Review: ‘Women Talking,’ starring Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand

December 3, 2022

by Carla Hay

Michelle McLeod, Sheila McCarthy, Liv McNeil, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Kate Hallett, Rooney Mara and Judith Ivey in “Women Talking” (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

“Women Talking”

Directed by Sarah Polley

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2010, in an unnamed part of the United States, the dramatic film “Women Talking” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: At a patriarchal religious colony, the colony’s women have conflicts in deciding what to do next when almost all of the men in the colony have temporarily left because they are dealing with legal problems related to several of the colony’s men being arrested for drugging and raping the colony’s women and girls. 

Culture Audience: “Women Talking” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the Miriam Toews book on which the movie is based; the stars of the movie; and well-acted dramas about female empowerment in oppressive and misgoynistic environments.

Ben Whishaw, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy in “Women Talking” (Photo by Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures)

“Women Talking” is an accurate description for this tension-filled drama, because most of the movie centers on conversations rather than a lot of physical action. Sarah Polley directed and wrote the adapted screenplay of “Women Talking,” which is based on Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name. The movie comes across as a stage play in many areas, but it’s a worthy cinematic adaptation of the book, mostly because of the admirable performances from the talented cast members. The pacing is sluggish in some parts of the movie. However, viewer interest can be maintained if people are curious to see how the story is going to end.

The “Women Talking” movie, which is set in 2010 in an unnamed part of the U.S., makes some interesting and unexpected changes to the book, but largely remains faithful to the story’s plot. (The movie was actually filmed in Canada’s Ontario province.) “Women Talking” had its world premiere at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. The movie than made the rounds at several other film festivals in 2022, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival.

One of the main reasons why “Women Talking” looks so much like a stage play is that the movie is mostly confined to the rural and isolated property where this religious colony lives. Several of the movie’s best scenes take place in a hayloft, where crucial decisions (and several arguments) happen during a crisis that will affect the future of the colony. “Women Talking” is a fascinating psychological portrait of what oppression can do to people and how people can deal with trauma in different ways.

The movie begins with this statement: “What follows is an act of female imagination.” Even if viewers don’t know anything about the “Women Talking” book, the movie tells viewers in the first 10 minutes what the crisis is in this colony. Several men in the colony have been drugging and raping the colony’s women and girls. As a result, most of the men of the colony have been arrested, while the other men who have not been arrested have gone to the city to get the men bailed out and attend to other legal matters.

Before these rapes were discovered, the women and girls who were raped were told that by the men that their assault injuries were the work of ghosts or part of the rape victims’ imaginations. Much harder to explain were the underage pregnancies that resulted from these rapes with girls who were supposed to be virgins. Some of these rapes were also incestuous. Toews (who was raised as a Mennonite) has said in interviews that “Women Talking” was inspired by a real-life Mennonite colony in Bolivia, where several men were arrested in 2009 for drugging and raping the colony’s women and girls.

“Women Talking” never shows these rapes—only the aftermath. It’s a wise decision on the part of Polley and the other filmmakers, because what’s more important is for the movie to show how rape survivors can try to heal from the trauma instead of recreating the rapes in ways that could easily become exploitative. The movie never names the religion of this colony, but it’s implied that it’s an extremist Mennonite community, just like it is in the book.

In this community, the people are taught that the male gender is always superior to the female gender. The women of the colony are not allowed to get a formal education and don’t know how to read and write, whereas the men are allowed to be educated. The colony also preaches that anyone who disobeys what the men want will have eternal damnation in hell.

The women have an emergency meeting in a hayloft to vote on one of three options: (1) Stay and fight; (2) Leave; and (3) Do nothing. The first and second options get the most votes, but the votes are deadlocked in a tie. Most of “Women Talking” shows the women trying to break this stalemate by getting a majority vote for one of the options. Things are also complicated because some of the women have underage sons, so if the women choose to leave, they also have to decide if the boys will go with them.

There are three families involved in this grueling process:

Family #1

  • Agata Friesen (played by Judith Ivey), a level-headed matriarch, is emotionally torn because her two daughters have very different opinions about what to do.
  • Ona (played by Rooney Mara), Agata’s bachelorette eldest daughter who is pregnant by rape, is open-minded, believes in female empowerment, and is inclined to make the decision to leave.
  • Salome (played by Claire Foy), Agata’s married younger daughter, also believes in female empowerment, but outspoken and feisty Salome wants to stay and fight, because she’s furious about her 4-year-old daughter Miep (played by Emily Mitchell) being raped.
  • Neitje (played Liv McNeil), Agata’s granddaughter, who is in her mid-teens, is being raised by Salome because Neitje’s mother Mina (the younger sister of Ona and Salome) committed suicide after Neitje was raped.

Family #2

  • Greta Loewen (played by Sheila McCarthy) is a soft-spoken matriarch who is inclined to want to leave.
  • Mariche (played by Jessie Buckley), Greta’s elder married daughter who is sarcastic and cynical, wants to stay, but she is very skeptical that the women could win against the men in a fight.
  • Mejal (played by Michelle McLeod), Greta’s younger bachelorette daughter, is inclined to stay, and she’s considered the most rebellious and “unstable” of the group because she smokes cigarettes and sometimes has panic attacks.
  • Autje (played by Kate Hallett), Mariche’s daughter, who is about 13 years old, is the best friend of Neitje.

Family #3

  • Scarface Janz (played by Frances McDormand), a stern matriarch, is adamant about her decision to do nothing and firmly believes any other option will doom the women to an afterlife in hell.
  • Anna (played by Kira Guloien), Scarface’s adult daughter is quiet, passive, and seems to be living in fear of her domineering mother.
  • Helena (played Shayla Brown), Anna’s teenage daughter, just like Anna, doesn’t say much.

One of the movie’s departures from the book is that Neitje is the narrator, and she is speaking in the future to Ona’s child, who has now been born. Near the beginning of the movie, Neitje says in a voiceover narration: “I used to wonder who I would be if it hadn’t happened to me. I don’t care anymore.”

