Friday, February 7, 2020

If We Picked the Oscars 2019

Borrowing a page from Siskel and Ebert from back in the day, we here at Movie Dearest are once again presenting our own version of "If We Picked the Oscars"! These aren't predictions, but what movies, actors, directors, et al that we would vote for if we were members of the Academy. We also chime in with our picks for the "egregiously overlooked" non-nominees in each category as well as what we deem are the "Worst Nominations of the Year".

So without further ado, the envelope please...

The nominees for Best Picture are: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood and Parasite
CC: I love Jojo Rabbit, not only for its audaciously funny approach to life in Nazi Germany but for its unexpected, gut-wrenching emotional moments and terrific cast. This may ultimately prove to be bold director Taika Waititi's masterpiece.
KH: With my own personal top 5 of the year all nominated here, this is an easy one, with my favorite movie of 2019 – Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood – obviously getting my vote for the big one.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I'm very surprised that Terrence Malick's excellent A Hidden Life was completely snubbed. Based on a powerful true story, it is arguably the longtime Academy darling's most moving and accessible film.
KH: Pedro Almodóvar's Pain and Glory was #6 in my top ten of the year and our Dearie Award winner for Movie of the Year, so here's another easy choice.

For their final voting, Academy members are asked to rank the Best Picture nominees from #1 to #9, so here are our rankings:
CC: 1. Jojo Rabbit, 2. 1917, 3. Marriage Story, 4. Little Women, 5. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, 6. Parasite, 7. The Irishman, 8. Joker (I haven't seen Ford v Ferrari)
KH: 1. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, 2. Little Women, 3. 1917, 4. Marriage Story, 5. Jojo Rabbit, 6. Ford v Ferrari, 7. Parasite, 8. The Irishman, 9. Joker

The nominees for Best Actor are: Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory, Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, Adam Driver in Marriage Story, Joaquin Phoenix in Joker and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes
CC: This is a real toss up for me. Joaquin Phoenix is undeniably powerful in Joker but I'm a longtime fan of first-time nominee Jonathan Pryce, who gives a wonderful performance as Pope Francis in The Two Popes. Under the gun, I think I would lean toward Pryce.
KH: As Salvador Mallo, a filmmaker coming to terms with his life in Pain and Glory, Antonio Banderas gave the performance of a lifetime.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I expect I'm going to be mentioning A Hidden Life a lot, and August Diehl's soulful turn as Catholic martyr Franz Jagerstatter is my pick here, although Taron Egerton is a close second for me as Elton John in Rocketman.
KH: Our Movie Dearest Man of the Year, Taron Egerton, was fabulous and fantastic as Elton John in Rocketman.

The nominees for Best Actress are: Cynthia Erivo in Harriet, Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story, Saoirse Ronan in Little Women, Charlize Theron in Bombshell and Renée Zellweger in Judy
CC: I was very impressed by Cynthia Erivo's fierce take on emancipator Harriet Tubman and would love to see her move closer to EGOT glory (she could yet win the Oscar this year for Best Song). However, Renée Zellweger's is now for me the definitive, and appreciably compassionate, take on Judy Garland and would get my vote.
KH: Our Movie Dearest Woman of the Year, Renée Zellweger, totally transformed herself – body, soul, voice – into Judy Garland in Judy.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Daisy Ridley was very impressive as the center of the last three Star Wars episodes and coulda/shoulda been recognized for her presumably final appearance as Rey in The Rise of Skywalker.
KH: She's nominated for her terrific supporting turn in Little Women, but Florence Pugh was equally great in a totally different role in Midsommar.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes, Al Pacino in The Irishman, Joe Pesci in The Irishman and Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
CC: Anthony Hopkins deserves the Oscar for making Pope Benedict XV likeable, no easy task!
KH: Brad Pitt was effortlessly cool as stuntman Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Sam Rockwell both cracked me up and moved me as young Jojo Rabbit's closeted Nazi educator and ultimate protector.
KH: Dolemite Is My Name's Wesley Snipes, our scene stealer of the year.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell, Laura Dern in Marriage Story, Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit, Florence Pugh in Little Women and Margot Robbie in Bombshell
CC: The often icy Scarlett Johansson blew me away with her warm, funny yet tragic turn as Jojo Rabbit's secretly rebellious mom.
KH: It's difficult to imagine how Jojo Rabbit would have turned out without Scarlett Johansson as Jojo's loving... and a little loony... mother Rosie.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Rebecca Ferguson was great as the most gleefully vicious villain since Hannibal Lecter in the neglected Doctor Sleep. And snicker all you want, but I thought Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench and newcomer Francesca Hayward were all terrific in the much-derided Cats.
KH: As Senator Dianne Feinstein in The Report, Annette Bening turned in another outstanding performance.... where's her Oscar already?

