Honey Boy – TIFF Review

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TIFF Film #4 of 8

This is one of the most personal and cathartic films you’re likely to see this year. Written by Shia LaBeouf while he was in a court-ordered rehab facility, Honey Boy tells the story of his own childhood, growing up as a child-star in Hollywood with an abusive father. He doesn’t direct here, those responsibilities are handed off to Alma Har’el, making her feature-length narrative film debut after a small handful of well-received documentaries, music videos, and a short. He does, however, play his own father, in what must have been a terribly difficult role for him to inhabit. The story begins in 2005, where the Shia Labeouf stand-in, who is called Otis within the narrative and played by Lucas Hedges, is already deep into his acting career. We see him on expensive film sets, doing elaborate scenes involving explosions and harnesses, but much more importantly than that, we see him drinking, and drinking to excess. All of this partying comes to a head when he is in a drunk-driving accident, and in lieu of jail-time he is sent to a rehabilitation centre. It is here that we begin to flashback to his childhood, when he was just beginning his career, and the story of him and his relationship to his father starts to unfold. The young Otis is played by Noah Jupe, who you may recognize from last year’s A Quiet Place, or 2017’s Wonder. He does an excellent job, playing the part with a such a precise form of vulnerability and sadness pulled directly from the real life of his co-star and screenwriter. He and Shia LaBeouf are the only two on screen for most of the film’s most important moments, and while I can’t really go in to specifics without feeling like I’m spoiling the magic, I can say every single scene they share together is nothing short of remarkable. Shia LaBeouf as his own father is a lot more than just a career-best performance, it is that, but I also don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. This story is so deeply personal and private, to the point that you feel like you shouldn’t even be allowed to watch it, but it’s also very universal about so many things. I wouldn’t call Honey Boy a coming-of-age tale necessarily, but it is certainly adjacent to that type of storytelling. But much more than that it is a story about trauma and abuse and addiction, and eventually perseverance and forgiveness.


Uncut Gems – TIFF Review


TIFF film #3 of 8

Uncut Gems is one of the most chaotic, anxiety-inducing, and downright nauseating films I’ve ever seen. And I mean that in the best way possible. It is a complete and utter sensory overload. It is relentless. Much of the dialogue is shouted, yet it still manages to compete for the foreground with the cacophonous score. It sounds like it could be insufferable. But it isn’t. It is exhilarating. Adam Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner in New York City’s Diamond District, who is so deep in debt, that he’s perpetually treading water to keep out of trouble with collectors. He scams, he pawns other people’s property, and he makes exorbitant wagers on basketball games. None of his scheming seems to work out in his favour, but his luck might be about to change when a rare opal from a mine in Ethiopia arrives at his shop stuffed inside a dead fish. The opal, in his mind, is set to net him upwards of one million dollars when it sells it auction the following week, and all of his problems will be solved. Things go awry, however, when NBA star Kevin Garnett visits the shop and insists on borrowing the gem for luck in that evenings playoff game against the 76ers. What follows is one of the most entertaining and batshit crazy two hours of film you’re likely to see all year. Josh and Benny Safdie were at my screening and introduced the film. Apparently they’ve been trying to get this film made for ten years, and they talked about how everything they’ve made leading up to this, including 2017’s spectacular Good Time, served as a training ground for Uncut Gems. And it really shows. As excellent as Good Time is, I feel like this is a step even further for them. The screenplay and the direction are both pitch-perfect, with chaotic handheld camerawork complimented beautifully by Darius Khondji’s gorgeous cinematography. Adam Sandler gives what I think will go down as the greatest performance of his career, finally unseating his turn in Punch Drunk Love. When Sandler gets teamed up with a true auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson, Noah Baumbach, or in this case, the Safdie brothers, he really is a remarkably good actor. The supporting cast are all great too, including Kevin Garnett, but the two standouts for me are Lakeith Stanfield as a business partner of sorts of Sandler’s character, responsible for bringing celebrity business into the shop, and Julia Fox as his secret girlfriend for whom he rents an apartment in the city. I mentioned it earlier, but one of the true stars of this film is the score from composer Daniel Lopatin. It sets the mood early on and doesn’t let up throughout the entire two hour and ten minute runtime. I feel like Adam Sandler for best actor and Lopatin for best original score are all we can really hope for this film come awards season, but it will certainly make my personal list for a hell of a lot more. Seek this one out when it goes wide, I’m quite sure you won’t be disappointed.