Only one man has been left behind on the property while the other men are in the city. His name is August Epp (played by Ben Whishaw), a kind and gentle teacher who has been allowed to come back to the colony to teach the boys of the colony. August spent most of his childhood in the colony, but when he was a boy, his parents were excommunicated from the colony for questioning the authority of the colony’s leaders. August helps the women by taking notes during the meeting and doing any other reading and writing that the women might need.

August has an additional motivation to help the women: He’s been in love with Ona for years, but she just wants August as a friend. August stays neutral during the women’s arguments and debates. However, it’s very obvious that he wants to be wherever Ona is.

Also part of the story is a mild-mannered teenager named Nettie (played by August Winter), who likes taking care of the colony’s younger kids. Nettie identifies as a transgender male who prefers to be called Melvin. (Winter is non-binary in real life.) Because this colony is isolated from the rest of society, the colony members (including Melvin) don’t know what transgender means, so many of the colony members treat Melvin as a girl who likes to dress and wear her hair like a boy.

Because this colony is very insular and doesn’t believe in using modern technology or cars, “Women Talking” often looks like it takes place in the mid-20th century. The biggest indication that the movie takes place in the 21st century is when a census employee drives his truck on the road near the property and uses a speaker to remind the residents to take the 2010 census. The Monkees’ 1968 hit “Daydream Believer” memorably plays on the speaker and is heard again later in the movie during the end credits.

The colony’s women hide themselves inside buildings when this census employee drives by, but Neitje and Autje run to the truck to have a friendly chat with the census taker. Things aren’t so friendly inside and outside the hayloft, as the debate continues over what to do, and as time is running out before the colony’s men return to the property. Some of the women think that if they stay, they can demand new rules for the colony, such as the right to be educated and to be treated equally. Others think the women and children are better off leaving and starting a new community on their own.

In this showcase for powerhouse acting talent, Foy and Buckley have the flashiest roles as the women who clash with each other the most. Salome is filled with defiance and rage and shouts things like, “I will burn in hell before I allow another man to satisfy his urges with the body of my 4-year-old daughter!” Mariche raises her voice too, but she also expresses her anger in some “are you insane” expressions on her face that are very entertaining to watch.

Whishaw’s sensitive and nuanced performance is thoroughly believable and sometimes heartbreaking, as August experiences unrequited love. Because he is the primary teacher the boys of the colony (who are all homeschooled), there are glimmers of hope that these boys will be raised to have more respect for women and girls than how they were taught before August returned to the colony. Rooney’s performance as Ona, who speaks in calm and measured tones, is very good, but Ona is often overshadowed by the sassiness of Salome and Mariche.

One aspect of “Women Talking” that might disappoint some viewers is that McDormand is only in the movie for less than 15 minutes. She’s one of the producers of “Women Talking” and shares top billing, but her on-screen appearance in the movie—although effective—still doesn’t seem like enough for someone McDormand’s high caliber of talent. In the production notes for “Women Talking,” McDormand explains: “I did not option the book with the idea of acting in the film, I optioned it because I wanted to produce a film based on the book, with Dede [Gardner, one of the producers] and Sarah [Polley]. But I love Scarface dramaturgically.”

Even with all the friction and arguments between the women, Polley’s thoughtful direction never lets the movie devolve into a “catfight” story. The women might not know how to read and write, but they are very articulate in exposing their wants, needs, hopes and dreams. Luc Montpellier’s brown-tinged cinematography in “Women Talking” might look dull to some viewers, but it’s supposed to be a reflection of the drab existence that the colony’s women have experienced for too long. Observant viewers will notice that scenes that have more hopeful emotions have more vibrant lighting.

“Women Talking” is not a man-bashing film, as some people might mistakenly think it is. It’s a movie against gender oppression and against sexual violence. The villains of the story are not given the type of agency and screen time that other filmmakers would choose to put in their version of “Women Talking.”

“Women Talking” is not the type movie that people will quickly forget after watching it. Whether people like or dislike the movie, “Women Talking” is the type of film that will inspire thought-provoking discussions for viewers. And that’s an indication of cinematic art that can make an impact.

Orion Pictures will release “Women Talking” in select U.S. cinemas on December 23, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on January 20, 2023.

Review: ‘The French Dispatch,’ starring Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright

October 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton Fisher Stevens and Griffin Dunne in “The French Dispatch” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

“The French Dispatch”

Directed by Wes Anderson

Some language in French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, France, the comedy film “The French Dispatch” features predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: After the American editor of The French Dispatch magazine dies, his staffers gather to put together the magazine’s final issues, with four stories coming to life in the movie.

Culture Audience: “The French Dispatch” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Wes Anderson and of arthouse movies that have well-known actors doing quirky comedy.

Lyna Khoudri, Frances McDormand and Timothée Chalamet in “The French Dispatch” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

At times, “The French Dispatch” seems like an overstuffed clown car where filmmaker Wes Anderson tried to fit in as many famous actors as possible in this movie. This star-studded cast elevates the material, which is good but not outstanding. Anderson’s style of filmmaking is an acquired taste that isn’t meant to be for all moviegoers. He fills his movies with retro-looking set designs, vibrant cinematography and snappy dialogue from eccentric characters. “The French Dispatch,” written and directed by Anderson, takes an anthology approach that doesn’t always work well, but the fascinating parts make up for the parts that are downright boring.

The movie revolves around a fictional magazine called The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (also known as The French Dispatch), which is a widely circulated American magazine based in the fictional city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, France. The French Dispatch was founded in 1925. The movie opens in 1975, when the French Dispatch editor/owner Arthur Howitzer Jr. (played by Bill Murray), an American originally from Kansas, has died in the magazine’s offices. The employees have gathered to work on his obituary and reminisce about him and the magazine’s history.

