“Dunkirk” Takes Top Honors in 2017 FFCC Awards; “The Florida Project” Wins Golden Orange

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan‘s dazzling and cinematically daring account of the WWII evacuation of Dunkirk beaches by Allied forces, was named best picture of the year, and Nolan best director, by the Florida Film Critics Circle. I voted.

The cast and crew of Sean Baker‘s “The Florida Project,” a low-budget, documentary-style study of life among the very poor, told largely from the point of view of children living in the shadow of the Mouse House, was honored with the FFCC’s annual Golden Orange award. The honor is generally awarded to a Florida-based movie, event, organization, or person making a significant impact on the film community, statewide or beyond. The film’s subject matter and unique vision and narrative style have drawn critical kudos and attention from around the world.

The critics group — 25 writers based in the Sunshine State — gave multiple honors to several different films and artists:

  • Jordan Peele, one-half of the Key and Peele comedy duo, won best original screenplay and best first film for controversial, widely acclaimed comic/horror/social-commentary shocker “Get Out!”
  • “Blade Runner 2049,” Ridley Scott‘s belated sequel to his 1982 sci-fi classic, won in four categories, for best cinematography, art direction/production, visual effects, and score.
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy about murder and revenge, won for best ensemble, and the film’s Sam Rockwell, as a racially wounded and wounding small-town cop, for best supporting actor
  • “I, Tonya”: Margot Robbie, best actress, as troubled skating star Tonya Harding; and Allison Janey, best supporting actress, as Tonya’s mother from hell.
  • “Call Me By Your Name”: Timothee Chalamet, best actor and breakout award; and James Ivory, best adapted screenplay

(Guillermo del Toro‘s exquisitely photographed, beautifully acted, emotionally resonant and often technically dazzling “The Shape of Water,” an odd but compelling sci-fi/horror/fantasy cross between “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” and “Beauty and the Beast,” was my favorite film of the year. It received 10 FFCC nominations but, strangely, got skunked in every category. But that’s a subject for another post, one with my own Top 10+ list).

The complete list, with runners-up, and, in red, my own pick in each category:

BEST PICTURE

Dunkirk (WINNER)

Lady Bird

Call Me By Your Name

Get Out

The Shape Of Water — PHILIP’s PICK

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk (WINNER)

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird 

Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water — PHILIP’s PICK

Jordan Peele – Get Out

Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST ACTOR

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name (WINNER)

Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour 

Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out — PHILIP’s PICK

James Franco – The Disaster Artist

Robert Pattinson – Good Time

BEST ACTRESS

Margot Robbie – I, Tonya (WINNER)

Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — Philip’s Pick

Cynthia Nixon – A Quiet Passion

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water

Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (WINNER) — Philip’s Pick

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project 

Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name

Barry Keoghan – The Killing of A Sacred Deer

Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Allison Janney – I, Tonya (WINNER)

Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird 

Holly Hunter – The Big Sick — Philip’s Pick

Hong Chau – Downsizing

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound

BEST ENSEMBLE

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (WINNER)

Dunkirk

Get Out

I, Tonya

Lady Bird

The Big Sick — Philip’s Pick

The Shape Of Water

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Get Out (WINNER)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Lady Bird

The Big Sick — Philip’s Pick

The Shape Of Water

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Call Me By Your Name (WINNER)

The Disaster Artist — Philip’s Pick

Marjorie Prime

Molly’s Game

The Lost City of Z

Wonderstruck

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)

Dunkirk 

Personal Shopper

The Post

The Shape of Water — Philip’s Pick

Wonderstruck

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)

War for the Planet of the Apes 

Dunkirk

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Shape of Water — Philip’s Pick

BEST ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN

Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)

Dunkirk 

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water — Philip’s Pick

Wonderstruck

BEST SCORE

Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)

Dunkirk 

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — Philip’s Pick

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Jane (WINNER) — Philip’s Pick

Ex Libris: New York Public Library

Dawson City: Frozen Time

Faces Places

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Kedi

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

BPM (WINNER)

The Square 

First They Killed My Father — Philip’s Pick

Loveless

The Ornithologist

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Coco (WINNER)

Loving Vincent — Philip’s Pick

The Boss Baby

The Breadwinner

The LEGO Batman Movie

BEST FIRST FILM

Get Out (WINNER) — Philip’s Pick

God’s Own Country (Runners-Up)

Ingrid Goes West

Molly’s Game

PAULINE KAEL BREAKOUT AWARD

Timothée Chalamet (WINNER)

Jordan Peele

Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk & The Killing of a Sacred Deer) — Philip’s Pick

Greta Gerwig

Millicent Simmonds

GOLDEN ORANGE

The cast and crew of The Florida Project — Philip’s Pick

 

“The Dark Knight Rises”: Stunning Closing Chapter in Chris Nolan’s “Batman” Trilogy (review)

I’ve just been aggressively entertained by Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I feel as if I’ve been beaten into submission — and a state of wide-eyed wonder and sheer audiovisual hangover — by a 165-minute film long on masterful direction of stunning set pieces. It’s also packed with variously heroic, scary and funny/sexy performances, and guided by a storyline that can, and will, be read as supporting multiple, conflicting political agendas.

Regarding that last point: Does the Gotham City anarchy in the film result from boiling-over class warfare driven by a leader who inflames the public with power-to-the-people rhetoric while secretly planning to benefit from the chaos? Or is it a result of long-festering institutional rot, lorded over and covered up by the wealthy and powerful, who would do anything to preserve their social status? (Just for the record, the screwy idea that the villain Bane is a stand-in for Romney, and thus the film is a Lefty attack on conservatism, makes no sense in light of the actual movie).

