Friday, May 18, 2018

4 for May 18: 'Dead' on arrival, old 'Book' sex', good bad Rachels, and Pope

Where would you ever see the Pope and "Deadpool"  mentioned in the same sentence? Why, right here, of course, since Wim Wenders' divinely enhanced documentary about the current Pope Francis, as well as the smarmy sequel to what had been a terrific "Deadpool" original are among four films opening on northeast Ohio screens this week.

Beetz's Domino joins "Deadpool," too.
In fact, let's start with the latter, "Deadpool 2," which, unless you include its huge doses of cynicism, certainly offers the least among this week's debuting quartet.

Ryan Reynolds returns as the moody superhero who can't die, yet tries continuously but is only successful at killing his own movie. (Reynolds also now earns a co-writing credit after he and the first mega successful "Deadpool" go-round even received Critics' Choice Awards as 2016's Best Comic Actor and Best Comedy, respectively.)

However, as is often the case in the business of follow-ups, the new effort pales in comparison to the funny, smart, sassy and, it says here, less outrageously violent original. And, sure, some will be bound to laugh at moments that might target Dubstep, "Yentl," and a soundtrack that includes the likes of Air Supply and Dolly Parton, among others.

Still, those are the meager highlights left sticking to the big wall the screenplay must have been thrown against to explore if anything remains. Otherwise, it's as over the top as it gets, including Reynolds/Wade Wilson/Deadpool actually breaking down the proverbial fourth wall by talking to the audience while poking fun at his studio and other members of the Marvel (mostly Wolverine) and DC universes.

Meanwhile, a plot-pivotal mutant/fat kid (Julian Dennison), besides being continuously skewered by our ever-smirking alleged hero, obviously has been more seriously abused, if not downright victimized, at a school controlled by pedophiles. How charming!

Best in the rest of the cast is Deadpool's returning, then departing love interest (Morina Baccarin) and a new potential sidekick (Zazie Beetz, from FX's "Atlanta"). Everyone else becomes almost instantly disposable, even Josh Brolin, now portraying his second super sized villain in less than a month. Here's hoping his back-to-normal visage will return to legitimate distinction late next month in the "Sicario" sequel.

Rated "R": graphic violence, sexual situations, profanity 2:01; $ $ out of $5 

Speaking of casts with questionable bite, let's consider "Book Club," the distaff version of most of the old fogey male comedies that have been thrust upon us in the last decade or so.

Keaton (left), Fonda, Bergen, Steenburgen by the "Book."
This one stars 80-year-old Jane Fonda, admittedly appearing like "the new 50," Diane Keaton (72), Candice Bergen (72) and youngster Mary Steenburgen (65), as a quartet of BFFs talking sex and thinking about all the possibilities after being introduced to a very hot best seller.

Naturally, that would be "Fifty Shades of Grey," brought to the club by successful career woman and lifelong man killer Fonda to share some various enhanced joys of the bedroom with her gal-pals and, perhaps, help cure a few relationship ills along the way.

Obviously that offers room for the men in their lives, including Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss and Craig T. Nelson. (He's the one who gets to deal with an embarrassing Viagra moment.) Ha, ha, ha!

Seriously, folks, there are a couple of nice touches here, and Bergen, as a brilliantly self-deprecating Federal Court judge, steals the film on the comedic end. Regardless, it's nothing we haven't seen before, that is, unless we realize that we've likely never seen someone look so radiant as Fonda at her advanced age.

Just be sure to ignore the soft lighting all-around, which occasionally puts a couple of scenes more out of focus than its predictable, room-for-everyone story often does.

Rated "PG-13": sex-related material throughout and some language; 1:44; $ $ 1/2 out of $5


Weisz, McAdams and Nuvolo consider "Disobedience."
Perhaps Friday's finest new offering arrives in the form of "Disobedience," featuring sparkling performances from Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, both splendid as a pair of former good friends and young lovers reuniting after years of separation.

They're together again when professional photographer Ronit (Weisz) is called back from New York to London upon the death of her rabbi father. Once there, she realizes that Esti (McAdams) remains as gorgeous as ever and, apparently, happily and strictly married to a third part of a looming triangle (the equally adept Alessandro Nivolo).

