In Praise of Teasers ~ Fire in the Sky (1993)

In 2013 I was feeling pretty blue about the state of movie trailers.  For a time, it was imperative for me to get to a theater in time for the previews or else some of the fun would be missing from the experience of going to the movies because, let’s face it, sometimes the coming attractions were more entertaining than the feature presentation.  That started to change when the previews became less of a creative way to market the film and more of way for studios to put all their cards on the table with little artistry.  Like I said back seven years ago, it seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.

Sadly, in the years since I did my first run of the In Praise of Teasers series, not a lot has changed and it may have gotten worse.  It’s gotten to the point where I almost avoid watching a trailer all together because so much of the plot is given away.  This site used to feature a wealth of movie previews but I just can’t bring myself to post too many because they’re so spoiler-y.  Only the rare well-done coming attraction or preview for an “event” film gets through…and even then I can’t think of anything recent that could go toe-to-toe with the brief bites I’m going to share with you over the coming weeks.

That’s why I’ve decided to revive In Praise of Teasers now.  In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot.  Let’s revisit some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there; but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.

Fire in the Sky (1993)

OK.  So here’s one of those examples I was talking about where the teaser trailer is better than the movie.  I vividly (vividly) remember seeing this teaser trailer before a number of movies leading up to its opening in early 1993 and being convinced this was going to be the next big movie.  I mean, it looked like it had a spooky menace to it, it was about aliens, it had the guy from The Cutting Edge in it, plus it was a true story!  I love, and still love, everything about this teaser because it tells you all you need to know to get you interested, invested, and ready to see the film.  Now, Fire in the Sky turned out to be more than a bit of a dud with me (and audiences and critics) because it was more drama than sci-fi at the end of the day and the marketing was misleading to say the least.  I don’t think I’ve seen the film more than twice and it’s been a solid fifteen years since the last time I took it in so perhaps my less “entertain me for the entire running length” brain would appreciate the slower pace of the movie now.  Just look at that cast, it’s nothing to scoff at with the likes of James Garner, Peter Berg, Robert Patrick, and Craig Sheffer joining D.B. Sweeney in this true-life tale of what was reported to be the first alien abduction on record.  (The account is widely believed to be a hoax, the man who claimed to be abducted even went on television to take a lie detector test and failed it!)  It just goes to show you that one good trailer can truly sell tickets…and Paramount was really great at these types of “big promise” trailers that turned out to be less than stellar delivery.  You have to add some points to this one for having a good poster as well — nice try, Paramount.  Nice try.

In Praise of Teasers ~ Strange Days (1995)

In 2013 I was feeling pretty blue about the state of movie trailers.  For a time, it was imperative for me to get to a theater in time for the previews or else some of the fun would be missing from the experience of going to the movies because, let’s face it, sometimes the coming attractions were more entertaining than the feature presentation.  That started to change when the previews became less of a creative way to market the film and more of way for studios to put all their cards on the table with little artistry.  Like I said back seven years ago, it seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.

Sadly, in the years since I did my first run of the In Praise of Teasers series, not a lot has changed and it may have gotten worse.  It’s gotten to the point where I almost avoid watching a trailer all together because so much of the plot is given away.  This site used to feature a wealth of movie previews but I just can’t bring myself to post too many because they’re so spoiler-y.  Only the rare well-done coming attraction or preview for an “event” film gets through…and even then I can’t think of anything recent that could go toe-to-toe with the brief bites I’m going to share with you over the coming weeks.

That’s why I’ve decided to revive In Praise of Teasers now.  In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot.  Let’s revisit some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there; but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.

Strange Days (1995)

It’s easy to see that the problems for Strange Days started with this teaser trailer.  Here was a movie written by James Cameron who had just scored a gigantic success the year earlier with True Lies and directed by his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow still, four years later, riding high off of her blockbuster Point Break.  Though the two were no longer a couple, they continued to collaborate on this project which had been on Cameron’s shelf for years.  Arguably, Bigelow was the right person to direct it but its virtual reality plot line was, in hindsight, perhaps too ahead of its time…and add to that a complicated conspiracy thread running through the film and technical elements that impressed but at times overwhelmed and it all becomes a bit of a blur.  Honestly, the movie is still mostly a jumble in my mind, even today.  I do need to watch it again because it’s got such a great team behind the scenes and an intriguing cast that it should work.  Like I said at the beginning, though, this teaser trailer is too manic and blippy for its own good and doesn’t entice the viewer in for more.  If this were made today, Bradley Cooper would be staring back at us and not Ralph Fiennes, right?  Fiennes is a strong actor but this close-up of him is majorly intense and in a way off-putting, pushing the audience to lean back rather than lean in.  The perfect teaser to me is one that I could see and know right away I’d want to watch the movie without anything else to go off of.  This brief look at Strange Days wouldn’t have been enough to get me in the door, even with Cameron’s name attached.

