Tag Archives: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

March Madness of Movies: Introducing the Brackets

Now that it’s March and the NCAA will be hosting its annual March Madness tournament soon, we at MovieMinis thought to have our own tournaments, but, of course, with movies.

In the bracket style of March Madness, we will run through four different topics in what we’re calling the March Madness of Movies.

But rather than stick to general topics, such as Best Superhero Movie or Best Animated Movie, we wanted to get specific, to vote on aspects of film that could potentially make for a much more fascinating tournament.

The four topics we ended up on are:

  • Best A24 Films
  • Best Superhero Villain of the 21st Century
  • Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century (cutoff at a $75 million production budget)
  • Best Cinematography Since 2010

In this write-up, we’re introducing the brackets, and in subsequent weeks, we will release the results of each round.

For each bracket, we laid out tons of potential contenders, and after a week of painful voting, we seeded each bracket. We must note that, in working through the seeding process, we were reminded of a terrible reality in the film industry.

In the potential contenders for Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century, with a cutoff at a $75 million production budget, there were only nine films directed by women, many of them with male co-directors. Only one ended up making our bracket, certainly not as a representation of talent, but as a magnification and emphasis of the problem. For perspective, there were literally hundreds directed by men, and the men were mostly white. This is a rampant problem in Hollywood. Women and people of color — and above all, women of color — are not only not given many chances, but when they are, failure, in any way, results in horribly unfair consequences; in essence, they’re less likely to get another chance than a white man is. This problem applies to cinematography too. In the potential contenders for that bracket, there was a proportionally similar compilation. While female cinematographers received votes, none made our bracket — again, not as a representation of talent, but as a magnification and emphasis of the problem. Hollywood must change, and part of that change comes from not ignoring the problem anymore. We need more big budget films directed by women and people of color, and we need more films, in general, lensed by women and people of color. We need women and people of color involved in every level of pre-production, production and post-production. For more statistics on female directors of big budget films, read Terry Huang’s piece on The Black List blog.

With that in mind, let’s move into how the brackets shaped up:

Best A24 Films

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Moonlight and Lady Bird earned #1 seeds. Joining them were The Florida Project and A Ghost Story. Those four films will face off against #8 seeds Green RoomMorris From AmericaDe Palma and Menashe.

The next set of top films, the #2 seeds, were Swiss Army Man20th Century WomenThe Lobster and Ex Machina, which will face off against #7 seeds The LoversWhile We’re YoungKrisha and Spring Breakers.

The #3 seeds were a mix of widely awarded films and incredibly acclaimed genre/indie pictures: LockeRoomThe Witch and Good Time. The #6 seeds that they’ll compete against leaned more toward the indie darling: The Spectacular NowThe Bling RingUnder the Skin and Enemy.

Finally, in the middle of the pack were #4 seeds American Honey, Obvious ChildA Most Violent Year and It Comes At Night, as well as #5 seeds AmyThe End of the TourThe Disaster Artist and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Best Superhero Villain of the 21st Century

This bracket is made up of four subcategories — MCU villains, DC villains, X-Men villains and villains from other properties — and we pulled eight contenders from each subcategory to compete. Instead of leaving them in their own sections, however, we then mixed them up and seeded from there. And we kept it to just eight per subcategory because it seemed more interesting than a likely lopsided MCU bunch had we not had that limit.

And this bracket is not just about performances. It’s about the villain, the character. That involves the writing and the directing of that character too.

With that said, the first three #1 seeds were rather simple to come to: Heath Ledger’s The Joker from The Dark Knight, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger from Black Panther and Ian McKellen’s Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto from X-MenX2 and X-Men: The Last Stand

Perhaps surprisingly to some who dislike the character, our staff showed strong support for Tom Hardy’s Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, who took that final #1 seed.

