Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.
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This week Glenn Whipp took a look at the eight Oscar nominees for best picture and made the argument for why each could conceivably win and what their campaigns need to do to get them there. Glenn also broke down the four acting categories.
The WGA awards were given out on Sunday night. Their usual quirks of eligibility found “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” winning adapted screenplay over a not-competing “Nomadland” and may not bring much clarity to the Oscar race — but perhaps the win for “Promising Young Woman” in the original category does. Bet accordingly?
“Nomadland” did win the top prize at the PGA Awards on Wednesday night, becoming only the second film ever directed by a woman to take home the Darryl F. Zanuck award. Also taking home prizes in the movie categories were the animated film “Soul” and the documentary “My Octopus Teacher.”
For “The Envelope” podcast, this week I spoke to Garrett Bradley, director of the documentary “Time.” A moving portrait of family, the film follows subject Fox Rich on her 21-year journey to get her husband freed from a Louisiana prison.
As Bradley said, “What is the intention in wanting to make this film? Every project I make starts off with conversations and asking that question with the people I’m making films with. And Fox and the family said, ‘Our story is the story of 2.3 million other American families, we feel that our story can offer hope.’ So for me as a filmmaker, I felt my responsibility is to try to distill the abstraction of hope and ask myself, ‘What does hope mean and look like for this family?’ ”
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Directed by Ilya Naishuller from a screenplay by “John Wick” writer Derek Kolstad, “Nobody” is about a mild-mannered family man named Hutch (Bob Odenkirk), who after his house is robbed gets back in touch with his roots — as a trained killer. The movie is now in general release in theaters and will be on VOD on April 16.
For The Times, Robert Daniels wrote, “Beyond the pain inflicted by Hutch, Odenkirk’s action-star vehicle lacks any deeper emotion, but Naishuller relishes the opportunity to abandon logical storytelling in lieu of bust ‘em up prowess — and to introduce other cartoonish characters. … In ‘Nobody,’ Bob Odenpunches, Odenkicks and Odenshoots for a pulpy dark comedy waiting to thrill junkie B-movie lovers.”
Reviewing for Vulture, Alison Willmore said, “Naishuller doesn’t bring the elegant coherence that [action directors David] Leitch and [Chad] Stahelski do to their fight sequences or manage the same touch of absurdity to lighten up the brutal excesses. … What he does have is Bob Odenkirk, and watching Odenkirk join the middle-aged action hero fold is pleasurable enough to make ‘Nobody’ worth the while, even if it’s an obvious echo of other, better recent films. What else have you got to watch right now, anyway? Remember movies? Dumb, fun movies?”
In his Vanity Fair review, Richard Lawson wrote, “I may be setting a low bar for action-movie consciousness — but we live in paltry times, when a movie as slick and agreeable as ‘Nobody’ is more appreciated than it might otherwise be. The film is a winning reminder of the pleasures of the midrange movie, one stylish enough to feel distinct but not too caught up in an effort to sell some startling, singular vision. It’s proudly genre and fills its allotted space with humor and detail. As Hutch breaks bad, Nobody is happy enough to just be good.”
For rogerebert.com, Brian Tallerico wrote, “‘Nobody’ works because it values scene construction and action choreography above all else, leaving behind pretension and the overplotting that’s been common in the genre in recent years. It doesn’t break any molds so much as present a really good time within a familiar structure. After a year with too few action movies because of the shelving of the blockbuster, ‘Nobody’ gives viewers an adrenalin rush that almost feels new again.”
Directed by Kitao Sakurai, “Bad Trip” is a vehicle for the absurdist antics of star Eric Andre, combining footage of prank-ish encounters with people in the real world a la “Borat” or “Jackass,” with a story about two friends on a road trip. Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish also star. The film is streaming on Netflix.
For The Times, Sarah-Tai Black wrote, “The film loosely entwines its real-world pranks with an overarching story that knows itself to be a farce, but can’t help but be burdened by its halfhearted tries at sincerity. Andre is not a strong enough actor to pull this particular positioning off but then again, that is anything but the point here. Even within that, the slack nature of ‘Bad Trip’s’ premise is enough to put in higher relief both the successes and failures of the comedy’s gags. … All of this said and done, if it makes you laugh (and I mean really makes you laugh) as it often did me, that can be salve enough.”
Josh Rottenberg spoke to Andre about how his comedy often pushes the envelope of appropriateness and what is currently culturally allowed. And he also doesn’t mind comparisons to the work of Sacha Baron Cohen. As he said, “We showed Sacha an early cut of the movie. He laughed and said, ‘You know, my movies are set up to expose s—y, rich, white oligarchs. And your movie shows the beauty and the humanity of working-class people and people of color.’”
For the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis wrote, “Strictly for devotees of degrading pranks and public humiliation, Kitao Sakurai’s ‘Bad Trip’ — a ‘Jackass’-style road movie belching clouds of poor taste — follows two hapless dreamers from Florida to New York City. … However effortful, the movie’s tricks are more likely to activate your gorge than your funny bone. An end-credits reveal of the hidden cameras to the film’s good-natured dupes has a humorous purity that’s unexpected and appealing — if far too late to mitigate the dreck that has gone before.”
‘Shoplifters of the World’
Written and directed by Stephen Kijak, “Shoplifters of the World” is based on an apocryphal story of a young fan who held a Denver disc jockey hostage to play the music of the Smiths on the air in 1987. “Boyhood” star Ellar Coltrane plays the fan, Dean, “Madeline’s Madeline” star Helena Howard is Cleo, the object of his affection, and “Magic Mike’s” Joe Manganiello is Full Metal Mickey, the heavy metal-loving disc jockey caught in the middle. The movie is in limited release and on digital and VOD.
For The Times, Katie Walsh wrote, “‘Shoplifters of the World,’ in fact, belongs to Cleo, not just because Howard is such a dizzyingly charismatic actress but because her story, which unfolds parallel to Dean’s, is a heartfelt coming-of-age drama that perfectly embodies the youthful angst, ennui and romantic longing expressed so well in the music of the Smiths. She too longs to escape her own humdrum town. … If you love the Smiths, and that magical teenage time when music, and your connection to it, is the most important thing in the world, you’re likely to swoon for ‘Shoplifters of the World.’”
For the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis wrote, “Inspired by a mischievous urban legend, ‘Shoplifters’ is a Smithstopia of song titles, lyric fragments and scraps of band interviews that infest the movie’s dialogue and production design. But even if you can’t tell Morrissey from Macklemore, don’t be put off: This is a tender story of teen ennui that almost anyone can enjoy. Though probably not metalheads.”