Tag Archives: Emma Stone

The MovieMini Awards for the Films of 2018

In chaotic times, film becomes more important. As a source of entertainment, as a mode of escape, as a reflection of identity and community, and as an empathy machine, film shapes plenty about how we navigate the world — and we need that when the world is full of whiplash.

In 2018, film guided us powerfully. From a little bear from darkest Peru to a domestic worker in Mexico City, from three skateboarders in the Rust Belt to an astronaut shooting for the moon, from a family on the edges of Tokyo to the King of Wakanda, the characters of these films asked us to reflect upon ourselves, and helped us learn about others in this world.

Simply put, it was a damn good year for movies, and we’re grateful for how they’ve impacted not just us, but millions around the world. If even one film leaves something important with someone needing it, it’s a testament to the power of the art form. But we’re certain that more than a few films did that for more than a few people.

And it all calls for a little needed celebration, a little needed positivity. As that little bear says, “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.” Film was good to us, so here’s some recognition for film.

Here are the MovieMini Awards for the Films of 2018:

(These awards were voted on and compiled by Rosemarie Alejandrino, Danielle Gutierrez, Levi Hill, Kyle Kizu, Michelle Lee, Miyako Singer, Harrison Tunggal, and Hooman Yazdanian.)

Best Specialty Performance

Winner: Ben Whishaw as Paddington — Paddington 2

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Ben Whishaw’s turn as a kind and deeply principled bear from darkest Peru may not be the buzziest performance in acclaimed masterpiece Paddington 2, but Whishaw’s voice is the gentle glue that holds the movie together. He’s tasked with making the bear cute, but not cloying, unwaveringly good, but never preachy — a CGI bear capable of silliness and sternness in equal measure. Whishaw achieves this by imbuing Paddington with his natural tender-yet-brisk Britishness. Paddington’s matter of fact politeness makes the comedic scenes all the funnier for his total sincerity, and the tear jerking moments all the more heartrending. In Whishaw’s hands (paws?), Paddington is — like his famous, prison reforming marmalade — the perfect mix of sweet and tart.
— Miyako Singer

Runner-up: Shameik Moore as Miles Morales — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
3. Holly Hunter as Elastigirl — Incredibles 2
4. Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
5. Sonoya Mizuno as Humanoid — Annihilation

Next Group:
Josh Brolin as Thanos — Avengers: Infinity War
Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh — Christopher Robin
Stephen Lang as Shrike — Mortal Engines
Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Honorable Mention: Olivia as Good Doggo — Game Night/Widows

Best Breakthrough Performance

Winner: Yalitza Aparicio — Roma

Netflix/Courtesy

It’d be impossible to tell that Yalitza Aparicio is a first time actress, let alone someone with no formal training prior to starring in Roma. Her warmth is immediate, and only grows exponentially throughout the rest of the film. Just as Alfonso Cuarón renders the space three-dimensional, Aparicio makes it feel alive, navigating the house with confidence. Her chemistry with the family is delightful, but Aparicio is absolutely breathtaking during the delivery scene and the beach sequence. Roma is a film that makes you feel alive, as it’s about life, and Aparicio is the beating heart.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Thomasin McKenzie — Leave No Trace
3. Kiki Layne — If Beale Street Could Talk
4. Elsie Fisher — Eighth Grade
5. Lady Gaga — A Star Is Born

Next Group:
Cynthia Erivo — Bad Times at the El Royale
John David Washington — BlacKkKlansman
Geraldine Viswanathan — Blockers
Brady Jandreau — The Rider
Lana Condor — To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Best Feature Debut

Winner: Bradley Cooper — A Star Is Born

Clay Enos/Warner Bros./Courtesy

From the very opening shot of A Star Is Born — on-stage with Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine in such visceral, wild, grimy, and adventurous close-up — we know we’re in the hands of a director with complete confidence and control. The film is intimate and rough, raw and painful, and Cooper digs his hands into the blood of the material to find emotional truth. Whether it be the close-up of Ally and Jackson’s hands touching in the convenience store parking lot, or the cross-cutting between Jackson on stage and Ally on her way to his concert before bursting into “Shallow,” or the harrowing cut from Ally’s performance at the end of the film to Jackson playing for her at home, Cooper’s choices are staggeringly powerful.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Paul Dano — Wildlife
3. Ari Aster — Hereditary
4. Bo Burnham — Eighth Grade
5. Boots Riley — Sorry to Bother You

Next Group:
Carlos López Estrada — Blindspotting
Kay Cannon — Blockers
Gustav Möller — The Guilty
Josie Rourke — Mary Queen of Scots
Aneesh Chaganty — Searching

Best Original Song

Winner: “Shallow” — A Star Is Born

Warner Bros./Courtesy

At this point in awards season, there’s not much to be said about “Shallow” that hasn’t already been said. It’s nearly become a parody of itself, and the movie’s meme-able reputation definitely precedes it — if only so it can take another look at the movie that follows.

But let us not forget that what makes a song most deserving of the Best Original Song title does not simply rely on the quality of the song itself; it requires a song to, yes, standalone, but to also amplify the moment of the film which it occupies. “Shallow” does not amplify only one moment of A Star is Born, but three: Ally’s shy crooning in the parking lot, Jackson and Ally’s first duet on stage, and Ally’s solo piano performance before learning of Jackson’s fate. And yet, beyond the film, the song itself has taken on new meaning as part of “Enigma,” Lady Gaga’s Las Vegas residency. She turns to the piano ballad to close her electrifying, synth-heavy and neon-laced live show, knighting the song of an anthem for defying expectations. “We’re far from the shallow now,” refers to breaking free from the status quo shallowness expected of a high-profile pop artist, a message both Ally and Lady Gaga declare with triumph.

So while Lady Gaga’s projected victory for “Shallow” on Oscar night may read like the predictable end of a rote coming-of-age novel, let us not forget the first moment that Ally’s voice cracked into the late-night Los Angeles air, hesitant but somehow firm, expelling from her lungs like the slow birth of a legacy in a convenience store parking lot.
— Rosemarie Alejandrino

Runner-up: “Sunflower” — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
3. “Opps” — Black Panther
4. “Maybe It’s Time” — A Star Is Born
5. “Suspirium” — Suspiria

Next Group:
“All the Stars” — Black Panther
“Pray For Me” — Black Panther
“A Cover Is Not the Book” — Mary Poppins Returns
“Always Remember Us This Way” — A Star Is Born
“Wrapped Up” — Vox Lux

Best Original Score

Winner: Nicholas Britell — If Beale Street Could Talk

Annapurna Pictures/Courtesy

Nicholas Britell’s If Beale Street Could Talk score is unbearably beautiful. With lush, waning strings and fluttering, hopeful woodwinds, each piece of music is a stunning evocation of love — of love’s strength, but also of love’s painful journey. The score aches with many truths just as Jenkins’ vision of Baldwin’s characters do — “Eros” a transcendent piece of swelling intimacy and “Hypertension” a bone-rattling piece of soul-crushing fear and despair. And then, “Ye Who Enters Here” truly lives as the blend of such powerful lows and highs at once. Britell’s music tells the story as much as any other part of If Beale Street Could Talk does. It’s not simply there to accompany the film. It pushes the film to new heights. It talks.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Justin Hurwitz — First Man
3. Ludwig Göransson — Black Panther
4. Lorne Balfe — Mission: Impossible – Fallout
5. Thom Yorke — Suspiria

