2018 Oscar Wrap-Up

They didn’t fuck it up.

After the embarrassing Best Picture debacle from last year’s Academy Awards ceremony, there were no head smacking repeats for the mostly predictable 90th annual event this year.  Unlike 2017, Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway were given the correct envelope and revealed the correct winner.

Besides taking home Best Picture, The Shape Of Water also won for its production design and its original score.  As expected, Guillermo Del Toro was announced Best Director.  In a year where the academy spread the gold around, The Shape Of Water won the most with four.

Despite not taking any major prizes, Dunkirk won three technical gongs.  It swept the sound categories and won for best editing.  The Pixar flick Coco won two for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

Also winning two golden naked eunuch statues was Darkest Hour.  Besides taking Best Make-Up & Hairstyling, Gary Oldman was named Best Actor.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also snagged a pair.  Sam Rockwell took home Best Supporting Actor (he dedicated the award to his friend, the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffmann and thanked his hot girlfriend Leslie Bibb for lighting his fire) while an extremely enthusiastic and giddy Frances McDormand, in full-on intersectional feminist mode, won her second Best Actress prize.

Blade Runner 2049 was another double winner.  Longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins ended his ridiculously long slump by finally taking an Oscar on his 14th try.  Look at this small sample of the dozens of films he’s lensed in his 35-year-career:  Sid & Nancy, The Shawshank Redemption, Dead Man Walking, A Beautiful Mind, Skyfall, twelve Coen Brothers movies including Barton Fink and No Country For Old Men.  The man has been responsible for photographing some of the most beloved films of all time.  Much to my consternation, Blade Runner 2049 also won for Best Visual Effects.  It was my original prediction until I switched to War For The Planet Of The Apes based on what I had read online.  I should’ve stuck to my instincts because I would’ve been right.  (Despite that, I had my best year of predicting ever.  I went 20 for 24.)

Alison Janney on her first nomination won Best Supporting Actress for playing Tonya Harding’s toxic mother in I, Tonya.  She humourously quipped that she did it all on her own before thanking a bunch of people including the members of “Team Janney”.  Get Out’s Jordan Peele made history becoming the first Black man to ever win Best Original Screenplay while legendary director James Ivory, who thanked his late, longtime collaborators producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, was awarded the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for penning the gay love story Call Me By Your Name.  Up until tonight, Ivory was the only one of the Merchant/Ivory trio to not have a golden gong of his own.

Chile’s A Fantastic Woman, starring the glamourous trans actor Daniela Vega was named Best Foreign Language Film while Icarus, which documents Russia’s systemic doping scheme, was named Best Documentary Feature.  Icarus was my initial prediction but in a wide open category that even FiveThirtyEight.com couldn’t predict I thought Last Men In Aleppo might pull an upset.  Again, should’ve gone with my first thought.

In a moment of true awkwardness that went unacknowledged, accused rapist Kobe Bryant won a Best Animated Short Oscar for Dear Basketball which is based on his retirement letter.  With all the stage talk of equality and change and making things better for women, it’s more than obvious that some abusers are still more popular than others.  The status quo is powerful for a reason.

Despite the predictability of the awards themselves, returning host Jimmy Kimmel was in mostly fine form despite the hit and miss opening intro.  There was an inspired bit where he teased winners with the prospect of winning a jet ski and a cheap vacation if they made the shortest speech.  (Phantom Thread’s Best Costume Design winner Mark Bridges, who got all his thank yous in under 40 seconds, came in at the end of the show riding his new prize.)  I was delighted when he said no one would be played off if they went on too long but goddamn it, that turned out to be false advertising, as a few recipients were given the orchestral hint to wrap it up.  Let them speak, for Christ’s sake.

Kimmel got in his obligatory digs at Matt Damon and even made Christopher Plummer a reliable punchline, one of which was cleverly tied in to the very first Oscars ceremony.  I’m not sure he needed to crash that Wrinkle In Time sneak preview with some selected celebrities but I did enjoy those ridiculous hot dog cannons.  More often than not, he was funny.  But presenters like Jodie Foster, Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish were just as good with their comic timing, if not better.

However, it’s enough with the glorification of the military already.  Having overly pausy Indigenous actor Wes Studi (The Last Of The Mohicans) onstage to plug an unnecessary clip package of war movies made it even worse.  Diversifying the presentation of propaganda isn’t progress.  Applauding his Vietnam service was weird and tone-deaf.

Oh, and why wasn’t John Mahoney included in the In Memoriam segment?

The complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo Del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER)

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney (I, TONYA)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – COCO

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – ICARUS

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele (GET OUT)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Remember Me (COCO)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – PHANTOM THREAD

BEST FILM EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND MIXING – DUNKIRK

BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – DARKEST HOUR

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – DEAR BASKETBALL

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – THE SILENT CHILD

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 5, 2018
1:58 a.m.

Advertisements
Published in: on March 5, 2018 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  

90th Academy Award Predictions

BEST PICTURE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Nine films are gunning for Oscar’s top prize in the most wide open race in more than ten years.

Let’s save time by eliminating the long shots.  Call Me By Your Name, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour and Lady Bird are just happy to be included here and have next to no chance of winning.

Maybe if it had more acclaim and more nominations, The Post would be talked about as a serious frontrunner.  There’s a very, very small possibility of it pulling off an upset as a way for the academy to rally behind the media in this bizarre Trump era but I highly doubt it.  It’s just not as well regarded as All The President’s Men.

Since the nominations were announced in late January, only four nominated films have been considered strong contenders.  At first, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was seen as the likely winner.  But it’s been plagued by controversy about its content, a bad sign.

Dunkirk was a big hit during the summer both with critics and audiences and while there’s been complaints about its storytelling as well, it has already faded as a possible trophy snatcher.

In my view, Best Picture this year is really between the two remaining nominees, a horror film about liberal racism and an unlikely love story by a director who specializes in horror films.  It’s been over a year since Jordan Peele’s Get Out stunned most everybody who saw it but with a still mostly white, predominantly older motion picture academy voting on the winners, I just don’t agree with those who think it can win.

Yes, Moonlight won this category last year over the favourite La La Land despite that embarrassing bungle by Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway but would the academy vote for a Black-themed movie two years in a row?

I’m skeptical it has the numbers on its side (there are reports that a number of academy members refused to even screen it because it’s not a “traditional Oscar movie”) which is why I’m going with Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water.  Even though it faces a plagiarism lawsuit, almost everyone who’s had a chance to look at it loves it.  As the much missed Roger Ebert noted back in the day, academy members vote with their hearts when picking Best Picture.  Based on what critics have said, The Shape Of Water is that kind of movie.

Oh, and by the way, Beatty & Dunaway will announce the winner.  God help us all.

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER)

Ebert pointed out again and again over the years, if you win the Directors Guild Of America award, nine times out of ten you go on to win the Oscar.  Guillermo Del Toro won the DGA this year for helming The Shape Of Water.  He will snag the golden naked man, as well.

