By Dan Skip Allen
Courtroom dramas are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. A lot of them have flashy lawyers played by a who's who of Hollywood A-listers. The lawyer is usually considered the star of courtroom dramas. In the case of Primal Fear, the star lawyer in the film is Martin Vail, played by Richard Gere. He's a hot defense attorney on the news at night and the cover of magazines. The star power of Richard Gere is all a film like Primal Fear needed, but it has a hell of a lot more star power in it. The least of which is Academy Award nominee Edward Norton as Aaron Stampler.
Martin Vail (Richard Gere) is a hotshot lawyer who defends the biggest criminals in Chicago. He gets them settlements and results for himself. When an altar boy, Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) is caught running from a murder scene at the house of a prominent priest in Chicago, Archbishop Rushman, covered in his blood. Vail zeroes in on this high-profile case. This could be the whale he's been trying to catch for his entire career. Does all the evidence point to this altar boy or is there more to this case than meets the eye?
Looking back at Primal Fear is an incredible thing because of the story based on the novel by William Deihl. This is an amazing story of mistaken identity or possibly multiple personality disorder. This film has an amazing cast that all play their roles terrifically. From the prosecutor Janet Venable (Laura Linney) to the shrink Molly (Frances McDormand) to the Judge Shoat (Alfre Woodard), this cast is packed! Andre Braugher, John Maloney, Maura Tierney are just a few more names in this film that all do excellent work. The real star is Edward Norton! It's the role of a lifetime for him and he got robbed of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Primal Fear has a great story, but it's the twist that makes it work. Gere's character has to sell his side of the story. If he does, the jury and audience can buy into the twist. This film is a classic whodunnit, but everybody already knows who done it. Or do they? The twists and turns in this film are off the wall, which makes it a great courtroom drama. This film isn't straightforward. That's a good thing because it keeps everybody on the edge of their seats throughout. All great courtroom dramas have this effect.
The director, Gregory Hoblit, takes the words of the author and puts them into capable hands: the actors'. He creates an atmosphere that the actors bring their a-game in every scene. He films the courtroom scenes with a lot of up-close shots so the viewers can see all the emotions on the actor's faces as they perform this great dialogue. All great films start with the script and the source material. This film is no different than all the rest in that regard.
Primal Fear takes the classic courtroom drama and turns it on its head. It has great performances from the entire cast, but most notably from Gere and Norton. They both give career-best performances in this film. Hoblit put the camera in the right places every time including a lot of close-ups. The script is terrifically acted out by everybody involved in the film. The suspense was there every moment Norton was on screen. He gives one of the best performances ever as the altar boy with multiple personalities. This is the main reason why this film is so great!
By Dan Skip Allen
It's no secret that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were fans of the pulp serials of the early '40s and '50s. They loved the movies, don't get me wrong, but they really loved the pulp serials of Batman, Buck Rogers, Tarzan, and the like which kept them coming back week after week. The cliffhangers were almost unbearable for the duo as kids growing up on the verge of becoming filmmakers decades later. These serials were what gave Lucas the idea for Indiana Jones. With that, he got his good friend Spielberg to come along for the ride on this extraordinary adventure.
Dr. Henry Jones (Harrison Ford) is a professor for his day job, but on the weekends he goes by Indiana, whether it was the dog's name will soon be determined in later installments of the franchise. He galivants around the globe on a crazy adventure and dangerous exploits. When his friend and sometimes assistant, Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), comes to him with the idea that the Ark of the Covenant still exists and they need to find it before the Nazis, he can't resist the chase and the danger that goes along with it. The Nazis make the perfect villain! They are set on world domination and the ark can help them get it.
Like a lot of the shorts, Indiana Jones has its share of heart-pounding escapes. He also has to deal with "Snakes? Why does it have to be Snakes?" a phobia we didn't know about until that moment. Disney even adapted one of his most famous hair's-breadth escapes into a show at their theme parks. He encounters several natives and sword-wielding assassins, as well as men who turn their back on him when he needs them the most. He does have a few friends though, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) who he meets on his trip, and Sallah (John Rhys Davies) his trusty ally in far-off lands. The stage is set for an epic adventure for the ages.
