Let’s All Stop Pretending the Razzies Have Credibility


Oh, the Razzies.  Every year, the night before the Academy Awards, the Golden Raspberry Awards are held to ostensibly “honor” the worst in film from the previous year.  Such delight is taken in tearing down the work of others and doing so in a way that is not the slightest bit constructive, but rather mean-spirited with the intention of embarrassing professional filmmakers and even potentially harming their careers.  Audiences have come to love them because it allows those who so desire to dogpile on the easy targets from the film world and then feel as if they’re somehow claiming some sort of victory.  But there’s no true victory in complicity with ignorance and with their 2018 nominations, the Razzies have betrayed their own ignorance as never before.

No one with any actual credibility will suggest that none of the films that the Razzies have picked on since their debut in 1981 are less than stellar.  Many of their victims have in fact been pretty bad.  But every once in a while, they show their hand.  They make it obvious that they don’t actually have the ability to tell the difference between a bad film and a not-so-bad film.  Of course, the key to understanding why lies in one simple question: who decides the nominees and winners?  The answer is simple and mortifying: that guy at Starbucks who loudly proclaims that only Wes Anderson films are worthwhile, even though you’re pretty sure he’s never actually seen one.  Oh, and that girl on Facebook who only posts Channing Tatum gifs and hates everything that Megan Fox does.  And the smelly guy who always seems to be in GameStop even though it appears he doesn’t have a job and shouldn’t be able to afford any games.  And anyone else who loves to whine, wants to feel important, and has scraped together $40.00.


That last part wasn’t exactly a joke.  Literally anyone can vote if they pay $40.00 for Razzie membership.  That’s it.  There’s nothing more to it.  They don’t have to even see the movies they’re attacking.  And, in this age of building oneself up by tearing others who are more successful down, it’s very likely that most don’t.  This is the age of Cinema Sins, Honest Trailers, and many more equally-brainless clones where people who have never studied – formally or informally – or worked in film get it into their heads that they understand the art form better than the professionals who are immersed in it every single day.  But they don’t.  Their criticisms are almost always misunderstandings and misinterpretations due to their own inability to comprehend the film that they have chosen to skewer.  The Razzies are the worst of this trend because they actually garner widespread attention.

So, here’s what happens each year.  These voters who have forked over $40.00 just to insult hard-working artists (how low does one’s self-esteem have to be to do this?) gang up on the movies they have heard are bad and that they feel makes them the coolest to hate.  As I said earlier – and others who are critical of the system have pointed out – they choose the easy targets.  No actual knowledge or critical insight is necessary.  Let’s just nominate the newest Transformers film because it obviously must have sucked.


Nuance is eliminated.  Actual thought is undesired.  It’s ironic how they so strongly condemn the Fifty Shades of Grey films because that’s fifty more shades of grey than these voters are capable of.  It’s all black and white.  Every movie either rules or sucks.  They carry on with a preteen mentality and pay $40.00 for the honor to do so.

Look, I didn’t like Transformers: The Last Knight, either.  In fact, if I were to do a list of my least-favorite 2017 films (which I’m not going to do), it would be at the top of that list. (Here are my reasons why.  I actually have them because I actually saw it.)  It’s fine to legitimately dislike a film based on the artistic choices that went into its production.  But here’s the difference between someone like me and someone who would pay $40.00 to spit on someone’s hard work: I don’t take joy in disliking a film.  I look for any good I can find.  The less good there is, the more I hurt inside.  And that’s because I genuinely love movies.  And so do many others.  Film critics genuinely love movies.  They began as fans, first.  And something else others have pointed out that is worth noticing is how smaller, independent films are never nominated for a Razzie.  Why?  Because the people responsible aren’t actually knowledgeable film lovers and aren’t even aware of these films.  I tell you, last year, Florence Foster Jenkins was way more deserving of Razzie nominations than actual nominee Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  But these people wouldn’t know that because they don’t actually follow film.  And without the opinions of others, what do they have?


Credibility comes with many other qualities, but one pillar that is a necessary foundation for said credibility is objectivity.  And the Razzies have none.  This year has taken it to a new level as both Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem were nominated as among the worst actors of 2017 for their performances in mother!.  Uh oh.  You slipped up, Razzies.  This decision was refreshingly met with an immense backlash as it’s obvious to anyone who actually saw the film that Bardem was fine and Lawrence was absolutely incredible.  It suddenly became apparent that actual quality is irrelevant to the Razzies.  It’s all about looking kewl to the other middle-schoolers.  If Tommy with the shades and leather jacket makes fun of mother!, then so does everyone else who wants to fit in.

The film is divisive, and that’s the only reason I didn’t include it in my list of 2018’s Twelve Biggest Oscar Snubs.  But, like it or not, it’s an amazing artistic expression of imagination and subtext and everything that makes film art.  Lawrence was director Darren Aronofsky’s medium of choice as he evoked her talent in every metaphorical stroke of the brush and they made something truly special, even if it may be a little unorthodox for certain types of viewers.  But that doesn’t make it “bad”.  Anyone with credibility understands that.  And certainly nothing about Lawrence or Bardem was bad.  They understood the film they were making and performed above and beyond expectations – especially Lawrence.  But the voters heard from other casual moviegoers who weren’t informed about the kind of movie they were about to see in mother! that is was awful.  So, they took their word for it and gave it a couple of nominations.  How professional, mature, and responsible.


Imagine you work in retail (or any other industry, really.  Work with me and make the scenario apply to you.) and every year, your customers get to come together and vote on who among you and your co-workers performed your job the worst.  No actual experience in your position or understanding of your responsibilities or even observation of your work is necessary.  If they want to knock you down a peg, they vote against you.  And if they vote you as the worst, it could actually affect your career because the other customers will see their choice as somehow valid and respond accordingly.  That, folks, is the Razzies.

So please stop.  Please stop celebrating them.  Please stop sharing their nominations as if they count for something.  Please stop talking about the ceremony in a positive light.  Don’t be a party to their frat house mentality.  It only adds to the modern culture of negativity and further enables those who drag the rest of us down by refusing to better themselves.  Their goal is to level everything out by lowering others to their level.  And they’re willing to pay $40.00 for the honor.  If only they’d paid $40.00 to see four of the movies they voted on, they might have actually expanded their minds, for once.

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Let’s All Stop Pretending the Razzies Have Credibility

2018’s Twelve Biggest Oscar Snubs!


Today is the day when so many on your Facebook feed likes to pretend they’ve seen all the recent movies as they band together to vocally dispute the Academy Award nominations.  In reality, most have seen four or five movies from the previous year in total, and maybe one – two, if they’re lucky – of the major award nominees.  Yet, somehow they feel justified in proclaiming how it’s a tragedy that somehow Pauly Shore wasn’t nominated again.  (By the way, these people know better than the professional critics.  If you don’t believe me, just ask them.)

I have done my best to actually see the movies I expected to be nominated and therefore grant myself the blessing of an informed opinion.  Of the major nominees, I’m missing three: Roman J. Israel, Esq.Call Me by Your Name, and The Phantom Thread.  I would have seen the latter two if they had been granted an expansion before last weekend.  I was tied up with family, then, and will be out of town this upcoming weekend.  I’ll catch up on them over the first weekend in February.  And I’ll catch Israel in its post-theatrical run before the ceremony.

