Category Archives: General Life

A Classic Resurgence

We are at an inflection point in story-telling, both in sensibility and technology. No one is sure where and how it will wash out and what will be left in its wake…but, think about the last 10 years and what has changed about what you watch (forgetting about where  you watch it, which is another long discussion). Frankly, the trend toward bigger and more complex stories is something I’m celebrating, even as other issues like “good enough” culture of quality and fractured landscapes are causing other challenges. The return of classics in more complete forms is definitely one of positives in this trend.

Classics (of all cultures) have long been a source of material for writers and entertainers. They’re “classics” for a good reason after all: they found a truth that resonates with their public that transcends time periods; this is what allows them to live on. Of course, language and society change over time, so while the truth may still apply, the provided journey tends to become ever more challenging to contemporary audiences as years, decades, and millennia go by.

This is why writers constantly reinvent (or steal) them, to keep them fresh for current audiences. Shakespeare, in particular, is reinterpreted constantly to this end (think LearThe Donmar Warehouse, Richard III, 10 Things I Hate About You, and so many more). And “updating” the stories, either in place or language, allows relevant themes, storylines, or even aspects of character to be more accessible to an audience to whom it applies but is otherwise unable to receive the message from the original.

The BBC has been known to not only not be afraid of classical literature as source material, but often to embrace it. This has produced some amazing series and movies… but also a sort of genre of its own that tends to be rather staid period pieces. Hollywood has, likewise, plumbed this vein, but often produced short-cutted stories that lose so much of the original that they are mere sketches of the breadth and depth of those tales.

The streaming world has changed this. The current approach now is to create multiple episode productions that drag the material onto screen in both a more complete way, and by updating them to contemporary sensibilities to keep them accessible and fresh.

While this has been going on for a while (see Sherlock), there were three in quick succession recently that suggest to me it’s accelerating. The first to drop was War of the Worlds late last year. But Dracula and A Christmas Carol both came available about the same time and raise interesting specters. I’m going to leave Little Women out of this because it is such a wholly different genre than these three and was a single movie, but the discussion still applies, just not quite as directly.

OK, top line is that all three are great stories that were considered very dark in their day. But, as tales of horror, they pale in today’s light and genre offerings. One of the first aspects of these reboots is just how violent they can be, and just how horrid to their main characters they are. When they were originally published, they were received relatively the same as the new versions are now….that is, disturbing and scary. To pierce the modern skin, inference and subtlety had to be replaced with direct example to achieve the same effect.

The second aspect that is common is that they are all given the room they need to address the book-length ideas in an amount of time that can contain them. We aren’t forced into a 90 minute or 2 hour stripped-down rendering of the large psychological and sociological ideas the original authors intended. The stories are expansive and contemplative on these points. Paired with good writing and broken into a serial, they sustain these aspects and open the old stories back up for a new audience.

For all of the concerns about the streaming invasion, one of the main positives is the room they are making for bigger and more niche ideas. Remakes of classics is just a small piece of that, it reaches well beyond classics in terms of material. But, since classics return and return and return, there is a history to compare it to, whereas adaptations like Watchmen or American Gods, also provided room to breathe (and arguably modern classics), have no previous incarnations to celebrate.

Today’s Strand is Netflix, Prime, and HBO. And, in many ways, and despite the current streaming wars, it is bringing about a Renaissance in story telling that is even affecting theatrical releases (think It: Chapter 1, It: Chapter 2). And then there is the Marvel Phases, which are less direct, but still taking advantage of the desire for expansive stories.

So, while we may also be encountering mountains of mediocre and empty material (as we always have), the new Hollywood (wherever that is in a distributed, global sense) is also creating some top notch entertainment from the bones of its ancestors. And that is something to celebrate and support. We’re even seeing it start to expand in cultures as these companies reach for new markets, bringing Western stories to them, but also their stories to us…something that is already accelerating as well on global streamers like Netflix in particular.

Oscars 2020 (results)

So another host-less Oscars (making a long, often boring ceremony even less intriguing and without personality) is behind us. OK, there were moments (like the Steve Martin and Chris Rock riffs).

Here are my results.

