Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture

My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Post” and “The Shape of Water” over “Get Out” and “Lady Bird”
Who’s missing? The Post, The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, I, Tonya

Let me start by citing my excitement that, after being shut out by Globe voters earlier this week, The Big Sick is here for a wonderful ensemble that deserves so much praise. Though I didn’t predict it, I’m very happy for Lady Bird, whose ensemble is superb. I’m not on board the Get Out train though I’d argue that the acting is decent. This category, long seen as a necessary Oscar stop on the way to Best Picture, is most impactful for the snubs of three high-profile films that might have been seen as the frontrunners. I think they’ll all end up with Best Picture bids for sure, but this is a dent in the road to Oscar that I was predicting for “Call Me By Your Name.” Mudbound was always going to do well here and might enter the Best Picture race after little Globes love, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, once not a sure thing, has cemented itself as a lock for Oscar love and maybe even for a top win.

Who will win? Though “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has the most individual acting nominees - three - I think this is going to Mudbound.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role

My predictions: 4/5, picking Spencer over Chau
Who’s missing? Octavia Spencer, Melissa Leo, Michelle Pfeiffer

So much for Leo’s chances - let’s hope she can rebound at the Oscars. Mysteriously, Hong Chau (Downsizing), one of just two nominees whose film I haven’t seen, is charging along for a film receiving no other support. Spencer is out after a Globe bid, replaced by Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), whose film did great today with a surprising (but predicted by me) ensemble bid. Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) also found herself in the company of her ensemble after going it alone with the Globes. Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) continue to be the frontrunners in this race, with the former having a slight edge thanks to her film’s ensemble bid.

Who will win? Unless Blige or Chau builds momentum, I think this is Metcalf’s.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role

My predictions: 4/5, picking Hammer over Carell
Who’s missing? Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon

I’m thrilled - my longshot pick here was right! In a category where three films could have had double nominees, it was Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) who joined costar Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) for a performance I thought was actually very worthwhile and not as part of the awards conversation as it should have been. Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water) is alone again without costar Shannon, who I think will show up on the Oscar list anyway. Neither former nominee Hammer nor Stuhlbarg made the cut, which is troubling news for a film that I think will win Best Picture (though it’s not my choice). Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) continues on trucking for what is my favorite film of the year, one which will hopefully crack the top category and other races for the Oscars. And then we have this year’s complete surprise: Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes), repeating a move done by his costar Christian Bale in “The Big Short” from comedy actor at the Globes to the supporting race here. While Carell was good in the film, and certainly better than in “Last Flag Flying,” having him here when leading actress Emma Stone isn’t even in the equation seems strange. All told, this is a fantastic list of performances and I’m very happy with the quality of all of them.

Who will win? I think Dafoe takes it since I can’t imagine who else would.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

My predictions: 4/5, picking Streep over Dench
Who’s missing? Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, Michelle Williams, Emma Stone, Kate Winslet

I was listening carefully to the first name called during the nominations announcement and was surprised to hear Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul). She’s one of just two nominees today whose films I haven’t seen, and I wonder whether she’ll make it all the way to Oscar. Streep is the surprise omission, but her film was shut out entirely, so I imagine she’ll be back. This is a blow for Chastain, though she might rebound with Oscar too. The other four are the expected nominees, with Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) also earning bids as part of their ensembles. Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) are both accompanied by one supporting player from their films as a fellow nominee. Which one of these four is vulnerable for the Oscar nominations?

Who will win? I’d say McDormand based on the enthusiasm shown for the film

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

My predictions: 3/5, picking Day-Lewis and Gyllenhaal over Kaluuya and Washington
Who’s missing? Daniel Day-Lewis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hanks

This is certainly interesting. Day-Lewis’ omission isn’t a shock because the film isn’t out yet and late-breakers often don’t get in with SAG. I predicted Hanks being snubbed, but not that his film would be shut out, which may also be because it’s a late-breaker. Gyllenhaal not being here is sad, and this may well be the nail in the coffin for him, which is disappointing. It’s a good day for Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), whose film also scored for its ensemble (the only actor in this category whose film managed that), and I guess maybe he’s a stronger threat than I thought for Oscar attention. Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) has now scored here and with Globe voters for a film everyone agrees wasn’t great and a performance that doesn’t compare to his previous work, so his inclusion feels unnecessary. Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) made the cut despite his film getting snubbed in supporting actor and ensemble, which is bad news for the film I’ve been predicting to win Best Picture. James Franco (The Disaster Artist) being here means that he’s being taken seriously, and I’m perfectly fine with that. And then we have Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), who remains our frontrunner despite his film missing out on an ensemble nod that I think it might have deserved but never really had a shot at anyway.

Who will win? I’m going with Oldman.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SAG Predictions


The Golden Globe nominations came out yesterday, delivering with them a few surprise inclusions - namely “All the Money in the World” - and some unfortunate omissions, which we’ll get to in a minute. The Screen Actors Guild nominees will be announced tomorrow, but it’s not as if the groups actually influence each other. In the past, we’ve seen “The Martian” and “All is Lost” shut out by SAG and then rewarded by the Globes, whereas “The Butler” was a big player with SAG and received nothing from the Globes or the Oscars. New contenders are sometimes introduced by SAG, while others, like Bradley Cooper, Michael Shannon, and a few foreign nominees, haven’t shown up until the Oscar nominations announcement.

The biggest thing that differentiates SAG from the Globes is that it combines comedy and drama into one category for the lead acting races. Practically this gives us two nominees apiece from the comedy races: James Franco and Daniel Kaluuya in Best Actor, and Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan for Best Actress. Whether Denzel Washington and Jessica Chastain will go the distance is a question that may be partially answered, and we’ll see if Michelle Williams was a fluke or a legitimate contender. Hopefully we’ll see Jake Gyllenhaal in Best Actor for “Stronger,” but the question is who he’ll bump - Hanks or Day-Lewis? I feel like Kate Winslet could show up here for “Wonder Wheel” but I’m not confident about it. In Best Supporting Actor, I’d love to say that Michael Shannon is in, but I feel like Woody Harrelson is the more SAG-like choice, reminiscent of when Don Cheadle and Tommy Lee Jones joined their Oscar-nominated costars in “Crash” and “No Country for Old Men,” respectively. In Best Supporting Actress, I’m pulling for Melissa Leo, but I think that Mary J. Blige is probably more likely at this point. And then there’s Best Ensemble. In past years, we’ve seen inventive nominees like “Captain Fantastic,” “Trumbo,” “Beasts of No Nation,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and “Bridesmaids.” If I’m really thinking about it, “The Disaster Artist” could be one of those this year, as could “I, Tonya,” but I’m going to go ahead and predict yesterday’s big snub, “The Big Sick,” to join “Mudbound” and the three top Golden Globe nominations getters, leaving “Call Me By Your Name” out in the cold. I could be very, very wrong, but this is what I’m going with. Reactions tomorrow - comment today below!

