Cold Open — In tonight’s cold open, Kenan plays Santa and Kate plays his elf, Sugar Plum («maybe in this environment, just call me ‘Amy'»). They receive a number of kid visitors, who are almost all adorably bad at reading off cue cards, but they all end up having political questions, which allows both Santa and the kids to deliver a number of topical zingers. It’s cute, and actually fairly funny. (Score: 6.5 out of 10)
James Franco Monologue — Franco answers questions from the audience, one of whom is Seth Rogen, who ends up asking most of the questions, and then skinny Jonah Hill shows up, and it mostly turns into an opportunity for Hill, Rogen, and Franco to make fun of each other, mostly delightfully. Also, Steve Martin shows up, because that’s what he does. It’s slight, but not without a couple of amusing moments. (Watch Here) (Score: 5.5 out of 10)
Workplace Sexual Harassment — Two employees fired for sexual harassment return to apologize to the women they harassed. Franco plays a executive type who is berated as a creep by the employees even as he offers sincere apologies, while Kenan plays a jolly old security guard who all the women in the office love even though he’s overt about his harassment. Because «that’s just Charlie being Charlie.» I’m not exactly sure what the point of the skit is, except to illustrate that dudes can get away with egregious sexual harassment if they’re funny and non-threatening? I don’t think it’s going to go over very well, though it’s probably not memorable enough to piss too many people off. (Watch here) (Score: 3.5 out of 10)
Gift-Wrappers — Franco and Kate play employees at a gift wrapping desk, and Franco cuts his finger, which sprays geysers and geysers of blood. It’s a dumb, one-joke old-school «just a flesh-wound» type SNL skit, but it gets a lot of laughs. (Score: 6 out of 10)
Kyle Mooney Scrooge Skit — Mooney brings his roommate to a holiday party, and his roommate is «Scrudge,» and Scrudge hates everything and everyone, but not nearly as much as I hate Kyle Mooney sketches. God. (Watch here) (Score: 3 out of 10)
Spelling Bee — Franco plays the moderator of middle-school spelling bee, and when asked to use the word in a sentence, he does so in deeply personal and uncomfortable ways. It’s funny. Just ask James Franco, who couldn’t keep it together. (Score: 7 out of 10)
Weekend Update — Pretty hit and miss with the headline jokes this week, and a some of the jokes have already been told three dozen times on Twitter, but it was a’ight. Cecily’s Kathy Anne is pretty good, too. Michael Che’s «Liberal White Woman named Gretchen,» however, is probably going to dominate discussion of this week’s episode. (Score: 7 out of 10?)
Za — An entire sketch in which two lawyers debate about whether «za» is slang for Lasagna or pizza. It’s a terrible sketch, but Franco really gets into it, and his passion somehow salvages it. (Watch here) (Score: 4.5 out of 10)
Christmas Charity — In a short video, Cecily finds a homeless man and gives him a makeover and brings him back to her apartment and I don’t want to ruin the ending, but it’s pretty good, so watch it. (Score: 7.5 out of 10)
Franco and his Cousin Mandy — Franco reunites with his blue-collar cousin, Mandy, who doesn’t really get Franco or his career. The sketch is OK, but Heidi Gardner is goddamn terrific. I fucking love her. She is the best cast member since Kate. (Dave Franco also makes a cameo). (Score: 7 out of 10)
Syfy’s latest show opens with it’s lead character, the disgraced cop turned hitman Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) coughing up blood in a bar bathroom, then shooting himself in the head. That last part turns out to be a hallucination, because Nick proceeds to have a very merry dance party with imaginary scantily clad women while a literal blood geyser splashes out of his noggin.
Folks, believe me when I say that this scene is the perfect entry point for this show. Sure, it tells you nothing about the plot, but if you’re not wide-eyed with rapturous joy by this point then I don’t know what to tell you. Just turn it off. That was your warning. This shit isn’t going to get any easier to digest. The rest of the episode is filled with blow jobs, pissing, more blood, brutal murders, rampant drug abuse, and a dude who threatens to slice Sax’s penis like salami.
