Toronto International Film Festival Highlights

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

The Toronto International Film Festival built on the excitement of Telluride and furthered the Oscar buzz and awards conversations. Jojo Rabbit won the People’s Choice Award. Last year, Green Book won the same award and went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Since 2011, every People’s Choice Award winner has at least received a Best Picture nomination. Jojo Rabbit is director Taika Waititi’s WWII satire about a German boy whose imaginary friend is Hitler. Scarlett Johansson plays the mother who hides a Jewish girl in their home. The movie is based on a novel by Christine Leunens. Marriage Story came in second place for the coveted prize. Parasite came in third.

Joker’s surprising Golden Lion win at the Venice Film Festival was followed by more rave reviews and Oscar buzz at TIFF.

Jennifer Lopez received Oscar buzz for her performance in the movie Hustlers playing a character inspired by real-life stripper Samantha Barbash.

Jennifer Lopez at the premiere. Photo: Lionel Hahn.

Jennifer Lopez at the premiere. Photo: Lionel Hahn.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood received rave reviews snd speculation that director Marie Heller may receive her first Oscar and star Tom Hanks may finally win his third.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Just Mercy received a standing ovation. The Washington Post has speculated it could be the next Green Book. Based on a true story, Michael B. Jordan plays attorney Bryan Stevenson who takes on the case of Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx) who is wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of a white woman. I’m excited that Jordan might finally get an overdue Oscar nomination.

The whodunnit Knives Out killed, opening to great acclaim. Rian Johnson is already considering making a sequel starring Daniel Craig’s character. It has the potential to become a franchise.

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The Goldfinch and Lucy in the Sky failed to soar and are officially out of the Oscar race. Steven Soderbergh’s new film starring Meryl Streep, The Laundromat, was also a wash with critics.


Hugh Jackman got good reviews for his new drama Bad Edication. Riz Ahmed is also a strong contender for Best Actor with his portrayal of a heavy metal drummer losing his hearing in Sound of Metal.


The Lighthouse got good reviews, setting Willem Dafoe up for a possible Oscar nomination for the third year in a row. Fingers crossed.

Amazon’s Honey Boy, which Shia LaBeouf wrote about his childhood and stars in as his father, got favorable reviews. Could he get dual Oscar nominations? (BTW, if you haven’t seen him in The Peanut Butter Falcon, put it on your must-see list.)

Eddie Murphy got a standing ovation at the screening of Netflix’s biopic Dolemite Is My Name. I’m a big fan of screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karassewski, so I’m looking forward to this one. This is the kick-off of Murphy’s career comeback that continues with a Saturday Night Live appearance, next year’s Coming 2 America, and a rumored Beverly Hills Cop 4.

Renee Zellweger got standing ovations again for Judy.

Photo credit: : David Hindley Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

Photo credit: : David Hindley Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

Cynthia Erivo was praised for her performance as Harriet Tubman in Harriet. However, the general consensus is that her performance is better than the film. She has a strong shot at a Best Actress nomination but that may be the only nomination the movie receives.

The Oscar race is finally taking shape. Several movies and performances are starting to take their place ahead of the pack. But there are still movies that haven’t premiered yet and plenty of surprises left in store. Keep up with all the latest movie news and reviews by subscribing to the newsletter and liking the Facebook page. The Annual Overstuffed Fall Preview post will be coming soon and you won’t want to miss it.

Telluride Film Festival Highlights

The Telluride Film Festival just wrapped up, meaning Oscar season has officially begun.  Here is a look at the films that generated buzz at this year’s festival.

Premieres:

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s new film, which some are calling his greatest work so far, may earn Netflix a place in the Oscar race like Roma did last year.  Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver star as a couple divorcing and fighting over custody of their child.  Driver is getting lots of praise for his performance.    

Two Popes

Netflix’s other major entry is this drama from Fernando Meirelles starring Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict.    

Ford v Ferrari

Christian Bale is getting strong reviews for his performance as a race car driver who helped Ford develop a new race car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. 

 

Judy

Renee Zellweger got standing ovations for her performance as Judy Garland in this biopic about the end of the entertainer’s life.

 

Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is receiving some career best reviews for this uneven crime thriller from the Safdie brothers. Punch Drunk Love is one of my favorite movies so I’m excited to see what he does here.  

 

The Report

Adam Driver stars as a Senate staffer leading an investigation into the CIA’s post 9/11 interrogation tactics.  Annette Bening co-stars as Senator Dianne Feinstein.  Both are getting good reviews and could get nominations. This could be a major awards contender for Amazon.

 

Waves

This movie from A24 was the sleeper hit of the festival.  It deals with the disintegration of a family. 

Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton directs and stars in this 1950s noir about a detective with Tourette’s Syndrome out to solve the murder of his friend.  This movie received mixed reviews.  I’m a huge Ed Norton fan though and I love detective movies so I can’t wait for this.      

Aeronauts

This hot air balloon adventure film stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.  It failed to make much of a splash. 

The Assistant

This movie about a day in the life of an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque executive received a positive response but is still seeking distribution.

 

Previously screened at Cannes:

Pain and Glory

Pedro Almodóvar’s autobiographical film continues to generate Oscar buzz.  Antonio Banderas may finally get his first Oscar nomination. The Spanish Academy has selected the movie as it submission for Best Foreign Film.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

This movie may get Noemie Merlanta a Best Actress nomination.  It could also get a Best Foreign Film nomination.  (Between Pain and Glory and Parasite, it’s a category that is filling up fast.)

 

Parasite

Winner of the Palm d’Or.  This is Joon-ho Bong’s creepy, darkly comic meditation on class. 

A Hidden Life

Terrence Malick returns with what looks like a visually breathtaking film.  (Just look at the preview.)  A conscientious objector refuses to fight for the Nazis during World War II. 

If you’re as excited as I am about these movies, sign up for the newsletter and check out our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EtchedinGold) to stay up to date on all the latest movie news and reviews. Watch for future posts on the Toronto International Film Festival and the Annual Overstuffed Oscar Prediction Post/Fall Preview.

The Best Movies of 2019 So Far...According to Everyone Else

2019 has been a strange year for movies.  Last year was a huge year for diversity.  This year, no major themes or patterns have emerged outside of the feel-good rock’n’roll movie (Rocketman, Teen Spirit, Yesterday, Blinded by the Light) and the continued reign of the superhero movie.  Hopefully the fall will shed some light on what is still a wide open Oscar race.  In the meantime, here are a few of my thoughts on the best movies of the year.  And, more importantly, here are the best movies of the year so far according to everyone else, all the websites and publications that are much more prestigious than mine.    

Booksmart

I was happily surprised to see Booksmart not only on so many Best of lists but at the #1 slot on many of them.  I fell in love with these characters from the first trailer and the movie totally delivered.  Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are hilarious as two nerds trying to cram four years of partying into one wild night.  I can’t wait to see what these actresses do next, but I hope they work together again some day.  I’m also excited for debut director Olivia Wilde’s future projects.  The movie has plenty of jokes about sex and drugs but some of my favorite laughs come from the sweeter moments between the two friends when they are dancing together or showering each other with outlandish compliments.  This underseen film was truly one of the gems of the year.  It would be wonderful if all this critical love turned into some Oscar nominations.  Maybe a director nod for Wilde?  At the very least, I’d like to see it honored in the Best Original Screenplay category. 

High Life

As much I dread the thought, I may have to revisit this movie some day.  Everyone else sees something in it that I clearly missed.  It was a dark hearted, bleak, unredeemable sci-fi flick that ultimately left me cold.  And I’m not someone who has anything against Robert Pattinson.  I love the Twilight films.  I just felt this was an ugly movie with none of the wonder or poetry that I expect from science fiction.  Where’s a Kristen Stewart love triangle when you need it? 


 John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

How long can they continue making John Wick movies?  Probably forever since Part 4 has already been greenlit.  And maybe that’s a good thing.  This entry was more fun than Part 2, but nothing will ever be as surprising as being introduced to John and his world in Part 1.  The knife fight alone in this one is worth the price of admission and will be my main reason for owning the blu-ray.  Even though this film almost felt like it was jumping the shark (punching the horse?) at moments, it was still violent fun and there’s plenty more story worth telling. 



Toy Story 4

Speaking of Keanu Reeves, his role as Duke Caboom helped make Toy Story 4 one of the most entertaining entries in the series.  (Keye and Peele as Ducky and Bunny are a highlight as well.)  Woody’s journey to help new friend Forky accept his place as a toy leads him to a reunion with Bo Peep and a new understanding of home.  Once again, Pixar manages to find the perfect balance of humor and heart.    


