With the Christmas release of her well-reviewed crime drama “Destroyer” right around the corner, director Karyn Kusama spent some time with Buzzfeed looking back at one of her most misunderstood releases: “Jennifer’s Body.” The horror film, written by “Juno” Oscar winner Diablo Cody and starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, was a critical and box office misfire when it opened in September 2009. Nine years later, Kusama and Body told Buzzfeed part of the issue with the release was the divide between their intentions with the film and 20th Century Fox’s marketing campaign.
“I wrote it for girls,” Cody said. “If a guy wrote a movie with the line ‘hell is a teenage girl,’ I would reject that. But I’m allowed to say it because I was one. I think the fact that we were a female creative team gave us permission to make observations about some of the more toxic aspects of female friendship.”
Cody and Kusama made “Jennifer’s Body” to appeal to young women the same age as the main characters played by Fox and Seyfried, but they noticed while they were in postproduction that Fox was only interested in marketing the film by capitalizing on Fox’s sex appeal. Fox was coming off the blockbuster success of Michael Bay’s “Transformers,” and Kusama told Buzzfeed she was horrified to watch “Jennifer’s Body” be marketed based on Fox’s emerging sex symbol status.
“I kept sort of reminding everybody, ‘Guys, we can’t market this movie to boys,’” Kusama said, “and then have them go to the theater expecting one thing and then seeing Megan Fox not really take off her clothes but rip a guy’s intestines out and eat them.”
Kusama revealed to Buzzfeed one especially disturbing marketing idea for the movie was to have Fox host an amateur porn site to promote the film. The studio released a poster for the movie with a scantily clad Fox and the tagline, “She’s got a taste for bad boys,” which promoted Kusama and Cody to tap Fox and ask for the reasoning behind the decision to market the film this way.
“The email wasn’t even grammatically correct,” Cody said about the studio’s reply. “The response said, ‘Jennifer sexy, she steal your boyfriend.’ As if a caveman had written it. So that’s what we were dealing with.”
Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody
“In those conversations, I was like, ‘Oh, OK, we are seeing either we made a movie that they see completely differently, or what’s in front of them is something they don’t want to see,'” Kusama said. “And at the time it was awful, but now I’m realizing this is evident of the world at large.”
Cody added, “Because of the way the film was marketed, people wanted to see the movie as a cheap, trashy, exploitative vehicle for the hot girl from ‘Transformers.’ That’s how people insisted on seeing the film, even though I think when you watch it, it’s pretty obvious that there’s something else going on.”
“Jennifer’s Body” ended up being marketed solely to attract a young straight male audience. For Cody, the marketing stacked the odds against the film from the beginning by excluding the demographic the filmmaking team made the movie for from the start.
“You’re disappointing your audience. That’s an issue,” Cody said. “And also you’re turning off girls, who might have enjoyed the film. It’s almost like they had a marketing plan in place before seeing the movie and then just stuck with that.”
Nine years later, Kusama returns to theaters with “Destroyer,” starring Nicole Kidman. Annapurna opens the movie in theaters December 25. Head over to Buzzfeed to read the entire Kusama and Cody profile.
Studio fare in 2019 might be dominated by Disney blockbusters like “The Lion King,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and “Star Wars: Episode IX,” but don’t underestimate the appeal of cinema’s most beloved monster. Godzilla is returning to the big screen in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” directed by Michael Dougherty. The movie is the sequel to Gareth Edwards’ acclaimed 2014 “Godzilla,” which grossed over $520 million worldwide.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” follows the efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters. The film finds Godzilla facing off against such iconic beasts as Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.
The blockbuster hopeful features a star-studded cast, including Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ken Watanabe, and Zhang Ziyi. While the plot is bound to have a twist or two, one thing moviegoers know for sure is that Millie Bobby Brown’s character will survive the destruction, as she’s set to return in the franchise’s next installment, the 2020 mashup “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is a major step for director Michael Dougherty. The filmmaker is best known for his horror efforts “Trick ‘r Treat” and “Krampus,” although he has blockbuster experience having served as writer on superhero films “X2: X-Men United,” “Superman Returns,” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Dougherty contributed to the “Godzilla” script along with Zach Shields and Max Borenstein.
Warner Bros. will release “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in theaters nationwide May 31, 2019, where it will open against the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” and face the second weekends of “Aladdin” and “Ad Astra.” Watch the second official trailer below.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters - Official Trailer 2 - In Theaters May 31 - YouTube
Jordan Peele’s “Us” has remained a mystery since Universal Pictures first announced the project in May, but the film is coming a bit more into focus with the reveal of its plot synopsis. “Us” is one of the most highly anticipated films of 2019 as it represents Peele’s first directorial effort since the critical and commercial success of “Get Out,” which earned four Academy Award nominations and won Peele the Best Original Screenplay prize.
The “Us” plot synopsis has been exclusively revealed by /Film, which also notes the movie is starting to test screen. The storyline reads: “A mother (Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o from ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi,’ and ’12 Years a Slave’) and a father (Winston Duke from ‘Black Panther’) take their kids to their beach house expecting to unplug and unwind with friends (including Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss from TV series ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’). But as night descends, their serenity turns to tension and chaos when some shocking visitors arrive uninvited.”