The really big reveal here, though. is that the latter is himself a rabbi on the verge of succeeding Ronit's dad as the head of a large and extremely conservative Hasidic congregation. If looks could kill, Ronit would be long gone. Then again, many special looks -- of longing, hatred, suspicion, true love, all of the above and more -- become a major part of writer/director Sebastian Lelio's first English-language film, as based on a Naomi Alderman novel.

It's simply a beautiful telling by the same filmmaker who gave us last year's brassy Best Foreign Language Oscar-winner ("A Fantastic Woman"), only with quiet degrees of shading and softness that manage to speak volumes.

Rated "R": some strong sexuality; 1:54; $ $ $ $ out of $5


Producer/writer/director Wenders props up Pope Francis
Last but definitely not least, particularly for any woman or man sincerely caring about the world in which we live, is the aforementioned "Pope Francis A Man of His Word," the absorbing doc from near-legendary producer, writer and director Wim Wenders. (He also performs the voiceovers.)

Though his work never comes close to becoming a full-fledged bio of the people-oriented pontiff, Wenders easily lets viewers of all denominations know that they're spending 90 minutes in the presence of supreme grace and humble eminence. Certainly, after hearing his Catholic holy man comment on a number of important topics and watching his mere presence light up the faces on a plethora of unfortunates around the globe, no one could possibly believe anything less.

Even some slight Wenders' stumbles -- which present awkward black-and-white segments about Francis of Assisi, the Pope's handpicked namesake and patron saint of animals and ecology -- don't intrude too mightily on this inspirational excursion.

Unrated; 1:36; $ $ $ and 1/2 out $5


Thursday, April 26, 2018

10 mostly small(er) films you might want to seek out this summer


Even if spring hasn’t raised much of its lovely head yet in northeast Ohio, the summer movie season unofficially begins Friday, seemingly earlier than ever, with a little ditty called “Avengers: Infinity War.” (See my movie ratings at left.)
Have you heard of it? Certainly you have. Just as you’re likely aware of such equally anticipated blockbusters as “Deadpool2” (May 18); “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (May 25); “Ocean’s 8” (June 8); “Incredibles 2” (June 15); “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (June 22) and “Mission Impossible – Fallout” (July 27).

McAdams and Weisz star in “Disobedience.”
But how ‘bout some mostly off-the-radar sleepers that will arrive by the time the season hopefully and seriously heats up? Here are 10 to consider:

Disobedience (May 18): Since it’s the only one I’ve seen so far (at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival), my small summer slate kicks off with knockout performances from two great Rachels – McAdams and Weisz. The girls co-star and flash some surprising chemistry together in a Sebastian Lelio film based on a successful novel. Of course, the Chilean Lelio also wrote and directed last year’s Oscar-winning, Best Foreign Language Film, "A Fantastic Woman." 

The Rider (June 1): Another entry that collected some buzz in Toronto (and last spring at Cannes), it’s an almost mythic tale of a rodeo cowboy (star-in-the-making Brady Jandreau), wondering what comes next after a life-threatening accident. The truth-based film from writer/director Chloe Zhao ("Songs My Brother Taught Me") also earned five Independent Spirit Award nominations.

Upgrade (June 1): This Australian thriller apparently takes techies to a new level of horror, at least according to some feedback from its world premiere at South by Southwest in March. Revenge, superhuman powers, and plenty of blood fill the screen, and its writer/director (Leigh Whannell) arrives with connections to both the successful “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises.

Collette and Byrne do look spooky in “Hereditary.”
Hereditary (June 8): Even more terrifying perhaps – and already being billed in some corners as the year’s scariest movie – this chiller has Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne heading a grief-stricken family which, for some reason, starts tooling around into their questionable ancestry. Festival-goers at both Sundance and South by Southwest embraced it with jumps, screams and standing ovations.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (June 29): The sequel I’m most looking forward to doesn’t have the great Denis Villenueve back directing it, but brilliant screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is, along with stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. That should mean more action-packed undercover FBI work, based on a reality that simply doesn’t exist in other summer fantasy/comic-book/CGI-based blockbusters.