For more teasers check out my posts on The Fifth Element, The Addams Family, Alien, Misery, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Showgirls, Jurassic Park, Jaws 3D/Jaws: The Revenge, Total Recall, Halloween II: Season of the Witch

In Praise of Teasers ~ The Fifth Element (1997)

1

In 2013 I was feeling pretty blue about the state of movie trailers.  For a time, it was imperative for me to get to a theater in time for the previews or else some of the fun would be missing from the experience of going to the movies because, let’s face it, sometimes the coming attractions were more entertaining than the feature presentation.  That started to change when the previews became less of a creative way to market the film and more of way for studios to put all their cards on the table with little artistry.  Like I said back seven years ago, it seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.

Sadly, in the years since I did my first run of the In Praise of Teasers series, not a lot has changed and it may have gotten worse.  It’s gotten to the point where I almost avoid watching a trailer all together because so much of the plot is given away.  This site used to feature a wealth of movie previews but I just can’t bring myself to post too many because they’re so spoiler-y.  Only the rare well-done coming attraction or preview for an “event” film gets through…and even then I can’t think of anything recent that could go toe-to-toe with the brief bites I’m going to share with you over the coming weeks.

That’s why I’ve decided to revive In Praise of Teasers now.  In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot.  Let’s revisit some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there; but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.

The Fifth Element (1997)

Bless French director Luc Besson, he just marches along to the beat of his own drummer.  While directors aren’t necessarily involved with the marketing of their films, it’s hard not to watch these two teasers for Besson’s space operatic epic The Fifth Element and not see his influence all over them.  Both teasers feature no plot description or final footage from the eye-popping film starring a blonde Bruce Willis and a barely-clothed Milla Jovovich, to say nothing of hearing villain Gary Oldman’s Foghorn Leghorn accent in all its glory.  No, audiences would have to wait for a longer trailer to get a better picture of what Besson had in store, following on the heels of his well-liked but minor-hit Léon: The Professional in 1995.  Make no mistake, The Fifth Element was a risky endeavor (as all Besson’s films are, see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets for proof) and while it made only $63 million dollars here in the US, it netted a total worldwide gross of almost $265 million…so clearly overseas took to it far better than we did.  I remember being in Spain the summer this was released and seeing the most gigantic billboards ever advertising this — truly an astonishing sight to behold.  Watching the feature film again recently I was struck by how ahead of its time it was.  It’s silly but fun and totally the Europop comfort food we’ve come to expect from Besson, though these early teasers hint at something a little less focused on style and more on inter-galactic adventure.  And no Diva Dance…that would have to wait for the main event.

For more teasers check out my posts on The Addams Family, Alien, Misery, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Showgirls, Jurassic Park, Jaws 3D/Jaws: The Revenge, Total Recall, Halloween II: Season of the Witch

In Praise of Teasers ~ The Addams Family (1991)

In 2013 I was feeling pretty blue about the state of movie trailers.  For a time, it was imperative for me to get to a theater in time for the previews or else some of the fun would be missing from the experience of going to the movies because, let’s face it, sometimes the coming attractions were more entertaining than the feature presentation.  That started to change when the previews became less of a creative way to market the film and more of way for studios to put all their cards on the table with little artistry.  Like I said back seven years ago, it seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.

Sadly, in the years since I did my first run of the In Praise of Teasers series, not a lot has changed and it may have gotten worse.  It’s gotten to the point where I almost avoid watching a trailer all together because so much of the plot is given away.  This site used to feature a wealth of movie previews but I just can’t bring myself to post too many because they’re so spoiler-y.  Only the rare well-done coming attraction or preview for an “event” film gets through…and even then I can’t think of anything recent that could go toe-to-toe with the brief bites I’m going to share with you over the coming weeks.

That’s why I’ve decided to revive In Praise of Teasers now.  In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot.  Let’s revisit some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there; but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.

The Addams Family (1991)

Any dissection of the art of the teaser trailer simply must include a look at the one for The Addams Family.  Notable for its length and also because it was produced solely for the teaser with no other footage from the final film used, it’s a real winner.  Personally, I always get a kick out of these cinematic moments that break the fourth wall and acknowledge the audiences.  Movie buffs that like to go over the finer details will notice actor Christopher Lloyd’s Uncle Fester’s make-up differs greatly from how he looked when the movie was released and there are some that speculate it isn’t even Lloyd you see here.  Reading the recently released autobiography of the films director, “Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker”, I found out how arduous it was to get the movie made but as you can see from the rarely seen short teaser below, the creative team assembled really got it right from the beginning, leading the movie to be a certified hit.  I do remember seeing this a few times in theaters the summer of 1991 but once the full trailer was released it understandably vanished, but it’s nice to see it again after all these years.  It also speaks to the audience recognition of the characters that there isn’t even a title listed at the end!