Marriage Story – TIFF Review


TIFF Film #2 of 8

I’ve been a fan of Noah Baumbach’s work for a long time. When I was younger and just starting to get into film, The Squid and the Whale was one of the first ones I can remember seeing that absolutely wowed me. Frances Ha is one of my all-time favourites. So to say that I had high expectations going into Marriage Story might be a bit of an understatement, but I am delighted to say that it exceeded them in every way. Starting with an impeccable screenplay written by Baumbach himself, all the way up to powerhouse performances from its lead and supporting actors, Marriage Story is a damn near perfect film. Chronicling the tail end of a once happy marriage now spiralling out of control into an increasingly contentious divorce, Marriage Story is nonetheless a love story. Charlie (Adam Driver) is a prominent stage director in New York, and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) is his soon-to-be ex-wife and the former leading lady of his theatre group, now attempting to further her acting career with a TV pilot in Los Angeles. What this will mean for the future of their family, and more importantly, for their young son Henry, remains to be seen. We see them desperately trying to hang on to the bits of the life they built together that are still important, while at the same time trying to revert back to the lives they had before they met. And it is… heartbreaking. Noah Baumbach has written these characters in a way that they feel so fully fleshed out and three-dimensional and flawed, that it’s not hard at all to believe that these are two real people who were once so in love with each other, who now, if not for their son, would likely never speak to each other ever again. But it’s in the absence of that love that we find this truly unique kind of love story. All of this isn’t to say that this is a doom and gloom divorce film in the vein of Blue Valentine, for example. There’s certainly elements like that, and there’s one scene in particular near the end that is just viscerally upsetting, but this film is also hilarious! The audience I was sat with was laughing hysterically throughout. So, bring tissues, but just know that there’s enough comedy in here as well to balance it out beautifully. Before I wrap up, I absolutely need to talk about these performances. This is the best performance Adam Driver has even given, and he has been on fire lately. Seriously, he is nothing short of incredible here. Scarlett Johansson is the best she’s been, certainly since Lost In Translation, but this may also be her best work ever. Alan Alda and Laura Dern play Charlie and Nicole’s lawyers respectively, and let’s just say we could be looking at the first time one film has received nominations in all four acting categories at the Academy Awards since 2013 (American Hustle). Two other aspects that I think warrant a mention here are Robbie Ryan’s beautiful cinematography and Randy Newman’s delightful score. Expect this one to be a huge player this awards season. Like I said, a damn near perfect film.


Just Mercy – TIFF Review


TIFF Film #1 of 8

Just Mercy is written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who previously made one of my all-time favourites films, 2013’s Short Term 12, which gave us a breakthrough and star-making performance from Brie Larson, and remarkable early work from future stars Kaitlyn Dever and Lakeith Stanfield. I still haven’t had the chance to see his follow-up film, The Glass Castle, but Short Term 12 garnered him enough good favour in my book that this was a high priority for me when I was selecting my films for the festival. Set in Alabama in the 1980’s and 90’s, Just Mercy tells the true story of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death, and a young defence attorney, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who works to overturn his conviction and free him from death row. It some respects it may be considered a formulaic and predictable court room drama, but if we accept that premise, we also have to acknowledge that it is a tremendously well told and performed formulaic court room drama. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx both give, in my opinion, career best performances here. I see Oscar nominations in lead and supporting actor for each of them respectively. There is a scene around the mid-point of the film lead by Rob Morgan playing real life death row inmate Herbert Jackson that is an absolutely stunning piece of filmmaking, and let me tell you, bring tissues. I don’t think there was a single dry eye in the house. O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Brie Larson also both have supporting roles here, with Jackson Jr. playing another real life death row inmate, Anthony Ray Hinton, and Brie Larson playing Eva Ansley, one of Bryan Stevenson’s colleagues at the Equal Justice Initiative. All things considered, and although they cover vastly different subject matter, Just Mercy and Short Term 12 have a lot in common. Short Term 12 is a story of at-risk children and the people who dedicate their lives to helping them, while Just Mercy is a story of racial injustice and bigotry in a broken criminal justice system, but both films are ultimately about human compassion and empathy, something that there seems to far too little of in the world right now. This story puts us in the shoes of people who need help the most, but aren’t receiving any because of the way they are perceived, and allows us to see them as human beings. “Each of us is more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done”. The real Bryan Stevenson was at my screening and introduced the film along with Destin Daniel Cretton. He spoke about how he hopes his story and this film will inspire change, and after seeing it, I know I won’t be alone in hoping that too.


2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions (September 1st, 2019)


With the start of the fall film festivals, awards season is officially upon us! For someone like me, who gleefully obsesses over correctly predicting the outcomes of the Oscars every year (I was 16 for 24 last year, I can do better), this means initiating the first step: correctly predicting the nominations. It’s important to keep in mind that it is still very early. We still have five months to go until the actual ceremony, and three months of qualifying film releases left in 2019. So what, you might be wondering, are these predictions even based on? The answer is three things: “Buzz” (whatever the hell that means), gut feeling, and blind guessing.  I’m going to be posting an updated version of this list once a month between now and when the nominations are announced on a January 13th, 2020 live broadcast. A LOT can change between now and then, with under-the-radar releases surprising everyone, box office troubles or triumphs, and most importantly, what happens at the many awards ceremonies that are seen as Oscar success precursors (SAG, WGA, PGA, DGA, etc.).

