Bombshell Review

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* * * *

Jay Roach’s portrait of the year Fox News’ Roger Ailes’ history of sexual harassment came back to bite him on his fat ass is exhilarating, furious, compelling and thoroughly entertaining. It is also essentially and thrillingly visceral: I spent the second half of the movie having to stop myself from standing up in the crowded cinema and screaming “Take that you evil fuck!” at John Lithgow’s portrayal of this awful, awful, awful human being.

Ailes and Fox News (the movie almost entirely takes place within its network of offices, elevators, hallways and cubicles) were / are so inherently toxic, so blatantly disgusting, that it could be argued that merely to present them onscreen is to guarantee a cracker show: with villains this villainous, it’s easy to rile your audience against them and cheer at their fall. But Roach and Lithgow don’t allow Ailes to be a total grotesque; the movie, as flashy as it is, is subtler than that. And it’s not Ailes’ movie, anyway.

Weirdly, but successfully, it’s Megyn Kelly’s movie. If you’re not from the US and haven’t been obsessively reading US news since Trump, you may not have heard of her; the film sketches in the version of her required to tell this story (if not her whole story, which is very complicated) and she is brilliantly played by Charlize Theron. I’m told the simulacrum of Kelly is astonishing; I’ve never seen Kelly on air, or if I have, so little that I can’t vouch for the impersonation side of the portrayal, but it’s an honest and sincere and intelligent performance. And Margot Robbie, as a young employee at Fox News who becomes a fish in Ailes’ barrel, is, as usual, astonishing. Both women are nominated for Oscars.

The only reason not to see Bombshell – and it’s a fair one – is to avoid swimming in these disgusting, rank, poisonous, filthy waters. This is not only Fox, it’s the US under Trump, and it’s grim. But as a film, this is energising, invigorating and rather essential.

PS Special points must be awarded for the ingenious casting of the Lawson brothers as the Murdoch brothers.

Oscar Nominations 2019 / 2020 Immediate Thoughts

Here are the Oscar nominations with some of my immediate thoughts below each nomination. Overall, this could tilt a lot Quentin’s way (which I’d be very happy with), a lot Bong’s way (which would be deserved, and a win for World Cinema) or 1917 could come along and hijack things like GREEN BOOK did…

Performance by an actor in a leading role nominees:

Antonio Banderas in PAIN AND GLORY

Leonardo DiCaprio in ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Adam Driver in MARRIAGE STORY

Joaquin Phoenix in JOKER

Jonathan Pryce in THE TWO POPES

Nice to see Antonio in there; total bummer Adam Sandler isn’t in there for UNCUT GEMS; race is between Joaquin and Adam Driver.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role nominees:

Tom Hanks in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Anthony Hopkins in THE TWO POPES

Al Pacino in THE IRISHMAN

Joe Pesci in THE IRISHMAN

Brad Pitt in ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

This is Brad’s all the way.

Performance by an actress in a leading role nominees:

Cynthia Erivo in HARRIET

Scarlett Johansson in MARRIAGE STORY

Saoirse Ronan in LITTLE WOMEN

Charlize Theron in BOMBSHELL

Renée Zellweger in JUDY

I’m still assuming Renée takes it.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role nominees:

Kathy Bates in RICHARD JEWELL

Laura Dern in MARRIAGE STORY

Scarlett Johansson in JOJO RABBIT

Florence Pugh in LITTLE WOMEN

Margot Robbie in BOMBSHELL

This is definitely going to Laura Dern.

Best animated feature film of the year nominees:

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD

Dean DeBlois, Bradford Lewis and Bonnie Arnold

I LOST MY BODY

Jérémy Clapin and Marc du Pontavice

KLAUS

Sergio Pablos, Jinko Gotoh and Marisa Román

MISSING LINK

Chris Butler, Arianne Sutner and Travis Knight

TOY STORY 4

Josh Cooley, Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera

Let’s take a swing and say it’s going to I LOST MY BODY, since FROZEN 2 isn’t even nominated. Of course, MISSING LINK won the Globe (weirdly).

