Wednesday, December 11

Phoenix Critics Circle Announce 2019 Nominees




THE PHOENIX CRITICS CIRCLE PROUDLY ANNOUNCES NOMINEES FOR ITS ANNUAL AWARDS. 


Members have narrowed the films from 2019 to the top nominees in each category. Voting is underway for the winners and they will be announced on Saturday, December 14th, 2019. 


The nominees are…

BEST PICTURE

• 1917
• THE IRISHMAN
• JOJO RABBIT
• MARRIAGE STORY
• PARASITE
• PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

BEST COMEDY FILM

• BOOKSMART
• DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
• JOJO RABBIT
• KNIVES OUT
• ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM

• AD ASTRA
• ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL
• AVENGERS: END GAME
• CAPTAIN MARVEL
• HIGH LIFE
• TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

BEST HORROR FILM

• DOCTOR SLEEP
• THE LIGHTHOUSE
• MIDSOMMAR
• US
• TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID

BEST ANIMATED FILM

• FROZEN 2
• HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD
• I LOST MY BODY
• MISSING LINK
• TOY STORY 4

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

• ATLANTICS
• THE FAREWELL
• MONOS
• PARASITE
• PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

BEST DOCUMENTARY

• AMERICAN FACTORY
• APOLLO 11
• HAIL SATAN?
• HONEYLAND
• ONE CHILD NATION

BEST ACTOR

• ROBERT DENIRO, THE IRISHMAN
• LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
• ADAM DRIVER, MARRIAGE STORY
• EDDIE MURPHY, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
• JOAQUIN PHOENIX, JOKER

BEST ACTRESS

• AWKWAFINA, THE FAREWELL
• SCARLETT JOHANSSON, MARRIAGE STORY
• LUPITA NYONG'O, US
• SAOIRSE RONAN, LITTLE WOMEN
• RENE ZELLWEGER, JUDY

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

• WILLEM DAFOE, THE LIGHTHOUSE
• TOM HANKS, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
• SONG KANG-HO, PARASITE
• JOE PESCI, THE IRISHMAN
• BRAD PITT, ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

• JENNIFER LOPEZ, HUSTLERS
• LAURA DERN, MARRIAGE STORY
• ANNETTE BENING, THE REPORT
• THOMASIN MCKENZIE, JOJO RABBIT
• ZHAO SHUZHEN, THE FAREWELL
• MARGOT ROBBIE, BOMBSHELL

BEST DIRECTOR

• BONG JOON-HO, PARASITE
• SAM MENDES, 1917
• MARTIN SCORSESE, THE IRISHMAN
• QUENTIN TARANTINO - ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
• TAIKA WAITITI - JOJO RABBIT

BEST SCREENPLAY

• NOAH BAUMBACH, MARRIAGE STORY
• RIAN JOHNSON, KNIVES OUT
• BONG JOON-HO AND HAN JIN-WON, PARASITE
• QUENTIN TARANTINO, ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
• TAIKA WAITITI, JOJO RABBIT

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

• ROGER DEAKINS, 1917
• JÖRG WIDMER, A HIDDEN LIFE
• RODRIGO PRIETO, THE IRISHMAN
• JARIN BLASCHKE, THE LIGHTHOUSE
• ROBERT RICHARDSON, ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
• KYUNG-PYO HONG, PARASITE
• CLAIRE MATHON, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

BEST SCORE

• THOMAS NEWMAN, 1917
• ALEXANDRE DESPLAT, LITTLE WOMEN
• MICHAEL ABELS, US
• HILDUR GUÐNADÓTTIR, JOKER

 

Tuesday, November 26

Knives Out Review

Knives Out
Dir: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer

It was Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick! 

Everyone loves a good, old fashioned whodunit; that stealthy murder mystery suspense thriller in the vein of an Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle novel. The kind of mystery story that starts with the discovery of a dead body and weaves through a group of people, where everyone is a suspect, leading towards the final reveal of the devious plans and the uncovering of the murderer who tried to get away with it all. 

Writer/director Rian Johnson, who last helmed the monolithic “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, takes a step back with a smaller more restrained film and also into the past with “Knives Out”. Johnson, obviously influenced by films like the Agatha Christie adaptation “Death on the Nile”, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “Sleuth” starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, and “Deathtrap” from Sidney Lumet, crafts a clever and entertaining whodunit with an exceptionally talented cast of players. 

The mystery takes place at the sprawling, ornamented estate owned by world-renowned mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). His family, a group of ravenous vultures who have become dependent on the immense wealth Harlan has cultivated with the production of his library of novels, is celebrating his birthday when at the end of the evening, Harlan is found dead in his study. 