Those four will take on #8 seeds Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw from X-Men: First Class, Ed Skrein’s Francis/Ajax from Deadpool, Mark Strong’s Frank D’Amico from Kickass and Kurt Russell’s Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

The #2 seeds went to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from various MCU films, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2, the other Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (played by Michael Fassbender) from the most recent X-Men trilogy and the second The Dark Knight inclusion, Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two Face.

The #7 seeds who will battle these four are Zach Galifianakis’ The Joker from The LEGO Batman Movie, Hugh Jackman’s X-24 from Logan, James Franco’s Harry Osborn/New Goblin from Spider-Man 3 and Michael Shannon’s General Zod from Man of Steel.

Two of the #3 seeds went to the last two Captain America films; Daniel Brühl’s Helmut Zemo from Civil War and Sebastian Stan’s The Winter Soldier (not Bucky Barnes) from The Winter Soldier. Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins and Jason Lee’s Buddy Pine/Syndrome from The Incredibles earned the other two #3 seeds. 

Competing against them are #6 seeds James Cromwell’s Professor Robert Callaghan from Big Hero 6, Dane DeHaan’s Andrew Detmer from Chronicle, Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask from X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Sentinels that Trask unleashed onto the X-Men, also from X-Men: Days of Future Past.

In the middle of the pack, earning #4 seeds, were Cillian Murphy’s Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow from the entire The Dark Knight trilogy, Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn/Green Goblin from Spider-Man, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass from Unbreakable and Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther. They’ll match up against #5 seeds Hugo Weaving’s Johann Schmidt/Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger, Brian Cox’s Col. William Stryker from X2, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes/Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Best Big Budget Directing of the 21st Century

This bracket was split up into four different subcategories. Those were “Superhero Directing” (in the upper left), “Franchise Directing” (in the lower left), “Prestige/Original/Non-Studio Franchise Directing” (in the upper right) and “Animated Directing” (in the lower right). We took some liberties with this. Mad Max: Fury Road is a part of a franchise, but we concluded that it felt more in line with its current group than it would’ve among the franchise contenders.

In Superhero Directing:

Christopher Nolan easily earned a #1 seed; many even believe that he should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for his efforts on The Dark Knight. He’ll face off against #8 seed Tim Miller for the subversive Deadpool.

Coming in behind Nolan in the #2 seed was Ryan Coogler for Black Panther, a cultural phenomenon that many believe could become the first superhero film nominated for Best Picture.

The #3 seed went to Joe Russo and Anthony Russo for Captain America: Civil War; the Russo brothers also placed in the #7 seed for Captain America: Civil War. James Gunn will take on the Civil War Russos with #6 seed Guardians of the Galaxy.

The middle match-up comes from 2017 films: the #4 seed James Mangold for Logan and the #5 seed Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman.

In Franchise Directing:

Peter Jackson quite easily snagged the #1 seed for his directing job on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. He’s the only Best Director winner out of five nominated efforts in this bracket. Facing of against him is #8 seed Martin Campbell for the first Daniel Craig James Bond film Casino Royale.

Sam Mendes, director of another Craig Bond film, Skyfall, made the bracket as the #6 seed. He’ll compete with #3 seed Matt Reeves for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Like Bond, Matt Reeves made his subcategory twice, earning the #2 seed for War for the Planet of the Apes. He’ll take on our perhaps surprising Star Wars inclusion, #7 seed Gareth Edwards for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Finally, with some of the most acclaimed films of the subcategory, #4 seed Alfonso Cuarón for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will battle #5 seed Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049.

In Prestige/Original/Non-Franchise Studio Directing

David Fincher’s Zodiac has become regarded as on the best films, in general, of the 21st century, so he glided into a #1 seed pretty smoothly. But his contender is a tough one: #8 seed Alfonso Cuarón for landmark sci-fi film Children of Men.

George Miller earned the #2 seed for his masterful work on Mad Max: Fury Road, and will face of against legendary director and #7 seed Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Scorsese made this subcategory twice, taking the #3 seed for his directing job on The Aviator. His opponent is #6 seed Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, who also made this subcategory twice, placing as the #4 seed for Inception. He’ll take on #5 seed Peter Jackson for King Kong.

