It’s that time! Oscar Time! My high holy day! As award season has gone on its become pretty clear to see the trends. There could always be a surprise here and there but those usually happen in the supporting actor and actor categories not the top 5 or 6 awards. It’s been a very good year for film! There are at least 4 or 5 nominated and another couple that weren’t that I would be good with winning Best Picture. So here is what I think will win on Sunday.
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Anthony Hopkins in THE TWO POPES
Al Pacino in THE IRISHMAN
Joe Pesci in THE IRISHMAN
Brad Pitt in ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
This is Brad Pitt’s time to shine! He’s been giving some really entertaining acceptance speeches this season so I’m looking forward to hearing what he’ll have to say about winning his first Oscar.
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates in RICHARD JEWELL
Laura Dern in MARRIAGE STORY
Scarlett Johansson in JOJO RABBIT
Florence Pugh in LITTLE WOMEN
Margot Robbie in BOMBSHELL
Laura Dern seems to have it all sewn up! But if there’s going to be a surprise it usually happens in this category. So keep your ears open when the winner is announced and don’t act surprised if you hear the name ‘Florence Pugh’!
Antonio Banderas in PAIN AND GLORY
Leonardo DiCaprio in ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
Adam Driver in MARRIAGE STORY
Joaquin Phoenix in JOKER
Jonathan Pryce in THE TWO POPES
This one is in the bag for Joaquin Phoenix. There will be no surprise here. Whether you liked the film or not, Phoenix was undeniably on top of his game. Adam Driver would probably be my personal choice just for the scene where he sings “Being Alive”. He’ll get another shot.
Cynthia Erivo in HARRIET
Scarlett Johansson in MARRIAGE STORY
Saoirse Ronan in LITTLE WOMEN
Charlize Theron in BOMBSHELL
Renée Zellweger in JUDY
Another sure thing! Rene Zellewgger is an odd fuck, indeed and perhaps why she was the perfect choice to play a Judy Garland at the end of her career and life. She’s swept awards season and it won’t stop here.
ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
Bong Joon Ho
What a tough category! These are 5 men at the top of their game. Scorsese has won his do the pressure to honor him is not so urgent. Tarantino has yet to win in this category which seems like that should be corrected but not this year. He says he’s only directing one more film , Ever! He better pick the right project if he wants this Oscar. Maybe a film about John Cassavetes with Daniel Day Lewis as Cassavetes and Cate Blanchett as Gena Rowlands? Todd Phillips created the kind of film every director longs to make; one that everyone is talking about and has an opinion about whether they’ve seen it or not. It continues to cause a stir and arouse great emotions from its fans and detractors and that’s why he won’t win. Just as many yeas as nays.
Phillip’s Spot is the one that a lot of people thought should have gone to Greta Gerwig. I found out that though she is a member of the academy, she could not vote for herself during the nominating stage because she is in the Actors Branch. One way to give women more of a chance at a nomination is to get more women in the Directors Branch. If you’re a woman who acts and directs you should be able to vote in both categories! Come on, Academy!
This leaves us with Bong Joon Ho and Sam Mendes and rightfully so, as they have directed the two best films of the year. But the amazing filmmaking that went into making 1917 should give the edge to Mendes
FORD V FERRARI
ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
So many quality films nominated! But since Parasite will win Best International Film this baby is going to go to 1917! The last film about WWI to win Best Picture was All Quiet On The Western Front 1930. There you have it!
Pour the champagne and enjoy your chips and dip! It should be a fun show! And maybe we’ll all have a few surprises in store for us!
The recent death of Kirk Douglas reminded me of the great World War I film Paths Of Glory (1957) in which he starred in. It was a dark, almost satirical film about the horrors of war. A very young Stanley Kubrick brought his sharp visual style and it ends with a scene in a bar full of war weary French soldiers being serenaded by a young German girl. A similar scene takes place near the end of 1917.
There was a lot of hype about this film long before it’s release. Let me tell you that the hype was not false. 1917 is an amazing piece of filmmaking. This is a film that takes during World War I but this is not what you would consider a ‘war’ movie. It’s the story of two young men who are sent on a mission. They must reach a group of 1500 soldiers and stop them from attacking the next morning because it has been discovered that it is a trap. One of the young men’s brother is part of the 1500.
