I Like What I Like…and So Should You

Gerard Butler, Law Abiding Citizen, Adam Sandler, Reign Over Me, S.A. Young author
Law Abiding Citizen, written by Kurt Wimmer (Salt, Total Recall, Point Break), directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, The Fate of the Furious), starring Gerard Butler (every movie critics love to hate for the last 20 years), came out nearly 8 years ago. I saw it twice opening weekend, in Lincoln Center in NY, with one of my besties – it was a fantastic trip, but I digress.  I’ve written about the film before (on this blog) and I stand by my assessment.
I’ve also written more than once about the disconnect between “critics” and the vox populi. I’m remarking on this again tonight because I came across Law Abiding Citizen on TNT, again, and while I’m always compelled to watch at least a little bit of it whenever I do, I just noticed not just the fact that XFINITY gives you the “Rotten Tomatoes” score of the movies in its onscreen guide, but that the “Tomato-meter” score for Law Abiding Citizen is: critics 25% (which is actually up from about 16% when it was first released) and  “users” 75% (which is also up from its original which hovered around 60). 
Now, there was and is, obviously, a huge gap between critics and casual viewers of the movie, but the real news here is how the appreciation of the movie has grown both with critics and viewers over the intervening eight years. Hell, even imdb.com now has it at 7.4. TNT doesn’t continue to air it every other month because no one likes it or, more importantly for them, because no one is watching.  
Gerard Butler, Law Abiding Citizen, Adam Sandler, Reign Over Me, S.A. Young author, Fate of the Furious
Part of  the renewed appreciation might have to do with F. Gary Gray, who now has two huge back-to-back hits to follow up LAC. It’s only natural for those who suddenly become enamored of a director’s work to check out their back catalogue, and an orphaned or maligned film may gain new fans, particularly among those who may have missed it the first time around.
It’s no secret that I am a Gerard Butler fan. I will forever be convinced that, like other actors of his generation, Matthew McConaughey, until recently, comes to mind, he’s not yet been given the chance to shake loose the trappings of his leading man appearance and become the character actor he really wants to be. And he’s damned good in Law Abiding Citizen. (Sorry, I will always thing Jamie Foxx snoozed his way through the movie.)
While I admit to being a snob to some degree, there are instances where I am willing to dig deep to find something to like in anything I’ve paid my hard earned money to see.
Gerard Butler, Law Abiding Citizen, Adam Sandler, Reign Over Me, S.A. Young author, Gods of Egypt
I even enjoyed Gods of Egypt. I like to think I can see it for what it is: an ode of sorts to the Saturday matinees of old, and particularly the Ray Harryhausen creature-features where the strings and zippers are visible, but the movie we’re watching is just too much fun to care.  Seriously, what the hell is wrong with that? Are we really at a point, as a theater-going, cinematic audience, that we cannot still appreciate a film just for the good time it seeks to provide?
Gerard Butler, Law Abiding Citizen, Adam Sandler, Reign Over Me, S.A. Young author
My point might be an obscure one, but it’s this: Don’t let anyone come between you and what you like.  Even Adam Sandler has done good work. (He’s a victim of his own success, if you ask me, but really, who did?) If you want proof of his talent, beyond his really early films (I admit to laughing at Happy Gilmore, but I go no further with his comedies – there has been some true dreck), check out the dramas like Reign Over Me. But if you are a fan, and there must be quite a few of you, then you get on with your bad self.
History, even as little as eight short years, might prove you right.
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Last-Minute Oscar Predictions Post 2017!

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Well, it’s finally here – the Superbowl of Cinema, the Indianapolis 500 of Film – it’s OSCAR Day!  As you can probably tell, I’m very excited! So, before I put the finishing touches on the hors d’oeuvres and my party shoes on my feet, I have time for a quick predictions post.

Here is your list of nominees in the twenty-four categories that will be televised tonight. (If you’re a novice watcher, you might want to take a nap now. We can expect the show to last until midnight.) The show should be a good one. Jimmy Kimmel is hosting for the first time. For years, his post-Oscars edition of his own show has been a highlight.

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My prognostications for what I think will win are in yellow.  If the film or performance that I think should win is different from what I believe will win, I’ve marked it in red.  I’ll update with an * for the actual winner. My average over the last few years is roughly 75%.  There appear to be quite a few “sure things” this year, so we’ll see whether or not I improve my numbers.