Anyway, what I’m going to do now is list the unlucky losers who I believe should have been nominated but weren’t.  Why twelve of them?  Because that’s how many I truly feel were snubbed!  Along the way, what I’m also going to do that virtually nobody else will is name who or what the snubbed should have been nominated over.  It’s easy enough for someone to loudly proclaim that Fifty Shades for the Price of Thirty was robbed but how do they actually know unless they’ve seen the others and can say with confidence that at least one wasn’t as worthy?  (Note: I will not expunge any nominees from the above trio of films as that would be unfair for the very reason that I just outlined.)

And, one more thing: I want to state that the Academy did a mostly fine job.  These nominations are done by blind, anonymous votes, not by a stuffed-shirt committee who commiserate and come to a consensus.  So, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone specific, no one is a villain, and almost all of the nominees are deserving to one degree or another.  They have earned respect and I will not deny them that, even if I find someone else more worthy of awards recognition.

So, in order from the snub that I’m least worked up over to the one that I’m most upset about, let’s proceed!  The further we go, the angrier I get!

12. “Never Enough”, The Greatest Showman – Original Song


(Nominated over: “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman) Benj Pasek and Justin Paul got an Oscar nomination for another song from The Greatest Showman, “This is Me”.  I understand that that song, in particular, represented the message behind the film’s narrative and that’s unquestionably important.  And it’s also generally considered the crowd-pleaser of the film.  But “Never Enough” is the showstopper and that rates higher for me.  As fun and thematically resonant as “This is Me” is, “Never Enough” is on another level both artistically and from a performance perspective.  Perhaps, as I theorized, the song was hurt by the fact that Rebecca Ferguson, who portrayed the song’s performer Jenny Lind, was not actually responsible for the vocal track, itself, with that duty falling to Loren Allred.  But Ferguson wouldn’t have been nominated, anyway.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, though, and I’m sure Pasek and Paul aren’t crying, today.  (Original review.)

11 and 10. Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund, Mudbound – Supporting Actor


(Nominated over: Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water and Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project) Mary J. Blige is getting all of the press for Mudbound but Jason Mitchell (right) and Garrett Hedlund are the collective heart and soul of the film.  And they both give powerful, memorable performances that wrench at the gut and pull at the heartstrings of everyone that is fortunate enough to possess a heart.  This should be their year but they have consistently been overlooked.  Richard Jenkins and Willem Dafoe both turned in fine performances in their respective movies but neither are as memorable, moving, or paramount to their films as either that of Mitchell or Hedlund.  (No original review because I only review my theatrical viewings.  So, I’ll just say that you should all stop watching Netflix’s other big original film Bright and watch Mudbound, instead.)

9. Hong Chau, Downsizing – Supporting Actress


(Nominated over: Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water)  Hong Chau has fallen victim to circumstances not of her own doing.  Not only do I believe that her complex, charming, entertaining, and touching performance in Downsizing warrant her a nomination in the this category, but I would vote to give her the win, if I had any say in it.  But people are mad at Matt Damon for daring to view a complicated issue as being complicated (while still condemning the guilty, no less) and now Downsizing isn’t going to get any nominations.  Instead, Octavia Spencer gets nominated for a fine, but unspectacular turn in The Shape of Water.  Hold your head high, Ms. Chau!  Hopefully, your time will come!  (Original review.)

8. Wind River – Best Picture


(Nominated over: Nothing.  This could be the allowable tenth nominee.)  I knew this was going to happen, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be upset about it.  Wind River was an excellently crafted thriller based on a true story that called attention to several ongoing societal issues including one that few wish to talk about – the number of unreported missing Native American women.  Unfortunately, the film was a Weinstein production, so that put an end to any awards hopes.  Even after director Taylor Sheridan and stars Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner took tremendous pains to disassociate the film from Weinstein, it’s a no-go.  Do yourself a favor and check this one out.  It’s a winner on every possible level.  (Original review.)

7. Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman – Director


(Nominated over: Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk)  Whether it was originally going to happen or not, after Natalie Portman called out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for not nominating any female directors at the Golden Globes, at least one was bound to get a nomination at the Oscars.  And one did.  Only one.  And that one was Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird.  Gerwig earned it but so did Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman.  Jenkins took a property that had been wallowing in developmental hell for years and turned it into an inspirational theatrical anthem for not only women but anyone who had lost hope in humanity.  She made us believe that there are still heroes and she entertained us along the way.  Nolan’s Dunkirk was a technical achievement but a narrative bore that cut his cast off at the knees and failed to deliver anything truly memorable.  Jenkins deserved his spot, instead.  (Original review.)

6. Elizabeth Olsen, Wind River – Lead Actress


(Nominated over: Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water)  As I documented a couple of spots up, Olsen is facing the same problem that Hong Chau is, but to a much greater degree.  Being that this is a Weinstein film, she’s just out of luck, this year.  That’s a shame because there’s simply no one better in the business and this could have been her chance after also getting snubbed for her performance in 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene.  Despite the irony of a woman being punished for the sexual indiscretions of a man, Olsen deserved a nomination, this year (though I admittedly would have to give the win to another, who had a meatier role), as her performance was gritty but nuanced, with her turn showcasing plenty of subtle vulnerability in the face of her character’s  overwhelming professional responsibility.  It’s a brilliant and layered performance and she deserves better than to be ignored.  Again.  (Original review.)

5. Wonder Woman – Best Picture


(Nominated over: Darkest Hour)  This is the one all of your Facebook friends are whining about, today.  Most of them haven’t seen the other nominees but, because Wonder Woman was amazing, they just assume it deserved to be nominated.  Well, it may be primarily by coincidence, but they happen to be right, this time.  This isn’t the first time this has happened for a comic book film.  2008’s The Dark Knight deserved a nomination.  2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy deserved a nomination and, quite frankly, the win.  Wonder Woman doesn’t quite deserve the win – and there are other snubbed films that are actually more deserving than this one (we’ll get to those) – but a nomination should have been a given.  Too many members of the Academy simply aren’t ready to admit than many comic book films have more to offer than their superficial entertainment value.  As time goes on, I expect that to change.  Too bad it couldn’t have changed, this year, because the interminably dull Darkest Hour sure didn’t measure up to this gem in any way outside of Oldman’s performance.  (My emotional response to my second viewing of the film.)

4. Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game – Director


(Nominated over: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water)  I know by this point it feels like I’m picking on The Shape of Water.  I’m not trying to.  I enjoyed the film.  But I don’t count it among del Toro’s best nor does it measure up to many of 2017’s other films.  Such is the case when it comes to the direction.  Where del Toro presented an unconventional tale in a slightly unconventional way, Sorkin, in his debut as a director, took a story that wasn’t made for a visual medium – a story that by all rights should have been boring – and turned it into one of the most engaging, enthralling, entertaining films of the entire year.  I’m not so sure that anyone else could have pulled it off to the degree that Sorkin did.  If that doesn’t warrant a nomination, what does?  (Original review.)

