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.
By Dan Skip Allen
All the President's Men was a huge success when it came out in 1976. It dealt with the Watergate scandal involving men who broke into the Democratic headquarters in Washington DC in 1972 which led to the downfall, impeachment, and stepping down of then-President Richard Nixon. It's the first film showing the strength of good journalism in this country.
Two young reporters and rivals working for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), investigate the botched burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate Apartments. With the help of an insider code-named Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), this story would rock the country and lead to the downfall of then-President Richard Nixon.
This story would show the strength of investigative journalism in this country. The phrase "follow the money" would be etched in the memories of those who watched this film and lived during the time that this story took place, easily similar to events taking place today in society involving the former President Donald Trump. This story would show how important your sources are in journalism. How you need them to trust you as a journalist. Mark Felt was widely considered to be that source.
Hal Holbrook, widely considered one of the great actors of his generation, had a long and varied career. He was a Tony Award-winning actor for his one-man stage show Mark Twain Tonight in 1954. He has been in a lot of television shows such as Designing Women, NCIS, Sons of Anarchy, North & South, and many more. His film career was just as varied. He of course worked with Alan Pakula on All the President's Men, Steven Spielberg on Lincoln, Oliver Stone on Wall Street, Sydney Pollack on The Firm, and Sean Penn on Into the Wild. He has had a great career by anyone's standards.
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman were already stars before they got the great roles of Woodward and Bernstein, but this film launched them into the stratosphere. They made themselves become these characters. Most people probably didn't know what these men looked like or sounded like. Their only reference was this film. Both men would go on to have successful careers in journalism after this groundbreaking film. Redford and Hoffman didn't win any Academy Awards for their roles in All the President's Men, but would eventually get Oscars for other films. They owned the screen opposite Jason Robards (Ben Bradlee) and Hal Holbrook.
Hal Holbrook will forever be known as Deep Throat in my mind. And All the President's Men will be indelibly etched in my memory as one of my favorite films in a decade full of great films, the 1970s. It represents that decade perfectly. It was a tumultuous time in our country's history. Pakula, Redford, Hoffman, Robards, Warden, Balsam, and Holbrook will stand out as a great cast in the greatest movie about journalism ever. Movies like Spotlight and Shattered Glass owe everything to All the President's Men that came before them.
By Dan Skip Allen
Martin Scorsese came into his own as a filmmaker while he was making Raging Bull. As a human being, he was coming off of the toughest time in his life. He never wanted to direct Raging Bull. It was a sports movie and he wasn't interested in sports. And Rocky had come out a few years before, so he figured he couldn't get another boxing film made. Robert De Niro came to Scorsese about this book about Jake LaMotta, and he changed his mind based on their relationship. He knew Marty and what he was going through. Scorcese found a place he could come from after reading the book. It was a difficult place in LaMotta's life. He used it as a framing device and went into the meat and potatoes of his life after that.
"About a steak" is the scene that resonates with me because it reminded me of my own father and mother. They argued like cats and dogs very similar to this scene. The steak scene shows the explosive nature of Jake LaMotta and how he can go from a calm person to a "raging bull". Another scene is when Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) is questioning his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) about whether or not he had sex with his wife Vicki (Kathy Moriarty). He runs out of his apartment down the block and goes into Joey's apartment and starts attacking him. The very explosive nature of this man is at the heart of this film. That where the moniker of "raging bull" came from, not to mention he was an absolute beast in the ring as well.
There have been some great boxing movies that came out over the decades. Rocky, Cinderella Man, Ali, and The Hurricane all come to mind. Filmmakers have learned from Scorsese and Raging Bull how to film boxing matches. The crane overhead circling the ring kept the scenes moving quickly and very frantic. They kept it hit some of the fighters looked weary and tired while filming scenes as well. These fights were some of the best ever put to the screen. LaMotta fought "Sugar" Ray Robinson six times and they were all great fights. They split most of them but Robinson had the edge on the win-loss record. LaMotta won one big one though. The scene near the end of the film was very prophetic though, "You never got me down, Ray." This is a play on Scorsese's own life. Drugs and alcohol never took control of him and got him down. This line was the most powerful in the film because of the double meaning it had.