For a refresher on my previous series back in 2013, check out my posts on Alien, Misery, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Showgirls, Jurassic Park, Jaws 3D/Jaws: The Revenge, Total Recall, Halloween II: Season of the Witch

Trolls World Tour – Home Premiere

Throw your own home premiere for TROLLS WORLD TOUR this Friday!

For fun activities, Download the at Home Premiere Party Pack:

https://www.dreamworks.com/downloads/TrollsPartyPack.pdf

Also be sure to check out the “How To Draw A Troll” Tutorial Series below:

How To Draw Tiny Diamond –

How To Draw Poppy –

How To Draw Branch –

TROLLS WORLD TOUR – At home on demand April 10 on WatchTrolls.com

Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | #TrollsWorldTour

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return in Trolls World Tour, an all-star sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s 2016 musical hit. In an adventure that will take them well beyond what they’ve known before, Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) discover that they are but one of six different Trolls tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.

A member of hard-rock royalty, Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom), aided by her father King Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne), wants to destroy all other kinds of music to let rock reign supreme. With the fate of the world at stake, Poppy and Branch, along with their friends — Biggie (James Corden), Chenille (Caroline Hjelt), Satin (Aino Jawo), Cooper (Ron Funches) and Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar) — set out to visit all the other lands to unify the Trolls in harmony against Barb, who’s looking to upstage them all.

Cast as members of the different musical tribes is one of the largest, and most acclaimed, groups of musical talent ever assembled for an animated film. From the land of Funk are Mary J. Blige, George Clinton and Anderson .Paak. Representing Country is Kelly Clarkson as Delta Dawn, with Sam Rockwell as Hickory and Flula Borg as Dickory. J Balvin brings Reggaeton, while Ester Dean adds to the Pop tribe. Anthony Ramos brings the beat in Techno and Jamie Dornan covers smooth jazz. World-renowned conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel appears as Trollzart and Charlyne Yi as Pennywhistle from the land of Classical. And Kenan Thompson raps as a newborn Troll named Tiny Diamond.

Trolls World Tour is directed by Walt Dohrn, who served as co-director on Trolls, and is produced by returning producer Gina Shay. The film is co-directed by David P. Smith and co-produced by Kelly Cooney Cilella, both of whom worked on the first Trolls.

Genre: Animated Musical Adventure

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, J Balvin, Rachel Bloom, Flula Borg, Kelly Clarkson, James Corden, Ester Dean, Jamie Dornan, Gustavo Dudamel, Ron Funches, Caroline Hjelt, Aino Jawo, Kunal Nayyar, Ozzy Osbourne, Anderson .Paak, Anthony Ramos, Sam Rockwell, Betsy Sodaro, Karan Soni, Kenan Thompson, Charlyne Yi, with George Clinton and Mary J. Blige

Director: Walt Dohrn

Producer: Gina Shay

Co-director: David P. Smith

Co-producer: Kelly Cooney Cilella

2019 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst, Grand Totals

Hello!

It’s the 31st of December and I’m furiously typing away to put together my end of the year list.  Forget about me making a Best of the Decade list — I’d be working on it for weeks.  Instead, take a read at the movies that have sparked joy in me over the past twelve months and which have made my eyes glow red with anger. 

This year I made a promise to myself to review every new movie I had the good fortune to screen/see in theaters and I’m pleased to see that I kept that promise throughout.  It required more of my time and involved prioritizing some work but I feel the end result was worth it.  I hope to continue that as we approach the NINTH year of The MN Movie Man.  What a wild ride.

Although I’m slightly aghast at the amount of movies I saw this year (look below, I’m a bit horrified to reveal the number here), I’ve learned a lot by seeking out films that are off the beaten path and not just sticking to the mainstream releases.  Critics nowadays seem to be only bringing attention to movies that are easily accessible but I think we should all be working harder to push ourselves into highlighting and championing the smaller films that are being pushed out of theaters by an endless array of blockbusters (which I also quite like, by the way).  If you’re a critic and reading this — I challenge you to review on your blog/channel/page at least one movie a month that didn’t get a mainstream release.  It was a huge creative step forward for me this year — try it for yourself!

As always, I’ve appreciated your feedback, your patronage, and your general presence in my blog. Even if you read this everyday but have never commented or made contact I can still tell you’ve been here and that means a lot.  

If you haven’t already, make sure to follow this blog, follow me on Twitter (@joemnmovieman), follow me on Instagram, and like my Facebook page so you can help me continue spreading the news about The MN Movie Man.

