Saturday, January 25, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Black Bear

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.


Black Bear
Directed by Lawrence Michael Levine
NEXT

Any movie that begins with a few people spending a night in an isolated home in the woods is likely to spell doom - or, at least, sustained misery - for those poor characters. Not all such films are created equal, however, and some don’t result in full-fledged horror or gore. It’s perhaps a greater challenge to build suspense and a vivid, engaging narrative when the only real threats to anyone’s livelihood are their own self-destructive inclinations.

Filmmaker Allison (Aubrey Plaza) arrives at a home in the Adirondacks, where she is greeted by Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and his pregnant girlfriend Blair (Sarah Gadon). Their shared dinner finds Gabe and Blair at each other’s throats, bickering and disagreeing while Allison watches and contributes minimally, keeping her identity guarded. As tensions rise, relationships are put to the test and these three have an opportunity to experience the night and their new dynamic in a wholly unexpected way.

This film competes in the NEXT category at Sundance, a fitting classification since its genre is difficult to assign. It’s clear that there is something amiss as soon as Allison shows up at her country getaway, but introductory titles about bears in the road and rustling sounds in the trees are red herrings. This is a thriller about people coming undone when left to their own devices, able to pick each other apart and fall prey to predictable impulses that cannot be reversed. It’s best compared to “Always Shine,” a film in which director Lawrence Michael Levine actually appeared in as an actor, though this film’s handling of its mind-bending journey is far superior.

What makes this film work best is the excellent cast. Plaza is often purposefully over-the-top, in projects like “Parks and Recreation” and “Legion,” and her more reserved demeanor works very well here, especially when she begins to unravel. Abbott was a formidable villain in “Sweet Virginia,” but this role marks a return to the kind of character he played on “Girls,” where his words and condescending attitude are most vicious. Gadon, who has impressed in projects like “11.22.63,” plays off both of them excellently, demonstrating her true talent. This film almost needs no plot once it allows its actors to start conversing. Yet its eagerness and commitment to stick with its characters is what makes it so fantastically unsettling, impossible to ignore while it’s happening and difficult to shake once it’s over.

B+

Sundance with Abe: Luxor

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.


Luxor
Directed by Zeina Durra
World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Spending time in a war zone can have traumatizing effects on anyone. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re on the front lines or there in a capacity that doesn’t always put you in immediate physical danger. Decompressing in a place that feels distinctly different can be crucial to a person’s wellbeing and emotional recovery, though memories of what they experienced won’t be erased by a simple change of scenery. Eventually, those affected will have to confront what they have endured and how it has changed them.

Hana (Andrea Riseborough), a British aid worker, has finished working at a clinic on the Jordanian-Syrian border. She returns to the familiar comfort of Luxor, Egypt, an ancient city where she lived years earlier. As she wonders at the architecture and the beauty of the place, she encounters Sultan (Karim Salem), an archeologist she used to date. A relaxing trip back to the past becomes more than just that as old memories come back and Hana must choose which decisions to make for her present, as well as when her time off needs to end and a return to reality might be in order.

The premise of someone like Hana yearning for a nostalgic past after living so close to death makes a lot of sense. From there, however, this film isn’t really sure where to go. The plot is thin and slow, and it’s mostly an opportunity to see Hana as she leans in to listen closely to the hieroglyphics on the walls, hearing murmuring voices of generations and civilizations long gone. The meaning of that is never explicitly addressed, and Hana doesn’t discuss much about what she went through during her most recent job. Her encounters with Sultan and with other travelers and locals are mildly interesting, but this film is much like one of Sultan’s archeological digs: long and tedious, with only the occasional worthwhile find.

Riseborough returns to Sundance with this film and “Possessor” after starring in an impressive four projects at the festival two years ago: “Burden,” “Mandy,” “Nancy,” and “The Death of Stalin.” She’s at her least energetic here, which doesn’t serve to enliven the pace of the film. This film feels like a moderately more optimistic version of “War Story,” a lackluster past Sundance entry. There could be something interesting and thought-provoking to be found within this story, but it must be buried deep within this forgettable film.

C+

Sundance with Abe: Summertime

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.


