Friday, January 25, 2019

My Favourite Films of 2018

Well here we are again film fans. Time for that fun annual obligation, the top ten list. That time of the year where i let you know my opinions on what i believe to be the best films released in the US over the past calendar year. So without further ado, here we go.

1. Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) - The Dario Argento original is a masterpiece of suspense and horror...one of the finest and most artistic genre films ever made. Guadagnino's remake, or retread if you will, may not be quite to that level (though close), but it is still a daringly spectacular look at a coven in 1977 Berlin. More in common with Cronenberg's body horror mileau, than Argento's creepy style, this updated film is a twisted work of art, a Grand Guignol of cinema, that takes on the  ultimate power of women in society...and is the best damn film of 2018.

2. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos) - Lanthimos, one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, has given us his most  accessible film to date (though still weird enough to scare away the pedestrian riff raff), as well as his most Kubrickian film. A subversive, dangerously intriguing film about the abuse of power...and the attempted abuse of power by those who do not have it. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and even Emma Stone, are all fabulous in their roles...and the film itself, reminiscent of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, is gorgeously luscious from whimsical start to oh so disturbing finish.

3. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee) - The almost impossibly true story of Ron Stallworth, an African American cop who infiltrated the KKK in the early 1970's. Spike Lee, a brilliant filmmaker who doesn't often get the recognition he deserves (wonder why that is...wink wink) has filled his comedy/drama/action hybrid with scary truths about race in America (and times are no better now than they were in the 1970's), and has speckled it with a dark, awkward humour (laughs you actually feel bad about taking) and managed to make the laughs and drama happen nearly simultaneously. Brilliantly subversive.

4. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) - Based on the director's own childhood in 1970 and 1971 in the Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City, this succulent drama, shot, by Cuarón himself, in crisply beautiful black & white, tells the story of a young housekeeper for an upper middle class family (wherein Cuarón was the youngest child) and tells it in a steady yet intense manner. Part Fellini, part Tarkovsky, Cuarón's use of long quiet tracking shots (something the director has become a master of) brings a silent seething vibrancy to this beautiful film. The performances, especially that of Yalitza Aparicio, in her film debut (and now Oscar nominated performance as well), make it soar even higher.

5. First Reformed (Paul Schrader) - Paul Schrader has made a career out of creating lost characters. From Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, a film that is earily parallel to First Reformed, all the way up to Ethan Hawke's lost soul preacher here, Schrader has made a living out of creating characters that are simultaneously both tragic anti-heroes and pathetic broken men.  Filmed in a static Bressonian manner, with more than a few hints of Dreyer, with two breathtaking moments of surreality intertwined (that mesmorizing final scene, a scene we still are not sure how to interpret! Wow!) and with a performance by Hawke that puts every other performance of 2018 to shame (how is he not nominated for an Oscar!?), First Reformed is a tour de force of socio-religious chutzpah.

6. Annihilation (Alex Garland) - From the novelist that gave us The Beach, and the screenwriter who gave us the scripts for 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Never Let Me Go, as well as the man who made his directorial debut with 2014's brilliant Ex Machina, Alex Garland is a powerful, if still not all that well known, voice in modern cinema. With his sophomore directorial effort, he weaves together a sci-fi fantasy  tale of aliens on Earth, and then delves into the very realm of god him or herself. Natalie Portman, along with a strong supporting cast, help Garland bring his gorgeous film to light.

7. Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher) - The most Felliniesque film on this list (and it has some good company), Happy as Lazzaro is poetic realism at its finest. A story of sharecroppers being oppressed  and abused by their illegal landlords, Alice Rohrwacher's film, also with allusions to Di Sica, leaps seemlessly into a fantasy realm of tragic beauty and savage melancholy.

8. Wildlife (Paul Dano) - Paul Dano's deceptively quiet directorial debut, allows its actors to free range their performances...as most any actor turned director is apt to do. Jake Gyllenhaal is pitch perfect as the sad sack husband & father, but Carey Mulligan and 17 year old Aussie actor Ed Oxenbould, as put-upon mother/wife and wayward but loyal son respectively, give two of the most spectacular performances of the year.

9. The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) - A black comedy and political satire, The Death of Stalin comes from the sardonic mind and eye of Armando Iannucci, the man who gave us the UK TV show The Thick of It, and its film version, In the Loop. Biting and witty, this power struggle satire is (sadly enough) just as poignant in today's political landscape is it would have been in the 1953 Soviet era it is set in.

10. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham) - Musician, poet, stand-up comic. Now Bo Burnham can add movie director to his resume...and what a damn fine debut it is. Starring 13 year old Elsie Fisher (the voice of Agnes in the Despicable Me films) as an awkward teenager (is there any other kind?) about the make the jump to high school, Eighth Grade is a square-in-the-face, non-sugar coated look at that oh so awkward time in life...and Fisher gives a bravura performance in thd central role. Huzzah!