In Animated Directing:

Quite predictably, Pixar dominated this bracket, with #1 seeds Pete Docter and Bob Peterson for Up, #2 seed Brad Bird for The Incredibles, #3 seed Lee Unkrich for Toy Story 3, #4 seed Andrew Stanton for WALL-E, #6 seeds Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen for Inside Out and #8 seeds Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina for Coco.

But other animation directors made it through with their beloved films. Rounding out the eight were #5 seeds Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders for How to Train Your Dragon, and #7 seeds Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams for Disney’s Moana.

Best Cinematography Since 2010

Even with setting the parameter of cinematography since 2010, there were still an overwhelming number of potential contenders and our votes were widely varied, resulting in a bracket that truly represents a mix of our opinions.

The #1 seeds did stand out, however: Mihai Malaimare Jr.’s lensing of The Master, Andrew Droz Palermo’s work on A Ghost Story, Roger Deakins Oscar-winning efforts on Blade Runner 2049 and Hoyte van Hoytema’s unforgettable photography on Her.

In fact, both Deakins and van Hoytema made this bracket three times. Deakins also earned a #3 seed for Skyfall and a #6 seed for Sicario. van Hoytema’s other two were Christopher Nolan films, a #2 seed for Dunkirk and a #6 seed for Interstellar.

Bradford Young also made this bracket three times, taking a #2 seed for Arrival, a #7 seed for A Most Violent Year and a #8 seed for Mother of George.

But, of course, 3-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki placed more than everyone with four spots: a #2 seed for The Tree of Life, a #3 seed for Gravity, a #5 seed for The Revenant and a #7 seed for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

The rest of the bracket is filled with stunning photography. Oscar winner Linus Sandgren earned a #2 seed for his work on La La Land. Other cinematographers of 2016 took spots as well, with James Laxton earning a #4 seed for Moonlight and Rodrigo Prieto earning a #4 seed for Silence.

Work from 2015 films rounded out the #3 seeds: Dick Pope for Mr. Turner and John Seale for Mad Max: Fury Road. The other #4 seeds were Luca Bigazzi for The Great Beauty and Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis.

While Hoyte van Hoytema may have two Nolan films on this bracket, Nolan’s former cinematographer, Wally Pfister, earned a #5 for his Oscar-winning work on Inception. Rather recent photography also seeded #5: Rob Hardy for Annihilation and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for Call Me by Your Name.

In fact, a couple of Roberts placed here. Robert D. Yeoman placed in the #6 seed for The Grand Budapest Hotel and the #7 seed for Moonrise Kingdom. Robert Richardson also seeded #6 for Django Unchained, while Robert Elswit was another Paul Thomas Anderson cinematographer to place, earning a #8 seed for Inherent Vice..

Finally, the last few contenders are #7 seed Masanobu Takayanagi for Hostiles, #8 seed Darius Khondji for The Lost City of Z and #8 seed Seamus McGarvey for Godzilla.

 

Follow along throughout March as we vote on these brackets and determine the best of each topic!

 

Featured image via Marvel Studios/Warner Bros./A24.

Top 10 underappreciated performances of 2017

Each year sees hundreds of new films, many of them filled with great performances. But as the year wraps up, the conversation around performances often becomes too focused on those that end up competing for awards, and those that many feel should be competing for awards.

With those hundreds of films, however, there are, genuinely, hundreds of performances that are worthy of praise, and it is the job of us film writers to make sure that they are given their fair share.

Here are our top 10 underappreciated performances of 2017:

10. Kirsten Dunst — The Beguiled

Focus Features/Courtesy

The explicit emotions in The Beguiled come from Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. And Elle Fanning is rather good too in defining another, more youthful space, complimented by the other young actresses around her. But Kirsten Dunst adds a layer that no other player does.

