Patrick Bateman, the yuppie serial killer du jour created by Bret Easton Ellis in the novel American Psycho, is obsessed with all things superficialâa symbol of murderous, unchecked Reaganism. But those who read the book had to struggleâreach evenâto come to such a conclusion, as Ellis settles for pop-cultural reference as a sort of shorthand. If Mary Harronâs adaptation of the novel feels deeper, maybe itâs because the director wasnât able to get permission from many designers to use their names in her film, and as such she has to focus on more than just Batemanâs interest in dropping names. During the infamous threesome scene that earned the film its NC-17 rating, Christian Bale frighteningly evokes Batemanâs complete lack of emotional involvement; he makes love to himself, enjoying the curves of his body more than he does the women he violently berates. Though Bateman is completely loathsome, Harron shows us his human side: He readily admits to his lack of emotion but in sparing his secretary (Chloë Sevigny) harm he not only acknowledges his unstoppable problem but recognizes that there is good in the word. Harron even takes a jab at Ellisâs disinterest in offering a rationale for Batemanâs killer ways (he apologizes to a dinner date for being late by saying that he is a “product of divorce”). If there arenât enough scenes in the film like the final one where Patrick and his friends watch Reaganâs presidential address (that “No Exit” sign hovering in the background), Harronâs vision is at least more haunting than Ellisâs. More so than the book, the film is a nightmarish vision of â80s self-involvement. If all of Ellisâs characters more or less stay the same, Harronâs film suggests that, like the â80s, Bateman to shall pass. He is something we must all collectively learn to survive. There is an exitâitâs just called the future.
Cast: Christian Bale, ChloĂ« Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Jared Leto Director: Mary Harron Screenwriter: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner Distributor: Lions Gate Films Running Time: 101 min Rating: R Year: 2000 Buy: Video, Soundtrack, Book
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: International Feature Film
Parasite is a pervasive presence in the news cycle, and at just the right time.
Bong Joon-hoâs Parasite is a pervasive presence in the news cycle, and at just the right time. As I write this latest prediction for Slantâs rolling Oscar coverage, the top article on the front page of Rotten Tomatoes is a ranking, by Tomatometer, of the nine films nominated for best picture this year. Number one? Parasite. Immediately next to that article is a callout to readers to vote for their favorite film of 2019 that uses Song Kang-hoâs face from Parasiteâs poster as the featured image. Regarding that poster, in simply placing black bars over the actorsâ faces, it succinctly, eerily, perfectly underlines the filmâs obsession with social strata. And you donât need to look far beyond the aggregate site to land on some article praising the perfectly lit and designed architectural purgatory that is the filmâs main setting.
Perfect. Thatâs a funny word. There are no objectively measurable criteria for perfection, but given how many times Iâve heard Bongâs film described as being âperfectâ since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme dâOr, youâd think that there were. Still, the impulse to use it to describe this particular film, so balanced and attuned to the ties that both bind and separate us, evident in everything from the dimensions of Bongâs aesthetic, to his actorsâ faces, to their words, makes a certain kind of sense. Quick, can you name the other four films nominated in this category? How apt if you canât, as this is a film profoundly obsessed with the subterfuge that can be weaponized during class warfare. Or awards campaigns.
Will Win: Parasite
Could Win: Pain and Glory
Should Win: Parasite
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Original Score
John Williams is in no danger of winning, but a case could be made for any of the other four.
That one of the five films nominated for original score this year is not a best picture nominee nor had any shot at being one almost makes this category an outlier among this yearâs Oscar races, which seem otherwise fixated on frontrunners. John Williams already had the record-setting strength of 51 previous nominations leading into this weekâs announcement, so his nod for the third Star Wars installment, or sixth, or ninth, or…does The Mandalorian count? Anyway, suffice it to say that the only thing that couldâve been more knee-jerk than to select nominations solely from among this yearâs best picture probables would be to rubber stamp Williams uploading yet more variations on intellectual property.
Williams is in no danger of winning, but a case could be made for any of the other four. Alexandre Desplat already has two wins here, both in the last six years, but Little Women is finally picking up momentum at just the right time. His richly romantic cues, which are practically wall to wall throughout the film, come on like a crushed-velvet dust jacket, binding Greta Gerwigâs shifting timeline together in a way that makes just about everyone who isnât Sasha Stone want to clutch the entire thing to their bosoms.
Arguably, another film thatâs still reaching its crest stage is 1917, and unlike Desplat, composer Thomas Newman is still waiting for his first win, and now holding the categoryâs longest losing streak. It canât be said that Newman doesnât pull out all the stops, piecing together a work that feels inspired by both Hans Zimmerâs pulsating Dunkirk score and Samuel Barberâs âAdagio for Strings,â most memorably used in Oliver Stoneâs Platoon. And yet, weâre kind of with Bilge Ebiri, who after the nominations were announced, tweeted, âYou didnât give it to DUNKIRK, youâre not allowed to give it to 1917. Sorry, weâre very strict on this matter.â
Not to say that we expect 1917 to roll snake eyes on its 10 nominations. Only that any nominations for the film related to things that Dunkirk already did better two years ago are a tough sell, despite the draw of Newmanâs increasingly amplified Oscar backstory. Thatâs presuming that the narrative doesnât wind up over-shadowed by the sidebar-friendly cousinâs duel between Thomas and his cousin, Randy Newman, whose jaunty, Terms of Endearment-esque Marriage Story score appears to have as many detractors as it has fans.
