Category: Film Projects

Updated Oscar Projections As Wave of Top Contenders Are Released

THR’s awards columnist updates his projections.

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These projections reflect Scott Feinberg’s personal impressions (from screenings), publicly available information (release dates, genres, talent rosters and teasers/trailers often offer valuable clues), historical considerations (how other films with similar pedigrees have resonated), precursor awards (some awards groups have historically correlated with the Academy more than others) and consultations with industry insiders (including fellow members of the press, awards strategists, filmmakers and awards voters).

GLOSSARY The following abbreviations denote the film festival(s) at which a film has screened and/or will be screening: SUND=Sundance, SXSW=South by Southwest, TRIB=Tribeca, CANN=Cannes, VENI=Venice, TELL=Telluride, TIFF=Toronto, NYFF=New York, LOND=London and AFIF=AFI Fest.

Best Picture

FRONTRUNNERS

Roma (Netflix) VENI, TELL, TIFF, NYFF
A Star Is Born
(Warner Bros.) VENI, TIFF
The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) VENI, TELL, NYFF
Black Panther (Disney)
Green Book (Universal) TIFF
First Man (Universal) VENI, TELL, TIFF
BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features) CANN
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight) TELL, TIFF
Eighth Grade
(A24) SUND, SXSW
A Quiet Place (Paramount) SXSW

MAJOR THREATS

Cold War (Amazon) CANN, TELL, TIFF, NYFF
If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna) TIFF, NYFF
Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros.)
Ben is Back (Roadside Attractions) TIFF

POSSIBILITIES

Hereditary (A24) SUND, SXSW
Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street) SUND, CANN
Widows (Fox) TIFF, LOND
22 July (Netflix) VENI, TIFF

STILL TO COME

Mary Poppins Returns (Disney)
Mary Queen of Scots (Focus Features) AFIF
The Mule (Warner Bros.)
On the Basis of Sex (Focus Features) AFIF
Vice (Annapurna)

Best Director

FRONTRUNNERS

Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Ryan Coogler (Black Panther)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)

MAJOR THREATS

Damien Chazelle (First Man) — podcast
Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)
Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade)
Peter Farrelly (Green Book)
Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) — podcast
Paul Greengrass (22 July)
Debra Granik (Leave No Trace)
John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)

POSSIBILITIES

Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians)
Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Ari Aster (Hereditary)
Peter Hedges (Ben is Back)
Steve McQueen (Widows)
Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You)
Julian Schnabel (At Eternity’s Gate)

STILL TO COME (alphabetical)

Clint Eastwood (The Mule)
Mimi Leder (On the Basis of Sex)
Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns)
Adam McKay (Vice) — podcast
Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots)

Best Actor

FRONTRUNNERS

Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) — podcast
Lucas Hedges (Ben is Back)
Ryan Gosling (First Man)
Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner)

MAJOR THREATS

Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) — podcast
John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)
Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy)
Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) — podcast
Ethan Hawke (First Reformed) — podcast
Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate) — podcast
John C. Reilly (The Sisters Brothers)

POSSIBILITIES

Robert Redford (The Old Man & the Gun)
Ben Foster (Leave No Trace)
John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)
Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased)
Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You)
Steve Coogan (Stan & Ollie)
John C. Reilly (Stan & Ollie)

STILL TO COME (alphabetical)

Christian Bale (Vice)
Clint Eastwood (The Mule)

Best Actress

FRONTRUNNERS

Glenn Close (The Wife) — podcast
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Julia Roberts (Ben is Back)
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)

MAJOR THREATS

Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Kathryn Hahn (Private Life)
Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Viola Davis (Widows)
Nicole Kidman (Destroyer) — podcast
Joanna Kulig (Cold War)
Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)

POSSIBILITIES

KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Charlize Theron (Tully)
Keira Knightley (Colette) — podcast
Rosamund Pike (A Private War) — podcast
Carey Mulligan (Wildlife)
Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Kindergarten Teacher)
Emma Thompson (The Children Act)
Hilary Swank (What They Had)

STILL TO COME (alphabetical)

Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns)
Felicity Jones (On the Basis of Sex)
Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots) — podcast