Next Group:
Mowg — Burning
Alexandre Desplat — Isle Of Dogs
Jóhann Jóhannsson — Mandy
Daniel Hart — The Old Man & the Gun
Alexandre Desplat — The Sisters Brothers

Best Sound Mixing

Winner: Mary H. Ellis, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee — First Man

Universal Pictures/Courtesy

There’s true depth to the sound mix of First Man. It’s loud and brutal, but immersive and three-dimensional. The interior of the space crafts are made distinctly human through the mix, in that the rattling of the metal, the hard-to-hear radio buzz of astronaut communication, the sudden jerks and slashes, and even the gravity of sound are all meshed into a cohesive environment that can be fully lived-in. It’s a symphonic nightmare.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan, José Antonio García — Roma
3. Gilbert Lake, Mike Prestwood Smith, Paul Munro — Mission: Impossible – Fallout
4. Michael Barosky, Brandon Proctor — A Quiet Place
5. Niv Adiri, Michael Clayton, John Skehill, Ian Tapp — Annihilation

Next Group:
Tom Johnson, Juan Peralta, John Pritchett — Avengers: Infinity War
Michael Semanick, Nathan Nance, Vince Caro — Incredibles 2
Michael Semanick, Tony Lamberti, Brian Smith, Aaron Hasson, Howard London — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Steve Morrow, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder — A Star Is Born
Drew Kunin, Andrew Stirk — You Were Never Really Here

Best Sound Editing

Winner: Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan — First Man

Daniel McFadden/Universal Pictures/Courtesy

The First Man sound team went to incredible lengths to capture the accuracy of the sounds of spacecrafts, from recording actual launches to consulting the professionals for the minutiae of space travel. And it pays off immensely. Every created sound feels entirely organic to every environment — and often times because it was, with everything that the film does practically. But it’s the most brutal effects that elevate the film, as we can feel the metal in our bones, just like the astronauts likely did.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: James Mather — Mission: Impossible – Fallout
3. Skip Lievsay, Sergio Díaz — Roma
4. Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl — A Quiet Place
5. Geoffrey G. Rubay, Curt Schulkey, John Pospisil — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Next Group:
Glenn Freemantle, Niv Adiri —Annihilation
Shannon Mills, Daniel Laurie — Avengers: Infinity War
Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker — Black Panther
Coya Elliott, Ren Klyce — Incredibles 2
Gary Rydstrom, Richard Hymns — Ready Player One

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Winner: Joel Harlow, Camille Friend, Ken Diaz — Black Panther

Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios/Courtesy

The makeup and hairstyling work in Black Panther does what a lot of the other design work in the film does: it builds a world, and does so extremely thoroughly and organically. The hairstyling is distinct and varied, from the extravagant regal designs of Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) to the stylishly personal work for both Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). And the makeup is prevalent, but not overt. The larger prosthetics are carefully utilized and integrated, such as with a tribe leader’s mouth, and the facial designs breathe life to the characters, telling their own stories for each tribe and status. Combined, the film’s work is innovative.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Nadia Stacey — The Favourite
3. Mark Coulier, Fernanda Perez, Manolo Garcia — Suspiria
4. Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher, Jessica Brooks — Mary Queen of Scots
5. Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, Patricia DeHaney — Vice

Next Group:
LaWanda M. Pierre, Shaun Perkins — BlacKkKlansman
Göran Lundström, Pamela Goldammer — Border
Heike Merker — Crazy Rich Asians
Bill Corso, Barbara Lorenz — Destroyer
Oriane De Neve — Mandy

Best Costume Design

Winner: Ruth E. Carter — Black Panther

Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios/Courtesy

To be honest, Ruth E. Carter earned this back in February of last year. Not to take away from any of the other wondrous world-building within the film, but the costume design is simply supreme. From the layout and layering of beads, to the various textures and colors of fabrics, to the infused metal, Carter’s costumes are both steeped in the history of African clothing and evocative of what afrofuturism envisions, engaging with the past and the future simultaneously in the same way that the story does. But it’s her scope and range that are difficult to put into words. The tribal clothing is so specific and so intuitive, declaring rank, but also declaring style and personality — and that’s for multiple tribes, as well as for warrior armor and regal wear. And this all goes without mention of how incredibly badass and utterly gorgeous it all looks.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Sandy Powell — The Favourite
3. Caroline Eselin — If Beale Street Could Talk
4. Mary E. Vogt — Crazy Rich Asians
5. Sandy Powell — Mary Poppins Returns

Next Group:
Kym Barrett — Aquaman
Alexandra Byrne — Mary Queen of Scots
Lindy Hemming — Paddington 2
Renee Ehrlich Kalfus — A Simple Favor
Amanda Ford — Wildlife

Best Production Design

Winner: Hannah Beachler, Jay Hart — Black Panther

Hannah Beachler/Marvel Studios/Courtesy

Best Production Design could also be known as “Best World Building,” literally, as the production designer and set decorator are the people tasked — with the guidance of the film’s director and screenwriter — in crafting the world of the film, fictional or authentically real. And this past year, the work of Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart in creating Wakanda is simply unrivaled.

Black Panther’s success truly stems from its ability to let Wakanda, Oakland, and South Korea be vital locations and production sets for the story Coogler is telling. Every set, every design presents eye-popping creations, but with real-world authenticity. Yet, it was the first scene in which the audience is shown the fictional African country of Wakanda that we knew exactly who would be taking home this award. Beachler and Hart have created an awe-inspiring world, where futuristic high rises co-exist with classical African village designs. The look of Wakanda feels real, and honors the film’s black identity, but is also willing to be highly original with its deep mines of vibranium and stunning throne rooms. Truly, because of the work these two crafted, as well as the film’s direction, cinematography, costume design, and makeup, we’ll always remember that first feeling of when we knew what “Wakanda Forever” meant.
— Levi Hill

Runner-up: Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton — The Favourite
3. Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez — Roma
4. Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas — First Man
5. Mark Digby, Michelle Day — Annihilation

Next Group:
Martin Whist, Hamish Purdy — Bad Times at the El Royale
Nelson Coates, Andrew Baseman — Crazy Rich Asians
Adam Stockhausen, Paul Harrod — Isle of Dogs
Gary Williamson, Cathy Cosgrove — Paddington 2
Keiko Mitsumatsu, Akiko Matsuba — Shoplifters

Best Visual Effects

Winner: Paul Lambert, J.D. Schwalm, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles — First Man

Universal Pictures/Courtesy

First Man is a celebration of practical effects. From its various scales of models to its massive LED screens that play backgrounds of skies and space for in-camera capture, the film is invigoratingly tactile. We can sense real physics and real depth at play, which is immensely key to communicating the dangers of the Gemini and Apollo missions. That the film feels as though it truly takes us to space, through the genius of perspective as well as invisible CG and compositing, is an astounding accomplishment.
Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Dan Deleeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, Dan Sudick — Avengers: Infinity War
3. Andrew Whitehurst, Sara Bennett, Richard Clarke, Simon Hughes — Annihilation
4. Nicholas Bennett, Rupert Davies, Andy Kind, Peter McDonald, Carlos Monzon, Glen Pratt — Paddington 2
5. Jason Smith — Bumblebee

Next Group:
Kelvin McIlwain, Jeff White, Bryan Hirota, Kimberly Nelson Locascio — Aquaman
Matt Johnson, Steve Warner, Jim Capobianco, Kyle McCulloch —Mary Poppins Returns
Jody Johnson — Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler, David Shirk — Ready Player One
Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Dominic Tuohy —Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Cinematography

Winner: Alfonso Cuarón — Roma

Netflix/Courtesy

There’s something initially objective and removed about Alfonso Cuarón’s cinematography for Roma. There aren’t many close-ups. Perspective is, occasionally, not attached too strongly to individual characters. It’s almost as if the camera were a young boy watching from a distance.

