The 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards

The Film Independent Spirit Awards are given out the day before the Oscars and they celebrate the Best of independent cinema. Aubrey Plaza hosted this year and brought a wild comic energy to the event. The awards show opened with a gory Suspiria-esque opening that featured cameos from Christina Ricci, Roseanna Arquette, Sharon Stone, Marissa Tomei, and Marcia Gay Harden who melted her Oscar down to make a golden dagger.  Brian Tyree Henry also appeared because he's apparently in all the funniest awards season moments this year.  Check it out below if you dare.  

Plaza began her opening monologue by saying, "I can not believe they let me do that."  She also referred to the nominees as "the movies too important to see."  She went on to say, "The first choice to host was noone but they're already booked for tomorrow," taking a shot at the hostless Oscars.  She also noted 60% of the directing nominees were women.   

Richard E. Grant won Best Supporting Male for Can You Ever Forgive Me?  He gave a touching and gracious speech about how the film was an homage to the genration of men wiped out by AIDS, including Chariots of Fire actor Ian Charleson who inspired his performance.  

Even though he didn't win, it was nice to see Josh Hamilton nominated for Eighth Grade.

Alex Moratto won ths Someone to Watch Award for his film Socrates 

Bo Burnham won Best First Screenplay for Eighth Grade.  He thanked Elsie Fisher and he thanked the film community for embracing him.  

The John Cassavetes Award went to En el Séptimo Dia (On the Seventh Day). This award goes to films that are made for less than $500,000. In her acceptance speech, producer Lindsey Cordero described the movie as a community film that included the participation of churches, soccer teams, and business owners.  She spoke about "the immigrant community that deserves to see their stories and their struggles and the beauty of their life on the big screen more and more." 

Kiki Lane introduced If Beale Street Could Talk.  She quotied a letter James Baldwin wrote to his nephew:  "If we had not loved each other, none of us would have survived.  And now you must survive because we love you."  

The Bonnie Award is named after Bonnie Tiburzi, the first woman to pilot a plane for American Airlines.  She was the first female pilot for a commercial airline.  This year's recipient of the Bonnie award was Debra Granik, the director of Winter's Bone and Leave No Trace. 

Roma won Best International Film. 

Minding the Gap won th Truer Than Fiction award.  The documentary follows twelve years in the lives of a group of skateboarders.  It was also nominated for an Oscar.  It is available to watch on Hulu. 

Joe Bini won Best Editing for You Were Never Really Here, a dark thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix.  

Carrie Mulligan introduced the Best First Feature award saying, "Part of what makes the Spirit Awards so powerful is that This show doesn't jump on bandwagons.  It starts them."  She then referred to Spike Lee, Patty Jenkins, and Ryan Coogler as examples.  This year, Boots Riley was added to that list for his debut film Sorry To Bother You.  Riley gave a powerful speech about how diversity happening in film is because of movements happening out in the streets.  He said now is the time to make films about things we used to think we had to edit out (like how his film is about class struggle in the office place). 

The Robert Altman Award went to the cast of Suspiria.  They spoke about the film being a metaphor for female power.  

Drag queen Shangela performed a humorous medley about the Best Feature nominees.  

Won't You Be My Neighbor? won Best Documentary.  Director Morgan Neville had previously won for 20 Feet from Stardom 

Regina King won Best Suporting Female for If Beale Street Could Talk.  It was her first nomination and win.  

Can You Ever Forgive Me? won Best Screenplay.  

Suspiria won Best Cinematography.  

Barry Jenkins won Best Director. He referenced Regina King's Golden Globes speech and thanked all the women who made Beale Street what it was.  Shrihari Sathe won the Producers Award. 

Ethan Hawke won Best Male Lead for First Reformed.  Co-star Amanda Seyfried accepted on his behalf.  

Glenn Close won Best Female Lead for The Wife.  She brought her adorable dog Pippi up on stage with her.  It was her first win.

 If Beale Street Could Talk won Best Feature.  The same team won for Moonlight.  Barry Jenkins took a risk and wrote the screenplay before he knew if James Baldwin's estate would grant him the rights to the novel.

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I’ve watched the Spirit Awards for years and Aubrey Plaza is probably my favorite host ever. She even mocked the segues to the commercials by doing outrageous voiceovers. The only way they might top it is if Brian Tyree Henry and Melissa McCarthy host next year. Aside from the host, it was nice to see a lot of love spread around to different films. This was the panacea that was not to be at the Oscars: Glen Close won, a black man took home Best Director, and the best picture was an empowering film about the black experience.

To stay informed of the latest awards bait for next year’s award shows, subscribe to the newsletter and follow the Etched in Gold Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EtchedinGold/). I’ll be dropping a post soon with a preview of the major Oscar buzz-worthy films of 2019 and 2020. You won’t want to miss it.








The 91st Annual Academy Awards

It's hard not to love Willem Dafoe.  He was one of the most humble celebrities interviewed on the red carpet before the Oscars.  One interviewer commented that Dafoe always shows up with a smile and when asked about it had said that his secret was that he loves being an actor.  Of the night ahead, Dafoe said in a zen manner, "I'm going to enjoy what there is to enjoy."  

What was there to enjoy at this year's ceremony?  Plenty.  The night began with Queen and frontman Adam Lambert performing "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions."  Watching celebs of all types including Glenn Close rock out was entertaining.  Perhaps the Oscars need more rock 'n roll.  (Granted, I still miss my Billy Crystal opening medley of Best Picture titles.)  

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph delivered an opening monologue.  (Is it too early to ask them to host next year's ceremony?)  They also presented Best Supporting Actress to Regina King.  King gave a gracious speech acknowledging James Baldwin, Barry Jenkins, and her mother.  She said, "I'm an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone.

Free Solo won Best Documentary Feature beating the popular RBG.  It was the first nomination and win for husband-and-wife directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.  In her acceptance speech, Vasarhelyi said, "This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible "

The Best Makeup and Hairstyling category started in 1981.  This year, the award went to Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia Dehaney-Le May for Vice.  

Melissa McCarthy and Bryan Tyree Henry presented the award for Best Costume Design. McCarthy came out in a queen's robe with plush bunnies on every square inch of it, a parody of the queen's pets in The Favourite.  Meanwhile, Tyree Henry, ever the good sport, wore an outrageous dress and opera mask.  The two then proceeded to to discuss the importance of subtle dress that does not distract in costume design.  When McCarthy went to open the envelope, she had some trouble as one of her hands was a bunny hand puppet, but she refused to let Tyree Henry help her.  

Black Panther won its first award of the night for Costume Design.  Ruth Carter thanked Spike Lee for giving her her start.  "Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design we turned him into an African king," she said.  "Thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead on screen."  She is the first African-American to win in this category.  