Eleventh Place: The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier) - Since i can never stop at just ten, i just had to include this disturbing (although not by von Trier standards i suppose) film starring Matt Dillon (in one of the best performances of the year) as a serial killer. Perhaps not up there with von Trier's slate of masterpieces (Dogville, Breaking the Waves, Melancholia) but still a powerfully treacherous film with a powerfully treacherous central performance.

Special Mention: The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles) - First began in 1970, Orson Welles, 33 years after his death, finally, with the help of Netflix, sees his final(esque) film make it to the screen. Finished by long-time Welles fanatic Peter Bogdanovich, who also stars in the film along with the late great John Huston, The Other Side of the Wind tells the story of a famous director trying to create what will be his final maligned masterpiece. Sound familiar Welles aficinados? Yup. It technically is and isn't a 2018 film, but i just could not leave off such a wonderful film by one of the greatest filmmakers to ever exist, so into the special mention spot it goes.

And some runners-up (in no particular order): A Star is Born, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, Mandy, The Sisters Brothers, Blindspotting, Isle of Dogs, Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun, Game Night, Support the Girls, Sorry to Bother You, Bad Times at the El Royale, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ready Player One.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

Hey there true believers...it looks like the Oscar Nominations have been announced...and here are some thoughts on them. First off, i would like to congratulate myself (i nice little pat on the ole back) on correctly predicting 91% of the nominees. Missing just four out of the 43 that i predicted. Huzzah!

As for the nominees themselves...even though the whole shebang was rather predictable, there were a few surprises. The most notable being the omission of Bradley Cooper in the Best Directing category. Though there is precedent after the same snub happened to Ben Affleck before his Argo went on to win the Best Picture Oscar. But alas, A Star is Born may not be the frontrunner anymore anyway. That position belongs to....um...maybe Roma. Or Green Book? Or even The Favourite perhaps. But anyhoo, the point being that Bradley Cooper was a surprise omission.

Some other intriguing items include Black Panther becoming the first superhero movie to grab a Best Picture nod; Spike Lee receiving his first ever(!?) Best Director nomination; Paul Shrader, the man who wrote both Taxi Driver & Raging Bull, also receiving his first ever(!?) nomination; Mr. Rogers' documentary getting snubbed; Ethan Hawke, in  First Reformed, the best performance of 2018, also getting snubbed; and not one, but two gentlemen named Yorgos getting nominations. Huzzah!

But enough rambling. On with the show. The Oscars will go down on Feb. 24th, and i will be back with some Odcsr Night Predictions the eve before. Meanwhile...why not take a poll. Over at the top of the sidebar (mobile users must go to web version to do this) you can make your choice for your favourite of the eight BP nominees. i'll also be back in a few days for the publishing of my Best of 2018 Film List.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Oscar Nomination Predictions

Hey gang! It's that time of year again. The Oscar Nominations are due to be announced in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. So, here are my predictions for said nominations. Here we go!

BEST PICTURE

1. A Star is Born
2. Green Book
3. Roma
4. The Favourite
5. BlacKkKlansman
6. Vice
7. Black Panther
8. Bohemian Rhapsody
9. If Beale Street Could Talk
10. First Man

Possible Spoilers: Mary Poppins Returns or A Quiet Place

Wishful Thinking: Eighth Grade or Wildlife or Annihilation

I think the first eight are sure things, with the top three vying for the actual Oscar in February. Numbers nine and ten are questionable. Then again, we tend to get nine nominations every year (there can be anything between 5 and 10), so maybe one of them won't even come into play. As for my spoiler choices, the chances are slim that either one would sneak in, unless we do get ten. 

BEST DIRECTOR

1. Alfonso Cauron for Roma
2. Bradley Cooper for A Star is Born
3. Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman
4. Adam McKay for Vice
5. Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Possible Spoilers: Barry Jenkins (Beale Street) or Peter Farrelly (Green Book)

Wishful Thinking: Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

The Oscar is a battle between Cuaron and Cooper...with Cuaron most likely coming out the winner (his victory would be the fifth Mexican director win in the last six years). Along with them, I believe Spike Lee is a shoo-in as well...tho he has ruffled enough feathers in the biz, to make him not so much a shoo-in. As for the other two spots, that is pretty much a battle between four men (no women of course) with any of them possibly getting a nod tomorrow morning. Alas, the late Orson Welles is not eligible for his finally finished, nearly fifty years in the making/waiting, film, The Other Side of the Wind.