Best Wishes to you and yours for a most Happy New Year!

~Joe (The MN Movie Man)

5. Us – It was just two years ago that Jordan Peele’s feature directorial debut Get Out landed on top of my Best of 2017 list. Fears of a sophomore slump were put to rest with the arrival of Us, a more straight-forward horror film from Peele that frightened me something good. There’s less of the social commentary that was present in Get Out but Us does have some interesting things to say if you read between the bloody lines. This was one of the few movies I saw twice in theaters and both times it was highly effective, thanks in no small part to Lupita Nyong’o’s incredible lead performance. Back in March I felt like Nyong’o could be an Oscar contender and hopefully in a few weeks it will happen – she’s part of an excellent cast telling Peele’s twisted tale. So good.

4. Apollo 11 – After the languid First Man in 2018, I thought I had had my fill of space movies for a bit and certainly didn’t think there was there anything more to learn about the Apollo missions that hadn’t already been covered. Then Apollo 11 snuck into theaters and sent me out of orbit with praise. A staggering documentary that features an astonishing amount of never before seen footage remastered so that it looked like it was filmed yesterday, watching this brought out the happy tears in me. Gorgeous to look at and filled with edge-of-your-seat moments, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.

3. The Farewell – The good buzz on The Farewell followed it into theaters after it debuted to strong acclaim in Sundance. From director Lulu Wang and based on her real life family, it’s a sweet but not saccharine look at a different culture and the way they choose to deal with death. I appreciated there were so many opportunities for viewers like myself to learn more about Chinese customs in addition to watching a beautifully touching story unfold. Known for her more comedic work, Awkwafina logged an impressive dramatic debut but the movie belongs to luminous Shuzhen Zhao as the grandmother kept in the dark by her family about her recent diagnosis of a terminal disease. You’ll cry, but not for the reasons you’d expect.

2. 1917 – Among the many successes that 1917 can claim is keeping my attention during what is traditionally a rough genre for me. Diverting from your standard war film tropes, writer/director Sam Mendes (Skyfall) and his co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns side-step the landmines of recreating a well-known incident from the first World War and opt to go with something more personal. Shot to look like the entire two hour movie was filmed in one take, aside from its stunning achievement in cinematography it has two appealing stars and a moving story to tell. I was fully engaged from frame one until the last credit onscreen and once this opens wide in January 2020 I think audiences will feel the same way.

1. A Hidden Life – I’ve spent the last two months since I saw A Hidden Life thinking about it almost daily and while I knew it would be in my top five of the year, it’s ability to stay so emotionally fresh with me kept pushing it higher up in the ranks. I honestly could have flipped a coin between this and 1917 but in the end writer/director Terrence Malick’s magnificent film was the only choice for me. Though it has disappointingly been given a paltry release, I’ve been urging everyone to get to the theater and see this pronto because it has some truly majestic moments that deserve to be viewed on the big screen. Malick’s film centers around a Austrian conscientious objector during WWII and the devastating effect it has not just on him but his family struggling to keep going in his absence. It’s a somber film but filled with some of the best views I saw all year and two quietly powerful lead performances that hold it all together. It will still have an impact on the small screen but if you have any chance to see A Hidden Life at your local moviehouse…do it. It’s my favorite film of the year.

Honorable Mentions: Parasite (2019), Ad Astra, Avengers: Endgame, Bombshell, Crawl, Doctor Sleep, Knives Out, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Premature, Queen & Slim, Ready or Not, The Irishman, Saint Frances, The Kid Who Would Be King, The Mustang

5. Dumbo (2019) – Even though Disney will wind up the year the most profitable studio thanks to their owning most of the big franchise pictures that made billions, they can’t escape that they released some stinkers in 2019 as well. You’ll notice their live-action remake of Aladdin is down in Dis(Honorable) mentions and while a live-action The Lion King didn’t totally sully the memory of the animated original it didn’t make the kind of money it was predicted to. I actually enjoyed the new Lady & The Tramp on Disney+ but Tim Burton’s update of Dumbo was a real mess. Adding new characters, taking what was a simple story, and drowning it in excess, it was an eye-sore and it made my butt-sore. They say an elephant never forgets but they’d definitely make an effort after watching this three-ring disaster.

4. Serenity (2019) – One of the first movies I saw in theaters last January was the much-delayed Serenity. Boasting a bevy of A-list Oscar favorites, this mystery wanted to be steamy and twisty but would up being a laughably bad attempt at meta-filmmaking that was sunk quickly after opening. Relying on one totally crazy twist that isn’t hard to spot, actually, viewers didn’t watch the movie as much as they sort of just bore witness to it all falling apart in front of them. I like almost everyone in this and would never turn my nose up at a modern day noir, but the route Serenity travels on is too far-fetched. Jump ship on this one fast.

