The 2019 Howies


rant and rave second

First a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several

types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF

It is the time again to list the best films of the year and give out my awards for The Howies. Please keep your thank you speeches to a reasonable length or the orchestra will play you off.

 

2019 was an odd year for films. For the first half, even up to September, it was on of the worst years in movies in ages. There seemed little to nothing to like and I despaired of even wanting to create a year end list.

 

Then something happened. We reached what it is now called in the industry the Oscar season or the Awards season, when the movies that are released are the ones the distributors and production companies believe have the best chance of doing well at the various award ceremonies creeping up on us-especially the Oscars.

 

Now that in and of itself is no guarantee of quality in film. The Oscars (and other awards that are outside the many critical societies), are generally not the best movies of the year, but the best in middle-brow entertainment with some edginess sneaking in. I don’t look at the Oscars to find out the great films of the year, but to tell me something about Hollywood and the films that are getting made. I mean, c’mon, Greenbook, the edgiest movie on race relations of 1972, won last year and that should tell you everything you need to know.

 

But somehow this year the best of the year also seems to correspond with the movies that are the strongest contenders for awards. This is a rare event, rarer than all the planets lining up together I would almost venture. Is something in the air or is it just serendipity? I suspect the latter. But happy I am with awards seasons this year.

 

This doesn’t mean I liked every one of these films. You will find a noticeable absence of The Irishman (poor Scorcese and De Niro-Scorcese thought he had his second Oscar guaranteed and De Niro thought he definitely had another nomination to notch onto his belt-but as of this writing-things can change-both look to be sorely disappointed). But generally speaking, this time around the end of year awards’ films are also of generally high quality. Praise the lord and pass the ammunition.

 

I have written this in another blog post, but I will repeat. 2019 may be one of the most important years in the new millennium when it comes to American films. Not only has Netflix revolutionized the making and distributing of movies (even more so than last year with Roma), their slate of films equaled that of many or most studios and independent production companies.

 

But also, the new generation of filmmakers have definitely staked their ground. They have arrived and have had major movies that have been received well critically; made a lot of money; are up for awards; or some combination of the above. From Under the Silver Lake, to the Lighthouse, to Midsommer, to The Last Black Man in San Francisco, to Queen and Slim, to You Were Never Really Here, to Uncut Gems, to the Farewell, to Little Women: they’re here, they’re your peer, get used to it.

 

As a final note, I have missed many films this year for various reasons. Sometimes financial, but more often, as in these last six weeks, due to some sort of cold or flu I simply can’t get rid of. So I have failed to see what I understand are some strong films. Also, since AFI now costs money to attend, I did not see a number of films I would normally have seen there.

 

So now on to my list of the best of the best. Seeing as it’s my awards show, I don’t have to limit myself to a certain set of number of entries in each category. I only do the major top categories, plus a couple of special ones. So on to the 2019 Howies:

 

Best Picture: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

1917

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Pain and Glory

Parasite

Transit

Uncut Gems

 

Best Director: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Todd Philips – Joker

Sam Mendez – 1917

Benny and Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems

Taiki Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

 

Best Actress: Renee Zellweger – Judy

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Awkwafina – The Farewell

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story/Jojo Rabbit

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Charlize Theron – Bombshell

Zhao Tao – Ash is the Purest White

 

Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

The remainder in alphabetical order: (an extraordinary year for male performances)

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory

Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Adam Driver – Marriage Story/The Report

Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is My Name

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

 

Best Supporting Actress: Margot Robbie – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell

Annette Benning – The Report

Da-Vine Joy Randolph – Dolemite is My Name

Shuzhen Zhao – The Farewell

 

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

John Lithgow – Bombshell

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Song Kang-ho – Parasite

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

 

Best Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Pedro Almodovar – Pain and Glory

Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Boon Joon-ho, Jin Won-han – Parasite

Ronald Brownstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Todd Phillips, Scott Silver – Joker

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

 

Best Ensemble: Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Parasite

 

Special Awards:

Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood – Costumes, Production Design

1917 – Cinematography

Little Women – Costumes, Production Design

Jojo Rabbit – Costumes, Production Design

Joker – Production Design

 

Screenwriting and Little Women


rant and rave second

First a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF

If you want to see what a difference a screenwriter and a director can make to a movie, it might behoove you to see all four versions of Little Women, 1933, 1949, 1994 and 2019.

 

The ranking quality of the films are generally thus: the 2019 version is the best, then 1994, closely, closely followed by 1933, with 1949 a distant fourth. And I think there are reasons for this, which lie in the areas of both directing and screenwriting. In the end, what makes the 2019 version the best is that it is the best directed combined with the best screenplay. The 1994 and 1933 versions are almost as well directed, but the screenplays are not nearly as strong. And the 1949 suffers from just not being that good in either category (it’s all right, but that’s about it).