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR)

For much of his career, Gary Oldman has been a chameleon.  He’s played a self-destructive punk rocker (Sid & Nancy), Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK), a lovesick vampire (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Commissioner Gordon (The Dark Knight Trilogy).  Despite allegations of abuse and racist comments, he has remarkably avoided being another #MeToo casualty.

In Darkest Hour, he disappears again as Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister who went from being an admirer of Adolf Hitler to a bitter foe in World War II.  It’s the kind of part anyone would kill for because it’s the kind of part that assures Oscar glory.

Oldman’s fellow nominees for Best Actor are a mix of first-time contenders and multiple past winners.  Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) already has two gongs.  The supposedly retiring Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) has three.  They don’t need any more.  While there’s always the possibility of a genuine upset (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya is more likely to be a shock winner than Call Me By Your Name’s Timothee Chalamet), it’s highly doubtful this year.

Barring some unforeseen circumstances, it’s Oldman’s Oscar all the way.

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

All but one of the nominated actresses in this category are either multiple past nominees or winners.  Right off the bat, three-time winner Meryl Streep is not going to be called up to the stage for her portrayal of Katherine Graham in The Post.  Neither is three-time nominee Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird).  Yes, this 23-year-old Irish lass already has three Oscar nods to her name.

After breaking through in The Wolf Of Wall Street four years ago (she was the dame with all the dough taped on her naked body), Australian Margot Robbie received her first official recognition from the academy for playing the villainous American figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.  It seems unlikely she’ll win.

That leaves Sally Hawkins (The Shape Of Water) and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).  Although the British Hawkins has been nominated before for her supporting work in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and is playing a mute character not unlike Oscar winner Holly Hunter did in The Piano, she’s competing against a perennial academy favourite.

It’s been more than 20 years since McDormand first won Best Actress for playing the smart, pregnant cop in the otherwise overrated Fargo.  Overall, she has five nominations in her long career.  Now 60, much of the praise heaped on Three Billboards has been because of her well regarded performance.  I will be very surprised if her name isn’t called out on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Alison Janney (I, TONYA)

Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often.  All the performers in this category are middle-aged.  And all but one are first-time nominees.

58-year-old Alison Janney is best known for playing President Martin Sheen’s press secretary on The West Wing (which resulted in multiple Emmy wins) and a MILF on Mom.  62-year-old Laurie Metcalf came out of the Steppenwolf theatre group in Chicago to become Roseanne’s TV sister and Sheldon Cooper’s evangelical mother.  She also tried to seduce John Candy in Uncle Buck and tormented Bruce Willis onstage as Annie Wilkes in Misery.

61-year-old Lesley Manville (Gary Oldman’s first wife) has appeared in numerous Mike Leigh films and co-starred with Angelina Jolie in Maleficent.  Although primarily known for her music, 47-year-old Mary J. Blige has been acting as far back as 1995.  She played Malcolm X’s widow Betty Shabazz in the TV-movie Betty & Coretta.

45-year-old Octavia Spencer previously won for her popular performance in The Help.  A three-time nominee (she’s the only Black woman in Oscar history to receive two consecutive nominations), she’s been acting in movies since her debut in A Time To Kill.

So, who has the edge?  Not Spencer who already had her push in 2012 and is doing just dandy on her own now.  Blige is a longshot.  Metcalf has had a great three-pronged career in film, TV and theatre and really doesn’t need a golden gong.  It would be really interesting if Manville won on the same night as her ex-husband but that’s highly doubtful.

That leaves the well-liked Janney who critics singled out as a scene stealer in I, Tonya.  She’ll snag it on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

There’s only one first-time nominee in a sea of perennial never-wons and one past recipient in the race for Best Supporting Actor.

I can’t remember a time when Willem Dafoe wasn’t acting in a movie.  Previously nominated for Platoon and Shadow Of The Vampire, the third time won’t be the charm for him this year.  Like his Shape Of Water co-star Octavia Spencer, two-time nominee Richard Jenkins won’t have to worry about preparing a speech.  He’s not going to be called to the stage.

Neither is Christopher Plummer, the last-minute replacement for the disgraced Kevin Spacey in All The Money In The World, who is the only previous winner here.

Woody Harrelson, another three-time nominee, will have to watch from his seat as his Three Billboards co-star Sam Rockwell makes his way to the front of the house to deliver his acceptance speech.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele (GET OUT)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – COCO

BEST FILM EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – PHANTOM THREAD

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Remember Me (COCO)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST SOUND EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND MIXING – DUNKIRK

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING – DARKEST HOUR

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – DeKALB ELEMENTARY

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – DEAR BASKETBALL

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – HEROIN(E)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 3, 2018
3:40 p.m.

Published in: on March 3, 2018 at 3:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hide And Seek (2005)

Hide And Seek is one of those pretentious thrillers that deludes itself into thinking it’s really something clever instead of the generic, unscary mess it actually is.

Robert De Niro and Amy Irving are an unhappily married couple with a young daughter (Dakota Fanning). After swallowing some pills with wine and having one last intimate moment with her kid before bedtime, she has an awkward conversation with her psychologist husband before retreating to the bathtub surrounded by candlelight.

Hours later, when he realizes she’s not in bed with him, a worried De Niro arises and discovers her dead body floating in her own blood.  Fanning stands in the bathroom doorway watching him weep and is never the same.

Now mostly silent and blankly staring, the blue-eyed, dark-haired Fanning is looked after by De Niro’s former protégé, the kindly Famke Janssen.  De Niro is planning to move her out of the city and into the country.  Janssen strongly opposes this idea because the child needs stability, not more upheaval.  De Niro is convinced that getting her as far away from the scene of her mother’s death is the best thing for her.

Because it’s the off-season, there aren’t many people around in their new neighbourhood, just the nosy, by-the-book sheriff (Dylan Baker), a forgetful real estate agent (David Chandler) and the friendly Melissa Leo and Robert John Burke, a couple in mourning.  Over time, we learn they had a daughter who looked exactly like Fanning which explains Burke’s interest in her (and all the toys in their living room).  Leo and Burke appear to be in an abusive relationship but curiously, the movie doesn’t dwell on it.  De Niro offers his professional services to Leo but she declines and the matter is dropped altogether.

As soon as they arrive here, Fanning starts acting strangely.  Once inseparable from her beloved doll Alex, she suddenly abandons it.  (De Niro finds it in the trash one night.)  And she claims to have a new friend, “Charlie”, who becomes a bad influence.

De Niro meets Elizabeth Shue, a hot divorcee looking after her niece.  When he invites them both to the new house, the niece is scared away but Shue comes back only to face resistance from Fanning.