Majors: 4 out of 10 (40%)
Minors: 3 out of 9 (30%)
Technical: 2 out of 5 (40%)
Overall: 9 out of 24 (37%)

These are the worst I’ve done in years (I’m usually near 90%)…I’m not sure how I feel about that! In some cases the Academy overcame long standing prejudices (look at Best Pic), but in others they showed extremely narrow thinking (e.g., Netflix hate). In most cases I was pretty sure of the potential upset, but in others I was as surprised as anyone. This year could have been a turning point in many ways, but I don’t think that’s happened quite yet in either diversity or in accepted platforms. At least there a number of really great films to see or catch up with down the road.

So it is what it is…. and here is the recap…

MAJORS

Actress in a Leading Role

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Siorse Ronan (Little Women)
Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

My prediction: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)
Winner: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

This is pretty much a slam-dunk based on the previous ceremonies this year. And it is an amazing performance.

Actor in a Leading Role

Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

My prediction: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Winner: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Scarlett Johannson (Jojo Rabbit)
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

My prediction: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Winner: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)
Al Pacino (The Irishman)
Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

My prediction: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Winner: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

My prediction: Little Women
Winner: Jojo Rabbit

Not a huge surprise given WGA, and a solid choice.

Original Screenplay

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My prediction: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Winner: Parasite

Oh so happy to be wrong on this one. I really thought the self-referential drivel would win, not because it deserved to but because it was self-referential.

Directing

Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
Todd Phillips (Joker)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

My prediction: Sam Mendes (1917)
Winner: Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

Not a mistake and not a disappointment, though a bit of a surprise.

Animated Feature Film

How To Train Your Dragon
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

My prediction: Klaus
Winner: Toy Story 4

Netflix hate and name recognition wins again. For the record, it isn’t that I didn’t like Toy Story 4, but it is not better than Klaus or I Lost My Body. Originally I did think it would take the statuette, but it really shouldn’t have. Do yourself a favor, watch Klaus and see what you’re missing.

Best Picture

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My prediction: 1917
Winner: Parasite

Holy guacamole!I’m not disappointed here, but I am shocked, despite the stated possibilities. That preferential ballot is a bugger to predict. Welcome to history (first international film to win best pic).

International Feature

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain And Glory
Parasite

My prediction: Parasite
Winner: Parasite

MINORS

Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

My choice: The Cave
Likely winner: American Factory

Documentary Short Subject

In The Absence
Learning To Skateboard
Life Overtakes Me
St Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Cha-Cha

My prediction: St Louis Superman
Winner:
Learning To Skateboard

Live Action Short Film

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

My prediction: A Sister
Winner: The Neighbors’ Window

Animated Short Film

Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

My prediction: Kitbull
Winner: Hair Love

Original Song

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – Toy Story 4
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
“I’m Standing With You” – Breakthrough
“Into the Uknown” – Frozen 2
“Stand Up” – Harriet

My prediction:  “Stand Up” – Harriet
Winner: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman

Probably should have updated this before the freeze, but this isn’t a surprise.

Original Score

Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
1917 (Thomas Newman)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

My prediction: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Winner: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)

Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My prediction:1917
Winner: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Sure, why not.

Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My prediction: Little Women
Winner: Little Women

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

My prediction: Bombshell
Winner: Bombshell

TECHNICAL

Cinematography

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My prediction: 1917
Winner: 1917

Film Editing

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

My prediction: Jojo Rabbit
Winner: Ford V Ferrari

Was always a possibility (especially after the BAFTAs). They wanted to show the film some love…this was their chance.

Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My prediction: The Irishman
Winner:  1917

It isn’t that I didn’t say 1917 was the biggest threat to Irishman in this category…but I am a little disappointed in the voters.

Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My prediction: 1917
Winner: 1917

Sound Editing

Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My prediction: 1917
Winner: Ford V Ferrari

OK, I admit to be a bit of a surprise here, considering the field.

Oscars 2020 (final call)

Another awards season is nearly complete. And with all of the other ceremonies out of the way from SAG to BAFTA, DGA, WGA, Annies, Eddies, PGA, done, there is data and trends and confusions to add just a bit of drama and uncertainty to the mother of them all: Oscars.

So, with the nominations, conversations, and voting  period over, here are my final predictions of the night of glitz and glitter…

Actress in a Leading Role

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Siorse Ronan (Little Women)
Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

My choice: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)
Likely winner: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

This is pretty much a slam-dunk based on the previous ceremonies this year. And it is an amazing performance.