Achievement in cinematography nominees:

THE IRISHMAN

Rodrigo Prieto

JOKER

Lawrence Sher

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Jarin Blaschke

1917

Roger Deakins

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Robert Richardson

This is going to Roger Deakins. The best thing about 1917 – the only thing, really – is the cinematography.

Achievement in costume design nominees:

THE IRISHMAN

Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson

JOJO RABBIT

Mayes C. Rubeo

JOKER

Mark Bridges

LITTLE WOMEN

Jacqueline Durran

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Arianne Phillips

Wide open. Could be a sneaky win for JOJO?

Achievement in directing nominees:

THE IRISHMAN

Martin Scorsese

JOKER

Todd Phillips

1917

Sam Mendes

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Quentin Tarantino

PARASITE

Bong Joon Ho

Quentin or Bong.

Best documentary feature nominees:

AMERICAN FACTORY

Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert

THE CAVE

Feras Fayyad, Kirstine Barfod and Sigrid Dyekjær

THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY

Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris and Tiago Pavan

FOR SAMA

Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts

HONEYLAND

Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Atanas Georgiev

It should go to FOR SAMA or THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY but could go to AMERICAN FACTORY.

Best documentary short subject nominees:

IN THE ABSENCE

Yi Seung-Jun and Gary Byung-Seok Kam

LEARNING TO SKATEBOARD IN A WARZONE (IF YOU’RE A GIRL)

Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva

LIFE OVERTAKES ME

John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson

ST. LOUIS SUPERMAN

Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan

WALK RUN CHA-CHA

Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt

Haven’t seen ‘em.

Achievement in film editing nominees:

FORD V FERRARI

Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland

THE IRISHMAN

Thelma Schoonmaker

JOJO RABBIT

Tom Eagles

JOKER

Jeff Groth

PARASITE

Yang Jinmo

PARASITE? JOKER? Hard to say. THE IRISHMAN? Can a three and a half hour picture win Best Editing? It’s nuts and sad that ONCE UPON A TIME isn’t in here. They’ll probably give it to the cars (FORD V FERRARI).

Best international feature film of the year nominees:

CORPUS CHRISTI

Poland

Directed by Jan Komasa

HONEYLAND

North Macedonia

Directed by Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevksa

LES MISÉRABLES

France

Directed by Ladj Ly

PAIN AND GLORY

Spain

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

PARASITE

South Korea

Directed by Bong Joon Ho

PARASITE, obviously. This is ROMA all over again, except maybe, just maybe, this year PARASITE also takes Best Picture…

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling nominees:

BOMBSHELL

Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker

JOKER

Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou

JUDY

Jeremy Woodhead

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White

1917

Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole

What is 1917 doing in there? Anyway, it has to be BOMBSHELL, right? But maybe JOKER.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score) nominees:

JOKER

Hildur Guðnadóttir

LITTLE WOMEN

Alexandre Desplat

MARRIAGE STORY

Randy Newman

1917

Thomas Newman

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

John Williams

This is going to the world’s coolest Icelander, Hildur Guðnadóttir, for JOKER.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song) nominees:

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from TOY STORY 4

Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from ROCKETMAN

Music by Elton John

Lyric by Bernie Taupin

“I’m Standing With You” from BREAKTHROUGH

Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“Into The Unknown” from FROZEN II

Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

“Stand Up” from HARRIET

Music and Lyric by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo

They’re gonna give it to Elton and Bernie because they’re ELTON AND BERNIE.

Best motion picture of the year nominees:

FORD V FERRARI

Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and James Mangold, Producers

THE IRISHMAN

Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

JOJO RABBIT

Carthew Neal and Taika Waititi, Producers

JOKER

Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

LITTLE WOMEN

Amy Pascal, Producer

MARRIAGE STORY

Noah Baumbach and David Heyman, Producers

1917

Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne-Ann Tenggren and Callum McDougall, Producers

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh and Quentin Tarantino, Producers

PARASITE

Kwak Sin Ae and Bong Joon Ho, Producers

ONCE UPON A TIME or PARASITE. I’m happy with either but as a lifelong Quentin devotee I would love him to win this. It’s his ‘personal’ film, it’s the one that everyone can enjoy, I’ve come to understand why the violence at the end is as it is… this film is brilliant and worthy and I’d love it to win.