This list was very hard to narrow down. When I began I had 22 films listed under Best Picture, and a minimum of 15 under each of the acting categories. But this list isn’t about listing every single possible contender in each of the categories, it’s about attempting to accurately pick what the nominees will actually be, so some difficult decisions had to be made. I was also thrown a few curveballs here and there, like discovering through some research that it looks like Tom Hanks might be competing in Supporting Actor instead of Lead for A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (which seems ridiculous), but in these instances I placed them where it seems most likely that their names will be submitted, not where I think they should be. Also worthy of mention I think, is that this is not the list as I think it should look like (I certainly hope Gerwig and Heller get Director nods), this is simply my best prediction of what the nominations will be. As time goes on I’ll be adding the rest of the categories, probably starting with Cinematography, Editing, and Score. But for now, here’s the list:

Scott’s 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions (September 1st, 2019)


  • 1917
  • Ford v. Ferrari
  • A Hidden Life
  • The Irishman
  • Just Mercy
  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  • Parasite
  • Waves


  • Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)
  • Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite)
  • Trey Edward Schults (Waves)
  • Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)


  • Awkwafina (The Farewell)
  • Cynthia Evrio (Harriet)
  • Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)
  • Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim)

Supporting Actress

  • Annette Bening (The Report)
  • Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
  • Brie Larson (Just Mercy)
  • Margot Robbie (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  • Meryl Streep (The Laundromat)


  • Robert De Niro (The Irishman)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  • Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Waves)
  • Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)

Supporting Actor

  • Alan Alda (Marriage Story)
  • Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
  • Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy)
  • Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood)
  • Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Adapted Screenplay

  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Just Mercy
  • The Laundromat
  • Little Women

Original Screenplay

  • The Farewell
  • Marriage Story
  • Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  • Parasite
  • Queen & Slim

TIFF 2019 Preview

Fall film festival season is upon us! As I write this, we are 5 days way from the start of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, and reviews from Venice and Telluride are beginning to pour in. It is a very, very exciting time to be a film fan, and being a film fan who currently resides in southern Ontario, I have had the privilege of actually attending TIFF every year. This year I made the commitment to see more films than I ever have before, so I currently have twelve confirmed tickets, which may sound like amateur hour to festival veterans, but I usually only do six! I’ve also left myself a little bit of room for potentially waiting in rush lines for some sold out screenings, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m going to be tweeting and posting on Instagram throughout the festival, so if you’re interested in seeing what attending TIFF is like, feel free to follow both of those (linked above). But for now, I wanted to write up little previews of the 12 films I’ll be seeing and maybe a little bit about why I chose them. Each and every one of these will be getting a full review on this site after I’ve seen them (and immediately after on Letterboxd). Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that How To Build A Girl, Knives Out, The Lighthouse, and Parasite are all films that I was very much hoping to catch at the festival, but unfortunately all of them were already sold out when I made my picks. Here is my schedule for the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival:

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
portrait FINAL

Writen by: Céline Sciamma
Directed by: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino, Adèle Haenel, and Noémie Merlant

On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the 18th century, an artist is commissioned to paint a young woman’s wedding portrait.

This one came out of Cannes with a lot of a buzz and the Best Screenplay award. I have heard nothing but good things from those whose opinions I trust so I had this pretty high on my list of things I wanted to see. It ended up being a pretty late edition to my lineup, but now that it’s on there, I am very excited to see it.

Saturday, September 7th, 2019 

Just Mercy
just mercy FINAL

Written by: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham, and Bryan Stevenson
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordon, Brie Larson, and O’Shea Jackson Jr.

The powerful true story of Harvard-educated lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who goes to Alabama to defend the disenfranchised and wrongly condemned — including Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to death despite evidence proving his innocence. Bryan fights tirelessly for Walter with the system stacked against them.

This film won’t have it’s world premiere until the evening before I’m seeing it, but it has such an insane recipe for success that I am more than willing to roll the dice on this one. Destin Daniel Cretton absolutely knocked my socks off with Short Term 12. It’s one of my favourite films of all time. It introduced me to Brie Larson, who became one of my all-time favourite actresses. She has a supporting role here. Michael B Jordan has been unstoppable pretty much since he arrived on the scene, between huge blockbusters like the Creed franchise and Black Panther, to impressive and devestating indies like Fruitvale Station, and all the way back to his role in Friday Night Lights. Jamie Foxx is Jamie Foxx. The man is a superstar. I have every reason to expect this will be excellent.

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Marriage Story
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Written by: Noah Baumbach
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Alan Alda, and Laura Dern

A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes. 

Noah Baumbach is one of my favourite filmmakers. The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha, The Meyerowitz Stories, Greenberg. And now he’s hitting us with a divorce film starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson? I mean, COME ON. I feel like this was made in a lab especially for me. Behind The Lighthouse, this was my highest priority for the entire festival. It’s also getting incredible reviews after screening at Venice and Telluride. I can’t fucking wait.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2019

Uncut Gems
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Written by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, and Ronald Bronstein
Directed by: Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie
Starring: Adam Sandler

Set in the diamond district of New York City, Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner and dealer to the rich and famous, must find a way to pay his debts when his merchandise is taken from one of his top sellers and girlfriend.