What differentiates this film from other films about war is the way it was shot. The whole film seems to have been done in a single shot. There obviously, were some cuts but you can’t tell where they happened. The camera work is exceptional. The actors and crew needed to do extensive rehearsal to make it work. The sets are amazing. The photography by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins is beautiful. The two young actors, George McKay and Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen from Game of Thrones) do a great job making you feel the anxiety of what they are going through. The set pieces are painstakingly designed and the film is filled with both quiet, reflective moments and edge of your seat action.
Director and co-writer Sam Mendes has succeeded in making a fantastic and original film. Along with the two young actors, the film is filled with great cameos including Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Strong. It is unlike any film about war that I have seen. It is an adventure film, it is a character study, it is an art film, it is an action film. It is all of these! In short, it is an excellent film. Don’t be scared off thinking it will be too violent or too macho or because you don’t like war movies. You would be missing out on having a very special experience.
Film Noir is more than a genre, it’s a feeling. After World War Two, you started seeing films, generally considered as ‘B’ films, about darker subjects, losers and femme fatales and doomed lives. They centered as much around greed and lust as love and dreams. The characters could be detectives and criminals but also cowboys and private eyes and as time moved on they could even be astronauts or aliens. Film Noir is a modern day Commedia del’arte with a set of characters and stories to choose from. You could mix and match and make something new but what stays the same is that feeling. That sense of dread even when you think, this time, it will work out. It doesn’t. It can’t. Not for everyone.
Uncut Gems is a modern noir that takes place in present day New York (Circa 2012). It’s relentless and tension filled and never lets you breathe just like it’s lead character, Howard Ratner, played to perfection by Adam Sandler. Co-Written and directed by The Safdie Brothers, along with Ronald Bornstein, they’ve created a manic and brilliant film worthy to be included amongst the best film noirs.
The story is familiar. Howard is a man who is in debt to his brother in law, Arno (Eric Bogosian). He’s having an affair with one of his workers, Julia (Julia Fox) a young sexy party girl. He comes up with a scheme to get an uncut opal from Eithiopa sent to him which he will auction off for a million dollars. Sounds easy. It should have been but Howard makes one mistake after another and he can’t get a break. Howard is the classic film noir anti hero. He is a morally questionable and flawed person, he is on a losing streak, he has a dream, a once in a lifetime shot and the odds are against him. It all plays out wonderfully though your heart may not be able to take it. The end is perfect and the only way it could have or should have ended.
Adam Sandler carries the film on his shoulders and he is more than up to the challenge. The entire cast is great including Idina Menzel, Lakieth Stanfield and The Weekend.
Kevin Garnett gives a solid performance and Julia Fox is dynamic in her first film while Judd Hirsch as Howard’s father in law also gives a fine turn. The film reminded me of the 1950 film noir classic Night and The City directed by Jules Dassin (Brute Force) and starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney (Laura).
This film is not for everyone. It’s too intense for some, I understand. I’m a film noir aficionado so, of course, I’m into the dark tale. But I really loved it! It makes you feel something even if you don’t like how it makes you feel.
First off, I’ve never read the book and I’ve only seen the 1994 film version of Little Women directed by Gillian Armstrong so that’s where I’m coming from. I love Greta Gerwig and I have to admit, I was surprised when she had decided to do a remake of Little Women as her follow up to Lady Bird but I was sure she would make a an interesting film. If you are going to do another version of something that has been done so often you had better bring something new to it. Gerwig does. Her script decides to play with time and create two timelines. It is clever and effective but it also brings consequences.
The story is well known. Louisa May Alcott’s 1968 novel is an autobiographical novel about her family. The father has gone off to fight in the Civil War leaving his wife, affectionately called Marmee, and their four daughters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. They’re poor but have a rich life. Jo (Saorsie Ronan) is the oldest and the most independent. She wants to be a write and she writes plays for her and her sisters to act out. Meg is the sister that longs to be married and have nice things. Beth is the sister with the heart of gold with a talent for piano playing and Amy is the youngest and wants to be an artist. They live next door to the Laurences and the sisters adapt young Theodeore Laurence, who they call Laurie, as a defacto brother. Laurie and Jo become very close though young Amy loves Laurie, Jo’s feelings are more mercurial. Their story spans seven years and the sisters find the realities of life drag the into adulthood and they must leave their idylic childhood behind.