I'm writing up some of the films I see for The Film Experience. Head over there to read my take on the first film I saw, which I loved - Carlos Lopez Estrada's "Summertime," his fantastic follow-up to a Sundance hit two years ago, "Blindspotting."

Sundance with Abe: Zola

I'm at the Sundance Film Festival and recording one-minute reviews of everything I see. Subscribe to the movieswithabe YouTube channel to catch them all!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Black Bear

I'm at the Sundance Film Festival and recording one-minute reviews of everything I see. Subscribe to the movieswithabe YouTube channel to catch them all!

Sundance with Abe: Luxor

I'm at the Sundance Film Festival and recording one-minute reviews of everything I see. Subscribe to the movieswithabe YouTube channel to catch them all!

Sundance with Abe: The Perfect Candidate

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.


The Perfect Candidate
Directed by Haifaa Al Mansour
Spotlight

Gender roles in society are shaped by many years of tradition, and often take a long time to evolve from systems that may seem archaic and highly sexist. There are interesting contradictions that come with change, like a woman being able to become a doctor but being treated as inferior to the male nurses who work under her or being permitted to run for office but not legally allowed to address a group of male constituents. Such misaligned values are frustrating and inherently make for very watchable and thought-provoking cinema.

Maryam (Mila Al Zahrani) works at a local clinic in Saudi Arabia where some patients refuse to be treated by her or even to look her in the eye. She plans to attend a conference where she will be able to interview for a better position elsewhere, but when her travel permit is deemed expired, circumstances lead her to an unexpected path. Determined to get the broken and often unusable road to the clinic paved, she announces her candidacy for municipal council, well aware that she faces an uphill battle in a society where most men - and many women - believe that a woman’s place is undeniably in the home.

Maryam experiences differing degrees of support for her endeavors from within her own family, representing the spectrum of liberal thinking within her culture. Her sister Selma (Dae Al Hilali), who works as a wedding videographer, embraces the chance to make campaign videos and arrange lavish fundraisers. Her teenage sister Sara (Nora Al Awadh) worries immediately about the gossip that will come from her candidacy. Her father Abdulaziz (Khalid Abdulraheem), who is away touring with his band, combating other traditionalist objections to the performance of music, doesn’t believe it’s a smart idea but knows that he’s powerless to stop his daughter when she sets her mind to something. The four family members serve as effective emblems for what being open-minded and feminist in a religious society can mean.

Director Haifaa Al-Mansour, who recently made the English-language “Mary Shelley” and “Nappily Ever After,” returns to her Saudi roots with a film that showcases another trailblazing female, who in this case isn’t initially concerned with improving women’s status but focused instead on just one issue. Al-Mansour, best known for “Wadjda,” crafts a film that stays with its characters and watches as they discover things they didn’t know about themselves and their priorities. Saudi Arabia’s official 2019 submission for the Oscar for Best International Feature is a strong and resonant look at a place and way of life that may seem generations behind what most American audiences know and has plenty to say about the complexities of its existence.

B+

Sundance with Abe: The Perfect Candidate

I'm at the Sundance Film Festival and recording one-minute reviews of everything I see. Subscribe to the movieswithabe YouTube channel to catch them all!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Director


This is the twenty-sixth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame), Olivia Wilde (Booksmart), Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit), Clint Eastwood (Richard Jewell), Lulu Wang (The Farewell)

Runners-up:
Tom Cullen (Pink Wall)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Terrence Malick (A Hidden Life)
Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire)

The winner:
Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) crafted a totally captivating and immersive film that worked on many different levels.

Other nominees:
Joe Talbot (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)
Todd Phillips (Joker)
Justin Chon (Ms. Purple)
Alma Har’el (Honey Boy)

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble Cast


This is the twenty-fifth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Avengers: Endgame, Downton Abbey, Little Women, The Irishman, Troop Zero

Runners-up:
Come As You Are
Monos
Late Night
Knives Out
Marriage Story


The winner:
Parasite assembled a marvelous group of performers who made this incredibly compelling experience all the more layered and powerful.

Other nominees:
Yes, God, Yes
Booksmart
Good Boys
Fighting with My Family

AFT Awards: Best Ending


This is the twenty-fourth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Click here to see previous years of this category. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Beware spoilers for the films pictured above.