Avengers: Endgame

This is the #1 movie on several lists.  There is some hopeful Oscar buzz for a Best Picture nod and a nomination for Robert Downey Jr.  Marvel and the Russo Brothers completed a near-impossible feat.  They brought an eleven-year-long story arc to a satisfying conclusion.  That’s a hard landing to stick.  They deserve all the accolades coming their way.



Rocketman

Even though it hasn’t made as big a splash as Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman is one of the best movies of 2019.  Taron Egerton deserves to be remembered at the end of the year for his performance as Elton John.  I would’ve bet there wasn’t a man alive that could have played John convincingly, yet Egerton does it perfectly and without any ego.  I’ll be crushed if this one doesn’t get nods for Best Picture and Best Actor.    

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Us

Similarly, I’ll be disappointed if Jordan Peele’s latest horror flick doesn’t garner nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress.  This isn’t just one of my favorite films of the year, it’s one of my favorite horror movies of all time.  It’s about more than just a clever concept or a twist ending.  The symbolism in this movie is so rich that repeat viewings just make the experience even better.  It’s a movie you can explore and talk about endlessly.   

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Midsommar

This is 2019’s other essential horror film.  While I wasn’t a fan of Ari Aster’s film Hereditary, Midsommar was an amazing, unique experience unlike anything else.  He also pulled off one of my favorite things in horror that I haven’t seen since The Host—scares in broad daylight.  Jordan Peele talked about the imagery and the visual language of the film while interviewing Aster and it truly has to be seen to be believed.  Midsommar isn’t your typical horror movie full of jump scares.  It’s more like a fever dream you’re sharing with the characters.  It’s a very slow burn but it’s hard to shake afterwards.   

 

The Farewell

I was disappointed in this one.  It’s okay.  I didn’t laugh and cry like I did at Little Miss Sunshine or The Big Sick.  The large cast does a good job and I’ll always line up for Awkwafina.  I wanted bigger laughs like the cemetery scene.  The interactions between Awkwafina and the actress playing her grandmother are the best parts of the film.  This will probably be overshadowed by showier films during the second half of the year.

 

Yesterday

One of the most satisfying movie going experiences of the year.  I still stand by that statement.  I don’t care that it failed to make it on anyone’s best of the year list.  It’s still on mine.  This love letter to the Beatles was one of the brightest spots of my summer. 

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Late Night

Another movie that is probably out of the Oscar race is Late Night.  Even though I thoroughly enjoyed it and was hoping for some love for Emma Thompson, only Town and Country included it on their best of list.  It’s a shame.  It really is a solid, original comedy.  Thompson and John Lithgow do some great work in it.  Sadly, they won’t be recognized for it.  Mindy Kahling will probably also not get a writing nomination either.

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Blinded By the Light

This movie only appeared on one or two lists, probably partly due to its late release in August.  It is a fun, joyous film.  It’s also a must for any Bruce Springsteen fan.  The movie is about a Pakistani teenager living in England who becomes empowered once he discovers the music of Springsteen.  It’s this year’s Sing Street.  I would love to see this movie get some recognition.   

 

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is also one of his most controversial.  From his portrayal of Bruce Lee to Margot Robbie’s limited dialogue to that ending, there’s been plenty of discussion about this movie.  Of course, Hollywood loves movies about itself.  And Once Upon a Time…recreates Hollywood in the ‘60s.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s performances have Oscar potential.  Could this be the movie that wins Tarantino his Best Director Oscar?  We’ll see.  The coming months may bring some steep competition. 

 

Apollo 11

This you-are-there documentary featured previously unseen footage of the Apollo 11 launch and moon landing. It made it onto a lot of “best of the year” lists and will probably score an Oscar nomination. I regret not getting to see it on an IMAX screen.  


Under the Silver Lake

 David Robert Mitchell’s follow up to the buzzy horror film It Follows is a neo noir that sharply divided critics. It still found its way onto many people’s lists as one of their favorite movies of the year so far. Andrew Garfield stars as a man searching for a missing girl who uncovers a larger conspiracy. I still haven’t seen this one yet. I love detective stories. But movies where the main character may be losing their mind freak me out.


Amazing Grace

This Aretha Franklin concert film has been held up by red tape and legal battles for a long time. This year, it finally saw the light of day. Critics and audiences alike have rejoiced at getting to finally experience one of Aretha’s most powerful performances. This one may well get a Best Documentary nomination too.  


Alita: Battle Angel

Despite a disappointing box office that seems to prohibit a sequel, this sci-fi film full of eye candy made it onto a lot of people’s lists. It will probably get nominated in some technical categories. I had hoped this fun movie full of strong performances would find a larger audience and give birth to a series.


How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

The final chapter of the adventures of Hiccup and Toothless is also the most emotional and the most visually breathtaking. It will definitely be nominated for Best Animated Feature. (Unfortunately, it will be competing against Toy Story 4.)


The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Director Joe Talbot wrote and stars in this movie with his friend and co-writer Jimmie Fails. The movie is about gentrification and deals with Talbot’s attempt to restore and move back into his childhood home. The movie received a standing ovation at Sundance and won the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic Film. I still need to catch up with this one.


The Beach Bum

Director Harmony Korine directs Matthew McConaughey as a Hunter S. Thompson type on a misadventure full of drugs and alcohol. The movie has a fun supporting cast including Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Buffett. This may pop up at the Independent Spirit Awards.

The Dead Don’t Die

Jim Jarmusch celebrates and parodies the zombie flick in his latest film. Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigney are just the tip of the iceberg of this impressive cast. This metaphysical dark comedy was one of the highlights of the summer for me.


Gloria Bell

Julianne Moore is getting great reviews for this character piece about a woman in midlife who is different things to different people in her life.


Her Smell

Elisabeth Moss (who was so good in Us!) plays a punk rocker in a downward spiral. This is supposedly one of her strongest performances. I can’t wait to see it.


The Souvenir

A film student begins to find her voice while navigating a turbulent relationship. It won the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.


The Best Movies of 2019 I Haven’t Heard Of

I love my local art house theater (www.kentuckytheater.com).  But it only has two screens.  So it can only show so many movies a year.  And when something becomes popular, it can show even fewer movies.  For instance, Once Upon a Time…is in its 5th week and The Farwell is in its 3rd.  I think Wild Rose just got cancelled due to the holdovers.  For this reason, there are movies I not only don’t get to see, there are some I never even hear about.  Here are some of the recurring titles from the best of lists that are completely new to me. 

 

Ash Is Purest White

IMDB describes this movie as “A story of violent love within a time frame spanning from 2001 to 2017.” It sounds pretty epic.


Birds of Passage

Google describes this as “The origins of the Colombian drug trade, as seen through eyes of an indigenous Wayuu family that becomes involved in the booming business of selling marijuana to American youth in the 1970s.” This sounds like a different take on the traditional drug-themed thriller.

Black Mother

Filmmaker Khalik Allah’s experimental film about Jamaica and a tribute to its women.


Climax

Cult film maker Gaspar Noe’s latest horror film is about a dance troupe whose rehearsal descends into a nightmare thanks to drug-laced sangria.


Diane

This is a character piece from Brazil about a self-sacrificing woman fighting an internal battle.


Dragged Across Concrete

According to Google, the plot of this movie is Police partners descend into the criminal underworld after they are suspended for assaulting a suspect on video.” Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson star. I’m still not comfortable with Gibson’s comeback. But the movie and Gibson have gotten good reviews.


Fast Color

A woman with supernatural powers must go on the run when her abilities are discovered. This sounds a little bit like Midnight Special. I’m very interested.

High Flying Bird

According to Google, the plot of this movie is, “A sports agent pitches a controversial business opportunity to a rookie basketball player during a lockout.” How did I miss a Soderbergh film produced by Netflix?! I’m surprised they didn’t save such a high profile project for Oscar season.

 

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

No, this isn’t another adaptation of the Eugene O’Neill play. According to Google, the plot of this movie is, “A man returns to his hometown after a long absence and searches for a woman he has never been able to forget.”

Sorry Angel

According to Rotten Tomatoes,Well cast and beautifully filmed, Sorry Angel explores a young man's sexual awakening with wit, empathy, and a satisfying depth.”

Standoff at Sparrow Creek

After a mass shooting at a police funeral, a reclusive ex-cop comes out of retirement to solve the case. Wow! This looks intense! Very Reservoir Dogs/Usual Suspects.

