Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson Star in 'Late Night'

This comedy written by Mindy Kaling was bought by Amazon at Sundance for a hefty $10 million price tag and is now coming out June 7th. It looks very reminiscent of a movie like The Devil Wears Prada, but this trailer is short on the laughs it wants. Actually, there’s something off about the whole premise to me. I don’t recognize it. I guess the joke is that Emma Thompson’s talk show host is too old, white and out of touch, so hiring a non-white writer brings in diversity and culture clash, etc., But in the real world there has NEVER been a female late night talk show host on the major networks, so just seeing Emma Thompson as this supposed David Letterman-esque figure feels utterly unfamiliar to me. I’m guessing this is supposed to be topical, but if the whole idea of the film is already taking place in a bit of a fantasy world, who are they supposed to be satirizing?

New Look at Zachary Levi in 'Shazam!'

I originally thought this comedic take on Shazam might be interesting, if they did a Big-esque story, but this new trailer just makes it look kinda stupid. DC movies are a crapshoot as it is, so I no longer have any curiosity about it. Maybe the movie is better than the trailer, but expectations are always at rock bottom for WB’s superhero movies. Plus I think they should have just done the full Big thing and had him be a teen in an adult body- I don’t get why he’s a separate entity from the kid.

Hellboy Tries to Save the World in New Red-Band Trailer

I thought the first trailer for this made it look like it could be amusing, but this new one is mostly a bunch of CGI mess. Ick. The Guillermo del Toro ones were good because they weren’t just your typical action heavy comic book movies- they were sort of quirky and eccentric and had real character to them. This one doesn’t look like that so much. Too bad.

X-Men Return in New Trailer for 'Dark Phoenix'

After being delayed a whole year for reshoots and now having filmed almost two years ago, Dark Phoenix is finally scheduled to come out in June, but this does not look very good to me. I don’t think making Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey the main character and villain is a smart move at all (was anyone invested in her after X-Men: Apocalypse?), and it’s now kind of absurd that having yet another ten year time jump makes it 30 years that are supposed to have passed between this movie and 2011’s First Class. I’m sorry, 30 years? They haven’t even tried making them look older. Professor X and Magneto are literally supposed to be about 60 years old here. I don’t have a good feeling about this one.

The Movie Seasons Top 10 of 2018

Here it is! Finally, my top ten favorite films of last year. You should watch every one.

1. ROMA

A stirring ode to 1970’s Mexico, childhood memories and the women who ruled one household in the middle of it all, seen through the cinematic sweep of a tremendous visual storyteller. One of the great movies ever made.

A stirring ode to 1970’s Mexico, childhood memories and the women who ruled one household in the middle of it all, seen through the cinematic sweep of a tremendous visual storyteller. One of the great movies ever made.

2. SHOPLIFTERS

An enthralling story of a family that starts off as one thing, then becomes something else and knocks you sideways when it does. Powerful, heartfelt, emotional and deeply human filmmaking.

An enthralling story of a family that starts off as one thing, then becomes something else and knocks you sideways when it does. Powerful, heartfelt, emotional and deeply human filmmaking.

3. BLACK PANTHER

The cultural phenomenon of 2018 was the rare blockbuster that managed to tell a good story that had actual meaning to it, along with visual pizazz and a great cast of characters. It felt like something new packaged in something familiar, and empowering to anyone who sees it.

The cultural phenomenon of 2018 was the rare blockbuster that managed to tell a good story that had actual meaning to it, along with visual pizazz and a great cast of characters. It felt like something new packaged in something familiar, and empowering to anyone who sees it.

4. THE DEATH OF STALIN

The best comedy of last year was a dark historical farce that threw so many zingers at you it requires multiple viewings to keep up. A terrific ensemble led by Steve Buscemi manages to wring absurd humor out of Stalin’s purges while never diminishing the horror of it all, through a swift and compact 90 minutes.

The best comedy of last year was a dark historical farce that threw so many zingers at you it requires multiple viewings to keep up. A terrific ensemble led by Steve Buscemi manages to wring absurd humor out of Stalin’s purges while never diminishing the horror of it all, through a swift and compact 90 minutes.

5. FIRST MAN

Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon is given the epic treatment in a serious minded, sensitive biopic that delivers a partial study of the enigmatic man himself, who always kept the world at a distance (literally). A majestic score assists some of the most thrillingly directed cinematic sequences of the year.

Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon is given the epic treatment in a serious minded, sensitive biopic that delivers a partial study of the enigmatic man himself, who always kept the world at a distance (literally). A majestic score assists some of the most thrillingly directed cinematic sequences of the year.