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger)
Gary Oldman (Phantom Thread)

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Meryl Streep (The Post)

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)
Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture
The Big Sick
Mudbound
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Monday, December 11, 2017

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Battle of the Sexes” and “The Big Sick” over “The Disaster Artist” and “I, Tonya”
Who’s missing? The Big Sick, Battle of the Sexes, Baby Driver, Downsizing

It’s really sad and just so puzzling to see “The Big Sick” shut out of all categories, and I’m also surprised that “Battle of the Sexes” didn’t make the cut. I did just see the two films I didn’t predict - The Disaster Artist and I, Tonya - this past weekend, and I’m fine with both being included even though they wouldn’t make my list. Get Out only scored here and for best actor, which is fine by me since I think the enthusiasm for that film was way too high. I just saw The Greatest Showman yesterday, and I know that my wife will be thrilled that it made the cut. Lady Bird is definitely the best film here, and its four nominations should indicate that. This is an interesting list - certainly some entertaining films!

Who will win? That’s a good question. I’m tempted to select Lady Bird but it could honestly be any of them.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Motion Picture - Drama


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Darkest Hour” over “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Who’s missing? Darkest Hour, The Florida Project, Mudbound, Phantom Thread

The results of this category don’t mean much other than to confirm that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is indeed a strong awards contender, whereas “Darkest Hour,” which was the type of film Globe voters like, may not make much of a splash aside from its lead star. Call Me By Your Name is, someone unexpectedly, the only film on this list that didn’t earn a Best Director bid, and Dunkirk is the only other one with no screenplay mention. The Shape of Water scored the most bids and The Post also did well. The latter is the only best picture nominee in comedy or drama that I haven’t seen - hoping to see it soon so I can comment.

Who will win? I think either The Post or “The Shape of Water.”

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Director - Motion Picture


My predictions: 3/5, picking Guadagnino and Gerwig over McDonagh and Scott
Who’s missing? Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Jordan Peele (Get Out)

And here we have it - the biggest shock of the nominations. Ridley Scott (All the Money in the Word), nominated along with two of his actors for a film that was just recently reshot and has barely been seen by anyone, including me. I’m intrigued and now I’ll have to see it! Jordan Peele didn’t get in, as many expected, but neither did Greta Gerwig, which is a shame. Luca Guadagnino missing out is not great news for his film since that was an unexpected stumbling block, leaving it with just three nominations. I’d be much more excited for Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) if I have loved his film, which managed six nominations, tying the count for “The Post,” whose director, Steven Spielberg, earned a record twelfth bid this morning. Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) is here, and his film made about its expected impact given the lack of technical categories. The helmer of the nominations leader, Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water), is my happiest inclusion.

Who will win? I’d say that Del Toro wins over Nolan.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Screenplay - Motion Picture


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Lady Bird” and “The Shape of Water”
What’s missing? Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Darkest Hour

Changing my predictions here was a bad idea, since two of my original guesses, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Post did end up picking up nominations. I should have guessed that Molly’s Game would be here, joined by the well-received Lady Bird and nominations leader The Shape of Water. The absence of both “Call Me By Your Name” and “Get Out” is notable but hardly damning, although neither film performed as well as its adherents had hoped and expected. I still have to see two of these, so more thoughts in my winner predictions.

Who will win? I think that Sorkin wins again for Molly’s Game.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Foreign Film


My predictions: 3/5, picking “BPM” and “Thelma” over “A Fantastic Woman” and “Loveless”
Who’s missing? “BPM” (France), “Thelma” (Norway), others

I don’t have much to comment on here since the two films I didn’t predict - A Fantastic Woman (Chile) and Loveless (Russia) - were both on my radar. There’s no big shock here, since the other three, First They Killed My Father (Cambodia), In the Fade (Germany/France), and The Square (Sweden/Germany/France), all have big names of sorts attached to them, and all five films here are Oscar-eligible for what I have to assume is the first time in a long time if not ever. Statistics coming later, along with analysis once I’ve seen more than one of these films.

Who will win? I’ll pick the one I’ve seen, The Square.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Animated Film


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Despicable Me 3” and “The LEGO Batman Movie” over “The Boss Baby” and “Ferdinand”
Who’s missing? Despicable Me 3, The LEGO Batman Movie, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

I don’t have much to say here since the two films I have seen, The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent, both made the cut, as did the expected frontrunner, Coco. I would be appalled if The Boss Baby ended up being an Oscar nominee, whereas I think Ferdinand has a much better shot. More once I’ve seen the others!

Who will win? I think Coco is still ahead.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Original Song


My predictions: 2/5, picking only the songs from “Coco” and “The Greatest Showman”
Who’s missing? A lot, but more on that come Oscar time

I was sort of guessing blindly here, but I do remember the nominated song Mighty River (Mudbound) that played over the end credits, and I’m glad to see it here. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite song, but This Is Me (The Greatest Show) is a fine selection from that film, which I saw yesterday and might end up with multiple nominations on Oscar day. I have to listen to the other three, all from animated films: Remember Me (Coco), Home (Ferdinand), and The Star (The Star). More once I’ve listened!

Who will win? I think Remember Me will take it, but I honestly don’t know yet.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Original Score


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Call Me By Your Name” and “Darkest Hour” over “Phantom Thread” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Who’s missing? Plenty!

I haven’t done enough of a deep dive into this category, but I thought I had predicted Phantom Thread, which I apparently didn’t, and this makes the first nomination for Jonny Greenwood, whose “There Will Be Blood” score was famously Oscar-ineligible. I’ll do more analysis when I predict the winners, but I also need to see that film and The Post. I’m happy about The Shape of Water and Dunkirk and also fine with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and I look forward to listening to all these score on loop for the foreseeable future.

Who will win? I think Phantom Thread will win.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture


My predictions: 3/5, picking Hunter and Leo over Blige and Chau
Who’s missing? Holly Hunter, Melissa Leo, Michelle Pfeiffer

I’m surprised that Holly Hunter is here even though she wasn’t the standout of her completely shut-out movie for me, and I’m sadder about Melissa Leo’s omission. It’s interesting that both Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) and Hong Chau (Downsizing) both made it in despite their films being ignored elsewhere (Blige’s managed a song nomination). I haven’t seen the latter, so I can’t comment on it yet. Expected frontrunners Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) are both here, as is a great representative from the most-nominated film, Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water).

Who will win? I think that Metcalf should be able to take it, but this is a competitive category.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture


My predictions: 4/5, picking Shannon over Plummer
Who’s missing? Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon, Idris Elba, Mark Rylance

No one could possibly have predicted Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World) would be here a month ago since he wasn’t even supposed to be in his movie! No one expected that film to land big after Kevin Spacey was fired from it, so this and its two other major nominations are quite crazy. I’ll have to see the film now. I was correct to predict Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) over costar Michael Stuhlbarg, who didn’t make the cut. Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water) is here, and I shouldn’t be too worried about costar Michael Shannon’s omission since he’s never needed Golden Globe nominations to score Oscar bids and last year even got one over his Globe-winning costar, who was snubbed by Oscar voters. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) is a solid choice for his film, though I was hoping maybe Woody Harrelson would show up. It’s a shame that Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) is the only representative of the best film I’ve seen so far this year, but I have faith that it will rebound come Oscar time.