The nominees for Best Directing are: Bong Joon Ho for Parasite, Sam Mendes for 1917, Todd Phillips for Joker, Martin Scorsese for The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
CC: Sam Mendes did a masterful job directing his intimate World War I epic 1917, seemingly shot as one continuous take.
KH: No other director would have had the guts to rewrite history so audaciously, not to mention as entertainingly, as Quentin Tarantino did with Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Terrence Malick for A Hidden Life, again.
KH: With Little Women, Greta Gerwig did the near impossible: took a story we have seen many, many times before and made it feel not only fresh and new but also modern, without forfeiting its timelessness. Isn't it about time that the Academy just increases the number of nominations (like in Best Picture) in at least the directing and acting categories already?

The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women and The Two Popes
CC: Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit gets my vote, and I'm tempted to add a "Heil, Hitler" for good measure. Just kidding!
KH: Greta Gerwig for Little Women, see above.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Mike Flanagan did an excellent job adapting Stephen King's novel sequel to The Shining while honoring Stanley Kubrick's classic film version with Doctor Sleep.
KH: Toy Story 4 needed a compelling reason to exist, and Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom's smart and clever script provided it.

The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are: Knives Out, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood and Parasite
CC: I would go with Noah Baumbach's sensitive Marriage Story, although I'd be tempted to vote for Rian Johnson's Knives Out just for fun.
KH: Tarantino already has two screenplay Oscars and my vote for directing, so my vote here would go to Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story, his finely-crafted, warts-and-all exploration of divorce.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The heartfelt and moving The Last Black Man in San Francisco (by Joe Talbot, Jimmie Falls and Rob Richert), completely ignored by the Academy.
KH: Pedro Almodóvar, a previous winner here for Talk To Her, deserved a return invite for his bittersweet, semi-autobiographical Pain and Glory.

The nominees for Best Cinematography are: The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, 1917 and Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
CC: 1917.
KH: Roger Deakins' expert camerawork on 1917 was equal parts stunning technical marvel and awe-inspiring artistic achievement.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC:The gorgeous Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
KH: Claire Mathon's lush photography of Portrait of a Lady swept the three major American critics' group awards, yet somehow came up short with the Academy.

The nominees for Best Production Design are: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood and Parasite
CC: Jojo Rabbit.
KH: From the Manson Ranch to the Playboy Mansion, Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh brought the world of Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood to life.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Downton Abbey.
KH: The stately Thrombey manor, with all its nooks & crannies and bric & brac, was a character in and of itself in Knives Out.

The nominees for Best Costume Design are: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women and Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
CC: Jojo Rabbit.
KH: Mayes C. Rubeo's creative designs (Yorki's paper uniform) and colorful couture (everything worn by Scarlett Johansson) took the whimsicality of Jojo Rabbit to an even higher level.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Downton Abbey.
KH: Not sure how the drab duds seen in The Irishman and Joker got in over the much more eye-catching fashions seen in Dolemite Is My Name. Or Downton Abbey. Or Rocketman...??

