Things I Wrote: February and March 2018

So I failed to keep up with this two months in a row, so here’s a refresher on my published works for February and March.

REVIEWS
Entanglement – Fresh Fiction
The Party – Fresh Fiction
Gringo – College Movie Review
A Wrinkle in Time – College Movie Review
Love, Simon – College Movie Review
Pacific Rim: Uprising – College Movie Review
Isle of Dogs – College Movie Review
Ready Player One – College Movie Review

ARTICLES
Coming Attractions (February) – Central Track
Coming Attractions (March) – Central Track

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What I Watched This Week: 25 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
The Simpsons – “Three Scenes (Plus a Tag) from a Marriage” (B+)
Another relationship ret-con episode, but one that isn’t trying to go for dramatics or pathos. It’s just a well-executed, very funny exercise in keeping things semi-fresh. Bonus points for actually getting J.K. Simmons as Marge’s J. Jonah Jameson-like editor.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Negotiation” (A-)
Any Doug Judy episode is going to get high marks from me anyway, but this one is exceedingly clever, even if we all know Doug Judy will always be the scorpion to Jake’s frog. Plus, there’s karaoke of 4 Non-Blondes, Hitchcock acting professional and Boyle going all Gordon Ramsey on Amy and Gina.

Silicon Valley – “Grow Fast or Die Slow” (B+) / season premiere
Deftly maneuvers into Pied Piper’s “successful period” by showing just how unprepared Richard is for it. (We already knew how good Dinesh and Guilfoyle were at wasting time.) It also finds a worthy adversary in the creator of Sliceline, who loses his awful (but funded) company in a hostile takeover by Richard.

Barry – “Make Your Mark” (A-) / series premiere
One of the better pilots in recent years. It knows exactly what it is, yet has seemingly unlimited potential to turn into something even better. Both Bill Hader (who also shows off his directing chops) and Henry Winkler are excellent.

The Americans – “Dead Hand” (A-) / season premiere
Jumps forward in time without losing much. That opening montage is one of the best things the show has ever done. Beautifully sets up the new reality we’re in while also raising the stakes pretty much immediately. Sad to see this show end.

BINGEING
Collateral (B+ average)
As much as I want shows to have shorter runs, this four-episode British import actually could have used two more hours to flesh out its characters more and make its many strands tie together better. And while there are no plans for a sequel, I would absolutely watch more seasons of Kip Glasby (Carey Mulligan, who should absolutely be remembered come Emmy time) solving crimes with empathy.

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Streaming Picks: April 2018

FILMS
Top Picks
50/50 – Hulu 4/1
Mystery Team – Amazon 4/1
The Florida Project – Amazon 4/1 (Academy Award nominee)
Call me indecisive, but I just couldn’t pick between all these films, which I adore for different reasons. 50/50 is the underrated 2011 dramedy about a young writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) diagnosed with cancer. Mystery Team is the wild, hilarious Encyclopedia Brown-esque adventure from Derrick Comedy, which featured pre-fame Donald Glover and Bobby Moynihan. Few comedies from the last decade are this quotable. And The Florida Project is the latest from master filmmaker and empathizer Sean Baker. Willem Dafoe should have won his first Oscar for his performance as the caretaker of a transient motel near Orlando, but his rare nice guy role is just one of many wonderful things about this great film.

Recent Selections
So B. It – Hulu 4/4
Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall – Netflix 4/5
Despicable Me 3 – Netflix 4/5
Dina – Hulu 4/5
Ram Dass: Going Home – Netflix 4/6
Take My Nose… Please! – Hulu 4/9
Augie – Hulu 4/11
Dealt – Hulu 4/14
The Relationtrip – Hulu 4/16
Tragedy Girls – Hulu 4/18
Loving Vincent – Hulu 4/19 (Academy Award nominee)
Bill Nye: Science Guy – Netflix 4/25
Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death – Hulu 4/26
Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie – Hulu 4/27
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene – Hulu 4/28
Permanent – Hulu 4/29
A Thousand Junkies – Hulu 4/30