I do believe PARASITE has a shot because of the preferential ballot. I suspect PARASITE will be up there among the 1s and 2s on a lot of voting forms while Quentin, who does have some detractors, may be down the list on some, and the preferential ballot favours generally loved films over polarising ones.

UNCUT GEMS should have been here, certainly instead of FORD V FERRARI and JOJO RABBIT and 1917 (but the latter could have a weird sweep, which would be a crying shame, because it’s empty spectacle).

If 1917 takes it, that’s “a GREEN BOOK” as far as I’m concerned.

Achievement in production design nominees:

THE IRISHMAN

Production Design: Bob Shaw

Set Decoration: Regina Graves

JOJO RABBIT

Production Design: Ra Vincent

Set Decoration: Nora Sopková

1917

Production Design: Dennis Gassner

Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Production Design: Barbara Ling

Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

PARASITE

Production Design: Lee Ha Jun

Set Decoration: Cho Won Woo

Wow. Great category. 1917, ONCE UPON A TIME, PARASITE, THE IRISHMAN… all contenders.

Best animated short film nominees:

DCERA (DAUGHTER)

Daria Kashcheeva

HAIR LOVE

Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver

KITBULL

Rosana Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson

MEMORABLE

Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre

SISTER

Siqi Song

Haven’t seen ‘em.

Best live action short film nominees:

BROTHERHOOD

Meryam Joobeur and Maria Gracia Turgeon

NEFTA FOOTBALL CLUB

Yves Piat and Damien Megherbi

THE NEIGHBORS’ WINDOW

Marshall Curry

SARIA

Bryan Buckley and Matt Lefebvre

A SISTER

Delphine Girard

Haven’t seen ‘em.

Achievement in sound editing nominees:

FORD V FERRARI

Donald Sylvester

JOKER

Alan Robert Murray

1917

Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Wylie Stateman

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Matthew Wood and David Acord

FORD V FERRARI, right? The cars, right?

Achievement in sound mixing nominees:

AD ASTRA

Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano

FORD V FERRARI

Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Steven A. Morrow

JOKER

Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland

1917

Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano

1917, right? Because it’s “immersive”?

Achievement in visual effects nominees:

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick

THE IRISHMAN

Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser and Stephane Grabli

THE LION KING

Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman

1917

Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy

If they give this to THE IRISHMAN – for the “de-aging” – that’ll be a laugh. It kind of has to go to THE LION KING, right? But maybe they give it to Marvel (AVENGERS: ENDGAME).

Adapted screenplay nominees:

THE IRISHMAN

Screenplay by Steven Zaillian

JOJO RABBIT

Screenplay by Taika Waititi

JOKER

Written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver

LITTLE WOMEN

Written for the screen by Greta Gerwig

THE TWO POPES

Written by Anthony McCarten

If they give this to JOJO it’ll be a shame, but they might, because it’s got a lot of nominations. It really should go to Steven Zaillian (IRISHMAN) or Greta Gerwig (LITTLE WOMEN).

Original screenplay nominees:

KNIVES OUT

Written by Rian Johnson

MARRIAGE STORY

Written by Noah Baumbach

1917

Written by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Written by Quentin Tarantino

PARASITE

Screenplay by Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won

Story by Bong Joon Ho

This is Quentin’s.

Feel free to comment.

CJ

Uncut Gems Review

* * * * 1/2

Adam Sandler plays a Manhattan jeweller with a fondness for gambling that gets him in some trouble. That’s all you need to know, except to see this movie, the Safdie Brothers’ fourth, and feel the incredible rush.

This film is amazing, the logical and pure synthesis of the Safdie Brothers style, distilled to perfection. All the cast are incredible. Julia Fox, in her first role, is superb. Sandler is superb. All the grimy sleazoids, the nightclub homies, and the sports stars playing themselves are superb. Eric Bogosian is superb. And, once again, the Safdies have found all manner of non-actors and trusted them with big roles (such as Fox); all are superb.