Transit 

This movie showed up on a LOT of lists. This may be THE foreign film to see. Here’s the plot according to Google: “In an attempt to flee Nazi-occupied France, Georg assumes the identity of a dead author but soon finds himself stuck in Marseilles, where he falls in love with Maria, a young woman searching for her missing husband.”

 

And now, the best movies of the year so far…according to everyone else.

A.V. Club

(https://film.avclub.com/the-best-films-of-2019-so-far-1835652186/amp)

selected by A.A. Dowd, Katie Rife, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Mike D'Angelo, Jesse Hassenger, and Lawrence Garcia as of June 20 

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

The Image Book

Cold Pursuit

Grass and Hotel by the River

High Flying Bird

Sorry Angel

Apollo 11

Climax

Transit

Ash Is Purest White

Relaxer

Sunset

Us

Slut in a Good Way

Amazing Grace

High Life

Her Smell

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Little Woods

Under the Silver Lake

Asako I & II

John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

The Souvenir

Booksmart

Too Late to Die Young

 

Chicago Sun Times

(https://chicago.suntimes.com/platform/amp/2019/7/5/20545403/best-movies-2019-so-far-year-worst-half-keanu-reeves-richard-roeper)

selected by Richard Roeper as of July 5

Avengers: Endgame

Booksmart

Captain Marvel

Echo In the Canyon

Fast Color

Gloria Bell

John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

Rocketman

Toy Story 4

Us

 

Cinemablend

(https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2477484/the-top-10-films-of-2019-so-far-according-to-cinemablend)

selected by Eric Eisenberg

1. Avengers: Endgame

2. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

3. Booksmart

4. Toy Story 4

5. Tied:  The Farewell/Midsommar

7. Rocketman

8. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

9. Tied:  The Art of Self-Defense/Crawl

 

Collider

(http://collider.com/best-movies-2019-so-far/?amp)

selected by Dave Trumbore, Adam Chitwood, Matt Goldberg, Haleigh Foutch, Vinnie Mancuso,

as of June

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Funan

Long Shot

Us

High Flying Bird

Always Be My Maybe

The Kid Who Would Be King

Apollo 11

Under the Silver Lake

Fast Color

Booksmart

Rocketman

Toy Story 4

Climax

High Life

Her Smell

John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

Avengers: Endgame

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

 

Complex

(https://amp.www.complex.com/pop-culture/best-movies-2019/)

selected by Khal, Frazier Tharpe, Dria Roland, Brenden Gallagher, Nate Houston, Damien Scott, Zach Frydenlund, Angel Diaz as of June 19

1. John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

2. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

3. Avengers: Endgame

4. Us

5. Booksmart

6. Deadwood: The Movie

7. High Flying Bird

8. Amazing Grace

9. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

10. High Life

11. Little Woods

12. The Beach Bum

13. Homecoming

14. Captain Marvel

15. Triple Frontier

16. Gloria Bell

17. Always Be My Maybe

18. Long Shot

19. The Dead Don’t Die

20. Pokemon Detective Pikachu

21. Greta

22. Starfish

23. Fyre/Fyre Fraud

24. Alita: Battle Angel

25. Shazam!

 

Den of Geek

(http://amp.denofgeek.com/us/movies/282640/best-movies-2019)

selected by David Crow as of August 5

1. Booksmart

2. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

4. Us

5. The Farewell

6. Midsommar

7. Toy Story 4

8. Avengers: Endgame

9. Luce

10. The Peanut Butter Falcon

 

Entertainment Weekly

(https://ew.com/movies/the-10-best-movies-of-2019-so-far/amp/)

selected by Leah Greenblatt and Chris Nashawaty as of June 7

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Apollo 11

Avengers: Endgame

Gloria Bell

Transit

Us

Amazing Grace

Everybody Knows

Booksmart

John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

 

Esquire

(https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/gmp24561951/best-movies-of-2019/)

selected by Nick Schager as of August 9

1. Transit

2. Under the Silver Lake

3. Climax

4. The Beach Bum

5. Hagazussa

6. Gloria Bell

7. An Elephant Sitting Still

8. The Souvenir

9. Apollo 11

10. Long Day’s Journey Into Night

11. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

12. Diane

13. Shadow

14. Ash Is Purest White

15. Birds of Passage

16. John Wick: Chapter 3--Parabellum

17. The Edge of Democracy

18. High Life

19. Plus One

20. The Mountain

21. Skin

22. The Great Hack

23. The Burial of Kojo

24. Avengers: Endgame

25. Fast Color

26. Her Smell

27. The Dead Don’t Die

28. The Art of Self Defense

29. Greta

30. Toy Story 4

 

Film school rejects

(https://filmschoolrejects.com/best-movies-2019-mid-year/?amp)

selected by Brad Gullickson, Rob Hunter, Luke Hicks, Kieran Fisher, Hayden Cormell, Meg Shields, Sam Olthof, Matthew Monagle, Fernando Andres, Hans Qu, Anna Swanson, Christina Smith, Ciara Wardlow, Jacob Trussell, and Kristen Reid

1. Booksmart

2. Us

3. High Life

4. John Wick: Chapter 3--Parabellum

5. Apollo 11

6. Under The Silver Lake

7. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

8. Fast Color

9. Avengers: Endgame

10. Transit

11. Rocketman

12. Deadwood: The Movie

13. Her Smell

14. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé

15. The Perfection

16. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

17. I Am Mother

18. High Flying Bird

19. Hagazussa

20. Climax

21. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

22. Piercing

23. Paddleton

24. Aniara

25. Shazam!

 

Filmspotting podcast

(www.filmspotting.net)

as of June 28, 2019

 Adam Kempenaar:

1. Her Smell

2. Apollo 11

3. Transit

4. Us

5. High Life

 

Josh Larson:

1. Us

2. The Souvenir

3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

4. High Life

5. Diane

 

GQ

(https://www.gq.com/story/the-best-movies-of-2019-so-far/amp)

selected by Max Cea, Codie Steensma, Tom Philip, and Brennan Carley as of June 7 

Booksmart

Gully

The Beach Bum

Her Smell

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Bros: After the Screaming Stops

Cold War

High Flying Bird

The Souvenir

High Life

Climax

Transit

Ma

Detective Pikachu

Us

The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

 

Hollywood Reporter

(https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/10-best-films-2019-1218725)

selected by Jordan Mintzer, John DeFore, Todd McCarthy, Jon Frosch, Caryn James, and David Rooney as of June 17

Birds of Passage

Booksmart

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Non-Fiction

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

Sorry Angel

The Souvenir

Toy Story 4

Us

 

Indiewire

(https://www.indiewire.com/2019/06/best-movies-2019-so-far-booksmart-the-beach-bum-1202146819/amp/)

selected by Eric Kohn, David Ehrlich, and Kate Erbland as of June 3

Diane

Diamantino

Her Smell

Apollo 11

The Souvenir

High Life

The Beach Bum

Us

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Booksmart

 

LA Times

(https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-best-films-so-far-kenneth-turan-justin-chang-20190705-story.html?_amp=true)

selected by Justin Chang and Kenneth Turan as of July 5

Birds of Passage

Maiden

Peterloo

Toy Story 4

Working Woman

Ash Is Purest White

Her Smell

High Life

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

The Souvenir

 

Mashable

(https://mashable.com/article/best-films-2019-so-far.amp)

selected by Angie Han as of June 26

1. Booksmart

2. Avengers: Endgame

3. Us

4. Apollo 11

5. Toy Story 4

6. Under the Silver Lake

7. Climax

8. Shazam!

9. The Souvenir

10. John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

 

New Yorker

(https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/2019-has-already-been-an-exceptional-year-in-movies/amp)

selected by Richard Brody as of March 30

 Ash Is Purest White

Birds of Passage

Black Mother

The Burial of Kojo

The Competition

An Elephant Sitting Still

The Gospel of Eureka

High Flying Bird

Hotel By the River

The Image Book

Pig

3 Faces

Two Plans & a Fancy

Us

 

New York Times

(https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/26/movies/best-films-of-2019.amp.html)

selected by A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis as of June 26

The Souvenir

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Her Smell

Gloria Bell

Booksmart

Rolling Thunder Revue

The Edge of Democracy

Transit

 