The nominees for Best Original Score are: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
CC: I would send maestro John Williams out on a high note with an Oscar for his final Star Wars movie.
KH: His stirring, transporting score for 1917 is Thomas Newman's 15th nomination and is more than worthy of being his first win.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Bear McReary's "monster opera" approach to Godzilla: King of the Monsters was spectacular, but his score was likely disqualified since it utilizes some music from the Toho classics.
KH: Michael Giacchino was the perfect choice to compose Jojo Rabbit and his absence here is truly glaring. Just listen to his "Jojo March" and be instantly transported back to Nazi Germany... by way of Taika Waititi of course.

The nominees for Best Original Song are: "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away" from Toy Story 4, "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman, "I'm Standing With You" from Breakthrough, "Into the Unknown" from Frozen II and "Stand Up" from Harriet
CC: Sir Elton John (with Bernie Taupin, of course) definitely gets my love for the peppy, inspirational "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" from Rocketman, his otherwise overlooked bio.
KH: "Stand Up", performed by and co-written (with Joshuah Brian Campbell) by Harriet star Cynthia Erivo, is a powerful coda to the story of Harriet Tubman, who's actual last words – "I go to prepare a place for you" – are the song's haunting final refrain.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Taylor Swift's contribution to the Cats soundtrack, "Beautiful Ghosts", is appropriately haunting and one of the overall score's few understated songs.
KH: I predicted a win for "Glasgow" (written by Caitlyn Smith, Kate York and Mary Steenburgen... yes, that Mary Steenburgen) from Wild Rose that now won't happen due to the lazy miopia of the Academy's Music Branch. But that doesn't mean it isn't a far better song than at least two of the ones the Academy did chose (see my "Worst Nomination of the Year", below).

The nominees for Best Film Editing are: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker and Parasite
CC: I haven't seen likely winner Ford v Ferrari so would vote for Jojo Rabbit.
KH: Ford v Ferrari is a film editor's dream gig, and nominees Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker drive it into the winner's circle.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Would nominating 1917 here somehow spoil its one-take conceit? The at least occasional editing is what makes it so believable.
KH: How did The Irishman, which needed at least a 40-60 minutes cut from it, get nominated while Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, which could have gone on for another hour or two, wasn't?

The nominees for Best Sound Mixing are: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917 and Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
CC: Once Upon a Hollywood.
KH: The dense soundscape... car radios, classic tunes, flamethrower... of Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood added immensely to the mesmerizing quality of the film.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
KH: Musicals usually fair well here, so where's Rocketman?

The nominees for Best Sound Editing are: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
CC: OK, here's Rise of Skywalker, which would be my choice.
KH: Reportedly the Academy is mulling over the idea of combining the the two sound categories into one, a good idea that is long overdue considering that the nominations are almost always pretty close to identical. So in that spirit, my vote goes to Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood here as well.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Godzilla: King of the Monsters, another big noisy epic and one of my underrated faves of 2019.
KH: Like musicals, animated films used to appear here more often too, and the hero's unique and endearing voice in Abominable is all thanks to its expert sound crew.

The nominees for Best Visual Effects are: Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, 1917 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
CC: It's always hard to ignore a Star Wars movie in this category, so I wouldn't.
KH: 1917 had the most seamless and therefore invisible effects, a far more impressive accomplishment than all the other nominee's CGI overload/overkill.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Godzilla: King of the Monsters provided a feast of magnificent monster mayhem.
KH: How anyone could watch Alita: Battle Angel and not be blown away by the flawless creation of the cyborg title character is beyond me.

The nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling are: Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and 1917
CC: Judy.
KH: The makeup in Bombshell felt more like a stunt than a creative necessity; my pick is for the far more subtle and effective work seen in Judy.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Jojo Rabbit.
KH: Just like the designers behind Judy, the Rocketman team transformed their lead into a pop culture icon.

