Best of 2018 – Lead Actor

lead actor

All week I’ve been sharing my favorite performances from 2018 and we finish it up today with the Lead Actor category. Once again this was a toughie and leaving of certain names was hard to do. But those are my self-inflicted rules so lets go with it. Here are my five favorite Lead Actor performances from the year that was.

#5 – Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”)

cooper

There are some mixed opinions on this Bradley Cooper performance. Some have said he goes too big while others have accused him of hogging scenes. I found him to be a near perfect fit as an aging music star worn down by his addictions. Cooper nails this role both musically and dramatically.

#4 – Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”)

viggo

Viggo is another of those actors who can lose himself into any role he tackles. Here he adds fifty pounds and a healthy Italian accent to portray a streetwise lug who has his eyes opened to the ugliness of racism in the country and his own heart. It’s a role that could have gone really bad, but thanks to Viggo it never does.

#3 – John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”)

washington

Spike Lee found the perfect guy to man his crazy, terrifying, and often hilarious “BlacKkKlansman”. From his very first scene, John David Washington’s charisma is off the charts. He also packs a sly wit that makes for some really funny scenes even among such vile and disgusting subject matter.

#2 – Joaquin Phoenix (“You Were Never Really Here”)

phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix is an actor with a ton of range and a knack for giving deeply committed performances. His dark and physical turn in this brilliant Lynne Ramsay fever-dream is both frightening and mesmerizing. From mental anguish to brute physicality, Phoenix relays it all with a wicked precision.

#1 – Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”)

hawke

There were so many good performances in 2018, but it was none other than Ethan Hawke who surprised me the most. I’ve always liked Hawke but never has he given a performance quite like this. It’s quieter and more reserved than anything he has done before. This is Hawke at his very best and that’s saying something.

That wraps up yet another look back at the previous year’s best performances. Please share your thoughts on Lead Actor or any other category I’ve covered. Let’s do it again next year. 👍

Best of 2018 – Lead Actress

lead actress

It’s day three of my look back at the best performances of 2018. The supporting categories are in the books and now we move to the leads. Narrowing down the Lead Actress category to only five proved to be a brutal task but you know the rules. So here they are.

#5 – Regina Hall (“Support the Girls”)

reginahall

This surprisingly intimate and utterly charming little indie features a central performance by Regina Hall that should not be missed. She manages a near perfect combination of drama and comedy while giving us one of the truest characters of the year. A career best for Hall.

#4 – Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”)

gaga

What else can you say about Lady Gaga’s sparkling performance? Her first starring role in a feature film is an absolute knockout. Through a surprisingly strong mix of acting and song, Gaga infuses the entire film with heart and warmth. She’s truly an eye-opener.

#3 – Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place”)

blunt

Oh how I adore “A Quiet Place” and Emily Blunt is one of the biggest reasons for that. Despite such little dialogue, she has no trouble conveying the swirl of feelings her character encounters. And whether she’s quietly grieving or fiercely protecting her family, Blunt just kills it.

#2 – Thomasin McKenzie (“Leave No Trace”)

thomasin

Here is a shining example of how quiet and gentle work in front of the camera can take your breath away. I adored Thomasin McKenzie’s heart-wrenching performance. She sheds her character’s wide-eyed innocence right before our eyes and she had me deeply invested every step of the way.

#1 – Carey Mulligan (“Wildlife”)

Wildlife - Still 2

In a year with several stand-out performances none grabbed me quite like Carey Mulligan in “Wildlife”. She has always been a great but often underappreciated actress. Here her stunning portrait of a woman on the brink deserves so much more attention. It’s such a shame more people haven’t seen it.

So how did I do? Let me know in the comments section below. And that leaves us with one more category – Lead Actor. See you tomorrow.

Random Thoughts – 2019 Oscar Nominations

oscars

And here we are again. Another year gone and another batch of fresh Oscar nominations to talk about, stew on, and grumble over. As is always the case the Academy gave us a handful of surprises, far more frustrations, and several choices that still boggle the mind. As I’m prone to do, here are a few random thoughts about this year’s head-scratching Academy Award nominations. 