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester By the Sea

Moonlight *

Hedging a bit, right off -the-bat? Let me explain. Hell or High Water was my favorite film of the year, followed by Manchester… and Moonlight.  Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed La La Land, but in terms of “Best Picture”? I believe there are other films more deserving. On the other hand, can’t we all use a little bit of simple, lovely, well-made movie magic? So, I won’t really be all that upset when La La Land wins.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck *

Andrew Garfield

Ryan Gosling

Viggo Mortensen

Denzel Washington

I’m sticking with Casey Affleck, though Denzel Washington is surging in most polls.

 

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert

Ruth Negga

Natalie Portman

Emma Stone *

Meryl Streep

I’m happy that Ruth Negga was recognized for the beautiful Loving, just as I’m mystified that her costar Joel Edgerton, as well as director Jeff Nichols and the film itself, were not.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali *

Jeff Bridges

Lucas Hedges

Dev Patel

Michael Shannon

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis *

Naomie Harris

Nicole Kidman

Octavia Spencer

Michelle Williams

What more can be said about Viola Davis’ fierce performance in Fences? She should have been in the leading actress category and she’d still win.

Best Director

Arrival, Denis Villaneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle *

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival, Eric Heisserer

Fences, August Wilson

Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Lion, Luke Davies

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney *

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan *

20th Century Women, Mike Mills

I’ll be very happy for Kenneth Longergan, who wrote a gorgeous movie. Would I be even happier if Taylor Sheridan’s name were to be called? Yes. Yes, I would.

Cinematography

Arrival, Bradford Young

La La Land, Linus Sandgren *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia *

Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine (Denmark)

A Man Called Ove (Sweden)

The Salesman (Iran) *

Tanna (Australia)

Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Film Editing

Arrival, Joe Walker

Hacksaw Ridge, John Gilbert *

Hell or High Water, Jake Roberts

La La Land, Tom Cross 

Moonlight, Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

Production Design

Arrival, Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock

Hail, Caesar! , Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh

La La Land, Davis Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco *

Passengers, Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena

Costume Design

Allied, Joanna Johnston

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colleen Atwood *

Florence Foster Jenkins, Consolata Boyle

Jackie, Madeline Fontaine

La La Land, Mary Zophres

Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove, Eva von Bahr and Love Larson

Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo

Suicide Squad, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson *

Original Score

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Hurwitz *

Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicholas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

“Audition (The Fools who Dream),” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls, music and lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster

“City of Stars,” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul *

“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story, music and lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana, music and lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Sound Editing

Arrival, Sylvain Bellemare *

Deepwater Horizon, Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli

Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright

La La Land, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan

Sully, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound Mixing

Arrival, Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye

Hacksaw Ridge, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace *

La La Land, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth

Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Justin Billington, and Burt Dalton

Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould

The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon *

Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould

Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper *

Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing *

Timecode

Documentary Short Subject

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets *

Screen Actors Guild 2017 Predictions!

Credit: Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX

Credit: Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX

I’m still working the kinks out, flexing my muscles, easing myself back into this blog. As you are probably aware, tomorrow will see the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards telecast. Since giving my opinion on weighty matters such as who will win which of the many awards the film industry likes to hand out to themselves is one of my specialties, I’m back with my predictions.

The SAG Awards and their show are all about the actors. We don’t have to waste time on the “crafts” or below-the-line names that no one recognizes and who run the show well past midnight, no matter how many times the orchestra tries to “play off” a winner who may never have this moment in the spotlight again and their over-long speech. (That was sarcasm, by the way. I’m one of those people who always stays for the credits at the end of a film. It’s the least we can do for those “below-the-line” names, without whom the film we’ve just watched could not be made.)  In any case, I like the SAG Awards show. Unlike the Oscars, where everyone sits in a theater counting the minutes before they can hit the bar or the snack table, but like The Golden Globes, everyone sits at tables with their respective casts, many of whom have not seen each other since their project wrapped – unless, like the casts of La La Land or Moonlight, for example, they’ve been hitting the “circuit” together for the past few months. Food is served, if you get there on time, and the champagne flows freely.  So tipsy actors get to accept awards given to them by their fellow actors. The speeches are generally the best of the major televised shows.  And the show ends on time.