Until the nominations were announced, we admit to assuming that Hildur GuĂ°nadĂłttirâs Golden Globe win for Todd Phillipsâs Joker was going to go down the same way as Justin Hurwitzâs did a year ago: with an Oscar snub. We reasoned that GuĂ°nadĂłttir, who also perked ears up and won an Emmy last year for her work on HBOâs Chernobyl, was still too fresh a talent for the more cliquey AMPAS musiciansâ branch. But now that sheâs there, Globe in hand and attached to the film that, by the numbers, the academy loved best this year, she offers even conscience-wracked voters the chance to hand a feature-length 4chan fantasy a guilt-free win by also awarding one of the filmâs few female nominees.
Will Win: Hildur GuĂ°nadĂłttir, Joker
Could Win: Thomas Newman, 1917
Should Win: Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
Tags: Academy Awards, Hildur GuĂ°nadĂłttir, Joker, Thomas Newman, 1917, Alexandre Desplat, Little Women, Randy Newman, Marriage Story, John Williams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Review: Dolittle, Like Its Animals, Is Flashy but Dead Behind the Eyes
Dolittleâs inability to completely develop any of its characters reduces the film to all pomp and no circumstance.1
Stephen Gaghanâs Dolittle begins with a just-shy-of-saccharine animated sequence that spins the tale of the eponymous characterâs (Robert Downey Jr.) adventures with his wife, who one day dies at sea during a solo voyage. Itâs something of a more condensed, less moving version of the prologue to Pixarâs Up, underscoring our protagonistâs upcoming fantastical journey on behalf of Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) with a tinge of melancholy.
As soon as the film shifts to live action, we immediately sense the loss felt by Dolittle in the overgrown vines and shrubbery that surround the famed doctor and veterinarianâs estate, as well as in his unkempt appearance. But any hopes that the film might follow through on its promise to explore Dolittleâs emotional turmoil are quickly dashed once he begins interacting with the animal friends who keep him company. Their banter is ceaseless and mostly ranges from corny and tiresome to downright baffling, as evidenced by a pun referencing Chris Tucker in Rush Hour that may leave you wondering who the target is for half of the filmâs jokes.
The tenderness of Dolittleâs prologue does resurface sporadically across the film, most memorably in a late scene where the good doctor shares the pain of losing a spouse with a fierce dragon thatâs also enduring a similar grief. But just as the film seems primed to say something profound about the nature of loss, Dolittle shoves his hand into the dragonâs backsideâwith her permission of courseâin order to extract a bagpipe and an array of armor, leading the fiery beast to unleash a long, loud fart right into the doctorâs face.
That moment is crass, juvenile, and, above all, cheap in its cynical undercutting of one of Dolittleâs rare moments of vulnerability. But it serves as a ripe metaphor for the filmmakersâ incessant need to respond to a show of earnestness with a dollop of inanity, as if believing that their young audience canât handle anything remotely sincere without a chaser of flatulence.
But worse than the filmâs failure to truly probe Dolittleâs emotional landscape is how it surrounds him with a series of uncompelling character types. While the film seems to mostly unfold through the eyes of young Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), who becomes Dolittleâs apprentice after witnessing the doctor communicate with animals, he serves little purpose aside from drawing the man out of his shell. And Dolittleâs arch-enemy, Dr. Blair MĂŒdfly (Michael Sheen, chomping on every bit of scenery within reach), has little motivation to justify his ceaseless quest to stop his rival from attaining an elixir that will save Queen Victoriaâs life.
Despite repeatedly paying lip service to notions of grief and opening oneself up to the world, Dolittle ultimately plays like little more than an extended showpiece for its special effects. But even the CGI on display here is patchy at best, with the countless animals that parade through the filmâs frames taking on a creepy quality as their photorealistic appearance often awkwardly clashes with their cartoonish behavior. The filmâs notoriously troubled production, which went so off the rails that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles director Jonathan Liebesman was brought on board for reshoots, is evident in its clumsy staging and lifeless interplay between humans and animals, but itâs the filmâs inability to completely develop any of its characters that reduces it to all pomp and no circumstance. Like the CGI animals that inhabit much of the film, Dolittle is flashy and colorful on the outside but dead behind the eyes.
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Harry Collett, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland Director: Stephen Gaghan Screenwriter: Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, Doug Mand Distributor: Universal Pictures Running Time: 106 min Rating: PG Year: 2020 Buy: Soundtrack
Review: Bad Boys for Life Is a Half-Speed Echo of Michael Bayâs Toxic Formula
In the end, the filmâs perpetuation of the franchiseâs endorsement of police brutality comes back to bite it..5
From its parodically overused low-angle and circling tracking shots to its raw embodiment of Michael Bayâs unique brand of jingoism and adolescent vulgarity, Bad Boys II arguably remains the purest expression of the directorâs auteurism. Bay doesnât direct the filmâs belated sequel, Bad Boys for Life, leaving one to wonder what purpose this franchise serves if not to give expression to his nationalist, racist, and misogynistic instincts.