And that’s where it all clicks. As Cuarón’s camera pans or tracks through space in unbroken takes, we become enveloped in something truly three-dimensional. “Lived in” is an overused phrase, but it’s the most potent thing about Roma’s photography. It breathes with life. It’s lived in. It’s memory.

There’s such immense visual depth in this film, greater than what 3D could ever accomplish. But there’s also warmth, connection, and love. Cuarón captures his images with the quiet wonder of a boy admiring the matriarchs in his life. However, it’s also clear that this is not just removed, but a reflection into the past, which allows his cinematography to break the bounds of its objective style and evoke true emotions within time.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Rob Hardy — Mission: Impossible – Fallout
3. Lukasz Zal — Cold War
4. Linus Sandgren — First Man
5. Hong Kyung-pyo — Burning

Next Group:
Robbie Ryan — The Favourite
James Laxton — If Beale Street Could Talk
Bing Liu — Minding the Gap
Joshua James Richard — The Rider
Benoît Debie — The Sisters Brothers

Best Film Editing

Winner: Eddie Hamilton — Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Paramount Pictures/Courtesy

In more ways than one, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is explosive. One of the most underappreciated facets of that, however, is the film’s editing. Eddie Hamilton’s pacing is never off-note, taking us through a roaring 2.5 hours without anything ever feeling slow or unbalanced. And zooming in to individual sequences, Hamilton’s compositions are breathtaking, particularly the “stairs and rooftops” chase through London. That sequence is its own spotless short film, a blend of perfectly timed comedy and powerful bursts of energy. We feel Ethan Hunt’s energy and exhaustion distinctly through Hamilton’s work, and the entire film is taken to a new level for the franchise because of that.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Bing Liu, Joshua Altman — Minding the Gap
3. Alfonso Cuarón, Adam Gough — Roma
4. Jonathan Amos, Mark Everson — Paddington 2
5. Joe Walker — Widows

Next Group:
Nick Fenton, Chris Gill, Julian Hart — American Animals
Barry Alexander Brown — BlacKkKlansman
Yorgos Mavropsaridis — The Favourite
Hirokazu Kore-eda — Shoplifters
Jay Cassidy — A Star Is Born

Best Documentary

Winner: Minding the Gap

Hulu/Courtesy

Bing Liu’s directorial debut is a true revelation. Minding the Gap centers on three boys — Liu himself, Zack Mulligan and Kiere Johnson — in Rockford, Illinois, who all skateboard and who, we learn, all grew up in abusive households. Liu’s film, like so many of 2018’s best, wrestles with the essential question: What have our parents done to us? The answer to this question is completely different for each of Liu, Mulligan and Johnson. Yet each of these stories, even Liu’s own, is handled with a deft touch of empathy and true intuition. We know these boys, not just their traumas but their charm, their shortcomings, their senses of humor, their aspirations. We cry with them and for them, but we also hope with them.

Minding the Gap is about so many things. Escaping your home. The oppressive force of capitalism. Cycles of abuse. Toxic, limiting masculinity. Friendship. Ultimately, it’s about everything that shapes us into who we are and the shared traumas that can underlie our relationships. That’s what makes this not just the year’s best documentary, but one of its very best films as well.
Hooman Yazdanian

Runner-up: Free Solo
3. Hale County This Morning, This Evening
4. The Dawn Wall
5. Science Fair

Next Group:
Nossa Chape
Shirkers
They Shall Not Grow Old
Three Identical Strangers
White Tide: The Legend of Culebra

Best Animated Film

Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Sony Pictures/Courtesy

It’s been more than a month since the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and we’re still feeling the ripples of its arrival. It’s hard to say something that’s not already been said, but it’s the fact that people are still saying things that shows just how significant this film is. Visually dynamic and innovative, but also with a pulsing emotional core, the film feels like a dream, an all-too-perfect culmination of superhero-centered art from its inception in the form of comic books to its dominance of popular cinema today. Spider-Verse is not just a leap forward, but a leap up, all because it was brave enough to take a leap of faith.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Incredibles 2
3. Ralph Breaks the Internet
4. Mirai
5. Early Man

Best Foreign Film

Winner: Shoplifters

Magnolia Pictures/Courtesy

In its first two-thirds, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters is a warm yet unflinching movie about the daily rhythms of a family living on the fringes of Tokyo. The Shibata family — Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) and Osamu (Lily Franky), their son Shota (Jyo Kairi), and adult sibling Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) — live in the cramped home of grandmother and matriarch Hatsue (the late Kirin Kiki), living off her small pension, odd jobs, and the eponymous shoplifting.

One day, Nobuyo and Osamu come across a hungry and abused little girl named Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) and decide to take her in, setting in motion a doomed story of kidnap and familial love. Had the movie ambled along in this way, quietly checking in on the day to day of the strange and messy Shibatas, it would have been a triumph of humanistic filmmaking. But in its third act, Shoplifters delivers a shocking series of twists which blow apart the family’s fragile, cobbled-together peace, and reveal that Kore-eda has something much deeper to say about choosing love and family when you’re up against the world.
— Miyako Singer

Runner-up: Roma
3. Burning
4. Cold War
5. Happy As Lazzaro

Next Group:
Capernaum
The Guilty
I Am Not A Witch
Museo
Zama

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Sony Pictures/Courtesy

Granted, there’ve been a lot of Spider-Man stories (comics, movies, and games) this century, and a lot have been wildly successful. But there’s something about Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman’s take on the classic Spider-Man story that sets it above the rest, and honestly, as one of the best superhero scripts ever.