Throughout, in quiet moments where Dunst’s eyes do much of the work in how softly expressive they are, we get a sense that the character is depressed and emotionally weathered due to the situation of being stuck during the war. The material allows Dunst to be both explorative and harrowingly frozen, and her performance evokes that grander scope of the war, specifically from the perspective of women.

— Kyle Kizu

9. Cillian Murphy — Dunkirk

Warner Bros./Melinda Sue Gordon/Courtesy

To many, Dunkirk is not necessarily a character-driven film, propelled more so by the visual experience. But we’d like to push back on that notion. Mark Rylance is usually the stand-out in conversations, his character being, truly, the emotional center and guide of the film.

Yet, perhaps the more haunting performance comes from Cillian Murphy as The Shivering Soldier. Murphy’s job is deceptively physical. Rylance’s Mr. Dawson describes him as shell-shocked, which is easily taken for granted. However, under close observation, Murphy is doing so much to sell that role. There are so many small moments that would’ve taken away so many layers from the film were they not there, such as toward the end when Murphy’s character cowers in fear at one last incoming German plane and has to be escorted inside the ship by Mr. Dawson.

And then, quite clearly, there’s his outburst toward the middle, which is one of the most tragic displays of the terrors of war in the entire film. While the editing does fascinating work, cutting from his character days prior, the immense panic is so palpable because of, again, Murphy’s physicality and precisely how that physicality pushes the panicked words out of his character.

— Kyle Kizu

8. Colin Farrell — The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24/Courtesy

Writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos and actor Colin Farrell followed up the wonderfully unique The Lobster with The Killing of a Sacred Deer and, once again, have a darkly comedic — mostly dark — movie on their hands. It’s hard not to think of Funny Games when watching it.

Farrell, who’s making a career of starring in small-scale films, is excellent in this one as Steven, a father and doctor faced with a harrowing decision: kill one of his children or his wife, or they all die. Farrell plays the obvious horror of the situation convincingly. As an audience, it’s hard not to side with him at first — after all, this seems random, sadistic even. But as the plot unveils, so too does Steven’s brashness and, beyond that, his cowardice.

Perhaps helped by his experience with Lanthimos’ scripts, Farrell delivers the lines perfectly, without his tongue too firmly planted in his cheek. There’s certainly humor in his deadpan performance, but there’s realism too. There’s shock, pain and denial. Beyond all, Steven has a seeming desire to end conversations as quickly as possible, before we learn too much about him.

— Hooman Yazdanian

7. Woody Harrelson — The Glass Castle

Lionsgate/Courtesy

It’s funny because we’d argue that Woody Harrelson had a better performance than the one that got him an Oscar nomination. In plenty of his roles, it’s often simply just ‘Woody being Woody,’ which is, by no means, a bad thing. He’s one of the most enjoyable actors in the business when he’s simply just Woody.

Yet, in The Glass Castle, Harrelson is magnetic and truly crafts a character that extends beyond the man behind it. There’s much of the trademark Woody here, his gigantic personality fitting right into the character of Rex. But there’s an added layer of the character’s self-loathing, his eccentric beliefs and his great love for his family that Harrelson works into every scene. And when they come to the surface, such as when Rex tells his daughter Jeannette, a child, that her burn scar is not ugly or when he voices his regrets in life to her, now an adult, Harrelson heartbreakingly channels and brings out the emotional truth of such a complexly flawed, yet deeply feeling man.