Actor in a Leading Role

Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

My choice: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Likely winner: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

To my great joy, this is also a slam-dunk. The movie floored me, Phoenix in particular. But I never expected it to grab the attention of the industry this way since it is, at its heart, genre. It’s nice to be surprised sometimes.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Scarlett Johannson (Jojo Rabbit)
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

My choice: Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Likely winner: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

I’ve never doubted Dern would take this statuette, but I’m not sure she’s the best choice. I think Pugh did more in her role. But Dern is a powerhouse in Marriage Story and she’s had everyone’s attention since the awards began rolling out.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)
Al Pacino (The Irishman)
Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

My choice: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Likely winner: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Again, this was a category dominated from the top by a single person: Pitt. And it is a good performance in an otherwise awful movie (to my mind). But in terms of impact, Pesci and Hanks were the standouts for me. And while Pesci really is amazing (and has a slim chance of taking this) I feel like Hanks has been overlooked this year, as was his movie. Perhaps it was just too close to Rogers in reality to feel like a performance for most? Both he and Pesci hold their movies together, so really, either would be fine with me…but neither is going to beat Pitt.

Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

My choice: Jojo Rabbit
Likely winner: Little Women

My thinking on this has changed a lot in terms of who will win. The industry is definitely looking at this category differently than I expected… but also the previous awards hadn’t really grouped all of these together, so its a bit of a guess as to what happens. With Gerwig otherwise shut out, I think she’s got a chance for a consolation prize here. But Jojo has been showing momentum coming into the stretch (including winning the WGA) and it is the most inventive and unique of the tales overall (and Irishman is getting ignored).

Original Screenplay

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My choice: Parasite
Likely winner: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

I still don’t understand the critical love of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. It is a mess of a story and script that falls apart at the end. But it has overwhelming love from the Academy due to its subject matter and it has few other chances to win. But Parasite is likewise surging, so there could be a surprise of conscience and/or quality that tips the balance.

Directing

Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
Todd Phillips (Joker)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

My choice: Todd Phillips (Joker)
Likely winner: Sam Mendes (1917)

I’ve been back and forth on this category all season. Parasite is a brilliant and unexpected film, but it is also forced in some ways. The Irishman is a brilliant example of classic film-making, and manages to create a tiny, focused story out of an epic that flies along, even at 3.5 hours. It is a master-class in directing. But Joker pulls off the seeming impossible and, out of genre cloth, peels back the human condition in a way I’ve never seen before, and guided a performance that is devastating and utterly believable.

However, all that said, Mendes is going to take this for the audacity and technical execution of a story that, like Gravity before it, redefines what a movie can be. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t the best story, it is the scope and control he, as a director, had to manage in order to deliver his illusion. And it is bloody impressive.

Animated Feature Film

How To Train Your Dragon
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

My choice: Klaus
Likely winner: Klaus

OK, this is actually more of an open race this year than I originally thought. No one outside the guild expected Missing Link and Klaus to dominate the Annies this year. Frankly, though Missing Link pushed the tech, it wasn’t that great a movie. And I skipped Klaus till recently because, well, Klaus…just isn’t my thing. And while I loved I Lost My Body (and it picked up the top independent animation honor at the Annies), Klaus won me over as the best film overall.

That said, there is still a strong possibility that name recognition and Pixar are likely to dominate the Academy votes here (despite BAFTA agreeing with the Annies). But I’d be wonderfully happy and surprised to be wrong about that.

Best Picture

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My choice: The Irishman
Likely winner: 1917

Because of the preferential ballot, this is really still wide open. Anyone’s second or third choices could rise to the top if everyone’s second or third choice aligned.

In the end, I think Parasite gets International rather than making history as the first foreign language film to take Best Pic. I think Irishman gets snubbed because of Netflix, and I’m praying Once Upon a Time… just doesn’t get the votes as it doesn’t deserve it. But, more importantly, 1917 has been gaining momentum as the season wound down and it’s an impressive epic of a film that pushes the technology and the boundaries of expectation in a way that will likely get it over the top.

International Feature

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain And Glory
Parasite

My choice: Parasite
Likely winner: Parasite

I don’t think there is any doubt at this point here, despite the excellent field of options.