Maybe it’s how it introduces Miles Morales into the cinematic canon, while still giving us a thrilling Peter (B.) Parker story? Maybe it’s because it takes a plethora of villains and heroes from the Spider-Verse, and gives each character their own rational motivations for their actions, with varying degrees of forgivability? Maybe it’s just because we didn’t laugh harder or cry more during a studio film from 2018 than we did while watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? Or most likely, it’s because it did all of these things, and crafted an inclusive story that anyone of any race, gender, age, or nationality can relate to. Because in the end, the power of superhero stories has always been that superheroes don’t have to be that super at all; they just have to believe in themselves and in the good of the people around them. Anyone can wear the mask.
— Levi Hill

Runner-up: Paul King, Simon Farnaby — Paddington 2
3. Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan — Wildlife
4. Lee Chang-dong, Oh Jung-mi — Burning
5. Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty — Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Next Group:
Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole — Black Panther
Peter Chiarelli, Adele Lim — Crazy Rich Asians
Barry Jenkins — If Beale Street Could Talk
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini — Leave No Trace
Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain — The Sisters Brothers

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara — The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos/Twentieth Century Fox/Courtesy

The incredible passive aggressiveness, snark, and sass of Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara’s script for The Favourite is, quite frankly, jaw-dropping. From the overarching manipulative machinations of Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), to the invigoratingly sexy scenes, all the way down to the single lines of dialogue — the most gobsmackingly awesome being Queen Anne’s “I like it when she puts her tongue inside me” — the script is an absolute wonder.

But that’s not all that Davis and McNamara accomplish. The story is also a seering look at the sacrifices made in a quest for power, as well as the corruption that such a quest can bring upon one’s soul. And, in perhaps the film’s most powerful scene when Lady Sarah tries to connect with Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) again, The Favourite reveals itself as a story of what love truly means.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Hirokazu Kore-eda — Shoplifters
3. Bo Burnham — Eighth Grade
4. Alfonso Cuarón — Roma
5. Tamara Jenkins — Private Life

Next Group:
Paweł Pawlikowski, Janusz Glowacki — Cold War
Paul Schrader — First Reformed
Mark Perez — Game Night
Alice Rohrwacher — Happy As Lazzaro
Ari Aster — Hereditary

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Steven Yeun — Burning

Well Go USA Entertainment/Courtesy

Burning is a reserved, chilling psychosexual thriller from one of the world’s premier directors, Lee Chang-dong. The film follows a love triangle between Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), and Ben (Steven Yeun). Through Chang-dong’s lens, we see the story from Jong-su’s increasingly anxious, jealous, and fractured view. But because the film rests with Jong-su, this allows Yeun’s Ben to become the film’s enigma; it’s through his character and Yeun’s portrayal that the film morphs into a stunning, shocking mystery. On first viewing, when the three are with each other, Yeun’s almost displeasing yawns and seemingly mocking laughter shake Jong-su, and the audience, to the core. There’s clearly something underneath this person — a rich kid so privileged in society, that maybe, just maybe, he has turned to murder to feel something in the world. Yet, on repeat viewings (which this film begs for), it could be implied that Ben isn’t all that bad. While having an aura of superiority around him, Ben appears rather inviting. Maybe, after all, it is Jong-su trying to force Ben into the story he wants for himself.

Thanks, in large part, to Lee Chang-dong and Oh Jung-mi’s masterful script and Steven Yeun’s even more masterful performance, we’re never granted answers, though. Yeun perfectly relies on subtlety, born charisma, and his dashing good looks to craft Ben into an unknowable key to understanding what transpires. Yet, the answers go up in flames, and we’re all left with the haunting reality that we may never truly know who Ben is.
— Levi Hill

Runner-up: Hugh Grant — Paddington 2
3. Brian Tyree Henry — If Beale Street Could Talk
4. Alex Wolff — Hereditary
5. Daniel Kaluuya — Widows

Next Group:
Timothée Chalamet — Beautiful Boy
Richard E. Grant — Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Nicholas Hoult — The Favourite
Jesse Plemons — Game Night
Jake Gyllenhaal — Wildlife

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Rachel Weisz — The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos/Twentieth Century Fox/Courtesy

In The Favourite — a film full of overt, loud, and clear (even if passive aggressive) expression — Rachel Weisz is a complex force. Her Lady Sarah is simultaneously manipulative, loving, confident, and jealous. Under a rarely changing steely glare, Weisz breathes with power, while also communicating her character’s slow loss of it. And along with that comes a loss of friendship and a loss of love, and Weisz evokes a painfully palpable desperation, culminating in her heart-wrenching monologue of what it means to love someone. While there’s an engaging sadness and depression to Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne, it’s Weisz’s brilliant performance as Lady Sarah that lays a soul at the foundation of the film.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Regina King — If Beale Street Could Talk
3. Emma Stone — The Favourite
4. Elizabeth Debicki — Widows
5. Marina de Tavira — Roma

Next Group:
Michelle Yeoh — Crazy Rich Asians
Rachel McAdams — Game Night
Margot Robbie — Mary Queen of Scots
Kayli Carter — Private Life
Kirin Kiki — Shoplifters

Best Lead Actor

Winner: Bradley Cooper — A Star Is Born

Peter Lindbergh/Warner Bros./Courtesy

A Star Is Born opens with Bradley Cooper on stage as Jackson Maine, strumming the hell out of his guitar and belting out “Black Eyes.” Cooper not only answers any questions about his musical bonafides, but does it with fervor, commanding that stage and the audience — both the one in the film and the one watching it — like a real life rock star. He commands us not just to watch, but to believe. We need to believe he’d be successful, famous enough to attract big festival crowds, but also to walk into a drag bar and be treated like a star right away. Later, we need to believe he would both instantly fall in love with Ally (Lady Gaga) and have Ally fall in love with him. We need to believe this is a man in pain, and that this pain lingers even and especially when he’s head-over-heels in love with Ally, as he is until the end. We need to believe, and feel, and regret, the self-medication by alcohol Maine resorts to; haunted by the traumas of his youth and embroiled in the tumultuous rollercoasters of love and fame, Maine’s only restraint is more dangerous than the rollercoasters themselves. He gets drunk, he yells, he regrets. He goes to rehab. We need to believe it’s all real. We need to believe in Cooper as Maine does in Ally. And boy, is Cooper worth believing. He falls into the role of Jackson Maine. The star we know is hidden behind a beard, scraggly hair and sunworn skin. Of Cooper, only his winning eyes remain, and even they do their fair share of sad talking.

When an actor as famous as Bradley Cooper does a role as big and different as this one, it can be distracting. It’d be easy to watch A Star Is Born and just yell, “That is Bradley Cooper, the motherfucker from The Hangover! And he is singing!” But this doesn’t happen because we believe Cooper. The now seven-time Oscar nominee gives the performance of his life and of the year. We were right to believe.
Hooman Yazdanian

Runner-up: Tom Cruise — Mission: Impossible – Fallout
3. Ethan Hawke — First Reformed
4. Ryan Gosling — First Man
5. Lily Franky — Shoplifters

Next Group:
Yoo Ah-in — Burning
Tomasz Kot — Cold War
Stephan James — If Beale Street Could Talk
John Cho — Searching
Christian Bale — Vice