Besides being a thoroughly successful experiment in relentless suspense and tension, it represents amazing storytelling. Every character, no matter how minor, seethes with inner life (case in point: the nice guy in the casino; you’ll see what I mean when you meet him). The dialogue is original, vibrant, startling and unique. The milieu is beyond evocative and fuelled by integrity, the camerawork is energetic and artful, the score (typically for the Safdies) wondrous strange, and the pacing magnificent. One of 2019’s best. It will make you grateful you don’t want any of the things the people in the film want, unless you do, in which case it may just get you to re-evaluate your life.

PS: John Amos? What a bonkers detail.

Oscars 2019: Thoughts and Wild Predictions

CJ Johnson and Danielle McGrane look at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ year of self-fouls, own goals and other idiotic mis-steps in anticipation of a train-wreck 2019 Oscars. In addition, they step outside of the boring conventional wisdom predictions for this year’s Oscars, and instead, take a few big swings. Don’t bet on these long shots!

 

 

Cold War

* * * *

A grand romantic drama, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War won the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why. There are many movies to get through at Cannes, and Pawlikowski’s superbly crafted film clocks in at only eighty-eight minutes, covering fifteen years and four nations. It’s a lot of movie, and represents tremendous value if your time is tight.

Should you be lucky enough to have oodles of time up your sleeve, Cold War’s brevity might count against it. It’s so good, and so engaging, that you feel a little cheated when it ends. It’s the kind of sweeping European love story that in the past has sustained epic cinema, and Pawlikowski’s decisions to keep it so tight – he also constrains the image, shooting in the boxy “Academy Ratio” and in black and white – seem like a defiant, almost petulant, flight of fancy. Obviously not a cheap production, Pawlikowski seems determined to not put all the money on the screen.

But that’s his aesthetic, and we should be grateful for it. Anyone can shoot a movie in black and white, or in Academy Ratio, but not everyone will do so with such purpose and rigor. He restrained himself similarly with his last film, Ida (2014), and the two films complement each other in other ways. They’re both concerned with post-war Europe, with devotion, with sacrifice, and, here especially, with love. Ida was austere, whereas Cold War is lush and highly populated, but the sharp contrast of the black and white cinematography – Lukasz Zal shot both films – keep the vibe forever wintry, the mood ever melancholy, like a meal for one in a quiet Paris bistro at twilight on Christmas Eve.

Cold War’s love story, of two musicians destined to continually be drawn together and pulled apart by the Iron Curtain and their own internal conflicts, is such a good one – such a blatantly effective story – that it verges on the preposterous. It’s not. It’s based on Pawlikowski’s own parents, and that tips it over into the miraculous. One of the films of the year.

Vice

* * * *

Adam McKay is an American treasure, a keenly intelligent, outrageously talented writer / producer / director whose last film, The Big Short (2015) and last television work, the pilot for Succession this year, were both phenomenal. His new film, Vice, a sweeping examination of Dick Cheney, will inevitably be seen in comparison to The Big Short; stylistically, they share similarities, together defining McKay’s new, mature “style” (as distinct from the major comedic chops he swung as writer / producer / director of such films as Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers). Vice suffers in that comparison – such is the problem when one follows a masterwork -but it is still vital and urgent and demands to be seen.

Christian Bale plays Cheney, Amy Adams his wife and co-conspirator Lynne, Steve Carell his mentor Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell his boss, George W. Bush. They’re all excellent; Bale once again proves himself a master of playing old white men under makeup and fat (I believe his own). Interestingly, in the scenes of Cheney as a younger man (the film, more of a traditional biopic than I was expecting, covers Cheney from college-age to the present), Bale seems hardly disguised at all, save for makeup to make him appear more youthful. Was Cheney ever that good looking?