3. Her Smell – Numerous critics I respect have Her Smell on their Best of the Year list and would probably be wide-eyed to see it as my #3 worst of the year but this experience in agony was too much to handle. Star Elisabeth Moss earned praise for diving head-first into the role of a self-destructive singer whose years of hard living alienate her from everyone she loves but it comes off like Moss was just riffing in rehearsal and it was caught on camera. The move alienates you almost from the start and spends it’s first hour following Moss as her character embarks on a repulsive spiral into darkness. Full disclosure – I watched this for about twenty minutes before fast-forwarding to the latter half which I had heard made the first part worth the wait. It didn’t.

2. Aquarela – I honestly have never tried so hard not to fall asleep in the middle of a movie than I have watching this documentary. Boasting new filming techniques and shown with a frame rate to create images that felt close to lifelike, the bells and whistles can’t mask this is a supremely boring film. Charting various forms of water, it’s almost entirely dialogue-free and set to a score that will have you plugging your ears if you haven’t already run for the door. About halfway through, I got the feeling audiences were being tested on their stamina in finding the end purpose and eventually allowed myself to close my eyes. I didn’t fall asleep but could have easily conked out – yet I kept one eye open just so can say that “I Survived Aquarela”.

1. Child’s Play (2019) – Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the original Child’s Play from 1988 was some untouchable classic – because watching it again shortly after seeing this heinously awful remake (as a palate cleanser) reminded me the one that started it all has its share of clumsy moments. Yet it remains a well-oiled machine of a film, occasional issues aside. That’s not the case with this ill-advised update that’s almost insulting to watch. No real thought went into this, including the performances. Aubrey Plaza should be fined some sort of audience taxation for her dreadful acting – the crummy new doll is even a better actor than her. I was so mad coming out of this movie…and I’m still mad today. Worst of the year, no question about it.

Dis(Honorable) Mentions: Aladdin (2019), Yesterday, Vox Lux, Trick (2019), Lucy in the Sky, Climax, Brightburn

Most Misunderstood: Alita: Battle Angel – this is one that had so much potential but perhaps was too big of a reach even for it’s high-flying filmmakers. I enjoyed this overblown sci-fi film boasting impressive visuals and a motion-captured leading actress. True, this was adapted from an Asian source and the American-ization of it didn’t help, but I have a feeling this is one that people will discover as time goes on and wonder why the hinted at sequel never materialized. A disappointing box office take likely means we won’t get a follow-up on the same scale…but perhaps goodwill will win out.
Honorable Mention: Black Christmas (2019)

Joe’s Humble Pie Award of 2019 (movies that turned out differently than I expected going in): Angel Has Fallen – A silly Gerard Butler vehicle gets some extra attention on my end of the year list? Well it deserves it for being an entertaining entry in Butler’s surprise franchise that casts him as a government agent protecting our national security. The first film, Olympus Has Fallen, was mediocre but fun while the sequel, London Has Fallen, is ghoulishly terrible. I didn’t have high hopes for this one because it seemed to come out of nowhere, but the sneak attack worked to its advantage. Totally was better than I ever thought it would be.
Honorable Mention: Midway (2019)

Two Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen But Should: Wild RoseLuce – I already feel like I’ve been talking about Wild Rose too much and I’m building people up to be let down but it truly is one of those rare indie films that has the goods but not many people have caught on yet. Star Jessie Buckley (Judy) turns in one of my favorite performances of the year, her acting is grand but her singing is off the charts. She could record an album tomorrow and have an entirely other career if she wanted. Sort of in the vein of A Star is Born but not nearly as tragic, it’s my new “go-to” when people ask me what they should watch.
Special mention to Luce for featuring Octavia Spencer’s best performance to date, which ironically isn’t getting any attention in the end of the year awards. What Spencer does in this adaptation of a play is nothing less than extraordinary and coupled with star on the rise Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (Waves), Naomi Watts, and Tim Roth you have a recipe for a movie that’s challenging and will spark discussions after. Absolutely keep your eye open for this one to show up on streaming services soon.

Others to Consider:

Absentia
American Factory
Border (Gräns)
Capernaum (Capharnaüm)
Fighting with My Family
Food Coop
Haunt
Juliet, Naked
Minding the Gap
Science Fair
Secrets & Lies
Swallow
Sweetheart
Tea with the Dames
The Boys from Brazil
The Invitation
The Lost City of Z
The Slumber Party Massacre
The Wedding Banquet (Xi yan)
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Vampire Circus

Click HERE for a full listing of films seen in 2019
Total Movies Seen in the Theater: 150
Total Movies Seen at Home: 286
Grand Total for 2019 (not counting films seen multiple times): 430
Where I Saw the Most Movies – Showplace ICON (46!!)