Paste magazine

(https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/06/best-movies-2019-so-far.html)

selected by Andy Crump, Dom Sinacola, Tim Grierson, Shannon M. Houston, Kyle Turner, Ellen Johnson, Will Leitch, Joelle Monique, Cole Henry, Michael Burgin as of June 12

1. John Wick: Chapter 3--Parabellum

2. Us

3. Avengers: Endgame

4. High Flying Bird

5. High Life

6. Long Day’s Journey Into Night

7. Diamantino

8. The Beach Bum

9. Ash Is Purest White

10. The Souvenir

11. Under the Silver Lake

12. The Wild Pear Tree

13. Booksmart

14. Climax

15. Homecoming

16. Transit

17. The Farewell

18. Shadow

19. Knife + Heart

20. Little Woods

21. Black Mother

22. Non-fiction

23. Dragged Across Concrete

24. Her Smell

25. In Fabric

 

Polygon

(https://www.polygon.com/platform/amp/2019/3/1/18240450/best-movies-2019)

selected by Karen Han as of July 4

Alita: Battle Angel

Amazing Grace

Apollo 11

Arctic

Ash Is Purest White

The Beach Bum

Booksmart

Cold Pursuit

The Changeover

Dragged Across Concrete

Fast Color

High Flying Bird

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

Midsommar

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Toy Story 4

Us

Woman At War

 

Pop Crush

(https://popcrush.com/best-movies-2019/)

as of June 14

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Giant Little Ones

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Wine Country

Fighting With My Family

Glass

Captain Marvel

Us

Someone Great

 

Rolling Stone

(https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-lists/best-movies-2019-so-far-travers-848881/)

selected by Peter Travers as of June 24

Amazing Grace

Avengers: Endgame

Booksmart

Diane

An Elephant Sitting Still

High Flying Bird

John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

Knock Down the House

Rocketman

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

The Souvenir

Us

 

ScreenCrush

(https://screencrush.com/best-movies-of-2019/)

selected by Matt Singer as of June 13

1. 3 Faces

2. High Flying Bird

3. Apollo 11

4. Us

5. Shazam

6. Homecoming

7. Avengers: Endgame

8. Under the Silver Lake

9. Booksmart

10. Triple Frontier

 

ScreenRant

(https://screenrant.com/best-movies-2019-so-far/amp/)

selected by James Hunt as of June 28

1. Us

2. Booksmart

3. Toy Story 4

4. Avengers: Endgame

5. Rocketman

6. Detective Pikachu

 

Slashfilm

(https://www.slashfilm.com/ethan-andertons-10-best-movies-of-2019-so-far/)

selected by Ethan Anderton as of July 31

1. The Report

2. Us

3. Avengers: Endgame

4. The Farewell

5. John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

6. Booksmart

7. Honey Boy

8. Blinded by the Light

9. Toy Story 4

10. Brittany Runs a Marathon

 

Slant

(https://www.slantmagazine.com/film/the-best-films-of-2019-so-far/amp/)

selected by Sam C. Mac, Peter Goldberg, Chris Barsanti, Christopher Gray, Chuck Bowen, Ed Gonzalez, Steve Mcfarlane, Jake Cole, Carson Lund, and Diego Semerene as of June 21

3 Faces

Ash Is Purest White

The Beach Bum

Birds of Passage

Black Mother

Carmine Street Guitars

Climax

Diane

Dragged Across Concrete

The Eyes of Orson Welles

Her Smell

High Flying Bird

High Life

Hotel by the River

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Pasolini

The Plagiarists

Sorry Angel

The Souvenir

Transit

 

Taste of Cinema

(http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2019/the-20-best-movies-of-2019-so-far/)

selected by Shane Scott-Travis as of June 13

1. In Fabric

2. Us

3. The Beach Bum

4. Dragged Across Concrete

5. Birds of Passage

6. Knife + Heart

7. Ash Is Purest White

8. High Life

9. Booksmart

10. The Wild Pear Tree

11. John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

12. The Art of Self Defense

13. Hellboy

14. Aniara

15. The Dead Don’t Die

16. All the Gods in the Sky

17. Brightburn

18. Shadow

19. Non-fiction

20. Starfish

 

Time

(https://time.com/5586670/best-movies-of-2019-so-far/?amp=true)

selected by Stephanie Zacharek as of May 25

The Mustang

Gloria Bell

They Shall Not Grow Old

High Life

Birds of Passage

The Beach Bum

Amazing Grace

Us

The Souvenir

Tokien

 

Town and country 

(https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/gmp27795810/best-movies-of-2019/)

as of June 15

Greta

Everybody Knows

Us

Booksmart

Rocketman

Late Night

Never Look Away

The Souvenir

Transit

Avengers: Endgame

Her Smell

 

Thrillist

(https://www.thrillist.com/amphtml/entertainment/nation/best-movies-of-2019)

selected by Dan Jackson as of August 16

1. High Life

2. The Souvenir

3. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

4. Ash Is Purest White

5. Peterloo

6. High Flying Bird

7. The Farewell

8. Birds of Passage

9. John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

10. The Nightingale

11. Transit

12. Amazing Grace

13. Us

14. Her Smell

15. Crawl

16. An Elephant Sitting Still

17. Non-fiction

18. Toy Story 4

19. Gloria Bell

20. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

21. Shadow

22. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

23. The Dead Don’t Die

24. Fyre

25. Velvet Buzzsaw

26. Booksmart

27. The Hole in the Ground

28. Alita: Battle Angel

29. Hail Satan?

 

USA Today

(https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/1567424001)

selected by Brian Truitt as of June 27

1. Booksmart

2. Us

3. Wild Rose

4. Avengers: Endgame

5. Long Shot

6. See You Yesterday

7. High Life

8. Fast Color

9. Apollo 11

10.  John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

 

Vanity Fair

(https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/06/best-movies-2019-so-far)

selected by Richard Lawson and K. Austin Collins as of June 26

Alita: Battle Angel

Ash Is Purest White

Black Mother

Her Smell

High Life

Peterloo

Sorry Angel

The Souvenir

Toy Story 4

Transit

 

Variety

(https://variety.com/2019/film/news/the-best-films-of-2019-mid-year-1203244466/amp/)

selected by Peter Debruge and Owen Gleiberman as of June 15

Avengers: Endgame

Birds of Passage

Booksmart

Carmine Street Guitars

Diane

Gloria Bell

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Leaving Neverland

Non-fiction

Our Time

Sauvage

Shazam!

Toy Story 4

Wild Rose

Woman at War

 

Vox

(https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/culture/2019/6/28/18759856/best-movies-2019-so-far-first-half)

selected by Alissa Wilkinson as of June 28

1. The Souvenir

2. Her Smell

3. Peterloo

4. Black Mother

5. Us

6. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

7. Apollo 11

8. Wild Nights With Emily

9. Under the Silver Lake

10. 3 Faces

11. Wild Rose

12. Fast Color

13. John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

14. Booksmart

15. Avengers: Endgame

 

Vulture

(https://www.vulture.com/amp/article/best-movies-2019.html)

selected by David Edelstein, Emily Yoshida, Angelica Jade Bastién, and Bilge Ebiri as of August 10

Arctic

Birds of Passage

Escape Room

Fighting With My Family

Transit

Climax

Diane

The Brink

Ash Is the Purest White

Us

Amazing Grace

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Trial By Fire

Souvenir

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Midsommar

Wild Rose

Domino

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood

Crawl

Firecrackers

For Sama

Marianne & Leonard

 

Whatculture.com

(https://whatculture.com/amp/film/15-best-movies-of-2019-so-far)

selected by Josh Brown and Simon Gallagher as of July 11

1.   Avengers: Endgame

2. Booksmart

3. Toy Story 4

4. Paddleton

5. Burning

6. Us

7. Midsommar

8. Long Shot

9. The Art of Self Defense

10. Spider-Man: Far From Home

11. The Last Watch

12. Climax

13. Fighting With My Family

14. Hail Satan?

15. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

It’s September and Oscar season has begun. The Telluride Film Festival is over and the Toronto International Film Festival ends tomorrow. The Oscar buzz is starting. To stay in the loop with all the movie news and reviews, sign up for the newsletter and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EtchedinGold/

 

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood Review

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Those that watch Tarantino for the gore and the shock value are going to be greatly disappointed with his ninth film. It's a two hour slog for them to get to their sick candy. For the rest of us, Tarantino has crafted a cool, retro love letter to Hollywood that mostly goes down smoothly. The film follows fictional actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and real-life actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) during the days before the Manson Family Murders. Is this one of Tarantino's revisionist histories? I'll never tell. Besides, the movie may build towards an inevitably violent ending however it's the journey that matters, not the destination.