Nolan, easily one of the greatest living American filmmakers (see: The Dark Knight, Inception, and my favorite, Memento), opens the best superhero movie since the last Batman flick with an exhilarating mid-air raid, one of several sequences shot with IMAX cameras for maximum eye-popping impact. A team of baddies led by the villainous Bane (Tom Hardy, also in Inception), drops from a huge transport plane to wreak havoc on a smaller plane below.

Astonishingly enough, the sequence largely was executed for real, with stunt men, in the air over Scotland, rather than simply being a product of artful CGI. And, yes, the extra effort pays off, in droves, setting the galloping pace for the film and introducing Bane, who, with an obtrusive mask over his face, is a bit reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter, and speaks in a sort of electronic rasp. “I’m necessary evil,” he declares at one point.

The film brims with similarly impressive large-scale sequences, including a massive cops-versus-criminals rumble, the bombing of a stadium during a pro football game, the near-simultaneous explosions of buildings and bridges all across Gotham City, and several breakneck chases involving various Bat vehicles, including one with enormously fat tires and another able to fly in the sky AND stop on a dime.

And yet, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t at all overwhelmed by the hardware and explosions, or overly indebted to those trappings. Rather, it’s the human element that makes the film, co-written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, far more compelling than your average comic-book movie; the others in the genre, in fact, come off as mere pretenders.

The director has elicited grade-A performances from his cast of returnees and newcomers, the former led by Christian Bale as an unusually vulnerable Bruce Wayne/Batman, retired from crime fighting and hiding from the public in the aftermath of the events of the last film. Not only did Wayne suffer the loss of his girlfriend, but the public believes that the late Harvey Dent (aka Two-Face) was a civic hero, murdered by “the Batman.” Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), who knows the truth of the matter, feels as if he must continue to prop up that lie, and Wayne has neither the energy or the inclination to set the record straight. “There’s nothing out there for me,” Wayne tells longstanding family friend and butler Alfred (Michael Caine), who also seems powerless to help his old pal.

The first-timers to the trilogy help give the grand finale the kind of lift it needed, particularly in the wake of the superb The Dark Knight. Anne Hathaway, she of the big eyes and big teeth, makes a suitably slinky, sarcastic Catwoman, torn between her natural thieving, cheating tendencies and wanting to do the right thing. Two more Inception vets round out the cast — Marion Cotillard as a particularly pretty member of the Wayne Industries board, and the always reliable and often surprising Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a capable cop and key Wayne ally. As the sympathetic conscience of the crew, Gordon-Levitt is a real standout, and maybe the film’s MVP.

Third films in any given series typically amount to disappointing dilutions. Then there’s The Dark Knight Rises, which closes the Nolan-directed Caped Crusader trilogy at a fever pitch. It’s the opposite of a letdown, as a highly gifted director applies his considerable skills to an unusually textured tale of a familiar pop-culture hero. All that and the threat of nuclear destruction, too. Color me pleasantly shocked.

Oscar Talk: My Envelope, Please

oscars6After what feels like the longest Oscars PR run-up in Academy Awards history, the 81st annual Academy Awards arrives Sunday night.

Wolverine, I mean, Hugh Jackman, will play host in a ceremony purportedly designed to honor the year’s best achievements on the big screen.

Sadly, this year that means that The Dark Knight, the visually astonishing fantasy film directed by Christopher Nolan, was robbed of a best picture nomination, and was all but ignored in most categories. A notable exception: The late Heath Ledger’s bone-deep performance as The Joker, a shoo-in to win for best supporting actor.

Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, compelling but essentially designed to win an Oscar, is just one of the best picture nominees that might have been bumped to make way for The Dark Knight.  Another is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, vastly overrated — some have called it Forrest Gump redux — but nonetheless the recipient of 14 nominations (!!!???!!!).

The Oscars goofed, too, in leaving a pair of quite accomplished and quite different foreign films — Gomorra, a crime film from Italy, and Swedish horror shocker Let the Right One In —  off the list of foreign language nominees.

On the other hand, it’s gratifying to see underdogs Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Melissa Leo (Frozen River) land major acting nominations. Their chances at winning are practically nil.

Without further ado, my picks.

—–Picture—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

—–Director—–

  • Most likely to win: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Deserves to win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: Stephen Daldry, The Reader; Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon; Gus Van Sant, Milk

—–Actor—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
  • The rest: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

—–Actress—–

  • Most likely to win: Kate Winslet, The Reader
  • Deserves to win: Melissa Leo, Frozen River
  • The rest: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Meryl Streep, Doubt

—–Supporting Actor—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
  • The rest: Josh Brolin, Milk; Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

—–Supporting Actress—–

  • Most likely to win: Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
  • Deserves to win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona

—–Foreign Language—–

  • Most likely to win: The Class
  • (Probably) Deserves to win: Waltz With Bashir
  • The rest: The Baader Meinhof Complex, Departures, Revanche

—–Animated—–

  • Most likely to win: Wall-E
  • Deserves to win: Kung Fu Panda
  • The rest: Bolt

—–Documentary—–

  • Most likely to win: Man on Wire
  • Deserves to win: Trouble the Water
  • The rest: Betrayal, Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden

—–Adapted Screenplay—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, The Reader

—–Original Screenplay—–

  • Most likely to win: Milk
  • Deserves to win: In Bruges
  • The rest: Frozen River, Happy-Go-Lucky, Wall-E

—–Cinematography—–

  • Most likely to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Deserves to win: The Dark Knight
  • The rest: Changeling, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

—–Art Direction—–

  • Likely to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Deserves to win: The Dark Knight
  • The rest: Changeling, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road

—–Music (score)—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Defiance, Milk, Wall-E

—–Music (song)—–

  • Most likely to win, deserves to win: “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire
  • The rest: “Down to Earth,” Wall-E; “O Saya,” Slumdog Millionaire