Free Screening ~ 1917

Hello!

One of the very best movies of the year is set for limited release later in December and won’t be opening in Minnesota until January 10th…but we lucky Minnesotans have a special opportunity to see an advanced screening of 1917 on Wednesday, December 11 at Marcus Oakdale Cinema.

Visit this sign-up link: 1917 Free Screening (https://forms.gle/jTtcbAgNkybRyENT7) to request a screening pass.  You’ll receive information back with details on the screening — make sure to spread the word!

Here’s a special tip from The MN Movie Man — arrive early to get the best seat.  These advance screenings often have a line to get in and are overbooked to ensure capacity.  This is one movie you should try to avoid seeing from the front row on the far left if you don’t have to 🙂

Here’s the official information: From the director of Skyfall, 1917 is a World War 1 epic telling the story of a heroic and impossible mission undertaken by two British soldiers.

I saw the movie last week and while my full review isn’t quite ready for publication, I can tell you it’s going to finish high in my Best of the Year list.  It’s already been nominated for a number of critics awards and you can expect it to receive love from the Golden Globes and Oscars when they announce their nominations in a few weeks.  This is a great opportunity to see the movie before anyone else does — definitely do go!

Nominations – Film Independent Spirit Awards

Here we go!  The first major awards nominations have been announced and they are the Film Independent Spirit Awards.  Voted on by members of Film Independent with the intention to select winners from films with smaller budgets representing the best of the year and celebrating inclusion and diversity, this tends to be a fun show with a wiiiiiiiide range of films.  It can be hard to predict the nominees and often hard to predict the winners.  Several of the titles below are movies that have received festival runs or East/West coast qualifying releases so far, meaning most of middle America hasn’t seen them yet, but I’m sure looking forward to a number of them.  There will be some overlap of nominees with the Oscars (held the next day) but I hope the tradition continues where it’s not across the board winners throughout the season.

Thankfully, these nominations are announced so early that you have enough time to seek these movies out well beforehand!  So…get to watching!  Don’t forget to bookmark here for all your top award season coverage.

Best Feature
A Hidden Life
Clemency
The Farewell
Marriage Story
Uncut Gems

Best First Feature
Booksmart
The Climb
Diane
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
The Mustang
See You Yesterday

Best Director
Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse)
Alma Har’el (Honey Boy)
Julius Onah (Luce)
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie (Uncut Gems)
Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers)

Best Screenplay
Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)
Jason Begue, Shawn Snyder (To Dust)
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie (Uncut Gems)
Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency)
Tarell Alvin McCraney (High Flying Bird)

Best Female Lead
Karen Allen (Colewell)
Hong Chau (Driveways)
Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell)
Mary Kay Place (Diane)
Alfre Woodard (Clemency)
Renée Zellweger (Judy)

Best Male Lead
Chris Galust (Give Me Liberty)
Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Luce)
Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse)
Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems)
Matthias Schoenaerts (The Mustang)

Best Documentary
American Factory
Apollo 11
For Sama
Honeyland
Island of the Hungry Ghosts

Best Supporting Female
Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers)
Taylor Russell (Waves)
Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell)
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer (Give Me Liberty)
Octavia Spencer (Luce)

Best Supporting Male
Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
Noah Jupe (Honey Boy)
Shia Labeouf (Honey Boy)
Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)
Wendell Pierce (Burning Cane)

Robert Altman Award
Noah Baumbach, Douglas Aibel, Francine Maisler, Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever (Marriage Story)

Best First Screenplay
Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol (See You Yesterday)
Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen (Driveways)
Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy (Blow the Man Down)
Jocelyn Deboer, Dawn Luebbe (Greener Grass)
James Montague, Craig W. Sanger (The Vast of the Night)

Best Editing
Julie Béziau (The Third Wife)
Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems)
Tyler L. Cook (Sword of Trust)
Louise Ford (The Lighthouse)
Kirill Mikhanovsky (Give Me Liberty)

Best Cinematography
Todd Banhazl (Hustlers)
Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse)
Natasha Braier (Honey Boy)
Chananun Chotrungroj (The Third Wife)
Pawel Pogorzelski (Midsommar)

Best International Film
Invisible Life, Brazil
Les Miserablés, France
Parasite, South Korea
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, France
Retablo, Peru
The Souvenir, United Kingdom

John Cassavetes Award
Burning Cane
Colewell
Give Me Liberty
Premature
Wild Nights With Emily

Producers Award
Mollye Asher
Krista Parris
Ryan Zacarias

Someone to Watch Award
Rashaad Ernesto Green (Premature)
Ash Mayfair (The Third Wife)
Joe Talbot (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)