Meanwhile, De Niro keeps having a recurring nightmare about New Year’s Eve.  We’re teased with little snippets here and there until we learn the full truth.  Some nights, at exactly 2:06 a.m., he suddenly wakes up only to walk towards the bathroom to ultimately discover a message written in blood and sometimes a dead body in the tub.  Up to that point, we’re led to believe Fanning is a Creepy Kid being manipulated by some supernatural force with a venomous streak and De Niro, in deep denial, is too stupid to see it.

Then comes that ridiculous twist which undermines everything.  It’s more than obvious that the filmmakers were trying to imitate M. Night Shyamalan but they clearly lack the skill and care to pull it off successfully.

Consider the scene where Shue shows up unannounced, lets herself in when no one answers the door and goes upstairs to try to make peace with Fanning.  While that’s going on, we see an oblivious De Niro listening to music in his headphones as he once again jots down his misguided observations about his troubled daughter.  Fanning’s in the middle of a game of hide and seek and when Shue opens the closet door, she gets a big surprise.

Later, when that scene is revisited, we find out who was in the closet.  But it’s just not possible without rewriting history which is precisely what happens.  (Otherwise, one person can’t be in two places at the same time.)

When you think about it, there’s actually a twist within the twist.  We think the reason the Amy Irving character dies is because of an exposed indiscretion but it’s really because she has a much closer relationship to Fanning.  Unfortunately, we barely get to know these characters in the abbreviated opening sequence and therefore feel emotionally disconnected from them, even before the inevitable tragedy.  We’re not as moved as we should be going forward.

As a result, Hide And Seek begins as a disappointingly bland, uninvolving melodrama but by the time of the big reveal it diminishes itself as a routine and deeply dishonest slasher flick.  De Niro was far scarier and more menacing as the vengeful Max Cady in the brilliant Cape Fear remake.  Here, I was baffled by his contradictory actions and complete lack of self-awareness.  Also puzzling is Fanning’s behaviour around him.  If she doesn’t tremble in his presence, why should we?

And what about that dopey ending?  The movie can’t seem to make up its mind about Fanning’s own state of mind as it reverses itself once again, just to tease the idea of a possible sequel which, thank God, has not been made.

All horror films involve some kind of emotional manipulation.  But when they start outright lying to you, that’s a betrayal.  Hide And Seek never levels with its audience and while it may think it gives sly clues to the big twist long before it happens, it’s really just lying to itself.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, March 2, 2018
10:19 p.m.

Published in: on March 2, 2018 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Unofficial 2018 Winter Olympics Awards

Worst Decision By The IOC Since Awarding Hitler The Summer & Winter Olympics

Instead of banning the entire country for its systemic abuse of illegal performance enhancing drugs during the 2014 Sochi games, the cowards of the International Olympic Committee allowed some Russian athletes to compete but not under their own flag (they had to use the five-ringed Olympic banner as a substitute), they had to be referred to as Olympic Athletes of Russia and whenever they won Gold (which only happened twice) the Russian anthem would not be played.

Somewhere out there, Nikolai Volkoff is quietly weeping.

Most Surprising Doping Violation

Russian curler and Sam Rockwell clone Alexander Krushelnitsky who flunked two drug tests (he tested positive for polonium which allows more oxygen to flow in the blood and greatly improves your strength) and was stripped of the Bronze medal he won with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova in the debuting Mixed Doubles curling event.  As a result, Norway, the team they beat for it, are now recognized as the 3rd place finishers in the tournament.  Who knew you needed an extra edge for sweeping a slow-moving stone?

Best Cheerleader Not Sent By North Korea

Cheryl Lawes, the proud mom of Canadian Mixed Doubles gold medallist Kaitlyn Lawes, who was often seen during her matches with teammate John Norris whistling and cheerfully whooping it up in the stands.

Most Unintentionally Prescient Surname

Emma Miskew, a member of the Canadian womens’ curling team who were shockingly eliminated from the round robin marking the first time since the return of the sport to the Olympics that the Great White North won’t take a medal from this event.

Best Tribute To Chris Jericho

The “Clipboard of Power” held by an Olympic official at the top of the hill during the big air events.  He just made the list!

Please Buy Him A Shirt Already

Tonga’s flag bearer Pita Taufatofua once again marched out to the opening ceremonies (and posed on stage during the closing ceremonies) shirtless and overly oiled.  We get it.  Put your clothes back on.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail Again

Dutch long track speed skating behemoth Sven Kramer has won Olympic Gold in the 5000 metres and the team pursuit but has long coveted winning the toughest distance of them all, the 10000 metres.  In 2010 during the Vancouver games, his coach misdirected him to the wrong lane causing him to be disqualified.  At Sochi four years later, he finished second capturing the Silver.

Would 2018 be any different?  Nope.  Kramer would finish off the podium in sixth.  Now 31, this is likely his final Winter Olympics.

Cheekiest Way To Get A Curse Word On Live TV Without Opening Your Mouth

After every jump, Swiss big air snowboarder Sina Candrian would cheerfully show this message on the palm sides of her fingerless gloves:  “Fuck yeah!”

Most Enduring Winter Olympics Mystery

All the beautiful, talented women competing in curling.  I’m not complaining.

Most Surprising Curling Fan

Mr. T who declared his love for the sport on Twitter and on CBC Radio.  Curling is cool, fool.

Best Belated Audition For A Role As A Villain In The Hunger Games

The flamboyant, poofy-haired NBC figure skating colour commentator Johnny Weir.

Most Welcome Political Development

The thawing of tensions between the Koreas.  North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un sent his sister to Pyeongchang to invite the South Korean President to visit.  Korean athletes marched in the opening ceremonies under a unified flag, the first time in over a decade.  The womens’ hockey team featured players from both countries.  The handshake at the opening ceremonies.  Here’s hoping this all leads to the official end of the Korean War.

Still The Worst Way To Settle A Tie

The shootout in hockey which eliminated the American men from medal contention and cost the Canadian women the Gold medal.  What’s wrong with sudden death overtime?

Most Unlikely Moment To See A Squirrel

During one of the round of eight match-ups in the womens’ parallel giant slalom event, a furry friend nearly got run down by one of the competitors while going for a brisk run on the snow.

Worst Timing For An Olympic Update

On several occasions during Canadian coverage on CBC and specialty partners TSN and Sportsnet, an update graphic would appear right over another graphic detailing stats of a competing athlete and/or information about the event taking place.  Very annoying and just plain dumb.  What’s the point of posting stats if you can’t fucking see them?

Best Recovery From An On-Site Injury

Canadian freestyle snowboarder Laurie Blouin suffered a terrible injury when she crashed during a training run which resulted in a black eye.  Thankfully avoiding a concussion, she was able to get some rest before entering her delayed slopestyle event.  With the black bruising now faded to yellow, she went on to win Silver.

Worst Disappointment After Said Recovery

During the debuting big air competition, Blouin wiped out so hard in her first jump, she didn’t attempt her remaining two, taking her out of medal contention.