6. A STAR IS BORN

The fourth remake of an oft-told Hollywood story feels new again, and Bradley Cooper effortlessly delivers this musical melodrama awash with romance and old-fashioned tearjerking entertainment. Loved it.

The fourth remake of an oft-told Hollywood story feels new again, and Bradley Cooper effortlessly delivers this musical melodrama awash with romance and old-fashioned tearjerking entertainment. Loved it.

7. BLACKKKLANSMAN

Spike Lee can still pack a punch and does it again with a buddy cop movie, mixing comedy and drama with the urgency of the moment, as no other film of the year spoke more to the current climate than this 1970’s set reminder of what America is.

Spike Lee can still pack a punch and does it again with a buddy cop movie, mixing comedy and drama with the urgency of the moment, as no other film of the year spoke more to the current climate than this 1970’s set reminder of what America is.

8. MINDING THE GAP

A documentary that painfully, almost accidentally, captures the sickness that is passed on from one male generation to another, especially in economically challenged areas in the middle of the country. A timely, impactful look at what drives many of the problems we as a society face in ignoring this reality, and watching these men grow up to become the transmitters of inherited suffering.

A documentary that painfully, almost accidentally, captures the sickness that is passed on from one male generation to another, especially in economically challenged areas in the middle of the country. A timely, impactful look at what drives many of the problems we as a society face in ignoring this reality, and watching these men grow up to become the transmitters of inherited suffering.

9. ISLE OF DOGS

Wes Anderson’s love letter to Japan is a the adorable story of a boy and his dog(s), that for once blends a story that has its own hints in reality, with nods to political corruption, protest and the power of resistance, along with a visually dazzling world of varying furry friends and bright colors.

Wes Anderson’s love letter to Japan is a the adorable story of a boy and his dog(s), that for once blends a story that has its own hints in reality, with nods to political corruption, protest and the power of resistance, along with a visually dazzling world of varying furry friends and bright colors.

10. FIRST REFORMED

An allegory of a dying man obsessed by a dying world, who lingers on and asks questions no one seems to have the answers to. The world is not an imagined one, but the real one that we all inhabit, which makes this story sting all the worse. One of the most original and thought provoking films of the year, with one of the most hardhitting final scenes ever.

An allegory of a dying man obsessed by a dying world, who lingers on and asks questions no one seems to have the answers to. The world is not an imagined one, but the real one that we all inhabit, which makes this story sting all the worse. One of the most original and thought provoking films of the year, with one of the most hardhitting final scenes ever.

5 HONORABLE MENTIONS: SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE; THE SISTERS BROTHERS; IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK; PRIVATE LIFE; BURNING

Stanley Donen 1924-2019

2. Kelly Donen.jpg

Stanley Donen died today at the age of 94. One of Old Hollywood’s most prominent directors, associated in particular with the golden age of movie musicals, but who also made films in every genre (dramas, comedies, thrillers), was responsible for a litany of classics, including On the Town (1949), Royal Wedding (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954), It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), Funny Face (1957), The Pajama Game (1957), Charade (1963), Two for the Road (1967), and Bedazzled (1967). His longtime collaboration with frequent co-director Gene Kelly (right) produced some of the great movies ever made, like Singin’ in the Rain, but he was also the choreographer for films like Cover Girl (1944) and Anchors Aweigh (1945) before becoming a director. He started out his career in the chorus line on Broadway in the 1940’s (where he met Kelly), before moving to Hollywood to become a choreographer, then filmmaker. He won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1998, but amazingly, was never nominated for a competitive one in his career. The movies are better today because of his contribution to them.

Trailer for Singin’ in the Rain:

Trailer for Funny Face (one of his favorite actresses was Audrey Hepburn, who starred in three different genres of films for him- this, Charade and Two For the Road):

Donen’s Honorary Oscar acceptance speech:

2019 Oscar Predictions, Part 5: Director and Picture

Here we go- the big ones. Read on for my picks.