Best Lead Actress

Winner: Sakura Ando — Shoplifters

Magnolia Pictures/Courtesy

Amidst an amazing cast, Sakura Ando is transfixing in Shoplifters. A sense of enigmatic cool immediately emanating from her performance, Ando allows us in slowly. From her character’s quiet will to endure and survive, to her deep and raw connection to Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) through shared trauma, to her growing sense of motherhood and what it means to take care of someone, Ando’s turn unveils layer upon layer with stunning precision and timing, while maintaining an emotional truth to every aspect. She’s the powerful, magnetic center to the film because she plays that part to the film’s family, anchoring them in both fantasy and reality. And in her two key moments in the third act, when talking about motherhood and when telling Shota (Jyo Kairi) key information, Ando is harrowing in both her quiet pain and her strained certainty. Her performance is one of the most brilliantly understated of the year.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: Olivia Colman — The Favourite
3. Toni Collette — Hereditary
4. Carey Mulligan — Wildlife
5. Yalitza Aparicio — Roma

Next Group:
Joanna Kulig — Cold War
Thomasin McKenzie — Leave No Trace
Kathryn Hahn — Private Life
Regina Hall — Support the Girls
Glenn Close — The Wife

Best Ensemble

Winner: The cast of The Favourite

Atsushi Nishijima/Twentieth Century Fox/Courtesy

The cast of The Favourite may not be as expansive as other ensembles. But the set of performances is undoubtedly unmatched. Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman all deliver deliciously devilish and ravishingly ravenous turns. And they’re accompanied by a magnificent Nicholas Hoult, and a solidly serviceable Joe Alwyn and James Smith.

The range of work from these actors would be enough to put it into contention, but what locks it in as the best ensemble of 2018 is the vibrant and explosive chemistry between every single performer. Yorgos Lanthimos movies are idiosyncratic, so chemistry is key, and here, the rapport is simply sublime.
— Kyle Kizu

Runner-up: The cast of Shoplifters
3. The cast of Black Panther
4. The cast of Widows
5. The cast of Game Night

Next Group:
The cast of Bad Times at the El Royale
The cast of Crazy Rich Asians
The cast of If Beale Street Could Talk
The cast of Private Life
The cast of The Sisters Brothers

Best Director

Winner: Alfonso Cuarón — Roma

Carlos Somonte/Netflix/Courtesy

Like practically every other critics group (and we’re predicting the directors guild, too), we found Alfonso Cuarón’s deeply personal autobiographical memory play to be the best piece of directing of 2018. Using crisp black-and-white digital 65mm cinematography, mostly non-professional cast members, and stunning on-set recreations of 1970s Mexico City, Cuarón paints a humanistic, neo-realistic love letter to both the city and the women who raised him.

Cuarón’s approach to the material is organic in every facet. Composed of mostly long takes, Cuarón allows the performers, and thus the audience, to live in his world. There’s no prioritization of banal, seemingly simple moments (such as kids being cleansed with vinegar after getting sunburnt) over more dramatic moments (when a fire ravages an estate where the central family and friends are spending Christmas). Furthermore, the film perfectly balances moments of brevity — like a cheeky visual reference of the family going to the movies to see Marooned, which Cuarón may or may not have based his own Oscar-winning Gravity off of — with complete tragedy — such as when Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) loses a part of herself, in a devastating scene that won’t be spoiled here.

Yet, Cuarón is also giving a voice and vision to people rarely seen on the big screen: domestic workers. Starring an indigenous woman (the groundbreaking, now Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio), Roma explores privilege, class, and race within Mexican society, but in a way that allows audiences to see the hard, caring work that these people do for the families they serve and, equally, how much they shape the people they help. Films have always been described as empathy machines, and it doesn’t get much more empathetic than what Cuarón’s direction achieves with his masterpiece Roma.
— Levi Hill

Runner-up: Paul King — Paddington 2
3. Lynne Ramsay — You Were Never Really Here
4. Lee Chang-dong — Burning
5. Hirokazu Kore-eda — Shoplifters

Next Group:
Ryan Coogler — Black Panther
Yorgos Lanthimos — The Favourite
Bing Liu — Minding the Gap
Christopher McQuarrie — Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Tamara Jenkins — Private Life

Best Picture

Winner: Paddington 2

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Sweet but never saccharine, Paddington 2 gives the perfect answer to the cynicism of the day, and does so without standing on a soap box, megaphone in hand, declaring itself apolitical. In fact, it does the opposite, embodying soul and optimism about humanity without betraying its messaging as a perfectly-toned rebuke of anti-immigrant, anti-refugee sentiment. Such is the case with 2018’s best film (that’s right, US release dates) and the flagbearer of nicecore, Paddington 2.

The story is simple: Paddington (Ben Whishaw), a bear from darkest Peru who lives with his adopted family, the Browns, in London, wants to buy his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) a popup book for her birthday. He wants to share the magic he sees in it with her. The end of that story is truly tear-jerking, and the execution of the journey to get there is transcendent. Packed with action, humor, and joy, the film takes aesthetic swings and knocks them out of the park. It is directed phenomenally by Paul King and perfectly acted, led by a layered, career-best performance from Hugh Grant.

Filled to the brim with equal helpings of ingenuity, marmalade, and heart, Paddington 2 sees the best in us and manages to be the best film of 2018 along the way.
— Hooman Yazdanian

Runner-up: The Favourite

3. Shoplifters
4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
6. Black Panther
7. Minding the Gap
8. Roma
9. Wildlife
10. Private Life

Next Group:
Annihilation
Burning
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Cold War
Game Night
Hereditary
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born
Widows
You Were Never Really Here

Feature graphic by Kyle Kizu
Feature images courtesy of Paramount Pictures/Twentieth Century Fox/Warner Bros./Netflix/Sony Pictures

‘La La Land’ and the love that fades

Mia and Seb don’t end up together.

For all of its swoon-inducing musical numbers and fantastical visions of romance, La La Land is a tale about how love doesn’t always work out. The film is a tender warning, but it’s not pessimistic. It’s empathetic, not just for love faded, but for people with passion. In fact, the first two minutes of La La Land, during the enchanting number “Another Day of Sun,” are about a break up, and a young woman’s drive to make it as an actress.

The entertainment industry is ruthless, and writer-director Damien Chazelle introduces us to this conflict immediately, as Mia gives everything to an audition — a monologue that hints at its own heartbreak — only to be interrupted in the middle of it.

Sebastian’s introduction is of the same note. His sister chastises him for his countless unpacked boxes, joking that it seems like he’s just gone through a breakup before trying to set him up with someone. But Seb stays stubborn. He’s waiting to unpack his boxes in his club and doesn’t think he’ll like her if she doesn’t like jazz. He defends his untidy space by saying that he had a serious plan, but was “shanghaied.” His sister retorts that he was just ripped off by some shady guy, suggesting that “shanghaied” is too romantic.

“Why do you say romantic like it’s a dirty word?”

At first, the line oozes with the cliche of a typical romantic, searching for love. But this mention of the word is not in regard to some past relationship or some goal for the perfect someone. It’s in relation to an idea of oneself as an artist doing everything they can to make it. Seb embraces a romance with music, unashamed.

And Mia wants to be an actress. Those are the goals that La La Land starts with. Those are the lives that it envisions from the start.

Yet, those are the lives that can so easily fall into one another, the people that can so easily fall in love with each other. Mia and Seb officially meet at a party, as she networks and he plays a crap gig. The meeting seems almost too full of fate, too romantic, but people with passion tend to fringe familiar space.

