Notre Dame is a majestic, meaningful, historic building, and I send it and the people of Paris nothing but my best wishes. I’ve been lucky enough to visit it several times, but given that this is a pop-culture blog, I thought it best to share my favorite scene in a movie concerning Notre Dame’s beauty.
Some people love the Super Bowl for the commercials (though in recent years they have not been nearly as good as the ones of old). Some love it for the drama of a championship game. But my favorite part of the Super Bowl, at least the last few years, have been the SNL Totino’s trilogy of commercials. Sadly, since Vanessa Bayer left as a cast member the show no longer makes these pre-tapes. But a Totino’s clip in January was the highlight of my SNL viewing season. Check them out below:
As always, I make my predictions as soon as the nominations are out. These are the individuals and films that will win Oscars in 2019 – no need to watch the host-less show now!
A Star Is Born
Should Win: BlackKKKlansman, both the best of the bunch and also the movie that affected me the most even months after seeing it. I also really enjoyed The Favourite and A Star is Born, and while I like Black Panther, to me it’s great just for a Marvel movie to be nominated.
Will Win: Welp. A few weeks ago, I’d have said A Star is Born is a lock. Then Bradley Cooper (or as my friend Rachel Weiner dubbed him years ago, Cooper Bradley) didn’t even get nominated for Best Director, a bad sign. Green Book (likely your parents’ favorite movie) and Roma seem like the best bets here, with the crowd-pleasing Bohemian Rhapsody a dark horse. I’ll say Roma.
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay, Vice
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Should Win: Spike Lee. His first nomination, and his is the best movie of this group. The surprise here is Pawlikowski, essentially taking the slot I thought would go to Cooper. And Lanthimos’s film was his most audience-accessible and yet still retained his trademark quirkiness.
Will Win: Cuaron, and I think this is the prediction about which I feel best.
Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale, Vice
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Should Win: I’m surprised that Ethan Hawke and Lucas Hedges are out and Mortensen and Dafoe are in, but Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine is the only character on this list I’ll remember years from now.
Will Win: This has felt like a Bale/Malek showdown since the Golden Globes, and with Bale having already earned a trophy, I think the Academy will recognize Malek.
Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close, The Wife
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Should Win: Olivia Colman was great, but A Star is Born does not work without Gaga’s performane as Aly. Aparicio is the heart of Roma, and the same is true of McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me.
Will Win: This has also felt predestined since the Globes to go between Close and Colman. I think Close will win, as her Globes speech put her back on a lot of voters’ radars.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Should Win: Driver was great, though I thought Topher Grace was the more memorable performance in that film. Rockwell did an admirable Dubya in Vice, but he and Ali are the two most recent recipients of this award. I think the Academy will want to spread the love.
Will Win: This seems to come down to a career recognition of Sam Elliott versus an outstanding performance by Richard E. Grant. Supporting Actor is usually a category with big upsets, so I’ll take Grant.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Amy Adams, Vice
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Should Win: Stone and Weisz are the foundation at the heart of The Favourite, and their performances should win them a co-trophy. I’m very surprised to see de Tavira on the list, though she was quite good.
Will Win: Does the Academy recognize Amy Adams, frequently-nominated but still searching for her first trophy? Or will it go with Regina King, who I’ve enjoyed ever since she was Marcy Tidwell in Jerry Maguire? Adams is long overdue, but this would feel like a make-good award, and she’s had several better performances. I think the award goes to King.
Should Win: First Reformed was scintillating, and Paul Schraeder is a phenomenal writer. The Favourite had a great story about palace intrigue. Vice, for me, had a lot of story faults – the story of Scooter Libby leaking Valerie Plame’s name is all but dropped after an off-hand mention. And – sorry Mom and Dad – Green Book is 1) Driving Mr. Daisy, and 2) Going to get dinged because its author had some seriously bad tweets in 2015. Therefore…
Will Win: Roma.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born
Should Win: If Beale Street Could Talk had some memorable scenes, and Buster Scruggs works as an anthology (though I thought it had thematic and tonal issues). Can You Ever Forgive Me is an ironic choice considering its subject is a woman who fakes letters. And while A Star is Born is a really solid movie, the story fades badly in the second half. Ergo…
Will Win: BlackKKlansman.