3. Molly’s Game – Best Picture


(Nominated over: Dunkirk)  Speaking of Molly’s Game, I’m not sure how a practically flawless film with immense entertainment value, a razor sharp script, masterful direction, and a career-defining performance by a star who has a history of career-defining performances gets passed over for Best Picture.  Everybody involved came to work with their game faces on and everyone knocked it out of the park.  Yet, again, because Nolan made a war film, it gets the token nomination instead.  It’s a shame and don’t let Molly’s Game‘s lack of awards attention fool you into passing this one up.  (Original review.)

2. I, Tonya – Best Picture


(Nominated over: Lady Bird)  I enjoyed Lady Bird.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  But, at its core, while it’s exquisitely crafted, it’s more of the same.  It doesn’t stand above other films of its ilk and it just doesn’t bring anything new to the table.  Meanwhile, I, Tonya is nothing but fresh material.  Director Steven Rogers has a clever presentation, the script is simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and heart-wrenching, and Margot Robbie (who was rightfully nominated for her part in the film) gives a performance that will shift paradigms.  So, as much as I enjoyed Lady BirdI, Tonya was not only more enjoyable but also artistically superior.  This is a true snub that should never have happened.

1. Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game – Lead Actress


(Nominated over: Anyone but Margot Robbie.  Okay, fine.  Meryl Streep for The Post.)Well, the Academy did a much better job with the male-related categories and films than those that center around women.  I suppose that’s no surprise.  Even so, I’m absolutely floored, disappointed, and even angry that Jessica Chastain didn’t earn a nomination for her work in the aforementioned Molly’s Game (which, if you haven’t yet gathered, is tremendous).  The film is as fantastic as it is primarily due to two people: Chastain and Sorkin.  Neither could have done it without the other but Chastain just cant catch a break.  Despite two Oscar nominations, she has yet to win, and this is the second year in a row in which she’s been snubbed of a nomination (following her knockout 2016 performance in Miss Sloane).  Meryl Streep did a great job in The Post and even provided the film with its emotional center.  But she didn’t have the same responsibility to carry her film as the other nominees nor the same amount of screen time to do her thing, so I would boot her by default, not due to any flaw or shortcoming of her own.  Regardless, Chastain is one of the best in the business and finally deserves to be recognized as such.

And there you have it!  I won’t be able to catch any movies this weekend, so I’ll be coming at you with another column inspired by a friend who asked for my opinion on something.  I realized that I had a lot to say on the subject and you’ll most likely see that on Friday night.  And there will be a new #ThrowbackThursday, this week, as well.  Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to share and follow us on Facebook!

2018’s Twelve Biggest Oscar Snubs!

Ten Fourth-Quarter 2017 Films to be Excited About!

Fourth Quarter 2017

I did this a 2016 version of this post a year ago (right here) and had fun with it, so I’m doing it again for 2017.  Sometimes it feels that all the good movies for the year are released in the summer.  But that’s not true!  We have plenty more to which we can look forward!  As with the 2016 list, these aren’t the only films to potentially be excited about for the remainder of the year.  But these are the ones I feel have the most potential.  Last year, I feel like I had at least a 70% hit rate, with at least seven of the ten being very good or better.  Let’s see how I do, this year!  I will list the films in order of currently-scheduled release date.  So here are the ten films scheduled for release from October through December of 2017 that I’m most excited about!

1. The Snowman


October 13 – The trailer for Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman reminds me of both this year’s stunning Wind River and the classic The Silence of the Lambs.  Michael Fassbender plays a detective investigating a serial killer whose calling card is an ominous snowman.  Alfredson is a Swedish filmmaker who brought us the original Let the Right One In, so he has pedigree.  And, seemingly part crime story, part mystery, and part horror thriller, The Snowman looks to get the final few months of the year off to an exciting start.  (Official Trailer)

2. The Killing of a Sacred Deer


October 20 – A psychological drama from director/co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), the cast of Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, and Alicia Silverstone is enough to suck me in and get to me to the theater to see The Killing of a Sacred Deer.  Throw in some mystery, ambiance, and a fresh upstart of a director who is continuing to make a name for himself, and the fact that the film comes from A24 Studios – perhaps the most reliable production studio in the industry today –  and there’s every reason to be excited about this one.  I’m there.  (Official Trailer)

3. Jigsaw


October 27 – I’m sure some of you are groaning, and I know the Saw franchise isn’t for everyone.  But, if you can get over the graphic nature of the violence and look beyond the creativity of the traps (as fun as they can be), narratively speaking, the series has actually provided audiences with one sprawling epic of a story that has a fascinating ethical dilemma at its center.  There are loads of characters who are connected in intricate ways and the filmmakers never fail to surprise with the developments that unfold on screen.  I’m in for the long haul because of the mythology and I, for one, am glad to have the Saw series back.  (Official Trailer)

4. A Bad Moms Christmas

Bad Moms

November 3 – Last year’s Bad Moms was a hidden gem in the middle of the summer and a surprising hit, grossing almost $184 million worldwide on a $20 million budget.  There was some unsettling scuttlebutt that the inevitable sequel would be a movie entitled Bad Dads which would have been a mistake on every possible level.  Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and out trio of freedom-loving mothers will be back to allow an oft-untapped market of young and middle-aged women to live vicariously through them and all of us tagalongs to get a voyeuristic kick out of the sure-to-be raucous proceedings.  (Official Trailer)

5. Thor: Ragnarok


November 3 – Of all the movies on this list, Thor: Ragnarok is unquestionably my most-anticipated.  Come on, what’s not to love about a Thor/Hulk buddy movie with Cate Blanchett as a wickedly intimidating Hela, the return of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and battle scenes with Surtur and what appears to be Fenris, all directed by Taika Waititi – the man who gifted unto the world last year’s wonderful Hunt for the Wilderpeople?  This one appears to be a big winner in every single imaginable way and I can hardly stand the wait.  (Official Trailer)

6. Justice League

Justice League

November 17 – Even if you haven’t been crazy about the majority of the DC Extended Universe, so far (I personally have liked three of the four entries and absolutely loved Wonder Woman, as most did), there’s got to be a little piece you on the inside that is pumped for Justice League (or Wonder Woman and Her Superfriends).  This film has been a long time coming and the fact that I still know so very little about the storyline only makes it that much more intriguing.  DC and Warner Brothers have to be thrilled with the popularity and success of Wonder Woman as her very presence alone will increase the excitement around the film.  Heck, if nothing else, we can count on enjoying Gal Gadot in her now-iconic role as Diana of Themyscira.  But the film has a lot of potential beyond that and there are millions of fans around the world crossing their fingers that it pays off. (Official Trailer)

7. Coco


November 24 – Pixar hasn’t been quite as consistent in recent years with the high-level of quality for which they have become known, but I still have faith in them and continue to look forward to each of their films.  Coco is breaking from their recent onslaught of sequels and giving us something fresh and takes us on an adventure through the Land of the Dead.  I hope this one has the spark of life and originality that we were subject to with Inside Out.  The fact is, no matter how hasty many people are to become cynical and jaded after one or two (relative) missteps, Pixar is still far more likely to deliver than not. (Original Trailer)