And immediately, within three minutes of their introduction, Damien Chazelle indulges in the magical with “A Lovely Night.”

Chazelle truly understands how otherworldly love can be, even when it’s simply the awkward, playful first sparks. Mia and Seb’s first song-and-dance is almost entirely about their initial rejection of the sparks. But Chazelle, composer Justin Hurwitz, choreographer Mandy Moore, and cinematographer Linus Sandgren inject the scene with a levity that makes it feel as though the two could float into the sky at any minute. A simple Los Angeles hillside is rendered as dazzling as a dream.

They start to embrace those sparks through support of each other’s passions. Artists know an artist’s inner fire better than anyone else ever could, so when one lifts up another in their pursuit of dreams, it means something.

Those sparks almost die out, but Mia finally makes the decision to light them. The two meet up again at a movie theater, and as the film stock of the movie they watch bubbles and burns out, it becomes abundantly clear what Chazelle is doing.

He’s not only suggesting that Mia and Seb’s love has become its own movie in that world, the film stock burning out just as they’re just about to kiss for the first time and their drive to Griffith Observatory replicating that from Rebel Without a Cause, but he’s utilizing the tools of cinema to accomplish this himself with his movie. He’s using his own passion to pay tribute to, to do true justice to love between passionate people. And when Mia and Seb run off to Griffith Observatory, there, finally, they both float into the sky

But no matter the feeling of love, or the feeling that cinema leaves us with, there is a reality underneath. And that’s the reality of two people with passion trying to pursue their goals as they pursue their love.

It’s difficult. There’s an incredibly thin line of balance where both people are able to make both parts of their lives work. Rather simply, Mia and Seb could not find that balance. They both compromised too much for them not to crack. As we saw at the beginning, Seb is a stubborn guy. He was prone to say something he’d regret with the stress of excessive compromise, like at the heartbreaking dinner scene. And in the whiplash of that realization, Seb responds by not compromising enough, missing Mia’s play and solidifying the crack.

In the fallout, the most crucial moment of delivering on the film’s themes, Damien Chazelle remains empathetic. While there may be a crack in the romantic love that had formed, the two hold onto love for each other as people, which includes a support for each other’s passions. Through that, Mia is finally able to break through. And with that comes the film’s most emotionally raw number, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” — a song about love for art and love for artists.

La La Land comes to a close, the film’s final musical number perhaps its most transfixing, precisely because it’s the embodiment of the film’s empathy for people with a passion and for love faded. The fairytale that is “Epilogue” is simultaneously a magical cinematic commemoration to a love that was true and a what if for a love that could have been.

There was a chance for the film to end tragically, with Mia simply walking out of Seb’s. But a simple smile acknowledges and becomes everything that “Epilogue” represents.

Mia and Seb don’t end up together. But love sometimes doesn’t work out. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And that doesn’t mean it has to be reflected on as something sad.

Mia and Seb don’t end up together. And that’s okay.

 

Featured image via Lionsgate.

‘Battle of the Sexes’ Review: Emma Stone and Steve Carell are dynamic in this empowering sports duel

Battle of the Sexes isn’t necessarily about the central tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Moreso, it’s about the battle that women of the time took up against overarching oppression, and the match is one of the pinnacle representations of that.

That’s what directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) lay out beneath the surface of the picture, and rightly so. To simply focus on the match would be a disservice not only to Billie Jean King’s efforts, but also to what women encounter on a systemic scope. In this light, we see Bobby Riggs not as the main antagonist, but as an example of masculine fragility that enforces and takes advantage of such a system. Toward the end of the film, King breaks down sobbing, and it’s not because of what just happened in the moment, but because of what it means moving forward. And in that moment, writer Simon Beaufoy inserts a nod to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights that is still ahead of them.

While the angle of a grander image of feminism lends Battle of the Sexes a larger weight and greater stakes, the film is sadly a bit un-engaging. There are so many moving parts — a brand new tennis association forming in the fight for women’s rights, Billie Jean King exploring her sexuality, marital issues stemming from her exploration, Bobby Riggs dealing with gambling issues and post-fame withdrawal, Riggs manipulating the system in order to face off against King and how all of that represents the system at work and its impacts — and the film begins to buckle as it struggles to work each layer into a dynamic, unified progression.

Fortunately, though, Emma Stone and Steve Carell are both absolutely dynamic as King and Riggs, respectively. While Stone is mostly just good during moments of outward expression, it’s in King’s vulnerability where her acting chops shine — similar to her moments of strength in La La Land. However, it’s Carell who steals the show. We can see threads of the boisterousness of Michael Scott, but there’s something much more egotistically charismatic about Carell’s performance here. His energy is infectious and, with a slightly altered look in hair and teeth, there’s a physicality through which that energy manifests. And, in terms of that masculine fragility, Carell sells the dramatic moments when Riggs’ shell starts to break and his confidence is humbled. It’s certainly one of his best performances.

Those performances push us through the slower moments, rendering Battle of the Sexes worthwhile for what it hopes to achieve with its larger message.

Grade: B

 

Featured image via Fox Searchlight.

Box Office Report: Top three films within $500k of each other

After stepping down to number two the weekend prior, It is back at the top spot, taking home an estimated $17.31 million this past weekend. The Stephen King horror film has exceeded more than just expectations, sitting as the 5th highest domestic grossing film of the year in only it’s 4th weekend. Worldwide, It has taken in $555 million and will easily be one of the most profitable films of the year, on a budget of only $35 million. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema are looking in the range of a $200 million profit.

Coming in second place, and under $300k away from It, Tom Cruise’s new film, American Made, made approximately $17.016 million. While this may be on the lower end of Tom Cruise openers, the film has already made $64.83 million internationally, putting its worldwide total at $81.85. On a budget rumored to be between $50 million and $60 million, American Made looks to make its money back, but also end up as a disappointment considering the Cruise superstar — is he still? — factor.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle rounded out a competitive top three, earning an estimated $17 million at the domestic box office. The sequel to The Secret Service, The Golden Circle saw a 56% fall off from its opening weekend, greater than the 49% second weekend drop of its predecessor and something only expected to continue in the coming weeks considering the poor reviews. To be fair, the film has nearly drawn even already, standing at $193.03 million worldwide on a $104 million budget.

What’s fascinating about this weekend is that the placing could end up changing, of any of these films to any of the top three spots, when the actuals drop.

Below them, however, the order is solid. The LEGO Ninjago Movie dropped only 41% in its second weekend, a rather good number considering the poor reviews, building to a $12 million haul. However, with a budget likely in the range of $70 million — The LEGO Movie cost $60 million and The LEGO Batman Movie cost $80 million — the film has an uphill battle to face if it wants to make its money back, currently at only $58.45 million worldwide. With it still to open in key international markets like the UK, China and Japan, it has a chance at pulling it off.

Newcomer Flatliners flatlined both critically and financially, taking in only $6.57 million this weekend. The film currently sits at an abysmal 3% on RottenTomatoes.