Black Panther also won Best Production Design.  Hannah Beachler gave a powerful speech.  Beachler was the first African-American to ever be nominated in this category.  

Alfonso Cuaron won Best Cinematography.   I had really hoped the more accesible, romantic Cold War would take this one.  

Emilia Clarke who played Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex introduced the song "I'll Fight" from RBG sung by Jennifer Hudson.  She said that Khaleesi had nothing on Ruth and made an offer to the Supreme Court justice. "If you'd ever like to borrow the dragons..."


Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Sound Editing, its first win of the night, depriving A Quiet Place of its lone shot at an Oscar.  It was the first nomination and win for John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone.  

Bohemian Rhapsody also took Best Sound Mixing, dashing my hopes that First Man might get one of the sound Oscars.  It was the first nomination and win for Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, and John Casali.


Roma won Best Foreign Film.  It is the ninth film from Mexico to be nominated and the first to win.


Keegan-Michael Key floated down from the ceiling with an umbrella which he tossed into the aisle when it wouldn't close.  He introducrd Bette Midler singing "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from Marry Poppins Returns. 


Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Editing which meant it had an official sweep so far.  It had not lost a single category it had been nominated in so far.  And winning Best Editing put it in line to win Best Picture.  


Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor.  Yes, I was disappointed Sam Elliott didn't win.  As one anonymous voter said to Entertainment Weekly, Ali's performance in Green Book isn't greater than what he did in Moonlight.  It was Ali's second win.  He always gives a good speech.  This time, he dedicated the award to his grandmother who pushed him to try hard and told him he could do anything. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won Best Animated Feature Film.  Phil Lord said, “When we hear that somebody’s kid was watching the movie and turned to them and said, ‘He looks like me,’ or ‘They speak Spanish like us,’ we feel like we already won.”  


Director Peter Ramsey said,"We see you.  You're powerful.  We're counting on you." They were cut off before they could thank Stan Lee.  

Alt-country star Kasey Musgraves introduced Gillian Welch and David Rawlings for their performance of "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. 


Netflix dropped a teaser trailer for The Irishman (Scorsese's long rumored film) confirming it will hit theaters this fall.  

Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey introduced Bohemian Rhapsody as their Wayne's World characters in one of the night's most perfect moments.  

Awkwafina and John Mulaney (two of my favorite people!) gave out two of the short film awards.  
Bao won Best Animated Short.  It's my least favorite of this year's nominees.  The ending doesn't make sense to me.  (Is the dumpling a metaphor for her child?  Has she always had a real child and the dumpling was like a surrogate child?)  It is a historic win as Domee Shi is the first woman to direct a Pixar short.  


Period. End of Sentence. won Best Documentary Short.  The film deals with the taboo around menstruation in India.  Producer Melissa Berton said, "A period should end a sentence, not a girl's education."

Disney debuted a new Lion King trailer.

Diego Luna and chef José Andrés introduced the film Roma.  Andrés said,"This beautiful, intimate film, one that gives a voice to the voiceless, reminds us of the understanding and compassion that we all owe to the invisible people in our lives, immigrants and women, who move humanity forward." 


First Man won Best Visual Effects (YES!) so it is an official Oscar winner. The team thanked the "inspirational Damien Chazelle."

Courtesy of Universal.

Courtesy of Universal.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performed an intense, intimate version of "Shallow." 

Skin won The Best Live Action Short.  It was the first nomination and win for both Guy Nattiv and wife Jaime Ray Newman.  It was the first nomination and win for both.  Newman dedicated the award to their baby that she hopes will grow up in a world without the type of intolerance depicted in the film.  

Green Book won Best Original Screenplay.  

Spike Lee finally won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.  He gave Samuel L. Jackson a huge hug, climbing onto him, and opened his acceptance speech by saying, "Do not stat that motherfucking clock."  

Black Panther won Best Original Score.  It was the first nomination and win for Ludwig Göransson.  The award was presented to him by Black Panther star Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson.  Göransson is a longtime collaborator with director Ryan Coogler and has scored his films since they were at USC together.  


Lady Gaga won her first Oscar for Best Original Song.  She gave one of the best speeches of the night.  "If you have a dream, fight for it," she said.

The In Memoriam segment featured a John Williams score conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.  I prefer when they include film clips that have dialogue in them.  This part of the ceremony is always emotional.  It is also humbling.  There are always several people I don't know that I feel I should.  I wish there was more time to honor each person and say more about them.  


Thalberg awardKathleen Kennedy became the first female to receive the Irvinvg G. Thalberg Award.  Producer Frank Marshall was also a recipient.  


Barbara Streisand introduced BlacKkKlansman, saying, "Truth is especially precious these days."


Rami Malek won Best Actor.  He gave an amazing speech.  He said,"We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant who lived his life unapologetically himself.  And the fact that I'm celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we're longing for stories like this." 

Amandla Stenberg and Congressman John Lewis introduced Green Book.  Lewis's words were powerful.  "Our nation bears the scars of that time as do I," he said.  

Some people online criticized the producers for having civil rights pioneer Lewis introduce a movie that features a "white savior."  (The fact that they weren't outraged the star of The Hate U Give was used in the same way goes to show they haven't seen that movie yet.)  I personally don't think it detracts from the power of Mr. Lewis's words or the message he came there to give:  get involved politically and fight prejudice!  

A loud "WHAT?!" was heard in my house when they announced the winner of Best Actress.  It was not Gaga or Glenn Close.  Olivia Colman won.  I know, right?  Her speech was ridiculous and only made me wish even more that someone else had won.  


Guillermo del Toro presented Best Director despite having a fever the day before.  God, I love that man.  He presented the award to his friend Alfonso Cuarón.  I'd been rooting for Spike Lee or Pawlikowski. In his speech, Cuarón said "As artists, our job is to look where others don't."


Finally, Green Book won Best Picture.  If you're like me, this is probably disappointing news.  Let me guess:  You really wanted Black Panther, A Star Is Born, or Bohemian Rhapsody to win.  Am I right?  So what happened?  The way the votes are counted is hard to explain.  But basically, everyone had something different down on their ballot as their number one choice for Best Picture.  The vote was split several ways.  But everyone had the same movie down as their second choice:  Green Book.  And why not?  It's one of the most likeable movies of the year.  It's a total crowd pleaser.

It’s also the least groundbreaking and least challenging of the eight Best Picture nominees. And compared to the amazing slate of movies that came out this year that dealt with race (The Hate U Give, Widows, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Black Panther, Roma, Sorry To Bother You, etc.), Green Book’s treatment of the theme was the least profound.

Sometimes that’s what you get with populism. They tried to vote on the funniest joke in the world several years ago. This is what won: Q: What’s pink and fluffy? A: Pink fluff! -.- Brought to you by the same collective minds who voted to name a boat Boaty McBoatface.