Most Enthusiastic Coach

The exhuberant Chinese aerials coach who cheered every time one of his athletes nailed their jump in aerials which was often.

Worst Response To A Journalist’s Question

When asked by ABC News reporter Matt Gutman whether he felt the settlement he reached with a former bandmate regarding his repeated abuse and sexual harassment of her would “tarnish his legacy”, American Gold medallist in the halfpipe Shaun White dismissed the serious blight on his record as “gossip”.  Gutman later noted on Twitter that fellow sports journo Chris Brennan had observed that no female journalists were permitted to even pose direct inquiries of their own.  White later apologized for his word choice but not for the actual harassment and abuse.  Maybe he should change his nickname to The Rotten Tomato.

Most Surprising Controversy

Whether Canadian curler Rachel Homan was right to remove that burned stone from the house in the 5th end during a round robin match with Denmark.

Most Gracious Display Of Sportsmanship

The Top three finishers in the 15K cross country race waited until every single competitor crossed the finish line.  When the final skier, Mexican German Madrazo, who has only been skiing for a year and only on snow for a few months, crossed the finish line, they scooped him off his feet and carried him like a king in a touching display of solidarity and support.

Second Most Gracious Display Of Sportmanship

The German mens’ hockey team, initially crushed by their overtime loss to the Russians (sorry, the Olympic Athletes of Russia) in the Gold medal match, ended up posing with the gracious winners for photos on the ice after both teams received their medals.

Most Surprising Musical Selection For A Figure Skating Routine (tie)

German Paul Fentz skated to Paul Anka’s swing cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall while Hungarian Ivett Toth used an amalgamation of AC/DC’s Back In Black and Thunderstruck.  Is a Nine Inch Nails ice dance routine coming soon?

Most Unfair Treatment Of An Olympic Medallist

Thanks to a disqualification of a South Korean athlete who initially finished second in a photo finish in the 500 metres final, French Canadian short track speed skater Kim Boutin was bumped up from 4th place to 3rd resulting in her first medal, a Bronze.  South Koreans weren’t happy and absurdly took out their frustration on Boutin on social media.  (Shouldn’t they be more upset at the officials who actually made the call?)  Things apparently got so bad she first locked down her accounts and then deleted them altogether.  Boutin would have the last laugh, however.  She would go on to win another Bronze and a Silver, without controversy, and was chosen as the flag bearer for Canada in the closing ceremonies.  Suck it, haters.

Does Kesha Know She Has A Sister?

Austrian snowboarder Anna Gasser who won the Gold medal in big air.

Most Shocking Upset

After disposing of Sweden in the quarterfinals, Germany went on to humiliate Canada 4-3 in the semifinals of mens’ hockey.  Thanks, Gary Bettman.

Best Vindication After Being Screwed Out Of A Medal In A Previous Olympics

In Sochi, Russia four years ago, Canadian luger Alex Geogh finished fourth but because of a Russian doping violation she was bumped up to third.  As a result, she was expecting to receive a Bronze medal.  But after the decision was reversed, she went back to her original position.

In 2018, Geogh would not be denied.  Not only would she win Bronze in the womens’ event she would also capture Silver as part of the team relay.  Her first podium finish marked the first time a Canadian luger of any gender had won an Olympic medal in this discipline.

Most Unlikely Rap Fan Named After A Female Body Part

Slovenian snowboarder Tit Stante who wants the authorities to release the incarcerated Meek Mill already.

From A Hospital Bed To A Bronze Medal

Almost a year ago, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris was fighting for his life in a hospital bed after hitting a tree while riding with his friends and shooting footage in Whistler, British Columbia.  According to Wikipedia, “McMorris suffered a fractured jaw, a fractured left arm, a ruptured spleen, a pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung.”  He would ultimately recover following two “successful surgeries”.

Although he wasn’t able to win a medal in big air, he did manage to snag the Bronze in slopestyle after briefly leading the competition.  This marks the second straight Olympics he has won 3rd in this event.

Meanwhile, the Polish-born Canadian Wojtek Wolski was playing hockey in Europe in late 2016 when he went headfirst into the boards resulting in a serious concussion and a broken neck.  While hospitalized, he was first told he would heal in four weeks.  Then, the doctors corrected themselves.  It would actually be four months.

During the mens’ hockey tournament in Pyeongchang, Wolski was a breakout star for Team Canada.  Despite the shocking loss to Germany in the semis, Canada would recover to take the Bronze away from the Czech Republic.

Best Helmet Design

The Iron Man helmet worn by South Korean luger Yung-Sun Bin who went on to win his country’s first ever medal in the sport, a Gold.

Most Selfless Motivation To Win An Olympic Title

German figure skater Bruno Massot made a mistake during the short program of the pairs competition and felt so bad about it during a press conference afterward, he promised that he wouldn’t let his Ukranian-born partner Aliona Shavchenko go home without a Gold medal.  A three-time Olympian, Shavchenko had only managed to win Bronze in two of those games.  After setting a record with their score in the long program, Massot made good on his word.  Erupting into tears upon learning the good news (he had already bowed to her on the ice following their performance), the pair finished first.  As a result, at age 34, Shavchenko became the oldest woman to win figure skating Gold.

Most Overexposed Canadian Broadcaster

Fake laugher Craig McMorris, Mark’s older brother, who did colour commentary for slopestyle & big air, did a recurring segment with fellow Canadian athletes involving tea drinking and karate and co-hosted CBC’s overnight coverage of the games with Kelly Van Der Beek.  That’s too much McMorris.  He’s not as funny as he thinks he is.

Most Cringeworthy Moment

All the wipeouts in skiing, moguls, big air, halfpipe and slopestyle.

Is That His Favourite Led Zeppelin Song?

CBC cross country commentator Nigel Reed who made at least two on-air references to Over The Hills And Far Away.

Weirdest Method Of Removing Injured Skiers & Snowboarders

Whenever someone would crash hard in the snow and not get up, medical stuff rushed in to put the seriously hurt athlete in an orange body bag, then place them in a sled which was attached to a snowmobile and dragged away.  Was The Undertaker the driver?

Most Remarkable Fact About The 2018 Canadian Olympic Team

They were able to win 29 medals (11 Gold, 8 Silver, 10 Bronze), their highest count in a single winter games ever, without winning Gold in mens’ and womens’ hockey and mens’ and womens’ curling.  That’s a deep squad.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 26, 2018
3:50 a.m.

Published in: on February 26, 2018 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Room 237

“The way to criticize a movie is to make another movie,” Jean-Luc Godard famously asserted.

The makers of Room 237 have taken that advice to heart.  This intriguingly obsessive documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining will make you look at the epic horror film with very different perspectives, even if some of these bold arguments are a little out there and unpersuasive.

As disembodied voices dissect various elements of the film (we never see them on-camera as they talk), Room 237 rotates between clips of The Shining (including behind-the-scenes footage) and various other Kubrick movies to old newsreel footage and moments from numerous other titles, with some clever amalgamation of some thrown in for good measure.