FILM:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea 

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

I have to go with Casey Affleck. He’s been dominating awards season in this category. If he loses to anyone, it will be to Denzel Washington, who has never won a SAG Award. No, really.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Amy Adams, Arrival

Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

If SAG voting hadn’t already been concluded by the time Oscar nominations were announced, I might have gone with Amy Adams here, just to right the incredible wrong done to her by the Academy. But as it is, this comes down to early favorites Natalie Portman and Emma Stone.  Jackie’s star has faded and I think the buzz has gone off of Portman’s portrayal. Emma Stone won the Golden Globe for Musical/Comedy and here, awarding her is a way to award the movie, since it was not nominated in the Ensemble category (because really, La La Land is a two-person film. There is no real ensemble).

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight *

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Another actor dominating most of the guild and critics awards is Mahershala Ali. I can’t really even make a case for anyone else in this category. Ali’s not a newcomer, he’s an actor who’s paid his dues and earned this time in the spotlight. He’s been part of nominated ensembles before, namely “House of Cards” and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and is part of two nominated ensembles this year, one of which will undoubtedly win, Hidden Figures and Moonlight

 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis, Fences *

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Again, I can’t even begin to make a case for anyone else in this category. If Viola Davis doesn’t win this, all bets are off and Chaos is driving the bus (to really mix my metaphors).

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Captain Fantastic

Fences

Hidden Figures 

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight 

This is the toughie. All of these ensembles are strong, but this award is the equivalent of a “Best Picture”.  That said, the only one of these films that has not been nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award is Captain Fantastic. So on that basis, I’m eliminating it from contention here. Which still leaves four incredible films.  I think the next to go has to be Manchester By the Sea (despite the fact that it is still my favorite from this group) because that movie rests on Casey Affleck’s shoulders (albeit with able assists from Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges) and he will be recognized.

So, now it comes down to Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight.  Any one of these could easily be rewarded for a number of reasons. I feel like I’m blindly throwing at a dartboard here, but I’m going with Moonlight. *fingers crossed*

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Captain America: Civil War

Doctor Strange

Hacksaw Ridge *

Jason Bourne

Nocturnal Animals

Throwing another dart at the board, I’m going with Hacksaw Ridge, another film up for a Best Picture Oscar (the only movie in this category that is) and it’s a war movie. Hollywood loves a good war picture almost as much as they do movies about the movie business. Eh, but what do I know? Doctor Strange has a pretty good pedigree as well. (Who doesn’t love Benedict Cumberbatch?)

TELEVISION:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”

Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”

Bryan Cranston, “All the Way”

John Turturro, “The Night Of”

Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” 

This is a category packed with worthy performances. I would be thrilled if either Riz Ahmed or John Turturro walked off with this for the incredible “The Night Of”, but I picked Courtney B. Vance for the Golden Globe and while he may have lost, I’m sticking with him for the SAG. He’s already won an Emmy, so it makes sense (and usually, so does the Screen Actors Guild, even if the HFPA does not).

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Bryce Dallas Howard, “Black Mirror”

Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”

Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”

Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” *

Kerry Washington, “Confirmation”

Well, Sarah Paulson has an Emmy and the Golden Globe so there’s no reason to think that she won’t prevail here as well. (If anyone spoils, I hope it’s Kerry Washington.)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”

John Lithgow, “The Crown” *

Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

I adore Peter Dinklage and Tyrion Lannister just like everyone else, but I’m team #JohnLithgow all the way.  Dinklage will be back. Lithgow’s character won’t. I’m also a huge Kevin Spacey fan, but I’ve thrown in the towel on “House of Cards” (don’t hate). “The Crown” was just that good. Lithgow’s incredible transformation into Winston Churchill deserves to be rewarded.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”

Claire Foy, “The Crown” *

Thandie Newton, “Westworld”

Winona Ryder, “Stranger Things”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

I went with Thandie Newton for the Golden Globe and Claire Foy bested her. Others are opting for Millie Bobby Brown, a new name on this list. I think the cast of “Stranger Things” has a good shot at the Ensemble Award, but I’m going with Claire Foy here. (And for the record, my real pick – the actress who truly gave the best performance of the year, JMHO – wasn’t even nominated. Let’s hope SAG – and the Emmys – catches up with the Golden Globes and eventually nominates Caitriona Balfe. C’mon!)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”

Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”

William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

I am not an avid comedy watcher. I used to watch “Modern Family”, but got bored a long time ago. I think William H. Macy is an extremely talented actor, but I can’t speak to his work in “Shameless” this season.  I’m going with Jeffrey Tambor, because – well – Jeffrey Tambor. Doesn’t he own this category?