Scorsese had made personal and working relationships on Raging Bull that he would keep the rest of his life. Obviously, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Frank Vincent are actors he's worked with for over forty years. Thelma Schoonmaker his editor and friend for nearly fifty years as well. She has won three Academy Awards. Her first film editing for Scorsese was Raging Bull and it allowed her to win her first Oscar. Paul Schrader, a great writer and director in his own right, wrote the script for both Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
An indicator of how great something is is how people rank it or list it. People Magazine put out their ranking of the best films of the '80s and Raging Bull was number one. The most famous film critics of the time, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, both had Raging Bull as their number one film of the decade as well. The big precursor of greatness as far as films go is the Academy Awards. Raging Bull was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two: Robert De Niro for Best Actor and the aforementioned Thelma Schoonmaker for Best Film Editing. Scorsese, Pesci, and the film all lost to Robert Redford, Timothy Hutton, and Ordinary People at that year's Oscars.
This film really resonated with me as a six-year-old child because it reminded me of my life. The arguing and fighting were like my parents. The types of places they lived in were like my homes as a little kid as well. The loud neighbors as well. The violent nature of La Motta really reminded me of my father growing up. This seemed like my life. Not the idyllic life portrayed in Ordinary People. I'm sure I'm not the only person who can relate to this film. These types of people existed everywhere then and still do today. These days there is medicine for anger issues.
Sports films are one of the best genres of film now and years ago. They can inspire like Chariots of Fire or they can make you sad like Rocky. In the case of Raging Bull, they can make you angry. Jake LaMotta is a despicable human being. He has no redeeming qualities except that he is an incredible boxer. Is this an excuse for all his behavior in this film? Probably not! Sports films take you as a viewer on a trip down a road. Sometimes it's a fun and enjoyable trip and sometimes it's not. Raging Bull isn't for the faint of heart. But the best films aren't always happy. Sometimes they are just depressing and upsetting. As far as life goes, it's not always fun, enjoyable, or happy. It can be a bad experience. For Jake LaMotta, he had good times, but mostly bad times. Most people have more bad times in life than good. Raging Bull is a picture of a damaged, dark human being. That doesn't mean it's not a good film. From my perspective and many others, it means it's a great film. Scorsese is a great director for taking these dark characters like Travis Bickle, Rupert Pupkin, and Jake LaMotta and giving them life on the big screen. But Robert De Niro gets a lot of credit for imbuing them with everything emotion he could.
By Dan Skip Allen
In the roaring '20s, gangsters ruled with an iron fist. The law had no ground to stand on. In Chicago, Al Capone (Robert De Niro) was the man in charge of all the criminal activities. He did this under the auspices of a legitimate business. Prohibition was the rule of the land at this time. Capone didn't like this and he kept doing his illegal things despite the laws prohibiting them. Elliott Ness and his men tried to stand in his way despite opposition to the contrary.
Ness (Kevin Costner) is a treasury officer. He has been tasked with taking down Capone by any means necessary. The problem is the police are on Capone's payroll. Any time he gets close to making a bust, the criminals have already cleared out or gotten word that Ness is sniffing around. Ness needs to find some honest good trustworthy cops to help him break through the red tape. He finds one guy named Jim Malone (Sean Connery) who is an honest cop who has the in on some of the illegal activities going on in the city. They recruit a young man from the Academy as well, George Stone (Andy Garcia).
Sean Connery's Malone has some great quotes in this film. He's the only one who knows what it takes to get Capone. That's why he won an Academy Award in 1988 for his role in The Untouchables. He was great in this film. Even though he made a name for himself as James Bond, films like this, The Presidio, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are the films that show his real acting ability.
Kevin Costner started coming into his own around this time in his career. Field of Dreams and Bull Durham both were successes with fans and critics alike, but his role as Elliott Ness in The Untouchables was his breakout role. Sure he had small roles in The Big Chill, American Flyers, and plenty of other films. The Untouchables showed he had range as an actor. It didn't hurt that he had a great script by David Mamet and direction from Brian De Palma to help him out.
Gangster films have been some of the best films since The Godfather Films. Scorsese's take in Goodfellas and Casino, Bugsy, Scarface have all tackled the gangster genre, but none have gone the route of looking at gangster films from the point of the police like The Untouchables has. De Palma, Mamet, and company have made a great film about this tumultuous time in U.S. history anchored by a great performance from Sean Connery as Jim Malone, the man who swore to uphold the law no matter what it takes.
By Adam Donato
After the exponential success of The Blair Witch Project, Artisan Entertainment expedited a sequel despite the lack of support of Haxan Films and the original directors. That always works out, right? Unfortunately, although deservedly, the film was a critical failure. The film even underperformed at the box office as the $15 million dollar budget only produced a $47 million dollar worldwide gross. Seeing as the first movie made almost $250 million on a $60,000 budget, they rushed a sequel to capitalize on box office popularity, and in doing so, sacrificed the quality of the film. All of this points to the film being rightfully forgotten in the history of bad horror sequels. The problem: there is a good movie somewhere in there.