Who will win? It will probably be Dafoe but watch out for that Plummer.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical


My predictions: 4/5, picking Kazan over Mirren
Who’s missing? Zoe Kazan, Emma Watson, Michelle Williams

So much for Kazan showing up when her film got shut out entirely, but I was right that Watson wouldn’t make the cut. The surprise was Helen Mirren (The Leisure Seeker), who I guess I should have expected though I hadn’t heard enough about her being a contender. I haven’t seen the film, and I also haven’t seen Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul) in hers. I’m relieved that Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes) made it in even though her film isn’t going over as well as I thought it would. The other two are the other real Oscar contenders, whose films scored four and three nominations, respectively: Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya).

Who will win? It might be Robbie, but I think Ronan will take it.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical


My predictions: 3/5, picking Nanjiani and Sandler over Elgort and Jackman
Who’s missing? Kumail Nanjiani, Adam Sandler, Matt Damon

Now this is egregious. I was shocked when I realized that “The Big Sick” didn’t earn a single nomination despite being locked in three categories and possible in two more. I hope that’s just a fluke which is corrected by the Oscars, but sadly Nanjiani isn’t here. Instead, we got Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Show on Earth), whose film earned two other bids, representing musicals, and Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver), a surprising choice for a film that I just saw which didn’t end up making the top race. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) is one of just two bids for his beloved film which I’m not as fond of, and James Franco (The Disaster Artist) also saw his film earn a best picture bid. Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes) is a fortunate inclusion whose film missed the top race but earned his costar a nomination too. I’m pleased to say that this is one of two categories where I’ve seen all the films, and aside from Nanjiani’s omission (I’d swap Jackman out for him), this is a good list.

Who will win? I’d give the edge to Franco since it’s the more clearly comedic performance, but Kaluuya might win too.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama


My predictions: 4/5, picking Winslet over Williams
Who’s missing? Kate Winslet, Annette Bening

Here’s where we got a big surprise, one that’s probably inconsequential given two strong players in the comedy race who will factor into the Oscar equation. When I heard Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World) announced, I was confused and thought it was for “The Greatest Showman” (which would have been a different category), but she managed one of her film’s three major nods, a huge shock for a film that was recut a month ago. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t comment just yet. I actually haven’t seen two other nominees here, Meryl Streep (The Post), whose film did great with six nominations, and Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), whose film did pick up a screenplay bid for writer Aaron Sorkin. Rounding out the list are the two frontrunners, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), whose film leads the nominations with seven, and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), whose film managed an impressive six. More once I’ve seen three of these performances!

Who will win? I think McDormand has the edge given her film’s strong showing, which wasn’t as likely as Hawkins’.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama


My predictions: 4/5, picking Gyllenhaal over Washington
Who’s missing? Jake Gyllenhaal

It’s funny to compare this year to last, since, this time around, Tom Hanks (The Post) wasn’t snubbed like he was for “Sully,” but Jake Gyllenhaal was for “Stronger,” a very deserving performance that I surely would have recognized over the much weaker inclusion of Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), who might have upped his Oscar chances slightly by appearing here, at least putting him head-to-head with Gyllenhaal. Though his film didn’t manage any other major nominations, Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) made the cut, as did Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) as the lone representative of his film. Rounding out the list is Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), whose film did pretty well despite a few category misses. I still have to see Hanks and Day-Lewis, but look forward to offering more thoughts on a category that didn’t have all that many contenders at the start.

Who will win? I think this is Oldman’s to lose even if his film didn’t earn other love.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Final Golden Globe Predictions


For the first time, I feel like I really know what’s going on and have a good handle on what these nominees could be. That might be because I’m paying attention – carefully reviewing announcements of critics’ awards and other groups – but also because I’ve seen more of these contenders at this point than I have in the past. That said, there are always big surprises, but I’m trying to be more realistic with my predictions and less optimistic. As a result, I’m making a few modifications to my predictions. I’m swapping out Denzel Washington for a contender I haven’t seen, Daniel Day-Lewis. I’ll be slightly too optimistic and add in Zoe Kazan in place of Salma Hayek, who appears to have switched categories to the drama race. My screenplay predictions didn’t include either “Call Me By Your Name” or “Get Out,” but I’ve included them both now. One big unknown is “Downsizing,” which could play well, and the same might be true of “The Greatest Showman.” “Mudbound” might also rebound, though I don’t think so, and a film like “Darkest Hour” could show up in a number of categories despite lackluster expectations from most. I’m still betting on Armie Hammer over Michael Stuhlbarg for Best Supporting Actor, and I think that “The Shape of Water” is going to do very well, earning two nominations in that category. I’m not sure whether to bet on Greta Gerwig or Jordan Peele for Best Director, and I’m going with the former even though the latter seems to be immensely popular to my continued bewilderment. I’m mostly ignoring “The Florida Project” even though I think it’s the best film of the year since I believe that it’s going to do well with Oscar voters like “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” I’m torn on the comedy race since I just saw “I, Tonya” and “The Disaster Artist” and think both could show up, but “The Greatest Showman” feels like a “Burlesque”-type inclusion and I guess I’m just pulling for the underrated “Battle of the Sexes” to show up. Let’s hope for the best – my category-by-category reactions might be a bit more delayed than usual but will still be up at some point tomorrow.

No guts, no glory:
“Baby Driver” for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical
Aubrey Plaza for Best Actress for “Ingrid Goes West”
Tatiana Maslany for Best Supporting Actress for “Stronger”

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger)
Tom Hanks (The Post)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game)
Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Meryl Streep (The Post)
Kate Winslet (Wonder Wheel)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical
Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes)
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick)
Adam Sandler (The Meyerowitz Stories)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical
Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul)
Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Melissa Leo (Novitiate)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Best Animated Film
The Breadwinner
Coco
Despicable Me 3
The Lego Batman Movie
Loving Vincent


Best Foreign Film
BPM (France)
First They Killed My Father (Cambodia)
In the Fade (Germany)
The Square (Sweden)
Thelma (Norway)

Best Original Score
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water


Best Original Song
If I Dare (Battle of the Sexes)
Remember Me (Coco)
I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)
This Is Me (The Greatest Showman)
To Be Human (Wonder Woman)

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
The Big Sick
Call Me By Your Name
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water


Best Director – Motion Picture
Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name)
Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Steven Spielberg (The Post)
Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Post
The Shape of Water


Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical
Battle of the Sexes
The Big Sick
Get Out
The Greatest Showman
Lady Bird


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Movie with Abe: I, Tonya


I, Tonya
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Released December 8, 2017

Athletes are known primarily for their skills in their chosen sport, and their personalities usually come second to how they do in front of audiences in stadiums or on TV. Scandals are most able to change that, thrusting the personal lives and alleged misdeeds of an athlete into the limelight and overshadowing their physical talents. Figure skater Tonya Harding is one person remembered much more for the lifetime ban she received from her sport than for her incredible abilities, and this new film aims to tell her complicated story from a personal angle.