Arthur appears in flashbacks throughout the movie. In one of the flashbacks, Arthur has told his top-ranking staffers that he has put a clause in his will which requires that The French Dispatch will stop publishing after he dies. The staffers are melancholy and a bit disturbed when they hear about this decision. Arthur is loved and respected by his employees, so they oblige his request. Therefore, they know that the French Dispatch issue that will have Arthur’s obituary will also be the magazine’s final issue.

The French Dispatch is a magazine that is known for its collection of stories. In “The French Dispatch” movie, four of these stories come to life and are told in anthology form, with each story told by someone from the magazine’s staff. Some scenes are in color, and other scenes in black and white. Anderson says in the movie’s production notes that The French Dispatch was inspired by his love for The New Yorker magazine. That’s all you need to know to predict if you think this movie will be delightful or pretentious.

The French Dispatch staffers are mostly Americans. They including copy editor Alumna (played by Elisabeth Moss), cartoonist Hermès Jones (played by Jason Schwartzman), an unnamed story editor (played by Fisher Stevens), an unnamed legal advisor (played by Griffin Dunne), an unnamed proofreader (Anjelica Bette Fellini) and an unnamed writer (played by Wally Wolodarsky). All of these aforementioned staffers don’t have in-depth personalities as much as they have the type of quirky reaction conversations and stagy facial expressions that people have come to expect from characters in a Wes Anderson movie. A running joke in “The French Dispatch” is how obsessive Alumna and proofreader are about things such as comma placement.

The staffers who get more screen time and more insight into their personalities are the four staffers who tell their stories. The first story is told in travelogue form by Herbsaint Sazerac (played by Owen Wilson), whose title is cycling reporter. Herbsaint travels by bicycle to various parts of the city. He has a penchant for going to the seedier neighborhoods to report what’s going on there and the history of how certain locations have changed over the years. During his travels, he visits three other French Dispatch writers who tell their stories. They are J.K.L. Berensen (played by Tilda Swinton), who is the magazine’s flamboyant art critic; Lucinda Krementz (played by Frances McDormand), a secretive essayist who likes to work alone; and Roebuck Wright (played by Jeffrey Wright), a lonely and brilliant writer with a typographic memory.

J.K.L.’s story is “The Concrete Masterpiece,” which is about the how a “criminally insane” painter named Moses Rosenthaler (played by Benicio del Toro as a middle-aged man and by Tony Revolori as a young man) is discovered and exploited while Moses is in prison for murder. One of the paintings that first gets attention for Moses is a nude portrait of a prison guard named Simone (played by Léa Seydoux), who is his muse and his lover. Moses has a makeshift art studio in prison for these intimate painting sessions, which he is able to do because Simone gives him a lot of leeway and protection from being punished.

An unscrupulous art dealer named Julian Cadazio (played by Adrien Brody), along with his equally corrupt and greedy uncles Nick (played by Bob Balaban) and Joe (played by Henry Winkler), find out about Moses’ talent and are eager to make huge profits off of Moses’ work. These art vultures figure that they can take advantage of Moses because he’s in prison. Julian, Nick and Joe get a tizzy over how much money they can make off of Moses, who is a mercurial and unpredictable artist. Imagine these art dealers’ panic when Moses decides he’s going to stop painting until he feels like painting again. There’s also a Kansas art collector named Upshur “Maw” Clampette (played by Lois Smith) who comes into the mix as a potential buyer.

“The Concrete Masterpiece” is the movie’s highlight because it adeptly weaves the absurd with harsh realism. Swinton is a hilarious standout in her scenes, because J.K.L. is quite the raconteur. She delivers her story as a speaking engagement in front of an auditorium filled with unnamed art people. It’s like a pompous lecture and bawdy stand-up comedy routine rolled into one. You almost wish that Anderson would make an entire movie about J.K.L. Berensen.

Lucinda’s story is “Revisions to a Manifesto,” which chronicles a youthful uprising in the French town of Ennui, when young people stage a labor strike that shuts down the entire country. At the center of this youthful rebellion are two lovers named Zeffirelli (played by Timothée Chalamet) and Juliette (played by Lyna Khoudri). Zefferelli (a college student) is the sensitive and romantic one in this relationship, while Juliette has a tendency to be aloof and no-nonsense. Although “Revisions to a Manifesto” has some visually compelling scenes depicting the strikes and protests, the overall tone of this story falls a little flat. Chalamet’s performance is very affected, while McDormand is doing what she usually does when she portrays a repressed character.

Roebuck’s story “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” which is a tale of kidnapping and other criminal activities. The story starts off being about a famous chef named Nescaffier (played by Stephen Park), who is hired to serve Ennui-sur-Blasé’s police commissioner (played by Mathieu Amalric), who is just named The Commissaire in the story. But then, the story becomes about The Comissaire’s son/crime-solving protégé Gigi (played by Winsen Ait Hellal), who gets kidnapped by some thugs, led by someone named The Chauffeur (played by Edward Norton). The kidnappers say that Gigi will be murdered unless a recently arrested accountant named Albert (played by Willem Dafoe), nicknamed The Abacus, is set free from jail.

“The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” ends up being too convoluted and somewhat sloppily executed. Liev Schreiber has a small role as a Dick Cavett-type TV talk show host who interviews Roebuck on the show. There’s some whimsical animation in this part of the movie. But ultimately, “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” is a story about a lot of people running around and making threats with no real sense of danger.

Although it’s admirable that Anderson was able to attract so many famous actors in this movie, after a while it seems like stunt casting that can become distracting. Viewers who watch “The French Dispatch” will wonder which famous person is going to show up next. Some well-known actors who make cameos in “The French Dispatch” include Christoph Waltz, Saoirse Ronan and Rupert Friend. Anjelica Huston is the movie’s voiceover narrator.

“The French Dispatch” can almost become a game of Spot the Celebrities, since there are so many of them in this movie. That being said, there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch. However, the movie would’ve benefited from taking a chance on casting lesser-known but talented actors in some of the prominent speaking roles, in order to make the film a more immersive viewing experience instead of it coming across as an all-star parade.