The thing about Happy! (both the show, and the original graphic novel it’s based on, created by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson) is that it exists in the liminal space between irrational glee and the most comically gruesome, brutal side of humanity. The story finds its strength and its aesthetic vision by mining the juxtaposition between those two extremes, which have been pushed beyond the boundaries of logic. The plot, in a nutshell: Nick Sax is a hard to kill sonofabitch who ends up with a priceless piece of intel during a hit gone messy: the password to some mysterious mafia account. Now he’s wanted by a bunch of dangerous goons, but his REAL problem is that he’s seeing an imaginary flying blue horse named Happy everywhere. And Happy needs Nick’s help, because a little girl named Hailey has been kidnapped by the scariest looking Santa Claus EVER — a creep who has locked her in a crate next to a lot of other (presumably child-filled) crates. Happy is Hailey’s imaginary friend, and Nick used to be a very good detective. Together, can they save her from certain doom?
Patton Oswalt voices Happy with the kind of ecstatic pep that would make even the most stone-cold sober of us want to slam our heads into the wall. He’s like a renegade sidekick from a second tier Dreamworks cartoon. To a man as thoroughly pickled and degenerate as Nick is, having Happy buzzing around is a special kind of torment. Saying this series is over-the-top doesn’t begin to describe just how gonzo it is — though pointing out that Brian Taylor, one half of the duo behind the Crank films, is leading this adaptation should give you an indication. Happy is an obvious sign of this show’s delirium. But Meloni as Sax is a more subtle beast.
Not, like, literally subtle. There is nothing subtle in this show, period. But unlike Happy, he’s not an actual cartoon. Meloni plays his character as a dark mirror of his beloved Law and Order: SVU detective, Elliot Stabler — mixed liberally with Gene from Wet Hot American Summer, plus something new that I’ve never seen. He’s dangerous and gritty and funny and exasperated. He’s disgusting. He’s foul. He’s got a death wish of a sort. Whatever spark of nobility remains to him has been spackled over by his many crimes. His face achieves expressions so rubberized they should be the creation of CG. And this is probably the finest performance I’ve ever scene from Meloni. The camera is always hitting him at an angle — looking down on him, looking up at him — as if the fabric of his existence had been distorted before Happy ever winged into it. There is a sequence in an ambulance, after Sax has had a heart attack, that is probably the hardest I’ve laughed at a show in ages. A paramedic is about to inject him with adrenaline, but Sax wakes up and is having none of it. He jams the needle into the dudes neck, pulls his gun, then starts shouting for morphine and various other drugs, ordering the second paramedic to administer them in precise doses. Sax is mostly trying to self-medicate the pestering Happy away, and his behavior evolves throughout the scene as various drugs take hold.
This is the scene that should win Meloni an award, but likely never will.
Anyway, this is a gross, weird, frenetic show filled with horrible people and terrible deeds, but it’s also one of the most inventively shot and acted things I’ve seen on TV. As an adaptation, it’s spot on. And as a show, it’s mission statement seems to be: let’s do whatever hasn’t been done on TV before. But the heart of the show, if you can call it that, is the budding camaraderie between Sax and Happy. Will this unlikely duo save the children? Will Nick find his own sort of redemption? You’ll have to tune in to find out. But nobody will blame you if you don’t. After all, you’d have to be pretty fucked up for this to be your cup of tea.
I, obviously, will be watching the whole damn thing.
10. Trial & Error — I don’t know why Trial & Error didn’t get more notice this year, but I’m grateful enough people watched it for NBC to renew it. It’s a fast-paced, irreverent and hysterical spoof of true crime documentaries about an unseasoned big-city lawyer (Nicholas D’Agosto) who takes on a murder case in a small town populated with some of the funniest characters of the year. It basically combines the humor of Arrested Development or Better Off Ted with the characters of a show like Parks & Recreation — good people often misguided by their earnestness — and it probably contains the funniest performance of John Lithgow’s career. As true-crime parodies go in 2017, Trial & Error narrowly edges out Netflix’s American Vandal (which is also great).
9. I’m Sorry — The under-appreciated and under-seen TruTV comedy finally put the talents of its creator and star, Andrea Savage, to perfect use. In this, uh, savage comedy, Savage plays a foul-mouthed comedian slash mom, who hilariously struggles to fit into real-world suburbia (wealthy, Los Angeles edition). Savage basically plays herself alongside her straight-man husband (Tom Everett Scott) and best friend, Jason Mantzoukas (essentially playing Jason Mantzoukas). It’s raunchy, vulgar, and abrasively honest, and the closest thing on television to what is basically the parenting version of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
8. G.L.O.W. — G.L.O.W. could not have come at a more perfect time. In the opening months of the Trump era, it was almost as if the world was craving a female-led wrestling comedy. There’s nothing particularly original about the series — fundamentally it’s a fairly formulaic underdog sports comedy — but the characters bring smart writing and filthy jokes to life. It’s peppered throughout with small life-affirming moments, and it ultimately delivers one of the best crowd-pleasing finales of 2017.
7. Sneaky Pete — Sneaky Pete comes from creators Bryan Cranston — who also plays the series’ villain — and David Shore (House), but it is the contributions of Justified showrunner Graham Yost that are most felt. Remember how in Justified’s best seasons, those hour-long episodes felt like 20 minutes? Yost brings that same crackling Ocean’s 11 energy to Sneaky Pete and a lot of the same actors, to boot. It’s a seriously entertaining show — full of little capers and stand-alone stories, not unlike Justified — but there are some real stakes involved, too, and a few bodies do eventually pile up (deaths, as they were in Justified, are usually seriocomic in nature). As the noose tightens, it becomes an impossible series to turn off because it’s so easy to invest in these funny, flawed characters, and we don’t want to see their lives upended. After 10 hours that feel like two, you’ll be aching to start another season of Sneaky Pete, even if it is two in the morning.
6. Brockmire — No show this year was more consistently funny than IFC’s Brockmire, a dark black comedy about alcoholism and self-destruction. Hank Azaria plays a baseball announcer who is drummed out of the major leagues after he melts down in the midst of his divorce. After spending time in Southeast Asia with a lot of prostitutes and cocaine, Amanda Peet — who plays the owner of a failing minor league team — attempts to resurrect his career stateside. The results are mixed, at best, and include an attempt by Brockmire to goose attendance by turning fans on one another and a few appearances by Joe Buck, who it turns out is a filthy animal (people who hate Joe Buck will hate him 30 percent less after Brockmire). It’s fantastically hilarious, and maybe what’s most refreshing about it is that Brockmire is not really redemptive. It’s mostly about a guy who doubles down on his moral depravity, and it works to surprising effect.
5. Big Little Lies — The HBO miniseries based on the Liane Moriarty novel was a lot of things early on: A soap opera about privileged white women, a twisty whodunnit murder mystery, and a platform upon which Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Alexander Skarsgård could deliver awards-worthy performances. But somewhere along the way, the murder mystery became tertiary, and the series grew into a powerful character-driven show about abuse and guilt and five women often at odds with each other, who bond and pull together over their shared experiences as women, as mothers, and as wives. The only downside to Big Little Lies was HBO’s decision to move ahead with a second season, threatening to taint an otherwise near perfect miniseries.
4. Patriot — I cannot emphasize enough how staggeringly great Patriot is (although Lord Castleton can). It’s a funny, suspenseful, incredibly tense spy thriller about all the things that can go wrong between Point A and B, no matter how straight a line there is between the two points. Michael Dorman, who is perfection here, plays an undercover, off-the-books CIA agent whose only task is to get a suitcase full of money from the United States to a guy overseas, and it’s remarkable how many ways that a single task can be upended, how many lives can be affected, and how many people are brought into its orbit. There have been a lot of shows that have attempted to be «next Breaking Bad,» but no show since has combined tension and great character work as well as Patriot.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale — Because the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel was such a harrowing, bleak affair, part of me feels like I’m including it here out of obligation. But the other part of me knows how important The Handmaid’s Tale is, how applicable its themes are to modern times, how brilliant the writing and direction were, and how searing the performances of Elizabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, and Alexis Bledel were. There weren’t very many moments in the first season of this show that I enjoyed, but its impact is lasting, and the way in which many of us see the world has been transformed. It’s a great show, and its placement should not be diminished because it didn’t give us the happy feels.
2. Dear White People — Dear White People is frequently funny, it is well acted, it is insightful, and it is entertaining. But it’s also incredibly illuminating for the way it explores the social dynamics between Black People and White People, Woke People And People That Aren’t, Light-Skinned Black people and Dark Skinned Black people, and Black people who want to confront institutional racism from the outside and Black people who want to work within the system as best they can. It’s complicated as hell, and Dear White People challenges our prejudices at every turn, and illustrates maybe better than any show I have ever seen the complexities of race. It occasionally dabbles too heavily in romantic drama, but it almost always does so to illustrate a point. It’s a powerful show, but it’s also an immensely entertaining one. I genuinely loved this show, and I probably got more out of it than any other series this year.
1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — My favorite movie as a teenager was Pump Up the Volume, a 1990 Christian Slater film about a quiet high-school student who led a double-life as a rebellious talk radio host. I adored that movie, and I adored Hard-On Harry’s affinity for Lenny Bruce’s How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, a book I periodically browsed but didn’t really understand at the time. I get it now, and it’s the same rebellious spirit of that movie and of Lenny Bruce (who shows up periodically) that pervades The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is strange considering that it’s about a wealthy, upper Eastside 1950’s housewife, who embarks on a career in stand-up comedy after her husband leaves her. Miriam Maisel (played with absolute perfection by Rachel Brosnahan) leads her own double life, as well. During the day, she’s a heartbroken housewife and mother navigating her life without a husband, but at night, she’s a fast-talking, foul-mouthed aspiring comedienne with a strong disdain for authority. It’s a period feminist comedy that also offers a peek into the stand-up scene in the 1950s. It’s also a delightful, supremely entertaining, near-flawless series that combines Amy Sherman Palladino’s wit and banter with magnificent period details and an outstanding cast.
The brand spanking new Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society (LAOFCS) has released its inaugural year’s awards nominations. That in and of itself wouldn’t be a huge deal. It’s award season, after all, and we’re up to our eyeballs in best-of lists, contenders, nominations, speculation, and arguments of who-shoulda. What is unique, however, is the way LAOFCS laid out their categories.
The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society is pleased to announce that it is the first ever critics group to feature two Best Director categories; one for female and one for male. «There has been so much conversation about the power of female filmmakers and we wanted to embrace it,» said [LAOFCS co-founder Scott] Mantz. «There is a Best Actor and Best Actress category as well as Best Supporting Actor and Actress, so why not have a Best Male Director and Best Female Director category?» asked Menzel.
We’re used to seeing Best Actor and Best Actress categories, even if we’ve moved away from referring to women as «actresses» outside of awards season. As Whoopi Goldberg once said: «An actress can only play a woman. I’m an actor — I can play anything.» I don’t know that I agree wholeheartedly with Whoopi on that — after all, regardless of what we call a woman who acts, she can still play whatever role she’s given — but it underscores the importance of language in how we describe the job of acting. Is there a fundamental difference in what men and women are asked to do when they act?
It’s an unprecedented and thought-provoking move. And to be fair, their whole list of nominations is defined by a unique sort of drilling-down into separate categories. In addition to the usual Best and Supporting Actor/Actress, there is also a «Best Performance By An Actor Or Actress Under 23 Years Old» category to highlight younger performers. In addition to the Best Picture overall category, there are numerous targeted categories including Best Sci-Fi/Horror, Best Action/War, Best First Feature, Best Independent, and Best Blockbuster. It’s an intriguing approach, and makes the gendered Director categories not seem completely out of place.
What is clear is that this sort of approach helps more films, and more talent, get recognized for their excellence by giving them more opportunities for nominations. And while that works with films, when it comes to actors and directors, there’s a really simple solution: just nominate more people in ONE category. Look, you’re already picking five men and five women for each. Just nominate TEN people, and make sure you’re looking at men AND women! After all, gender shouldn’t have anything to do with job performance. Let’s judge these people against each other, and let the best Director win.
At least, that’s what the idealist in me thinks.
But then there’s that practical part of me that recognizes the value in giving more attention to women, especially in the director’s chair. The fact is that there just simply are more men behind the camera than women, and it would be all too easy to nominate 9 dudes and Patty Jenkins this year. By making the effort to identify a certain number of women for nominations each year, it brings them to the forefront and gets them the kind of name recognition their male counterparts enjoy. And if the nominating body has to really dig deep to find 5 women to nominate? Well gee, that kinda highlights the whole fucking issue, doesn’t it?
If nothing else, at least this method guarantees that there will be one woman with a Best Director award every year. But someday I hope we can move beyond these «separate but equal» tactics.
If you’re curious, these are the directors they’ve nominated:
• The most visited restaurant was In-N-Out Burger, nabbing the honor for the second year in a row.
• The most visited event space went to a downtown favorite, the Fremont Street Experience.
• With the first year of marijuana legalization, dispensaries continue to make an economic impact in Nevada, as made evident by Reef Dispensary, which sits just west of the Fashion Show Mall, winning the trending destination designation.
• Topgolf was named the most visited bar, showing the multifaceted facility is being used for more than just its driving range.
Numbers from :
So you probably haven’t heard this but TAMU is buying Jimbo, Courtney, and Candi each their own home and agreed to Ethan’s lifetime medical bills…on top of the 75mil.#betterwin2nattys
Something weird happened this year with the Oscar race, something no awards prognosticator or professional hot-take merchant could have predicted: It became surprising. We’re all used to the routine of hype, festival circuit, rising and falling buzz, the gloriously sycophantic campaigning, and finally the faux-surprised faces as the months-long front-runner gallops onto the stage to thank their mother, lawyer and cause of the moment. This year’s ceremony wasn’t even over before half of us were submitting our pieces on how inevitable it was to see La La Land win Best Picture, and how little we were surprised by anything that happened on the night.
Then, of course, it all went a bit weird, and the pieces we’d prepped for immediate publication became irrelevant in seconds. Moonlight was the winner, and in the aftermath of the most incredible cock-up in Oscars history, we didn’t spend much time thinking about the sheer ramifications of that victory. Everything we’d spent months saying wouldn’t happen became our new reality, and all our arguments and decades long evidence of how the film we all loved wasn’t Best Picture material were thrown into question. Frankly, it made a lot of our jobs a whole lot harder, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t see that as a good thing.
I think what Moonlight did was gave us all permission to eschew archaic and limiting notions of so-called worthiness in cinema. When you spend years predicting how these awards will be doled out based on issues of campaigning, politics, social progress and Hollywood favouritism, you almost forget what it’s like to look at films in terms of enjoyment. Oscar talk can be a deliberately limiting way of consuming film: Think about something solely as an awards contender based on the old ways of thinking and you soon find yourself dismissing the works that truly deserve that kind of recognition. Finally, we’re ready to make the conversation a hell of a lot more interesting.
You only need to take a look at this year’s Oscar candidates for Best Picture to get an insight into how seismic the shift could end up being. In what other year could the legitimate front-runners include a World War Two drama, a Cold War inter-species romance, a millennial teen dramedy from a first time woman director, a horror-comedy that satirises liberal white racism, an ensemble piece about journalists, a historical family drama from Netflix, and a sexy fashion designer auteur drama? And that barely scratches the surface, for there are easily a handful of other films that could make the cut and nobody would be any madder for it.
So to help you all through this fascinating time, I’ve compiled a list of the films that look set to be Oscar favourites, along with some prospective contenders you shouldn’t write off, and the former frontrunners that fell flat on their faces.
Who could have predicted this one six months ago? We know certain things about the Academy: They don’t like horror, they’re not wild on comedy, first time directors tend to struggle, and films with February releases should just stay at home. Yet Get Out, the debut of Jordan Peele, has become the undoubted film of the year in terms of capturing the mood of the nation and blazing a trail for the genre. It’s one of the most profitable films of the year — the Academy do love a hit — it’s a critical smash, and it’s managed to maintain that buzz for over ten months. The film has also been helped by big media support, with Peele making the cover of Vanity Fair along with another prominent debut director, and finding a place on many an awards round-table. The cause of Get Out, like many unlikely frontrunners on this list, is helped greatly by the increasing diversity of the Academy’s membership, who were probably major players in getting Moonlight onto the podium. They don’t have the genre bias of their predecessors. I wouldn’t say this is the frontrunner for Best Picture right now, but I would seriously consider it a film to beat over the coming months, particularly with it collecting those critics awards left and right. Blumhouse are taking this one all the way.
Like Get Out, the success of Lady Bird has taken many of us by surprise. It’s breaking records on Rotten Tomatoes with its universal praise, at the box office with its sold-out screenings, and for distributors A24, who are still riding that Moonlight wave. Greta Gerwig’s film is so very easy to love, and for all the politics and machinations that go into deciding who is and isn’t the best of the year, sometimes people just want to vote for the thing they liked the most. That’s not to diminish its quality or achievements, particularly the rave reviews the cast are getting — with Saoirse Ronan leading a crowded Best Actress pack at the moment — but the Oscar race is nothing without passion.
