Flops and Zombies: February Movie Preview 2016

M: If you’ve read our movie previews over the months/years, or if you’ve paid any attention to the box office, you know that February is usually a graveyard. It’s that wonderful combination of crap movies that studios are hoping will be a modest success because of the lack of competition, and bigger projects that have become albatrosses that the studios are trying to unload at a time that won’t be too painful, or mess up the rest of their carefully planned schedule. We’re hopeful that a few of these (Hail Caesar!, Race, Risen and Deadpool, for example) are the former rather than the latter, but, well, let’s just say we’re not holding our breathe.

E: Also, apologies, with a dissertation and wedding coming up fast, C will again not be joining us this month.

M: More so, E’s on her way to Mexico, so much of it will be left to me, which is significantly less fun for you, the readers, so we apologize. We are offering full refunds for anyone who is dissatisfied.

E: Maybe I’m dissatisfied with you hogging all the credit!

M: I’m trying to hog all the blame, and you’re welcome! Anyway, on to the movies!

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The Good Wife: Judged

E: So that’s where we go from here.  To friendship.  To romance.  To forgiveness.  To collaboration.  That was really, really – well, some of it was a huge relief, and some of it I just don’t know.  (Notice that I said romance, and not love.)  There were bad wigs, tears (some of mine, some of the characters), drinks, and beautiful acting. And that’s all okay, because Alicia moved forward, which is maybe the most important thing.

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Take That, Oscars: SAG reactions

E:  Like I said, I had a feeling about this.  With the rather suddenly beloved veteran Sylvester Stallone out of the picture, Idris Elba took the stage as SAG’s supporting actor winner.  From the very beginning of the show, the tone was clear: if the Academy isn’t inclusive, SAG-AFTRA sure is.  The five actors chosen to give the traditional “I am an actor” statements that begin the show were Anna Clumski, Kunal Nayyar, Rami Malik, Queen Latifah, and Jeffrey Tambor, who did start the evening as the lone old white man — highlighting his role as a transgender woman. Now that’s a statement. Bam!

The other three individual acting categories confirmed what I (and many other Oscar watchers) suspected: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander are in it for the win.  No, none of them gave particularly impressive speeches, but they didn’t disgrace themselves either.  Leo got to sit with Kate Winslet and share a prominent hug with her before hitting the stage, which produces a nice nostalgic moment for all the Titanic fans out there.  After Kate’s win at the Golden Globes, Vikander was the only category in real question, and there’s likely not going to be a question now.

After seeing the very deserving Elba win not only once but twice, and a parade of winners including Uzo Aduba, Queen Latifah and Viola Davis, I started to think that Best Ensemble was going to go to Straight Outta Compton or possibly even Beasts of No Nation.  (While it does feel like the guild was sending a message, I should note that all of these actors are perpetual awards favorites; Aduba and Davis won these same categories last year. And in case you were wondering, no, African-descended actors did not win every category they were nominated in.)  Like all but one of it’s 22 years, however, SAG went with a film that’s also an Oscar nominee.  Like the Broadcast Film Critics, and unlike the Producers Guild, SAG chose Spotlight, an inspirational alternative to stock market drama The Big Short.  Both tell ugly contemporary stories, but only one brings a true life story of telling truth to power and making a difference.

So, does this win make Spotlight the Oscar favorite?  Maybe.  Does it make it a lock? Absolutely not.  We’ll have to look to BAFTA and to the Director’s Guild to get a better idea of where this year’s momentum (which has shifted once again) will take us.

 

Gearing Up for the Rodeo: SAG Awards Preview 2016

E: Saturday night the Screen Actors Guild and it’s 160,000 members weigh in on the year’s best films.  Their choices are a little quirky, and this year unusually distinct from Oscar’s slate.

In some categories, the show will merely confirm what we know: Room‘s Brie Larson and The Revenant‘s Leonardo DiCaprio ought to lock in their frontrunner status by winning the lead acting races.  DiCaprio seems like the biggest lock in the bunch; most pundits agree that if Larson were to lose, it’d be to Brooklyn‘s glorious Saorise Ronan, but Larson just doesn’t seem to lose.  Critics Choice winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) will either cement herself as the frontrunner, It Girl and likely supporting actress Oscar winner, or fall victim to Carol‘s Rooney Mara or Steve Jobs‘ Globe winning Kate Winslet.  I think she’ll triumph, but it will certainly be interesting to find out.

Then on the other hand, there are the more confusing races, the first of which is supporting actor. Sylvester Stallone, who has so far accepted the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice to riotous applause, isn’t actually nominated in supporting actor.  Will respected theater and TV alum Mark Rylance take the prize?  SAG likes him so much they nominated him twice, both for supporting actor and for his role in the television drama Wolf Hall.  Or will the SAG membership seek to prove they’re no white Academy and choose the also twice-nominated Idris Elba (Luther) instead?  We know they liked his film Beast of No Nation, and since voting only closes Friday the 29th, the membership has had ample time to rally around Elba as a great opportunity to right a wrong.  Of course Elba was famously snubbed for the Oscar, so that’s probably still Stallone’s to lose, but with SAG, it’s up in the air.  Even Christian Bale could win for his oddball turn as a visionary fund manager in The Big Short; his film is in contention for the win, and many pundits guess that might put him over the edge.