The basic plot synopsis sounds like Peele is cooking up a riff on the home invasion horror subgenre, which includes titles like “The Strangers.” Peele has been vocal about following-up “Get Out” with more films he refers to as “social thrillers,” so it’s safe to assume the script factors issues of race and class into the well-worn home invasion genre. At the very least, the chance to see “Black Panther” co-stars Nyong’o and Duke as a couple thrown into hell sounds enticing.
“I think this movie’s gonna be really good,” Moss told IndieWire in a recent interview. “ It’s just gonna be really good, and that’s it…It’s true to what Jordan wants to make, which are these thought-provoking popcorn movies.”
Speaking to GQ earlier this year, Duke teased the project by saying, “Jordan [Peele] is a beautiful mind, and an incredible talent, and an incredible director. It was beautiful. I think it’ll be a wonderful conversation piece for 2019. It’s definitely a Jordan Peele-brand movie. It’s a thoughtful, psychological, impactful experience. Peeleian–that’s gonna become a word in the film lexicon very soon. You’re gonna say, ‘Aw, man, this feels very Jordan Peeleian.'”
Universal Pictures will release “Us” in theaters nationwide March 15, 2019.
It was a good weekend for “Roma” and “The Favourite.” After notching wins at Sunday’s LAFCA vote, both films are kicking off the week with a number of Critics’ Choice nods.
This year, Fox Searchlight’s “The Favourite” racked up 14 nominations including Best Picture, Olivia Colman (who just picked up a LAFCA win for Best Actress this weekend) for Best Actress and Best Actress in a Comedy, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz both for Best Supporting Actress, Best Acting Ensemble, Yorgos Lanthimos for Best Director and Best Editing, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara for Best Original Screenplay, Robbie Ryan for Best Cinematography, Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton for Best Production Design, Sandy Powell for Best Costume Design, Best Hair and Makeup, and Best Comedy.
The annual Critics’ Choice Awards are voted on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA). Because it’s the largest film critics organization in North America (300 television, radio, and online critics), the Critics’ Choice Awards are the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations. The film and TV winners will be revealed at the Critics’ Choice Awards gala broadcast live on The CW Network on Sunday, January 13, 2019 from 7:00 – 10:00PM ET (delayed PT).
Marvel/Disney’s “Black Panther” notched 12 nominations, followed by Universal’s “First Man” with ten, and Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” Warner Bros.’ “A Star Is Born,” and Annapurna’s “Vice” with nine nominations each. Netflix’s “Roma” earned eight nominations, while Universal’s “Green Book” has seven.
Given the Critics Choice comedy and action categories — as well as two extra slots for each category — several nominees are up for multiple awards, led by “Roma” filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón (Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing). Bradley Cooper is nominated for Best Actor, Director, and Adapted Screenplay for “A Star Is Born” — in the latter two categories, Cooper competes against Spike Lee for “BlacKkKlansman.” Despite being overlooked by recent critics’ groups, “First Man” looks like a real contender.
“Vice” cinematographer Greig Fraser and Christian Bale
Comedy “Vice” earned Adam McKay nominations for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, while “Vice” star Christian Bale is up for two acting awards, along with Emily Blunt for “Mary Poppins Returns,” Olivia Colman for “The Favourite,” and newcomer Elsie Fisher for “Eighth Grade.” Costume designer Sandy Powell scored dual nods for “The Favourite” and “Mary Poppins Returns.” And Amy Adams landed nominations in both film and television for her roles in “Vice” and “Sharp Objects,” respectively.
“Roma” is currently flying high with Best Picture wins from both NYFCC and LAFCA. Statistically speaking, the last movie to win Best Picture without any wins from NYFCC or LAFCA was the divisive “Crash.” This keeps both “Roma” and “The Favourite” ahead of films like “A Star Is Born,” and “Green Book,” neither of which notched any wins from those critical bodies.
With SAG nominations voting closing at 5PM on December 10, the Critics Choice nominations won’t have much impact on the SAG Awards, but could push the titles that keep landing nods across multiple critics groups to the top of screener piles. And the January 13 Critics Choice Awards show falls the day before Oscar ballots are due.
20th Century Fox
Notable omissions in Best Director: Barry Jenkins of “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Ryan Coogler of “Black Panther,” who are both vying in the Adapted Screenplay category. No women filmmakers made the cut. Los Angeles Film Critics Association winner Debra Granik’s “Leave No Trace” earned just one mention: Best Young Actress Thomas McKenzie.
Steve McQueen’s “Widows” landed in the Best Acting Ensemble, Editing, and Best Action category, but was shut out of Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Actress. “The Hate U Give” is not landing in main categories, nor is “Destroyer,” “Wildlife,” or “Vox Lux.” Lucas Hedges didn’t make it for either “Ben is Back” or “Boy Erased”; Nicole Kidman is the sole (supporting) nomination for the latter.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” landed three nods, for Best Actor, Costumes, and Hair & Makeup –that category brought nods for “Suspiria” and “Mary Queen of Scots,” which also scored a Costumes nod. And it looks like Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” is strictly a Visual Effects contender. And if Hugh Grant didn’t land a “Paddington 2” nod, he showed up on the TV side for “A Very English Scandal.”
HBO and Netflix lead the networks with 20 nominations each, followed by FX with 17, Amazon with 12, and NBC with 11. Topping the list of nominated series are “The Americans” (FX), “The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (FX), and “Escape at Dannemora” (Showtime) with five each. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon) and “Sharp Objects” (HBO) follow close behind with four nominations.
“A Very English Scandal” (Amazon), “Atlanta” (FX), “Barry” (HBO), “Better Call Saul” (AMC), “Genius: Picasso” (National Geographic), “The Good Place” (NBC), “Homecoming” (Amazon), “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” (NBC), “Killing Eve” (BBC America), “One Day at a Time” (Netflix), and “The Tale” (HBO) all received three nominations.
Other multi-nominated series include “Dirty John” (Bravo), “The Good Doctor” (ABC), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu), “The Kominsky Method” (Netflix), “Notes from the Field” (HBO), “Pose” (FX), “Succession” (HBO), “This Is Us” (NBC), “Will & Grace” (NBC), and “Young Sheldon” (CBS) each with two nominations. Julia Garner is nominated for her roles in both “Dirty John” and “Ozark.”
The 24th annual Critics’ Choice Awards show will be produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment. The BFCA and BTJA are represented by Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig and WME.
Check out the full list of nominations below.
“A Star Is Born”
FILM NOMINATIONS FOR THE 24TH ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“A Star Is Born”
Christian Bale – “Vice”
Bradley Cooper – “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe – “At Eternity’s Gate”
Ryan Gosling – “First Man”
Ethan Hawke – “First Reformed”
Rami Malek – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen – “Green Book”
Yalitza Aparicio – “Roma”
Emily Blunt – “Mary Poppins Returns”
Glenn Close – “The Wife”
Toni Collette – “Hereditary”
Olivia Colman – “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga – “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy – “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – “Green Book”
Timothée Chalamet – “Beautiful Boy”
Adam Driver – “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott – “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant – “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Michael B. Jordan – “Black Panther”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – “Vice”
Claire Foy – “First Man”
Nicole Kidman – “Boy Erased”
Regina King – “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone – “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz – “The Favourite”
BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Elsie Fisher – “Eighth Grade”
Thomasin McKenzie – “Leave No Trace”
Ed Oxenbould – “Wildlife”
Millicent Simmonds – “A Quiet Place”
Amandla Stenberg – “The Hate U Give”
Sunny Suljic – “Mid90s”
BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
“Crazy Rich Asians”
Damien Chazelle – “First Man”
Bradley Cooper – “A Star Is Born”
Alfonso Cuarón – “Roma”
Peter Farrelly – “Green Book”
Yorgos Lanthimos – “The Favourite”
Spike Lee – “BlacKkKlansman”
Adam McKay – “Vice”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bo Burnham – “Eighth Grade”
Alfonso Cuarón – “Roma”
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara – “The Favourite”
Adam McKay – “Vice”
Paul Schrader – “First Reformed”
Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly – “Green Book”
Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski – “A Quiet Place”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole – “Black Panther”
Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty – “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Barry Jenkins – “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters – “A Star Is Born”
Josh Singer – “First Man”
Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee – “BlacKkKlansman”
Alfonso Cuarón – “Roma”
James Laxton – “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Matthew Libatique – “A Star Is Born”
Rachel Morrison – “Black Panther”
Robbie Ryan – “The Favourite”
Linus Sandgren – “First Man”
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Hannah Beachler, Jay Hart – “Black Panther”
Eugenio Caballero, Barbara Enriquez – “Roma”
Nelson Coates, Andrew Baseman – “Crazy Rich Asians”
Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton – “The Favourite”
Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas – “First Man”
John Myhre, Gordon Sim – “Mary Poppins Returns”
Jay Cassidy – “A Star Is Born”
Hank Corwin – “Vice”
Tom Cross – “First Man”
Alfonso Cuarón, Adam Gough – “Roma”
Yorgos Mavropsaridis – “The Favourite”
Joe Walker – “Widows”
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Alexandra Byrne – “Mary Queen of Scots”
Ruth Carter – “Black Panther”
Julian Day – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Sandy Powell – “The Favourite”
Sandy Powell – “Mary Poppins Returns”
BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP
“Mary Queen of Scots”
“Ready Player One”
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
“Ready Player One”
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Isle of Dogs”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
BEST ACTION MOVIE
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
“Ready Player One”
“Crazy Rich Asians”
“The Death of Stalin”
“Sorry to Bother You”
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Christian Bale – “Vice”
Jason Bateman – “Game Night”
Viggo Mortensen – “Green Book”
John C. Reilly – “Stan & Ollie”
Ryan Reynolds – “Deadpool 2”
Lakeith Stanfield – “Sorry to Bother You”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
Courtesy of Disney
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Emily Blunt – “Mary Poppins Returns”
Olivia Colman – “The Favourite”
Elsie Fisher – “Eighth Grade”
Rachel McAdams – “Game Night”
Charlize Theron – “Tully”
Constance Wu – “Crazy Rich Asians”
BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE
“A Quiet Place”
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“All the Stars” – “Black Panther”
“Girl in the Movies” – “Dumplin’”
“I’ll Fight” – “RBG”
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” – “Mary Poppins Returns”
“Shallow” – “A Star Is Born”
“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” – “Mary Poppins Returns”
Kris Bowers – “Green Book”
Nicholas Britell – “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Alexandre Desplat – “Isle of Dogs”
Ludwig Göransson – “Black Panther”
Justin Hurwitz – “First Man”
Marc Shaiman – “Mary Poppins Returns”
Paul Dano and Benicio del Toro in “Escape at Dannemora”
Chris Saunders / Showtime
TELEVISION NOMINATIONS FOR THE 24TH ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS
BEST DRAMA SERIES
“The Americans” (FX)
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
“The Good Fight” (CBS All Access)
“Killing Eve” (BBC America)
“My Brilliant Friend” (HBO)
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Freddie Highmore – “The Good Doctor” (ABC)
Diego Luna – “Narcos: Mexico” (Netflix)
Richard Madden – “Bodyguard” (Netflix)
Bob Odenkirk – “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Billy Porter – “Pose” (FX)
Matthew Rhys – “The Americans” (FX)
Milo Ventimiglia – “This Is Us” (NBC)
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jodie Comer – “Killing Eve” (BBC America)
Maggie Gyllenhaal – “The Deuce” (HBO)
Elisabeth Moss – “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Sandra Oh – “Killing Eve” (BBC America)
Elizabeth Olsen – “Sorry For Your Loss” (Facebook Watch)
Julia Roberts – “Homecoming” (Amazon)
Keri Russell – “The Americans” (FX)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Richard Cabral – “Mayans M.C.” (FX)
Asia Kate Dillon – “Billions” (Showtime)
Noah Emmerich – “The Americans” (FX)
Justin Hartley – “This Is Us” (NBC)
Matthew Macfadyen – “Succession” (HBO)
Richard Schiff – “The Good Doctor” (ABC)
Shea Whigham – “Homecoming” (Amazon)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Dina Shihabi – “Jack Ryan” (Amazon)
Julia Garner – “Ozark” (Netflix)
Thandie Newton – “Westworld” (HBO)
Rhea Seehorn – “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Yvonne Strahovski – “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Holly Taylor – “The Americans”(FX)
Brian Tyree Henry, “Atlanta”
BEST COMEDY SERIES
“The Good Place” (NBC)
“The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
“The Middle” (ABC)
“One Day at a Time” (Netflix)
“Schitt’s Creek” (Pop)
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Hank Azaria – “Brockmire” (IFC)
Ted Danson – “The Good Place” (NBC)
Michael Douglas – “The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)
Donald Glover – “Atlanta” (FX)
Bill Hader – “Barry” (HBO)
Jim Parsons – “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
Andy Samberg – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox)
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Rachel Bloom – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (The CW)
Rachel Brosnahan – “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
Allison Janney – “Mom” (CBS)
Justina Machado – “One Day at a Time” (Netflix)
Debra Messing – “Will & Grace” (NBC)
Issa Rae – “Insecure” (HBO)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
William Jackson Harper – “The Good Place” (NBC)
Sean Hayes – “Will & Grace” (NBC)
Brian Tyree Henry – “Atlanta” (FX)
Nico Santos – “Superstore” (NBC)
Tony Shalhoub – “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
Henry Winkler – “Barry” (HBO)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Alex Borstein – “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
Betty Gilpin – “GLOW” (Netflix)
Laurie Metcalf – “The Conners” (ABC)
Rita Moreno – “One Day at a Time” (Netflix)
Zoe Perry – “Young Sheldon” (CBS)
Annie Potts – “Young Sheldon (CBS)
Miriam Shor – “Younger” (TV Land)
BEST LIMITED SERIES
“A Very English Scandal” (Amazon)
“American Vandal” (Netflix)
“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (FX)
“Escape at Dannemora” (Showtime)
“Genius: Picasso” (National Geographic)
“Sharp Objects” (HBO)
BEST MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION
“Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” (NBC)
“King Lear” (Amazon)
“My Dinner with Hervé” (HBO)
“Notes from the Field” (HBO)
“The Tale” (HBO)
Antonio Banderas, “Genius: Picasso”
National Geographic/Dusan Martincek
BEST ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR..
2018 was a year of tumult, of wild emotional swings from tragedy to triumph. The movies released this year seemed exceptionally well-tuned to the current moment — as IndieWire’s Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn noted in his picks for the best films of 2018, this year’s films were the first largely to be greenlit or developed following the geopolitical upheavals of 2016.
To that end, a lot of the moments that stand out from movies of the past 12 months could be called twists — but “twist” feels too sleight to convey the horror of the ending of the Gal Who Got Rattled segment of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” or the sadness of the birth scene in “Roma.” It’s more a feeling of anything bad that we fear might happen might really happen, that when we think life is going to zig it just might zag in the worst way possible. You might plunge headfirst off an airplane into a thunderstorm, worried you might get hit by lightning, and then, yep, right on schedule, your skydiving partner gets struck by lightning.
So it’s amazing just how many joyous, absolutely triumphant moments there were in the movies of 2018 too. Dread may be our baseline emotional state now, but when things go well — such as for rising singer Ally in “A Star Is Born” when she first takes the mic at a stadium concert or when convict Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) finally gets to live out his Sondheim fantasies for his captive audience in prison — it’s ecstatic.
For the IndieWire film team, these are the scenes that stand out the most from the movies of 2018.
The Gal Who Got Rattled, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
All six chapters in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” begin like an actual book, complete with a hand-drawn color-plate illustration and a bit of text suggesting what awaits. None is more enigmatic than that of “The Gal Who Got Rattled”: “Mr. Arthur had no idea what he would say to Billy Knapp.” By the end of the segment, which is easily the most melancholic and moving in the Coen Brothers’ anthology Western, neither do we. Zoe Kazan plays the gal in question, a well-to-do young woman named Alice on a wagon train to Oregon at the behest of an older brother whose death early on in the journey leaves her alone.
Out of this loss comes the potential for something more meaningful, as Alice forms a bond with one Billy Knapp (a brilliant Bill Heck) that eventually leads to a marriage proposal. It also leads to her and the wagon train’s leader, Mr. Arthur (Grainger Hines), advanced upon by a Native American war party while out looking for her dog; their low chances of survival in mind, Mr. Arthur instructs Alice to shoot herself should he be killed in order to spare herself from the torturous end that otherwise awaits. What follows is the most tragic end imaginable in such a scenario, the kind that few others besides the Coens could — or would — think to portray so wistfully. —MN
Ally Sings “Shallow” at Jackson’s Concert
Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper - Shallow (A Star Is Born) - YouTube
Everything about Ally’s (Lady Gaga) big coming out in Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” should have been spoiled long before the fledgling superstar set foot on Jackson Maine’s massive stage. “Shallow,” the song the duo croon at each other, understandably starry-eyed, had already been at the center of a trailer and an earlier scene in the film, as Ally and Jackson workshopped the showstopper in the middle of a parking lot after midnight. We already know the lyrics, know the meaning, get the emotion it stirs between the pair, and yet, the moment a trembling Ally strides out in front of her first big crowd, opens her mouth, and lets out the first “tell me something, boy,” it’s all over. Chills, tingling spines, it literally hits every note. The scene — and its song — tell us the full story of what’s to come in Cooper’s masterful first film. It’s Jackson who pushes Ally to show her full potential, even if it’s scary, but once she’s out there, her confidence builds second by second, until she literally grabs the mic with both hands, pours out that “ah ah aa ahhh ah hh AHHHHH!!” that was always poised to be become the aural staple of the film, and lets rip. She’s a star, and everyone knows it — especially the audience.—KE
The Dance, “Annihilation”
“Annihilation,” the science-fiction head trip from writer-director Alex Garland, is a meditation on self-destruction. The theme physically manifests in the climax, where Natalie Portman’s Lena must confront a humanoid version of herself and outsmart it despite it mirroring her every move. The two figures engage in a self-destructive ballet set to Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s pulsating electronic score. The result is one of the strangest, most beautiful, and most bewildering sequences of the decade, not just the year. In this bravura sequence, Garland uses visceral emotion to trump narrative logic as he visually represents Lena’s internal struggle through movement. Watching Lena rely on herself to overcome her own self-destructive urges brings “Annihilation” to its thematic apex, and it’s unforgettable to behold. —ZS
In Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Oaxaca schoolteacher Yalitza Aparicio merged emotionally with Cleo, the young domestic modeled after the Cuarón family nanny. The filmmaker shot in continuity and never told the new actress what was going to happen in each scene. Having lived with Cleo’s pregnancy and the extended, painful drive to the hospital after her water broke, Aparicio was prepared for the birth scene, staged with real obstetricians who understood Cleo’s condition. After she’s wheeled into the operating room, she’s expecting to give birth to a baby. (SPOILER ALERT). Her reactions are real as she delivers the infant and watches anxiously in the foreground in a long, sustained take as the doctors pump the baby in the background, trying to bring it back to life. Cleo realizes with horror that her baby has died. She is devastated. And watching the scene, so are we. This is the scene that could win Aparicio a Best Actress nomination. —AT
Sometimes you watch a scene unfold in a movie and marvel at its perfection. In Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning,” much like “Jules and Jim,” two young men (Yoo Ah-in and Steven Yeun) are vying for the love of a woman (Jeon Jong-seo). They’re in the country, sitting in the back yard listening to Miles Davis and passing a joint at sunset when the woman suddenly takes off her shirt and starts to dance, facing fields and sun and deepening sky. In a long take, we are all watching her. There is no reaction shot of the men. We all marvel at her achingly sad beauty. —AT
“The Rain on the Roof,” “Paddington 2”
Paddington 2 Ending Credits Scene - YouTube
In the role of fading theatre legend Phoenix Buchanan — a foppish chameleon who’s starved for attention, or at least the riches that sometimes come with it — Hugh Grant not only delivers one of the very best performances of the year, but the notoriously misanthropic actor also seems to be having the time of his life. He relishes every ridiculous moment, radiating the self-obsessed desperation of a faded star who’s desperate to return to the limelight. Of course, all Phoenix ever really needed was a captive audience, and the mid-credits scene in which he finally gets one makes for the year’s greatest showstopper, as Grant leads a klink full of prisoners through an all-singing, all-dancing, rendition of “Rain on the Roof” from Sondheim’s “Follies.” It’s magical, triumphant, and proof that — in the world of “Paddington 2” — even the most selfish of people can redeem themselves by spreading the love. —DE
Netflix had a breakthrough year with original films thanks to “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “July 22,” and “Roma,” among other titles, and the streaming giant has no plans to slow down in 2019. The company has debuted the first official trailer for “Triple Frontier,” the star-studded heist thriller from “All Is Lost” and “A Most Violent Year” director J.C. Chandor. The film reunites Chandor with Oscar Isaac, and throws Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam, and Garrett Hedlund into the mix.
The official “Triple Frontier” synopsis from Netflix reads: “A group of former Special Forces operatives (Affleck, Isaac, Hunnam, Hedlund, Pascal) reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers, these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for self instead of country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.”
“Triple Frontier” is one of several high profile dramas being released by Netflix in 2019, which also includes Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.” The film is Chandor’s first release since “A Most Violent Year” opened in 2014. The script was written by Oscar-winner Mark Boal, best known for his Kathryn Bigelow collaborations “The Hurt Locker” and “Detroit.” Bigelow was once attached to direct “Triple Frontier,” but scheduling delays brought the project to Chandor.
“Triple Frontier” will be available for streaming on Netflix in March 2019. Watch the official trailer below.
Triple Frontier | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
Per tradition, Netflix is introducing the upcoming new season of “Stranger Things” with an official teaser that hides any new footage, but reveals each episode title in the show’s next run. “Stranger Things 3” will run eight episodes, the same length as the first season (the second season had an additional episode and received minor criticisms for stretching the story too thin).
“Stranger Things 3” will once again bring back the main cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, and Joe Keery. Season 2 additions Sadie Sink and Dacre Montgomery will be back as well, while Maya Hawke will play a new character associated with Keery’s Steve Harrington.
The “Stranger Things 3” episode titles are as follows:
1. “Suzie, Do You Copy?”
2. “The Mall Rats”
3. “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”
4. “The Sauna Test”
5. “The Source”
6. “The Birthday”
7. “The Bite”
8. “The Battle of Starcourt”
So what do the episode titles mean? It’s mostly anyone’s guess, although the name “Suzie” in the premiere episode is bound to get people talking. As far as we know, there has not been a character named Suzie on “Stranger Things.” The closest name associated with Suzie would be Susan Hargrove, the biological mother of Max (Sink) and the stepmother of Billy (Montgomery). Suzie appears to be a new character, but one that hasn’t been announced.
The biggest episode spoiler is the finale, “The Battle of Starcourt.” Over the summer, Netflix released a viral marketing video for the new season that featured Hawke and Keery’s characters working at an ice cream shop in the mall. The name of the mall? Starcourt Mall. Clearly whatever is going on in the third season will culminate in a big showdown at the mall. The second season ended with the revelation that the Shadow Monster was still alive in the Upside Down. The mall better get ready for an invasion.
“Stranger Things 3” debuts summer 2019 on Netflix.
Stranger Things: Season 3 | Title Tease [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
This was the worst-grossing weekend of 2018, not that it matters; this pre-Christmas weekend is usually among the lowest. All distributors avoided it for any new release, even throwaway titles. Historically, next week can be even worse (unless your film is “Star Wars” or similar). The priority now is to stake a claim that doesn’t risk seeing a film pulled for Christmas.
So, no new films, decreased gross — and at the same time, better holds for films currently on screen. That formula explains this week’s results. However, the same six films have led all others for three straight weeks and that’s unprecedented.
It also could have impact on weeks ahead. “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” “The Grinch,” and “Creed II” all grossed over $10 million in their third weekend (or later), in a slow period: That suggests they will play through the holiday. That would mean a major bonus for all three, which are already hits.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“Ralph” took the top spot for the third straight weekend, although by a narrow margin over “The Grinch” (which held the spot its first two weeks). Its 37 percent drop is more than Disney’s “Coco” in 2017, also a Thanksgiving release. It still is about $4 million ahead of “Coco” at the same point, but that might end soon. “Coco” last year did nearly $19 million, compared to $16 million for “Ralph.”
The last three years have seen Disney slot a “Star Wars” film in next Friday’s position. This year, they have the much-anticipated “Mary Poppins Returns” the following Wednesday. But its bigger competition comes next weekend, when Sony’s well-regarded “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” will compete for the animation crowd. That’s when “Ralph” likely takes a bigger hit.
The real story in the top two is the continued strong hold for “The Grinch.” Dropping a measly 16 percent, it fell only $1 million short of “Ralph.” That positioned itself for holdovers ahead, even more than “Ralph,” but there’s a problem. Universal has two major releases to come, starting with their Peter Jackson production “Mortal Engines” and a week later Robert Zemeckis’ “Welcome to Marwen.” Both are expensive, important releases, which makes them good problems to have but also makes for a complicated Christmas at the studio
Which brings us to “Green Book.” It replicated last weekend’s totals with only slightly more theaters, jumping from #10 to #7, while still playing only on a little over 1,000 theaters. Universal’s risky play of a handful of cities over Thanksgiving, which initially yielded mediocre results, looks like a success. The film is at $20 million and now can sustain many of the best theaters through Christmas, and then try to make a bigger splash mid-January after expected Oscar nominations. They trusted word of mouth and a lack of new product, both of which worked in its favor. Even so, this is an expensive way to go; new advertising is needed week after week.
Most other holds fell far less than normal. One exception is “The Possession of Hannah Gray,” which fell 50 percent. It will gross around $15 million domestically, with initial openings around the world suggesting the sub-$10 million-budgeted project has a shot at profit.
MGM & Warner Bros. Entertainment
“Creed II” repeated at #3 but dropped an above-average 38 percent. That’s not unusual for a sequel, and the film still looks to equal the initial “Rocky” reboot. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” at 40 percent down still lags far behind the rest of the world (where the Harry Potter offshoot already has grossed $423 million; the combined world total could reach close to $700 million). So expect more from this franchise.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Instant Family,” and even “Robin Hood” dropped a quarter or less, all favored by the lack of fresh competition. “Widows” rounded out the top 10 with a not-unhealthy 30 percent fall, but not good enough to expect a lot more ahead.
Universal had a 25-year anniversary reissue of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” in 1,029 theaters; hardly anyone went. It grossed only $551,000, something like 60 people per theater for all shows for the three days. In its initial release, Universal didn’t push (despite its Oscar wins) to reach $100 million (the unadjusted figure first time around was $96 million, but that’s $210 million at today’s prices). A nice effort, perhaps, but theatrical interest is nil, like most decades-old Oscar winners.
The Top 10
T1. Ralph Breaks the Internet (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #1
The studios offered no new films this prime post-Golden Globes nominations weekend, so the specialty companies rushed to take advantage with openers, expansions and re-releases. Three companies with a track record for getting attention during the late year period opened important films.
“Mary, Queen of Scots” (Focus) starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie performed the best by some distance; it should play well with specialty crowds even if it isn’t a well-reviewed awards player. “Vox Lux” (Neon) starring Natalie Portman follows “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” as dramas about troubled performers. While not on the same scale, it also found initial interest. Roadside Attractions’ “Ben Is Black” starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges mustered just enough interest to warrant holiday expansion.
The sleeper this weekend is “Amazing Grace” (Neon), which in an awards qualifying run in New York is sold out its entire week. It will return next year, and looks like it could join other recent documentaries and perhaps reach $10 million or better.
$200,180 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $50,045
Focus’ prime holiday release boasted an impressive showing in its initial four-big city dates, outdistancing the other newbies by a mile, and did so with middling reviews, and no name director (rookie Josie Rourke is a theater import), awards traction or personal appearances.
Full credit goes to its two 2017 Oscar nominee leads Ronan and Robbie, as well as the appeal of this story of rival queen cousins Mary and Elizabeth. That the film opened this well suggests interest that could sustain a major expansion over Christmas.
What comes next: Top ten markets open this Friday, with 500 or more dates the following weekend.
Neon acquired at Toronto this Natalie Portman film about a young pop star who matures into a major icon with substance abuse issues. Neon pushed out the movie for late-year release, with three cities (San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles) opening before a national release this Friday. The result is positive — the film topped the grosses in most of its theaters, including some heavyweights. Los Angeles enjoyed a major boost from multiple appearances by Portman at some evening shows.
What comes next: Neon will add hundreds of dates this Friday, taking advantage of the pre-Christmas lull.
Ben Is Back (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: Toronto, Miami, Mill Valley 2018
$80,972 in 4 theaters; PTA: $20,243
Lucas Hedges stars in his second specialty film after “Boy Erased” and the second fall movie about a young adult drug user forcing his family to deal with his issues after “Beautiful Boy.” With less stellar reviews and a more competitive pre-holiday period, “Ben is Back” opened lower than both films in top New York/Los Angeles theaters. It showed signs of a second day uptick, which could bode well for its expansion ahead.
What comes next: This jumps to 30 theaters in new big city markets, with a wider limited expansion over Christmas.
“Divide and Conquer: The Roger Ailes Story”
Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 69; Festivals include: Toronto, New York 2018; also streaming
$(est.) 17,500 in 14 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 1,250
The main action for this documentary on the legendary and influential head of Fox News is on streaming. But its theatrical date landed the film more attention and positioning for possible Oscar consideration.
What comes next: Home viewing will be its main availability.
Most awards-qualifying runs like this don’t report grosses. Neon, which acquired this long-awaited documentary about Aretha Franklin’s church recording sessions for her career-topping 1972 gospel album, tipped us off to the sell out performance of the one week date at New York’s Film Forum. It will be sold out for the full week — had more seats been available, the gross might have been double or more.
$142,000 in 46 theaters (+41); PTA: $3,087; Cumulative: $215,000
This Scottish Christmas carolers versus zombies tale expanded well on its second weekend, particularly for this time of year. There might not be a lot of room to expand, but these numbers were enough to sustain some holds in current theaters and add more ahead.
$199,076 in 15 theaters (Fri/Sun), 742 (Sat); Cumulative: $671,908
This Japanese animated feature has the best prospects of all the indies to make it into the final five of the Oscars. The film came back with more special event shows on Saturday combined with a few full-show schedule dates. If these dates continue, or a nomination does occur, this has a shot at being the third GKids release to hit $1 million.
Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)
Green Book (Universal) Week 4
$3,941,000 in 1,181 theaters (+116); Cumulative: $19,980,000
The mediocre platform openings are a vague memory now as Universal’s strategy (backed by significant spending) of building word of mouth for their top awards’ contender is starting to pay off. With a minor increase in theaters, the gross remained about the same as last weekend. The individual theater numbers vary, and many of these dates will be interrupted by new films. But the film should play through to build up steam and a credible enough performance overall to help its strong award chances.
The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) Week 3
$1,430,000 in 91 theaters (+57); Cumulative: $3,469,000
Yorgos Lanthimos’ female power struggle royal period comedy had another strong weekend. The performance at this point is comparable to Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” last year. That’s impressive. This was not as surefire a success as those more contemporary American-set films. This is perfectly set to find key theaters and the higher grosses ahead from holiday play.
