Tag Archives: General

Oscar Nominees 2020

Well, here we are again. I didn’t try to write up my guesses for the nominees this year, though they’re pretty much aligned with what came in, because they were too early.

This year, even more than last, is going to be one heck of a battle (lack of diversity aside because that’s an entirely different discussion). Not just because of all the great productions and performances, but because this is likely going to be the inflection point for streamers vs. establishment in Hollywood. Either the final votes will snub the streamers and risk becoming irrelevant and pissing off a number of creatives, or they’ll accept the new normal and change the landscape forever. Given that Netflix leads the pack of studios with 24 nominations total, it isn’t out of the question that platform, as a decision maker, may actually have faded since the Roma controversy of last year.

The other two surprises for me were the complete snubbing of The Farewell and Joker garnering the most noms of the season. Farewell not getting a shot at anything is near criminal. It was one of the best films of the past year. But so was Joker, and I honestly thought the Academy voters would eschew it in large part. So, I was wildly wrong on both counts… which just intrigues me more.

So with a few awards already out there, I’m going to risk my early predictions before making a final call the night before the awards early next month. I imagine my insight(?) will shift as more awards are announced and sentiment clarifies over the next few weeks, but it’s never stopped me before…

Actress in a Leading Role

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

This is a great list, and every one of these women deserve recognition. But Zellwegger really stands out in her transformation and subtlety of performance. And, let’s face it, Judy Garland is beloved by the industry, which gives her a leg up.

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)

There are a number of great performances here as well, but I think Joaquin Phoenix really out-classed all these other men. His performance is the most complex and, ultimately, the most affecting.

Actress in a Supporting Role

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

This is a really tough field to choose from. Each performance in the list is strong for a different reason. Given Dern’s previous wins for the role, she probably has the edge. Johannson is going to have her votes split and Pugh and Robbie each have great moments, but aren’t quite as impactful as Dern in their roles.

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)

A similarly difficult field to choose from. I think Hanks, as good as he was, is simply going to get overlooked, and the dueling Irishmen will cancel eachother out, allowing Pitt to float to the top. In this field, were I to choose, however, I’d give it to Pesci for his quiet and subtle performance that overshadows the entire movie.

Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

The selection of a winner here will depend heavily on what the voters are looking for in a script. The most creative is, hands-down, Jojo Rabbit. But Joker is an unexpectedly powerful tale of mental illness and a society gone wrong. Irishman is a quiet epic that is really just a small tale of family in the most beautiful of ways. And Little Women and Two Popes took source material and broadened it into a more encompassing philosophy and message.

But since only one can win, I’m thinking Irishman or Joker, with odds on Irishman.

Original Screenplay

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

Man, I just want to scream “stop making me pick!” The only one that doesn’t belong here is Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, which was a lousy script. I’m sorry, I know I’m in the minority, but I hated the script. In any event, it doesn really hold a candle to the rest of these.

Honestly, on merits, I think it’s between Marriage Story and Parasite. And since Marriage Story is unlikely to get more than Best Supporting, I’m thinking it will pick up the statuette here…also because it manages to do the seemingly impossible: making divorce feel positive.

Directing

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

Unsurprisingly, these are all part of the Best Picture pool as well, and with many of the same challenges. For sheer, unexpected craft, my choice would be Joker or Parasite. For audacity of vision and production, 1917. For journeymanship and career best: The Irishman.

But as to who will win? I’m going to go out on a limb and take a lesson from Gravity’s win a few years back and call it for 1917, simply for the incredible delivery of an audacious vision.

Best Picture

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

With the exception of front-runner Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and the snubbing of The Farewell, this is a legit list for the year. Given these selections, I’m hard-pressed to pick just one (and expect that much vote-splitting is going to really randomize the winner).

For now, I expect Once Upon a Time to win. It is such insider-baseball and has a groundswell, where many of the others are more divisive and likely to siphon votes from one another.

If it were solely up to me, I’d probably go with The Irishman. It is such a subtle epic and beautifully crafted all around. But honestly, so was Joker. I just don’t see Joker taking this top prize with this voting block. The real question is whether the Academy can get past Netflix-hate to award this top prize to a streamer?

International Feature

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain And Glory
Parasite

Gotta be Parasite, despite all the other excellent entries.