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”

Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”

Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”*

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

If SAG does love its repeat winners, then Uzo Aduba should be a lock, but Emmy keeps awarding Julia Louis-Dreyfus and SAG overlooks her. How long will this stand?  I’m going with JLD. She gives great speeches.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

“The Crown”

“Downton Abbey”

“Game of Thrones” 

“Stranger Things”

“Westworld”

Oy! This is another tough one. A strong case could be made for every one of these series. “Downton Abbey” is done. They’ve won this award the last two years, will it win for its swan song? But again, “The Crown” is just that good. Will it split the “prestigious British show” vote? “Westworld” was fantastic and one of two water-cooler shows of the year. The other? “Stranger Things”, which could easily swoop in here and scoop this award.  Throwing yet another dart, I’m going with “Game of Thrones”, which, in its sixth season, had arguably its best.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

“The Big Bang Theory”

“Black-ish”

“Modern Family”

“Orange is the New Black”

“Veep”

I’m running out of darts.  I’m going with “Veep” because it has been around for six years, consistently well-written and well-acted and hilarious. It could be overlooked because it hits a little too close to the bone right now, in which case repeat winner “Orange Is the New Black” could prevail again or a brand new winner, in “Black-ish”, one just as relevant, could be crowned.

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

“Game of Thrones” *

“Marvel’s Daredevil”

“Marvel’s Luke Cage”

“The Walking Dead”

“Westworld”

The shows on this list (and if you’ll notice none are comedies – are there ever comedies on this list?) owe a great deal to their stunt teams, but in my opinion, none more so than “Game of Thrones”. You did see “Battle of the Bastards”, right?

So there you have it, my picks for the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards. I’ll post an update on the JMHO Facebook page with my percentage.  See you next month for the Academy Awards!

Edited to include actual winners. My picks in yellow. Winners in red. (If by some miracle they’re the same, I’ve indicated with a red *)

Golden Globe Predictions 2017

golden globes, awards, awards shows, predictions, S. A. Young

I’m blowing the dust off of this blog with a quickie Golden Globes prediction post.

Here are my (semi-eductated) guesses, which will probably change by the time the Academy Awards roll around, especially since nominations haven’t even been announced yet, and the Golden Globes are not necessarily Oscar harbingers. The one thing that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does oh so right, is divide the Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress categories into Drama and Musical/Comedy. This just makes sense to me. Why wouldn’t you compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges, etc?

But then, quizzically, they lump all of the directors, writers and supporting actors/actresses in their respective fields together. So essentially that’s just as head scratching as the Oscars. There are ten “Best Picture” nominees with only five nominated directors and five nominated writers. If there is logic to this, I have not been able to find any evidence of it. The internet, so chock full of experts and theorists, has let me down on the subject. If I live to be a thousand, I may, someday, be able to puzzle it out.

Oh well, as usual, I digress. I did say this was to be a “quickie” post, after all. Here are my picks, with categories in no particular order:

manchester by the sea, casey affleck, michelle williams, golden globes, S. A. Young

Best Picture-Drama

Manchester By the Sea

La La Land, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Golden Globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Picture – Comedy or Musical

La La Land

Best Actor – Drama

Casey Affleck – Manchester By the Sea

Best Actor – Miusical or Comedy

Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool ( It’s the battle of the Ryans. I’m going with Reynolds by hair. call me crazy but Deadpool did HUGE money overseas)

Best Actress – Drama

Natalie Portman – Jackie (because Natalie Portman)

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

Emma Stone – La La Land

Moonlight, golden globes, mahershala ali, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis – Fences

Best Director

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea (this is a race between Lonergan and Damian Chazelle and I think HFPA will want to reward an older, first time {directing} nominee. It’s a tough category and any one of the nominees – Lonergan, Chazelle, Gibson, Jenkins, or Ford could pull off a win)

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight (This will be the category where the amazing Moonlight is rewarded)

Zootopia, golden globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Animated Feature

Zootopia (though I adored Sing)

Best Foreign Language Film

Elle (Isabelle Huppert won’t win for her performance so I think the HFPA will reward her film)

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

La La Land

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

“City of Stars” from La La Land (Everyone I saw this movie with left the theater either humming or singing this catchy tune – although this is tricky. Justin Timberlake could steal for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls. It was a radio hit worldwide.)