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate (Credit: Andrew Cooper)

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate (Credit: Andrew Cooper)

Rick Dalton's star is on the wane as neighbor Sharon Tate's is on the rise. Meanwhile Charles Manson and his followers have taken up residence at Spahn Ranch. Tarantino has fun blending these three storylines but not always in the ways you'd expect. Manson, such a fascinating figure to so many, is virtually absent from the film. Tate is seen but rarely heard in Robbie's exuberant performance. The majority of the film centers on Dalton and Booth.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton  (Credit: Andrew Cooper)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton (Credit: Andrew Cooper)

DiCaprio's Dalton is a former 1950s TV star whose movie career is in danger. He's mostly playing supporting roles as villains on TV shows. (We get to watch a day of shooting in one of the film's best sequences.) He's a masculine actor in the Steve McQueen mold (who he even loses a significant role to). Brad Pitt's Booth is an out of work stuntman who functions as Rick Dalton's driver and confidant. Tarantino painstakingly recreates 1960s Hollywood. (Like most Tarantino films, the soundtrack is amazing.)

Other stand-out performances include Margaret Qualley as a hippie that Booth has a crush on, Timothy Olyphant as the star of the show Dalton guest stars on, and Julia Butters as a young method actress who bonds with Dalton on set.

Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth  (Credit: Andrew Cooper)

Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth (Credit: Andrew Cooper)

Despite critical acclaim, it's hard to say whether this will be an Oscar contender. I'd love to see a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Butters. I wish DiCaprio hadn't won his Oscar for the boring mess that is The Revenant. This movie is much more fun. Pitt may have a better chance at being nominated for the upcoming sci-fi drama Ad Astra. Margot Robbie's role here is probably too small to merit awards attention. Hollywood does love movies about itself so this could get a Best Picture and/or Best Director nomination. The surest bet is probably a Best Original Screenplay nomination.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

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The Farewell Review

A movie can be a Rorschach test. When I invited my friend to see The Farewell, she said, "I don't think I can watch a movie about a woman dying from cancer tonight." But to me, that's not what it's about. It's about the love between a grandmother and her grandchild. At least, it is in its best moments. Which is why the trailer appealed to me.

Awkwafina was a comedy MVP last summer, appearing in Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. Here she gets to show a broader range of emotion as Billi, who wears her heart on her sleeve yet must somehow keep the secret that her grandmother is dying. The scenes between Billi and her Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) are by turns tender and funny. Nai Nai is a lovable yet controlling matriarch which sometimes makes it difficult keeping her own diagnosis from her.

The movie has a strong ensemble cast. There aren't as many big laughs as I'd have hoped for. A scene where the family visits the grandfather's grave and leaves him food, arguing over how to prepare it, is hilarious.

Alternately, the movie doesn't become the cathartic tearjerker I'd hoped for either. I was hoping to have more of an emotional rollercoaster experience with the film. I wanted to feel more than I did.

Ultimately, it's a worthwhile experience. Awkwafina gives a great performance and I hope to continue seeing more from her. A new Awkwafina movie every summer would be a welcome trend. It's more original than a lot of what you'll see on the commercial theater screens. But frankly, I didn't enjoy it as much as Yesterday. Awkwafina and director Lulu Wang will probably get some love at the Independent Spirit Awards. Wang could score a Best Original Screeplay nod.

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Yesterday Review

yesterday-YST_Teaser1Sheet_FRM_RGB_1.png


Usually, I have my fingers crossed each summer for one really good indie comedy. This year, there seems to be an embarrassment of riches with Late Night already released The Farewell yet to go wide and Brittany Runs a Marathon still to come. However, Yesterday is the one to beat. For my money, it's simply one of the most satisfying moviegoing experiences I've had all year.

Himesh Patel is a great new discovery in the lead as Jack Malik, the only man on earth who remembers the Beatles after a freak power outage. He has the blessing and curse of reintroducing their music to the world as his own. A lot of the fun of the movie comes from the premise of, "How would the Beatles fare in 2019 as newcomers?" The cringe-inducing moment at the end of the trailer has Ed Sheeran talking Malik into changing "Hey Jude" to "Hey Dude.”

Himesh Patel and Lily James at the London Premiere (Credit: James Gillham / StillMoving.net)

Himesh Patel and Lily James at the London Premiere (Credit: James Gillham / StillMoving.net)

Lily James is sweet as Jack's platonic friend and manager who longs to be more. The entire cast is excellent. I'm rooting for Robert Carlyle to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination for a surprise scene that is one of my favorites of the summer. Unfortunately, it's a major spoiler so I don’t want to say much about it. It's also a scene that is dividing audiences. However, to me, it is nothing short of magical and a reminder of why I go to the movies, the type of magic you can only experience on the silver screen.

The movie is a love letter to the Beatles with plenty of good music. It's also a feel-good romance. With anything Danny Boyle is involved in, you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, some moment of terror or violence. It never comes here. Between Rocketman, Yesterday, and the upcoming Blinded by the Light, it’s been a rather rock ‘n’ roll summer at the movies and I, for one, have been enjoying it.

Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran and Lily James at the London Premiere (Credit: James Gillham / StillMoving.net)

Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran and Lily James at the London Premiere (Credit: James Gillham / StillMoving.net)

Yesterday will probably fare well at the Independent Spirit Awards. I'd like to see it get an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. If it's still playing near you, I highly recommend it.

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Toy Story 4 Review

Toy Story 2 is considered one of the few sequels that equals, if not surpasses, the original. Toy Story 3 is one of the few animated films to be nominated for Best Picture alongside Beauty and the Beast and Up. (I still say Wall-E got robbed.) Toy Story 4 may well join this list. It will definitely run for Best Animated Film where poor How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World probably no longer stands a chance of winning now despite its beautiful graphics.

For a while, Pixar movies had become emotional landmines, not so much tear jerkers as tear rippers. The Brave Dinosaur is a good example with several tissue-worthy scenes. Thankfully, that era seems to be over. Toy Story 4 strikes a nice balance of emotion and humor. The movie picks up where Toy Story 3 left off, with the toys belonging to Bonnie now. When Bonnie makes a new toy named Forky out of items fron the trash, he becomes very special to her. Only he doesn't identify as a toy. He identifies as trash. Woody makes it his mission to watch over Forky and keep him close to Bonnie.

A lot of the movie is about Woody dealing with change. What does it mean for him to no longer be the favorite toy? What is his purpose?

His adventures this time take him to a creepy antique shop and to a carnival. He gets to meet fun new characters like scene stealers Ducky and Bunny (played by Keye and Peele) and the villainous Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her ventriloquist dummy henchmen. Keanu Reeves as Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom is a highlight. Most importantly, Woody is reunited with his love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

One complaint is that Woody doesn't get as much screen time with Buzz.
Overall, this is a fun romp that is more poignant than expected. The ending is touching and emotional in a way only Pixar could pull off and it validates making one last sequel.

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Late Night: An Oscar Nomination for Emma?

Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Late Night was one of the hottest properties to come out of this year's Sundance Festival. It's easy to see why. It's the smartest comedy you'll see this summer. (Yesterday is the most magical. Good Boys is the raunchiest.) Mindy Kaling is a triple threat as star, writer, and producer. She plays a diversity hire who is brought onto Emma Thompson's late night show writing staff. Thompson is in danger of being replaced and the show needs a female voice.

Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Aside from the recent Beauty and the Beast remake where she played Mrs. Potts, I hadn't seen Emma Thompson in anything since Saving Mr. Banks six years ago. In Late Night, she is reborn. She looks amazing. She plays the boss from hell a la The Devil Wears Prada. But she also has some good scenes with her husband played by John Lithgow. She gets to do something she’s never done before—an American dark comedy. And she’s brilliant. With Kaling’s writing and Thompson’s performance, what could have been a one-note character becomes a complex performance. I think Thompson has an early shot at Best Actress. She manages to go from a villain to someone you’re rooting for by the end.

Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Kaling is fun in the role of the naïve newcomer who has to fight for her place in the boys club. The writers room is so white, I actually couldn't keep two of the characters straight. And they were significant to the plot. But I think that only makes the film's point even more.