Originals
6 Balloons – Netflix 4/6
Amateur – Netflix 4/6
Orbiter 9 – Netflix 4/6
The 4th Company – Netflix 4/6
Pickpockets – Netflix 4/12
Come Sunday – Netflix 4/13
I Am Not an Easy Man – Netflix 4/13
Dude – Netflix 4/20
Kodachrome – Netflix 4/20
Mercury 13 – Netflix 4/20
Psychokinesis – Netflix 4/25
Bobby Kennedy for President – Netflix 4/27
Candy Jar – Netflix 4/27
The Week Of – Netflix 4/27

NEW SHOWS & SPECIALS
Top Pick
The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 2) – Hulu 4/25
Your current Emmy champ for drama series had a bumpy first season, but started and finished strong. The second season opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for seeing the world beyond Gilead.

Originals
Wakfu (Season 3) – Netflix 4/1
The Crossing – Hulu 4/3
National Treasure: Kiri – Hulu 4/4
Bosch (Season 4) – Amazon 4/4
Fastest Car (Season 1) – Netflix 4/6
Money Heist (Part 2) – Netflix 4/6
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: JAY Z – Netflix 4/6
The Boss Baby: Back in Business (Season 1) – Netflix 4/6
Troy: Fall of a City (Season 1) – Netflix 4/6
AMO (Season 1) – Netflix 4/9
Chef’s Table: Pastry – Netflix 4/13
Lost in Space (Season 1) – Netflix 4/13
The Magic School Bus Rides Again (Season 2) – Netflix 4/13
The Chalet (Season 1) – Netflix 4/17
Charité (Season 1) – Netflix 4/19
Aggretsuko (Season 1) – Netflix 4/20
Dope (Season 2) – Netflix 4/20
Spy Kids: Mission Critical (Season 1) – Netflix 4/20
The Letdown (Season 1) – Netflix 4/21
3% (Season 2) – Netflix 4/27
The New Legends of Monkey (Season 1) – Netflix 4/27

OLD SHOWS
Merlin (Seasons 1-5) – Amazon 4/1
La Piloto (Season 1) – Netflix 4/2
The Missing (Season 2) – Amazon 4/2
Black Sails (Season 4) – Hulu 4/2
Preacher (Season 2) – Hulu 4/10
Red Rock (Season 3) – Amazon 4/23
Call the Midwife: Christmas Special 2017 – Netflix 4/24
Vikings (Season 5) – Hulu and Amazon 4/24
Jane the Virgin (Season 4) – Netflix 4/27
The Carmichael Show (Season 3) – Hulu 4/30

COMEDY SPECIALS
Top Pick
The Honeymoon Stand-Up Special – Netflix 4/17
Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher got married in 2015. But instead of celebrating like mostly newlyweds, they went on tour and did stand-up together. This series of specials highlights their routines and relationship advice.

Other Specials
Fary Is the New Black – Netflix 4/3
Todo lo que sería Lucas Lauriente – Netflix 4/6
Greg Davies: You Magnificent Beast – Netflix 4/10
Kevin James: Never Don’t Give Up – Netflix 4/24
Seth Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity – Netflix TBD

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What I Watched This Week: 18 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Bill Hader/Arcade Fire” (B+)
A couple sketches whiffed on the promise of their premise, but Hader is so good in all of them. Like much of the cast, I was in stitches pretty much the entire time.

The Simpsons – “Homer Is Where the Art Isn’t” (B)
No one in 2018 needed a parody of the forgotten ’70s caper Banacek, but it’s well-executed and Bill Hader does exceptional guest work as the insurance investigator trying to determine who stole a Joan Miró painting beloved by Homer.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Safe House” (B+)
The show wraps up its last big plotline (which doesn’t seem good for its long-term prospects, even if it did get its highest ratings of the season) in hilarious fashion, with Jake and Kevin kept in a safe house while the FBI and the Nine-Nine try to bring down Seamus Murphy.

A.P. Bio – “Selling Out” (B+)
A very funny if sleight episode that ends exactly where you expect it to, but has some of the season’s biggest laughs getting there.