  • Let me get this out of the way. “Vice”? Really? Eight nominations for Adam McKay’s messy, bloated, and utterly boring political manifesto disguised as a biopic? Is this a case of Hollywood voting politics over quality? It’s a legitimate question.
  • For some weird reason only eight movies make up the Best Picture field, and of those eight only one made my Top 20 (“Roma”). They really had to room for “First Man”or “If Beale Street Could Talk”? More on those later.
  • Thankfully the ludicrous Best Popular Film category was shelved but it looks like the Academy made up for it. “Black Panther”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and “A Star is Born” all get Best Picture nods.
  • In the category of Best Song you have the sure-fire winner “Shallow” from “A Star is Born”. But I screamed with joy when I heard “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”. Of course it won’t win, but it’s one of 2018’s best musical moments.
  • Sadly nothing for “Mission:Impossible – Fallout”. But who thought there would be?
  • For the rest of my days I’ll always think of one thing come Oscar nomination time – Dick Poop. What can I say? My wife tells me I’m easily amused. Not sure what I’m talking about? Go to YouTube and type ‘Dick Poop Academy’. now back to the nominees…
  • What to make of the messy Best Director lot? Bradley Cooper is being considered the biggest snub. Pawel Pawlikowski was the one no one saw coming. But its the crappy additions of McKay (“Vice”) and Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) who clog up the category.
  • Once again the Academy shows no love for female directors. Only five women have ever been nominated in the category. This year Debra Granik and Lynne Ramsay would have been great additions but when you cram in the likes of McKay…
  • And once again no room for Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) or Damien Chazelle (“First Man”) for Best Director? But when you cram in the likes of McKay…
  • Spike Lee’s nomination for “BlacKkKlansman” was actually his first EVER for directing.
  • The Academy fell hard for “The Favourite” handing it 10 nominations. I still don’t see the appeal. I found it to be shallow, humorless and pointlessly dark-hearted. But what do I know?
  • Sam Rockwell gets a Supporting Actor nomination for “Vice”? Look I love Rockwell, but he looked like he was doing a SNL skit. I might be onboard if the award was for Best Imitation. Bad choice Academy.
  • Marina de Tavira gets a Supporting Actress nod at the expense of a much more deserving Claire Foy (“First Man”). This glaring omission makes no sense whatsoever.
  • Speaking of “First Man”, it was all but forgotten by the Academy voters this year. What a shame. Nothing for Best Picture, nothing for Chazelle, nothing for Foy. It was even shut out of a category is was thought to have a chance to win – Best Score. But at least “Vice” got eight nominations.
  • Love the Adam Driver nomination for Supporting Actor. It wasn’t necessarily a surprise but as this year proves you never know.
  • I read where the Academy has a history of snubbing documentaries that actually do well at the box office. That was certainly the case for the fabulous “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. Not even a nomination? Give me a break.
  • Oh, and nothing for “Three Identical Strangers”. Hmmm.
  • Best Actor…sigh. To be honest there are some really strong performances in this category. But in my lone personal opinion I see the category as incomplete without Ethan Hawke for “First Reformed”. It’s career best work and deserving of the statue, not just the nomination.
  • And speaking of Best Actor, wouldn’t it have been great to see John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“You Were Never Really There”) get some nomination love?
  • Again, the Academy couldn’t find room for “If Beale Street Could Talk” in the Best Picture field? In fact, they barely found room for it anywhere. Sad. It’s a better film than his Oscar-adorned “Moonlight”.
  • My Oscar enthusiasm dropped even more when Emily Blunt wasn’t nominated for either “A Quiet Place” or “Mary Poppins Returns”. Let us all join hands and shed a collective tear in unison.
  • No Timothee Chalamet for Supporting Actor? I’ll admit, I’m surprised. There’s a good chance the weird Rockwell nomination took his spot.
  • Oh, and no Michael B. Jordan for “Black Panther”. Wasn’t there a time when he was a lock? Maybe that February release removed Jordan from some voters’ memories. Again, a better choice than Rockwell.
  • Some are looking at “Crazy Rich Asians” as a big snub. While I like that film, it’s hardly Oscar-worthy stuff. Here we get a rare bit of reality from the Academy.
  • While both “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” received nominations (much to the chagrin of social media), does anyone else get the feeling that their run is pretty much done? Malek is a possible Best Actor contender, but otherwise you get the sense that both films may have run out of gas.
  • An actual year with no token Meryl Streep nomination? Woo Hoo!
  • We actually have some drama in a couple of categories. Best Actress could be the most interesting with Lady Gaga, Olivia Colman, and Glenn Close all in the running.
  • Has “Roma” positioned itself as the Best Picture front-runner? I would like to think so but don’t be so sure. It’s also in the Best Foreign Language category which could be problematic for its Best Picture chances. Being in both categories could easily split votes allowing another film to sneak in and take the biggest prize of the night.
  • Netflix has to be smiling. With a big showing for “Roma” and a couple of surprising (and welcomed) nominations for “Buster Scruggs”, the streaming giant has finally broken through. Should have happened with “Mudbound”.
  • The Best Original Screenplay group makes my head hurt. The writing is one of the worst things about “Vice”.  It’s far from a strength in “The Favourite”. “Green Book” was fine but Oscar-worthy? At least Paul Schrader made the cut.
  • Adapted Screenplay is far more interesting. “Beale Street”, “Buster Scruggs”, “BlacKkKlansman”, all worthy competitors.
  • “Never Look Away” gets a nomination for “Best Cinematography”. I’ve never seen it so I can’t speak to its credibility. But I don’t remember anyone having it among their predictions.
  • “Black Panther” ended up with seven nominations, something that was all but channeled back in February. It was destined for a Best Picture nomination and is the first Marvel movie to get one. But is it really one of the year’s best movies?
  • There were so many great performances from young actors and actresses but all were shunned by the Academy. Elsie Fisher had the best shot but both she and “Eighth Grade” ended up with zilch.
  • I haven’t seen “Burning” but had heard nothing but praise. Not seeing it’s name among the Best Foreign Language films was quite a surprise.