Emma Thompson doing a “man on the street” bit. Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Emma Thompson doing a “man on the street” bit. Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

While the movie doesn't ultimately capture your heart the same way as The Big Sick did, it still sets itself apart from the rest of the summer comedies. I wouldn't be surprised to see it get a Best Original Screenplay nod for Kaling. It may have steep competition though. The Farewell and Brittany Runs a Marathon, also Sundance darlings, have yet to be released. And new release Yesterday may steal some of Late Night's thunder. Stay tuned for that review coming soon.

Reid Scott and Mindy Kaling. Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Reid Scott and Mindy Kaling. Credit: Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Rocketman: Our First Best Picture Nominee?

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Last year, rock ‘n’ roll biopic Bohemian Rhapsody broke records at the box office, won Best Actor at the Oscars, and nearly won Best Picture.  Could Rocketman, the new biopic about Elton John, pull off the same feat?  It may not pull in the same numbers.  It made half of what Bohemian Rhapsody did on opening weekend.  However, it definitely has a shot at the Oscars.  With the exception of Jordan Peele’s Us and the extreme longshot of Captain Marvel or Avengers: Endgame getting a nomination, Rocketman is probably the first Best Picture nominee of the year.  At least, the first one available for regular Joes like us to see.  Plenty of potential nominees have already screened at Sundance, Cannes, and other festivals by now.  So what makes Rocketman special?

A Strong Script

The script by Lee Hall ditches the paint by numbers formula of most biopics.  The film uses an outer frame story of John attending an AA meeting and telling his story to jump back and forth in time.  It also contains fantastical moments such as when everyone in the room is lifted into the air during “Crocodile Rock.”  As the tagline for the movie says, “The only way to tell his story is to live his fantasy.” 

Taron Egerton’s Performance

If you had asked me if I had seen a living actor who could play Elton John, I would have told you no.  Until I saw Taron Egerton in the previews for this movie.  He looks and sounds like Elton.  And he gives an amazing performance.  This is his graduation from genre films.  From now on, he is a force to be reckoned with.  And if he is snubbed by the Academy, it’s a damn shame.  Whatever the next six months hold, this IS one of the best performances of the year and deserves to be celebrated. 

Authenticity

The filmmakers went for an R-rating so they could be true to John’s story and include drugs, alcohol, and gay sex.  Bohemian Rhapsody made Freddie Mercury a scapegoat and was almost afraid to focus on his gayness.  Rocketman is a lot more fearless.  It shows Elton kissing men, making love, even an uncomfortable moment with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.  I know it may seem odd to compare Bohemian Rhapsody to Rocketman since they have the same director, Dexter Fletcher.  However, they have different screenwriters, Fletcher only took over Boho Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired from the project, and Mercury was not around to have a hand in his own movie while Elton John was.  The difference this makes is significant.   

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

It’s Not a Jukebox Musical

While Bohemian Rhapsody felt like it was rushing from hit to hit, Rocketman uses Elton John’s songs out of chronological order and in surprising ways.  It’s a child version of Elton, not an old queen, who sings “The Bitch Is Back.”  The title song is not a hard rocking spectacle like it has become in concert but is a devastating song of desperation (which it has always been).  The songs are made to fit the narrative rather than used for audience nostalgia.  (If you need that, rent Almost Famous or 27 Dresses, both of which have epic Elton sing-alongs.)  The dignity of the director’s vision is amazing.  Where one might expect a show stopping number,  many of the songs are used in a more subtle and unexpected manner.   

A Strong Supporting Cast

My jaw dropped when I saw the end credits.  I did not realize how much Jamie Bell had grown.  He plays Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, the lyricist responsible for many of his most well-known hits.  Bell could score a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this role.  Everything feels genuine.  From his platonic love for his friend to his excitement at their rising fame.  There’s a moment when he’s watching Elton put his words to music to complete “Your Song” that feels rather sweet. 

On the other side of the coin is Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s neglectful mother.  She remains a negative presence in his life throughout the film and delivers one of the movie’s most devastating emotional blows.  Her performance might merit a Best Supporting Actress nomination. 

It’s a Contender

 Honestly, this film is a contender.  I can see it running for Best Director for Fletcher and Best Screenplay for Hall.  If it weren’t relegated to the credits, the new song “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” would be a strong contender for Best Original Song.  While I’m still in complete awe of Us and hope it will go to the Oscars in several categories (Actress, Screenplay, Director, Picture), I can say without a doubt that the cast of Rocketman will be on the red carpet.  I’m so excited.  It feels like Oscar season has finally begun.  Festival favorites are slowly beginning to creep into theaters.  Next stop:  Late Night. 



2020 Oscar Contenders

The Oscars are over. Long live the Oscars! It has barely been two month since the 2019 Academy Awards aired and I’m already excited to bring you a whole new crop of contenders for the 2020 Academy Awards. We’re only a few months into the new year but the calendar is filling up with awards bait. So without any further ado, here’s your guide to next year’s potential Oscar nominees.


Alita: Battle Angel

Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron’s sci-fi epic got moved from fall to February. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this piece of eye candy nominated in several of the technical categories for visual and sound effects. To read about the animation process for the film, check out my article here: http://runpee.com/what-is-animated-in-alita-battle-angel/.

Mapplethorpe (March 1)

Matt Smith stars in this biopic about the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. While I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Smith as the Doctor, I’m excited to see him getting the kind of mature roles he wanted to play outside of genre pictures. I’m glad to see some LGBT rep;presentation this early in the year.

The Professor and the Madman  (March 7)

Based on a popular nonfiction book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, this drama features performances by Sean Penn and Mel Gibson. I’m not sure how I feel about watching Mel Gibson onscreen in a drama again (I’ve been able to safely ignore the action films he’s made over the past several years). However, it’s a moot point as Mel Gibson himself doesn’t even want audiences to see this movie. He tried to have it blocked from being shown. According to Slashfilm, Gibson and director Farhad Safinia felt that scenes should be shot on location in Oxford, England but Voltage Pictures refused. The two of them eventually walked off the project and Voltage finished the film with a different director. The footage they got before the walkout looks pretty decent though. Awards bait type speeches and stuff. We’ll see if it holds together.

Gloria Bell (March 8)

Another Oscar season, another Julianne Moore performance. I’m here for it. This character study portrays a woman who is different things to the different people in her life, none of whom see all of the pieces of her. In one radio interview, Moore talked about the suspense in small moments or interactions within the film. It makes me interested to see it.

The Highwaymen (in theaters March 15, on Netflix March 29 )

Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play the cops who went after Bonnie and Clyde in this two-hander. Costner is largely under appreciated during the latter part of his career even though he remains one of our finest actors. He’s had pivotal roles in movies like Hidden Figures and Molly’s Game that I feel could have gotten Best Supporting Actor nominations. But they don’t even get talked about, much less celebrated. Harrelson at least got a nomination for his turn in Three Billboards which had one of the most heartbreaking moments of the year. I’m excited to see them together. The trailer is fun.

The Aftermath (March 15)

As much as I love Keira Knightley, this movie looks so boring. However, Oscar loves war and tortured love stories, so it has the whiff of awards bait. I briefly got my wish for Jason Clarke to play a sweetheart when I saw him in First Man. But apparently he’s now back to playing villains and jerks.

The Hummingbird Project  (March 15)

God, I love this trailer. Jesse Eisenberg getting wheeled into the ER while he’s on his phone still wheeling and dealing. Alexander Skarsgård dancing in his bathrobe. I think I just love madness and chaos. And this movie has it. Could it be this year’s Big Short?

US (March 22)

It’s official: Jordan Peele is a master of the horror genre. He totally avoided the sophomore slump and delivered an even more complex thriller on his second time out. This is a movie you need to see twice. Trust me. It gets so much better on a second viewing. I’m hoping Lupita Nyong’o gets a Best Actress nomination for this. Right now, it easily has a spot on my Top 10 list. Expect to see it on the obligatory Best of the Year So Far lists in June.

Hotel Mumbai (March 22)

Based on a real life terrorist attack, this is supposed to be a hard sit but a powerful experience. Dev Patel may find himself on the red carpet again for his performance.

Stockholm (March 22)

At this point, I wouldn’t rule out Ethan Hawke reading the phone book. He keeps on taking on interesting projects. And he’s so prolific. This is at least his second film out this year so far. Even though it’s a comedy, I wouldn’t count it out. Juliet Naked was a comedy and his performance in that could’ve merited award nominations. His recent drama First Reformed got a Best Original Screenplay nomination this year.