— Kyle Kizu

6. Ryan Gosling — Blade Runner 2049

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Ryan Gosling’s performance in Blade Runner 2049 was perhaps too spot on. He seamlessly disappears into the role as Agent K, a replicant Blade Runner whose mental and emotional stability is slowly challenged throughout the entirety of the film’s 164 minutes. Granted, there’s plenty of character work being done in the music and editing, but Gosling absolutely nails the expressionless faces and soft line delivery that hint at so much more going on underneath. In that regard, two scenes stand out in particular: K approaching the furnace in which he hid his toy horse, suggesting that his memories may be real, and K meeting Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) for the first time where she does confirm that the memories are real. In both, Gosling says next to nothing, but optimizes his eyes, body and facial muscles to render those character moments utterly haunting. And as the film wraps up, and it’s revealed (spoilers) that K was not Deckard’s child, but simply had the memories of Deckard’s real kid, we see a change in K’s eyes that evokes such profound tragedy.

Gosling’s performance is subtle. And his casting may have been too perfect for his turn to be appreciated to its fullest; the man is simply too good looking and his behavior too charmingly composed that it wouldn’t be a stretch if he was revealed, in real life, to be an android.

But he is truly doing so much work in every frame, every close-up, and the film rests entirely on him pulling it all off.

— Kyle Kizu

5. Dafne Keen — Logan

Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox/Courtesy

There’s often an age bias when judging child performances in relation to those of adults, which becomes all the more frustrating when one deserves to stand tall next to the actors that eventually receive awards. And this year, Dafne Keen fits right into that unfortunate circumstance in regard to her nearly unbelievable turn in Logan.

Next to one of Hugh Jackman’s greatest performance, Keen holds her own in every regard. Her ferocity is untamed, but distinctly human. Her chemistry with Jackman is fluid and dynamic, as she even takes hold of scenes with him, such as the one in the car when she lists the names of her friends that are in danger. For much of her screentime, Keen has no dialogue, but she lends a searching quality to Laura that perfectly underscores the growing relationship between her and Logan.

Too many take for granted that the ending relies so heavily on her nailing the monologue from Shane. But Keen is emotionally raw and brave in the moment, both paving beautiful space for her character moving forward and allowing such perfect, profound reflection on the life of Logan, which was a monumental task considering that Jackman’s character had been present for seventeen years before Keen showed up.

— Kyle Kizu

4. Beanie Feldstein — Lady Bird

A24/Courtesy

Most of the hype surrounding the performances in the much-beloved Lady Bird has been around the leading daughter-mother combo of Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) and Marion (Laurie Metcalf). But Beanie Feldstein ensures Julie, Lady Bird’s best friend, still stands out.

Feldstein strikes an emotional nerve, stealing scenes and believably delivering what may be the film’s most powerful line: “Some people aren’t built happy, you know?” She balances this moment with savvy comedic timing and a take on love and jealousy in friendships that resonates deeply. As Lady Bird is clearly about to get in trouble at the assembly, Julie’s face contorts with concern and she clutches the bleacher seats, all in the midst of a fight with her best friend. Lady Bird and Julie’s conversation about where they’ll be after high school are believable and familiar, like peering through a window at every friend group’s conversations in the waning months of high school — it’s no surprise that Feldstein and Ronan apparently became close friends in real life.

In a year of worthy additions to the pantheon of cinematic best friends (here’s looking at you, Lil Rel Howery), Feldstein’s Julie may be the very best.

— Hooman Yazdanian

3. Harry Dean Stanton — Lucky

Magnolia Pictures/Courtesy

Harry Dean Stanton, who sadly passed a few weeks before Lucky released, is just an absolute delight in the film. And it’s quite touching to see where the film goes thematically in regard to Stanton’s character. The titular Lucky is coming toward the end of his life and he must deal with the passage of time. Through that material, Stanton is riotously hilarious and equally as moving. Lucky is often alone, going through his daily routine, but Stanton eats up the physical space around him whether that be through his quirky physicality or his sarcastic, sassy comments. But even when the character is saying nothing and everything is quiet, Stanton conveys a rumination on life that pushes the film’s scope beyond what many might expect. It’s characterization that only comes from a masterful actor, and it’ll be difficult to forget his weird, hilarious, tragic, captivating final moments as he comments on the universe: “Blackness… the void!”