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

I’ve always found this category somewhat pointless. It is rarely about more than popularity. And while that may be something worth rewarding, many songs are simply in the credits or as incidental music…there isn’t much consistency in how they interact with the film. This year, none of the songs really broke out in any particular way (again, let me express joy at not being subjected to Let it Go v2). Being forced to select, I’m going to go with Harriet, if for no other reasons than the lack of diversity elsewhere and Eviro’s cred.

Original Score

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

Going with Joker for this one. My experience was best enhanced by the score for that movie. It wouldn’t surprise me if Star Wars takes it since it set a record 52nd nomination for John Williams. He’s only won 5 of those and only Walt Disney (the man) has ever had more at 59. Though, also props for the dual Newman brothers noms… going to make the next holiday meal entertaining, I’m sure…

Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

While Honeyland is a good contender, American Factory with the Obamas behind it may ride a political wave to the front of the race. But I haven’t seen any of these yet to make an educated guess.

Documentary Short Subject

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

Still waiting to see these.

Live Action Short Film

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

Still waiting to see these.

Animated Feature Film

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

For the sheer hubris of the story, I’d love to see I Lost My Body win, but it’s gonna be Toy Story 4. That series really went out on a high and the craft of it is solid. Missing Link just didn’t really work well for me, as much as I’ve loved the previous Laika offerings, and How To Train Your Dragon was sweet and pretty, but not exactly brilliant. Klaus, well, whatever.

Animated Short Film

Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Cinematography

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

Until recently, I would have selected differently, but 1917 is a Cinematographer’s dream/nightmare, and its successful delivery sets a new bar for movies. All the nominees have things going for them, but none were as challenged.

Film Editing

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

How 1917 was subbed here, I don’t know. But, given it isn’t in attendance, my best guess is going to be Ford v Ferrari due to the Le Mans scenes.

Production Design

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

Such a hodgepodge of eras and approaches makes this a grab-bag. Irishman and 1917 are both perfect incarnations of their eras, making the production design invisible. Sorta true for Once Upon a Time as well, but I just don’t think it has the same creativity. Jojo and Parasite each have a sense of whimsy and reality that mixes in unexpected ways. Because of the latter two’s impact on the story itself, rather than just facilitating the tales, I think it goes to one of them, and if I had to guess (which I do), I’m going with Jojo Rabbit.

Costume Design

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

Almost always this goes to a period piece, despite any of the other relative values of the productions. Since 1917 isn’t in the mix, I’m betting on Little Women.

Visual Effects

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

This is another tough one. Tougher than usual as several of these films are in it for pushing the envelope in different ways. I’m ignoring Avengers and Star Wars as possibilities as they are big and flashy, but not really new. Lion King found a new way to film that is astounding (however weak the film itself was). Irishman did magic with aging and de-aging. 1917 recreated and presented WWI in a way never achieved before. I think for the invisibleness of it, The Irishman may take this one.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Thinking Bombshell or Judy for this. I’m leaning Bombshell because of the transformations the makeup provided. Zellweger already looked like Judy, but Theron was subtly metamorphosed into her character with invisible prosthetics and makeup.

Sound Mixing

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

I think both this and Sound Editing are up for grabs between Ford v Ferrari and 1917. If the latter gets a groundswell, it may well sweep the two.

Sound Editing

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

I think both this and Sound Mixing are up for grabs between Ford v Ferrari and 1917. If the latter gets a groundswell, it may well sweep the two.

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

Fall TV 2019

It’s become a tradition in my house to dive into the new TV season and see what’s there and what we can quickly get rid of. To my surprise, we turned off fewer shows before they’d finished than we have in years. Mostly that was because the writing was consistently better than the last several years. But I’m also looking  to see something new in style or genre. There is plenty available on stream that I don’t need 5 hospital dramas on my list…unless they do something unique with it.

With that criteria, no shows made it to my must see list out of the gate either, which is also a first. There is potential out there, but nothing knocked it out of the park. The biggest concern I have for survivors is whether they can sustain the stories and, in at least a case or two, pull me in with good writing even when the characters just didn’t grab me.

As I moved items to the dumped lists, I did start to notice a trend of what I was bouncing, particularly in comedies. The common issue of interesting survivors was even-ness in the the writing and presentation. With comedies, this is the ability to slip from real to broad and back smoothly. Moments of reality keep even the broadest comedy anchored, but if you are whipsawed between moments without purpose other than to get a laugh, it feels too artificial and silly. If it is all broad or all real, you avoid the whipsaw, but also alienate segments of audience. The main point is to keep the experience smooth. It applies to drama as well. Evil, for instance, mostly worked…until the chaos agent came on screen and the whole tenor of the story shifted into a cliche and silly realm. 