As with The Big Short, McKay uses many techniques to tell his complicated story, including a non-linear structure, fragmented editing incorporating quick inserts of representative imagery (especially drawn from the world of fishing, Cheney’s hobby, which at least isn’t golf), and use of news, archival and other real-world footage. He also incorporates a narrator, mainly off-screen but sometimes on, played by Jesse Plemons, and sometimes relies too heavily upon him. There’s a lot of narration, and I felt a little spoon-fed, as though McKay had lost a little nerve, or a little trust in our own abilities to connect the dots. It felt like a surprising mis-step given the spectacular clarity with which McKay was able to tell the Big Short story, which was really complicated.

I have another quibble, and I’ll call spoiler alert, although of course this is a true story. McKay uses Cheney’s long support, and ultimate betrayal, of his daughter Mary’s homosexuality and her same-sex marriage as the emotional spine of the film and ultimate depiction of Cheney’s wickedness. But, as a title card at the end tells us, Cheney could be seen as responsible for well over 600,000 human deaths. Surely that is more powerful than his betrayal of his own daughter, as ghastly as that sounds? Again, it’s as though McKay worried that Cheney’s story was simply too cold to engage without a family hearth to shatter.

Ultimately I suspect McKay possibly could have developed a better version of this story given more development. As it is, it’s still totally worth your time. I hope it doesn’t just play to the converted.

The Insult

* * 1/2

Zine Doueiri’s The Insult arrives in Australia a big deal, loaded down with awards, nominations, plaudits and (relatively) boffo box office in other markets. It was nominated this year for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award (a first for Lebanon), it won the Audience Award for narrative feature at this year’s Sydney Film Festival, and one of its two lead actors, Kamel El Basha, won the Best Actor award at Venice. It’s nominated for nine Lebanese Movie Awards but, I daresay, given its agenda (more on that below), is unlikely to sweep the field.

It’s easy to see why the film has done so well, particularly outside of Lebanon. It runs with precise engineering, offering the viewer an almost exhausting roller coaster ride of conflicting emotions. It is designed to make your blood run hot and cold, and it does. It is also fatally hindered by some egregious errors of judgement or polemical politics, depending on how personally you take Douheiri’s stake in his own script.

Tony (Adel Karam) is a Lebanese Christian, member of a vocal right-wing, nationalistic, anti-immigration Christian Party, and mechanic living in Beirut. One day he trades some bad civil behaviour with a contractor doing work on his street, Yasser (El Basha), who happens to be a Palestinian refugee. Things escalate, get out of hand, and end up not only in the courtroom, but all over the media, and, in some quarters, with violence.

Tony and Yasser obviously, deliberately and unapologetically represent opposing sides in the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990, and, as a blatant metaphor for the dumb ways ideological conflicts can rise out of misplaced pride, vanity and, especially in the Middle East, “machismo”, the film works smoothly and effectively. If only men weren’t so damn stubborn, so much suffering could be avoided! It’s also a very clean plot mechanism to keep us thoroughly engaged: by the nature of the men’s increasing insults (in every sense of the word), the film naturally keeps raising the stakes almost on a scene-by-scene basis. Conflict is drama; conflict with high stakes is better drama; legal conflict with national implications, therefore, must be great drama.

Except – and it’s a big exception – Tony is such a deeply unlikeable protagonist that the film is hard to stomach. The party whose leader’s inflammatory speeches pepper the film through Tony’s televisions are full of hateful rhetoric, and Tony is a hateful guy; he’s racist, a nationalist, a bigot. I gave up on him long before the film did, and when, in its closing act, it introduced a massive, dramatically over-bearing rationale for his behaviour, it not only lost me completely but angered me to boot. Tony’s lawyer, and, by extension, Doueiri, seems to be claiming that bigotry is justified by past trauma, which is not a message I can get behind, let alone in the current climate. Palestinians are upset by this film, and it’s easy to see why. Yasser is depicted as a noble character, but the film is really on Tony’s side. Sympathy for the devil, indeed.

Oscars 2018 Preview and Predictions!

CJ and Jim go through most of the categories. We have ideas, opinions and predictions. We make a financial bet over Best Original Screenplay. And at the end, we apply the Preferential Ballot System of voting to our own ballots and come up with a BOLD PREDICTION FOR BEST PICTURE! Your comments welcome and appreciated. Happy Oscars 2018!