Another frequent collaborator to Lucas and Spielberg is the composer of the Boston Pops, John Williams. He has done epic scores for the Star Wars movies, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by this point in his career, six of the most famous compositions in his long and storied career as a composer. He would need to do something even greater for Indiana Jones though. It had to live up to everything he had done in the past, but bring something new to the table. He did just that. His Raiders of the Lost Ark score is one of the best he ever did. It had such a great catch to it. It was a perfect addition to this amazing film.
Harrison Ford was an established actor by this point in his career. He had a small role in American Graffiti, but his big role came when he got the no-good swindler himself, Han Solo. He brought a sense of colorful suave ladies' man to the table in the Star Wars films. He brought an entirely different side to his performance in the Indiana Jones films. He got to flex his action muscles in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This film required a lot of running and jumping which was very vigorous and hard on him. He enjoyed every moment of it though. He loved playing Indiana Jones, and it showed on screen.
As a kid, I was looking for different kinds of films that I could get behind. I loved everything growing up. I'm not as old as Lucas and Spielberg so I didn't grow up on these serials as they did. I sure as hell grew up on Indiana Jones, though. I was about 7 when the first Indiana Jones film came out and I had never seen anything like it before. The action and adventure were off the charts. The acting, campy at times, was funny and cool. The score by Williams was so amazing as well. Everything combined for a great experience for me and a lot of other people I'm sure of. Forty years later Raiders of the Lost Ark stands up better than ever. Nothing like it has come since so it makes sense.
By Dan Skip Allen
In the last couple of decades, some mergers and acquisitions have been going on. Some of them are from Disney. They acquired Marvel, Pixar and just last year they made a huge move by buying 20th Century for 86 billion dollars. They got their entire library of films, Fox Searchlight, all the Marvel properties they owed, and their cable tv stations. Those were just the tip of the iceberg on all the mergers and acquisitions that have been made in recent years. The landscape of film and entertainment is always changing. With streaming becoming a huge media outlet, things will continue to change as long as people want to keep digesting it.
A few years ago, the telecommunications giant AT&T acquired Warner Media which included HBO, Warner Brothers Studios, and DC Comics, amongst others. This would help make AT&T one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the world. It didn't last long. The COVID-19 pandemic caused some problems for AT&T and its plan to be a major player in the world of entertainment. They couldn't put their movies out in theaters. Which meant they could make the money back that they spent on making them. So as a stop-gap measure they decided to put their films on their streaming service, HBO Max. If you had this service, it would seem like a good idea. In the overall scheme of things, it's not a great business move. AT&T wasn't getting much money back by putting their films on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time. They were losing money. Also, people balked at this decision, especially some of their biggest talents such as Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve. And James Gunn said he would never work with them again. This all led to the decision last week to spin off Warner Media from AT&T. Discovery Media is to merge with Warner Media, which includes HBO/HBO Max, Warner Bros. Studios, and DC Comics for 43 billion dollars. Discovery is in the entertainment industry. They are a better fit for Warner Media.