Truer Than Fiction Award
Khalik Allah (Black Mother)
Davy Rothbart (17 Blocks)
Nadia Shihab (Jaddoland)
Erick Stoll, Chase Whiteside (América)

Annual Bonnie Award
Marielle Heller
Kelly Reichardt
Lulu Wang

Final Oscar Predictions and Rankings

Here we are!  The big day!  It feels like this awards season has gone on forever and a never ending barrage of controversy from the host, to the length of the telecast, to what awards might not be presented live on the telecast.  At the end of the day, the 91st Academy Awards will be a hostless affair and feature only four of the five musical performances.  All the winners will be announced live and aside from that many of the races are coming down to a photo finish.  As it usually the case, many pundits (myself included) are having last-minute buyers remorse and flip-flopping on who they think the winners will be.

The time has come, however, to shore up my picks and below you’ll see my rankings by film/nominee in each category representing my overall picks as well as a Will Win and Should Win.  Hopefully, this will give me a little room to put out into the ether some last minute good vibes for nominees that may not be coming into the night as favorites but who could leave the ceremony with an Oscar in hand.

Also, this is the first year I’ve seen all the nominees and while I’m not sure how much of a edge that gets me because the Oscars are nothing if not unpredictable when it comes down to it.  I do think, though, that critics/movie fans worth their salt need to look beyond commercial films or buzzed about titles and seek out the nominees that might not be the most talked about.  It felt good to see everything and go into the night understanding what the winners were up against.

BEST PICTURE
A Star is Born
The Favourite

Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Roma
Green Book
Bohemian Rhapsody
Vice

Will Win: All signs point to Roma becoming the first foreign language film to win the Best Picture Oscar.  
Should Win: My heart hurts that the raw energy of A Star is Born and the audacious pluck of The Favourite won’t be rewarded.

BEST DIRECTOR
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Adam McKay, Vice

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron’s winning for Roma seems like a foregone conclusion.
Should Win:
Spike Lee – I just feel deep down this award was meant for him this year.

BEST ACTOR
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Christian Bale, Vice
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Will Win: Rami Malek – a strong performance but it’s not near the level of work that the person I think should win put in.  Malek has played the game this season, though, and when he wins it will be because he gladhanded his way into voters hearts.
Should Win: 
Bradley Cooper – I just can’t believe Cooper didn’t walk away with this award.  He was responsible for so much behind the scenes with A Star is Born and then to turn in this kind of performance?  It’s remarkable.  I do think his lack of presence with voters hurt him — he likely thought he had it in the bag and didn’t put the same kind of effort that Malek did.  Which is too bad because the award should be given to the performance, not the person.

BEST ACTRESS
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Will Win: Glenn Close – it’s not, um, close, to her finest work but it’s definitely her time to take home Oscar gold.
Should Win:
Melissa McCarthy gave the best performance of any of the nominees.  No question.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Will Win: It’s category fraud since he’s without question the co-lead of Green Book, but Mahershala Ali is heading for his second Oscar.
Should Win: If there’s one wish I had for Oscar night it would be that Rami Malek would be blanked for Best Actor.  If had two wishes, the second would go toward hoping Richard E. Grant would be a surprise upset in this race.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma

Will Win:
Regina King is such a strong force in If Beale Street Could Talk and she’s well liked by nearly everyone in The Academy.  I found the performance to be slightly one-note but the note is almost always played in perfect pitch.
Should Win: Rachel Weisz – though she’ll split the vote with her co-star, Weisz has the trickiest role of the other two ladies in The Favourite.  Seeing the movie again recently only confirmed that she’s the MVP of that movie.

BEST EDITING
Barry Alexander Brown, BlacKkKlansman
Yorgos Mavropsaridis, The Favourite

John Ottman, Bohemian Rhapsody
Patrick J. Don Vito, Green Book
Hank Corwin, Vice

Will Win: Seems like people want to reward John Ottman for taking the mess that was Bohemian Rhapsody and fashioning it into something that could be released.  Still, if you’ve seen the film you’d know that the editing is amateur hour all the way.
Should Win:
BlacKkKlansman has so little excess fat on it, it’s streamlined which adds to its breathlessness.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Green Book

Will Win: This is a close race with many wanting to reward Paul Schrader, even if First Reformed isn’t in the same league as his classic scripts for Taxi Driver or Raging Bull.  I’m still betting on The Favourite to win.
Should Win:
The Favourite – it’s the best shot it has at a sure-thing Oscar tonight, despite tying Roma for the most nominations.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott, BlacKkKlansman
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters and Eric Roth, A Star is Born
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Will Win: The team from BlacKkKlansman are the likely victors, only because this might be the only time of the night to give Spike Lee an Oscar.
Should Win:
If you’ve read Lee Israel’s book that Can You Ever Forgive Me? was based off, I’m told you’d know why Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty deserve the award for taking source material and expanding its ideas for the screen.  Just look what they did with Richard E. Grant’s character who only briefly turns up in the book but becomes a solid supporting player in the movie.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Capernaum {Lebanon}
Roma {Mexico}
Shoplifters {Japan}
Never Look Away {Germany}
Cold War {Poland}