Atlanta – “Helen” (B-)
Had a tough time with this one, which is frequently harsh where the show usually has a lighter touch. Plus, Earn, whom we sympathize with throughout most of the series, is just a straight-up dick the entire episode, making it hard to find a center.

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What I Watched This Week: 11 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Sterling K. Brown/James Bay” (B+)
Just two years ago, he was killing it among other well-established actors in The People v. O.J. Simpson. Now, the man has two Emmys and is giving it his all on SNL. While the sketches weren’t all winners, Brown proved he’s got real comedic chops even beyond his corny dad jokes on This Is Us. But my favorite recurring characters are now officially Eric and Donald Trump, Jr.

This Is Us – “The Wedding” (A-) / season finale
Gives us both an extreme bit of fan service and an ominous flash-forward. While this season’s been an improvement on the first, I don’t know if this will ever become a truly great show. But it’s definitely got me sucked in for another season, and has proven this could run forever (or at least until the cast agrees to stop).

A.P. Bio – “Freakin’ Enamored” (B)
Still endlessly charming, even if it’s overstuffed. I hope the show gets another season to figure out the right balance.

Atlanta – “Money Bag Shawty” (B+)
Pardon me if this brings up some bad vibes, but this episode brought to mind another show that serves as the best comparison: Louis CK’s elastic dramedy Louie. At least in this episode, there’s a continual feeling that no matter what good thing may happen to Earn (and by extension, Paper Boi and Darius), the other shoe is waiting to drop in a surreal way. Even if they all end up successful, assholes are still going to see them like Jay-Z in “The Story of O.J.” or Kanye West in “All Falls Down.”

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What I Watched This Week: 4 Mar 2018

NEW SHOWS
Crashing – “Roast Battle” (A-) / season finale
I knew exactly where it was going from the jump, yet it was still devastating when it got there. I hope Jamie Lee returns in Season 3, because she was incredible. But this is and always has been Pete’s journey, and while he came out of his shell a little bit, he’s still got a lot of growing up to do. This was also the funniest episode of the season, with a ton of great jokes during the actual battles, especially Pete’s clean jabs (“I’ll go first. Unlike the women here, I’m OK with you following me.”)

This Is Us – “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life” (A)
I was already rolling my eyes when I saw the title of this episode. But that all melted away when I saw this brilliantly executed, devastating hour that revealed how Deja ended up sleeping in a car with her mom. It’s a heart-wrenching episode that gives a lot more depth to her mother and shows just how easy it can be to slip into homelessness even when you’re trying to do the right thing.

A.P. Bio – “Dating Toledoans” (B+)
Another winning, heart-warming episode that shows Jack is finally warming up to the people around him, however lame they might be.

Atlanta – “Sportin’ Waves” (B+)
Every scene in the show can is fraught with both the Robbin’ Season of this season’s subtitle, but also the casual and explicit racism the characters face on a regular basis, whether in a meeting with a white marketing executive trying to be hip, to the interview Tracy attends. We know that Tracy is a fraudulent thief who would probably be a terrible employee, but his super-white boss doesn’t. That doesn’t also mean this episode isn’t also hilarious.

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What I Watched This Week: 25 Feb 2018

NEW SHOWS
Crashing – “NACA” (A)
In just 30 minutes, it pulls off the extreme difficulty of making really bad jokes be really funny, as well as staging just an incredible fight between Pete and Ali about not just their relationship, but about whether degrading your art for success is worth it. And it all ends with a series of Matthew McConaughey impressions.

This Is Us – “Vegas, Baby” (C)
A bit of much-needed levity, but many of the fights its characters have during what’s supposed to be a fun getaway rang hollow for me.

Waco – “Day 51” (A) / series finale
The tragic ending we all knew was coming. Dozens of people were murdered by the government. While the show didn’t as deeply explore its themes of the terrifying militarization of law enforcement, it still made its point. The performances were strong, even when the writing and direction wasn’t as stellar.