The sequel was given to documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger. In his defense, there are a lot of good ideas in this movie. The plot acts as if the first movie exists in their world. It opens with real news footage about the movie and transitions into staged interviews of the “real” citizens of Burkittsville talking about the impact of the movie on their town. All of the characters in the main group are interesting in their own way. There’s a town native basket-case, who is capitalizing on the Blair Witch by selling merchandise and is the host of the Blair Witch Hunt they go on. A couple is researching the Blair Witch but from opposing perspectives as the man is a skeptic and the woman is a believer. Tagging along is an actual Wicken, who is disgruntled by the negative exposure of her religion depicted in The Blair Witch Project. The last is a goth psychic, who is just a big fan of the movie. This is a diverse group of personalities and watching them slowly descend into madness as they argue about their perspective on the witch makes this group more memorable than your average horror movie.
The studio wanted a more mainstream horror movie than Berlinger was trying to make. They forced the police interviews of the characters to be sporadically placed throughout the movie, instead of all at the beginning and the end, which is what Berlinger wanted. Also sporadically placed throughout the movie is flashback shots of the group murdering people in the woods. Berlinger said this ruins the ambiguous tone of the movie, which it does. It’s clear that Berlinger wanted to make less of a commercial/standard horror movie, and more of a meta, in-depth psychological thriller. He was trying to say something about the willingness of people to believe in the first movie. It’s a bold idea to go from a documentary-style found footage movie to a more traditional narrative feature that is about documentary-style found footage.
This review is a retrospective, which is interesting since the franchise has made moves since. Instead of moving forward with another sequel in the franchise, the studio decided to forget about the movie and make a “force awakens” type of reboot/sequel called Blair Witch. The film is basically a beat-for-beat copy of the original plot, besides the motivation for going into the woods. The brother of Heather Donahue still believes his sister is in the woods and wants to go find her with his friends. That is a bad idea for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that it’s been almost 20 years. The connection to the first movie is weak. In hindsight, the idea of making a sequel where The Blair Witch Project movie exists and we get to see the Mets ramifications from all different types of perspectives is brilliant. Hate the sequel for being a cheesy early 2000’s horror movie, but at least it was trying to be something new.
In a lot of ways, some more intentional than others, the movie is a riot. All of the characters are absolutely ridiculous as they heavily lean into stereotypes. The sheriff of Burkittsville is always upset in the most “over it” kind of way. Every single one of the haunted town members is insane people. The early 2000’s soundtrack is obnoxious in the best way possible. Call it a bad movie if you want, but it can be considered so bad that it’s good.
Ambition in movies should be encouraged. The entire concept of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is wild and there are so many good ideas inside. It just hurts to see the movie not be allowed to be what it was trying to be. While it isn’t all for nothing, the studio deserves the negative response this sequel got, but not the director. There’s a great movie in there and the glimpses of its greatness are worth being remembered. Pour one out for yet another creator having their art be tampered with in the name of corporate greed.
By Dan Skip Allen
Here are a handful of the films I saw at the Urbanworld 2020 Film Festival, which gives a voice to directors who haven't been in the spotlight before. They have all been telling very interesting and important stories in all different genres and styles. Some of them can be found right now on HBO Max and Amazon Prime. The rest will be available soon.
Charm City Kings
Based on a documentary, Charm City Kings depicts the lives of three young men who want to be somebody in life. They don't want to just be working stiffs in a downtrodden section of Baltimore, Maryland. Mouse (Jahi Di'Allo Winston), Lamont (Donielle T. Hansley Jr.), and Sweartagawd (Kezii Curtis) are childhood friends. Like most kids their age and creed, these guys have a hard time adjusting. They only really enjoy themselves when there riding their bikes through the streets of the neighborhoods. Mouse wants more, though. He wants to join the Midnight Clique, a dirt bike crew that roams the Baltimore streets. The boys see the fast money that comes with riding with the Midnight Clique, so the lines between the straight and narrow are blurred.
All In: The Fight for Democracy
Over the decades, this country has had its fair share of voter fraud and even downright intimidation at the polls, mostly in the southern states but sometimes out West. Voter suppression is an old trick by people intending to fraud a particular county, district, or state. Fine print put into laws that have been passed over the years is a very frequent trick to cause voter fraud. Amendments 14, 15, 16, and 19 were very hard to get put in the constitution. All voter laws. The country suppressed different groups for many years. Lisa Cortez and Liz Garbus decided that they were going to focus on one particular person to focus their energy and vision on: Stacy Abrams, who ran for Governor in 2018. The film explores how voter suppression affected that election and how government officials running for office shouldn't be in charge of said election. This led her to make a concession speech mainly focused on voter suppression. This was the start for her becoming an activist against voter suppression not just in Georgia, but around the country.