I mean, it’s Spielberg directing Hanks and Streep with a murderer’s row of character actor talent in the ensemble, all to tell the fascinating and incredibly pertinent true story of journalistic bravery in the face of a corrupt government. All that and the reviews were pretty damn strong (although our own Kristy has a differing point of view you should definitely check out). In a field of movies with strong political messages, The Post is the one that screams the loudest, ‘Hey, you wanna piss off Trump? Vote for us!’ (Well, Get Out could do that too but that film’s message is more for the Ivankas than the Donalds). Streep’s getting some of the best write-ups of her career, but given that she could fart the Star Spangled Banner with her armpit and get an Oscar nomination for it, she’d be getting nominated either way.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This one’s a tougher nut to crack, but Martin McDonagh’s black comedy drama that ambitiously takes on a multitude of subjects related to the lie of the American dream has very dedicated supporters in its corner, bolstered by raves for its cast, particularly star Frances McDormand. It’s not a universally adored contender, and many critics have written eloquently about its problems in tacking racism and rape culture, but word of mouth and the box office remain strong enough to keep it in that top 10.
Call Me By Your Name
This may be the film that has the most sheer undiluted passion behind it. Search for it on Twitter and prepared to be bombarded with fandom squee the likes of which one seldom sees outside of Tumblr. People LOVE this movie, and it’s managed to maintain that devotion from the beginning of the year, after it premiered at Sundance. This one also benefits from having a stellar lead performance from Timothee Chalamet and a supporting actor who is campaigning his heart out. Make no mistake: As much as he claims he doesn’t really care about awards, Armie Hammer wants his Oscar. The Academy’s style may be changing but they’re not entirely ready to dismiss the hardcore campaigners. They like it when people want to win, pure and simple.
The Shape of Water
Can we just take a moment to appreciate that a Cold War romantic drama in which a mute janitor fucks a fish man with a fabulously rounded arse is an Oscar contender this year? Bless you, Guillermo del Toro, it’s like you get us! The Shape of Water has been acclaimed for its technical ambition but also its stellar performances, with Sally Hawkins up there with Ronan and McDormand as a contender.
I must admit, I feel like we’ve begun to downplay the sheer genius and filmmaking marvel that is Dunkirk, in part because we’ve bought into the notion that it’s too obviously ‘Oscar bait’ when in reality it’s a brilliant piece of work and easily Nolan’s best. In many ways, it also eschews conventional narratives of war movies — this is a film with no glory, no bombastic heroism, and utter empathy for its terrified ensemble of near identical young faces who just want to escape the hell of the battlefield. It’s like Nolan wrote down all the stuff he sucks at — 3rd act troubles, wonky exposition and dialogue, female characters — and eradicated them from his work, all to dazzling effect. Make no mistake, this is one of the best films of the year and there would be no shame in seeing it take the top prize.
The Florida Project
This is another one that feels like a film of the times, but without the self-importance or condescending approach to its subject. Sean Baker’s latest, following the indie success of Tangerine, played to raves at Cannes this year, where it premiered out of competition, and has become a surprise passion for critics and industry folks alike. While its chances at Best Picture are probably a longshot right now — wait to see how it does with the big preceding awards like the SAGs and Golden Globes — but it looks like Willem Dafoe may be the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor.
It’s odd that Paul Thomas Anderson continues to be referred to as an Oscar favourite, when in recent years his films seem deliberately designed to shake off such assumptions: The Master may have landed a well-deserved bunch of acting nominations but the film itself was an abrasive effort that turned off many a voter, whileInherent Vice (his best, don’t @ me) practically invited audiences to pretend they knew what was going on in its plot. Then again, with Phantom Thread, there is the small matter of a certain Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis. Look, I don’t for a minute believe he’s actually retiring, but the perennial favourite of the Academy will probably get another nomination here, and the passion of the critics could carry it into the Best Picture category, but it would take some real fervour from the voters.
The Academy just don’t seem ready — or willing — to drop their disdain for Netflix and its distribution model, although the streaming service do seem to be putting out a major campaign for Dee Rees’s well received Sundance drama (for which they paid $ 12m). Critical word is also strong, but it’s harder to build up consistent long-term buzz for a film when it premieres on Netflix in comparison to the old-school theatrical release system. It could do well with the Golden Globes, who care less about such matters, but it’s looking less and less likely for Mudbound. Shame, it super deserves all that love too.
One of the benefits of the increased number of nominees for Best Picture is that it opens up the field to more animated films. We saw that in the early 2010s when the system was introduced as Pixar landed nominations for Up and Toy Story 3, but that seems to have tapered off in the past couple of years, with animation once again being resigned to its own category away from the ‘real’ films. Coco received some of Pixar’s strongest reviews in years and is a worldwide hit with major fans in its corner, but would that be enough?
This is probably the film that feels the most like what we would define as ‘Oscar bait’: A traditional biopic of a great historical figure that features barnstorming speeches, swelling music of optimum emotional impact, and a prosthetics laden lead performance by a beloved actor whose time has come. Gary Oldman, by most prognosticators’ predictions, remains the Best Actor frontrunner, but that may not be the case for much longer as Chalamet becomes the favourite, and the reviews for Jo Wright’s film itself haven’t been much to write home about. Still, there are many old white dudes in the Academy who eat this stuff up, and they like to have their voices heard.
The Disaster Artist
I still can’t get over James Franco being peak James Franco actually worked out for a change. Even though a biopic of the making of a terrible film beloved by midnight movie geeks is probably going to be a harder sell to wider audiences — who is this movie for? — there are few things the Academy love as much as movies about movies. This one may be a tad too esoteric for traditional voters, but don’t discount acting and screenplay nominations if A24 play their cards right and split their attentions evenly between this and Lady Bird.
The Big Sick
Another big indie hit — and probably Amazon’s only major Oscar contender this year — that’s getting a real campaign, but it’s a rom-com and the Academy are snobs. Even though The Big Sick is a damn fine film, it seems like the kind of movie that many voters would dismiss as a frivolity, which sucks. Keep an eye out in Original Screenplay.
The Greatest Showman
Yeah, I’ve no idea either. It’s still baffling to me that this, of all things, is Hugh Jackman’s passion project, because every trailer I’ve seen of it so far has sent me into pure paroxysms of cringe. Musicals can do well with the Academy — hey, that film that almost won Best Picture this year — and Hugh Jackman is the consummate showman and former host of the ceremony, which could work in his favour. I’m mostly mad that he’s dedicating all this attention to this when Logan is one of the best movies of the year and deserves a campaign, dammit!
Probably not happening:
I’m not entirely ready to write this one off. Sure, it was divisive as all hell with the critics and it failed to warm to wider audiences (why did this thing get a huge release in the first place?) but the people who love it are gung-ho zealots for its cause, and those ranks include the likes of Martin Scorsese. With the way the Best Picture voting system works — preferential voting with room for ten nominees — it’s not out of the running if enough people have it as their favourite film of the year, and the Academy sure do love Jennifer Lawrence.
Hoo boy, this was one of the big stinkers of the year. Remember when it was announced as a big premiere at the Venice Film Festival and everyone assumed that combination of George Clooney, Matt Damon and the Coen Brothers would be a dead cert for Oscar gold? Then everyone — well, not everyone because did you see those box office reports — actually saw the film. Suburbicon turned out to be one of the year’s biggest messes, trying to force the historical drama of racial segregation into a black comedy about the trappings of suburbia. Clooney has a spotty filmography as a director — Good Night and Good Luck is brilliant, The Ides of March is messy but watchable, and Monuments Men felt like an excuse to go on holiday with his mates — but he is an Academy favourite, with awards to his name as a writer, actor and producer. Still, not even Hollywood’s favourite son can turn a mess into gold.
Blade Runner 2049
Alas, this one’s underwhelming box office may set its chances back, although critics loved it and Roger Deakins’s cinematography is once again Oscar worthy. Seriously, who does he have to kill to actually win one of those things? Technical nods are probably as close to Oscar gold as this will get, unfortunately.
As you can see, it’s not been a great year for social satires starring Matt Damon. Alexander Payne is a big Oscar favourite, so it’s not out of the realms of possibility that this movie can slide in somewhere, but its chances are currently strongest in Best Supporting Actress for the breakout star Hong Chau. Payne’s first dip into the sci-fi genre landed with a thud for many critics, who found its targets and messages wanting.
