All Things Entertaining and Cultural
Only the last quarter seems to count, and little matters at all until you get to the playoffs, i.e. award season.
Hollywood can correct what basketball cannot. It can be fairer to its audience by releasing better, more poignant, and more artistic work throughout the year instead of saving all the most important movies for an end-of-calendar-year window that commences in mid-October.
Ironically, the movie that triggered this year’s “quality” period, “Black Mass,” was forgotten when nominations for awards were announced.
Look at this way. At least we know we can treat most films released in the first three quarters of a year as chaff that might entertain, and entertain bountifully — think of “The Woman in Gold” — and concentrate our moviegoing in December when the theater is taking a break.
The Golden Globes are the first major awards on the annual Hollywood calendar. They are at times pre-cursors to Oscars and, just as often, can honor something the Academy never thought of touching.
Tonight’s Golden Globe Awards give a glimpse into the 2015 movie year and may presage Oscar glory. One thing I stress — These are, no matter what the Golden Globes or that rascal, Google, calls them the 2015 awards. I count award years by the year the movie was released, not when it receives post-season awards. Google and the non-movie-respecting tramps that assembled information, ruined the accuracy of verity of film years. Drat the ignorant runts! May their beard itch unmercifully!
Here is some idle chatter among Globe nominees for 2015. I have seen about 85 percent of the movies and will say when I am working on instinct, or plumb ignorance, in lieu of sure knowledge and complete opinion. Although I can opine about television, I’m sticking to movies in this blitz through the Globes.
Here we go, category by category…
Best Picture — Drama — The nominees are Carol, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room, and Spotlight. (3 of 5 seen) One picture I did not see, “The Revenant,” has a chance to take this award. It has the luster of being directed by a creative camera maneuverer, Alejandro González Iñárritu, who last year won honors for it overrated piece of crap, “Birdman.” It also has the kind of grittiness Hollywood and the foreign press like (and I don’t; I only want to see the movie for Leonardo Di Caprio’s performance). While I grant “The Revenant” a chance — How magnanimous of me! — I think the real contest is between “Carol” and “Spotlight.” While I liked “Carol,” I found it and a surprisingly unnominated movie, “Brooklyn” to suffer from self-conscious slowness that sometimes understated the drama of a situation and of the heroines’ lives. “Carol” is more elegant and engaging than “Brooklyn,” but the movie in this category that kept me the most involved, most concentrated on the story and less on the filmmaking, is “Spotlight.” It is both my preference and prediction for this award, especially since Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” was also unnominated. My preference for “Spotlight” is based on the way it lets you travel with reporters as they discover the pieces that confirm the news story, about the Catholic Church covering up child molestations, specifically in the Boston Diocese, and makes you as eager as they to get the fact that will let them reveal the truth because they can prove it’s truth. “Spotlight” is less an mystery than a constantly unraveling story in which clues and evidence unveil conspiracy, reckless use of power, and shame. Tom McCarthy does a wonderful job of making this search for information compelling, and this long-time journalist was impressed by how true the movie was, in comparison with myriad others, in carefully depicting news procedure. I’ve been a “Mad Max” fan since the booby traps of the late ’70s. “The Fury Road” installment is quite true to form and wildly entertaining. It’s not the stuff of awards. I did not see “Room.”
Best Actor — Drama — The nominees are Bryan Cranston for Trumbo, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs, Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl, and Will Smith for Concussion. (I saw three.) The two performances I missed, DiCaprio’s in “The Revenant” and Fassbender’s in the here-today-gone-today “Steve Jobs,” each has a chance at a Golden Globe. DiCaprio has not been given an Oscar, and this weights on the mind of voters. Worthy opinion after worthy opinions has been kind to Fassbender. Of the three performances I did see, I’d favor Redmayne for his subtlety and his giving his characters, male and female, style while keeping them human and not going overboard to camp or being shy about flaunting the beauty the female persona is famous for having. After “The Theory of Everything” and “The Danish Girl,” I’d like to see Redmayne in a standard part that requires no imitation or even well-executed posturing. That said, he is deserving to repeat his award success from last year (2014!). Bryan Cranston, as usual, is damned good, but you can see the wheels turning behind the performance. Same with Will Smith, who does a Bette Midler-like beg to be noticed and considered for an Oscar in “Concussion.” Missing are Tom Hanks from “Bridge of Spies” and Daniel Craig from “Spectre.” Michael Jordan from “Creed” would also be a worthy nominee.