Best Supporting Actor

FRONTRUNNERS

Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Mahershala Ali (Green Book) — podcast
Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy) — podcast
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)
Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite)

MAJOR THREATS

Robert Forster (What They Had)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) — podcast
Matthew McConaughey (White Boy Rick) — podcast
Paul Giamatti (Private Life)
Daniel Kaluuya (Widows)
Russell Crowe (Boy Erased)

POSSIBILITIES

Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman) — podcast
Topher Grace (BlacKkKlansman)
Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk) NEW
Jake Gyllenhaal (Wildlife) — podcast
Dominic West (Colette)
Alessandro Nivola (Disobedience)

STILL TO COME (alphabetical)

Steve Carell (Vice)
Armie Hammer (On the Basis of Sex)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns) — podcast
Mike Myers (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Sam Rockwell (Vice) — podcast
Justin Theroux (On the Basis of Sex)

Best Supporting Actress

FRONTRUNNERS

Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite) — podcast
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
Claire Foy (First Man) — podcast
Marina de Tavira (Roma)

MAJOR THREATS

Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace)
Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased) — podcast
Elizabeth Debicki (Widows)
Natalie Portman (Vox Lux) — podcast
Kayli Carter (Private Life)
Rachel McAdams (Disobedience)

POSSIBILITIES

Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians)
Vera Farmiga (The Front Runner)
Ann Dowd (Hereditary)
Angela Bassett (Black Panther)
Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther)
Danai Gurira (Black Panther) — podcast

STILL TO COME (alphabetical)

Amy Adams (Vice)
Kathy Bates (On the Basis of Sex)
Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns)
Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots) — podcast
Meryl Streep (Mary Poppins Returns)

Best Adapted Screenplay

FRONTRUNNERS

A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, Eric Roth)
BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott)
Black Panther (Joe Robert Cole, Ryan Coogler)
First Man (Josh Singer)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty)

MAJOR THREATS

If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
Crazy Rich Asians (Peter Chiarelli, Adele Lim)
Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini)
Widows (Gillian Flynn, Steve McQueen)
22 July (Paul Greengrass)
The Wife (Jane Anderson)
The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain)

POSSIBILITIES

Wildlife (Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan)
The Front Runner (Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman)
Beautiful Boy (Luke Davies, Felix Van Groeningen)
The Hate U Give (Audrey Wells)
Disobedience (Sebastian Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz)
Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton)
A Private War (Arash Amel)

STILL TO COME

Mary Poppins Returns (John DeLuca, David Magee, Rob Marshall)
Mary Queen of Scots (Beau Willimon)

Best Original Screenplay

FRONTRUNNERS

The Favourite (Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara)
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)
Green Book (Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga)
Eighth Grade
(Bo Burnham)
Private Life (Tamara Jenkins)

MAJOR THREATS

Ben is Back (Peter Hedges)
A Quiet Place
(Scott Beck, John Krasinski, Bryan Woods)
Cold War
(Piotr Borkowski, Janusz Glowacki, Pawel Pawlikowski)
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Hereditary (Ari Aster)
Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)
Mid90s (Jonah Hill) NEW
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
What They Had (Elizabeth Chomko)

POSSIBILITIES

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Kunichi Nomura, Jason Schwartzman)
Capernaum (Jihad Hojeily, Michelle Keserwany, Nadine Labaki, Khaled Mouzanar)
Colette (Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Wash Westmoreland)
Destroyer (Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi)
White Boy Rick (Logan Miller, Noah Miller, Andy Weiss)
Vox Lux (Brady Corbet)
Stan & Ollie (Jeff Pope)
At Eternity’s Gate (Julian Schnabel)

STILL TO COME

On the Basis of Sex (Daniel Stiepleman)
Vice (Adam McKay)

Best Animated Feature

FRONTRUNNERS

Incredibles 2 (Disney/Pixar)
Isle of Dogs (Fox Searchlight) BERL, SXSW
Ralph Breaks the Internet (Disney)
Mirai (GKIDS)
Ruben Brandt, Collector (Sony Classics) NEW

THE REST OF THE FIELD (alphabetical)

Early Man (Lionsgate/Aardman)
The Grinch (Universal/Illumination)
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (Sony Animation)
Lu Over the Wall (GKIDS)
Next Gen (Netflix)
Night is Short, Walk On Girl (GKIDS)
Sherlock Gnomes (Paramount)
Smallfoot (Warner Bros.)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony)
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (Warner Bros.)