Sorry to Bother You (July 6): Another film festival hit that ventures into originality is supposedly an often brilliant and funny directorial debut from actor/rap artist Boots Riley. His story, which stars Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer, spotlights a telemarketer (LaKeith Stansfield from “Get Out”) whose dulcet voice opens up a variety of doors and opportunities. 

Eighth Grade (July 13): A second directing debut, this one from actor/comedian Bo Burnham (one of the best buddies in “The Big Sick”), will show up with top-notch, coming-of-age praise from festivals in Sundance, San Francisco and Sarasota. The title tells it all, but it specifically deals with a 13-year-old girl’s fun-filled last week in middle school. 

The Meg (Aug. 10): Uh, you may not be chomping at the bit to see this one, but any movie with the tagline, “Pleasure to Eat You,” sounds like a dog-days-of-summer lark. Add action heavyweight Jason Statham, as a disgraced submarine captain trying to save his reputation – and  crew -- from something called a Megalodon (allegedly the largest marine predator ever), and well . . . maybe the Meg’s entrance music will become as memorable as that grand stuff in “Jaws.” 

“The Nun” just might end summer for good.
The Little Stranger (Aug. 31): Director Lenny Abrahamson gave us one of 2015’s most honored films, the Best Picture-nominated and Best Actress-winning “Room.” 
Now he’s finally back with a ghost story based on a gothic novel by Sarah Waters and a cast headed by Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, and Will Poulter.

The Nun (Sept. 7): For the past two years, WB has owned this post-Labor Day weekend (and, subsequently, most of September) by releasing “Sully” and “It,” respectively. “The Nun” could pull the same trick as the latest installment in a franchise of genuinely frightening films that began with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson portraying real-life paranormal stalkers in  “The Conjuring.” Here, in what might or might not be a telling piece of casting, Farmiga’s lookalike younger sister (Taissa Farmiga) stars as a novitiate investigating the mysterious '50s-era death of the title character.

Holy moly! Bring on that summer heat!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Picture remains toughest call of all at 90th Academy Awards

So unless second-time host and ever-silly Jimmy Kimmel somehow coaxes "Bonnie and Clyde," Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, to present the Best Picture award again, Sunday night's Oscar ceremony should close with a clearcut winner this year. Or will it?

After all, going into Academy Awards weekend, the major category causing the most consternation among annual prognosticators remains the top one. I mean, will the Best Picture be Critics' Choice winner and leading nominee-earner "The Shape of Water"? Or else the momentum-heavy "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" after its trio of triumphs at the Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA awards? Or could a decided underdog such as "Lady Bird" or "Get Out," which is looking more and more like last year's victorious "Moonlight," gain the gold at the wire.

We offer our brief thoughts below after first disposing of what looks like some easy pickings in the five other important categories, each of which has been dominated by one person throughout awards season.  

BEST ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name; Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread; Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out; Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour; Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Will win: Gary Oldman
John's preferred pick: Timothée Chalamet
Oldman's portrayal of Winston Churchill is a dead mortal lock and maybe the easiest choice of the night. Not only has the fine British actor won every other major award coming into Sunday, but he's never been honored previously. If there is an upset, it will be pulled off by Daniel Kaluuya, especially and obviously if voters turned out for "Get Out."  

BEST ACTRESS
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.
Will win: Frances McDormand
John's preferred pick: Sally Hawkins
Hollywood continues to love the no-nonsense and self-deprecating McDormand, who has won before (for "Fargo") but, like Oldman, has captured almost every award in sight this year, too. Young Saoirse Ronan, who was an also-ran in this same category in 2017 (for "Brooklyn"), offers the closest competition and, right now, that looks a long way from showing up Sunday on the Dolby Theatre stage.

