Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2018

Ranking Every Version of "A Star is Born"

Bradley Cooper's remake of A Star is Born just hit theatres, so I thought it would be a good time to share how I'd rank the many different versions of this story. The story is rooted in a somewhat cynical idea that for every star that is born, one has to die. But perhaps why Hollywood likes it enough to remake it three times is that the older star helps the newer star's career, and that in the end, the newer star pays tribute to the older star by taking his name. It's a story about Hollywood whose darkness is masked as romantic melodrama. With that in my mind, here's my ranking:

NOTE: I did not include What Price Hollywood?, a 1932 film starring Constance Bennett with a very similar premise because it is not credited as official source material on any version. It's pretty good though and definitely worth checking out - it's currently available to stream on FimStruck, as are the '37, '54, and '76 A Star is Borns.

4. A Star is Born (1976) The only ve…

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper Shine in "A Star is Born": Review

Film Review: A Star is BornThis is what Hollywood does best. A timeless story told with big emotions and big drama. Bradley Cooper's new version of A Star is Born is everything I hoped it would be. It is, without question, one of the very best movies of the year.

The original 1937 version starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and was previously remade in 1954 starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The 2018 version has Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, who also directs. The story is that a star battling alcoholism meets a young ingenue and their romance develops as her star rises and his star fades. The version this one shares the most DNA with is '76 (though this one is much better), as it retains that movie's innovation of switching the setting to the music industry rather than the movie industry. It also directly lifts the scene from '76 where the female character puts makeup on the male character while in …

"A Simple Favor" is an Offbeat Little Thriller that Adeptly Wields the Talents of Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively: Review

Film Review: A Simple Favor There's a sub-genre that Hollywood has brought back in the aftermath of the massive success of David Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl a few years back; the domestic thriller, usually based on a best-selling novel and usually starring a woman. Other entrants in the genre include The Girl on the Train, the upcoming The Woman in the Window, and Paul Feig's new movie A Simple Favor. I am a huge proponent of the domestic thriller, as I love twisty and often fun mysteries that also have room for some social satire. With a script by Jessica Sharzer adapted from the Darcey Bell novel, A Simple Favor offers up everything I love about the genre in exciting and unexpected new ways. 
The movie stars Blake Lively as a gorgeous, sophisticated, and deeply unhappy mother who befriends a put-together mommy vlogger (Anna Kendrick), who plays detective when Lively's character suddenly disappears.Although it shares many similarities with Gone Girl,A Simple Favo…

A Very Female Kind of Rage: The Women of "Sharp Objects"

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ALL OF SHARP OBJECTS TO FOLLOW 
Sharp Objects, the HBO miniseries based on the Gillian Flynn novel, concluded its eight-episode on Sunday night with a killer installment that included one heck of a twist ending: Amma (Eliza Scanlen) is the person responsible for the killings that Camille (Amy Adams) was sent back to Wind Gap to report on. This series was a lot of things; a slow-burn mystery, an intense character study, and depiction of self-harm, a showcase for terrific actors, a perfect vehicle for Jean-Marc Vallée's trademark dynamic editing style. And there is a lot I could say about it, but for now, I want to focus on how Flynn, Vallée, and Marti Noxon subvert expectations about the characters we think we know, and how easy it is to do so because of societal assumptions about women.

The set-up of Sharp Objects is close to perfect. Camille Preaker is a deeply damaged woman with problems with alcohol and a penchant for carving words into her body who must c…

Oscars: My Response to the Newly Announced Academy Award Changes

The Oscars are losing relevance or so says the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which announced Wednesday a batch of changes to its annual telecast. The changes, designed to reverse a ratings dip in recent years, are the kind of desperate attempt to stay relevant that threatens the integrity of the whole affair. 

The first change, consistent with the Academy's desire to create a three-hour telecast, is that some awards will be presented during commercial breaks, with edited (meaning condensed) versions of the acceptance speeches airing later in the broadcast. It has not been determined which categories will be bumped, but I'll tell you right now it ain't gonna be Best Actress. The categories where celebrities are nominated will be shown live, and the tech categories won't be. This move is flat-out disrespectful to the men and women nominated in the below-the-line categories who deserve recognition for their vital contributions to movies. The Tony Awards fo…

"Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again" is a Fun Musical and Showcase for the Wonderful Lily James: Review

Film Review: Mamma Mia: Here We Go AgainMamma Mia: Here We GoAgain is the sequel to the 2008 film Mamma Mia, which was based on the stage musical of the same name, which itself was based on the songs of ABBA. If it seems like some of the fun would be lost with each additional iteration,  Here We Go Again proves otherwise. As unnecessary as it may be, the sequel is an exceptionally fun time at the movies.

