouse” (WINNER)
  • Natasha Braier, “Honey Boy”
  • Chananun Chotrungroj, “The Third Wife”
  • Pawel Pogorzelski, “Midsommar”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

  • “Burning Cane”
  • “Colewell”
  • “Give Me Liberty” (WINNER)
  • “Premature”
  • “Wild Nights With Emily”

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

  • Andrew Patterson, Craig W. Sanger, “The Vast of Night”
  • Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy, “Blow the Man Down”
  • Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, “Greener Grass”
  • Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen, “Driveways”
  • Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol, “See You Yesterday” (WINNERS)

BEST FIRST FEATURE

  • “Booksmart” (WINNER)
  • “The Climb”
  • “Diane”
  • “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
  • “The Mustang”
  • “See You Yesterday”

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

  • “Invisible Life” (Brazil)
  • “Les Miserables” (France)
  • “Parasite” (Korea) (WINNER)
  • “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (France)
  • “Retablo” (Peru)
  • “The Souvenir” (United Kingdom)

BEST SCREENPLAY

  • Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story” (WINNER)
  • Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, “Uncut Gems”
  • Chinonye Chukwu, “Clemency”
  • Tarell Alvin McCraney, “High Flying Bird”
  • Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder, “To Dust”

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

  • Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”
  • Taylor Russell, “Waves”
  • Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell” (WINNER)
  • Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, “Give Me Liberty”
  • Octavia Spencer, “Luce”

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD: “Marriage Story”

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Robert Eggers, “The Lighthouse”
  • Alma Har’el, “Honey Boy”
  • Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, “Uncut Gems” (WINNER)
  • Julius Onah, “Luce”
  • Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers”

BEST MALE LEAD

  • Chris Galust, “Give Me Liberty”
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr, “Luce”
  • Robert Pattinson, “The Lighthouse”
  • Adam Sandler, “Uncut Gems” (WINNER)
  • Matthias Schoenaerts, “The Mustang”

BEST FEMALE LEAD

  • Karen Allen, “Colewell”
  • Hong Chau, “Driveways”
  • Elisabeth Moss, “Her Smell”
  • Mary Kay Place, “Diane”
  • Alfre Woodard, “Clemency”
  • Renee Zellweger, “Judy” (WINNER)

BEST FEATURE

  • “Clemency”
  • “The Farewell” (WINNER)
  • “A Hidden Life”
  • “Marriage Story”
  • “Uncut Gems”

Lisa’s Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for January


It’s a new year and that means that it’s once again time for me to do something spectacularly stupid.

Below, you’ll find a list of Oscar predictions.  However, this is not a list of what I think will be nominated on January 13th.  No, instead, these are my predictions for the upcoming year.  This the first installment of my monthly predictions for which 2020 films will be nominated next year at this time.

Just in case it’s not already obvious how foolish this is, consider the following: Last year, at this time, no one had heard of Parasite.  Maybe a handful of people knew that Noah Baumbach’s next film was going to be called Marriage Story.  There were vague rumors about 1917 and there were still serious doubts as to whether Scorsese would ever finish putting together The Irishman.  In short, trying to predict the Oscars 12 months out is impossible.

Needless to say, I haven’t seen a single one of these films listed below so I can’t tell you one way or the other whether or not they’re going to set the world on fire.  Instead, what is listed below is a combination of random guesses and my own gut feelings.  You’ll notice that there are a lot of big names listed, Spielberg, Anthony Hopkins, Ron Howard, and Glenn Close.  Yes, all of them could very well be Oscar contenders.  At the same time, they’re all also a known quantity.  They’ve all got a good track record with the Academy and, as of right now, that’s all that I have to go on.

You may also notice that I’ve listed several films that will, in just a few weeks, be playing at the Sundance Film Festival.  Again, it’s not that I know anything about these films that the rest of the world doesn’t.  Instead, it’s simply a case of I looked at the list of Sundance films, I read the plots, and a few times I said, “That sounds like it could potentially be a contender.”  After all, it seems like at least one nominee comes out of Sundance every year.  Why shouldn’t it happen again?

My point is that you shouldn’t take these predictions too seriously.  Some of the films and performers below may be nominated.  Some definitely will not be.  But, next year, we will at least be able to look back at this list and have a laugh!

So, without further ado, here are my Oscar predictions for January!

Best Picture

Dune

Hillbilly Elegy

The Many Saints of Newark

Minari

News of the World

Respect

Tenet

The Personal History of David Copperfield

The Trial of the Chicago 7

West Side Story

Best Director

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy

Christopher Nolan for Tenet

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper in Bernstein

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Lance Henriksen in Falling

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Michael Keaton in Worth

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy

Glenn Close in Four Good Days

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Elisabeth Moss in Shirley

Amy Ryan in Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Last Thing He Wanted

Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Mark Rylance in The Trial of the Chicago 7

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Tilda Swinton in The Personal Life of David Copperfield

Marisa Tomei in The King of Staten Island

Helena Zengel in News of the World

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For December


Well, here we go!

This is my last set of Oscar predictions for the year.  With the critics groups and some of the guilds having now announced their picks for the best of 2019, the Oscar picture is now a lot more clear.  Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Parasite, The Irishman, 1917, and Marriage Story all seem to be guaranteed to pick up a nomination.    

I am going to go out on a limb and predict that, despite being ignored at SAG and by the Golden Globes, Uncut Gems will get some nominations as well.  Right now, the film just seems to have momentum on its side.  Realistically, I’m not a 100% convinced that it’ll be nominated, not the way I am with some other films.  It’s divisive film and I’m sure that some people think that rewarding Adam Sandler will just lead to him using his newfound respect to get a theatrical release for the next Grown Ups sequel.  But I’m going to take a chance and go with it.