The Crown, golden globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Television Series – Drama

“The Crown”

atlanta, donald glover, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

“Atlanta”

Best Actor – Television – Drama

Billy Bob Thornton – “Goliath”

Best Actress – Television – Drama

Caitriona Balfe – “Outlander” (if anyone beats her it will be Claire Foy for “The Crown”, but I live in hope)

the people vs oj simpson, american crime story, golden globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Sarah Paulson – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Courtney B. Vance – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (another tough category but I think the OJ:Crime Juggernaut will win out)

insecure, issa rae, golden globes, predictions, S. A. young

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Issa Rae – “Insecure”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Donald Glover – “Atlanta”

Westworld, Thandie newton, golden globes, awards, awards shows, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Thandie Newton – “Westworld”

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture MBest ade for Television

John Lithgow – “The Crown”

World War Z Enlists Steven Knight!

Steven Knight, director, writer, Locke, World War Z 2, sequel, movie

Now THIS is exciting!
The man who locked Tom Hardy in a car and picked a street fight with Jason Statham, Steven Knight, the writer/director of Locke and Redemption, will, according to Variety, write the script for the sequel to World War Z.
WWZ, as you’ll recall, was that wildly successful zombie flick from the summer of 2013 starring Brad Pitt. You know, the one plagued by rumors of trouble, reshoots, director Marc Forster’s incompetence, tension on the set, you name it…before it came out and shut everyone the hell up? Earning over $540 million worldwide, it is Brad Pitt’s top grossing film.
The original was based on the novel by Max Brooks with a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother of director Joe) and Drew Goddard. The sequel will have none of those things, so this announcement that the script is in such good hands is a welcome one.
In addition to pulling double duty, both writing and directing both  Locke and  Redemption (aka Hummingbird – I liked it. Too few saw it),  Knight created the BBC’s answer to “Boardwalk Empire”, “Peaky Blinders” (whose 2nd season will feature his Locke star Tom Hardy), wrote the screenplay for David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, and was nominated for an Academy Award for the script for Dirty Pretty Things (his first feature film and which starred Chiwetel Ejiofor).

 

Knight’s been busy lately, too. Already in the can is Seventh Son, due out next February starring Ben Barnes, Kit Harington and Julianne Moore, Lasse Hallström’s The Hundred Foot Journey with Helen Mirren, which is in post-production and finally, there’s Edward Zwick’s chess movie, the currently filming Pawn Sacrifice with Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer and Liev Schreiber as his arch-nemesis Boris Spassky.

 

Still more promising news: the announcement that Knight will tackle the sequel to World War Z follows word that Pitt is in talks to star in an as-yet-untitled Knight-penned romantic thriller set during World War II.
Plot details, casting and release dates for WWZ2 are thus far unknown. We’ll keep you posted. I’m already in. “What are your thoughts, Hobson?”*

Steven Knight, director, writer, Hummingbird, Redemption, World War Z 2, sequel, movie

 

*Sir John Gielgud in Arthur.

A Question for Kevin Spacey, Along with Some Thoughts on Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks, movie, poster, Paul Greengrass, true story

via imdb

Dear Mr. Spacey,

Let me start by saying you and your producing partner at Trigger Street, Dana Brunetti, have made a fine film, a very fine film. Captain Phillips is inarguably one of the best of the year.  Tom Hanks gives such an emotional, gut-twisting, and realistic performance, that he will undoubtedly receive another well-earned Oscar nomination. (He won’t win of course. He can’t win. Not this year. If the Academy gives it to the middle-aged white guy this year of all years, there will be blood in the streets. But I digress.)

The movie follows the titular sea captain of the US container ship, Maersk Alabama, starting in the non-seafaring state of Vermont, where he bids farewell to his wife (played by the always terrific Catherine Keener in her one and only scene). There is something about their conversation in the car that is at once comfortable and mundane, and yet we feel the twinge of fear and dread that she probably always feels as he departs on one of these trips. We’d feel it even if we didn’t know what was about to happen, because she feels it. The next thing we know, we’re onboard the huge vessel as it prepares to leave the port of Oman, where it is immediately clear that Phillips himself is worried about the possibility of attack from pirates, especially in the face of his crew’s apparent lax attitude and the ship’s inadequate security measures. (People are screaming themselves hoarse to protect the rights of US citizens to own an assault rifle, but these guys, aboard an American ship aren’t allowed to have guns?)