Best Documentary Feature

PROJECTED SHORTLIST

Free Solo (National Geographic) TELL, TIFF
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus Features) SUND, SXSW
RBG (Magnolia) SUND
Three Identical Strangers (Neon) SUND
Quincy (Netflix) TIFF
Science Fair (National Geographic) SUND, SXSW
Crime + Punishment (Hulu) SUND
Minding the Gap (Hulu/Magnolia) SUND
The Price of Everything (HBO) SUND
Filmworker (Kino Lorber) CANN [’17], NYFF [’17]
The Sentence (HBO) SUND
Studio 54 (Zeitgeist) SUND, TRIB
McQueen (Bleecker Street) TRIB
Dark Money (PBS) SUND
On Her Shoulders (Oscilloscope) SUND, SXSW

THE REST OF THE FIELD (alphabetical)

93Queen (Abramorama) NEW
306 Hollywood (El Tigre) SUND NEW
Always at the Carlyle
(Good Deed)
Believer (HBO)
BISBEE ’17 (4th Row Films) NEW
The Bleeding Edge (Netflix)
Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (Magnolia) TIFF [’17], NYFF [’17]
Chef Flynn (Kino Lorber) SUND
Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Magnolia) TIFF
Eating Animals (Sundance Selects) TELL [’17]
Fahrenheit 11/9 (Briarcliff) TIFF
Far from the Tree (Sundance Selects)
Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf (Argot)
Generation Wealth (Amazon) SUND, BERL, SXSW
The Gospel According to André (Magnolia) TIFF [’17], TRIB
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (Kino Lorber) TIFF [’17]
Hal (Oscilloscope) SUND, TELL
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Cinema Guild) SUND
The Heart of Nuba (Abramorama)
Hitler’s Hollywood (Kino Lorber) TELL [’17] NEW
In Search of Greatness (AOS)
Inventing Tomorrow (Fishbowl Films)
Itzhak (Greenwich Entertainment)
Jane Fonda in Five Acts (HBO) SUND
John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection (Oscilloscope)
The Judge (self distributed) TIFF
The King (Oscilloscope) CANN [’17], SUND
King in the Wilderness (HBO) SUND
Kusama: Infinity (Magnolia) SUND NEW
Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy (Magnolia)
Liyana (Abramorama) NEW
Love, Cecil (Zeitgeist) TELL [’17]
Love, Gilda (Magnolia) TRIB
Maria by Callas (Sony Classics) TIFF
Monrovia, Indiana (Zipporah) VENI, TIFF, NYFF
The Oslo Diaries (HBO) SUND
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (Focus Features) CANN
The Price of Free (YouTube) SUN
Reversing Roe (Netflix) TELL, TIFF
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (HBO) SUND
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (MUBI) TRIB
Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland (HBO)
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Greenwich Entertainment) TIFF [’17]
Shirkers (Netflix) SUND
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Netflix) VENI, TELL
United Skates (HBO) TRIB NEW
Watergate — or, How We Learned to Stop An Out-of-Control President (History) TELL
What Haunts Us NEW
Whitney (Roadside Attractions) CANN [’17]

STILL SEEKING U.S. DISTRIBUTOR (alphabetical)

American Dharma VENI, TIFF, NYFF
Angels Are Made of Light TELL, TIFF, NYFF
Aquarela VENI, LOND
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache CANN, TELL, NYFF, LOND
The Biggest Little Farm TELL, TIFF
The Dawn Wall SXSW NEW
The Dead and the Others [Brazil] CANN
The Elephant Queen TIFF
Fail State NEW
Ghost Fleet TELL
Graves Without a Name TELL, TIFF
The Great Buster: A Celebration VENI, TELL
Meeting Gorbachev TELL, TIFF
Mountain
People’s Republic of Desire SXSW NEW
Saving Brinton
Screwball TIFF
The Silence of Others BERL
What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael TELL
Women Making Films: A New Road Movie Through Cinema VENI, TIFF