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project; Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water; Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World; Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Will win: Sam Rockwell
John's preferred pick: Rockwell
Rockwell always has stolen just about every picture he's been in and, arguably, he pulled that same stunt in "Three Billboards," even opposite McDormand and fellow nominee Woody Harrelson. Only Willem Dafoe, so kind and patient as the father figure in the underseen "Florida Project," could beat him here. 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound; Allison Janney, I, Tonya; Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread; Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird; Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water. 
Will win: Allison Janney
John's preferred pick: Lesley Manville
Janney, another deserving Hollywood darling, wins in a walk for playing skater Tonya Harding's wicked witch of a mom. Laurie Metcalf, better than even Ronan in "Lady Bird," probably needs a miracle to succeed here, despite being the early favorite in this category months ago.

BEST  DIRECTOR
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread; Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird; Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk; Jordan Peele, Get Out; Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water.
Will win: Guillermo del Toro
John's preferred pick: del Toro
"The Shape of Water" remains a movie lover's dream, with so many familiar genres rolled into an entertaining fairytale that only a true auteur like nice-guy del Toro could pull it off.
"Three Billboards" helmer Martin McDonagh is not even nominated, so an upset here would be one seriously dazzling occurrence.

BEST PICTURE
Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post,The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Will win:Three Billboards
John's preferred pick: Three Billboards
It used to be a lock for the Best Director winner to lead us to the Best Picture prize, but no longer. In fact, in four of the last five years, those awards have been split between separate movies. Another interesting note, in those same five years, the most heavily nominated film, such as this year's "Shape of Water" with a whopping 13 noms, won Best Picture only once. What it all means is that "Shape" is likely to take a backseat in the final category of the evening. So... an early hint In this very wild race might come in Best Original Screenplay, the only other category in which "Three Billboards," "The Shape of Water," "Get Out" and "Lady Bird" are all facing off. As noted below, that winner will be McDonagh for his terrific "Three Billboards" script. Stay loose, though. If Jordan Peele triumphs for writing his brilliantly satirical "Get Out," it could be the prelude to a second straight startling finish at the Oscars. 

Other predicted winners: Adapted screenplay, Call Me by Your Name; Original screenplay,Three BillboardsAnimated feature,Coco; Documentary, Faces Places; Foreign film, A Fantastic Woman; Cinematography, Blade Runner 2049; Visual effects, War for the Planet of the Apes; Song, "Remember Me" (Coco); Score, The Shape of Water; Costumes, Phantom Thread; Hair and makeup, Darkest HourEditing, Dunkirk; Sound editing, DunkirkSound mixing, DunkirkProduction design, The Shape of Water; Animated Short, Lou; Live-action short, DeKalb Elementary; Documentary short, Heroin(e).

Friday, January 12, 2018

Critics' Choice Awards finds themselves in very good 'Shape'

The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced the winners of the 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards last night, live from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. The gala event, which aired on The CW Network, was hosted by actress Olivia Munn. 
"The Shape of Water" has Sally Hawkins in love with a creature (Doug Jones).
“The Shape of Water,” the most nominated film of the evening, took home four awards, the most of the night, including Best Picture; Best Director for Guillermo del Toro; Best Production Design for Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin, and Best Score for Alexandre Desplat.
The top film acting awards were bestowed upon Gary Oldman, who took home Best Actor for his work in “Darkest Hour,” and Frances McDormand, awarded Best Actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”  McDormand’s co-star Sam Rockwell won the trophy for Best Supporting Actor, while Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney for her standout performance in “I, Tonya.”
Nominated for five awards, Big Little Lies (HBO) earned four trophies, including Best Limited Series and Best Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series for Nicole Kidman, while co-stars Alexander Skarsgård and Laura Dern were named Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series, respectively.  The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) won Best Drama Series, in addition to Best Actress in a Drama Series for Elisabeth Moss, and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Ann Dowd. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) won Best Comedy Series, in addition to Best Actress in a Comedy Series for its leading lady, Rachel Brosnahan.
As previously announced, Gal Gadot received the #SeeHer Award presented by the Association of National Advertisers in conjunction with The CW Network. Gadot accepted the award from her “Wonder Woman” director, Patty Jenkins.
WINNERS OF THE 23RD ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS
BEST PICTURE – “The Shape of Water”
BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory, “Call Me By Your Name”
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin, “The Shape of Water”
BEST EDITING (TIE) – Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos, “Baby Driver”
BEST EDITING (TIE) – Lee Smith, “Dunkirk”
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Mark Bridges, “Phantom Thread”
BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP  “Darkest Hour”
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS  “War for the Planet of the Apes”
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Coco”
BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Wonder Woman”
BEST COMEDY  “The Big Sick”
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE – “Get Out”
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM  “In The Fade”
BEST SONG  “Remember Me” from “Coco”
BEST SCORE  Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”
 “The Critics’ Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics' organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics.  BFCA members are the primary source of information for today's film-going public.  Historically, the “Critics’ Choice Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.
BTJA is the collective voice of journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences. Click here for a complete list of winners.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Year's favorites credit writers/directors who make them work so well