The winner:
Parasite traveled an incredible road and suggested a hopeful, positive resolution only to return to the firm reality that perception and attitude can make all the difference.

Other nominees:
Queen and Slim finished with a powerful, haunting conclusion for its main characters and more transformative, lasting implications felt by those who knew and didn’t know them. The Tomorrow Man achieved some degree of serenity for its two protagonists, allowing them to accept the world in which they lived and embrace the unpredictable in a humorous and endearing way.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Opening


This is the twenty-third category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Click here to see previous years of this category. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

The winner:
Booksmart introduced its two main characters as they danced to their own rhythm as they were headed to school, firmly identifying them as truly worthwhile and hilarious protagonists.

Other nominees:
Long Shot explained who one of its main characters was by showcasing his humorous unwillingness to even commit to the important undercover work of actively pretending to be a white supremacist, preparing audiences for a truly funny experience ahead. The Unorthodox combined historical photographs and anecdotes with a sentiment of frustration from a parent unhappy with the state of affairs, all accompanied by a superb score.

AFT Awards: Best Limited Performance – Female


This is the twenty-second category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category, which is sometimes split into male and female and sometimes been combined.

Honorable mentions: Allison Janney (Bombshell), Darci Shaw (Judy), Kate McKinnon (Bombshell), Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)

The winner:
Caitlin McGee (Standing Up, Falling Down) brought a sweet sincerity to a character whose late appearance helped her film find a kind and endearing note on which to end.

Other nominees:
Liv Hewson (Bombshell)
Brigette Lundy-Paine (Bombshell)
Merritt Wever (Marriage Story)
Martha Kelly (Marriage Story)

AFT Awards: Best Limited Performance – Male


This is the twenty-first category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category, which is sometimes split into male and female and sometimes been combined.

Honorable mentions: Alec Baldwin (Before You Know It), Benedict Cumberbatch (1917), Colin Firth (1917)

The winner:
Ray Liotta (Marriage Story) burst onto the scene with a tremendous ferocity, demonstrating just how vicious divorce can be even for those not seeking to be at all contentious.

Other nominees:
Andrew Scott (1917)
Mark Strong (1917)
Jesse Plemons (The Irishman)
Richard Madden (1917)

AFT Awards: Best Breakthrough Performance


This is the twentieth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions: Stav Strashko (Flawless), Nicholas Alexander (Adam), Emily Granin (Redemption), Isabelle Barbier (CRSHD), Mckenna Grace (Troop Zero)

The winner:
Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit) brought such energy and delightful zeal to his role as an eager young Nazi that his transformation into something better was a wonder to watch.

Other nominees:
Lucas Jaye (Driveways)
Luke Doyle (The Song of Names)
Honor Swinton Byrne (The Souvenir)
Avigail Kovari (Red Cow)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Foreign Film


This is the nineteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category. For this category, I consider eligible only films that were released in their native countries within the past year.

Honorable mentions:
Shooting Life (Israel), A Faithful Man (France), Pain and Glory (Spain)

The winner:
Parasite (South Korea) was a marvelous look at competing classes and the secrets people keep buried and others don’t even think to look for in plain sight.

Other nominees:
The Unorthodox (Israel)
Red Cow (Israel)
Redemption (Israel)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)

AFT Awards: Best Documentary


This is the eighteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
The Apollo, The Biggest Little Farm, The Cave, For Sama

Finalists:
Running with Beto
The Edge of Democracy
Ask Dr. Ruth
The Great Hack
For They Know Now What They Do


The winner:
The Silence of Others unwaveringly probed at deep wounds within a society whose victims have not forgotten the horrors visited upon them.

Other nominees:
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
American Factory
At the Heart of Gold
MERATA: How Mum Decolonised the Screen

AFT Awards: Best Animated Feature


This is the seventeenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order in which I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

*One of the best animated films I saw this year, which was eligible for the Oscar, was “Weathering with You,” which I’ll include in my 2020 nominees due to its January release date.

The winner:
I Lost My Body presented an unusual premise and wove a wonderful, immensely watchable and endearing story around it.

Other nominees:
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles 
Missing Link
Abominable
Frozen II

Monday, January 20, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Visual Effects


This is the sixteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Alita: Battle Angel

The winner:
Avengers: Endgame assembled so many superheroes and incredible odds against them, and every magnificently-created scene was stunningly watchable and exhilarating.