The nominees for Best Animated Feature are: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link and Toy Story 4
CC: I really liked Klaus, which could eventually become a Christmas classic.
KH: Despite Toy Story 4 being a terrific film in its own right, the Toy Story franchise has been amply Oscar'ed in the past, and its about time that Hiccup and Toothless (not to mention their creator Dean DeBlois) got some long overdue love. So my vote goes to the DreamWorks Animation series' soaring final chapter, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I also really liked the fun new version of The Addams Family.
KH: Abominable was an unexpected delight for me on all levels, and it's shocking how underrated it is, especially in comparison to the nominees with a similar protagonist (Missing Link) or setting (Klaus).

The nominees for Best International Feature Film are: Corpus Christi (Poland), Honeyland (North Macedonia), Les Misérables (France), Pain and Glory (Spain) and Parasite (South Korea)
CC: Honeyland, which is important on multiple levels.
KH: No surprises here: Pain and Glory, plain and simple. (Note: Corpus Christi is the only nominee in any category this year that I haven't seen yet; it opens in the US in limited release on February 19th).
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: France criminally submitted the good but not great Les Misérables over Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
KH: They weren't their country's official Oscar submissions, but Argentina's End of the Century and France's Portrait of a Lady on Fire, both featuring same-sex romances, are equally award-worthy.

The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama and Honeyland
CC: Honeyland redux.
KH: The Syrian Civil War has now taken over as the Oscar's favored nonfiction subject of late, with two very similar docs, The Cave and For Sama, making the cut this year. And while I found some of its filmmaker's actions questionable, that it elicited that response proves how effective the uncompromising, at-times deeply distressing For Sama is at conveying the almost impossible-to-comprehend reality of living in the midst of war.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: One Child Nation, an eye-opening look at China's adoption policies and abuses.
KH: My favorite documentary of the year, the mesmerizing Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, somehow wasn't even on the long list, so I'll go with short list finalist One Child Nation, a devastating exposé of China's "one child" policy.

The nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are: In the Absence, Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), Life Overtakes Me, St. Louis Superman and Walk Run Cha-Cha
KH: Yes, I'm going with the requisite "inspirational kids' story": Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl).

The nominees for Best Animated Short Film are: Dcera (Daughter), Hair Love, Kitbull, Mémorable and Sister
CC: Kitbull is too sweet!
KH: Sister gets my vote for its deft mixture of melancholy and absurdity.

The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film are: Brotherhood, Nefta Football Club, The Neighbors’ Window, Saria and A Sister
KH: In a strong field this year, I pick The Neighbors' Window, the most emotionally effective and narratively satisfying.

And now for our own special category of dishonorable mention, the Worst Nomination of the Year:
CC: I was truly impressed by the digital de-aging of stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino in The Irishman. But a nomination for Best Visual Effects? Something tells me not even Jimmy Hoffa would approve. In general, Scorsese's overly familiar, overlong epic is over-recognized.
KH: My biggest disappointment on Oscar Nomination Morning was the lack of a nomination for "Glasgow" from Wild Rose in the Best Original Song category. That disappointment turned to outrage when, in its place, were the umpteenth nominations for Randy Newman and Diane Warren for, respectively, "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away" from Toy Story 4 and "I'm Standing with Your" from Breakthrough. It seems that Newman and Warren are now the Music Branch's Meryl Streep; they'll nominate them for just about anything these days, even these two trite, terrible tunes.

And so the final march to Oscar glory begins. Tune in to the Big Show this Sunday to see who wins, as well as which nominees are rocking the best (and worst) gowns, hottest escorts and most heartfelt acceptance speeches.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator, editor and head writer of Movie Dearest.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The 13th Annual Movie Dearest Dearie Awards

For the thirteenth year in a row, Movie Dearest takes a look back and celebrates the year that was with a salute to the best in film, television and the stage with the 2019 Movie Dearest Awards, a.k.a. the "Dearies".

And the winners are...