8. Murder on the Orient Express


November 24 – The day before Thanksgiving in America is traditionally a great day for movie releases and 2017 is no exception.  In addition to Pixar’s Coco, that Wednesday will see director-actor Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Murder on the Orient Express.  Remake or not, I love locked-box mysteries and the casts of characters they bring along with them.  The cast is outstanding, Branagh is a versatile director, and I’ve simply been on board since the first time I saw the trailer.  This one is near the top of my list for the rest of the year.  (Original Trailer)

9. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi


December 15 – Come on, folks, this had to be here.  There’s so much to be revealed and uncovered in The Last Jedi.  The most exciting aspect of the new trilogy is the journey of Rey as we discover her history, her lineage, and her destiny.  There will be plenty more fun to be had with all of the great new characters, more fun with some of the old, a sad goodbye to Carrie Fisher, and plenty more that we don’t even know to be anticipating.  It’s exciting to not know what’s coming in the Star Wars universe, again!  (Official Trailer)

10. Downsizing


December 22 – From director Alexander Payne comes Downsizing, a comedy-drama about a society who discovers that their lives and bank accounts are significantly improved by shrinking themselves through a new – and irreversible – scientific procedure.  Payne directed the amazing George Clooney/Shailene Woodley dramedy The Descendants as well as other cult favorites ElectionSideways, and Nebraska.  With Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig front-and-center, Downsizing is shaping up to be a crowd-pleasing sleeper hit that seeks to counterprogram against the big bad Star Wars.  For true film lovers, there’s plenty of room for both.  (Official Trailer)

And there we have it for 2017!  As always, there should be plenty of surprising Oscar bait that pops up before January 1, and that’s half the fun (at least) of the end of each moviegoing year, so we’ll see what that brings as well.  All in all, while the upcoming months look solid, I don’t think it paints quite the optimistic picture that 2016 did, but I would love to be wrong.  Go!  Watch!  And (hopefully) enjoy!

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Ten Fourth-Quarter 2017 Films to be Excited About!

Why Event Films are as Relevant as Current Events

Event Films

With Stephen King and Andy Muschietti’s It continuing to break records on a near-daily basis, I thought it was the perfect time to dive into a column that’s been kicking around in my head for a while, now.  As millions of people continue to flock to theaters to catch the new horror remake/instant classic, there – as always – remains a sector of others who stand on the sidelines and refuse to participate.  They have their reasons.  And they aren’t necessarily bad ones, certainly not from their own personal perspectives.  Maybe they don’t like to go to the movies (for some crazy reason that will never make sense to me).  Maybe they don’t like horror movies, in particular, or are scared of clowns.

But, as with every event film that comes down the line, by giving in to those excuses, those people are missing out on much more than “just a movie”.  They’re missing out on more than special effects or music or performances or elaborate sets and costumes or memorable characters.  By opting out of these films, one is making the active choice to lose touch with where we are as a global society and culture.


Most people would probably agree that, in order to be fully informed on the current cultural climate, whether it be local, regional, national, or worldwide, all one must do is stay up to date on the news.  Whether they’re watching the evening news, reading social media posts from news outlets, devouring the newspaper (or some equivalent), or anything of the sort, then they are fully informed and understand where we are as a collective unit.  Why would anyone even challenge that notion, right?  Well, I question it.  And I do so because it’s a logical fallacy.

Let me very clear about the fact that I wholeheartedly agree that keeping up with the news is immensely important.  People should do at least some of those activities that I mentioned above.  Having knowledge about the events that are occurring around the world on a daily basis is absolutely necessary for being able to contribute and participate as a responsible member of your society and your community.  This column is NOT “Watch Movies Instead of the News”.  Rather, this is a version of “Watch Movies and the News”.  Because, as important as getting the information provided by the media is, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.


When one hears a story that’s being reported on a large scale, who are those stories about?  With the exception of the human interest stories that are often tacked on at the end of a broadcast or tucked away towards the back of the paper, the stories that are widely reported upon regard the exceptional among us.  Said stories concern our elected leaders.  They concern the unstable tyrants who threaten the safety of any who refuse to bend the knee.  They concern the maniacal mass-murderer.  They concern the athlete with the multi-million-dollar contract or the movie star with the mansion in Beverly Hills.  These stories don’t concern the laypeople.  These stories don’t concern the common person.  These stories are the cause.  They are not the effect.

Plenty of movies come along that are expected to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.  But then there are the occasional films that aren’t expected to do as well as they do.  These films – the overperformers – are the true “event” films.  These films are often expected to do little-to-nothing or perhaps perform moderately well based on the statistics of similar films that have preceded them.  But then something happens.  Something unexpected.  Something special.  And people are shocked.  People are bewildered.  Well . . . most people.  Because there are also those who have been listening.  There are those who pay attention to people around them.  And those people are quietly saying, “I saw this coming.”


They are the people who feel an unusual groundswell leading up to a given film’s release.  They are the people who understand that many factors contribute to a film’s success – including demand, nostalgia, and the established fanbase if the film is based on a licensed property – but those things can only take a film so far.   They are the people to whom it becomes apparent that something else is making its presence known.  It’s more than a film being “good”.  Wind River is probably, objectively speaking, the best film in theaters, right now.  And it’s doing solid business expected of a film of its type.  Event films have something extra.

I personally suspected It was going to surpass projected numbers because I had picked up on a couple tidbits of information.  Firstly, when the trailer was released online, it broke the record for single-day views, a record that 2017’s Beauty and the Beast – another huge event film that exceeded all box office expectations – had set only months before.  But, then, something else caught my attention, just days before It hit theaters.


Fandango released their statistics regarding presales for It.  The report mentioned that the film was already breaking records, but that actually happens fairly often with online sales, so it didn’t raise any flags for me.  Something else did, however.  Included in their report was an interesting note that only fifty-seven percent of their sample of consumers who pre-purchased tickets to the film described themselves as horror movie fans.  That’s just a handful over half.  It has been marketed as the horror movie to end all horror movies.  So why are so many people who aren’t horror movie buffs going to see this film?

That’s the common thread that all of these event movies share.  They are four-quadrant entertainment spectacles that bring in paying customers who sit well outside of their target demographics.  Much of the time, they tend to be comic book superhero films.  But not every comic book superhero film blows the box office away.  Yet, when the character and/or narrative presented are in sync with the current sociological climate, magic happens, regardless of the inspirational source of the content.


We just passed the seventeenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  Back at the end of 2001, the world was on edge and the United States, in particular, was downtrodden, depressed, and terrified.  The regular people of the world needed something to believe in.  They needed a symbol of hope and optimism.  They needed a reminder that good was still out there.  And on May 3 of the following year, they got it.  They got Spider-Man.  Blowing away all expectations, the film was the first to ever gross over $100 million in its domestic opening weekend, eventually going on to gross over $820 million, worldwide.

People also worried for their children and their children’s future during that tumultuous time.  They desired to feel that their children could remain uncorrupted and strong in the face of overwhelming and omnipresent evil.  Less than two months following the same attacks that preceded Spider-Man came Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone.  Naturally, the fans of the book series flocked to the film, but so did many, many others.  I know because I was one of them.  Harry Potter was thrust upon mainstream audiences just when he was needed.  And as a result, the film grossed almost $975 million worldwide.