Original Song

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – Toy Story 4
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
“I’m Standing With You” – Breakthrough
“Into the Uknown” – Frozen 2
“Stand Up” – Harriet

My choice:  “Stand Up” – Harriet
Likely winner: “Stand Up” – Harriet

Y’know, I really just don’t care out of this grouping. Nothing stood out for me or in the popular culture. Given the lack of diversity in the Oscars this year (and with no dispersions on her abilities or song), I think Erivo takes it.

Original Score

Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
1917 (Thomas Newman)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

My choice: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Likely winner: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)

Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

My choice: The Cave
Likely winner: The Cave

I have good reason for my pick other than the controversy surrounding the director’s fight with 45 getting her visa to attend the Oscars. You can’t buy that kind of publicity. But it is also getting a lot of positive attention as a film. But it could well lose to Honeyland, which has had some great recognition as well.

Documentary Short Subject

In The Absence
Learning To Skateboard
Life Overtakes Me
St Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Cha-Cha

My choice: ?????
Likely winner: St Louis Superman

Live Action Short Film

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

My choice: ?????
Likely winner: A Sister

No good reason for this choice as compared to The Neighbors’ Window, both of which have some nice buzz. Given the subjects of both, I’m just flipping the coin to A Sister.

Animated Short Film

Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

My choice: ?????
Likely winner: Kitbull

Why Kitbull? Pixar.

Cinematography

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My choice: 1917
Likely winner: 1917

Film Editing

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

My choice: The Irishman
Likely winner: Jojo Rabbit

After the Eddies this became a battle between Parasite and Jojo. Ultimately, I think Jojo had more complex challenges achieved more at an editing level. Then again Ford v Ferrari took the BAFTA, so they might pick this up as their only win for the evening.

Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My choice: Parasite
Likely winner: 1917

Honestly, I’m not sure what way this is going to break. Parasite has the most inventive design of the field (Jojo is fun, but not quite as sharply done), but 1917 recreates WWI down to such a level of detail it’s almost distracting.

Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My choice: Little Women
Likely winner: Little Women

This is one of the few places Little Women can take an award and the costumes are wonderful period pieces across a huge range of the era. That is usually what takes the prize.

Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My choice: The Irishman
Likely winner: The Irishman

To recap my original argument, the invisibleness of The Irishmen’s f/x is what makes it stand out in this field. It’s biggest threat is 1917, which deserves it as well. It’s a small enough award that Netflix hate may not overwhelm sense.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

My choice: Bombshell
Likely winner: Bombshell

Bombshell managed transformations the others didn’t, though Judy was certainly a magnificent effort.

Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My choice: 1917
Likely winner: 1917

Sound Editing

Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My choice: 1917
Likely winner: 1917

NOMINATIONS BY FILM

Provided just for reference, but certainly interesting to consider when considering who has the attention of the voters.

Joker (Warner Bros.) – 11
The Irishman (Netflix) – 10
1917 (Universal/Amblin Partners) – 10
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Sony Pictures Releasing) – 10
Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) – 6
Little Women (Sony Pictures Releasing) – 6
Marriage Story (Netflix) – 6
Parasite (Neon) – 6
Ford v Ferrari (Disney) – 4
Bombshell (Lionsgate) – 3
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) – 3
The Two Popes (Netflix) – 3
Harriet (Focus Features) – 2
Honeyland (Neon) 2
Judy (LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions) – 2
Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) – 2
Toy Story 4 (Disney) – 2

“Skin in the Game” hits shelves!

My story, “Skin in the Game” appears in the newly released Alternative Truths III: Endgame, the final volume in the best-selling Alternative Truths series from B Cubed Press. Edited by Bob Brown and Jess Faraday. Skin in the Game explores what might happen if our leaders were held a bit more responsible for their decisions, right or wrong, in very permanent ways.

From the publisher:
Endgame features 30 of today’s best writers and political thinkers taking a look forward at possible outcomes of our political decisions.

This collection has visions of a better world as well. In Paula Hammond’s “Fortunate Son,” we explore what kind of man Donald Trump might have become had he answered his country’s call and served alongside his fellow Americans in the Vietnam War.

Most of all Endgame will make you think, with thought-provoking essays by the likes of David Gerrold and Adam-Troy Castro as they seek to share their understanding of how this happened and what do will we do.

A significant portion of the proceeds of this book are donated to the ACLU of Washington to honor and support their unending quest for the freedom of the American people to express themselves.