Finally, the Emma Stone/Steve Carell-starring Battle of the Sexes expanded into 1,000+ theaters this weekend, and made an approximate $3.4 million. The tale of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ famous tennis match is in the hunt for Oscars, so it will likely see a long and solid run, even if it isn’t close to being one of the top earners of the year.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

 

Featured image via Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema.

25 Most Anticipated Films of Fall/Winter 2017

2017 has proven to be one of the best years for film in recent memory, and the hits are bound to keep coming in the fall and winter. It Comes At Night may have led us down a dark and unsettling path earlier this summer, but we will likely remain wholly unprepared for the brilliant discomfort of Yorgos Lanthimos’ upcoming film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. (This film has been described as more agonizing than Lanthimos’ previous work, The Lobster, which came this close to showing a man blind himself with a steak knife. Let that sink in.) Regarding films that don’t require an immediate, consolatory hug upon viewing, Baby Driver was a fun joyride — a perfect forbear for the frenetic energy of Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And then there’s a little indie coming in December called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a family drama about space people who should never have become parents.  

The following list represents the films that make us at MovieMinis spontaneously squee. But since the list only includes 25 films, it doesn’t truly represent the amount of squeeing we do. The cutting room floor is littered with heavy hitters such as Steven Spielberg’s The Post, as well as The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. There are also Cannes darlings that didn’t make the cut (but which you should see anyway) such as Michael Haneke’s Happy End and Palme d’Or winner The Square. We feel a great pang of guilt for excluding Justice League (squee!).

Regardless, here are our 25 most hotly anticipated films from the remainder of the year.

25. mother!

Paramount/Courtesy

The illustrated posters of mother! were merely beautiful yet unnerving glimpses into the horror of Darren Aronofsky’s next film. Bring in the trailer and it seems as though the director is returning to the brilliance of the genre that he dabbled in with Black Swan. And if this film really will follow in that one’s footsteps, then audiences should expect committed and haunting performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as a story with some of the most affecting scares since, well, Black Swan. Let’s just hope it appropriately contextualizes the relationship between a 27 year old and a 48 year old because, if it doesn’t, that might be more frightening.

— Kyle Kizu

24. Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel/Courtesy

Taika Waititi is easily one of the funniest filmmakers working today — just see here and here. His films bring loads of heart and even more laughs, something direly needed for Thor, a franchise whose second entry literally self-proclaims doom and gloom. Throw in Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, the magic of Jeff Goldblum, a colorful Jack Kirby aesthetic and elements of Planet Hulk, and Thor: Ragnarok could be one of the best MCU entries to date. Oh, and in the last shot of the most recent trailer, Hulk goes toe-to-toe with Surtur the fire demon. In the immortal words of Ricky Baker, “Shit. Just. Got. REAL!”

— Harrison Tunggal

23. Suburbicon

Paramount/Courtesy

Suburbicon pulses with star power. The film is written by the minds of the Coen brothers, George Clooney (doing double duty as director) and his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. If that isn’t enough, it stars Matt Damon, who invokes his Jason Bourne days by taking a fire iron to some poor thug’s face. The film also includes Julianne Moore (her third film on this list, she’s in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Wonderstruck) and Oscar Isaac, whose mustache here deserves it’s own billing. Here’s to hoping that said mustache stays intact over the course of this darkly comic crime caper.

— HT

22. It

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Stranger Things, but a million times scarier. If that seems like an oversimplification of the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, it isn’t anything less than the utmost excitement condensed into seven words. Despite an initial rocky start (writer-director Cary Fukunaga left the project in 2015), It appears to deliver well-acted, visually stunning horror fare — such that will strike an existential fear of killer demon clowns into the hearts of a whole new generation.

— HT

21. The Meyerowitz Stories

Netflix/Courtesy

Welcome back, Adam Sandler. No, seriously. After a string of critically lashed Netflix comedies, here comes Noah Baumbach to remind us all, that when Sandler wants to, he can be one of the most emotionally affecting actors on the screen. Throw in Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and the full support of Netflix, and The Meyerowitz Stories appears to be the first Netflix Oscar-contender that will gain traction among voters, audiences and critics when it releases in mid-October.

— Levi Hill

20. Coco

Pixar/Courtesy

Coco is a Pixar film. Need we say more? Well, we can. The film follows a young kid who dreams of becoming a musician and, through a spiritual connection with an ancestor, he enters the Land of the Dead. The trailer shows that the film will be a visual wonder, but the subject matter offers a look at Latino culture, one that mainstream cinema largely ignores. And with longtime Pixar veteran Adrian Molina stepping into the director’s chair alongside Pixar legend Lee Unkrich, Coco looks to be informed and genuine in its endeavors as well.

— KK

19. Mute

Netflix/Courtesy

Many may only think of Warcraft when they hear the name Duncan Jones, which is a shame because this is the director behind Moon and Source Code, two phenomenal sci-fi films. With Mute, Jones returns to the universe of Moon, but this time he takes us to the futuristic, seemingly Blade Runner-esque Earth within it. That tiny detail may be the biggest sign that this film could be special. Moon crafted such a thorough sense of society down on Earth, one that Jones has explored for years in planning for Mute, so the storytelling should be refined and invigorated.

— KK

18. Wonderstruck

Amazon/Courtesy

Todd Haynes’ upcoming Wonderstruck is based on the Brian Selznick novel of the same name, and the last time Selznick’s work was adapted for the big screen, the result was the Martin Scorsese stunner Hugo. With Selznick himself penning the screenplay, Wonderstruck seems poised to deliver a timeline-hopping, visual treat that will remind us of that which fills us with childlike wonder — film, museums and, if the trailer is to be believed, cool David Bowie covers.

— HT

17. Battle of the Sexes

Fox Searchlight/Courtesy

Sometimes talent alone can put a film on this list. Recent Academy Award winner Emma Stone, comedic (and now dramatic?) powerhouse Steve Carell, the co-directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours will bring us Battle of the Sexes. But that title, and the story behind it, makes this film about more than just talent — or maybe precisely about talent, that which is underserved. The story of tennis star Billie Jean King facing off against Bobby Riggs is an uplifting and landmark tale, with a whole lot of lively fun throughout, that could make for a wonderful and necessary statement in today’s landscape.

— KK

16. The Death of Stalin

IFC Films/Courtesy

Armando Iannucci may be the king of political satire, his time as Veep showrunner offering us some of the most gut-busting commentary on the current state of D.C. Pair him with the juicy material of the Soviet regime in the immediate aftermath of Stalin’s death — utilizing a bluntly British angle (they’re not even attempting Russian accents) — and you’ve got a comedy to die for.

— KK

15. Roman J. Israel, Esq

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy

Nightcrawler is aging like fine wine, with many critics and movie fans looking back at it as not only an absolutely brilliant movie, but also a significant independent film and a vehicle for one of the best performances of the 21st century from Jake Gyllenhaal. So any movie that writer-director Dan Gilroy does next is on a must-see list. Cue Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film where Denzel Washington has an afro and plays a snazzily dressed defense attorney.