— Kyle Kizu

2. Robert Redford — Our Souls at Night

Netflix/Courtesy

The quiet Our Souls at Night was ignored on, essentially, every level. But the film is outstanding, precisely because of how quiet it is. That’s where it finds its emotional drive, in the soft and tender moments.

So many of those moments come from Robert Redford as Louis Waters. The film picks up with him late in his life, and it’s slowly revealed that he’s had quite a long and often sad journey. We’re never offered flashbacks, but Redford still shoulders the weight of that past beautifully. We hear about things that happened to Louis and, through Redford’s small glances and brief words, we can see how all of that has informed who he is now, how all of that has crafted this quiet life we get to observe. In the most emotional scenes, all Redford needs to do is break his composure for a split second, and our hearts nearly shatter. It’s unbelievable work from the legendary actor, much of it being quite difficult to capture in words.

— Kyle Kizu

1. Betty Gabriel — Get Out

Universal Pictures/Courtesy

Betty Gabriel, who plays Georgina in Jordan Peele’s standout directorial debut Get Out, was a revelation. Gabriel’s Georgina, the Armitages’ housekeeper, is often at the crux of the film’s drama and tension, her face revealing more than words ever could, hinting at the central twist and the societal influence behind it.

Gabriel displays the textbook example of how to portray a “conflict within.” Her mannerisms stand out from the moment we see her on screen. Clearly, something is off. Is she evil? Has she been hypnotized? Is she trying to provide a warning? All these contradicting motivations are played perfectly and, somehow, simultaneously by Gabriel.

It’s impossible to keep our eyes off of her for the rest of the movie, whether when she brushes her hair or jump scares Chris (Daniel Kaluuya). Her most famous scene, where she cries, smiles, laughs and exudes terror — again, all at once — is masterful.

Gabriel seemingly came out of nowhere in Get Out (her previous biggest role was in another social thriller, The Purge: Election Year) but she ended up stealing scenes and producing a true standout performance in one of 2017’s very best films. Yet, no one — at least on the awards circuit — seems to have noticed.

— Hooman Yazdanian

 

Sophie-Marie Prime participated in voting for this list.

Featured image via 20th Century Fox/Warner Bros./Magnolia Pictures/A24.

Box Office Report: ‘Jigsaw’ saws its way to the top in slow weekend

In an expectedly slow weekend before the release of Thor: RagnarokJigsaw took the top spot at the box office with an estimated $16.25 million. As seen by Happy Death Day in the weeks prior, horror films, especially around Halloween, tend to do well — although Lionsgate likely hoped that for a better result with this being the last weekend of October. Regardless, the film, which sits at $25.75 million worldwide, has already crossed even on a budget of $10 million.

In second place was last weekend’s winner, Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween. With an additional $10 million, the 7th Madea film climbed past a domestic total of $35.5 million. International numbers are currently low, but the film should still cross even within the next week.

Geostorm earned an estimated $5.675 million for the third spot, a 58.6% fall from its opening weekend. These numbers are abysmal, and even though the film is over $136 million worldwide, it’s one of the bigger flops of the year considering its $120 million price tag.

Happy Death Day and Blade Runner 2049 also stayed in order, shifting down just one spot to 4th and 5th. The Groundhog Day-esque horror film added over 200 theaters, and made $5.099 million. The sci-fi sequel made only $3.965 million, and left 782 screens. The film will not cross $100 million domestically, and needs a huge run in China — of over $60-$70 million — to cross even, which is doable.

The second new release in the top 10 was Thank You For Your Service, which took home an estimated $3.702 million for 6th place. The film follows soldiers as they return home from war and deal with the effects of PTSD, and is the directorial debut of American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall. Right now, the film sits at 78% on RottenTomatoes after 72 reviews, and is one of the few favorably received new releases.