By the end of week three, only one new contender remained. And even that may not survive the full season. With that preamble, here’s how it all broke down…

One and Done

Bluff City Law
Wasn’t awful, but had nothing to grab me that was new.
Carol’s Second Act
Weak writing and directing…got old even in the first episode.
Almost Family
It had moments, and an interesting cast, but just nothing to grab me and keep me around.

A Couple and Out

Bob (Hearts) Abishola
This latest Chuck Lorre is clever, but the King of Queens vibe just isn’t my flavor. After two episodes, despite some great moments, I just didn’t enjoy the broader humor that surrounded them enough to keep coming back.
Evil
OK, surprised me with how well it was acted. Writing was a little uneven, and the main battle was quickly becoming tiresome. Without the Emerson role, I might has stuck around out of curiosity. But there is no where good that plot branch can go for me.
Perfect Harmony
Burned out quickly, but was an amusing start with a lot of clever moments. I’m sure this will find an audience, but I’m not it.
The Unicorn
Actually, this is well written and acted, but I know I’m not their audience. Gave it another opportunity to hook me, but it didn’t. Again, I expect it to do well without my viewership.
Batwoman
OK, it didn’t suck, but I see this going the way of most CW/DC shows, which is to say getting boring really fast. I can only handle that earnestness for so long…and while Ruby Rose (The Meg) is fine, she isn’t bringing anything new to the mythos and Dougray Scott (Hemlock Grove) spends his time just shouting. The one thing they did right was that they didn’t try and stretch out a couple of the big mysteries, exposing the obvious in the first episode and continued to admit big things as they went on. In the end, though, just not enough to keep me coming back.
Nancy Drew
Definitely part of the CW DNA of shows. Interesting start, but with an uncertain path forward to keep me interested. The Veronica Mars meets Scooby Doo (or Supernatural depending on how you interpret the story) just wasn’t for me. A shame as there is some talent in there.

Dubious on Survival Despite Some Positives
(assume these die within the next week or so)

All Rise
Snappy writing has been keeping it around, but I don’t see it lasting for me. How many legal dramas do you really need in your life?
Prodigal Son
Hannibal meets Sherlock is fun, but we’ll see if they can come up with long-term arcs and value. But even if they do, the miscasts of  Bellamy Young (Scandal) and Halston Sage (Orville) make it weaker than it might have been.
Stumptown
Like Prodigal Son, this is an anti-hero tale and fairly dark. The PI drama can work if the writing stays as strong as their first couple episodes. Next to Emergence, it is the most consistently written show so far and Smulders is really selling the character. Unfortunately, it is also veering into the realm of “everyone lies all the time” and larger conspiracies. I just find that exhausting and uninteresting as a show, regardless of any of its pluses.

Getting a Bit More Time

Frankie Drake
The complete reboot of this show that started last season really surprised. Now I want to see if they can sustain. It is silly and somewhat empty, but it has a light charm that has kept me around. And with no Miss Fisher on my horizon with my services, it is the only thing like it around.
Emergence
Some sharp acting and mostly good writing and mystery are intriguing, but so much depends on the underlying truths and the willingness not to just stretch out the obvious. So far, so good.

“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 Results

This was a tough field to predict this year. In fact, it was my worst showing in years. Honestly, I’m not too embarrassed; where I missed it was usually to the alternatives I called out in previous posts. However, there were a few real surprises, like the strong showing by Black Panther which is a great indicator for genre movies going forward.

Here were my percentage results:

Majors (5 of 9 categories):  56%

Second Tier (3 of 6 categories): 50%

Technical Tier (5 of 9 categories):  56%

No excuses or explanations with the results below, just the data.

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?

My prediction: Glen Close
Winner: 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

My prediction: Rami Malek
Winner:  Rami Malek

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

My prediction: Mahershala Ali
Winner: Mahershala Ali

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

My prediction: Regina King
Winner: 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

My prediction: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Winner:
BlacKkKlansman

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

My prediction: Green Book
Winner: 
Green Book

Cinematography

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

My prediction: Roma
Winner:
Roma

Directing

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

My prediction: Spike Lee
Winner:
Alfonso Cuarón

Best Picture

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

My prediction: Roma
Winner: 
Green Book

THE NEXT TIER AWARDS

Animated Feature Film

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

My prediction: Spider-Man
Winner:
Spider-Man

Foreign Language Film

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

My prediction: Shoplifters
Winner: 
Roma

Documentary Feature

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

My prediction: RBG
Winner: 
Free Solo

Documentary Short Subject

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

My prediction: Period. End Of Sentence.
Winner: 
Period. End Of Sentence.