Will Win: Roma – the groundswell for this makes it almost an unstoppable force.  Only Cold War (the worst of the five) could upset it should voters not want to vote for Roma here and in Best Picture.
Should Win:
Capernaum – far more involving from a narrative perspective than Roma ever was, I can see why some people are turned off at the subject matter.  It’s still the best of the five nominees.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Robbie Ryan, The Favourite
Matthew Libatique, A Star is Born
Lukasz Zal, Cold War
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Caleb Deschanel, Never Look Away

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron for Roma
Should Win:
Robbie Ryan’s cinematography for The Favourite was, like the film, inventive and unexpected.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton, The Favourite
John Myhre, Gordon Sim, Mary Poppins Returns
Hannah Beachler, Black Panther
Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas, First Man
Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez, Roma

Will Win: The team behind The Favourite created a period-perfect world that was meticulous and gorgeous.
Should Win:
The Favourite

BEST SOUND MIXING
A Star is Born
Bohemian Rhapsody
Black Panther

First Man
Roma

Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Should Win:
A Star is Born

BEST SOUND EDITING
A Quiet Place
Bohemian Rhapsody
Black Panther
First Man
Roma

Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Should Win:
A Quiet Place

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther
Alexandra Byrne, Mary Queen of Scots
Sandy Powell, The Favourite
Sandy Powell, Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Zophres, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Will Win: Ruth E. Carter – every other nominee had some sort of point of reference to work with but Carter created these stupendous designs from scratch using new technologies.  That should absolutely get her the Oscar.
Should Win:
Ruth E. Carter

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Free Solo
Minding the Gap
RBG
Of Fathers and Sons
Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Will Win: Free Solo – even if the subject wasn’t such a fascinating guy, the effort that went into making this was Herculean in scope.
Should Win:
Free Solo

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Mirai

Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – no other nominee comes close.
Should Win:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers: Infinity War
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Christopher Robin

Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War – the sheer magnitude of effects is impressive, and that is doesn’t look like a cartoon is why it should be rewarded.
Should Win:
First Man – the subtle work that went into sending Neil Armstrong to the moon doesn’t overshadow the action and mostly goes unnoticed.  The best visual effects are the ones that we believe to be true.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Border
Vice
Mary Queen of Scots

Will Win: Vice – Christan Bale’s performance would be just the glorified impression it is without the work here.
Should Win: Border – if more people had been able to see this movie, they would be on board for voting.  The full body transformation accomplished here was stunning.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
Terence Blanchard, BlacKkKlansman
Ludwig Goransson, Black Panther
Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns

Will Win: Nicholas Britell’s score for If Beale Street Could Talk was almost another character.  It’s beautiful.
Should Win:
Britell

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Shallow”, A Star is Born
“The Place Where Lost Things Go”, Mary Poppins Returns
“All the Stars”, Black Panther
“I’ll Fight”, RBG
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings”, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Will Win: “Shallow”
Should Win:
“Shallow”- If this doesn’t win it would be the capper on the cruel journey A Star is Born has gone on these last few months of coming into the awards season as the frontrunner only to be usurped by movies that aren’t nearly as universally liked.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Period. End of Sentence
Black Sheep
End Game
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden

Will Win: Black Sheep – this was a rough bunch this year and this was probably the best of the four fairly depressing entries.  I don’t think it’s a true documentary, though, which put it out of the running in my book.
Should Win: Period. End of Sentence – I guess I’m just favoring work this year that uplifts and this documentary has its heart in the right place and put it to good use.  I can’t believe some of the comments I’ve read about how male voters will likely be turned off because talking about women’s mestrual cycles was “icky”.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Bao
Animal Behaviour
Weekends

Will Win: Bao – shown in front of Incredibles 2 this summer, it’s the one most voters will have seen, even if it’s not the strongest of the bunch…or even one of the better Pixar shorts.
Should Win:
Late Afternoon – the animation may be simplistic but the journey it takes you on is anything but.  It’s the clear winner for me.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Marguerite
Mother
Detainment
Fauve
Skin

Will Win: Skin – it’s the most cinematic of all but voters knowing the director went on to make a full length film with the same title loosely based on the same subject might want to hold their vote to see how that one turns out.
Should Win: Marguerite – the least problematic of all the nominees and also the least outright depressing. Like the animated short Late Afternoon, it’s a small, simple tale beautifully told.