Tonya (Margot Robbie) grows up in Portland, Oregon in the 1970s, introduced to professional figure skating at a very young age by her viciously cruel, results-driven mother LaVona (Allison Janney). Subjected to considerable physical and emotional abuse from both LaVona and her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), Tonya pursues ambitious skating stunts and doesn’t try to conform to the image of perfection that competition and Olympic judges want to see. Her future is put in jeopardy when her main American rival, Nancy Kerrigan, has her knee bashed in, beginning a series of events that will come to define her entire career.

This film is introduced by a title card indicating that it is based on “irony free, wildly contradictory” interviews with Tonya, Jeff, LaVona and others. Those conversations are dramatized with the actors looking into the camera and interspersed with the linear narrative playing out on screen. While this story positions itself as a defense of Tonya’s life choices based on her upbringing and circumstances beyond her control, it’s hardly sympathetic to her or anyone else in its story, offering up unfiltered and often brutal portrayals of their character. The film’s mockumentary format also occasionally feels disjointed, jumping from scene to scene as if its interviewees have suddenly recalled something that seems more urgent than wherever the story already was, and the usage of direct camera address in non-interview segments also serves as an unwelcome interruption of the action.

Robbie’s performance is a completely immersive one, as she perfects Tonya’s facial expressions and tics to truly become her. Janney steals every single scene she’s in as LaVona, masterfully delivering unfiltered insults and expressing no remorse whatsoever for how she feels. Both are deserving likely first-time Oscar contenders, and these portrayals are indeed strong. Though the film manages to be as interesting and engaging as its characters, energetically recreating its most stirring skating scenes, its narrative structure isn’t quite as smooth, but this remarkably wild story is more than interesting enough all on its own.

B

Friday, December 8, 2017

Movie with Abe: Quest


Quest
Directed by Jonathan Olshefski
Released December 8, 2017

Every documentary seeks to tell a story, to inform a broad audience about a subject that the people involved in its production want to be told. If there is already considerable publicity about the subject, that can make getting financing for a project and distributing it less arduous, though there are plenty of smaller, lesser-known topics worthy of being featured in a film. Capturing a facet of society by following just one family is not an easy task, yet that’s just what this new documentary seeks to do: showcasing a segment of the African-American population in the United States filled with hard workers facing countless obstacles and pushing on to persevere nonetheless.

“Quest” follows the Rainey family over the course of nearly decade in North Philadelphia. Christopher, better known as Quest, works a number of jobs to earn a living, and his wife Christine’a works at a women’s shelter. Their children have to deal with tremendous adversity, as their son William is raising a baby while being treated for cancer and their daughter PJ loses an eye as a result of a stray bullet. Through everything they experience, they maintain an optimistic attitude thanks to the hip-hop music recorded in their home music studio, enabling them to express themselves in a creative way and share their story with those willing to listen.

Unlike many other documentaries, this one includes few descriptive title cards, instead illustrating only the places in which its scenes take place. The members of the Rainey family speak entirely for themselves, and it hardly feels like a camera is present since they have conversations and interactions that seem remarkably sincere and genuine, not at all staged. Their television – an old-fashioned device rarely seen these days – remains on for a number of the film’s scenes, utilizing momentous events such as Obama’s reelection and his emotional speech following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School as jumping off points for commentary on what this meant for the country and for their community.

Ultimately, the members of the Rainey family are ordinary people trying to make it as numerous barriers pop up to block their road to mediocre prosperity. Music isn’t all they make to try to inspire others, as they tell others to get out and vote and then march to make their voices heard. What they experience is symbolic of what many whose stories aren’t told go through, and this extremely intimate and completely honest film captures the determination of this family not to be defined by what society wants to think of them.

B+

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Movie with Abe: Baby Driver

Baby Driver
Directed by Edgar Wright
Released June 28, 2017

Any bank robbery or heist needs a good getaway driver. That person doesn’t necessarily get out of the car but is charged with staying cool and keeping their foot on the gas after the crime has been committed to make sure that the group is able to get away clean. The one in that role is often more passive and perceived as less guilty of the crime, yet they’re also the most crucial part of the process. Telling a story centered on the getaway driver worked well in “Drive” a few years ago, and this particular tale turns up the action to present an enlivening and stylized portrait of a kid who can really drive.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a master behind the wheel, starting a track on his iPod so that he can calmly drive away and adjust to any type of obstacle in front of him or pursuit behind him. A tragic car accident at an early age left him with tinnitus, and so he listens constantly to music on one of the many iPods to drown out the sound and keep him focused. As he fulfills the debt he owes to criminal kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby prepares to get out and make sure that his foster father Joe (CJ Jones) is cared for as he imagines a future on the road with Debora (Lily James), a waitress who inspires him to speak more in one day than he has in a full year.

The opening scene of “Baby Driver” sets the tone for an energizing experience, one fueled by the music that Baby hears in his ears. His driving is remarkable, and he and the car seem to move as one. There are many moments in the film where the action feels directed by the music, and the range of selections does not favor one particular genre, in part because the film’s protagonist has numerous iPods for different occasions. Baby is an unusual personality, capable of so much and utterly uninterested in communicating or making friends with all but the two most important people in his life, and this film presents an intriguing and rhythmic interpretation of his experience.

Elgort is a good fit for this breakthrough role, allowing the showier actors around him to attract attention while he smoothly moves through each scene and demonstrates his mastery of his skill. Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jon Hamm are well-cast as over-the-top criminals whose excessive energy pairs well with Elgort’s calm, and James, who also appears in “The Exception” and “Darkest Hour” this year, demonstrates her range with her portrayal of a sweet love interest who manages to transform Baby. This film feels and looks sleek, with a fantastic soundtrack and superb editing tying it all together. A story that could have felt familiar manages to be original and exciting thanks to all the elements working together under Edgar Wright’s cool direction.

B+

Friday, December 1, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Shape of Water


The Shape of Water
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Released December 1, 2017

Most people think of monster movies as needing to be scary. Horror is the most conventional format in which creatures of unknown and supernatural origin appear, and they usually seek to destroy those in their path, especially the humans that fear them. Yet some visionaries have a different image of what those many call monsters actually are, and present them as misunderstood victims in a fantasy-driven environment. The mind behind the mesmerizing “Pan’s Labyrinth” certainly knows this better than many, and now he’s created another fascinating look at the inner beauty hiding behind a far less friendly exterior.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works in the janitorial department of a government facility in 1960s Baltimore. Unable to speak, she communicates with her colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) via sign language. When a mysterious being is brought into the lab she cleans each day, Elisa sees it as something other than the threat to American livelihood that cruel interrogator Strickland (Michael Shannon) believes it to be, and sets out to ensure that this poor creature isn’t harmed by those more interested in winning the Cold War than being humane to something that isn’t human.

The same air of magic and wonder that defined “Pan’s Labyrinth” is on full display in this film, which isn’t nearly as dark but is definitely for adult audiences. The subtitles that interpret Elisa’s sign language show how she relates to the world, with Zelda and Giles serving as the only people who really acknowledge her existence. Their kindness stands in stark contrast to the way that Strickland coldly stomps out anything that threatens to get in his way, and the lab’s doctor (Michael Stuhlbarg) provides another perspective as he tries desperately not to have his research project cut short since he too believes that this creature is not the enemy others want it to be.