Animated Short Film

Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

My prediction: Bao 
Winner: 
Bao

Live Action Short Film

Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin

My prediction: Marguerite
Winner: 
Skin

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 prediction: Mary Poppins Returns
Winner: 
Black Panther

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

My prediction: The Favourite
Winner: 
Black Panther

Film Editing

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

My prediction: Vice
Winner:
Bohemian Rhapsody

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

My prediction: Mary Poppins Returns
Winner: 
Black Panther

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

My prediction: Shallow
Winner:
Shallow

Visual Effects

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

My prediction: Avengers: Infinity War
Winner: 
First Man

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

My prediction: Vice
Winner: 
Vice

Sound Editing

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place
Roma

My prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody
Winner: 
Bohemian Rhapsody

Sound Mixing

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

My prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody
Winner: 
Bohemian Rhapsody

Oscars 2019 – Final Call

Well here we are at the end of the awards season rainbow. And since the nominations, there have been a slew of awards given out: The Annies, The Eddies, PGA, Art Directors Guild, ASC, SAG-AFTRA, Directors Guild, Writers GuildBAFTA, CDG, etc.

Normally, these other ceremonies would have given a strong indication of who was likely to win tomorrow night, but this has been an odd year for a number of reasons. First, the talent in competition is all very good and all very different. Second, a lot of the nominees weren’t in direct competition in the same ceremonies and some of the winners weren’t nominated for Oscars. And third, Netflix. There is a love/hate thing going on in Hollywood with the rise of the streaming giant which could help or hurt it.

I think the public is well ahead of the Academy in making its decision about the legitimacy of streaming services and the release window. The viewing public makes little distinction between a theater and their home screen anymore. It is a meaningless distinction because TVs and sounds systems have gotten so much bigger and better and because of the ongoing shift to on-demand entertainment and the quality it offers.

My biggest concern as this continues is how it will affect the studio choices for what ends up on the large screen. A steady diet of action and musicals would not be my favorite result. I like the smaller scope and surprising films. It would have been criminal for BlacKkKlansman, for example, to miss a theatrical release, or The Wife. But neither needs a big screen to succeed, though I saw both in theater, whether or not they are filmed well. The rise of AMC’s A-List and Cinemark’s club, not to mention the dying-in-the-dust MoviePass, are removing that barrier as well. The Academy needs to catch up to the reality or risk simply becoming irrelevant amidst the sea of other awards bodies.

OK, enough banter. On with the predictions…

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?

While this has always been between Close and Colman, I had thought Colman had the edge with the voters until recently. I think the number of unsatisfied nominations for Close, not to mention the incredible performance, are likely to take the night. Though, as I  originally said, there isn’t a nomination in this category, including Gaga, who aren’t worthy of the honor.

My choice: Glen Close
Likely win: Glen Close

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

Given the options, I really felt this should have gone to Bale, but there is no momentum for him. Given Malek’s number of wins and current societal glow, I’m thinking he’s going to walk away with it. Should he and Bale split the votes, Cooper may come up the middle, but the even money is on Malek.

My choice: Christian Bale
Likely win: Rami Malek

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. But this year, Ali has swept the awards for his phenomenal performance. Richard E. Grant had a good shot, but he couldn’t even pick up BAFTA this year, so it would be a hard win for him, though it is also a great performance.

My choice: Mahershala Ali
Likely win: Mahershala Ali

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

I still think Stone and Weisz should have to mud wrestle for the win here. And Weisz should take it. However, King has been consistently snagging the statuettes and has quite the reputation.

My choice: Rachel Weisz
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

I think the lack of adherence to the absolute facts, regardless of artistic merit or commentary, is going to cost BlacKkKlansman (and Green Book, for that matter, in its category). Beale Street has its own momentum, and I think there is sympathy for that film. But Can You Ever Forgive Me? has always been my choice here and it is a wonderful and tight script. The movie has little other chance to win anything and it’s surprise win at the WGA, with a substantially similar field, certainly gives the possibility of a win some weight.