BEST DIRECTOR

DGA winner Alfonso Cuaron can expect to win handily on Sunday night

DGA winner Alfonso Cuaron can expect to win handily on Sunday night

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

  • Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

  • Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

  • Adam McKay, Vice

  • Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Alfonso Cuaron has swept the entire season, so he should pretty easily pick up his second directing Oscar in five years. You could make a case for Spike Lee though- his first ever directing nomination in a thirty year career could make people want to vote for him (he’d also be the first black director to win this- that’s something that still hasn’t happened, believe it or not). I do think though that Roma is seen as an undeniable cinematic achievement that must be rewarded, especially for its directing, so this is Cuaron’s. He also won the DGA, which is pretty much always the winner in Best Director.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron

Alternate: Spike Lee


BEST PICTURE

Not locked at all, but I’m going with my gut (and my heart, because it’s also my favorite)

Not locked at all, but I’m going with my gut (and my heart, because it’s also my favorite)

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • Black Panther

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

  • The Favourite

  • Green Book

  • Roma

  • A Star is Born

  • Vice

Green Book  has to be the second choice, due to its PGA win

Green Book has to be the second choice, due to its PGA win

Okay, so here we go. Best Picture. Everyone thinks it should be Green Book vs. Roma. The PGA winner (which has matched Oscar the most ever since they started using the same kind of ranked ballot voting system, something that is only done for Best Picture and no other category) versus the DGA and BAFTA winner. It all comes down to two things- the preferential ballot and whether the Academy’s new membership (a third of its members have been added in the last five years and they’re mostly younger, international and much more ethnically diverse, since the Academy was made up of 90% older white men for most of its existence until recently) makes enough of a difference for the result to differ from the PGA winner. I’m honestly not sure. The movie that tends to benefit from the preferential ballot is one that’s not divisive, one that can garner a lot of #2 and #3 votes. Green Book seems to fit that profile- well liked, accessible, middlebrow, unchallenging. That’s obviously how it won the PGA. Roma being black and white, foreign-language (it would make history, since no Foreign Film has ever won Best Picture), and a Netflix movie could mean it’s more divisive- it could get a lot of #1 votes but also rank last on a lot of ballots. 

It’s unlikely, but there is a  lot  of passion for  Bohemian Rhapsody - it will probably be high on people’s ballots

It’s unlikely, but there is a lot of passion for Bohemian Rhapsody- it will probably be high on people’s ballots

As for a case for any of the other nominees- it’s certainly possible, especially this year. The crazy thing about this year is that every single major guild- the DGA, PGA, SAG, ACE and WGA, went to completely different movies, which is an unprecedented occurrence. DGA= Roma, PGA= Green Book, SAG= Black Panther, ACE= Bohemian Rhapsody, and WGA= Eighth Grade and Can You Ever Forgive Me? And once we’re talking about a new Academy membership that doesn’t match the demos of any of the guilds anymore, we’re really in uncharted territory. Theoretically, anything could happen on this ballot. I can see a case being made for BlacKkKlansman, which has all the requisite stats going into the night, with nods for picture, director, screenplay, acting, and editing. It was nominated for DGA, SAG and BAFTA, so even the Brits like it. It could be a consensus choice, placing high on a lot of ballots, with lots of #2 and #3 votes across the board. But… it hasn’t won a single guild award going into Oscar night. 

I think  Black Panther  is the real stealth possibility, as SAG winner and a potential consensus vote

I think Black Panther is the real stealth possibility, as SAG winner and a potential consensus vote

The other option is Black Panther- that was the SAG winner, so it’s got the actors behind it, and that’s normally huge, especially in split years. The actors branch is the largest branch in the Academy. The only issue there is that it does not come into the night with support in the other most important categories like directing, acting or writing. And it didn’t get a DGA nomination or many nominations at all at BAFTA. As for any other movie, I suppose there could still be a chance that A Star is Born will place high on multiple ballots, but the movie seems to have faded so much over the season, failing to win anything besides some awards for its music. And The Favourite was strong with the British Academy, but was also not nominated at DGA or SAG for ensemble, while Vice feels like an also ran, and Bohemian Rhapsody was lucky to be nominated at all, given the bad reviews and the scandal surrounding its disgraced director Bryan Singer (although passion for that movie is pretty high, I admit). But my instinct is telling me that Roma is going to make history and take the top award. 

Winner: Roma

Alternate: Green Book (I’m actually shaky on this placement, but the PGA winner can never be considered a dark horse)

Dark Horse: Black Panther (It’s still the SAG winner, and the new membership could help it rise on the ballot over even Green Book- we’ll see what happens)

Taron Egerton Takes on Elton John in 'Rocketman'

So after the incredible success of Bohemian Rhapsody, are we in for a wave of musical biopics about 70’s rock stars? The next one up is Rocketman, which looks like it’s pretty much following the Bohemian formula (it’s also from director Dexter Fletcher, the guy who finished up the movie after Bryan Singer was fired). But apparently this one will have big fantasy musical numbers in it, and I do appreciate that Taron Egerton does his own singing (he sounds good!). It’s coming out May 31st.