Movie of the Year: Pain and Glory
It is safe to say that we have been obsessed with the unique cinematic vision – the exotic locales, the pastel colors, the richly-drawn characters (especially the female ones) – of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar since 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. That movie also introduced to us the smoldering screen presence of one Antonio Banderas, then on the cusp of international stardom. Since those days, Almodóvar’s films have won worldwide acclaim and two Academy Awards, and he and Banderas have collaborated on several more films together, crescendoing with our 2019 Movie of the Year, Pain and Glory. This semi-autobiographical character study of a film director in the latter part of his life reflecting on his past while struggling to cope with his present is a story masterfully told as only two artists so attuned to each other could make. Nominated for two Oscars – Best International Feature and a well-deserved first nomination for Banderas – Pain and Glory recently swept Spain’s Oscar-equivalent Goyas, winning seven awards including Best Picture. To that we say: Viva Pedro! - KH

Woman of the Year: Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger has been a favorite of ours ever since Jerry Maguire; you could say she had us at “hello”. Mostly absent from the public eye for a while now, she triumphantly returned to A-list stardom last year with her stunning performance of Judy Garland in the biopic Judy. Almost molecularly transforming herself – body, soul, voice – into the beloved movie star/gay icon/show biz legend, she solidified her status as a gay icon in her own right with a performance many are calling legendary. And we all knew that Renée could carry a musical thanks to Chicago, but she pulls out all the stops here, as one must to sing the singular “Over the Rainbow”, not to mention all the other classic songs Garland immortalized. Already a victor at the BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors’ Guild and Dorian Awards, Renée is the favored front-runner to win the Best Actress Oscar next week. We – along with Judy in heaven above – will be cheering her on all the way. - KH

Man of the Year: Taron Egerton
Like our Woman of the Year, our male equivalent for 2019 starred in a big musical biography as a gay fave who sang about yellow brick roads. But in the case of Taron Egerton, the legend that he was playing – one Sir Elton John – is still alive and the executive producer of the movie. The dreamily handsome and multi-talented Welsh actor more than rose to the occasion, showing off his acting chops, singing skills and even a little dancing in Rocketman, earning the best reviews of his career and a Golden Globe Award. Unfortunately, this was a crowded year for Best Actor and Taron missed out on an Oscar nomination (like, don't go breaking our hearts Academy), but he was still standing as far as the BAFTA, Screen Actors' Guild and Dorian Awards were concerned, not to mention a Grammy nomination for the film's soundtrack (see Movie Music of the Year, below). And we here at Movie Dearest are more than happy to add to the adulation by naming him our Man of the Year. - KH

New Star of the Year: Florence Pugh
Nobody has had quite the breakout year as Florence Pugh did in 2019. Playing three very different characters in three very different movies, she started the year as a mostly-unknown and ended it as an Academy Award nominee. It started in February with the release of the sports biopic Fighting with My Family, wherein she played WWE wrestler Paige. Then came midsummer and the release of Midsommar, the creepy folk horror tale in which she headlined as a troubled young woman who finds herself at the mercy of a Swedish death cult. And finally came December and Greta Gerwig's acclaimed, revisionist take on Little Women. As Amy, usually the least favorite March sister, Florence turned a character who is traditionally spoiled and selfish into one that is spirited and self-aware. The result: her first Oscar nomination. Plus, coming very soon: her Marvel debut in the long-awaited Black Widow, due May, 2020. That's quite a year, and we are very confident that Florence will be having many more good years in the years to come. - KH