A.P. Bio – “Overachieving Virgins” (B+)
A mini-Election tribute is the basis of this solid episode that manages to be extremely funny, while being a little less adult in nature than the previous episodes. The pyramid scheme subplot is relatable, but could have been grafted onto any episode.

Atlanta – “Alligator Man” (A) / season premiere
What a joy it is to have this show back, and not just because I spotted two locations in my neighborhood – the Mrs. Winners and the Checkers – where Hiro Murai filmed. The show can still be anything it wants, as a side trip to the house of Earn’s uncle (played wonderfully by Katt Williams) turns into a standoff with police, complete with Schrödinger’s alligator.

CURRENT SHOWS
Waco – “Stalling for Time” (A-)
The best episode since the premiere, as the standoff drags on for weeks. It also ends with the most wonderfully ridiculous moment of the year.

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My Dream Oscar Ballot 2018

For the first time ever, I’d seen every nominee in all eight major categories by the time of awards ceremony. But as per usual, I was way behind on documentaries, foreign language films and animated features (not to mention shorts), so below, find my picks for everything else.

BEST PICTURE
The Big Sick
Call Me by Your Name
Dunkirk
The Florida Project
Get Out
Lady Bird
mother!
Mudbound
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water

BEST DIRECTOR
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Darren Aronofsky, mother!
Dee Rees, Mudbound
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

BEST ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Robert Pattinson, Good Time

BEST ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread
Jennifer Lawrence, mother!
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Meryl Streep, The Post

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Carla Juri, Blade Runner 2049
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

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Oscar Guide 2018

Guys, I just don’t know. With a real lack of consensus around this year’s crop of nominees, there’s no one film you can point to and say: “That’s the one to beat.” So what’s going to happen Sunday night? Sure, The Shape of Water could sweep most of its categories (although I’m writing off Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress) in an historic night. Or it could mirror the BAFTAs exactly and it will be a big night for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (which would require keeping sharp objects and Molotov cocktails away from Film Twitter). But while I’m not confident in many of these picks, I am fairly certain with this many great nominees, voters will spread the love, and we’ll have another year where the Best Picture winner isn’t the movie with the most overall awards at the end of the night. Read on, and on Monday you’ll know if I’m a moron or a visionary.

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
BEST PICTURE
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will win: Lady Bird
Could win: The Shape of Water
Should win: Dunkirk
Should have been here: The Big Sick

The skinny: Had Three Billboards scored a nomination for Best Director, this would clearly be a race between that film and The Shape of Water. And maybe it is. But those are two extremely polarizing movies that even its fans (I count myself among them) admit have some flaws. The latest rumors have the battle coming down to Dunkirk vs. Get Out. (We should be so lucky.) But with the preferential ballot – which requires re-voting until one film gets more than 50 percent of the vote – I think the most likely winner is the one with the best reviews: Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. Now, I know the Producers Guild of America also uses a preferential ballot, and gave its award to The Shape of Water. But they also have more than triple the membership. So since the expansion of the category, Best Picture has tended to go to a movie everyone likes, but maybe doesn’t love. And while there is definitely a contingent of voters who think Lady Bird is the best movie of the year, I think there’s an even larger group of people who are charmed by it. They might not have it as No. 1, but they probably have it in their top 5. It’s a movie seemingly everyone can relate to and has positive feelings for. Is that enough to win? Maybe not. But with no real road map this year, your guess is as good as mine.

Guillermo del Toro of The Shape of Water
BEST DIRECTOR
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Will win: Guillermo del Toro
Could and should win: Christopher Nolan
Should have been here: Dee Rees, Mudbound

The skinny: While this is an impressive slate of directors, with no duds like Morten Tyldum or head-scratchers like Mel Gibson gumming up the works, this one seems less of a competition. Guillermo del Toro has one nearly all the precursory directing awards. This is his first nomination, but his films are all admired, and this feels like the culmination of his fascination with monsters, outsiders and period settings. It may not be as big a night as its 13 nominations suggest, but this feels like the closest thing to a lock outside the acting categories.