Remember what I said about the journey being more important than the destination in my last post?

I was really happy about Lady Gaga and Spike Lee’s wins, about First Man taking Visual Effects, and about Spider-Man getting Best Animated. This year, the speeches were especially good.

There were a record seven black Oscar winners. There were a record fifteen female Oscar winners. What a perfect cap to a beautiful year of films celebrating diversity.

You can see all of the acceptance speeches here: https://oscar.go.com/video/oscar-winners-2019/olivia-colman-accepts-the-oscar-for-lead-actress

You can see other highlights here: https://oscar.go.com/video/oscars-2019-highlights/lady-gaga-and-bradley-cooper-perform-shallow-live-at-oscars-2019

And, because I love you, here is footage of Taron Egerton and Elton John dueting on Tiny Dancer at the 27th Annual Elton John Aids Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party. You’re welcome.

That’s a wrap on Oscar season for the 91st Academy Awards.

I’ll be back soon with my coverage of the Independent Spirit Awards and my OMG super mega early coverage of Oscar contenders for the 92nd Academy Awards soon. Be the first to find out when they drop. Like the Etched in Gold Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/EtchedInGold/) and subscribe to the newsletter.

2019 Oscar Predictions

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The 91st Annual Academy Awards will take place Sunday, February 24.  One of the major trends this year has been diversity both in front of and behind the camera.  The two films with the most nominations, Roma and The Favourite, feature strong female performances.  This has been a special year.  It's time to celebrate it, say goodbye to it, and to usher in the new one.  With that, here are my predictions for this year's awards. 

Best Picture
The Academy has made some surprising choices the past few years (Moonlight, Shape of Water).  So I'm going to go out on a limb and say Chadwick Boseman's speech at the SAG awards will help Black Panther bring home the gold.

Best Actor
This is essentially a race between Rami Malek and Christian Bale.  I predict populism is going to win out and Malek is going to win.

Best Actress
This is essentially a race between Glenn Close and Lady Gaga.  Close won the Golden Globe, but I predict Gaga is going home with the Oscar. 

Best Supporting Actor
I predict the Academy will honor Sam Elliott for a lifetime dedicated to the craft.   

Best Supporting Actress
I predict that actor's actor Regina King will continue her reign and take home the gold.  If King doesn't win, I predict the award will go to Amy Adams.

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Photo by: Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures; ©2018 Annapurna Releasing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Photo by: Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures; ©2018 Annapurna Releasing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Best Animated Feature Film

I predict Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will win.  There isn't a loser in this category though.  These are all fine films. 

Cinematography
Roma is the favorite but I predict Cold War will pull an upset.

Cold War. Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Cold War. Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Costume Design
I predict Black Panther will win.  If not, The Favourite will take this one.

Best Director
This is a tough one to call since Ryan Coogler isn't in the running (and I predicted Black Panther for Best Picture).  Alfonso Cuarón is probably the favorite.  I don't see Yorgos Lanthimos or Adam McKay winning in a year with more personal films.  A win for Pawel Pawlikowski or Spike Lee would be satisfying.  I'm going to be safe and predict Cuarón but hope for an upset.

Best Documentary Feature
RBG was popular with moviegoers this year.  Minding the Gap has a lot of support.  However, the critically acclaimed mountain climbimg documentary Free Solo will probably win.

Documentary Short Subject

This is a tough one to predict since I haven’t seen any of them. Period. End of Sentence is winning the audience vote on Shorts TV’s website. It seems like the least bleak of the nominees and biggest crowd pleaser from what I’ve seen of the trailers. So I’m going to go with that one.

Film Editing
The two movies whose editing I was most impressed by were BlacKkKlansman and Vice. I predict it will go to Vice.

Best Foreign Film
Roma is the favorite.  I am predicting an upset by Cold War.

Makeup and Hairstyling
I predict Mary Queen of Scots will win out over Vice. 

Best Original Score
Disney might have a leg up with nostalgia and good will for Mary Poppins Returns’ score. Alexander Desplat’s taiko drum-infused score from Isle of Dogs is well-respected. However, I’m going to go with the most beautiful score of the bunch, the lovely and understated score from If Beale Street Could Talk from Nicholas Britell.

Best Original Song
This one’s easy: “The Shallow” by Lady Gaga.

Best Production Design

I believe this comes down to First Man and Black Panther. As much as I’d like First Man to take it, I’m gong to go with Black Panther.


Best Animated Short Film
Bao by Pixar is the one to beat.  Animal Behaviour is very funny but it's competing in a year when the other films are all emotional.  It's about a group of animals in therapy.  Late Afternoon was the audience favorite the last time I checked the Shorts TV website.  It's about an old woman who keeps slipping into daydreams about the past as her daughter packs up her house.  I found Weekends strangely moving.  It's about a boy whose divorced parents share custody of him and the way the world looks through the eyes of a child.  The one that brought a tear to my eye though was One Small Step about a young girl whose father believes in her until she believes in herself.  This is a hard category to call.  The Kobe Bryant penned Dear Basketball won last year beating out Pixar's Lou.  Although Bao had a lot of buzz when it debuted, I predict more voters will connect with One Small Step. 

Best Live Action Short Film
The trailers for the live action films are all sort of cryptic. No comedies this year. I haven’t had a chance to watch them yet. Skin has a large lead with nearly half the votes on Short TV’s website so I’m going to go with that one.

Best Sound Editing

Sound editing is creating all the sounds necessary for a film’s soundtrack. Sound mixing is about layering them in, figuring out how loud or soft they’ll be, how close or distant things will sound.
I predict First Man will win Best Sound Editing.

Best Sound Mixing
I predict A Star Is Born although Bohemian Rhapsody was probably more of a feat having to mix in someone else's voice for Freddie Mercury's vocals.

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Best Visual Effects
As much as I would love to see some love for Christopher Robin or First Man, I'm afraid this is going to go to Avengers: Infinity War.

Best Adapted Screenplay
This is a hard category to call with such talent.  This could be the Academy's chance to honor a film with fewer nominations.  I'm predicting If Beale Street Could Talk.  My second choice is Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Original Screenplay
Roma and Green Book are the favorites.  I predict First Reformed will pull an upset. 

Be sure to tune in on Sunday and see how I did with my predictions. Follow @RunPee on Twitter as they live tweet the Oscars. Follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/EtchedInGold/) and subscribe to the email newsletter to stay up to date on all things Oscar related.

2019 Academy Award Nominees

The 2019 Oscar nominees have been announced.  I feel like a kid who has unwrapped all their Christmas presents. After seeing Willem Dafoe in At Eternity’s Gate last weekend, I have now seen everything in all the major categories. The thrill of the hunt is gone. I suppose I can start tracking down the foreign film and feature length documentary nominees next.  And the Independent Spirit Award nominees.  Plus Shorts TV will be bringing the live action, animated, and documentary shorts to the beautiful Kentucky Theater (http://www.kentuckytheater.com).  So I have that to look forward to.  

