Sunday, February 09, 2020

BIRDS OF PREY AND THE SECRET WEAPON WHO STEALS THE MOVIE FROM ONE HARLEY QUINN


 
The good-natured, yet hyper-violent Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is amusing enough to get by, a sort-of Deadpool-lite strung together with a wink, a pagan’s prayer and a lot of chicken wire, and absent the Ryan Reynolds picture’s impudent, gruesome, genuinely transgressive and hugely entertaining impulses. But BOP is a distinct upgrade over the Oscar-winning-epic-that-shall-not-be-named from whose befouled loins it sprang came (okay, okay, Suicide Squad, but you likely knew that already), and it allows Ewan McGregor, as the unctuous and evil villain Black Mask, the most fun he’s probably ever had on screen. Margot Robbie, of course, chews it up in grand style too as our bubblegum-snapping “heroine,” the admittedly insane but magnetically likable Harley Quinn, the Joker’s ex-girlfriend, whose mismatched wardrobe reflects the bells and whistles constantly jangling about inside her head but is also a continuing act of found fashion art, like what might happen if Jackson Pollock did a line for Hot Topic. Robbie has her share of kicks as well, of course, even if the movie isn’t sharp or funny enough to match her enthusiasm. There are also game turns from Rosie Perez as an ‘80s-cop-show-obsessed cop (an idea the movie does almost nothing with), Jurnee Smollett-Bell as a songstress/not-at-all-committed employee of the Mask’s whose glass-shattering voice might have Ella Fitzgerald protesting from the grave, Chris Messina as the Mask’s creepy, face-stealing henchman, and Ella Jay Basco as the pickpocketing kid around whom all this nonsense spins.


But the movie is near-stolen by Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress, a mysterious, revenge-inspired assassin with a pretty by-the-numbers back story who dishes out gory karma all while constantly correcting onlookers about her assumed moniker and choice of weaponry. The young actress absolutely sells her pseudo-hero’s poker-faced, confident purpose while at the same time undermining it with the humorous insecurity of a kid brought up in isolation on a steady diet of unslaked vengeance who just, in her own weird way, wants to reconnect with the concept of belonging to a sort of family. Winstead is deadpan hilarious here, and she and Robbie share the movie’s best sequence, a motorcycle-car chase that finally moves the picture’s roller derby sensibility from subtext to rip-roaring text, with Harley Quinn on skates behind Huntress’s cycle, whipping around, over and onto a fleeing car full of creeps. Birds of Prey is worth seeing for this sequence alone, but Robbie, McGregor, and especially Winstead make it worth the whole trip.

Which leads me to my nifty Mary Elizabeth Winstead story. When my eldest daughter was five, we saw the superhero comedy Sky High at a drive-in. We not only loved the movie, a sort-of wackier John Hughes-type coming-of-age picture done up at a high school for budding superheroes who don’t quite know what to do with how their bodies are changing, adapting to their nascent super-abilities, but we also loved Winstead in it—she plays the superhero high school’s most popular student, who has designs on the story’s protagonist and who goes from potential girlfriend to deadly foe, in a Disney way, of course. About a year after we saw the movie, and after we’d bought it and seen in a couple thousand more times on DVD, my daughters and wife and I were window shopping in Burbank and strolled into an Urban Outfitters where I almost immediately spotted the actress, who was standing and talking to a friend. (At almost six feet, she was very striking and kinda hard to miss.) So after a moment or two to screw up my courage, I walked over, introduced myself, explained that my six and four-year-old daughters were huge fans of her performance as the super-villainess Royal Pain, and asked if she’d mind if I brought them over to meet her. This was early enough in her career that Winstead may have been purely happy just to have been recognized, but she seemed delighted by the suggestion, and so I retrieved my kids and we stepped over to where she was. 
The looks on their faces, especially my eldest’s, as they met their first, and maybe favorite at the time, movie star was, as they say, priceless. Winstead talked to them for a few minutes, was extremely charming, and also still enough of a kid herself at the time to be real with them in a way that she might not otherwise have been able to access, and I will always love her for that moment she gave my kids. So, when I sat next to my daughter last night as she crushed massively over Winstead on-screen as Huntress, it was a really neat and once-in-a-lifetime thing to be able to remember that moment and remind my kid about it afterward. She would have loved the movie anyway, but this terrific young actress sealed that response with a well-placed arrow right in my daughter’s heart.