J.T. Leroy (March 29)

This movie closed the Toronto International Film Festival last year. However, for whatever reason, it did not get a release until this Oscar season. Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern have both been at the top of their game lately and I’m excited to see them work together on a project. This biopic tells the story of the two figures behind the fictitious literary figure Jeremiah Terminator Leroy who was a brief literary sensation in the ‘90s.

Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart. Photo courtesy of Jazo PR.

Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart. Photo courtesy of Jazo PR.

Beach Bum (March 29)

Harmony Korine is back with a follow-up to Spring Breakers. This star studded film features Matthew McConaughey as a poet with writer’s block. He seems kind of like Hunter S. Thompson if Thompson were more of a hippie and a pothead and less of a hardcore drug user. There is a lot of anticipation for this dark comedy.

Warning: language, drug use, and naked McConaughey butt.

BEST OF ENEMIES (April 5)

This was the first movie that I put on the list. Sam Rockwell may garner another Oscar nomination for playing another racist. Taraji P. Henson looks fierce. She might get her second Oscar nomination for this. It may be the first major drama of the year. The movie definitely has a strong trailer.

Teen Spirit (April 5)

Elle Fanning will get her Oscar someday. This rock ‘n’ roll movie is a great display of Fanning’s talent but probably not quite Oscar-worthy. It’s still one of my favorites of the year so far and may show up at the Independent Spirit Awards.

High Life (April 5)

Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche star in this sci-fi thriller. It could be the new Ex Machina or Annihilation.

Her Smell (April 12)

Another rock ‘n’ roll movie! This one stars Elisabeth Moss in what looks to be a powerful performance as a self-destructive punk rock singer. She had a great role in Us so I’m dying to see what she does here.

The White Crow (April 26)

This suspenseful biopic tells the story of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s defection. Ralph Fiennes may get his first directing nomination for this film.

All Is True (May 10)
Kenneth Branagh plays Shakespeare in his final days. Also starring Judi Dench and Ian Mckellen. Judi Dench won an Oscar for another project involving Shakespeare. And three of Branagh’s Oscar nominations are for Henry V and Hamlet. This is total awards bait.

Tolkien (May 10)

Nicholas Hoult stars in this biopic about the author of The Lord of the Rings series. While I’m not expecting special effects on par with anything from the Peter Jackson films, the preview does give a glimpse of Middle Earth. The ring has been bad luck for Bilbo and Frodo but good luck for producers.

Souvenir (May 17)

This won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Tilda Swinton is in it but it stars her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne. There is already a sequel starring Robert Pattinson in the works. The move is about a film student who gets involved in a complicated relationship which threatens her future.

Ad Astra (May 24)

This sounds like the best film Christopher Nolan never made. From the IMDB page: “Astronaut Roy McBride travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet.” Director James Gray has the chops to do it too. He did an excellent job with the indie The Lost City of Z. This sic-fi flick stars Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones. As if I wasn’t already sold. Unfortunately, there is no trailer yet.

Rocket Man (May 31)

Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in this biopic. (Another rock ‘n’ roll movie!) When I watch this trailer, I feel the same excitement I did for Bohemian Rhapsody. Taron becomes Elton! This could well be this year’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m glad I only have to wait a few more weeks for this.

Late Night ( June 7)

This was one of the biggest hits at Sundance. Look for writer-producer co-star Mindy Kaling to at least get a Best Screenplay nomination for this film. This Devil Wears Prada-esque comedy could also score some acting nominations for Kaling and Emma Thompson. This is one of my most anticipated movies of the summer.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (June 14)

This movie received a standing ovation at its Sundance premiere and won the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic film. Joe Talbot directed and co-wrote this film with star Jimmie Fails. Fails plays a man trying to move back into his childhood home. The film deals with the theme of gentrification.

The Dead Don’t Die (June 14)

Not content with making a film about vampires (Only Lovers Left Alive), Jim Jarmusch’s new film will be about zombies. And it stars Bill Murray who is apparently still down for making movies about the undead after one of the greatest cameos of all time in Zombieland. The rest of the amazing cast includes Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, and Tom Waits. The indie director has never been nominated for an Oscar. But if you can’t get an Oscar for making a zombie film starring Bill Murray, then what do you have to do?!

The Farewell (July 12)

Awkwafina was an official MVP of last summer’s movie season elevating both Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians with her comic performances. This summer, she’ll be entertaining audiences as the lead actress in the popular Sundance dramedy The Farewell. The movie is about a family that finds out their matriarchal grandmother is going to die soon. Rather than tell her, they decide to keep her in the dark. Awkwafina’s character struggles with the family’s desire to prevent undue suffering by telling her vs her own desire to say goodbye. I mean, I love Awkwafina in the commercial where she talks to the plant. I would love to see her get an Oscar nomination.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (July 26)

A new Quentin Tarantino film is always a reason for Oscar buzz. The film has something to do with the Manson murders. But the first trailer hints that it may be about a lot more than that as well. It definitely has a cool retro vibe. It’s too early to tell if any of the performances might get nominated or if this might be the film that finally wins Tarantino his directing Oscar.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (August 9)

Based on the best-selling novel, this movie is about a woman who disappears from her own life, leaving her daughter and husband to search for her. Blanchett can turn nearly anything into gold. She was an amazing Bob Dylan in I’m Not There and I loved her underrated performance in Carol. She was such a great Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator (for which she won her first Oscar). I wasn’t impressed by her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine though for which she won her second Oscar. My point is, she’s an Oscar favorite and always one to watch. This one comes out in August just as Hollywood is starting to transition into Oscar season in September. Coincidence? I think not.

Brian Banks ( Aug 9)

Director Tom Shadyac returns with a drama based on the real life case of Brian Banks who was committed to USC during his junior year of high school when he was falsely accused of rape. He fought to clear his name partnering with the California Innocence Project.

Blinded by the Light (August 14)

This was the most expensive acquisition at Sundance this year.  It was sold to New Line for $15 million and set a new festival record for the most money spent on a film.  The movie is about a teenage Pakistani boy in England in the ‘80s who’s obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. The film was directed by Gurinder Chadha, who directed the feel-good hit Bend It Like Beckham.    

Brittany Runs a Marathon (August 23)

This comedy won the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film at Sundance and was picked up by Amazon.. It’s about a woman who improves her life by taking up running.

The Goldfinch (September 13)

Based on the best-selling novel by Donna Tartt, the movie follows a young man who survives a terrorist attack at an art museum where his mother is killed. Ansel Elgort plays the lead with Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Nicole Kidman, and Denis O’Hare rounding out the cast. I can’t wait to see Ansel Elgort in this. I”m such a Baby Driver fan. This is an amazing cast.

Downton Abbey (September 20)

The beloved BBC show gets the big screen treatment in one last hurrah. With Oscar winning writer Julian Fellowes attached, this has Oscar potential even if it is tied to a TV series and is not a stand-alone film.

Joker (Oct 4)

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Todd Phillips’ dark take on the Joker’s origins. This may be a great showcase for Phoenix’s talent. He could become the second actor to be nominated or even win an Oscar for playing the Joker (after Heath Ledger). I have loved this character ever since Jack Nicholson played the part in Tim Burton’s Batman. I can’t wait to see this. It seems like a lot of thought and care has been put into this telling of the Joker’s story.

The Woman in the Window (October 4)

Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts adapts A.J. Finn’s best-selling thriller about an agoraphobic woman in New York who begins spying on her neighbors and witnesses an act of violence. This modern day Rear Window also stars Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Brian Tyree Henry. Joe Wright is the director, fresh off Darkest Hour where he and Gary Oldman made Oscar magic. I wouldn’t doubt their ability to do it again.

Gemini Man (October 11)

In Ang Lee’s sci-fi thriller, Will Smith plays an assassin being hunted by his younger clone. This movie could be a return to form for both men.

The Good Liar (Nov 15)

Ian McKellen plays a con artist who starts to fall in love with his well-to-do mark played by Helen Mirren. The movie is directed by Bill Condon who previously directed McKellen to a Best Actor nom in Gods and Monsters. Don’t be surprised if lightning strikes twice.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov 22)

This is easily one of the most anticipated projects of the year. Everyone wants to see Tom Hanks play Mister Rogers. One of America’s favorite actors playing one of America’s most beloved icons. What’s not to love? Marielle Heller who directed The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? might finally get her well-deserved Best Director nomination.

Queen and Slim (Nov 27)

This timely drama comes out in November. This is from the press release:

“While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya) and a black woman (Jodie Turner-Smith, in her first starring feature-film role), are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and  tragic results, when the man kills the police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. But the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people across the country.”