As we come to find out, it’s not paranoia. There have been numerous recent attacks in the same waters Captain Phillips is about to navigate. And soon enough, his fears are realized as two small skiffs full of gangly young Somalis, hurling insults at each other, make a beeline for his boat. (Speaking of insults, I found it interesting that they call each other “Skinny”. I thought that was a term UN Peacekeepers used to identify, possibly to denigrate, the Somali natives, as they did in Black Hawk Down. Of course they’re skinny, a lot of them are starving. But it could stem from their natural body type, with a tendency to be tall, lean and rangy. I don’t know which came first or who picked it up from whom.)  We’re given a short scene on the beach as crews are chosen for this mission, where it’s made clear just how cutthroat the pirate business is (and it is frequently referred to as “just business” throughout the film) and that there isn’t really any honor among thieves. What is also immediately apparent is that there aren’t a lot of alternatives for these young men (and boys). This is also reiterated in a later scene, to great effect, by the pirate leader Muse (played by Barkhad Abdi in his first film).

Director Paul Greengrass, working from a script by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) in turn based on Phillips’ own memoir, has shaped his film into a tale of two captains, Phillips and Muse. Phillips is shown as stern, humorless and a taskmaster. (The real Phillips is apparently considered something of a tyrant by his actual crew, but this is a movie.) Muse might not be much back on land, but once he boards the Alabama, the oppressed becomes the oppressor. (And Abdi is brilliant. There is nothing cliché or one-note about his performance in which he compels us to understand why he feels he has no choice, every step of the way, even when it appears he’s being given an “out” at several junctures.)

About half –way through the film goes from the expansiveness of the open sea and the massive ship, to the tiny and claustrophobic confines of an escape boat, ratcheting up the tension to an almost unbearable degree. The passage of time is marked by a sunset or cutaway to the encroaching US Navy vessel in pursuit, so we know how long those people have been crammed into that tiny space. The hand-held camera work is very effective here. It’s literally “in your face”. The fear and desperation of the occupants is palpable. (I kept thinking about how bad it must have smelled in that cramped space.)

Tom Hanks is as strong as the embattled captain facing extraordinary circumstances, playing the kind of decent, hard-working, long-suffering everyman,  as we have come to expect him to be. This is both an asset and a detriment. He is Tom Hanks the way that Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise. He can never quite disappear any longer into any role. We feel we know him as a person, as much as we know him as an actor, and all of the tools of his trade. As Captain Phillips, Hanks does seem like an able seaman, running a tight ship, maintaining discipline and trying to keep his crew safe, but it is the scenes where he and Abdi go head to head that really crackle.

But Hanks, as good as he is at giving us clues as to what Phillips is thinking, often with just flicks of his eyes, is spectacular in his final scene. It is for this scene alone that he will almost certainly garner that Oscar nomination. It is something we have never seen from Hanks and it will shake you.

There are a lot of stories of survival winging their way to your multiplex this fall and winter, all gearing up for the big awards season push. A lot of them are real life to reel life as well. (Such is the case of Hanks other would-be awards contender, Saving Mr. Banks, although it’s not a survival tale.) Captain Phillips probably isn’t an automatic best picture contender like some of the others (including Gravity and 12 Years a Slave), but it’s a thrilling two plus hours at the movies.

I do, however, have a small bone to pick with you, Mr. Spacey, and all of the other producers. After having seen the film at a 5:30pm showing on opening night, having taken the profound and often frightening journey with my fellow movie-goers in a darkened theater, twisting my napkins to shreds,  my pulse pounding in my ears as I watched the fate of the titular Captain and his captors play out in vivid Technicolor in front of me…all the while listening to the woman a few rows back trying to silence her small child, I have to ask,“Why wasn’t your film rated “R”?

Do you really believe that the intense and harrowing emotional and sometimes physical torture that Tom Hanks endured is appropriate for children? Is it appropriate for them to watch terrified people with guns to their heads in fear for their lives? “But it was rated PG-13,” you might well respond. “It’s up to the parents (or guardians) to make decisions about what is appropriate for their individual child. ”  Ah, but there’s the rub!