Intriguingly, Bad Boys for Life is helmed by the Belgian team of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, whose streetwise, racially focused crime films, from 2014âs Image to 2018âs Gangsta, represent positions that are nearly the polar opposite of those of Bayâs work. Except the filmmakers do nothing to shake the franchise from its repellent roots, merely replicating Bayâs stylistic tics at a more sluggish pace, losing the antic abandon that is his only redeeming quality as an artist. At best, the half-speed iterations of Bayâs signature aesthetic reflect the filmâs invocation of too-old-for-this-shit buddy-movie clichĂ©s, with Miami cops Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) forced to contend with growing old and obsolete.
The film is quick to establish that Marcus, newly a grandfather, longs to settle down, even as Mike continues to insist that heâs at the top of his game. Itâs then that the partners are thrown for a loop when Mike is shot by Armando (Jacob Scipio), whose drug kingpin father Mike killed and whose mother, Isabel (Kate del Castillo), he helped get imprisoned in Mexico. Both men are left traumatized by the event, with a horrified Marcus forswearing a life of violence, while Mike seeks brutal revenge for his wounded sense of masculine security. And for a brief moment, Bad Boys for Life finds fertile ground in the emotional chasm that opens between the two pals, with Mikeâs single-minded rage leaving Marcus morally disgusted.
Almost immediately, though, the film turns to gleeful violence, showing how grotesque the consequences of Mikeâs vigilantism actions can be, only to then largely justify his actions. When Mike violates orders during a surveillance assignment to abduct a possible lead, that source is left dead in a gruesomely elaborate shootout thatâs played for satire-less kicks. Partnered with a new unit of inexperienced, tech-savvy rookies (Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, and Charles Melton), Mike can only express his dismay at the new generation resorting to gadgets and nonlethal, perhaps evenâdare one sayâlegal, measures of law enforcement. Each one gets a single defining characteristic (Hudgensâs Kelley is a trigger-happy fascist in the making and Ludwigâs Dorn possesses a bodybuilderâs physique that belies his pacifism), and they all exist for Smith to target with stale jokes about old-school justice.
Likewise, the surprising soulfulness that Lawrence brings to his character is ultimately just fodder for jokes about how the weary, flabby new grandpa isnât getting laid. Unsurprisingly, then, Marcus only reclaims his virility as a man by lunging back into a life of chaotic police action. Even his turn toward faith and a vow of peace is mocked, as when he finds himself in possession of a machine gun during a hectic chase and Mike reassures him that God gave that to him in a time of need. âShit, I do need it!â Marcus exclaims, but the humor of Lawrenceâs delivery only momentarily distracts us from the filmâs flippant take on his spirituality.
By saddling both heroes and villains alike with quests for revenge, Bad Boys for Life broaches deeper thematic possibility than has ever existed in this franchise. Indeed, the filmâs focus on aging, when paired with a last-act reveal that forces the characters to think about the legacies that are passed on to future generations, places it in unexpected parallel to another recent Will Smith vehicle, Gemini Man. But where Ang Leeâs film actually grappled with the implications of violence bred and nurtured in our descendants, this movie merely gets some cheap sentimentality to contrast with its otherwise giddy embrace of carnage.
In the end, the filmâs perpetuation of the franchiseâs endorsement of police brutality comes back to bite it. The aforementioned scene with Marcus discovering the machine gun is played as a joke, even though the man, half-blind but refusing to wear the glasses that show his age, fires wildly at gunmen on motorcycles weaving around civilian vehicles. Watching this scene, itâs hard not to think of the recent, real-life case of Miami cops firing hundreds of rounds at armed robbers despite being surrounded by commuters, not only killing the suspects but their hostage and a random bystander. This coincidental timing is a reminder that the supposed harmlessness of glib entertainments like Bad Boys for Life plays a part in normalizing the increasing police-state tactics and mentality of our nationâs over-armed law enforcement.
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola NĂșĂ±ez, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Scipio Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah Screenwriter: Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan Distributor: Columbia Pictures Running Time: 110 min Rating: R Year: 2020 Buy: Soundtrack
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Actress
Well hi, everybody, itâs nice to see you.
Well hi, everybody, itâs nice to see you. Loyal readers of Slantâs Oscar coverage know that we donât like to beat around the bush, and this year we have even less reason to do so what with the accelerated awards calendar forcing us to kick-start our rolling predictions earlier than usual. So, as we busy ourselves in the next few days catching up with some remaining blindspots, and being thankful that we donât actually ever have to see Cats, we will be bringing you our predictions in some of Oscarâs easier-to-call categories.
