“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

 

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — Serious Popcorn Fare (review)

As a ’70s kid, once obsessed with the “Planet of the Apes” movies, I’m a sucker for anything related to that five-film series. Who could resist those films’ mix of sci-fi, adventure, and grad-school philosophizing?

I’m happy to report that Matt Reeves’ “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a sequel to Rupert Wyatt’s excellent “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), is every bit as good as its predecessor, if not better.

As ape leader Caesar, Andy Serkis (AKA Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” movies) is terrific, using motion-capture technology to effectively reveal a wide range of emotions as the simian whose loyalties are divided between his own tribe and the humans. Is it a metaphor for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Maybe.

The acting/CGI by the others “playing” apes is also impressive, particularly the work of Toby Kebbell as chief villain Koba, a warrior type, his psyche damaged by the pain and indignities he suffered during his early years in a medical laboratory. He’d rather fight than switch to a more peaceful strategy for getting along with the humans.

There are strong performances, too, by Jason Clarke as the human with a conscience, Gary Oldman as the unelected head of colony of human survivors (most folks on earth were wiped out by a plague), and Keri Russell, as Clarke’s love interest.

The visuals — post-disaster San Francisco, the humans’ settlement, the apes’ mountainside camp, the forest treks, the battle scene — are first rate, too.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is definitely one of the great “popcorn” flicks of the summer (along with “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Godzilla”), and the film offers some interesting messages about co-existence, resource depletion, and the fog of war.

I saw it in 3-D, and would recommend seeing it that way. I’ll add that it’s a lot more fun than movies about guys in tights and capes saving the world, and giant robots battling giant robots.

“Lawless”: Americana-Tinted, Bloody, Brooding — Not Your Average Moonshine-and-Shotguns Saga (review)


Stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Joseph Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, and Gary Oldman. Directed by John Hillcoat, from a script by Nick Cave, based on Matt Bondurant’s novel “The Wettest County in the World.” Rated R. 115 minutes. Critic’s grade: A-

“Lawless,” several cuts above the usual Hollywood moonshine-and-shotguns saga, benefits from being streaked with appealing shades of artfully rendered Americana. It’s there in the images of rural Virginia mountainsides, orange fires from myriad illicit whiskey stills popping through the nighttime mist, all beautifully captured by cinematographer Benoit Delhomme. His cameras also rest on lush sun-soaked greenery, along with the picturesque covered bridges and often ramshackle wooden structures that dot the landscape.

That Americana can be felt, too, in the laconic drawl and hushed mutters marking the speech of Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy), ringleader of a family-run moonshine operation; he’d just as soon baffle an enemy with backwoods-philosophy BS as he would take the guy out with the help of a swift right punch and brass knuckles. And it’s there in the rootsy bluegrass, country, and gospel music — the likes of Ralph Stanley, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris — heard on the score, assembled and assisted by veteran Australian singer and songwriter Nick Cave.

Cave also wrote the screenplay, based on a book, “The Wettest County in the World,” written by a descendant of the Bondurant brothers. Australian-born Director John Hillcoat (“The Proposition,” also penned by Cave, and “The Road”), working with such rich material, has turned out a thriller that’s often grotesquely violent while never quite adequately exploring the dynamics holding together the rough-hewn siblings. Aside from greed and revenge, what makes the alternately taciturn and eloquent Forrest, the imbalanced, often drunk and enraged Howard (Jason Clarke) and excitable young Jack (Shia LaBeouf), called “the runt of the litter,” remain so loyal to one another?

Following a brief prologue, during which Jack proves unwilling to shoot a pig on the family farm near Franklin, Va., the story shifts to the early ’30s. Prohibition is in effect, and the Bondurants are riding high on the new family business, making hooch and selling to the locals, including whites at a bluegrass stomp, blacks at a raucous wake, and local police who get a special deal for turning a blind eye to the illegal goings-on.

That comfortable system is disrupted by Chicago gangsters wanting a piece of the profitable illicit-booze economy. One such interloper, Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman), makes his entrance wearing a pinstriped suit and black hat, lit cigar clenched between his teeth, shooting a Tommy gun into the car of an enemy. Banner is tough but reasonable, eventually amenable to a partnership with Jack; Oldman fires on all cylinders with a role that appears to have been trimmed back).

Special Deputy Charlie Rakes, brought in by the local district attorney, is anything but open to compromise. The foreign-accented Rakes, cunningly brought to life by another Australian, Guy Pearce (“The King’s Speech,” “The Proposition,” “Memento”), is a federal lawman whose corruption is exceeded only by his viciousness and his penchant for carrying out even the most brutal beatings while dressed to the nines, his jet black, slicked back hair not mussed in the slightest. After one such encounter, he carefully peels off his blood-stained leather gloves, viewing them with distaste but experiencing no remorse for his horrific attack. Rakes’ sexual interests come off as purely predatory and largely undiscriminating — he has a taste for prostitutes and the weak — and he revels in his position of power. The Rakes-ordered tarring and feathering of one character, and the aftermath, are particularly gruesome. Rakes is so fearsome, even to the point of outlandishness, that he sometimes appears to have walked onto the set from another movie.

Rakes is hardly the only character to use extreme violence in order to get what he wants. In the Bondurants’ world, that approach is sometimes, if regrettably, necessary, as Forrest explains to Jack. “It is not the violence that sets a man apart. It is the the distance that he is prepared to go.”

The film’s not all boys, booze, and guns. Along the way, Jack courts Bertha (Mia Wasikowska), the pretty daughter of a local religious leader; a feet-washing ritual during the church’s Sunday meeting, complete with a cappella singing and rhythms created by foot-stomped floorboards, makes for one of the film’s most intense moments, which then spills over into comic relief. Forrest, too, feels a growing attraction for the statuesque Maggie (Jessica Chastain), a troubled woman who fled from her life as a girlie dancer in the big city.

In addition to first-rate work from Pearce, Oldman, Chastain and Wasikowska, “Lawless” thrives on intriguing turns by Hardy (“The Warrior,” “Inception”) and Clarke (“Trust,” “Public Enemies”) and a career-best performance for LeBeouf (the “Transformers” trilogy, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”).

And there will be blood, lots of it, during a final showdown that seals the fate of several major characters. The climactic shoot-out is to be expected, but the consequences aren’t necessarily predictable. Nor is the prologue, which seems to suggest that even good things happen to bad people, a message that might even count as subversive. “Lawless,” while not a classic of its genre, often comes darn close.