TV Show of the Year: Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City
Thank god for Netflix, for without them who knew when we would have been able to return to San Francisco's iconic 28 Barbary Lane again. It's been 18 long years since Showtime's Further Tales from the City, the last time we saw Armistead Maupin's beloved characters from his groundbreaking book series brought to life on screen, so we were binge-ready upon the launch last June of this new 10-episode limited series. Original PBS mini-series stars Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis and Paul Gross returned as core characters Mary Ann Singleton, Anna Madrigal and Brian Hawkins, joined by everyone's favorite "Mouse", Michael Tolliver, played by Looking's Murray Bartlett, now a hunky DILF with a much-younger boyfriend (Charlie Barnett). Other newcomers included Brian and Mary Ann's daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and a mysterious woman from Anna's past (Daniela Vega). Admittedly, we were less than thrilled by that logic-defying time shift to the present day and the subsequent presence of those tiresome Instagramming wonder twins, but we were still very happy to see and here more of these tales from this city. - KH

Stage Show of the Year: Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Because we can can can! Although many theatergoers are understandably dubious about the growing number of Broadway shows adapted from the big screen, we were excited at the prospect of transferring Baz Luhrmann's hyper-kinetic 2001 movie musical to the stage. The hit production may spin a primarily (though not exclusively) hetero love story, it has major gay cred behind the scenes, including out book writer John Logan (the Tony Award-winning Red). In the end its romance between idealistic, bohemian songwriter Christian (played by the hot Aaron Tveit) and the doomed "sparkling diamond" Satine (a stunning Karen Olivo) holds universal appeal. Heck, I saw it with a straight couple and we were all holding hands during the emotional climax. The stage version is more serious in tone than the movie but boasts even more pop songs (Beyoncé! Rihanna! Sia!) and amazing choreography by Sonya Tayeh, and without the film's sometimes spastic editing. It's (now ubiquitous) dance medley curtain call is the best I've ever seen. So get ready to can can can when Moulin Rouge! The Musical comes to your area on tour this fall. - CC

Foreign Film of the Year: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
We were mighty impressed by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma's trans/queer film Tomboy in 2011. She has since created a powerful body of LGBTQ work that culminated last year with her scintillating Portrait of a Lady on Fire. A period lesbian romance set on a remote island, it is one of the most physically beautiful movies in some time. Chock full of seaside rendezvous, sensual kisses, smoldering looks exchanged by the fireside and, yes, lovely ladies posing for paintings, it is a feast for the eyes as well as a memorable love story (it fittingly goes into wide release this Valentine's Day). Actors Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are well-matched as the lovers in question, with both characters poignant victims of circumstance in their 1760 setting. One is able to transcend her situation, while the other becomes tragically trapped in an arranged marriage (after being initially trapped in a convent). Sciamma's latest ultimately serves as a potent reminder of how far women, LGBTQ people and even artists have come in the centuries since. - CC

Documentary of the Year: Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street
Actor Mark Patton had a promising career in mid-1980s Hollywood, having co-starred with Cher in Robert Altman's Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean both on Broadway and on screen. Soon after, he scored the lead in 1985's A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, a much anticipated first sequel to the horror hit. It was a similar success, but Patton's career flamed out instead of igniting due to his not-so-secret homosexuality. 35 years later, Patton is an interior designer living with his husband in Mexico and the sad truth of his mistreatment by Hollywood has been exposed by this frighteningly insightful and frighteningly entertaining documentary. Planned for release later this year, it was honored this past weekend by GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics as the LGBTQ Documentary of the Year. Patton's new designation as the sole male "scream queen" of 80s slasher cinema serves as long-delayed validation, not only for him but for all gay actors of the conservative era who suffered similarly. Thankfully, they don't have to scream for justice or opportunities any more. - CC

Unsung Movie of the Year: The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Joe Talbot's heartfelt, reality-based drama premiered to much acclaim at last year's Sundance Film Festival, with first-timer Talbot winning the fest's Best US Director award. Its look at two lifelong best friends struggling to save an old house from gentrification is a love story on multiple levels, including between the lead male characters. There is nothing specifically/explicitly gay between Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and Mont (Indie Spirit Award nominee Jonathan Majors) but the refreshing thing about this film is it doesn't matter. Their love for one another is undeniable even if they are straight, and they share a relaxed physical intimacy as well as with Mont's blind grandfather (Danny Glover). The film's "Greek chorus" of street toughs with sensitive sides is another welcome attribute. The low-budget movie was a modest hit when it was released theatrically last summer but certainly deserves a broader viewership (it is now streaming on Amazon Prime). Beautifully directed, written, acted, photographed and scored, we are hopeful The Last Black Man in San Francisco will yet find a sizeable audience. - CC