$(est.) 500,000 in (est.) 100 theaters (+83); Cumulative: $(est.) 900,000
How close is this figure to the truth? Nobody really knows, because it isn’t certain that even Netflix is collecting these figures. Counting key theaters (particularly those from Landmark, which opened this movie in multiple top theaters in new cities, with many sellouts) it appears this figure could be low. But capacity issues — particularly in New York and Los Angeles — reduce the gross. With more theaters opening this Friday (for a total of 600 worldwide) parallel to its streaming release, it does look like it could end up with at least a $2 million gross.
Boy Erased (Focus) Week 4
$420,000 in 622 theaters (-38); Cumulative: $6,330,000
“At Eternity’s Gate”
At Eternity’s Edge (CBS) Week 4
$310,000 in 172 theaters (+124); Cumulative: $1,071,000
Free Solo (National Geographic) Week 11
$252,641 in 182 theaters (+24); Cumulative: $10,511,000
The saga of a daring El Capital climb continues to show interest after nearly three months in theaters.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight) Week 8
$245,000 in 265 theaters (-7); Cumulative: $6,978,000
Another contender for acting awards, this small-scale turn by Melissa McCarthy as a writer turned document scam artist continues adding to its total, with ongoing play possibly heading to $8 million.
The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 17; also streaming
$222,547 in 421 theaters (+415); Cumulative: $8,012,000
A return run after home media release and Glenn Close’s Golden Globe nomination pushed this marital drama over the $8 million mark. That’s one of the top numbers so far among fall releases.
Beautiful Boy (Amazon) Week 9
$108,495 in 196 theaters (-11); Cumulative: $7,432,000
Another film hanging on to screens at the end of its run, with Timothee Chalamet’s performance and possible awards interest the reasons for lingering interest.
Shoplifters (Magnolia) Week 3 14-286
$(est.) 105,000 in 32 theaters (+18); Cumulative: $(est.) 335,000
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest and most acclaimed Golden=Globe nominee is expanding at a level ahead of most recent foreign-language releases. It’s in for the long haul, with the holidays ahead and strong word of mouth developing.
Maria By Callas (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 6
$102,313 in 149 theaters (+80); Cumulative: $1,040,000
One of the better performances of late for the always popular documentary sub-genre of creative icons. The per-theater take is small, but with this total of theaters the numbers add up.
The Front Runner (Sony) Week 5
$(est.) 100,000 in 409 theaters (-398); Cumulative: $(est.) 1,904,000
Sony has given significant support to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Gary Hart. But Jason Reitman’s film in over a month’s play will only gross around $2 million.
The Old Man & the Gun (Fox Searchlight) Week 11
$85,000 in 136 theaters (+22); Cumulative: $11,050,000
Nearing the end of its theatrical run, and with a Golden Globe nomination for Robert Redford, this has quietly amassed one of the best specialized totals this year.
Border (Neon) Week 7
$52,262 in 73 theaters (no change); Cumulative: $668,797
Sweden’s Oscar submission is not your standard Scandinavian crowdpleaser. This inventive thriller features surprises within its genre formula; it hasn’t broken out but is likely to linger as it enters other venues.
Suspiria (Amazon) – $26,450 in 33 theaters; Cumulative: $2,422,000
A Private War (Aviron) – $24,000 in 35 theaters; Cumulative: $1,569,000
Wildlife (IFC) – $20,482 in theaters; Cumulative: $989,633
Minds have been blown across the internet over the last week following a discovery that has been hiding in plain sight for 15 years: Peter Billingsley, the actor behind the iconic role of Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” also appears in the Christmas movie classic “Elf.” Not only that, but he also appears in the Christmas film “Four Christmases,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn.
The discovery went viral after a tweet announced Billingsley’s “Elf” role to the world, which was followed by the viral Buzzfeed article, “I Was Today Years Old When I Realized ‘Ralphie’ Was That Actor In ‘Elf.'” Of course, Billingsley hasn’t been hiding his career and anyone who found themselves on the actor’s Wikipedia page or IMDb page would’ve seen he’s been a presence in numerous Christmas films over the years.
More surprising, Billingsley is listed as an executive producer on “Iron Man,” the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which re-launched Robert Downey Jr. to superstardom. The actor also appeared in “Iron Man” as a scientist working for Jeff Bridges’ villainous Obadiah Stane.
Billingsley is a good friend of “Elf” and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau, having also co-produced Favreau’s “Zathura” and directed Favreau in “Couples Retreat.” Yes, Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” directed the 2009 destination rom-com “Couples Retreat,” starring Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, and Malin Akerman. Billingsley also directed Vaughn in the 2016 action drama “Term Life,” co-starring Hailee Steinfeld, and produced Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston’s rom-com classic “The Break Up,” directed by Peyton Reed.
While it may be shocking to some to realize Billingsley continues to work in Hollywood (he currently produces Netflix animated comedy series “F Is for Family”), it really is no surprise. Regardless, Ralphie will always be the actor’s most iconic role.
Today, at approximately 11:19 AM, my life changed forever when I found out this dude from Elf was also Ralphie from A Christmas Story pic.twitter.com/kBVj4fE2RV