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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…

The Ten Best Films of 2017

Top Ten Films of 2017

10. I, TonyaYou have to hand it to Margot Robbie, who proved her acting chops and her capability as a producer with the same film. Robbie transforms her voice and her physicality in order to play infamous figure skater Tonya Harding at various stages in her life. She's never a perfect match for the real-life Harding, but she's so different from the Australian bombshell that we see on the red carpet that it's the type of performance that wins Oscars. Also fantastic in the film are Allison Janney as Harding's mother, Sebastian Stan as her ex-husband, the consistently under-appreciated Julianne Nicholson as her coach. Also featuring zippy editing and a great soundtrack, I, Tonya raises some very timely questions about classism, the media, and the nature of truth. 


9. Battle of the SexesIt was not immediately clear to me after seeing Battle of the Sexes whether or not it would end up on this list. But when it came time to for me to pick ten movies, I co…

Top Ten Best TV Shows of 2017

Top Ten Best TV Shows of 2017Here are my choices for the ten best television shows of 2017:
10. Riverdale (The CW) Riverdale is a weird show. An adaptation of the wholesome Archie comics, Riverdale fuses the decidedly unwholesome genres of teen soap and murder mystery to create an intriguing mix of disparate tones and styles. While it occasionally attempts to do too much at once, Riverdale always is an enjoyable showcase for many young talented actors. 

9. Bloodline (Netflix)
As I said in my review, the ending of Bloodline didn't exactly stick the landing. But everything leading up to those final two episodes was an exhilarating, absorbing continuation of the family saga that became an obsession of mine during its phenomenal second season last year. Season three was the season that finally gave Sissy Spacek the material to work with she should have been given all along. There is one scene in particular, in which Spacek's character confronts her two sons, where she is so ferocious…