Other nominees:
The Lion King
1917
The Irishman
The Aeronauts

AFT Awards: Best Sound Editing


This is the fifteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
None

The winner:
1917 kept audiences on the edge of their seats not only through what they saw on screen but also through the often treacherous and devastating sounds coming at them.

Other nominees:
Ford v Ferrari
Avengers: Endgame
The Aeronauts
Joker

AFT Awards: Best Sound


This is the fourteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
None

The winner:
Avengers: Endgame masterfully combined so many superheroes and epic action sequences to create one unforgettable auditory experience.

Other nominees:
1917
Ford v Ferrari
Dolemite Is My Name
Wild Rose

Sunday, January 19, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Makeup and Hairstyling


This is the thirteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
None

The winner:
Bombshell transformed the many actors in its ensemble into the real people they were meant to portray.

Other nominees:
Downton Abbey
Judy
Joker
The Irishman

AFT Awards: Best Original Song

This is the twelfth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards; to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’ve embedded the nominated songs below. Click here to see previous years of this category. I’ve decided again to include nominees from movies I didn’t see since I’ve spent so much time listening to them.

Runners-up:
Invisible (Klaus), I'm Standing with You (Breakthrough)

The winner:


Other nominees:








AFT Awards: Best Original Score

This is the eleventh category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’ve embedded a sample track from each finalist and nominee for your listening pleasure. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up: The Irishman, Judy and Punch, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Unorthodox

Finalists:












The winner:



Other nominees:









Saturday, January 18, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Film Editing


This is the tenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
Honey Boy, Joker, Judy and Punch, Olympic Dreams, Richard Jewell

The winner:
Parasite was expertly constructed, traversing genres and utterly enthralling its viewers with each and every scene.

Other nominees:
Pink Wall
Avengers: Endgame
Knives Out
The Last Black Man in San Francisco

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture


The competition: Bombshell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

For your information: Four films with no individual actors nominated have won – “The Full Monty” in 1997, “The Return of the King” in 2003, “Hidden Figures” in 2016, and “Black Panther” last year. That bodes well for “Parasite,” which is also only the second-ever foreign language nominee in this race. “Bombshell” has three individual performers nominated, though one of them also stars in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which has two. “The Irishman” has two, while “Jojo Rabbit” has just one. From this list, only “Bombshell” is not nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. The winner of this award has gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar eleven times since its inception in 1995.

Who should win? I can appreciate the talent in “Bombshell,” even though most of the people who made the movie aren’t recognized. I’m not sold on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and I don’t think it should be here. “The Irishman” is a formidable feat of acting talent, while “Jojo Rabbit” has a silly but fun group. My clear choice is the incomparable “Parasite.”
Who will win? I would jump for joy if “Parasite” won, but I’ll go ahead and predict Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to take it instead.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role


The competition: Laura Dern’s divorce lawyer (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson’s free-spirited mother (Jojo Rabbit), Nicole Kidman’s embattled journalist (Bombshell), Jennifer Lopez’s high-rolling stripper (Hustlers), and Margot Robbie’s aspiring producer (Bombshell).

For your information: Dern was nominated in 2008 for “Recount” and in 2017 for “Big Little Lies,” and contends as part of the latter’s cast this year. Double nominee Johansson earns her first bids this year, for this film and for “Marriage Story.” Kidman was nominated in 2002 for “The Hours,” in 2004 for “Hemingway and Gellhorn,” in 2010 for “Rabbit Hole,” in 2015 for “Grace of Monaco,” and in 2016 for “Lion,” with three additional ensemble bids. She won in 2007 for “Big Little Lies,” for which she contends as part of the ensemble this year along with Dern. This is Robbie’s third consecutive nomination after bids for “I, Tonya” and “Mary, Queen of Scots,” and she also contends this year as part of the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” ensemble. Johansson, Kidman, and Robbie are nominated as part of their casts. Dern won the Globe and Critics’ Choice Award. Lopez and Kidman aren’t nominated for Oscars. All but seven times since the SAG Awards’ inception in 1994, the winner of this award has gone on to win the corresponding Oscar. This category has featured double nominees from one film ten times, leading to victories for one of them three times.