As is done here every year at this time, we celebrate our favorite films, along with some other odds and, in this case, a couple of “wondrous” ends from that thing called cinema 2017. Let’s begin with a special 10 (in alphabetical order):

Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford hit the road in "Blade Runner 2049."
"Blade Runner 2049": World-class director Denis Villenueve (“Arrival,” “Sicario”) shows up on this list for the third straight year in helming one of the most superb sequels of all-time. It’s a technical masterpiece with a drop-dead story to boot.

"Call Me by Your Name" (opening here Jan. 19): There’s so much to discover in director Luca Guadagnino's take on a 2007 novel of the same name, including some beautiful Italian images, a few simply smart exchanges, and an ‘80s love story pertinent to our times

"Dunkirk": They certainly don’t make war movies such as this one from another prolific auteur, Christopher Nolan, who chooses themes of homeland pride and heroism instead of overt violence and detesting the enemy. It’s just a massive undertaking resulting in a deserved status as Best Picture frontrunner.

"The Florida Project": Gifted young newcomer Brooklynn Prince and the ever-terrific Willem Dafoe help introduce us to a modern-day world of Little Rascals in a depressed, though not depressing motel strip just out of reach from Disney World. Credit co-writer/director Sean Baker with showing it all off as so remarkably human.

"Get Out": How many first films can combine comedy, horror and satire so effectively? Jordan Peele, himself a talented comic actor, springs into the forefront of Hollywood’s most wanted filmmakers with a megahit people are still raving about long after its February release. The essential performance of a maniacally beleagured boyfriend by the mostly unknown Daniel Kaluuya certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

"Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer: Get past the unwieldy title and you’ll find Richard Gere in the year’s most unsung performance. He plays a unique and aging kind of political con artist many likely won't stop cheering for, with all very nicely presented by Israeli writer/director Joseph Cedar.

"Phantom Thread" (opening Jan. 19): Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (and his Ghoulardi Productions, which pays homage to a character played by late Clevelander/dad Ernie Anderson) weaves an elegant and often humorous treatise on manipulation and manners in the high-end province of fashion design. Oh yeah, it also features one last onscreen performance by the intense Daniel Day Lewis.

"The Shape of Water": Horrormeister Guillermo del Toro uses his impressive storytelling skills to create a lavish, Cold War fairytale. That it skewers the U.S. government and Soviet spies around an imaginative and heartwarming love story speaks volumes as well. 

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri": Another glorious writer/director, Martin McDonagh, uncorks one more dark, droll doozy, with Frances McDormand leading a grand ensemble cast as a tough and angry mom taking charge.

"Wind River": Actor-turned screenwriter Taylor Sheridan also lands a third consecutive year on this list. Only now he’s a first-time director, too, with a fascinating thriller that puts a tracker (Jeremy Renner) and rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) on the trail of the “stone evil” haunting Native-American women. Some also might call it the third smart leg of Sheridan’s loosely linked, American West trilogy, which includes “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water.”

Another baker's dozen well worth seeing – "All the Money in the World," "The Big Sick," "Darkest Hour," "The Disaster Artist," "A Ghost Story," "I, Tonya" (opening Jan. 5), "Lady Bird," "Loving Vincent," "Split," "Wonder Woman," and three fine docs: "Faces Places," "Jane" and "Step."