Despite its flaws, there’s no doubt that “The French Dispatch” is a highly creative film that has Anderson’s unique vision and artistic flair. He has a love of language and a knack for keeping viewers guessing on what will happen next in his movies. And these bold risks in filmmaking are better than not taking any risks at all.

Searchlight Pictures released “The French Dispatch” in U.S. cinemas on October 22, 2021.

Review: ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth,’ starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand

September 24, 2021

by Carla Hay

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa/A24/Apple TV+)

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” 

Directed by Joel Coen

Culture Representation: Taking place in Scotland and England in the 1600s, the dramatic film “The Tragedy of Macbeth” features a cast of white and black people representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.

Culture Clash: A ruthlessly ambitious husband and wife lie, cheat and murder their way into becoming king and queen of Scotland, but their sins eventually catch up to them with deadly consequences.

Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of fans of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” play, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” will appeal primarily to fans of Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Joel Coen.

Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa/A24/Apple TV+)

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” gives William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” the minimalist treatment, laying bare the raw intensity of the story, which is masterfully channeled via powerhouse performances from Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. Joel Coen (McDormand’s husband and longtime artistic collaborator) wrote and directed “The Tragedy of Macbeth” as a striking hybrid of an observational filmed stage play and an immersive cinematic experience. At a relatively brisk run time of 105 minutes, the movie defies the notion that movies made from Shakespeare’s work have to be pompous, self-indulgent bores. “The Tragedy of Macbeth” had its world premiere at the 2021 New York Film Festival.

Filmed in black and white, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” stays faithful to the source material but rolls out as a more streamlined piece of art that makes this version of the Macbeth story more accessible to people with short attention spans. People interested in watching the movie probably have some familiarity already with Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” a tragic play that was first performed in 1606 and first published in 1623. Most people would agree that “Macbeth”—with its timeless themes of how a corrupt pursuit of power can destroy lives—remains among the top three of Shakespeare’s best and most well-known work.

There’s really no need to rehash a plot that a lot of viewers will know before seeing this movie. The story is essentially about a married power couple who want to rule over Scotland as king and queen, no matter what the cost. Washington portrays the title character as a man on a mission to get what he feels is owed to him after years of feeling unappreciated as a loyal lord to Scotland’s King Duncan (played by Brendan Gleeson), who is about to be viciously murdered.

The mastermind of this assassination is Macbeth’s wife Lady Macbeth (played by Frances McDormand), whose power and intelligence is underestimated by most people because she is a woman. However, behind the scenes and behind closed doors, Lady Macbeth is a master manipulator who is in many ways more cold-hearted and single-minded in her ambition than her husband is. When he has doubts about any of the dastardly deeds that she has in mind, she pushes those doubts out of his mind and motivates him to follow through with her plans.

Clawing one’s way to the top of Scotland’s royal hierarchy, without being a blood relative of a royal, means that a lot of people will have to die. (The killing scenes aren’t too gory, but there are a few non-explicit scenes involving child murder that might be disturbing for very sensitive viewers.) King Duncan has two adult sons: elder son Malcolm (played by Harry Melling) and Donalbain (played by Matt Helm), who are dutiful but unprepared for the destruction inflicted by the Macbeth couple. As the body count piles up, false accusations will fly, paranoia reaches a fever point, and certain people face a reckoning that seems to ask the question: “Was all that backstabbing worth it in the end?”

Other characters in the play that are also in the movie include Banquo (played by Bertie Carvel), Macbeth’s close ally and a general in King Duncan’s army; Fleance (played by Lucas Barker) Banquo’s son, who’s about 10 or 11 years old in the movie; Macduff (played by Corey Hakwins), Thane of Fife; and Lady Macduff (played by Moses Ingram), Macduff’s wife. Macduff is the first one in the king’s inner circle to suspect that Macbeth and his wife might be up to no good.

Just like like in the “Macbeth” play, the catalyst for Macbeth thinking he has a right to take the throne comes early on in the story when he envisions three witches who tell him a prophecy that he will become the king. However, the introduction of these witches in the movie doesn’t follow standard convention. At first, there’s the appearance of one witch (played by Kathryn Hunter, who plays all three identical witches), who is first seen with her face down in a sandy and barren area, like a vulture who’s hunched over from dehydration.

This witch, just like her look-alikes, is dressed all in black has bird-like mannerisms and even caws like a crow. She contorts her body and flaps her arms, like an ave from hell. And later, when she is joined by the other two witches, they transform into large and menacing black birds.

Washington’s portrayal of Macbeth is as a hothead who is prone to losing control of his emotions and stomping around and shouting as a way to intimidate people. Macbeth is all about short-term gratification. McDormand’s depiction of Lady Macbeth is as someone who is more likely to think long-term and see the big picture.

The difference between Lady Macbeth and her husband is that Lady Macbeth knows when to keep her mouth shut and not give away too much information. Witness the brilliant facial expressions of McDormand as Lady Macbeth in a scene where her husband Macbeth is ranting about something to a group of people in the king’s court. Lady Macbeth thinks he might let some valuable information slip, but she says nothing in order to keep up a façade of ignorance. However, the look on her face shows a brief flash of alarm, as if she’s thinking, “He better not say anything stupid!”

Lady Macbeth has a temper too. She just doesn’t show it to people who could use this “unladylike” demeanor against her. And when McDormand’s Lady Macbeth gets angry, she bellows and barks in a voice that’s deep enough to sound like a man. McDormand’s interpretation of Lady Macbeth is that she knows her own power and strength. She’s not a fussy and frilly wife but one who’s willing to blur the lines of gender roles by showing a more masculine side than how other female actors might interpret this character.