Animated Feature Film
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse
Should Win: Spiderverse. Period. It’s one of the best animated films of all time.
Will Win: Ditto.
Never Look Away
A Star Is Born
Should Win: Things get interesting here. A Star is Born has some beautiful concert shots, but its cinematography is most memorable when Jackson and Aly are riding through the desert. Cold War is nominated for Best Director as well and has a Polish director, Never Look Away is a German film, and the Favourite deals with the England of centuries ago, and all three are fine choices, but it’s a different foreign film that will win this category.
Will Win: Roma.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
Should Win: This is one of the best years for Documentary I can remember. Free Solo has gotten raves, and in another year might be the front-runner.
Will Win: RBG.
Documentary Short Subject
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.
Should Win: Having seen none, I’ll just say that they all have very nice titles.
Will Win: Lifeboat.
Foreign Language Film
Never Look Away
Should Win: A strong year for foreign film! Cold War snagged a Best Director nom, and Never Look Away received one for cinematography. Shoplifters may have been my dad’s favorite movie of 2018. All that said…
Will Win: Roma.
Makeup and Hairstyling
Mary Queen of Scots
Should Win: Vice. Christian Bale essentially became Dick Cheney.
Will Win: Same.
Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots
Should Win: Black Panther. The world-building that movie did included clothing for all of the various tribes of Wakanda.
Will Win: The Favourite.
Should Win: Best Editing is usually tied to best picture. Interestingly, Roma is not nominated here, which may portend more trouble for the film than I originally saw. Regardless, BlackKklansman had some brilliant editing, including the scene with the bomb towards the end, when the action toggled back and forth between several characters.
Will Win: As much as I’m hopeful that Spike Lee’s film will get some Oscar love, I think this will go to Green Book, and will begin the slow realization of my Oscar night that it’s going to win a lot of awards.
If Baele Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns
Should Win: BlackKklansman, because it really did have great music that added an extra element of intensity.
Will Win: Mary Poppins Returns, because it’s a musical.
Animated Short Film
One Small Step
Should Win: One Small Step, because it’s amazing:
Will Win: Bao, because it played before the Incredibles 2 and so most voters will have seen it.
Live Action Short Film
Should and Will Win: Detainment (having seen none of them, that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it).
A Quiet Place
Should Win: First Man. The job they did with various noises (rockets taking off, etc.) were great, but also the moment of silence when (50-year spoiler alert) Neil Armstrong walks on the moon was one of the best “sound” moments of the year.
Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
A Star Is Born
Should Win: First Man, for the same reasons as above.
Will Win: A Star Is Born
Avengers: Infinity War
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Should Win: I’m never going to go against Star Wars, although Infinity War and Ready Player One had really great special effects.
Will Win: First Man, the only “awards-y” film of the bunch.
“All the Stars” from Black Panther
“I’ll Fight” from RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow” from A Star Is Born
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Should and Will Win: Shallow. I mean, it’s a song that is legitimately great, that’s currently on pop radio rotation.
Mary Poppins Returns
Should and Will Win: Black Panther. Again, Ryan Coogler and company had to completely world-build Wakanda, and they made it feel like a real place.
Now that we’re well into 2019, I wanted to do a quick post discussing the movies and TV shows about which I am most excited this year (h/t Chris Daly for encouraging me to write this).
Star Wars Episode IX:
Still no title and no teaser, but no matter – it’s a new Star Wars movie.
A new Star Wars show (The Mandalorian), new Marvel shows (centered on Loki, Scarlet Witch, and Lady Sif), every old Disney movie, and more. This is going to be Disney’s version of Netflix, and if you’re anything like me you are already feeling like this:
Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home all look fantastic. You have the first female-led Marvel movie, the movie that will resolve the cliffhanger from last year’s terrific Infinity War, and then a new Spider-Man movie riding a wave of recent Spidey successes (Venom, Into the Spider-Verse, etc.).
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Because the first Lego Movie is as close to perfection for me as any movie in recent memory, from the debate of following the instructions vs. free building to the joy of seeing so many old parts and sets. Can’t wait for the follow up.