Any movie not rated “R” is fair game and open season. Yes, a designation of PG-13 should tell a parent (or responsible adult) that they need to use caution, that there might be imagery that a young child shouldn’t see. (Just as there are now ratings on television programs that should provide guidance.)  But there will always be those parents who think a movie ticket is cheaper than a babysitter and so bring the kid along. There are also older teens who will bring younger children with them as well. It’s not as if employees of a theater have anything to say about it. “They can do that with an “R” as well”, you counter. “It’s hard enough to get them to enforce an “R” rating.” That’s very true. But it might, actually SHOULD give more of them pause. An”R” rating is a much clearer line in the sand.

In the audience with which I saw your movie was at least one small child.  I have two issues with this, the first being that the subject matter is inappropriate. Now, on paper, one could describe your movie as having no inappropriate language and minimal violence and no onscreen bloodshed. (I’ll leave it at that, lest I spoil anything.) But even though that argument would be merely splitting hairs,  that in and of itself, as concerns that kid is not my problem. If the kid gets nightmares and keeps that parent up all night, too bad and it’s their own fault. The second issue, however, is that there is little or nothing in this movie to hold the attention of a six or seven year old. What do six or seven year olds do when they are bored? They make sure everyone knows it.  While that might not directly be your problem, it was mine. And I bought a full priced ticket. I was on the verge, on at least two occasions, of getting up and asking for my money back. As it is, I’ll want to see it again so that I can concentrate fully.

Was that your dastardly plan all along? That I buy not one ticket, but two?  Too bad. I’ll probably wait for cable.

Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, Corey Johnson, Max Martini, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, David Warshofsky, directed by Paul Greengrass from a screenplay by Billy Ray, based on the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty, is in US theaters now.

NOTE: I thought I had posted this over a week ago (It was saved in drafts – D’oh!). In case anyone has forgotten (or never heard about) the actual incident depicted in the movie Captain Phillips, which took place in 2009,   as I post this today, I’ve just gotten an email containing a breaking news report of an incident involving the kidnapping of Americans by pirates off the coast of Nigeria. Apparently the threat is still very real.

Hae a Taste a’ This: Welcome to the Punch Now on DVD

James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Welcome to the Punch, movie

courtesy IFC Films via imdb

It’s  a safe bet that you missed Eran Creevy’s action thriller Welcome to the Punch when  it was in the theaters last Spring, at least here in the US. Luckily, it has just become available on dvd. If you’re a fan of  British crime flicks, the neo-noir stylings of Michael Mann, the frenetic style of crime thrillers by the late Tony Scott (whose brother Sir Ridley exec. produced here) or Asian crime thrillers like Infernal Affairs (Creevy made Welcome to the Punch as an homage to that film), then you’re going to want to check this out, and since one of the film’s stars (and one of our favorites), Mark Strong, is going to be on my tv for the next nine weeks in AMC’s gritty new drama, “Low Winter Sun”, it would seem now is an ideal time to talk about the movie.

Synopsis:

Former criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London from his Icelandic hideaway when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives detective Max Lewinsky one last chance to catch the man he has always been after. As they face off, they start to uncover a deeper conspiracy they both need to solve in order to survive.

Writer/director Creevy made a bold entrance with his first feature, Shifty, a minor hit in the UK produced for next to nothing and earning a BAFTA nomination. Welcome to the Punch is his ultra-stylish sophomore effort.  Taking place almost totally at night, there are several slick and violent set pieces filmed by Creevy’s Shifty cinematographer Ed Wild against the backdrop of London’s Canary Wharf and colored in various shades of blue. Visually, it reminded me of Heat and Thief (both by the aforementioned Michael Mann), thematically, it’s very much like the former.

Alongside Strong, the hyper-talented cast includes James McAvoy (who between the trifecta of Welcome to the Punch, Trance and the upcoming Filth, might finally be able to leave Mr. Tumnus* behind – at least in my mind), Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Shifty star Daniel Mays, Jason Flemyng (whose apparent goal is to be in every Brit crime movie made in his lifetime), Ruth Sheen, the fabulous Johnny Harris (who looks like and sounds so much like a younger Eddie Marsan that I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t Eddie Marsan) and Peter Mullan, who should just be in everything. (That he wasn’t Emmy-nominated alongside Elisabeth Moss for “Top of the Lake” is pure sacrilege.)