After stepping out for his first engagement with Meghan Markle in England last week, Prince Harry resumed his royal duties when he attended the London Fire Brigade Carol Service at Westminster Cathedral on Monday. Clad in a gray suit, Harry stepped out solo for the annual event, which includes holiday readings and traditional Christmas carols and honors the fire and rescue service team, as well as their families and former colleagues.
The holiday season brings family and friends together, offers glittery home décor and cocoons hosts and hostesses in a frenzy of at-home entertaining. From cocktail parties to family gatherings, there’s an influx of deciding on wines, spirits, hor d’oeuvres and desserts. To help make the season a little less stressful, we spoke with award-winning Chef Jamie Bissonnette on how to create the most beautiful and delicious charcuterie board. Bissonnette is the head chef and owner of Coppa in Boston, Toro in New York City and Little Donkey in Cambridge. He was named Best Chef: Northeast at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards before releasing his debut cookbook, The New Charcuterie Cookbook: Exceptional Cured Meats to Make and Serve at Home.
A charcuterie board provides guests with an impressive platter while also being an easy last-minute option for a busy host. “Charcuterie is an easy and light dinner option for when no one wants to cook a full meal,” Bissonnette adds. As an acclaimed chef and lover of charcuterie, Bissonnette always aims to offer a variety of products in his menus. “Mortadella, Prosciutto, Nduja, and then some things that might not be as well known, like a Porcini Salami, or Duck Prosciutto,” he says of possible inclusions. For at-home building, Bissonnette says, “You can take inspiration from restaurants’ charcuterie boards by learning about the more obscure and unique meats and mix them into your own boards at home.”
Hosts can get as creative as they’d like when preparing charcuterie at home, from featuring jamon and chorizo for some Spanish flavor or Italian prosciutto, you have full control over what meats and garnishes you include. “Sometimes cooking garnishes for your charcuterie board can be even more fun than a full meal because it shows how a little personal touch can really change the board,” Bissonnette says.
Chef Jamie Bissonnette
During the winter season, party-goers tend to gravitate toward the liquid refreshments just as much as the savory snacks. Bissonnette recommends the medium bodied Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge for when the temperature starts to drop.
Below, Bissonnette gives us his top five tops for how to build the best charcuterie board for the holiday season.
1. Be Adventurous There are so many different styles and preparations of charcuterie that you can serve on a charcuterie board. Building your own at home allows you to play with styles and cuisines that you might not get at a restaurant. Here are a few of my favorites: Saucisson, Pate, Rillettes, Chorizo, Ham, and Jambon de Bayonne.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Try Something New Get to know your local butcher and find out what their favorites are and what they recommend you try. Ask lots of questions.
3. Think Beauty and Balance Displaying your charcuterie in a visually appealing way, with various spreads and garnishes, will make it taste better and make your guests come back for more. Mix and match where the meats are placed on the board. For example, don’t place all the sausages next to each other, or people won’t be able to remember what’s what. Variety is important both for looking great and keeping your charcuterie selection organized.
4. Don’t Forget Garnishes Charcuterie can be rich and filling so I like to serve it with tangy garnishes to help balance out the flavors. In addition to the usual mustard and pickles, I like to add Sweet & Sour Celery, Marinated Mushrooms, and Romesco mustard. These all add color and texture to your charcuterie board.
Sweet & Sour Celery Recipe:
Ingredients: 2 cups Honey 2 teasp Kosher Salt 2 cups Slices Celery, 1/3 inch thick 1/8 cup of Guigal Côtes du Rhône White Wine 3 each Black Peppercorn
Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a stainless-steel pot and bring to boil, then cook at a low simmer for one hour. Strain the celery from the liquid and set aside. Add the liquid back into the pot and cook at a low simmer until reduced by half. Pour just enough liquid to cover the cooling celery. Store in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to two months.
5. Wine Pairings Balance is the main objective when it comes to pairing your charcuterie with wine at home. I recommend Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc and Rouge wines to pair with a charcuterie board. The unoaked white and well-balanced red are awesome with the fat, salt, and deep flavors of cured meat. The wines bring interesting complementary fruit, floral and spice notes that tie together the meal.