The Water Man
Actors becoming directors isn't anything new to the film industry. Over the years actors have delved into the realm of directing. Some with great success, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Robert Redford, and others not so well. With The Water Man, David Oyelowo takes his turn in the director's chair. It is a relative success, but not overwhelmingly so. Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) is a young man dealing with a sick mother (Rosario Dawson) and a father (David Oyelowo) trying to keep his house and family together despite his wife's illness. Lonnie hears about a mythic character named The Water Man that has found a way to escape death. He sets out on an adventure to find out about The Water Man. During his adventure, he meets a young girl named Jo (Amiah Miller) who helps him along the way.
The Donut King
The Donut King, Ted Ngoy, grew up in Cambodia as a kid and as a young man, the Khmer Rouge took over his country and forced all the people out of the cities and into internment camps. Ted and his family were able to escape to America where they were housed in different internment camps ran by the military. Cambodians were able to leave the camps if they could get a family to sponsor them. Ted and his family got sponsored by a church, its minister, and his family. This was able to help Ted and his family make a life for themselves in America
The Urbanworld Film Festival which ran September 23-27.
One of the writers from disappointment media worked on a film playing as part of the Dances with Films Festival, but they were not involved with the writing of this review.
By Dan Skip Allen
Martin Scorsese has been known as the gangster film director during his fifty years as a filmmaker. His first gangster film was Mean Streets where he started his long term relationship with collaborator Robert De Niro. As Johnny Boy, De Niro would be the kind of actor Scorsese would create time and again in future films. Goodfellas was littered with these types of wiseguys. They would come quite frequently in other films such as Casino, Gangs of New York, The Departed, and most recently The Irishman. Goodfellas, though, would stand out decades later as one of the most groundbreaking achievements in film history and among Scorsese's filmography.
When talking about great films such as Goodfellas one has to point to the things that Scorsese does that are now commonplace in the business of movie-making. One thing that comes to mind that is a terrific achievement is the tracking shot where Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and Karen (Lorraine Bracco) are walking through the Copacabana nightclub to the music of The Crystals, "And Then He Kissed Me". This was a scene unheard of before but now everybody does this with a crane looking down over the actors. The crane shot was groundbreaking in 1990 when this film came out.
Scorsese always attracts a great cast to work with him. Even his little film's he gets great performers to line up to appear. Goodfellas was no different. Of course, his usual cast of characters would be cast in the starring roles. Such as Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Frank Vincent. The stand out in this great film was Ray Liotta though. He embodied Henry Hill in this film. The scene where he is high on cocaine and he is going back and forth getting the bag of guns and he noticed the helicopter was following him. He was "Shoeless" Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams but Goodfellas was his breakout role — the role he'll be remembered for the rest of his life. Scorsese always can get the most out of his actors.
Scorsese likes to take real events and make them into fantastic films. Goodfellas adapts a very famous heist in history. The Lufthansa Plane heist was a real event that happened. Adapting the book from Nick Pileggi ("Wiseguy") Scorsese brought this story to life. Whereas other gangster films were fictional takes on the life, Goodfellas was ripped right from history. Of course, the names are changed for this film. The real Henry Hill was sent into the witness protection program because he turned state's evidence on his childhood and adult friends. They were like his family, as seen in a prison scene where he helped the don Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) make pasta.
As mentioned earlier De Niro has a great history with Scorsese, but Joe Pesci has a great working relationship with him as well. As Tommy Devito, he gives a great performance and delivers one of the best scenes in film history. When he jokes with Hill and says what's so funny and then shoots Spider played by Michael Imperioli. It's no coincidence that the creators of The Sopranos scooped up a bunch of the cast of Goodfellas for their terrific show on HBO. Bracco is great alongside Liotta as well, getting an Oscar nomination. Pesce was the only win though for the film.
Obviously, The Godfather films are considered the creme de la creme of gangster films. Goodfellas is a top three gangster film though. It has groundbreaking filmmaking by Martin Scorsese, great acting by a stellar cast of actors, and a very well adapted screenplay from Scorsese and Pileggi of a true heist in American history. Thirty years ago this film was considered one of the best of the year. It stands up as one of the best ever and one of Scorsese's best as well. The realistic nature of the story and frantic filmmaking at times make for an exciting and very entertaining film. In another thirty years, people will still be talking about Goodfellas, Scorsese, DeNiro, and Pesci alongside the greatest films, directors, and actors of all time. This genre never gets old for me so I can watch this film over and over again. Goodfellas is as great now as it was then in 1990.
The Snake Hole
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