Who should win? I wouldn’t vote for Kidman since it’s not her best work, but I’d be fine with any of the other four.
Who will win? This might be a chance to reward Lopez since Oscar didn’t opt to include her, but I think Dern will still win.

Friday, January 17, 2020

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role


The competition: Jamie Foxx’s death row inmate (Just Mercy), Tom Hanks’ beloved television icon (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa (The Irishman), Joe Pesci’s mob boss (The Irishman), and Brad Pitt’s stunt double (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

For your information: Foxx won in 2004 for “Ray” and was also nominated that year for “Collateral” and “Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story.” He contended twice for his ensemble work. Hanks won in 1994 for “Forrest Gump” was nominated again in 1998 for “Saving Private Ryan,” in 2000 for “Cast Away,” and in 2013 for “Captain Phillips.” He won in 1995 as part of the “Apollo 13” cast and was nominated two more times in that field. Pacino won two of his three TV bids, in 2003 for “Angels in America” and in 2010 for “You Don’t Know Jack,” receiving a nomination in 2013 for “Phil Spector.” Pitt was nominated in 2008 for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and in 2011 for “Moneyball.” He won as part of the “Inglourious Basterds” ensemble in 2009, receiving four other bids in that category. This is Pesci’s first nomination. Pacino, Pesci, and Pitt are all nominated as part of their ensembles, and Pacino also scored a bid for being in Pitt’s film. Pitt won the Globe and Critics’ Choice Award. Foxx is the only one not nominated for an Oscar. All but seven times since the SAG Awards’ inception in 1994, the winner of this award has gone on to win the corresponding Oscar. This category has featured double nominees from one film five times, leading to victories for one of them twice.

Who should win? From this list, I’d choose Pesci.

Who will win? I’d say this goes to Pitt.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Leading Role


The competition: Cynthia Erivo’s Harriet Tubman (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson’s divorcing actress (Marriage Story), Lupita Nyong’o’s two versions of herself (Us), Charlize Theron’s conflicted journalist (Bombshell), and Renee Zellweger’s Judy Garland (Judy).

For your information: Zellweger won back-to-back prizes in 2002 and 2003, for “Chicago” and “Cold Mountain,” and was also nominated for “Jerry Maguire” in 1996 and “Bridget Jones’ Diary” in 2001. She won as part of the “Chicago” cast in 2002. Theron won in 2003 for “Monster” and was nominated in 2004 for “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” and in 2005 for “North Country,” in addition to an ensemble bid for “The Cider House Rules” in 1999. Nyong’o won in 2013 for “12 Years a Slave,” was nominated as part of its cast, and won last year as part of the “Black Panther” ensemble. Double nominee Johansson earns her first bids this year, for this film and for “Jojo Rabbit,” for which she also contends as part of the ensemble. This is Erivo’s first nomination. Only Theron is nominated as part of her ensemble. Zellweger has won the Globe and the Critics’ Choice Award. Nyong’o is the only one not nominated for an Oscar. All but seven times since the SAG Awards’ inception in 1994, the winner of this award has gone on to win the corresponding Oscar.

Who should win? Zellweger and Johansson are definitely my picks from this bunch.

Who will win? There’s no reason to think this would be anyone else but Zellweger.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Leading Role


The competition: Christian Bale’s race car driver (Ford v Ferrari), Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting actor (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver’s divorcing theater director (Marriage Story), Taron Egerton’s Elton John (Rocketman), and Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely clown (Joker).

For your information: Bale was also nominated last year for “Vice.” He won for “The Fighter” in 2010 and was nominated for “The Big Short” in 2015, picking up ensemble nominations for both films, “3:10 to Yuma” in 2007, and a win for “American Hustle” in 2013. DiCaprio won in 2015 for “The Revenant” and was nominated in 2004 for “The Aviator,” in 2006 for “Blood Diamond” and “The Departed,” and in 2011 for “J. Edgar.” He has four additional ensemble nominations. Driver was nominated last year both individually and as part of his cast for “BlacKkKlansman.” Phoenix was nominated in 2000 for “Gladiator” and in 2005 for “Walk the Line,” with two other ensemble bids. This is Egerton’s first nomination. DiCaprio is the only actor also nominated this year as part of his ensemble. Phoenix picked up a Globe and the Critics’ Choice Award, while Egerton also won a Globe. Bale and Egerton are not nominated at the Oscars. All but five times since the SAG Awards’ inception in 1994, the winner of this award has gone on to win the corresponding Oscar.