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” has some recurring visual motifs that work well for a movie that was filmed in black and white and has a mild fascination with flight in open skies. First, there are multiple scenes that have a starry night as a backdrop. In a memorable moment, Lady Macbeth let’s go of a burning piece of paper, which flies out the window and into the night. And when the witches turn into birds, which happens more than once in the movie, it also exemplifies the type of flight that conjures of images of dark forces that hover and can’t be tamed.

Another effective visual technique that’s used in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” is conveying the feeling of being spied on and targeted. A scene with Banquo opens with what looks like a spotlight resembling a bullseye lens. The camera zooms up to show an aerial view of Banquo in this spotlight. It’s a foreshadowing of what happens later to Banquo, because he indeed becomes a target. And later in the movie, the three witches are perched on wooden square beams, as the witches look down like vultures ready to pounce.

Because there have been so many different adaptations of “Macbeth,” Coen succeeds in the intent to offer Macbeth through the lens of living in a world where generations of filmmakers and movie audiences have been influenced by the nightmarish lighting contrasts of German Expressionism. The movie’s cinematography (by Bruno Delbonnel), production design (by Stefan Dechant) and visual effects (supervised by Michael Huber and Alex Lemke) are stark and compelling, ranging from set pieces that look like they were made for a theater stage to the majestic simplicity of a cliff that becomes a pivotal location.

And when Lady Macbeth literally lets her hair down in private moments, she can be disheveled—more frump and happenstance than pomp and circumstance. Occasionally messy hair aside, Lady Macbeth’s wardrobe and the rest of the characters’ clothes are completely on point, thanks to stellar costume design by Mary Zophres. The costumes in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” might be the only reason to wish that this movie hadn’t been in black and white. However, the film’s monochromatic pallette is understandable, in order to reflect the dark despair that permeates throughout the story.

The members of this movie’s international cast use their natural accents. Most of the cast members are British. Washington, McDormand and Hawkins are American, while Gleeson is Irish. The varied accents are not a distraction, because the words of Shakespeare make everything sound very much of the era in which it was written. Accents just sound more classical when quoting Shakespeare.

All of the supporting actors in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” play their roles well, with Hawkins being a standout as the intuitive Macduff, a good man who loves his wife and kids and who finds himself in the crosshairs of death and betrayal. It’s hard to go wrong with a Shakespeare classic, a cast of this high level of talent, and a director who consistently makes films whose quality is above-average. The “Macbeth” story is a well-worn road for enthusiasts of performing arts, but “The Tragedy of Macbeth” makes this familiar ride very entertaining.

A24 will release “The Tragedy of Macbeth” in select U.S. cinemas on December 25, 2021. Apple TV+ will premiere the movie on January 14, 2022.

Review: ‘Nomadland,’ starring Frances McDormand

December 4, 2020

by Carla Hay

Frances McDormand in “Nomadland” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

“Nomadland”

Directed by Chloé Zhao

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2012 and 2013 in various parts of the United States (mainly the West Coast and Midwest), the dramatic film “Nomadland” features an almost all-white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A widow, who lives in her van by choice and makes a living doing temporary jobs, leads a nomadic existence and is unapologetic about this lifestyle choice to people who don’t approve.

Culture Audience: “Nomadland” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in well-acted realistic character studies about people who live on the fringes of society and are often overlooked by mainstream media.

Frances McDormand and David Strathairn in “Nomadland” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

“Nomadland” is a great American film that represents people who haven’t achieved the great American Dream in the traditional sense but are surviving on their own terms. It’s a drama about a culture that’s rarely seen in a narrative film: People who are not completely homeless but who choose to live in a motor vehicle and travel to find work, wherever and whenever they can. They don’t want anyone’s pity. They just want the respect to live their lives non-traditionally.

And the fact that this story centers on a middle-aged widow with no children makes it even more unusual but no less impactful, because she doesn’t fit the usual profile of nomadic people who get movies made about them. She’s an American refugee in her own country, because the city that she lived and worked in for several years was economically devastated and shut down, so she’s been forced to find a life elsewhere as a nomad.

Written, directed and edited by Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” is based on Jessica Bruder’s 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving in America in the 21st Century.” As such, most of the film’s cast members are real-life nomads (whose last names are not revealed in the cast credits), which give the movie a level of authenticity that can’t be duplicated by a cast filled with professional actors. Zhao’s masterful cinematic version of the story also makes the sweeping landscapes of the open road as of much a character as the story’s protagonist: Fern (played by Frances McDormand), a no-nonsense, self-sufficient widow who is still recovering from the grief of losing her husband after 32 years of marriage.

Fern used to live in the very small town of Empire, Nevada, which had a population of 217 people in the 2010 census. In real life, Empire suffered from an irrecoverable loss on January 23, 2011, when the United States Gypsum mining plant (the rural town’s main employer) shut down, due to reduced demand for sheetrock. By July 2011, Empire’s zip code (89405) was discontinued. This information is stated in the movie’s prologue.

Fern’s husband died around the same time that Empire became a ghost town. And so, with nothing to keep her in Empire, this widow has been on her own, living in her van, and trying to find enough work to keep herself financially afloat. The movie’s story takes place over the course of about 12 to 14 months, beginning during the year-end holiday season in 2012. Fern reports to work at an Amazon warehouse, where she has signed on for temporary work as a package processor, since the company has increased demand for workers during this holiday season.

Fern is friendly but emotionally elusive. She’s good at making small talk and bonding with passing acquaintances, but she’s closed-off when it comes to revealing her true inner feelings and making long-lasting close friendships. Throughout the film, there are glimpses of her emotional turmoil, but she never lets anything get her too depressed. She can’t afford to be depressed. She has to keep going for survival.

Fern is not old enough to retire, but she’s too old to be considered a viable candidate for a lot of jobs that require a lot of strenuous physical activity. Even if Fern were at retirement age, she can’t afford to retire. She and her husband had no children (apparently by choice, since Fern expresses no regrets about not having kids) and whatever savings they might have had is long gone.