Enough with my ennui.  Let's take a look at the nominations and all the snubs and surprises. You can find a full list of the nominees here: https://oscar.go.com/news/nominations/oscar-nominations-2019-see-full-list-of-nominees. You can find my predictions for the Oscar nominees here to see how I did here: http://runpee.com/runpee-and-the-2019-oscars-predictions-for-the-2018-movie-awards/.

Let's start with best picture.  Black Panther's nomination is not a surprise.  The movie was practically ordained as an Oscar nominee a year ago upon its release. However, the nomination is historic and a cause for celebration.  This is the first superhero movie/comic book film to be nominated for Best Picture.  A few years ago, an all-black cast starred in one of the year's most financially successful and critically acclaimed films of the year: Straight Outta Compton.  The movie was snubbed in all categories.  Black Panther's nomination is a welcome sign that the Academy has moved past their diversity problem. Black Panther won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast (which is the SAG equivalent of Best Picture).  Chadwick Boseman gave an impassioned acceptance speech.  Black Panther may well win the Oscar this year.   

I know people love Green Book but there are so many movies I liked better this year. I had the same reaction to Roma that I did to The Favourite: I ultimately didn't understand the point of the journey I took with the characters.  To see these three movies get so much attention when a film as important as The Hate U Give is largely ignored pains me.  Rami Malek makes an amazing Freddie Mercury.  I wish his performance were in a better film.  I have a lot of respect for Vice but it's a hard film to love.  I was happy all year that The Shape of Water was Best Picture.  I can't imagine walking around all year with that same feeling about Vice.  But then, maybe it's the Best Picture we deserve.  I would be fine with Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, or A Star Is Born taking home the gold.  

At the Golden Globes, Sandra Oh took a moment to recognize what a special year this is for diversity in film.  Taye Diggs performed an opening number about the same topic at the Critics Choice awards.  A win for Black Panther or BlacKkKlansman would be the perfect cap to a year with several high profile films featuring diverse casts.  From Widows to If Beale Street Could Talk to Sorry to Bother You to Crazy Rich Asians, there has been an embarrassment of riches this year when it comes to films featuring and made by people of color.  Let's hope it's not an anomaly but rather a sea change and that this trend continues.  Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians have already proven it can be profitable.  

All I have left to say about A Star Is Born is that it captured my heart, made me fall in love, and I'm a Gaga fan.  

Snubs: Boy Erased is another important film that I hate to see largely ignored. I’m glad it was honored at the Globes. A Quiet Place was one of the most unique moviegoing experiences of the year and it’s only nominated in one of the sound categories. Crazy Rich Asians feels like it deserves some type of recognition. There hasn’t been a mostly Asian cast in a major Hollywood film since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. First Man was one of my favorite movies of the year and I hate not seeing it in the Best Picture category (and Damien Chazelle not up for Best Director).

A face only Oscar could love?

A face only Oscar could love?

Best Supporting Actor is my favorite category.  Maybe because I love character actors so much.  Maybe because I usually predict this one correctly (in other words, the Academy has really good taste).  I was rooting for Mark Rylance the moment I walked out of Bridge of Spies.  About three months before nominees were even announced.  So I was especially excited when he won, beating out the favorite that year (Sylvester Stallone in Creed).

This year I'm rooting for Sam Elliott from A Star Is Born.  A few years back, Sam Elliott quietly had the most interestimg year in movies out of any other actor.  He played Blythe Danner's love interest in I'll See You In My Dreams, Lilly Tomlin's cold ex in Grandma, and a good natured T-Rex that temporarily turns The Good Dinosaur into a western.  There's no award for that but there should be.  I was disappointed The Academy overlooked Sam'sperformance (and Tomlin's!) in Grandma.  This is their chance to not only make up for that but to reward a rich career of supporting performances. (Also, while researching this to make sure I had my facts straight, I found out he starred in a movie called The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot. You have to love him for that alone. And yes, I am going to share the preview below because I love you.)

Best Supporting Actor nominee Adam Driver and John David Washington at a NYC screening of BlacKkKlansman Photo by: Kristina Humphrey

Best Supporting Actor nominee Adam Driver and John David Washington at a NYC screening of BlacKkKlansman Photo by: Kristina Humphrey

Richard E. Grant gave a great performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me?  He definitely deserves to be in this category.  I'm a fan of Mahershala Ali and it's nice to see him back at the Oscars so soon.  There are other performances from this past year I would rather see honored though.  Similarly, I'm happy to see Adam Driver finally get a nomination.  I wish he'd been nominated for Silence or While We're Young.  I feel like his BlacKkKlansman character is missing something.  

As for Sam Rockwell, he won in this category last year.  He will probably win another Oscar someday for a better movie than Three Billboards...  However, his inclusion here and at the Globes is an enigma to me.  He makes a great George W. Bush, sure.  But it's such a tiny part in the movie Vice.  The meatier supporting role went to Steve Carell who did a great job as Donald Rumsfeld.  Between being snubbed for this and his lead role in Beautiful Boy, I think Carell may just have to steal an Oscar if he wants one.  Maybe he can grab one for poor David Oyelowo too who acts his guts out nearly every year to no avail (Selma, Queen of Katwe, A United Kingdom). There were so many better supporting roles this year that Rockwell's inclusion here simply doesn't make sense.  I don’t understand how Rockwell’s brief satiric role beat out more dramatic roles that had more buzz such as Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy or Russell Crowe in Boy Erased. I’d much rather see Russell Hornsby from The Hate U Give, Josh Hamilton from Eighth Grade, Oscar Isaacs from At Eternity’s Gate, or Jonah Hill from Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot in this slot.  

In the Best Supporting Actress race, we have Marina de Tavira whose performance barely registered with me.  Off the top of my head, this slot could have gone to Nicole Kidman from Boy Erased, Awkwafina from Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel McAdams from Disobedience, Tessa Thompson from Sorry to Bother You, or Issa Rae from The Hate U Give.  I love Emma Stone.  I can't believe the Academy ignored her in Battle of the Sexes and is celebrating The Favourite.  I have a love-hate relationship with Rachel Weisz.  I hated The Constant Gardener, the movie she won her Oscar for.  I loved her in Denial, a film she was snubbed for a few years ago, and I lover her in Disobedience, the film she was snubbed for this year over The Favourite.  

At the end of the day, Stone and Weisz already have their Oscars.  De Tavira's prize is her nomination.  This is a race between Amy Adams and Regina King.  I have loved Amy Adams since the first time I saw Junebug (and the second time and the third time and...).  I have loved watching her become a star and a household name.  She does a great Lady Macbeth type character in Vice.  It's not my favorite performance of hers.  But I'd be okay with her taking home her first Oscar for it.  Regina King, however, is the one to beat.  She has racked up several other awards and is a well-respected character actress.  I like the idea of If Beale Street Could Talk picking up a win in one of the major categories. Claire Foy from First Man was snubbed in this category but I’m not that surprised. I thought her performance was overrated.