Knives Out (Nov 27)

Director Rian Johnson returns to his roots with a new detective story. (If you haven’t seen Brick, find a copy and watch it!) Unfortunately, Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t starring this time. But a whole slew of other people are, including Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel and Oates in the house!), and Frank Oz. That’s like a Murder on the Orient Express-type cast. This is going to be fun!


Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (December 20)

This installment supposedly ends the Skywalker saga. Where they’re going to find another set of characters in the Star Wars universe who capture our hearts and imagination in the same way, I honestly don’t know. This is Oscar’s last chance to honor this era of the Star Wars franchise. This is the Return of the King of Star Wars. If you don’t agree, ask yourself why Disney is being so careful with it. They didn’t even release a title or trailer until Star Wars Celebration.

Cats (December 20)

Cats is a movie that honestly probably should have come out in the ‘80s at the height of the musical’s popularity. While it’s being directed by Tom Hooper who won an Oscar for one of my all-time favorite films The King’s Speech, he also gave us a somewhat disappointing Les Mis. The cast list makes it look like it’ll be campy fun no matter what. Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellan, Judi Dench, James Corden, huge cat fan Taylor Swift, and Jennifer Hudson who is going to blow the roof off of “Memories” are all part of the cast. Will that be enough to distract from the fact that there’s not much plot to this episodic musical? We’ll see.

A teasing shot of the set of CATS. Credit: GILES KEYTE. Courtesy of Universal.

A teasing shot of the set of CATS. Credit: GILES KEYTE. Courtesy of Universal.

Fair and Balanced (Dec 20th)

Director Jay Roach (Trumbo) tells the story of Fox News with John Lithgow as Roger Ailes, Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, Charlize Theron as Megan Kelly and more. No word yet on who is playing Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, or Satan.

Little Women (Dec 25th)

Recently, there has already been a 2017 TV min-series adaptation of Little Women and a 2018 theatrical modern retelling. However, this Christmas, the March sisters are getting the full Hollywood treatment in this period piece. Greta Gerwig is directing after her Oscar-nominated film Ladybird. The cast includes Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Chris Cooper.

Call of the Wild (Dec 25)

This CGI/live-action hybrid adaptation of the classic Jack London novel boasts a cast that includes Karen Gillan, Dan Stevens, Harrison Ford, and Bradley Whitford.


Release dates unknown:

Big Time Adolescence

If this Sundance favorite ever gets picked up by a distributor, Pete Davidson could be looking at a Best Supporting Actor nomination. I don’t understand why no one wants to take a chance on this film.

By the Grace of God

This won the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Based on an ongoing scandal, the movie tells the story of three adult men who band together to expose the code of silence that continues to enable a priest who abused them as boys. It’s this year’s Spotlight. The trailer alone is powerful. Look for it in the Best Foreign Film category. Could it pull off a Best Picture nom as well?

Clemency

This movie won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Alfre Woodard stars as prison warden whose years of executions are starting to take a toll on her.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

This Ted Bundy biopic starring Zac Efron got mixed reviews at Sundance. You’ll get to decide for yourself this fall. Netflix plans to release it late in the year for awards consideration.

Greed

Steve Coogan, Asa Butterfield, and Isla Fisher star in Michael Winterbottom’s dark comedy about the rich.

Honey Boy

Amazon acquired this Sundance film. Shia LaBeouf wrote the autobiographical film, in which he plays his own father, as a way of exorcising his demons. It got a standing ovation.

The Irishman

Netflix may be a major player at the Oscars again next year with this Martin Scorsese film. The cast includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano. Despite negative reports about this being the director’s most expensive film ever, it could be another masterpiece.

Jojo Rabbit

Director Taika Waititi’s new film is about a young boy in Hitler’s army who find out his mother is hiding a Jewish boy in their home (according to the IMDB page). The cast includes Scarlett Johanson Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Stephen Merchant. Waititi himself plays Hitler. I just hope this isn’t Waitit’s The Day the Clown Cried.

The King

Not much is known about this movie so far apart from the director (David Michôd) and the A-list cast which includes Ben Mendelsohn, Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton, Lily-Rose Depp, and Thomasin McKenzie. From the character list, it looks like some kind of adaptation of Henry IV with Edgerton playing Falstaff.

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright’s new horror film won’t have the humor of Shaun of the Dead or The World’s End. It will be his first straightforward scary movie. Anya Taylor Joy is already signed on to star. Matt Smith has just signed on. Thomasin McKenzie is rumored to be attached as well. Not much is known about the plot.

The Last Thing He Wanted

Writer-director Dee Rees (Mudbound) returns to Netflix with this 1980s set political thriller. Anne Hathaway plays a journalist who takes over her father’s role as an arms dealer in Central America. The film also stars Willem Dafoe (may he finally get his Oscar), Ben Affleck, and Toby Jones.

The Laundromat

Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix film follows a group of journalists who discover files linking the world’s power elite to hidden bank accounts to avoid paying taxes. The movie stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, David Schwimmer, Will Forte, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Jeffrey Wright.

Lost Girls

This Netflix movie stars Amy Ryan as a mother looking for her missing daughter who makes a horrifying discovery in the woods where the murdered bodies of four girls have been dumped. Gabriel Byrne and busy bee Thomasin McKenzie also star.

Luce

Neon and Topic Films went in together to acquire this film at Sundance. The movie was directed by Julius Onah and adapted from JC Lee’s play. The psychological thriller stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, as parents whose adopted child’s identity is called into question.

Lucy in the Sky 

Natalie Portman stars in this movie about an astronaut who starts to unravel and lose touch with reality after returning to Earth from a mission. Director Noah Hawley is known for television work, for writing, directing, and producing episodes of Fargo, Legion, and Bones.

Official Secrets
IFC Films bought this drama at Sundance. The movie stars Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, and is based on British secret service officer/whistle blower Katherine Gunn, who tried to stop the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  

Pain and Glory

Pedro Almodóvar’s new movie is a semi-autobiographical film starring Antonio Banderas as a filmmaker and Penelope Cruz as his mother. The film will play at Cannes in May.

The Pope

Director Fernando Meirelles and writer Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour, Bohemian Rhapsody) bring this biopic about Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce, may he someday get the nomination he deserves) and his predecessor Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) to Netflix.

The Report

Amazon Studios acquired this film at Sundance. it is about an investigation into the CIA’s torture practices following 9/11. It stars Adam Driver, Jon Hamm, and Annette Bening, and was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns.  

The Sound of Silence

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions picked up the rights to this one ahead of Sundance. It’s about a “house tuner” in New York City who calibrates the sound in people’s homes to adjust their moods until he meets a client with a problem he can’t solve. It stars Peter Sarsgaard, Rashida Jones, and Austin Pendleton. Pendleton was so good in the only recently released 5-25-77 that I’ve been wanting to see more of him.

Troop Zero

Amazon premiered this crowd-pleaser starring Viola Davis, Allison Janney, and Jim Gaffigan at Sundance.  Directed by Bert & Bertie, the movie is an underdog story about a girl who wants to win a national competition to get her voice on NASA’s golden record and rallies her scout troop to help her.  

The True History of the Kelly Gang

This biopic about the Australian criminal and his gang as they flee the authorities in the 1870s stars Charlie Hunnam, Russell Crowe, Nicholaus Hoult, George MacKay (from Captain Fantastic), and, of course, Thomasin McKenzie in a pear tree.

The Truth

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film Shoplifters was nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars. The Truth will be his first English language film. It stars Juliette Binoche as a woman who returns to France after her mother (Catherine Deneuve) publishes a controversial autobiography. The film also stars Ethan Hawke.

UNTITLED NOAH BAUMBACH PROJECT

The plot follows an unfolding divorce from New York to Los Angeles. The cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Julie Hagerty.

Wendy

Ben Zeitlin’s follow up to Beasts of the Southern Wild is the story of a young girl who is kidnapped and taken to a destructive ecosystem where mystical pollen breaks the relationship between aging and time.

As exhaustive as this list is, there will still probably be plenty of surprises at Cannes, unforeseen schedule changes, and unannounced releases between now and the cutoff date for Oscar eligibility. Ain’t it exciting? You’ve got to love the wide, wide world of film. And we’re here to help you navigate it. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/EtchedinGold/) to stay on top of who’s still in the Oscar race and who isn’t.


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.

if-beale-street-can-talk-blu-ray-dvd-IBSCT_BD_Ocard_Spine_rgb.jpg

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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