The third new release in the top 10 was the Matt Damon starring Suburbicon, which essentially bombed with only $2.8 million. The film has been panned by critics as well as fans, currently standing at 26% on RottenTomatoes and receiving a D- on CinemaScore.

Next weekend should blow up massively with the third Thor film and many critically acclaimed pictures, such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Lady Bird, either releasing, releasing limited or expanding.

*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 Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate.

Independent film studio A24 is a powerhouse that just won’t stop

In 2013, A24 made waves promoting the wild indie film Spring Breakers, even going so far as to launch an Oscar campaign for James Franco with the slogan “Consider this sh*t.” Immediately, they were different. Immediately, they were refreshing.

In 2014, A24 distributed critical gems still talked about today. Most notably among them were Enemy, Under the Skin, Locke, Obvious Child and A Most Violent Year.

In 2015, A24 didn’t just stick its foot in the Oscar door — it shoved it open and sweeped nametags off the table to make a spot for itself. Ex Machina won Best Visual Effects. Brie Larson won Best Lead Actress for Room. Amy won Best Documentary Feature. And they still made other darlings: Slow West, While We’re Young and The End of the Tour.

In 2016, A24 made history, as Moonlight won Best Motion Picture, making it the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBTQ+ film to do so.

David Bornfriend/A24/Courtesy

Its other films that year continued to expand how we perceive cinema. The Witch further defined the contemporary horror film. Krisha introduced us to Trey Edward Shults. Green Room reminded us of Jeremy Saulnier. 20th Century Women made the word “sublime” tangible. And The Lobster and Swiss Army Man are two of the most fucking bizarre and wonderful movies of recent memory.

And in 2017, A24 looks to do more.

In an age where film is dying in a bland spate of sameness, A24 not only knows to be different, but to have a purpose and to be true. That’s why each film it distributes feels specifically like an A24 film, like a part of the A24 brand. Nothing really feels out of place or, what would be worse, indistinguishable, as the creatives are like gallery curators with little of the stereotypical snob and far more fun.

They go from making a Tinder account for the artificially intelligent robot in Ex Machina to starting a Twitter page for the goat in The Witch, from sending media physical messages in a bottle for Swiss Army Man to opening a shop with ghost sheets for A Ghost Story. And it’s not just out-there gestures like these; A24 hosts meticulously designed plans that place each film in a spot to succeed.

A24/Courtesy

The company also knows to diversify within that brand. This isn’t your Fox Searchlights or your Sony Pictures Classics, where there’s almost too much that’s indistinguishable. With A24, even films seen by only a few feel singular in and of themselves. Free Fire is an action packed, guns-ablazing joy ride, with ravishingly badass posters to accompany. The Lovers is an odd yet deeply realized, deeply felt and deeply funny romantic comedy that’s a bit more friendly to an older crowd, featuring the ever wonderful Debra Winger and Tracy Letts. It Comes At Night haunts our paranoid nightmares, subverting horror expectations and getting people talking. Good Time is a neon trip — a frenetic, chaotic and deliciously addictive crime film with a Robert Pattinson we’ve never met before. And A Ghost Story transcends the dimensions of cinema, glaring into our bodies and our souls like only the most profound pieces of art can.

That’s only what A24 has released in 2017 so far. It would be tough to be evaluative of an upcoming slate, but it’s not surprising that A24 films are the current talk of the festival circuit, as the company has four more that could make their own weird and gleeful stamp on the year.

First, at the beginning of October, comes The Florida Project, from Tangerine director Sean Baker. A testament to diversifying, the film stars children, with the lead, Brooklynn Prince, being merely 7. Critics have already deemed it as one of the great films about childhood with others guaranteeing that Willem Dafoe is nominated for an Oscar.

A24/Courtesy

Nearing Halloween, the more horrific side of Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Lobster, will be unveiled with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A Cannes premiere like The Florida Project, Sacred Deer has been received with a bit less unanimity than Baker’s film, but the intensity of the divide makes it all the more fascinating. A24 is a distributor that will take chances, a distributor that wants to make “radical work,” and Lanthimos’ picture certainly falls in that realm.