In late-2015 to early-2016, the American political landscape was volatile, to put it mildly.  The country had been deeply divided by controversial and provocative candidates gearing up for the impending presidential election.  Split down the middle, virtually every citizen in the country felt as if their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs were being encroached upon by the opposing side and that if there was no conformity, then they, themselves, were un-American.  And the potential aftershocks of the eventual outcome would hold repercussions for the entire world.

Then, in February of 2016 . . . along . . . came . . . Deadpool.  While the film was much in-demand and wildly entertaining, Deadpool himself also represented the ultimate in anti-authority figures.  His message was clear: screw convention; I’m going to be, do, and say what I want and that makes me awesome.  Deadpool held no apparent political views.  He didn’t pick a side.  Yet, he resonated with everyone who felt frustrated by the others around them.  He was his own side.  He was a metaphorical island.  Original domestic opening weekend predictions had the film pegged at approximately $65 million.  The final opening weekend tally for North America came in at $152 million leading to a final worldwide cume of just over $783 million, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film in history.


I could go on.  There have been so many more, spread throughout all of film history.  This year alone, in addition to It ($371 million worldwide and counting on a $35 million budget), both Beauty and the Beast ($1.26 billion worldwide) and Wonder Woman (approximately $818 million worldwide) defied all conventional logic and massively overperformed.  Beauty and the Beast was unquestionably launched by nostalgia but the fact that it’s a story about looking underneath the surface to find someone worthy of love that was released just months after the conclusion of the most hateful election in American history can’t be casually ignored.  And I, myself, got swept up in the significance of Wonder Woman and laid out all of the reasons for its cultural relevance and resonance in a very personal column, this summer (which can be found here).

My point should be clear.  As I alluded to, earlier, the news itself is the cause.  These event films are the effect.  If one wants to know why people are feeling what they’re feeling, watch the news.  If one wants to understand what they’re feeling and how to reach them, then they need to experience these films because they are the best gauge for where we are emotionally and mentally as a culture.  The films are perceived escapes that are in reality appealing to our deepest needs, desires, and fears while also putting them on display for anyone who’s listening.  And if you’re skipping these films, for any reason, then you aren’t listening and aren’t nearly as in the loop as you may believe.


You’ve undoubtedly noticed that I haven’t dissected the reasons for the way that It has penetrated the public zeitgeist.  Well, I’m not going to.  Come on, folks; I’m a teacher in my day job.  Do you really think I’m going to do all of your work for you?  Here’s your assignment: if you haven’t seen the film, get over your hang-ups and go.  It’s fiction.  Pennywise isn’t really coming to kill you.  The violence isn’t real.  And you can hear naughty words and be fine.  If your kids can get through a day at middle school, you can survive a movie for two hours.  The film isn’t really about Pennywise, anyway.  It’s about the kids and the adults around them.  (That’s my hint.)  Once you’ve seen the film (and for those of you who already have, you may move to the head of the class), put your thinking caps on, ask yourself why it’s truly resonating, and then also ask yourself why it matters.  Because it does.  The films matter because they represent the people.  And the cost of being better informed about the people is a mere nine American dollars (on average) plus a little analysis and reflection.  Try it.  You just might learn something about yourself along the way.

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Why Event Films are as Relevant as Current Events

The Ten Best Comic Book Movie Castings

There was a time, long ago, when a movie based on a comic book couldn’t even get a greenlight.  Then, slight progress was made so that they could get the go-ahead, but nobody with any name value wanted anywhere near them.  Now, comic books are recognized as the complex pieces of art that they are, with wide-ranging, four-quadrant appeal that has long passed having mere potential and has instead taken over big-budget filmmaking.  As a result, very few talents don’t want to be involved as they can now earn a gigantic paycheck without feeling like they need to compromise themselves and their art to do so.

As a result, there have been many amazing casting choices for comic book films over the decades – and especially in recent years.  I’m delegating to myself the near-impossible task of choosing the ten best.  If your favorite didn’t make this list, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like them.  Save your breath.  Many of my own favorites aren’t making this list.  In fact, I could do a Top Twenty without breaking a sweat, but I’m going to restrain myself, here.

Also, these are not ranked.  That would be painstakingly difficult.  I could probably choose a number one, but after that – no way.  Also, I’m not counting TV.  Only film.  Had I counted TV, only Krysten Ritter, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Melissa Benoist would have likely made the list, anyway.  So, in no particular order, here are . . .

The Ten Best Comic Book Movie Casting Choices in Film History


Heath Ledger – The Joker


Let’s get this one out of the way.  Not that I mean to be dismissive, but I know this is the one that everyone was waiting to see.  So, yes, here he is.  And with good reason.  Ledger’s casting met huge backlash from the omniscient, all-knowing Internet geek world, who claimed he was a pretty boy cheesecake who could never pull off the role.  It wasn’t the first, last, or even millionth time that these people have exposed their ignorance as Ledger threw himself into the part with reckless abandon, perfectly encapsulating the Joker’s more contemporary traits of menace and lunacy, winning an Academy Award (sadly, posthumously) for his efforts.  I personally liked Jack Nicholson’s Joker about as much, as different as it was, but Ledger gets the nod due to his impact and achievement.

Chris Pratt – Peter Quill/Star-Lord


Chris Pratt’s casting also met with some backlash, though not with the same vehemence as that of Ledger.  Most who had an issue with him pigeonholed him as the chubby guy from “Parks and Rec”, seemingly not understanding that 1) exercise is a thing and 2) the performance is what matters the most.  And Pratt nailed the performance.  Simultaneously smarmy and endearing, Pratt gives us a Star-Lord that wants to get close to people, but has no idea how.  Funny, confident, and relatable, Pratt’s demeanor and delivery are unmatched.  Groot gets all the press, but Pratt is the true on-screen force behind the success of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Hugh Jackman – Logan/James Howlett/Wolverine


You know what?  Let’s just go through all the complaints the “fans” had regarding each of these casting choices.  “He’s a stage actor who does musicals!  How can he be Wolverine?!”  “Nobody’s ever heard of him!  Wolverine should be a star!”  “He’s too tall!”  Yes, folks.  “He’s too tall” was actually a complaint.  Well, we all know how this turned out.  Jackman took the character of Wolverine to a whole new level, making him a true household name and pop culture icon.  Jackman could flip a switch and immediately shift from protective and caring father figure to rampaging, uncontrollable animal.  Complex and layered, Jackman crafted a Wolverine that was far more interesting than his comic book counterpart and will live forever in the annals of pop culture.

Christopher Reeve – Clark Kent/Superman


Sorry, I can’t do the complaints, here.  There are two reasons: 1) there was no Internet when this film was released and 2) though I was alive at that time, I wasn’t actually old enough to even be aware of my own existence, yet, much less this movie.  But, looking back on Christopher Reeve’s Superman, there is no questioning his performance or his impact.  Reeve was an unknown, which is exactly who Superman needed to be.  He injected the part with heart, sincerity, and depth and his performance had such resonance that fans still see him as the benchmark to this day – almost forty years later.  Reeve helped put comic books on the map as something that wasn’t just child’s play and we might not be where we are today without him.

Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark/Iron Man

Iron Man

Here’s a twist: the majority of the complaints upon Robert Downey, Jr.’s, casting as Iron Man came not from the geek world but from the general audience.  “Robert Downey, Jr. doesn’t look like a superhero!  He doesn’t have muscles and he’s not exactly young, anymore!”  Well, comic book fans knew better in this case and were pretty united (for a change) in their support for this casting decision.  Tony Stark has never been a muscle-bound physical specimen.  He’s a fast-talking, wise-cracking, a-hole businessman with addiction problems.  Downey barely even had to act, at all, perfectly capturing the essence of Tony Stark and charming audiences for over nine years, now.  Thanks to Downey, Iron Man was a massive hit, Marvel Studios was properly launched, Marvel permanently dug themselves out of bankruptcy, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born.  For Marvel, Robert Downey, Jr. was a real-life hero.

Anne Hathaway – Selina Kyle/Catwoman


Sadly often overlooked, Anne Hathaway was everything that the comic book Catwoman had ever been and more.  Most complaints were not about her look or her ability but simply because some people out there believe that they’re supposed to hate Anne Hathaway on principle, so they do.  But that’s absurd.  With Hathaway playing Selina Kyle as confident, powerful, selfish without getting to the point of being completely uncaring, enticing, intelligent, and downright seductive, Christopher Nolan struck pure gold for the second time in his Batman career when he selected her as Catwoman.  I even got chills as she fought on a rooftop, back-to-back with Christian Bale’s Batman, bringing to life the Catwoman that I had always envisioned.  There’s a small but vocal pocket of people directing a lot of irrational hate towards The Dark Knight Rises, but none of it is towards Hathaway.

Margot Robbie – Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn

There were really no complaints upon the announcement that Margot Robbie would be playing Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.  Honestly, most people didn’t even know who she was, so that made it hard to complain.  Film lovers knew her from her scene-stealing turn in The Wolf of Wall Street and she quickly became famous for her good looks above all else.  Luckily for the extremely talented Ms. Robbie, that all turned around when Suicide Squad hit theaters all over the world.  Harley Quinn is the only reason that movie happened, so there was a lot of weight on Robbie’s shoulders, but she carried it with ease, once again stealing scene after scene as the cult favorite Harley and solidifying herself as almost the only aspect of the film worth watching.  We’ll see where Harley pops up next (Warner Brothers has said they’re producing a Gotham City Sirens film with Harley, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy.  I’ll believe it when it starts filming.) but both Harley and Robbie are too valuable to the DC Extended Universe to remain on the sidelines for too long.

Henry Cavill – Clark Kent/Superman

Superman Cavill

Yep!  Two Superman choices!  People are actually still complaining about this one.  “This Superman is whiny.”  “He doesn’t save people.”  “He’s hopeless.”  In spite of the facts that the DCEU Superman has never whined, saved the world twice (at great personal expense), and did so because he still believed in the people who turned against him, those complaining about these non-existent issues clearly don’t understand the difference between writing and acting.  Even assuming these things are true, blaming Cavill is laughable, especially when, from his first on-screen appearance as the character, he has exuded the poise, power, chiseled good looks, and demeanor of Superman.  Reeve was perfect as the traditional, classic version of the character.  But Cavill is indispensable as a modern-day hero surrounded by a world of ungrateful cynics – both on- and off-screen.

Ryan Reynolds – Wade Wilson/Deadpool


Reynolds is another rare case where the fans were all onboard from the outset.  Since his days on “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”, Reynolds has been a master of the cheeky humor that Deadpool has become known for.  The writing wasn’t an exact duplicate of the Deadpool that comic fans have come to love, but it was close enough that most didn’t notice.  Reynolds went to bat for the character after an extremely ill-conceived approach went wrong in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and convinced Fox to give him and Deadpool another chance.  It took a while (a long while), but it worked out exorbitantly well for all.  Deadpool has become yet another household name from the world of comics and his profile is only going to continue to rise, and it’s all thanks to Reynolds.

Gal Gadot – Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman 2

Remember at the beginning of this column when I said that I could probably choose a number one pick?  This would be it.  Gal Gadot brings Wonder Woman to life in a way that makes one almost forget that she’s fictional.  Gadot reeks of honor, wisdom, love, charm, beauty, strength and everything else that makes Diana the hero that she is.  I was so moved by the character and Gadot’s presentation of her that I wrote an emotional analysis addressing why the character is so important in modern society.  With anybody else in the role, that impact would likely be significantly diminished, if not outright lost altogether.  Gadot will possibly now find herself as the face of the DC Extended Universe and one of the most recognizable stars on the planet.  To many people for many generations to come, she will be the definitive Wonder Woman.  And to think, people whined that she “wasn’t big enough”.  (As though Diana’s strength comes from her physique.)

There you have my choices for the ten best casting choices in comic book film history.  There are many more that could have (and almost) made the list, but I chose those with the greatest impact, resonance, and pop-culture footprint.  Much goes into casting choices, and some have not translated well, but for the most part, the professionals should be trusted to do what they do, while we lay back and wait with anticipation to see the results.  I personally can hardly wait to see what’s next!

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The Ten Best Comic Book Movie Castings


Wonder Woman

I just got home from a second viewing of Warner Brothers’s Wonder Woman and I felt compelled to write, again.  I tried to talk myself out of it.  “No, come on, you can take today off.  You’ve already done your next four #ThrowbackThursdays ahead of time.  You stayed up an hour later than you should have, earlier this week, to write a column on America’s increasing lack of box office influence.  And you already wrote about Wonder Woman, just two night ago.  You gave it a great review.  You’ve done your part.  You’ve done enough for the week.”

But I wouldn’t listen to . . . uh . . . me.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t listen because I was more relaxed when watching the movie the second time around.  I wasn’t worried that something horrible was going to happen to ruin my enjoyment of the film.  I knew it was all good.  So, I got to take it in and simply enjoy.  And it was a different experience.  Yes, I already wrote about the film.  But that was with my head.  And this movie deserves more.  Diana deserves more.  Gal Gadot, Warner Brothers, and DC all deserve more.  I had to write about it with my heart.  No film criticism, no self-imposed deadline, and no aiming for a certain word count.  I had to write to get it out and then stop whenever I was done.

Wonder Woman, after seeing it for the second time, has become my third-favorite comic book movie of all-time.  It’s behind only The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you’re keeping track, that makes Wonder Woman my favorite solo comic book movie ever.  And that’s because it plays as more than just an entertaining movie, though it is very much that, as well.  But this film is different because it’s important and because we all needed it, right at this very moment.  And Diana, director Patty Jenkins, and writers Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs knew it.  And they had something they wanted to tell us.

Diana is the greatest single hero in film.  Not just the greatest female hero.  That discussion has been had.  It’s valid, but it’s not what I’m here to discuss.  Not just the greatest comic book hero.  And certainly not just the greatest female comic book hero.  She’s the greatest hero.  Period.