Which isnât to say that weâre going to be drama-free. Case in point: the revelation that Eric Henderson, my fellow awards guru, made on Twitter this week that âScarlett Johansson is genuinely better in Jojo Rabbit than in Marriage Story.â He also asked us to throw the tweet back in this face four or five years from now, but I say right now is as good a time as any.
No, seriously, shocking as that tweet was to this fan of Marriage Storyâs entire acting ensemble, that some are already predicting the actress as a possible spoiler in supporting actress in the wake of Jojo Rabbit scoring six nominations, itâs gotten us thinking about the ostensibly evolving tastes of AMPASâs membership at a time when itâs struggling to diversify itself. And based on how things went down at last yearâs Oscars, the only conclusion we can come up with is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Immediately after Glenn Close lost the Oscar last year to Olivia Coleman, Eric sent me a text wondering why AMPAS hates the former so much, to which I offered that thereâs nothing more unwavering than Hollywoodâs support for actors playing real-life individuals. Well, that and its support for actors who actually want to be exalted by the industry. Even in a world where RenĂ©e Zellweger isnât also being helped by a comeback narrative, and has yet to follow Joaquin Phoenixâs savvy lead by getting arrested at Jane Fondaâs weekly climate change protest and erasing our memory of her performance at the Golden Globes, sheâs nominated for a generally well liked performance in a film that has actually performed well at the box office.
On Monday, more outcry was provoked by the Oscar nominations, again for women being shut out of the best director race, but also for the snubbing of several actors of color, most notably Jennifer Lopez and Lupita Nâyongo. Some will speculate that Cynthia Erivo, the only actor of color to be nominated this year, is a potential spoiler here, but whether she stands to benefit from a core of protest votes is something that can never be known. This fine actressâs performance checks off almost as many boxes as Zellwegerâs, if not, at the end of the day, the one that matters most: representing a film about the industry itself, in this case one that will allow a reliably backward-looking Hollywood to atone for sins committed against their own.
Will Win: RenĂ©e Zellweger, Judy
Could Win: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Should Win: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Review: Intrigo: Death of an Author Is Damned by Its Lack of Self-Awareness
The film evinces neither the visceral pleasures of noir nor the precision to uncover deeper thematic resonances.1.5
“Surprise me!â demands reclusive author Alex Henderson (Ben Kingsley) near the start of Intrigo: Death of an Author of budding novelist Henry (Benno FĂŒrmann), whoâs come to him in search of advice. As an audience member, itâs difficult not to end up making exactly the same exhortation to director Daniel Alfredsonâs film. With each plot point being not only easy to predict, but also articulated and elaborated on multiple times by an awkwardly on-the-nose narration, the only shock here is that a film apparently concerned with the act of storytelling could be so lacking in self-awareness.
Henry is a translator for the recently deceased Austrian author Germund Rein and is working on a book about a man whose wife disappeared while they were holidaying in the Alps, shortly after her revelation that she would be leaving him for her therapist. Most of the tedious opening half hour of the film is taken up with Henry telling this tale to Kingsleyâs enigmatic Henderson, after he meets him at his remote island villa. The pace picks up a little when David switches to giving the older writer an account of the mystery surrounding Reinâs death and how this could be connected to his story, which (surprise!) may not be entirely fictional.
Death of An Author is the most high-profile release of the Intrigo films, all directed by Alfredson and based on HĂ„kan Nesserâs novellas. Alfredson was also at the helm of two film versions of Stieg Larssonâs Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornetâs Nest, but he still doesnât appear to have developed the stylistic tools necessary to elevate his pulpy source material. Here, his aesthetic seems to be aiming for the icy polish of a modern noir, but it leans toward a safe kind of blandness, evincing neither the visceral pleasures of the genre nor the precision to uncover deeper thematic resonances.
While FĂŒrmannâs stilted central performance at times threatens to sink Death of An Author, Kingsley always appears just in time to keep the unwieldy thing afloat. Nonetheless, his characterâs cynical meta commentary, alternately engaged and aloof, is ruinous: As Henderson criticizes Henryâs story, he effectively draws too much attention to the filmâs own flaws.
Death of an Authorâs mise en abyme framing device has a similarly self-sabotaging effect. It initially promises an interesting push and pull between a writerâs literary perspective on reality and their own lived experience, but as so much of Henryâs psychology is explained through clunky expository dialogue instead of being expressed visually, no such conflict is possible. The structure ends up just distancing us further from the characters, as well as undermining the tension generated by the more procedural elements of the plot. Ultimately, aside from some picturesque scenery and a satisfyingly dark ending, all weâre left to enjoy here is the vicarious thrill of Kingsleyâs smug, scene-stealing interlocutor occasionally denouncing Henry as a hack, and implicitly dismissing the whole scenario of the film as trite and clichĂ©d.