My choice: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Likely win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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

Here, again, the WGA ceremony shifted the possibilities. Outside of the problems around truth and Green Book (some background and info to refute the misinformation) it is a tough field. Favourite had some early momentum, but Roma has been overtaking it. And, depending on how Best Picture swings, this is often a consolation prize. But then the wonderful Eight Grade walked away with the WGA, and it wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Of course, WGA had a significantly different field as well. I’m suspecting a lot of vote splitting here and a likely surprise. Being forced to choose, however, here’s what I’m thinking…

My choice: Green Book
Likely win: Green Book

Cinematography

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

Cold War’s win at the ASC awards put it ahead of the presumed choice, Roma, since it won from a nearly identical field by a lot of the same voters. I loved Cuarón’s use of the camera, both in visuals and as a character. I haven’t had the chance to see Cold War yet, which leaves me at a disadvantage here, though from trailers and samples I can see it is an equally beautifully filmed movie. With the ASC win, this has become a toss-up between the two. Because Cuarón also used the camera as moving eye, incorporating it as part of the action rather than just as a capture device, I’m inclined to keep my choice there and hope that the other voters agree.

My choice: Roma
Likely win: Roma

Directing

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

Roma has the momentum going in here. But I think that BlacKkKlansman may just edge it out as Lee has never been nominated in this category before. It’s time he had some recognition and I don’t think he can take Best Picture and I don’t expect him to get best screenplay. Typically the two categories are tied, however, so if the Netflix factor doesn’t shift the vote, Cuarón may pick this up as well.

My choice: Spike Lee
Likely win: Spike Lee

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? Roma and The Favorite are certainly the big guns with momentum… but that also gives voters more chance to recognize them without having to hand over the Best Picture award. Winners from the other events are all over the place. With the exception of Black Panther (fun and surprising as it is, it just doesn’t hold up on rewatch), any of the nominees could legitimately win for their quality. And Best Pic is a preferential ballot, so Green Book may come up the middle as everyone’s second choice is there isn’t a clear first round winner. 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

Nothing in the intervening time between nomination and tonight have changed my opinions. Add to that its near sweep at The Annies and Spider-Man should walk away with this award.

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. And the two cover similar territory in their stories. 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. Then again, if it is really aiming at Best Pic, then I don’t think it will get the votes here and Shoplifters could come to the top…which I think is the more likely scenario. But Roma could surprise and win both (or neither).

My Choice: Shoplifters
Likely Win: Shoplifters

Documentary Feature

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

How Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers missed this list, I don’t understand. However, this is the field we have to work with. But I’ll also admit I’ve not seen the majority of the nominees. Given the current state of politics, however, I’m going with our SCOTUS rep even if Free Solo wow’d audiences consistently.

My Choice: 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: Period. End Of Sentence.

Animated Short Film

Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

Likely Win: Bao (cause, Pixar)

Live Action Short Film

Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin

Likely Win: Marguerite

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

An incredibly diverse and difficult field. There are no apples to apples here to choose from, so it is wide open. Black Panther, to my mind, had the most challenging issues and best results. They got to play in the past and future as well. But I’m thinking it will go more traditional. This is where The Favourite could get some consolation prizes or Mary Poppins, which is mostly ignored this year, could get a some love.

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

With Panther and The Favourite having picked up equal awards from the Costume Designers Guild in different categories, it doesn’t make this category any easier to predict. The Oscars usually go for period pieces, with science fiction being snubbed other than for f/x.

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

I’ll say again, all of these films have solid editing, but only one lived and died by its edits: Vice. However. Vice wasn’t even nominated for an Eddie this year, so the fact that Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite won there wasn’t much help.  But against those, Vice did pick up the BAFTA. And, of course, this is one of those which could become either part of a sweep for a juggernaut or a consolation prize for a film that may otherwise go unnoticed. But I’m sticking to my guns on this one. From a story-telling point of view, I didn’t think either of the Eddie winners came close the impact editing had for the remaining nominees. And of those, Vice was the only one to use the craft to enhance the story rather than to just shock or move it along. I will admit, every time I’ve thought along these lines, I’ve been wrong, so if Bohemian takes this, I won’t be shocked, I’ll just be disappointed.

My Choice:  Vice
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

The MPSE awards certainly confused this category. Roma, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Quiet Place each walked away with sound editing honors in different categories. For the Oscars, they are all dumped into the same bucket. The momentum and recognition is likely to be with Bohemian Rhapsody, though the surprise hit A Quiet Place might get some love here.