DVD of the Year: John Waters' Polyester
The Criterion Collection got a little malodorous in 2019 with their Blu-ray release of John Waters' Polyester. The 1981 "smell-odrama" camp classic stars Waters' muse Divine as Francine Fishpaw, a put-upon suburban housewife with a smut-peddling husband, two wretched teen-aged children and a very overdeveloped sense of smell, which audiences are able to share thanks to the "revolutionary Odorama process", i.e.: cardboard scratch-and-sniff cards that were handed out to cinema-goers back in the day and of which Criterion has meticulously recreated for us discerning cinephiles of today. A then-closeted Tab Hunter (a long way from Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates) co-stars as Francine's hunk-of-her-dreams, along with Waters' regulars Edith Massey and a cornrowed Mink Stole. Waters and his cast are also on hand looking back fondly upon the making of this timeless "trash-terpiece" in both archival footage and new interviews found in the bonus features of this disc, a must-have for any true fan of filmic filth. - KH

Movie Music of the Year: Rocketman
We don't often double dip at the Dearies, but a key factor in what made Taron Egerton our Man of the Year was the men behind the music of Rocketman, legendary songwriters Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Featuring over twenty tunes made famous by Sir Elton, this is not your typical rock biopic. Described as a "musical fantasy" retelling of the life of 'Elton John: Superstar', the songs are not just performed as in, say, Bohemian Rhapsody; they are performed. Thus "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)" becomes a dueling dance off, "Honky Cat" is turned into a sexy song of seduction, "Crocodile Rock" literally sends everyone soaring, et cetera. Egerton rocks as the rocket man and is joined on the Grammy nominated soundtrack by such fellow cast members as Jamie Bell (as Taupin) and Bryce Dallas Howard (as Elton's mum). But the ultimate duet is saved for the finale, where the real Elton joins the "reel" Elton on the Golden Globe winning, Oscar nominated end title track "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again". - KH

The Neil V. Cohen Award for Campy Film of the Year: Knives Out
Our dear friend Neil Cohen, for whom this award is named after in memorium, was a big fan (and prolific playwright) of murder mysteries, not to mention all-star casts who love to chew on a little scenery. So it is with no doubt that we select the box office hit Knives Out as our Campy Film of the Year in his honor. Set in a stately manor described by one character as a "Clue board", we meet the feuding, back-stabbing Thrombey clan shortly after the apparent suicide of their patriarch, eccentric best-selling whodunit author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Enter private detective Benoit Blanc (a delightfully over-the-top, Looney Tunes-accented Daniel Craig) to crack the case. Playing various conniving Thrombeys, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and a cable knit-sweatered Chris Evans dig in to director Rian Johnson's intricately plotted, devilishly witty Oscar nominated screenplay, resulting in a wickedly comic romp that is simply to die for. - KH

We hope you enjoyed this year's Dearies and thank you for visiting Movie Dearest in 2019! Here's to 2020...

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Reverend's Reviews: Latino Love


The 75th annual Venice Film Festival, held in 2018, featured a number of LGBTQ movies in contention for its prestigious Queer Lion Award. Among these were The Favourite, which would go on to win an Oscar for lead actress Olivia Colman, and Suspiria, director Luca Guadagnino's follow up to his gay-themed crowd pleaser Call Me By Your Name.

However, the Queer Lion ended up going to the less-ballyhooed José, the first film from Central America to win the competition. A layered and beautifully heartfelt look at being gay in conservative Guatemala, it will open at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles on February 7th. The movie is also scheduled to open soon in Palm Springs and San Diego.