On the heels of the AT&T spin-off of Warner Media, last week came the merger of Amazon and MGM. Amazon acquired MGM for 8 billion dollars, give or take a few hundred thousand. With this acquisition also came some of the big IPs, namely 4,000 plus films including the James Bond franchise, co-owned by Eon/The Broccoli Family, the Rocky franchise, Robocop, Stargate, the Silence of the Lambs franchise, the Pink Panther franchise, and the Legally Blonde franchise. Amazon also acquired the 17,000 tv shows that MGM has created in its past. All this would help strengthen Amazon Prime which is the streaming service of Amazon. They are looking to use some of these IPs to create new shows and movies down the road. The acquisition would help strengthen Amazon in the entertainment industry which is continuing to move more and more toward streaming services. This may have been a great deal for Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
With these major sales and acquisitions comes the inevitable question. What is going to happen to physical media involving these companies? With both Discovery and Amazon focusing on streaming services and theatrical releases, does physical media still have a chance with these power moves? Amazon already has a deal in place with Warner Media to sell their discs on their service Amazon Prime. The Warner Archive store is now on Amazon Prime. MGM has a huge library of shows and movies. This may lend itself to create exclusives for Amazon Prime so they get all the money, leaving Best Buy and Target out of the loop on these properties. The 4K format could really benefit from exclusive boxed sets for some of the James Bond films, Rocky, Robocop, and the others. Currently, MGM has deals in place with Criterion and Arrow Video that release physical media, but this could change with this acquisition. It may benefit everybody in the end, including Discovery who is merging with Warner Media. It would all come full circle for these companies
By Dan Skip Allen
In Hollywood, there have some great comedic duos: Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, and Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. But arguably one of the best films that have an iconic teaming is Midnight Run. The teaming of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin is one of genius. They are two distinctly different types of actors. One is one of the best dramatic actors of all time and the other is a comedic genius. Martin Breast knew what he had with this teaming of these two complete opposites. This film and its cast turned out to be comedic gold.
Robert De Niro plays tough-nosed bounty, Hunter Jack Walsh. He is hired by Joe Pantoliano's character to find and bring a mob accountant to Los Angeles. What he didn't know on this country-long road trip is that the authorities and the mob themselves are looking for The Duke, what they call Grodin's character. If Walsh can survive this trip across the country he has to deal with the erratic personality of The Duke which is more he bargained for. This was supposed to be a simple midnight run, as the film's title suggests.
Charles Grodin has made a career of playing characters that have neurosis or neurotic personalities in his past. Characters that are put in situations he doesn't want to be in, such as the father in the Beethoven franchise or So I Married an Axe Murderer. These are the types of characters Grodin has been known for. His nervous nature is a perfect way for him to get laughs because people can relate to this kind of character. We all have a little scary cat in us at times. Gordon played into that with a lot of his characters in movies and on television.
Midnight Run is a fun movie because it has a fish out of water story involving Grodin's character. It also puts De Niro in a lot of comedic moments which at this time in his career he wasn't familiar with. He would eventually become very comfortable playing the straight man to some great comedic actors such as Ben Stiller and Billy Crystal. His teaming with Grodin though would be his first of such a nature. These two polar opposites were made for each other. They have great chemistry throughout the film.
Midnight Run takes familiar tropes such as a road trip movie and runs with it. It has some great chase scenes and some first-rate action. Breast mixes in all the action and comedic moments perfectly. The relationship throughout the film between the two leads. This film has transcended its release in 1988 because it's funny, has a lot of action and the road trip aspect of it brings fans of these two legendary actors together for an entertaining and memorable film team-up.
By Dan Skip Allen
The last Golden Globes ceremony was mired in controversy due to an article that came out saying that the HFPA didn't have any black members in its ranks. This led to a statement during the show from some of the members that they need to change that and are going to change that. After the latest article from Variety, an online Hollywood magazine, came out NBC literally canceled the broadcast until change was made.
The Variety article suggested that the HFPA has accepted various gifts in the form of vacations, watches, monetary manipulations due to various fraudulent charities, and so forth. In other words, the money went into charities which then, in turn, went to pay the members of the HFPA themselves. This whole group is just designed to ensure they have access to celebrities, parties, screenings, and high-class studio gatherings for the intent and purpose of gathering favoritism for nominations. As in Emily in Paris, Music, and other unworthy nominees.
This week, celebrities such as Scarlet Johansson and Tom Cruise have waged in on the controversy. Johansson has come out and said in an interview she had with the HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association) that they borderline on sexual harassment, she was very uncomfortable in the interview. Tom Cruise has stated that he would return all three of his Globe trophies... This is coming off of Mark Ruffalo saying he was embarrassed to have won a globe at this past globes award ceremony.