Who should win? I wasn’t as taken with DiCaprio or Egerton’s performances as everyone else seems to be, and Bale was good but not at the top of my list. I’d probably pick Phoenix over Driver, but they were both great.

Who will win? It would be strange if this went to someone aside from Phoenix.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Costume Design


This is the ninth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
Bombshell, HustlersThe Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Judy

The winner:
Dolemite Is My Name was a wondrous celebration of period outfits and signature spectacular style.

Other nominees:
Downton Abbey
Little Women
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Paradise Hills

AFT Awards: Best Art Direction


This is the eighth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
1917, Jojo Rabbit, Judy and Punch, The Irishman, The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The winner:
Ms. Purple was a gorgeously-colored look at Los Angeles that framed its main character’s isolation in a mesmerizing way.

Other nominees:
The Beach Bum
Joker
Invisible Life
Parasite

AFT Awards: Best Cinematography


This is the seventh category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
Joker, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The winner:
1917 was a completely visceral experience, one that demanded the fierce attention of the viewer because of its camera’s sharp and unyielding focus.

Other nominees:
Ms. Purple
A Hidden Life
The Beach Bum
The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay


This is the sixth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
None

Runners-up:
Joker
I Lost My Body
Official Secrets
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles
Come As You Are


The winner:
Jojo Rabbit was an eccentric, creative take on a deadly serious situation turned into endearing satire with a proper approach.

Other nominees:
Richard Jewell
Downton Abbey
The Two Popes
Little Women

AFT Awards: Best Original Screenplay


This is the fifth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Honey Boy, Marriage Story, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Short History of the Long Road

Runners-up:
Animals
The Farewell
Dolemite Is My Name
Good Boys
Yes, God, Yes


The winner:
Parasite was a superbly poignant and riveting exploration of class and culture, stunningly expressed as much through unspoken sentiments and purposeful dialogue.

Other nominees:
Booksmart
Late Night
Knives Out
The Unorthodox

AFT Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


This is the fourth category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 233 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Alia Shawkat (Animals), Isla Fisher (The Beach Bum), Julia Fox (Uncut Gems), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Margot Robbie (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Moran Rosenblatt (Red Cow)

Runners-up:
Lily-Rose Depp (A Faithful Man)
Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit)
Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit)
Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers)
Kate Berlant (After Class)

The winner:
Yeo-jeong Jo (Parasite) crafted a marvelously textured portrait of a naïve housewife whose readiness to accept the tall tales of others was central to her film’s emphatic nature.

Other nominees:
Sydney Sweeney (Big Time Adolescence)
Michaela Watkins (Sword of Trust)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)
Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


This is the third category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 233 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Mark Ruffalo (Avengers: Endgame), Paul Rudd (Avengers: Endgame)

Runners-up:
Samuel L. Jackson (The Banker)
Sam Rockwell (Richard Jewell)
Steven Ogg (The Short History of the Long Road)
Billy Crystal (Standing Up, Falling Down)
Bokeem Woodbine (Queen and Slim)

The winner:
Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco) approached his character with such precision and magnetic wonder, conveying his unique vision of the world in mesmerizing fashion.

Other nominees:
Aldis Hodge (Clemency)
Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
James Badge Dale (Mickey and the Bear)
Noah Jupe (Honey Boy)

AFT Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role


This is the second category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 233 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Adèle Haenel (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Alexi Pappas (Olympic Dreams), Avigail Kovari (Red Cow), Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart), Carol Duarte (Invisible Life), Julia Stockler (Invisible Life), Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart), Mia Wasikowska (Judy and Punch), Natalia Dyer (Yes, God, Yes), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Tiffany Chu (Ms. Purple)

Runners-up:
Anna Margaret Hollyman (Sister Aimee)
Tatiana Maslany (Pink Wall)
Emma Thompson (Late Night)
Stav Strashko (Flawless)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)

The winner:
Holliday Grainger (Animals) delivered a fully unhinged and then appropriately retrospective performance as a partier who never gave being serious a second thought.