So those are a few random thoughts (perhaps better worded as ‘random gripes’). What did you think of this morning’s announcements?

Best of 2018 – Supporting Actor

sup-actor

Yesterday I started my reflection on my favorite acting performances of 2018. The ladies started strong and now it’s the men’s turn. The Supporting Actor category was equally good with several true stand-outs. This was a bruising category and cutting some from the list really stung. But those are the rules so here are my choices for Best Supporting Actor.

#5 – Nicholas Hoult (“The Favourite”)

hoult

I know, I know. Nicholas Hoult over some real heavy hitters like Elliot, Ali, and Chalamet sounds ludicrous. So be it. Hoult was one of the few things I truly loved about “The Favourite”. His hilariously off-kilter performance was something I wasn’t expecting. He and his preposterous wigs stole every scene they were in.

#4 – Hugh Grant (“Paddington 2”)

hughgrant

If you have seen Hugh Grant in “Paddington 2” you know precisely why he’s on this list. Talk about a hysterical turn from a great actor who in some ways is riffing on his own career. Of course he takes it to absurd levels which makes it all the better. Oh, and his mid-credits musical number – magical!

#3 – Russell Hornsby (“The Hate U Give”)

hornsby

Why on earth aren’t more people talking about Russell Hornsby’s brilliant work in “The Hate U Give”? I’m guessing a lot of people gave the film a pass which is a real shame. Hornsby offers up a powerful portrait of a loving father bruised by his past. He gives us a real-world character who has a lot to say.

#2 – Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther”)

jordan

Remember back in February when everyone was talking about Michael B. Jordan’s riveting performance in “Black Panther”? That talk seems to have died down during awards season and it’s really a shame. His Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is a fascinating villain who is both menacing and sympathetic.

#1 – Adam Driver (“BlackKklansman”)

driver

It’s good to see Adam Driver getting so many nominations this season. I would love to see him finally get a win. Driver has turned into one of my favorite actors and director Spike Lee taps into why. He’s so low-key yet never does he feel false. And his dry sense of humor is a great fit for this particular character. It’s such a perfectly well-rounded performance. I love it.

So there you have the supporting fellows. What do you think? Tell me what I got right and where I went wrong in the comments section below. Tomorrow it’s the Lead Actress category.

Best of 2018 – Supporting Actress

sup-actress

As we look back on the year that was I always like to give time to the performances that shaped the year’s films. Over the next few days I’ll be highlighting my favorite work from the four major acting categories. This year was full of fine performances, many from unexpected places. So let’s get to it by starting with the Supporting Actress category.

#5 – Cynthia Erivo (“Bad Times at the El Royale”)

Cynthia Erivo.jpg

Amid all the good performances in this pulpy neo-noir crime-thriller Cynthia Erivo shined brightest. She is our most grounded connection to the story and easily pulls the most sympathy. Oh, and lets not forget she gives us some knockout musical numbers.

#4 – Linda Cardellini (“Green Book”)

linda cared

She nearly gets lost among the two wonderful central performances, but an argument could be made that Linda Cardellini is the heart of the film. It’s a small role but she never fails to bring a needed warmth to every scene she’s in. She’s just delightful.

#3 – Laura Smet (“The Guardians”)

laura smet

 It couldn’t have been easy tackling her role in Xavier Beauvois’ “The Guardians” yet you wouldn’t know it from Laura Smet’s extraordinary performance. She not only nails the physical demands but shows a brilliant knack for conveying so much emotion even within the film’s distinctly quiet framework.

#2 – Claire Foy (“First Man”)

Film Title: First Man

Watching Claire Foy maneuver through the range of emotions her character endures is one of many strengths of “First Man”. She brings things down to earth (bad pun intended) and is a reality check for both her lost and struggling husband and for us. It’s a moving and genuine portrait.

#1 – Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)

regina king

She’s winning all of the awards for this category and (in one of those rare instances) the awards circuit is getting it right. You can’t help but be smitten with Regina King. You buy into every moment of her performance portraying a loving and supportive mother who also has a firm foot in the real world. She’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

So what did I get right and where did I go wrong? Let me know in the comments section below. Next up – supporting actor.

First Glance: “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” Trailer

What a day! The new trailer for “John Wick: Chapter 3” landed today and let me say it has my attention. The first film of this neo-noir action franchise began in 2014 with a surprise hit. The 2017 sequel was well received by critics and moviegoers and opened up the series to a wealth of crazy possibilities.

Now we get our first glance at “John Wick 3” and it looks to be building on the wacky mythology we got a taste of in the previous movie. And check out what we get in the trailer – plenty of the series’ signature stylized action, several returning characters, Halle Berry, dogs, and John Wick on a horse. How can you not be excited?

“John Wick: Chapter 3” opens May 17th. Check out the trailer below and tell me what you think. Excited? Not interested?