The book is available from Amazon.com on Kindle Unlimited as well as in Kindle Edition or Print Book.

A quick word about Kindle Unlimited…the authors get paid as long as you “read” at least 10% of the book (more or less). So read a story or two and help authors earn as well as supporting the ACLU!

Oscars 2019 – The Nominations

Below is a recap of the nominations. Generally I fared pretty well at predicting them. I’m afraid I didn’t have time to go on record before they were announced, but I promise I’m being honest in my commentary as to what I had thought.

I will say it is one heck of an open field in a lot of categories, which is exciting. It speaks to a volume of talent. Of course, this also means a lot of people who are really good at what they do will not be going home with statuettes. But that’s the biz.

So here are my preliminary write-ups. I’ll update as I see some of the missing films and, as usual, I’ll post a final call before the awards night. The show itself may not be great this year, but the choices are certainly going to keep me interested.

THE MAJOR AWARDS

Actress in a Leading Role

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

This is one of those rare times where I wouldn’t be upset by any one of these people winning. They were all great performances, and all very different. To my mind, it is between Colman and Close. But McCarthy was also excellent and Aparaicio may have some momentum (and was a wild card for me in terms of getting on the list). And, of course, Gaga. Close has yet to win, so that may get her votes, but Colman’s performance is just so funny and powerful, it may win the day…and her movie was much better received.

My choice: Glen Close
Likely win: Olivia Colman

Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

This is by no means a lock for Bale, but he so disappears into his role that it is astonishing. I am not a huge Bale fan, but he had me utterly mesmerized and not even able to see him under all that makeup. In terms of the field, only Dafoe’s name surprised me, though that last slot was somewhat open.

My choice: Christian Bale
Likely win: Christian Bale

Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Supporting roles are hard to pin some times. These were all good performances, though I think Elliott isn’t necessarily to the same level (and I didn’t expect him on the list over Chalamet), nor was Rockwell’s performance that brilliant, though it did win me over as it went on. But Mahershala Ali was incredibly affecting and Richard Grant, equally so, but with much less screen time. That said, Green Book is hitting headwinds due to aspects unrelated to the movie…but which are likely to affect its chances in any category. And while Driver is excellent, the character just never really got to fully develop for me.

My choice: Mahershala Ali
Likely win: Richard E. Grant

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

This is a brutal field. Stone and Weisz should have to mud wrestle for the win here and that is likely going to split the vote. Tavira was solid, but it wasn’t break-through and I was surprised to see her here rather than Clare Foy. Adams was also really good, but felt in the background most of the time…even though she really wasn’t.

My choice: Rachel Weisz (but only because I had to pick one)
Likely win:  Regina King

Adapted Screenplay

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me?,  Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Again, so much to consider here. BlacKkKlansman was a great movie, but, like Green Book, it remade the facts freely. Which is fine, but that is being used as a wedge against Green Book, so not sure how to parse that effect. Star is Born is a great reinvention of the story, but it isn’t brilliant, however entertaining. I am surprised that Black Panther didn’t make it on, even though I didn’t think it should. I’m still behind on the other two at present, but hope to close that gap…but in the meantime I can make some guesses.

My choice: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Likely win:  If Beale Street Could Talk

Original Screenplay

The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

Another interesting field. Green Book was one of the best films I saw this year. It was unexpected and complete. Favourite is hugely popular and darkly funny, but I think flawed. Was expecting Stan & Ollie and Eight Grade over Roma and First Reformed, but that was a tight race. However, of the remaining choices, Roma’s script is just too spare in comparison and Vice a bit too political and nauseating, while First Reformed is just too dark. So…

My choice: Green Book
Likely win:  The Favourite

Cinematography

Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Roma for me. Hands down just a beautifully shot film. The others are nice as well, but Cuarón’s use of the camera was just brilliant and the result gorgeous.

My choice: Roma
Likely win: Roma

Directing

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice

I’d have said this was Lanthimos’s to lose if it weren’t for the ending of his latest film. It is a brilliant bit of satire; just not a perfect one for me and some of the movie just doesn’t fit well together. Roma is brilliant on so many levels, but a bit self-indulgent in its direction. Vice is great, but mostly about the editing and script (and some performances). BlacKkKlansman, however, is really all about the performances, keeping you engaged without making you turn away. Lee had the hardest task and executed it well…and it’s been years since he’s had a shot.

My choice: Spike Lee
Likely win: Spike Lee (though it may well go to Lanthimos)

Best Picture

Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

I don’t even know what this category means anymore. Is it by what’s popular, what’s fun, what’s brave, what took the most skills? So, crap shoot.

My choice: Green Book
Likely win: Roma

THE NEXT TIER AWARDS

Animated Feature Film

Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I’m a sucker for stop-action animation and Isle of Dogs was a hoot. But it wasn’t a great story, for all its fun. Spider-Man truly surprised me, however. It is pretty to look at, solid in story and script and acting. Overall a great and fun film, beating out its competition by a mile on many levels.

My choice: Spider-Man
Likely win: Spider-Man

Foreign Language Film

Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

Shoplifters would have been my early bet here, but Roma is truly a great film and has huge momentum and a ton of noms. Those who have no interest in voting for it for Best Pic are likely to balance that by voting for it here. It may well cost Roma as Best Pic ultimately that the safety valve exists.

Likely Win: Roma

Documentary Feature

Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
RBG

Likely Win: RBG

Documentary Short Subject

Black Sheep (The Guardian)
End Game (Netflix)
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden (Field of Vision)
Period. End Of Sentence

Likely Win: no clue yet

Animated Short Film

Animal Behaviour
Bao (Disney)
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

Likely Win: no clue yet

Live Action Short Film

Detainment
Fauve (H264 Distribution)
Marguerite (H264 Distribution)
Mother
Skin

Likely Win: no clue yet

THE TECHNICAL AWARDS

Production Design (production; set)

Black Panther, Hannah Beachler; Jay Hart
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie; Alice Felton
First Man, Nathan Crowley; Kathy Lucas
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre; Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero; Bárbara Enríquez

My choice: Black Panther
Likely win: Mary Poppins Returns

Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth Carter
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

Period pieces abound in this list, but so do some inventive futures.

My choice: Black Panther
Likely win: The Favourite (though Mary Poppins could sweep in)

Film Editing

BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
Vice, Hank Corwin

All of these films have excellent editing, but only one lives and dies by its edits.

Likely win: Vice

Original Score

Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman

If old-school Hollywood wins out, Mary Poppins will be a runaway. It is certainly one of the more classic and evident scores in the field, and complex while trying to maintain and reflect on the original. Music certainly pushed along the tale in Isle of Dogs in an engaging, if repetitive, way, and the others were more subtly supported.

Likely win: Mary Poppins Returns

Original Song

“All The Stars” — Black Panther
“I’ll Fight” — RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” — Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow” — A Star Is Born
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” — The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

There is only one song here that has any traction to my mind.  It isn’t perfect (and story-wise it shouldn’t be) but just try to get it out of your head.

Likely Win: Shallow

Visual Effects

Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Despite the wealth of blockbusters here, one is infinitely better than the rest in scope and seamlessness…

Likely win: Avengers: Infinity War

Makeup and Hairstyling

Border,  Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
Mary Queen of Scots, Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
Vice, Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney

Typically, I’d stay the period piece would get this hands-down, but Vice has magic in its blood with its makeup and hair, completely remaking its actors and capturing the period perfectly.

Likely win: Vice

Sound Editing

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place
Roma

My choice: A Quiet Place
Likely win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Sound Mixing

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

My choice: Bohemian Rhapsody
Likely win: Bohemian Rhapsody

2000 and counting

As you may have surmised, this marks the 2000th post (and approx. the 500,000 word milestone) for this blog, covering well over 2000 movies and shows. When I started it back at the end of 2009, it was for two reasons.

Primarily, I wanted to capture my thoughts and prevent having to repeat myself endlessly to friends who kept asking me, “What should I watch?” As a side benefit, it helped me remember what I’d seen, since I watch around 200-300 films a year. And here’s the scary confession: I write up less than half of what I see (if that) during the year. Most movies make it, most TV and streaming series and presentations do not.