Best Actress — Drama — The nominees are Cate Blanchett for Carol, Brie Larsen for Room, Rooney Mara for Carol, Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn, and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. (I saw four.) Vikander is an interesting choice for nomination, especially over the snubbed Helen Mirren for “The Woman in Gold,” the person I would say is the Best Actress of 2015. Vikander’s acting has a lot of facets, and she creates a character that evokes sympathy while being strong and showing courage that belies the need for anyone to care about her. The contest is between Blanchett and Ronan, and while I predict Ronan, who I love but I think is incomplete emotionally in “Brooklyn,” my preference would be Blanchett, especially since Mara is mis-nominated in the lead category and would have a greater chance for victory in the Supporting Actress race (or maybe not considering “The Hateful Eight’s” Jennifer Jason Leigh gives the single best performance of any performer in any film all year!). Blanchett is the artist of current screen performers. Todd Haynes’s camera and lighting give her a special glow as Carol, but nothing technical can make up for the magnificent nuance Cate Blanchett can give to any role. She’s a MacLaine with ravishing beauty, who can convey anything idea or emotion is a nanosecond and make it register poignantly. You read as much in Blanchett’s realistic expressions and you do in her well-written lines. She embodies Carol Aird in a way that Saoirse Ronan does not muster in her literal playing in “Brooklyn.” As I prognosticate and opine, I hear Brie Larsen is extraordinary in “Room,” so all of my logic can go for naught when the award envelope is open.
Best Picture — Comedy or Musical — The nominees are The Big Short, Joy, The Martian, Spy, and Trainwreck. (I saw all five,) “Spy?” “Trainwreck?” Don’t make me laugh. (And “Spy” did not make me laugh although “Trainwreck” did.) The comedy category is scraping the bottom if these two can score over “Grandma” or even the latest installment of “A Night at the Museum” or “Inside Out.” The other three movies are wonderfully satisfying achievements. Ridley Scott’s easy wit in “The Martian” was a revelation. Contrived as the plot of the movie is, you have genuine concern for Matt Damon’s abandoned astronaut/botanist and enjoy his battle for survival. I’d gladly sit through “The Martian” before I’d subject myself again to the beautiful but sterile and emotionally inert “Gravity.” So “The Martian” delighted me, but neither it nor “Joy” belong in the same category or class as “The Big Short,” a thrilling ride of a movie that blurs heroes and villains and, with Hollywood overtones and politically correct, if stupid, disdain of capitalism — Laws and Congress are the problems, not the economic system; elect someone who can read a spreadsheet and is not a kneejerk grandstander, or just as jerk, for once. — gives a shrewd tutorial on how markets and hedge fund work and why they must be regulated (wisely, not by the crunks we have and look destined to have in the White House, Congress, and Treasury; they put a plague on all of our houses! ). “The Big Short” is a masterwork. It’s comedy with a purpose that comes through and enlightens. I don’t agree with all of McKay’s attitudes, but I like the entertaining and instructive way he presents his case. “Joy” is entertaining, fun, well-conceived, and well-made, but it is not the achievement in writing or presentation “The Big Short” is. I am going to predict “Joy” gets the Golden Globe. “The Big Short” rates it and deserves to be a major contender in this year’s Oscar race.
Best Actor — Comedy or Musical — The nominees are Christian Bale for The Big Short, Steve Carell for The Big Short, Matt Damon for The Martian, Al Pacino for Danny Collins, and Mark Ruffalo for Infinitely Polar Bear. (I saw four.) Pleae do not discount Pacino, who is wonderful in “Danny Collins” or Ruffalo, who I am told is extraordinary in the unseen “Infinitely Polar Bear,” which has also sparked favorable remarks, especially about Ruffalo’s portrayal of a bi-polar character. (What? You were expecting bears?) Do not discount them, but do not expect them to win. Oddly, Ruffalo would be my choice, even over Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies,” for Best Supporting Actor, but, alas, the Globes failed to nominate him where he could actually contend. Damon may be sentimental favorite. His awards are for writing. He has not been honored significantly for acting, as he is good and consistent at it. No one should cavil if he takes home a Globe, and I predict he will. The better choices come from “The Big Short,” Bale and Carell, and particularly Bale, whose character is downright giddy in his smartness and certainty of success. Bale is so good, you root for him to prevail even though he is betting, wisely and perspicaciously, on the destruction of the American, and world, economy. Of course, it’s Carell’s character who points out the demise of American finance will be the result of his prescience. “The Big Short” is canny in getting you to hope for the success of villains who are really just more perceptive than even the above average bear and have a right to be rewarded for their foresight. Carell has never been better or less self-conscious, but Bale doesn’t look to be acting at all. Isn’t that his special charm? Damon may cop the Globe, but Bale deserves it, and Carell would be a worthy recipient.