Following the Godfather Part II template, Here We Go Again is actually half-sequel, half-prequel, with a continuation of the first movie's plot interwoven with flashbacks depicting how Donna met each of her daughter's potential fathers and how she came to inexplicably live on a gorgeous Greek island, which was set up in the first film. Being the second musical to exclusively feature the music of ABBA, Here We Go Again faces the inevitable challenge of the first movie having done nearly all of the Swedish group's best and most well-known songs. A number of them are trotted o…

"Death on the Nile" Hits Theaters in 2019: Here's my Dream Cast

Following the success of Kenneth Branagh's film of Murder on the Orient Express, it was announced that a follow-up would be released on December 20, 2019. This time Branagh will direct and star in an adaptation of Christie's 1937 novel Death on the Nile. I loved that novel when I read it many years ago, and although I'd prefer to see Branagh adapt a Poirot novel that has not already gotten the big-screen treatment (like Death in the Clouds or Cards on the Table), I am looking forward to seeing a new interpretation. It's about a murder that occurs on a luxury steamer that is traveling down the Nile River in Egypt. Naturally, all the passengers are suspects. Since no casting information aside from Branagh has been announced, I thought I'd share some of my dream casting choices. 

For the role of Simon Doyle - Dan Stevens The former Dowton Abbey star is no stranger to period pieces and would be perfect fit for Simon Doyle, the new husband of Linnet Ridgeway and ex-finace…

The Eighth Annual Timmy Television Awards

The Timmys annually honor the best in television from the past season. Here are the nominees from the 2017-18 television season (winners are in bold):

Best Comedy Series:
Mom(CBS)Great News (NBC)Shameless (Showtime)Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix)The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)Best Drama Series: Stranger Things (Netflix)Killing Eve (BBC America)This Is Us (NBC)The Crown (Netflix)Rise (NBC)Best Actress in a Comedy Series: Drew Barrymore - Santa Clarita DietRachel Brosnahan - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Allison Janney - MomAnna Farris - MomSutton Foster - YoungerLogan Browning - Dear White PeopleBest Actor in a Comedy Series: William H. Macy - ShamelessTimothy Olyphant - Santa Clarita DietDonald Glover - AtlantaLarry David - Curb Your EnthusiasmIain Armitage - Young SheldonBest Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Andrea Martin - Great NewsNicole Richie - Great NewsAlex Borstein - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Megan Mullally - Will & GraceMeredith Hagner - Search PartyBest Supporting Actor in …

Ocean's 8 is a Worthy Successor to the Heist Franchise: Review

Film Review: Ocean's 8It occurred to me watching Ocean's 8 that it has been a while since Sandra Bullock has had a big summer release. Not that she ever went anywhere, but it's nice to have her back. As Debbie Ocean, she is terrific as the calm and collected leader of the group of thieves (cool goes without saying, in an Ocean's movie). Debbie has been recently released from prison and although she's still beautiful and glamorous, Bullock plays her slightly faded, with a subtle but persistent sadness in her eyes. She really needs this heist to work, if only to prove something to herself. Luckily, Ocean's 8 is destined to be a hit.

The film is a continuation of Steven Soderberg's Ocean's movies. That trilogy featured two very good movies and one great one and was based on a mediocre Rat Pack vehicle from 1960 (on the Sinatra scale of cool, Ocean's 8 is more Nancy than Frank). Soderberg's influence can be clearly felt on this film, but, unfortunat…

Ranking All 20 Oscar Nominated Acting Performances of 2018

Here's how I would rank the 20 performances nominated for Oscars in the four acting categories in 2018, from worst to best:


20. Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Mary J. Blige is not bad in Mudbound, but she is outshined by not only the other nominees in her category but also her co-stars from the film, none of whom were nominated. The stoic nature of her character prevents Blige from having any sort of emotional release, or character transformation for that matter. If I were an Oscar voter looking to single out a member of Mudbound's ensemble, I would have looked to Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, or Carey Mulligan all before Blige.

19. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Lesley Manville is a terrific actress. She doesn't need the Academy to tell her that. So it is kind of strange that she received her first Oscar nomination ever for this performance. Her character is not a big part of the movie, and she does not make that much of an impression. Vicky Krieps gives by far the m…

Oscars 2018: Who Will Win?

2018 Oscar Predictions In a lot of ways, this year's Oscar race has been really exciting. For example, there are a number of films that have a reasonable shot at winning Best Picture, making it a more open race than usual. But in other ways, this Oscar season has been predictable and a little boring. For example, the same four actors have won every televised precursor award and there is no reason to suspect they'll lose the big one.

As always, here are my predictions for which movies will take home which awards. Although I usually provide analysis to go along with my choices for the acting categories, there just is not that much for me to say about them this year because they all seem pretty much sewn up at this point. I will say this: if there is an upset in one of the acting categories, it will be in Best Actress. Frances McDormand seems poised to pick up her second win in that category, but when actresses win their second Best Actress prize, it is typically within a couple o…

Predictions for this Year's Oscar Nominations in All 24 Categories

I usually do not make my predictions for the Oscar nominations public because I usually do not do a very good job at predicting them. The branches of the Academy who vote on who should be nominated for their categories can be very odd, with their bizarre rules and decision-making processes, and thus, there are always quite a few shockers when the nominations are finally announced. The only reason I decided to post my predictions this year is that last year I correctly predicted the Amy Adams snub for Arrival and I feel like I didn't get enough props for that. They are probably way off and I might change my mind on some things between now and Tuesday morning, but here they are:

Best Picture:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
Get Out
Lady Bird
Dunkirk
If six, Call Me By Your Name
If seven, The Post
If eight, I, Tonya
If nine, Darkest Hour

Remember that the Best Picture category can have anywhere from five to ten nominees. Ever since this rule has been in place, ther…