Dumbo, The Lion King, and Aladdin were easily some of my favorite Disney films growing up, so to get all three again on the big screen in the style of Maleficient, Cinderella, the Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast will be a treat. Curious to see how Will Smith’s genie compares to Robin Williams’s. The voice cast for The Lion King (Donald Glover, Beyonce, John Oliver, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, and a returning James Earl Jones as Mufasa) is pride-worthy (see what I did there?).
Other Disney Releases:
Wow, is Disney going to own the year or what? Both Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 are sequels to well-received animated films that I’ll definitely see in theaters.
The Beach Bum:
Directed by Harmony Korine, who also did Kids and Spring Breakers, this Matthew McConaughey-starring vehicle looks insane, in the best way possible. Can’t. Wait.
Others I have some interest in include the reboot of Men in Black, Detective Pikachu (it has a cute trailer), Hobbs and Shaw (because #FastAndFurious movies usually deliver), Shazam, Ad Astra, Sonic the Hedgehog, Little Women, and The Goldfinch.
While of course I’m excited about the return of some shows (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Big Little Lies, Superstore, The Good Place, etc.), I want to highlight things that are other premiering or ending in 2019.
The Watchmen (HBO – from the creator of LOST and The Leftovers, and with characters from Alan Moore’s original groundbreaking graphic novel), I am the Night (TNT – miniseries with Chris Pine and directed by Patty Jenkins), Russian Doll (TNT – miniseries with Natasha Lyonne about someone who has to live the same day over and over again), and Miracle Workers (TBS – Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi who play an angel and God, respectively).
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix), Veep (HBO), The Big Bang Theory (CBS), and of course Mr. Robot (USA) all conclude this year.
Here’s hoping 2019 has more hits than misses, and is an even better entertainment year than 2018. It already has brought us one of my favorite all-time GIFs:
What is everyone else excited about? Let me know in the comments!
Oscar nominations are scheduled to be revealed in about 10 days. But why wait for what they will inevitably get incorrect? This quick post is only about what I would nominate in the major categories (picture, director, and the acting races). I’ll make my actual choices the day the nominations are announced (including who I think should win as well as who will), but for now, let this serve as the ballot as I would construct it based on the past year in movies. Note that I haven’t seen *everything* so if you think there is some obvious thing missing (say, Glenn Close for The Wife or Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me), it’s just that I haven’t seen the performances yet. Feel free to let me know of key omissions in the comments (and yes, Mom and Dad, nothing for Green Book).Continue reading
Time once again for what I think were the best movies and TV shows of the year. Overall, I think it was a pretty good year, with some memorable moments that’ll provide lasting entertainment memories.
- Best: Marvel Movies
- Ant-Man and the Wasp was probably the kid-friendliest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also had a winning combination in Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly. Black Panther was a box-office behemoth and is likely a contender for a Best Picture Oscar. And Infinity War was the culmination of 10 years’ worth of Marvel movies, and seamlessly blended dozens of characters into one enjoyable film.
- Best: Other Comic Book Movies
- Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse may be one of the best comic book movies ever, full stop. Deadpool 2 was a solid sequel. (And I’m purposefully avoiding even mentioning or seeing Aquaman!)
- Worst: The fall network TV season
- The “good” new shows were, what? Manifest? New Amsterdam? A Million Little Pieces? Sure, some lived on my DVR for a while, but nothing that really was a must-watch every week.
- Best: Sequels that were actually Good
- Creed II, the aforementioned Deadpool 2, Incredibles 2, Paddington 2, Mission: Impossible 6, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Super Troopers 2 all were the kind of sequel for which we all hope: builds on the prior film’s premise, deepens the characters, and provides just as much bang for the buck.
- Worst: Other Sequels
- The best thing I can say about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is that I barely remember seeing it. Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald was enjoyable in the theater, and then the more I reflect on it, the more I realize it didn’t have things that make for a good movie like, say, a coherent plot and story.
- Just OK: Spinoffs and Soft Reboots
- Ocean’s 8 and Solo were entertaining in the theater, but other than being obvious cash grabs for the studio, I’m not sure either really “needed” to be made. Were audiences clamoring to learn how Han got his last name?