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

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

Golem

[4.5 stars]

Not long ago, the 1927 Theatre Company recorded and aired their brilliant new take on the Golem tale. It is an astounding piece of stage craft that incorporates live talent and animation with a bit of music and movement thrown in. The story, in this conception, is about the control of media and commerce over humanity. The troop tell the story in a closed loop, spinning around the story of Robert, played  engagingly, and with spare irony, by Philippa Hambly.

Along with four other on-stage performers (Dunne Genevieve, Nathan Gregory, Rowena Lennon, and Felicity Sparks), the troop begin a story that you think you know, but which turns on you even as it makes your eyes and brain dance. The duality of what is happening on stage and how they are keeping you entranced is no accident. It is mesmerizing and pointed.

I have no idea if this will ever stream again or if it will be available on disc, but make time for it if you get the opportunity. Honestly, there are few stage productions that can really blow me away. This one had my jaw dropping constantly at the illusion, the humor, and the message. It’s not perfect, but it is darned close, and it is worth every minute you get to spend with it…and sadly that is ephemeral.

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!

 

Fall 2018 TV – The New Stuff (and what survived)

I’m being very, very picky this season about broadcast TV. Just too much out there to watch streaming to add mediocre or underwhelming shows to my already long committed list. (Updated 23 Nov.)

Keeping

Connors – I was impressed with how they handled the hard pivot into the post-Barr show. The show proved it could still handle hard subjects with a sense of reality and humor. Sure there is a political element keeping me here, but I am also being entertained, so win/win.
Murphy Brown – It doesn’t have the same snap and energy as the original, but it has guts and a great cast. The additions of Jake McDorman and Tyne Daily were inspired, and Nik Dodani is holding his own.

On the Bubble

Manifest – nothing particularly new, but nothing particularly frustrating about it at its launch. Curious enough to give it few more to cement its place in my schedule, but they have to get better writing, especially around police and fed procedure or it will be too painful to continue. And unless the uber-conspiracy vibe abates, it will be tossed like last week’s trash.
Charmed – it is as light as the first go-round, and without any of the charismatic star power of Combs and Milano, but it appears to have enough to survive. It could still fall victim to the axe, but it was one of the more complete pilots put out there this season. However, as the season progresses, it is clear they don’t have the chemistry of the first, and some of the writing and acting is a problem. This may fall even further to being axed.
Single Parents – the kids are great but the writing barely pulls it together by the end of each episode. We shall see.
New Amsterdam – intriguing characters, but a somewhat cookie-cutter formula with very weak research, at times. Whether it survives for me will be whether it can find some new take on the medical venue.

Forget it

I Feel Bad – this came so close, but just doesn’t have the writing to sell it for me. The characters, particularly the gaming programmers, are just absurd.
Hang Ups – the cast is what convinced me to watch…the writing drove me away. It had its moments, but the lack of any sense of reality left it untethered and, ultimately for me, unfunny.
Magnum PI – not bad, but nothing overly compelling. To be fair, the original casts a long shadow and dims this reboot’s hopes.
REL – writing was weak and broad and just not landing for me.
God Friended Me – actually relatively good writing and acting, but I don’t see where this can go that we haven’t been before. Life’s too short to see it all again. Also, I’m not confident the message will be universal enough rather than targeted.
The Neighborhood – just a bit too forced, for all its moments of truth, to work for me for longer than a couple episodes.
Happy Together – despite the potential and the chemistry, just didn’t grab me. Two main issues: lack of credibility and the broad humor.
FBI – While there are a couple of great cast members, neither of those are the leads, who are wooden and the least credible special agents I’ve seen in a while. Add bad procedures, even if with clever plots, and this just isn’t up to the Law & Order level of interest.
Million Little Pieces – This latest This is Us cum 30-Something copy-cat has a good cast and writing with possibility, but was quickly becoming a slog of a soap-opera. Cast and writing or not, just didn’t need that in my weekly lineup.
The Kids are Alright – the writing and cast aren’t bad, but I am definitely not its audience. Too broad, too loud, and too silly.
The Rookie – Really, I’m only here for Nathan Fillion, Melissa O’Neil, and Richard T. Jones. It is possible this survives if it can find something to say without trying so hard, like the pilot did. I didn’t hold out much hope…and I was right.
The Cool Kids – a great cast and silly humor, but executed by a solid cast despite painful scripts at times. I’m gave it more time, but it never figured out how to use what it had to even make it a nice and empty weekly 22 minutes of escape. Just wasn’t worth the time.