Let’s be clear about one thing.  You need to see The Shining first.  Thankfully, I’d seen it on Christmas Eve last year so it was still fresh in my mind.  (It is genuinely unsettling.)  As the disembodied voices take us through specific scenes – sometimes in real time, sometimes in slow motion, sometimes in freeze frames, sometimes repeatedly – they point out unusual things you may very well have missed.

For instance, there’s a scene where Danny Torrance, the little boy with the imaginary friend, is playing with his toys in the lobby of this fabulous resort his parents have been assigned to look after during the winter off-season.  All of a sudden, a ball rolls toward him.  Notice the pattern of the carpet.  When Danny stands up, now notice the carpet again.  The design has been flipped in reverse.

Here’s another example.  After we first meet Danny, he’s brushing his teeth in the family bathroom.  As the camera slowly moves towards him in the hallway, you see his bedroom door.  There are stickers all over it.  Take particular notice of Dopey, one of the Seven Dwarfs.  In a later scene, when he’s being examined for illness, look closely at the door again.  No Dopey.

There’s more, way more.  Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, the troubled, abusive alcoholic novelist trying and failing to write a new manuscript (he only manages one line repeated endlessly), has an unusual typewriter.  It’s German with an eagle symbol.  At one point, without any warning or notice, it changes colour.

When Jack goes in to the office for his job interview, the employee sitting next to him is wearing solid pants.  Then, in other shots, he wears striped ones.

What’s going on?  Did Kubrick get sloppy with continuity or did he have something else in mind?  The movie convincingly argues for the latter.  The Torrances are trapped in an actual nightmare where marvellous improbabilities abound.  (Where’s the cord on that TV?  Does it run on batteries?)  Certainty is an illusion.

Before The Shining, Kubrick made the war epic Barry Lyndon.  One disembodied voice asserts that he was a “bored genius” when he made that film, that it was too straightforward and pretty.  It didn’t challenge him as a filmmaker.

So, when he decided to do a very loose adaptation of Stephen King’s novel (the famous maze was an invention for the film), he went out of his way to know everything about Colorado (where the film is set) and added so many layers of details that decades after the movie’s original theatrical release, obsessives are still spotting curious things they missed during earlier screenings.  (The movie begins with a big-ass disclaimer pointing out that nobody associated with The Shining including Warner Bros. who released it endorses any of the views expressed.)

He also became fascinated with subliminal advertising even going so far as to seek out information directly from those who employed this technique in their commercials.

Here’s my favourite example used in The Shining.  At the end of the film, there’s a dissolve of an old framed photo shown in two different close-ups.  If you pause the transition at just the right moment, it looks like Jack Nicholson is sporting a Hitler moustache.  One overly imaginative invisible commentator suggests with a straight face that you can see Kubrick’s face in the clouds during the breathtaking opening credits sequence but I think he’s full of shit.  I sure as hell didn’t spot it.

As recounted in The Shining, The Overlook Hotel was built on sacred Native American land, a burial ground.  There’s an infamous recurring scene where a river of blood suddenly pours out of an elevator and into the lobby.  The hotel manager notes early on that the workers had to fight off pissed off Indigenous warriors in order to finish the construction.  One commentator suggests that the blood is coming directly from the dead buried right under the hotel whenever the elevator goes all the way to the bottom floor.  Because of how you see the river being released (it squeezes itself out of the side) it also serves as a vivid metaphorical reminder.  Though we may try to ignore the genocides of the past, they can never be truly concealed.

When Room 237 is not asserting that the film is about the bloody legacy of American settler-colonialism (hard to argue with that when you consider all the symbolism), it’s pointing out weird connections to The Holocaust.  I mentioned the German typewriter earlier.  The eagle symbol was appropriated by the Nazis.  The more Jack Torrance types on it, the more genocidal he becomes.  I wouldn’t dare spoil all the other fascinating details of this particular theory.

However, I have to mention this other one which is nuts.  One commentator who might require a thorough mental examination believes that Kubrick faked the footage of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, even though he believes the mission itself was real.  How does he arrive at this conclusion?  Well, there’s the 2001 connection.  Plus, he thinks the Apollo footage was done through a technique called “front projection”.  (He claims experts back him up but they’re not named nor do they appear in the film.)

Furthermore, in The Shining, Danny is wearing an Apollo 11 sweater.  The ball that gets thrown to him leads him to Room 237 which he argues is the “moon room” based mainly on two things:  1. the distance between Earth and the moon is 237,000 miles and 2. the tag on the door that says “ROOM No.”.  He finds the small “o” to be curious.

There’s much more but it’s obviously nonsense.  Near the end of the film, the invisible commentator reveals himself to be rather paranoid.  I don’t think the IRS gives a shit about your crackpot assertions.  That said, you can’t say his misguided comments aren’t humourously imaginative.

Perhaps the most surreal moment in Room 237 is an experiment.  One commentator decided to have the beginning and the ending of The Shining playing simultaneously through a technique known as superimposition.  The results of this crazy idea are fascinating and spooky but also suggest a lack of a social life.

There are so many far-out ideas and revelations in Room 237 (The Shining’s connections to 2001 and other Kubrick films, Disney’s animated Three Little Pigs and other fairy tales, the number 42, that skiing poster, Jack reading Playgirl in the hotel lobby) that it manages to make you appreciate Kubrick’s achievement that much more, even if he didn’t necessarily intend what the commentators believe he did.  Although The Shining got terrible reviews during its initial release (pause that article to read a brutally succinct assessment of Shelley Duvall’s deeply underrated performance as Mrs. Torrance), like 2001 which initially faced similar resistance from professional critics, it has since become a towering influence on cinema and pop culture in general.  (For instance, when I was a college DJ, on our playlist there was an actual alternative rock band called Mrs. Torrance.)

Unlike the two survivors in the film, those who repeatedly watch The Shining looking for alleged secrets not yet exposed, like the mysterious, passionately devoted commentators in Room 237, will find themselves trapped in a “dream world” they can never truly escape.  How fitting that a perfectionist filmmaker obsessed with every small detail has inspired the most devoted of his supporters to excavate them with the same dedication.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 18, 2018
7:21 p.m.

Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 7:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Warm Bodies

When we first meet R, the hero of Warm Bodies, he’s having an existential crisis.  In the midst of an 8-year apocalypse, his days are filled with boredom and loneliness as he lumbers around an airport all day with all the other “corpses”.  When he’s not wandering around aimlessly imagining what life was like for the people he encounters he retreats to an airplane where he chills out to old vinyl hits like John Waite’s Missing You & Guns N’ Roses’ Patience and looks at all the items he’s collected and treasured.

He’s been in such a state for so long he doesn’t know who he is anymore.  He has no past.  (He doesn’t even remember his full name, just the first letter.)  But little does he realize, he does have a future.