Hawkins, best-known for her extremely chatty and upbeat performance in “Happy-Go-Lucky,” is extraordinary as Elisa, silently conveying so much with her eyes, expressions, and physical actions. Jenkins is sweet and wonderful as a compassionate spirit, and Spencer manages to make Zelda a character all her own despite some likely similarities on paper to other recent roles she has had. Shannon is terrific as always in a role that he inhabits energetically and commands. The art direction and scenery are beautiful, and the film feels like a wondrous dream. Told as a sort of fairy tale, this film tells a lovely and imaginative story that sparkles on screen.

A-

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Movie with Abe: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Directed by Dan Gilroy
Released November 17, 2017

The law is a complicated and massive thing, meant to cover so many different areas and to address both issues that have arisen and needed to be dealt with and those that could theoretically come to occur. There is a reason that volumes upon volumes of legal books exist, since to remember it all or even it know it all is an unfathomable task. To live a life bound by true adherence to every law is equally arduous, and to do so requires a distancing from society, where certain compromises are made on a regular basis to find a balance between free will and legal structure.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Denzel Washington) is the rare person who does embody the letter of the law. He has worked in the same law office for over thirty years preparing all the legal paperwork for the man he calls his partner, and his style hasn’t aged much in that time, defined by unkempt hair, old headphones, a brick-like iPod, and a flip phone in the age of Uber. He keeps track of cases on index cards and in his remarkable memory, and that system is horribly disrupted when his partner has a heart attack and he makes a move to a corporate environment run by George Pierce (Colin Farrell) that is just as unready for him as he is for it.

Washington is a formidable actor with seven Oscar nominations and two trophies, and it’s rare to see him give anything less than a top-notch turn. For all this film’s other faults, Washington makes you believe that a man like Roman could actually exist. He refuses to let up in conversation with anyone who tries to skirt even the minutest element of the law, angering those who feel like they have no time for him and inspiring others like civil rights advocate Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo), who is initially puzzled and put off by him but come to understand his unique contribution to the world. It’s far from his best performance but still a solid turn.

As a character, Roman is undeniably interesting, as is seeing Washington look considerably more disheveled than he usually does, but this film also feels disheveled. There are holes in Roman’s history and the way that he transforms that are never addressed, and much of the dialogue comes off as less than genuine. The introduction of the story as a typed legal brief fails to achieve the impact it desires. This represents a strange pivot for director Dan Gilroy, whose first film, “Nightcrawler,” was infinitely darker but also focused on a character who was fascinating but whose behavior and experiences didn’t seem completely convincing.

B-

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Golden Globe Musings: Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street
20th Century Women


This category is especially stacked this year, with a handful of contenders that are likely to be in the Best Picture Oscar race. Lady Bird, The Big Sick, and Battle of the Sexes are three that I’ve seen and I fully support, and many believe that Get Out is going to crack this race (I’ll only see it if it does get nominated). The Disaster Artist is expected to be nominated here, while The Greatest Showman remains more of a toss-up due to its late release. I, Tonya and Downsizing are also possible, and Beauty and the Beast is unlikely but could happen.

Current predictions:
Battle of the Sexes
The Big Sick
Get Out
The Greatest Showman
Lady Bird


Golden Globe Musings: Best Motion Picture – Drama

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight


The frontrunners in this race seem pretty clear - Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Call Me By Your Name. But there are a number of others that could bounce one or several of them out, including Mudbound, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, and a movie that I think will go the distance but I’m not sure will be chosen by this group: The Florida Project.

Current predictions:
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Post
The Shape of Water

Monday, November 27, 2017

Golden Globe Musings: Best Director – Motion Picture

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)

This list is usually made up of drama nominees and occasionally includes a comedy director in there too. Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) is the surest thing, and Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) should place too. I’d put good money on the visually striking Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) and Sean Baker (The Florida Project) to show up, though neither is guaranteed. Steven Spielberg (The Post) is already well ahead of anyone else with the most nominations in this category and stands to earn his twelfth bid if he makes the cut this year. Dee Rees (Mudbound), Joe Wright (Darkest Hour), Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Todd Haynes (Wonderstruck), and Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards, Outside Missouri) are also likely to garner votes.

Current predictions:
Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name)
Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Steven Spielberg (The Post)
Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals


This category aggregates original and adapted scripts, tending towards the more story-driven films. Something like Dunkirk probably won’t make the cut, while The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Post seem like very good bets. I’m not sure about Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, or The Florida Project, whereas Lady Bird and The Big Sick could show up in their place. Mudbound, Darkest Hour, or even Last Flag Flying might also score a spot.

Current predictions:
The Big Sick
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Golden Globe Musings: Best Foreign Film

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Divines (France)
Elle (France)
Neruda (Chile)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

I’m not too up to date on this race as of yet, but I always find it extremely useful to peruse Nathaniel’s foreign film charts over at The Film Experience to get a sense of the frontrunners. The Oscar eligibility list isn’t the same as the HFPA’s, but it’s the best place to start. The only one on the list that I’ve seen is The Square (Sweden), which is sure to place here even though I can’t comprehend how it’s Oscar-eligible given the amount of English spoken, which isn’t a problem for Globe voters. First They Killed My Father (Cambodia), from director Angelina Jolie, whose last foreign-language film earned a mention in this race, is a good bet. Other top contenders include BPM (France) and In the Fade (Germany), as well as LovelessA Fantastic Woman (Chile), On Body and Soul (Hungary), Thelma (Norway), and Summer 1993(Spain). I’m sure I’m missing some – we’ll have to see what the list turns out to be.

Current predictions:
BPM (France)
First They Killed My Father (Cambodia)
In the Fade (Germany)
The Square (Sweden)
Thelma (Norway)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Animated Film

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
Sing
Zootopia


Last year, I had seen just one of the contenders in this category at this point, and now I’ve seen two: The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent. Aside from those two, I assume that Pixar’s Coco is probably the most popular choice. From what I’ve read, both Ferdinand and The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales are expected to be received positively. Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, and The Lego Batman Movie seem like films that will do well with Globe voters even if Oscar nominations aren’t in their futures.

Current predictions:
The Breadwinner
Coco
Despicable Me 3
The Lego Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Playing a memorable mother seems to be the key to this race this year, with the three frontrunners - Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) – all fitting that bill. At this point, Melissa Leo (Novitiate) and Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water) seem like the best bets to join them. Other contenders include Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour), Michelle Pfeiffer (Mother!), Hong Chau (Downsizing), and Catherine Keener (Get Out).

Current predictions:
Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Melissa Leo (Novitiate)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)

The surest bet in this race is Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project). I’m still perplexed that Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name) is being predicted by many instead of costar Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name). Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) will probably join them, and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water) or Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water) could too. Idris Elba (Molly’s Game), Jason Mitchell (Mudbound), Ray Romano (The Big Sick), Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour), and Mark Rylance (Dunkirk) could also break into this category.

Current predictions:
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply)
Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

At the forefront of this race are last year’s winner Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes) and Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird). Other strong contenders include Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) and Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul). I cannot understand why Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) isn’t being strongly campaigned since she was terrific in the film, and it’s likely that a spot she should earn will go instead to Michelle Williams (The Greatest Show on Earth), Salma Hayek (Beatriz at Dinner), or Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast).

Current predictions:
Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul)
Salma Hayek (Beatriz at Dinner)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Colin Farrell (The Lobster)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Jonah Hill (War Dogs)
Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)

This category has a whole bunch of contenders, some of which have been out for a long time and others that have yet to be seen by a wide audience. Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) are the stars of two very different early releases expected to do well and both are likely to show up here. Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes) is a good bet, though he could also contend for a much less impressive performance in “Last Flag Flying.” James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Matt Damon (Downsizing), Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman on Earth) are high-profile contenders whose films will also likely do well. Adam Sandler (The Meyerowitz Stories) and Sam Elliott (The Hero) are sure to garner votes and could easily break through too.

Current predictions:
Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes)
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick)
Adam Sandler (The Meyerowitz Stories)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Amy Adams (Arrival)
Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

At the forefront of this race are Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), and, unless the film completely bombs, Meryl Streep (The Post). I would have thought the film would be considered a comedy, but apparently Kate Winslet (Wonder Wheel) will instead be placed here for Woody Allen’s latest. Though I’m not sure she’s destined for another Oscar nomination this year, Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game) is a good bet here. The two Globe-loved actresses who might knock out any of those five are Annette Bening (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) and Jennifer Lawrence (Mother!). I know that Gal Gadot (Wonder Women) is being championed by many, but I think a breakthrough at the Oscars is more likely.

Current predictions:
Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game)
Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Meryl Streep (The Post)
Kate Winslet (Wonder Wheel)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced in just a few weeks, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anything important. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is still a bit early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

Last year’s nominees:
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Joel Edgerton (Loving)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

The surest thing in this race is Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), which would actually mark his first Globe nomination. Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger) seems like a pretty solid bet from a film earlier in the year even if he might not make it all the way to Oscar (though I hope he does). A nominee from last year, Andrew Garfield (Breathe), could enter the race, as could Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) for a film that’s sure to be very popular. The movie is supposed to be terrible, but last year’s nominee Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) shouldn’t be underestimated. Without knowing how good either film is, Tom Hanks (The Post) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) are still likely to get many votes. I’m not sure there are any other truly strong contenders, but Chadwick Boseman (Marshall), Christian Bale (Hostiles), Jeremy Renner (Wind River), John Boyega (Detroit), and Jamie Bell (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) could all earn some votes.

Current predictions:
Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger)
Tom Hanks (The Post)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Jewcy Review: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story


For an educational and interesting look at an actress considered by many to be the world's most beautiful, check out the new documentary "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story." Head over to Jewcy to read my review!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Movie with Abe: Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour
Directed by Joe Wright
Released November 22, 2017

Winston Churchill is a man made for the cinema. World War II has been dramatized in many films, and it’s no surprise that the charismatic world leader who was elevated to a seat of power right at its height has played a significant part in many of them. Recently referenced as an offscreen influence in “Dunkirk” and featured heavily on “The Crown” in an Emmy-winning performance by John Lithgow, Churchill is back at the center of his own story in this dramatic thriller set during a crucial moment in time for his country.

Ousted by Parliament, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) resigns from his post and reluctantly appoints Churchill (Gary Oldman) for the job. Aided by a new secretary, Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), and the advice of his wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), Churchill assumes the responsibility of steering his nation in the face of a potential invasion, pressured by the likes of his political opponent, Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane), and King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) to consider an option that strikes him as completely unacceptable: enter into peace negotiations with Hitler rather than rally for the next chapter of a war that threatens to decimate his country’s entire army.

Oldman may not strike many as the obvious choice to play Churchill, but the chameleon-like actor has disguised himself in unrecognizable roles before, including the one that landed him his first Oscar nomination, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” He’s all but guaranteed to win the Oscar this time around for a fully immersive portrayal that doesn’t just have him looking the part but more than comfortably delivering passionate speeches and calls to action without ever seeming like anyone other than Churchill himself. He’s matched well in scenes by Mendelsohn and Thomas, both of whom know exactly how to play off of him and still remain relevant and compelling. James provides the film’s heart, and Dillane its antagonistic energy.

The timing of this film’s release makes it a fitting companion to Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” from this past summer, filling in the other side of the story and remaining tethered to the political happenings in the United Kingdom. Wright, who previously made the powerful “Atonement,” includes just selected flashes to the war itself, choosing instead to focus on his magnetic central character, who commands the film with his immutable gusto. Assisted by a strong score, this film is interesting and engaging throughout and saves its most emphatic and energizing speech for last, going out on a boisterous and thrilling note.

B+

Monday, November 20, 2017

Movie with Abe: Get Out

Get Out
Directed by Jordan Peele
Released February 24, 2017

I really didn’t want to see this movie. I remember watching the trailer for the first time in theaters right around when all the big awards movies from last year were coming out, and I was so creeped out and uninterested that I would intentionally try to leave to use the bathroom when the trailer started to play before other films. Now, awards season is again upon us, and for some reason this film appears to be a frontrunner, first in the Comedy/Musical race at the Golden Globes and then eventually at the Oscars, and my desire not to see it wasn’t going to do much to change that, especially since that same hoping didn’t stop “Mad Max: Fury Road” from earning many top-tier awards nominations. After having seen it, I don’t feel particularly enlightened.

As the trailer indicated, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) travels with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to spend the weekend at her parents’ home. He meets Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), who seem very nice if a little too aware of the fact that he’s black. As the budding photographer spends more time with them, he realizes that their two black employees – a gardener (Marcus Henderson) and housekeeper (Betty Gabriel) – are both acting very strangely, a thought he initially shakes off until he realizes that there is something horribly wrong in this secluded, white-dominated situation.

There’s a lot simmering behind what’s presented as fact and plot in this film, indicated early by Rose’s aggressive reaction to a police officer’s demand to see Chris’ license after they hit a deer when she was the one driving, signaling that she, unlike most white people, actively notices and combats the overt racism around her. The disturbing truth of what goes on in this film – which I won’t spoil even though it hardly seems surprising given how things begin – is something much darker and more sinister, meant to evoke conversation about how possible this kind of scenario could be since racism and segregation do still pervade today’s society.

The question of how well it works as a film taken at face value is a different one. People are rightly confused about why this film would be perceived as a comedy since to laugh at it is only to acknowledge the unfortunate state of the world, and it far better fits the definition of thriller or horror. Fearing the latter, I was relieved to find far fewer jump scenes than I had expected and even been warned of, though it still ranks as dark and disturbing enough to merit that classification. Kaluuya is indeed good, playing his role perfectly, and the rest of the cast succeeds as well.