Add a few guilty pleasures – The boxing bio "Chuck," a fast and furious "Free Fire," and the reborn king, "Kong: Skull Island."

These don't necessarily match their hype – The somewhat cuckoo "Coco," the disengaging "Detroit," the puffed up "Molly's Game," and "The Post," a kinda clunky period piece from Steven Spielberg (opening Jan. 12).

Still, none were as unpleasant as these five – "All I See Is You," "Downsizing," "The Snowman," "Suburbicon," and the year's worst "mother!"

Timothee Chalamet in his coming-of-age role in “Call Me by Your Name.”
Performers of the year -- Michelle Williams (“All the Money in the World,” “The Greatest Showman,” Wonderstruck”); Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name,” “Hostiles,” “Lady Bird”); Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water,” “Maudie”); and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour,” “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”).

But what the hell were they thinking? – Matt Damon (“The Great Wall,” “Suburbicon,” “Downsizing”), and Kristen Wiig (“Downsizing,” “mother!”).

A little something odd -- (Spoiler alert!) At least three films,The Beguiled,” “Lady MacBeth,” and “Phantom Thread,” used poisonous mushrooms as their weapon of choice.

OK, this is the real end -- “Wonder,” “Wonderstruck,” “Wonder Wheel,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” all debuted in 2017. And, believe it or not, the only real wreck in the bunch was directed by Woody Allen and featured such talents as Justin Timberlake and Kate Winslet.

You can look it up before starting to celebrate another, uh . . .  well, wonderful year of films in 2018.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

'Shape of Water' leads Critics' Choice nominations with a whopping 14

LOS ANGELES – The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced today the nominees for the 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards. The winners will be revealed live at the star-studded Critics’ Choice Awards gala on Thursday, Jan. 11, when the awards show returns to The CW Network from 8-10 p.m.

“The Shape of Water” leads all films this year with 14 nominations, including Best Picture. “Call Me By Your Name,” “Dunkirk,” “Lady Bird,” and “The Post” impressed with eight nominations each, and are all in the running for Best Picture and Best Director, among others. “Blade Runner 2049” earned seven nominations, followed by “The Big Sick” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” each with six, and “Get Out” and “I, Tonya” with five apiece.

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer star in "The Shape of Water."
"This has proven to be an incredibly exciting year in movies – and one of the most wide-open in terms of awards possibilities,” said BFCA President Joey Berlin.  “The mix of legendary filmmakers and performers, along with vibrant new voices representing fresh and varied styles and perspectives has entertained and challenged critics and audiences alike.  It’s been a joy to experience these films, and we can’t wait to celebrate them all on Jan. 11.”

On the TV side, Netflix leads the honors with 20 nominations, followed by HBO with 15, FX with 13, and ABC with 12.  Topping the list of nominated series is Feud: Bette and Joan (FX) with six.  Big Little Lies (HBO) and Fargo (FX) follow closely behind with five each, as does Glow (Netflix) with four nominations

“The Critics’ Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics' organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today's film-going public.

BTJA is the collective voice of journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences. Historically, the “Critics’ Choice Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations. 

FILM NOMINATIONS FOR THE 23rd ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS:

BEST PICTURE
The Big Sick
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Florida Project
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

BEST ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Jake Gyllenhaal – Stronger
Tom Hanks – The Post
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour 

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain – Molly’s Game
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 SUPPORTING ACTOR
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
Patrick Stewart – Logan
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me by Your Name 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Hong Chau – Downsizing
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Holly Hunter – The Big Sick
Allison Janney - I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Mckenna Grace – Gifted
Dafne Keen – Logan
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
Millicent Simmonds – Wonderstruck
Jacob Tremblay – Wonder 

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
Dunkirk
Lady Bird
Mudbound
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

BEST DIRECTOR
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Steven Spielberg – The Post

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
Liz Hannah and Josh Singer – The Post
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Jordan Peele – Get Out 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Dee Rees and Virgil Williams – Mudbound
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky – Wonder

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049
Hoyte van Hoytema – Dunkirk
Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water
Rachel Morrison – Mudbound
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom – Call Me By Your Name