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Benno FĂŒrmann, Tuva Novotny, Michael Byrne, Veronica Ferres, Daniela Lavender, Sandra Dickinson Director: Daniel Alfredson Screenwriter: Daniel Alfredson, Birgitta Bongenhielm Distributor: Lionsgate Running Time: 106 min Rating: R Year: 2018
Review: Weathering with You Lyrically and Mushily Affirms the Skyâs Majesty
Contemporary outrage couldâve potentially counterpointed the filmâs increasingly mawkish tendencies.2.5
The lyricism of director Makoto Shinkaiâs new animated film, Weathering with You, should shame the impersonality of the CGI-addled blockbusters that are usually pitched at children. An early scene finds a teenage girl, Hina (Nano Mori), floating through the sky, at times almost seeming to swim in it. This moment introduces a suggestive motif: In the film, scientists speculate that the sky possesses a habitat that, for all we know, is full of similar properties to the one in the worldâs oceans. The Tokyo of Shinkaiâs conception is plagued by rain that sometimes falls so hard as to suggest a tidal wave dropping out of the sky, which is a memorably scary and beautiful effect. Sometimes such rains even leave behind see-through jellyfish-like creatures that evaporate upon touch.
At their best, Shinkaiâs images affirm the majesty and power of the sky and rain, intrinsic elements of life that we too often take for granted. Raindrops suggest bright white diamonds, and storms resemble cocoons of water. But Hinaâs new friend, Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo), doesnât take the weather for granted, as heâs introduced on a large passenger boat, surveying a storm that almost kills him. Running away to Tokyo from his parents, Hodaka first glances the city as the boat approaches a port, and at which point Shinkai springs another marvel: a city of vast neon light thatâs been rendered with a soft, watercolor-esque delicacy.
The first 45 minutes or so of Weathering with You promisingly merge such visuals with the story of Hina and Hodakaâs blossoming romance, while introducing an amusing rogue, Keisuke Suga (Shun Oguri), who offers Hodaka minimal employment as a junior reporter for a tabloid magazine. Suga gives the film a lurid quality thatâs surprising for a childrenâs fantasyâas he milks the young Hodaka for a free meal and carouses around Tokyo at nightâuntil Shinkai sentimentally reduces him to a routine father figure. And itâs around here that the plot grows more and more cumbersome and gradually takes over the film as Hina and Hodaka become typically misunderstood youngsters on the lam, evading the law and the Tokyo crime world. The free-floating visuals are eventually tethered to a metaphor for the specialness of Hina, whoâs a mythical âsunshine girlâ capable of bringing light to Tokyoâs endless storms, and for the fieriness of Hina and Hodakaâs love. Shinkai over-explains his lyrical imagery with YA tropes, compromising the dreamlike mystery of the filmâs first act.
The narrative is also an implicit story of global warming, as Tokyoâs storms threaten to destroy the city, with Hina representing a potential balancing of the scales at the expense of her own earthly life. Thatâs a resonant concept that Shinkai never quite steers into overtly political territoryâand contemporary outrage couldâve potentially counterpointed Weathering with Youâs increasingly mawkish tendencies. A free-floating atmosphere, in which sky and ocean are merged, suggesting collaborative gods, is more than enough for an evocative fable. Itâs a pity that Shinkai overthinks his project, frontloading it with borrowed plot machinery that goes in circles, separating lovers mostly for the sake of separating them.
Cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri, Kana Ichinose, RyĂŽ Narita, Tsubasa Honda, Mone Kamishiraishi, Kana Ichinose Director: Makoto Shinkai Screenwriter: Makoto Shinkai Distributor: GKIDS Running Time: 112 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2019
2020 Oscar Nominations: Joker, 1917, The Irishman, and OUATIH Lead Field
Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning by Issa Rae and John Cho.
Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning by Issa Rae and John Cho. Todd Phillipsâs Joker led the nomination count with 11, followed by Martin Scorseseâs The Irishman, Sam Mendesâs 1917, and Quentin Tarantinoâs Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood with 10 each, and Bong Joon-hoâs Parasite, Noah Baumbachâs Marriage Story, Taika Waititiâs Jojo Rabbit, and Greta Gerwigâs Little Women with six each.
While Joker mostly received attention throughout the awards season for Joaquin Phoenixâs lead performance, many pegged Hildur GuĂ°nadĂłttirâs victory at the Golden Globes for her score as a sign that the film would do well at the Oscars. Elsewhere, Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers) had to make way for Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) in best supporting actress and Lupita Nâyongo (Us) for Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) in best actress. And both Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) landed nominations for best actor, pushing Golden Globe-winner Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Robert De Niro (The Irishman), and Christian Bale (Ford v. Ferrari out of the way.
See below for a full list of the nominations.