I use the Safdie brothers’ most recent film, Good Time, as an example for why people are stupid when they say Robert Pattinson is a bad actor so often that I forget that it’s also an excellent and meticulously crafted film. They are very good filmmakers. And honestly, just about every example of Adam Sandler acting in a serious role is good. Punch Drunk Love in particular. And if early reviews for this one out of Telluride are any indication, this may be tonally similar to Punch Drunk Love. I’ve been hearing that it’s chaotic and anxiety inducing and a little bit deranged, which is exactly up my alley.

joker final

Written by: Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, and Frances Conroy

During the 1980s, a failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City while becoming an infamous psychopathic crime figure.

I have to be honest, this one worries me a little bit, but that’s not because of any aspect of the film in particular. In fact, every indication so far is that it’s actually excellent. Early reviews are nearly unanimously positive. Joaquin Phoenix is a brilliant actor, and the film itself is drawing comparisons to The King Of Comedy and Taxi Driver. What I worry about is how unbearable the discourse around this film will be like. Make no mistake, online discussions about this one are going to be absolutely insufferable. But that’s not the film’s fault, so I guess I just need to mute a bunch of words on Twitter and enjoy this for what it is. It was in my top 10 of choices for the festival, and not all that long ago a slightly younger me would’ve had this as the undisputed #1 choice, so I’m really glad I’m going to be seeing it.

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

waves final

Written by: Trey Edward Schults
Directed by: Trey Edward Schults
Starring: Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Two young couples navigate the emotional minefield of growing up and falling in love.

I’m pretty sure that plot description is outdated, as not a whole lot was known about this film at all until it had it’s world premiere at Telluride a few nights ago. This one was on my radar when I was selecting my films, but definitely wasn’t a priority. After the world premiere, when the overwhelmingly positive reviews started to get posted online, I decided I had mad a mistake not having this one on my schedule, and went ahead and bought a ticket right away. I honestly still don’t know a whole lot about it, just that folks who’s reviews I look to as a reflection of my own taste love it, and by the sounds of it, I will to.

Friday, September 13th, 2019

Honey Boy
honey boy final

Written by: Shia LaBeouf
Directed by: Alma Har’el
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, and Noah Jupe

The story of a child star attempting to mend his relationship with his law-breaking, alcohol-abusing father over the course of a decade, loosely based on Shia LaBeouf’s life.

I’ve been looking forward to this one since January when I first starting reading reviews for it after it premiered at Sundance. I just absolutely adore films like this, and it looks like Noah Jupe is going to be someone to keep an eye on going forward. Adding this to the list was a no-brainer for me even sight unseen, but the recently released trailer really sealed the deal.

Lucy In The Sky 
lucy final

Written by: Brian C. Brown & Elliott DiGuiseppi
Directed by: Noah Hawley
Starring: Natalie Portman & John Hamm

Astronaut Lucy Cola returns to Earth after a transcendent experience during a mission to space — and begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small. 

Much like with Just Mercy, the world premiere of this one is the night before I see it, so other than what we can get from the trailers, no one really knows much about this one yet. I know it used to be called Pale Blue Dot, which is an infinitely better title, and that Fox Searchlight (now owned by Disney) seem confident enough in this film to give it a fall festival run and an October release date, setting it up for possible awards contention. The trailers helped sell me a little bit, but honestly, I mostly bought the ticket because of Natalie Portman.

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

A Hidden Life
hidden final

Written by: Terrence Malick
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: August Diehl & Valerie Pachner

The Austrian Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II. 

The only other Terrence Malick film I’ve seen is The Tree of Life. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be embarrassed about that or not, people seem really split on his filmography as a whole. Regardless, this film looks absolutely stunning and so far it has the reviews to back it up, so I’m all in.

Ford v. Ferrari
ford v final

Written by: Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, And Tracy Letts

American car designer Carroll Shelby and the British-born driver Ken Miles work together to battle corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966. 

James Mangold has won some favour in my book between Walk The Line and Logan. While the plot of this film doesn’t particularly excited me, it’s always a nice treat to be excited by something that you weren’t expecting to excite you. It looks like this film might accomplish that feat with ease. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are both powerhouses and it looks like they’re at the top of their game here. This was an easy choice.

The Report
report final

Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Directed by: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm

The story of Daniel Jones, lead investigator for the US Senate’s sweeping study into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was found to be brutal, immoral, and ineffective. With the truth at stake, Jones battled tirelessly to make public what many in power sought to keep hidden. 

Adam Driver is having himself one hell of a year! Between this and Marriage Story and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker coming in December, this will probably end up being a memorable year in his young career. This is a film that got added to my list when other things I wanted to see were sold out, but having said that, it was one of the very first backups! I’m still looking forward to it. Hard to go wrong with Adam Driver and Annette Bening, and the story does look very interesting.