Thanks, #MaryElizabethWinstead, wherever you are!
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Sunday, February 02, 2020

SYBIL THE SOOTHSAYER'S OSCAR PREDIX!



Well, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us yet again, and if you’re thinking I’m about 30-days-and-change late in going on about Christmas, well, you obviously don’t live in Los Angeles. For around these parts, the time in between the announcement of the Academy Award nominations and the awards ceremony itself—this year a much shorter gauntlet of days for campaigning nominees and their studio backers to run—is Christmas redux, a month-long-or-so orgy of adulation when everyone loves everyone else’s work (except all the stuff they forgot about, naturally) and the spirit of lavishing career-honoring praise and statues permeates the air like thick, throat-thrashing smoke from a nearby wildfire.

This year is no different, of course, but maybe the usual sense of inevitability about who’s gonna win what is a bit more pronounced, simply because for awards show after awards show the same handful of winners have been seen trotting to the stage to accept the acting, directing and technical achievement awards. This is encouraging a dangerous sense of security among office Oscar pool participants (and by office Oscar pool participants I am referring, of course, to myself) who may think they’ve got a better handle on what whims Oscar will indulge next weekend than usual. That know-it-all-and-then-overthink-it impulse sinks my Oscar pool chances almost every year.

And if you’ve read this column over the years, you’ll have a sense of just why my Oscar pool ballot typically takes on water pretty early in the show. There’s no need to provide links to my doomed Oscar predix of the past—just trust me, I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about when it comes to second-guessing the nebulous and fickle AMPAS voting body. Of course, that shocking admission shall be no hindrance to my carrying on as usual and making public my guesses as to what might transpire next Sunday night at the Dolby Theater in beautiful downtown Hollywood. 

But this year I’ve recruited some help.

With a great expenditure of time, effort and a goodly percentage of my savings account, I went in search of the one person whose psychic energy might actually enhance my odds of reigning supreme at my Oscar party, the woman whose predictive powers and all-around acumen with the crystal ball would shame Sylvia Browne and Jeane Dixon, both of whom have sloughed off this mortal coil anyway, so it’s not like they’d do me any good— I’m even worse at contacting the dead via séance than I am at picking Oscar winners. No, the woman I’m referring to is, perhaps surprisingly, still alive. I discovered that she’s been living in a convalescent home just outside Chicago, Illinois, which caters to fringe TV personalities, for the past 26 years and, after several long telephone conversations which were scattered in their subject matter, to say the least, I convinced her to help me in my quest to win this year’s Oscar pool.

Her name is Gladys Meyerowitz, and you will be forgiven if that name doesn’t quite ring a bell, because you probably only know her from the name by which she appeared briefly on the UBN Television  Network in 1976, on the roster of regular contributors to that network’s wildly popular (until it suddenly wasn’t) The Howard Beale Show. I’m referring, of course, to Sybil the Soothsayer. 

During our conversations, Gladys made me call her Sybil. She says that hearing herself referred to by that name again helped focus the psychic energy which, she admits, has been a little spottier in her old age. But Sybil remained supremely confident in her ability to interpret that energy and accurately prognosticate about what’s going to happen when all of Hollywood gathers together next Sunday night. Even though she claims she hasn’t been out to a movie since 1986 (“That Blue Velvet put me off watching pictures in public for good!”), she’s still got a DVD player and, of course, her own feisty, sometimes spiritually enhanced opinions, which I have included alongside her picks in each category. And since this is my spot behind the velvet curtain and not hers, I have indicated who I believe should win from all the nominees in each category, as well as who I would pick if I were not restricted to just the five or so choices winnowed down by the Academy.