BEST ACTRESS

1. Glenn Close in The Wife
2. Lady Gaga in A Star is Born
3. Olivia Colman in The Favourite
4. Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
5. Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Possible Spoiler: Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns

Wishful Thinking: Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) or Carey Mulligan (Wildlife)

At one time or another, Close, Gaga, and Colman have been seen as frontrunners...with Close taking that spot after her Globes victory. All three are shoo-ins for nominations tomorrow morning, as is McCarthy. That fifth spot is a bit tougher. No one really knows who Aparicio is, but I still think she will grab a (semi)surprise nomination tomorrow. Still though, Emily Blunt's Mary Poppins could sneak in that fifth spot. And speaking of sneaking in...I would love to hear thirteen year old Elsie Fisher's name being called in the morning. Or maybe Carey Mulligan in one of the best performances of the year. Any way you look at it, with all these great performances in this category this year...someone deserving is getting snubbed.

BEST ACTOR

1. Christian Bale in Vice
2. Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody
3. Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born
4. Viggo Mortensen in Green Book
5. John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman

Possible Spoiler: Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Wishful Thinking: Matt Dillon in The House That Jack Built

Bale, Malek, Cooper, & Mortensen are getting nominated tomorrow. No doubts. That damn fifth spot though. I think Washjngton and Hawke are pretty much at a 50/50 race for that spot. I could have switched them up and had no qualms. It could really go either way. I suppose First Man's Ryan Gosling could sneak in there instead. Doubtful though. Matt Dillon though, playing a serial killer in a Lars von Trier film...probably not...even if I do think it is a better performance than any of the probable nominees, save for Hawke's brilliant turn in First Reformed...which is probably the finest performance of the year.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1. Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk
2. Amy Adams in Vice
3. Rachel Weisz in The Favourite
4. Emma Stone in The Favourite
5. Claire Foy in First Man

Possible Spoiler: Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased

Wishful Thinking: Natalie Portman in Vox Lux

Regina King is winning the Oscar. She seems to be the only true sure thing at this point. Adams, Weisz, & Stone will have to settle for "just" a nomination. Then we have that fifth spot again. It is between Foy and Kidman, with Foy having the slight edge at the moment. It would be great to see Portman sneak 8n, but very doubtful.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1. Mahershala Ali in Green Book
2. Sam Elliott in A Star is Born
3. Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
4. Sam Rockwell in Vice
5. Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman

Possible Spoiler: Timothy Chalamet (Beautiful Boy) or Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)

Wishful Thinking: Steve Buscemi in Death of Stalin

Ali, Elliott, & Grant are pretty solid sure things. The Oscar itself will probably go to Ali (just two years after his win for Moonlight), though Elliott or Grant could win on the idea they have never won in long careers. Rockwell & Driver are pretty solid choices too, although Chalamet could sneak in. And, if Black Panther hits big, Jordan could grab that last spot instead.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1. Roma
2. The Favourite
3. Green Book
4. Vice
5. First Reformed

Possible Spoiler: Eighth Grade or Cold War or The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or  Isle of Dogs or Sorry to Bother You

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

1. BlacKkKlansman
2. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
3. If Beale Street Could Talk
4. A Star is Born
5. Death of Stalin

Possible Spoiler: Leave No Trace or Crazy Rich Asians or Black Panther or First Man or Wildlife

There ya go! Let's just leave the other categories up to fate and pretend I predicted them all correctly. Huzzah! I'll be back tomorrow with a summary of all the nominations...and letchya all know how well I did with my predictions.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.








Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Mad King (a poem by Kevyn Knox)

Knock knock!
Who's there?

The past!     Back again!

Days of black face and minstrel shows
Of separate water fountains and lunch counters 
Of separate schools and separate rules

Days of mammies and little black sambos
Of riding in the backs of busses
As if Rosa Parks never sat her ground

Days of mockingbirds and buffalo soldiers
Of Strom Thurmond switching sides
And Ella not given a seat at the Apollo

Days of Jim Crow and Steppinfetchit
Of a white washed silver screen, both big and small
And Walt Disney's own blatant black crows

Days of Brown vs. the Board of Education
Of miseducation, of misdirection
Of little Ruby Bridges, just making her way to school

Days of being spat upon for wanting to learn
Of a governor telling you to go back to Africa
Even if you were only from Tylertown Mississippi

Days of separate but never ever equal
Of no peers on television or in adverts
Hollywood and Madison Avenue, white on white

Days of the lynchin' tree in every small town
And police brutality at each potential traffic stop
Almost as if it were still today, oh how we have grown

Days of old cowboy stars calling us snowflakes
For not taking to their coy racism, their ugly racism
Their ugly taking back of their perceived loss of privilege

Days of Watts and Harlem and cotton eyed joe
Of name calling children and first ladies on the web
As if Barack Obama hadn't ever given us hope


Knock knock!
Who's there?