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin – The Shape of Water
Jim Clay, Rebecca Alleway – Murder on the Orient Express
Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis – Dunkirk
Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola – Blade Runner 2049
Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer – Beauty and the Beast
Mark Tildesley, Véronique Melery – Phantom Thread

BEST EDITING
Michael Kahn, Sarah Broshar – The Post
Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos – Baby Driver
Lee Smith – Dunkirk
Joe Walker – Blade Runner 2049
Sidney Wolinsky – The Shape of Water

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Renée April – Blade Runner 2049
Mark Bridges – Phantom Thread
Jacqueline Durran – Beauty and the Beast
Lindy Hemming – Wonder Woman
Luis Sequeira – The Shape of Water

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Wonder

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Thor: Ragnarok
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Breadwinner
Coco
Despicable Me 3
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Baby Driver
Logan
Thor: Ragnarok
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

BEST COMEDY
The Big Sick
The Disaster Artist
Girls Trip
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Steve Carell – Battle of the Sexes
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Chris Hemsworth – Thor: Ragnarok
Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
Adam Sandler – The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Zoe Kazan – The Big Sick
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Emma Stone – Battle of the Sexes

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE
Blade Runner 2049
Get Out
It
The Shape of Water

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
BPM (Beats Per Minute)
A Fantastic Woman
First They Killed My Father
In the Fade
The Square
Thelma

BEST SONG
Evermore – Beauty and the Beast
Mystery of Love – Call Me By Your Name
Remember Me – Coco
Stand Up for Something – Marshall
This Is Me – The Greatest Showman

BEST SCORE
Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water
Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread
Dario Marianelli – Darkest Hour
Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer – Blade Runner 2049
John Williams – The Post
Hans Zimmer - Dunkirk

A complete list of television nominations can be found on the Critics' Choice Awards web site.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

'Jane' named 'Best' at second Critics' Choice Doc Awards

BROOKLYN, NY – The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced the winners of the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards this evening at a gala event, hosted by Penn Jillette at BRIC here.

"Jane," the National Geographic-produced portrait of legendary, world-class primatologist Jane Goodall, took home the evening’s most prestigious award for Best Documentary. Best Director honors were split between Evgeny Afineevsky ("Cries from Syria") and Frederick Wiseman ("Ex Libris: The New York Public Library)." a 197-minute epic.

The early years in the life of Jane Goodall are explored in "Jane."
“We are so happy to be able to celebrate the supremely talented, leading voices in this golden age of documentary filmmaking and nonfiction television,” said BFCA President Joey Berlin. “It was another great night in Brooklyn in support of many of the most underappreciated artists in our business.”

Other top awards went to "Kedi," the wild cats in Turkey piece, and director Bulen Usten for Best First Documentary; "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail," Best Political Documentary; "Icarus," Best Sports Documentary; and "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives," Best Music Documentary.

Another voting tie resulted in the Most Innovative Documentary category, which was shared by "Dawson City: Frozen Time" and "Last Men in Aleppo."

During this year’s celebration, filmmaker Joe Berlinger also was honored with the Critics’ Choice Impact Award, while Errol Morris was awarded the Critics’ Choice Lifetime Achievement Award.

Presenters and attendees at the gala event included Clive Davis, Damien Echols, Gilbert Gottfried, Colin Hanks, Dolores Huerta, Barbara Kopple, Lawrence O’Donnell, Linda Perry, Kathryn Schulz, Fisher Stevens, Hannah Storm, and Diane Warren.

Other winners included:

Best Song in a Documentary -- “Jump” from "Step," written by Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson and Laura Karpman, performed by Cynthia Erivo; Best Documentary Series --  "The Vietnam War," PBS, and Best Ongoing Documentary Series -- "American Masters," PBS.

Finally, Jillette led the revelry for this year’s honorees for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary -- The Cats of Istanbul (from "Kedi"), Etty Ausch ("One of Us"), Al Gore ("An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power"), Laird Hamilton ("Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton"), Dolores Huerta ("Dolores"), Gigi Lazzarato ("This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous"), and The Sung Family ("Abacus: Small Enough to Jail").