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
RenĂ©e Zellweger, Judy
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
Best 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 TimeâŠin Hollywood
Best Costume Design
Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Best Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Best Sound Mixing
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Best Animated Short
Best Live-Action Short
Nefta Footfall Club
The Neighborâs Window
Best Film Editing
Ford v Ferrari
Best Original Score
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Best Documentary Feature
The Edge of Democracy
Best Documentary Short Subject
In the Absence
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If Youâre a Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Chacha
Best International Feature Film
Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Les MisĂ©rables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea)
Best Production Design
Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Best Visual Effects
The Lion King
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Toy Story 4
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Two Popes
Best Original Screenplay
Once Upon a TimeâŠin Hollywood
Best Original Song
âI Canât Let You Throw Yourself Away,â Toy Story 4
â(Iâm Gonna) Love Me Again,â Rocketman
âIâm Standing with You,â Breakthrough
âInto the Unknown,â Frozen 2
âStand Up,â Harriet
Review: VHYes Spoofs Late-Night TV Without Exacting Critiques
VHYes settles much too comfortably into the well-trodden footsteps of other works.1.5
Thereâs more inspired satire about how television manipulates an audienceâs emotions in the original RoboCopâs opening newscast scene than in the entirety of Jack Henry Robbinsâs VHYes. Set around Christmas in 1987âcoincidentally, the year of the Paul Verhoeven classicâs releaseâthe film opens as adolescent Ralphie (Mason McNulty) has received his first camcorder. Robbins filters everything through Ralphieâs camera, giving the film an entirely home-video aesthetic, and after Ralphieâs father (Jake Head) discovers the device can be used to record live TV, VHYes morphs into a procession of mostly stale sketch-comedy bits that have been taped during Ralphieâs late-night channel surfing.
Throughout, VHYes shuttles from one gag to the next in search of purpose. In one bit, Robbins serves up a parody of The Joy of Painting starring a woman, Joan (Kerri Kenney), whose dry wit and thinly veiled arousal for her work culminates in a painting of her dunking on Dennis Rodman, of which she assures viewers, âThereâs moisture. Some of it isnât sweat.â We also get a spoof of Antiques Roadshow featuring an appraiser (Mark Proksch) who increasingly reveals his lacking aptitude for the position. And on a mock QVC channel, the formerly married hosts bicker as they predominately sell drug paraphernalia disguised as household products.
VHYes is clearly indebted to the gonzo sketch comedy of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, but unlike Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, Robbins homes in on the oddities of people and things as a means to an end, rather than using them as a jumping-off point for unhinged social commentary. The only segment that approaches a distinct comedic take on its material is Conversations with Todd Plotz, in which the host (Raymond Lee) discusses âtape narcissismâ with a cultural philosopher (Mona Lee Wylde) who makes obviously prescient remarks such as, âOne day the real world will exist to be filmed.â Though this exchange might outwardly suggest an attempt to critique global technological influence, a la Videodrome, the sketch lacks a punchline, let alone insight, beyond the host donning a goofy expression, further revealing how the film is a parade of empty nostalgia for its own sake.
The film offers a reprieve from its grab bag of sketch comedy with a series of musical interludes hosted by Lou (Charlyne Yi), who uses the occasion to introduce bands to her interested but clueless parents. The best of these features Weyes Blood performing a haunting rendition of her 2016 track âGeneration Why.â But lest the music linger for a moment in earnest, Robbins concludes the segment with the ironized, faux-Lynchian imagery of a door, isolated in darkness, opening onto Lou and Weyes Blood doing a slow dance.
The filmâs climax returns to reality to find Ralphie and his friend, Josh (Rahm Braslaw), obsessed with the documentary Blood Files: Witch of West Covina. The show claims thereâs a haunted sorority house on the outskirts of the town where the two live and, predictably, Robbins uses this material to spring the boys out of the house and toward danger, Ralphieâs camcorder footage all the while guiding us through their ghostly discoveries. As in its comedy, the film proves wholly derivative in its horror, borrowing liberally from The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and V/H/S and, in this stretch, without even the good sense to heavily ironize it. For all the outrageousness that could be concocted from its overarching premise, VHYes settles much too comfortably into the well-trodden footsteps of other works.
Cast: Kerri Kenney, Thomas Lennon, Mark Proksch, Charlyne Yi, Mason McNulty, Rahm Braslaw, Jake Head, Christian Drerup, Mona Lee Wylde, Raymond Lee, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins Director: Jack Henry Robbins Screenwriter: Jack Henry Robbins, Nunzio Randazzo Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories Running Time: 72 min Rating: NR Year: 2019
2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions
We were so sure that last yearâs Oscars would be the last Oscars. Okay, not really.
We were so sure that last yearâs Oscars would be the last Oscars. Okay, not really, but the endless parade of stupid decisions to improve a show that no one who watches thinks ought to be anything other than the silly, dated, gaudy thing itâs always been gave us no confidence in its future. Nor, for that matter, did the Academyâs utter acquiescence to the Golden Globesâs selection process, rubber-stamping the latter ceremonyâs much-derided choices of Bohemian Rhapsody for best drama (!) and Green Book for best comedy (!!) by allowing those films to become the two biggest winners of Oscar night. As it turns out, only one of the many lame suggestions proffered by the AMPASâs board of directors actually came to pass, if only temporarily. Itâs the accelerated calendar that shortened this yearâs Oscar season and forced everyone (including us) to scramble to get ahead of the much-tightened deadline. So, like Tom Hanksâs Fred Rogers, weâll get right to the heart of the matter.