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

Jojo Rabbit
jojo final

Written by: Taika Waititi & Christine Leunens
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, and Scarlett Johansson

Jojo Rabbit is about a young boy living during World War II. His only escapism is through his imaginary friend, an ethnically inaccurate version of Adolph Hitler, who pushes the young boy’s naive patriotic beliefs. However, this all changes when a young girl challenges those views and causes Jojo to face his own issues. 

The only Taika Waititi film I’ve ever seen is Thor: Ragnarok, so other than knowing that he’s responsible for one of the very best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I really don’t know what to except from him as a filmmaker. This looks absolutely batshit crazy and hilarious, two of my very favourite film descriptors, and Scarlett Johansson is basically always excellent. The film also stars Thomasin McKenzie, who turned in an Oscar-worthy performance in last year’s Leave No Trace. I don’t know much about the young actor playing Jojo but I suspect that after this film comes out everyone will know Roman Griffin Davis. This is my last film of the festival so it’s sure to be bittersweet, but I am very much looking forward to it nonetheless!


That will wrap up this little preview! Stay tuned for my full reviews of each and every one of these films after my screenings, and after that we get to dive right in to the most fun thing about every year: OSCAR PREDICTIONS! Thanks for reading!


Favourite Films of The Year (so far..) + Mid-Year Film Awards


The start of July marks the halfway point of the year. I wanted to take a look back at what kind of year 2019 has been so far for film. At the end of each year I compile a list of my favourite films of the year and do my own personal awards, complete with nominations and winners in specific categories. For the mid-year review, we are going to do exactly that as if the year were ending today. I’ve included two films that technically came out after the halfway point, but I had seen them before I finalized this list and I couldn’t help myself from including them.

Scott’s Favourite Films of 2019 (so far..)
20. Spider-Man: Far From Home
19. Teen Spirit
18.  Under The Silver Lake
17. Late Night
16. Shazam!
15. The Beach Bum
14. Long Shot
13. Paddleton
12. I Am Mother
11. Toy Story 4
10. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
9. Fighting With My Family
8. Avengers: Endgame
7. Us
6. Climax
5. Her Smell
4. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
3. High Life
2. Booksmart
1. Midsommar

top 20 first half

And now we get to the awards. The official 2019 version of these awards will be taking place in January of next year, but I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what these awards look like now, that way we can compare and contrast and see what’s stood the test of time at the end of the year. If you’re interested in seeing last year’s nominations and winners, they can be found here and here.

The Nominations
In keeping with the format I used last year, I will be breaking the nominations down into the following 6 categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Performance By An Actress, Best Performance By An Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, with 5 nominees in each category (except Best Picture, which gets 10). At the end of the year I may decide to revamp this format, separating lead/supporting performances and original/adapted screenplays, and possibly adding the Best Editing category, amongst others. Here are the nominees:

Best Picture

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Booksmart
  • Climax
  • Her Smell
  • High Life
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
  • The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  • Midsommar
  • Toy Story 4
  • Us

Best Director

  • Ari Aster (Midsommar)
  • Claire Denis (High Life)
  • Alex Ross Perry (Her Smell)
  • Joe Talbot (The Last Black Man In San Francisco)
  • Olivia Wilde (Booksmart)

Best Performance By An Actor

  • Zac Efron (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile)
  • Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man In San Francisco)
  • Matthew McConaughey (The Beach Bum)
  • Robert Patinson (High Life)
  • Ray Romano (Paddleton)

Best Performance By An Actress

  • Juliette Binoche (High Life)
  • Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (Us)
  • Florence Pugh (Midsommar)

Best Screenplay

  • Booksmart (Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel & Katie Silberman)
  • Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry)
  • High Life (Clair Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau & Geoff Cox)
  • Midsommar (Ari Aster)
  • Us (Jordan Peele)

Best Cinematography

  • The Beach Bum (Benoit Debie)
  • High Life (Yorick Le Saux)
  • The Last Black Man In San Francisco (Adam Newport-Berra)
  • Midsommar (Pawel Pogorzelski)
  • Teen Spirit (Autumn Durald)

The Winners
For the official awards the nominations and winners will obviously not be announced simultaneously, but since this is just for fun and we’re only working with what will likely end up being less than half of the films I’ll see this year, I think we can go ahead and jump right into the winners. The winners of the 2019 Mid-Year Film Awards are:

Best Performance By An Actor
Winner: Robert Pattinson (High Life)
Runner Up: Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man In San Francisco)

Best Performance By An Actress
Winner: Florence Pugh (Midsommar)
Runner Up: Elisabeth Moss (Her Smell)

Best Cinematography
Winner: Midsommar (Pawel Pogorzelski)
Runner Up: High Life (Yorick Le Saux)

Best Screenplay
Winner: High Life (Clair Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau & Geoff Cox)
Runner Up: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry)

Best Director
Winner: Ari Aster (Midsommar)
Runner Up: Claire Denis (High Life)

Best Picture
Winner: Midsommar
Runner Up: Booksmart

And there we have it! 2019 is off to a relatively promising start with a small handful of films that I absolutely adore, and we don’t even have to look ahead very far to see that this year still has a great chance of being a special one for film. In the next two months alone we’ll be getting The Farewell, The Art of Self Defense, Stuber, The Lion King, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Luce, Them That FollowBlinded By The Light, and Good Boys, amongst others. And fast-forward to the end of the year where we’ll be getting titles like Ad Astra, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, Ford v. Ferrari, Joker, ParasiteZombieland: Double Tap , and my personal most anticipated film for 2019’s second half, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. And that doesn’t even really scratch the surface! You should revisit my 2019 Most Anticipated Films post if you’re curious what else is still set to come out this year.