Other nominees:
Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose)
Maya Erskine (Plus One)
Renee Zellweger (Judy)
Awkwafina (The Farewell)

AFT Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role


This is the first category of the 13th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them and drawn from a pool of approximately 233 films. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Grant Rosenmeyer (Come As You Are), Jay Duplass (Pink Wall), Jimmie Fails (The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Ray Romano (Paddleton)

Runners-up:
Pete Davidson (Big Time Adolescence)
Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy)
Nick Kroll (Olympic Dreams)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Shuli Rand (The Unorthodox)

The winner:
Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell) warmly embodied a truly kind spirit, someone who wanted to be helpful just for the sake of being nice without perceiving all the malice others could concoct.

Other nominees:
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)
Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Oscar Nominees: Best Picture


My predictions: 9/9, though I said “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” would also get nominated
My ballot: Come back later this week!
The nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite

What a lackluster way to end a lackluster slate. As I’ve said in most other categories, the nominees aren’t actually bad or even not good, it just would have been nice to see a little creative thinking and some surprises. In a great piece about new Oscar trivia and records, Nathaniel at the Film Experience points out that this is the first time that four films have achieved double digit nominations, which means a less impressive spread and recognition of different projects. Somewhat unexpectedly, Joker rallied to earn the most bids of all, with eleven, while Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917, and The Irishman all came in second with ten. Four other films were next with six, including Little Women, which rebounded from a disappointing precursor performance, Marriage Story, which scored only in expected races, Jojo Rabbit, which did better than I thought it would, and Parasite, which underwhelmed given what it could have accomplished, even though six bids for a Korean film is nothing to scoff at. In last place, somewhat fittingly, was Ford v Ferrari, a film that wasn’t included at the Golden Globes in a top race but still pulled off three technical bids in addition to this mention. The tenth PGA nominee, “Knives Out,” didn’t make the cut, and “The Two Popes,” which landed three nominations, was probably next up in terms of votes. It’s a shame that “The Farewell” didn’t earn any love, and I’m sure others are lamenting the failure of “Uncut Gems” to muster any steam to break through. Now, it’s time for a bit of a break from Oscar prognosticating to catch up on the three features and seven shorts I haven’t yet seen, but the award show is less than a month away, so come back soon for winner predictions!

My current bet to win: I’m worried it might be “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but I’ll stick pick Parasite.

Oscar Nominees: Best Director


My predictions: 4/5
My ballot: Come back later this week!
The nominees: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Todd Phillips (Joker), Sam Mendes (1917), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Bong Joon Ho (Parasite)

I was hoping for a surprise of some sort here, but instead we got the exact Golden Globe and BAFTA list. Of course it’s all men, and it’s far from creative, but these are some good working directors. Though I didn’t love the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), he clearly wanted to make a certain kind of movie, which he did. That’s definitely true for Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) as well, who is a former winner in this category along with Sam Mendes (1917). I’m sure that Todd Phillips (Joker) didn’t expect his film to be the nominations leader, while Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) is certainly thrilled to have directed the first Korean movie nominated in this race, for a film that earned six bids. Even if it’s so expected and relatively dull at this point in the race, this list isn’t actually bad.

My current bet to win: I think Bong Joon Ho can pull this off.

Oscar Nominees: Best International Feature


My predictions: 4/5
My ballot: Come back later this week!
The nominees: Corpus Christi (Poland), Honeyland (North Macedonia), Les Misérables (France), Pain and Glory (Spain), Parasite (South Korea)

Here is one of my biggest disappointments: the inclusion of Honeyland here in addition to its slot in the Best Documentary race. For it to be the first film to achieve a double nomination like that feels unnecessary since it really isn’t that amazing. I liked “Beanpole” but wasn’t really pushing for any of the other finalists to get in, so it’s not all that crushing. I’m perfectly happy with the other four nominees though, and thrilled that Corpus Christi (Poland) made the cut since it’s the least high-profile of the other three. Les Misérables (France) is also very good, and Pain and Glory (Spain) made the cut along with its star Antonio Banderas after some worried it might be snubbed. And then of course there’s Parasite (South Korea), the deserved default winner in this race that represents South Korea’s first-ever nomination.

My current bet to win: It will be Parasite for sure.