As played by a grown-up Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy), he is internally thoughtful and neurotic (with considerable effort, he can only say a couple of words out loud at a time) but sadly not terribly funny or charming.  For you see, Warm Bodies is a zombie comedy and not a very good one.  Yes, there are a few laughs here and there (who knew R liked US Weekly?) and at least one good scare, but not nearly enough of both to sustain your full interest.  Zombieland is better.

R’s life changes forever when he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), a pretty blonde trained as a soldier by her stern, emotionally detached father (John Malkovich) ordered to go on a mission to retrieve pharmaceuticals in a dangerous part of town with a team that includes her indifferent boyfriend (Dave Franco).  R & his very hungry band of corpses (zombies who still look and sort of sound human) unexpectedly barge in the lab as they’re gathering materials.  Unbeknownst to R, his actions put Julie back on the market.

Corpses don’t sleep and have no memories, but if they eat the brains of their victims, they can visualize their memories.  It’s because of this R gets some sneaky insight into Julie’s previous relationship and ultimately feels tremendous guilt.

Suddenly very protective of her, he basically kidnaps her and tells her to stay put in his airplane because it’s not safe out there.  She doesn’t listen and tries to flee.  His methods of courting are seriously flawed and awkward but he wasn’t lying about the dangers.  This isn’t the only time she attempts a foolhardy escape.

If it isn’t clear right away, it will over time that R is short for Romeo and Julie is his forbidden love with a disapproving father who wants to kill him.  For God’s sake, there’s even a goddamn balcony scene!  Her last name isn’t Capulet (it’s actually Grigio) but it might as well be.

As R draws closer to Julie, who becomes more comfortable once she realizes she’s in no real danger (even though she eventually succeeds in leaving him), he starts to feel and gradually become more human.  His fellow corpses collectively share a similar experience when they look at an airport photo of a couple holding hands.  Now if he can only convince his unlikely love interest and her stubborn father that while “boneys” (skeletal zombies) can’t be “exhumed” (they’re the cheetahs of the zombie world), there is hope for corpses.

Warm Bodies is the first zombie film I’ve seen where love, not an antidote in a needle, is seen as a cure, a potential reversal of population decline.  That’s a compelling idea, a rare bit of positivity in a genre that thrives so much on despair and doubt.  But the execution is lacking.  Hoult and Palmer simply aren’t believable as a couple (the irony of her having a closer relationship with a corpse compared to a living human being is a bit too obvious to be clever), especially once she learns why she’s suddenly single.  Shouldn’t she be, oh I don’t know, a lot more upset than she says she is?

The attempts at humour are mostly weak, although I have to admit Rob Corddry (who plays fellow corpse Marcus) gets off a funny line while trying to cheer up his best pal R.  Some of the musical choices achieve a similar result.  But the action sequences where the remorseless boneys square off against anybody in their way lack wit, not to mention urgency and excitement.  They’re not scary, either.

Because of the couple’s names, there’s little doubt how all this will resolve itself.  And because their relationship is forced, odd and not at all sweet, there’s no emotional pay-off in the end.  For all its admirable ambition, Warm Bodies is nonetheless too committed to its various ripped-off formulas to be truly, compellingly original.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 18, 2018
6:49 p.m.

Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lost At Sea

Spare a thought for those lost at sea
They’re further away from tranquility
Sailing on a forgotten path
Never escaping its relentless wrath

Waves of doubt have thrown them all off-course
They ebb and flow with unrelenting force
Hanging on with just a sliver of hope
Quickly running out of ways to cope

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 15, 2018
8:24 p.m.

Published in: on February 15, 2018 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just Cause (1995)

In Just Cause, Sean Connery plays an elderly law professor who hasn’t tried a case in 25 years.  A fierce opponent of the death penalty, he’s much happier in the classroom than the courtroom.

After he smokes colleague George Plimpton in a brief, entertaining debate on the subject during a college event in Boston he’s approached by a desperate Ruby Dee.  Her grandson, Blair Underwood, is on death row for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl down in Florida.  She gives him a letter he wrote.  He says he’ll read it later.  She insists he look at it now.

She’s convinced he’s been railroaded because of racism and police brutality.  Predictably, he turns her down.  If he changes his mind, she’ll be at the bus station in a few hours waiting to go see another respected law professor in New Jersey.

Inevitably, Connery will indeed stop her before she leaves Boston.  That’s because his much younger wife Kate Capshaw, a former lawyer herself now trying to help juvenile delinquents, insists on looking into the case.  We find out why much later on.

Eight years ago, Underwood was taken in custody by a redneck cop who then proceeded to beat him during an interrogation.  His superior, Laurence Fishburne, then forced a confession out of him by improbably employing a technique famously used in The Deer Hunter.  It takes quite a while before we realize why.  This whole sequence feels more cartoonish than brutal.

Upon visiting him in prison, Connery is immediately suspicious.  After Underwood pretends to act ignorant before revealing his highly educated self, the professor asks him point blank, “What’s your game?”

Unfortunately, Connery’s justifiable scepticism fades rather quickly as Underwood recounts his 22-hour ordeal in police custody, already covered in his letter.  No nourishment, no liquid refreshment, no lawyer, no permission to use the bathroom.  Connery is shocked that the cop that forced him to cop is Black himself.

When Connery meets Fishburne, his redneck partner, and later Ned Beatty, the shoddy lawyer who gave Underwood a pitiful defense, and the coroner, his doubts about Underwood’s guilt grow.  There’s no evidence of rape, no murder weapon, no DNA, no physical evidence whatsoever.  Beyond the forced confession, all the police have on Underwood is that his car was spotted outside the school where the young girl was snatched.

Then, Connery encounters Ed Harris, a genuinely scary death row inmate who Underwood claims is the real killer.  Harris is basically another Hannibal Lecter, whip-smart and depraved, a master of manipulation who hooks the foolish Connery right from the start, but with one notable exception.  Whereas the most famous character from The Silence Of The Lambs was always calmly in control, the super religious, compulsively artistic Harris has sudden, loud outbursts of rage.

Harris gives Connery an important clue which eventually leads to the discovery of the murder weapon, a knife.  The fact that the police and dozens of volunteers could not find it in 1986 when it wasn’t exactly cleverly hidden is embarrassing and puzzling.  They just weren’t thorough enough which feels highly unlikely.

Harris likes to write the families of the victims he tortured describing his long list of crimes and sure enough, Connery conveniently spots a letter to the parents of the 11-year-old murder victim.  When it’s read out loud in court in front of them during an appellate hearing, it does what it’s supposed to do.

But the movie has only been running for an hour which can only mean one thing.

I missed Just Cause during its modest theatrical run in early 1995 and never found time to catch it on video later that year.  Now that I’ve finally seen it more than 20 years later, I have a lot of problems with it.