Thank you all so much for checking out this post. Still to come, I’m going to be doing a 2010’s Decade Retrospective. Two posts a month from now until the end of the year, each one focusing on one year of the decade and examining all the notable films released that year. Should be fun! I’ll also continue posting periodic film reviews. No set schedule, just whenever I see a film that I feel compelled to write about, it’ll get posted here! My Twitter is located on the sidebar of this site, following me there would be the best place to get notified when a new post has gone up. Any feedback is welcomed and can be left down below or tweeted at me. Thanks again for reading and I hope you’ll be back!



I Am Mother (Film Review)


As far as low-budget, one-location, three-character sci-fi films go, I Am Mother isn’t quite on the level of Ex Machina, but it’s definitely close. I wanted to get that out of the way early on, because while these films do have those things in common, the similarities end there. I Am Mother is a wildly inventive and original film. Written by Michael Lloyd Green and directed by Grant Sputore (the feature-length debut for both of them), I Am Mother stars Clara Rugaard as Daughter, a young woman who has lived her entire life inside of an underground bunker, being raised solely by Mother, an artificially intelligent robot (voiced by Rose Byrne). Together, the two of them have been tasked with repopulating the earth following an extinction event that has allegedly taken place above the surface. I say allegedly because all of Daughter’s knowledge of what happened to the rest of humanity comes directly from Mother, and we quickly learn that not everything is as it seems when an unidentified woman (played by Hilary Swank) shows up at the door of their bunker with a gunshot wound. I Am Mother masterfully plays with audience loyalty and trust. We are placed squarely in the shoes of Daughter as she desperately tries to uncover the truth from two fiercely contradictory assertions about what is really going on from Mother and Woman. She doesn’t know who to believe, and neither do we, and this makes for some genuinely knife-cutting tension. This is not to say that this film doesn’t end up revealing its truths to us, it absolutely does. In fact, the latter two acts of this film are essentially one gnarly reveal after another, but because we sat so long in uncertainty, the reveals just feel so satisfying. With each new piece of information our loyalties swing back and forth with Daughter’s until the very end when everything fits together like a puzzle. And like any great twist-heavy movie, you’ll either be celebrating and bragging to your friends about how early on you called it, or holding your head in your hands in disbelief that you didn’t. This is an impressive directorial debut for Grant Sputore. The film is shot very well, and the practical and digital effects, especially considering what I have to assume to be a relatively small budget, are very impressive. Hilary Swank is great as always, but the real star here is Clara Rugaard, who gives an absolutely excellent performance as Daughter. She is a relatively new actress who was in Teen Spirit earlier this year, and only has a couple of other credits to her name on IMDB. As far as I’m concerned, after seeing this film, she is very much an actress to watch out for going forward. I Am Mother is currently streaming on Netflix, and I would highly recommend giving this a watch.


Booksmart (Film Review)


I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age film. The last few years have been really kind to me in that regard, with films like The Edge of Seventeen, Lady Bird, and Eighth Grade. All of those films ended up at the top of my year-end lists when they came out. Booksmart will be no exception. This is my favourite film of the year so far and it’s not close. It’s just an absolutely delightful viewing experience from start to finish. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever star as Molly and Amy, two best friends who realize on the eve of their high school graduation that maybe they didn’t have to sacrifice a good time in the name of academic success, and set out to cram four years worth of partying into one night. Both of them give incredible performances. The on-screen chemistry between these two is undeniable. Their friendship feels so lived in, so genuine, so real. It’s what makes “the argument” scene so devastating. Olivia Wilde’s direction here is inspired. Booksmart is her feature-length directorial debut, but you honestly wouldn’t know it. The pool scene is incredibly well shot, one of my favourite scenes of the year, and it’s immediately followed by a frantic tracking shot of Amy searching for her friend in a crowded house party that is reminiscent of a scene from Boogie Nights. The screenwriting can’t be ignored either. Penned by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman, this screenplay is one that takes your typical “one crazy night” and teen comedy tropes and executes them flawlessly. It also treats all of its characters with compassion. Almost every single one of them feels fully fleshed out. No one is the butt of the joke in this film. Certain characters are mean to each other, for sure, but they’re given moments of redemption that humanize them. When our protagonists finally reach the big party, no one is wondering out loud why the losers showed up. Everyone is actually just really excited that they came, and tell them how much they wish they had come out and had fun more often. Booksmart is ultimately a film about friendship at a time of uncertainty. We all know that high school friendships seldom last forever, but this film leaves us with the hope that one just might for Molly and Amy. Backed by a stellar supporting cast too long to even list here, Booksmart is the first must see film of the summer, and if you haven’t already seen it, I seriously can’t recommend it enough.


Top 50 Anticipated Films for 2019

Here are my top 50 most anticipated films for 2019, listed in alphabetical order. Plot descriptions taken from Letterboxd/ TMDB.

Ad Astra
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release date: May 24th, 2019

Astronaut Roy McBride must undertake a harrowing journey to the edge of our solar system when his long-lost scientist father seems to have resurfaced despite having been declared dead many years ago. His reappearance appears to be connected to a series of mysterious explosions and a top secret military project. As McBride makes his way across a series of increasingly dangerous outposts on the Moon and Mars, forces converge to stop him from finding answers while another impending explosion threatens to destroy life as we know it.

Apollo 11
Distributed by: Neon
Release date:
March 1st, 2019

A look at the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon led by commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin.

Distributed by: Bleecker Street
Release date: February 1st, 2019

A man stranded in the Arctic is finally about to receive his long awaited rescue. However, after a tragic accident, his opportunity is lost and he must then decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his camp or embark on a deadly trek through the unknown for potential salvation.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release date: November 22nd, 2019

The story of Fred Rogers, the honored host and creator of the popular children’s television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968).

Big Time Adolescence
Distributed by: TBA
Release date: TBA

A 16 year old virgin with a growth hormone deficiency slowly gets corrupted by his hero, an aimless college dropout.

Blinded By The Light
Distributed by:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date:
August 14th, 2019

In 1987, during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family, and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Distributed by: United Artists
Release date: May 29th, 2018

Two academic teenage superstars realise, on the eve of their high school graduation, that they should have worked less and played more. Determined to never fall short of their peers, the girls set out on a mission to cram four years of fun into one night.

Brittany Runs A Marathon
Distributed by: Amazon Studios
Release date: TBA

A woman living in New York takes control of her life—one city block at a time.

Captain Marvel
Distributed by: Disney Studios
Release date: March 8th, 2019

The story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. Set in the 1990s, Captain Marvel is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Distributed by: Neon
Release date: TBA

Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.

Distribution: A24
Release date: March 1st, 2019

Young dancers gather in a remote and empty school building to rehearse on a cold and wintry night. The all-night celebration soon turns into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn that their sangria is laced with LSD.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Distributed by: Netflix
Release date: Late 2019

A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years.

The Farewell
Distributed by: A24
Release date: July 12th, 2019

A headstrong Chinese-American woman returns to China when her beloved grandmother is given a terminal diagnosis. Billi struggles with her family’s decision to keep grandma in the dark about her own illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see grandma one last time.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: May 31st, 2019

The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

Greener Grass
Distributed by: TBA
Release date: TBA

Suburban soccer moms find themselves constantly competing against each other in their personal lives as their kids settle their differences on the field.

Distributed by:
Apple Inc. 
Release date:

Muslim teenager Hala copes with the unraveling of her family as she comes into her own.

Her Smell
Distributed by:
Gunpowder & Sky
Release date: April 12th, 2019

A self-destructive punk rocker struggles with sobriety while trying to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.

High Life
Distributed by: A24
Release date: April 12th, 2019

A father and his daughter struggle to survive in deep space where they live in isolation.

Honey Boy
Distributed by: Amazon Studios
Release date: TBA

The story of a child star attempting to mend his relationship with his law-breaking, alcohol-abusing father over the course of a decade, loosely based on Shia LaBeouf’s life.

I Am Mother
Distributed by: Netflix
Release date: TBA

A teenage girl is raised underground by a robot “Mother”, designed to repopulate the earth following an extinction event. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news.

The Irishman
Distributed by:
Release date:
Autumn 2019

A mob hit man recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: October 4th, 2019

During the 1980s, a failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City while becoming an infamous psychopathic crime figure.

The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Distributed by: A24
Release date: June 14th, 2019

Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Joined on his quest by his best friend Mont, Jimmie searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.

Late Night
Distributed by: Amazon Studios
Release date: June 7th, 2019

Legendary late-night talk show host’s world is turned upside down when she hires her only female staff writer. Originally intended to smooth over diversity concerns, her decision has unexpectedly hilarious consequences as the two women separated by culture and generation are united by their love of a biting punchline.

The Lion King
Distributed by: Disney Studios
Release date: July 19th, 2019

Simba idolises his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.

Little Monsters
Distributed by: Neon and Hulu
Release date: TBA

A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.

Little Women
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Release date: December 25th, 2019

Four sisters come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Little Woods
Distributed by: Neon
Release date: April 19th, 2019

For years, Ollie has illicitly helped the struggling residents of her North Dakota oil boomtown access Canadian health care and medication. When the authorities catch on, she plans to abandon her crusade, only to be dragged in even deeper after a desperate plea for help from her sister.

Distributed by: Neon and Topic Studios 
Release date: TBA

A star athlete and top student, Luce’s idealized image is challenged by one of his teachers when his unsettling views on political violence come to light, putting a strain on family bonds while igniting intense debates on race and identity.

Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: May 31st, 2019

A lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers with torturous consequences for the kids.

Distributed by: A24
Release date: August 9th, 2019

A young couple travels to Sweden to visit their friend’s rural hometown and attend its mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly descends into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.

Distributed by:
Release date: TBA

On a faraway mountaintop, eight kids with guns watch over a hostage and a conscripted milk cow.

Ms. Purple
Distributed by:
Release date:

Kasie, stuck in LA’s Koreatown, works as a karaoke hostess getting paid for her companionship by drunken men. When her dad’s hospice nurse quits she reconnects with her estranged brother, Carey, forcing them to enter a period of intense self-reflection as their single father who raised them nears death.

Native Son
Distributed by: HBO Films
Release date: April 6th, 2019

A young African-American man named Bigger Thomas takes a job working for a highly influential Chicago family, a decision that will change the course of his life forever.

The Nightingale
Distributed by:
IFC Films
Release date:
Summer 2019

In 1829, Claire, a 21-year-old Irish convict, chases a British soldier through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. She enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.

Official Secrets
Distributed by: IFC Films
Release date: TBA

The true story of British intelligence whistle- blower Katharine Gun, who prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion leaked a top-secret NSA memo exposing a joint US-UK illegal spying operation against members of the UN Security Council. The memo proposed blackmailing member states into voting for war.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Distributed by:
Sony Pictures
Release date:
July 26th, 2019

A faded TV actor and his stunt double embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the film industry during the Helter Skelter reign of terror in 1969 Los Angeles.

The Report
Distributed by: Amazon Studios
Release date: TBA

The story of Daniel Jones, lead investigator for the US Senate’s sweeping study into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was found to be brutal, immoral and ineffective. With the truth at stake, Jones battled tirelessly to make public what many in power sought to keep hidden.

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: April 5th, 2019

A boy is given the ability to become an adult superhero in times of need with a single magic word.

The Souvenir
Distributed by: A24
Release date: May 17th, 2019

A shy but ambitious film student begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man. She defies her protective mother and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.

Spider-Man: Far From Home
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Release date: July 5th, 2019

Peter Parker and his friends go on a summer trip to Europe. However, they will hardly be able to rest – Peter will have to agree to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of creatures that cause natural disasters and destruction throughout the continent.

Star Wars: Episode IX
Distributed by: Disney Studios
Release date: December 20th, 2019

The next installment in the franchise and the conclusion of the “Star Wars“ sequel trilogy as well as the “Skywalker Saga“.

Them That Follow
Distributed by:
The Orchard
Release date: June 21st, 2019

A Pentecostal pastor, Lemuel Childs, and his believers handle venomous snakes to prove themselves before God. Lemuel’s daughter, Mara holds a secret that threatens to tear the church apart: her romantic past with a nonbeliever, Augie. As Mara’s wedding to a devoted follower looms, she must decide whether or not to trust the steely matriarch of their community, Hope, with her heart and life at stake.

This Is Not Berlin
Distributed by:
Release date: TBA

Seventeen-year-old Carlos doesn’t fit in anywhere, not in his family nor with the friends he has chosen in school. But everything changes when he is invited to a mythical nightclub where he discovers the underground nightlife scene: punk, sexual liberty and drugs.

To The Stars
Distributed by:
Release date: TBA

Under small-town scrutiny, a withdrawn farmer’s daughter forges an intimate friendship with a worldly but reckless new girl in 1960s Oklahoma.

Toy Story 4
Distributed by:
Disney Studios
Release date: June 21st, 2019

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

Troop Zero
Distributed by:
Amazon Studios
Release date: TBA

In rural 1977 Georgia, a misfit girl dreams of life in outer space. When a national competition offers her a chance at her dream, to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, she recruits a makeshift troupe of Birdie Scouts, forging friendships that last a lifetime and beyond.

Distributed by:
Universal Pictures
Release date: March 22nd, 2019

Husband and wife Gabe and Adelaide Wilson take their kids to their beach house expecting to unplug and unwind with friends. But as night descends, their serenity turns to tension and chaos when some shocking visitors arrive uninvited.

Distributed by:
Universal Pictures
Release date: June 28th, 2019

A struggling musician realizes he’s the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles.

Zombieland: Double Tap
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Release date: October 11th, 2019

The group will face a new zombie threat as a new breed of zombie has developed. This new super-zombie type is faster, bigger, and stronger than the previous strain of zombies and harder to kill. These super-zombies have started grouping up into a horde going from city to city leaving a path of destruction behind them.