So, let’s get to it. Straight from The Howard Beale Show, via the Bob Bell and Beverly Braun Convalescent Home for the Semi-Famous, here are Sybil the Soothsayer’s picks to win big at this year’s Academy Awards. Adjust your expectations and your Oscar pool ballot choices accordingly.




PICTURE

SYBIL SAYS: 1917 (“I picked this over Parasite because I don’t like to think about maggots and leeches and things like that.”)

DESERVED WINNER: Parasite

MY PICK: Parasite



ACTRESS

SYBIL SAYS: Renee Zellweger, Judy (“I knew Judy Garland, and lemme tell ya, Renee’s no Judy Garland, but Vincente Minnelli told me a couple weeks ago she was gonna win, so…”)

DESERVED WINNER:  Um… Scarlett Johansson?

MY PICK: Mary Kay Place, Diane




ACTOR

SYBIL SAYS: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (“The Academy likes a comedian.”)

DESERVED WINNER: Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

MY PICK: Antonio Banderas



SUPPORTING ACTRESS

SYBIL SAYS: Laura Dern, Marriage Story (“That young lady has a coltish charm about her, don’t ya think? She’s gonna go places.”)

DESERVED WINNER: Laura Dern

MY PICK: Yeo-jeong Jo, So-dam Park, Hye-jin Jang, Jeon-eun Lee, Parasite (so sue me)



SUPPORTING ACTOR

SYBIL SAYS: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (“He should’ve won for Oceans’ Twelve. This will be a make-up win for that.”)

DESERVED WINNER: Joe Pesci, The Irishman

MY PICK: Joe Pesci



DIRECTOR

SYBIL SAYS: Sam Mendes, 1917 (“Such a good boy, making a movie about his grandpa like that. And I have it on very good authority that the old man liked the picture a lot, though he did say he thought Benedict Cumberbatch sucked.”)

DESERVED WINNER: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

MY PICK: Bong Joon Ho


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

SYBIL SAYS: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time.. in Hollywood  (“Hasn’t he won before? Who does he think he is? Woody Allen?)

DESERVED WINNER: Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won, Parasite

MY PICK: Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

SYBIL SAYS: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit (“How could the academy vote against an anti-Nazi bunny?”)

DESERVED WINNER: Steven Zaillian, The Irishman

MY PICK: Steven Zaillian




ANIMATED FEATURE

SYBIL SAYS: I Lost My Body (“I can relate, and have several times.”)

DESERVED WINNER: I Lost My Body

MY PICK: I Lost My Body



CINEMATOGRAPHY

SYBIL SAYS: Roger Deakins, 1917 (“At my age, I prefer long takes. Plus, how the hell did he do that?!”)

DESERVED WINNER: Jarin Blascke, The Lighthouse

MY PICK: Kyung-pyo Hong, Parasite



COSTUME DESIGN 

SYBIL SAYS: Jacqueline Durran, Little Women (“Don’t you think I should have won one in 1976 for my STS garb in Network?! They would’ve had to give it to me and not Theoni V. Aldredge too, ‘cause that sucker came right out of my closet!”)

DESERVED WINNER: Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson, The Irishman

MY PICK: Ruth Carter, Dolemite Is My Name




DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

SYBIL SAYS: American Factory (“Maybe Michelle Obama will show up!”)

DESERVED WINNER: Honeyland

MY PICK: Honeyland



FILM EDITING

SYBIL SAYS: Yang Jinmo, Parasite (“I heard just now they apparently edited all the actual parasites out of the final cut, and that’s good enough for me, so…”)

DESERVED WINNER: Thelma Schoonmaker, The Irishman

MY PICK: The Irishman




INTERNATIONAL FILM

SYBIL SAYS: Parasite (“Enough already!”)

DESERVED WINNER: Parasite

MY PICK: Parasite



MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

SYBIL SAYS: Joker (“They give an Oscar for this, but not for stunt people? Jeez…”)

DESERVED WINNER: Bombshell (better a win here for prosthetics than a Best Actress win for prosthetics)

MY PICK: N/A



MUSICAL SCORE

SYBIL SAYS: Hildur Gudnadottir, Joker (“Give it to the kid from Iceland. Everybody else sounds like they’re stealing from themselves.”)