Yet this film isn’t nearly as extraordinary in any sense as most seem to believe, and its function as allegory shouldn’t be lumped in with its cinematic quality, which is decent, off-putting, and unspectacular. Horror fans might enjoy it for a bit more braininess and social commentary than usual, but I see no reason why awards groups should be heaping nearly as much praise on it as I’ve seen throughout the year. It’s certainly not in the same category as “The Silence of the Lambs” or “Aliens,” two genre movies that scored with Oscar voters. I know that I’m likely in the minority here, but this film just didn’t win me over.

C+

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Movie with Abe: Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent
Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman
Released September 22, 2017

Vincent Van Gogh is easily one of the most well-known artists throughout history and across the world. Like so many, he was not appreciated in his time, and the fame he has gained comes almost entirely from after he died at a young age at his own hands. His work adorns the walls of many people’s homes and of art galleries all over the world, and this film chooses to use a medium close to his own to tell a story also set after his death that investigates just what it was that led to his untimely demise.

A year after Vincent’s death, a letter remains that must be delivered to his brother Theo. The postman Roulin sends his son Arnaud to try once again to deliver this letter after several failed attempts. What Arnaud, initially uninterested in the task he has been given, discovers is that there is much more to Vincent’s life and decline than he ever knew. Through pointed conversations with the people who spent time with Vincent in his final weeks, including doctors, hoteliers, and their families, Arnaud learns about who Vincent really was and how no one was really able to understand him.

This animated film begins with the impressive note that it was entirely hand-painted by a team of over 100 artists. If nothing else, this would be a startling feat which pays tribute to Van Gogh’s contributions to modern art by bringing to life his story with an art form that he surely could never have expected would have been popularized in this way. It’s a dazzling visual experience, enhanced with excitable dialogue delivered by the film’s voice actors, enabling these pictures to be just the storyboard for a moving narrative.

This artistic feat is easily the film’s signature asset, but the tale it tells proves to be just as engaging. The film’s title feels purposeful since Vincent is a figure seen only a few times throughout the film yet so crucial to all of its development. Just a year after his death, those who met Vincent and tried to comprehend how he saw the world haven’t been able to get him out of their heads. So many years later, Van Gogh’s mark on the world has only been amplified, and this tribute to his artistry and to his life is a mesmerizing and beautiful journey.

B+

Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Breadwinner


The Breadwinner
Directed by Nora Twomey
Released November 17, 2017

English-language movies set in Afghanistan are usually war dramas - that’s just the nature of the recent conflict. A number of these are documentaries detailing the daily life filled with violence and the Western influence that has been felt in an underdeveloped country. Scripted films exist but are rarer, and usually feature an excerpt of a battle or tour as part of a larger narrative. This may well be the first animated film that takes place in Afghanistan, offering a unique perspective on the country’s society and culture with the aid of its imaginative format.

The film opens with a man named Nurullah being scolded by Taliban members for having his young daughter Parvana out with him on the streets of Kabul since women are not supposed to be out of the house and must be covered entirely at all times if they are. When Nurullah is arrested by the Taliban, Parvana tries to go out and earn for her family, a job that turns out to be impossible due to her gender. When she cuts off her hair and pretends to be a boy, however, she finds that she has considerably more success, leading her closer to being able to go find her father and try to get him freed from his unjust imprisonment.

This is hardly a story for children, but there is an enormous sense of wonder in its protagonist that helps to give it an uplifting feel among unimaginable circumstances for a child to have to endure. It’s no surprise that an extremely mature, bright-eyed child is the focus of the latest film from Irish animation company Cartoon Saloon, which previously produced “The Secret of Kells,” co-directed by Twomey, and “The Song of the Sea.” Stepping away from Ireland to a distant land made up much more of desert proves to be a very worthwhile move, one that tackles a complex and harrowing culture ruled by extremism and terrorism through a child’s eyes.

This film splits its time between Parvana’s life experiences and the recounting of mystical stories to her sister, which play out in vivid form. They are interspersed with the grittier moments of reality that ground Parvana’s hopes of finding her father and achieving a better life. Her determination and ability to see light in a dark world is matched by this film’s colorful interpretation of the black-and-white nature of its setting, a fitting follow-up to its studio’s previous productions.

B+

Thursday, November 16, 2017

DOC NYC Spotlight: One of Us


One of Us
Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Released October 20 on Netflix

Religion has the potential to be oppressive. While many find comfort in the fact that they can pray to a higher power, others get lost and overwhelmed by the preoccupation with sticking to a strict set of regulations. Breaking with an observant community is rarely easy, and in some cases the limited experiences that those who choose to leave have had make their exodus and subsequent immersion into secular society extremely difficult, especially if those within the community try their hardest to make sure that getting out is far from an easy process.

The Hasidic community in Brooklyn, New York is an extremely insular culture that stresses devotion to God as a way of uniting its people in the wake of unthinkable loss during the Holocaust. There are many rules and guidelines in place designed to prevent outside influence from the likes of the Internet and those who do not dress modestly. Women are married off at a young age to men chosen by their families, and usually have many children. This documentary follows three people who make the tough choice that this life is not for them: Etty, a mother caught in an abusive relationship, Ari, a teenager who is trying to overcome addiction, and Luzer, an aspiring actor.

Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady were Oscar-nominated a decade ago for their documentary “Jesus Camp” about evangelical Christians. Now, they’ve returned to the subject of religion to tackle Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Like their previous film, this one doesn’t paint the Hasidic community in any sort of light that resembles positivity. One subject does comment that it can lead to a fulfilling life for others, but most of what is presented focuses on the miserable and unenlightened side of this inescapable society that stifles individuality and creativity.

This searing exposé lives mostly in darkness, permitted access to the community only by those who still associate with Luzer, whose break wasn’t nearly as bad as the other two protagonists, and who still answers the question “Are you one of us?” in the affirmative. This film finds itself at its most intriguing part when it explores what remnants of Jewish observance and practice still comfort its wounded refugees and how their feelings towards anything that resembles what they knew remain incredibly complex. As a story of three people trying to build a new life for themselves with no support, this is an eye-opening and affecting chronicle of what it’s like to leave a community that doesn’t pay much heed to the outside world.

B+

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DOC NYC Spotlight: Zero Weeks

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eighth year in New York City from November 9th-16th.


Zero Weeks
Directed by Ky Dickens
Festival Screenings

There are many political issues that are at the forefront of the public conversation in the United States today. For every proposed bill or highlighted social injustice, there are any number of opinions on all sides of the aisle. One topic that surely garners spirited arguments for and against it also affects the greatest number of people, regardless of income or background and objectively stands in stark contrast to the policies employed by so many other countries: paid sick and paternity leave.

This fact-filled documentary begins by citing Papua New Guinea as literally the only other country in the world that requires employers to offer zero weeks for those for work for them to care for themselves, a sick loved one, or a newborn. How this practically plays out and affects people is covered in great detail, with the systems in place in other countries broken down and simplified. Inevitabilities like the statistic that one in five people in the United States will be 65 or older in 2025 are brought up to showcase why it’s crucial that this must be addressed.