Gerwig has made some interesting choices in the storytelling. She begins the film in the present and then flashes back to their childhood. It makes for some interesting story telling and clever scenes but it also frames the film in a more sad and wistful way. Gerwig’s direction is impressive. She definitely had a vision of how she wanted to tell this story and she creates some powerful sequences. The casting is perfect and the performances are strong especially Saorsie Ronan as the ever independent Jo and Florence Pugh as the young Amy who has always loved Laurie and is jealous of Jo’s relationship with him. Unfortunately, Timothee Chalamet does not deliver as Laurie. He comes across as a little boy and never strong enough to challenge either Jo or Amy’s affections.
Gerwig punches up the role of women at that time and connects it to the present beautifully. The scenes where Jo negotiates selling her work with the editor (Tracy Letts) are smart and clever. Gerwig also plays with the ending by making it ambiguous as to whether Jo marries Freidrich, the young German teacher. Louisa May Alcott never married in real life and so it seems that Jo March would not either.
There is much to like in this Little Women and much to admire and I will see it again. My crtiques aside there is one more piece of info that should be said. I saw the film with my friend Charlotte and throughout the film I heard her sniffling. I thought she may be coming down with a cold but once the film ended I realized that she had been crying almost from the beginning and never stopped. The book has had a profound affect on many generations of women and will continue to for generations to come.
Joaquin Phoenix is a sure thing for Joker as is Adam Driver for Marriage Story and Leonardo DiCaprio (LDC) for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Antonio Banderas deserves to get his first nomination for Pain and Glory. I think Christian bale is going to pick up his 3rd Best Actor nomination for Ford vs.Ferari. But man, wouldn’t it be something if Adam Sandler got nominated for Uncut Gems????
Renee Zellwegger is the favorite for Judy. Scarlett Johannson for Marriage Story and Saoirse Ronan for Little Women will also be in the running. Charlize Theron is very good in Bombshell and will get her 3rd nomination. And I’m going out on a limb by saying I think Lupita Nyong’o is going to get her first nomination for Best Actress for US.
Best Supporting Actor
This category is as star studded as they come! Tom Hanks will pick up his first nomination since Cast Away (2001) for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Joe Pesci and Al Pacino will both get nods for The Irishman. Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the favorite and another old veteran, Anthony Hopkins seems to be getting the 5th spot in this line-up.
Best Supporting Actress
After seeing Little Women I can’t see how Florence Pugh can not receive her first nomination. Her costar Laura Dern will get a nod for Marriage Story. Dern’s costar Scarlet Johansson will get a 2nd nomination this year for Jojo Rabbitt. Margot Robbie will be nominated for Bombshell and Jennifer Lopez will get her first shot at Oscar for Hustlers.
Noah Baumbach Marriage Story
Bong Joon Ho Parasite
Same Mendes 1917
Martin Scorsese The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
This is going to be a very exciting Oscar year! I’m looking forward to seeing some surprises!!
Rian Johnson took a lot of heat for The Last Jedi but there should be nothing but praise for his latest! Written and directed by Johnson, Knives Out has an all star cast and is a cleverly written and fun whodunnit that had me guessing until the end. It’s hard to craft a whodunnit in these cynical times but Johnson has written a gem of a film and elicits wonderful performances from the entire cast.
The film revolves around the sudden death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the patriarch of a large family who has built his wealth by becoming a successful author of mystery novels. An inquiry is begun by the local cops assisted by Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a well known sleuth. The film is told from the perspective of Harlan’s caregiver, Marta Cabrera (Ana De Armas) and circumstances spiral out of v Control in a delightfully deceitful manner. The twists and turns are well thought out and delivered and the ending is a complete surprise!
What a cast! Jamie Lee Curtis is the hard eldest daughter, Michael Shannon, the inept middle son and Chris Evans, playing against type, is the snotty youngest son who everyone despises. Don Johnson is great as Curtis’ Trump loving husband and Toni Collette is hilarious as the wife of the deceased son who has found creative ways to benefit from the family fortune. There’s even a cameo by the great character actor M. Emmet Walsh! He’s still alive!
Daniel Craig is terrific as the Hercules Poirrot style sleuth snd Ana De Armas (Blade Runner 2049) is a revelation as the nurse who is in over her head!
Kudos to Rian Johnson! I’ve long admired his films such as Brick and Looper as well as the episodes of Breaking Bad he directed. He has made a classic whodunnit that would make Agatha Christie proud!