The HFPA has since come out with another statement saying they will expand their ranks by twenty new members by August. Is this too little too late? A valid possible candidate was quoted in the Variety article saying they were told they didn't want to expand when they tried to join in recent years. People are saying that they won't believe what the HFPA is saying until they see it for themselves... The proof is in the pudding as they say.
The NBC announcement comes off of two major studios saying they won't campaign their films for completion in the Globes ceremony. Amazon and Netflix are the two studios that are backing out on the Globes until a sweeping change is implemented. This is why NBC has decided to cancel the show next year. Could there be a show on another network? Who knows. An announcement was made in 2008 following the writer's strike but no show was broadcast. Could this be the avenue they go down? Only time will tell. This is a combustible situation, to say the least.
I will say I enjoy the Golden Globes ceremony. They get a host that can be themselves and make me and another laugh. The show itself allows for the actors and celebrities to enjoy themselves as well. The HFPA likes to wine and dines its nominees with a great party of food and drink. This makes for a loose ceremony. The fact remains you can't take them seriously though. They split the major categories into drama and comedy or musical. This doesn't allow for a true idea of who might be the favorite come Oscars time. For instance, Rosamund Pike and Andra Day won the actress awards this year and neither contended for the Oscar in the best actress category, even though Day was nominated.
The fact remains the HFPA has to make sweeping changes. And they need to bring in more diverse members into their ranks. All of this controversy in the end is a good thing because it allows the world to point a finger at the HFPA and say you need to get your act together if you want to see your awards on tv again. NBC still has plans to air the 2023 broadcast if they are happy with the changes the HFPA has made. Here hoping they do. This show and its members need to be more on the up and up in the future. This was the best thing that could happen.
By Dan Skip Allen
The Film Independent Spirit Awards are a little different than other awards shows. The awarded films have been made for under 30 million dollars. These are considered independent films in the film industry. Usually, they are made with money from donations and not big studios such as Disney, Warner Brothers, or Universal Pictures. A24 and Amazon are companies that buy up small movies and release them under their labels. These small films are the ones that get nominated for Indie Spirit awards.
A lot of the Indie Spirit awards don't translate to the academy awards because they aren't compatible with the Academy Awards categories. And sometimes people are nominated for Indie Spirit awards and vice versa for Oscars that don't have a crossover. There are a handful of categories that do crossover though. These could give some clues on what the Academy Awards might do come Sunday night.
The Best Lead Actress Award went to Carey Mulligan which is a good precursor because both Viola Davis and Frances McDormand were nominated beside her in that category. Riz Ahmed won the Best Lead Actor award. This was interesting because Chadwick Boseman was also nominated with him and he had previously won all the similar awards leading up to this point in awards season. Steven Yeun was also nominated in this category.
The two supporting actor awards went to Youn Juh-Yung and Paul Raci. This is the third award of this caliber Yuh-Yung won this awards season, making her the odds on favorite to win the Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actress category. Paul Raci's win just proves the Indie Spirit voters loved Sound of Metal because it won both male acting awards. This may not translate into Oscar wins, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.
Nomadland once again swept the best feature and director categories at another award show making a sure bet to win both categories at the Oscars. It also added the best cinematography and editing. These two categories will be two to watch because they could go to other films. My bet would be Nomadland wins cinematography, but not editing. That could go to Sound of Metal or The Trial of the Chicago 7.
The screenplay awards went to Promising Young Woman and Palm Springs. This may be the award that put that film and its writer/director Emerald Fennel. Sound of Metal also won the first feature for its director Darius Marder.
Quo Vadis Aida? won the Best International feature, but Another Round wasn't nominated in this category, so this probably won't happen at the Oscars. Another Round has won this award everywhere leading up to this point. Crip Camp won the best documentary in a category that had four of the five Academy Award nominees in it, but not My Octopus Teacher. That could be a telling sign of why it won.