The one to beat! Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. ©2018 Annapurna Releasing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The one to beat! Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. ©2018 Annapurna Releasing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Rami Malek and Christian Bale are the front runners for Best Actor.  Malek became Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.  It will most likely be a long time before we get another Mercury biopic.  So while I have my issues with this one (it tends to be uncomfortable with Mercury's queerness and downplays that part of his life), I can't fault Malek.  He gave a great performance.  Bale found the humanity in a villain and was able to play Dick Cheney as something more than a two-dimensional straw man or an SNL parody.  Willem Dafoe made a sensitive, heartbreaking Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate.  Bradley Cooper is the only actor in this category who did not play a real-life person.  His self-destructive charmer brings half the romance to A Star Is Born.  I'm convinced Viggo Mortensen is only in this category because Green Book is so beloved.  His performance is fine.  There are other names I'd rather see in this slot though: Steve Carell for Beautiful Boy, Jonathan Pryce for The Wife, Ethan Hawke for First Reformed, or Stephen James for If Beale Street Could Talk. I don't know that I'm rooting for anyone specific but a Dafoe win would be nice.  Especially since he lost for The Florida Project.  

I had hoped Glenn Close would score an Oscar nomination when I saw The Wife.  It opened slowly around the country over several months and did not have the buzz of A Star Is Born or The Favourite.  It's one of the best roles of her career.  I'm excited that Lady Gaga got her first nomination for A Star Is Born.  She's so lovable in that film.  I was glad to see Melissa McCarthy got nominated for Can You Ever Forgive Me?  She does have some comic moments in the role.  However, it's a more dramatic role than we're used to seeing from her and she shows a darker side of herself too.  Yalitza Aparicio is good in Roma.  It's not my favorite movie of the year.  But there are parts of her performance that stick out.  I like the rooftop scene with the little boy when she decides that if he is going to play dead she is going to be dead with him. That leaves Olivia Colman.  Again, The Favourite simply isn't that great a film to me.  I'd rather see Joanna Kulig from Cold War or Amandla Stenberg from The Hate U Give in this slot.

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Bradley Cooper was snubbed in the Best Director category though he was assumed to be a sure bet.  Peter Farrelly was also snubbed for Green Book.  Pawel Pawlikowski got a surprise nomination for Cold War.  While I'm sad that Cooper didn't make the cut, I'm really happy to see Pawlikowski in this category.  I love Cold War and I really liked his previous film Ida.  He makes these brief, atmospheric black and white films that get under your skin.  I'm also excited to see Spike Lee get his first nomination for Best Director.  He got snubbed for Malcolm X, as hard as that is to believe.  BlacKkKlansman has several scenes that stand out to me.  When John David Washington goes to the activist meeting and the speaker talks about the beauty of black people.  The juxtaposition of the speaker at the klan gathering and the speaker at the black student union.  The ending that shows modern instances of racism.  For Vice, Adam McKay broke the fourth wall, staged a fake ending halfway through the film, and employed other devices to make the film as slick as Cheney himself.  I love Alfonso Cuarón.  I love Gravity and Children of Men.  I'm not as in love with Roma.  I can't believe the phrase "Oscar nominee Yorgos Lanthimos" is now a thing.  At least it should be for The Killing of a Sacred Deer which had symbolism. Snubs include Ryan Cooler for Black Panther. The man continues to do amazing work on both independent and commercial films. From Fruitvale Station to Creed. What’s he got to do to get a nomination? (While we’re on the subject what does muse Michael B. Jordan have to do as well?) Other snubs include Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk. I can’t help but feel that the downer ending hurt this movie. I have a feeling that if it ended less realistically and more romantically the movie would be nominated for more awards. Marielle Heller was also snubbed for Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The animation category is the same as it was for the Globes.  There's not much to say here that I haven't already said in my coverage of the Globes or my Oscar nominee prediction post for RunPee.  These are all great movies.  I'm glad to see an underdog like Mirai in this category and to see anime represented.  Wes Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers so I'm glad to see Isle of Dogs nominated.  While Ralph Breaks the Internet wasn't as good as the original, all of the Disney princess parody stuff was golden.  Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse were simply two of the most satisfying movies of the year period.  I'm rooting for Spider-Man to continue its winning streak and take home the gold for a film full of originality and surprises.  

Scene from Isle of Dogs. Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Scene from Isle of Dogs. Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

I almost refuse to acknowledge the Best Original Song category this year since "A Place Called Slaughter Race" from Ralph Breaks the Internet got snubbed.  The parody of Disney princess "I wish" numbers like "Part of Your World" is absolutely brilliant.  While I love singer-songwriter Gillian Welch (you need her album Time: The Revelator in your collection), her song "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" can't compare.  There can apparently only be one humorous song nominated per year and Ralph lost out.  I'm also in shock that the song chosen from Mary Poppins was "The Place Where Lost Things Go" instead of the catchier, more upbeat "Trip a Little Light Fantastic." I honestly don't remember "I'll Fight" from RBG.  "All the Stars" from Black Panther is a good song to represnt that film and its soundtrack.  It's cool that Kendrick Lamar is now an Oscar nominee.  The winner though will most likely be the immensely popular "Shallow" by Lady Gaga from A Star Is Born.  Unfortunately, this may be her consolation prize for losing Best Actress to Glenn Close.  

In the documentary category, RBG was nominated but fellow summer blockbusters Won't You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers were snubbed.  

Although The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a mix of original and adapted material, it is running in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.  Two of the film's chapters are based on short stories (All Gold Canyon by Jack London and The Girl Who Got Rattled by Stewart Edward White).  This helps explain why the Coens stuck to a stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans as savages in the latter chapter rather than doing something more subversive or inventive.  In the other segments of the film, they seem to be having fun turning conventional Western genres on their ear (for instance, bringing Tarantino-esque violence to the carefree world of the singing cowboy).  The movie is harsher than most of the Coen brothers’ films. I did particularly like the chapter "Meal Ticket" and hoped the film might generate enough buzz to get Harry Melling a Best Supporting actor nomination.  Best known as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series, in "Meal Ticket" he plays a quadriplegic who goes from town to town reciting poetry, Shakespeare, and famous speeches for donations.  Melling is captivating in the role and I thought about this characterfor a long time afterwards.  

The adaptation of BlacKkKlansman has come under fire for including events that didn't happen like Ron Stalworth and his partner stopping a bombing.  Director Boots Riley has also accused the film of over-glorifying the police and distracting from the Black Lives Matter movement.  

Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty took Lee Israel's memoir and crafted a redemption story about creativity with Can You Ever Forgive Me?  Barry Jenkins brought James Baldwin's words to life with If Beale Street Could Talk.  The new version of A Star Is Born took a familiar story and made it seem new. Snubs include Black Panther adapted from the comic books, The Hate U Give adapted from the bestselling young adult novel, and Boy Erased adapted from a memoir.

Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

First Reformed was a welcome surprise in the Best Original Screenplay category.  Paul Schrader's character study of a priest wrestling with faith and doubt was one of the year's best dramas but has largely gone unrecognized on the awards circuit.  Adam McKay's Vice was also nominated.  McKay had to do a lot of research for the Dick Cheney biopic.  The script is also unique in that it uses devices like a mysterious narrator and characters breaking the fourth wall in order to tell the story.  Roma and Green Book are both personal scripts.  In Roma, director Alfonso Cuaron tells the story of the housekeeper who raised him.  In Green Book, Nick Vallelonga shares a story about his father. Finally, there is The Favourite, a tale of power and revenge.  As far as Roma is concerned, to quote Gertrude Stein, there isn’t enough there there. Green Book was entertaining but overrated. It may be the least challenging film I’ve seen about race all year. The Favourite doesn’t even translate in my part of the country. From all reports I’ve gotten, there’s hardly any laughter at screenings (my audience was pretty dead) and people are walking out. I'd rather see Eighth Grade, Sorry to Bother You, Cold War, or A Quiet Place in these slots.  

Best Foreign Film nominees Cold War and Never Look Away were a surprise in the Best Cinematography category.  The beautifully shot Roma was a shoo-in for this category.  A Star Is Born and The Favourite rounded out the nominees. I’d rather have seen Leave No Trace or First Man in The Favourite’s place.  

The other foreign film nominees include Capernaum, Shoplifters, and of course Roma.  I have only seen Cold War and Roma but all of these films have been on my to-watch list.  While Roma will most likely take this category, I am rooting for underdog Cold War.  Popular films that that did not make the cut include Burning and Girl.  

Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

It's a well known fact that a movie rarely wins Best Picture without winning Best Editing.  So here are this year's most likely Best Picture candidates: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, and Vice.  Bohemiam Rhapsody and Green Book are the populist choices.  I'm rooting for BlacKkKlansman and Vice.  But there's nothing I connect with as much as I did with The Shape Of Water.  

For me, being an Oscar junkie means enjoying the journey more than the destination.  While I'm excited about the big night and this year's crop of nominees, a lot of the real value I've gotten out of this year has been from watching buzz worthy films that ultimately didn't get nominated.  I've already got my eyes on possible nominees for next year's Oscars.  I’m already working on a blog post filled with possible contenders for next year’s Oscars. To stay in the loop for when that blog post drops, like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/EtchedInGold/) and subscribe to the newsletter.  

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Top 10 Movies of 2018

This year I finally did something I've always wanted to do.  I made a year-end top 10 list of my favorite movies.  And it was excruciating.  I hated leaving out several underloved gems.  I just can't fit all my favorites into ten slots.  Sorry, Eeeyore!  So, here is my pared down list of my top 10 movies of 2018 and a couple hundred honorable mentions.  

1. The Hate U Give 
This is the movie that impacted me the most this year.  It inspired me the most and forced me to look at my own prejudices.  It is a shame that Russell Hornsby is not in the awards conversation for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor.  

2. Sorry to Bother You
This is the movie that has crept into my thoughts the second most this year.  Boots Riley's satire about race was one of the funniest movies of the year and also one of the darkest.  

3. Disobedience
This was an early favorite and still holds a special place in my heart.  This is my favorite Rachel Weisz performance of 2018.  The film deals with faith, death, love, and sex in a mature way.  And it doesn't martyr its LGBT characters.  

4. A Quiet Place 
This was the most unique experience I had in a movie theater this year.  Feeling an entire audience hold their breath and try not to make a sound.  The first sequence alone is perfection.  

5. A Star Is Born 
I'm a Lady Gaga fan and she nailed this performance.  It was easy to fall in love with her as a stage shy songwriter.  This is one blockbuster that lived up to the prerelease hype. 

6. First Man  
All of Damien Chazelle's films seem to deal with the cost of ambition.  First Man's flight scenese have a "you are there" quality that's amazing.  

7. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse 
This is my favorite animated film of the year.  Phil Lord brings humor and originality to all of his projects.  Yes, there was another black superhero this year.  But I enjoyed Miles Morales' adventure more.  Plus this movie had Peter Porker the Incredible Spider-Ham who I've waited to see on-screen since I was a kid.  (No joke, I read that comic book religiously.).  

8. The Wife 
This was one of the most underrated dramas of the year.  Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce complement each other perfectly.  I saw some of my own mother in the role and in Close's acceptance speech at the Globes, a woman who could have flown further on her own wings without the constraints put on her by society.  

9. BlacKkKlansman 
While Sorry to Bother You is a comedy that goes down smoothly, BlacKkKlansman is a rocky road.  Spike Lee takes you deep into the Klan and ends with a post script that reminds us this isn't a story that ends in the 1970s.  Rather, it is ongoing and it has repercussions for us today.  Despite its moments of humor and triumph, the film's ultimate message is that racism is still alive and well whether it wears a pointed hood or not.  

10. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot 

Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of parapalegic cartoonist John Callahan contains some of the most moving scenes of the year.  I don't think I've ever seen Phoenix be quite this vulnerable.  Whether he's weeping as he come to terms with the loss of his legs or offering forgiveness to others as part of a 12-step program, this is some of Phoenix's best work.  Jonah Hill plays his sponsor in a performance that probably would have gotten him a Best Supporting Actor nomination if the film had garnered more attention.  

Honorable mention: 

Black Panther--a cultural milestone 

Won't You Be My Neighbor?--the trailer always got applause 

RBG--one of the best docs of the year 

The Front Runner--a talented ensemble cast in a drama that raises important questions 

The House with a Clock in Its Walls--One of the most fun movies of the year

Avengers: Infinity War--The Marvel Universe goes dark

Talking/speculating about Avengers 4--Was almost as much fun as watching Infinity War 

Christopher Robin--Fun romp with live-action Winnie the Pooh characters

Colette--One of my favorite biopics of the year

Boy Erased--Lucas Hedges and Nicole Kidman give amazing performances 

Bohemian Rhapsody--Pinkwashing aside, Ramy Malek becomes Freddie Mercury 

Incredibles 2--Everything I love about Pixar 

Mary Queen of Scots--Two of the strongest performances of the year 

Leave No Trace--Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie break your heart 

Ralph Breaks the Internet--A parody of the Disney princess movies 

The Sisters Brothers--I have unfinished business with this movie 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post--Along with Boy Erased, a powerful indictment of ex-gay ministries

If Beale Street Could Talk--A love story betrayed by reality

Mary Poppins Returns--Pure magic 

First Reformed--A hard look at faith and doubt

Can You Ever Forgive Me?--A modern fable about honesty and creativity

Blaze--An elegy for two songwriters 

Eighth Grade--An honest depiction of the worst year of everyone's life 

Haven't seen:

Destroyer

A Private War

Stan & Ollie 

Bllindspotting 

The Rider
Lean on Pete 

The 76th Annual Golden Globes

The Golden Globes was a night full of upsets and surprises.  It has thrown the awards race for a loop and made predicting the Oscars as clear as mud.  