She’s too proud to ask for financial assistance in most situations. If she does ask to borrow money from someone she knows (which happens a few times in the movie), it’s only as a last resort. And it’s clear that she finds it very difficult to ask anyone for money, because it makes her feel worthless. She always considers the money that she asks for to be a loan, not a gift or a handout. She promises to pay back the money, and you get the feeling that she means it. 

The closest thing that Fern has to a best friend is a woman about 10 years older than she is named Linda May (played by a real-life nomad named Linda May), who helped Fern get the temporary job at Amazon. After this temp job is completed, Fern decides she kind of likes the city and goes to an employment agency to try to find work so she can stay longer in the city.

The female agency employee who assists Fern warns her that there’s almost no additional work in the area this time of year. The agency employee is correct. Fern can’t find another job there, so she has to move on to a place where she can find work. And the work that she finds is usually temporary. This a pattern that repeats itself for much of the story, because people without a permanent address have a much harder time finding a permanent job.

“Nomadland” was filmed in Nevada, South Dakota, Nebraska, Arizona and California. None of the cities where Fern ends up is ever named, because the names of the cities don’t really matter. This movie is all about Fern’s experiences and the people she meets along the way in this particular time period in her life. Because the movie begins and ends during the winter months, there are multiple scenes where Fern has to deal with sleeping in her van during freezing weather.

A few times, some people who come across Fern express concern that she’s living in a van all by herself in freezing temperatures. Having a portable heater doesn’t really help and can sometimes be dangerous in an enclosed automobile, if the heater is kept on for a long period of time. Sometimes Fern stays at camping sites and RV parks (which usually cost money), while other times, she sleeps somewhere for free in a parking lot or out in a deserted area where she thinks she won’t be bothered. She refuses to stay at homeless shelters.

Linda May tells Fern about a nomad community gathering called Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), led by a charismatic man named Bob Wells (who portrays himself), who can best be described as someone who looks like a flannel-wearing Santa Claus. RTR is based in Quartzsite, Arizona, and it’s a support system geared mainly to nomads who are in desperate need of help. Fern looks at an online video of Bob speaking (she has her phone for Internet access) and politely tells Linda May that she’s not interested in going to the next RTR gathering.

But at some point, Fern changes her mind when she’s running very low on money. And she finds that RTR is a community of nomads who are a lot like she is: Over the age of 60, barely getting by financially, but loving life on the road. In the first meeting that she experiences with Bob, he talks about how people in their age group are a lot like work horses that are considered too old to be useful and are put out to pasture. Bob tells them to think of RTR as being like work horses who look out for each other. Fern likes what she hears, so she decides to stay.

Later, when Fern has a one-on-one meeting with Bob, he tells her: “I think you’ve come to the right place to find an answer. I think communing with nature and a real, true community and tribe will make all the difference for you.” Fern replies, “I hope so.”

The RTR gathering is almost like an informal seminar, because it includes instructions and advice on living in a vehicle. It also has swap meets for many of the attendees to trade or give away items. It’s at one of the swap meets that Fern meets Dave (played by David Strathairn), a tall and bearded gentleman who’s around her age or slightly older, and he seems as if he’s immediately attracted to Fern. She plays it cool though, and they talk about their can openers before going their separate ways.

Later, Fern and Dave see each other again at a social gathering and he asks her to dance. She warms up to him a little and he basically tells her that he’s available, but she still gives him the impression that she’s not interested in dating him. Although Fern doesn’t say it out loud, it’s pretty obvious that she’s still grieving over the loss of her husband, whom she speaks fondly of later in the story when she opens up to someone about him.

Although Fern considers her to be independent, there are scenes in the movie where she still shows some naïveté about basic things when it comes to looking out for her safety as a road traveler. For example, Fern’s tendency to be a loner means that she often parks in areas that are too isolated and would be disastrous if she needed help from someone nearby. When she sleeps in her car during the cold winter months, she has a thick blanket and layered clothing, but she doesn’t think of ways to better protect herself from getting sick or frost-bitten.

And she’s not as skilled in auto mechanics as she should be. One day, Fern finds that her parked car has a flat tire, but she does not have a spare tire. But even if she did, Fern doesn’t know how to change a tire. Luckily, another nomad whom she knows named Swankie (played by real-life nomad named Charlene Swankie) is parked nearby and can help her.

Fern asks Swankie to drive her to the nearest gas station to get help and a spare tire. Swankie mildly scolds Fern and tells her that it’s time for her to learn how to change a tire and that she should always have a spare tire. During a heart-to-heart conversation in Ruth’s van, Swankie tells her that she will soon turn 75, she was diagnosed with brain cancer, and she now has only seven or eight months to live. Swankie doesn’t want to go through cancer treatment. Instead, she wants to spend her last days on Earth doing things she always wanted to do, like go to Alaska.

Swankie tells Fern that she learned this lesson after she watch a close friend die from a terminal illness and how this friend had a boat parked at his home that he never got to use because he kept putting it off until he had more time. Swankie also opens up about the suicidal thoughts that she had when she found out that she had cancer. Swankie says she even read Jack Kevorkian’s controversial “Final Exit” book to get ideas, but she changed her mind about killing herself because she didn’t want to leave behind her two dogs. In turn, Fern reveals some of the feelings that she went through when her husband was dying of a terminal illness. It’s one of the best scenes in the movie.

During the course of the film, Fern takes different temporary jobs, including working as a camp host. She encounters Dave (who sometimes works as a fossil guide) at different times during the story and they become closer. She ends up meeting Dave’s musician son James (Tay Strathairn) and other members of Dave’s family. Fern also spends time with her married sister, who’s led a much more traditional and conservative life than Fern has. Viewers will get more insight into Fern’s family background during this crucial scene.

People should not expect a typical road-trip movie in “Nomadland.” Most road-trip movies want to stuff the plot with a lot of mishaps or high-octane action, but “Nomad” often focuses on the mundane but realistic everyday activities of Fern at work and in her free time. She takes pleasure in simple things, as demonstrated in a scene where Fern and Linda May pretend they’re at a spa and put tissues on their faces and cucumbers over their eyes.