Oh those were the days!

Back when girls were girls and men were men
When a woman knew her place and her mouth
When a girl knew better than to speak out, speak up

Back when a gentleman held a door for a lady
but still slapped her on the ass as she went through
Leered and sneered and catcalled too

Back when she knew how to fry it up in a pan
and still never ever let you forget you were a man
A number one, top of the heap, king of the hill

Those were the days of wine and rose gardens
Of hen parties and Tupperware nightmares
Of white picket fences to keep you in your place

Before Billie Jean beat up the man
Before Steinem made you burn your bras
Before Kamala Khan was  a superhero

Before equal pay for equal work
Before Elizabeth Warren & Alexandria Ocasio
Before Rey ever held her lightsaber

Back before you could be everything you wanted to be
When privilege ruled the roost, cocked the cock
And clothes hanger alleys were the final solution

The female body being controlled by congress
The womanly thoughts being controlled by man
Almost as if it were still today, oh how we have grown

Those were the days of Don Draper and Richard Nixon
Of Marilyn naked and dead behind locked doors
Of arranged marriages and forced relations

Oh those were the days when a cock beat a cunt any day
Those were the days when Herbert Hoover was a rockin'
And gee, our old La Salle ran great


Knock knock!
Who's there?

The gay old days of yesterday!

When boys were boys and men liked men
When a kiss was so continental, but aghast
To the straight establishment and moral code

Those pre-Stonewall days of beatings and bullies
Of back alley trysts and secret rendezvous
Of the love that shall never speak its name

When the Cary Grants and Claudette Colberts
The Jimmy Deans and the Joan Crawfords
Had to hide their lavender loves away

When Adam and Steve, and Carol and Eve
Had to hide their so-called shame away
The subjects of those taboo pulp fictions

The gay old days of underground burlesque 
And being a stat in the latest edition of the DSM
A mental disorder instead of the love or lust that it was

When a disease, a plague from a sadistic god
From a made-up deity, ravished the community
and all the president said was nothing at all

When Matthew Shepard was strung up
Beaten and left to die, the norm of the day
When a beating was the best a boy could hope for

When a bakery would not bake a cake
Or a drugstore would not take your takes
Almost as if it were still today, oh how we have grown

When a marriage was between a man and a woman
And a bathroom was designated to your genitalia of birth
And gender roles were mercilessly defined

When pronouns were unheard of, not worried about
And the LGBTQIA was just a random series of letters
An unprotected series of letters, by any law of the land


Knock knock!
Who's there?

Yesterday!   Today!

Build a wall! They chanted at rallies
Not like Reagan tearing one down
But build a wall and keep them out

Mexico will pay to keep Mexicans out
The taxpayers will pay for their mistake
The mistake of 62,984,825 voters

As we slay slay slay the brown man from our shores
100, 200, 300, a thousand hate crimes in his name
Murder, maim, and kill in the Mad King's name

Those with voices unlike ours, names unlike ours
Those with skin and hair and clothes unlike ours 
Those with gods and goddesses unlike the land of Oz

Like the internment camps of World War II
Like the Jewish ghettos of yesteryear
Like the no Irish, no Italian need apply

Xenophobia running rampant in trailer parks
Islamophobia keeping heel on Park Avenue
A nationwide hatred for the Muslim, for the Mexican

Rallying boy scouts like the Hitler youth
Demonizing the undocumented human being
No human being is illegal, no human being is a lie

A yesterday of a fear of the foreign hordes
Agents swooping up families in the dark of night
Almost as if it were still today, oh how we have grown

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses
Yearning to breathe free, but given no quarter
Given no warm place in the manger even

With not so silent lips, Amerikkka, great again
Shuns shuns shuns this wretched refuse
Build a wall, ban a people, there is no hope here


Knock knock!
Who's there?

Pence and Putin and The Donald, oh my!

The day has come, the piper has piped
The divide has widened in Amerikkka
And yesterday is not gone, but making a comeback

Science is being called out by skeptics
As if this is the Dark Ages, the pre-enlightenment
The Earth is flat once again, even if it is obviously not

Dinosaurs never existed and we never landed on the Moon
A religious fervor has taken this nation
And all logical debate is gone with the winds of war

Come down here with us #45 tells us, tweets us
We all float down here they say, and they pray
And then conspire to take our healthcare away

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and their GOP
The Cryptkeeper Conway and Heil Hitler Steve
Worse and worse everyday, and some don't even see

Families torn asunder, Mothers watching Fox News
Tales of woe and Tweets of madness
When will this national nightmare be over!?


Knock knock!
Who's there?

Yeah, this joke just isn't funny anymore