Lady Gaga won Best Original Song for "Shallow."  However, A Star Is Born got shut out of every other category it was nominated in.  It had been the front runner for Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture.  This doesn't mean it won't sweep the Oscars.  It might mean it doesn't have as stable of a lead as previously thought.  


Rami Malek won Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture for Bohemian Rhapsody.  The movie also won Best Picture.  I'm definitely torn over this one.  While Malek became Freddie Mercury and I enjoyed the film, the timeline is wrong and they downplayed Mercury's gayness.  He's the only band member in the film who has promiscuous sex in the film or who uses drugs or drinks to excess.  You can read more about the controversy surrounding the movie's portrayal of Freddie Mercury here:  https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2018/11/16/18071460/bohemian-rhapsody-queerphobia-celluloid-closet-aids

Rami Malek. Credit: Jordan Strauss

Rami Malek. Credit: Jordan Strauss

Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director for Roma.  Roma also won Best Foreign Language Motion Picture.  Netflix now has some Golden Globes and is on its way to Oscar glory.  Cuaron is probably Bradley Cooper'a biggest competition for the Oscar.  However, I am still holding out hope for a Spike Lee win as well.  BlacKkKlansman was a powerful piece of filmmaking.  

Despite all the buzz about Lady Gaga's acting debut, Glenn Close won Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture for The Wife.  This was a major upset.  Best Actress looks like a more open race now.  

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won Best Animated Motion Picture beating out Pixar's Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet.  WOW!  Pixar is hard to beat.  Incredibles 2 is easily one of my favorite movies of the year.  It was everything I hoped it would be and more.  However, Spider-Man was a fun, unexpected surprise.  It was sort of like watching The Matrix for the first time, where the floor kept being pulled out from under me.  The fast pace, the reversals, the reveals, the humor.  Spider-Man was an EXPERIENCE.  I'm glad to see it honored.  This bodes well for it getting at least an Oscar nomination.  

Green Book drove away with two awards.

Green Book drove away with two awards.

Green Book took home the award for Best Musical or Comedy.  This was fairly predictable as it has been an audience favorite.  Green Book also took home Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay.  There is now some controversy around the film with Don Shirley's family coming forward and claiming the portrayal is not accurate.  It remains to be seen if this will hurt Ali's Oscar chances.  Giving the film Best Original Screenplay would be a great way to honor it at the Oscars.  That would give an Oscar to both Tony Vallelonga's son Nick and director Peter Farrelly.  

Christian Bale won Best Actor in a Comedy for Vice beating out the more popular Viggo Mortensen from Green Book.  Bale will probably get an Oscar nomination.  

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Credit: Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures; ©2018 Annapurna Releasing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Credit: Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures; ©2018 Annapurna Releasing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Regina King won Best Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk, spoiling a pereceived race between Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz (both from The Favourite).  

I was sad Elsie Fisher from Eighth Grade lost Best Actress in a Comedy to Olivia Coleman (The Favourite).  While she's been nominated for an Independent Spirit award, chances are slim she'll get an Oscar nomination.  My poor dark horse.  

You can find the full list of winners here:  https://www.goldenglobes.com/winners-nominees/2019/all

Check out my coverage of the Golden Globe highlights here: http://runpee.com/highlights-comments-and-acceptance-videos-for-the-76th-annual-golden-globes/

Oscar nominees will be announced on January 22.  Check back here for more awards coverage.

Vice (review)

Image courtesy of Annapurna pictures.

Image courtesy of Annapurna pictures.

Damn you, Adam McKay! You have done it again. You have spoiled another Oscar season with a secretive, buzzed about project of yours, a late entry into the race. I wanted to hate this movie as I hate its subject. But I can’t. It’s too engaging. The performances are too good. The script is too innovative. This movie got under my skin. It’s worth a second viewing. For all the ways the movie may feel one-sided, Dick Cheney gets a monologue defending his actions at the end of the movie that I’m still mulling over. I can’t quite shake it.

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. Credit: Greig Fraser / Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. Credit: Greig Fraser / Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Christian Bale is mostly unrecognizable as Dick Cheney. His eyes occasionally give him away though. Bale portrays Cheney as a young man all the way up until present day.  It would be easy to make Cheney a one-note character, to turn the film into an extended SNL sketch.  Instead, he is portrayed as a family man with a deep love for his wife and daughters.  There is even a point in the film where, if it ended there, we would like the Cheneys and their American success story. 

The movie jumps around in time somewhat. It's an unconventional biopic in the spirit of the underrated Man on the Moon.  Mckay fills the film with plenty of fun tricks similar to The Big Short: a mysterious narrator, a premature ending, breaking the fourth wall, and a random bit of Shakespeare.

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld. Credit : Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld. Credit : Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sam Rockwell is getting a lot of attention for his dead-on portrayal of George W. Bush, including a Golden Globes nomination.  However, the real secret weapon of the film is Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld.  Carell plays Rumsfeld as an amoral, charismatic snake in the grass who mentors Cheney.  He has more screen time than the trailer leads you to believe, even more screen time than Rockwell.  Two of my biggest laughs of the year came from this damn movie, and one of them was purely from Carell.  Between this and The Big Short, I am now nearly convinced it will be Mckay that will lead Carell to his eventual Oscar win.  

Amy Adams and Christian Bale as Lynne and Dick Cheney. Credit: Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale as Lynne and Dick Cheney. Credit: Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Amy Adams is good as a Lady Macbeth type. Her best scene is early in the movie when she explains that she can’t have power as a woman and must live vicariously through Dick (while harping on him to get his act together). However, I hope this isn’t the role she wins the Oscar for. With far better work behind her and ahead of her, I hope the Academy doesn’t give int to the “It’s time” narrative. This role simply isn’t Junebug worthy in my book.

Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Bale as Cheney. Credit : Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Bale as Cheney. Credit : Annapurna Pictures 2018 © Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

This movie is a contender.  It hits you in the gut. It rips away one of Cheney's few redeeming qualities in the final act.  No one gets off easy, even the audience, who is left with hard questions to consider.