Funeral arrangements are made, the last will & testament reading is planned, but the police (LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) have some final questions concerning the circumstances of Harlan’s death. Most especially interested is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a sort-of-famous investigator, who’s involvement in the proceedings is dubiously unknown. As are the motives of Harlan’s caretaker Marta (Ana de Armas), his arrogant nephew (Chris Evans), belligerent son (Michael Shannon), and entitled daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis). Everyone is a suspect.

Rian Johnson clearly understands the setup and execution of these specific narratives, spending a meticulous amount of time building the maze of clever clues, amusing MacGuffins, and witty fake outs. Johnson understands that what makes these types of films so enthralling is that viewers will place themselves into the story as amateur gumshoes, analyzing background objects, dissecting comments made by characters, and following the many diverting bread crumb trails. Johnson executes this component effectively throughout, building the mystery and revealing secrets in interesting, if sometimes familiar, ways. There are only a couple of moments when the twists and turns overtake the pacing and momentum of the story.

The cast is exceptional and part of the reason the film works so well. Everyone in the film has a specific motivation and each has very identifiable character traits that set them apart from one another. Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, with a thick southern accent and showy gestures, swaggers through scenery with confidence and glee. Jamie Lee Curtis, playing the stoic figure of the family, is having fun giving long glares and sly smirks. Michael Shannon, playing Harlan’s son, is consistently amusing to watch as he stumbles and grumbles from scene to scene. The entire ensemble is provided an opportunity to shine.

“Knives Out” is a meticulously crafted environment and story from start to finish. While there are a few moments when the film reveals its tricks too early and sometimes too plainly, Rian Johnson ultimately displays a masterful understanding of how to craft a good ol’ fashioned whodunit.

Monte’s Rating
4.00 out of 5.00

Friday, November 22

Frozen II Review



Frozen II

Dir: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, and Alfred Molina


Happily, Ever After. Disney has used this sentiment to build an illustrious career of animated feature films filled with fairy godmothers, poison apples, singing mermaids, and, in the case of “Frozen”, a magical snow queen. All these stories come with enchantment, romance, and their fair share of evil villains, but they also have near-perfect happy endings. 


“Frozen”, released in 2013, ended with two sisters reunited, the kingdom of Arendelle saved from eternal winter, the snowman Olaf finding a family, and every young audience member singing “Let it Go” for the next 6 years. It was as perfect an ending as one would expect from Disney.




So why continue the story of Elsa and Anna? “Frozen II” doesn’t need to exist but it does, and the result is a better than expected tale of growing up, becoming mature, and dealing with change. 


Arendelle has found peace with Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) in power, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) are growing closer in their budding relationship, and Olaf (Josh Gad) is soaking up human life while learning as much as possible. But Elsa’s magical power grows stronger and echoes from the past start to call for answers. Arendelle is threatened and Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf must travel to an enchanted kingdom to find a solution.




“Frozen II” does a great job of utilizing its strongest assets which is the cast of characters. The story makes that a point of emphasis, initially, by focusing on the interconnected storylines the characters all have with one another. Specifically, Elsa and Anna’s connection as sisters, but also as powerful women in leadership positions, is more prominent throughout the film. Olaf, who mostly plays the comedic relief, is also provided with more matured character traits that assist in both offering levity but also insight with the characters along their journey. Even Kristoff is provided with more to do to assist Anna and Elsa through the major changes happening in the film.


The narrative works best when the theme of dealing with change is at the forefront. Sequels struggle with showing how characters grow, we become so familiar with great characters in the first film that often the sequel fails to offer the conflict that allows the characters to mature and handle change. “Frozen II” keeps that in mind as Elsa searches for answers about her past and gaining an understanding of how to handle her powers. The real admirable focus, surprisingly, is the development of Anna who must handle the more realistic, world-weary struggles of growing up and taking control of the complications that arise in life. 




Unfortunately, the general journey of the story, the trip into the enchanted autumnal land with walking giant stone people, progresses in dull and predictable ways. While this shouldn’t be a surprise for an animated Disney feature, the progression just falls flat as the story follows the same familiar fairytale formula. Also, the plot introduction of an indigenous forest group in the enchanted land, who were betrayed in the past, offers an opportunity to introduce elements associated with the trauma found throughout history (heavy material but important subject matter conversations for young viewers) but it never follows through on these points. However, the composition of these environments, the dense fog-laden forest and one exquisite scene involving a water horse, keep the story interesting to look at.


There is a lot for young people to enjoy in “Frozen II”, while many of the songs don’t reach the heights of “Let it Go”, there are few notable songs, specifically a number that feels straight out the ‘80s, that will please. Still, the heart established by the characters and the focus on maturity and change keeps this sequel interesting and enjoyable.  If “Frozen” was about gaining the confidence to “let it go”, “Frozen II” is about the process of “letting go” and grasping the change that is in front of you. That’s a good lesson to share.


Monte’s Rating

3.25 out of 5.00