The Indie Spirit Awards were like a lot of the other ceremonies. They got a lot right and some things wrong based on industry pundits and predictions people have been making. They usually award films that aren't involved in the academy awards as a whole. This year is different because there are so many indies nominated. This year some of its winners make more sense and could come home with Oscars. This is the last awards ceremony before the Academy Awards broadcast on April 25th. All will be revealed on Sunday night on ABC.
By Dan Skip Allen
The BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards are the last precursor before the Academy Awards on April 25th. They usually have some crossover with the Oscars, but they also have their own awards that have no connection to the Oscars at all. The big awards — acting, directing, and writing — are the ones prognosticators are paying attention to in order to help determine possible winners at the Oscars.
One of the awards that cross over with the Academy Awards is Best Actor. Anthony Hopkins won this one, which makes the best actor race a little more interesting. Previously to the BAFTAs, Chadwick Boseman had won all the other awards leading up to the baftas. Best Actress, another crossover with the Oscars, went to Frances McDormand. This makes the fourth different actress in four different awards shows to have won Best Actress. This makes for a bonafide race in this category at the Oscars.
It is a little bit more clear-cut in the supporting actor and actress categories, two more categories with crossover Oscars. Daniel Kaluuya and Youn Yuh-Jung won their respective categories. This makes a sweep for Kaluuya in all four of the major awards shows and the second for Youn Yuh-Jung. Where previously the Supporting Actress Category was up in the air, it now seems clear that Youn is the frontrunner at the Oscars.
Two more crossover categories are Best Picture and Director, both going to Chloe Zhao and her film Nomadland. This makes it a clear-cut case for Zhao and Nomadland to be the apparent winner come to the Academy Awards. No mincing words here because these two have won everywhere and now are just waiting for April 25th to come to claim their prizes for best picture and director respectively.
In some of the below-the-line categories, there might be some clarity. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom took home both awards for Costumes and Makeup and Hairstyling. Sound of Metal took home Best Sound and Editing. Nomadland scooped up the trophy for cinematography and Production Design went to Mank. These seem like logical choices come Oscar day as well.
The Best International Feature has been swept by the Thomas Vinterberg film Another Round throughout awards season. It seems like the inevitable winner of the Oscar. My Octopus Teacher takes home its second Best Documentary award this awards season as well, seemingly cementing it as the favorite on April 25th. Soul took home two BAFTAs — for Best Score and Animated Feature — making it the lock in these two categories at the Oscars.
The Screenplay Awards may not be something that can be used to predict the Oscars. The Father and Promising Young Woman won, but they are both British Films so this might not make them obvious picks to win the Oscars. Other film writers could make that walk up to the podium come April 25th. Emerald Fennell has a better chance of pulling off the win because her film, Promising Young Woman, did win the writers guild award in this category.
The BAFTAs have their own Best Picture as well and Promising Young Woman won that. Bukky Bukray won the Rising Star Award, and debut British Writer, Director, and Producer Award, and Rami Weekes won for His House. Rocks won Best Casting. These have no connection to the Academy Awards at all.
The BAFTAs usually don't have a lot of correlation with the Academy Awards, but this year they do. It seems quite a few of the categories could predict the Oscars. There is finally some clarity in this unusual awards season, even though Best Actor might be competitive now.
By Dan Skip Allen
Tomm Moore and Cartoon Saloon have taken things back to the day of classic hand-drawn animation with their three films in the last decade: Song of the Sea, The Secret of the Kells, and Wolfwalkers, challenging the dominance of major studios like Disney and DreamWorks.
Disney has cornered the market on hand-drawn animated films for decades. They even had a renaissance in the '90s to secure themselves as the best animation studio ever. Then the age of computer animation started with Pixar. Disney eventually bought them to secure their place at the top of the animation mountain once again.
Over the past two decades, Illumination Media, Blue Sky, Studio Ghibli, Laika, and DreamWorks Animation have leveled the playing field. Cartoon Saloon hopes to take a bite out of that apple (pun intended) with their latest film Wolfwalkers, which is currently available to watch on Apple TV+.