Following a few subjects makes this film’s point all the more emphatic, with the particular case of an expectant mother whose twin children were born three months early and died right away given just three days per deceased family member to take off from work, with each paperwork- and mourning-filled day so unfathomably unbearable. The fact that fathers should be given time off as well is cited as most important because it destigmatizes the need for women to have time off and thus appear less stable as potential employees. Stories about expectant parents turning to crowdfunding their maternity leaves are especially jarring when the math of a small paycheck deduction to create a large fund for employers to cover whatever they need is clearly detailed.

The arguments made in this film have clearly won over this reviewer, but what’s even more impressive is how the complexities of how this affects people across the country are analyzed. There is no clear villain other than the governing policy itself, since those responsible for their employees at small companies explain that they cover whatever leave they offer from their own pockets, often at their own losses. This less than uplifting documentary serves as an exceptionally constructed and vitally important call to action.

B+

DOC NYC Spotlight: Standing Up

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eighth year in New York City from November 9th-16th.


Standing Up
Directed by Jonathan Miller
Festival Screenings

Introducing this review is best done by using the opening line of the film’s summary: An Egyptian lawyer, a couch-surfing comedian, and an Orthodox Jew walk into a comedy club… and end up in a documentary. While standup comedy is usually funny, the journey to get there is often far more serious, and that’s what this film humorously explores, selecting three unlikely budding comics who are all trying to break into the business. While their stories aren’t all that similar, as juxtaposed here, it’s an insightful and entertaining survey of the stand-up landscape and what it takes to make it in comedy.

David Finklestein is an Orthodox Jew who wears a suit and a black hat all the time, and most of his routines begin by him commenting sarcastically on how well he fits in with the rest of the people in the room. Sara Parks is living paycheck to paycheck, which is why she holds down a job as a custodian and saves her jokes for the comedy clubs after hours. Raafat Toss is a personal injury lawyer who wants to try something new and decides to give comedy a shot despite not having any experience in the format.

These three subjects are all compelling because of what they have going against them and how they try to overcome those obstacles. David’s observance often gets in the way of his comedy life, since he can’t perform in shows on the Sabbath and isn’t accustomed to going to bars or other social scenes because of his religious upbringing. Sara is committed to making this work even though, as she describes in one joke, she often looks at rats in the city eating scavenged food, jealous of the generous portion they’ve been able to procure that she can’t eat. And Raafat, always affable at work, bombs miserably during his first set, leading a subsequent comic to confirm that he shouldn’t quit his day job.

Throughout this exploration of these comedians and their lives, the opportunity to really get to know these three people and what it is about telling jokes that makes them want to do it so much. Their relationships with other people and with themselves are covered in detail, including David’s worry that he is the butt of his own jokes and Raafat’s determination to let his children do what they want rather than feel pressured to go into particular field. It’s a fun and affirming film that doesn’t sugarcoat success but does a fine job of showing the high points and the low points along the way.

B+

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DOC NYC Spotlight: Playing God

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eighth year in New York City from November 9th-16th.


Playing God
Directed by Karin Jurschick
Festival Screenings

There have been many mass shootings and terrorist attacks in the news lately, which represents an unfortunate state of today’s world. What transcends all political views on how to prevent such things from continuing to happen is the fact that there are those left behind seeking some sort of closure – and often more than not – in the wake of what has already happened. Something that is likely to only be considered in the face of unbelievable tragedy and loss is what the value of someone’s life is to those who have been left behind to go on without them.

Placing a dollar value on the victims of terrorist attacks, public disasters, and other similar events is a responsibility shouldered often by lawyer Ken Feinberg. Originally known for determining what should be awarded to Vietnam veterans exposed due to Agent Orange, Feinberg has worked to calculate what should be given to those affected by major catastrophes such as Deepwater Horizon, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombing. Serving as the “special master” for those who survived or lost someone on September 11th, 2001 put him in the spotlight in a big way, earning the ire of many for the precise nature of how he works to financially measure trauma.

Feinberg makes for a fantastic film subject, since he’s not at all shy about speaking to the camera. He believes firmly in what he does, citing the math behind something like reducing pension funds gradually since the money is going to run out one way or another and his plan means that the bottom won’t fall out abruptly and completely at some point. He describes his work as “part divinity, part psychiatry, dealing with real people who died or were injured or suffered loss.” He cites staggering statistics, like the fact that over one million claims for all fifty states and other countries were filed after the BP oil spill, and over half were rejected. Feinberg’s reading of the law is also subject to controversy, particularly his understanding that undocumented workers were due compensation after September 11th.
This film won’t provide any reassurance to those distraught with how things stand in society today, but it does offer remarkable insight into the complexity of how responsibility is taken, even if not directly, for events seemingly not in the government’s control. Feinberg stands by an ethical approach to his work, but he’s most concerned with facts, repeating that people need to offer proof for what was being earned prior to someone’s death or severe injury, and also compelled by the big picture, like how much someone would have made much later in their career had it not been cut short by some event to determine financial compensation due. There’s a lot to it, and this film, which is hardly optimistic, offers a very interesting introduction to a surprisingly important conversation.

B+

DOC NYC Spotlight: Spiral

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eighth year in New York City from November 9th-16th.


Spiral
Directed by Laura Fairrie
Festival Screenings

Anti-semitism is on the rise - it’s an established and unsettling trend. With the incitement of hate from so many powerful leaders, it’s no surprise that people are turning against each other and communities are becoming divided on particularly potent issues. Triggering incidents all around the world are inspiring people to rise up against each other, both in large public demonstrations and in isolated attacks on minority communities. Tracing the roots of these violent and hateful acts is complicated, and in this case, the research takes a questionable turn in trying to address the problem.

France is the country with the world’s third-largest Jewish population, and it also is home to a large Arab and Muslim population. A lawyer, teacher, and family are the film’s main subjects in France, all discussing their discomfort witnessing a shooting outside a Jewish school in Toulouse and the murder of patrons at a kosher supermarket and their doubts about whether Jews can continue to live in France. Deeply disturbing content is presented, including clips of propaganda videos that assert how malignant and dangerous Jews are.

Where this film appears to veer off course is in its focus on an Israeli settler moving to his family to land that he deems is “where we belong” and the Palestinian mayor who lives nearby and must contend with this invasive colonialism. Showcasing one reason cited by those who express anti-Semitism that supports their cause creates a false equivalency by suggesting that this a legitimate and defendable defense for that hatred. French comedian Dieudonné, who has been fined repeatedly for anti-Semitic statements and routines, is also interviewed in depth, which at first seems to show just how offensive his material is until it becomes clear that he’s just as much of a dynamic subject as this film’s Jews who face persecution in France.

There’s a greater theme that this film appears to be going for, which is that xenophobia and anti-Islamism are just as prevalent as anti-Semitism. Yet that goal is not achieved, since the research and conclusions covered here don’t investigate that assertion and instead try to rationalize anti-Semitism as a reasonable response to events going on in another country used to demonize an entire people. There are some interesting notions and arguments presented here, but the entirety of this experience is one that’s far less responsible and compelling, concerned more with finding answers than addressing issues.

C+