— KK

14. Last Flag Flying

Amazon/Courtesy

Honestly, if there is one film on this list that just can’t go wrong (outside of the movies that have already premiered), it is Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying. Starring the dream-team worthy trio of Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne, the film is a years-after sequel to the Oscar-nominated, Jack Nicholson-led and Hal Ashby-directed The Last Detail. With that set-up, Last Flag Flying could potentially end up being the de facto critics favorite with Linklater’s humanist style mixed with the socially angry, if touching tale of three Navy vets coming to terms with the world they live in that Ashby knocked out of the park back in 1973.

— LH

13. Lady Bird

A24/Courtesy

Casual fans of indie cinema know Greta Gerwig as the magnetic star of films like Frances Ha, Mistress America and 20th Century Women, but those of us obsessed with the genre know that it’s behind the camera where she makes even more of an impact. After writing a number of successful indies, Gerwig will make her solo directorial debut this fall with Lady Bird. While not much is known about the plot, the film follows a high school girl (Saoirse Ronan) as she spends a year in Northern California. Joining Ronan is a heavy hitting cast of indie favorites that includes Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Lucas Hedges.

— Kate Halliwell

12. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Fox/Courtesy

Matthew Vaughn established himself as an action director extraordinaire with the first Kingsman — the film’s church scene now infamous as one of the most exhilarating fight sequences in recent memory. With that style, Vaughn’s dry British wit, the brilliant cast and brand new American territory to explore, The Golden Circle is set to be one of the most fun films of the fall — and sometimes, fun is all we need.

— KK

11. Molly’s Game

STX Entertainment/Courtesy

Aaron Sorkin is widely known as one of the great writers — of most mediums — of our time. The fact that Molly’s Game is written by him is enough reason to be excited, but the film is also his directorial debut, which elevates our hype tenfold. Even if the film isn’t good, it will be fascinating to see his visual style directly translated to the big screen. But it seems like there are too many pieces in place for this to be a dud — Jessica Chastain munching on Sorkin’s words is the dream performance we need.

— KK

10. Downsizing

Paramount/Courtesy

When every single one of your films (except your first) received Oscar nominations and endless critical heap, audiences will take notice when your next film comes out. And thus is the case with Alexander Payne, who, to this day, seems incapable of making a bad scene, let alone a bad movie. However, the science-fiction satire Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, promises to be a marked difference from the traditionally very naturalistic stories Payne has told in the past. Yet, that’s what it makes it this writer-director’s most intriguing project yet.

— LH

9. Hostiles

Lorey Sebastian, Le Grisbi Productions/Waypoint Entertainment/Courtesy

Hostiles may not release this year as it currently doesn’t have a distributor, but it’s set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in a bid for an acquisition. Made by Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper, the film stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Ben Foster and Timothée Chalamet, so it’s got a great chance of being picked up for an end-of-year release. And that team of talent is precisely why this movie is so salivating. Christian Bale is never anything less than entirely transformed, Rosamund Pike needs more roles after her Oscar-nominated, frightening turn in Gone Girl, Ben Foster is one of the most underrated actors working today and Timothée Chalamet is on the verge of breaking out with Call Me by Your Name later this year.

— KK

8. The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

The great Guillermo Del Toro returns to the big screen with The Shape of Water, which stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film’s stellar trailer teased a sweet romance with sci-fi elements, but also raised the possibility that The Shape of Water is a secret Hellboy prequel centering on Abe Sapien. Even though Del Toro has since debunked those rumors, we’re still thrilled to see him combine the things we love about his filmography — fairy tales with a touch of the macabre and of course, amphibian men.

— HT

7. The Disaster Artist

A24/Courtesy

James Franco can never be faulted for producing/starring/writing/directing in a seemingly impossible amount of projects in one year. What he could have been faulted for in the past, though, is that each project he stood behind the camera on felt like an interesting misfire. Not anymore. With stunning, Oscar-potential raves out of SXSW, Franco seems to have found the perfect source material for his stylings: the best worst movie of all-time, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. With Franco directing and, more excitingly, playing Tommy Wiseau on the set of The Room, The Disaster Artist promises a hilarious, if pointedly tragic real-life story of a failed artist. But really, we can’t wait to hear “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” again.

— LH

6. The Florida Project

A24/Courtesy

Sean Baker turned heads and took home awards with his 2015 film Tangerine, notably shot entirely on iPhones. He returns this year with The Florida Project, which follows a six-year old girl (Brooklynn Prince, this year’s Jacob Tremblay) and her adventures living in a run-down motel near Disney’s Magic Kingdoms. With Willem Dafoe and a host of talented newcomers rounding out the cast, this one is not to be missed.

— KH

5. Blade Runner 2049

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Getting another Denis Villeneuve film immediately after last year’s Arrival is already worth celebrating, but the fact that his upcoming project is a Blade Runner sequel (shot by Roger Deakins, no less) makes the occasion seem like Christmas — of the neon, steampunk, existentialist variety, of course. With Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford teaming up, the hype couldn’t be bigger for this film, which will hopefully answer the greatest question of our time — what happened to the other 2,047 Blade Runner sequels?

— HT

4. Call Me by Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

The trailer alone launched one thousand Armie Hammer crushes and caused us all to stop and consider spontaneous trips to Italy; the film itself might cause actual meltdowns (in the best way). Timothée Chalamet and Hammer star in Luca Guadagnino’s book-to-screen adaptation as two bisexual Jewish men who fall in love over the course of a sun-drenched summer. The film has drawn rave reviews from early festival screenings and has film buffs all over the world hungry for its November release. Peaches, anyone?

— KH

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24/Courtesy

Following the surprise Oscar nomination for the dark (twisted) comedy/science fiction fantasy film The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Colin Farrell return with an even more twisted, full-on psychological horror film. The early reviews for Sacred Deer, out of the in-competition bow at Cannes, promise that it will blend the calculated coldness of craft found in a Stanley Kubrick movie mixed with the cynical social commentary found in the best genre films. Add in the rising star Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as what appears to be the villain (but nothing is that simple in a Lanthimos tale) and the where-is-she-not Nicole Kidman as Farrell’s estranged wife experiencing horrific acts she has no fault in causing, and Sacred Deer promises to be the feel-bad movie of the Fall movie season.

— LH

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Lucasfilm/Courtesy

You don’t hire director Rian Johnson to make a cookie-cutter Star Wars movie. The man behind Looper, Brick and two of Breaking Bad’s most daring episodes seems poised to deliver — dare we say — the best Star Wars entry of all time. Forget getting answers to questions we’ve had since 2015 (Is Rey a Kenobi? Is Snoke actually Sy Snootles? Will Luke get a haircut?). We just want another Rian Johnson movie.

— HT

1. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Film

Jürgen Fauth/Courtesy

Quite simply put, There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the 21st century and Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in it is one of the best of all time. So, with Paul Thomas Anderson pairing up with DDL yet again for what is, apparently, DDL’s last performance ever, this film — rumored to be titled either Phantom Thread or Woodcock — will be a special one in the history of cinema, even if it’s not as breathtakingly affecting and engaging as TWBB (and, of course, it easily could be). Add in the rumors that the film is Fifty Shades of Grey if directed by Mike Leigh and we are more in than we’ve ever been for anything, honestly.

— KK

Featured image via Warner Bros.