As November comes, something quite special arrives: Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird. An incredibly successful writer and actor already, giving one of her most moving performances in A24’s 20th Century Women, Gerwig is a talent that needs further platform, and for good reason. Premiering at Telluride Film Festival and moving to Toronto International Film Festival, Lady Bird is one of the most lovingly spoken about films to have traveled to one or both of those cities. More than a few critics have deemed it their favorite of the Colorado festival, and as it’s traveled to Canada, some have even expected the film to resonate in a similarly way to the landmark Boyhood, which, in turn, could lead to a legitimate Oscar threat.

Wrapping up the busy year, A24 will release The Disaster Artist, the James Franco-directed-and-uarring film about the making of the iconically trashed The Room, in December. The film visited South by Southwest as a work in progress, and was lauded at the time. Screening as a prepared cut last night at Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, the film received a standing ovation from the crowd, who stayed on their feet throughout the entire Q&A afterward, something many festival frequenters had never seen before. Maybe with The Disaster Artist, an A24 James Franco awards campaign could have some results. “Oh, hi Oscars.”

A24/Courtesy

No other distributor (and production company) garners buzz quite like this. The Shape of Water premiered to adoration, but no one is really mentioning Fox Searchlight. Call Me by Your Name is said to be one of the most emotionally affecting films of the year, but few go out of their way to talk about it within the context of the Sony Pictures Classics brand. None of this is to put down those films, but it really does make something clear.

A24 isn’t just a vehicle through which its movies are funneled. It becomes a part of the movies themselves, almost as an auteur figure behind them, which is undoubtedly a reason why, by the end of the year, A24 will be the studio that stands out the most. Its films are almost like events nowadays, something previously ascribed only to studio blockbusters.

But most importantly, A24 is making the movies fun again — not just the movies themselves, but the anticipation of them, the promotional and paratextual consumption of them and the discourse created in their aftermath. Movie-going isn’t just sitting in a theater; it’s everything else too. And if companies like A24 keep innovating, the movies might have a chance.

Featured image via A24.

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.

Willem Dafoe plays father figure in ‘The Florida Project’ trailer

In 2015, director Sean Baker released his film Tangerine, shot on augmented iPhones, to some of the best critical success of the year, further progressing his career as an indie filmmaker to look out for.

And look out for him we must, as A24 has just released the trailer for Baker’s follow-up film The Florida Project, which follows young Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) during their stay at “The Magic Castle,” a motel run by Bobby (Willem Dafoe). As Halley finds herself falling into troubling circumstances, Bobby looks to step up to not only help her, but to be a father figure to the many children at the motel. Yet, it seems as though Moonee has no problem creating her own fun with her imagination.

The Florida Project premiered at Cannes Film Festival to outstanding reception. It currently sits at 96% on RottenTomatoes with 22 fresh reviews out of 23 total, and at a score of 91 on Metacritic with 9 positive reviews. The film then went to the Champs-Élysées Film Festival in France and will visit the Toronto International Film Festival in September before a limited theatrical release on October 6, 2017.

Willem Dafoe has already received extensive praise for his performance, with many calling him a near-lock for an Oscar nomination. Some critics have predicted the film to be nominated for Best Picture.

Baker shot The Florida Project on 35mm film, but it is unclear how many theaters will be able to project it in that format.

A24’s A Ghost StoryMenashe and Good Time are still in theaters. The production-distrubtion company will release Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which premiered at Cannes to slightly divisive reviews and stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan (of Dunkirk), on October 27. Its other end of the year plays include Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird, releasing on November 10, and the James Franco directed-starring The Disaster Artist, which premiered as a work-in-progress at South by Southwest to nearly unanimous acclaim and will visit Toronto International Film Festival, releasing on December 1.