My other main drive was to keep my writing skills and habits lubricated. Basically, I wanted to be writing every day. I’ve continued to write and publish my fiction through all of this. Not as much as I’d like, but still some here and there, and I’ve collected the requisite mountain of rejections in between to prove it. (As a sneek preview, I’ve a new story coming out shortly and will announce that when I have the dates.) My lifetime writing total in words has easily surpassed 1 million, which is daunting even if done in small chunks over a long period. Talk about water wearing away a rock. Not that the effort is ever likely to pay off, if the NYT is to be believed.  (To be fair, there is nothing in that article I couldn’t have told you before reading it based on what I make for stories and the current well-known advances for novels my friends are getting.)

I know that the last couple years have exposed more than my critical thoughts on entertainment…I do try to keep that to a minimum, but it has been challenging. Every once in a while I feel I just have to get the word out or, at least, relieve the pressure in my head. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. I don’t tend to judge other’s beliefs. I’m just not particularly fond of bullies, particularly those who abuse their power and are, to paraphrase Pooh, people of very little brain. Apologies to anyone those posts annoy.

I do want to thank everyone and anyone who has used this site as either entertainment or sign post. If I’m helpful either for what to watch, what to not watch, or even if it is: He likes that? I’d hate it! Cool. That’s the point here, to provide a stable and predictable benchmark that helps you save time and pain as well as discover the new and wonderful.

And now on to 2001 and beyond!

 

Three peas in the pod (new Story Seed Vault tale)

A new small bit of humor this time (literally), is up on Story Seed Vault today.

The challenge for this market is to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less; essentially no more than one Tweet’s worth. And the story has to be based on some new bit of science. They can explain it a bit more and how you can tackle entry into the Vault yourself.

The current tale is at:
https://storyseedvault.com/2017/10/24/70/

My previous tale is still on the site at:
https://storyseedvault.com/2017/10/06/1451/
https://storyseedvault.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/40/

The world didn’t end…

This last week I took off for the wilds of Oregon (Unity Lake Recreation Site, to be exact) to view the total eclipse. The days were hot, the nights were cold (around 5C/40F), and the stars magnificent. But it all paled to the 2 minutes of totality.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. It didn’t get dark like night, but more like a deep twilight. I didn’t get to hear all the animals go to sleep as none were hanging around making noise before the moment the sun winked out. But the difference between partial and full eclipse really indescribable, or as I tried to explain to a neighbor on my return, it is like being not pregnant and a little bit pregnant; it is all or nothing.

I took a slew of photos, but the best is probably this diamond ring at the end of totality:

Even at higher res, it isn’t brilliant photography, but I was there to see it, not photo it for magazines. And I took it, so I’m rather proud. Two minutes was not quite enough to satisfy, but I can completely understand why some people chase eclipses around the world. It is unlike anything you can picture if you haven’t seen one. One moment there is sunshine (even if dim and slightly red shifted) and the next there is a black hole in the sky. Staring up at that, you really understand why ancient civilizations were so terrified of them when they occurred.

 

New Tale to Tell in 140 Characters

My latest sold story is up on Story Seed Vault today. They can better explain  their mission and raison d’être.

The challenge for this market was to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less; essentially no more than one Tweet’s worth. And the story has to be based on some new bit of science. I can’t resist a challenge…

You can find it at: https://storyseedvault.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/40/

I hope to be adding more to the vault over time as well. If I’m going to read science news all the time, I should also find more ways to make it pay!

A few decades ago…

Back in 1981, a whole different century, I began working out as a matter of sanity and as a substitute for sleep. Hey, I was young, stupid, and living on adrenaline.

Five years later, June of ’86 , I had my first (and only) portfolio created for my acting career. The photographer was great and among the shots was one that has lived in infamy as: Leatherman. It got passed around my friends and beyond for a while back then. Thank god the internet was nascent or it probably would have been sent much further. Uploading at 300 baud was not fun.

As it turns out, my twice-a-day, six-days-a-week workout schedule is something I got accustom to and managed to continue even till today (if you’re doing math, I’m starting my 36th year shortly). For the heck of it I decided, if not to recreate the portfolio piece this summer, to see how well I’d held up. I realize this is the worst of ego gone rampant, but WTF, I hardly ever take pics anymore or allow people to take pics, so why not?

So, here I am again just over 31 years later. The hair is shorter (and thinner) and, yeah I was ridiculously underweight back in ’86 (and got worse till the following year, which is another story), but the pic came out not too bad for someone who’s hit their mid-50s.

So, I’ll see you again in another 30 or so years and have a good laugh over it all atrophying…