The Secret of the Kells was the first of the Cartoon Saloon Films that came out in 2009. It's a story that takes place in the remote Irish woods, Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) prepares a fortress for an impending attack by a Viking war party. Unbeknown to Cellach, his young nephew Brendan (Evan McGuire) who has no taste for battle works secretly as an apprentice in the scriptorium of the local monastery, learning the ancient art of calligraphy. As the Vikings approach, revered illuminator Aidan (Mick Lally) arrives at the monastery and recruits Brendan to complete a series of dangerous, magical tasks. Tomm Moore and Mora Twomey directed this one from a script by Moore and Fabrice Ziolkowski.
The second film from Cartoon Saloon was Song of the Sea in 2014. An Irish youth, Ben (David Rawle), discovers that his mute sister Saoirse (Lucy O'Connell) is a selkie who must find her voice and free supernatural creatures from the spell of a Celtic goddess (Fionnula Flanagan). Directed by Moore and Written by Moore and Will Collins.
This past year, Wolfwalkers came out, making it the third film from Moore and Cartoon Saloon. In a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), comes to Ireland with her father Bill Goodfellow (Sean Bean) to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mesh(Ava Whitaker), their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transform her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy. This one was written and directed by Moore and Ross Stewart.
Moore, the writer, director, and producer of these films is a native of Newry, Ireland. It makes sense that all his films are set in times and locations throughout Irish history. He has a lot of Irish lore to pull from to come up with these fantastic stories of his. They are set in a world of fantasy and imagination. Kids and adults of all ages can get behind these incredible movies.
As a bonus, all three of Moore's films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It's always great when your peers honor you and your work with awards or nominations for awards. Along with Moore's films, Mora Twomey's The Breadwinner from 2017 (another Cartoon Saloon film) was also nominated for an Academy Award in the category.
As a fan of great animated films from decades past, I can say Moore and Cartoon Saloon are doing a great job bringing back this long-forgotten artform. The hand-drawn animated film is something that is an amazing achievement when done right. Cartoon Saloon and Moore should be applauded for the great films they've created and the imagination they have created on screens of all sizes through the last decade.
By Dan Skip Allen
Awards season has officially started with the 2021 Golden Globes airing live on NBC, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in two different locations: one in New York and the other in Los Angeles at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The only people allowed in attendance besides the presenters were first responders and medical personnel from nurses to doctors. They were all gussied up for the big night.
The virtual ceremony went pretty well except at the beginning when Daniel Kaluuya forgot to unmute himself. He said "You Did Me Dirty" thinking he was robbed of his moment, but he realized he had to unmute himself to talk. A few moments of Fey and Poehler stepping over each other were the only other problem I noticed. Otherwise, the show went off without a hitch.
Speaking of the hosts. Fey and Poehler, we're entertaining. Some of the skits they got started on were funny as well. They relied on their old friends from SNL (Saturday Night Live) to help them. Keenan Thompson and Maya Rudolph accepting a fake award for the best song as brother and sister was a pretty funny skit. The show moved along at a nice pace. And the acceptance speeches were pretty genuine and real. Some people were pleasantly surprised they won. Especially Andra Day for Best Actress in a Drama for her role in The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Brits were the big winners though this year at the globes. Starting with Kaluuya for best supporting actor for Judas and the Black Messiah. Following right after by John Boyega for Small Axe (Red, White and Blue). As the night progressed more Brits kept winning. Rosamund Pike won for I Care A Lot for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and Sasha Baron Cohen for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Anya Taylor-Joy and Emma Corin won for The Queen's Gambit and The Crown respectively. Josh O' Connor followed his co-star in The Crown with a win as well.
In addition to all of the British winners on the night, a few other specific films did very well. Nomadland won Best Motion Picture - Drama and its director Chloe Zhao won the best director. I might add this was my personal number one film of 2020. It made me happy to see Nomadland do well. The Trial of the Chicago 7 won Aaron Sorkin the Best Screenplay award. Soul took home two awards, winning Best Animated Feature Film and Best Score. Other winners on the night were Jodie Foster for Best Supporting Actress for The Mauritanian and Chadwick Boseman (posthumously) for Best Actor in a Drama for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Minari took home the award for Best Foreign Langage Film.