This is not a biography of Mr. Rogers. If you are looking for that you can watch the wonderful 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is inspired by a 1998 Esquire article by Tom Junod entitled “Can You Say Hero?” and directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). It’s very cleverly directed film and was surprisingly moving.
The main story is about Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) a writer for Esquire with a wife and newborn son. He has a volatile relationship with his father that has caused Lloyd to be emotionally shut down. When he is given an assignment to do a fluff piece on Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), Lloyd begins a journey of self realization and healing.
I love how Lloyd tries to resist Mr. Roger’s charms. How could anyone be this sweet and intuitive? Just like Lloyd, you can’t believe this guy is for real. Eventually, he succumbs and begins to allow himself to open up and reach out for help.
Matthew Rhys is very good and carries the film. Tom Hanks is perfect as Fred Rogers. You can’t watch this film and not want to be a better person. Chris Cooper is solid as usual as Lloyd’s alcoholic dad, Jerry. Susan Kelechi Watson is also very good as Lloyd’s wife, Andrea.
You could do worse than spend a couple of hours with Lloyd, his family and Mr. Rogers. You may even walk out of the theater with a big smile on your face.
Was there a lot of fan service happening? Absolutely! Star Wars is a family fantasy franchise in the old school fashion. There were also plenty of cameos! I’ll go into that in the Spoiler section.
Rise of Skywalker delivers. JJ Abrams brings it home with a rousing finish. It felt more like Force Awakens, meaning more like the original films. The action sequences are well done, especially the Kylo Ren- Rey light saber clash atop of the Death Star ruins floating in a scary angry ocean.
I had my issues with The Last Jedi even though I found most of it exciting and thrilling. JJ Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio really Concentrated this final adventure with a singular focus. The Resistance is in its last leg and only Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca can save it. Along the way Rey and Kylo Ren are facing off psychically and on a private journey to find themselves, light saber battles to ensue.
It’s no secret that, somehow, Palpatine is back! The Sith are threatening to take over the galaxy. Neither Kylo or Rey are big fans but both have different ideas of how to resolve the issue.
There are some big surprises to be sure but there’s little surprise with the outcome. And that’s OK. This is Star Wars, after all. We’re not expecting a dark finale or even a bittersweet one. We want the fairy tale ending.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver really deliver here. They leave it all on the battlefield. Oscar Isaac gives his most relaxed and ‘Han Solo-ish’ performance of the three films. John Boyega gives his least irritating performance and C3PO just about steals the show with his comic relief.
Some new characters are introduced but Abrams is wise to stick mostly with our main heroes. It’s a rousing adventure and a fitting finale. You can nitpick here and there but if you’re a fan you’ll be comply satisfied. Now if you haven’t seen it yet don’t go any further. I will be a little more specific and go into more details.
What didn’t I like?
Was Finn in love with Rey? What did he want to tell her when he thought they were going to die? It just seemed like three movies of Finn being overly protective of Rey didn’t amount to much.
We see Poe’s old love interest who I think was Keri Russell but she was under a mask the whole time!
How was Chewie not on that transport that Rey blew up?
All the bringing people back to life! One time too many for me!
Rose didn’t have much to do. Hardly Any R2D2.
Ok. What did I like?
I liked how they used the old footage of Carrie Fisher Snd incorporated it into the movie. Well done! I also liked how they handled her death. Chewie’s heartbreaking reaction killed me! Made me cry all over again.
The light saber duel on the ruins of the Death Star was amazing!
Making Rey Palpatine’s granddaughter! Nice touch! Not expected but definitely created a good conflict for Rey.
All the cameos! I expected Luke to show up and Lando had an extended cameo but the Han Solo scene was totally unexpected and very cool! Of course the Ewoks showed up but thankfully just for a couple of seconds. We even got a glimpse of ‘Wedge”!
The ending was perfect. Rey returns to Tattoine, to Luke’s childhood home and buries Luke and Leia’s light sabers. An old womAn happens along and asks her name and Rey tells her, “Rey Skywalker”, as the spirits of Luke and Leia look over her. Very nice touch.
But, look, Star Wars is a family franchise. It’s a wholesome fairy tale and everything is meant to turn out just fine. Don’t expect too many dark turns or consequences. The original made you feel like a kid again. All the films that follow are meant to do the same. And it does! Kudos to JJ Abrams! It wasn’t easy to do but he pulled off a successful closing trilogy that should make George Lucas proud!