19-year old José (played by Enrique Salanic) lives with his mother in Guatemala City, where they survive on her selling sandwiches at bus stops and with him working at a local restaurant. In this poor and sometimes dangerous country dominated by Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity, living as an openly gay man is hard for José to imagine. His mother has never married, and as her youngest and favorite son she is determined to hold on to him. Reserved and private, José fills his free moments with random hookups with men arranged on his phone apps and meeting in clandestine sex houses.

When he meets the attractive and gentle Luis (Manolo Herrera), a migrant from the rural Caribbean coast, an unexpected romance blooms resulting in more emotion than José has ever felt. As he is thrust into new passion he is pushed into a period of painful self-reflection. Will his reluctance to take a leap of faith cost him lifelong happiness?

Director Li Cheng, who is originally from China but now a US citizen, and producer George F. Roberson lived in Guatemala for two years in their effort to make José using an all-Guatemalan cast and crew and all non-professional actors. The filmmakers also conducted research in the 20 largest Latin American cities throughout 12 countries, ultimately basing their plot on interviews with hundreds of young people about their hopes and dreams. Cheng and Roberson restricted the José screenplay around answers to three key questions: Which person are you closest to in your life? What is your most unforgettable memory? Have you been in love? The completed film gives viewers hope in the new generation of young people poised to reshape the world in breathtaking ways.

Reverend was recently able to interview lead actor Enrique Salanic. A graduate of the unique, multi-national Pearson United World College (UWC) in Victoria, British Columbia, he is ethnic Mayan and speaks fluent English, Spanish, and Maya Ki’che. Salanic lives with his family in a small rural agricultural village five hours away from Guatemala City. José marks his first lead role in a feature film.

CC: Congratulations on your award-winning movie! How has the experience of making it and promoting it been for you?
ES: It has been a great experience where I have had the chance to get to know a lot of people with great talent. A beautiful adventure as well. I have had the chance to go to festivals such as Venice, Panama and Madrid for the screenings and the hosts have been very welcoming.

CC: Was José your first movie? How did you get cast in it?
ES: No, it was my second. My first was Days of Light, directed by Sergio Ramirez. The photographer of that movie, Alvaro Rodriguez, recommended me to Li Cheng.

CC: Would you say the story is realistic in terms of the struggles young gay men face in Guatemala/Latin America?
ES: Yes. In many ways it represents a reality that many gay men have to live or go through in a conservative society. The story itself is relatable to any human being as we all have struggles and have lived some kind of loss. But the story also shows hope and strength because we, at some point in life, realize that life goes on and have got to keep growing and believe in ourselves.

CC: What was it like working with Manolo Herrera, who plays your character's boyfriend Luis? You are so sexy together.
ES: He is a great actor and he is a team player. As the movie was being filmed, we got to know each other’s potentials and weaknesses, and that made us grow artistically. We knew that it was a chance to show a reality lived by many people in this world. It was a really beautiful process and he has become a great friend of mine.

CC: One of the most romantic scenes in the movie is when you are driving a motorcycle and Luis is sitting behind you, kissing and touching you. Were you an experienced motorcycle driver or did you have to learn for that scene?
ES: Yes, this a beautiful scene. I had the chance to learn how to ride a bike and got my license to play the different motorcycle scenes.

CC: Will you be traveling to Los Angeles or any other US cities for the film's theatrical openings?
ES: No, unfortunately my visa got denied the two times that I tried. But there will be someone from the crew present.

CC: Do you plan to continue to act professionally? Are you working on anything now?
ES: Yes, continuing to act is my plan. There are projects in process where I will be working and keep having the chance to grow in my acting career.

CC: What do you hope viewers will get out of or learn from José?
ES: If there is someone experiencing solitude and loss in their lives, they can know that they are not alone and despite distance strength can be found. Yes, sometimes the world is full of darkness and trickery but beauty can be found if one is willing to look for it.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.