Best Foreign Language Film

PROJECTED SHORTLIST

Roma [Mexico] (Netflix) VENI, TELL, TIFF, NYFF
Cold War [Poland] (Amazon) CANN, TELL, TIFF, NYFF
Girl [Belgium] CANN, TELL, TIFF
Burning [South Korea] (Well Go USA) CANN, NYFF
Shoplifters [Japan] (Magnolia) CANN, TELL, TIFF, NYFF
Capernaum [Lebanon] (Sony Classics) CANN, TIFF
The Guilty [Denmark] (Magnolia) SUND
Birds of Passage [Colombia] (The Orchard) CANN, TELL, TIFF, LOND
Never Look Away [Germany] (Sony Classics) VENI, TIFF

OTHER OFFICIAL SUBMISSIONS (alphabetical)

10 Days Before the Wedding [Yemen] NEW
And Suddenly the Dawn [Chile]
Ayka [Kazakhstan] CANN NEW
The Angel [Argentina] CANN, TIFF
Beauty and the Dogs [Tunisia] CANN [’17], LOND [’17], AFIF [’17]
Border [Sweden] CANN, TELL, TIFF, NYFF
Buffalo Boys [Singapore]
Burnout [Morocco]
Cake [Pakistan]
The Cakemaker [Israel] LOND [’17]
Champions [Spain]
Cocote [Dominican Republic] TIFF [’17]
Crystal Swan [Belarus]
Dogman [Italy] CANN, TELL, TIFF, LOND
Donbass [Ukraine] CANN, TIFF
Eldorado [Switzerland] TELL
Eternity [Peru]
Euthanizer [Finland] TIFF [’17]
The Eighth Commissioner [Croatia]
The Family [Venezuela]
Family First [Canada] NEW
Ghost Hunting [Palestine] BERL [’17]
Graves Without a Name [Cambodia] VENI, TELL
The Great Buddha + [Taiwan] TIFF [’17]
The Great Mystical Circus [Brazil] CANN
Gutland [Luxembourg]
The Heiresses [Paraguay] BERL
Hidden Man [China] TIFF NEW
I Am Not a Witch
[United Kingdom]
I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History As Barbarians [Romania]
The Interpreter [Slovakia]
Iskra [Montenegro]
Ivan [Slovenia]
Jirga [Australia] TIFF NEW
The Journey [Iraq] TIFF [’17], LOND [’17]
Malila: The Farewell Flower [Thailand]
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts [Indonesia] CANN [’17], TIFF [’17], AFIF [’17]
The Marriage [Kosovo]
Medea [Costa Rica]
Memoir of War [France]
Muralla [Bolivia]
Namme [Georgia]
Never Leave Me [Bosnia & Herzegovina]
Night Accident [Kyrgyzstan]
No Bed of Roses [Bangladesh]
No Date, No Signature [Iran] VENI [’17]
Offenders [Serbia]
Omnipresent [Bulgaria]
Operation Red Sea [Hong Kong]
Panchayat [Nepal]
Pilgrimage [Portugal]
Polyxeni [Greece]
The Resistance Banker [Netherlands]
The Road to Sunrise [Malawi] NEW
Rona Azim’s Mother [Afghanistan] NEW
Ruben Blades is Not My Name [Panama] SXSW
Sew the Winter to My Skin [South Africa] TIFF
Secret Ingredient [Macedonia]
Sergio and Sergei [Cuba] TIFF [’17]
Signal Rock [Philippines]
Sobibor [Russia] CANN
A Son of Man [Ecuador]
Spitak [Armenia] NEW
Sunset [Hungary] (Sony Classics) VENI, TIFF, LOND
Supa Modo
[Kenya] BERL
The Tailor [Vietnam]
Take It or Leave It [Estonia]
To Be Continued [Latvia]
A Twelve-Year Night [Uruguay] VENI
Until the End of Time [Algeria]
Village Rockstars [India] TIFF [’17]
The Waldheim Waltz [Austria] BERL, NYFF
The Wedding Ring [Niger] TIFF [’16]
What Will People Say [Norway] TIFF [’17], AFIF [’17]
The Wild Pear Tree [Turkey] CANN, TIFF
Winter Flies [Czech Republic] TIFF
Woman at War [Iceland] CANN, TIFF, LOND
Wonderful Losers: A Different World [Lithuania]
Yellow Is Forbidden [New Zealand] TRIB NEW
Yomeddine [Egypt] CANN