- Really Great: One Reboot
- Bumblebee was the best Transformers movie. If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, let me just say that it’s beyond that – it’s one of the actual best movies of the year, full stop.
- Best: Actors turned Directors
- A Quiet Place (John Krasinski), Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton), A Happening of Monumental Proportions (Judy Greer), and, of course A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper) were all winning entries made by people mostly known for being in front of the camera.
- Worst: Most Literary Adaptations
- A Wrinkle in Time. Ready Player One. Annihilation. Yikes.
- Best: One Literary Adaption
- Juliet, Naked was like seeing the book I’d read and loved translated perfectly the big screen, especially with strong performances from Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, and Chris O’Dowd.
- Best, if not totally Intentional: Michael B. Jordan Playing Kind of the Same Part?
- Son of a respected boxer has to avenge his father’s murder against the son of the man who killed him (Creed), and son of a respected prince has to avenge his father’s murder against the son of the man who killed him (Black Panther).
- Just OK: Movies taking a Big Swing
- A Simple Favor, Blockers, and Searching all tried things (noir comedy, making John Cena into a mainstream comedian, using computers as the storytelling engine), but the results were mixed. And the less said about Welcome to Marwen, the better.
- Best: Movies that Shine an Unfortunate Light on our Present Circumstances
- Black KKKlansman is Spike Lee’s best movie in years, and while it’s depressing to see how little has changed in terms of racism and racial inequality in the intervening years since the movies events took place, the story (and execution of it) are fantastic. Boy Erased may have been my favorite movie of the year, and put a spotlight on the insane reality that is conversion therapy. On the Basis of Sex shows in some ways how far we have come in equal treatment of the sexes, and yet in a year of #MeToo and #TimesUp, how much progress we still need to make.
- Best: The Trailer to A Star is Born
- Best trailer of the last, what, year? Five years? So memeable. Just amazing.
- Pretty Good: The actual movie A Star is Born
- Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.
- Best: The unintentional humor of Rachel Weisz spitting in Rachel McAdams’s Mouth
- Best: Netflix
- Like Father (Kristen Bell, never not amazing), the final season of Love, the second season of GLOW, the first half of the final season of Kimmy Schmidt, and the Joel McHale Show bringing back the spirit of The Soup all made for a great year for the streamer. Plus, Roma may end up winning Best Picture (deservedly so). Even their misses (seriously, what was Maniac?) were well-pedigreed efforts.
- Best: Performances in Movies that were Just So-So
- Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk, Julia Roberts in Ben is Back, Christian Bale in Vice, and Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody showed that you can stand out from a mediocre film.
- Just OK: Space
- First Man, featuring a restrained performance by Ryan Gosling, was solid, but also left me feeling cold. It’s a movie I’m glad I saw once, but frankly left me disappointed. Sean Penn’s Hulu show The First, about a manned mission to Mars, focused on some odd aspects (how do you not make the primary focus, you know, the mission to Mars?)
- Best: Limited Edition TV series
- Escape from Dannemora is a late contender for best show of the year (seriously, Patricia Arquette is giving a master class), and Sharp Objects should get Amy Adams every Emmy next year. While neither had the cultural cachet of Big Little Lies, they were both excellent entries into the limited series canon.
- Best: Shows that Ended in the True to the Spirit of the Show
- 12 Monkeys (a show I love and am not sure anyone else on the planet watched) paid off years of dangling plot threads and honored all of their characters’ journeys. New Girl had a tight eight-episode final season that at times reached the show’s early peak. Even The Last Man on Earth (gone too soon – Fox, why didn’t you renew it for one more season?) had a crazy cliffhanger finale that, though it will never be paid off, gave each character a moment to shine.
- Worst: Every Time my Mom Brings up the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
- Best: Movies About Musicians
- Besides A Star is Born, both Vox Lux and Bohemian Rhapsody (while weird and slightly paint-by-numbers, respectively) all depicted about as well as I can imagine the rock star life.
- Best: Lucas Hedges
- While I didn’t like Ben is Back all that much, he gave a knockout performance, second only to the work he did in Boy Erased.