The film opens with career criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) and his gang pulling off yet another high tech, meticulously planned bank heist. McAvoy’s detective Max Lewinsky is on hard on his tail, but ends up with a debilitating bullet to the knee, thanks to Sternwood, who gets away yet again.


courtesy IGN via YouTube

Flash forward three years and it is Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel), who sets the game in motion yet again. We see Sternwood living the life of a retired bank robber in Iceland (and keeping himself mighty fit too, thank you Giacomo Farci**). A phone call from his son shatters the quiet, if not altogether happy or content, illusion of safety he’s created.

Lewinsky, still suffering the consequences, both physical and emotional, of letting Sternwood get away, has a chance to redeem himself by luring Sternwood back to London to save Ruan, who has followed his father into the family business.

Max’s immediate supervisor, Nathan Bartnick (Mays), constantly reminds him that it was his impulsiveness that nearly got him killed. His partner, Sarah (Riseborough) wants to be supportive, but he shuts her out instead of showing her the ropes. Max’s superior and former mentor Thomas Geiger (Morrissey) appears to have his back, but then nothing is as it seems, is it?

The script may be a bit trite,  corrupt police and politicos and the little people who get in their way, but if it doesn’t necessary bring anything new to the table, the presentation is well worth your time.

The modernization of London is a theme so sharply angled construction sites overlook both sleek modern buildings like the bank in which the film opens and the rain-soaked metallic shine of industrial areas, like the container yard central to the plot and from which the film gets its name. The cool blue lighting, both inside a dim and deserted club and outside lit everywhere by neon, works with the muzzle flashes from copious amounts of gunfire to heighten the tension and add to the thrill.

This is definitely style over substance. As I said the plot isn’t going to tax anyone’s synapses too heavily. Creevy even uses Geiger to lay out the entire story for those in need of a catch-up. I will say, however, that he has given his cast a lot of credit and trusts them to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of character development.

A tilt of the head from Strong at the beginning and we know Sternwood’s assessing the risk between leaving Lewinsky hobbled or killing him outright. The fact that he leaves him alive speaks volumes about Sternwood. Even with everything that comes after, it’s not a decision that he regrets.

I actually like that we don’t know the exact nature of Max’s relationship with Sarah. Sure, they’re partners, but has it always been strictly professional? Would one or both of them like it to be otherwise? Again, it’s what isn’t said that gives us the clues.

Johnny Harris’ heavy Dean Warns could have been a mindless thug and gotten the job done, but he spits out a particularly memorable line of dialogue and from those few words, layers of the character peel away. We may see mayhem and violence, but he sees honor and duty.

Sadly, Peter Mullan doesn’t have a lot to do, but then I’m just greedy. His Roy Edwards is Sternwood’s partner in crime and BFF. He does get one of the best lines in the movie: (to Sternwood) “I can shave this {goatee}, but you’ll still look like a bag of smashed crabs”. Funny, but imagine it said in Mullan’s whisky and cigarette smoke-shrouded Scots burr.

The movie of course belongs to McAvoy and Strong. McAvoy very convincingly conveyed his desperation and determination to capture Sternwood and his frustration at being hobbled by the constraints of his superior officers as well as his physical limitations. His howl of pain when he isn’t able to literally pursue his quarry is gut-wrenching.

As for Mark Strong, it should come as no surprise that he very ably gives us a man who is both capable of cold, calculated violence and of being a worried and loving father.  We, like Max, feel his anguish and know his tears and his pain are genuine when he learns of his son’s death, as well as the guilt for having led him down the path to that morgue. What is the real treat here is that Strong is the co-lead. It’s rare that we get so much of him in one film. As his profile has increased, Strong’s film roles have taken him all over the world. He nearly missed the birth of his youngest son because he was in Morocco making Body of Lies, so he takes smaller roles which mean less time away from home. Welcome to the Punch was made in his backyard. (As far as I’m concerned, if it means we get more Mark Strong, all movies can be British movies.)

Welcome to the Punch had a larger budget than Creevy’s first film, so of course, the expectations were higher. If Punch didn’t exceed those expectations, neither did it squander Creevy’s evident potential and I look forward to his next film. In the meantime, Welcome to the Punch is a fun little thriller whose cast is so good that the movie will bear repeat viewings just to watch them work.

JMHO, but I give it 3 & ½ hobbes 2 (out of 5).   What did you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me hear it.

*Mr. Tumnus was an anthropomorphic faun, McAvoy’s character in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

**Giacomo Farci is Mark Strong’s personal trainer