Pairs well with: The Big Short (McKay’s previous fourth-wall-breaking picture), The Front Runner (another movie about events that shaped our current political landscape), or Man on the Moon (another dark comedy biopic, this one about Andy Kaufman and starring Jim Carrey)

Not My "Favourite"

Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight

So I finally got to see The Favourite. As with most Yorgos Lanthimos films, the trailer is not an accurate representation of the tone of the film. Although perhaps this one comes the closest. The movie is a dark comedy but not the laugh-a-minute type the trailer hints at. I was in a fairly packed theater and there were few laughs. Perhaps because the trailer spoils several of the better ones. Perhaps because it was a Wednesday night.

While I was entertained and the movie engaged me until the end, I'm having trouble reconciling why it is showing up on so many Top 10/year end/best of the year lists. I will concede it was better than I expected, the three female performances at the center of it are solid, and it's probably Lanthimos' most accessible film. I would rather watch this a second time than The Lobster or The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

I do think that which character you end up rooting for says a lot about you. Whether the more rational Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) or the more emotion driven Abigail (Emma Stone) is your avatar, you will probably find yourself choosing a side. It is debatable as to which one really is the Queen's favourite and which one if either comes out on top in the end. The movie lends itself to deep thought and discussion upon these points. However, if the filmmaker is making any points about current politics or drawing any parallels to, say, Trump, I don't really see them other than that the leader is a buffoon.

Emma Stone as Abigail. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Emma Stone as Abigail. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

I found myself concerned for Abigail and wanting her to attain a high enough status that she might be safe. Only to be shocked to watch her become as cruel as those who used to prey on her from both the upper and lower classes. While one might argue it is Abigail's movie, that she is the protagonist, I could easily see a disciple of Ayn Rand or a political conservative siding with Lady Sarah.

Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

I sat dumbfounded through the end credits, feeling, as I had predicted, disgusted at what human beings are capable of doing to each other. But not in the "I want to go out and be a better person now" way. No, just in a hopeless way, wondering what the point of the last two hours had been.

In high school and college, I usually had to read novels twice to get the subtext amd symbolism while my classmates were only reading them once. This may have been due to my undiagnosed ADD. It may be that a second viewing of this film would open up more nuance for me. But I'd rather not. Because like Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), I get to play favorites too. And I maintain that there have been more important and more enjoyable films in 2018. Four off the top of my head: The Hate U Give, Disobedience, Sorry to Bother You, and The Front Runner. All have affected me and stayed with me long after I left the theater. The Favourite doesn't hold a candle to these films and simply doesn't deserve a place at the table.

Mirai (review)

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In Mirai, a young boy named Kun finds his world is changed when his parents bring home a new baby, his little sister. His parents begin ignoring him. The baby gets all the attention. He begins feeling jealous. Then one day, he meets the future version of his sister who needs his help.  

This is the first of several episodes in the funny, touching, emotional movie Mirai. In each episode, Kun meets a member of his family tree from the past (or future in the case of his sister) and learns more about his heritage and himself.  

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I was surprised how emotional I felt over this film. A tense scene with Kun and his mother brought back strong memories of childhood for me.  

I feel like there's definitely a sense of wish fulfillment to this movie. Most of us have relatives we wish we could have met or old family photos we wish we could step into. 

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A few moments in the film feel kind of off. Whenever Kun first starts to enter the past or future, it can feel as though you are watching a child with a mental illness interact with their hallucinations. With all of the parent-child stuff, this felt more emotionally raw than, say, most Miyazaki films. (Granted, I haven't seen Grave of the Fireflies.) 

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I highly recommend this movie. It's the first film I've seen by director Mamoru Hosoda. If you are lucky enough to catch a rebroadcast in theaters, stay through the credits for an interview with Hosoda at the end. He talks about the importance of hand drawn art, the inspiration for the film, and why Mirai's intimacy actually makes it an epic.

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The Front Runner (review)

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Jason Reitman works with his largest cast yet in what may be his most ambitious project to date. I think he pulls it off. 

Hugh Jackman gives an award-worthy performance as politician Gary Hart. He is pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination. However, he refuses to talk about his personal life and this will partly lead to his downfall. Jackman dials down his Greatest Showman charm to play the more stoic Hart.  

J.K. Simmons is a potential Best Supporting actor nominee as campaign manager Bill Dixon . He has some great dialogue and a few tense arguments with Jackman’s Hart. He is the character who perhaps both admires and understands Hart the most and yet is irritated by him the most as well. Vera Farmiga is a potential Best Actress nominee for her role as Hart's wife. Chris Coy stands out as part of Hart's PR team and could also warrant a Best Supporting Actor nom. 

Simmons and Jackman in one of the movie’s best scenes. .

The movie follows Hart from just before he announces his candidacy. It sets up the tension between Hart who only wants to talk about politics and is laser-focused on his goal of winning the presidency and the journalists and the public who want things Hart sees as superficial: hours-long photo shoots for posed family photos, stories about his family, personal details to get to know him better.  

The real trouble begins when Hart is no longer just acting like a man with something to hide, but actually has a secret the press gets hold of.  

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The movie shows the exact moment in history when major newspapers began acting like tabloids, when their reporters began hiding in bushes and reporting on politicians' sex lives. It posits that without media coverage of the Donna Rice scandal forcing Gary Hart to withdraw his nomination, he might have won not only the democratic nomination but the presidency itself, changing the course of history.

We are deprived of any scenes of dialogue between Gary Hart and Donna Rice, putting us in the same place as the American public, relying on the press to be our eyes and ears as far as the affair. It’s an interesting artistic choice but perhaps a poor one. Both characters might have been made more appealing and relatable with some insight into the affair. For a movie which strives to give voice to several points of view, including the press and Hart’s wife, the film is doggedly faithful here in sticking to Hart’s point of view alone and insisting on his privacy.  

Another misstep where the film chooses only to focus on Hart is the ending. It is typical for most biopics to have a postscript that updates you on what happened to most of the major characters in the film. The Frontrunner gives you one brief sentence about Hart that sort of thumbs its nose at the media. The film has nothing to say about any of the people on Hart’s campaign and what became of them, what happened to Donna Rice in the aftermath (which at least one character in the movie is gravely concerned with and thus the audience becomes concerned with too) and where she is today, what happened to any of the reporters and whether any of them have any pride or regret,, or even the fact that the democratic party went on to lose the election.  


Despite its faults, this is one of the strongest dramas of the year. It raises questions that are worthy of consideration. What is the media's responsibility? What do journalists and politicians both owe the public? Where do you draw the line? What part of a public figure's life deserves to be private? Can a morally tainted person still be a fit leader? To its credit, the movie offers no easy answers. Thirty years later, we are still wrestling with these questions as a nation. This is one of the movies from this season that is probably going to stay with me for a long time.  

Pairs well with: the Robert Redford movie Truth (2015) 

Other movies about journalism and politics worth checking out: All the President's Men, Network

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