Best Actress — Comedy or Musical — The nominees are Jennifer Lawrence for Joy, Melissa McCarthy for Spy, Amy Schumer for Trainwreck, Maggie Smith for The Lady in the Van, and Lily Tomlin for Grandma. (I saw four.) The one I didn’t see is Smith in the movie of Alan Bennett’s play, in which she starred in London. The previews show the brilliance of the performance. The Mag shines as the best deliverer of line and best purveyor of facial expression in screen history. She has an outside chance of winning, as does Tomlin, someone I also love, but Tomlin’s performance has no cohesion. It’s funny, but it comes line by line and gets some heft because Lily depicts a lady on a mission rather than a rounded character. We hear the high points of her bio rather than knowing her in depth. McCarthy is a natural low comedian, and she entertains in “Spy” but not in a way that garners awards. Schumer is funny. Her mind shapes ideas into hilarious vignettes. But they stay idea. Neither Schumer nor “Trainwreck” sustain anything. They go from good bit to good bit in rapid-fire, scattershot fashion. Something’s on Amy’s mind, it’s in her script. None of that is good enough. Barring a favorite daughter run by Tomlin, the only one in the field worth honoring is the always-impressive Jennifer Lawrence. She alone creates a full, viable character. She also faces real dilemmas and has to respond to them humanly. Adore The Mag or Lily as you will — They certainly deserve our adulation. — but the only honest choice for this Globe is Lawrence.
Best Supporting Actor — The nominees are Paul Dano for Love and Mercy, Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies, Michael Shannon for 99 Homes, and Sylvester Stallone for Creed. (I saw all five.) What a marvelous group, even if I’d be more impressed if Dano, excellent as the young Brian Wilson in “Love and Mercy,” had been nominated for his even more marvelous portrayal in “Youth,” and I’m disappointed this year’s actual Best Supporting Actor, Mark Ruffalo, is not cited for “Spotlight!” No one could cavil with any of these actors taking home a Golden Globe. They are each superb (if surpassed by Ruffalo in my opinion). Rylance is the best single English-speaking actor of our day. He is always showing humanity in ways we don’t expect to see it, and he makes Rudolf Abel, a bona fide enemy to the United States and one we should gladly see put to death by execution or rotting in a cage, into a gentle, loveable Teddy bear of an artist who happens to be a dangerous spy. Rylance’s “Would it help?” may be a lasting buzzphrase. He says it potently and well. This Mark is the front-runner for the Globe and the Oscar. But I would clap, cheer, stamp feet, and whistle out loud if Sylvester Stallone’s name in announced. What a deep, loving, humanly informed performance he gives in “Creed.” its visceral truth shows the artificiality, however gifted exercised, of Rylance’s Abel, itself a great achievement. And what about the remarkable Mr. Elba in the movie among all of these that tugs most at our conscience and acquaints us with horrors American blessedly do not face. All hail Netflix for conquering commercial film with the thoroughness it commandeered series television. Netflix is becoming a formidable producer, “Making a Murderer” and “Beasts of No Nation” adding to its luster and reputation of backing quality work, “Beasts” far superseding “Murderer” in importance). Michael Shannon is one of the more unsung gifted actors. He is splendid in “99 Homes,” and while he may not win an award, it’s good to see him nominated. Dano is another who has been denied nominations for a career of excellent work. “Love and Mercy,” while overdone, deserved more of a look post-season. (Ah, it didn’t open after October; my opening thesis reinforced!) He may not win, but he rates a seat in the nominee’s chair. Even if I fear he is the one occupying Ruffalo’s.
Best Supporting Actress — The nominees are Jane Fonda for Youth, Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight, Helen Mirren for Trumbo, Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina, and Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs. (I saw three of these.) I hear marvelous things about Vikander in “Ex Machina” and kick myself that I didn’t rush to see it. (A regular movie buddy saw it alone because no one would go with her, and I was busy with theater and trying to increase my income.) Vikander certainly had a busy and fruitful year. She could have four or five nominations, and they would be justified. That means she is a contender, but I’ve tipped my hand and said the best single performance I’ve seen by any performer in a movie for 2015 is Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight.” Leigh is my prediction and my preference. With what humor anfd grit does she play a vicious criminal who laughs at being punched in the face and losing a tooth or two in the bargain! Leigh is Quentin Tarantino’s embodiment of Brecht and Weill’s ‘Pirate Jenny.” She is ready to chop off heads once rescued from the bondage of a bounty hunter’s care and restored to her place as a queen of organized crime, circa 1874 in the West. There’s combined joy and pathos in Leigh’s portrayal and grand fun on the scale of an Olivier, Grant, or Gielgud. This is a performance to savor among other big hilarious turns by Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, and others. Mirren is always a worthy contender, but her Hedda Hopper, as insidiously as she is cast and as shrewdly as Mirren portrays her, is not the class of Lee’s work. Jane Fonda has a splashy turn in “Youth,” but it smacks of being self-conscious except for the last 20 seconds of, and is not as worthy of a Globe nod as Rachel Weisz’s more expansive performance in the same movie. I did not see Winslet, who should never be discounted. She is one of the better chameleons of the last film decades. Leigh is the best, and I think the Globe voters will agree.