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Thursday, November 29, 2018

New York Film Critics Circle Winners

Announced earlier today:

Best Film: Roma

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Best Actress: Regina Hall, Support the Girls

Best Actor: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Screenplay: Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Best Foreign Film: Cold War

Best Non-Fiction Film: Minding the Gap

Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best First Film: Eighth Grade

Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Marielle Heller
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant

Likeability is a very overrated quality in a protagonist. We don't need to like someone to find their story compelling and engaging. We don't even have to like them in order to root for them to come out of things alright. Good thing, too, since Can You Ever Forgive Me?'s Lee Israel, played with marvelously jagged edges by Melissa McCarthy, is pretty difficult to like most of the time. She's a nasty, misanthropic drunk who doesn't think twice about using people, screwing them over, and manipulating them. She's also a lonely person who tends to self-sabotage relationships because she fears connection/expects rejection, adores her cat, and is capable of deep compassion for people who are (somehow) worse off than she is. She's also pretty damn funny ("Oh to be a mediocre white man who doesn't realize how full of shit he is," she laments at one point and, lord, truer words have rarely been spoken) and the movie itself offers a great balance of seriousness and humor. It's one of the year's lowkey delights.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

* * *

Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Rami Malek

Early in Bohemian Rhapsody Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) argues that Queen shouldn't be conventional, a moment that, even at that early stage in the narrative, is hilariously lacking in self-awareness given how conventional the film itself actually is. Yet as formulaic as the film's opening stretch is, by the time it reaches its conclusion Bohemian Rhapsody has managed to overcome its flaws (of which there are many on a basic storytelling level) to become something deeply moving. Maybe it's the music, so familiar, so catchy, so capable of amping a person up. Maybe it's the lead performance by Malek, which transcends mere imitation and hits on something intensely and beautifully true. Whatever it is, once Bohemian Rhapsody gets going it doesn't just take off, it soars.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

National Board of Review Winners

The best in film from 2018 as selected by the National Board of Review, announced earlier today:

Best Film: Green Book

Top 10 Films
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Black Panther
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Eighth Grade
First Reformed
If Beale Street Could Talk
Mary Poppins Returns
A Quiet Place
A Star Is Born

Best Director: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Best Actor: Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Best Actress: Lady Gaga, A Star is Born

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Elliott, A Star is Born

Best Original Screenplay: Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Animated Feature: Incredibles 2

Best Foreign Language Film: Cold War

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
The Guilty
Happy as Lazzaro

Best Documentary: RBG

Top 5 Documentaries
Crime + Punishment
Free Solo
Minding the Gap
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Breakthrough Performance: Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace

Best Directorial Debut: Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade

Best Ensemble: Crazy Rich Asians

William K. Everson Film History Award: The Other Side of the Wind and They'll Love Me When I'm Dead

Top 10 Independent Films
The Death of Stalin
Lean on Pete
Leave No Trace
The Old Man & the Gun
The Rider
Sorry to Bother You
We the Animals
You Were Never Really Here

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Other Side of the Wind (2018) and They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018)

The Other Side of the Wind Director: Orson Welles
They'll Love Me When I'm Dead Director: Morgan Neville

Rarely has an artist been so astonishingly talented and so stunningly unlucky. Orson Welles was only 25 when he made Citizen Kane, a masterpiece among masterpieces, and while it certainly wouldn't be accurate to say that it was all downhill from there, his filmography boasting several great post-Kane movies, things certainly started to get a lot more difficult almost immediately. By the time of his death in 1985, his film work consisted of projects made just for the money so that he could fund his own personal projects, and those personal projects, which were largely left unfinished. One of those projects was The Other Side of the Wind which was filmed off and on from 1970 to 1976, embroiled in various legal battles for decades thereafter, and has now been completed by a team overseen by Peter Bogdanovich and Frank Marshall. They'll Love Me When I'm Dead is a documentary companion piece to The Other Side of the Wind, detailing its troubled production as well as touching on several of his unfinished projects. Both are available on Netflix.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review: Outlaw King (2018)

* * *

Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Chris Pine

Generally speaking, when a movie premieres and the only thing people are discussing is the star's nude scene, that's a bad sign. It usually means that there's nothing else that's particularly interesting about the finished project, and when the critical reception is mixed (in the case of this film, to the tune of a 56 on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60 on Metacritic) that only reinforces that idea. In the case of Outlaw King, a historical drama about Robert the Bruce, the salacious bent of the coverage and the lack of enthusiasm from critics doesn't really do the film justice. As far as the much discussed nude scene goes, I doubt people would even give it a second thought if it had been done by an actor less famous than Chris Pine or an actress of any level of fame (and, in fact, Pine's co-star Florence Pugh also has a nude scene in the movie, and one in which the camera lingers on her nudity much more than it does on Pine, but female nudity is so de rigueur in film that it doesn't even seem noteworthy). As far as its poor critical reception, well, it's not a masterpiece but it's a perfectly serviceable movie of the "Important Man Did Important Thing" variety and shouldn't be written off as nothing more than Braveheart-lite.