Oscars: Shaq Enters the Race With Basketball Doc ‘Killer Bees’ (Exclusive)

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The Lakers legend and fellow producer Larry Gagosian, the noted art dealer/gallerist, will bring the film to Hollywood for a special screening and reception on Oct. 24.

“I’ve been to the Hamptons 20 times,” Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal told me on Friday when I spoke with him exclusively about his entrance into the Oscar race as a producer of the documentary feature Killer Bees. “But I’ve been on the rich people’s side — the Leonardo DiCaprio, the Puffy, the Beyonce side, with the boats, where people are well off — so when I was told there was another side, I was like, ‘That’s impossible!'”

So, at the urging of his friend Glenn Fuhrman, O’Neal screened an early cut of Ben Cummings and Orson Cummings‘ 82-minute documentary feature about the primarily black Bridehampton High School basketball team — nicknamed the “Killer Bees” — and its coach, Carl Johnson as they defended their 2015 state title while simultaneously confronted with racism, gentrification and income inequality. “I was quite surprised by what I saw,” the 46-year-old said. “I was like, ‘This is a story that needs to be told.'”

O’Neal and art dealer/gallerist Larry Gagosian, a Hamptons local, signed on to the film as producers, with Fuhrman joining as an executive producer. The doc had an awards-qualifying run in theaters on both coasts the week of July 27 — it played at the Cinema Village in New York and Laemmle’s Monica Film Center in Los Angeles — and it subsequently hit VOD on Aug. 7 before, appropriately enough, playing at the Hamptons International Film Festival on Oct. 6.

O’Neal couldn’t be at the Hamptons for the film’s premiere, but he says he had already made several trips to Bridgehampton to meet with the kids — he even shot hoops with the team. “When they saw that I was a regular person, I think that’s what shocked them the most,” he recalled with amusement. “I came in by myself, no bodyguards, no entourage, wearing the same jeans as they were, same clothes, same sneakers — and I think they realized that I was an older version of them.”

On Wednesday, O’Neal, along with Gagosian, Fuhrman and the Cummings brothers (Bridgehampton High alums), will bring their film to Hollywood, hosting a screening and reception for friends with boldfaced names and members of the Academy’s documentary branch, in the hope that the film may gain some Oscar traction ahead of voting to determine the shortlist for the best documentary feature Oscar. (O’Neal will also join me for an episode of THR‘s ‘Awards Chatter’ podcast that will cover his entire life and career, and will post soon thereafter.)

O’Neal has served as a producer on several projects since retiring from basketball in 2011 — among them, the 2016 30 for 30 episode “This Magic Moment,” the 2017 religious drama Steps and the 2018 documentary A Week in Watts. Still, I half-jokingly had to ask him if he is feeling more motivated to move into the realm of awards-caliber projects these days so that he can snag an Oscar like his former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, with whom he always enjoyed fierce competition and who took home the statuette for best animated short in March for his autobiographical film Dear Basketball. “Oh, that’s funny,” he replied with a laugh. “That’s funny. It would be nice [to win]. But when I put these films out, I hope that they will touch people emotionally. Lives aren’t going to change otherwise. If you win awards, you win awards. But nothing I’ve done outside of basketball has been about winning awards.”

And does he intend to continue producing films after this one? “Of course,” O’Neal said emphatically. “We’ve got a lot of stuff in the works. Now that I’m retired and have much more time, yes, I want to do it much more.”

‘Tyrel’: Trailer Released For “Get Out-‘Esque Race Drama Starring Jason Mitchell

After bowing at Sundance and later picked up by Magnolia Pictures, we’ve got the first trailer for Tyrel. 