Let’s start with Fishburne’s character, the shady cop who profiled Underwood based on next-to-no evidence and a pure hatred of his leading man looks.  His consistent hostility towards Connery makes him highly suspicious for a while which turns out to be an annoying red herring.

When Connery visits him at his house, he discovers that the murder victim was friends with his now adult daughter who wants to become a lawyer herself.  (Fishburne later admits the white girl was like a daughter to him.)  He spots a framed picture of them as kids in the living room.  That’s a pretty big ol’ conflict there.  How was Fishburne allowed to lead the investigation without raising any red flags?  Why no demands for recusal?

Also, without coming right out and saying it, once all is eventually and predictably revealed, it’s as though the film is trying to belatedly justify Fishburne’s unlawful treatment of Underwood which isn’t exactly discredited.  Fishburne may downplay the violence but he doesn’t outright deny it, either.  By the end of the movie, this is all magically disappeared.  How can he say he can sleep well at night with a straight face?

Then, there’s Kate Capshaw’s involvement in Underwood’s history.  It turns out he’s been arrested before.  Capshaw was able to get him locked up for an extra day so she could quickly attempt to strengthen her case.  But she couldn’t so he was freed.  That’s a pretty big secret to keep from your dopey husband who couldn’t bother to investigate this himself.  I mean how do you not think to do a criminal history search?

Besides the huge age gap, the Capshaw/Connery pairing is awkward.  (A young Scarlett Johanssen plays their daughter.)  When we first meet her, we find out a troubled teen she’s been trying to help punched her in the face.  Connery asks her how she explained this to the judge since she’s trying to get the kid into some rehab program and she claims she said her husband beat her.  Is this supposed to be a terrible inside reference to Connery’s infamous Playboy interview where he seemed to justify domestic violence?  Horrible.

And what about the moment where it looks like he headbutts her as they embrace?  That’s just weird.

Blair Underwood’s a fine actor but the absolute wrong guy to play the central figure in this story.  From the beginning, his character is not very warm or trustworthy and once we know exactly what’s going on, it’s just not believable.  The inevitable heel turn doesn’t pay off.

Despite Harris’ effective performance as the malicious child minister, his motivations are questionable, as well.  I mean what does he care about Underwood’s dilemma?  He’s gonna die anyway.  Is he looking for some kind of twisted redemption or something?  It makes no sense.  Also, what’s the story with his parents?

And what the hell happened to Ruby Dee?  After Connery meets with her at the bus station following their impromptu meeting in the college auditorium, we never see her again.  Why?

Just Cause never hooks us with its convoluted, overly twisty story because we’ve seen it many times before and it lacks absolute conviction.  Connery’s character is remarkably naïve for an experienced law professor.  His bullshit detector malfunctions constantly.

There’s a strange scene where his car gets vandalized and as he’s looking inside the front seat he gets mysteriously whacked in the head with a baseball bat.  Is that supposed to explain his stupidity?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
5:17 p.m.

Published in: on January 31, 2018 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Volcano (1997)

In Volcano, Los Angeles is a city of contradictions.  Beneath its warm and sunny exterior lies an ongoing class divide and stubborn racial segregation.  While working people of colour complain about an old church being turned into a mini-mall and protest those who oppose the extension of a subway system into their neighbourhoods, rich white folks can test drive fancy vehicles, build tall apartment buildings and have their pick of plastic surgery options.

Meanwhile, quietly bubbling under the La Trea Tar Pits is a disaster in the making, one that the city is seemingly ill-prepared to contain.

Tommy Lee Jones, the director of the Office of Emergency Management in LA, is supposed to be on vacation.  He’s recently separated and babysitting his needy 13-year-old daughter (Gaby Hoffmann).  But his “Midwestern work ethic” can’t keep him away from work.

Soon thereafter, an earthquake hits.  A construction crew working on the subway extension take bets on its epicenter.  In the middle of looking after a recently admitted gunshot victim, an ER surgeon (Jacqueline Kim) has to keep an important piece of equipment plugged in.  And several maintenance workers have died mysteriously of severe burns while working in an underground sewer.

Even though charismatic geologist Anne Heche correctly deduces that all this is happening because there’s a previously undetected underground volcano on the verge of multiple eruptions, her lack of absolute certainty fails to convince a skeptical Jones to take preventive measures beyond clearing out a local park.

Very early the next morning, she takes along a doomed colleague to go into that underground sewer to collect samples.  But something goes horribly wrong confirming her suspicions.  (She could’ve just asked Jones about his own experience down below since he was there first.)  It isn’t until “lava bombs” start flying through the sky hours later that Jones himself finally gets the message.  But by that point, the damage is done.  Power is out throughout the entire city.  Traffic jams are everywhere.  Buildings are towering infernos while a slow-moving pool of glowing lava is making its way through Wilshire Boulevard.  When the disaster ends, 100 people will have died and thousands more will be injured.

Heckuva job, Jonesy.

Belatedly using his authority to coordinate as many law enforcement, emergency and military teams as necessary, he first has to figure out a way to stop the lava flow from going any further.  Then, when Heche tells him a second, much speedier eruption is heading towards a hospital that has so many patients many have to be treated outside, he has to determine how to redirect its mighty hot contents safely towards the ocean.

I have to admit it’s fun seeing balls of fire flying around causing serious damage to empty buildings.  However, it’s far less exciting following this hokey story.  Part of the problem is that it’s overplotted.  So much information comes at you in the first 10 minutes or so laying the groundwork for payoffs that never arrive.

Consider John Corbett’s character, a racist land developer improbably married to Jacqueline Kim, the compassionate Asian-American ER doctor.  He’s deliberately built his new apartment building directly across from a different hospital he wants his wife to work in.  He would rather she treat “tennis elbows” than gunshot victims.  Not only is it hard to accept their relationship (which is thankfully minimized to just two scenes), it’s also not convincing that she would encourage his 100 million dollar venture knowing full well that money would be better served improving her current workplace, an issue that’s never discussed.

Corbett is front and center at the subway protest complaining about the planned extension.  His rationale for opposing this sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump’s infamous campaign speech when he decried Mexicans.  But after this scene’s conclusion, it’s never addressed again.  And when his brand new skyscraper becomes part of the spontaneous plan to redirect the second round of lava to the ocean, he’s nowhere in sight.

There’s an awkward subplot where a Black man gets arrested by a much smaller white cop right in the middle of the developing disaster.  The man simply wants his neighbourhood looked after during the worsening crisis.  But the much wealthier white areas of the city, including a museum, get prioritized.  It isn’t until his considerable strength is called upon that he’s uncuffed and, thanks to his spontaneous service, suddenly allowed to ride a fire truck back home.  He’s never seen again and we never do find out how bad the damage is in his area.

Even more awkward is the scene where a small child notices that everyone looks the same when their faces are covered in volcanic ash.  I guess that’s supposed to pass for a kumbaya moment but it feels very forced, much like the moment where Heche admits she likes Jones which, thankfully, never develops into anything.