DESERVED WINNER: Thomas Newman, 1917

MY PICK: James Newton Howard, A Hidden Life



ORIGINAL SONG

SYBIL SAYS: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”, Rocketman (“They wanna see Elton John on stage more than they do Michelle Obama even!”)

DESERVED WINNER: None

MY PICK: “Love Theme from Uncut Gems




PRODUCTION DESIGN

SYBIL SAYS: Barbara Ling, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (“Production design so good, why, the made Hollywood look like it was a real place!”)

DESERVED WINNER: Lee Ha Jun, Chon Won Woo, Parasite

MY PICK: Parasite



SOUND EDITING

SYBIL SAYS: Donald Sylvester, Ford v Ferrari (“Those cars are goddamn loud!”)

DESERVED WINNER: Wylie Stateman, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

MY PICK: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood



SOUND MIXING

SYBIL SAYS: Paul Massey, David Giammarco, Steven A. Morrow, Ford v Ferrari (“Goddamn, those cars are loud!”)

DESERVED WINNER: Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler, Mark Ulano, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

MY PICK: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood



VISUAL EFFECTS

SYBIL SAYS: Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken, Dan Sudick, Avengers: Endgame (“Volume counts in this category, plus I have a bit of a crush on Thanos. No, not Josh Brolin. Thanos.”)

DESERVED WINNER: Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser, Stephane Grabli, The Irishman

MY PICK: The Irishman



Thanks to Sybil for soothsaying her way onto that rickety Oscar predix limb for me this year. If you use her picks as your own and you lose, well, I predict… you won’t ever do that again! Good luck, and happy Academy Awards!

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS: THE FILMS OF 2019



Seems to me that only in a very good year for movies could the best film I saw all year and the worst film I saw all year both be called Parasite. Of course, one was the Cannes sensation and sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated South Korean film from Bong Joon Ho. The other was the 1982 3-D “classic” from director Charles Band, starring Demi Moore and Luca Bercovici, a movie which, once I finally caught up with it, or rather once it finally caught up with me (after my having successfully avoided it for almost 40 years), certainly made for an agonizing waste of my time, so I can only imagine what the actors and craftspeople who were involved with making it must have felt, and likely still do. And I consider it a real hallmark of a quality cinema annum when I can say that I saw more movies by near-forgotten Hollywood journeymen Ray Enright and Lloyd Bacon (look ‘em up, kids—that’s what IMDb is for) than I did by Martin Scorsese, who doubles up near the top of my list this year.

Here then, from the heights to the depths (with only the most glancing mention of the depths, really), are the highlights of this past terrific movie year for me, the pictures, performances, and singular achievements that made going to the movies so much more enjoyable than paying attention to real life, even when they opened the sort of revealing window onto real life that is only possible within this art form, reflecting and illuminating the human condition in the most unexpected, welcome and, if we’re really lucky, entertaining of ways.



PARASITE  Bong Joon Ho redefines “upstairs/downstairs” in what is, in my estimation and on its own terms, and if such a thing can even exist, just about as perfect a movie as I’ve ever seen in the modulation of its social satire— acute observations on class and strata are embedded in just about every frame, yet the picture is astonishing fun to watch, the polar opposite of a dry treatise on how humans functioning in webs of economic frustration or privilege feed on each other. It seems also to have hit a nerve with audiences starved for a sense of surprise, for the satisfaction of not knowing where they’re going but being absolutely assured, and with great pleasure and anticipation, that they’ll get there—the movie is thrillingly entertaining and, from moment to moment, genuinely unpredictable. It also has, in the work of actors like Boon Joon Ho veterans Song Kang-ho (The Host) and Lee Jong-un (Okja), as well as Jo Yeo-jeong, Jang Hye-in, and especially Park So-dam, the highest caliber ensemble performance by any cast this year. This movie is what ensemble screen acting awards are made for. Bong (Mother, Memories of Murder) has conjured an exquisitely controlled, fiercely alive work that ought to make just about every other director out there sick with envy, and perhaps even inspired by the surety and humor and brilliantly sustained purpose with which he delivers the goods. This is easily the year’s best, most pleasurable, and ultimately most devastating movie.


DIANE  The Los Angeles Film Critics Circle were wise enough to award Mary Kay Place their best actress honors this year, which gives me hope that she may at least be acknowledged by yet another higher-profile award-bestowing body this coming week. But even if she doesn’t, she’s given a performance for the ages in Kent Jones’s masterful movie, a lovely, unforced, exquisitely realized, formally engaging act of empathy for unsung souls burdened by the shadows of social and familial responsibility, mortality, identity and inescapable guilt. If that sounds like a drag, then please allow yourself to be energized by a film that, though it couldn’t feel more different in tone and approach, can stand right next to Parasite as an exemplar of the absolute best a very good year at the movies has had to offer.


THE IRISHMAN  One of the great common denominators about at least five of the movies among my favorites of 2019 is that they couldn’t have been made by anyone else, and that’s certainly true of the two movies made by Martin Scorsese represented here. The cast, from the rightly celebrated Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, through Ray Romano, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Stephan Graham, and on to Jesse Plemons, Kathrine Narducci, Domenick Lombardozzi and a giant cast of players even less known, are all deserving of praise. But even more fascinating, Scorsese approaches the story of hitman Frank Sheeran, his role in the tumultuous history of American union politics and, perhaps, in the death of Teamsters icon Jimmy Hoffa, with the subdued style of one of his religious epics, eschewing the flash of GoodFellas for an appropriately rueful stylistic meditation on tenuous power, corrupt morality, and the heavy sigh of a soul, perhaps not one even worth saving, in absolute freefall. 


A HIDDEN LIFE  With his gorgeous, agonizing, poetically realized story of a conscientious objector in WWII Austria, Terence Malick not only sums up the stylistic compulsions that have obsessed his work over the last two decades, but he’s also finally fulfilled the promise of Days of Heaven and his presumed status as a great American filmmaker. This is a movie that demands a rigorous attention to philosophical quandaries that clearly alienated several members of the audience with which I saw it, yet it rewards those like myself, who were suspicious of films like The Tree of Life or To The Wonder, with a genuinely haunting, challenging, uniquely introspective experience that is itself based on the introspection of a modest, undeniably heroic man, the sort who chooses to suffer injustice rather than perpetuate it, the sort whose stories often go untold.


ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY BY MARTIN SCORSESE  Scorsese’s second appearance on this list is a long, strange, joyous, darkly comic mix of the factual and the fantastical, a reassessment of Bob Dylan’s famous 1975 tour which contextualizes the music, the personalities and especially the attempts to control the telling of the story of a specific moment in a musical movement, in terms of the shifting landscape of a country and its culture, both then and now. Like Dylan’s music, and Dylan himself (who robustly participates in the blurring of as many lines of truth and fiction as possible here, to fascinating ends), the documentary/mockumentary Scorsese has fashioned is, both in individual moments and in overall philosophy, epic, lyrical, personal, contradictory, nonsensical, and a deliriously fascinating one in which no truth, and perhaps every truth, is arrived at 45 years late and right on time. 


ATLANTICS  A mysterious, gorgeous first feature from director Mati Diop scored to its own ethereal, uniquely untrackable heartbeat, a love story grounded in social reality which floats on longing and pivots on its metaphysical heel to become something… unexpected, expansive, strangely worthy of that longing. Mame Bineta Sane, a first-time actress, holds the screen like a Hollywood veteran as Ada, a young woman bound in a marriage contract whose true boyfriend disappears with a group of fellow construction workers at sea, and the way Diop, with a magnificent assist from Claire Mathon’s swoon-inducing cinematography, tells the story of these two unrequited lovers and the unbreachable gap separating them is satisfying in the elliptical manner of a superbly written short story.   


APOLLO 11  In coincidence with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and bereft of narration, talking heads or other grounding devices,  director Todd Douglas Miller uses NASA and television news footage (a generation of viewers will now be privy to the reasons behind the reverence with which their elders infuse the utterance of the name “Walter Cronkite”) to tell the story of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and that truly incredible journey in a way that enhances the reality and the unbearable suspense of a situation we’ve now known the outcome of for several generations. In a year of great documentaries, none was possessed of the sort of historical acuity or grandeur, or the almost hallucinatory clarity that is the lifeblood of Miller’s achievement.  


ONE CHILD NATION  A cross-generational cry of anger from documentarian Nanfu Wang, who explores the awful history of China’s one-child policy, those whose lives were shaped (and sometimes warped) by it, and the dutiful citizens, acting from pride, helplessness, or a grim combination of both, who perpetuated it in the name of national strength. Perhaps the most distinctive element of Wang’s approach, apart from her refusal to look away from even the most personal implications of China’s policy, is the creative and political intelligence she exhibits in observing that though she grew up in a country which for years mandated abortions, and then moved to a country (the United States) where abortions are slowly becoming more difficult to obtain, both governments were about removing the rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies, thus neutering the opportunity for those who might be so inclined to reductively spin One Child Nation into a simple pro-life tract.


HONEYLAND  If the measure of a truly remarkable documentary is to illuminate an aspect of humanity unfamiliar to most audiences, then the work done by directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, in distilling over three years’ worth of footage into this compelling, ultimately heartbreaking nonfiction film, must be considered remarkable, a lovely rendering of a life lived and expressed in balance with the natural world, the world faced as it is with no compromise, which nonetheless is perilously close to falling out of balance. As shot by the intimately calibrated cameras of Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma, Honeyland quietly observes, and ultimately celebrates the endurance of a middle-aged beekeeper named Hatidze, who tends to her feeble mother as well as the bees who provide the means of her physical and economic sustenance, and who must also endure the appearance of a vagabond Turkish family who inadvertently come to threaten her ecosystem and her survival. With its equal measures of patience, insistent yet nonjudgmental curiosity about human motivations, and its inevitable sadness, the film stands as a unique wonder, painfully privy to secret moments, expansive, haunting. 


DOLEMITE IS MY NAME   A heartfelt tribute to getting your art (and yourself) on the screen and into movie history, anchored by an arguably career-best performance by Eddie Murphy, alongside stellar support from the likes of Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key and, most especially, Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Murphy thankfully avoids the mistake of slavishly copying the vocal rhythms and look of Rudy Ray Moore, who brought a generation or two's worth of folklore and coalesced it into a stand-up and movie career as Dolemite, a storyteller styled in the pimp couture of the day. (Moore is also considered by some, based on his musically charged vocal rhythms and how he used them to relate his jokes and stories, as the godfather of rap.) Instead, Murphy makes the character his own, which is his way of carrying on Moore's tradition of passing along urban legends filtered through his own personality. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable, outrageously profane, and not surprisingly honorable movie which joins the ranks of Ed Wood (1994; also written by DIMN's Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander) and Allan Arkush and Joe Dante's wonderful Hollywood Boulevard (1976) as perhaps the best movies ever made about making Hollywood outside the box.


HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):  


 AD ASTRA, AVENGERS: ENDGAME, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM, CRAWL, FORD VS. FERRARI, GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS, LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE, THE LIGHTHOUSE, MARRIAGE STORY, MIDSOMMAR, PAIN AND GLORY, THE PRODIGY, TRANSIT, UNCUT GEMS, US

Still to see in 2019


ASH IS PUREST WHITE, BOOKSMART, BOMBSHELL, CATS, THE CURRENT WAR, DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME, ESCAPE ROOM, THE FANATIC, FIRST LOVE, GLORIA BELL, THE GREAT HACK, HONEY BOY, THE KING, THE KINGMAKER, THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, LITTLE WOMEN, MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND, THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE, MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, THE NIGHTINGALE, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, RICHARD JEWELL, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, TOY STORY 4, THE TWO POPES, WESTERN STARS, WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE?, WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?, ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP



One I Liked Way Better Than Y’all Did

GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS

Ones Y’all Liked Way Better Than I Did

THE SOUVENIR, ONCE UPON A TIME IN… HOLLYWOOD, HUSTLERS


Least Fulfilled Opportunity Based On Its Excellent Source Material

ZEROVILLE

Biggest (Happy) Surprises

6 UNDERGROUND, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK


Biggest (Unhappy) Surprise (aka The Worst Movie of 2019)


Best Viewing Experiences of 2019

CRAWL (head in popcorn bucket, Regency Academy, Pasadena)
CRY WOLF (1947) (TCM)
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (with a similarly amused audience, Laemmle Glendale)
GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (with Emma, free preview courtesy of the Secret Movie Club, Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood)
THE IRISHMAN (packed house, Studio Movie Grill, Glendale)
LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (by myself, sobbing, Laemmle Glendale; with Bruce, sobbing, Hillcrest Cinemas, San Diego)
MERRILY, WE GO TO HELL (inaugural selection TCM Classic Film Festival 2019, with Bruce)
NASHVILLE (TCM Classic Film Festival, with Bruce, Bob Westal, Ronee Blakely, Keith Carradine, Jeff Goldblum, Joan Tewkesbury)
THE PRODIGY (under the seats with Emma, AMC Burbank 16)
ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY (date night, Los Feliz 3)
UNCUT GEMS (second time around, this time on the big screen, with a sparse audience who seemed to get it, AMC Burbank 6)

Actress


Mary Kay Place DIANE 

(Honorable Mention: Lupita Nyong’o US, Scarlet Johansson MARRIAGE STORY, Geraldine Viswanathan HALA, Florence Pugh MIDSOMMAR,
Awkwafina THE FAREWELL, Isabelle Hupert GRETA)

Actor


August Diehl A HIDDEN LIFE 

(Honorable Mention: Eddie Murphy DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, Adam Driver MARRIAGE STORY, Antonio Banderas PAIN AND GLORY, Toni Servillo LORO, Joaquin Phoenix JOKER, Christian Bale FORD V. FERRARI, Brad Pitt AD ASTRA, Robert De Niro THE IRISHMAN, Willem Dafoe THE LIGHTHOUSE, Adam Sandler UNCUT GEMS

Supporting Actress(es)


Yeo-jeong Jo, So-dam Park, Jeong-eun Lee, Hye-jin Jang PARASITE

(Honorable Mention:  Da’Vine Joy Randolph DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, Idina Menzel UNCUT GEMS, Shuzhen Zhao THE FAREWELL, Nora Navas PAIN AND GLORY (HM: Laura Dern MARRIAGE STORY, Sienna Miller 21 BRIDGES, Rebecca Ferguson DOCTOR SLEEP, Michaela Watkins BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON, Marisa Tomei FRANKIE, Dierdre O’Connell DIANE, Anna Paquin THE IRISHMAN)

Supporting Actor

Kang-ho Song PARASITE


(Honorable Mention: Al Pacino THE IRISHMAN, Joe Pesci THE IRISHMAN, Eric Bogosian UNCUT GEMS, Leonardo Sbaraglia PAIN AND GLORY, Lakeith Stanfield UNCUT GEMS, Judd Hirsch UNCUT GEMS, Alan Alda MARRIAGE STORY, Asier Etxeandia PAIN AND GLORY, Tracy Letts FORD V. FERRARI, Tom Hanks A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, Alejandro Patino PAPI CHULO)

Director

Bong Joon Ho PARASITE


(Honorable Mention: Kent Jones DIANE, Martin Scorsese THE IRISHMAN/ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY BY MARTIN SCORSESE, Terence Malick A HIDDEN LIFE, Mati Diop ATLANTICS, Ari Aster MIDSOMMAR, Josh & Benny Safdie UNCUT GEMS, Christian Pozold TRANSIT, Pedro Almodovar PAIN AND GLORY, Robert Eggers THE LIGHTHOUSE)

Screenplay


Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han PARASITE, Steven Zaillian THE IRISHMAN, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie UNCUT GEMS, Christian Pozold TRANSIT, Robert Eggers, Max Eggers THE LIGHTHOUSE, Noah Baumbach MARRIAGE STORY

Cinematography


Kyung-pyo Hong PARASITE, Jorg Widmer A HIDDEN LIFE, Claire Mathon ATLANTICS, Pawel Pogorzelski MIDSOMMAR, Darius Khondji UNCUT GEMS, Jarin Blaschke THE LIGHTHOUSE, Roger Deakins 1917

Music (Original Score or Use of Songs)


Score: James Newton Howard A HIDDEN LIFE, Jung Jaeil PARASITE, Thomas Newman 1917, Hildur Guðnadóttir JOKER

Use of Songs: THE IRISHMAN, ROLLING THUNDER REVUE, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD

First Time Seen in 2019

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT (1942; Vincent Sherman) 
BLACK HAND (1950; Richard Thorpe)
BLONDIE JOHNSON (1933; Ray Enright) 
BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948; Robert Wise)
BLUME IN LOVE (1973; Paul Mazursky) 
BROTHER ORCHID (1940; Lloyd Bacon) 


THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS (1974; Peter Weir) 
CHAMBER OF HORRORS (1966; Hy Averback) 
CHARLIE CHAN IN HONOLULU (1938; H. Bruce Humberstone) 
CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND (1939;  Norman Foster) 
CHARLIE CHAN AT THE WAX MUSEUM (1940; Lynn Shores) 
CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (1962; Agnès Varda
COLORADO TERRITORY (1949; Raoul Walsh)
THE CROWD ROARS (1932; Howard Hawks) 


CRY WOLF (1947; Peter Godfrey) 
CUBE (1998; Vincenzo Natali) 
A DELICATE BALANCE (1973; Tony Richardson) 
EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962; Blake Edwards) 
THE FAMOUS FERGUSON CASE (1932; Lloyd Bacon) 
FAT CITY (1972; John Huston) 
GENOCIDE (WAR OF THE INSECTS) (1968; Kazui Nihonmatsu)
GUN LAW JUSTICE (1948; Lambert Hillyer) 


THE GYPSY MOTHS (1969; John Frankenheimer) 
HOT LEAD (1951; Stuart Gilmore)
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981; Lucio Fulci) 
HYSTERIA (1965; Freddie Francis) 
JASON X (2002; James Isaac) 
JOUR DE FETE (1949; Jacques Tati) 
THE LETTER (1940; William Wyler)  
THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF (1970; Basil Dearden) 

 

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928; Paul Leni) 
MERRILY WE GO TO HELL (1932; Dorothy Arzner) 
MILLIONAIRES IN PRISON (1940; Ray McCarey) 
MISS PINKERTON (1932; Lloyd Bacon)
NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971; Dan Curtis) 
NIGHT WORLD (1932; Hobart Henley)  
OLD ACQUAINTANCE (1943; Vincent Sherman) 
OPEN SECRET (1948; John Reinhardt) 
PARASITE (1982; Charles Band) 
POSSESSED (1931; Curtis Bernhardt) 
THE RAGING MOON (aka LONG AGO, TOMORROW) (1971; Bryan Forbes) 
THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1958; Rafael Portillo)
SAGEBRUSH LAW (1943; Sam Nelson) 
THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973; Alan Gibson)


SAVAGE MESSIAH (1972; Ken Russell)
SEVEN DAYS TO NOON (1950; John Boulting, Roy Boulting)
SHADOW ON THE WALL (1950; Pat Jackson)
TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934; Cedric Gibbons) 
THE TATTOOED STRANGER (1950; Edward Montagne)
13 WEST STREET (1962; Philip Leacock) 
…tick…tick…tick… (1970; Ralph Nelson) 
TWO-GUN MAN FROM HARLEM (1938; Richard C. Kahn) 
WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931; James Whale) 
WHILE THE PATIENT SLEPT (1935; Ray Enright) 
WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? (1971; Curtis Harrington) 
THE YIDDISH KING LEAR (1935; Harry Thomashefsky)



Happy New Year, everybody! Here's to another great year of movies in 2020, and a much improved year from the past few in every other regard!


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