With all the winners on the night must come the losers as well. Leslie Odom Jr. was said to be a favorite for the Best Original Song but lost out to the song for The Life Ahead, "Io si (Seen)" by Diane Warren and others. As stated already Andra Day beat out some heavy competition with Carey Mulligan, Frances McDormand, Viola David, and Vanessa Kirby all coming up short for Best Actress in a Drama. Rosamund Pike and Jodie Foster might also be slight upsets.
All in all, it was a good night to be a film and television fan. If you're in the business or not a lot of great shows and movies were rewarded with nice big shiny trophies. The HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association) gets a lot of slack, but they did a pretty good job last night. They even stood up and mentioned the fact they need more minority representation in their ranks which was a huge issue coming into the ceremony. Even Fey and Poehler mentioned it during their opening monologue. It's a good sign that they are addressing the issue. It was a solid show!
By Dan Skip Allen
Beginners is a film from 2010 starring Ewan McGregor as a man dealing with the loss of his father while also having relationship problems. The film jumps back and forth in time with a framing device. Directed and written by Mike Mills, it's an ode to father-son relationships. The McGregor and Plummer relationship is what drives this film. And it's beautiful and sad all at the same time. They anchor this beautiful film. It's a breath of fresh air to see something different.
Plummer's character comes out as gay in the first 5 minutes of the film. He wants to explore a different side of himself. So he joins a bunch of pride groups and gets a boyfriend, played by Goran Visnjic. Plummer's character goes to nightclubs and listens to new and interesting music. This is all a revelation for him because of his advanced age. Plummer won his first and only Academy Award for this role. He does so many different things with this character that he's never done before. He usually plays strong domineering characters such as General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and the role of Baron Von Trapp, the role he's most known for, in The Sound of Music. (Although he's not a big fan of that role himself.) He plays a more soft warm-hearted character in Beginners. It was nice to see him get recognized for doing something different in his career.
McGregor's character is also dealing with a new relationship as well. This new burgeoning relationship takes him away from his ailing father. Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) plays a quiet woman, but she brings out a more adventurous side in Mcgregor's character. This helps him be freer, albeit not as free as his father though. All of this drama makes the film interesting and real.
As far as dramas go, Beginners is on the lighter side even though it has some serious subject matters, mainly dealing with the father's illness and eventual death. The romantic side of the film is nice as well. It has some quirky moments like at a costume party or when they meet at a bookstore picking out books together or eating tacos at a food cart. The relationship between Plummer's character and Visnjic is still an exploration because of the illness and hospitalization of Plummer's character.
Juggling multiple storylines in the film, Mills balances them all very nicely. Using photos to narrate parts of the backstory is an effective tool to talk about Plummers character's past, why he is the way he is, and what makes him tick today. Coming out was a thing he did early in life, but he had to close off this part of his life from an early age. Eventually, he got married, but that ended when his wife and Megregor's character's mother died. He was free once again.
Beginners has a different feel and look to it than other films. It has a little grain to it and a darker look. The cinematographer Kasper Tuxen doesn't have a flashy style like some of the greats, but it's a more real and raw style. It allows the film to look lived in, like this could be a real-world, with real people and real-world problems. The cinematography is a strength of the film. As well as the score or music. There is always music in the background or melancholy of light stringed instruments playing. This is nice to the ears while all the drama and romance is happening on screen.
Beginners isn't the most normal romantic film drama or the most interesting. It has a feel of something real. Anybody could be living in this world that transpired on screen. It's a little different, but that's good. All films shouldn't be the same. Mills did something different with two genres that are pretty straightforward most of the time. It's nice to see a different take on familiar tropes. Plummer is fantastic in a different role, but his relationship with his son doesn't feel forced or contrived. It just seems perfect. That is the real strength of this quirky film.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.