“But Batman!”  No.  I love Batman.  But Diana is a better hero.  Batman doesn’t care what he does to the villains.  He cares for the innocent, but that’s where his caring ends.  Diana genuinely, truly cares for all life.  If she has to hurt – or even kill – someone, she will.  If she absolutely has to.  But it hurts her.  She feels it.  She doesn’t have even the slightest desire to do it.  She cares enough about everyone to want to help them, but she also cares enough about herself to refuse to become them.  She sees the good in herself and in everyone else, too.  Everyone.  Like all of us should.

“But Superman!”  No.  I also love Superman.  I love Superman more than I love Batman.  Superman’s ideology is far more in line with that of a true hero.  But Superman loses faith.  He loses faith in himself.  He loses faith in his beliefs.  He even occasionally loses faith in humanity.  He always comes back around, and he always will, because he’s Superman.  But Diana doesn’t “come around”.  She doesn’t need to, because she never loses faith.  She knows her convictions are true and right.  She knows others can rise to meet them, too.  She knows right from wrong and she never allows anyone to convince her otherwise.  Diana never permits herself to be corrupted and remains steadfast, even against those with the best of intentions.  Like all of us should.

“But Spider-Man!”  No.  I truly, truly love Spider-Man.  I grew up on Spider-Man.  He, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four will always be closer to my heart on a personal level than any other fictional characters, anywhere.  They helped me form my moral center and I will always be grateful to them and the writers and artists who told those stories to me during my formative years.  But Spider-Man gets distracted.  He lets his own personal battles and issues inform his decision-making.  He sometimes becomes reactive, rather than proactive.  As a character, that makes him interesting.  It makes him human and relatable.  But it makes Diana a greater hero.  She has personal relationships.  They mean a lot to her.  But they play second-fiddle to her real mission: to stop suffering and spread peace and love to all corners of existence.  Technically, she makes what we mere mortals would consider personal sacrifices in her ongoing efforts to meet this seemingly impossible goal.  But she’s such a hero that prioritizing her personal issues over the larger, global issues at hand would actually be the personal sacrifice from her perspective.  Diana remains focused on the greater good above all else, at all times.  Like all of us should.

“But Captain America!”  This is the closest one.  In his heart, yes, Captain America is as great and true a hero as Diana.  But he doesn’t have the ability to single-handedly effect change the way that Diana does.  He’s more physically and mentally vulnerable to attack and, despite his best efforts and great abilities, he can’t do what Diana do.  And he will sometimes place those he cares for above the mission at hand.  All other things being even, Diana is the greater hero.

“But the Punisher!”  You shut your filthy face, right now.

We – each and every one of us – are living in a frightening world, where we are completely uncertain of what the next day – or even the next hour – may bring.  More and more often, in more and more places, tyrants are somehow rising to power.  They make decisions for the good people of their respective countries.  Many corrupted citizens support them and thereby grant them even more power.  It often feels insurmountable, as if the world is slipping down into an unknown pit of blackness too quickly for us to grab it by the hand the pull it back to its feet.  And it often seems to many of us as though we are alone.

But we are not alone.  Now we have Diana.  Not in the physical sense, of course.  As amazing as it would be for her (or someone like her) to exist and be able to help us get ourselves and our multinational societies to a place of love and coexistence – to help us depose the despots who are seemingly destroying us from the inside out, a little more each day – we don’t.  We don’t have that.  And we won’t have that.  Diana doesn’t exist in the physical world.  But she exists in another way.  She exists in our minds and our hearts.  She exists in the mind and heart of Patty Jenkins.  And she exists in the mind and heart of Zack Snyder.  And Allan Heinberg.  And Jason Fuchs.  And that means that we are not alone.  They are with us.  And now she also exists in my mind and my heart.  And in the minds and hearts of people around the world who have already paid over $80 million to meet her and to see her story and to be inspired by her worldview.

I know I was.  For all the talk of Diana being an excellent role model for young girls (and she unquestionably is), she inspired the living hell out of the 39-year-old dude typing this column.  She serves as a reminder that there is more good in this world than there is bad.  The bad have a lot of power, right now.  But in order to overcome it, we need to see the good in everyone and cling tightly to the good in ourselves.  It will drain the bad of their power.  We need to remain steadfast in our convictions.  There is strength in numbers.  And we need to remain focused on helping everyone around us.  In helping others, we receive help ourselves.  And in completing that cycle, we put good back out into the world.

Warner Brothers released a series of three official teaser posters prior to the film that each featured a single word that is epitomized by Diana.  Here’s one of them.


Here’s another.


And here’s the third.  (My favorite.  I’ve actually ordered one to frame and hang in my living area/TV room.)


These are all very apt and appropriate, but there’s an important one missing.  There’s one more word that Diana truly embodies.  She embodies this word for all of us at a time when we’ve never needed an avatar for it more.  It’s what she reminds us of.  It’s what she brings us.  It’s why this movie and this character are so important.  It’s why Wonder Woman is the movie and Diana is the hero that we all so desperately need.  In experiencing this film, we are all reminded that there will forever be . . .

. . . hope.

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The Movie March Oscar Preview!


It’s about that time!  The 2017 Academy Awards are almost upon us!  It’s the biggest night of the year in the industry, when the best of the art form from the previous year is celebrated, and it takes place this Sunday night, February 26!  It’s an opportunity to acknowledge those who have mastered their art and to encourage others to raise their game.

Here’s how this is going to work.  It will be more involved than my Golden Globes Preview, which I put together rather quickly.  In this particular preview, I will choose the ten highest-profile categories and score each nominee using my own personal scoring system.  The ratings reflect my own personal opinion.  After choosing my favorite, I will also choose the nominee that I expect to win, regardless of who I’m rooting for.

The scoring system will range from zero Emilia Clarkes (the lowest possible) to ten Emilia Clarkes (the highest possible).  Even one Emilia Clarke is fantastic, because any Emilia Clarke is better than no Emilia Clarke.  Finally, an “N/A” means I didn’t get a chance to see the film.  Away we go!

The 2017 Movie March Oscar Preview!

Animated Feature Film


The Nominees:

  • Kubo and the Two Strings10-emilias

  • Moana


  • My Life as a Zucchini


  • The Red Turtle


  • Zootopia


Want to win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Analysis: Kubo was one of the absolute best movies of the year, but not enough people saw it.  That includes the voters in the Academy.  Had they seen it, they’d vote for it, but nobody is going to vote for something they haven’t seen.  With the current social climate, voters will reward the message of fair-mindedness and inclusion put forth by Zootopia.  I hope Pixar feels the sting of not being nominated and comes firing back on all cylinders, soon.

Prediction: Zootopia




Visual Effects


The Nominees:

  • Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington, and Burt Dalton –


  • Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould –


  • The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon –


  • Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff –


  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould –


Want to win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Analysis: The special effects team for Kubo and the Two Strings went above and beyond with their stop-motion animation to the degree that I don’t even understand how they did much of what they did.  I’ve never been so awed, baffled, and astounded by what I was looking at.  But, again, the Academy didn’t see the film.  And they have a history of ignoring the actual visual effects in this category and simply voting for the most serious, least-fun film that’s nominated.  I would love to be wrong, here, but that leads me to one final conclusion.