- Worst: This Oscar Season
- I liked some movies a lot (Roma, Boy Erased, On the Basis of Sex) but there some real misses: Welcome to Marwen, Vice, First Man, and Widows spring to mind immediately. Whatever takes home Best Picture this year will not be an all-time great movie. Although sadly, that’s been the case lately (bonus points to those of you, like me, who immediately remembered Shape of Water won last year).
- Best: Spider-Man
- Into the Spider-Verse was great, and so was the Spider-Man playstation 4 game. Good job, Spidey!
- Just OK: Natalie Portman’s year
- I liked her SNL hosting gig, and I liked her performance in Vox Lux, but some of her career choices are strange.
- Best: Inktober
- My friend Chris participated in a thematic drawing contest in which one drew a cartoon every day in October (Inktober). The adventures of Orwick were really fun to read!
- Best: HBO
- Barry was the best new show on TV for me by a mile, Silicon Valley continues to churn out reliable laughs, Westworld is crazy and theory-inducing in all the right ways (“What is real? That which can not be recreated”), and John Oliver is my generation’s Cronkite. Bonus points for not airing a single episode of Girls or Game of Thrones this year, HBO!
- Best: SNL
- Because they managed to find the humor in the Super Bowl, T’Challa playing Black Jeopardy, and, you know, the entire ludicrous state of our current state of political affairs. Plus, they gave me a crazy theory to spin.
- Mostly Best: The Theater
- More than in years past, I got to see a lot things on Broadway in 2018, most of which were terrific: To Kill a Mockingbird (fantastic), Angels in America (epic), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (magical), and even Lobby Hero (maudlin and sanguine at once). Of course, there were some other shows that were better left unseen: Mean Girls (would have been better off just rewatching the movie), Straight White Men (evidently Armie Hammer and Josh Charles together does not equal magic with a script that weird), and Children of a Lesser God (Joshua Jackson a.k.a. Pacey did some marvelous work, including learning ASL for the part, but the show fell totally flat).
- Best, in that it Keeps Chugging Along: The Challenge
- I didn’t love Vendettas or Final Reckoning as much as seasons past, and people like CT and even Bananas were pushed aside in favor of newbies like the Lavender Ladies (ugh) Ashley, Amanda, Sylvia, and Shane, as well as TYB Nelson, Corey, and Hunter. But this show is comfort food every Tuesday.
- Best: Reliable NBC Comedies
- The Good Place is the smartest comedy on television and, for the – fourth? – year in a row, Superstore is the best. That show has the greatest ensemble cast in comedy right now.
- Best: Glenn Weiss proposing after he won an Emmy
- People probably have forgotten this already, but it made for an awesome moment in an otherwise dull show.
- Best: Late Night Political Humor
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver continues to churn out excellent journalism masked in comedy, Seth Meyers’s A Closer Look is like someone distilled Jon Stewart-era Daily Shows into eight-minute chunks, Samantha Bee continues to spew righteous indignation all over TBS, and even Stephen Colbert has come into his own on CBS as someone who cannot believe what the world has turned into. Also, points to Michelle Wolf: Her White House Correspondents Dinner material was fantastic, and even if it wasn’t well received by thin-skinned hypocrites, it was funny and memorable.
- Above All Best: You
- For actually reading a blog that, while infrequently updated, means a lot to its author. See you in 2019!
I still watch SNL every week, and while some episodes are more miss than hit, there is usually enough good material to make it worth my while. Over the last few years, some of my favorite sketches have been the Woodbridge High School theater productions, as seen here:
I love it – the kids are so self-indulgent, and think that their show is a seed that will sprout into a plant that will change the world.
A few weeks ago, SNL aired this genius commercial for a political musical:
(“”Jesus Christ.” – The NY Times” gets me every time.) It’s clear the show was “definitely written by the actors,” and, this is where my specific theory comes in: the actors in the musical are the alumni of Woodbridge High. You’ll note that a lot of the same cast is used. Moreover, their complete lack of self-awareness over how bad their high school productions went would totally translate into unearned confidence on the Broadway stage.
So, for the few of you who both read this blog and are devoted SNL fans like me, what do you think?