It’s Ensemble (SAG’s Best Picture equivalent) where the real confusion comes in, however, and this is in part because there are only two films (The Big Short and Spotlight) which overlap between SAG and Oscar.  The thing about awards season in Hollywood that you have to know is that nobody likes backing a loser; that’s why the same films tend to be nominated everywhere.  That’s what people mean by “buzz” and “momentum” — they mean groupthink.  This year, for whatever reason (and some of it might be weird subverted racial bias stuff) the groupthink is just not being groupthunk, especially with this list. Neither of the two Golden Globe winning films, The Revenant and The Martian, are up for the big prize.  Critical and festival favorite Spotlight seemed to have the edge, especially when it was one of two overlapping films between SAG and the Hollywood Foreign Press list; it’s smart, its impeccably made and acted, and tells an inspiring story of ordinary people telling truth to power and making an enormous change in our world because of what they discovered.  And then it lost the Globe.  It did pick up the Critics Choice, but the Broadcast Film Critics don’t overlap much with Oscar; it’s the guilds turn to tell who the industry, and not the critics, prefer. Accordingly, the Producers Guild made their choice, and it was The Big Short.  So does that mean that The Big Short is the winner?  I’m not so sure it’s that satisfying a narrative.  After all, what it boils down to is white guys making money off the white guys who cheated America and almost destroyed the world economy.   Not crusading against the frauds, but profiting from their overweening pride and foolish avarice.  It’s relevant, and does a great job of breaking down the mortgage crisis into layman’s terms, but it’s not exactly either classic entertainment or inspirational.  Oh, yay, let’s watch these guys get rich because they saw in advanced that the average person was going to be royally screwed!  As far as I’m concerned, anyone who finds it inspirational is part of the problem, part of the entrenched system of privilege.

Most pundits discount African child soldier drama Beasts of No Nation, NWA music biopic Straight Outta Compton and Hollywood blacklist story Trumbo because they haven’t made any other precursor list and because none of them has been nominated for Oscar; I’m not so sure this is safe to do, especially in the year of #Oscarssowhite.  I think it’s entirely possible we could get a protest vote for Beasts or Compton.  If either Spotlight or The Big Short wins, however, they’ll certainly be annointed the favorite and frontrunner — at least until the BAFTA awards air on Valentine’s Day.  You can bet I’ll be tuning into the results here with particularly rapt attention.

So don’t forget to tune in at 8 Saturday night (Eastern Standard Time) on TBS or TNT, and find out who the Actor goes to.  There’ll be plenty of great dresses, probably a decent amount of strange facial hair, and no doubt a series of serious and funny anecdotes to start the show, all ending with SAG’s typical phrasing: I’m  ____, and I’m an actor.  And hey, maybe best of all, no Ricky Gervais!

The Good Wife: Tracks

E: Over and over in my head, I hear music.  And no, it’s not Matthew Lillard’s delightfully charming Rowby singing either “Thicky Trick” or “Good Morning, Magic Sunshine”, it’s Axl Rose singing to another sweet childWhere do we go?  Where do we go from here?

After all, Peter’s campaign is over.  He and Alicia freely admit to no longer loving each other.  Alicia’s motivating animus against Frank Landau has vanished.  Grace is gone, which is a necessary but sad thing.  Jason is gone, and with him the promise of romance.  Or at least sex. Half of Alicia’s clients long for better infrastructure and threaten to flee the coop, and her condo association wants to evict her for running a business out of her house. Lockhart, Agos & Lee wants her, but she doesn’t want to go back to the complications and servitude of her time before.   Broke and taken for granted by her imperious partner, Lucca’s ready to quit, and we all know how little Alicia likes being alone.

And there’s perhaps the heart of my discontent (one which still, combined with life events, has stopped me from doing a typical transcript-recap).  Where DO we go from here?  The pieces are still wonderful (Rowby, Marissa, Andrea Stevens, etc) but I just have no faith that the characters are headed anywhere I want to follow.

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The Good Wife: Iowa

E:  With the Oscar nominations and the Golden Globes happening this week, and me working, there’s just no way I can do a normal E-style recap this week.  I didn’t even have time to watch the episode before Saturday, let alone spend hours pouring over every sentence. What you’re going to get here (along with apologies) is more of a reflection.  They do this to me every year, those rotten schedulers, and this year it killed me. It was especially painful to give up on such a momentous, philosophical,  even monstrous episode, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint, but with another episode coming tonight, I really couldn’t help it.

At long long last, the terrible campaigning episodes come to their end.  Thank heaven for no more politics!  Or at least, no more completely stupid campaigning.  Or at least, so I can wish.  Eli clearly has hitched his wagon to a new horse, but so long as CBS is defeated in their evil plot to produce more episodes, then we ought to be good.  Right?

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Morning Dawns: Oscar Nomination Reactions 2016

E: Well.  That wasn’t so bad after all.

There are a few big stories to start with here, before we check out the individual categories.  Most importantly, there’s an utterly unnecessary lack of minorities both in the acting categories and in Best Picture.  In a year that brought us Beasts of No Name, Chiraq, Concussion, Creed, Dope, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Straight Outta Compton, there’s no reason that the acting nominees had to be all white. Beasts and Compton both made the SAG slate, and yet no Best Picture love at all?  Similarly, 5 of the top 10 moneymakers of the year starred women, but only 3 of the 8 nominees do, when the Academy had Carol and Sicario and The Force Awakens and Inside Out to choose from? Nominating Carol or The Danish Girl would have added another layer of diversity as well. And no, I don’t want there to be quotas. I wouldn’t care about this particular instance if this didn’t happen virtually every year.  It’s so hard to get movies about women and minorities made, and Hollywood seemed to finally be waking up to the fact that those movies make money.  In fact, if you look at The Force Awakens, they make money hand over fist.   And critics have loved them.  There were choices.  You could have done better.  That’s all I’m saying.  In fact, if you look at The Force Awakens, you had the biggest blockbuster of the century, with female and minority leads.  Big missed opportunity.

With that, we’re off to the snubs, the surprises, the boring choices, and the really unexpected bits.

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