 

One place to see the difference in the direction is to look at the first party scenes at the Laurence’s. In the 1949 version, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, this scene is incredibly limp and boring. It really sags. And it’s a reflection of the movie as a whole. It never really comes alive.

 

However, look at the same scenes in the 1994 version, directed by Gillian Armstrong, and the 1933 version, directed by George Cukor (who always had a knack for this sort of storytelling), and one can instantly see the difference. These scenes are far more alive and exciting.

 

At the same time, we then get to the party scene in Greta Gerwig’s version of 2019 (she both wrote and directed), and this scene soars. In fact, the earlier dance scene after the theater is the place where this version really takes off. But in the party at the Laurence’s, it is so exciting and riveting, it is a signal of the quality that is to come.

 

At the same time, I still maintain that in the end, what ultimately makes Gerwig’s version the best is the superb screenplay (without it, I suggest the film, though still enjoyable and well received, might not be regarded as the best of the top three-probably just as good). It is far richer with more vibrant and more deeply developed characters. Where characters like Aunt May and Mr. Laurence are sorely lacking in early versions, Gerwig has made characters like these pop out and stand on their own by giving them more time and development. She even introduces a new character, the crusty curmudgeon of a publisher that Jo has to battle to become the artist she wants to become, who also has a vibrancy about him.

 

Alas, or it may be inevitable, she is not able to do more with Mr. March than in any earlier version. He has no real character and doesn’t seem to have any real purpose in the story except to show up in time to preside over the marriage of his daughter (he’s a minister). After that, he seems to disappear. And not only that, he is never missed.

 

Gerwig has also taken the feminism of the 1994 version and gone much further with it. It is very modern in its psychology of women’s role in society and what they have to do to become their own persons and achieve each their goals.

 

And she has given it a non-linear structure which, for me, further deepens the emotions of the film (some didn’t like this aspect of the film, but for me it is one of the ingredients that raise it above the other incarnations).

 

The earlier versions have screenplays by Robin Swicord (1994); Andrew Solt, Sarah Y. Mason and Victor Heerman (1949); and Sara Y. Mason and Victor Heerman (1933)-I don’t know if Mason and Heerman actually worked on the 1949 version, or just get credit because much of their original screenplay was used. But of the group, Swicord is the next strongest, followed by Mason and Heerman (1933), and a the one in 1949 (the weakest, possibly because the directing is the weakest).

 

So for me, the real triumph of this new version of the Alcott classic is the superior and remarkable screenplay. And writers should perhaps take note of just how important they can actually be, if allowed, to projects like this.

Podcasts


This is a list of podcasts I have participated in:

Forgotten Films Podcast

The Silent Partner

http://ow.ly/LBFM30o1qcy

The Ritz

http://ow.ly/hwJa30b3BHO

 

Ticklish Business Podcasts

Miracle on 34th Street

http://ow.ly/8TLU30hHqTq

 

LAMBcasts

Little Women

https://www.vulture.com/2018/09/soon-yi-previn-speaks.html

Humphrey Bogart

https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2019-12-03T12_12_58-08_00

The Devils

http://www.largeassmovieblogs.com/2019/09/lambcast-497-the-devils-motm.html

Silverado

http://ow.ly/XWGn30o7XzP

 

2019 Oscar Predictions

http://ow.ly/2GoS30o1qas

The Haunting

http://ow.ly/2qPJ30mje24

A Star is Born

http://ow.ly/OGR930maqpn

Out of the Past

http://ow.ly/1ir030lX6cm

Shawshank Redemption

http://ow.ly/UzWg30ktWnZ

Deadpool 2

http://ow.ly/ILdt30ktW91

Top Movies of 2017

http://ow.ly/f0ue30hHr83

The Dark Tower

http://ow.ly/G4R930eGKyO

Roll Your Own Top 5: South Korean movies. 

http://ow.ly/ppu630eGKD7

What Have You Been Watching Lately: Frenzy

http://ow.ly/yBKm30ddnMG

The Dirty Harry franchise

http://ow.ly/rCkB30b3Che

Bring a Topic

http://ow.ly/pGZY30b3Dyw

The best of 2016

http://ow.ly/pyi730h0bbx

What We’ve Been Watching Lately (I talk about The Big Sleep)

http://ow.ly/H7mz307vtwk

The Western Draft

http://ow.ly/ScmQ30h0b0u

George Romero and the Dead films

http://ow.ly/2oVI30h0b8V

What We’ve Been Watching Lately, Horror Special (I talk about Suspiria)

http://ow.ly/OywC30h0ar0

On the 400th Anniversary Podcast for the LAMB, I discuss Murder on the Orient Express

http://ow.ly/Iuzp30h09w3

The Musical Draft

http://ow.ly/Ae4e30h09TV

The Justice League

http://ow.ly/TcgF30h0aiM

2018 Oscar Predictions

http://ow.ly/f7Bn30iJyda