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour
BEST ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Will win: Gary Oldman
Could win: Timothée Chalamet
Should win: Daniel Kaluuya
Should have been here: Robert Pattinson, Good Time

The skinny: I know people are going to bring up Gary Oldman’s violent past as reasons not to honor him, but Academy voters are simply not going to care (at least not enough to give it to someone else). His performance as Winston Churchill is the best thing about the film, and it’s the type of hammy performance of a real-life person that the Academy honors on auto-pilot. There’s far more interesting work being done here, but I think most voters will say it’s too soon for the 22-year-old Chalamet and the 28-year-old Kaluuya, and they’ve already honored Daniel Day-Lewis three times. Denzel Washington could have won last year, but he is absolutely not going to get a second Best Actor trophy for a movie as idiosyncratic and underseen as Roman J. Israel, Esq. So it’s Oldman all the way.

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
BEST ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Will and should win: Frances McDormand
Could win: Sally Hawkins
Should have been here: Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread

The skinny: Whatever your thoughts on Three Billboards and its controversial script, no one seems to deny the great acting by the trio of nominated performers. This is McDormand’s movie through and through and she is absolutely phenomenal. And while the other ladies are quite good, I’m still a little dumbfounded that Vicky Krieps isn’t nominated for Phantom Thread. The Luxembourgian unknown went toe-to-toe with Daniel Day-Lewis and won. That would be the most interesting race, but alas the only person who could beat McDormand is Hawkins. She’s been nominated once before and is also the lead in a Best Picture nominee. She’s also playing a strong, independent woman, living boldly with her disability, which can’t be discounted. McDormand won for Fargo (one of the best and most-deserved wins of all time), but that was 21 years ago, so I doubt it will play a factor.

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will win: Sam Rockwell
Could and should win: Willem Dafoe
Should have been here: Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

The skinny: Sam Rockwell has been one of the most beloved character actors for nearly two decades, popping up in everything from Galaxy Quest to The Green Mile, Iron Man 2 to Frost/Nixon. And while the character he plays is reprehensible, I imagine many people will just pretend he’s won for one of any number of stellar supporting turns he’s given over the years. But I could say the same for Willem Dafoe, playing a good guy for one of the only times in his career. As the caretaker of the Magic Castle (and the film’s only nominee), he is both watchful guardian and rule enforcer, protecting his guests but also laying down the law. He’s something of a revelation to watch, given his great villainous turns in Wild at Heart, Shadow of the Vampire and Spider-Man. But all these performances pale in comparison to the turn Michael Stuhlbarg – appearing in three Best Picture nominees – gives in Call Me by Your Name. As Elio’s wise father, he has the year’s best monologue. But nature has a cunning way of finding our weakest spot.

Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Will and should win: Laurie Metcalf
Could win: Allison Janney
Should have been here: Holly Hunter, The Big Sick

The skinny: This category is the Year of Moms. Unfortunately, they forgot my favorite mom: Holly Hunter in The Big Sick. So it comes down to two performances: one nuanced and lovely, the other caustic and a little schticky. I love both Laurie Metcalf and Allison Janney, but when it comes to acting, the former is miles ahead of the latter. So I think (and pray) the Academy is not so easily amused with cutting remarks, bad parenting and a parakeet on the shoulder. More than just completing her Triple Crown of Acting, Metcalf deserves this because her performance is by far the most lived-in of any in this category. All the challenges she’s faced, all the sacrifices she’s made, all the love she feels is right there in every scene.

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Oscar Re-Do: 1997

Now that I’m far enough away from the years when I was growing up (*gulp*), I figured this would be a good year to stretch back from the years before 2000, when I started my annual re-do column. 1997 was the first year’s Oscars I remember watching part of, and while I didn’t know most of the nominees at the time, I’ve definitely become acquainted with most of them in recent years. So starting this year, and continuing for the next two years, you’ll get a little bonus to go along with my annual column. Winners in bold, then we’ll break it down.

My favorite film of 1997 is definitely Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. While it was nominated in only one category, it deserved attention in just about every single one. So to avoid repeating myself, I’ll simply reserve my outrage for the two categories where its omission is most baffling.

Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential
BEST PICTURE
As Good as It Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
L.A. Confidential
Titanic

Should have won: L.A. Confidential
Not even nominated: Boogie Nights

While I was initially wowed by Titanic (and, let’s be honest, Kate Winslet) when I first saw it as a 10-year-old, I’d grown way too dismissive of it in recent years. And while I still wouldn’t call it a favorite, it’s much more accomplished than I give it credit for. But compared to L.A. Confidential? Please. Morally complex, loaded with twists and often bitingly funny, this was the rare time the Academy should have honored a movie about its own town.

In fact, they should have had room for one more. Though it received three well-deserved nominations, Boogie Nights should have gotten well beyond that, starting with Best Picture. Though P.T. Anderson was viewed as something of a disruptor, a young hotshot with final cut on his sprawling movies, he was as talented as his reputation suggested. More on this later.

Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and James Cameron on the set of Titanic
BEST DIRECTOR
Peter Cattaneo, The Full Monty
Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting
Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential
Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter
James Cameron, Titanic

Should have won: No complaints here
Not even nominated: David Fincher, The Game

While I prefer L.A. Confidential, I can’t deny the achievement of Titanic. One of the most expensive movies ever made, James Cameron handled the technical craft with aplomb, but also made a disaster movie and a romance that set the world on fire. A win for Hanson would have been a footnote: a John G. Avildsen or Tom Hooper. A who? He deserved better than that, but the rest of his resumé doesn’t scream “Academy Award-winner.” Cameron, however, had been building to this, even if he hasn’t done much since (well, except for making the biggest movie of all time).

So swap out the head-scratching inclusion of Peter Cattaneo for David Fincher’s intentionally head-scratching The Game, which drops you into a crazy world and keeps you guessing until the final frame.

Robert Duvall in The Apostle
BEST ACTOR
Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting
Robert Duvall, The Apostle
Peter Fonda, Ulee’s Gold
Dustin Hoffman, Wag the Dog
Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets

Should have won: Robert Duvall
Not even nominated: Nicolas Cage, Face/Off and Con Air

While Nicholson is quite good in As Good as It Gets, giving a morally repugnant character a joie de vivre and delivering zingers left and right, Robert Duvall is giving a far more interesting performance as the Apostle E.F., a charismatic (in both senses of the word) preacher who rebuilds his life in a small Louisiana town while on the run from Texas police. The film as a whole doesn’t quite work, but it’s a true labor of love, one that rests entirely on Duvall’s shoulders.

And while you’re probably chuckling to yourself or looking up memes, Nicolas Cage was just beginning his insanely over-the-top phase, with his two best action movie performances to date. His John Travolta impression isn’t as good as Travolta’s Cage impression, but he’s delightfully unhinged in Face/Off‘s first half. In Con Air, he’s one of the few noble men on a plane full of convicts, who just wants his bunny back.

Greg Kinnear and Helen Hunt in As Good as It Gets
BEST ACTRESS
Helena Bonham Carter, The Wings of the Dove
Julie Christie, Afterglow
Judi Dench, Mrs. Brown
Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets
Kate Winslet, Titanic

Should have won: No complaints here
Not even nominated: Pam Grier, Jackie Brown

While she’s not thought of as highly as she should be today, 1998 was the peak of Helen Hunt’s massive charm. She was wonderful on Mad About You, winning three consecutive Emmys. And she’s frustrated but still alive and beautiful and fighting for everything she’s got in As Good as It Gets. It’s obviously a lighter movie compared to some of the other nominees, but she’s ultimately what makes it work so well.

But come on. The best female performance of the year wasn’t even nominated. Pam Grier had worked her way through the blaxploitation scene of the ’70s and popped up in random comedies and action flicks after that. But Quentin Tarantino adapted Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch completely around her, playing the sad, barely-scraping-by version of the slick drug runners and divas of her heyday. She is absolutely astonishing, from first scene to last, and her omission is the biggest crime related to a movie all about crime. Sadly, that great role only resulted in parts in two Showtime series, one of which is all but lost to time.

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