(Of course, Nightcrawler and Jake Gyllenhaal also had a lot of momentum a few years ago and ended up getting totally shut out of the Oscars.)

Below are my predictions for December.  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November!

Best Picture

1917

Bombshell

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Parasite

Uncut Gems

Best Director

Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Sam Mendes for 1917

The Safdie Brothers for Uncut Gems

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Adam Driver for Marriage Story

Taron Egerton for Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix for Joker

Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story

Luptia Nyong’o for Us

Saoirse Ronan for Little Women

Charlize Theron for Bombshell

Renee Zellweger for Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Al Pacino for The Irishman

Joe Pesci for The Irishman

Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Florence Pugh in Little Women

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 13th!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Oscar, in happier times

The Utah Film Critics Association honors Parasite and 1917!


On Sunday, the Utah Film Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2019 and it was another good showing for Parasite!  The film picked up awards for best picture, best screenplay, and best non-English language film.  Meanwhile, 1917 took awards for direction and cinematography while Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson took home the acting awards for Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: Endgame …. just kidding!  They both won for Marriage Story.

Here are the winners!

Best Picture: Parasite. Runner-up: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Best Achievement in Directing: Sam Mendes, 1917. Runner-up: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Best Lead Performance, Male: Adam Driver, Marriage Story. Runner-up: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker.

Best Lead Performance, Female: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story. Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, Us.

Best Supporting Performance, Female: Florence Pugh, Little Women. Runner-up: Rebecca Ferguson, Doctor Sleep.

Best Supporting Performance, Male: Joe Pesci, The Irishman. Runner-up: Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse.

Vice/Martin Award for Performance in a Science-Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film: Robert Downey, Jr., Avengers: Endgame. Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, Us.

Best Original Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite. Runner-up: Rian Johnson, Knives Out.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Greta Gerwig, Little Women. Runner-up: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit.

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, 1917. Runner-up: Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse.

Best Original Score: Matt Morton, Apollo 11. Runner-up: Dan Levy, I Lost My Body.

Best Film Editing: Todd Douglas Miller, Apollo 11. Runner-up: Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker and Dirk Westervelt, Ford v Ferrari.

Best Documentary Feature: Apollo 11. Runner-up: Hail Satan?

Best Animated Feature: I Lost My Body. Runners-up: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Toy Story 4.

Best Non-English Language Feature: Parasite. Runner-up: Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

 

The Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association Names 1917 As The Best of 2019!


Reunion Tower (picture by Erin Nicole)

Here are the winners in Dallas!

BEST PICTURE

Winner: 1917

Runners-up: MARRIAGE STORY (2); PARASITE (3); THE IRISHMAN (4); ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (5); JOJO RABBIT (6); LITTLE WOMEN (7); THE FAREWELL (8); THE TWO POPES (9); KNIVES OUT (10)

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER (2); Antonio Banderas, PAIN AND GLORY (3); Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Robert De Niro, THE IRISHMAN (5)

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Scarlett Johansson, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Renée Zellweger, JUDY (2); Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL (3); Saoirse Ronan, LITTLE WOMEN (4); Awkwafina, THE FAREWELL (5, tie); Lupita Nyong’o, US (5, tie)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runners-up: Willem Dafoe, THE LIGHTHOUSE (2); Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN (3); Al Pacino, THE IRISHMAN (4); Shia LaBeouf, HONEY BOY (5)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Margot Robbie, BOMBSHELL (2); Florence Pugh, LITTLE WOMEN (3); Jennifer Lopez, HUSTLERS (4); Annette Bening, THE REPORT (5)

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

Runners-up: Bong Joon-ho, PARASITE (2); Martin Scorsese, THE IRISHMAN (3); Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY (5)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE

Runners-up: PAIN AND GLORY (2); THE FAREWELL (3); LES MISÉRABLES (4); PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (5)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

Runners-up: ONE CHILD NATION (2); AMERICAN FACTORY (3); HONEYLAND (4); FOR SAMA (5)

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

Runner-up: I LOST MY BODY

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner: Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-up: Steven Zaillian, THE IRISHMAN

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917

Runner-up: Hong Kyung-pyo, PARASITE

BEST MUSICAL SCORE

Winner: Thomas Newman, 1917

Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, LITTLE WOMEN

RUSSELL SMITH AWARD (best low-budget or cutting-edge independent film)

Winner: THE LIGHTHOUSE

The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Name Once Upon A Time In Hollywood as the best of 2019!


Here’s a full list of winners from Oklahoma!

Best Picture: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Runner-up: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best First Feature: Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Runner-up: Olivia Wilde, Booksmart

Best Actor: Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Runner-up: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Runner-up: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Runner-up: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Runner-up: Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse

Best Ensemble: Knives Out
Runner-up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Body of Work: Adam Driver, The Report and Marriage Story
Runners-up: Scarlett Johansson, Avengers: Endgame and Marriage Story; Brad Pitt, Ad Astra and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Original Screenplay: Knives Out
Runner-up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Irishman
Runner-up: Jojo Rabbit

Best Cinematography: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Runner-up: 1917

Best Score: Uncut Gems
Runner-up: Joker

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 4
Runner-up: I Lost My Body

Best Documentary: American Factory
Runner-up: Apollo 11

Best Foreign Language Film: Parasite
Runner-up: The Farewell

Top 10 Films
1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
2. Knives Out
3. The Irishman
4. Parasite
5. Uncut Gems
6. Jojo Rabbit
7. Marriage Story
8. Little Women
9. Avengers: Endgame
10. Midsommar