The film, starring Jason Mitchell, bowed at Sundance this year.

The official description: Tyrel follows Tyler, who joins his friend on a trip to the Catskills for a weekend birthday party with several people he doesn’t know. As soon as they get there, it’s clear that (1) he’s the only black guy, and (2) it’s going to be a weekend of heavy drinking. Although Tyler is welcomed, he can’t help but feel uneasy in “Whitesville.” The combination of all the testosterone and alcohol starts to get out of hand, and Tyler’s precarious situation starts to feel like a nightmare.
The film also stars Christopher Abbott, Michael Cera, Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Zegan, Philip Ettinger, Ann Dowd and  Reg E. Cathey also star.

Watch the trailer below and read our conversation with Mitchell at Sundance earlier this year about the film.

Regina Hall Is Magnetic, Warm and Devastating In ‘Support The Girls’

Women, black women especially, have often been left to sweep up the things that everyone else in society leaves behind. The same can be said for Lisa, (portrayed by an astounding Regina Hall) in Andrew Bujalski’s brutally honest but warm dramedy Support the Girls. Lisa is the general manager of a Hooters-like sports bar, crudely named Double Whammies, in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. She spends her days keeping the local joint running smoothly and mothering the slew of scantily clad 20-something waitresses who report to her. Going well above and beyond her job description, Lisa manages all of the drama and angst that come with being a young woman trying to scrape together a life for yourself while wearing a cleavage-bearing belly shirt and cut-off booty shorts.

Dissecting ‘BlacKkKlansman’ and Its Startling Conclusion

Spike Lee uses real-life detective Ron Stallworth’s story as a cracked mirror to examine Trump’s America in 2018.

The following is part of a monthly conversation series between The Hollywood Reporter contributors Simon Abrams and Steven Boone. This month, they tackled BlacKkKlansman, director Spike Lee’s fictionalized account of African-American undercover cop Ron Stallworth’s investigation of the Ku Klux Klan. In the film, Stallworth (John David Washington) infiltrates the Klan with the help of Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a Caucasian Jewish-American police officer, and Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a student activist that Stallworth meets while attending a Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture lecture. There are spoilers ahead. 

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Simon Abrams, Getting Off the BusBlacKkKlansman has been praised as one of co-writer/director Spike Lee’s best films. It received the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, and has been hailed by friends and colleagues as his best in years. Our friend Odie Henderson, over at RogerEbert.com, gave the film four stars and said that it is “not only one of the year’s best films but one of Lee’s best as well.” Rembert Browne, writing for Time Magazine, echoes that sentiment by saying that BlacKkKlansman is “Lee’s most critically heralded and accessible effort in over a decade.” Search your review aggregator of choice — Twitter, for me — and you’ll soon see that some variation of this sentiments is fairly popular.

BlacKkKlansman feels like, among other things, Lee’s way of rejecting institutionally revered, but fundamentally (and apparently) racist American movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. He pointedly opens his film with footage from the latter movie, and quotes the former pic soon in two key scenes, one of which is a comically delivered but deadly serious address from Alec Baldwin as a sock puppet white supremacist named Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard. Documentary footage washes over Baldwin’s face as he speaks and erases his skin color; he is, in other words, white enough to become part of the screen. It’s a visually powerful shot across the bow, one that speaks to Lee’s skill as both a social commentator and an image-maker.

That said, I have mixed feelings about the film, as you and I discussed once our screening ended. My reservations mostly have to do with Lee and his co-writers’ fuzzy articulation of a theme that Henderson eloquently gave voice to in his review, namely how Adam Driver’s character Flip Zimmerman suggests (in one scene, through a Sam Fuller-worthy bit of declamatory dialogue) that like Ron Stallworth, he — a secular Jewish-American — must also pass among WASPy Caucasians. In that sense, my hesitations about Zimmerman have a lot to do with how I see BlacKkKlansman as the work of both Spike Lee the showman and Spike Lee the social commentator (I’d say “provocateur,” but that’s a loaded term, especially when applied to a black filmmaker). So, to start: How well does this film work as a fictional representation of history that’s a political statement, a feel-good entertainment and an effective piece of agitprop?