Because the movie is all over the place with its narrative, graphics are frequently used to tell us the time and place of almost every scene.  Did I say frequently used?  I meant excessively used.  (I think we can clearly see the Hard Rock Café sign, guys.)  Also excessive are the number of reporter characters who offer unnecessary play-by-play of what’s happening.  Instead of letting the clearly defined images tell the story we get Michael Cole wannabes (future TMZ jerk Harvey Levin and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith among them) stating the obvious over and over again.  (Only those with sight issues will appreciate the descriptions even though they’re not that colourful.)

Back in 1997, Volcano had the misfortune of arriving in theatres two months after Dante’s Peak, another bad disaster movie with a similar story that ultimately made more money.  Despite the strong cast which also includes a sometimes funny Don Cheadle as Jones’ second-in-command at the OEM, the film lacks genuine tension and palpable fear.  Plus, we’re simply not given enough good scenes with the characters in order to care about them and their dilemma.

Not nearly as bad as some critics like Roger Ebert believed (I don’t agree that the special effects are cheesy) but not nearly as good as the guilty pleasure Airport ’77, Volcano is disappointingly ordinary.  And yet there are moments that suggest a better result.

After Heche climbs out of the underground sewer, a bunch of poor folks start looting closed businesses.  (Remember, much of the movie takes place during early morning hours.)  At one point, she removes some of her scientific equipment and leaves it on the hood of a car.  As she tries to process the tragedy that happened just moments before, a looter runs by scooping up her shit.  She’s too sad to notice.

It’s the biggest laugh in a movie that should’ve been funnier.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 26, 2018
2:48 a.m.

Published in: on January 26, 2018 at 2:48 am  Leave a Comment  

How You Can See All The Movies Nominated For The 90th Academy Awards

Tough break, James Franco.  Better luck next time, Gal Gadot.  Sorry, Bob Odenkirk.

The 90th annual Academy Award nominations are out and as usual, there were some notable surprises. (Logan for Best Adapted Screenplay?  I did not see that coming.)

While The Disaster Artist snagged a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, Franco, its star, did not get invited to join the exclusive Best Actor club.  Did the recent allegations of sexual harassment play a crucial role in the snub?  We’ll never know for sure.

Speaking of which, Kevin Spacey is probably royally pissed right now.  Why?  Because Christopher Plummer, the man who replaced him as billionaire J. Paul Getty in All The Money In The World, received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  Would Spacey have achieved the same result if all his bad behaviour (allegedly) had remained the subject of old, forgotten Gawker articles?  Again, we’ll never know.

It also wasn’t a good morning for Zionists.  Steven Spielberg, a two-time Oscar winner for Best Director, wasn’t recognized for helming The Post.  And Gadot, the star of Wonder Woman, was shut out for Best Actress.  In fact, the entire movie was completely ignored for consideration in all eligible categories.

Speaking of The Post, I was personally surprised that Odenkirk didn’t get singled out for Best Supporting Actor.  I’m sure others thought Tom Hanks would secure a nod for Best Actor.  In the end, Meryl Streep is the only star from the film to get recognized for her performance as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.  She’s up for yet another Best Actress gong.

In the meantime, there’s a more pressing concern to discuss.  How can one see all the nominated features?  Easy.  Below is the complete list of titles.  Next to each one is either the date for its upcoming home video or theatrical release or whether you can see it on DVD, Blu-ray or at a theatre near you right now.  (Some films are in release limbo so their home video debuts are “to be determined”.)  As always, updates will be added when new information becomes available.  Until then, happy screenings.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

All The Money In The World – Now playing in theatres, on DVD & Blu-ray June 30 April 10

Baby Driver – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Beauty And The Beast – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Big Sick – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Blade Runner 2049 – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Boss Baby – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Breadwinner – March 6

Call Me By Your Name – March 13

Coco – February 27

Darkest Hour – February 27

The Disaster Artist – March 13

Dunkirk – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Faces Places – March 6

A Fantastic Woman – May 22

Ferdinand – March 13

The Florida Project – February 20

Get Out – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

The Greatest Showman – March 6

Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2 – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

I, Tonya – March 13

Icarus – Now playing on Netflix

The Insult – May 1

Kong: Skull Island – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Lady Bird – March 6

Last Men in Aleppo – March 27

Logan – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Loveless – June 12

Loving Vincent – February 20 Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Marshall – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Molly’s Game – March 1

Mudbound – Now playing in theatres

On Body and Soul – Opens in theatres February 21

Phantom Thread – April 10

The Post – April 17

Roman J. Israel, Esq. – February 13

The Shape Of Water – March 13

The Square – January 30

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – March 27

Strong Island – Now playing on Netflix

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – February 27

Victoria & Abdul – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

War For The Planet Of The Apes – Now available on DVD & Blu-ray

Wonder – February 13

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
8:13 p.m.

UPDATE:  Best Actor contender Gary Oldman’s critically acclaimed turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour can be seen on DVD & Blu-ray starting February 27.  On March 6, look for the home video debut of Best Animated Feature nominee The Breadwinner.  Another film from that category, Ferdinand, will be out March 13 as will Best Picture nominee Call Me By Your Name and I, Tonya which features Best Actress competitor Margot Robbie.  Meanwhile, All The Money In The World will hit home video on June 30.  All these dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
10:01 p.m.

UPDATE 2:  You don’t have to wait until February 20 to see Loving Vincent on home video after all.  After a trip to my public library today, there it was on the express rack on DVD.  Speaking of February 20, that’s when The Florida Project will be out on DVD & Blu-ray.  Also, look for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri on February 27, The Disaster Artist and The Shape Of Water on March 13, Best Documentary Feature nominee Last Men In Aleppo on March 27 and Phantom Thread, supposedly the last film of Daniel Day-Lewis, on April 10.  All the dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
9:53 p.m.

UPDATE 3: Best Animated Feature favourite Coco comes out on home video February 27 while The Greatest Showman and Best Picture nominee Lady Bird both drop March 6. The dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, February 9, 2018
3:52 a.m.

UPDATE 4: Strong Island and Icarus can be streamed on Netflix.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
2:48 a.m.

UPDATE 5: Best Picture nominee The Post drops April 17 while Best Foreign Language Film nominee The Insult arrives May 1.  The dates have been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 10, 2018
3:22 a.m.

UPDATE 6: All The Money In The World has been bumped up to April 10.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
10:10 p.m.

UPDATE 7:  Available today on digital platforms, Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits DVD & Blu-ray on March 27. The new date has been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
3:34 p.m.

UPDATE 8: Best Foreign Language Feature winner A Fantastic Woman will be released on home video May 22. The new date has been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 15, 2018
4:59 p.m.

UPDATE 9: Loveless finally hits home video on June 12. The new date has been added to the list.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
3:27 a.m.

Published in: on January 23, 2018 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment