Review: ‘Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs,’ starring the voices of Chloë Grace Moretz, Sam Claflin, Gina Gershon, Patrick Warburton and Jim Rash

September 22, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jack (voiced by Frederik Hamel), Hans (voiced by Nolan North), Arthur (voiced by Simon Kassianides), Snow White/Red Shoes (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz), Merlin (voiced by Sam Claflin) and Pino, Noki, Kio (all three voiced by Frank Todaro) in “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” (Image courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs”

Directed by Sung-ho Hong, with co-direction from Moo-Hyun Jang and Young Sik Uhm

Culture Representation: This animated re-imagination of the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” features an all-white cast of characters.

Culture Clash: The Seven Dwarfs are cursed by a spell that has made them into dwarfs, and Snow White’s evil stepmother wants possession of the red shoes worn Snow White, because the shoes can make someone look young and beautiful .

Culture Audience: “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” will appeal to anyone who’s a fan of the original “Snow White” fairy tale and anyone who’s looking for a mildly entertaining and predictable reimagination of this classic.

Magic Mirror (voiced by Patrick Warburton) and Regina (voiced by Gina Gershon) in “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” (Image courtesy of Lionsgate)

Imagine the classic fairytale “Snow White” reimagined as a story about the importance of judging people for who they are rather than for their physical appearances. It’s this positive message that uplifts the lightweight and mostly enjoyable animated “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs,” which can be entertaining to watch for people of any generation. The story will be completely predictable to adults, but the appealing animation and the briskly paced adventure aspects of the story (the movie is 92 minutes long) should keep most viewers interested from beginning to end.

Written and directed by Sung-ho Hong (and co-directed by Moo-Hyun Jang and Young Sik Uhm), “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” begins with a twist on the origin story of the Seven Dwarfs. It’s explained that they used to be tall, good looking young men who were members of a heroic group known as the Fearless Seven. They are described as “the greatest heroes of Fairy Tale Island.”

However, one day the Fearless Seven made the mistake of attacking a fairy princess who looked like a witch, so she cursed them by turning them into green dwarfs. The only way to break this curse is for them to get a kiss from the most beautiful girl in the world. Feminists might cringe at this aspect of the story, but if you’re easily offended by stories that have old-fashioned ideas of the roles of males and females, then avoid fairy tales altogether.

The Seven Dwarfs (formerly known as the Fearless Seven) have become outcasts in society and their only mission now is to find the most beautiful girl in the world. As far as the world is concerned, the Fearless Seven have disappeared and have been missing for more than a year by the time that the Seven Dwarfs meet Snow White. The Seven Dwarfs are so ashamed of how they look that they deny that they are the Fearless Seven if anyone suspects that they are.

The Seven Dwarfs are Merlin, the group’s friendly leader (voiced by Sam Claflin); Arthur (voiced by Simon Kassianides), the often-impulsive warrior who tries to pull his Excalibur sword out of a stone; Jack (voiced by Frederik Hamel), a finicky Frenchman; Hans (voiced by Nolan North), a gung-ho German; and triplets Pino, Noki and Kio (voiced by Frank Todero), who are relegated to sidekick roles with personalities that can’t be distinguished from one another.

Meanwhile, an evil witch named Regina (voiced by Gina Gershon) has a pair of high-heled red shoes that have the power to make the person wearing them look young, thin and conventionally beautiful. These shoes are her most-prized possession because wearing the shoes can changes Regina’s appearance from a mean-looking old hag (her real physical appearance) to someone whose physical appearance is in keeping with conventional standards of beauty.

Snow White (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) is a princess who lives with her widower father, the king of the land. The major difference between this Snow White and other versions of Snow White is that this Snow White happens to be plus-sized and self-conscious about her looks. However, her father accepts and loves her for exactly who she is. At the beginning of the story, Snow White has just turned 18 and is set to inherit adult royal duties.

And it’s around this time that Regina shows up in town with a strange mirror, and people in the town start mysteriously disappearing. Regina, who has disguised herself as a beautiful young woman (thanks to wearing the red shoes), has found a way to charm the king and get him to marry her, but the king disappears not long after the marriage. Snow White finds the magical red shoes, turns into a thin and conventional pretty young woman, and flies away on a broom to look for her father. An enraged Regina then does what she can in her royal stepmother power to find Snow White and the red shoes.

During Snow White’s quest to find her father, she encounters the Seven Dwarfs. They think she could be the most beautiful girl in the world. Therefore, much of the movie revolves around the Seven Dwarfs trying to find out if Snow White is the one who can break their curse. Meanwhile, because she has other people do the dirty work for her, she is seen back at the castle with her talking Magic Mirror (voiced by Patrick Warburton), which gives her advice on what to do next.

Snow White has been declared a fugitive thief, so when she meets the Seven Dwarfs, she lies and tells them her name is Red Shoes. She wants them to help her find her father, but they don’t want to admit that they’re the heroic group called the Fearless Seven. However, they all have to dodge people who are out to get Snow White, since there’s a reward for anyone who can capture her.

There’s kind of a cringeworthy scene were Arthur awkwardly tries to kiss Snow White/Red Shoes, but she’s resistant because she’s not attracted to him at all. And it should come as no surprise to people looking for a fairy tale romance in this story that Snow White falls for another dwarf in the group. It’s very easy to guess who it is. The movie plays around a lot with the idea of whether or not this budding romance will survive if Snow White and her would-be beau have their true physical selves revealed to each other.

There’s also a subplot of a spoiled royal named Prince Average (voiced by Jim Rash), who is throwing a birthday party for himself, and he’s obsessed with getting “beautiful people” to attend his party. What he wants most is for a beautiful princess to be his date for the party, so he sends his minions to go out and find one and bring her back to him. It’s really not all that much different from real life, when rich people hire supermodels to be at their parties.

In fact, some parts of “Red Shoes” have some underlying sly commentary about how shallow people can become so obsessed with youth and beauty that it can turn them into soulless people who lose sight of what really matters in life. This isn’t a movie that needs to be over-analyzed, but there is an interesting metaphor that can be found between the Magic Mirror and what’s going with a lot of people who over-use Instagram and other social media for ego validation. “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” essentially has the message that people who put a fake image of themselves out there the world so that they can be rewarded for it in some way end up doing the most damage to themselves.

In an animation world where movies from Pixar, Disney Animation and DreamWorks Animation get most of the major awards and blockbuster sales, “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” (from Locus Animation Studio) isn’t going to make a dent in that domination. However, the animation and other visuals in “Red Shoes” are very good for a movie that has the fraction of the budget that a movie from Pixar, Disney Animation or DreamWorks Animation would have.

If “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” looks and sounds very influenced by Disney, that might be because the movie’s character design and animation direction are by Jin Kim, whose credits include the Disney animated films “Fantasia 2000,” “Frozen II” and “Tangled.” Also complementing the film well is the musical score by Geoff Zanelli, whose movies credits include the Disney live-action films “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” However, there are elements of “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves” that are also influenced by a film from a Disney rival: DreamWorks Animation’s first “Shrek” movie.

The subplot with Prince Average makes the story a little cluttered at times, but the movie doesn’t drag too much and there’s enough humor in it so that it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. And as is the case with many reimagined fairy tales that have been updated with modern sensibilities, this Snow White is definitely not a damsel in distress who needs to be rescued by a prince at the end of the story.

Disney’s 1937 animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” stuck to the fairy tale that had traditional gender roles in who does the rescuing. The overall message of “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” has a more impactful message about how true love can be found if it isn’t based solely on how someone looks and if you have self-acceptance first.

Lionsgate released “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs” on digital and VOD on September 18, 2020, and on Blu-ray and DVD and September 22, 2020.

2020 Billboard Music Awards: Post Malone is the top nominee

September 22, 2020

Post Malone (Photo courtesy of ABC/Image Group LA) 

The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions and NBC:

Dick Clark Productions and NBC today announced the nominees for the “2020 Billboard Music Awards,” which honor the year’s most successful artists in 55 categories across all genres of music. Rapper Post Malone leads the pack with 16 Billboard Music Award (BBMA) nods, followed by first-time nominees Lil Nas X with 13 and Billie Eilish with 12. BBMA winner Khalid ties Eilish with 12 nominations. Other nominees and possible record-breakers include first-time nominee Lizzo (11), KanyeWest (9), TaylorSwift (6), and JustinBieber (4).

The “2020 Billboard Music Awards,” hosted by Kelly Clarkson, will broadcast live from The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

This year’s awards are based on the chart period of March 23, 2019 through March 14, 2020, set for the originally scheduled April 29, 2020 show, which was postponed due to the pandemic. The original eligibility period will remain intact to recognize and honor the chart-topping artists and musical successes achieved and to maintain consistent tracking periods for future shows. 

Post Malone earned nominations in coveted categories including Top Artist, Top Male Artist and Top Billboard 200 Artist, notching a total of 16 nods and only narrowly missing his personal record of 17 nominations in 2019. He is also a double nominee in the Top Rap Song category. Lil Nas X received 13 nominations, with nods in many of the same categories, including Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist and Top Hot 100 Artist. Khalid and Billie Eilish are tied for third-most nominations this year with 12 each, marking Eilish’s BBMA nominations debut. Lizzo received a total of 11 nominations, including Top New Artist, and Kanye West follows with 9, including a quadruple nomination in the Top Gospel Song category. 

Fan-voted categories this year include Billboard Chart Achievement Award, Top Social Artist and Top Collaboration. Voting opens on October 1, 2020 and will be available on TikTok, this year’s primary voting platform, reflecting its increasing impact on music and role as a staging ground for chart-topping hits.

2020 TOP FIVE NOMINEE CHART FACTS:

Post Malone (16) Billboard Music Award-winner Post Malone continues to dominate Billboard’s charts, thanks in large part to the smash success of his 2019 album Hollywood’s Bleeding. The set debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart and never left the weekly top 20 in its entire first year of release. The album was so hot, it generated more streams than any other album in the U.S. in 2019, with over 3 billion audio on-demand streams earned for its songs that year according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. Hollywood’s Bleeding houses five top 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including the No. 1s “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse)” and “Circles,” with both proving to be so popular, they each spent more than a year on the tally. “Circles” was such a sustained hit, while it first hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in November of 2019, it lingered in the weekly top 10 on the Hot 100 until May of 2020, logging a record-setting 39 total weeks in the top 10.

Lil Nas X (13) Lil Nas X made quite an impression with his debut hit “Old Town Road,” as the track broke the record for the most weeks at No. 1 ever on the Hot 100 chart. The tune, enhanced by a remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, shattered the long-standing record for the most weeks atop the chart in its 60-plus-year history, spending 19 weeks at No. 1 in 2019. It surpassed the previous record-holders, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” featuring Justin Bieber, and Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day,” each with 16 weeks at No. 1. Lil Nas X followed up his success with two more top 40 hits on the Hot 100: “Panini” and “Rodeo.” He also launched his debut EP 7, which bowed at No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

Billie Eilish (12) More than a year after Billie Eilish debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, the album has yet to leave the weekly top 40. The set has spent a total of three nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the list, and spun off Eilish’s first Hot 100 No. 1 single, “Bad Guy.” She closed out 2019 with another top 10 hit, “Everything I Wanted” (peaking at No. 8) and then got 2020 off to a fine start with the latest James Bond film theme song, “No Time to Die” (No. 16), from the upcoming film of the same name. In early 2020, Eilish tied Beck and Alanis Morissette for the most No. 1s on the Alternative Songs airplay chart, when “Everything I Wanted” became her third leader on the tally.  

Khalid (12) 2018’s Billboard Music Award winner for top new artist celebrated his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 in 2019 with Free Spirit, and its top five-charting Hot 100 hit “Talk.” Free Spirit also ruled the Top R&B Albums chart for 12 weeks, and never left the weekly top 10 of the list from its debut in April of 2019 on through the first half of 2020. Further, upon the debut of Free Spirit, Khalid dominated that week’s Hot R&B Songs chart, placing 16 songs on the 25-position tally – including the entire top five.

Lizzo (11 ) In 2019, Lizzo’s barnstorming single “Truth Hurts” ruled the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks, while it spent 11 weeks atop the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The success of the track helped its parent album Cuz I Love You reach the top five on the Billboard 200 albums chart. She followed “Truth” with another smash, “Good as Hell,” which topped out at No. 3 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Kanye West (9) Five-time Billboard Music Award winner Kanye West has been a consistent chart topper for years, having earned eight consecutive No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart between 2005 and 2018. In 2019, West garnered yet another No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 with Jesus Is King, and also his first No. 1 on the Top Gospel Albums and Top Christian Albums chart. The effort also snared West a top 10 hit on the Hot 100 with “Follow God,” which has spent 37 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Gospel Songs chart.

“Billboard Music Awards” nominees and winners are based on key fan interactions with music, including album and digital song sales, streaming, radio airplay, touring and social engagement, tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including MRC Data/Nielsen Music. Since 1940, the Billboard charts have been the go-to guide for ranking the popularity of artists, songs and albums, and are the ultimate measure of success in music.

The “2020 Billboard Music Awards” is produced by Dick Clark Productions. Amy Thurlow, Mark Bracco, Barry Adelman, Linda Gierahn, Kelly Clarkson and Robert Deaton are executive producers.

For the latest news on the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) visit billboardmusicawards.com and  www.billboard.com/bbma. For exclusive content and more, be sure to follow the BBMAs on social media and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #BBMAs. 

Twitter:@BBMAs | FacebookFB.com/TheBBMAs | Instagram@bbmas
Snapchatthebbmas | TikTok: @bbmas | YouTubeyoutube.com/bbmas
About dick clark productions:

Dick Clark Productions (DCP) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and DCP. DCP also owns one of the world’s most extensive and unique entertainment archive libraries with more than 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. dcp is part of MRC Live & Alternative, a division of diversified global entertainment company MRC. For additional information, visit www.mrcentertainment.com

THE “2020 BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS” NOMINEES:

NOMINATIONS BY CATEGORY

ARTIST AWARDS

Top Artist:
Billie Eilish
Jonas Brothers
Khalid
Post Malone
Taylor Swift

Top New Artist:
DaBaby
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Lizzo
Roddy Ricch

Billboard Chart Achievement Award (Fan Voted):
Mariah Carey
Luke Combs
Lil Nas X
Harry Styles
Taylor Swift

Top Male Artist:
DaBaby
Khalid
Lil Nas X
Post Malone
Ed Sheeran

Top Female Artist:
Billie Eilish
Ariana Grande
Halsey
Lizzo
Taylor Swift

Top Duo/Group:
BTS
Dan + Shay
Jonas Brothers
Maroon 5
Panic! At The Disco

Top Billboard 200 Artist:
Drake
Billie Eilish
Khalid
Post Malone
Taylor Swift

Top Hot 100 Artist:
DaBaby
Billie Eilish
Khalid
Lil Nas X
Post Malone

Top Streaming Songs Artist:
DaBaby
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Post Malone
Travis Scott

Top Song Sales Artist:
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Lizzo
Post Malone
Taylor Swift

Top Radio Songs Artist:
Jonas Brothers
Khalid
Lizzo
Shawn Mendes
Post Malone

Top Social Artist (Fan Voted):
BTS
Billie Eilish
EXO
GOT7
Ariana Grande

Top Touring Artist:
Elton John
Metallica
P!nk
The Rolling Stones
Ed Sheeran

Top R&B Artist:
Chris Brown
Khalid
Lizzo
Summer Walker
The Weeknd

Top R&B Male Artist:
Chris Brown
Khalid
The Weeknd

Top R&B Female Artist:
Beyoncé
Lizzo
Summer Walker

Top R&B Tour:
B2K
Janet Jackson
Khalid

Top Rap Artist:
DaBaby
Juice WRLD
Lil Nas X
Post Malone
Roddy Ricch

Top Rap Male Artist:
DaBaby
Lil Nas X
Post Malone

Top Rap Female Artist:
Cardi B
City Girls
Megan Thee Stallion

Top Rap Tour:
Drake
Post Malone
Travis Scott

Top Country Artist:
Kane Brown
Luke Combs
Dan + Shay
Maren Morris
Thomas Rhett

Top Country Male Artist:
Kane Brown
Luke Combs
Thomas Rhett

Top Country Female Artist:
Maren Morris
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood

Top Country Duo/Group:
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Old Dominion

Top Country Tour:
Eric Church
Florida Georgia Line
George Strait

Top Rock Artist:
Imagine Dragons
Panic! At The Disco
Tame Impala
Tool
twenty one pilots

Top Rock Tour:
Elton John
Metallica
The Rolling Stones

Top Latin Artist:
Anuel AA
Bad Bunny
J Balvin
Ozuna
Romeo Santos

Top Dance/Electronic Artist:
Avicii
The Chainsmokers
DJ Snake
Illenium
Marshmello

Top Christian Artist:
Lauren Daigle
Elevation Worship
for KING & COUNTRY
Hillsong UNITED
Kanye West

Top Gospel Artist:
Kirk Franklin
Koryn Hawthorne
Tasha Cobbs Leonard
Sunday Service Choir
Kanye West

ALBUM AWARDS

Top Billboard 200 Album:
Billie Eilish “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
Ariana Grande “thank u, next”
Khalid “Free Spirit”
Post Malone “Hollywood’s Bleeding”
Taylor Swift “Lover”

Top Soundtrack:
“Aladdin”
“Descendants 3”
“Frozen II”
“K-12” by Melanie Martinez 
“The Dirt” by Mötley Crüe

Top R&B Album:
Beyoncé “Homecoming: The Live Album”
Justin Bieber “Changes”
Chris Brown “Indigo”
Khalid “Free Spirit”
Summer Walker “Over It”

Top Rap Album:
DaBaby “KIRK”
Juice WRLD “Death Race For Love”
Post Malone “Hollywood’s Bleeding”
Roddy Ricch “Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial”
Young Thug “So Much Fun”

Top Country Album:
Kane Brown “Experiment”
Luke Combs “What You See Is What You Get”
Maren Morris “GIRL”
Thomas Rhett “Center Point Road”
Morgan Wallen “If I Know Me”

Top Rock Album:
The Lumineers “III”
Slipknot “We Are Not Your Kind”
Tame Impala “The Slow Rush”
Tool “Fear Inoculum”
Vampire Weekend “Father of the Bride”

Top Latin Album:
J Balvin & Bad Bunny “Oasis”
Farruko “Gangalee”
Maluma “11:11”
Romeo Santos “Utopía”
Sech “Sueños”

Top Dance/Electronic Album:
Avicii “TIM”
The Chainsmokers “World War Joy”
Illenium “Ascend”
Marshmello “Marshmello: Fortnite Extended Set”
Alan Walker “Different World”

Top Christian Album:
Bethel Music “Victory: Recorded Live”
Casting Crowns “Only Jesus”
Hillsong UNITED “People”
Skillet “Victorious”
Kanye West “Jesus is King”

Top Gospel AlbumL
Kirk Franklin “Long Live Love”
Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers “Goshen”
William McDowell “The Cry: A Live Worship Experience”
Sunday Service Choir “Jesus Is Born”
Kanye West “Jesus is King”

SONG AWARDS

Top Hot 100 Song:
Lewis Capaldi “Someone You Loved”
Billie Eilish “bad guy”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello “Señorita”

Top Streaming Song:
Chris Brown ft. Drake “No Guidance”
Billie Eilish “bad guy”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Lil Tecca “Ran$om”
Post Malone & Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”

Top Selling Song:
Lewis Capaldi “Someone You Loved”
Billie Eilish “bad guy”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Blake Shelton “God’s Country”

Top Radio Song:
Lewis Capaldi “Someone You Loved”
Jonas Brothers “Sucker”
Khalid “Talk”
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber “I Don’t Care”

Top Collaboration (Fan Voted):
Chris Brown ft. Drake “No Guidance”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello “Señorita”
Post Malone & Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”
Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber “I Don’t Care”

Top R&B Song:
Chris Brown ft. Drake “No Guidance”
Doja Cat & Tyga “Juicy”
Khalid “Talk”
Lizzo “Good As Hell”
The Weeknd “Heartless”

Top Rap Song:
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Lil Tecca “Ran$om”
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Post Malone & Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”
Post Malone “Wow.”

Top Country Song:
Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber “10,000 Hours”
Maren Morris “The Bones”
Old Dominion “One Man Band”
Blake Shelton “God’s Country”
Morgan Wallen “Whiskey Glasses”

Top Rock Song:
Imagine Dragons “Bad Liar”
Machine Gun Kelly x YUNGBLUD x Travis Barker “I Think I’m Okay”
Panic! At The Disco “Hey Look Ma, I Made It”
twenty one pilots “Chlorine”
twenty one pilots “The Hype”

Top Latin Song:
Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna & J Balvin “China”
Bad Bunny & Tainy “Callaita”
Daddy Yankee ft. Snow “Con Calma”
Jhay Cortez, J Balvin, & Bad Bunny “No Me Conoce”
Sech ft. Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna, Anuel AA “Otro Trago”

Top Dance/Electronic Song:
Black Eyed Peas x J Balvin “Ritmo (Bad Boys For Life)”
Ellie Goulding x Diplo ft. Swae Lee “Close To Me”
Illenium & Jon Bellion “Good Things Fall Apart”
Kygo x Whitney Houston “Higher Love”
Marshmello ft. CHVRCHES “Here With Me”

Top Christian Song:
Bethel Music, Jonathan David Helser & Melissa Helser “Raise A Hallelujah”
Casting Crowns ft. Matthew West “Nobody”
Lauren Daigle “Rescue”
for KING & COUNTRY “God Only Knows”
Kanye West “Follow God”

Top Gospel Song:
Kirk Franklin “Love Theory”
Kanye West “Closed on Sunday”
Kanye West “Follow God”
Kanye West “On God”
Kanye West “Selah”

NOMINATIONS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER (BY FIRST NAME):

“Aladdin” (1): Top Soundtrack
Alan Walker (1): Top Dance/Electronic Album
Anuel AA (3): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Song (x2)
Ariana Grande (3): Top Female Artist, Top Social Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album
Avicii (2): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album
B2K (1): Top R&B Tour
Bad Bunny (4): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Album, Top Latin Song (x2)
Bethel Music (2): Top Christian Album, Top Christian Song
Beyoncé (2): Top R&B Female Artist, Top R&B Album
Billie Eilish (12): Top Artist, Top New Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Social Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Selling Song
Billy Ray Cyrus (5): Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Selling Song
Black Eyed Peas (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song
Blake Shelton (2): Top Selling Song, Top Country Song
BTS (2): Top Duo/Group, Top Social Artist
Camila Cabello (2): Top Hot 100 Song, Top Collaboration
Cardi B (1): Top Rap Female Artist
Carrie Underwood (1): Top Country Female Artist
Casting Crowns (2): Top Christian Album, Top Christian Song
Chris Brown (6): Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Male Artist, Top R&B Album, Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration, Top R&B Song
CHVRCHES (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song
City Girls (1): Top Rap Female Artist
DaBaby (7): Top New Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Male Artist, Top Rap Album
Daddy Yankee (2): Top Latin Song (x2)
Dan + Shay (4): Top Duo/Group, Top Country Artist, Top Country Duo/Group, Top Country Song
Darell (1): Top Latin Song
“Descendants 3” (1): Top Soundtrack
Diplo (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song
DJ Snake (1): Top Dance/Electronic Artist
Doja Cat (1): Top R&B Song
Donald Lawrence (1): Top Gospel Album
Drake (5): Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Rap Tour, Top R&B Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration
Ed Sheeran (4): Top Male Artist, Top Touring Artist, Top Radio Song, Top Collaboration
Elevation Worship (1): Top Christian Artist
Ellie Goulding (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song
Elton John (2): Top Touring Artist, Top Rock Tour
Eric Church (1): Top Country Tour
EXO (1): Top Social Artist
Farruko (1): Top Latin Album
Florida Georgia Line (2): Top Country Duo/Group, Top Country Tour
for KING & COUNTRY (2): Top Christian Artist, Top Christian Song
“Frozen II” (1): Top Soundtrack
George Strait (1): Top Country Tour
GOT7 (1): Top Social Artist
Halsey (1): Top Female Artist
Harry Styles (1): Billboard Chart Achievement Award
Hillsong UNITED (2): Top Christian Artist, Top Christian Album
Illenium (3): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album, Top Dance/Electronic Song
Imagine Dragons (2): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Song
J Balvin (5):  Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Album, Top Latin Song (x2), Top Dance/Electronic Song
Janet Jackson (1): Top R&B Tour
Jhay Cortez (1): Top Latin Song
Jon Bellion (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song
Jonas Brothers (4): Top Artist, Top Duo/Group, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Radio Song
Jonathan David Helser (1): Top Christian Song
Juice WRLD (2): Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Album
Justin Bieber (4): Top R&B Album, Top Radio Song, Top Collaboration, Top Country Song
Kacey Musgraves (1): Top Country Female Artist
Kane Brown (3): Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Country Album
Kanye West (9): Top Christian Artist, Top Gospel Artist, Top Christian Album, Top Gospel Album, Top Christian Song, Top Gospel Song (x4)
Karol G (1): Top Latin Song
Khalid (12): Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Male Artist, Top R&B Tour, Top Billboard 200 Album, Top R&B Album, Top Radio Song, Top R&B Song
Kirk Franklin (3): Top Gospel Artist, Top Gospel Album, Top Gospel Song
Koryn Hawthorne (1): Top Gospel Artist
Kygo (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song
Lauren Daigle (2): Top Christian Artist, Top Christian Song
Lewis Capaldi (3): Top Hot 100 Song, Top Selling Song, Top Radio Song
Lil Nas X (13): Top New Artist, Billboard Chart Achievement Award, Top Male Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Male Artist, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Selling Song, Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song
Lil Tecca (2): Top Streaming Song, Top Rap Song
Lizzo (11): Top New Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Female Artist, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Selling Song, Top Radio Song, Top R&B Song, Top Rap Song
Luke Combs (4): Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Country Album, Billboard Chart Achievement Award
Machine Gun Kelly (1): Top Rock Song
Maluma (1): Top Latin Album
Maren Morris (4): Top Country Artist, Top Country Female Artist, Top Country Album, Top Country Song
Mariah Carey (1): Billboard Chart Achievement Award
Maroon 5 (1): Top Duo/Group
Marshmello (3): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album, Top Dance/Electronic Song
Matthew West (1): Top Christian Song
Megan Thee Stallion (1): Top Rap Female Artist
Melanie Martinez (1): Top Soundtrack
Melissa Helser (1): Top Christian Song
Metallica (2): Top Touring Artist, Top Rock Tour
Morgan Wallen (2): Top Country Album, Top Country Song
Mötley Crüe (1): Top Soundtrack
Nicky Jam (1): Top Latin Song
Old Dominion (2): Top Country Duo/Group, Top Country Song
Ozuna (3): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Song (x2)
P!nk (1): Top Touring Artist
Panic! At The Disco (3): Top Duo/Group, Top Rock Song, Top Rock Artist
Post Malone (16): Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Male Artist, Top Rap Tour, Top Billboard 200 Album, Top Rap Album, Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song (x2)
Roddy Ricch (3): Top New Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Album
Romeo Santos (2): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Album
Sech (2): Top Latin Album, Top Latin Song
Shawn Mendes (3): Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Collaboration
Skillet (1): Top Christian Album
Slipknot (1): Top Rock Album
Snow (1): Top Latin Song
Summer Walker (3): Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Female Artist, Top R&B Album
Sunday Service Choir (2): Top Gospel Artist, Top Gospel Album
Swae Lee (4): Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song, Top Dance/Electronic Song
Tame Impala (2): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Album
Tasha Cobbs Leonard (1): Top Gospel Artist
Tainy (1): Top Latin Song
Taylor Swift (6): Top Artist, Billboard Chart Achievement Award, Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album           
The Chainsmokers (2): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album
The Lumineers (1): Top Rock Album
The Rolling Stones (2): Top Touring Artist, Top Rock Tour
The Weeknd (3): Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Male Artist, Top R&B Song
Thomas Rhett (3): Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Country Album
Tool (2): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Album
Travis Barker (1): Top Rock Song
Travis Scott (2): Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Rap Tour
twenty one pilots (3): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Song (x2)
Tyga (1): Top R&B song
Vampire Weekend (1): Top Rock Album
Whitney Houston (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song
William McDowell (1): Top Gospel Album
Young Thug (1): Top Rap Album
YUNGBLUD (1): Top Rock Song


NOMINATIONS BY NUMERICAL ORDER:

Post Malone (16): Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Male Artist, Top Rap Tour, Top Billboard 200 Album, Top Rap Album, Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song (x2)
Lil Nas X (13): Top New Artist, Billboard Chart Achievement Award, Top Male Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Male Artist, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Selling Song, Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song                                             
Billie Eilish (12): Top Artist, Top New Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Social Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Selling Song                                                      
Khalid (12): Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Male Artist, Top R&B Tour, Top Billboard 200 Album, Top R&B Album, Top Radio Song, Top R&B Song                                                         
Lizzo (11): Top New Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Female Artist, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Selling Song, Top Radio Song, Top R&B Song, Top Rap Son         
Kanye West (9): Top Christian Artist, Top Gospel Artist, Top Christian Album, Top Gospel Album, Top Christian Song, Top Gospel Song (x4)                                  
DaBaby (7): Top New Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Male Artist, Top Rap Album            
Chris Brown (6): Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Male Artist, Top R&B Album, Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration, Top R&B Song                            
Taylor Swift (6): Top Artist, Billboard Chart Achievement Award, Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Song Sales Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album
Billy Ray Cyrus (5): Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Selling Song   
Drake (5): Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Rap Tour, Top R&B Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration
J Balvin (5): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Album, Top Latin Song (x2), Top Dance/Electronic Song    
Bad Bunny (4): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Album, Top Latin Song (x2)     
Dan + Shay (4): Top Duo/Group, Top Country Artist, Top Country Duo/Group, Top Country Song             
Ed Sheeran (4): Top Male Artist, Top Touring Artist, Top Radio Song, Top Collaboration
Jonas Brothers (4): Top Artist, Top Duo/Group, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Radio Song  
Justin Bieber (4): Top R&B Album, Top Radio Song, Top Collaboration, Top Country Song
Luke Combs (4): Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Country Album Billboard Chart Achievement Award
Maren Morris   (4): Top Country Artist, Top Country Female Artist, Top Country Album, Top Country Song
Swae Lee (4): Top Streaming Song, Top Collaboration, Top Rap Song, Top Dance/Electronic Song
Anuel AA (3): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Song (x2)                                         
Ariana Grande (3): Top Female Artist, Top Social Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album           
Illenium (3): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album, Top Dance/Electronic Song
Kane Brown (3): Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Country Album
Kirk Franklin (3): Top Gospel Artist, Top Gospel Album, Top Gospel Song
Lewis Capaldi (3): Top Hot 100 Song, Top Selling Song, Top Radio Song                         
Marshmello (3): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album, Top Dance/Electronic Song 
Ozuna (3): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Song (x2)                                                 
Panic! At The Disco (3): Top Duo/Group, Top Rock Song, Top Rock Artist
Roddy Ricch (3): Top New Artist, Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Album  
Shawn Mendes (3): Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Hot 100 Song, Top Collaboration   
Summer Walker (3): Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Female Artist, Top R&B Album              
The Weeknd (3): Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Male Artist, Top R&B Song
Thomas Rhett (3): Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Country Album          
twenty one pilots (3): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Song (x2)
Avicii (2): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album
Blake Shelton (2): Top Selling Song, Top Country Song                               
Bethel Music    (2): Top Christian Album, Top Christian Song                         
Beyoncé (2): Top R&B Female Artist, Top R&B Album                                          
BTS (2): Top Duo/Group, Top Social Artist                                                                 
Camila Cabello (2): Top Hot 100 Song, Top Collaboration                                               
Casting Crowns (2): Top Christian Album, Top Christian Song     
Daddy Yankee (2): Top Latin Song (x2)
Elton John (2): Top Touring Artist, Top Rock Tour                                              
Florida Georgia Line (2): Top Country Duo/Group, Top Country Tour
for KING & COUNTRY (2): Top Christian Artist, Top Christian Song                  
Hillsong UNITED (2): Top Christian Artist, Top Christian Album                                       
Imagine Dragons (2): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Song                
Juice WRLD (2): Top Rap Artist, Top Rap Album             
Lauren Daigle (2): Top Christian Artist, Top Christian Song         
Lil Tecca (2): Top Streaming Song, Top Rap Song                                                
Metallica (2): Top Touring Artist, Top Rock Tour                                                   
Morgan Wallen (2): Top Country Album, Top Country Song                                       
Old Dominion (2): Top Country Duo/Group, Top Country Song                               
Romeo Santos (2): Top Latin Artist, Top Latin Album                 
Sech (2): Top Latin Album, Top Latin Song                                                          
Sunday Service Choir (2): Top Gospel Artist, Top Gospel Album  
Tame Impala (2): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Album 
The Chainsmokers (2): Top Dance/Electronic Artist, Top Dance/Electronic Album                                    
The Rolling Stones (2): Top Touring Artist, Top Rock Tour
Tool (2): Top Rock Artist, Top Rock Album                                                              
Travis Scott (2): Top Streaming Songs Artist, Top Rap Tour                                             
“Aladdin”(1): Top Soundtrack                                                                     
Alan Walker (1): Top Dance/Electronic Album                                                                  
B2K (1): Top R&B Tour                                                                                                 
Black Eyed Peas (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song                                                             
Cardi B (1): Top Rap Female Artist                                                                         
Carrie Underwood (1): Top Country Female Artist                                           
CHVRCHES (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song                                                               
City Girls (1): Top Rap Female Artist                                                 
Darell (1): Top Latin Song                                                                          
“Descendants 3” (1): Top Soundtrack   
Diplo (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song                                                                    
DJ Snake (1): Top Dance/Electronic Artist                                                                
Doja Cat (1): Top R&B Song
Donald Lawrence (1): Top Gospel Album                                                                      
Elevation Worship (1): Top Christian Artist                                                         
Ellie Goulding (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song                                                               
Eric Church (1): Top Country Tour                                                                         
EXO (1): Top Social Artist                                                                                              
Farruko (1): Top Latin Album                                                                        
“Frozen II” (1): Top Soundtrack 
George Strait (1): Top Country Tour                                                                              
GOT7 (1): Top Social Artist                                                                               
Halsey (1): Top Female Artist                                                                                           
Harry Styles (1): Billboard Chart Achievement Award                                               
Janet Jackson (1): Top R&B Tour                                                                          
Jhay Cortez (1): Top Latin Song                                                                                     
Jon Bellion (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song                                                                   
Jonathan David Helser (1): Top Christian Song                                                     
Kacey Musgraves (1): Top Country Female Artist                                                   
Karol G (1): Top Latin Song                                                                                
Koryn Hawthorne (1): Top Gospel Artist                                                                             
Kygo (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song                                                                             
Machine Gun Kelly (1): Top Rock Song                                                                          
Maluma (1): Top Latin Album                                                                              
Mariah Carey (1): Billboard Chart Achievement Award                                                  
Maroon 5 (1): Top Duo/Group                                                                                           
Matthew West (1): Top Christian Song                                                                         
Megan Thee Stallion (1): Top Rap Female Artist                                                            
Melanie Martinez (1): Top Soundtrack                                                                          
Melissa Helser (1): Top Christian Song                                                                          
Mötley Crüe (1): Top Soundtrack                                                                         
Nicky Jam (1): Top Latin Song                                                                                            
P!nk (1): Top Touring Artist                                                          
Skillet (1): Top Christian Album                                                                                     
Slipknot (1): Top Rock Album                                                                                
Snow (1): Top Latin Song                                                                                                   
Tainy (1): Top Latin Song
Tasha Cobbs Leonard (1): Top Gospel Artist      
The Lumineers (1): Top Rock Album                                                                     
Travis Barker (1): Top Rock Song                                                                                 
Tyga (1): Top R&B SongVampire Weekend (1): Top Rock Album                                                                        
Whitney Houston (1): Top Dance/Electronic Song             
William McDowell (1): Top Gospel Album                         
Young Thug (1): Top Rap Album                                                                        
YUNGBLUD (1): Top Rock Song       

2020 BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARD NOMINEE STATISTICS 

• 2020 NOMINATIONS FAST FACTS 
• ALL-TIME RECORD HOLDERS BY CATEGORY 
• TOP BBMA WINNERS OF ALL TIME (1990–2019) 


2020 NOMINATIONS FAST FACTS 

“POST MALONE LEADS WITH 16 NOMINATIONS, THE MOST OF ANY ARTIST THIS YEAR” 

  • In addition to receiving the most nominations (16), rapper/singer/songwriter Post Malone is also nominated in more categories than any other artist this year (15), including Top Artist, Top Male Artist and Top Hot 100 Artist. He is nominated twice in the Top Rap Song category with “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)” and “Wow.” 

“IF POST MALONE SWEEPS IN ALL HIS CATEGORIES, HE WILL TIE WITH WHITNEY HOUSTON FOR 16 TOTAL WINS AND SURPASS MARIAH CAREY AND BEYONCE” 

  • 2018 Billboard Music Award winner for Top Rap Song, Post Malone, could tie with Whitney Houston for total wins of all time (16) if he takes home the trophies in all his categories this year. Drake still holds the record for most wins of all time (27), followed by Taylor Swift (23). 

“POST MALONE COULD BREAK DRAKE’S RECORD FOR MOST WINS IN A SINGLE NIGHT”

  • Post Malone leads for the most nominations this year (16), followed by Lil Nas X (13). Both artists have the chance to surpass or tie Drake’s 2017 record (13) for the artist with the most wins in a single night.

“TAYLOR SWIFT COULD BREAK DRAKE’S RECORDFOR MOST WINS BY ANY ARTIST OF ALL TIME”

  • Taylor Swift is nominated in six categories this year. If she wins in at least 5 of these categories, she could break Drake’s record for most wins by any artist of all time (27).  

“KANYE WEST COULD WIN HIS FIRST BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARD IN A GOSPEL AND/OR CHRISTIAN CATEGORY. HE ALSO EARNED 4 NOMINATIONS WITHIN A SINGLE CATEGORY — TOP GOSPEL SONG”

  • Kanye West has the sixth-most nominations this year (9) with first-time nominations in the Christian and Gospel categories, including Top Christian Artist, Top Gospel Artist, Top Christian Album, Top Gospel Album, Top Christian Song and 4 nominations within the Top Gospel Song category. He is also up against his own Sunday Service Choir for Top Gospel Artist.

“BILLIE EILISH, LIL NAS X, LIZZO, HARRY STYLES AND JONAS BROTHERS COULD WIN THEIR FIRST-EVER BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARD THIS YEAR AS FIRST-TIME NOMINEES” 

  • Billie Eilish scored the third-most nominations with 12, including Top Artist, Top New Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist and Top Selling Song. She could receive her first-ever Billboard Music Award at this year’s show.
  • Lil Nas X is a first-time nominee and racked up the second-most nominations with 13, including Top New Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Rap Artist and Top Hot 100 Song. The “Old Town Road” artist could ride into the sunset with his first-ever Billboard Music Award at this year’s show. 
  • Lizzo is feeling “good as hell” as a first-time nominee, scoring 11 nominations, including Top New Artist, Top Female Artist, Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Song, Top Rap Song and Top Selling Song, among others. She could receive her first-ever Billboard Music Award at this year’s show.
  • Harry Styles is a first-time nominee as a solo artist with a nomination in the Billboard Chart Achievement Award category. He could walk away with his first-ever Billboard Music Award at this year’s show. 
  • Jonas Brothers are first-time nominees with 4 nominations in the categories of Top Artist, Top Duo/Group, Top Radio Songs Artist and Top Radio Song. The brothers could collect their first-ever Billboard Music Award at this year’s show. 

ALL-TIME RECORD HOLDERS BY CATEGORY: 
TOP ARTIST 
50 CentAdele, Drake, Garth BrooksDestiny’s ChildTaylor Swift and Usher are tied for the most wins in this category with 2 wins. Taylor Swift is nominated again this year, giving her the chance to have the most wins in this category should she take home the trophy.

TOP MALE ARTIST 
Justin Bieber and Drake are tied for most wins (2) in this category after Drake took home his second trophy in 2019. Ed Sheeran currently has 1 win for Top Male Artist and is nominated again this year, giving him the chance to tie Bieber and Drake with 2 wins.

TOP FEMALE ARTIST 
Taylor Swift leads with 3 wins in this category.  Taylor is nominated again this year and will become the most decorated Top Female Artist with 4 wins in this category should she take home the award. Ariana Grande took home her first Top Female Artist trophy in 2019 and is nominated again this year. If she wins, she would tie with Adele with 2 awards in this category.

TOP DUO OR GROUP 
BTS won this category for the first time in 2019 and they are nominated again this year. If they win, BTS would tie with Imagine Dragons with 2 wins for Top Duo or Group. Dan + Shay, Jonas Brothers, Maroon 5 and Panic! At The Disco are also nominees this year and could be first-time winners in this category should any take home the trophy.  One Direction currently holds the record with 3 wins in this category. The group previously won in 2013, 2015 and 2016. 

TOP R&B ARTIST 
R. Kelly has the most wins (4) for Top R&B Artist. He won the category in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2001. Usher follows with 3 wins in 1998, 2004 and most recently in 2011. In 2019, XXXTENTACION received a posthumous nomination in this category, where Ella Mai ultimately won. This year, Chris Brown, Khalid, Lizzo, Summer Walker and The Weeknd are nominated in this category.

TOP RAP ARTIST 
Drake took home this award in 2016, 2017, and now leads for most wins in this category with 3, after his 2019 win. Eminem and protégé 50 Cent are tied in this category with 2 wins each. Eminem won Top Rap Artist in 2011 and 2014, while 50 Cent won the award twice, years before his mentor, in 2003 and 2005. This year, it could be the first win in this category for nominees DaBaby, Juice WRLD, Lil Nas X, Post Malone and Roddy Ricch.

TOP COUNTRY ARTIST 
Garth Brooks has won this award three times in 1991, 1993 and 1998. Luke Combs became a first time Top Country Artist winner after taking home the trophy in 2019, and could notch his second win in this category this year. Dan + Shay were nominated in 2019 and again this year, along with Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett and Kane Brown

TOP ROCK ARTIST 
twenty one pilots and Imagine Dragons were tied for the most wins with 2 each, but the latter became the record holder for most wins in this category after their 2019 win. This year, twenty one pilots has the chance to tie again should they win. Also nominated in this category are Panic! At The Disco, Tame Impala and Tool.

TOP LATIN ARTIST 
Currently tied with 2 wins each, Ozuna or Romeo Santos could set a record for most wins for Top Latin Artist, should either receive a trophy this year. Ozuna took home the award for Top Latin Artist in 2018 and again in 2019. Romeo Santos previously won Top Latin Artist back-to-back in 2015 and 2016. Anuel AABad Bunny and J Balvin are also nominated this year.

TOP CHRISTIAN ARTIST 
LaurenDaigle and Chris Tomlin are currently tied with 2 wins each in this category. Tomlin previously won in 2011 and 2014. Daigle took home the award in 2017 and again in 2019. She could be the Top Christian Artist of all time with 3 wins in this category, if she receives a trophy this year. She is up against Kanye West, who is a first-time nominee in this category, as well as Elevation Worshipfor KING & COUNTRY, and Hillsong UNITED

TOP GOSPEL ARTIST 
Kirk Franklin could break his own record, currently leading with 2 wins in this category in 2016 and 2017. Franklin is nominated again this year and will become the most decorated Top Gospel Artist with 3 wins in this category should he take home the award. Tasha Cobbs Leonard won in 2019 and is nominated again this year. If she wins, she will tie with Kirk Franklin with 2 wins for Top Gospel Artist. Kanye West and his Sunday Service Choir are also nominated for the first time in this category.

TOP DANCE/ELECTRONIC ARTIST 
The Chainsmokers held on to their record for most wins in this category. The duo took home their third award and broke their own record after their 2019 win, and could win a fourth trophy this year. Also nominated in this category are Avicii, DJ Snake, Illenium and Marshmello.

TOP BBMA WINNERS OF ALL TIME (1990–2019): 
 1. Drake – 27 wins total; Top Rap Artist (2016); Top Artist (2017); Top Billboard 200 Artist (2017); Top Billboard 200 Album (2017); Top Rap Artist (2017); Top Male Artist (2017); Top Rap Album (2017); Top Hot 100 Artist (2017); Top Song Sales Artist (2017); Top Streaming Songs Artist (2017); Top Rap Tour (2017); Top Streaming Song [Audio] (2017); Top R&B Song (2017), Top R&B Collaboration (2017); Top Billboard 200 Artist (2018), Top Artist (2019), Top Male Artist (2019), Top Billboard 200 Artist (2019), Top Hot 100 Artist (2019), Top Streaming Songs Artist (2019), Top Song Sales Artist (2019), Top Radio Songs Artist (2019), Top Rap Artist (2019), Top Rap Male Artist (2019), Top Billboard 200 Album (2019), Top Rap Album (2019), Top Streaming Song (Video) (2019) 

2. Taylor Swift – 23 wins total; Top Billboard 200 Artist (2011); Top Country Artist (2011); Top Country Album (2011); Woman of the Year (2012); Top Artist (2013); Top Female Artist (2013); Top Billboard 200 Artist (2013); Top Digital Songs Artist (2013); Top Country Artist (2013); Top Billboard 200 Album (2013); Top Country Album (2013); Top Country Song (2013); Top Artist (2015); Top Female Artist (2015); Top Billboard 200 Artist (2015); Top Hot 100 Artist (2015); Top Digital Songs Artist (2015); Top Billboard 200 Album (2015); Top Streaming Song [Video] (2015); Billboard Chart Achievement Award (2015); Top Touring Artist (2016); Top Female Artist (2018); Top Selling Album (2018) 

3. Justin Bieber – 20 wins total; Top New Artist (2011); Top Social Artist (2011); Top Streaming Artist (2011); Top Digital Artist (2011); Top Pop Album (2011); Top Streaming Song, [Video] (2011); Billboard.com Fan Favorite Award (2011); Top Social Artist (2012); Milestone Award (2013); Top Male Artist (2013); Top Social Artist (2013); Top Social Artist (2014); Top Social Artist (2015); Top Male Artist (2016); Top Social Media Artist (2016); Top Hot 100 Song (2018); Top Streaming Song [Video] (2018); Top Selling Song (2018); Top Collaboration (2018); Top Latin Song (2018) 

4. Garth Brooks – 19 wins total; #1 Albums Artist (1991); #1 Country Album (1991); #1 Country Singles Artists (1991); #1 Country Artist (1991); #1 Country Albums Artist (1991); # 1 Pop Artist (1992); #1 Country Artist (1993); #1 Pop Artist (1993); #1 Country Singles Artist (1993); #1 Country Albums Artist (1993); Country Album of the Year (1995); Artist Achievement Award (1997); Country Artist of the Year (1998); Country Album of the Year (1998); Male Album of the Year (1998); Male Albums Artist of the Year (1998); Country Singles Artist of the Year (1998); Country Albums Artist of the Year (1998); Male Artist of the Decade (1999) 

5. Adele – 18 wins total; Top Billboard 200 Album (2012); Top Pop Album (2012); Top Artist (2012); Top Female Artist (2012); Top Billboard 200 Artist (2012); Top Hot 100 Artist (2012); Top Digital Songs Artist (2012); Top Radio Songs Artist (2012); Top Digital Media Artist (2012); Top Pop Artist (2012); Top Streaming Song [Audio] (2012); Top Alternative Song (2012); Top Pop Album (2013); Top Artist (2016); Top Female Artist (2016); Top Billboard 200 Artist (2016); Top Billboard 200 Album (2016); Top Selling Song (2016) 

Usher – 18 wins total; Artist of the Year (1998); R&B Artist of the Year (1998); Hot 100 Singles Artist of the Year (1998); Artist of the Year (2004); R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year (2004); Hot 100 Artist of the Year (2004); Hot 100 Single of the Year (2004); Mainstream Top 40 Artist of the Year (2004); Mainstream Top 40 Single of the Year (2004); Billboard 200 Album of the Year (2004); R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year (2004); R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Artist of the Year (2004); Billboard 200 Artist of the Year (2004); Hot 100 Airplay Single of the Year (2004); Rap Song of the Year (2005); Top R&B Artist (2011); Top R&B Song (2011); Top R&B Album (2011) 

6. Whitney Houston – 16 wins total; #1 R&B Singles Artist (1991); #1 R&B Albums Artist (1991); #1 R&B Artist (1991); #1 R&B Album (1991); #1 Hot 100 Singles Artist (1993); #1 Hot 100 Single (1993); Single With Most Weeks at #1 (1993); #1 R&B Single (1993); #1 R&B Singles Artist (1993); #1 R&B Album (1993); #1 World Artist (1993); #1 World Single (1993); #1 Album (1993); #1 Soundtrack Album (1993); #1 Album With Most Weeks at No. 1 (1993); Billboard Millennium Award (2012) 

7. Mariah Carey – 15 wins total; #1 Hot 100 Singles Artist (1991); #1 Album (1991); #1 Adult Contemporary Artist (1991); #1 Pop Artist (1991); #1 Female Artist (1994); Special Hot 100 Singles Award – Most Weeks at No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100 (1996); Hot 100 Singles Artist of the Year (1996); Special Billboard Hot 100 Award for the most No.1s ever by a female artist (1998); Female Artist of the Decade (1999); Hot 100 Song of the Year (2005); Hot 100 Airplay of the Year (2005); Female R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year (2005); Female Billboard 200 Album Artist of the Year (2005); Rhythmic Top 40 Title of the Year (2005), ICON Award (2019) 

8. Beyoncé – 13 wins total; Hot 100 Female Artist of the Year (2003); New R&B Artist of the Year (2003); New Female Artist of the Year (2003); Special Hot 100 Award for Most Weeks at No. 1 (2003); Billboard Millennium Award (2011); Top R&B Album (2012); Top Female Artist (2017); Top Touring Artist (2017); Top R&B Artist (2017); Top R&B Tour (2017); Top R&B Album (2017), Top R&B Tour (2019), Top Rap Tour (2019) 

9. R. Kelly – 12 wins total; #1 R&B Artist (1994); R&B Artist of the Year (1996); R&B Artist of the Year (1999); R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year (2001); R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Artist of the Year (2001); R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year (2001); R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Artist of the Year (2001); R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year (2001); Hot 100 Producer of the Year (2003); R&B Producer of the Year (2003); Hot 100 Songwriter of the Year (2003); R&B Songwriter of the Year (2003) 

Rihanna – 12 wins total; Female Artist of the Year (2006); Female Hot 100 Artist of the Year (2006); Pop 100 Artist of the Year (2006); Top Female Artist (2011); Top Radio Songs Artist (2011); Top Rap Song (2011); Top Streaming Artist (2012); Top Radio Songs Artist (2013); Top R&B Artist (2013); Top R&B Album (2013); Top R&B Song (2013); Billboard Chart Achievement Award (2016) 

10. Janet Jackson – 11 wins total; #1 Hot 100 Singles Artist (1990); #1 R&B Artist (1990); #1 R&B Singles Artist (1990); #1 R&B Albums Artist (1990); #1 Dance Club Play Artist (1990); #1 Hot Dance 12-inch Singles Sales Artist (1990); #1 R&B Album (1990); #1 Pop Album (1990); Artist Achievement Award (1995); Artist Achievement Award (2001); ICON Award (2018) 

Carrie Underwood – 11 wins total; Country Single Sales Artist of the Year (2005), Top-Selling Country Single of the Year (2005), Top-Selling Hot 100 Song of the Year (2005), Album of the Year (2006), Country Album of the Year (2006), Female Billboard 200 Albums Artist of the Year (2006), Female Country Artist of the Year (2006), New Country Artist of the Year (2006), Milestone Award (2014), Top Christian Song (2015), Top Country Female Artist (2019)

Review: ‘Cut Throat City,’ starring Shameik Moore, Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris, Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard, Eiza Gonzalez and Ethan Hawke

September 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Demetrius Shipp Jr., Keean Johnson, Shameik Moore and Denzel Whitaker in “Cut Throat City” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“Cut Throat City”

Directed by The RZA

Culture Representation: Taking place in New Orleans in 2005 and 2006, the crime drama “Cut Throat City” has a predominantly African American cast (with some white people and Latinos) representing the middle-class, working-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A group of young men turn to a life of crime when they have problems finding jobs after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Culture Audience: “Cut Throat City” will appeal mostly to people who like typical “gangster” movies that have a lot of violence and a mediocre plot.

T.I. in “Cut Throat City” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

How’s this for an unoriginal and tired idea for a movie? Poor people (who are usually people of color) become criminals because they’re desperate for money. And there’s a crime lord that they have to answer to who might or might not turn against them. “Cut Throat City,” despite its talented cast and an effort to be a somewhat stylish-looking film, still serves up this recycled and uninspired concept in a movie that doesn’t really do anything for the genre of gangster films. In fact, “Cut Throat City” (at 132 minutes long) gets a little too bloated and the plot a little too ridiculous for it to be considered a movie that will reach cult status as an undiscovered gem.

“Cut Throat City” (directed by The RZA, who’s best known as a founding member of the rap group Wu Tang Clan) could have used better editing to cut out the parts of the movie that drag before the movie’s big climactic scene. However, the screenplay by Paul “P.G.” Cuschieri is largely to blame for the most cringeworthy aspects of “Cut Throat City,” including the dumb dialogue and some of the most unrealistic aspects of the movie’s depiction of police investigations in a big American city.

New Orleans is the city where the movie takes place, in 2005 and 2006, with Hurricane Katrina as the catalyst for a lot of the angst and criminal activity in the story. “Cut Throat City” begins before Hurricane Katrina happened, when four working-class friends in their early 20s are getting ready for the wedding of one of the guys in the group. All four of them live in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which is considered one of the most financially deprived and roughest parts of the city.

The groom is James (played by Shameik Moore), who prefers to go by the nickname Blink, who is an aspiring writer/illustrator of graphic novels. Blink’s three closest friends are Miracle (played by Demetrius Shipp Jr.), who’s an impulsive hothead; Junior (played by Keean Johnson), who often gets teased because he’s a white guy who tries to be more like his African American friends; and mild-mannered and quiet Andre (played by Denzel Whitaker), who’s Blink’s best man and an aspiring jazz musician. (He plays the trumpet.)

Blink is getting married to his girlfriend Demyra (played by Kat Graham), who is the mother of their son, who’s about 3 or 4 years old. At the wedding, Demyra’s mother (played by Stacie Davis) gives Demyra some marriage advice: “It’s not about happiness. It’s about meaning. Find the meaning and happiness will come later.” That’s this movie’s idea of a “pep talk,” which is supposed to indicate to viewers that many of the people in this movie have a pessimistic view on life.

Demyra and Blink are actually happy together, and the wedding goes smoothly. The honeymoon is another story, because Hurricane Katrina hits within a few days after the wedding. Even before the hurricane, the main problem in Blink and Demyra’s relationship is that Blink is having a hard time finding work as a graphic novelist. And now that he’s a married man, he’s really expected to contribute income to help pay the bills. Even though Blink has an associate’s degree from college and he attended Tulane University, his college education won’t help him get his dream job as a graphic novelist.

Blink has been working on a concept for a graphic novel called “Cut Throat City.” He gets a meeting with a condescending publishing executive named Peter Felton (played by Joel David Moore), who starts off by looking at Blink’s work and calling it mostly “derivative.” Peter does see one illustration that he likes, so he asks Blink who his influences are. Blink replies by listing Charles Schulz, Gary Larson and Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Peter then says in an exasperated tone that by “influences” he meant who are the influences in Blink’s life.

Peter also asks Blink what kind of audience he wants for “Cut Throat City.” Blink says he “never really thought about it.” Peter responds, “The first thing you think about is your audience.” Blink then says, “If we only focus on our markets, then a cartoon wouldn’t be anything more than a cheap, dim commodity that will never change.”

When Peter says he doesn’t know where Blink could’ve gotten that idea, Blink responds that it was Peter who actually said it at an anime expo in 1990. “I got a transcript from the library,” Blink adds. “Fair enough,” replies Peter, who’s obviously done with Blink at point. He then coldly dismisses Blink from his office and tells an assistant to bring in the next person.

It’s one of many rejections that Blink gets as an aspiring graphic novelist. Andre tries to make money as a street musician, but it’s barely enough to be considered pocket change. Miracle and Junior are also unemployed. For whatever reason, the movie doesn’t show them looking for any jobs they can get. Hurricane Katrina has devastated New Orleans, so the job market has dried up in many ways, but these four friends just seem like they’ve given up trying to find work.

To make matters worse, Blink is too proud to accept financial help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As several weeks go by and things get more financially desperate for Blink and Demyra, she’s had enough of Blink refusing money from FEMA, and she tells Blink that they have to apply for FEMA aid. When they get to the FEMA office, their application is denied since they don’t need housing, and they’re told that homeless people are getting priority for the financial aid. And to add insult to injury, Blink and Demyra also aren’t eligible because they live in the Ninth Ward.

This FEMA rejection is a reason for Blink to feel angry at “the system,” which is why he eventually goes along with Miracle’s idea to start working for Blink’s relative Lorenzo “Cousin” Bass (played by Tip “T.I.” Harris), who’s a local gangster. (T.I., who’s also known as a hitmaking rapper in real life, is wearing makeup in the movie that makes Cousin look like he has a skin condition like vitiligo.) Blink, Miracle, Junior and Andre start dealing drugs for Cousin. But since they’re new to drug dealing, they mess things up and end up owing money to Cousin.

To show how vicious and unforgiving he is, Cousin makes the four guys watch as an unlucky man who has angered Cousin is tortured by having a wild raccoon attack the guy’s genitals. It’s not explicitly shown in the film, but it’s implied that this happened. The man is shown in the aftermath almost doubled over in pain with blood on the crotch area of his pants when he’s thrown out by Cousin and his henchmen.

Cousin and his group of thugs also force wild raccoons to fight each other in cages. And one of the main characters has a beloved dog, which predictably gets shot and killed by a vengeful Cousin during a fight scene. For anyone who hates seeing animal cruelty depicted on screen, it might be best to avoid this movie or close your eyes during these scenes.

Knowing that Cousin could also make their lives hell if they don’t come up with the money they owe him, the four friends decide to rob a local casino. And then one casino robbery turns into more, as they blow their money on strip clubs and gambling. All of these robbery scenes are completely ludicrous because the guys walk into the casino together wearing matching dark hoodies (automatically calling attention themselves) and they make little effort to disguise their faces, unless you consider wearing see-through nylon stockings on your face a “disguise.”

The casinos are also very crowded and there are surveillance cameras everywhere. And yet, the movie wants viewers to believe that these wannabe gangsters are clever enough not to get caught. After one robbery, which resulted in big shootout with police and their getaway van being riddled with bullet holes, the four guys just trade in the van for a Dodge car in good condition. What used car dealer in their right mind would trade a car that’s in good shape for a bullet-damaged piece of junk?

“Cut Throat City” also makes the same stupid mistake that’s in a lot of badly written crime movies that take place in a big city: Only one cop is investigating the case. For a series of casino robberies, that’s completely unrealistic for a city as big as New Orleans. And this cop also happens to look like a model/actress. Her name is Lucinda Valencia (played by Eiza Gonzalez), who has the thankless job of going into dangerous and sketchy areas by herself numerous times during the investigation, with no sign of a cop partner or backup anywhere.

There are also some other supporting players in this muddled and messy saga: Recently elected city councilman Jackson Sims (played by Ethan Hawke), who’s a former police officer and a very corrupt politician; Courtney (played by Rob Morgan), a sleazy barber who’s a confidential informant; and The Saint (played by Terrence Howard), a smooth-talking, bow-tie-wearing gangster who has criminal authority over Cousin.

Also part of the story, in a small role, is Rev. Sinclair Stewart (played by Isaiah Washington), who takes bribes to conduct funeral services for people who died under suspicious circumstances and don’t have a medical exam or death certificate. The bribes he takes includes payment for forged death certificates. And somewhere in this jumbled story, Blink reunites with his estranged father Lawrence (played by Wesley Snipes), who abandoned Blink when Blink was a child.

“Cut Throat City” also has some bizarre references to “The Wizard of Oz.” When Blink, Miracle, Junior and Andre first go to meet with Cousin about working for him, Cousin says that his headquarters is like Oz. He compares Junior to the Tin Man, Andre to the Cowardly Lion, Miracle to the Scarecrow and Blink to Dorothy. Later in the movie, The Saint covers the young robbers’ heads in ski masks and tells them, “There’s no place like home.”

Speaking of the lines in this movie, people will be rolling their eyes at how corny some of the dialogue is. In one scene, Courtney tells Lucinda that local thugs “will shoot you in a crack cocaine heartbeat.” In another scene, Cousin says about the man who is left sobbing after the raccoon torture: “Two things I can’t stand: a lying-ass woman and a crying-ass man.” If this is Gangster Poetry 101, no thank you.

And in another scene, Cousin and The Saint have a meeting, where Cousin says to him in a semi-monologue that sounds like it was written by someone who thinks this is how black gangsters are supposed to talk: “We’re too much alike: greedy-ass motherfuckers. That’s why they can take all the opportunity away from us. They can flood us, jail us, try to kill us, but they can never kill our greed. That’s why we’ll pimp, rap, sling dope, cheat or steal, even it’s from each other.”

“Cut Throat City” has a twist at the end that’s meant to make the movie look like more artistic than it really is. There’s an end-credits scene that doesn’t really add much to the conclusion of this very predictable and substandard story. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the technical aspects of how the movie was filmed, and the movie is well-cast with good actors, but the director needed to make better choices in editing. Ultimately, it’s the weak and trite screenplay that makes “Cut Throat City” a movie a disappointment that doesn’t offer anything exciting or innovative.

Well Go USA released “Cut Throat City” in select U.S. cinemas on August 21, 2020.

Review: ‘Tom of Your Life,’ starring Baize Buzan and Jeremy ‘Jer’ Sklar

September 19, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jeremy “Jer” Sklar and Baize Buzan in “Tom of Your Life” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Tom of Your Life”

Directed by Jeremy “Jer” Sklar

Culture Representation: Taking place in Chicago and other parts of the United States, the sci-fi comedy film “Tom of Your Life” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few Latinos, African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A hospital nurse kidnaps a newborn person who has a mysterious biological condition: Every hour, he ages four years.

Culture Audience: “Tom of Your Life” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching under-the-radar indie comedies that tend to be meandering with annoying characters.

Dominic Rescigno and Baize Buzan in “Tom of Your Life” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

The sci-fi comedy “Tom of Your Life” had so much potential to be a clever story about what happens when someone ages rapidly in one day. Unfortunately, the movie (written and directed by Jeremy “Jer” Sklar) wastes a lot of time with scenes that don’t really go anywhere, unexplained plot holes, and some uneven acting by Sklar, who also stars in the movie.

“Tom of Your Life” begins with viewers finding out that a hospital nurse named Jessica “Jess” Budusky (played by Baize Buzan) has kidnapped someone named Tom from the hospital because Tom was going to undergo scientific studies as a freak of nature. Why? Because when Tom was born at 4:44 a.m. that day, the doctors found out that Tom aged four years every hour.

At the beginning of the film, Tom is now 8 years old (played by Judah Abner Paul), he’s with Jess in a diner, and they’re having breakfast. Jess explains to Tom that he was born two hours ago and why he’s “different” from other people. It’s easy to see why Jess abducted him: She wants to him to experience having a “normal life” before he’s possibly locked up in a research lab. (Tom’s parents are never shown in the movie.)

For whatever reason, Jess keeps getting Tom a red tracksuit with white stripes to wear, up through his adulthood. It’s a little bit of an aesthetic gimmick that isn’t nearly as problematic as the last third of the movie, which goes downhill very quickly with numerous scenes that aren’t funny and wasted opportunities to make Tom a fascinating character.

Inexplicably, Tom already knows how to talk like an 8-year-old, even though he’s technically only two hours old. He can point to things like a clock in the diner and know exactly what it is. He knows how to use eating utensils. It’s implied that the kidnapping happened so fast that there wasn’t time for anyone to teach Tom how to walk, talk, identify objects, and a myriad of other things that a newborn baby wouldn’t be able to do. Therefore, Tom must be at beyond genius level to learn so quickly, right? Wrong.

Jess takes Tom to a schoolyard where several kids are playing kickball, but Tom just stands there dumfounded, as if he doesn’t know what to do. And he still can’t figure it out after watching the kids play, so Jess has to show him how to play this extremely easy game. And oddly, if this kid is supposed to be so smart and inquisitive, he doesn’t seem curious at all about why how long he’s supposed to be driven around by this strange woman who’s not a family member. It’s one of many plot holes in this jumbled movie.

When Tom is 12 years old (played by Joshua Paul), Jess takes him to a farm that gives guided tours so that he can experience being around farm animals. This scene only seems to exist for two purposes: First, so there can be a “put out to pasture” metaphor, when Tom sees that elderly animals are ignored, compared to the younger animals. “Is that what they do to old people?” Tom asks Jess. “Put them to the side and forget about them?”

The other reason for the scene is to show that while Tom is on the guided tour, Jess has snuck back to her car to smoke some dope. You see, she’s not the straight-laced, responsible parental figure that some people might think she would be in this story. She’s a hot mess.

It turns out that Jess has been having an affair with the married doctor who’s one of the few people at the hospital who knows Tom’s secret and that Jess has kidnapped Tom. Dr. Dennis Benedict (played by Paul Tigue) is in love with Jess, but the feeling isn’t mutual. Because of his love for Jess, Dr. Benedict won’t call the police to report the kidnapping. Instead, he hires his private-investigator brother Carl (played by James Sharpe, the movie’s producer) to find Jess and Tom and bring them back to the hospital.

In her car, Jess conveniently has a wig that she puts on when she feels paranoid about being recognized as a fugitive kidnapper. Eventually, she figures out that she’s more likely to get caught because she’s using her own car, so there’s a part of the movie that’s about stealing someone else’s vehicle, in order to make it harder for Jess to be tracked down. But stealing someone else’s vehicle comes with its own set of problems.

While Jess tries to maintain a façade to Tom that they’re on a fun “family-styled” adventure, she’s been persistently calling a doctor she knows in Chicago named Dr. Bill Albrecht (played by Billy Minshall), but she keeps getting his voice mail and he’s not returning her messages. Why does she want to contact him? Because he’s the only medical professional she knows who could possibly figure out what’s going on with Tom.

And there’s something else: Dr. Albrecht happens to be Jess’ ex-boyfriend and he has a restraining order against her. (She seems to have a thing for older men who are doctors.) The reason why he has a restraining order against her is revealed later in the movie. Jess has already made up her mind to drive to Chicago and meet with Dr. Albrecht in person.

At this point, it’s four hours after Tom has been born, and he’s now aged to look like he’s 16 years old. (Dominic Resigno plays Tom in his teens and 20s.) Tom finally asks who his parents are and if they know he’s been kidnapped. Jess gives an extremely vague answer: She tells Tom that his father is in the Navy and that the last thing she knew about his mother was that she sedated from the C-section she had when she gave birth to Tom.

Tom begins to tell Jess that he’d really like to go sailing, and she says they’ll try to do that on their trip. Tom’s fixation on sailing and being on a sailboat is repeatedly brought up in the movie, but not to a lot of great comedic effect. And because he’s a teenager at this point in the movie, he becomes interested in finding out how to drive, learning about sex, and rebelling. The movie has a predictable masturbation scene, and there’s a part of the movie where Tom steals the car to go to a strip club, leaving an infuriated Jess stranded.

It should be noted that although Jess’ life is messed-up, she not very sympathetic at all. It will be hard for viewers to root for her and the adult Tom because they’re both very difficult people to like. At least Tom has an excuse for his tacky behavior since he hasn’t been alive long enough to learn a lot of social skills.

As an example of how rude Jess can be, while she’s stranded on the road, an unnamed man in a purple van (played by Patrick Zielinski) stops and asks Jess, “Do you need a lift?” She snaps at him, “Not in your piece-of-shit rape van!” And when it’s revealed what Jess did to have a restraining order against her, any sympathy that viewers might have for her will vanish, even though the movie gives an emotionally manipulative excuse for her grossly awful actions.

Jess gets even more obnoxious as the story goes on. Even though she’s taken it upon herself to be responsible for Tom during this road trip, she has no qualms about driving under the influence of drugs while Tom is in the car with her. During one part of the trip, she tells Tom that she has a tendency to leave her purse behind wherever she is, and she asks him to keep an eye on it for her. As soon as she says that, you just know that something is going to happen to that purse.

As the story goes on and Tom becomes a guy in his 30s and 40s and so on (writer/director Sklar plays all the oldest versions of Tom), he becomes even more dimwitted instead of the quick-learning person he was at the beginning of the story. Rather than developing a personality, he seems to be an overgrown man-child who has a hard time thinking for himself and is easily led by others.

It’s just an excuse for the movie to have Tom say a lot of politically incorrect things to people, such as when Tom is sitting on a subway next to an African American man and asks him what happened to the color of his skin. The man replies, “What happened to yours?” And then there’s the predictable scene of Tom partying for the first time, with substances legal and illegal, as well as the obligatory prostitute who’s hired when Tom wants to lose his virginity.

As Tom gets older and more experienced, he should have gotten more interesting. Instead, “Tom of Your Life” drags in the scenes where middle-aged/older Tom is just an empty shell of a person. Perhaps Sklar was inspired by the Peter Sellers character in “Being There,” but Sklar’s acting skills just aren’t on that level. And unfortunately, most of the supporting characters aren’t interesting either.

On the plus side, “Tom of Your Life” has some noteworthy cinematography from Christopher Rejano, who really makes great use of autumn colors and exterior shots to really bring some vibrancy to some scenes. And the aging makeup by David Ian Grant is also very good for a low-budget film such as this one. And even though Buzan plays a very aggravating character in Jess, it’s clear that Buzan is more talented than most of the cast when it comes to acting.

“Tom of Your Life” has an original score composed by Sklar, whose band the Blackstrap Molasses has original songs in the movie. The music isn’t very memorable, but it gets the job done on an adequate level. Unfortunately, the last third of the movie just seems to be written as a series of awkward comedy sketches instead of a cohesive story arc, with very little to show that these characters have genuinely relatable feelings and personalities. There’s an attempt to bring some emotional connection and sentimentality in the very last scene of the movie. But by then, it’s too little, too late.

Gravitas Ventures released “Tom of Your Life” on digital and VOD on September 1, 2020.

2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards: ‘Watchmen’ and ‘The Mandalorian’ are the top winners

September 19, 2020

by Carla Hay

Emmys logo

With seven awards each, HBO’s “Watchmen” and Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” were the top winners at the 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards (the technical categories of the Primetime Emmys), which were presented in a five-part virtual ceremony (hosted by Nicole Byer) on September 14, 15, 16 and 17 on Emmys.com and September 19 on FXX. Other big winners at the 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards included NBC’s variety series “Saturday Night Live” (six prizes); VH1’s reality competition series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (five prizes); and Amazon Prime Video’s comedy series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (four prizes). Netflix and HBO were tied with 19 awards each, followed by Disney+ and NBC with eight prizes each. ABC, National Geographic and VH1 were tied with five awards each.

The biggest categories at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented September 20 in a virtual ceremony hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. ABC will telecast the show in the U.S. at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. HBO’s “Watchmen” has the most nominations (26) in all categories.

First-time winners at the 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards included actor Eddie Murphy , for being a guest host on “Saturday Night Live”; actress Kerry Washington, for being an executive producer of “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Good Times'”; actor Mahershala Ali, for being an executive producer for the children’s program “We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest”; actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for being an executive producer of the interactive program “Create Together”; and actress Brie Larson, for being an executive producer for “The Messy Truth VR Experience.” Maya Rudolph won her first two Emmys this year: for being a guest actress impersonating Kamala Harris on “Saturday Night Live” and for her character voiceover performance (as Connie the Hormone Monstress) on “Big Mouth.”

Previous Emmy winners RuPaul Charles, John Oliver, Dave Chapelle and Leah Remini added to their Emmy haul for shows that they star in and executive produce. Cherry Jones and Ron Cephas Jones (no relation) each won their second Emmy Awards for making guest appearances in TV shows. Cherry Jones won in 2020 for her guest appearance on HBO’s “Succession,” after winning in the same category in 2019 for her guest appearance on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Ron Cephas Jones repeated his 2018 Emmy win for a guest appearance on NBC’s “This Is Us.”

Meanwhile, Ron Cephas Jones’ daughter Jasmine Cephas Jones won her first Emmy: Best Actress in a Short-Form Drama or Comedy Series, for Quibi’s “#FreeRayshawn.” Laurence Fishburne won Best Actor in a Short-Form Drama or Comedy Series, for “#FreeRayshawn,” which is his second Emmy Award. Fishburne previously won an Emmy in 1997 for being an executive producer of the TV-movie “Miss Evers’ Boys.”

Shows that won three awards each at the 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards were CNN’s “Apollo 11,” Netflix’s “Cheer,” Netflix’s “Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones,” Adult Swim’s “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal” and HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”

Here is the complete list of winners for the 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards:

Outstanding Television Movie: “Bad Education”
Outstanding Variety Special (Live): “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Good Times’”
Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded): “Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones”
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series: “Saturday Night Live”
Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program: “Cheer”
Outstanding Structured Reality Program: “Queer Eye”
Outstanding Hosted Non-Fiction Series or Special: “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”
Outstanding Short-Form Comedy or Drama Series: “Better Call Saul Employee Training: Legal Ethics With Kim Wexler”
Outstanding Short-Form Non-Fiction or Reality: “National Geographic Presents: Creating Cosmos: Possible Worlds”
Outstanding Short-Form Variety Series: “Carpool Karaoke: The Series”
Outstanding Short-Form Animated Program: “Forky Asks a Question: What Is Love?”
Outstanding Children’s Program: “Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” and “We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest” (tie)
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation: “Archer” – Jill Dykxhoorn (lead bacground artist); “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” – Dan McKenzie (character animator); “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal” – Genndy Tartakovsky (storyboard artist); Scott Wills (art director); David Pate (character animator); Stephen DiStefano (character designer)
Outstanding Animated Program: “Rick and Morty”
Outstanding Documentary or Non-Fiction Series: “The Last Dance”
Outstanding Documentary/Non-Fiction Special: “The Apollo”
Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking: “The Cave”
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Eddie Murphy, “Saturday Night Live”
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Maya Rudolph, “Saturday Night Live”
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Ron Cephas Jones “This Is Us”
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Cherry Jones, “Succession”
Outstanding Host for a Reality Competition Program: RuPaul Charles, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance: Maya Rudolph, “Big Mouth”
Outstanding Narration: David Attenborough, “Seven Worlds, One Planet”
Outstanding Actor in a Short-Form Comedy or Drama Series: Laurence Fishburne, “#FreeRayshawn”
Outstanding Actress in a Short-Form Comedy or Drama Series: Jasmine Cephas Jones, “#FreeRayshawn”
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series: Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live”
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special: Stan Lathan, “Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones”
Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program: Greg Whiteley, “Cheer”
Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Non-Fiction Special: Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, “American Factory”
Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Limited Series, Movie or Special: “Live In Front of a Studio Audience: ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Good Times'”
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
Outstanding Writing for a Non-Fiction Program: Mark Lewis, “Don’t F**k With Cats”
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (half-hour): “The Mandalorian”
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (one hour): “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series: “The Ranch”
Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie: “Watchmen”
Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program: “Life Below Zero”
Outstanding Cinematography for a Non-Fiction Program: “The Cave”
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Series: “Saturday Night Live”
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special: “Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show Starring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira”
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series: “Succession”
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series: “Insecure”
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie: “Watchmen”
Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series: “One Day at a Time”
Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured or Competition Reality Program: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program: “Cheer”
Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Program: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
Outstanding Picture Editing for a Non-Fiction Program: “Apollo 11”
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama series (half-hour) and Animation: “The Mandalorian”
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama (one hour): “Stranger Things”
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie or Special: “Watchmen”
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Non-Fiction Program (single- or multi-camera): “Apollo 11”
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama series (half-hour) and Animation: “The Mandalorian”
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama series (one hour): “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie: “Watchmen”
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Non-Fiction Program (single- or multi-camera): “Apollo 11”
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special: “The Oscars”
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (half-hour or less): “The Mandalorian”
Outstanding Production Design for Narrative Contemporary Program: “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program: “The Crown”
Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Reality or Reality Competition Series: “Saturday Night Live”
Outstanding Production Design for a Variety Special: “The Oscars”
Outstanding Period and/or Character Hairstyling: “Hollywood”
Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling: “Black-ish”
Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling for a Variety, Non-Fiction or Reality Program: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
Outstanding Contemporary Makeup: “Euphoria”
Outstanding Contemporary Makeup for a Variety, Non-Fiction or Reality Program: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
Outstanding Period and/or Character Makeup (non-prosthetic): “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special: “Star Trek: Picard”
Outstanding Contemporary Costumes: “Schitt’s Creek”
Outstanding Period Costumes: “The Crown”
Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes: “Watchmen”
Outstanding Costumes for Variety, Non-Fiction or Reality Programming: “The Masked Singer”
Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program: “Shameless”
Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie: “The Mandalorian”
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (original dramatic score): Ludwig Göransson, “The Mandalorian”
Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (original dramatic score): Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Watchmen”
Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (original dramatic score): Laura Karpman, “Why We Hate”
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music: Nathan Barr, “Hollywood”
Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics: Labrinth (music and lyrics), “And Salt the Earth Behind You/”Song Title: “All for Us” from “Euphoria”
Outstanding Music Direction: Rickey Minor, “The Kennedy Center Honors”
Outstanding Music Supervision: Robin Urdang, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Dan Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Outstanding Choreography for Variety or Reality Programming: Al Blackstone, “So You Think You Can Dance”
Outstanding Choreography for Scripted Programming: Mandy Moore, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”
Outstanding Main Title Design: “Godfather of Harlem”
Outstanding Special Visual Effects: “The Mandalorian”
Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role: “Vikings”
Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series: “Schitt’s Creek”
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series: “Succession”
Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series: “Watchmen”
Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
Outstanding Commercial: “Back to School Essentials,” Sandy Hook Promise
Outstanding Motion Design: “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates”
Outstanding Original Interactive Program: “The Messy Truth VR Experience”
Outstanding Derivative Interactive Program: “Big Mouth Guide to Life”
Outstanding Interactive Extension of a Linear Program: “Mr. Robot”
Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming: “Create Together” and “The Line”

Review: ‘We Are Little Zombies,’ starring Keita Ninomiya, Mondo Okumura, Satoshi Mizuno and Sena Nakajima

September 19, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sena Nakajima, Keita Ninomiya, Mondo Okumura and Satoshi Mizuno in “We Are Little Zombies” (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

“We Are Little Zombies”

Directed by Makoto Nagahisa

Japanese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Japan, the dark comedy/drama “We Are Little Zombies” has an all-Japanese cast of characters representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A group of four teenage orphans who resist adult supervision become unlikely pop stars and navigate the pitfalls and fickleness of fame.

Culture Audience: “We Are Little Zombies” will appeal primarily to people who like arthouse films with a quirky sense of humor.

Sena Nakajima, Satoshi Mizuno, Keita Ninomiya and Mondo Okumura in “We Are Little Zombies” (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

The comedy/drama “We Are Little Zombies” (written and directed by Makato Nagahisa) takes the movie cliché of orphans being pitiful and desperate for love, and blows up that narrative with this concept: “What if there are orphans who aren’t really sad that their parents are dead?” “We Are Little Zombies” gets its title because the four 13-year-old orphans at the center of the story feel like emotional zombies. It’s a zany movie filmed with a lot of artistic and kitschy flair, but it’s not recommended for people who like to see conventional storytelling in a film.

Who are these four orphans? And exactly why do they have so much apathy about their parents’ deaths? It’s because the kids didn’t feel like their parents really loved them. All four of the orphans seemed to have met at an orphanage, where they quickly bonded with each other. When they ask a yard worker outside to take a group photo of them, he says, “Smile, everyone. Cheer up. You look like zombies.” And so, the nickname sticks.

The leader of this group of orphans is bespectacled Hikari Takami (played by Keita Ninomiya), who is also the narrator of the story. Hikari’s parents died on a tour bus owned by a company called Super Wild Coach Tours, which has a slogan like “Destination: Happiness” and takes people on trips like an All You Can Eat Strawberries tour. Hikari, who felt neglected by his parents, deadpans in the narration that it’s “the worst-named package tour of all time. So much for happiness. They went straight to hell.”

Yuki Takemura (played by Mondo Okumura) was raised by a single dad, who committed suicide. Yuki is the only one of the four orphans who has siblings. After their father’s death, the siblings were split up and put in separate foster homes. It’s shown in flashbacks that Yuki was physically abused by his father. Yuki also has an older brother who’s an aspiring punk musician who would practice with his band in the family’s garage and typically treated Yuki as a nuisance if Yuki tried to watch the band perform.

Ikuko Ibu (played by Sena Nakajima) also felt unloved by her parents, who were murdered. (It’s mentioned later in the movie that the murder suspect was apprehended, but there’s no mention of what happened to this suspect.) It’s shown in flashbacks that Yuki had a strange relationship with her parents because Ikuko’s father Haruhiko (played by Masatoshi Nagase) appeared to have incestuous thoughts about her. Ikuko’s mother, also named Ikuko (played by Rinko Kikuchi), resented her to point where she called her daughter Ikuko a “femme fatale” and accused Ikuko of having a strange effect on people.

Ishi (played by Satoshi Mizuno) felt disconnected from his parents because they worked so much. His parents owned and operated a restaurant, which didn’t leave much time for them to give Ishi attention. His parents died in a gas explosion at the restaurant. Ishi’s reaction is relief because he knows he won’t have to spend long hours working at the restaurant, as he was expected to do when he got older.

Because Hikari is the narrator, “We Are Little Zombies” spends the most time showing how he dealt with his parents’ death. At the funeral, where none of the adults spoke to Hikari, he can’t cry. He says in a voiceover, “Reality is too stupid to cry over. I’m not sad … A funeral … is five times more boring than history class.”

Hikari continues in saying that he can’t remember the warm touch of his parents because “I was never loved … Since no one can help me, there’s no point in crying.” And Hikari says in a voiceover: “While the bodies are being cremated, please enjoy some phantom piano.” And then some piano music plays. It’s one of the movie’s many quirks.

Throughout the movie, there are many artistic touches that are reminiscent of 1980s video games. Scenes are framed as if they are part of videogame sequences. There are bright neon colors and florescent lighting. And the movie’s original music (also by Nagahisha) sounds like it came straight from a 1980s videogame from Sega or Nintendo.

The movie’s cinematography (by Hiroaki Takeda) is similar to going on a ride in an amusement park, since the camera dips at odd angles and sometimes bounces around at an almost-dizzying pace. There are a few scenes that involve live fish being taken out and put back in water, and the camera sometimes gives a fish-eye view of what’s happening.

And the movie also contrasts the colorful scenes with stark interiors that have neutral colors. The scenes with muted colors are usually when there are parental or authority figures who try to oppress the kids. It’s an obvious metaphor for how drab and dull they think life can be under adult supervision and how much more vibrant their lives are when they’re free to be on their own.

Despite these seemingly whimsical motifs in the movie, there are also some dark themes of childhood neglect and abuse. Ikuko’s father tells her that if he were younger, he would want to marry her. She tries to shrug off this creepy comment by saying that she can’t get married because her ring finger is missing. (It’s true. The ring finger on her left hand is missing.) Meanwhile, Ikuko says in a voiceover, “Mom once told me that she wished I didn’t exist.”

Ishi has had insecurities over whether he was a wanted child because his father once told him that the only reason why he married Ishi’s mother was because she was pregnant. Hikari’s father was a womanizer, and the infidelity caused a lot of pain in his marriage and family. In a voiceover, Hikari says that he knows that his father was well-loved by a lot of people, but Hikari wonders if his father ever loved him.

In one of the dark humor scenes of the movie, the pregnant mistress of Hikari’s father calls the house shortly after the funeral. She doesn’t know that Hikari’s parents have died. And so, when Hikari answers the phone, he nonchalantly tells her the bad news. She is heard wailing in grief on the other line before Hikari calmly hangs up the phone.

The four orphans are sent to various homes but are unhappy there. They rebel by trying to run away or by trying to skip school. During all of this youthful rebellion, the orphans end up on the streets with some homeless people. And there’s a wacky musical interlude where the homeless people break out in a banjo-playing song.

This musical experience inspires the four orphans to form an electro-pop band called Little Zombies. Hikari is the lead singer, Yuki is the guitarist, Ikuko is the keyboardist, and Ishi is the drummer. They make a music video of themselves called “We Are Little Zombies,” a song that is insanely catchy and is very memorable, long after you see the movie. The orphans put the video on the Internet and think not many people will see it.

Instead, the video goes viral and catches the attention of editors of a major magazine, which does a big article about the orphans. The article leads to more media attention. And before you know it, Little Zombies are very famous. As Hikari explains, “We went from being poor zombies to glamorous rock stars.” The kids in the band go from wearing school uniforms as stage outfits to clothing that was designed so they could look like steam-punk-inspired, edgy artists who made their clothes out of garbage.

The kids soon find that after they become famous, people at home and at school who used to ignore or bully them now want to be their best friends. The orphans also become targets of greedy adults who want to exploit the band’s sudden fame to make money for themselves. And the band has an obsessive fan base on social media. The movie has biting commentary on what fame can do to people, particularly people who are still children, and how celebrity obsessions can take a very dark turn.

Underneath all the goofy hijinks is a message that people can’t really find love through fame and public adoration. If the four Little Zombies thought that they would be happy as pop stars, they learn some harsh life lessons along the way. “We Are Little Zombies” drags a little too long (the total running time is two hours), but there’s enough originality and compelling visuals in the movie for people to be interested in finding out what happens to these emotionally jaded kids who aren’t as tough as they might think they are.

Oscilloscope Laboratories released “We Are Little Zombies” in select U.S. cinemas on July 10, 2020, and on digital and VOD on September 8, 2020.

Review: ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ (2020), starring Ronnie Wood

September 18, 2020

by Carla Hay

Ronnie Wood in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (Photo courtesy of Eagle Rock Entertainment)

“Somebody Up There Likes Me” (2020)

Directed by Mike Figgis

Culture Representation: This documentary about Rolling Stones lead guitarist Ronnie Wood features Wood and an all-white group of people (mostly British) who talk about Wood, his artistic accomplishments and his personal life.

Culture Clash: Wood is candid about problems he’s had in his life, including his drug addiction and alcoholism.

Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of Rolling Stones fans, “Somebody Up There Likes Me” will appeal to people who like survivor stories of people from the classic rock era.

Ronnie Wood in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (Photo courtesy of Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Considering the copious amount of books, news reports, feature articles and documentaries about the Rolling Stones, there really isn’t a whole lot that can be revealed about the band that hasn’t already been covered. The authorized documentary “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (directed by Mike Figgis) takes an engaging but not particularly insightful look into the life of Rolling Stones lead guitarist Ronnie Wood, who’s been in the band since the mid-1970s.

Wood has two memoirs (2008’s “Ronnie” and 2017’s “Ronnie Wood: Artist”) and an ex-wife (Jo Wood) who wrote her own 2013 memoir about their relationship, so the documentary is more of a snapshot of his life, rather than an in-depth portrait. Speaking of portraits, about half of the documentary is about Ronnie as a painter/illustrator. There’s a lot of screen time devoted to showing him doing hand-drawn portraits and talking about art and paintbrushes with fellow artist Damien Hirst, one of Ronnie’s closest friends. (His current and third wife Sally is one of his portrait subjects.)

This isn’t a biographical documentary that takes the conventional format of telling a life story in chronological order, from birth to when the documentary was filmed. Most of the footage involves just following Ronnie around and showing what he happened to be doing at the time. The “talking head” interviews are also selective: only a handful of people in Ronnie’s inner circle, including his wife Sally, friend Hirst, Rod Stewart (who used to be in the Jeff Beck Group and in the Faces with Ronnie), Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones rhythm guitarist Keith Richards and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

There also isn’t a lot of digging into Ronnie’s pre-fame life. However, Ronnie (who was born in 1947 in London) does mention his dysfunctional upbringing in his family of musicians. He describes his father Arthur and two older brothers Art and Ted as alcoholics. (All of them were jazz and blues musicians.) Art and Ted were also painter artists, and Ronnie has said in many interviews how much his older brothers influenced him.

Ronnie remembers that when he was a child, his family wouldn’t know which garden his father Arthur would be passed out in if they couldn’t find him. This chronic alcoholic behavior worried his mother. Ronnie says that Arthur never abused the kids, but his frequent absences did have a negative effect on the family. “He would be damaging by not being there.” Ronnie comments.

Considering that addiction can be inherited, it’s little wonder that Ronnie became a hardcore drug addict and alcoholic too. He’s already been candid about it many interviews and in his memoirs. His decadent past has also been extensively covered in the media. Therefore, the documentary isn’t interested in having Ronnie tell all the wild and crazy stories about himself that he already told years ago.

Ronnie got clean and sober in 2010, after Hirst and Ronnie’s son Jesse (who are also recovering alcoholics/addicts) did an intervention on Ronnie. But one addiction that Ronnie had a hard time quitting after that was nicotine. Ronnie had no choice to quit smoking after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017. Luckily, the cancer was caught early enough where he could have surgery to correct the problem.

Ronnie says in the documentary that he used to smoke about 25 to 30 cigarettes a day. Now, when he goes for a medical checkup, the doctor tells him that he has lungs that look so healthy, it looks like he never smoked. “How’s that for a ‘get out of jail free’ card?” Ronnie quips. “Somebody up there likes me.”

If people are looking for a lot of Rolling Stones concert footage in this documentary, they won’t find it, probably because of licensing issues. There’s a brief clip of the Rolling Stones performing “When the Whip Comes Down” in 2018. But most of the on-stage footage is of Ronnie as a solo artist or archival footage of Ronnie in bands that he was in before he joined the Rolling Stones.

Therefore, when watching this documentary, expect to see quite a bit of Ronnie Wood and Friends, a bluesy rock group consisting of Ronnie and rotating group of singers and musicians. There’s footage of the group performing “Wee Hours” with Irish singer Imelda May, who’s interviewed in the film.

“Somebody Up There Likes Me” director Figgis appears in the film as an interviewer, which is a documentarian technique that mostly works for this film. During the times it doesn’t work, Figgis comes across as too chummy or star-struck, as if there was an off-camera agreement that he wasn’t going to ask questions that are too probing.

And, for the most part, the questions are fairly lightweight. But Ronnie has such a charismatic personality that he gives answers that tell more than the question asks. He comes across as someone who’s lived a pretty crazy life and has come to terms with a lot of his mistakes.

In one scene, when Ronnie gets a tarot card that reads “Fatal Impudence,” Figgis asks if those words could apply to Ronnie’s life. Ronnie replies, “I’m like Yogi Berra. You come to a fork in the road, take it.”

And when Figgis asks what’s the biggest “fork in the road” for Ronnie, Ronnie says, “It has been my love life. I’ve totally gone for risk.” Figgis asks, “Has that gotten you into a lot of trouble?” Ronnie quips, “It’s gotten me into a lot of pleasure.”

The tabloids have covered the numerous affairs and womanizing in his life before Ronnie married Sally, so the documentary doesn’t rehash all of that. However, it wasn’t all fun and games, since Ronnie admits a lot of people got emotionally hurt along the way. And he also opens up a little bit about the trauma he experienced when he says his “first love” (a girlfriend named Stephanie) tragically died in a car accident.

Ronnie also talks about the importance of apologizing to people he offended, which is a common requirement for people who’ve been in rehab. “You want the situation to resolve without any disastrous consequences,” he adds.

He also admits that he’s got issues with getting older. “I never got past 29 in my head. To be 70 is so weird. It’s so surreal. I didn’t get time would go so quickly. You almost feel cheated that time has gone by.”

In a very “Behind the Music” documentary formula of the rise, fall and redemption of rock stars, Ronnie’s marriage to his wife Sally (whom he married in 2012) is credited with helping him be an upstanding, clean and sober family man. Ronnie and Sally welcomed twin daughters Alice and Gracie in 2016. He has four other kids from his previous two marriages. Sally comments in the documentary: “Ronnie’s a happy person. He’s better sober.”

As for Ronnie’s former and current band mates, Stewart mostly remembers the first gig that the Jeff Beck Group played at the Fillmore East, the band was the opening act for the Grateful Dead. “We wiped the stage with them,” Stewart boasts. He has not-so-fond memories of Peter Grant, who was the Jeff Beck Group’s manager at the time. According to Stewart, Grant was a “bully” who preferred Beck over the other members of the band.

The archival performance footage in the documentary include the Birds (one of Ronnie’s early bands) performing “That’s All I Need You For” in 1964; the Jeff Beck Group performing “Plynth (Water Down the Drain)” in 1967; and the Faces performing “Stay With Me” in 1974. There’s also new documentary footage of Ronnie doing an acoustic performance of the Faces’ 1973 hit “Ooh La La.”

Ronnie shares his often-told story of seeing the Rolling Stones for the first time in 1963, and the band’s performance was inside a tent. Ronnie says that experience changed his life, and he knew from that moment he wanted to be in the Rolling Stones. It took 12 years for that to happen, when Ronnie was asked to be the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones during their 1975 tour, after lead guitarist Mick Taylor abruptly quit the Rolling Stones.

Ronnie was described at the time as being “on loan from the Faces” during that 1975 tour, but the writing was on the wall, since the Faces were on the verge of breaking up that year anyway. Ronnie officially became a member of the Rolling Stones in 1976, but it wasn’t 1990 that he was became a full business partner in the band. The documentary doesn’t mention all of the behind-the-scenes legal wrangling that Ronnie went through to get to becoming a full band partner in the Rolling Stones. He talks about it in his memoir “Ronnie.”

Jagger says of Ronnie joining the Rolling Stones: “We really wanted Ronnie. He fit in very quickly.” The gig was so coveted that Rolling Stones drummer Watts says that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page even auditioned to be in the Stones, even though Led Zeppelin was the biggest band rival to the Rolling Stones at that time.

Richards, who is the Rolling Stones band mate who’s closest to Ronnie, says in the documentary about Ronnie joining the band: “It was pre-destined, in a way.” And he describes their longtime friendship: “We’ve always had a friendly rivalry … The thing is with Ronnie, you’re such good mates, you can call each other any name under the sun, and it doesn’t matter.”

Jagger says the Rolling Stones benefited from Ronnie’s impish sense of humor on stage too: “These arena shows became slightly more humorous because of Ronnie’s personality. Ronnie brought a sense of fun to it.”

But there were dark periods for Ronnie too, particularly his longtime drug addiction (mostly to cocaine) and alcoholism. Through the ups and downs, rehab stints and relapses, “Mick never gave up on him,” says Watts. And when your best friend in the band is Richards (another notorious drug addict/alcoholic, who’s only admitted to quitting heroin), it’s no wonder that it took to so long for Ronnie to get clean and sober.

Avid fans of the Rolling Stones won’t learn anything new from watching this documentary. However, people who aren’t familiar with Ronnie might be surprised at how multifaceted he is outside of the Rolling Stones. “Somebody Up There Likes Me” goes out of its way to show the process of Ronnie creating some of his artwork, because it’s clear that he wants to be known as more than just a musician. This biographical film doesn’t go deep into Ronnie’s psyche, but it scratches just enough beneath his public image for people to have a better understanding of who he is.

Eagle Rock Entertainment released “Somebody Up There Likes Me” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on September 18, 2020. The movie’s release on digital, Blu-ray and DVD is on October 9, 2020.

DC Universe expands under new name DC Universe Infinite; DC Universe video content moves to HBO Max

September 18, 2020

The following is a press release from DC Entertainment:

Calling all comic book fans to Explore the Multiverse! DC today announced the evolution of DC UNIVERSE into DC UNIVERSE INFINITE, a premium digital comic book service set to launch on January 21, 2021. With access to more than 24,000 comic books at launch, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscribers will also encounter digital-first comics, exclusive access to DC fan events, as well as a steady stream of recently released comics six months after the physical versions hit store shelves. Following its initial launch, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will begin expanding globally in SUMMER 2021.

“Our fans love the platform’s robust library of comic books and, with the transformation, we will not disappoint,” said DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee. “I’m excited to share that not only will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE members still be able to read all of the great comics that they’ve enjoyed but new issues are debuting on the platform quicker than before, digital first exclusives are being created, and the members-only events will begin as soon as possible. There has never been a better time to be a DC fan!”

DC’s premium digital comic book platform provides members with an expanded collection of comics and Original Graphic Novels, spanning over 80 years of the DC Multiverse. Fans can also download comics, graphic novels and originals for unlimited offline reading on their favorite devices from a smartphone or tablet.

Subscribers will also have earlier access to new Digital First comics that include titles such as Aquaman: Deep Dives, Batman: Gotham Nights, DCeased: Hope at World’s End, Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red, Injustice: Year Zero, Shazam!: Lightning Strikes, Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Swamp Thing: New Roots and Wonder Woman 84, and many more. Also debuting on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will be DC Universe Infinite Originals, including new comic content centered around beloved characters…stay tuned for updates!

The fan-favorite community area will be free to all registered and premium subscribers with a full calendar of events planned for 2021. Current DC UNIVERSE subscribers will not need to create a new account as their DC UNIVERSE login will transfer to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

For DC UNIVERSE subscribers who want ongoing access to premium DC originals, the special DC UNIVERSE monthly member offer to HBO MAX has been extended. In celebration of Batman Day and the announcement of DC UNIVERSE INFINITE, the special offer for eligible monthly subscribers to upgrade their service to include HBO Max for an additional $4.99 per month for a limited time is now available through October 30, 2020.

HBO Max will be the home for premium video content that will include new DC series, key DC classics and DC UNIVERSE originals like Young Justice Seasons 1-4, Titans Seasons 1-3, Doom Patrol Seasons 1-3, and DC’s Stargirl Season 1. Additionally, HBO Max has ordered a third season of Warner Bros. Animation’s critically acclaimed DC UNIVERSE adult animated comedy series Harley Quinn, starring Kaley Cuoco, who also served as executive producer during the first two seasons along with Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, Dean Lorey, and Sam Register. Harley Quinn will be a Max Original going forward, and all three seasons of the show will be available.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What Is DC UNIVERSE INFINITE?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE is the ultimate comic book subscription service. With access to more than 24,000 comic books at launch, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscribers will also encounter digital-first comics, member access to DC fan events, as well as a steady stream of recently released comics six months after their physical versions hit store shelves.

What content will be available on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE?

The Biggest DC Digital Comic Book Library Anywhere, Ever: An expanded collection of 24,000+ DC Multiverse titles including select graphic novels, Black Label, with more to come!

Earlier Access: DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscribers no longer have to wait a year. New release comics are now available 6 months after they hit stores!

DC Universe Infinite Originals: First-access to a collection of titles before they’re available anywhere else!

In addition, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will feature news and behind-the-scenes looks at DC Comics as well as full access to the DC character encyclopedia.

On what platforms will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE be available?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will be available for iPhone, iPad, Android Phone and Tablets and online for web and mobile web at dcuniverseinfinite.com.

Will I have access to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE on my TV or Amazon tablet?

In December of 2020 DC UNIVERSE will no longer be available on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon TV and tablet, and Xbox apps.

When will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE be available?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will launch January 21, 2021.

How much will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE cost?

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will add a larger and more recent set of titles to its existing comics library at the same low price of $74.99/year and $7.99/month.

Eligible members of DC UNIVERSE INFINITE as of February 1, 2021 will also receive a “thank you” voucher to the DC Shop, subject to terms and conditions. Annual subscribers will receive a $25 voucher while monthly subscribers will receive a $10 voucher.

Will DC UNIVERSE INFINITE be available outside of the United States?

At launch in January 2021, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will only be available in the United States. Expanding to our international fans is important to us so we are working to bring DC UNIVERSE INFINITE to additional countries by summer 2021. Stay tuned for more updates.

I am already a DC UNIVERSE subscriber – how do I become a DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscriber?

Starting in October 2020, DC UNIVERSE subscribers will be able to confirm that they would like to continue their account to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE when it launches. Confirming your account will provide uninterrupted access through the transition from DC UNIVERSE to DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. More information on this process will be available soon.

As a thank you, any subscriber who confirms and maintains their account through the launch of DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will also be eligible to receive a “thank you” DC Shop voucher of $25 for annual subscribers and $10 for monthly subscribers, subject to terms and conditions.

I am not a current DC UNIVERSE subscriber can I sign up for DC UNIVERSE INFINITE?

Yes — starting in October users will be able to sign-up for DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

How can I continue to access the DC UNIVERSE community?

Access to community will remain unchanged for all DC UNIVERSE members – whether premium or registered via the web through our evolution. We have exciting things in store in the year ahead – stay tuned for more details!

Will you be digging into all the new issues hitting DC UNIVERSE INFINITE? Let us know in our Community!

DC UNIVERSE INFINITE will be available online at DCUniverseInfinite.com, iOS and Android devices for $7.99 a month or $74.99 a year ($6.25 a month). On February 1, 2021, every DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscriber, existing members or those joining during the pre-order offer window will receive a special thank you voucher redeemable at the DC Shop subject to terms and conditions. Annual subscribers will receive a $25 voucher, while monthly subscribers will receive a $10 voucher.

Review: ‘The Secrets We Keep,’ starring Noomi Rapace, Chris Messina, Joel Kinnaman and Amy Seimetz

September 18, 2020

by Carla Hay

Joel Kinnaman and Noomi Rapace in “The Secrets We Keep” (Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street)

“The Secrets We Keep”

Directed by Yuval Adler

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1959 in a fictional U.S. city called Spruce, the dramatic film “The Secrets That We Keep” features an all-white cast of characters (most of them are American, and a few are European immigrants) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A Romanian immigrant living in America kidnaps a man she suspects was the German Nazi who brutally assaulted her and killed her sister during World War II.

Culture Audience: “The Secrets We Keep” will appeal primarily to people who like crime thrillers or stories about Holocaust survivors.

Chris Messina and Noomi Rapace in “The Secrets We Keep” (Photo by Patti Perret/Bleecker Street)

Getting revenge on a suspected World War II Nazi who’s changed his identity is a concept that’s been done before in movies such as 1998’s “Apt Pupil,” 2011’s “The Debt” (which was a British remake of the 2007 Israeli film “Ha-Hov”) and 2016’s “Remember.” The competent but not particularly outstanding thriller “The Secrets We Keep” is another movie to add to the list. Directed by Yuval Adler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ryan Covington, “The Secrets We Keep” greatly benefits from the above-average acting from the main stars of the cast, because the movie’s plot wears very thin after a while.

In “The Secrets We Keep,” it’s 1959 in an unnamed U.S. suburban city named Spruce, where people live on quiet, tree-lined streets in middle-class neighborhoods. One of the city residents is Maja (played by Noomi Rapace), a Romanian immigrant who is married to a compassionate American doctor named Lewis (played by Chris Messina), whose patients include several workers at a local refinery. The refinery is one of the biggest employers in the city.

Maja and Lewis have a polite and adorable son named Patrick (played by Jackson Dean Vincent), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Lewis has a private practice, and Maja works part-time as an assistant in his office. They met when Lewis worked at a U.S. Army hospital in Greece in 1946, during the post-World War II Reconstruction.

It’s shown early on in the movie that Lewis is more open-hearted and trusting than Maja is. For example, during an appointment with disabled patient named Eddie (played by Frank Monteleone), who lost both of his legs in World War II, Lewis invites unmarried and childless Eddie over to have dinner sometime with Lewis and Maja. Later, while Maja and Lewis are having a private conversation in their home, Maja expresses discomfort over the dinner invitation.

Maja comments to Lewis about Eddie: “He doesn’t need your pity. You made him feel awkward.” Lewis replies, “No, I didn’t.” Maja, “Yes you did.” This back-and-forth continues for another minute or two, but it’s clear that Maja and Lewis have different ways of handling emotionally sensitive situations. This conflicting style causes much of the tension during what happens later in the story.

Lewis, Maja and Patrick have a tranquil and fairly uneventful life until Maja, just by chance, sees a man (played by Joel Kinnaman) whom she thinks she has encountered in the past. Maja sees him while she’s spending some time in a local park with Patrick. She intently stares at the stranger and starts to follow him until he gets into a car and drives away. The next time she sees this man, they are both in a locksmith store. This time, Maja follows the man all the way to his home and sees that he has a wife and two children: a daughter who’s about 5 or 6 years old and a baby boy.

Maja trespasses into their backyard and overhears him talking to his wife about his job at the refinery. He has a European accent and his wife is American. Maja is almost caught when the family’s dog start barking at her. The way that Maja looks at this man, it’s clear that she has a lot of animosity and suspicion toward him.

The next time Maja sees the man, it’s outside of the refinery, where she’s parked her car. She approaches him and tells him that she has car trouble and needs help. When he goes over to her car, she hits him on the head with a hammer and pushes him into the car trunk.

Maja then ties him up and drives to a shallow grave. When she opens the car trunk, she’s pointing a gun at the man’s head. He shouts something very quickly (which gives away something that happens toward the end of the film) and pleads for his life. “What do you want?” he frantically asks Maja.

It turns out that Maja thinks that this man is a German Nazi named Karl who, 15 years ago, murdered her sister and beat and raped Maja and left her for dead among some other murdered Romanians. The movie shows Maja’s memories of this vicious attack, which involved a group of Nazis, but Maja believes this man was the cruelest one in the group of attackers. The assaults and murders happened outside at night, but Maja says she will never forget Karl’s eyes.

The man whom Maja has abducted swears that he doesn’t know what Maja is talking about. He says he is a Swiss immigrant named Thomas and that he was never in Romania during the time that she described. Instead of shooting him and burying him in the shallow grave, Maja takes him home and tells a shocked Lewis what happened. It’s revealed later in the movie that Maja doesn’t want to kill this man until he confesses to the crimes she believes that he committed.

By bringing this kidnapped man into her home, Maja has to reveal to Lewis that she has a secret past as a Holocaust survivor. For the first time in her marriage, she also confesses to Lewis that she also lied about her family background. Instead of coming from a middle-class family, she actually came from a family of poor Gypsies. And she also tells Lewis for the first time that she was never an only child but she had a sister who was murdered.

Lewis’ first instinct is to call the police with the explanation that the kidnapping was a misunderstanding, but Maja persuades him not to do that because she says that the police will consider Lewis to be an accomplice in the kidnapping. Lewis reluctantly agrees to keep Joseph locked in their basement for one night. Of course, as soon as Lewis says this, viewers can easily guess that this kidnapping is going to last longer than one night.

The rest of the movie is a big guessing game: Is Thomas really who he says he is? How long can Lewis and Maja hold him captive in their basement without anyone finding out? And will Thomas try to escape? All of these questions are answered in the film, which has a lot of suspenseful scenes. But then, there are other scenes where the only suspense is when viewers have to suspend their disbelief at some of aspects of the story.

For example, it’s not a spoiler to say that a lot of what happens in the house during the kidnapping would be difficult to hide from an inquisitive child such as Patrick. Let’s just say that the basement isn’t 100% soundproof. The sounds of Maja torturing Thomas (which happens more than once in the movie) or Thomas being yelled at by his kidnappers result in some close calls with some people who don’t live in the home but go to the home to find out if anything out of the ordinary has been going on. But strangely and unrealistically, the child who lives in the house and would be able to hear these loud and disturbing noises never seems to hear anything.

And there’s a scene where Maja and Lewis foolishly forget to take their loaded gun with them when they leave Thomas alone in the basement. The gun is left right in plain view on a table within reach of Thomas. Even though he’s tied to a chair, he can still move his chair over to the table. And you can guess what might happen after that.

Maja also decides to try to befriend Thomas’ distraught wife Rachel (played by Amy Seimetz) and finds out that Rachel is Jewish. There’s also some information that comes out about Maja’s mental-health history that will make viewers wonder how credible her story is or if her mind is playing tricks on her. Lewis also does some investigating on his own to look into Thomas’ background.

“The Secrets We Keep” has some good acting by Rapace, Messina, Kinnaman and Seimetz. Rapace and Kinnaman also had solid performances when they co-starred together in the 2015 mystery thriller “Child 44,” another movie whose acting was better than the screenplay. However, parts of “The Secrets That We Keep” become repetitive with the “he said/she said” stalemate between Thomas and Maja.

On the plus side, some of the questionable aspects of the story can be explained. For example, it’s possible that a petite woman like Maja could overpower Thomas (who’s a tall man) if he’s injured. It’s also possible that a respected doctor and his wife wouldn’t fall under suspicion for Thomas’ disappearance, especially when there was no proof that Lewis and Maja had contact with Thomas before he disappeared. Maja took a big risk by kidnapping Thomas outside of his workplace, but this is in 1959, before video surveillance cameras existed.

For all of Maja’s explosive anger toward Thomas, she’s not as tough as she’d like to come across to the person she’s kidnapped. Her emotional vulnerability is apparent because it seems that it’s more important for her that Lewis believe that she’s not crazy rather than for her to immediately kill the man she keeps threatening to murder. The ending of “The Secrets We Keep” isn’t much of a shock. Although it’s a realistic conclusion (stranger things have happened in real life), it will probably leave a lot of viewers feeling emotionally disconnected from everyone in the story.

Bleecker Street released “The Secrets We Keep” in select U.S. cinemas on September 16, 2020. The movie’s VOD release date is October 16, 2020.

Review: ‘I Hate New York,’ starring Amanda Lepore, Sophia Lamar, Chloe Dzubilo and T De Long

September 18, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sophia Lamar in “I Hate New York” (Photo courtesy of 1844 Entertainment)

“I Hate New York”

Directed by Gustavo Sánchez

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in New York City, the documentary “I Hate New York” (filmed from 2007 to 2017) about four artistic transgender or transsexual people who have been longtime residents of New York City, with additional commentary by cisgender people who have been part of the New York City underground artist scene .

Culture Clash: Several people in the documentary talk about experiencing transphobia and how rising rents and gentrification have changed New York City’s artistic scene for the worse.

Culture Audience: “I Hate New York” will appeal mainly to people interested in LGBTQ issues and the New York City artistic scene from the 1990s to 2010s. 

Amanda Lepore in “I Hate New York” (Photo courtesy of 1844 Entertainment)

The artistic people in the provocatively titled documentary “I Hate New York” don’t really hate the city all the time. It’s more like a love/hate relationship. They love the city’s endless choices when it comes to art and culture. They love how people can come to New York and find more acceptance than they would in more conservative cities. But they also hate how the city has become too expensive for struggling artists. And they hate how the way transgender people are still targets for hate crimes and still have to fight for a lot of basic rights that cisgender people take for granted.

Directed by Gustavo Sánchez over the years 2007 to 2017, “I Hate New York” takes a fascinating, raw and emotionally up-and-down look at four transgender or transsexual people who have been longtime New York City residents and part of the city’s entertainment and artistic scene. The four stars of the movie are:

  • Amanda Lepore, a transsexual woman who has a Marilyn Monroe-inspired image and who is best known for being a nightlife personality and model.
  • Sophia Lamar, a transsexual woman who is a Cuban immigrant, as well as a singer, actress and dancer known for her edgy entertainment.
  • Chloe Dzubilo, a transgender woman who became the lead singer of the punk band the Transisters and an outspoken AIDS activist.
  • T De Long, a transgender man who’s an aspiring rapper, DJ and artist (with the stage name TJ Free) whose gender transition is documented in the film.

All of them candidly tell their personal stories and struggles about being a transgender artist in New York City. A description shown in the beginning of the documentary describes the movie this way: “It is an intimate portrait of four heroines living at the margins of activism, transgender culture and nightlife.”

Also weighing in with their opinions are Bibbe Hansen, a former Andy Warhol Superstar; nightlife personality/promoter Linda Simpson; photographer/activist iO Tillett-Wright; filmmaker Katrina Del Mar; promoter Geordon Nicol; and performer/musician Kembra Pfalher.

Lepore and Lamar used to be very close friends came up in the 1990s nightclub scene together. They even sued the nightclub Twilo together for transgender discrimination in 2001, when the club fired them as dancers for not being “real women.” But then, sometime in the late 2000s, Lamar and Lepore had a falling out and they no longer speak to each other.

Dzubilo and De Long had a different kind of connection: They became a romantic couple as De Long (who used to be known as Tara Jo) was transitioning into being a man. Their love story in the movie is touching and tragic.

What all four have in common is that they came to New York City to reinvent themselves because they weren’t really accepted in the places where they lived before. They all had different struggles with their gender identity and experiencing transphobia. And they all found their artistic voices by living in New York City.

Lepore, who is originally from New Jersey, has been open about her past as a dominatrix before she was able to make a living as a nightlife personality. In the documentary, she talks about knowing as a child that she is female. As a teenager, she secretly took female hormones so her body could match her gender. And at 17 years old, the father of her then-boyfriend paid for her sex confirmation surgery. She married the boyfriend, but the marriage didn’t last.

Broke and desperate after she left her husband, Lepore says, “I was working as a dominatrix because I didn’t have any job skills. I wasn’t making enough money doing nails and little jobs, which weren’t paying the bills … I was able to make money as a prostitute without having sex.” One thing that worked out for Lepore was that she was able to live in a hotel that used to be managed by an ex-boyfriend, and her rent pretty much stayed the same for years because the hotel’s management gave her a special discount due to that relationship.

As for all of her plastic surgery, Lepore lists the alterations she’s done to her body, including breast augmentations, a nose job, rib reductions and silicone injections in her hips, lips, cheeks and buttocks. She’s also had her eyes tilted and her hairline pulled down. Just like a lot of women who’ve had surgery to make their breasts bigger, Lepore likes to show that she thinks it was money well-spent, by having a tendency to wear low-cut tops or display her naked breasts in public.

Lepore says she’s all about glamour and escapism. And she still proudly identifies as a “club kid.” The documentary shows her getting dolled up and hobnobbing in nightclubs, usually accompanied by another transgender friend. Fellow nightlife diva Simpson says of Lepore: “Amanda’s fame … is sort of a by-product of what she became.”

If Lepore is about glamourous escapism, Lamar is the opposite: In the documentary, Lamar says, “Club kids are dead,” and she says her artistry is more about realism and being a contrarian. But at the same time, Lamar admits that she enjoys manipulating the truth when it comes to her artistic expressions: “People are in love with a liar,” she says. “People like being lied to.”

Whereas Lepore prefers dance music, Lamar’s preferred music has a rock edge. The documentary includes some footage of Lamar performing her style of avant-garde rock in a nightclub. According to Lamar, she began calling herself Sophia at the age of 13, which is somewhat unusual since a lot of transgender people come out as transgender at a later age. She explains why she changed her first name at such a young age: “Some things are punk rock before they’re punk rock.”

Lamar (who speaks English and Spanish in the movie) also describes her difficult journey when she immigrated to the United States from Cuba. She says that the boat that she and her family came in capsized. They and other passengers had to be rescued by helicopter. She got her chosen surname Lamar because “el mar” means “the sea” in Spanish.

The contrast between Lamar and Lepore is also obvious in how they view nostalgia. Lepore clearly idolizes Marilyn Monroe (she often dresses like how Monroe looked in the 1950s) and she doesn’t mind talking about her heyday as a “club kid.” Lamar has this to say about why she doesn’t like to dwell on the past: “Nostalgia is private … like masturbation. Nostalgia is like a cancer.”

Nightlife promoter Nicol comments in the documentary: “Sophia Lamar is probably one of the most important nightlife people in New York.” And although former friends Lamar and Lepore no longer speak to each other, Lepore says they are still connected because they still go to the same nightclubs and still know a lot of the same people. Whichever style of performance art that people prefer, it’s clear that there’s room for both Lepore and Lamar in New York’s nightlife.

Although neither and Lamar nor Lepore go into details about what went wrong with their friendship, Lepore hints that Lamar was the one who ended it. Lepore comments in the documentary about their estrangement: “I was upset about it … I’ve moved on … It did hurt at first … It was more her than me.”

While one relationship unraveled among two of people starring in this documentary, another relationship blossomed. Dzubilo describes herself a kid who came from a working-class Connecticut family and grow up around a lot of “white, New England, conservative small-town stuff.” Dzubilo comments in the documentary: “I went to private school on a scholarship, but I always had this deep internal life.”

She moved to New York City in the early ’80s when Studio 54 reopened under new owners after original owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were imprisoned for tax evasion. Dzubilo says when she first lived in New York City, she felt he felt “gobbled up” by the city. She says she became a “wild child” and had a boyfriend who was a drug dealer. The documentary includes footage of Dzubilo as lead singer of the Transisters, a punk band consisting of all transgender women.

Dzubilo attended the Parsons School of Design and received an associate degree in Gender Studies from the City University of New York City College in 1999. But she also went through tough times, including being homeless and being diagnosed as HIV-positive, which led to her being a passionate AIDS activist. At the time she filmed this documentary, Dzubilo also talked about having other health issues, such has having debilitating problems with her bones.

It isn’t made clear in the documentary how Dzubilo and De Long met, but the movie shows De Long in the days when De Long was living as a woman named Tara Jo and she was an aspiring rapper. De Long, as Tara Jo, says that when she was a child, her dream was either to be a Hollywood star or a baseball star.

De Long also has a lot to say about how New York City has changed since she moved to the city in the mid-1990s from rural Illinois: “I wish New York could be more accessible the way it used to be, more of a place where artists can come and sort of start and not be in debt and have a chance to live here. Unfortunately, it’s a tough place to start.” De Long continues, “The problem with the underground is there’s no money in it. And you get to a certain age when you can’t do it for free anymore.”

Dzubilo and De Long became a couple when De Long was living as a transgender man. It’s mentioned in the documentary that De Long has since made the full transition by having the operation. In case people don’t know what happened in Dzubilo and De Long’s relationship, that information won’t be revealed in this review. However, the documentary does show what happened, and it’s the most emotional part of the movie.

One of the scenes that shows an example of things that cisgender people take for granted is when Dzubilo and De Long jubilantly describe how they took a trip outside of the United States as a transgender couple. They were able to get through the customs checkpoint with their passports without being questioned or harassed because they’re transgender. They talk about how that type of gender acceptance, which cisgender people don’t have to think about when they show their identification, was a huge milestone for them.

All four of the transgender stars in this movie became trans activists, with Dzubilo being the most politically active of the four. Lepore has this to say about her trans activism: “What I do is a statement. I help people in my own way.”

“I Hate New York” (which is Sánchez’s feature-film debut as a director) has a lot of raw-looking hand-held footage, but there’s also some artistic shots, especially of the nightlife scenes. And because the movie was filmed over 10 years, it’s a compelling journey into the lives of these four transgender people. “I Hate New York” isn’t about disdain for America’s most-populated city but rather hate for any transphobia they’ve experienced and New York City’s increasingly difficult financial barriers for struggling artists. However, the transgender people who star in this documentary admirably show how they’ve been able rise above the hate.

1844 Entertainment released “I Hate New York” on digital and VOD on September 1, 2020. The movie was originally released in Spain in 2018.