It’s hard to believe that both Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly were both taken down by sexual harassment charges in 2016 and Fox News hasn’t seemed to have missed a beat. Bombshell tells the story of how Gretchen Carlson and Meghan Kelly took them out. Director Jay Roach (Game Change, Trumbo) working from an original script by Charles Randolph (The Big Short), brings the energy and lightness of those previous films that makes Bombshell easy to get into but a little problematic when it tries to get serious and it does when dealing with Margot Robbie’s character, Kayla, a conservative millennial, closet lesbian whose desire for a career on Fox News leads her to make some unfortunate decisions.
Bombshell begins with Meghan Kelly (Charlize Theron) prepping for the 2015 Republican debate. She calls out Trump for vulgar treatment of women which brings a Trump Twitter assault which we all remember. The action takes place over the Summer of 2015 as Trump gains traction with Fox viewers and the female anchors including Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) come under more scrutiny.
It’s ultimately Carlson’s firing and personal lawsuit against Ailes that starts the ball rolling and the drama comes from who, if anyone, will back up her claims. It was the #MeToo moment that preceded the Harvey Weinstein allegations the following year. The harassment under Ailes was so out in the open it’s unbelievable yet it happened. Bombshell gets to the heart of it and the story rolls out quickly and bluntly. But in the moments when there is a shift in tone from light to serious it’s abrupt and jarring and the laughter turns into nervous laughter and then ‘maybe we shouldn’t be laughing’.
This type of film style such as Vice and The Big Short is helpful when dealing with unpleasant subjects like Dick Cheney and the Wall Street crash occurs 2008. But it’s a trickier tactic when dealing with sexual harassment. For the most part, I enjoyed the film, it’s important to remember what happened and document it. It may not be the perfect film that will document the Me Too movement but it’s the first and it carries a lot of star power in its presentation.
Charlize Theron becomes Meghan Kelly. She looks like her and sounds like her and she is amazing. Theron also produced the film. Kidman also registers as Carlson. The make up department deserves an Oscar. Imitation for sure. Robbie plays Kayla, a fictional character whose story carries the most disturbing aspects of the film. Robbie gives a fine performance, a tough one in the middle of all the action. The rest of the cast is too notch from John Lithgow as Ailes to Connie Britton as Ailes’ wife and Mark Duplass as Kelly’s husband. Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell and other familiar faces pop up as well and are fine.
This is a solid film with some great performances and an important message. Some tonal problems keep it from really being a home run but it’s definitely worth seeing.
I’ve been a fan of Noah Baumbach for a long time now, ever since I saw The Squid And The Whale (2005). His films have been solid, well written, witty. But with Marriage Story, Baumbach goes to another level. He’s created a master work, a really great film. Expectations will be higher next time out. It has some Woody Allen vibes but this is no knock off. This is an extremely well written, well directed, well structured film. The performances are amazing. The emotions are raw and it feels very genuine and real. It’s a painful, sad film but don’t be scared away by that. Embrace it. Good films don’t just make you feel good. Good films make you feel. This one stays with you.
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlet Johansson) are a young married couple with a young son that lives in Brooklyn. Charlie is a theater director who runs an experimental theater company and Nicole is his star. But after ten years of marriage they are separating and preparing to divorce. They agree to work things out themselves without using lawyers but things change when Nicole heads to Los Angeles with their son to do a TV pilot. A meeting with a lawyer, wonderfully played by Laura Dern, leads Nicole to see things differently so when Charlie comes to visit the divorce gets real. Fast.
The emotional rollercoaster is relentless. Charlie desperately does not want to lose his son and keeps flying back and forth from one coast to the other. He meets with lawyers as well, an expensive, no nonsense, slick Ray Liotta and a sweet, old family lawyer beautifully played by Alan Alda. Unfortunately, divorce never ends well.
Adam Driver and Scarlet Johannson are great. They really dig deep and you care about them and feel every heartache they feel. All the supporting roles are well cast and well performed. Julie Heggerty (Airplane!) is a hoot as Johannson’s mom who loves Charlie. Alan Alda is so good in this you wish Charlie would listen to him but he can’t see past his own pain and anger. Every scene matters, fits together to create a wonderfully constructed piece of work. It’s a true achievement. It’s playing on Netflix so you can watch and cry in the safety of your own home, sipping your wine under your favorite blanket. You’ll thank me for it.