And it’s a very intimate look at Fern life—maybe too intimate for some viewers, because there’s a scene of her urinating out in the desert and a scene of her defecating in a bucket in her van. (For people easily offended by bodily functions depicted on screen, you’ve been warned.) The defecation scene is not so graphic that viewers see the end results, but it’s explicit enough where people might find out more about Fern’s intestinal activities than they care to know. There’s also a full-frontal nude scene of Fern floating on water as she takes a relaxing dip in a lake.

These scenes are meant to give this drama a documentary feel, especially when Fern is alone. McDormand is so talented that she doesn’t need to speak in any solitary scenes, because her facial expressions say a lot more than what many scripted lines would say. The cinematography from Joshua James Richards gives emotional resonance to the seasons and terrain that Fern experiences during her journey. It’s during the freezing winter months that viewers get the most impactful sense of Fern’s isolation, because even she doesn’t know if she’s putting herself in a situation where she could wake up with frostbite or her van too buried in snow to drive.

But what “Nomadland” captures best is the reality that for nomads like Fern, the only thing constant is change. People come and go out of each other’s lives. Home means not having a building as a permanent place to live. There’s a pivotal scene in the movie were Fern has to make a choice to live a comfortable and more stable life in a regular house or keep living her more difficult and unstable life on the road. The choice she makes tells viewers what they need to know about what Fern’s definition of “freedom” is and what she might or might not be willing to give up to have that freedom.

Searchlight Pictures released “Nomadland” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on December 4, 2020. The movie is set for a release in select IMAX theaters in the U.S. on January 29, 2021. “Nomadland” goes into wider release in U.S. cinemas and debuts on Hulu on February 19, 2021.

2019 Academy Awards: performers and presenters announced

February 11, 2019

by Carla Hay

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 6, 2019. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced several entertainers who will be performers and presenters at the 91st Annual Academy Awards ceremony, which will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. ABC will have the U.S. telecast of the show, which will not have a host. As previously reported, comedian/actor Kevin Hart was going to host the show, but he backed out after the show’s producers demanded that he make a public apology for homophobic remarks that he made several years ago. After getting a  firestorm of backlash for the homophobic remarks, Hart later made several public apologies but remained adamant that he would still not host the Oscars this year.

The celebrities who will be on stage at the Oscars this year are several of those whose songs are nominated for Best Original Song. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will perform their duet “Shallow” from their movie remake of “A Star Is Born.” Jennifer Hudson will perform “I’ll Fight” from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG.” David Rawlings and Gillian Welch will team up for the duet “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from the Western film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” It has not yet been announced who will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from the Disney musical sequel “Mary Poppins Returns.”** It also hasn’t been announced yet if Kendrick Lamar and SZA will take the stage for “All the Stars” from the superhero flick “Black Panther.”

Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic do the music for the “In Memoriam” segment, which spotlights notable people in the film industry who have died in the year since the previous Oscar ceremony.

Meanwhile, the following celebrities have been announced as presenters at the ceremony: Whoopi Goldberg (who has hosted the Oscars twice in the past), Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Tina Fey, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amandla Stenberg, Tessa Thompson Constance Wu, Javier Bardem, Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Emilia Clarke, Laura Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephan James, Keegan-Michael Key, KiKi Layne, James McAvoy, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Momoa and Sarah Paulson. Goldberg and Bardem are previous Oscar winners.

Other previous Oscar winners taking the stage will be Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, who won the actor and actress prizes at the 2018 Academy Awards.

Donna Gigliotti (who won an Oscar for Best Picture for 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love) and Emmy-winning director Glenn Weiss are the producers of the 2019 Academy Awards. This will be the first time that Gigliotti is producing the Oscar ceremony. Weiss has directed several major award shows, including the Oscars and the Tonys. He will direct the Oscar ceremony again in 2019.

**February 18, 2019 UPDATE: Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Los Things Go,” the Oscar-nominated song from “Mary Poppins Returns.” British rock band Queen, whose official biopic is the Oscar-nominated film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” will also perform on the show with lead singer Adam Lambert. It has not been revealed which song(s) Queen will perform at the Oscars.

February 19, 2019 UPDATE: These presenters have been added to the Oscar telecast: Elsie Fisher, Danai Gurira, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Keaton, Helen Mirren, John Mulaney, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Krysten Ritter, Paul Rudd and Michelle Yeoh.

February 21, 2019 UPDATE: These celebrities will present the Best Picture nominees: José Andrés, Dana Carvey, Queen Latifah, Congressman John Lewis, Diego Luna, Tom Morello, Mike Myers, Trevor Noah, Amandla Stenberg, Barbra Streisand and Serena Williams.

2018 Academy Awards: ‘The Shape of Water’ wins 4 Oscars, including Best Picture

March 4, 2018

by Carla Hay

With four awards, including Best Picture, the fantasy drama “The Shape of Water” (about a mute woman who falls in love with a sea creature) was the biggest winner at the 90th Annual Academy Awards, which were presented at the Dolby Theatre on March 4, 2018.  “The Shape of Water” went into the ceremony as the leading nominee, with 13 nods.

ABC had the live telecast of the 2018 Academy Awards, which was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for the second year in a row. Also returning for a second year in a row were Best Picture presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, who famously botched the winner announcement at the 2017 Oscar  ceremony. Unlike that show, the 2018 Oscar ceremony was free from major blunders. The ceremony, which almost never ends on time, went well over its allotted three-hour time this year, by running overtime for 53 minutes.

In the acting categories, there were no real surprises, since all of the winners were sweeping up prizes at previous award ceremonies. Solidifying their award-show winning streak were Gary Oldman of “Darkest Hour” (Best Actor); Frances McDormand of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Best Actress); Sam Rockwell of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”(Best Supporting Actor); and Allison Janney of “I, Tonya” (Best Supporting Actress).

Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney and Gary Oldman backstage at the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 4, 2018. (Photo by Michael Baker/A.M.P.A.S.)

All of the nominees for Best Picture won at least one Academy Award, except for “Lady Bird” and “The Post,” which were shut out of winning any of the prizes. In addition to winning Best Picture, “The Shape of Water” picked up Oscars for Best Director (for Guillermo del Toro), Best Production Design and Best Original Score. “Dunkirk” went into the ceremony with eight Oscar nominations and ended up winning three: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.  “Get Out” won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, while “Call Me by Your Name” was named Best Adapted Screenplay. “Phantom Thread” received the prize for Best Costume Design. In addition to Oldman’s Best Actor win for “Darkest Hour,” the movie also won the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hair.

“Blade Runner 2049,” although not nominated for Best Picture, was another winner of more than one Oscar. The sci-fi sequel took the Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography. It was the first Oscar for “Blade Runner 2049” cinematographer Roger Deakins after he received  14 Oscar nominations. Another movie that won two Oscars at the 2018 ceremony was “Coco,” recipient of the prizes for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

Diversity among Oscar nominees has become a big issue, especially since the #OscarsSoWhite controversies of 2015 and 2016, when all of the actors and actresses nominated for Oscars were white. The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements were also mentioned on stage many times during the ceremony, including comments from host Kimmel, presenters and winners. McDormand made probably the biggest statement of the night when, at the end of her acceptance speech, she asked all the female Oscar nominees to stand up, and she called for the industry to hire more women. McDormand concluded by saying this about how movie contracts should change: “I have two words to leave with you tonight … inclusion rider.”

Some of the high-profile women and people of color who won Oscars this year in gender-neutral categories included the aforementioned del Toro; Jordan Peele of “Get Out” (Best Original Screenplay); “Dear Basketball” writer Kobe Bryant; “Coco” songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez; and “A Fantastic Woman” director Sebastián Lelio.

Although serious topics were part of the Oscar ceremony, the show had moments of levity and planned stunts aimed at getting a laugh. At the beginning of the show, Kimmel said that the person who gave the shortest acceptance speech would win a Kawasaki jet ski and a trip to Lake Havasu. (“Phantom Thread” costume designer Mark Bridges won the prize.)

In 2017, Kimmel surprised a group of tourists who were brought into the theater to get their unscripted reactions. In 2018, Kimmel took a similar concept but instead brought several of the celebrities at the Oscar ceremony to a nearby movie theater to surprise people who were there to see an advance screening of Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” (ABC is owned by Disney, so this was an obvious plug for the movie.) Some of the celebrities who joined Kimmel in passing out snacks to the surprised people at the movie theater were Gal Gadot (who kept exclaiming “This is better than the Oscars!”), Armie Hammer, Emily Blunt, Lupita Nyong’o, “The Shape of Water” filmmaker del Toro, Ansel Elgort, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Margot Robbie. The reactions of the unsuspecting crowd weren’t very funny or memorable, although Kimmel’s remark that the movie theater smelled like marijuana was a genuinely funny moment.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards:

*=winner

Best Picture

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Kerry Hayes)

“Call Me by Your Name” (Producers: Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito)

“Darkest Hour” (Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski)

“Dunkirk” (Producers: Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan)

“Get Out” (Producers: Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele)

“Lady Bird” (Producers: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O’Neill)

“Phantom Thread” (Producers: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi)

“The Post” (Producers: Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger)

“The Shape of Water” (Producers: Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale)*

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Producers: Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh)

Best Actor

Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”*
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Best Actress

Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Photo by Merrick Morton)

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”*
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”*

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”*
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Best Director

Director/writer/producer Guillermo del Toro on the set of “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Sophie Giraud)

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”*
Great Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Best Adapted Screenplay

Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg and Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name” (Photo by Peter Spears/Sony Pictures Classics)

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory*
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Best Original Screenplay

Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Allison Williams, Betty Gabriel and Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out” (Photo by Jason Lubin)

“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele*
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

Best Animated Feature

A still from “Coco” (Photo courtesy of Disney•Pixar.)

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito
“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo
“Coco,” Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson*
“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan Mactaggart

Best Animated Short

A still from “Dear Basketball”

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant*
“Garden Party,”Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou,” Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
“Negative Space,” Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

Best Cinematography

Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner 2049” (Photo by Stephen Vaughan)

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins*
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

Best Documentary Feature

“Icarus” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
“Faces Places,” Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
“Icarus,” Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan*
“Last Men in Aleppo,” Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen
“Strong Island,” Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Edith+Eddie,” Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel*
“Heroin(e),” Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon
“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Best Live Action Short Film

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk
“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson Jr.
“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton*
“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen

Best Foreign Language Film

Daniela Vega in “A Fantastic Woman” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)*
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)

Best Film Editing

Mark Rylance (center) in “Dunkirk” (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith*
“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory

Best Sound Editing

Kenneth Branagh in “Dunkirk” (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King*
“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green
“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Best Sound Mixing

A scene from “Dunkirk” (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon)

“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo*
“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

Best Production Design

Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Kerry Hayes)

“Beauty and the Beast” Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“Blade Runner 2049″ Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola
“Darkest Hour” Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“Dunkirk” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“The Shape of Water” Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin*

Best Original Score

Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins on the set of “The Shape of Water” (Photo by Kerry Hayes)

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat*
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

Best Original Song

A still from “Coco” (Photo courtesy of Disney•Pixar)

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez*
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Best Makeup and Hair

Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour” (.Photo by Jack English/Focus Features)

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick*
“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips, Lou Sheppard
“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

Best Costume Design

Lesley Manville (far left) in “Phantom Thread” (Photo by Laurie Sparham/Focus Features)

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran
“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran
“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges*
“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira
“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

Best Visual Effects

Ana de Armas and Ryan Gosling in “Blade Runner: 2049” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer*
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,”  Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon
“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

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