Prediction: Deepwater Horizon




Original Screenplay


The Nominees:

  • Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan –

  • Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan –

  • La La Land, Damien Chazelle –

  • 20th Century Women, Mike Mills –

  • The Lobster, Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos –

Want to win: La La Land

Analysis: This one is actually a little tough.  It’s a race between Manchester by the Sea and La La Land.  The latter is the better-written film, but the former has gotten a lot of praise and awards.  But Manchester has also gotten some negative publicity, lately, due to Casey Affleck’s past and, fair or not, the entire production’s chances may be affected – even in categories where Affleck isn’t specifically nominated.  Even without that, though, La La Land may be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Prediction: La La Land




Adapted Screenplay


The Nominees:

  • Lion, Luke Davis –

  • Arrival, Eric Heisserer –

  • Moonlight, Barry Jenkins –

  • Hidden Figures, Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder –

  • Fences, August Wilson –

Want to win: Arrival

Analysis: For my personal pick, this is a close race between Lion and ArrivalLion was a moving and near-transformational experience whereas Arrival was a brilliant and thought-provoking mind-bender – the very epitome of thinking-person’s science-fiction.  The thought put into Arrival, complete with the trickiness of adapting that story, puts it on top of my personal list.  Hidden Figures was as paint-by-numbers as it possibly could have been and truly underserved that story.  Moonlight and Fences both offered powerful perspectives on varying relationships and the struggle of minorities to find their place in the world.  The darling of the bunch, however, is Moonlight.

Prediction: Moonlight




Actress in a Supporting Role


The Nominees:

  • Viola Davis, Fences

  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight

  • Nicole Kidman, Lion

  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Want to win: Viola Davis

Analysis: This one seems like an easy pick, on the surface.  Octavia Spencer is the wrong nominee from Hidden Figures (it should have been Taraji P. Henson).  Nicole Kidman and Naomie Harris both gave strong performances but not strong enough to stand out amongst the rest of the brilliance of the films around them.  Michelle Williams was memorable.  But all of them were outperformed by the powerful Viola Davis in Fences.  I doubt this one is even close.  Stranger things have happened, but I feel comfortable saying . . .

Prediction: Viola Davis




Actor in a Supporting Role


The Nominees:

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

  • Dev Patel, Lion

  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Want to win: Dev Patel

Analysis:  As tough as it is for me to choose who I want to win this one, I think the choice of who will win is a little easier.  Lucas Hedges did fine, but his role essentially amounted to a lot of moping and whining.  Michael Shannon – much like Octavia Spencer in the previous category – was the wrong choice to be nominated, here.  It should have been Aaron Taylor-Johnson, instead.  Jeff Bridges was fantastic, as always, but that particular role did very little to push his abilities.  So, it comes down to Mahershala Ali and Dev Patel.  I had trouble picking a personal favorite between the two as Ali gave a subtle, commanding performance, but Patel really moved me during the conclusion of Lion.  Because of that, I personally would like to see Patel take it home, but I’m pretty sure the Academy will reward Ali for his efforts, which is fine with me.

Prediction: Mahershala Ali




Actor in a Leading Role


The Nominees:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land

  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

  • Denzel Washington, Fences

Want to win: Denzel Washington

Analysis: This is a tough one.  It’s certainly tougher than it would have been, a month ago.  Mortensen was fine but not challenged.  Gosling and Garfield were tremendous but their roles weren’t quite as dynamic or subtle as others.  Washington absolutely blew me away with a very powerful and complex performance in Fences.  I thought Casey Affleck did a good job in Manchester by the Sea, but I found his part to be a rather restrictive showcase consisting mostly of sadness and melancholy .  Nonetheless, he’s been the favorite of other awards shows.  However, recently some allegations involving Affleck have gained a higher profile.  Regardless of anyone’s opinion regarding whether they’re true or, if so, whether the art should be separated from the artist, I’m going to go way out on a limb and predict (especially after the results of the Screen Actors Guild awards) that enough voters will be swayed away from Affleck to give Washington the much-deserved accolade.

Prediction: Denzel Washington




Actress in a Leading Role


The Nominees:

  • Emma Stone, La La Land

  • Natalie Portman, Jackie

  • Ruth Negga, Loving

  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle – N/A

Want to win: Emma Stone

Analysis: This one is a little frustrating for me.  First of all, I failed at every turn to see Elle.  It’s the only film up for a major nomination that I could never manage to catch, and I hate that.  It sounds great and I’m anxious to eventually watch it.  Huppert might actually be a favorite in this category after winning the Golden Globe, but the fact that Elle is shockingly not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film makes me think that her chances are slim.  Secondly, Meryl Streep should absolutely not be nominated in this – or any other – category, this year.  Florence Foster Jenkins was a mediocre, mean-spirited movie and Streep’s character required very little of her.  She basically just acts silly throughout the whole thing and gets a free pass to an Oscar nomination because she’s Meryl Streep.  Meanwhile, truly deserving actresses such as Amy Adams for Arrival and Hailee Steinfeld for The Edge of Seventeen (which I just re-watched.  And, yes, it holds up.) are left sitting on the sidelines.  I would actually rate both of those performances above all four of the nominees that I’ve seen.  Regardless, we have three very solid performances, here.  Stone and Portman are neck-and-neck, but it seems to be the year of La La Land.

Prediction: Emma Stone






The Nominees:

  • Denis Villanueve, Arrival

  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land

  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Want to win: Damien Chazelle

Analysis: This category is stacked.  My personal favorites are Chazelle, for his ingenious presentation methods in La La Land – especially towards the end – and Villanueve for his sleight of hand and skillful misdirection in Arrival.  Villanueve won’t win, though, because his picture is science-fiction.  Gibson won’t win because . . . well, you know.  The other three will be a tight race, but Chazelle takes it home.

Prediction: Damien Chazelle




Best Picture


The Nominees:

  • Arrival

  • Fences

  • Hacksaw Ridge

  • Hell or High Water

  • Hidden Figures

  • La La Land

  • Lion

  • Manchester by the Sea

  • Moonlight

Want to win: Lion

Analysis: Best Picture.  The nominees in this category each year are the films that push and challenge us.  They challenge our emotions.  They challenge our minds.  They challenge our perspectives.  They challenge our worldviews.  How to choose the best of these?  Methodically, that’s how.  If a film’s director isn’t nominated for Best Directing, then the film isn’t winning Best Picture.  So, we’re down to five.  Arrival is astounding, but it’s also sci-fi.  Down to four.  Hacksaw Ridge and Manchester by the Sea are plagued by potential political controversy.  Down to two.  And one of those two is a movie about Hollywood.  Sorry, Moonlight.  In any other year, you’d take home the trophy.  But this year, it’s all about . . .

Prediction: La La Land


And that’s it!  Thank you for reading!  I hope you all enjoy the show and that all of my favorites win!   And if they don’t, then I hope my predictions win!  And if they don’t, I hope your favorites win, as long as you aren’t pulling for Meryl Streep.

And thank you to Emilia Clarke for her help, which she obviously totally knew about, you guys.  How could you even question.  How.  And, on that note, it’s once again time to say goodbye, for now.  Emilia, one more time?  Bye!


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