If there was ever a year where weâd feel comfortable going with fewer than eight nominees here, something the Oscars havenât done since the expansion beyond five a decade ago, this would be that year. From festivals to criticsâ awards to the ongoing guild nominations, such has been the uninterrupted love streak for four specific filmsâMartin Scorseseâs The Irishman, Noah Baumbachâs Marriage Story, Quentin Tarantinoâs Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, and Bong Joon-hoâs Parasiteâthat itâs easy to imagine the quartet hoovering away enough of those necessary first-place votes to leave almost no room for the remaining candidates.
Did we say four? Maybe make that six, since the last few days have proven to us that both 1917, which upset for the best drama and best director Golden Globes, and, arguably, Joker, which earned the most BAFTA nominations, are firing on all necessary cylinders. Weâre still not entirely sure that the love for Jokerâs incel overtures isnât more of a European thing (beyond the BAFTAs, its strongest endorsement came from its surprising Golden Lion triumph at the Venice Film Festival) and that the majority of Americanâs cultural gatekeepers arenât repulsed.
But a hit is a hit is a hit, which is why weâre also predicting a surprise nod for this yearâs foremost Dad Movie™, James Mangoldâs Ford v. Ferrari, and would be likely to predict the same for an even bigger hit, Rian Johnsonâs Knives Out, if only its devilish depiction of the underlying racism residing within even the most well-meaning moneyed white people didnât hit so close to home. And, of course, were it not for the alternative chance for voters to instead shoot broadly satirical, and safely historical, Nazis in a barrel.
No nomination gave us more reason to believe that AMPASâs cleaning up of its voting roster may have actually changed things than PaweĆ Pawlikowskiâs for best director last year, over the likes of Bradley Cooper and Peter Farrelly. Sure, the directors branch has always been among the most likely to nominate foreign-language candidates, once the seal was broken in the â60s during Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergmanâs heyday. But last year everyone knew their due diligence would be taken care of by Romaâs Alfonso CuarĂłn, and yet they still nominated a second foreign prospect, marking only the second time thatâs ever happened, after Lina Wertmuller and Bergman earned nods for 1976âs Seven Beauties and Face to Face, respectively.
That, after Wertmuller, only four other female directors have been nominated isnât of itself the kiss of death for Greta Gerwig, Lulu Wang, Marielle Heller, CĂ©line Sciamma, Lorene Scafaria, Mati Diop, Chinonye Chukwu, Olivia Wilde, Alma Harâel, Claire Denis, Kasi Lemmons, Melina Matsoukas, or Joanna Hogg. But the fact that BAFTA and the DGA could both assess a year with not just one top-drawer distaff candidate but legitimately more than a dozen, and still come up with nothing but penis sure feels like it.
The AMPAS branch of directors, though, still feels one or two steps hipper than the room. Maybe not hip enough to give the Safdie brothers their due, but we at least expect them to hold their noses about giving their slot to the director of The Hangover movies, and to stand another foreign director alongside the given Bong Joon-ho. Of the many options, we feel pretty bullish about longtime Academy favorite Pedro AlmodĂłvar, whose Pain and Glory is as much a valedictory lap for elder artists as Tarantino and Scorseseâs offerings.
Itâs hard to dispute what Mark Harris months ago saw happening in this category, namely that four slots were thought to be all but locked in for white actresses, despite wide acknowledgement that this was a weak year for the category except when it comes to actresses of color. Well, weâre going to dispute it anyway. In particular, weâre nowhere near as convinced as Gold Derby that Charlize Theron is a slam dunk. (Their collective has assigned her even more âpredict nominationâ points, whatever those are, than winner-elect RenĂ©e Zellweger.) Theronâs turn may be more physically transformative than co-star Nicole Kidmanâs, but sheâs still playing Megyn Kelly, no matter how much Bombshell opts to highlight her lawyerly âobjectivityâ behind the scenes and only pays momentary lip service to the sort of âJesus was white, and so is Santa Clausâ rhetoric that made her a star at Fox News in the first place.
The filmâs underperformance in theaters and with precursors also doesnât bode well, but itâs hard to imagine even the same voters who handed Green Book the top award siding with Kelly over Saoirse Ronanâs Jo pointedly throwing a passive-aggressive wedding at the end of her book to please an editor in Little Women. Lupita Nyongâoâs precursor run for starring in elevated horror gave us flashbacks, but she has one thing Toni Collette didnât: that SAG nod. So, we think she emerges from the underworld to stand alongside Harrietâs Cynthia Erivo.
On the flip side, weâre unable to shake the specter of Ethan Hawke failing to land an Oscar nod despite winning approximately four times as many criticsâ awards as any other single performer last year. There will likely be plenty of time to unpack what AMPAS has to say about masculinity in the midst of the #MeToo backlash, but suffice it for now to say that the alchemy straight actor Antonio Banderas brings to AlmodĂłvarâs queer universe, not just now but for literally a generation, feels particularly out of line with the zeitgeist held up against not just the likes of Joaquin Phoenixâs sociopathic Joker, but arguably almost everyone else we see breezing by Banderas for the nod in the yearâs most competitive acting category.
Leonardo DiCaprioâs existential crisis as fading B-list actor Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is also, often explicitly, a crisis of professional virility. The initial post-feminist-friendly reluctance of Adam Driverâs character to do battle with his soon-to-be ex-wife in Marriage Story eventually shatters into what Film Twitter (yes, shallowly) categorized as the wrath of someone whoâs never had to deal with being called on their privilege. And, of course, Ford v. Ferrariâs last word on Oscar darling Christian Baleâs Ken Miles comes in the form of one of his tools, predicating his entire existence on “the work.”
And speaking of work, if Rocketmanâs Taron Egerton looks increasingly likely to take the most up-for-grabs slot, itâs as much due to his willingness to put in the hours on the glad-handing highway as it is Oscarâs increasingly grudging fondness for male ingĂ©nues (Rami Malek, Eddie Redmayne). In the context of all this, we wonât be terribly surprised to see Robert De Niroâs central performance in The Irishman, as a manâs man who way too late in the game realizes the cost of his brand of masculinity, reduced to an also-ran.
Best Supporting Actress
Academy rules prevent Margo Robbie from getting nominated twice here. But the fact that the BAFTAs reserved not one but two slots for her on their ballot, despite all headwinds indicating that the consultants and publicists pulling the strings on the campaign trail had fully installed Bombshell as âthe oneâ for Robbieâs Oscar chances this year, feels an awful lot like Kate Winslet in 2008 to us. As you recall, everyone fell into line with the narrative that she was to be nominated for lead actress for Revolutionary Road and supporting actress for The Reader. And as you recall, the Academy didnât like the former film and found the latter downright irresistible, and so they went their own way. Thatâs the benefit of being the Oscars. (Everything else is called a âprecursorâ because theyâre not the Oscars.)
We donât need to tell you of the sizable overlap between BAFTAâs membership and AMPASâs for you to take a wild guess as to which of Robbieâs two contending films is better liked. Also, the backlash against those who would dare point out Robbieâs Sharon Tate, aside from her feet, has a lot less to do in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood than in Bombshell is very much in the air. I mean, weâre that close to including Anna Paquin among our list of closest runners-up, specifically because of the volume among those decrying her lack of dialogue in The Irishman.
Best Supporting Actor
About this category, we have roughly as much to say as Anna Paquin, or maybe Joe Pesci, whose uncharacteristically verbose acceptance speech took everyone by surprise at the New York Film Critics Circle gala this week. Five slots, and Parasiteâs Song Kang-ho aside, Oscarâs elder statesmen look to fill them all. The dual nominations for Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira last year would seem to portend good things for Songâto say nothing of SAGâs perception-altering (and still mind-blowing) nomination of Bong Joon-hoâs film for best ensemble cast over the likes of Marriage Story, Little Women, and Knives Out, but neither of Romaâs actresses faced as much competition in their fields for othersâ valedictory victory laps.
Even more so than in best actress, this category simply has four slots all but reserved already. For the fifth, BAFTA and the Golden Globes went for Anthony Hopkins as Bad Pope, and SAG opted for Jamie Foxx as Good Incarnate. Weâre expecting Oscar voters to go somewhere in the middle: Alan Alda, a welcome breath of fresh air playing the one lawyer in Marriage Story who recognizes how the whole system is rigged, unfair, and predatory, and who yet still possesses enough humanity to regale his client with a long-winded joke (on the clock, naturally).
Best Adapted Screenplay
You may have noticed that weâre not yet convinced that Little Women is going to pull a Phantom Thread as the late-breaker that gets ignored by most precursors only to finally arrive at the station when it comes time for Oscar nominations. But Greta Gerwigâs updating of Louisa Mae Alcottâs universe for modern sensibilities feels like the frontrunner here, alongside Steven Zaillianâs adaptation of Charles Brandtâs I Heard You Paint Houses, which at approximately 4,680 pages of script earns the spot on ream-girth alone.
While it’s all iffy territory beyond those two, we actually feel pretty good about the WGAâs nominees enough to quell our reservations about leaving off the crowd-pleasing, feminist antics of Hustlers and the, we guess, Catholic-pleasing antics of The Two Popes. Jojo Rabbit and Joker were both written or co-written by the filmsâ directors, which never hurts, and this is one of the few categories where we could see the subtleties of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhoodâs treatise on masculinity trumping the revving of Ford v. Ferrariâs.
Best Original Screenplay
We canât go five-for-five with WGA on this side of the script categories, as Quentin Tarantino remains ineligible for guild consideration. Also, you know, Booksmart, as we’d be more shocked to see that one included on the Oscar roster than we would be to see Tarantino left off. Because, beyond Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Parasite, there are already way too many candidates that fit the classic template for original screenplays that earn their movies its only Oscar nod out there, among them Rian Johnsonâs riotous Knives Out, the Safdie brothers and Ronald Bronsteinâs unrelenting Uncut Gems, and Lulu Wang’s nuanced The Farewell. Johnsonâs political whodunit hybrid is in with a
bullet syringe filled with morphine, but the other two look vulnerable to Noah Baumbachâs Marriage Story, filled as it is with copious speechifying, and (again) Pedro AlmodĂłvarâs don’t-call-it-a-swan song Pain and Glory.